Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: GOP Clown Car Follies Rolls Along

As of this week, the race for the GOP presidential nomination has eight official candidates, and no front-runner. But it has plenty of gaffes, and promises more to come. The Republican field grew by two more candidates this week, as former senator Rick Santorum and former New York governor George Pataki squeezed into the GOP’s presidential primary “clown car.” With more candidates expected to announce in the coming weeks, the field is only going to get more crowded, which is only going to make the upcoming debates trickier. Fox News is handling the GOP debates. That’s bad enough, considering that so far the toughest questions the candidates have faced came from Fox News anchors. Fox has limited participation in the first debate — on August 6 — to the top 10 candidates.

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Dave Johnson

Trade Deficit At Root Of Negative Economic Growth Report

The Bureau of Economic Analysis reported today that the gross domestic product (GDP) fell at an annual rate of 0.7 percent in the first quarter of 2015. Our enormous, humongous trade deficit is literally draining our economy. The trade deficit is because we import things we used to make here and sell there, but we allowed companies to move the factories and jobs there in order to force wages down here. This makes a few plutocrats vastly wealthy but it is killing jobs, wages, factories and our middle class.

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Emily Foster

High Debts, Low Wages Are Still What Await Too Many College Graduates

Brody El-Achi, a rising junior at American University in Washington, D.C., is struggling with sky-high tuition while facing a static job market with stagnant wages. And he’s wondering if the struggle is worth it. “The fact that I have to pay over $230,000 for four years of education is ridiculous.” he said this week. “The crazier part is that the average graduate starting salary in my field of study is $40,000. This means I would need over five years of working and spending all of what I make to paying off school.” El-Achi’s worries are all too typical.

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Bill Scher

What Conservatives Don’t Understand About Fox News

In Politico Magazine on Thursday I wrote that the Republican National Committee strategy to seize control of the debates and use more conservative moderators may backfire, as Republican candidates have been regularly committing gaffes in the comfy confines of the Fox News studios, like Jeb Bush’s botched Iraq answer and Scott Walker’s bizarre redefining of what “flip-flop” means. In doing so, I faithfully reported that Fox News does actually ask Republicans some tough questions from time to time. However, the bigger problem for the candidates is not getting hit by the hardballs, but whiffing the softballs. Republicans seem to let their guard down on Fox – assuming that the anchors and the audience will be forgiving and giving ill-thought out answers to obvious questions.

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Richard Eskow

In Search of the Democratic Soul

A Google search for the phrase “soul of the Democratic Party” yields thousands of hits, because the struggle for that soul has been a perennial subject of debate. I’ve probably used the phrase myself. But after a week spent tracking the independent left’s political progress, I’ve become even more convinced that politicians should seek the soul of the country instead. Tap into that, and the rest will follow. Still, the debate over the Democratic soul continues. Political strategist Robert Creamer said this week that progressives have already won it. He dismisses the notion of a split between the party’s “Hillary Clinton” and “Elizabeth Warren” wings, and says Democrats now largely agree on economic problems and their solutions.

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Dave Johnson

Fast Track Hits House Next Week; Clinton Must Speak Up

The House is expected to vote on fast track trade promotion authority as soon as next week. If it passes, the corporate-negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a done deal — even though it is still secret. Why is presidential candidate Hillary Clinton still silent on this? The Money Wants TPP — The People Do Not TPP is the most important economic issue facing the Congress between now and the election — because it could happen, and because if it does the results will be terrible for working people. The game will be further rigged in favor of the 1 percent and against the rest of us. It will increase corporate power over governments — and us. The Money wants TPP, because it will be very, very good for them. The people do not want fast track/TPP because it means increased corporate power, fewer jobs, more pressure, and lower pay.

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Terrance Heath

Who Is George Pataki?: A Primer

Image via Donkey Hotey @ Flickr. George Pataki has announced his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, bringing the number of official candidates to eight. In case you’re among those asking “George who?,” here’s a primer. George Pataki is the former three-term governor of New York, occupying the office from 1995 to 2006. While he was governor of New York during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Pataki hasn’t gotten nearly as much mileage out of it as former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani. In fact, after nearly nine years out of the public spotlight, Pataki admits, “People don’t know who I am.” As he barely registers in a Republican field already overrun with long-shot candidates, reminding voters just who he is will be Pataki’s biggest task as a candidate. It might not be enough to win him the nomination.

