Sam Pizzigati

Enriching CEOs, Endangering Cancer Patients

Peasants with pitchforks don’t normally wear lab coats and hold medical degrees. Hagop Kantarjian does. Kantarjian currently chairs the leukemia department at the prestigious M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, one of America’s top oncology facilities. But the CEOs at America’s pharmaceutical giants these days only see pitchforks when they see Dr. Kantarjian. For good reason: The good doctor is threatening their cash cow. He’s just launched an online petition drive that’s protesting the unconscionably high prices drug makers charge for cancer drugs. How high have these prices gone? The average price of new cancer drugs is now running over $120,000 per year. And these sky-high prices, warns Dr. Kantarjian, are “harming our patients.” More and more people battling cancer simply can’t afford treatment.

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Dave Johnson

Now We Know Why Huge TPP Trade Deal Is Kept Secret From The Public

A key section of the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement has been leaked to the public. The New York Times has a major story on the contents of the leaked chapter and it’s as bad as many of us feared. Now we know why the corporations and the Obama administration want TPP, a huge “trade” agreement being negotiated between the United States and 11 other countries, kept secret from the public until it’s too late to stop it. The section of TPP that has leaked is the “Investment” chapter that includes Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Senate Budget Votes Reveal The Same Old ‘Party Of No’

The series of votes that will shape the Senate’s version of the fiscal 2016 federal budget won’t be over until Friday morning, but we already know how this drama ends, with Republicans keeping true to being the “party of ‘no'” when it comes to actions that would help raise wages, empower workers and advance the goal of shared prosperity. The Senate today launched into what’s known inside the Beltway as a “vote-a-rama,” a marathon series of votes expected to last well into the night. But the tone was arguably set on Tuesday, with a little-noticed vote on a budget amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). The Sanders amendment would have accomplished something that should have been noncontroversial: make space in the budget for funding a long-term surface transportation bill.

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Terrance Heath

Black Unemployment Report Shows Why We Needed The People’s Budget

Yesterday House Republicans passed a budget with no new funding for job creation. Today a new report on black unemployment shows the urgent need for investment in job creation. In a new report from the Economic Policy Institute, “Projected Decline in Unemployment in 2015 Won’t Lift Blacks Out of the Recession-carved Crater,” economist Valerie Wilson finds that black unemployment rates remain higher than pre-recession levels in 28 states — even though unemployed rates for whites, Latinos, and Asians have dropped to within 1 percentage point of their pre-recession levels. Black unemployment levels are projected to drop significantly in only two states — California and Illinois. Nationally, a black unemployment rate of 10.4 percent is projected for the end of 2015.

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Jeff Bryant

Revisiting A Progressive Education Agenda: What’s Happened Since?

It’s been nearly two years since the Education Opportunity Network, with the Opportunity to Learn campaign and the Campaign for America’s Future, published the Education Declaration to Rebuild America. As The Washington Post reported at the time, “The document offers a progressive approach to school reform.” What makes the document truly “progressive,” is that it advocates “equity of opportunity” and adequate financial and instructional support for every child, among other principles. Immediately, leading progressive luminaries and public school advocates – including Robert Reich, Jonathan Kozol, Linda Darling-Hammond, and Diane Ravitch – endorsed the document. The Declaration was sandwiched between two other documents that year which called for a similarly progressive education agenda based on equity of opportunity.

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Miya Pontes

Legal Action Could Hold McDonald’s Accountable For Its Worker Standards

Walk into a McDonald’s in San Francisco, New York, or any small town, and you will see very similar layouts, uniforms, and menus. You know what to expect from any individual restaurant because McDonald’s exerts considerable control over each franchisee. However, McDonald’s argues that it’s the franchisees, not the McDonald’s corporation, that are in control of the employment practices at each restaurant. McDonald’s argues that the workers at its restaurants are hired by the franchisees, and that allows McDonald’s to claim immunity when workers are subjected to illegal treatment. That argument will be put to the test Monday when the National Labor Relations Board holds its first hearing against McDonald’s for violating federal labor law.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Progressive Caucus Budget Defeated, But Wins Majority of Democrats

The Progressive Caucus People’s Budget, as expected, went down to defeat on the House floor today, but not before it picked up 96 Democratic votes, a majority of Democrats. The budget got 330 nays, including 86 from Democrats. The People’s Budget did get fewer votes than Democratic alternatives proposed by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and the Congressional Black Caucus, but it got a larger share of Democratic votes than it did in previous years. Republicans, not surprisingly, were unanimous in opposition. (See who voted for the People’s Budget, from the House Office of the Clerk.) Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, led the debate in support of the budget on the House floor. “Corporations are pocketing record profits by driving down wages with one hand, increasing the cost of basic building blocks of a happy life on the other.

