Robert Borosage

Being The ‘Indispensable Nation’ Is Killing American Democracy

  America — proudly dubbed the “indispensable nation” by its national-security managers — is now the entangled nation enmeshed in conflicts across the globe. President Barack Obama, scorned by his Republican critics as an “isolationist” who wants to “withdraw from the world,” is waging the longest war in U.S. history in Afghanistan, boasts of toppling the Muammar Gaddafi regime in Libya, launches airstrikes in Iraq and Syria against Islamic State and picks targets for drones to attack in as many as eight countries, while dispatching planes to the Russian border in reaction to its machinations in Ukraine, and a fleet to the South China Sea as the conflict over control of islands and waters escalates between China and its neighbors.   The indispensable nation is permanently engaged across the globe. But endless war undermines the Constitution.

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Leo Gerard

Retailers, Bankers and Democrats Agree

Income inequality is killing the economy. Retailers, bankers and Democrats agree on that. Really. It’s only Republicans who continue to insist that income inequality is great, so no one, least of all them, should make any effort to constrict the abyss between America’s struggling 99 percent and Americans who indulge themselves in $475,000 bottles of House of Creed Bespoke perfume. Now that Wall Street and Main Street have endorsed Democratic economic principles to reduce inequality for the sake of the economy, voting Nov. 4 is easy. Vote Democrat. That’s the party both bankers and retailers say has the solution to economic revival. Admittedly, this is all a little hard to believe after Republicans have diligently depicted themselves as business and bank huggers for so long. Turns out, though, that’s a sad, one-sided relationship.

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Lindsay Koshgarian

Three Winning Ways to Create Jobs

With the election nearing, Americans still know what they want: job creation. Unemployment is still elevated near 6 percent, and underemployment – including people who have given up looking for work, or who are working part-time when they want to be full-time – was still above 13 percent at last count. And America’s employment problems precede the recession. That’s important because it suggests that this problem isn’t going away on its own. Underemployment hasn’t dipped below 8 percent in the last 10 years. Consider the decades-long stagnation of middle-class wages and the fact that it often takes two incomes to make ends meet, the long-term decline of union membership, the decimation of manufacturing, and the fact that higher education is becoming more of an economic necessity while also being less affordable.

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Dave Johnson

Republicans Will Pass Worse NAFTA-Like Trade Deals If They Take Senate

Trade deals like NAFTA have helped create terrible inequality by outsourcing jobs to low-wage countries so “investors” can pocket the wage difference. These corporate trade deals also create “corporate courts” that bypass the borders of democracy and place billionaires and their corporations beyond the reach of governments when it comes to deciding on laws and regulations that protect citizens. There are more of these “NAFTA-style” being negotiated right now. These are much bigger than the trade deals that have already created such inequality and corporate hegemony. If Republicans take the Senate and keep the House they will pass these new trade deals and clinch this deal worldwide – and President Obama has already indicated he will sign them. This is serious so try to talk a few non-voting friends into showing up this time.

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Richard Eskow

Senior Regulator Says Bank CEOs Meant Well. Documents Say Otherwise.

The head of one of Wall Street’s most important regulatory agencies argued recently that big-bank CEOs never intended to break the law or engage in foreclosure fraud. Instead, Thomas Curry of the Office of Comptroller of the Currency tells us they weren’t cautious enough. Internal documents obtained from a bank-backed venture several years ago seem to directly contradict this claim. These documents, which include training materials, PowerPoint presentations and videos, suggest that the industry made a conscious attempt to bypass local jurisdictions and automate processes – in what can best be described as a fraud-friendly way. As Comptroller of the Currency, Curry runs one of the agencies charged with keeping our banking system safe, ethical and crime-free. It’s not an enviable task, but it’s critical to the safety of our economy.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Wealth Inequality And Middle-Class Decline Is Worse That We Think

We know how bad income inequality has gotten in the past few years in America, thanks largely to the work of economist Emmanuel Saez and his colleagues at University of California at Berkeley’s Center for Equitable Growth. But Saez’s latest paper finds that the share of the nation’s wealth going to the bottom 90 percent of Americans has declined to where it was in the 1940s, erasing decades of hard-won gains due to pro-worker, pro-middle-class economic policies. Meanwhile, the top 0.1 percent of Americans – the 160,000 families with net assets in excess of $20 million in 2012 – now hold 22 percent of the nation’s wealth, up from 7 percent in 1978. That monopolization of a large share of national wealth by an elite few hasn’t been seen since the late 1920s.

