Jeff Bryant

Wall Street’s Scary Scheme To Own Every American’s Education Destiny

To the old saying about “death and taxes,” you can now add another: debt. In fact, in contemporary America, debt is likely becoming at least as all-encompassing as the other two. An increasingly powerful force behind the debt explosion is not what you might expect: not cars, not homes, not healthcare. It’s education. Since the Great Recession, federal and state authorities have been disinvesting from their obligations to educate the citizenry. So now, nearly every state spends less on higher education than it did in 2007. And most states continue to spend less on K-12 education than they did in 2007. Federal government expenditures on education are also in decline. So the burden of financing education has increasingly fallen on local governments and individuals, who have responded by borrowing money to pay for schooling.

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Terrance Heath

The Backlash Against Discrimination And GOP’s “Indiana” Problem

The powerful grassroots backlash against Indiana’s anti-gay “religious freedom” law is yielding results and inspiring hope. Right-wing supporters of the law were seemingly caught unawares by a grassroots response that’s put them on the defensive. On Monday, the Georgia House Judiciary Committee canceled a meeting to discuss a “religious freedom” bill similar to Indiana’s. The “Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act” passed the state’s Senate earlier this month. Like Indiana’s law, Georgia’s bill would give businesses and private individuals a legal defense for denying services to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The bill would undoubtedly pass in Georgia’s state House, where Republicans hold a near 2-to–1 majority, if it ever comes up for a vote. Perhaps the backlash against Indiana’s law gave Georgia Republicans second thoughts.

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Isaiah J. Poole

“Fight 4/15″: Low-Wage Workers Call Nationwide Strike April 15

Leaders of the “fight for $15″ movement has set April 15 as the date for a nationwide strike to push for a living wage for all low-wage workers. This movement that started with fast-food workers in 2012 is now expanding to include a whole range of occupations, ranging from health care workers to adjunct professors, say organizers. The coalition that is leading this effort has set up a website, april15.org, where people can learn how to get involved in actions in their area. There are 2,000 partner groups supporting the strike, including the NAACP, the Moral Mondays movement, the coalition of groups organizing around #BlackLivesMatter, the Center for Popular Democracy, the International Union of Foodworkers, MoveOn.org and Credo.

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Dave Johnson

SEC Still Allowing Corporations To Hide Campaign Funding

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is supposed to “protect investors.” But what happens when a company is dishing the company’s cash out to politicians, political parties and political “charities”? Apparently, investors/shareholders don’t get to find out where the money went. Since the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” ruling opened up the political system to unlimited corporate cash, hundreds of thousands of Americans have petitioned the SEC to require companies to disclose how they are using the company’s money to bribe influence politicians. The Supreme Court even said that this money should be disclosed. But the SEC continues to refuse to do it. A Wave Of “Dark” Money = Corporate Takeover Of States Since 2010, a huge wave of corporate money has flooded local, state and national elections.

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Leo Gerard

Bad Trade

Sucker punched by massive, illegally subsidized imports, American steel producers laid off thousands of workers in bedrock communities from Ohio and Illinois to Texas and Alabama. That’s in just the past three months. The families of furloughed workers are struggling to pay mortgage bills. The communities, losing tax dollars, are canceling needed road work. The companies are talking about the similarities between now and the 1990s when half of the nation’s steel firms disappeared. Members of the Congressional Steel Caucus are worrying about the effect on national security if America can’t make its own steel for guns and tanks. Virtually everyone who testified last week at a Congressional hearing on the state of steel fingered bad trade as the culprit in the current collapse.

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Dave Johnson

Seattle Votes To Oppose Fast Track

Seattle’s City Council voted unanimously (9-0) Monday to express its opposition to giving the president fast-track trade authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other upcoming trade agreements.

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Robert Borosage

Who Wins the Money Primary?

For presidential wannabes, the money primary has already begun, as aspirants troop from one gathering of the wealthy to another. Jeb – “my own man” – Bush hasn’t announced formally yet, but is expected to do well on the Republican side, tapping his family’s deep well of contacts. Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, is likely to set records, drawing on the Clinton funding circles. But they won’t be the big winners of the money primary. The big winner of the money primary, as a recent article in the New York Times demonstrates, is the money. America’s extreme inequality has become a central concern for candidates in both parties, since pollsters concluded that a credible populist message is essential in 2016. Republicans, of course, largely reject government intervention to redress extreme inequality.

