Dave Johnson

Enormous, Humongous July Trade Deficit, Even Before China Devaluation

The U.S. Census Bureau reported Thursday that the July goods and services trade deficit was an enormous, humongous $41.9 billion. This is down from a revised $45.2 billion in June. This is an increase from May’s enormous, humongous $40.9 billion trade deficit. We had the highest ever level of imports in autos and auto parts, at $30 billion. The trade deficit with China was $31.57 billion. This is the highest monthly trade deficit of this year, and it was 75 percent of our July trade deficit. The U.S. goods deficit with Japan was $5.7 billion, up from $5.2 billion in June. The U.S. goods deficit with South Korea was $2.6 billion, up from $2.3 billion in June. Note that these numbers do not reflect China’s big currency devaluation, which happened in August. Even without that, this trade deficit measures a terrible situation for American manufacturers and workers.

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Jim Hightower

How Not To Give Employees A Raise

Some days, I get an irresistible compulsion to tear out my hair. My latest outbreak was triggered by a New York Times opinion piece by Peter Georgescu, the former chairman of the giant PR outfit Young & Rubicam. He issued a clarion call for his corporate peers to reverse the dangerous widening of income inequality in our country by increasing the paychecks of America’s workaday majority. “We business leaders know what to do,” he wrote, “but do we have the will to do it?” Apparently, no. But Georgescu says he knows just the thing that’ll jar the CEOs into action: corporate subsidies. Yes, he actually wants us taxpayers to give money to bloated, uber-rich corporations so they can pay a dab more to their employees. As Lily Tomlin says, “No matter how cynical you get, it’s hard to keep up.

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Jeff Bryant

Why The Fight For Dyett High School Is A Fight For Democracy

Jitu Brown is a mountain of a man, tall and broad shouldered – the kind of person whose presence you notice when he walks into a room and whose deep, resonate voice commands your attention. When you shake his hand, you can’t help notice your palm completely disappears in his all-encompassing grip. Yet on Wednesday, “Brother Jitu,” as he is customarily called, looked weary, a little slumped over, almost faint, as he sat in a folding chair at the base of the US Department of Education in Washington, DC. Brown you must know is on his 17th day of a hunger strike. He has traveled to here from his Chicago neighborhood, hundreds of miles away, with one of his fellow strikers, April Stogner.

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Terrance Heath

Emmett, Trayvon, Freddie, and Sandra

Sixty years after Emmett Till was killed for daring to assert his humanity, African Americans are still being killed for doing the same. Charles M. Blow hears echoes of Emmett Till’s killing in the cycle so often repeated in the news today: “Young lives are lost, the body itself is desecrated or neglected, killers are acquitted or not even brought to trial, and the effects of the feelings of terror and injustice galvanize a generation of young people who have taken as much as they plan to take.” Till was murdered for flirting with and whistling at a white woman, things that could get a black man killed in the Deep South in 1955.

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Robert Borosage

End the Great American Drug Heist

This week, Sen. Bernie Sanders took on Big PhRMA, the all-powerful prescription drug company lobby, by demanding an end to the Great American Drug Heist. Americans pay the highest prices for prescription drugs in the world – even though taxpayer money supports much of the research that develops the drugs. Drug costs increased nearly 11 percent last year, more than double the rise in overall medical costs. This when prices generally were up less than 1 percent. One in five Americans, Sanders noted, don’t fill a prescription because of its cost. Lives are lost because drugs are too expensive. As Sanders noted, we spent about 40 percent more on prescriptions in 2013 than they did in Canada, the industrial country with the second most expensive drugs. Our costs were nearly five times per person than those in Denmark. When they spend $20, we spend $100 on the same prescription.

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Emily Schwartz Greco

Greening America’s Energy Workforce

Oil permeates the whole economy. Even if you telework in a solar-powered home and tote your groceries home by bicycle, the price of petroleum affects what you spend on goods and services. This impact, of course, is uneven. The collapse from $105 per barrel last summer to as little as $37.75 in late August in U.S. oil prices brought relief to wallets across America — while kneecapping the industry’s profits and costing tens of thousands of workers their jobs. But one tiny segment of the oil workforce isn’t hurting. The buck stopped elsewhere for ExxonMobil CEO Rex W. Tillerson, who pocketed $33.1 million in 2014. ConocoPhillips CEO Ryan M. Lance raked in $27.6 million, netting an 18 percent raise. And Chevron CEO John S. Watson, whose company recently cut 1,500 jobs, took home $26 million.

