Isaiah J. Poole

Do Americans Really Want Hillary Clinton’s ‘Vital Center’?

Hillary Clinton invoked what she called the “vital center” in a speech before the New York Historical Society this past weekend as the place where most Americans want their politicians to be. But public opinion right now is actually tilted fairly leftward, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll also released this weekend. “I think our country kind of moves in pendulum swings,” she was quoted as saying in an MSNBC story. “We go maybe a little bit too far in one way, and then we swing back. We are most comfortable when he have that balance in the vital center.

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Dean Baker

Seven Years After: Why This Recovery Is Still a Turkey

December will mark the seventh anniversary of the beginning of the recession brought on by the collapse of the housing bubble. Usually an economy would be fully recovered from the impact of a recession seven years after its onset. Unfortunately, this is not close to being the case now. It would still take another 7-8 million jobs to bring the percentage of the population employed back to its pre-recession level. The 5.8 percent unemployment rate (compared to 4.5 percent before the recession) doesn’t reflect the true weakness of the labor force since so many people have dropped out of the labor force. Furthermore, more than 7 million people are working part-time who would like full-time jobs. This is an increase of almost 3 million from the pre-recession level. It’s not just the labor market that shows the economy’s slack.

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Sam Pizzigati

Uncle Sam Needs Some Better Nephews

Average Americans have a choice at tax time. They can pay their taxes or risk going to jail for tax evasion. America’s corporate CEOs have a different set of tax-time choices. These CEOs can have the corporations they run pay Uncle Sam or they can have their corporations pay more to their CEOs. Guess which way lots of CEOs are leaning. Better yet, read “Fleecing Uncle Sam,” the just-released report from the Institute for Policy Studies and Center for Effective Government that tallies up the choices top CEOs are actually making. This new “Fleecing Uncle Sam” study looks at the 100 U.S. corporations that last year shelled out the most in CEO pay. Of these 100 companies, 29 paid Uncle Sam less in taxes than they paid their CEO in compensation. How could that happen? Did these firms simply have bad years in 2013 and end up with not much income to tax? Not exactly.

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Robert Borosage

Keep On Steppin’, Mr. President

The President’s historic executive action on immigration has been greeted with scripted Republican outrage, from threats to close the government (again), block all presidential appointees (what’s new?), and riots in the streets (see #coburnriots on twitter for gripping hour by hour reporting of the carnage). But threats of more obstruction are pretty empty from a Republican leadership that has waged a relentless scorched earth opposition to all things Obama from the start of his administration. Instead of suing for peace, the president would be wise to keep on steppin’. President Obama has already shown the way not only on immigration but with the historic agreement on climate with the Chinese (scorned as a “war on coal” by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell) and his firm support for net neutrality.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Despite Electoral Defeat, Rev. Barber Touts “Forward Together” Triumph

http://ourfuture.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/William-Barber-interview-full-4.mp3 Listen to the OurFuture.org interview of Rev. William Barber II. Rev. William Barber II’s new book, “Forward Together: A Moral Message To The Nation,” traces the advance of the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina, which rose up in response to the right-wing takeover of the North Carolina state government in 2012. But what it doesn’t include is what movement participants hoped would be an electoral triumph: the defeat of state House Speaker Thom Tillis, who pushed a series of hard-right initiatives though the legislature, in his race for the U.S. Senate. That triumph didn’t happen. But Barber, in an interview weeks later, said the results would still add a positive chapter to the book. “It worked. The movement worked,” he said.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week in Review: Punk’d By The President

This week, President Obama punk’d the GOP on immigration, leaving them caught between Latino voters and their wingnut base. And there’s not much they can do about it. Thursday night, President Obama executed one of the most brilliant moves ever ignored by television networks. With the wingnuts already outraged that the president didn’t immediately resign and mail Mitt Romney the keys to the White House after the midterm elections, President obviously decided to have some fun. He spent almost a week teasing that he would take some kind of executive action on immigration; an issue on which the wingnut base left the GOP exposed and vulnerable, with their worst rhetoric on immigration. It’s actually a modest plan, but the beauty part is that Republicans can’t shut it down.

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Dave Johnson

Walmart Says Its Element TVs Are “Assembled In USA” – But They Aren’t

Walmart runs commercials about how great they are for American workers, in part because they sell TVs manufactured by Element Electronics that are supposedly “Assembled in the USA.” (Wait … isn’t the “Walmart model” of selling cheap goods from China the reason everyone is so desperate for American-made goods?) This month the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) accused Element of “Red, White & Blue Washing” and filed a petition with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against Element. AAM says that Element’s assembly process violates the FTC’s standards for claiming that a product is “assembled in the U.S.A.” The FTC rules say a product must undergo a “substantial transformation” on U.S. soil before this claim can be made.

