Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: The Selma Edition

In what may be one of the dumbest political moves of the year so far, no Republican leaders will be going to the 50th anniversary ceremonies in Selma this weekend. Not a single one. They just never learn. Two years ago, Republicans were a no-show for the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Every single Republican invited to speak declined the invitation. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor skipped out to meet with oil lobbyists. Speaker John Boehner chose to speak at a separate Republican event. Republicans’ aversion to appearing on the same stage as President Obama outweighed the opportunity to speak before a huge audience of African-Americans. Now, Republicans are throwing away another outreach opportunity with the 50th anniversary of the March from Selma to Montgomery. Not one Republican leader will be going to the 50th anniversary events in Selma, Alabama, this weekend.

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Bill Scher

356,000 More Health Care Jobs, So Much For “Job-Killing” Obamacare

After today’s Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report, Forbes contributor Dan Diamond spotted the spike in health care jobs over the past year: Republicans warned that Obamacare would kill jobs across the entire economy. Instead, 11 million jobs have been created since Obamacare passed. But Republicans also warned that Obamacare would “ruin the best health care system in the world.” Job growth doesn’t speak to quality of care, but it does suggest that an industry can thrive while being more tightly regulated. The 356,000 increase in health care jobs can’t solely be attributed to Obamacare, the health care sector was growing before Obamacare passed. But passage didn’t interrupt it’s growth. Still, the second biggest factor in the recent health care job explosion is hospital jobs, accounting for 70,000.

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Dave Johnson

Trade Deficit Drops To Enormous, Humongous Level In January

(Video from Economy in Crisis through the USW Blog) The U.S. Census Bureau reported Friday that the January goods and services trade deficit was $41.8 billion in January, down $3.8 billion from $45.6 billion in December (which was revised down a billion). This is a drop of 8.3% from the prior month, which was a 2-year high. Both imports and exports fell. Imports of goods and services fell 3.9% to $231.2 billion, partly due to reduced-priced oil imports. Exports fell 2.9% to $189.4 billion as the global economy cooled and the US dollar strengthened, making US goods more expensive internationally. West Coast port disputes played a role, disrupting supply chains. The Wall Street Journal explained the drop in oil imports: Last month, the trade deficit for petroleum products fell to $10.69 billion, its lowest level since November 2003.

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Terrance Heath

50 Years Later: The Long March From Selma To Ferguson

On Wednesday, nearly fifty years after the “Bloody Sunday” march from Selma to Montgomery, the Department of Justice released a damning report of its investigation of the police department and municipal court system in Ferguson, Missouri. The Department of Justice (DOJ) report on Ferguson uncovers both the same racism the Selma marchers stood against, and the same economic consequences. When riots ensued in Ferguson, after the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, and again after the grand jury’s failure to indict officer Darren Wilson in Brown’s death, the unrest was sometimes attributed to “outside agitators.” The DOJ report reveals a city government, police department, and municipal court system driven by racial bias, and that preyed upon Ferguson’s African-American population.

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Robert Borosage

A Sober Look at the Good News in February Jobs Report

The February Jobs Report – 295,000 new jobs, official unemployment ticking down to 5.5% – exceeds Wall Street expectations. This is the 12th month of payrolls growing over 200,000, the longest streak since 1977 according to the White House. It marks a full five years of private sector jobs growth, the longest streak in history. The contrast with Europe, mired in austerity and a conservative central bank, is apparent. But the good news is still sobering. Hourly wage growth remains at 2% for the year, far less than what’s needed to bring American families back. Excluding supervisors, private sector production workers saw no increase at all in February. That’s in part because there are still over 17 million Americans in need of full-time work.

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Anna Meyer

This Trade Deal Will Make You Sick

Food is more than just what we eat. It connects us to each other and our environment. And how we treat it is of tremendous importance to our democracy. Right now, the future of our food is being decided behind closed doors. The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive trade and investment deal being negotiated by the United States and 11 Pacific Rim countries, treats food as just another global commodity to be traded and exchanged. This approach completely overlooks its vital importance to human life. President Barack Obama is calling on Congress to give him “fast track” authority to move along the TPP quickly, as well as a similar pact with the European Union. This would empower him to hastily conclude the deals without giving Congress time to review or revise them.

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Sam Pizzigati

The Income Equity Act: Another Try!

