Dave Johnson

Video: What Is The U.S. Trade Deficit?

Must watch, from Economy in Crisis through the USW Blog: Also (from 2011; it’s worse now): ‘Trade Deficit with China Has Cost 2.8 Million U.S. Jobs Over Past Decade.” For more recent figures see this December 11 post, “China’s Currency Manipulation ‘Sucks Wages Out Of Our Economy’“: “[B]etween 2001 and 2013 the massive growth of our country’s trade deficit with China has cost us 3.2 million U.S.

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Richard Eskow

Wall Street Had a Merry Christmas. The New Year’s Still Up For Grabs.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) discusses his upcoming role on the Senate Banking Committee (from The Zero Hour). They’re calling it a “Christmas gift” for Wall Street. Last week the Federal Reserve announced that it’s giving U.S. banks yet another extension on the “Volcker Rule” provision in the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill. As a result of this latest decision, banks won’t have to comply until mid-2017. The Dodd-Frank bill was passed in 2010. Banks wanted a delay because they claimed they needed the time to prepare. Does anybody really think the nation’s largest and most powerful financial institutions need seven years to restructure the casino-like aspect of their operations? It would be easier to imagine them doing in seven days – at least if there were money to be made from it.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Year In Review: We Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet

It’s time to say goodbye to 2014, and wrap-up the first year of “Wingnut Week In Review.” But first, let’s trudge down memory lane and recall the best of the worse in wingnuttia this year. Meanwhile, Back At Bundy Ranch It all started when Cliven Bundy declared a “range war” against the federal government, over grazing fees he refused to pay, for grazing his cattle on federal land (i.e., not his). After repeatedly losing in the courts, Bundy resorted to threats of violence, as criminals typically do. Once the local and national news got hold of it, Bundy became a right-wing media darling. Wingnuts, “sovereign citizens, ” and future cop killers flocked to Bundy’s ranch, to have fun pointing weapons at sheriff’s deputies and federal agents, and hoping for the shooting war that would spark their “revolution.” Then Cliven Bundy spoke in defense of slavery.

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Dave Johnson

Get Ready Now For Fast Track Fight

As soon as the new Congress is sworn in next year, the fight over Fast Track will begin. Start preparing now. David Cay Johnston, explains in “Full Speed Ahead On Secretive Trade Deal”: (Note the ‘t’ in his last name. I am David C JohnSON.) Early next year, after the 114th Congress begins meeting, a new Washington coalition will move quickly to approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-nation trade agreement that will destroy American jobs, restrict individual liberty and burden American taxpayers. Oh, and it will do so without any real debate. … The agreement would even let foreign companies seek damages if U.S. or state rules threaten their profits. Plaintiff companies would not have to sustain damages to collect damages from American taxpayers. They would only need to show a threat to their profits, leaks from the trade talks have revealed.

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Bill Scher

Healthcare.gov Proves Liberal Government Works

It’s not as much fun to write about as a broken website, but Healthcare.gov is humming along this year. The Department of Health and Human Services reports that 6.4 million are now enrolled through the federally-run exchanges, and that number doesn’t include those enrolled in the 13 states that run their own exchanges. HHS appears on track to meet its goal of 9 million by mid-February. Meanwhile, the decades-long rise of the cost of health insurance premiums appears to have been arrested, with premiums flat since the Affordable Care Act was passed. I wrote one year ago, in the midst of the initial Healthcare.gov debacle, that “Obamacare’s Troubles Will Be Good For Liberalism”: “Panic today will be defused and forgotten tomorrow.

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Leo Gerard

Bargaining Power to the People

Earlier this month, in the sparsely populated Kentucky county that’s home to Bowling Green, officials voted to convert the place into a right-to-work (for less) sinkhole. The county officials did it at the bidding of big corporations. They certainly didn’t do it for their Warren County constituents because employees in right-to-work (for less) states get smaller paychecks than those in states that support the right to unionize. They did it at the demand of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Heritage Foundation, both of which are corporate owned and operated. They did it despite the fact that there’s no evidence they have any legal authority to create an anti-union bastion on the county level, which means they’ve subjected the residents of Warren County to substantial costs for a legal battle that Warren is likely to lose.

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Dave Johnson

Holiday Bright Spots For Progressives

The midterm elections were a wake-up call. Voters had given up on the Democratic party as irrelevant – not really on their side, so they didn’t bother to show up at the polls. But there are end-of-year holiday season bright spots for progressives as we think about the coming year’s fights. People are becoming more active with protests over issues like low pay and police treatment. Locally people are putting core progressive policies like fighting pollution, raising the minimum wage and giving people sick days off into effect. And there are signs that the national Democrats are starting to “get it” that they have to demonstrate they are on the side of regular, working people. People Becoming More Active Madison, Wisc. and the Occupy movement were flare-ups of popular protest that focused the national discussion on inequality.

