Dean Baker

The Federal Reserve Board’s Plan to Kill Jobs

There is an enormous amount of political debate over various pieces of legislation that are supposed to be massive job killers. For example, Republicans lambasted President Obama’s increase in taxes on the wealthy back in 2013 as a job killer. They endlessly have condemned the Affordable Care Act as a job killer. The same is true for proposals to raise the minimum wage. While there is great concern in Washington over these and other imaginary job killers, the Federal Reserve Board is openly mapping out an actual job-killing strategy and drawing almost no attention at all for it. The Fed’s job-killing strategy centers on its plan to start raising interest rates, which is generally expected to begin at some point this year. The Fed’s plans to raise interest rates are rarely spoken of as hurting employment, but job-killing is really at the center of the story.

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Bill Scher

Republicans, Have Mercy On Your Immigration Flip-Flopping Candidates.

Republicans, have mercy on your presidential candidates. Just get this immigration debate over with so your presidential candidates don’t have to flip-flop anymore. Gov. Scott Walker is the latest in a long line of Republican immigration flippers, though at least he had to decency to cop to it. “My view has changed. I’m flat out saying it.” said Walker to Fox News yesterday. As recently as 2013 Walker said a pathway to citizenship “makes sense.” Now as he gears up to run for president, that’s out the window. Walker is not the only 2016 Republican presidential hopeful to get tripped up over immigration.

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Robert Borosage

The Fast-Track Fandango

The debate over fast-track trade authority – designed to grease the tracks for a vote on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) accords still in negotiation – ought to be the occasion for a fundamental review of our global economic strategy. We know that it is broken. We’ve racked up unprecedented deficits year after year. The unsustainable imbalances contributed directly to the bubble and bust that blew up the global economy. We’ve watched good jobs shipped abroad, devastating America’s manufacturing prowess. We’ve seen workers’ wages decline and inequality grow to new extremes. Doing more of the same and expecting a different result is the very definition of insanity. Clearly, a comprehensive review is long overdue.

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Bernie Horn

There’s No Such Thing As “Free” Markets

Last week, when the Federal Communications Commission voted for net neutrality and changed the way the Internet is policed, conservatives fell back on their favorite myth. The right-wing media raged that it’s “a blow to the free market system.…” But there’s no such thing as “free” markets. Somehow this neoclassical, theoretical concept plays a central role in contemporary politics. When we progressives try to explain our economic policies, we face the fundamental challenge that typical American voters believe in “free” markets. And why shouldn’t they? They hear no real arguments to the contrary. But the truth is, the free market is a fairy tale, a fraud, a rhetorical device. American markets are not, and never were, free of government influence. Just open up the business page of any major newspaper and see for yourself. One company seeks a government subsidy.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: Papa Bear Roars

Papa Bear Roars Anyone with a YouTube account knows by now that Fox News Host Bill O’Reilly has a bit of a temper. When NBC news anchor Brian Williams falsely claimed that his helicopter was nearly shot down, as he covered the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, O’Reilly unleashed a fusillade of righteous anger against a national media that he said, “isn’t half as responsible as the men who forged the nation.” Lamenting the “culture of deception” in the “liberal media,” O’Reilly said the Williams affair should prompt questioning of other media “deceptions.” It did, but not in the way O’Reilly probably imagined. Late last week, Mother Jones’ David Corn and Daniel Schulman reported that “for years, O’Reilly has recounted dramatic stories about his own war reporting that don’t withstand scrutiny.” Here are a few: “War Zone” Reporting.

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Dave Johnson

The Senate Blockbuster Showdown On Trade The Media Missed

Eight senators on Thursday let the country know there is going to be a fight over fast-track trade authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) took to the Senate floor to speak about fast track, TPP and fair trade. There was apparently not a single report of this in the nation’s news media, continuing the blackout of news on fast track and TPP. A fight is coming because past trade deals have cost jobs and wages, devastated entire regions, and accelerated corporate power and income/wealth inequality – which it is becoming clear was the intent.

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Richard Long

The Real Social Security Crisis Is Income Inequality

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) has called out his Senate Republican colleagues for “creating a phony crisis” with regard to Social Security while ignoring a real one – the income inequality that has eroded the long-term solvency of the Social Security trust fund. Sanders joined a conference call with Social Security Works on Thursday to highlight the conclusions of a report on the impact of income inequality on the Social Security program. It was authored by Ben Veghte, policy director at Social Security Works. “The peerless rise in income inequality has harmed Social Security financing,” said Nancy Altman, co-Director of Social Security Works. “When the amendments to Social Security were enacted in 1983, Social Security was projected to be able to pay benefits through 2057. Now benefits are being projected to be paid in full only until 2033.