Nearly a quarter-century ago, in 1991, a member of Congress angry about spiraling corporate CEO compensation introduced legislation he hoped would end that spiral — and help raise stagnant American worker wages. That legislative proposal from Rep. Martin Sabo, a veteran Minnesota Democrat, would have denied corporations tax deductions on any CEO pay that runs over 25 times what their lowest-paid workers were making. Sabo’s bill — the Income Equity Act — would gain co-sponsors over the years, but never any legislative traction. The result? Inequality in America’s workplaces only continued to get worse. By 2006, the year Sabo retired, the gap between CEO and worker pay had quadrupled the 1991 divide. Worker wages, meanwhile, were still stagnating. Sabo’s bill, fortunately, did not die. Rep.

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Robert Borosage

Congressional Progressive Caucus Offers A Real Alternative on Trade

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch just postponed the introduction of fast-track trade authority legislation until April. Fast track is designed to grease the skids for passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement that is still being negotiated behind closed doors. Postponing the debate on fast track gives opponents another month to build opposition. It gives Republican leaders and the administration a month to line up every vote so that once introduced, it could be voted on overnight. They’re hoping to fast-track fast track. The month does provide time for a long overdue serious national debate on our global trade and tax policy. The U.S. has racked up an unimaginable $6.75 trillion in trade deficits since 2000.

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Dave Johnson

Anti-Fast-Track Momentum Builds

Opponents of fast track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are gaining momentum. In spite of a virtual media blackout, public awareness of the coming trade deal is increasing. More and more public-interest organizations are organizing and denouncing the rigged fast-track approval process and TPP trade agreement. One after another, members of Congress are announcing opposition to fast track and demanding that trade problems like currency manipulation be covered by the TPP agreement. Meanwhile, the expected fast track bill has been delayed again. Fast Track “Stuck” Fast track is a process under which Congress agrees to bypass its duty to define, consider, debate and approve trade deals. Fast track limits discussion and debate and gives Congress only 90 days in which to bring the deal up for a vote.

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Isaiah J. Poole

After 50 Years, Time To Renew The Fight For Voting Rights

Don’t think of the ceremonies that will take place this weekend on the 50th anniversary of the voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. as a commemoration of a victory won. Let’s use them instead as a call to renew fight for voting rights that are being eroded under a sustained conservative assault. Consider this: Since 2010, 22 states have passed restrictions on the right to vote, affecting nearly half of the nation’s population, according to “The State of Voting in 2014″ chapter in the latest annual Democracy and Justice report by the Brennan Center for Justice. And that half was more likely to include voters who were brown or black: Of the 11 states with the highest African-American voter turnout in 2008, seven of those states put new voting restrictions in place, according to the Brennan Center.

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Terrance Heath

President’s Task Force Takes Baby Steps To Post-Ferguson Policing Reform

In August, 100 social justice leaders, Members of Congress, faith leaders, artists, and activists signed an open letter to President Obama, laying out seven action areas in the wake of the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. This week, the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing released its interim report, with 59 recommendations that only partially address those seven action items. Training The August letter urged that all law enforcement personnel be required to undergo racial bias training, as part of ongoing professional development, under guidelines set by the Department of Justice.

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Leo Gerard

GOP’s Blind Hate of Labor Union Members

To Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, America’s labor union members are the same as murderous, beheading, caged-prisoner-immolating ISIS terrorists. Exactly the same. That’s what he told the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last week.  The governor said that because he destroyed public sector labor rights in Wisconsin after 100,000 union supporters protested in Madison he could defeat ISIS as President of the United States. That sums up all the GOP hate and vitriol against labor union members in recent years. It would appear that Republicans can’t discern the difference between suicide bombers and working men and women who band together to collectively bargain for better wages and safer conditions.

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Dave Johnson

Silicon Valley Rising Fights for Worker Justice

Silicon Valley is an area of contrasts. When you stop at a traffic light in Silicon Valley you will often find a Maserati or Tesla on one side of you and a beaten up, 15-year-old Accord on the other. It seems there are more high-end Mercedes, Jaguars, Bentleys or the occasional Maybach than in other areas. Silicon Valley companies, many run by stock-billionaires, pay a lot at the top, and squat at the bottom. There are the lucky employees, and a huge number of “contractors” – employees who are not called employees. The employees that reach over a certain age are discarded. There are not a lot of people in the space between Silicon Valley’s top and its bottom. One in three Silicon Valley workers cannot even afford to live anywhere within a one-hour drive.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Orrin Hatch’s ‘Fairness’ Priority: Raising Taxes On Working Families

While conservatives (and many financial elites) attack progressives for harboring resentment against the wealthy, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee today reminded us that conservatives harbor their own resentments against the people Mitt Romney infamously labeled “the 47 percent … who are dependent upon government” and who “pay no income tax.” Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) let fly an echo of that sentiment in the midst of his opening statement for a hearing on the topic of “fairness in taxation.” It was a particularly tone-deaf statement coming at the same time the Democrats on the committee, led by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), released a report on six ways wealthy people game the tax code to avoid paying billions in taxes.

