Robert Borosage

Congressional Progressive Caucus Offers A Real Alternative on Trade

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch just postponed the introduction of fast-track trade authority legislation until April. Fast track is designed to grease the skids for passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement that is still being negotiated behind closed doors. Postponing the debate on fast track gives opponents another month to build opposition. It gives Republican leaders and the administration a month to line up every vote so that once introduced, it could be voted on overnight. They’re hoping to fast-track fast track. The month does provide time for a long overdue serious national debate on our global trade and tax policy. The U.S. has racked up an unimaginable $6.75 trillion in trade deficits since 2000.

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Dave Johnson

Anti-Fast-Track Momentum Builds

Opponents of fast track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are gaining momentum. In spite of a virtual media blackout, public awareness of the coming trade deal is increasing. More and more public-interest organizations are organizing and denouncing the rigged fast-track approval process and TPP trade agreement. One after another, members of Congress are announcing opposition to fast track and demanding that trade problems like currency manipulation be covered by the TPP agreement. Meanwhile, the expected fast track bill has been delayed again. Fast Track “Stuck” Fast track is a process under which Congress agrees to bypass its duty to define, consider, debate and approve trade deals. Fast track limits discussion and debate and gives Congress only 90 days in which to bring the deal up for a vote.

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Sam Pizzigati

The Income Equity Act: Another Try!

Nearly a quarter-century ago, in 1991, a member of Congress angry about spiraling corporate CEO compensation introduced legislation he hoped would end that spiral — and help raise stagnant American worker wages. That legislative proposal from Rep. Martin Sabo, a veteran Minnesota Democrat, would have denied corporations tax deductions on any CEO pay that runs over 25 times what their lowest-paid workers were making. Sabo’s bill — the Income Equity Act — would gain co-sponsors over the years, but never any legislative traction. The result? Inequality in America’s workplaces only continued to get worse. By 2006, the year Sabo retired, the gap between CEO and worker pay had quadrupled the 1991 divide. Worker wages, meanwhile, were still stagnating. Sabo’s bill, fortunately, did not die. Rep.

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Terrance Heath

President’s Task Force Takes Baby Steps To Post-Ferguson Policing Reform

In August, 100 social justice leaders, Members of Congress, faith leaders, artists, and activists signed an open letter to President Obama, laying out seven action areas in the wake of the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. This week, the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing released its interim report, with 59 recommendations that only partially address those seven action items. Training The August letter urged that all law enforcement personnel be required to undergo racial bias training, as part of ongoing professional development, under guidelines set by the Department of Justice.

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Leo Gerard

GOP’s Blind Hate of Labor Union Members

To Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, America’s labor union members are the same as murderous, beheading, caged-prisoner-immolating ISIS terrorists. Exactly the same. That’s what he told the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last week.  The governor said that because he destroyed public sector labor rights in Wisconsin after 100,000 union supporters protested in Madison he could defeat ISIS as President of the United States. That sums up all the GOP hate and vitriol against labor union members in recent years. It would appear that Republicans can’t discern the difference between suicide bombers and working men and women who band together to collectively bargain for better wages and safer conditions.

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Dave Johnson

Silicon Valley Rising Fights for Worker Justice

Silicon Valley is an area of contrasts. When you stop at a traffic light in Silicon Valley you will often find a Maserati or Tesla on one side of you and a beaten up, 15-year-old Accord on the other. It seems there are more high-end Mercedes, Jaguars, Bentleys or the occasional Maybach than in other areas. Silicon Valley companies, many run by stock-billionaires, pay a lot at the top, and squat at the bottom. There are the lucky employees, and a huge number of “contractors” – employees who are not called employees. The employees that reach over a certain age are discarded. There are not a lot of people in the space between Silicon Valley’s top and its bottom. One in three Silicon Valley workers cannot even afford to live anywhere within a one-hour drive.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Orrin Hatch’s ‘Fairness’ Priority: Raising Taxes On Working Families

While conservatives (and many financial elites) attack progressives for harboring resentment against the wealthy, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee today reminded us that conservatives harbor their own resentments against the people Mitt Romney infamously labeled “the 47 percent … who are dependent upon government” and who “pay no income tax.” Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) let fly an echo of that sentiment in the midst of his opening statement for a hearing on the topic of “fairness in taxation.” It was a particularly tone-deaf statement coming at the same time the Democrats on the committee, led by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), released a report on six ways wealthy people game the tax code to avoid paying billions in taxes.