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Bill Scher

The Choice Before The Republican Party: Grow or Die

The Choice Before Republican Primary Voters was Laid Bare by Conservative Pundit Matt Lewis, as Reported by The new York Times: Mr. Bush proudly tells of having ended racial preferences at Florida’s universities, but in the next breath adds, as he said in February, that the state wound up with “more African-American and Hispanic kids attending our university system” than before. Mr. Walker wins applause by noting his efforts to require drug tests of people receiving public assistance, and uses language reminiscent of old, loaded appeals about indolent welfare recipients… …“One is a populist strategy that doubles down on turning out disaffected white men,” Mr. Lewis said … “The other is a gamble that conservatism can win in the free market of ideas amongst a diverse and changing 21st-century America,” Mr. Lewis said of Mr.

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Dave Johnson

The Republican Budgets CUT Infrastructure Spending

We all know America’s infrastructure is crumbling. Meanwhile, millions of people still need jobs. But in one more of many stunning examples of failure to govern, the Republican budget proposals cut back infrastructure funding even more. Tax cuts have resulted in years of cutbacks in maintenance that have taken their toll. Bridges are falling, dams are dangerous, port conditions are holding back trade, etc. This is work that has to be done. Doing this work would require hiring millions of people — also something that has to be done. Fixing up our infrastructure would lead to a more efficient economy, better able to help American businesses thrive, and our people prosper. One would think that the country would embark on a project to fix and modernize its infrastructure. But no, that would involve government spending. Never mind that it would more than pay for itself.

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Bernie Horn

The Indiana Law Promoting Discrimination Is a New Low

Last week, Indiana Governor Mike Pence (R) signed SB 101 into law, the so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” Apparently, Pence was surprised at the nationwide outcry against the law and he’s adopted a defensive crouch. “There has been a lot of misunderstanding about this bill,” Pence asserts. “This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way I would’ve vetoed it.” But of course it’s about discrimination! That’s the point of the law. It invites individuals and corporations to violate state and local laws, regulations and rules, and claim, as a legal defense in court, that they were following their own religious principles. On its face, the Indiana law doesn’t mention sexuality.

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Richard Eskow

Big-Bank Bad Guys Bully Democracy – And Blow It

For so-called “masters of the universe,” Wall Street executives sure seem touchy about criticism. It seems they don’t like being painted as the bad guys. But if they don’t like being criticized, why do so many of them keep behaving like B-movie villains? That’s exactly what executives from Citigroup, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America looked like after an article appeared last week detailing their coordinated attempt to intimidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and other Democrats who want to fix the mess on Wall Street. They’ve cheated customers and defrauded investors. Now they want to use our legalized system of campaign-cash corruption to protect themselves from the very government which rescued them. Dark Matters According to a well-reported recent Reuters article, “Big Wall Street banks are so upset with U.S.

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Richard Long

Your Retirement Needs To Be Protected From These Predators

Imagine your career winding down and being presented with these two offers: $1,500 a month for the rest of your life, or a $350,000 lump sum that you can use however you see fit. Which would you choose? How would you make sure you lived comfortably for the rest of your life? In 2002 Phil Ashburn, working for what was at the time Pacific Bell telephone company, was presented with just this choice. He spoke to a financial adviser who had done business with Pacific Bell, and based on her advice decided that the lump sum was his best chance to make sure that he not only had enough money to live well, but could also leave some money behind for his family. The adviser assured him he’d “never go broke, always have money.” He placed his money in an account she recommended and chose to take out $2,700 a month. For awhile, things seemed normal.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: Cruzin’ For Bruising

Let’s be clear. Sen. Ted Cruz is not going to be president. Nor is he going to be the Republican nominee. But his wingnut tendencies will make 2016 a headache for Republicans, and more entertaining for the rest of us. Sen. Ted Cruz (R, Texas) announced his candidacy for the 2016 presidential race this week, with a speech at Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Virginia. The choice of Liberty University, the private fundamentalist university founded in 1971 by Moral Majority founder Rev. Jerry Falwell, was no coincidence. Cruz’s tea party credentials have long been solid. A campaign launch at Liberty University guaranteed Cruz a chance to launch himself as both the tea party candidate and the social conservative candidate. Liberty University also guaranteed Cruz a packed house for his speech, because it was mandatory.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Unholy Week: Senate Votes Complete A Portrait Of Wrong Priorities

We’re about to enter what is on many Christian calendars Holy Week. We need to, because it certainly has been an unholy week here in Washington. Both the House and Senate have now passed budget resolutions that offer comfort and protection to the wealthy and powerful and more discomfort and vulnerability to everyone else. What else can you say about a series of votes in the Senate that ended with a majority of senators voting to eliminate the estate tax, a tax that literally affects fewer than 4,000 of the nation’s richest households, while voting to cut programs that serve millions low- and moderate-income people by more than $3 trillion? It really doesn’t get much more unholy than that.