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Dean Baker

Ebola Hysteria Fever: A Real Epidemic

Thus far, the Ebola virus has infected three people in the United States that we know of, however Ebola hysteria seems to have infected somewhere close to 300 million. There are reports of kids being pulled out of schools and even some school closings. People in many areas are not going to work and others are driving cars rather than taking mass transit because they fear catching Ebola from fellow passengers. There are also reports of people staying away from stores, restaurants, and other public places in order to avoid the deadly plague. This would all be comic if there were not real consequences. People not going to work are going to lose needed paychecks. Our kids need to go to school to get an education. And the cost of the hysteria may grow enormously depending on how the government reacts.

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Bill Scher

Why Republicans May Still Lose The Senate

Over at Real Clear Politics, I explain “How Republicans Can Blow It.” While we shouldn’t assume the outcome in any of these close Senate races, it’s true that Republicans have inched ahead in many of the contested states where Democrats currently hold seats. However, it’s also true that Republicans have lost ground in the three states that nearly everyone assumed Republicans had in the bag: Georgia, Kansas and South Dakota. If the electorate was experiencing a swing to the right, this split dynamic wouldn’t be happening. In Georgia, the Republican David Perdue is wobbling after making a full-throated defense of outsourcing and deference to the wisdom of CEOs. In South Dakota’s four-way race, the two left-leaning candidates are the ones polling above 50 percent combined. And in Kansas, Sen.

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Dave Johnson

Promised Republican Economic Austerity Plan Will Ruin The Economy

The economy is at stake in this election. If Republicans take the Senate, they promise to impose severe austerity — even as austerity is proven to kill economies. Europe’s economy is suffering because of its harsh austerity, and our economic recovery has been hampered by cuts in spending and layoffs of civil employees. But to true believers, austerity cannot fail; it can only be failed. So pay attention and be sure to vote and bring one reluctant voter with you. Republicans Promise To Impose Severe Austerity Republicans promise to impose severe, severe austerity if they take the Senate. Having the House – which they already control – and Senate means they can pass budgets and send them to the president. They say they will give the President a choice, sign the severe austerity budgets or let the government just shut down with no budget.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: If Ebola Doesn’t Kill You, Wingnuttery Will

Republicans finally have something to run on: fear. This week, it’s fear of Ebola. Of course, right-wing fear-mongers always leave out how conservatism made the Ebola crisis worse. Fox News contributor Stacey Dash called for the federal government to establish “special centers for Ebola in each state.” Dash must have forgotten that the government could just use those empty “FEMA camps.” But we don’t have a surgeon general to tell us that, thanks to the gun-loving wingnut brigade. Meanwhile, wingnuts are squawking for an “Ebola Czar,” — after suggesting that the use of “czars” was turning us into Russia — and then attack the president for appointing one. Something else we don’t have are national public health institutions sufficiently funded to handle crises like Ebola.

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Sam Pizzigati

Our Empathetic Rich: The Rarest of Birds

Billionaire CEO Nicholas Woodman, news reports trumpeted earlier this month, has set aside $450 million worth of his GoPro software stock to set up a brand-new charitable foundation. “We wake up every morning grateful for the opportunities life has given us,” Woodman and his wife Jill noted in a joint statement. “We hope to return the favor as best we can.” Stories about charitable billionaires have long been a media staple. The defenders of our economic order love them — and regularly trot them out to justify America’s ever more top-heavy concentration of income and wealth. Our charities depend, the argument goes, on the generosity of the rich. The richer the rich, the better off our charitable enterprises will be. But this defense of inequality, analysts have understood for quite some time, holds precious little water.

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Dave Johnson

Democrats Discovering Social Security Is Still A ‘Third Rail’

Democrats have (finally, belatedly) rediscovered that support for Social Security is a winning issue in elections. Social Security has been called the “third rail” of American politics and it turns out that talking about cutting Social Security is still like touching a “third rail.” Democrats may even save their senatorial bacon by realizing that supporting something that has 69 percent, 87 percent, 94 percent, 76 percent support, depending on the question asked, is a good idea. Who could have known that campaigning on something that is popular might actually bring them votes? Imagine that. Louisiana Senate: Senator Mary Landrieu is making Social Security a major issue in her campaign.

