Dave Johnson

Let’s Take Apart The Corporate Case For Fast Track Trade Authority

U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman appeared before Congress Tuesday to make the corporate argument for “fast track” trade promotion authority. The USTR and President Obama are pushing fast-track pre-approval for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other big “trade” agreements they are working on. The Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable and other corporate groups and lobbyists are also pushing hard for Congress to pass fast track. The promoters of fast track say we need it to push “trade” agreements through Congress to expand trade and increase exports.

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Robert Reich

Wall Street’s Threat to the American Middle Class

Presidential aspirants in both parties are talking about saving the middle class. But the middle class can’t be saved unless Wall Street is tamed. The Street’s excesses pose a continuing danger to average Americans. And its ongoing use of confidential corporate information is defrauding millions of middle-class investors. Yet most presidential aspirants don’t want to talk about taming the Street because Wall Street is one of their largest sources of campaign money. Do we really need reminding about what happened six years ago? The financial collapse crippled the middle class and poor — consuming the savings of millions of average Americans, and causing 23 million to lose their jobs, 9.3 million to lose their health insurance, and some 1 million to lose their homes. A repeat performance is not unlikely. Wall Street’s biggest banks are much larger now than they were then.

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Miya Pontes

Community Groups Fight For More Protections From Payday Loan Predators

In an effort to control the damage being done to individuals and communities by payday lenders, community activists rallied outside payday lending storefronts in 10 states Tuesday to increase awareness of the lack of protection many states offer individuals against purveyors of short-term, high-interest loans. National People’s Action (NPA) helped coordinate the protests along with several other organizations. There were 11 actions across Idaho, Michigan, Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Illinois and Nevada calling out the toxic effect payday lenders have on communities.

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Jim Hightower

Not Lovin’ It

McDonald’s is scrambling, and I’m not talking about eggs. Your know your business has what image consultants call “quality perception issues” when your public relations team is fielding such questions as: “Does McDonald’s beef contain worms?” Thornier yet for the world’s largest burger machine is its boneheaded response to the remarkable, ongoing rebellion by fast food workers demanding a $15-an-hour wage and the freedom to unionize without corporate retaliation. McDonald’s responded by — guess what? — retaliating. Its McManagers illegally reduced the hours (and therefore the pay) of hundreds of those who joined the “Fight For 15″ campaign. Many also spied on workers, interrogated and threatened them, and imposed restrictions on their freedom even to talk about unions or working conditions.

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Dean Baker

The Federal Reserve Board and Social Security Disability

The Republican Congress decided to make overhauling the Social Security disability program one of its first orders of business. On the first day of the new session it put in place a rule change that would make it difficult to address the shortfall the program is projected to face some time next year. Republican leaders like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul justified this change by insisting that half the people getting disability had the sort of back aches and occasional anxieties that we all face. The difference is that they get checks from the government rather than working. For this reason, Paul argued the program is in serious need of reform. As several analysts quickly pointed out, there is no basis for Paul’s assertion. Only a relatively small fraction of disability beneficiaries remotely fit Paul’s description of people with backaches and anxiety.

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Richard Eskow

Anti-Koch: The Fight For Green Energy is a Fight for the 99 Percent

The fact that this even needs to be said demonstrates that there’s been a breakdown in the democratic process, but we’ll say it anyway: Our number one priority should be protecting the planet for future generations. That said, green energy makes sense even if we base our thinking on economic considerations alone. Energy policies can roughly be divided into two kinds: those that benefit society as a whole, and those that only benefit the very few – the Koch brothers and their ilk. Guess which kind the GOP supports? Republicans are blocking pro-growth, job-creating green energy investments while pushing a pipeline that would enrich the few at the expense of the many – with potentially disastrous environmental consequences. If you want to know why, follow the money.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Grassroots Push Needed For Sanders’ Infrastructure Bill

In a small room inside the U.S. Capitol, Sen. Bernie Sanders today was trying to marshal support for a $1 trillion infrastructure investment bill he formally introduced today, discussing the consequences of not spending money on our roads, public transportation, water systems and other public assets. Just outside the nation’s capital, those consequences were becoming all too vivid for residents of a working-class neighborhood. A 90-year-old water main, well beyond its expected life span, broke in the town of Bladensburg, Md. early this morning. According to WRC-TV, a family whose home was being flooded by the broken water main sought to escape in their car, only to have the car swallowed up by a sinkhole just as they were about to leave. Miraculously, the family managed to escape without injury.