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Jim Hightower

The Nincompoop Caucus Sets a Record

p>The GOP-led House of Representatives has already achieved a historic legislative record. A record in futility, that is. And absurdity. In February, for the 56th time, they focused the entire array of brain cells in their 245-member caucus on an effort that would directly harm millions of Americans — namely the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Yes, the Nincompoop Caucus has now wasted Congress’ time and credibility by voting not once, not 10 or 20 times, but 56 times to take away even the minimal level of health coverage for previously uninsured people. Image via La Dawna Howard @ Flickr.   But wait… it’s possible that I misstated that number. It seems that House Speaker John Boehner’s team has lost track of how deeply they’ve disappeared into the woods of right-wing fantasy-land.

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Richard Eskow

Real-Life Frank Underwoods: Netflix, ‘House of Cards’ and Third Way

Frank Underwood is known for deceiving people into acting against their own best interests. (We’ll miss you, President Walker.) Now we learn that this trait may extend to the series that features him. The greatest betrayals on “House of Cards” can be found in the misleading arguments, presented as “truth,” that suggest that cutting “entitlements” is a necessity and raising taxes isn’t even an option. The fact that Netflix has insisted upon heavy tax breaks for filming the show in Maryland may be merely coincidental. Here’s what’s not: We have learned that the series hired a leading “new Democrat” (read, “corporate Democrat”) as a consultant for the show’s most misleading episode. The audience loves watching Frank Underwood deceive other characters.

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Dean Baker

The Federal Reserve Board’s Plan to Kill Jobs

There is an enormous amount of political debate over various pieces of legislation that are supposed to be massive job killers. For example, Republicans lambasted President Obama’s increase in taxes on the wealthy back in 2013 as a job killer. They endlessly have condemned the Affordable Care Act as a job killer. The same is true for proposals to raise the minimum wage. While there is great concern in Washington over these and other imaginary job killers, the Federal Reserve Board is openly mapping out an actual job-killing strategy and drawing almost no attention at all for it. The Fed’s job-killing strategy centers on its plan to start raising interest rates, which is generally expected to begin at some point this year. The Fed’s plans to raise interest rates are rarely spoken of as hurting employment, but job-killing is really at the center of the story.

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Bill Scher

Republicans, Have Mercy On Your Immigration Flip-Flopping Candidates.

Republicans, have mercy on your presidential candidates. Just get this immigration debate over with so your presidential candidates don’t have to flip-flop anymore. Gov. Scott Walker is the latest in a long line of Republican immigration flippers, though at least he had to decency to cop to it. “My view has changed. I’m flat out saying it.” said Walker to Fox News yesterday. As recently as 2013 Walker said a pathway to citizenship “makes sense.” Now as he gears up to run for president, that’s out the window. Walker is not the only 2016 Republican presidential hopeful to get tripped up over immigration.

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Robert Borosage

The Fast-Track Fandango

The debate over fast-track trade authority – designed to grease the tracks for a vote on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) accords still in negotiation – ought to be the occasion for a fundamental review of our global economic strategy. We know that it is broken. We’ve racked up unprecedented deficits year after year. The unsustainable imbalances contributed directly to the bubble and bust that blew up the global economy. We’ve watched good jobs shipped abroad, devastating America’s manufacturing prowess. We’ve seen workers’ wages decline and inequality grow to new extremes. Doing more of the same and expecting a different result is the very definition of insanity. Clearly, a comprehensive review is long overdue.

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Bernie Horn

There’s No Such Thing As “Free” Markets

Last week, when the Federal Communications Commission voted for net neutrality and changed the way the Internet is policed, conservatives fell back on their favorite myth. The right-wing media raged that it’s “a blow to the free market system.…” But there’s no such thing as “free” markets. Somehow this neoclassical, theoretical concept plays a central role in contemporary politics. When we progressives try to explain our economic policies, we face the fundamental challenge that typical American voters believe in “free” markets. And why shouldn’t they? They hear no real arguments to the contrary. But the truth is, the free market is a fairy tale, a fraud, a rhetorical device. American markets are not, and never were, free of government influence. Just open up the business page of any major newspaper and see for yourself. One company seeks a government subsidy.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: Papa Bear Roars

Papa Bear Roars Anyone with a YouTube account knows by now that Fox News Host Bill O’Reilly has a bit of a temper. When NBC news anchor Brian Williams falsely claimed that his helicopter was nearly shot down, as he covered the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, O’Reilly unleashed a fusillade of righteous anger against a national media that he said, “isn’t half as responsible as the men who forged the nation.” Lamenting the “culture of deception” in the “liberal media,” O’Reilly said the Williams affair should prompt questioning of other media “deceptions.” It did, but not in the way O’Reilly probably imagined. Late last week, Mother Jones’ David Corn and Daniel Schulman reported that “for years, O’Reilly has recounted dramatic stories about his own war reporting that don’t withstand scrutiny.” Here are a few: “War Zone” Reporting.

