Bernie Horn

The Right-Wing Surge in the States

In state legislatures, 2015 is the right wing’s best chance to enact the most extreme legislation. The right now controls more state legislatures than at any time since the 1920s. This opportunity is fleeting. Because of increased voter turnout in presidential years, Democrats will probably erase at least some of the Republican state legislative gains next year. In addition, GOP political leaders will want to paste a more moderate face on their party’s brand in 2016. So this is their year, they think. The right has made clear that its partisans have three overarching state legislative priorities, in this order: (1) weaken labor unions, (2) suppress voting by progressive-leaning citizens, and (3) satisfy their religious extremists.

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Richard Eskow

“His Own Man’s” Man: Jeb Bush and the Return of Wolfowitz

Last week the nation was treated to the sad and embarrassing spectacle of Jeb Bush, mollycoddled scion to an empire of failure, proclaiming that “I’m my own man.” Here’s a simple rule of thumb: Anyone who has to say he’s his own man, or woman, isn’t. The 62-year-old Mr. Bush has been coasting on his family’s power and privilege since he was a weed-smoking, Steppenwolf-listening prep school student in the sixties. From prep school slacker to presidential frontrunner: Now that’s a “Magic Carpet Ride.” Sadder still was the list of Jeb’s advisors published this week, a list which included – and was tarnished by – the genuinely execrable Paul Wolfowitz.

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Meghan Byrd

The ‘Corinthian 15′ Take A Stand By Calling A Student Loan Strike

Many students graduating from universities face a mountain of student loans so large, escaping its shadow seems almost impossible. But a group of former students today is taking matters into their own hands. With the help of Rolling Jubilee, a campaign that purchases student loan debt and then forgives it, 15 graduates of Corinthian College are starting a student debt strike by refusing to pay their loans. The united former students, calling themselves the Corinthian 15, are fed up with colleges, especially for-profit colleges, that take advantage of students who are simply seeking an education. The strike is the first time a group has come together to collectively refuse to pay federal student loans.

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Robert Borosage

Warmongers – Beyond Giuliani’s Bile, The Real Threat

The furor following Rudolph Giuliani’s ugly slur against President Obama has distracted from what poses a far greater threat to the country than the vile rantings of a washed-up big city pol. Republicans, joined by some Democrats, are fanning the flames of war, feeding fears, generating hysteria, and pummeling the president as weak because he exercises some limited restraint. Even those sensible enough to divorce themselves from Giuliani’s bile – a universe that revealingly did not include governors Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal – lacerated the president for his “weakness” abroad. With neoconservative commentators pouring gas on the flames, this is likely to become a theme and focus of the 2016 presidential campaign.

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Dave Johnson

High-Speed Rail Is High-Speed Growth We All Should Demand

While construction of other high-speed rail lines around the country has been blocked, California’s line between San Francisco and Los Angeles is actually getting built. This single project is triggering a lot of potential American hiring. As it proceeds, we should build pressure to bring high-speed transportation – and the jobs and economic boom that will follow – to other gridlocked areas of the country. California’s highways and airways are reaching capacity, and the population is only expected to grow – a lot. You can only build so many highways and new airports. And more and more cars and planes are not particularly good for the environment. Meanwhile, high-speed rail, moving at over 200 miles per hour, can bring people from downtown Los Angeles to downtown San Francisco in 2.5 hours. This is comparable to and more convenient than flying.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: American Jihad?

American Jihad? The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has outraged the world with suicide bombings and videos depicting the brutal executions of its captives. This was after ISIS claimed that it would humiliate American soldiers and “raise the flag of Allah” over the White House. What ISIS really wants, of course, is a religious war that fulfills its apocalyptic theology, and serves as one hell of a recruiting tool. So, naturally, Fox News wants to give ISIS a “holy war.” This, of course, is exactly what ISIS wants.

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Gary Cohn

Misfortune 500: How One Economist Exposed a Dirty Corporate Secret

There are many gauges of the depth and breadth of economic inequality, and they often measure what middle-income working people have today against what they had prior to 1980 – that time when homes were affordable, along with doctor visits and college educations. Yet few of the astonishing charts and metrics that have captured this widening gulf explain how it all came about. So when economist William Lazonick pointed a finger at a very specific aspect of corporate behavior, people took note.