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Terrance Heath

Greece Proves Populist Movements Can Fight And Win

After five years of protests, demonstrations and strikes, Greek citizens voted to throw off five years of crushing austerity. Their victory has emboldened populist parties across Europe, and should inspire Americans to resist austerity here at home. The victory of Greece’s leftist anti-austerity Syriza party, and Alexis Tsipiras’ ascension to prime minister ushers in a government that will push back against the austerity measures devised by the troika of Greece’s international creditors and the International Monetary Fund, and accepted by the country’s economic elite, after the crash of Greece’s economy in 2009. Greece’s new leaders left little doubt about their intentions as they celebrated victory.

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Dave Johnson

Protesters Disrupt Senate Fast Track Hearing

US Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman testified before the Senate Tuesday. He was there to push Congress to pass Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), so new trade agreements can get pushed through. Protesters disrupted the hearing. The people are trying to make their voices heard over the corporate push for Fast Track. Heating Up Things are heating up as big new corporate “trade” agreements get closer to coming before Congress. These trade agreements have a terrible track record for American workers, because they have driven inequality, devastated entire regions of the country, and hollowed out the middle class.

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Leo Gerard

Voodoo Trickle-Down Be Damned

Reaganomics, the plot to appease the rich and condemn the rest, got its comeuppance last week in President Obama’s State of the Union speech. The President asked: “Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well?” That’s the trickle-down economy he’s talking about. And when he said, “spectacularly well,” that understated the great fortune of the very few. Oxfam, the international federation working to end poverty, reported just before the speech that if nothing changes over the next two years, the top 1 percent will hoard more wealth than that held by the entire remaining 99 percent of humans on earth. President Obama made it clear he has no intention of accepting such economic damnation for the vast majority of Americans. He proposed an alternative to Ronnie’s scheme. President Obama called it middle-class economics.

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Mary Green Swig | Steven L. Swig | Richard Eskow

Liberate 41 Million Americans From Student Loan Debt

MaryGreenSwig Steven L.Swig RichardEskow President Obama’s proposal for tuition-free community college education, and the broader discussion that it has inspired, confirms our belief that it is time for a comprehensive solution to a $1.3 trillion problem: student debt in the United States. We strongly support the concept of tuition-free public higher education, and are encouraged by renewed arguments in its favor. But we must also confront what has been done to the last several generations of students. They have been forced to take on debt that is crippling to them, to our economy and our society. A student debt “jubilee” would reflect both the values upon which this nation was founded and the economic principles that have sustained it through its greatest periods of growth and prosperity.

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Bill Scher

You Think Sarah Palin Is Incoherent? Listen To Jeb Bush.

Many people are having a good laugh watching Sarah Palin’s unintentionally hilarious speech to a conservative gathering in Iowa over the weekend. But Palin is never going to get anywhere near the White House. Meanwhile, in San Francisco Friday, someone else gave a painfully incoherent speech. And since the speaker really could end up in the White House, it’s actually worth your attention. Jeb Bush’s address to the National Automobile Dealers Association attracted much positive press. He was willing to challenge conservative orthodoxy on immigration and education. He sounded like an adult, eschewing sophomoric right-wing zingers. He maturely identified problems facing average Americans and offered ideas to solve them. Sounds refreshing. There’s just one problem. When you pay attention to what he is saying, the speech doesn’t make any sense.

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Dave Johnson

Protests As Trans-Pacific Partnership Talks Resume In New York Today

Negotiators working on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) convened today in New York City. Even the location was kept secret until the last possible minute, but hundreds of trade, labor, environmental, health, communities of color, anti-GMO and food justice, anti-fracking, animal and other activists still showed up in the big blizzard to protest the secret trade agreement and “fast track” trade promotion authority (TPA). TPP is a huge “trade” agreement, which will set the rules for 40 percent of the world’s economy. It is being negotiated in secret. Corporate representatives are part of the process, stakeholders like environmental, consumer, labor, democracy, health and other groups are excluded from the negotiations. Needless to say the agreement (some of it has leaked) reflects corporate interests at the expense of the rest of us and our governments.

