Sam Pizzigati

America’s 10 Greediest: The 2014 Edition

How has the United States become so unequal? We need to look for answers, first and foremost, in our society’s underlying economic and political realities, at the policies and practices that let wealth concentrate — at the top — so intensely. But we also ought to look at people, the real-life flesh-and-blood characters who make decisions that privilege the few over the many. These greedy souls love the shadows. Let’s shine some light — on this year’s greediest of them all. May the greed we spotlight here help inspire the rest of us to do as much as we can, in 2015, to make our world a much more equal place. 10. Paige Laurie Dubbert: Walmart Wealth Paige Laurie Dubbert, the granddaughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton’s brother and business partner, is charging wage theft.

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Richard Eskow

We Lost the ‘CRomnibus’ Fight, But at Least Someone’s Fighting

Last week Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) warned that “the House of Representatives is about to show us the worst of government for the rich and powerful.” They promptly did, and the Senate quickly followed suit. We are now at greater risk of another derivatives-based financial crisis, and billionaires and corporations now have even more influence over the two party’s entrenched establishments. The “CRomnibus” spectacle was a return to the showdown days of past years, with another phony “drama” ginned up around a “must-pass” bill in order to serve up a “compromise” – a “bipartisan” one, of course – that serves the interests of corporations and wealthy individuals. But hold the cynicism, because all is not yet lost. “A few more such victories and we are undone,” the Greek general Pyrrhus supposedly said.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: Through The Looking Glass

If this week is a preview of what we’re in for with the next Congress, get ready to step through the looking glass and into a world where executive actions are impeachable offenses, and Duck Dynasty is Broadway bound. What a difference an election makes! Remember just weeks ago, when Ebola was going to kill us all? At the time, more Americans had been married to Kim Kardashian than had died of Ebola. Yet no right-winger demanded to know what the president was doing to stop the further spread of Kardashian nuptials, or why America had no surgeon general to educate Americans about the real risks of getting hitched to a reality television star, or why the president had not appointed a “Kardashian Czar” to do the job. But leading up to the election, the US media was in full-on Ebola panic. You get the idea. Funny thing, though.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: A Tortured Response To The Torture Report

Only the worst kind of wingnut could conclude that America is “awesome” in spite of — or because of — “forced anal feeding and re-hydration” of detainees. But that’s what we heard this week. Well, now we know. America did a whole lot more than “torture some folks.” The Senate Intelligence Committee released its report on the CIA’s torture program this week. The 525-page report is a stomach-turning read, but those with enough courage to read about some — but probably not all — that was done in our names during the “war on terror” can find it here. Otherwise, here are the basics you need to know. The most gruesome details of the report include: “Rectal Feeding” and “Rectal Re-hydration”: It’s exactly what it sounds like, folks. The archaic practice was once used on patients in desperate need of nutrition, but who couldn’t feed themselves.

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Dave Johnson

Call Senators: Stop The Citibank Budget – No More Rigged Backroom Deals

The “Citibank budget” has not passed the Senate. There is time to fight this giveaway to Wall Street. Call your senators today and tell them take the Citibank bailout part out or block the budget. Tell them to let Wall Street know that their days of controlling our government are over. Tell them, “Don’t let Citibank win.” Please click here now to call your senator and tell him or her to stand up against this dangerous attempt to rig the rules for Wall Street – and against us. And while they’re at it, take out the parts that gut the IRS’ ability to collect from the billionaires, gut working peoples’ pensions and rig campaign finance in favor of the wealthiest. Because We the People have had enough of this. People are tired of the ways the system is rigged against us.

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Bill Scher

How America Broke The Oil Addiction … Without a High Gas Tax

A fascinating graphic presentation from Bloomberg shows how America has nearly achieved energy independence and broken our addiction to oil. It’s not because oil got too expensive. The U.S. shale boom has helped drive gas prices to their lowest point in four years. And yet, “the U.S. is consuming the least oil per dollar of gross domestic product in more than 40 years.” Oil consumption typically tracks gross domestic product growth; for the first time ever, consumption is trailing GDP. And over the past nine years, American consumption of domestically produced energy has gone from 65 percent to 89 percent.

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Isaiah J. Poole

The Ominous ‘Cromnibus,’ A Budget Bill That Should Have Died

With all of the justifiable anger directed at what’s in the 2015 spending bill – the omnibus continuing resolution or “cromnibus” – that the House struggled to pass late Thursday, there is also a major story to be told about what’s not in the bill. It’s a story of missed opportunities that is as significant as the Wall Street giveaways, the kowtowing to fossil fuel interests and gratuitous swipes at conservative boogeymen that were written into this monstrosity. Most conspicuous is the absence of any real effort to address the plight of millions of people who remain untouched by the so-called economic “recovery” of the past few years.