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Jeff Bryant

Memo To Civil Rights Activists: Testing Isn’t Helping

Is forcing every child to take annual standardized tests in reading and math a civil rights issue? That certainly seems to be one of the questions most in consideration in Washington, since deliberations began on how to rewrite the federal government’s most significant education policy No Child Left Behind. Back in January, when congressional committees in both houses began their conversations, The Washington Post reported that “a coalition of civil rights groups” had released a statement urging Congress to maintain the annual standardized tests in math and reading.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Walmart Worker Victory Shows What We Can Win If We Keep Fighting

With much of America suffering through oppressively cold weather, perhaps a summer baseball analogy is in order: American workers have just scored a run in the middle innings of a battle for economic justice and dignity. There are more innings to play and more runs that must be scored, but it’s worth cheering the advance made by Walmart workers this week when it announced that it would give its workers an increase in its base wage to $9 an hour starting in April and $10 an hour starting next February. That will mean raises for about 500,000 full- and part-time workers, according to the company. Credit goes to the campaigns launched by a number of grassroots organizations that for years have shone a light on the anti-worker policies that are endemic in big-box retailing but where Walmart, the largest bricks-and-mortar chain, was a pacesetter.

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Emily Schwartz Greco

King Coal Catches Black Lung

What do the executives who run money-losing companies make? Millions of dollars if they’re coal overlords. Take Gregory Boyce. He’s pocketed more than $60 million over the past nine years while steering Peabody Energy into a ditch. Shares in Peabody, the world’s biggest private-sector coal company, have sunk 84 percent since 2010. Its debt has slipped to three rungs below investment grade. The St. Louis-based company lost $525 million in 2013 and hemorrhaged $787 million in 2014. Richly rewarding failure is absurd. Yet it’s business as usual for King Coal as companies large and small hurtle toward bankruptcy. Yes, coal remains a big business that generates about 40 percent of U.S. electricity. But experts say prices will fall further as domestic and foreign demand sag.

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Meghan Byrd

A New Proposal For ‘College For All’

Amid increasing concerns about rising college tuition costs and crushing student debt, the Center for American Progress has weighed into the debate with a “College For All” proposal to eliminate barriers to college access. The proposal specifically targets students from lower and middle-income households, outlining a plan to encourage them to seek a degree. CAP’s plan is a step in the right direction for educating our youth and in turn having a smarter, stronger workforce. CAP proposes an early guarantee of federal financial aid, citing studies that show the United States declining in the international tertiary education rankings and another one claiming 65 percent of jobs in 2020 will require at least an associate or bachelors degree.

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Dave Johnson

Postal Workers And The Public Want A Postal Banking Public Option

Contract talks between the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) and the U.S. Postal Service for a new contract start Thursday. Along with asking for fair wages and benefits, the APWU wants improvements in customer services, including postal banking. “There are two competing visions of the future of the Postal Service,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein. “Postal management’s policy has been to severely degrade service, dismantle the postal network, and engage in piecemeal privatization. … Management has shortened hours at neighborhood post offices, closed mail processing centers, lowered delivery standards, and slowed mail delivery.” Instead of trying to “save money” by cutting service with layoffs and closings that cause more customers to turn away, which costs revenue, the Postal Service should add services such as postal banking.

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Richard Eskow

Three Signs That Young Americans Are Getting a Raw Deal

We talk a good game about opportunity in this country, but here are three signs that we’re failing to provide young people a fair shot at prosperity. Sign #1: People typically achieve most of their earnings gain in the first 10 years of employment. A new study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows that “the bulk of earnings growth happens during the first decade” of a person’s employment. (The study actually focused on men, for methodological reasons.) The authors reviewed nearly 40 years of data from the Social Security Administration, and found that the typical employee makes the largest income gains between the ages of 25 and 35: For most people, these years represent the greatest opportunity to reach a good lifetime income. The average income increase for median earners falls to zero between the ages of 35 and 55.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Why We Must Oppose The Coming Fed Interest Rate Hike [Video]

Progressives need to step up their opposition to any moves by the Federal Reserve to increase interest rates in the near future, economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research told a group of progressive leaders convened by the Campaign for America’s Future. That message comes amid a grassroots effort this week designed to line up organizations behind a call on the Fed to not increase interest rates before the economy reaches full employment. There is a widespread expectation that the Fed will raise interest rates sometime in 2015, ostensibly to keep the economy from “overheating” and driving up the rate of inflation. The problem is, as Baker pointed out in his presentation, there is no inflation threat on the horizon, but there is a very real threat of choking the economic recovery and driving up unemployment if interest rates rise.