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Dave Johnson

American Steel Hammered By Currency, Trade Policies, Infrastructure

The American steel industry is getting hammered, and not in a good way (as in good old American-made Kentucky Bourbon). Steel companies are laying off, and closing plants due to low-cost foreign imports. The Story Steel companies are getting hammered by low-priced imports. Currency manipulation and terrible trade policies, combined with lack of enforcement and cutbacks in US infrastructure maintenance and modernization are the culprits. To make things worse, foreign steel companies are just pricing in fines expected from any (good luck with that) trade-violation enforcement that might come along as “a cost of doing business.” The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review explains the problem, in “Stop foreign dumping, U.S.

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Sam Pizzigati

Enriching CEOs, Endangering Cancer Patients

Peasants with pitchforks don’t normally wear lab coats and hold medical degrees. Hagop Kantarjian does. Kantarjian currently chairs the leukemia department at the prestigious M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, one of America’s top oncology facilities. But the CEOs at America’s pharmaceutical giants these days only see pitchforks when they see Dr. Kantarjian. For good reason: The good doctor is threatening their cash cow. He’s just launched an online petition drive that’s protesting the unconscionably high prices drug makers charge for cancer drugs. How high have these prices gone? The average price of new cancer drugs is now running over $120,000 per year. And these sky-high prices, warns Dr. Kantarjian, are “harming our patients.” More and more people battling cancer simply can’t afford treatment.

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Dave Johnson

Now We Know Why Huge TPP Trade Deal Is Kept Secret From The Public

A key section of the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement has been leaked to the public. The New York Times has a major story on the contents of the leaked chapter and it’s as bad as many of us feared. Now we know why the corporations and the Obama administration want TPP, a huge “trade” agreement being negotiated between the United States and 11 other countries, kept secret from the public until it’s too late to stop it. The section of TPP that has leaked is the “Investment” chapter that includes Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Senate Budget Votes Reveal The Same Old ‘Party Of No’

The series of votes that will shape the Senate’s version of the fiscal 2016 federal budget won’t be over until Friday morning, but we already know how this drama ends, with Republicans keeping true to being the “party of ‘no'” when it comes to actions that would help raise wages, empower workers and advance the goal of shared prosperity. The Senate today launched into what’s known inside the Beltway as a “vote-a-rama,” a marathon series of votes expected to last well into the night. But the tone was arguably set on Tuesday, with a little-noticed vote on a budget amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). The Sanders amendment would have accomplished something that should have been noncontroversial: make space in the budget for funding a long-term surface transportation bill.

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Terrance Heath

Black Unemployment Report Shows Why We Needed The People’s Budget

Yesterday House Republicans passed a budget with no new funding for job creation. Today a new report on black unemployment shows the urgent need for investment in job creation. In a new report from the Economic Policy Institute, “Projected Decline in Unemployment in 2015 Won’t Lift Blacks Out of the Recession-carved Crater,” economist Valerie Wilson finds that black unemployment rates remain higher than pre-recession levels in 28 states — even though unemployed rates for whites, Latinos, and Asians have dropped to within 1 percentage point of their pre-recession levels. Black unemployment levels are projected to drop significantly in only two states — California and Illinois. Nationally, a black unemployment rate of 10.4 percent is projected for the end of 2015.

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Jeff Bryant

Revisiting A Progressive Education Agenda: What’s Happened Since?

It’s been nearly two years since the Education Opportunity Network, with the Opportunity to Learn campaign and the Campaign for America’s Future, published the Education Declaration to Rebuild America. As The Washington Post reported at the time, “The document offers a progressive approach to school reform.” What makes the document truly “progressive,” is that it advocates “equity of opportunity” and adequate financial and instructional support for every child, among other principles. Immediately, leading progressive luminaries and public school advocates – including Robert Reich, Jonathan Kozol, Linda Darling-Hammond, and Diane Ravitch – endorsed the document. The Declaration was sandwiched between two other documents that year which called for a similarly progressive education agenda based on equity of opportunity.

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