Bernie Horn

Key Progressive Victories in States and Localities

With the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives controlled by the right wing, it’s no wonder that this Congress has been among the least productive in our nation’s history. But while Congress treads water, some real progress has been made in states and localities across America. Progressive legislators, council members and commissioners are leading some cutting-edge policy debates and enacting a series of innovations, protections and reforms. Let’s recognize some of the top progressive legislative accomplishments so far this year: ● Minimum Wage—Los Angeles became the largest city in America to adopt a $15 per hour minimum wage, following the lead of Seattle, San Francisco and Oakland, which passed such legislation last year. In addition, Kentucky Governor Steven Beshear, by executive order, set a new minimum wage for state employees.

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Robert Borosage

Trump’s Tropes

In the dog days of August, the news channels have turned themselves into the Trump show. Bernie Sanders rouses the biggest crowds in obscurity while Trump floods the air waves. Commentators still dismiss Trump as a summertime fling, a bad boy escape before voters settle down with a serious choice. But Trump is more than a celebrity. He has earned his high disapproval rates, but he also enjoys support across the Republican party. His ugly posturing over immigration expresses the fears and anger of much of the Republican base. And unlike his rivals, he speaks to the discontent of American voters more generally, particularly white male voters. Trump’s tropes are not simply ravings. They are making a case that many Americans want to hear.

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Jeff Bryant

People Don’t Like Current Education Policies, So Why Do Policy Leaders?

The big annual poll on how Americans view public schools and education policy is out, and anyone eager to don the mantle of “education reform” might want to rethink their wardrobe. As education journalist Valerie Strauss reports the news from her blog at The Washington Post, “The 47th annual PDK-Gallup poll, the longest continuously running survey of American attitudes toward public education … finds that a majority of Americans, as well as a majority of American public school parents, object to some of the key tenets of modern school reform.” What was particularly jarring about the findings of this year’s PDK-Gallup poll is how much those results contrast to the pronouncements of current policy leaders from the Democratic Party and Republicans who are vying for their party’s presidential nomination.

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Isaiah J. Poole

4 Percent Growth Doesn’t Look So Crazy When You’re At 3.7 Percent

A few weeks ago, liberal critics jumped on Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush’s suggestion that he could get the nation’s economy to grow at a 4 percent annual rate. They not only criticized the policies he proposed to get there; they criticized the goal itself as unrealistic. No “serious economist” would consider 4 percent annual growth “within the realm of possibility,” White House Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Jason Furman told CNBC at the time. With that as the backdrop, consider today’s news from the Commerce Department that during the second quarter of this year, the economy grew at an annual rate of 3.7 percent. That’s up from an earlier estimate of 2.3 percent annual growth. Now, that is based on three month’s worth of economic activity. One quarter does not constitute a trend.

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Terrance Heath

Ten Years After Katrina, Poor And Black People Still Left Behind

When President Obama visits New Orleans today to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, he will find the city whiter, wealthier, and more unequal than it was before the storm. Eight years ago, then senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama visited New Orleans, two years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city, and promised to prioritize rebuilding the city’s health care infrastructure and overhaul its school system. President Obama will celebrate some degree of success in fulfilling those promises, but the problems that piled tragedy upon tragedy in New Orleans — before, during and after the storm — have persisted and worsened in the 10 years since the hurricane. Before Katrina, African Americans made up a significant percentage of the city’s poor population. These most vulnerable residents suffered the worst harm from the storm.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Etsy’s Dark Side: Socially Irresponsible Tax Evader

It doesn’t get much more hypocritical and cynically exploitative than this: A corporation gets itself certified by a third party as socially progressive, convincing people that buying its goods is an act of doing good, only to turn around and structure itself so that it avoids paying taxes for the government programs that actually do good. The online retailer Etsy says it is “committed to creating lasting change in the world” and boasts about how it does things like “bike our compost to community farms every week” from its headquarters in Brooklyn. But when it comes to paying its fair share for programs that support the public good, it’s no different from General Electric, Exxon or Google.

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Larry Cohen

From Selma to Washington, NAACP’s New Journey for Justice

The NAACP’s “Journey for Justice” began in Selma, Ala., on August 1. The march is scheduled to arrive in Washington, D.C. on September 15, followed by an “advocacy day” at the Capitol on September 16. NAACP national president Cornell Brooks has walked much of the first 330 miles himself, inspiring hundreds to join in the march for at least a day. The journey is designed to focus on four key issue areas – our votes, lives, jobs and schools. On one level the Journey’s goals are modest – reenactment of the Voting Rights Act, criminal justice reform that addresses the killings of unarmed African Americans, full and sustainable employment, and a commitment to good public education at all levels. But in today’s America, much like that of 50 years ago, these modest goals require both a mass movement and massive reform of our democracy.

