Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: “No Go Zone” On The Brain

From anti-choice bills in the House, to threats of lawsuits over Muslim “no go zones,” this week showed that the wingnut brain is biggest “no go zone” of them all. But first, let’s relive the “burn” heard around the world. When President Obama delivered the State of the Union address. Republicans in Congress might have expected a humbled Obama to admit to another “shellacking,” hand the keys to the new Republican majority, and shuffle away to ride out the rest of his term as the lamest of “lame ducks.” They certainly didn’t expect to hear from a Barack Obama who “doesn’t give a f**k,” to quote late night host Larry Wilmore. Nor did they expect him to tell them so. Obama’s “mic drop” moment, launched a thousand Twitter memes, and left no oxygen for Sen. Joni Ernst’s Republican response.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Schakowsky’s Call To Progressives: “Draw A Bright Line” (Audio)

House Progressive Caucus member Rep. Jan Schakowsky has an upbeat view of what progressives can accomplish this year, even with a Republican majority in control of both houses of Congress – as long as progressives in Congress and on the streets stand firm together. Referring to the positive economic policies that President Obama outlined in his State of the Union address this week, “despite what the Republicans may claim, these policies are not dead on arrival,” Schakowsky said in “Voicing Our Values: A Progressive Response to the State of the Union,” a webcast sponsored earlier this week by Progressive Majority and the Campaign for America’s Future. Some proposals, such as infrastructure investment, an increase in the minimum wage, equal pay legislation and education support could be pushed through this session of Congress, she said.

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Dave Johnson

GOP Votes Against Requiring U.S.-Made Steel In Keystone Pipeline

In the last few days Senate Republicans have voted against everything they have promised in public to sell the Keystone pipeline. They said the pipeline is about U.S. jobs, yet they voted against U.S. steel and supplier jobs in the pipeline supply chain. They said the oil is for use inside the U.S., yet they voted against using the oil inside the U.S.. Significantly, they also voted against disclosing any money they are getting from oil and other companies involved in the Keystone project. And you might (not) have noticed that most of the U.S. corporate media are largely ignoring these votes. So the Republicans can keep telling the public they are for U.S. jobs and for U.S. energy independence. The public will be none the wiser. Votes On Amendments After going on for years that the Keystone pipeline is about U.S.

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Jeff Bryant

Democrats Should Listen To What Sen. Whitehouse Said About Education

A curious thing happened this week on Capital Hill: A politician said something about education that made sense. The “something” didn’t come from President Obama. In the president’s annual State of the Union address, “K-12 policy largely took a back seat,” Education Week’s Alyson Klein observed. Indeed, the issue was barely in the car. Although the president took credit for “the highest math and reading scores on record” and a high school graduation rate at “an all-time high,” there were no strong claims about the success of his programs, no bold, new initiatives, and no combative stances against the oppositional positions on K-12 policy. As Klein noted, he ignored “the hottest K-12 policy debate” about the role of federally mandated standardized testing in No Child Left Behind.

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Miya Pontes

Effort To Make The ‘Right to Vote’ A True Constitutional Right

Pocan and Ellison to Introduce Right to Vote Constitutional Amendment In an effort to undo the work being done in numerous states and counties to disenfranchise groups of voters, two progressive House members are aiming to make a promise that is implicit in the Constitution explicit – by calling on Congress to pass a “right to vote” constitutional amendment. Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) unveiled their amendment at a press conference today. “We need to have an affirmative right to vote… a minimum voting standard,” Pocan said, and that’s what this amendment is offering. “The Pocan-Ellison Right to Vote Amendment would amend the Constitution to provide all Americans the affirmative right to vote and empower Congress to protect this right,” according to a statement on Pocan’s website.

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Dave Johnson

Environmental Groups Denounce Fast Track Trade Process

The Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the League of Conservation Voters and 41 other environmental groups sent a letter to Congress this week, asking them to oppose “fast track” trade promotion authority for upcoming trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). They asked Congress to instead set up an open, transparent trade negotiating system that gives stakeholders, other than just corporate representatives, input in the process. The letter begins, “As leading U.S.

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Bill Scher

Republicans Feeling The Climate Squeeze

Over the course of President Obama’s State of the Union addresses, he has become rhetorically bolder and more expansive on the subject of climate. In his first couple of speeches, climate was mentioned as part of the laundry list of bills he was trying to get through Congress. Once Republicans took the House, and prospects for legislation died, climate took a backseat in the SOTU. In 2011, the word was not used at all (though Obama continued to promote “clean energy”). In 2012, “climate” was only mentioned as an example of legislation Obama knew could not pass Congress. But in the second term, Obama is not thinking about legislation, but regulation.

