Isaiah J. Poole

One More Time: Marriage Doesn’t Alleviate Poverty

We’ve written time and time again about the research debunking the conservative canard that declining marriage rates contribute to high rates of poverty. Still, this argument is a hardy perennial, and with two of its leading proponents, Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) now running for president, it’s time to highlight one key number: 9.3 million. That, according to TalkPoverty.org, is the number of people in married-parent families who live below the official poverty line. Add to that number the 6 million additional people in married households who are above the poverty line but still qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“food stamp”) benefits, and that adds up to more than 15 million people. In some states, including Paul’s state of Kentucky, there are more married couples living in poverty than there are unmarried couples.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: From Baltimore To Wedding Bells

This week, conservatives were confronted with two of their worst fears: gay people getting married and black people getting angry. Then, as if things weren’t bad enough, the federal government began preparations to invade Texas. Baltimore Freddie Gray, 25, was walking through his West Baltimore neighborhood at 8:30am on April 12. Along the way, Gray made eye contact with a police officer. The officer pursued, Gray ran, and two more officers on bicycles joined the pursuit. Gray suffered a broken leg as a result. Officers handcuffed Gray, put him in leg irons, and placed him in a police van — but didn’t put him in a seatbelt. That’s interesting, because Baltimore police have a long history of “rough rides,” in which a handcuffed detainee is placed in a police van without a seat-belt, as the van is driven recklessly through the city streets.

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Dave Johnson

Trade Deficit = Slower Economy = Fewer Jobs = Baltimore

Khalil Bendib/OtherWords If you make things and sell them, you do better over time than if you borrow to buy things. If you send jobs and factories out of the country, you end up with devastated cities like Baltimore. Sure, a few people get rich from that, but 99 percent of us get poorer. How hard is it to see that? You may have heard that gross domestic product growth was dismal in the last quarter. You may have heard that there were riots in Baltimore. You may not have heard that these are both at least partly caused by our enormous, humongous and continuing trade deficit. Trade Deficit A trade deficit is when we import more than we export. It means that there is a certain level of demand in our economy, but some of that demand is leaking out to other countries. When this deficit is significant and goes on for a while it means that jobs are lost, factories close and we get poorer.

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Robert Borosage

The Sanders Challenge

Tweeting that “America needs a political revolution,” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders threw himself Thursday into the race for the Democratic nomination for the presidency. Sanders is in many ways the mirror image of Hillary Clinton, the favored candidate in the race. She has universal name recognition, unlimited funds, and a campaign operation rife with experienced political pros. He is not widely known, has little money, and has never run a national campaign. But in a populist moment, he is the real deal – a full-throated, unabashed, independent, uncorrupted, straight-talking populist. And that is a big deal. Sanders will focus his campaign on the great challenges facing the country: a politics corrupted by big money, and an economy where the rules have been rigged by the few to benefit the few.

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Isaiah J. Poole

‘Raise The Wage’ Bill Gets Support, While The Fight for $15 Continues

Several progressive organizations are lining up today in support of the Raise the Wage bill introduced by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Robert Scott (D-Va.). That bill would raise the federal minimum wage, currently $7.25 an hour, to $12 an hour by 2020. That is far less audacious than the demands of the Fight for $15 movement that has organized strikes in Washington and other major cities around the country. Nonetheless, a number of key organizations have embraced the Murray-Scott bill. “With the economy still tilting toward low-paying jobs, the nation needs bolder action to improve jobs across the bottom of the economy,” said National Employment Law Project director Christine Owens.

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Robert Borosage

Sanders Gets In

The race for the Democratic nomination for president was transformed today as populist stalwart Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy. The mainstream media immediately focused on the horse race – assessing Sanders’ standing in the polls (low), money prowess (small), and name recognition (little). Sanders is not young, not a pretty face, not easy. But in a populist moment, Sanders is the real deal. He has fought on the side of working people for decades. He has been one of the few consistent champions that working people have had as the rules were rigged against them. He was against the corporate trade deals from the beginning. He fought against the tax breaks for the rich and the corporate tax havens. He stood up to save Social Security and Medicare from privatization and grand bargains.

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Isaiah J. Poole

When Pushing A Jobs Agenda, It’s OK To Use This F-Word

At a time when polls often show a high level of skepticism and even antipathy toward government, progressive pollster Celinda Lake offered some contrarian advice Wednesday to the “Families First: Good Jobs for All” meeting sponsored by the Center for Community Change: Not only is it all right to use the “g-word” while advancing a jobs-for-all agenda, it’s even OK to use the “f-word” that is often paired with it: “federal.” “Voters strongly value community, family, fairness and freedom. And they support a role for government in ensuring that every person who wants to work has a job and a good standard of living,” Lake wrote in a report that was issued at the conference.

