Dave Johnson

Trade Deal Promises vs. Realities

Again and again we are promised jobs and economy gains from trade deals. Instead we get job losses and trade deficits. Next year the giant multinationals are going to try to sell us another trade deal by promising jobs and prosperity. And they’re going to push fast track to grease the skids to get it passed. It’s a good idea to be informed about what has actually happened. Wednesday’s post, How “Citibank Budget” Push Foreshadows “Fast Track” For Trade Deals, described how fast track is a rigged process designed to essentially pre-approve trade agreements before the public has a chance to digest the text of an agreement. Part of the rigged process will involve the giant multinationals executing a massive public relations campaign to drive the appearance of public support for the agreement. They will promise a huge increase in jobs and prosperity from the treaty.

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Isaiah J. Poole

President Obama’s Decisive Action On Cuba

Last month, CAF co-director Robert Borosage called on President Obama to normalize relations with Cuba as one of the steps he should take to “move good things forward” in the face of a Republican opposition bent on advancing destructive economic policies. Today, President Obama moved decisively in that direction, in a speech in which he acknowledged that it was foolish to continue the 53-year-old set of isolationist policies that have done nothing to improve the lives of the Cuban people or move them closer to a people-powered democracy. “We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different result,” President Obama said. The effort to shape Cuba’s political direction by breaking its economy has been an abject failure.

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Bernie Horn

Hope Is in the Cities and States

Over the next two years, Washington will be a horror show. The president and a minority of senators will try to minimize the destruction that extreme conservatives will attempt to inflict on our personal freedoms, basic economic security, and the American Dream. As for good (or even rational) proactive legislation, forget it! But that doesn’t mean we can’t win progressive victories in 2015. We can still dramatically change policy by focusing on states and localities—specifically 18 states that are controlled by Democrats or have split partisan control, about three dozen big cities with blue majorities, and thousands of smaller progressive-controlled cities, towns and counties. For evidence, just look at the past two years.

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Dave Johnson

How “Citibank Budget” Push Foreshadows “Fast Track” For Trade Deals

It is worth examining how the process was rigged to push that budget deal through Congress over the weekend that contained Citibank-written derivative deregulation and all kinds of other goodies for the rich and powerful. That’s because the “cromnibus” formula will be formalized in the next big deal, in a process called “fast track.” Congress passed the “cromnibus” (continuing resolution for omnibus budget) right at the deadline for another government shutdown. (After they extended the deadline, actually.) The budget contained a Citibank-written provision that undoes some Dodd-Frank Wall Street regulations.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Economic Development For The 1 Percent: Tax Incentives Gone Wrong

One might expect that Ayn Rand devotee Eddie Lampert, the CEO presiding over the disintegration of the once-great Sears and Kmart retail stores, would be a zealot when it comes to wriggling out of paying taxes to the governments that serve and protect his properties. But let’s not kid ourselves. What he extracts out of state governments to subsidize his failing empire isn’t “economic development.” It’s more like a rich bully running an extortion racket, like the time in 2011 he persuaded the state of Illinois to give him a $275 million tax subsidy in exchange for not moving Sears’ headquarters out of the state. That one deal, though, is just about half of the $536 million in tax subsidies Sears has gotten from state governments since 1989.

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Dean Baker

Economic Policy Myths of 2014: Dead and Enduring

With the holiday season upon us, the time for end of year lists is fast-approaching. To beat the rush, today I give my list of the top dead and enduring myths of 2014. The good news is that two myths that caused great confusion over the last several years are now headed to the trash bin of history. While many prominent pundits may still repeat them to demonstrate that prominent pundits really don’t have to care about reality, everyone in the reality based community now knows them to be nonsense. The first is the myth of the young invincibles and Obamacare. The story was that the success of Obamacare depending on getting young healthy people to sign up. Supposedly we needed the healthy young’uns to subsidize the rest of the population. This led to endless stories about whether young people were signing up for insurance.

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Leo Gerard

Bad Trade

Under billions of tons of imports, the American dream is suffocating. The American people have lost faith. They know that bad trade has bled factories, middle class jobs and wage increases from the country. A report issued last week by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) details how bad trade has cost Americans hope. And hope is the essence of the American dream, hope for a good, steady job with benefits and a pension, one that supports a family and a home, one that enables the kids to achieve even better lives. Bad trade has battered all of that. And more damage is threatened by pending trade deals and a so-called fast track process to approve them without in-depth deliberation. The EPI report, China, Trade, Outsourcing and Jobs, details the devastation caused by just one trade arrangement, the deal to allow China to enter the World Trade Organization in 2001.