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Richard Eskow

Yes, Obama “Won Twice” – as a Progressive. Deal With It, Everybody.

Today’s American right is burdened with a highly specialized and hyper-amplified sense of outrage. That outrage was triggered during this week’s State of the Union speech, especially by the president’s off-the-cuff response to a group of Republicans who sarcastically applauded the line, “I have no more campaigns to run.” “I know,” the President replied, “because I won both of them.” Cue the indignation. A conservative named Ben Shapiro, whose tweet was reproduced in Heritage’s Daily Signal, offered a typically huffy reaction. “What a classy guy,” snipped Shapiro (who presumably feels that interrupting the President of the United States with sarcastic applause is “classy”). President Obama gave a stirring speech, although at times he still seems like a reluctant populist warrior.

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Bernie Sanders

Roads and Bridges Need $1 Trillion. It Is Time to Rebuild America.

Our infrastructure is collapsing, and the American people know it. The Interstate 75 bridge collapse in Cincinnati on Monday is only the latest example. Every day, motorists across the United States drive over bridges that are in disrepair and on roads with unforgiving potholes. They take railroad and subway trains that arrive late and are overcrowded. They see airports bursting at the seams. They worry that a local levee could fail in a storm. For many years we have underfunded the maintenance of our nation’s physical infrastructure. That has to change. It is time to rebuild America. I will soon be introducing legislation for a $1 trillion investment, over five years, to modernize our country’s physical infrastructure. This bill will not just rebuild our country but it will create and maintain 13 million good-paying jobs that our economy desperately needs.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnuts And The State of the Union

President Obama’s State of the Union Address, complete with a “mic drop” moment,” couldn’t have annoyed Republicans more if he’d entered to the theme from Rocky, and exited to “How Ya Like Me Now.” Obama’s “Mic Drop” Moment If Republicans in Congress expected to see and hear a chastened and contrite President Obama, they got a big shock on Tuesday night. Maybe getting a hug from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg — one of his “favorite people” — emboldened the president as he made his way to the podium. Perhaps Obama’s bounce in the polls put a bounce in his step. After the midterm elections, The Grio’s Luvvie Ajayi had this advice for the president: I think the President just needs to get real petty. He has nothing to lose as a lame duck President, so who gon check him? He better use that to his advantage to make things happen.

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Dave Johnson

What Obama Got Wrong In His State of the Union Remarks On Trade

The President briefly spoke about trade in his State of the Union speech. He admitted that “past trade deals haven’t always lived up to the hype” but then he called for doing more of the same. He called for Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) — “Fast Track” — to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Here is what President Obama said about trade (from pre-released transcript): 21st century businesses, including small businesses, need to sell more American products overseas. Today, our businesses export more than ever, and exporters tend to pay their workers higher wages. But as we speak, China wants to write the rules for the world’s fastest-growing region. That would put our workers and businesses at a disadvantage. Why would we let that happen? We should write those rules. We should level the playing field.

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Dave Johnson

Call, Write Congress To Oppose Fast Track Today

Today is the National Call-in Day Against Fast Track. Call Congress now at (888) 804-8311 to oppose fast track trade authority. Or visit Stop Fast Track, enter your phone number and they will call you back and connect you to your representative. An auto-dialer will call you and connect you to your representative and senators, one at a time. Don’t hang up in between, just stay on the line. Call and say, “I am calling about fast-track trade policies. Fast Track is a way to make sure that bad trade deals become law. Prior fast-track trade deals like NAFTA have lowered our wages, sent jobs overseas, and put us in debt to countries like China.

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Robert Borosage

Obama Gets His Swagger Back: The State of the Union’s Scope and Limits

President Obama has his swagger back. Ignoring the electoral rebuke of 2014, he claimed the growing economy as a mandate for his progressive agenda, delivering a State of the Union address bristling with veto threats and challenging the Congress to stand with working families. The speech was designed to rouse Obama’s popular majority coalition against the Republican congressional majority. While it ended with a long, soaring peroration about “one America,” in Obama’s signature voice, the speech itself threw down a gauntlet at Republicans, inviting a debate about direction that will frame the 2016 election. It presented a president willing to compromise but ready to fight. To that end, Obama focused the speech about values and direction, not on programs.