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Bill Scher

Midterm Ad Watch: The Republican Outsourcers

In 2012, Republicans nominated for president a private equity firm CEO with a record of outsourcing jobs. It did not go well. In several states for the 2014 midterm elections, Republicans have done it again. And it may cost them three gubernatorial seats and possibly control of the Senate. Whenever possible, Democrats are reminding voters of their Republican opponents’ history in sending jobs to other countries. The National Journal has deemed it “The Democrats’ Most Effective Midterm Message” as the outsourcing charges are “successfully persuading undecided voters in close races.” The most notorious case is in Georgia. In what will likely be the Worst Gaffe of 2014, Senate candidate David Perdue answered a question about how he could defend his past outsourcing by saying, “Defend it? I’m proud of it.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Walmart Workers Stage K Street Protest, And Walmart Needs To Listen

Several dozen demonstrators went to the offices of the Walton Family Foundation, the charitable giving arm of the family that owns a majority share of Walmart, on Thursday to say that Walmart should treat its workers more charitably, and give them a living wage and more full-time work. The demonstration happened to follow closely behind an announcement by Walmart that it was reducing its sales projections for the year. The chain for some time has struggled to maintain its growth during a time when its working-class customer base has been struggling with stagnant wages. Walmart, in other words, is reaping the fruits of its leadership in the low-wage economy, with its disregard for the lives of workers.

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Sam Pizzigati

America’s Grand Fortunes Go Overboard

Imagine yourself part of the typical American family. Your household would have, the Federal Reserve reported in September, a net worth of $81,200. That’s not a whole lot of money. But half of America’s households would actually have less wealth than you do. Image via Steve Rhodes @ Flickr. Now imagine that your net worth suddenly quadrupled, to about $325,000. That sum would place you within the ranks of America’s most affluent 20 percent of income earners. You would be “typical” no more. On the other hand, you still wouldn’t be rich, or even close to possessing a grand fortune. So suppose your wealth quadrupled again. That would bump your net worth — your total assets minus the sum of your debts — all the way up to $1.3 million. Congratulations. You now hold 16 times more wealth than the typical American. You probably have paid off your mortgage.

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Larry Cohen

Viewpoint From Honduras

At the deportation center in San Pedro Sula, planes land with over 100 Hondurans a day, returned from our border prisons to their native land. They are mostly young men, shackled hands and legs, who have harrowing tales of days in what they call the “ice box,” the US detention centers on our borders that are so crowded they must stand up for hours, taking turns lying down to sleep. These were heartbreaking conversations, nearly hopeless tales through tears—of failed attempts to unify with families or find work. At the same center, beautiful posters highlighting jobs for English speakers in call centers, handling call center work for US customers. Call center companies tout minimum wage call center jobs for deportees so they can pursue “the American dream” without leaving San Pedro Sula.

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Jeff Bryant

Why Change The Way We Talk About Education

Sometimes when you get enough people beating on the outside of a building, those sitting comfortably on the inside start to feel the vibrations. That’s what it feels like is happening as the voices from the grassroots movement protesting the nation’s oppressive governance of public education are starting to reverberate in the cushy offices and conference rooms of education policy leaders. At a time like this when policy ideas that once seemed so resolute become shaken by strong voices of opposition, it’s important to reflect back on what kind of thinking went into the policy to begin with. While the “insiders” of the debate are more often inclined to propose doing the same things better, “outsiders” are more likely to want bold changes. But if the thinking doesn’t change, nothing truly different is likely to emerge.

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Dave Johnson

New Jersey vs. China: Guess Which One Gets Infrastructure Right

Here are two contrasting infrastructure stories to following up on yesterday’s post, “Investment In Infrastructure Would Cure Today’s Slow Growth Problem”: The U.S. has deferred maintaining (never mind modernizing) our infrastructure for so long (since the Reagan tax cuts?) that the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure gives us a D+, and states flatly that we need to spend $3.6 trillion by 2020 just to get back up to basic standards. (Imagine how many people would be hired, how many contractors and suppliers would be booming, and how many small businesses that sell to them would also be booming!) Here is just one small example of America’s crumbling infrastructure and the economic consequences.

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Robert Borosage

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio: A Powerful Populist Voice

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at the Celebrating America’s Future 2014 Gala Awards ceremony October 14 at Arena Stage in Washington. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is a powerful, new populist voice in American politics. Last year, he swept to a stunning upset victory in New York’s mayoral race, issuing a populist indictment of the “tale of two cities,” one rich and one impoverished, and laying out a bold agenda for reform.

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Dave Johnson

Investment In Infrastructure Would Cure Today’s Slow Growth Problem

What’s going on with the stock market? Here’s one piece of it. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued its World Economic Outlook last week, titled “Global Growth Disappoints, Pace of Recovery Uneven and Country-Specific.” The title gives away the IMF’s economic forecast: disappointment, slowdown and uneven recovery. To address this, the IMF called for “an increase in public infrastructure investment,” particularly in the U.S. and Germany, saying this “could provide a boost to demand in the short term and help raise potential output in the medium term.” Oddly, many if not most outlets reported this projected sluggishness with a “new normal” narrative, while mostly or completely leaving out the IMF’s call for (and report on the benefits of) increased public spending to fix it.

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