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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Dave Johnson

Make One More Call To Senators To Stop Fast Track

The fast track trade promotion authority vote in the Senate is itself being fast tracked. The last time fast track was in front of the Senate, members spent three weeks discussing it. This time the Senate gets just a few days. The final Senate vote is coming up. Make a few calls and see if we can head this off. The Senate is considering the rigged fast track trade promotion authority process that, if passed, will be used to push through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and future trade bills under future presidents. Please make one more call to your senators and let them know you do not want them to vote for the Fast Track bill. If it passes the Senate it will then move to the House soon after the Memorial Day break. The House is where the real fight will take place; it is important that you start contacting your representative in Congress about this.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Postal Banking Idea Wins Support From Postal Service Inspector General

If you think allowing post offices to morph into neighborhood banking centers is at best a utopian fantasy, or a just plain crazy idea, the Postal Service Inspector General wants you to think again. The inspector general’s office released a report today concluding that expanding the financial services post offices already provide could lessen or even close the post office’s annual deficit, making reductions in mail service unnecessary, while providing essential services to the estimated 68 million Americans who don’t have a bank account or have to use expensive check-cashing and payday lending outfits. “For millions of underserved families, the Postal Service is already a part of their financial lives,” the report said, noting that post offices sold $21 billion worth of money orders in 2014.

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Jim Hightower

GOP Climate Denial Syndrome Sweeps Wisconsin

It’s well-known that harsh climate conditions can mess with your mind — from cabin fever to heat delirium. But America is now experiencing an even more dangerous disease: Climaticus Non-Vocalism Extremism. This syndrome almost exclusively afflicts a narrow segment of our population: Republican political officials and candidates. It might stem from a genetic defect, but scientists say more study is needed. Symptoms include an obsessive impulse to deny that human-caused climate change is happening, often accompanied by a feverish insistence that government employees be banned from discussing it. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is suffering from this affliction. Image via Gateway Technical College @ Flickr. The Koch-funded governor and Republican presidential wannabe is an ardent climate-change denier. And his state’s public lands board has taken climate denial to Orwellian levels.

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Dave Johnson

These 13 Democrats Are Helping Rush Fast Track Through The Senate

Fast track is being super-fast tracked in the Senate. Wall Street and the big corporations really, really want this one and the Senate is responding, including 13 “Democrats.” When the fix is in and you are rigging the game anyway, why bother with the pretense of meaningful and open public debate? Sometimes a vote is a clear either/or, where you are either voting with Wall Street and the giant, multinational corporations or you are voting with 99 percent of Americans who actually (try to) work for a living. These trade votes are one of those clear choices. Thirteen Democrats joined today with Republicans, Wall Street and the giant, multinational corporations to rush fast track through the Senate with little public debate and few votes on amendments.

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Jeff Bryant

Charter Schools Won’t Solve Racial Injustice In Baltimore

The disturbing death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore while in police custody, and the ensuing riots after news of his death spread, have continued to prompt countless analyses of the chronic problems in our nation’s urban centers. My colleague Terrance Heath correctly assigns blame to a direct source: chronic abuse committed by police against people, especially black and brown people, taken into custody. A recent report from progressive news outlet Alternet reveals “nearly 2,600 detainees” from Baltimore police were turned away from the city’s detention center in the past three years because they were too injured to be accepted.

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Emily Foster

How Los Angeles Is Showing the Nation How to Reduce Poverty

This week the nation’s second-largest city made immense strides in combating poverty and wealth inequality. The Los Angeles City Council approved by 14 to 1 legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, which would provide a necessary income increase to more than 723,000 Angeleno workers, almost 50 percent of the city’s workforce. The law will raise the current $9 minimum wage to $15 through a five-year period, while giving small employers an extra year. The legislation’s ripple effects include $1.25 in economic stimulus for every dollar in increased wages, adding $414 million to tax revenue and creating 46,400 new jobs throughout the city. Los Angeles is an example for what a living wage could do for the entire nation. At the Economic Policy Institute in Washington on Wednesday, advocates for raising the minimum wage met to discuss why national action is necessary.