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Dave Johnson

Deval Patrick, Others To Advise Astroturf Pro-TPP/Fast Track Group

Former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick will head an advisory board for the Astroturf group called the Progressive Coalition for American Jobs. This group was formed to push for passage of fast track trade authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Also joining the advisory group are former Washington State Gov. Christine Gregoire and former U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. The Hill reports that the three will advice the Progressive Coalition for American Jobs (PCAJ), “a new effort launched by Democrats and progressives to push for free trade.” The Associated Press, in “Top Democrats on new pro-trade board will sharpen differences among liberals, blacks,” says, “The effort will sharpen differences between the Democratic Party’s liberal and pro-business wings, especially in New England.

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Jeff Bryant

Bad Reporting About Education Is Harming Schools And Students

Be afraid, be very afraid, any time you see a reporter in the business media turn his or her attention to education and public schools. What will likely follow is a string of truisms used to prop up a specious argument, steeped in biased notions that were themselves picked up from ill-informed conversations promoted by other clueless business news outlets. All of this chatter would be something best to ignore were it not for the fact that reporters and pundits from these outlets are often raised to prominence, labeled as “experts,” and lionized by political leaders and policy makers, while real authorities on education are overlooked or completely drowned out in the babble. Exhibit A in the case against bad reporting on education is in the Feb. 14, 2015 issue of The Economist.

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Bill Scher

McConnell’s Literal Scorched Earth Campaign

Sen. Mitch McConnell has led the Senate for three months. He has yet to pass any legislation that would show the public how the Republican Party would implement solutions like raising wages, making education affordable or, say, reducing carbon pollution. Partly that is because he and his House counterpart John Boehner have their hands full containing their right flanks in order to keep the government open. But partly it is because McConnell is expending a massive amount of effort to thwart President Obama from actually solving one these problems: namely, climate change.

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Terrance Heath

Five Ways The GOP Budget Will Harm American Families

Republicans in Congress today will vote on budget proposals that are essentially meaningless, except that they lay out how the GOP would like to structure federal policy and priorities. The White House has its own fact sheet about the House Republican budget. The National Priorities Project has created a detailed comparison of all the budget proposals up for consideration: President Obama’s budget, the House GOP budget, the Senate GOP budget, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus budget. And here at CAF, we put together a graphic for sharing on social networks that compares the GOP budget with the Congressional Progressive Caucus budget. The numbers are familiar by now. The House GOP budget contains $5.5 trillion in cuts.

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Isaiah J. Poole

House Democrats Will Be Measured By Their People’s Budget Vote

Rep. Raùl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, is presented Tuesday with the names of more than 150,000 people who signed up to be co-sponsors of the People’s Budget. Politics isn’t always the art of compromise. Sometimes, it is the imperative of standing up for principle. Sometimes, it is the refusal to accept the boundaries of the politically acceptable and, guided by a vision of a nation that can do better by its people, redraw the boundaries. One of those moments will come today when House Democrats will decide whether to support the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ People’s Budget. Usually, the Progressive Caucus budget fails to get the votes of a majority of House Democrats. It’s not hard to imagine why.

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Richard Eskow

Support the Progressive Caucus Budget (Video with Thom Hartmann)

In a recent televised conversation, Thom Hartmann and I discussed the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ proposed federal budget. The “People’s Budget” would create 8.8 million new jobs, rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, restore SNAP nutritional assistance funding, end sequestration cuts, restore unemployment benefits, expand Social Security benefits, raise taxes on millionaires (to Clinton-era levels), provide public campaign financing – all while reducing the deficit by more than $4 trillion over ten years. These measures are fiscally sound. They are also, by and large, popular with Americans across the political spectrum. It is, in fact, a surprisingly reasonable and even moderate document, as its deficit-reduction measures demonstrate. In most other moments in recent history, this would be a mainstream political proposal.