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Dave Johnson

NELP Report: Falling Wages In Factory Jobs

“My experience is that the greatest aid to efficiency of labor is a long line of [unemployed] men waiting at the gate.” — Magnate Samuel Insull, 1920s Economists strive for “efficiency” in our economy. “Efficiency” means that the things we buy are produced at their lowest possible cost. The wages that working people are paid are a “cost” to be eliminated. Egypt’s Pharaohs built the pyramids with “efficient” labor. Imperial Rome and the old Confederacy also had particularly efficient labor markets. American factory jobs used to provide reasonable pay and benefits – largely because of unions and democracy. So how do you make manufacturing jobs more “efficient?” You can move the factory to a country that doesn’t allow unions.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Bill de Blasio: “Democrats Not Standing Up” For Democratic Ideals

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has issued a blunt critique of his fellow Democrats on why they lost the midterm elections and what they have to do to win electoral majorities again. In an interview with Danny Feingold at the news site Capital and Main, de Blasio said the November elections did not represent a conservative tidal wave but was the consequence of too many voters staying home, “including a lot of Democrats, because they didn’t hear a lot from their fellow Democrats in too many cases.” “I think the biggest development we saw [in the midterm election] was Democrats not standing up for the ideals of the Democratic Party, not talking to the economic realities of our people, not being willing to offer real progressive solutions,” de Blasio said.

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Robert Borosage

Obama’s Immigration Order Moves Us Closer To Opportunity For All

NOTE: This official statement by the Campaign for America’s Future was released after President Obama announced his executive action on immigrant deportations Thursday night. President Barack Obama’s decision to waive the threat of deportation to upwards of five million undocumented immigrants and their families is a historic moment that moves America closer to its ideal of equal opportunity for all. Our inequality crisis is worsened by the exploitation of immigrant workers who toil without equal rights and fair compensation. The American economy will grow stronger, from the bottom up, once we end our two-tiered economic system and ensure that all workers have the same rights. Providing immigrant workers with legal status will boost their compensation and increase economic demand, growth which will even reduce long-term budget deficits.

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Richard Eskow

Elizabeth Warren: “Enough is Enough” With Obama’s Wall Street Appointees

Lately Sen. Elizabeth Warren has been talking about President Obama’s economic appointees – and it sounds like she’s pretty fed up. Consider these words, from a Huffington Post essay she published earlier this week: “I believe President Obama deserves deference in picking his team, and I’ve generally tried to give him that. But enough is enough.” Warren (D-Mass.) was writing about Antonio Weiss, a banker with Lazard who has spent most of his career working in overseas finance – and was based in France for nearly a decade. That might not be much of a problem, if not for the fact that Weiss has been nominated for the post of Under Secretary for Domestic Finance at the Treasury Department.

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Terrance Heath

Preparing For Injustice vs. Preparing for Justice in Ferguson

In Ferguson, Missouri, citizens and activists prepare for injustice, while government and law enforcement prepare for outraged reaction to injustice. But what about preparing for the justice Ferguson, and America, really needs? As it waits to hear whether the grand jury will indict officer Darren Wilson in the death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, Ferguson is preparing for the worst: that the grand jury will decide not to indict Wilson, leading to more outrage and unrest in the streets of Ferguson. Governor Jay Nixon has declared a state of emergency, and activated the state’s National Guard in advance of the decision. St. Louis County Police have ordered $170,000 in new equipment, including riot helmets, shields, teargas, grenades, batons, pepper balls, and CS sting grenades. St.

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Jeff Bryant

Why People Are ‘Walking In’ For Public Schools

Every school day in the Lincoln Park community on the North Side of Chicago greets students with well-appointed institutions that include some of the best facilities that American public schools have to offer. Click over to the Yelp ratings for the elementary schools and you’ll read parent reviews that talk about their elementary school’s band programs, afterschool programs, and recent innovative practices being implemented. The high school website features the school’s richly stocked library and well-outfitted sports teams (the swim team has its own Olympic-sized pool, and there’s a golf team, no less). There’s a performing arts faculty, a world language department offering French, German, Spanish, and Arabic; extensive performing arts opportunities; and an International Baccalaureate program.

