Robert Borosage

On Fast Track: Obama’s Scorn Forces Hillary Clinton’s Hand

Will Hillary Clinton oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement and the fast track authority designed to ramrod it through the Congress? She’s been noncommittal to date, with many assuming she will eventually support the president who she served as secretary of state. But by calling out his opponents, President Obama has turned the escalating battle over fast track and TPP into an intra-party back-alley knife fight. As someone seeking to lead that party, Hillary can’t remain on the sidelines for long. And, if she adheres to the standards that she put forth for the agreement, she might well end up joining the opposition. The president has lined up with the Republican congressional leadership, the Chamber of Commerce and the business lobby to pass “fast track” trade authority to ease the passage of the 12-nation TPP.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: Gay Panic

Next week, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in same-sex marriage cases that could result in a ruling that makes marriage equality the law of the land. Naturally, wingnuts have already worked themselves into a panic. Lawyer and former Antonin Scalia law clerk Gene Schaerr wrote at the Heritage Foundation’s “Daily Signal,” that gay marriage will cause 900,000 more abortions. According to Schaerr, gay marriage “undermines” traditional marriage, leading to lower marriage rates. Lower marriage rates means more unmarried women. Unmarried women have more abortions than married women. Thus, gay marriage leads to more abortions. Mike Huckabee drew connections between gay marriage and the ISIS threat.

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Dave Johnson

Obama Says Critics Of Trade Deal Sound Like Palin Touting Death Panels

President Obama, speaking to the Organizing for America (OFA) Summit Thursday, said that people who have concerns about the Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority process and the still-secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “don’t know what they’re talking about,” and compared them to conservatives like Sarah Palin, who claimed that the Obamacare health care reform contained “death panels.” Then, on a Friday conference call with reporters the President complained about people like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders saying, “Every single one of the critics who I hear saying, ‘this is a secret deal,’ or send out emails to their fundraising base saying they’re working to prevent this secret deal, can walk over today and read the text of the agreement.

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Emily Schwartz Greco

The Divestment Dividend

As Earth Day approached, fossil-fuel divestment actions rattled college campuses large and small. Targets ranged from Harvard University’s $36-billion endowment to the University of Mary Washington’s $46-million nest egg. That’s only natural: Students, professors, and alumni are increasingly telling their schools to put their money where their mission is by shunning oil, gas, and coal assets. And there’s no more symbolic time of year to make that kind of statement. Conservative icon George Will, realizing this is a thing, ridiculed Syracuse University’s recent decision to sweep all dirty-energy holdings out of its $1.2-billion endowment. Even for fossils like the widely syndicated columnist, it’s too hard to ignore the growing movement to make universities — and everyone else — lock these industries out of their investments.

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Dave Johnson

A ‘Path To Yes’ On Trade, But Paul Ryan Blocks It

The “fast track” trade bill introduced last week by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has a number of problems. It sets aside Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution and essentially pre-approves the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) before the public and most of Congress even sees it. Unfortunately, the Senate bill does not specify firm and sufficient objectives to make TPP a trade bill that could work for 99 percent of Americans. Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, on Thursday offered an alternative, the Right Track for TPP Act of 2015. (Summary here, full text here.) This bill is a fast track process for doing trade right — or at least for modifying the secretly negotiated TPP so it can be somewhat palatable to more of us than just the 1 percent.

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Jim Hightower

Where Are the Populist Democrats?

It’s futile to hope that the GOP’s gaggle of corporate-hugging, right-wing presidential candidates will seriously address the issue of rising inequality in our land. How about the Democrats? Well, Hillary Clinton has warned that “extreme inequality has corrupted other societies.” Uh…yes. But what about our society? Clinton says: “We have to have a concerted effort to meet a consensus about how to deal with this.” Huh? That’s not an answer, much less a solution. It’s a political tap dance around a crucial matter facing America. Why would she dodge a chance to swing away at a down-the-middle issue that’s right in the wheelhouse of her party’s populist strength? After all, recent polls show majority public support for direct government action to reduce the wealth gap, from raising taxes on the superrich to raising the minimum wage above the poverty level.

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Jeff Bryant

An Alternative To Failed Education ‘Reform,’ If We Want One

The movement to boycott standardized testing has caught the media totally by surprise. The mostly parent-led effort that started with Facebook pages and neighborhood meetings has grown into a firestorm of resistance. As the Associated Press reported this week, “This ‘opt-out’ movement remains scattered but is growing fast.” The article points to New York – where perhaps as many as 200,000 students recently sat out the standardized tests – but also mentions strong opt-out movements in New Jersey, Maine, New Mexico, Oregon and Pennsylvania. Even education policy influentials who have long advocated for an accountability system driven by standardized tests have been shaken by the resounding opposition to their policies. Meanwhile, in Washington, momentum is growing behind a U.S.

