Terrance Heath

From Ferguson To Raleigh: The March For Jobs And Freedom Continues

Fifty-one years ago, thousands of Americans gathered for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Today, events in Ferguson, Mo., and North Carolina show how much work remains, and how we can carry on the mission of the March. America has made tremendous progress since thousands marched for “civil and economic rights”, and Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” speech before the Lincoln Memorial. As I wrote last year, on the fiftieth anniversary, we have undoubtedly come a long way: We are more educated. Seventy-five percent of African-Americans complete high school now, compared to 15 percent in 1963. There are 3.5 times more African-Americans attending college, and five college graduates for every one in 1963. Fewer of us live in poverty. The number of African-Americans living in poverty has declined 23 percent since 1963.

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Dave Johnson

Court Rules That FedEx Employees Are FedEx Employees – Why This Matters

You know all those people who work for FedEx? A court has ruled that they work for FedEx! FedEx, like so many other companies, has been shifting costs onto employees by pretending they are not employees. This is called “misclassification” and this ruling matters. FedEx has been pretending that their employees are “independent contractors” even though they are FedEx employees. Just in time for Labor Day, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that FedEx’s employees (in California and Oregon, and likely many states with similar employee-protection laws) are FedEx’s employees, ruling that, “… we hold that plaintiffs are employees as a matter of law.” This ruling matters because actual employees have certain rights and benefits that contractors do not have. These rights include, Overtime pay.

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Jeff Bryant

Charter Schools Don’t Need An Ad Campaign; They Need Regulation

This time of year, while classroom teachers and administrators in public schools are busy welcoming students back to a new school year and figuring out how they’re going to cope with devastating financial constraints, advocates in the charter schools industry are propping up their image with an extensive new public relations campaign called “Truth About Charters.” That contrast alone pretty much tells you everything you need to know about where we are in the nation’s parallel education narratives, in which a gritty documentary competes with what is essentially an advertising campaign for a shiny, new product. There are good reasons for charter schools advocates to feel they need an ad campaign.

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Robert Borosage

Inequality: A Broad Middle Class Requires Empowering Workers

On Labor Day, families gather, politicians pay tribute to values of hard work, and some workers even get an extra day off. But this Labor Day arrives with working families struggling to stay afloat. Working family incomes haven’t gone up in the 21st century. Inequality reaches new extremes. Corporate profits are reaping a record portion of the nation’s income, while worker wages wallow at record lows. Three-fourths of Americans fear their children will fare less well than they have. This Labor Day, we should do more than celebrate workers – we should understand how vital reviving worker unions is to rebuilding a broad middle class. The raging debate on inequality and its remedies often omits discussion of unions. Inequality is blamed on globalization and technology that have transformed our workforce.

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Dave Johnson

Our Solution To Burger King-Style Abandonment Of U.S. Gains Traction

Amidst all the news about Burger King – another company renouncing its US “citizenship” to avoid paying taxes for the roads, courts, police and the rest of the government services that made them prosperous – an idea that Campaign for America’s Future has been promoting is gaining traction. The technical name for it is “Single Sales Factor Apportionment” but it just means tax companies based on how much they sell here. In the post, “A Simplified Way To Tax Multinational Corporations,” I discussed a report by District Economics Group economist Michael Udell that “offered a bold new alternative that is so radically simple that even the most clever corporate tax accountant would have a hard time finding a way around its fair and universal proposition: If a company sells products or services in the U.S., it must pay taxes on the U.S.

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Harvey J Kaye

This Labor Day 2014 Let’s Think Back To Move Progressively Forward

On Labor Day weekend 2007 the Guardian “Comment is Free” editor commissioned me to write a piece on labor and progressive possibilities.  I published the piece posted below, which the editor titled “TO BE FRANKLIN: Seventy years on he is still under attack from the right, but Democrats should recall, this national holiday, what made Roosevelt truly great.”  So this Labor Day, as we once again look ahead – both to this November’s congressional and state elections and beyond that to November 2016 and a new presidential Administration – let’s not despair but rather think back in favor of moving progressively forward.