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Richard Eskow

Guess Who Doesn’t Want Social Security’s Offices Closed – and Who Does

Some surprising new polling results underscore the unpopularity – and long-term destructiveness – of Congress’ ongoing attacks on the Social Security system. The new Republican Congress is expected to force additional office closures and impose additional cuts on the Social Security Administration’s budget, even as a poll released this week by Social Security Works shows that the public overwhelmingly opposes the flimsy rationale for those cuts. We’re told that automation can pick up the slack as more offices are shuttered and more workers are laid off. But the polling shows that Americans overwhelmingly prefer human assistance to the Internet or email, which means they won’t be happy with the change. There are good reasons for their unhappiness.

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Bill Scher

Obama Forces Republicans To Choose: Latinos Or Haters

On one hand, tonight’s presidential announcement, removing the threat of deportation for up to 5 million of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in America, will be a historic moment cherished especially by immigrant families that no longer will live in fear of being torn apart. Make sure you have a box of tissues handy. On the other hand, watching Republicans go apoplectic is just going to be fun to watch. Make sure you have a tub of buttered popcorn handy. As I wrote in “Trolling The GOP” for Politico Magazine yesterday, the White House rollout of the immigration executive action has been designed to maximize outrage on right, ruining the Republican leadership’s strategy of appearing sober and pragmatic as they are forced to grapple with renewed calls for government shutdown and other childish retaliatory measures.

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Roger Hickey

As in 2010, Dems Lost Without an Economic Message Worth Fighting For

Election 2014 was a sad replay of 2010. And it didn’t have to be that way. In early summer 2010, three progressive economic activists – myself, Dean Baker, and Robert Kuttner – met with Obama political adviser David Axelrod in his tiny office in the White House, steps away from the Oval Office. We told him what he already knew from polling: Despite the success of President Obama’s stimulus plan in preventing economic disaster, Americans were still not feeling any improvement in jobs and wages. We understood White House economic advisers were arguing for more action to create jobs and spur the still-weak economy, but the political operation was resisting.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Walmart Rolls Back Its Tax Bill – And Passes The Consequences On To You

Walmart avoids paying on average $1 billion a year in federal taxes through aggressively exploiting tax loopholes – and it has an army of lobbyists working on cutting its tax bill by at least another $720 million, according to a report released today by Americans for Tax Fairness. The report notes that Walmart pays an effective tax rate of 29 percent on the profits from its domestic retail operations, significantly below the statutory corporate tax rate of 35 percent. Further, Walmart has $21.4 billion in profits parked offshore on which it is paying no U.S. taxes at all. Walmart cuts its tax bill through using a variety of means, the report said, including a provision in the tax code that allows for “accelerated depreciation” of capital expenses.

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Joshua Holland

Obama Is Pushing Two Giant Trade Deals — Here’s What You Need to Know

Last summer, Barack Obama and leaders of the European Union announced that negotiations would commence on another trade deal, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a treaty that’s  gotten significantly less attention than the TPP. Also known as the Transatlantic Free Trade Area (TAFTA), it would harmonize trade rules between the US and the EU, which constitutes the world’s largest economy. While negotiations on the deal started last July, proposals for creating a giant transatlantic trading bloc date back to the early 1990s. Wondering what all of these deals are about? Here’s a primer on the Obama administration’s vision for global trade.

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Dave Johnson

Give Americans A $2,000 Check From “Deferred” Corporate Taxes

U.S. multinational corporations are hoarding an estimated $2 trillion “offshore” to take advantage of a loophole in our tax laws. At our 35 percent top federal corporate tax rate, that represents up to $700 billion in taxes owed but “deferred” because they are “offshore.” This is not imaginary or future money; it is taxes owed on $2 trillion of profits these companies have already made. Who should get this money? A loophole in the corporate tax code allows companies to “defer” paying taxes on profits made outside of the U.S. until they “repatriate” it – bring the money back to the U.S..

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Isaiah J. Poole

Private Equity Predators Killed Jobs; Now They’re After Your Retirement

Little-noticed articles in The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal in the past month disclosed that private equity firms – notorious for taking over companies and stripping them of jobs and investment to maximize profit for the private equity partners – are looking for a new source of cash: your retirement account. “Carlyle, the Washington-based giant that Mr. [David M.] Rubenstein co-founded in 1987, is at the forefront of an effort to open the cloistered and risky world of private equity to doctors, lawyers, well-heeled entrepreneurs and others with a brokerage account or, one day, a robust 401(k),” the Times wrote.

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