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Dave Johnson

China’s Currency Manipulation “Sucks Wages Out Of Our Economy”

China’s currency manipulation and other illegal practices “suck wages out of our economy,” Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) said during a press call Thursday, citing the figure of a direct loss of $37 billion in reduced wages in 2011 alone. It “becomes difficult to do economic development at a local level when our country’s trade policies put us at severe disadvantage and suck wages out of our communities,” Ryan said during the release of a new report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), titled “China Trade, Outsourcing and Jobs.” EPI’s Rob Scott, who co-authored the report with Will Kimball, explained on the call that between 2001 and 2013 the massive growth of our country’s trade deficit with China has cost us 3.2 million U.S. jobs, 2.4 million (three-fourths) of which were in manufacturing.

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Ady Barkan

Conference Helps Build A National Network Of Progressive Cities

Last week, Local Progress hosted its third annual National Convening, bringing 50 local elected officials from around the country to New York City for three days of strategizing and movement-building that left them energized, empowered, and ready to make 2015 a year of progressive cities. The convening was held in the New York City Hall Council Chambers and at 32BJ SEIU and featured keynote addresses from City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Every time we succeed, it builds strength for each other” said de Blasio during his address. “Every time one city acts, it builds momentum for another city. Every time a number of cities act, it builds momentum for our nation.” The members of Local Progress came from big and small cities around the country to share their policy victories from their past year and lay out their goals for 2015.

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Jeff Bryant

Who’s Really Failing Students?

“Failure is not an option,” has been a popular slogan in public education for years. Although, flight engineers and astronauts in the Apollo 13 program originally coined the phrase as a motivator for competing against the Russians in the space race, some well-meaning advocates in the education reform community adopted it for their cause. Then the No Child Left Behind law – with its mandate for 100 percent proficiency by 2014 – literally made “failure” something that would eventually fade from existence. Really! Now that’s all about to change, and failure – or at least what passes as the current definition of it – is not only back on the table as an option; it is now a desired state – a designation seen as revealing great truths about public education in the United States.

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Robert Borosage

The Budget Bill: They Can’t Help It; This Is Who They Are

The first signs of the November election returns are apparent in the $1 trillion spending bill the lame duck Congress is about to pass in Washington.  Ironically, this spending bill was forged with resurgent Republicans on their best behavior. They are still a minority in the Senate in the lame duck session. Their leaders exercised adult supervision over the wingnuts, rejecting calls for a government shutdown over immigration because Obama. They largely adhered to the budget deal cut last year on spending limits, and agreed to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year through next October (with the exception of Homeland Security because Obama), putting off real changes until they assume the majority in the new Congress next year. But good behavior and adult supervision didn’t stop the addition of revealing signature riders and last-minute deals.

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Richard Eskow

This is Not a Drill – The Budget Deal Must Be Stopped

It sounds like one of those fundraising emails Democratic groups kept sending out during the last election season, warning of imminent impeachment and other inflated threats: “Listen, I’m pleading.” “CRUSHING blow.” “Disaster.” “Kiss all hope goodbye.” “SHOCKING news.” It sounds like it, but it’s not. We really have an emergency on our hands. This is not a drill. The budget deal hammered out this week between Republican and Democratic negotiators literally imperils the economy. If it becomes law, our nation’s biggest banks will once again have a green light to gamble on the derivatives that helped create the 2008 financial crisis. Congress is doing Wall Street’s bidding with this budget, and it needs to be stopped. Listen, I’m pleading. More importantly, so is Sen.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Call Congress To Oppose Backroom Wall Street Deal

We’re calling for an all-out push today to stop a backroom deal that would reopen the Wall Street derivatives casino that caused so much damage in 2008, with taxpayers stuck with the bill for cleaning up the mess. We’ve joined forces with Americans for Financial Reform in asking people to call their representative in the House – you can use the main Capitol switchboard number, 202-224-3121 – and call on Congress to reject this giveaway to Wall Street. Activists have been fighting on two fronts to protect hard-won provisions of the Dodd-Frank financial reform act. There is an attempt to insert language into a terrorism insurance bill that would weaken rules in the financial reform bill regarding derivatives trading. That weakening effort is being led by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Rep. Jeb Hensarling.