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Emily Schwartz Greco

Going Off the Rails

When 27 CSX tanker cars loaded with fracked North Dakota crude tumbled onto a West Virginia riverbank on President’s Day, the ensuing fireballs leveled a house and forced hundreds of people to flee amid a heavy snowstorm. Even though 19 of the derailed cars — each carrying 30,000 gallons of oil — erupted into flames, nobody died in this particular disaster. But it may have fired a fatal shot into the argument that trains can “safely” haul crude across North America. After most of these increasingly frequent accidents, critics urge the government to make operators use “safer” tanker cars. Yet the cars that went off the rails, exploded into flames, and then smoldered for days alongside the Kanawha River were the new-and-improved model. Slower speeds are also billed as a way to increase oil train safety.

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Dave Johnson

Video: Fast Track Explained In 7 Words

All the talk about “trade” deals might seem complicated, with all the “TPP” and “TPA” and “FTA” and “TTIP” floating around. It doesn’t have to be difficult, though. Watch Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, explain “fast track” trade promotion authority in just 7 words: “It means lost jobs and lower wages.” Watch Elizabeth Warren talk about these trade deals. Watch former Labor Secretary Robert Reich explain the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) TPP is the largest “trade” deal in history. It is being negotiated in secret. It is immense, complex and written in international legalese. But fast track means Congress has to pass it within 90 days of the public seeing it for the first time.

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Robert Borosage

A Voice for Workers at the Federal Reserve

“Yellen Puts Fed on Path to Lift Rates,” reads the banner headline in the Wall Street Journal. The Federal Reserve’s chair Janet Yellen is intimating that it might begin to lift interest rates in the middle of this year. If so, its decisions over the next year could well lock millions of Americans out of the workforce, and insure that wages generally continue to stagnate. That is why it is vital that President Obama act now to nominate someone with a clue about the real conditions of working people in this economy. The president recently announced that he would name the former chief executive of one of Hawaii’s largest banks to the Fed governing board, placating the small bank lobby. Now he should fill the final vacancy with someone who will represent America’s working families.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Progressive Coalition Supports Crackdown On Retirement Advisers

A broad range of progressive organizations is throwing support behind the Obama administration’s effort to rein in financial advisers who market retirement funds. Americans for Financial Reform sent a letter of thanks to Labor Secretary Thomas Perez on Wednesday signed by 26 organizations, including the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). “Updating protections for retirement savers is urgently needed and long overdue,” the letter said. The regulations would be designed to ensure that people who get advice about how to invest in retirement funds are getting advice based on what is best for the consumer, as opposed to what is most profitable for the person giving the advice.

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Terrance Heath

People-Powered Campaign Pushes Back Against “Mayor 1 Percent”

Rahm Emanuel should be taking a victory lap now. Heading into yesterday’s municipal elections, the Chicago mayor had everything an incumbent officeholder could wish for. He had money. Just as he parlayed his Washington connections into paying clients during two and a half years working on Wall Street, after leaving the Clinton administration (despite lacking an MBA or any prior banking experience), Emanuel converted his Wall Street connections into a $30 million campaign chest — so massive that he outspent his closest opponent 12 to 1. He had name recognition. Emanuel worked as a senior advisor to President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 1998. After his brief sojourn on Wall Street, Emanuel represented Illinois 5th congressional district from 2003 to 2009, during which time he chaired the House Democratic Caucus and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

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Dave Johnson

Is The SEC Defying Dodd-Frank Law On Pay-Ratio Rule?

In July 2010, President Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Section 953(b) of that law directs the SEC to require public companies to disclose the median annual total compensation of all employees, the total annual compensation of the chief executive officer, and the ratio of the median employee pay to the CEO’s pay. This gives investors and the public clues to whether — and the extent to which — the company is being looted from the top. Here is what the law says: H.R.4173 SEC. 953. EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION DISCLOSURES.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Why Elizabeth Warren’s ‘Middle Class Prosperity Project’ Matters

There is a far more important political question right now for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) than the continuing attempts to coax her into a presidential campaign and her dogged refusal to take the bait. She, along with Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), on Tuesday launched “The Middle Class Prosperity Project” with a forum on Capitol Hill featuring four economists with a progressive view of income inequality and its causes. Could this project, using Warren’s distinctive voice, help progressives present a bold alternative not only to destructive conservative policies but the Band-Aids and incremental measures of some mainstream Democrats? Warren and Cummings made their aim clear in an op-ed published Tuesday in USA Today.