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Lynne Stuart Parramore

Joseph Stiglitz on Why the Rich are Getting Richer

Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz has been writing about America’s economically divided society since the 1960s. His recent book,The Price of Inequality, argues that this division is holding the country back, a topic he has also explored in recent research supported by the Institute for New Economic Thinking and others. On December 4, Stiglitz chaired the eighth INET Seminar Series at Columbia University, in which he presented a paper, “New Theoretical Perspectives on the Distribution of Income and Wealth Among Individuals.” In the interview that follows, he explores the themes of this paper, the work of Thomas Piketty, and the need for the field of economics — and the country — to come to terms with the growing gulf between haves and have-nots. Lynn Parramore: You’ve mentioned that economic inequality was the subject of your Ph.D studies.

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Terrance Heath

Conservative Media And Cop Killers Of A Different Color

On June 8, 2014, white, anti-government, tea party supporters shot and killed two Las Vegas police officers. Conservative media was conspicuously silent. On Saturday, Ismaaiyl Brinsley shot and killed NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos as they sat in their patrol car, in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant. Brinsley, who had made “very anti-police” statements on Instagram, was later found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Police spokesmen and conservative media were quick to blame the murders on the widespread protests of police killings of unarmed black males such as Michael Brown, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Tamir Rice, and others.

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Dean Baker

What’s Behind Those New Budget Office Numbers On Family Incomes?

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently updated its analysis of changes in before-tax and after-tax family income. In some ways the new analysis showed a brighter picture for middle-income families than other work highlighting stagnation. Focusing on the middle quintile of households with children, the new CBO analysis showed a gain in before-tax income of 25.2 percent from 1979. The gain in after-tax, after-transfer income was 46.7 percent. This may not amount to huge gains over a 31-year period, but it is not zero. It is worth looking at these numbers more closely. Focusing on the before-tax side, the CBO numbers show income for the middle quintile rising from $61,200 in 1979 to $76,600 in 2010 (in 2010 dollars). By far the biggest single chunk of this increase is wages.

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Robert Borosage

Growth or Fairness: The Phony Debate

After the debilitating defeats of 2014, Democrats face a harsh winter, wandering in a bleak wilderness, trying to find the way out. Redemption will come only if Democrats use this time to rethink their course, and develop new ideas, a clearer sense of their own mission and more credible messages and messengers. But the eternal campaign that plagues American politics allows little time for reflection and reconsideration. Already, every statement is parsed for its effect on 2016, every reform and critique weighed for its relevance to the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton. Even Republican contenders are measured by how they are likely to stack up against a Clinton candidacy. What should be a rich debate rapidly is diluted to a thin gruel.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: Santa Cruz Comes To Town

Santa Cruz came to town this week, when Sen. Ted Cruz (R, Texas) inadvertently gave Senate Democrats an early holiday gift. Democrats taunted Cruz and Republicans cursed him for pulling a parliamentary shenanigan that let Democrats push through two dozen nominations that Senate Republicans would have blocked next year. Just as Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell were close to getting a Senate vote on the $1.1 trillion “CRomnibus” bill, Cruz got cute and demanded a vote to defund President Obama’s executive action on immigration. Reid seized the opportunity to push through 24 nominations that would otherwise have gone nowhere. As a result: America finally has a new surgeon general. A year and a half after Republicans blocked his nomination over his support for gun control, contraception, and Obamacare, Vivek H.

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Dave Johnson

Enougher is Enougher: ANOTHER Citi Nominee

Another Citigroup alumni has been nominated to a key high-level position in the Obama administration. This time it’s a lateral move: Marisa Lago, who has been serving in the Treasury Department as Assistant Secretary for International Markets and Development since 2010, is nominated for the position of deputy U.S. trade representative (USTR). Her duties at USTR will include trade relations with Africa and the Western Hemisphere, as well as labor and environment issues. Ms. Lago was Global Head of Compliance for Citigroup’s corporate and investment bank from 2003 to 2008. She also headed the Office of International Affairs at the Securities and Exchange Commission from 1997 to 2001.