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Joshua Holland

The Senate Torture Report: What You Need To Know

On Tuesday, amid much controversy and after a year of political combat between the Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA, a long-anticipated summary of the committee’s report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program was released. Here’s what you need to know… What are the key points? You can read a quick roundup of the report’s main findings here. New York Times reporters Matt Apuzzo, Haeyoun Park and Larry Buchanan looked at what the report says about the efficacy of torture techniques in a series of specific cases. For those with strong stomachs, The Daily Beast’s Shane Harris and Tim Mak sifted through the report to unearth “the most gruesome details,” which we chose to omit below.

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Dave Johnson

Prosecute Or Pardon Bush, Bankers And Cops Who Kill

Are we a nation of laws or not? No one is held accountable for invading Iraq, bank fraud, shooting unarmed citizens or even torture. It’s time to restore the rule of law. Everyone please, please watch this 4-minute segment from All In with Chris Hayes: Are really we a nation of laws? In a New York Times op-ed, American Civil Liberties Union Director Anthony Romero called on President Obama to at least issue a pardon to Bush and Cheney and Bush administration officials for the crime of torture. In “Pardon Bush and Those Who Tortured,” Romero writes: “… it may be the only way to establish, once and for all, that torture is illegal.” My organization and others have spent 13 years arguing for accountability for these crimes.

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Dave Johnson

Immigrant Groups Warn Fast Track/TPP Could Cause More Migration North

On a media call today, several immigrant rights leaders talked about the relationship between “NAFTA-CAFTA-Style” trade deals and the number of people forced to immigrate north to the U.S. They worry that the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will move jobs from Mexico and Central America to lower-wage Asian countries like Vietnam. Negotiators are in DC this week trying to finalize the TPP, and Congress is currently considering adopting the Fast Track process that essentially passes trade bills before Congress even reads them. In spite of a near-blackout in the U.S. media these negotiations are being met with protests. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are voicing opposition to the Fast Track process, because it involves Congress agreeing to give up its Constitutional responsibility to examine and fix trade deals.

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Richard Eskow

Wall Street Moves In For The Kill

It’s been six years since Wall Street’s recklessness and criminal fraud caused trillions of dollars in economic damage and nearly shattered the global economy. The 2008 financial crisis opened millions of Americans’ eyes to the widespread corruption and mismanagement in the financial industry, and built public support for stronger bank oversight. Initial steps were taken in that direction, primarily in the Dodd/Frank financial reform bill, and more remains to be done. But today Wall Street is on the offensive. Banks are expanding their political influence, fighting to roll back the measures already in place and working to block further reforms. In our money-driven political system, they have plenty of ammunition with which to wage their battle.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Urgent: Tell Congress To Not Reopen The Wall Street Casino

Source: The Other 98% Incredibly, the Wall Street caucus in Congress is trying to slip a major attack on hard-won financial reforms into a spending bill designed to keep the government running. As reported by The Huffington Post’s Zach Carter, the deal would “provide taxpayer backing for risky Wall Street trading” in derivatives. We’re asking people to sign this emergency petition now to defend Wall Street reform and to reject this rollback of protections in the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill. Carter reports: Bank lobbyists have been pushing the provision for several days, earning the ire of bank-reform-minded Democrats including Sen. Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee.

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Bill Scher

Time For a Democratic Tea Party?

On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” today, Politico’s Mike Allen and former Governor Howard Dean discussed my analysis for Politico Magazine, “Can The Left Launch Its Own Tea Party?” Allen noted that progressive Democrats a newly “hungry” to play “hardball” against party leaders, and cited the morning news that MoveOn.org will spend $1 million to draft Sen. Elizabeth Warren to run against Hillary Clinton. Dean said, despite MoveOn.org’s move, there was no “war against Hillary,” and offered a little news to make his point: he was going to endorse Hillary this week while the organization he founded now run by his brother, Democracy for America, is part of the Draft Warren movement. Yet it was all amicable and “at the end of day, we [will] both end up coming together.” Both are likely correct.

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Leo Gerard

Moocher CEOs

Holiday bells are silent in the homes of America’s struggling working poor, even with gasoline prices at their lowest levels in years. These are people derided as moochers because their starvation wages force them to accept food stamps to feed their children. On the other side of town, inside gated communities where guards demand photo ID even from Santa, CEOs’ Christmas plums are super-sugared with record-breaking corporate profits. These are people somehow not derided as moochers, even though their million-dollar pay packages are propped up by tax breaks. The parable of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” springs to mind as Wall Street banks and law firms hand out six- and seven-figure year end bonuses while Walmart and fast food workers protest wages so low that their holiday meals are food pantry dregs.

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