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Terrance Heath

Not Lovin’ It: Thousands Storm McDonald’s HQ To Protest Low Wages

In the largest protest of its kind, thousands of McDonald’s employees stormed the company’s headquarters today to demand that it stop spending millions manipulating stock prices, and start paying workers a living wage. McDonald’s cashiers and cooks came to the company’s shareholders meeting, at its corporate headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois. More than 100 were arrested for refusing to leave the property. Marching with them were Service Employees International Union president Mary Kay Henry; Moral Mondays movement leader Rev. William Barber; Rev. Marilyn Pagán Banks of North Side Power/A Just Harvest in Chicago, Illinois; and Rev. Rodney E. Williams of the Swope Parkway United Christian Church in Kansas City, Missouri. McDonald’s worker Santa Rubio on stage with Mary Kay Henry during the shareholders action.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Unprecedented Coalition Leads To Progressive Wins In Philadelphia

Get ready to add the name Jim Kenney to a growing list of progressive populist mayors who seek to put their cities in the vanguard of economic change for working people. Kenney won the mayoral nomination Tuesday night in Philadelphia’s Democratic primary. He won in what Philadelphia magazine called a “historic landslide” and a “shellacking of the first order” against a well-financed and politically powerful challenger, state senator Anthony Williams.

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Dave Johnson

URGENT – Senate Debating Fast Track Now: Call Your Senators

On a Wednesday press call Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown complained that the Senate leadership is “rushing” through a vote on “fast track” trade promotion authority – a procedure that in essence preapproves trade deals before the public can know what is in them. He said they are limiting the time for discussion and debate of the bill, limiting the number of amendments that can be offered and engaging in the kind of secrecy similar to what the Obama administration is imposing. If you are following the trade debate over fast track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), then you know that the votes are being rushed through the Senate with very little debate. Call your senators today and tell them to support critical amendments and to vote against fast track.

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Robert Borosage

Los Angeles Goes to $15 Minimum Wage

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” – Frederick Douglass Yesterday, the Los Angeles City Council voted to raise the minimum wage of workers in America’s second largest city to $15 an hour. The minimum will rise in increments, reaching $15 in 2020. In a city where 46 percent of workers now earn less than $15 an hour, the effects will be profound. And similar hikes are likely to sweep across cities in California and elsewhere. There is a lesson here that we should never forget. This dramatic change comes only because workers organized to demand it. This is a dramatic victory for the Fight for $15 movement, the courageous low-wage workers who put their jobs on the line to demand simple justice. A $15 minimum wage had little support from political leaders (Sen. Bernie Sanders a rare exception).

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Richard Eskow

The Left Matters – Now, More Than Ever

Some leading Democrats seem to have a love-hate relationship with the left. Sure, progressives seem to have more influence than ever in the party this year, at least rhetorically. But it doesn’t look like the friction will be going away any time soon. President Obama has been escalating his war of words with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and her allies, reigniting a burning resentment he last let slip in 2010. Hillary Clinton has adopted more progressive rhetoric, but her unwillingness to fight for specific policies has left activists frustrated. Clearly, the left matters. Why, then, is it so difficult for progressives to get a seat at the table? The Obama White House and the Left While Obama seems to have targeted Warren for especially intense criticism, some of his barbs were aimed at broader targets.

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Emily Foster

A Robin Hood Tax To Pay for College for All

In Norway, students go to college tuition-free. In Denmark, students are even paid to go to higher education. In the U.S., college students currently face more than $1.2 trillion of education debt. If the United States wants to boost its middle class and rebuild its economy, this is something that needs to change. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) understands this dilemma. Sanders met with supporters at a press conference on Capitol Hill today and introduced two bills to address it: his College for All Act and a Robin Hood Tax. “It is a national disgrace that hundreds of thousands of young Americans today do not get to go to college, not because they are unqualified, but because they cannot afford it,” said Sanders. “This is absolutely counterproductive to our efforts to create a strong, competitive, economy and a vibrant middle class.

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Dave Johnson

McDonald’s’ Workers Protest Share Buyback Scheme

In April we saw the largest-ever strike against the fast-food industry. There were walkouts in 236 cities, including strikes and protests in 40 countries. Now on Wednesday we will see the largest-ever workers’ protests at the McDonald’s shareholder meeting in Oak Brook, Illinois. Workers will be protesting the stock manipulation scheme that McDonald’s’ executives are using to loot the company at the expense of its employees. Profits That Go To Shareholder Buybacks “Loot The Future” It used to be illegal for a company to manipulate its stock price. Now it’s common. Instead of using profits to invest in the future, companies are paying ridiculously low wages, downsizing, outsourcing, offshoring, cutting R&D, deferring maintenance and improvements, and borrowing money and using the proceeds to purchase their own stock.

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