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Dave Johnson

Writing The New Rules For The 21st Century – In Secret?

The great Thomas “Mustache” Friedman is perhaps best known for encouraging the invasion of Iraq (and subsequent resistance insurgency, civil war, thousands of American and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths, eventually leading to the formation of ISIS – plus the trillions in costs) by saying, “What they [Muslims] needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house from Basra to Baghdad and basically saying ‘Which part of this sentence don’t you understand?’ … Well, Suck. On. This.” He is also known among the blogger set for what Duncan Black coined as the six-month “Friedman Unit,” because he claimed for years that the Iraq war would be “turning a corner” in another six months’ time.

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Bill Scher

The Kochs Can’t Buy The Pope

Pope Francis is preparing to deliver a major “encyclical,” or address to clergy, that declares preventing a climate crisis to be a moral imperative. This will be a landmark moment: the marriage of faith and science by one of the world’s most influential religious leaders, bolstering international talks to forge a global agreement by the end of the year. Obviously, the man must be stopped. At least that’s what the climate science deniers at the Koch Brothers-funded Heartland Institute think. Failing to recognize that the jig is up, Heartland representatives flew to the Vatican this week, and infiltrated a press conference tied to the church’s climate summit that is a precursor to the encyclical. The Heartland boys were sad when their disruptive and disingenuous questioning was ignored.

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Richard Long

Black Students Feeling Especially Crushed By Student Debt

Tyrone Hankerson, a graduating senior at Howard University, is in a particularly good position to see the impact of today’s student loan debt crisis firsthand – even though he has managed to head into graduation without student debt overhanging him personally. That is because Hankerson has a work-study position in Howard’s Office of Financial Aid. There, he deals directly with students trying to pay for their college education, and prepare for the debt that they are taking on. What he hears is heartbreaking. “For many of my classmates, their families simply do not have the financial resources to pay for college,” he said at a forum on student debt Monday convened by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings’ Middle Class Prosperity Project.

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Dave Johnson

Federal Workers Face Retaliation For Walkout Over Poverty Wages

Last week, in “Government Sweatshops: A Time for the President to Act,” Robert Borosage wrote about federal government contract employees working for poverty wages: 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. … The sad reality is that the United States government remains the country’s largest low-wage job creator. All those senators tramping through New Hampshire promising to rebuild the middle class are part of a Congress that doesn’t pay the workers who serve them enough to lift a family out of poverty.

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Donald Kaul

The Baltimore Uprising’s Backstory

What started out as righteous protest over the death of a young black man in the hands of Baltimore cops (he had been accused of “making eye contact with a police officer”) quickly degenerated into a full-scale riot. By nightfall the city was on fire, its hopes for a better tomorrow in ruins. City officials blamed “thugs” and “outsiders” for the disaster. But in another sense it was an uprising, a desperate act of defiance by young people who feel increasingly that they have nothing left to lose. You’re going to arrest them? So what. Chances are you’re going to arrest them anyway, sooner or later. They know that. It’s what we do to black people in our society. It’s not as though what happened in Baltimore was unique or even unusual in our nation’s history. Race riots, as we used to call them, are as American as baseball and apple pie.

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Harvey J Kaye

We Will Not Forget Workers’ Struggles in Wisconsin

On May 5, 1886, thousands of Milwaukee workers marched peacefully on the huge Bay View Rolling Mills as part of a nationwide effort to bring about the eight-hour day. On orders from Gov. Jeremiah Rusk, the state militia fired, killing seven. This was the bloodiest labor disturbance in Wisconsin history, and began a new struggle for a more humane workplace and a more just society. On Sunday, May 1, 2011 some 300 Wisconsinites gathered in solidarity at the state historical marker and monument to the tragedy in Bay View to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the tragedy.  Folksinger Larry Penn performed a few labor classics; actors from the Milwaukee Public Theater and the Milwaukee Puppet Theater staged a dramatic re-enactment; a wreath was laid at the monument; the names of the dead were read; and I delivered a short oration (available on YouTube).