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Jeff Bryant

Education Makes The Progressive Punchlist

For years, the progressive punchlist of issues has neglected education policy. Back in the 2012 election, education was mostly a no-show in presidential debates, and very few candidates were standard bearers for public schools, leaving these issues primarily to ballot initiatives totally remote from party or movement platforms. Again in 2014, a strong coalition in support of public education generally did not affect political campaigns, with the exception of Tom Wolf’s strong victory over incumbent Tom Corbett in the Pennsylvania governor’s race. More recently, there have been disturbing signs education issues pertaining to K-12 schooling would again be left off the progressive agenda for 2016. But there are now indications education – in its entirety, from pre-K through college – may be taking its place as a mainstay on progressive platforms.

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Bill Scher

Nope. Democrats Have Not Pulled Too Far Left.

Conservative Peter Wehner argues in the New York Times that President Obama has pulled the Democratic Party too far the left, ruining the party’s electoral strength at every level except the presidency. “The Democratic Party is now a pre-Bill Clinton party” says Wehner, implying that Obama has taken the party backwards, away from the “centrist New Democrat” model. To those who foolishly use Obama’s own electoral wins as evidence that his policies are popular, Wehner rebuts: One can also plausibly argue that the Republican Party is the governing party in America. After two enormous losses by Democrats in the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections, Republicans control the Senate and the House of Representatives. There are currently 31 Republican governors compared with 18 for Democrats.

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Richard Eskow

The Populist Agenda: The Fight for a Just Society

The obstacles faced by the progressive movement, especially in a post-Citizens United world, aren’t news to anybody who’s been paying attention. But recent developments may also stir an unfamiliar sensation in the liberally minded observer: optimism. On Wednesday we began reviewing the state of the progressive agenda, starting with jobs and growth and using the “Populism 2015″ platform as a guide, and found some genuine successes. But our cities are torn by police violence, rampant poverty, and institutionalized racism. Women still lack equality of opportunity. Economic mobility is disappearing. These are deeply embedded problems of structural injustice, and it will take a concerted effort to end them.

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Terrance Heath

Five Things You Should Know About Rick Santorum

Former senator Rick Santorum is running for president again, and he’s promised that this time will be different, because he won’t be saying the “crazy stuff” and “dumb things” he spouted throughout his 2012 campaign. Let’s take a moment and recall how “crazy” and “dumb” it got, and why nothing’s likely to change. Santorum is probably hoping that lightening will strike twice, and he’ll recreate the kind of momentum he gained from his come-from-behind win in the 2012 Iowa caucuses. Santorum eventually won 11 state primaries and caucuses, and became the runner-up to GOP nominee Mitt Romney in 2012. Even billionaire Foster Freiss, who backed Santorum in 2012, is on board. Friess held a private event in January to support another Santorum bid. Santorum has attempted to reinvent himself as a right-wing populist.

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Dave Johnson

Fast Track Vote Ignores The Public

Remember the study that showed that Congress doesn’t take what the public wants into account at all when passing legislation? That’s what happened last week when the Senate passed Fast Track. Fast Track “Fast Track” Trade Promotion Authority is in front of the Congress. The Senate passed Fast Track last week. The House could vote as soon as early next week. What is Fast Track? If Congress passes Fast Track, it means they set aside Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution and give the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations over to the administration. Congress agrees not to filibuster or amend the agreement — to fix any problems that turn up — and to vote in a hurry, so the public doesn’t have a chance to examine the deals and organize opposition.

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Hedrick Smith

So Washington’s Stuck. Here’s How We’re Moving Ahead

The latest move by Los Angeles to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020 has national significance far beyond the powerful impact it will have on the incomes and lives of an estimated 400,000 workers in L.A. Not only does it put pressure on the rest of California, plus New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Houston, Atlanta and other large U.S. cities to lift their low-wage workers, but it signals that the policy initiative is shifting away from Washington on some important issues. States and cities are no longer willing to wait for a national government paralyzed by partisan politics. With Washington still stuck in gridlock since President Obama in early 2013 called for raising the minimum wage from its current $7.25 an hour, 28 states have moved ahead of the feds.