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Jeff Bryant

Atlanta’s School Teachers Aren’t Alone In Their Attempts To Cheat

No one likes a cheater. So you’d think plenty of people would be pleased to hear that educators in Atlanta, on trial for cheating on standardized tests, were found guilty of those charges and sentenced “harshly,” according to the New York Times. As CNN reports, of the 12 educators who went on trial for “inflating test scores of children from struggling schools,” 11 were convicted of racketeering—a crime normally associated with mob bosses—and other lesser crimes. Of those who have been sentenced so far (one sentencing has been postponed), eight have been given jail or prison time and three will serve at least seven years. Only those who admitted guilt and waived appeals were spared. But even before the sentencing was finalized, there was widespread condemnation of the idea that prison terms were even in consideration. An “outrage” one commentator called it.

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Robert Borosage

Government Sweatshops: A Time for the President to Act

This week in Washington, hundreds of low wage federal government contract workers walked off their jobs, demonstrating for a living wage and a union. They included Senate janitors and food service workers – the workers who serve the senators their food and clean up the messes they leave. Carrying a sign reading “Hiring: A President who will sign a $15 +Union Executive Order,” these workers are calling on President Obama to lead and put government on the side of workers. They want an executive order that would give preference in government procurement and licensing to companies that pay a living wage with benefits, and respect their workers’ right to organize.

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Miya Pontes

Government Contract Workers Strike For Better Pay

More than 600 federal workers went on strike today, including about three dozen Senate employees, in a protest over low pay by federal contractors. The strike won support from members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), who joined the U.S. Senate contract workers who were protesting low pay. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) highlighted the growing disparity between the rich and the poor and the disappearing middle class. “We have billions of working people living in poverty, and 99 percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent. That is not what America is supposed to be about. What America is supposed to be about is if you work 40 hours a week, you earn enough money to take care of your kids, and your family,” Sanders said.

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Terrance Heath

Study: “Right-To-Work” Lowers Wages

A new study published by the Economic Policy Institute confirms that “right-to-work” laws aren’t about protecting worker’s rights. “Right-to-work” laws lower workers’ wages, no matter how you look at them. That’s the conclusion of “‘Right-To-Work’ States Still Have Lower Wages,” a EPI briefing paper by Elise Gould and Will Kimball. The briefing paper is a follow-up to, and a response to criticism of a 2012 study by Gould and Heidi Shierholz. The 2012 study found that wages in “right-to-work” states were 3.2 percent lower than in non-“right-to-work” states. The current study confirms this, finding that wages in “right-to-work” states are 3.1 percent lower than in non-“right-to-work” states, which translates into $1,558 less in annual wages for workers in “right-to-work” states. Currently, 25 states have “right-to-work” laws.

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Terrance Heath

Will Marriage Equality Opponents Take Us Back To The “Green Book” Era?

Last week, my husband and I visited the US Postal Museum. In the exhibit, “Freedom Just Around the Corner:Black America From Civil War To Civil Rights,” I came across a copy of the 1966–67 edition of the Travelers’ Green Book International Edition, or the Negro Motorists’ Green Book, commonly called the “Green Book.” Published by New York City postal carrier Victor H. Green and his wife Alma from 1936 to 1966, the “Green Book” served — as an editorial in the 1956 edition explained — “to give the Negro traveler information that will keep him from running into difficulties, embarrassments and to make his trip more enjoyable.” The Negro Travelers’ Green Book, Spring 1956 Edition.

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Dave Johnson

Here Is Proof That Conservatives Actually Hate Markets

Conservatives are supposedly all about markets. Markets should decide, not voters. But when it comes to the law of supply and demand for government debt, they go blind. Greg Ip in the Wall Street Journal poses this surprising question: “Is Government Debt Too Low?“ The interest rate that rich countries with super-safe debt (in the case of the eurozone, that means Germany but not Spain) pay is astonishingly low: lower than the growth rate of nominal gross domestic product (that is, GDP before subtracting inflation). In the U.S., the Treasury yield has gone from roughly equal to growth in nominal GDP in 2005 to 3 percentage points lower today. By Mr. [Brad] DeLong’s reckoning, this means those countries are borrowing too little. Bond yields and prices move in opposite directions, so low government bond yields equate to very valuable government bonds. Mr.