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Isaiah J. Poole

More Proof Workers Are More Productive But Less Rewarded

Today’s positive economic news that worker productivity in the second quarter of 2015 was better than expected – up at an annual rate of 3.3 percent – underscores a fundamental question about today’s economy: If workers are increasingly productive, why aren’t they increasingly well paid for it? The fact that workers aren’t being rewarded for their productivity gains is well documented in a report released today by the Economic Policy Institute. According to its survey of worker productivity and wage trends since the 1970s, workers have only gained a tiny share of the rewards of productivity gains. The rest have gone to corporate CEOs and owners, and that has been the major contributor to the widening “income inequality” gap between workers and the top 1 percent of income earners.

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Bill Scher

A Win For Peace

The Iran deal will not be scuttled by Congress, now that President Obama has secured the support of enough Senate Democrats to sustain any veto of any attempt to strip Obama of his authority to waive sanctions. It’s a historic win for peace and diplomacy. Unlike military victories, diplomatic wins are rarely cherished contemporaneously and only slightly more so with the passage of time. Jimmy Carter was booted out of the office despite his Herculean efforts to forge the Camp David Accords and his wise decision to relinquish the Panama Canal. We don’t remember Bill Clinton for the Good Friday Agreement, ending 30 years of strife between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. We don’t remember what Harry Truman did to establish the United Nations, let alone the name of the Secretary of State who did most of the heavy lifting.

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Richard Eskow

The “Cadillac” Tax is Coming, And Could Hit Your Midsize Health Plan

According to new projections from the Kaiser Family Foundation, one in four employers will be hit with the Affordable Care Act’s insurance excise tax when it takes effect in 2018. The tax, sometimes called the “Cadillac” or “Cadillac plan” tax, could affect as many as 42 percent of all employers within 10 years. Larger employers, who typically offer better benefits, are more likely to face the tax. That means that nearly half of all American workers – who have already been hit hard by rising out-of-pocket health care costs – could wind up paying more for medical care by 2028. With 48 percent of the country currently covered by employer health insurance, and larger employers more likely to be taxed, as many as 70 to 80 million people could be affected. There must be a better way to run a health care system.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Business Lobby Is Denied Overtime To Kill Overtime Rule

This is the final week that the Labor Department is accepting comments on a proposed rule that would make some 5 million additional workers eligible for overtime pay for working more than 40 hours a week. A last-ditch effort to give businesses more time to campaign to defeat the rule was rejected today by the Department of Labor. The overtime rule is a big deal for workers who earn as little as $24,000 a year in salaried positions – they are called managers but very little of what they actually do could be considered “managerial.” These are the people who stock store shelves, keep facilities clean, help serve food and do any number of other tasks that are typically done by hourly workers. But by calling these workers managers, they can require them to work virtually unlimited hours – as many as 70 or 80 hours a week – without giving them a dime in additional pay.

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Bill Scher

How The Planned Parenthood Attack May Result In More Government Stimulus

Before conservatives became unhinged over Planned Parenthood, the odds on another government shutdown by the end of September were decent. In February, President Obama proposed a budget that increased military and non-military domestic spending. In the spring, Congress passed a budget resolution, without any Democratic votes, that increased military spending while cutting social spending. No substantive negotiations have occurred to bridge the gap as the September 30th deadline looms. Now conservatives are accelerating a shutdown showdown, and are weakening their own hand in the process. As I explained at Real Clear Politics, Sen. Ted Cruz is urging Republicans to refuse to back any bill funding the government that leaves in place funding for Planned Parenthood, and at least 18 House Republicans so far have agreed. But since Sen.

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Bernie Horn

Common Core “Results” Aren’t Actually Test Scores

A few states have now released results from the Common Core standardized tests administered to students last spring. The Associated Press recently published a story about them, and over the next couple of months we can expect a flood of press releases, news articles and opinion columns bragging about the “success” of these tests. But nearly all the news and opinion pieces will be wildly misleading. That’s because Common Core “results” aren’t actually test scores. In fact, the numbers tell us more about the states’ test scorers than they do about schoolchildren. Consider the AP story, for example.

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Sam Pizzigati

In Search of Our First Trillionaire

White House hopeful Bernie Sanders has been doing his best lately to place America’s “billionaire class” right at the center of the nation’s political discourse. But Phoenix-based attorney Bob Lord would like to see the nation start contemplating the next chapter in the ongoing concentration of America’s wealth: the emergence of our first trillionaires. Lord doesn’t stand alone. Other observers also see trillionaires — billionaires a thousand times over — in our future. Last year, for instance, CNBC explored whether America’s first trillionaire might arrive in time for that network’s 2039 50th anniversary. But Lord may be doing more than any other analyst to track the trends bringing trillionaires ever closer.