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Dave Johnson

Koch Network Takes On Export-Import Bank

In an interesting juxtaposition from Monday’s New York Times, a Times article explains a Times op-ed. The op-ed calls for killing the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im), because it helps American companies compete globally. The news story reports that the anti-government Koch brothers network is behind the campaign. From the article, “Koch-Backed Group Bolsters Effort to Shut Down Export-Import Bank”: A trade association linked to the conservative billionaires Charles G. and David H. Koch will begin a new lobbying effort pressuring lawmakers to shut down the Export-Import Bank, a top target of conservative activists and outside groups that will cease to exist after June 30 if it is not reauthorized by Congress.

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Leo Gerard

The GOP Has Money to Kill

Shock and awe describes the budgets issued last week by Republicans in the House and Senate. The shock is that the GOP never stops trying to destroy beloved programs like Medicare. Awe inspiring is their audacity in describing their killing plans as moral. When the House released its budget last Tuesday, Georgia Republican Rep. Rob Woodall said, “A budget is a moral document; it talks about where your values are.” His chamber’s spending plan shows that Republicans highly value war and place no value on health care for America’s elderly, working poor and young adults. The opposite of win-win, the GOP budgets are kill-kill. Despite the GOP’s successful demand in 2011 for spending caps, Republicans now want more money for the military. War kills, as too many families of troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan know.

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Richard Eskow

Hillary’s Challengers – and the Anti-Wall Street Wave

Former governor Martin O’Malley and former senator Jim Webb spoke at a firefighters’ union event earlier this month. Both are the subject of renewed press interest as they contemplate entering the presidential race. Sen. Bernie Sanders has been publicly weighing a run. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is being encouraged to enter the race. All four have criticized Wall Street’s unethical practices and undue political influence. Leading contender Hillary Clinton, by contrast, has not.

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Bill Scher

The Republican Budget Is Killing The Republican Party’s Soul

Over at Real Clear Politics, I explain why Republicans are taking a big risk by committing themselves to balancing the budget in a nine-to-10 year timeframe, without raising revenue or significantly affecting the military. The result is a budget that would completely decimate the federal government, gutting essential programs that support college grants and school lunches. Unlike the radical Paul Ryan budgets of recent years, this one will likely pass both chambers of Congress, effectively becoming the party’s platform, yoking to it blue- and purple-state Republican senators up for reelection next year. The budget is so insane that even deficit hawks concede it will never happen.

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Terrance Heath

Ted Cruz is Running For President. Here Are the Crazy Things He Believes

Image via Donkey Hotey @ Flickr. In a speech at Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Va. — a right-wing school established by the Rev. Jerry Falwell — Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) announced his candidacy for the presidency in 2016. The announcement makes Cruz the first Republican, and the first major candidate to throw his had into the ring for 2016. A campaign launch is sometimes carefully staged to send a subtle message to a core constituency about where a candidate really stands. Sometimes the message is not so subtle, as when Ronald Reagan launched his campaign with a speech touting “states’ rights” in Neshoba County, Mississippi — where civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman were murdered in 1964. It’s no coincidence that Cruz chose Liberty University as the site for his campaign. (Cruz was guaranteed a full house.

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Dave Johnson

Fast-Track Fight Accelerates As Vote Approaches

As Congress prepares to consider fast track legislation to essentially pre-approve (without reading) the still-secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) opponents are working to get the word out and register opposition. Seattle’s city council is preparing to vote on a resolution opposing fast track, and a number of organizations sent an open letter spelling out what an acceptable fast track process would do. Seattle Resolution Against Fast Track The Seattle city council is preparing to vote next Monday on a resolution opposing fast track. The Washington Fair Trade Coalition is requesting that Seattle residents email and call City Council to support a strong resolution against fast track. They would also like people to come to the City Council meeting on Monday, March 30, from 2 p.m.-4 p.m. People should show up by 1:45 p.m.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Fair Trade Is a Racial Justice Issue

Khalil Bendib, OtherWords The work of repairing the racial fissures that broke wide open in Ferguson, Missouri last year goes beyond the shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. It also goes beyond ending the practices highlighted in a Justice Department report that criticized Ferguson cops and courts for shaking down the city’s poor, black residents for revenue. What else will it take? Good jobs. Unfortunately, an upcoming Senate bill could make the underlying economic crisis faced by communities like Ferguson even worse. That legislation would “fast track” the passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade and investment pact through Congress. What’s the connection to racial unrest? Simply put, it’s the lack of economic opportunity that results when bad trade deals lead to the disappearance of good-paying jobs.

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