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Richard Eskow

The Surprise Issue of the 2016 Election?

The 2016 election season is just beginning, but a surprise issue is already emerging among both Republican and Democratic candidates: Social Security. Some observers thought that conservative candidates would be inclined to avoid the so-called “third rail” of American politics this time around, but the opposite seems to be true. A lot of Republicans are eager to propose cutting it, even as many progressives talk of expanding it. Where does that leave the Democratic Party and its odds-on favorite for the presidential nomination? Will Hillary Clinton embrace her party’s growing call to increase Social Security benefits? It’s not an extreme idea, as some would have us believe, or even a particularly “leftist” one. In fact, Social Security expansion was a key part of the Republican agenda – in 1956.

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Dave Johnson

Low-Wage Federal Contractors To Strike Wednesday

U.S. Senate contract janitors and food service workers will walk off their jobs Wednesday to protest poverty pay, along with hundreds of striking workers from the U.S. Capitol, Pentagon, Smithsonian Institution and other federal landmarks. They will be joined by the woman who cleans Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s office. The strike will take place under the banner of Good Jobs Nation. They are asking for “More Than the Minimum.” Through privatization and contracting, the U.S. government has become the country’s biggest low-wage job creator, funding over 2 million poverty jobs through contracts, loans and grants with private businesses that pay the minimum and provide few if any benefits.

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Harvey J Kaye

‘Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness’ Demands $15 an Hour

Knowing that “necessitous men are not free men,” President Franklin D. Roosevelt launched a New Deal in 1933 that rallied Americans to not only fight the Great Depression, but also to combat poverty, reduce inequality, and enhance American democratic life. Together, President and People subjected the banks and national commerce to government supervision, provided jobs for the jobless, and refurbished the nation’s infrastructure and environment. Moreover, right from the start FDR and his New Dealers in the Cabinet and Congress set out to establish a minimum wage and empower workers to organize unions.

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Robert Reich

How the New Flexible Economy is Making Workers’ Lives Hell

These days it’s not unusual for someone on the way to work to receive a text message from her employer saying she’s not needed right then. Although she’s already found someone to pick up her kid from school and arranged for childcare, the work is no longer available and she won’t be paid for it. Just-in-time scheduling like this is the latest new thing, designed to make retail outlets, restaurants, hotels, and other customer-driven businesses more nimble and keep costs to a minimum. Software can now predict up-to-the-minute staffing needs on the basis of  information such as traffic patterns, weather, and sales merely hours or possibly minutes before. This way, employers don’t need to pay anyone to be at work unless they’re really needed. Companies can avoid paying wages to workers who’d otherwise just sit around.

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Jeff Bryant

How California Flipped The Education-Reform Script

Politicians from across the political spectrum have made public schools and schoolteachers the favored whipping post of the day. In blue state New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has vowed to “bust up” public education “monopolies” and has bullied through new laws that unfairly evaluate teachers based on wildly unreliable measures. These actions recently drove thousands of New Yorkers into the streets to protest the new mandates. In red state Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback has made massive budget cuts to that state’s public schools, spurring parents and school children to openly protest his plan. Another conservative leader, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, has taken a meat cleaver to higher education budgets, igniting a strong backlash from voters. In virtually every state, there’s a massive resistance to standardized testing that now dominates education practices.

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Leo Gerard

Fast Tracking Democracy to Hell

Free traders in Congress formally proposed last week that lawmakers relax, put their feet up and neglect the rigor of legislative review for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade scheme. The TPP is a secret deal among 12 Pacific Rim nations that was covertly negotiated by unelected officials and corporate bosses. It’s so clandestine that lawmakers elected to represent the American people were refused access to the deliberations. It would expand secret trade tribunals that corporations use to sue governments over democratically established laws and win compensation from taxpayers. The Congressional free traders want to Fast Track authorization of the TPP. Fast Track enables Congress to abdicate its constitutionally mandated duty to regulate international trade.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Populism2015’s Upshot – Hillary Clinton Has Her Challenger: It Is Us

There is one respect in which politics is like investing: You don’t put your eggs in one basket. The lesson we learned from the Barack Obama presidency is that while it is good to invest some of our hopes in a presidential candidate, no single candidate warrants the investment of all of our hopes. Some of our investment wisely goes to a movement that encourages that candidate to be true to our hopes and discourages that candidate from actions that would betray us. It’s a lesson worth remembering in the wake of the Populism2015 conference, which brought around 800 activists together under an alliance of National People’s Action, Alliance for a Just Society, USAction and Campaign for America’s Future.

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