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Richard Eskow

Obamacare’s “Secret Trick” Could Cure CEO Pay Excesses

Our economy is broken. There’s one economy for the wealthy, and another for the rest of us. This division has been worsened by the behavior of corporate executives who manage their corporations for short-term personal gain rather than for long-term fiscal soundness. Could a “secret trick” help change that? This “trick” is reviewed in a new report from the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), written by Sarah Anderson, Sam Pizzigati and Marjorie Elizabeth Wood, and it comes from what they describe as “a most unlikely source”: Obamacare. CEOs and other executives are overpaid nowadays by any reasonable standard. To make matters worse, taxpayers are footing a large part of the bill. Thanks to some historical lobbying and maneuvering, corporations are able to deduct much of the money they pay to their most highly compensated executives.

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Dave Johnson

Remember That Time When All Those Veterans Died Waiting For Care?

Remember when all those veterans died waiting to get care? At the time there were hundreds of scare stories like these: WFMY (Greensboro, NC): “Report: 1,000 Veterans Die While Waiting For Care, VA Wastes Billions.” The report was released by Senator Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, and is a scathing review of a system he says has “covered up delays and deaths [the VA] has caused.” American Military News: “VA’s Secret Waiting List Killed 40 Veterans.” CNN: “A fatal wait: Veterans languish and die on a VA hospital’s secret list.” NY Daily News: “40 U.S. veterans die while on Phoenix VA hospital’s cost-cutting secret wait list: report.” Politix: “THIS VETERAN DIED WHILE WAITING TO GET HEALTHCARE FROM THE GOVERNMENT.

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Lynne Stuart Parramore

What Life Will Look Like When You Can’t Afford to Retire

In a must-read article in the current issue of Harper’s magazine, journalist Jessica Bruder, adjunct professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, adds a new phrase to America’s vocabulary: “Elderly migrant worker.” She documents a growing trend of older Americans for whom the reality of unaffordable housing and scarcity of work has driven them from their homes and onto the road in search of seasonal and temporary employment across the country. Packed into RVs, detached from their communities, these “Okies” of the Great Recession put in time at Amazon warehouses, farms and amusement parks, popping free over-the-counter pain reliever to mask the agony of strained muscles and sore backs. And when they can’t hold up any longer? The RV sometimes becomes a coffin.

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Dave Johnson

Will Republicans Block Action On Corporations Abandoning The U.S.?

There is legislation before Congress to do something about corporations renouncing their US “citizenship.” The odds are that Republicans will block it — and not just because they have obstructed everything else. There is a wave of news about corporations using a technicality called an “inversion” to renounce their US “citizenship.” An inversion is when a US company buys or merges with a non-US company, and then pretends it is no longer a US company. Today it’s Burger King. Not long ago it was Walgreens. Keep Same Executives, Employees, Facilities And Customers Even though an inverted company has renounced its US citizenship, the company keeps the same executives, the same stores or facilities, the same employees, and the same customers — right here in the US. The only things that changes is the company sheds certain tax obligations.

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Richard Eskow

A Stock-Market Milestone is Reached, But Who Cares?

There was great economic news on Monday – for somebody. Monday morning the stock market passed another historic milestone, as the S&P 500 composite index briefly passed the 2,000 mark before ending the day on a record-breaking high. That barrier had symbolic value for many investors, although perhaps not as much as the once-unimaginable goal of seeing the Dow Jones Industrial Average reach the 10,000 mark. A money manager in the go-go nineties once described that figure as “Mount Dow’s summit,” and so it was. Once upon a time, investors could only dream of reaching that lofty Shangri-La. But reach it they did. The Dow reached the 10,000 mark in 1999. Then it passed the 15,000 peak, in May of last year. That was well above its levels before the financial crisis, thanks to a Wall Street bailout that supercharged the stock market while others were left in the dust.

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Terrance Heath

“Carbon” Introduces Short Film Series on Climate Crisis

If you want to know how bad the climate crisis is, and what you can do about it, check out “Carbon”; the first in a series of short films aimed at exploring crucial issues related to the climate crisis. Produced by Tree Media, with help from Thom Hartmann and the Leo DiCaprio Foundation, and narrated by DiCaprio himself, “Carbon” is part of Green World Rising — a four-part series of films released of the 2014 UN Climate Summit on September 23. “This film is meant to be an asset for the climate movement and to generate momentum for the global reduction of carbon emissions,” said Leila Conners, director of the film. Episode 1 – Carbon shows how we can keep carbon in the ground through putting a price on carbon. Episode 2 – Green World Rising shows our pathway forward through renewable technology that decentralizes the current power grid.