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Jeff Bryant

A Fight Over Education In Nashville Might Come Your Way Next

“We know we need to do something about students who are not achieving in our schools.” That anxious appeal – along with its many variations – has become the refrain now firmly embedded in speeches and opinion columns about American public education. Yes! Do something. About those kids. Only this time, the anxious appeal is coming from Jai Sanders, an African-American parent in Nashville, Tennessee, who has a stake in the matter: The something about to be done is aimed squarely at him and his children.

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Dean Baker

Democrats Take on Wall Street with Financial Transactions Tax

The House Democratic Party leadership made a remarkable step forward last week in putting out a proposal for a financial transactions tax (FTT). The proposal is part of a larger package which includes a substantial tax credit for workers, and also a limit on the tax deductibility of high CEO pay, but the FTT portion is the most remarkable. There has long been interest in financial transactions taxes among progressive Democrats. The list of people who have proposed financial transactions taxes over the years includes Representatives Peter DeFazio and Keith Ellison, along with Senators Tom Harkin and Bernie Sanders. But the proposal last week came from Representative Chris Van Hollen, who is part of the party’s leadership. And Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi indicated that she also supports the proposal.

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Sam Pizzigati

A Blue-Ribbon Panel’s Inequality Blindspot

The Commission on Inclusive Prosperity, a project of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for American Progress, has just released what journalists like to call a “blue-ribbon panel report.” This commission certainly rates — by any standard — as “blue-ribbon.” The commissioners range from Larry Summers, a former treasury secretary under Bill Clinton, to current and former high-ranking treasury officials in the United Kingdom, Sweden and Australia. Also serving on the panel: the president of the Rockefeller Foundation, assorted transatlantic business and labor leaders, two influential journalists, and various top-flight academic analysts. A distinguished collection, in other words, of public policy heavyweights. But not a random collection. Most of the Commission’s panelists appear to circle in the Bill and Hillary Clinton orbit.

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Leo Gerard

Not So Fast, Congress

Instead of the plodding turtle he’s normally satirized as, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is all cat-on-a-hot-tin-roof about Trade Promotion Authority, better known as Fast Track. He said as Congress convened this month that he wants to fast track Fast Track. He intends to ’git ’er done so fast no one notices that with it, Republicans will provide, as McConnell put it, “an enormous grant of power. . .to a Democratic President.” Fast Track is nothing more than Congress pulling a fast one on the American people. It’s a plan for lawmakers to abdicate their Constitutional responsibility to regulate international trade. With Fast Track, Congress shirks its duty to subject trade deals to lengthy line-by-line scrutiny, fulsome public hearings and amendment.

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Robert Borosage

The President’s State of the Union Address: A Progressive Field Guide

The annual State of the Union address that President Obama will deliver tonight before the Republican-controlled Congress serves many functions. It provides the president with a chance to boast upon progress made, and to highlight next steps. It frames, particularly with this obstructionist Congress, upcoming battles. And with the presidential election of 2016 already begun, it gives the president a chance to define themes and contrasts that the emerging challengers must respond to. Obama has already revealed, in the pre-speech rollout of message and proposals, that this speech will pick up the populist themes of his 2012 campaign, calling on Congress to pass progressive tax reforms to provide concrete benefits to working families – child care credits, college affordability, aid in savings for retirement, investment in education.

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Bernie Horn

The State of the States and Localities

Due to the ghastly 2014 elections, more state legislators are Republican and the GOP controls more state legislative bodies than at any time since the 1920s. Republicans now control the governorship and both houses of the legislature in 23 states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Statehouse Republicans won’t want to appear too extreme in 2016, both for the presidential election and for their own reelections. Therefore, we must expect a deluge of ultra-conservative legislation in 2015; we’ll start to see it within weeks.

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Richard Eskow

Today’s Visionary: A Guide to MLK’s 21st Century Insights

(Previously published, with some revisions) Here it comes again. This holiday weekend we’ll see a lot of media coverage of Martin Luther King, Jr. But we’ll hear very little about who he really was – a brave and visionary leader whose vision is as relevant today as ever. Dr. King’s life and legacy stand as a challenge to an entrenched society of privilege and injustice. Here are nine quotes that reflect that legacy. 1. “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.” Where Do We Go From Here? August 1967 speech. “Bain Capitalism” – a k a “vulture capitalism” – didn’t happen out of nowhere. It was made by politicians. It should be un-made by politicians.

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