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Robert Borosage

The Bipartisan Cromnibus Saga: A Final Assessment

The government didn’t shut down. Congress passed the massive – 1,603 page – spending bill, chock full of special interest giveaways, to keep the doors open. The Washington Post editorial page, the voice of the conservative establishment, acknowledges all the horrors – but celebrates the results:  “And given the alternatives — which were either this bill and the stable government funding through September that it would bring, or a possible government shutdown followed by repeated budgetary cliffhangers — it’s obvious that the Cromnibus did, indeed, represent a step in the right direction.

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Richard Eskow

Sanders Speaks: Bernie Wants to Break Up the Big Banks

Sen. Bernie Sanders (audio) with Richard Eskow No sooner had the infamous “Citigroup amendment” been added to a vital spending measure than the warnings began. One of the first was from Rob Blackwell, writing in American Banker, who called it “a victory that may soon come to haunt the largest institutions.” Those may prove to be prophetic words, although perhaps not “soon” enough, especially if leading progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders prevail.

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Dave Johnson

What Does Wall Street’s Budget Bill Victory Say About Our Democracy?

The budget bill called the “Cromnibus” (for Continuing Resolution and OMNIBUS budget bill) passed over the weekend. It included a provision undoing part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street regulation bill, allowing banks to gamble on derivatives using money from taxpayer-protected accounts. Citibank literally wrote the provision and paid someone to put it in the bill. This “Citibank” provision undid months of hard work getting the Dodd-Frank bill in place. No one in the House or Senate would admit to putting it in the bill. No one would say they supported the provision. But House/Senate leadership would not take it out of the bill because it was part of a “deal.” And, of course, it was put in at the last minute, making the choice “vote for it or shut down the government.” OK, this is not a rhetorical question, it is a question to broadcast.

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Sam Pizzigati

America’s 10 Greediest: The 2014 Edition

How has the United States become so unequal? We need to look for answers, first and foremost, in our society’s underlying economic and political realities, at the policies and practices that let wealth concentrate — at the top — so intensely. But we also ought to look at people, the real-life flesh-and-blood characters who make decisions that privilege the few over the many. These greedy souls love the shadows. Let’s shine some light — on this year’s greediest of them all. May the greed we spotlight here help inspire the rest of us to do as much as we can, in 2015, to make our world a much more equal place. 10. Paige Laurie Dubbert: Walmart Wealth Paige Laurie Dubbert, the granddaughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton’s brother and business partner, is charging wage theft.

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Richard Eskow

We Lost the ‘CRomnibus’ Fight, But at Least Someone’s Fighting

Last week Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) warned that “the House of Representatives is about to show us the worst of government for the rich and powerful.” They promptly did, and the Senate quickly followed suit. We are now at greater risk of another derivatives-based financial crisis, and billionaires and corporations now have even more influence over the two party’s entrenched establishments. The “CRomnibus” spectacle was a return to the showdown days of past years, with another phony “drama” ginned up around a “must-pass” bill in order to serve up a “compromise” – a “bipartisan” one, of course – that serves the interests of corporations and wealthy individuals. But hold the cynicism, because all is not yet lost. “A few more such victories and we are undone,” the Greek general Pyrrhus supposedly said.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: A Tortured Response To The Torture Report

Only the worst kind of wingnut could conclude that America is “awesome” in spite of — or because of — “forced anal feeding and re-hydration” of detainees. But that’s what we heard this week. Well, now we know. America did a whole lot more than “torture some folks.” The Senate Intelligence Committee released its report on the CIA’s torture program this week. The 525-page report is a stomach-turning read, but those with enough courage to read about some — but probably not all — that was done in our names during the “war on terror” can find it here. Otherwise, here are the basics you need to know. The most gruesome details of the report include: “Rectal Feeding” and “Rectal Re-hydration”: It’s exactly what it sounds like, folks. The archaic practice was once used on patients in desperate need of nutrition, but who couldn’t feed themselves.