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Terrance Heath

While Republicans Block Safety Upgrades, A “Bomb Train” Explodes

On Monday, a tanker train carrying more than 3 million gallons of oil derailed in Fayette County, West Virginia, just outside of Montgomery. Nineteen tanker cars, each carrying up to 30,000 gallons of crude oil, left the track and caught fire, setting off an explosion that one resident said was “like an atomic bomb went off.” At least one tanker plunged into Armstrong Creek, a Kanawha river tributary. No injuries or deaths were reported, but two homes were destroyed, and about 1,000 people were displaced. Two water treatment facilities were temporarily closed. The West Virginia National Guard is testing water samples, but has been unable to determine how much, if any, of the oil that spilled has made it into the Kanawha River, which supplies water to thousands of West Virginians. The West Virginia explosion came just days after another oil-bearing train derailed in Ontario, Canada.

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Robert Reich

How Trade Deals Boost the Top 1% and Bust the Rest

Suppose that by enacting a particular law we’d increase the U.S.Gross Domestic Product. But almost all that growth would go to the richest 1 percent. The rest of us could buy some products cheaper than before. But those gains would be offset by losses of jobs and wages. This is pretty much what “free trade” has brought us over the last two decades. I used to believe in trade agreements. That was before the wages of most Americans stagnated and a relative few at the top captured just about all the economic gains. Recent trade agreements have been wins for big corporations and Wall Street, along with their executives and major shareholders. They get better access to foreign markets and billions of consumers. They also get better protection for their intellectual property – patents, trademarks, and copyrights. And for their overseas factories, equipment, and financial assets.

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Dave Johnson

Faith Groups Announce Opposition To Fast Track For Trade

The Interfaith Working Group on Trade and Investment – representing Quaker, Jewish, Protestant and Catholic organizations, Catholic sisters and clergy – has joined the opposition to “fast track” trade promotion authority that corporate groups and President Obama are seeking. The groups say that upcoming trade agreements, now being negotiated in secret, deserve a fair and full public hearing instead of being rushed through Congress before the public has time to fully understand what the government is agreeing to. With “fast track,” Congress votes to set aside its duty to define, consider and amend trade deals. Under fast track rules Congress is not allowed to amend trade agreements and is only allowed very limited debate on the House and Senate floor.

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Richard Eskow

Fifty Shades of Austerity: The Germans, The Greeks, and the GOP

Cultural references may seem frivolous in the face of a financial crisis, but the Eurozone’s Greek crisis is at least as much cultural as it is economic in nature. It’s partly an anthropology problem: Europe’s negotiators are under the spell of a German-driven economic cult whose adherents seem willing to disregard empirical data in order to protect its norms and folkways. From all appearances, Germany’s leaders have leavened their misplaced faith in austerity with some quasi-Puritanical beliefs. For example: that debt and poverty are sins, regardless of cause, and that sin must lead to pain. The United States has its own austerity cult. We’ve drawn parallels between the German government and the GOP before, but the resemblance grows stronger with every passing week.

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Lynne Stuart Parramore

The Christian Right Is Scary. The GOP’s Economic Agenda Is A Nightmare.

Woe to the American president who says anything sensible on the subject of religion. President Obama forgot that unwritten rule recently at the National Prayer Breakfast when he pointed out what an eighth-grader could tell you: that acts of violence have been committed in the name of many faiths, not just Islam: “Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ. … So this is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith.” Cue Christian right fake freakout.

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Dave Johnson

Rallies And #FightFastTrack Twitter Storm This Week

Fast track trade promotion legislation is likely to be introduced soon and will be used to push through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement – but the public knows very little about what this would mean to them. To help get the word out, there will be a series of rallies across the United States this week and next week to oppose fast track legislation. A list of February #FightFastTrack rallies around the country can be found here. On Thursday, between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. Eastern time, you can join the #FightFastTrack Twitter storm, using the hashtag #FightFastTrack. Here are some sample tweets you can use: Don’t let Congress rubber stamp the #TPP and send jobs overseas. Join a rally near you to #FightFastTrack http://bit.ly/1ykSu0k Tell Congress: Don’t rubber stamp #TPP with Brunei and Vietnam, serial violators of human rights.

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