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Jeff Bryant

Education’s Newsmaker Of The Year: Charter School Scandals

Since it’s the time of the year when newspapers, websites, and television talk shows scan their archives to pick the person, place, or thing that sums up the year in entertainment, business, sports, or every other venue, why not do that for education, too? In 2014 education news, lots of personalities came and went. Michelle Rhee gave way to Campbell Brown as a torchbearer for “reform.” The comedian Louis C. K. had a turn at becoming an education wonk with his commentary on the Common Core standards. Numerous “Chiefs for Change” toppled from the ranks of chiefdom. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett went down in defeat due in part to his gutting of public schools, as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker remained resilient while spreading the cancerous voucher program from Milwaukee to the rest of the state.

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Robert Borosage

The New Center Democrats: There’s No There There

The debate in the Democratic Party is being framed in much of the mainstream media as a struggle between a “pragmatic center” that wants to “get things done” and an angry populist wing – led by Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Sherrod Brown and others – that vilifies enemies and creates division. This week, William Galston, a veteran New Democrat scribe, used his perch on the Wall Street Journal op-ed page to second Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) in making the case for a “nonpopulist liberalism, more interested in diagnosing conditions than in identifying enemies.” The problem, Galston suggests, is that while populist economics has found its voice, “nonpopulist liberalism” has not. That, he argues, will be the “most important test” for Hillary Clinton’s impending presidential run.

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Richard Eskow

Hillary’s Choice: “Anti-Gridlock” or “Anti-Wall Street”?

We’re told that Hillary Clinton is spurning something her advisers call the “anti-Wall Street” movement and will run instead on a platform of “working across the aisle” with Republicans. Her camp is suggesting, without much evidence and against the lessons of recent history, that she will be more effective at this endeavor than her predecessor. And now they’re using that claim to fight against the Democratic Party’s rising populist wing. Is Hillary Clinton about to repeat Barack Obama’s biggest mistake? In the first two years of his presidency, Obama spoke of compromise, protected Wall Street, and resisted the populist wing of his own party.

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Isaiah J. Poole

What The Death Of Single Payer In Vermont Says About Health Reform

Not surprisingly, the right-wing hot-air blowers are giddy at the news this week that Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin has abandoned efforts to set up a state-run single-payer health plan in Vermont. “The risks and economic shocks of moving forward at this time are too great,” he conceded in a letter to state residents about “one of the most difficult decisions of my public life.” But lest the conservative breast-beating gets too exuberant, there is also this news, via the Associated Press, that Arkansas’ conservative “model Medicaid experiment” is in jeopardy. By buying private insurance policies for Medicaid-eligible people instead of adding them to a state-administered Medicaid program, “Arkansas became the first Southern state to expand its Medicaid program in a way that many Republicans found acceptable,” the AP said.

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Robert Reich

The Coin of the Realm: How Inside Traders Are Rigging America

A few years ago, hedge fund Level Global Investors made $54 million selling Dell Computer stock based on insider information from a Dell employee. When charged with illegal insider trading, Global Investors’ co-founder Anthony Chiasson claimed he didn’t know where the tip came from. Chiasson argued that few traders on Wall Street ever know where the inside tips they use come from because confidential information is, in his words, the “coin of the realm in securities markets.” Last week the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which oversees federal prosecutions of Wall Street, agreed. It overturned Chiasson’s conviction, citing lack of evidence Chaisson received the tip directly, or knew insiders were leaking confidential information in exchange for some personal benefit.

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Dave Johnson

Elizabeth Warren Says Fix The TPP Trade Deal

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is emerging as a champion in the fight over provisions the upcoming Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement that could undermine our (and other) country’s ability to keep the giant multinational corporations under control. One of these provisions is called Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS), which sets up a system where corporations can sue governments in “corporate courts” where corporate lawyers decide cases. (Yes, really.) Senator Warren is taking this on. Warren, joined by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman expressing concern over the inclusion of certain provisions in TPP. The Washington Post has the story, in “Elizabeth Warren, other Democrats raise concerns about free-trade pact with Asia“: Sen.

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Terrance Heath

Taking Money From Obamacare Won’t Cure What’s Wrong With Kansas

Conservative economic policy turned Kansas into a “smoking ruin.” Now, a cure for what’s the matter with Kansas is coming from an unexpected source. In 2012, Kansas governor Sam Brownback signed into law a massive tax cut that he said would boost the state’s economy. Brownback even mused about eliminating income taxes altogether. That’s how enthusiastic he was. Conservatives were enthusiastic, too. Kansas was going to show America how it was done, and Sam Brownback would be a serious contender for the presidency. Never mind what we already know about tax cuts. We know what happened. Brownback’s tax cuts gutted Kansas’ budget, costing the state $700 million in lost revenue. Things got so bad that Kansas was reduced to auctioning off repossessed sex toys to help plug the hole in the state’s budget.

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