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Dave Johnson

Under Pressure To Finish TPP, Are They Giving Away More Jobs?

The big multinational corporations behind the still-secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) want to push it through Congress before the presidential campaign season risks bringing public scrutiny to the deal. To meet this timeline, our trade negotiators are under great pressure to finish the deal right away. To get it done it looks like they might be giving away (even more) American jobs, factories, and possibly entire industries, in areas that don’t matter as much to them in exchange for securing their own dominant positions. Auto parts are one example of an area that doesn’t matter so much to these giant companies – another industry that can be given away. To get TPP finished as soon as possible U.S. negotiators appear to have tried to sell out TPP-country auto-parts manufacturers, giving away a big part of the industry to non-TPP countries like China.

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Bernie Horn

Time to Kill the Death Penalty

In February 2015, the governor of Pennsylvania issued a moratorium on executions. In May, Nebraska became the 19th state, and the seventh state since 2007, to abolish the death penalty. And weeks ago, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional, saying “…this state’s death penalty no longer comports with contemporary standards of decency and no longer serves any legitimate penological purpose.” Nevertheless, states have executed 19 prisoners so far this year—15 of them killed by the states of Texas and Missouri alone. Texas, Missouri and Florida accounted for 28 of the 35 people executed in 2014. In contrast, 23 states and the federal government have not executed anyone for at least the past 10 years.

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Jeff Bryant

Right On Banks, Wrong On Schools

Progressive Democrats are right to hail the new populism in their party driving the debate about the nation’s economic policies and the atrocious inequality those policies have created. Heartened by the bold leadership of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and the huge crowds cheering on the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders, progressives can truly feel their agenda is driving the national debate and propelling change. So it’s beyond disappointing when progressive leaders in the Democratic Party who can knock an argument for economic populism out of the park continue to whiff on education populism. Currently, the House and Senate are in the process of rewriting No Child Left Behind, the federal law that started enforced testing and harsh punishments in public schools.

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Richard Eskow

In Troubled Times, the Federal Reserve Must Work for Everyone

It’s been a chaotic few days for the world’s markets. Recent events do not paint the picture of a stable economy guided by rational minds. Instead, the world of global finance looks more like a playground in need of adult supervision. Like other nations, we have a central bank. What should the Federal Reserve do in troubled times? For that matter, what is the Fed’s role in preventing troubled times from occurring in the first place? Global Shock It’s true that many of the causes of the recent stock market turmoil are global, rather than domestic. But those distinctions are becoming less important in a world of unfettered capital flow. Regional markets, like regional ecosystems, are interconnected. Europe is struggling because of a misguided attachment to growth-killing austerity policies.

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Terrance Heath

Policy Proposals from #BlackLivesMatter

With the launch of Campaign Zero, the #BlackLivesMatter movement raises its political game with detailed policy solutions to end police violence, and puts policy makers on notice by defining deliberate actions to implement these solutions. A group of influential activists in the #BlackLivesMatter movement have launched Campaign Zero. The Campaign is built around a fundamental belief emblazoned on the front page of its website: We can live in a world where the police don’t kill people by limiting police interventions, improving community interactions, and ensuring accountability. The problem defined by the Campaign is that more than 1,000 people are killed by police every year in America.

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Dave Johnson

The Wild Ride Gets Wilder – Only Government Spending Can Fix This

The world is out of balance. Everyone’s nervous. There is a glut of money floating around the world and no one offers a “safe place” to put it. The stock market is way up, way down, way up, way down – sometimes all on the same day. China’s currency is having dramatic swings while the U.S. has an enormous, humongous trade deficit. Super-wealthy people are making and losing hundreds of millions (sometimes billions) in a day – none of it on making or doing actual things that matter. Inequality is soaring. (The top 25 hedge fund managers earn more than all kindergarten teachers in the U.S. combined.) And all around the world, there’s very little actual economic growth. Meanwhile, most people barely (or don’t) have enough to get by.