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Leo Gerard

Killing Uncle AL

Specialty metals manufacturer ATI reinvented itself in recent years. Instead of serving as a vital organ in the dozen communities where it operates mills, it decided to be a boil, blight – a bane upon civic life in six states. Communities once cherished their ATI specialty mills and the feeling was reciprocated. Managers knew mill workers by name, lived in the same towns and fulfilled civic responsibilities. The mills contributed to scout troops and fire departments. Townspeople referred to the plants as Uncle AL, for Allegheny Ludlum, the name before its Aug. 15, 1996 merger with Teledyne that created ATI. But now ATI is butchering that time-honored relationship.  It has demanded tax abatements and special electrical rates and forced excessive overtime on weary workers.

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Terrance Heath

The Populist Agenda Is An Electable Agenda

Whether you believe Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is an “electable” presidential candidate, the populist agenda Sanders has placed at the center of his campaign is absolutely an electable agenda. Once considered the longest of long-shot candidates, Sanders — the only “self-described socialist,” and longest serving independent member of Congress — has surged close to front-runner status in the Democratic race. He’s now the top choice of 30 percent of Iowa Democrats likely to vote in caucuses next year; that’s just seven points behind Hillary Clinton, who was beating Sanders 57 percent to 16 percent in late May. In New Hampshire, where he was 39 points behind in March, Sanders now has a seven-point lead over Clinton. All of this has made the Democratic establishment nervous that Sanders could prove a serious challenge to Clinton, once the presumptive nominee.

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Jeff Bryant

Jonathan Kozol Explains What’s Wrong With Health Care And Education

I don’t think anyone who read “Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools” by Jonathan Kozol would easily forget it. It took me, a child of the leafy suburbs of affluent North Dallas, to a place that was unimaginably cruel and dehumanizing, where schools go without basic needs, such as heat, textbooks, running water and functioning bathrooms; where there are holes in the floors and ceilings, dead rodents and roaches in classrooms, plaster falling from walls into the hallways, and sewage invading the lunchroom. These were the schoolhouses I never knew existed, that low-income black and brown children attended in ghettoized cities across America – a sharp rebuke to a generally agreed-upon narrative in the media at the time that so much progress had been made in America on race.

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Mary E. King

The Myth of a Better Iran Deal

The nuclear deal that the United States and its international partners reached with Iran achieved what it set out to do: prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon. This is not solely a White House talking point. Seventy-five nuclear experts have now voiced their support for the deal in addition to top U.S. scientists, generals and admirals,ambassadors, national security experts, and the Israeli security establishment — all of whom agree that the bargain will block all pathways for Iran to build a nuclear weapon. The agreement is rock solid. As a joint bipartisan statement from a group of national security leaders says, “We . . .

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Dave Johnson

What Bernie Sanders Has Already Won

When Sen. Bernie Sanders initially began running for president, his hope was to “trigger the conversation” about the way the economic and political system is rigged by the billionaires and their corporations. He wanted to begin a movement around a vision of how the country could be run for We the People instead of a few billionaires and their giant corporations, and give that movement momentum. That was the idea; start a movement out of a campaign that could get a “for-the-people” message out. All the people he brought in would take it from there. The arguments that would prompt Sanders to contemplate not running were clear and compelling. Sanders wasn’t going to be getting the huge-dollar donations that keep so many other candidates going.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: Have They No Decency?

Wingnut reactions to the on-air shooting of two Roanoke, Virginia journalists brings to mind the famous question Joseph N. Welch asked Sen. Joseph McCarthy: “Have you no sense of decency, sir?” No, they don’t. It didn’t take long for right-wingers to jump on the shooting of Roanoke, Virginia reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward — broadcast live on the air, and shared on social media by the gunman and former coworker. As usual, what they had to say was either ridiculous, offensive, or both.

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Robert Borosage

The Economy: Beneath the Din

Donald Trump’s “barstool eruptions” fill the news shows, but Trump seems tame compared to the economic headlines. The stock market craters and then bounces back. Growth for the second quarter is revised up to 3.7%, even as CBO revises its projection for this year down from 2.9% to 2.0%. The dollar is up and inflation is down, yet the Federal Reserve is talking itself into hiking interest rates. The owner of our office building decided to put TVs into the elevators, all tuned loudly to the babbling heads on CNBC. One thing is clear amid the din: these economic weathervanes don’t have a clue which way the wind is blowing. So to help clear the murk, here’s a bit of common sense. The Stock Market Isn’t the Economy Stock prices don’t reflect the real economy. They can soar while the economy sinks or vice versa. They don’t measure how Americans are faring.

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