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Dave Johnson

Call Senators: Stop The Citibank Budget – No More Rigged Backroom Deals

The “Citibank budget” has not passed the Senate. There is time to fight this giveaway to Wall Street. Call your senators today and tell them take the Citibank bailout part out or block the budget. Tell them to let Wall Street know that their days of controlling our government are over. Tell them, “Don’t let Citibank win.” Please click here now to call your senator and tell him or her to stand up against this dangerous attempt to rig the rules for Wall Street – and against us. And while they’re at it, take out the parts that gut the IRS’ ability to collect from the billionaires, gut working peoples’ pensions and rig campaign finance in favor of the wealthiest. Because We the People have had enough of this. People are tired of the ways the system is rigged against us.

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Bill Scher

How America Broke The Oil Addiction … Without a High Gas Tax

A fascinating graphic presentation from Bloomberg shows how America has nearly achieved energy independence and broken our addiction to oil. It’s not because oil got too expensive. The U.S. shale boom has helped drive gas prices to their lowest point in four years. And yet, “the U.S. is consuming the least oil per dollar of gross domestic product in more than 40 years.” Oil consumption typically tracks gross domestic product growth; for the first time ever, consumption is trailing GDP. And over the past nine years, American consumption of domestically produced energy has gone from 65 percent to 89 percent.

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Isaiah J. Poole

The Ominous ‘Cromnibus,’ A Budget Bill That Should Have Died

With all of the justifiable anger directed at what’s in the 2015 spending bill – the omnibus continuing resolution or “cromnibus” – that the House struggled to pass late Thursday, there is also a major story to be told about what’s not in the bill. It’s a story of missed opportunities that is as significant as the Wall Street giveaways, the kowtowing to fossil fuel interests and gratuitous swipes at conservative boogeymen that were written into this monstrosity. Most conspicuous is the absence of any real effort to address the plight of millions of people who remain untouched by the so-called economic “recovery” of the past few years.

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Dave Johnson

China’s Currency Manipulation “Sucks Wages Out Of Our Economy”

China’s currency manipulation and other illegal practices “suck wages out of our economy,” Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) said during a press call Thursday, citing the figure of a direct loss of $37 billion in reduced wages in 2011 alone. It “becomes difficult to do economic development at a local level when our country’s trade policies put us at severe disadvantage and suck wages out of our communities,” Ryan said during the release of a new report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), titled “China Trade, Outsourcing and Jobs.” EPI’s Rob Scott, who co-authored the report with Will Kimball, explained on the call that between 2001 and 2013 the massive growth of our country’s trade deficit with China has cost us 3.2 million U.S. jobs, 2.4 million (three-fourths) of which were in manufacturing.

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Ady Barkan

Conference Helps Build A National Network Of Progressive Cities

Last week, Local Progress hosted its third annual National Convening, bringing 50 local elected officials from around the country to New York City for three days of strategizing and movement-building that left them energized, empowered, and ready to make 2015 a year of progressive cities. The convening was held in the New York City Hall Council Chambers and at 32BJ SEIU and featured keynote addresses from City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Every time we succeed, it builds strength for each other” said de Blasio during his address. “Every time one city acts, it builds momentum for another city. Every time a number of cities act, it builds momentum for our nation.” The members of Local Progress came from big and small cities around the country to share their policy victories from their past year and lay out their goals for 2015.

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Jeff Bryant

Who’s Really Failing Students?

“Failure is not an option,” has been a popular slogan in public education for years. Although, flight engineers and astronauts in the Apollo 13 program originally coined the phrase as a motivator for competing against the Russians in the space race, some well-meaning advocates in the education reform community adopted it for their cause. Then the No Child Left Behind law – with its mandate for 100 percent proficiency by 2014 – literally made “failure” something that would eventually fade from existence. Really! Now that’s all about to change, and failure – or at least what passes as the current definition of it – is not only back on the table as an option; it is now a desired state – a designation seen as revealing great truths about public education in the United States.

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Robert Borosage

The Budget Bill: They Can’t Help It; This Is Who They Are

The first signs of the November election returns are apparent in the $1 trillion spending bill the lame duck Congress is about to pass in Washington.  Ironically, this spending bill was forged with resurgent Republicans on their best behavior. They are still a minority in the Senate in the lame duck session. Their leaders exercised adult supervision over the wingnuts, rejecting calls for a government shutdown over immigration because Obama. They largely adhered to the budget deal cut last year on spending limits, and agreed to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year through next October (with the exception of Homeland Security because Obama), putting off real changes until they assume the majority in the new Congress next year. But good behavior and adult supervision didn’t stop the addition of revealing signature riders and last-minute deals.

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