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Dave Johnson

Trade Commission Tells South Korea, Others To Stop “Dumping” Steel

The International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled last week that South Korean companies are “dumping” steel pipes, tubes and fittings used by oil companies – known formally as oil country tubular goods (OCTG) – into the U.S. market. “Dumping” means selling for below-market prices in an effort to put competitors out of business. This is a big deal for the U.S.-based steel industry. May’s post, “Another Trade Cheating Issue Risks Another Half A Million Jobs,” described the problem: There has been a surge in steel imports, as companies in other countries try to make up for low demand by selling steel in the U.S. at below-market prices. This is putting hundreds of thousands of American jobs – and our steel industry – at risk.

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Terrance Heath

Forward Together: Moral Mondays’ “Moral Week Of Action” Takes Off

North Carolina’s Moral Mondays Movement on Friday launched a “Moral Week of Action” that will run through Thursday to demand that Republicans “repent and repeal” their public policy attacks on the human and civil rights of North Carolinians. Each day of action emphasizes a different issue: August 22 – Labor Rights, Fair and Living Wages, and Economic Justice: North Carolina’s GOP leadership opposes increasing the minimum wage. House Speaker (and U.S. Senate candidate) Thom Tillis called raising the minimum wage a “defeatist mentality.”, and said it is “a decision that the legislature needs to make with business.”.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: The Ferguson Edition

For most of America, the shooting of yet another unarmed, young black man laid bare the way that racism and inequality play out in our streets. For wingnuts, it was another chance to appeal to the basest of the GOP base. This week, the worst of wingnuttia is all about the killing of yet another unarmed young black man – 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo.

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Sharon Davies

Ferguson Commentary: If We Bend Not Our Energies

“. . . the hands of none of us are clean if we bend not our energies to righting these great wrongs.”  –W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk The nation’s focus on the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown in  Ferguson, Missouri confers yet another opportunity for deeper racial understanding, but like other (too many other) teachable moments arising from the tragic loss of young Black life, the opportunity is fleeting and frail.  To make the most of it, the nation will need to embrace decades of research about how unconscious biases continue to shape how Black males are perceived in public, and impede their access to opportunity and even threaten their lives.

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Dave Johnson

Austerity Has Made Europe’s Depression Longer Than In The 1930s

Europe’s economic depression has now lasted longer than the Great Depression of the 1930s. Meanwhile, America’s “Great Recession” also drags on thanks to cutbacks in government spending since the stimulus. Europe’s leaders somehow were convinced that austerity – “deficit reduction” through cutbacks in government – would somehow lead them out of their economic doldrums. They believed that taking money out of the economy would help the economy. The result has been terrible.

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Eileen Appelbaum

UPDATE: The Bain and Blackstone IPO for Michael’s Stores

Michael’s Stores was taken private in a leveraged buyout on October 31, 2006. At the time of LBO, Highfields Capital Partners, which owned shares in the specialty retailer, was allowed to retain its interest – worth about $200 million. Funds of two private equity firms, Bain and Blackstone, purchased the remaining shares for $5.8 billion (PitchBook Michael’s Stores company profile 7-1-14 behind a paywall). Michael’s Stores had very little long-term debt at the time it was acquired. The specialty retail chain had an enterprise value (EV) of $6.025 billion. Michael’s Stores had 2005 earnings (EBITDA) of about $550 million. The multiple at which it was acquired (EV/EBITDA) was 11. Nearly eight years later on June 27, 2014, Michael’s Stores (now The Michaels Companies) was returned to the public market via an IPO.

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Dave Johnson

A Simple Plan To Balance Trade And Bring Back All Those Jobs

We have an enormous, humongous and ongoing trade deficit. This means we buy more from other countries than they buy from us and we do this every year. Trade is supposed to be balanced. Instead we have been running continuing trade deficits since the late 1970s. A trade deficit drains our economy and forces consumers, businesses and government to borrow, just to keep going. This means that jobs, factories, entire industries and literal boatloads of money have been leaving the country – it really adds up because we do this every single year. We have to do something about this. The “Buffett Plan” In May’s post, Balancing Trade – Remember The “Buffett Plan” I described the 2003 “Buffett Plan” proposed by Warren Buffett, who was very concerned about the damage done to our economy and unemployment caused by our ongoing trade deficit.

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