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Richard Eskow

Tracking the Progress of the Progressive Agenda

We live in a political era dominated by corporate cash, billionaire “beauty pageants,” and a right-wing noise machine whose rhetorical phasers are permanently set to “stun.” It’s easy to lose track of ourselves when we’re distracted from moment to moment by Fox News pinwheels and celebrity-driven media circuses. But out behind the tents, where the carnival lights aren’t as bright, a lot of people are fighting the good fight. How’s that fight going? One way to track its progress is by measuring recent developments against a populist or progressive agenda. There are a number of such documents in circulation at the moment, each of which has its own strengths.

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Dave Johnson

Stop Calling the TPP a Trade Agreement – It Isn’t

This is a message to activists trying to fight the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Stop calling the TPP a “trade” agreement. TPP is a corporate/investor rights agreement, not a “trade” agreement. “Trade” is a good thing; TPP is not. Every time you use the word “trade” in association with the TPP, you are helping the other side. “Trade” is a propaganda word. It short-circuits thinking. People hear “trade” and the brain stops working. People think, “Of course, trade is good.” And that ends the discussion. Calling TPP a “trade” agreement lets the pro-TPP people argue that TPP is about trade instead of what it is really about. It diverts attention from the real problem.

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Leo Gerard

Forced Trade

Senators who voted last week to Fast Track ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) call it a free trade deal, but really, it’s forced trade imposed on protesting American workers who have endured its damaging effects for decades. Under the free trade regime, rich and powerful corporate interests have hauled in ever-higher profits as they shipped manufacturing overseas to low-wage, no-environmental-regulation countries. Meanwhile, American workers lost jobs, health benefits, income and all sense of stability. For the past 50 years, the government provided compensation to some American workers who suffered because of trade deals. They got Trade Adjustment Assistance, a little bit of money to help them subsist and retrain after losing their jobs.

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Robert Borosage

Populists Are Driving the Ideas Primary

In the run-up to 2016 presidential race, press attention is sensibly focused on the money primary – the candidates strutting their stuff before deep-pocket donors who will decide which candidates get a real shot to compete with the already established leaders, Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton. Overshadowed is the ideas primary – the competition to formulate a compelling message and agenda that appeals to voters. Hillary and Jeb have even postponed unveiling their ideas in order to focus on the money. But under the radar, in sharp contrast to the money primary, economic populism has become the coin of the realm in both parties. And on the Democratic side, populism is driving the ideas primary. Vermont Sen.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: Duggar Family Values Edition

This week, two right-winger who portrayed themselves as exemplars of virtue, and regularly lectured Americans on “family values,” proved to be far from “pure” themselves. Until this week, Josh Duggar was a celebrity in more ways than one. Not only was the 27-year-old married father of four a reality television star of TLC’s “19 Kids And Counting,” which made his parents Jim and Michelle Duggar famous for their fecundity, but he was also the executive director of the Family Research Council’s lobbying arm, FRC Action. Duggar moved to Washington, D.C., for the job in 2013, and for two years used his celebrity to champion conservative causes and candidates. Duggar’s fame turned to infamy this week, when InTouch Magazine reported that in 2005 Jim Bob Duggar reported his then 15-year-old son to police for sexually molesting several female children.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Gallup Poll Finds Liberalism Ascendent, Conservatism In Decline

A Gallup poll released today says that the 2016 election will be “contested in a more socially liberal electorate – and a less economically conservative one – than was true of prior elections.” While Gallup records a higher percentage of people considering themselves conservative than liberal on economic issues, the percentage is lower than at any point since 1999, at 39 percent. At 2010, that percentage was 51 percent. The percentage of Americans who call themselves “very liberal” or “liberal” is roughly steady at 19 percent. That percentage has hovered between 15 and 20 percent since 2006. On economic issues, “the gap between conservatives and liberals has been shrinking and is lower today than at any point since 1999,” Jeffrey M. Jones wrote for Gallup.

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Richard Eskow

The Big Banks Are Corrupt – And Getting Worse

The Justice Department’s latest settlement with felonious big banks was announced this week, but the repercussions were limited to a few headlines and some scattered protestations. That’s not enough. We need to understand that our financial system is not merely corrupt in practice. It is corrupt by design – and the problem is growing. Let’s connect the dots, using news items from the past few weeks: The Latest Sweetheart Deal Four of the world’s biggest banks pleaded guilty to felony charges this week, agreeing to pay roughly $5.6 billion in fines for fixing the price of currencies on the foreign exchange market. Justice Department officials made much of the fact that, unlike previous sweetheart deals with Wall Street, this one required the banks’ parent companies to enter a guilty plea. That’s an improvement over previous deals.

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