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Bernie Horn

Progressive Wedge Issues for Cities and States

For years, conservatives used “wedge issues” to split moderates from progressives—measures like criminalizing flag burning, cutting “welfare,” and (until recently) banning same-sex marriage. They still do that, of course, but the Tea Party has forced conservatives to put greater emphasis on policies with little popular appeal. It’s time for progressives to promote some wedge issues of our own. To be clear, a progressive wedge issue: (1) pulls Americans to our side, (2) forces conservatives to defend an unpopular position, and (3) is both simple and substantial enough to become a voting issue in the next election. With conservatives in control of the U.S. House and Senate, progressives can introduce bills but can’t really generate the publicity for them that would be necessary to impact the public. These bills won’t even get a hearing in Washington.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Corporate Tax Break Scheme Is Gaining A Momentum We Must Stop

There is no real argument over whether the nation needs to do more to improve its infrastructure – its transportation, water, power and information networks. But there is an argument over how best to pay for it all – and that argument is increasingly turning in a dangerous direction. Financially stressed working-class households who are at best treading water, if not actually sinking, in today’s economy aren’t eager to dig deeper into their own pockets to foot the bill. That’s even more true of the plutocrat class, which has an army of lobbyists at the ready to shut down any suggestion that those who arguably would benefit the most from such things as better roads and public transportation should shoulder the larger share of the load.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: “No Go Zone” On The Brain

From anti-choice bills in the House, to threats of lawsuits over Muslim “no go zones,” this week showed that the wingnut brain is biggest “no go zone” of them all. But first, let’s relive the “burn” heard around the world. When President Obama delivered the State of the Union address. Republicans in Congress might have expected a humbled Obama to admit to another “shellacking,” hand the keys to the new Republican majority, and shuffle away to ride out the rest of his term as the lamest of “lame ducks.” They certainly didn’t expect to hear from a Barack Obama who “doesn’t give a f**k,” to quote late night host Larry Wilmore. Nor did they expect him to tell them so. Obama’s “mic drop” moment, launched a thousand Twitter memes, and left no oxygen for Sen. Joni Ernst’s Republican response.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Schakowsky’s Call To Progressives: “Draw A Bright Line” (Audio)

House Progressive Caucus member Rep. Jan Schakowsky has an upbeat view of what progressives can accomplish this year, even with a Republican majority in control of both houses of Congress – as long as progressives in Congress and on the streets stand firm together. Referring to the positive economic policies that President Obama outlined in his State of the Union address this week, “despite what the Republicans may claim, these policies are not dead on arrival,” Schakowsky said in “Voicing Our Values: A Progressive Response to the State of the Union,” a webcast sponsored earlier this week by Progressive Majority and the Campaign for America’s Future. Some proposals, such as infrastructure investment, an increase in the minimum wage, equal pay legislation and education support could be pushed through this session of Congress, she said.

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Dave Johnson

GOP Votes Against Requiring U.S.-Made Steel In Keystone Pipeline

In the last few days Senate Republicans have voted against everything they have promised in public to sell the Keystone pipeline. They said the pipeline is about U.S. jobs, yet they voted against U.S. steel and supplier jobs in the pipeline supply chain. They said the oil is for use inside the U.S., yet they voted against using the oil inside the U.S.. Significantly, they also voted against disclosing any money they are getting from oil and other companies involved in the Keystone project. And you might (not) have noticed that most of the U.S. corporate media are largely ignoring these votes. So the Republicans can keep telling the public they are for U.S. jobs and for U.S. energy independence. The public will be none the wiser. Votes On Amendments After going on for years that the Keystone pipeline is about U.S.

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Jeff Bryant

Democrats Should Listen To What Sen. Whitehouse Said About Education

A curious thing happened this week on Capital Hill: A politician said something about education that made sense. The “something” didn’t come from President Obama. In the president’s annual State of the Union address, “K-12 policy largely took a back seat,” Education Week’s Alyson Klein observed. Indeed, the issue was barely in the car. Although the president took credit for “the highest math and reading scores on record” and a high school graduation rate at “an all-time high,” there were no strong claims about the success of his programs, no bold, new initiatives, and no combative stances against the oppositional positions on K-12 policy. As Klein noted, he ignored “the hottest K-12 policy debate” about the role of federally mandated standardized testing in No Child Left Behind.

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Miya Pontes

Effort To Make The ‘Right to Vote’ A True Constitutional Right

Pocan and Ellison to Introduce Right to Vote Constitutional Amendment In an effort to undo the work being done in numerous states and counties to disenfranchise groups of voters, two progressive House members are aiming to make a promise that is implicit in the Constitution explicit – by calling on Congress to pass a “right to vote” constitutional amendment. Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) unveiled their amendment at a press conference today. “We need to have an affirmative right to vote… a minimum voting standard,” Pocan said, and that’s what this amendment is offering. “The Pocan-Ellison Right to Vote Amendment would amend the Constitution to provide all Americans the affirmative right to vote and empower Congress to protect this right,” according to a statement on Pocan’s website.

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