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Isaiah J. Poole

Baltimore’s Plight Shows Why A Good Jobs Policy Is Way Overdue

The nation is now seeing that there is a broader story to be told about the roots of the violence that broke out in Baltimore this week. In addition to the mistreatment of African Americans by police, there is also the story of extreme economic deprivation – the consignment of entire communities to virtual jails of joblessness, poverty and neglect. The fact that such large expanses of poverty could exist in Baltimore and in other major cities across the country is a consequence of economic policies that are constrained by conservative austerity ideology and that fail to address institutional racism and structural poverty. The struggles of central Baltimore communities that are now part of the national conversation highlight the urgency of an initiative that will be launched today by the Center for Community Change.

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Terrance Heath

Right-Wing Media Blames Everyone But Police For Baltimore Unrest

The right-wing response to stories of police violence and brutality against blacks, and black deaths at the hands of police, is becoming as predictable as the stories themselves. Only the names and locations seem to change. Here we are again. Another unarmed black man has died in the custody of another city police department with a long record of brutality, under highly questionable circumstances. By now its de riguer on the right to blame the victims, and spout racist rhetoric. A couple of weeks ago, it was Walter Scott, shot in the back while fleeing a traffic stop in North Carolina, and denied medical help while the officer in question joked about the “adrenaline rush” he got from the killing. This week, it’s Freddie Gray, who emerged from a ride in a police van with serious, unexplained injuries, and died a week later.

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Dave Johnson

The Right Hates TPP And Fast Track, Too

Republicans in Congress can read polls and letters from their constituents as well as Democrats, and they, as most Democrats already have done, are starting to realize that it might not be wise to rubber-stamp the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the rigged fast track trade promotion authority process that will be used to pre-approve it. The tea party and the right generally are starting to ramp up their own opposition.

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Bill Scher

After Iran Letter Debacle, Republicans Want To Write a Climate Letter

When 47 Republican Senators wrote an open letter to the Iranian government designed to undercut President Obama’s negotiating strategy, they not only were excoriated at home for mischievous meddling in foreign policy, they also were humiliated when the gambit didn’t work. The Republicans thought they were informing the Iranians that President Obama needed congressional approval to permanently lift sanctions under our system of government. But the Iranians aren’t stupid. They knew that already, and proceeded with a preliminary deal anyway. The widely held assumption is: Congress or the next president would be hard-pressed to arbitrarily re-impose sanctions if Iran is sticking to the deal and all the other international parties remain on board. Yet Republicans often are gluttons for punishment.

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Gloria Totten

The Right Wing Isn’t Crazy, It’s Strategic

So far this year… ● The Oklahoma House passed legislation to eliminate AP American History classes from public schools because, right-wingers said, the course is too negative about America. ● The Tennessee House voted to designate the Holy Bible as “the official state book,” ignoring an attorney general’s opinion that it would be patently unconstitutional. ● Both Arkansas and Arizona enacted laws requiring doctors to tell patients they could potentially reverse the effects of a medication abortion, an assertion without scientific merit. ● The Mississippi House approved a bill to exempt the drivers of large church buses from the requirement of possessing a bus driver’s license—nicknamed the “Jesus Take the Wheel Act.” With bills like these, it’s easy to dismiss the right wing as just plain crazy.

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Leo Gerard

The Words of Dead Workers

To give voice to 35 workers killed on the job over the past 35 years at a massive refinery in Texas City, hundreds of surviving family members, co-workers and friends gathered there last month to erect white crosses marked with their names. They conducted the ceremony on the 10th anniversary of an explosion that killed 15 workers and injured more than 170, including townspeople. Marathon Petroleum Corp., which bought the refinery from BP two years ago, did its best to shut the mourners up. Marathon uprooted the crosses and tossed them in a box like trash within hours of the commemoration. For years during contract negotiations, the United Steelworkers (USW) union has pressed ungodly profitable oil companies to improve safety. This fell mostly on deaf ears. On Feb. 1, USW refinery workers began loudly voicing this demand by striking over unfair labor practices (ULP).

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Dave Johnson

How TPP Increases Corporate Power vs. Government – And Us

Power is the ability to control, to tell what to do, to get your way. Corporations have a lot of power over working people in our country now, and they might be about to get a lot more. The proponents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) tell us that it will have unprecedented “progressive” protections for the rights of working people, the environment, even wildlife. So there is likely to be flowery-sounding language in TPP, just as President Obama says. What matters is whether there will be clear and guaranteed enforceability of those words. Enforcement Matters Rules are great; enforcement is greater. Without enforcement, a rule may as well not exist – especially when everyone knows there is not enforcement. We see rules with no enforcement all around us. Here’s an obvious example.

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