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Jeff Bryant

Dumb And Dumber In The Republican House Education Bill

For sure, there is a lot for Democrats to dislike about the current version of No Child Left Behind federal education legislation steaming toward approval in the House of Representatives. The bill, The Student Success Act (H.R. 5), was written completely by Republicans, passed through committee without any Democratic support, and has already drawn strong opposition from the Obama administration and others. But with Republicans firmly in charge of efforts to rewrite NCLB, it’s important to identify specifics in the bill that should become bright lines Democrats can’t cross and points for inclusion to fight for in Senate negotiations and joint deliberations. What’s Dumb At the top of the list of what Democrats oppose in the Student Success Act is the insistence among Republicans that federal money for public schools be further constricted.

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Dave Johnson

Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership Promises Echo Clinton’s On NAFTA

NAFTA – the North American Free Trade Agreement – was sold with promises of jobs and prosperity on all sides of the border. What really happened was that an increased trade deficit sucked demand and jobs out of the U.S. economy; workers lost bargaining power, resulting in pay and benefit cuts; and income inequality rose as corporations pocketed the wage differential. Now the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is being sold with literally the same promises. Here is why TPP is not going to work out better than NAFTA did. Note the pitch used to sell NAFTA by President Clinton and former presidents Ford, Carter and George H. W. Bush as they were featured together in this September 14, 1993 news report. From the transcript: “I believe that NAFTA will create American jobs in the first two years of its effect.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Tipped Workers Score A Victory In New York In Fight For Better Pay

Tipped workers in New York state have won a major victory, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state’s Hospitality Wage Board announce that their minimum wage, which had been frozen at $5 an hour, will be increased to $7.50 an hour starting December 31. This order follows years of protest and campaigning by low-wage workers throughout the state, who have not seen an increase in the tipped wage since 2011. “Today’s announcement is a victory for the thousands of New York women who have been demanding a more just and hospitable work environment in one of the fastest growing and largest economic sectors in the country – the restaurant industry,” said Saru Jayaraman, co-founder and co-director of Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United, one of the organizations at the forefront of the mobilization effort.

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Terrance Heath

The GOP Can’t Run From Giuliani’s Hateful Rhetoric

Last week, former New York Mayor and failed GOP presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani ruined a quiet dinner, where anti-tax Republicans were vetting Wisconsin governor and possible presidential candidate Scott Walker, when he became the latest Republican to question President Obama’s patriotism. Image via Donkeyhotey @ Flickr.   “I know this is a horrible thing to say,” Giuliani said, “but I do not believe that the president loves America.” He wasn’t done. “He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me,” Giuliani added. He still wasn’t done. “He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up, and I was brought up, through love of this country,” Giuliani went on. An awkward silence probably fell over the table. Some of those gathered likely winced to think of the media storm to come. Giuliani doubled down. In an interview with the New York Post.

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Bill Scher

GOP: Defeat “Radical Islam” … After We Shut Down Homeland Security

According to Republicans, President Obama is failing to protect us from terrorism because he refuses to label terrorists organizations like ISIS as perpetrating “radical Islamic terrorism,” preferring to say these terrorists are “perverting Islam.” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), for example, says Obama is “an apologist for radical Islamic terrorists.” Other Republicans make the same criticism less hysterically. Also, Republicans have been telling us that President Obama trampled on the Constitution with his executive action on immigrant deportation relief.

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Leo Gerard

13 Million Illinois Citizens Named Bruce

This 1943 image of a sleeping car porter employed by the Pullman Company was taken at Union Station in Chicago, Ill. by photographer Jack Delano. Courtesy U.S. Library of Congress. The billionaire Republican Governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, injected himself into ceremonies in Chicago last week presided over by the city’s Democratic mayor and the nation’s Democratic President. Rauner insisted on attending because he wrongheadedly thought the Democrats were honoring his idol, kingpin George Pullman, the guy who invented the luxury railroad sleeper car, oppressed his workers and suppressed their union. Rauner, and other kowtow-to-the-rich Republican governors, adhere to the Pullman philosophy that rich people are better than everyone else and that gives them the right to control the lives of everyone else.

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