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Jim Hightower

The Nincompoop Caucus Sets a Record

p>The GOP-led House of Representatives has already achieved a historic legislative record. A record in futility, that is. And absurdity. In February, for the 56th time, they focused the entire array of brain cells in their 245-member caucus on an effort that would directly harm millions of Americans — namely the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Yes, the Nincompoop Caucus has now wasted Congress’ time and credibility by voting not once, not 10 or 20 times, but 56 times to take away even the minimal level of health coverage for previously uninsured people. Image via La Dawna Howard @ Flickr.   But wait… it’s possible that I misstated that number. It seems that House Speaker John Boehner’s team has lost track of how deeply they’ve disappeared into the woods of right-wing fantasy-land.

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Richard Eskow

Real-Life Frank Underwoods: Netflix, ‘House of Cards’ and Third Way

Frank Underwood is known for deceiving people into acting against their own best interests. (We’ll miss you, President Walker.) Now we learn that this trait may extend to the series that features him. The greatest betrayals on “House of Cards” can be found in the misleading arguments, presented as “truth,” that suggest that cutting “entitlements” is a necessity and raising taxes isn’t even an option. The fact that Netflix has insisted upon heavy tax breaks for filming the show in Maryland may be merely coincidental. Here’s what’s not: We have learned that the series hired a leading “new Democrat” (read, “corporate Democrat”) as a consultant for the show’s most misleading episode. The audience loves watching Frank Underwood deceive other characters.

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Dean Baker

The Federal Reserve Board’s Plan to Kill Jobs

There is an enormous amount of political debate over various pieces of legislation that are supposed to be massive job killers. For example, Republicans lambasted President Obama’s increase in taxes on the wealthy back in 2013 as a job killer. They endlessly have condemned the Affordable Care Act as a job killer. The same is true for proposals to raise the minimum wage. While there is great concern in Washington over these and other imaginary job killers, the Federal Reserve Board is openly mapping out an actual job-killing strategy and drawing almost no attention at all for it. The Fed’s job-killing strategy centers on its plan to start raising interest rates, which is generally expected to begin at some point this year. The Fed’s plans to raise interest rates are rarely spoken of as hurting employment, but job-killing is really at the center of the story.

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Bill Scher

Republicans, Have Mercy On Your Immigration Flip-Flopping Candidates.

Republicans, have mercy on your presidential candidates. Just get this immigration debate over with so your presidential candidates don’t have to flip-flop anymore. Gov. Scott Walker is the latest in a long line of Republican immigration flippers, though at least he had to decency to cop to it. “My view has changed. I’m flat out saying it.” said Walker to Fox News yesterday. As recently as 2013 Walker said a pathway to citizenship “makes sense.” Now as he gears up to run for president, that’s out the window. Walker is not the only 2016 Republican presidential hopeful to get tripped up over immigration.

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Robert Borosage

The Fast-Track Fandango

The debate over fast-track trade authority – designed to grease the tracks for a vote on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) accords still in negotiation – ought to be the occasion for a fundamental review of our global economic strategy. We know that it is broken. We’ve racked up unprecedented deficits year after year. The unsustainable imbalances contributed directly to the bubble and bust that blew up the global economy. We’ve watched good jobs shipped abroad, devastating America’s manufacturing prowess. We’ve seen workers’ wages decline and inequality grow to new extremes. Doing more of the same and expecting a different result is the very definition of insanity. Clearly, a comprehensive review is long overdue.

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Bernie Horn

There’s No Such Thing As “Free” Markets

Last week, when the Federal Communications Commission voted for net neutrality and changed the way the Internet is policed, conservatives fell back on their favorite myth. The right-wing media raged that it’s “a blow to the free market system.…” But there’s no such thing as “free” markets. Somehow this neoclassical, theoretical concept plays a central role in contemporary politics. When we progressives try to explain our economic policies, we face the fundamental challenge that typical American voters believe in “free” markets. And why shouldn’t they? They hear no real arguments to the contrary. But the truth is, the free market is a fairy tale, a fraud, a rhetorical device. American markets are not, and never were, free of government influence. Just open up the business page of any major newspaper and see for yourself. One company seeks a government subsidy.

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