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Robert Reich

The Upsurge in Uncertain Work

As Labor Day looms, more Americans than ever don’t know how much they’ll be earning next week or even tomorrow. This varied group includes independent contractors, temporary workers, the self-employed, part-timers, freelancers, and free agents. Most file 1099s rather than W2s, for tax purposes. On demand and on call – in the “share” economy, the “gig” economy, or, more prosaically, the “irregular” economy – the result is the same: no predictable earnings or hours. It’s the biggest change in the American workforce in over a century, and it’s happening at lightening speed. It’s estimated that in five years over 40 percent of the American labor force will have uncertain work; in a decade, most of us.

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Bill Scher

President Trump’s First 100 Days

At Politico Magazine, I take a serious look at what a Trump presidency would really look like, based on both his comments and the constraints of the office. What you find is that in his first 100 days he would do some things progressives would not like — such as rescinding President Obama’s executive actions on immigration — and some things progressives would — like naming China a currency manipulator. He even could advance a bipartisan deal on an infrastructure bank. But beyond that, constitutional checks and political reality sets in. The die-hard Trump fans who think he has magical abilities to transform Washington need only look at the last couple of celebrity blowhards who swept into office on a promise of radical change: Governors Jesse Ventura and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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Dave Johnson

The Democrat/Republican Presidential Candidate Divide On Social Security

The differences between Democratic presidential candidates and most Republican candidates on Social Security — and retirement security in general — could emerge as a “sleeper issue” in the 2016 campaign. Friday’s post, Martin O’Malley Offers Strong Plan To Expand Retirement Security, looked at the retirement crisis facing aging Americans and Democratic presidential candidates Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders’ plans to boost retirement security. (Hillary Clinton has not released plan beyond saying she would be open to raising the income cap on Social Security taxes to help shore up the program’s finance.) These candidates want to expand retirement security because Democrats generally have a “we are all in this together” and “it takes a village” approach to taking care of each other, which includes the elderly.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: BatTrump

This week, Donald Trump gave the 2016 presidential election its best unofficial campaign slogan yet. Meanwhile, the Duggar family is proving harder to get rid of than a coldsore. BatTrump Donald Trump, the only billionaire candidate in the 2016 presidential race, found yet another way to stand apart from the rest of the GOP. (Not that he’s had much trouble with that.) Apparently, one of the perks of being a billionaire candidate is that when you lack any real policy ideas, you can always impress the electorate with your pricey toys. After delivering a stump speech at the Iowa State Fair, Trump offered to give about 50 children rides in a shiny, expensive toy he brought with him: his own Sikorsky S–76B helicopter. (You can almost imagine his post-ride parting words to his pint-sized passengers.

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Dave Johnson

Martin O’Malley Offers Strong Plan To Expand Retirement Security

Friday, Democratic Presidential candidate Martin O’Malley released a plan, called “Expanding Social Security So Americans Can Retire With Dignity,” to boost retirement security. The plan includes boosting Social Security benefits, boosting private savings plans, raising wages and providing long-term care. The Retirement Crisis In the late 70’s and early 80’s corporations managed to shift the retirement burden from pension plans that employers put money into, to “retirement savings plans” (401Ks, IRAs…) where employees had to put in their own money in instead. Along with that, the age for eligibility to receive Social Security benefits was increased.

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Bill Scher

Which Republican Will Call Out Trump For Rationalizing This Hate Crime?

Donald Trump’s ability to say offensive things and continue to rise in the polls has cowed other Republicans from attacking him directly for his bad behavior. Jeb Bush and Rand Paul have begun challenging Trump’s conservative bona fides, a sensible attack line in a Republican primary. But some comments are so beyond the pale that to ignore them is unconscionable, regardless of the political implications. In Boston this week, two men beat a homeless man with a pipe, broke his nose, bruised his ribs and peed on him, while saying “Donald Trump was right. All these illegals need to be deported.” Trump’s response hours later was abhorrent: “it would be a shame . . . I will say that people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again.

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Bill Scher

Why Jeb May Have Bested Trump In The Town Hall Duel

Jeb Bush and Donald Trump had New Hampshire town halls at the same time yesterday. The media scored the town hall “duel” for Trump. I’m not so sure. The Washington Post and Bloomberg noted that Trump had the bigger and more energized crowd. But Trump said nothing to expand his base of rabid supporters. Whereas Bush began the effort to cut Trump down to size. Asked about Trump by a voter, Bush was prepared and delivered a thorough critique of Trump’s ideology: We’re a conservative party … the Republican Party. I think what people are going to eventually vote for is a proven conservative leader that’s done it. Not talked about it. That’s actually done it. And I have a proven conservative record. Consistent, proven, conservative record when no one was watching. Long time proven conservative record. Mr.

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