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Dave Johnson

The Senate Blockbuster Showdown On Trade The Media Missed

Eight senators on Thursday let the country know there is going to be a fight over fast-track trade authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) took to the Senate floor to speak about fast track, TPP and fair trade. There was apparently not a single report of this in the nation’s news media, continuing the blackout of news on fast track and TPP. A fight is coming because past trade deals have cost jobs and wages, devastated entire regions, and accelerated corporate power and income/wealth inequality – which it is becoming clear was the intent.

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Richard Long

The Real Social Security Crisis Is Income Inequality

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) has called out his Senate Republican colleagues for “creating a phony crisis” with regard to Social Security while ignoring a real one – the income inequality that has eroded the long-term solvency of the Social Security trust fund. Sanders joined a conference call with Social Security Works on Thursday to highlight the conclusions of a report on the impact of income inequality on the Social Security program. It was authored by Ben Veghte, policy director at Social Security Works. “The peerless rise in income inequality has harmed Social Security financing,” said Nancy Altman, co-Director of Social Security Works. “When the amendments to Social Security were enacted in 1983, Social Security was projected to be able to pay benefits through 2057. Now benefits are being projected to be paid in full only until 2033.

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Emily Schwartz Greco

Going Off the Rails

When 27 CSX tanker cars loaded with fracked North Dakota crude tumbled onto a West Virginia riverbank on President’s Day, the ensuing fireballs leveled a house and forced hundreds of people to flee amid a heavy snowstorm. Even though 19 of the derailed cars — each carrying 30,000 gallons of oil — erupted into flames, nobody died in this particular disaster. But it may have fired a fatal shot into the argument that trains can “safely” haul crude across North America. After most of these increasingly frequent accidents, critics urge the government to make operators use “safer” tanker cars. Yet the cars that went off the rails, exploded into flames, and then smoldered for days alongside the Kanawha River were the new-and-improved model. Slower speeds are also billed as a way to increase oil train safety.

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Dave Johnson

Video: Fast Track Explained In 7 Words

All the talk about “trade” deals might seem complicated, with all the “TPP” and “TPA” and “FTA” and “TTIP” floating around. It doesn’t have to be difficult, though. Watch Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, explain “fast track” trade promotion authority in just 7 words: “It means lost jobs and lower wages.” Watch Elizabeth Warren talk about these trade deals. Watch former Labor Secretary Robert Reich explain the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) TPP is the largest “trade” deal in history. It is being negotiated in secret. It is immense, complex and written in international legalese. But fast track means Congress has to pass it within 90 days of the public seeing it for the first time.

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Robert Borosage

A Voice for Workers at the Federal Reserve

“Yellen Puts Fed on Path to Lift Rates,” reads the banner headline in the Wall Street Journal. The Federal Reserve’s chair Janet Yellen is intimating that it might begin to lift interest rates in the middle of this year. If so, its decisions over the next year could well lock millions of Americans out of the workforce, and insure that wages generally continue to stagnate. That is why it is vital that President Obama act now to nominate someone with a clue about the real conditions of working people in this economy. The president recently announced that he would name the former chief executive of one of Hawaii’s largest banks to the Fed governing board, placating the small bank lobby. Now he should fill the final vacancy with someone who will represent America’s working families.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Progressive Coalition Supports Crackdown On Retirement Advisers

A broad range of progressive organizations is throwing support behind the Obama administration’s effort to rein in financial advisers who market retirement funds. Americans for Financial Reform sent a letter of thanks to Labor Secretary Thomas Perez on Wednesday signed by 26 organizations, including the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). “Updating protections for retirement savers is urgently needed and long overdue,” the letter said. The regulations would be designed to ensure that people who get advice about how to invest in retirement funds are getting advice based on what is best for the consumer, as opposed to what is most profitable for the person giving the advice.

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