Jeff Bryant

Why Change The Way We Talk About Education

Sometimes when you get enough people beating on the outside of a building, those sitting comfortably on the inside start to feel the vibrations. That’s what it feels like is happening as the voices from the grassroots movement protesting the nation’s oppressive governance of public education are starting to reverberate in the cushy offices and conference rooms of education policy leaders. At a time like this when policy ideas that once seemed so resolute become shaken by strong voices of opposition, it’s important to reflect back on what kind of thinking went into the policy to begin with. While the “insiders” of the debate are more often inclined to propose doing the same things better, “outsiders” are more likely to want bold changes. But if the thinking doesn’t change, nothing truly different is likely to emerge.

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Dave Johnson

New Jersey vs. China: Guess Which One Gets Infrastructure Right

Here are two contrasting infrastructure stories to following up on yesterday’s post, “Investment In Infrastructure Would Cure Today’s Slow Growth Problem”: The U.S. has deferred maintaining (never mind modernizing) our infrastructure for so long (since the Reagan tax cuts?) that the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure gives us a D+, and states flatly that we need to spend $3.6 trillion by 2020 just to get back up to basic standards. (Imagine how many people would be hired, how many contractors and suppliers would be booming, and how many small businesses that sell to them would also be booming!) Here is just one small example of America’s crumbling infrastructure and the economic consequences.

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Robert Borosage

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio: A Powerful Populist Voice

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at the Celebrating America’s Future 2014 Gala Awards ceremony October 14 at Arena Stage in Washington. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is a powerful, new populist voice in American politics. Last year, he swept to a stunning upset victory in New York’s mayoral race, issuing a populist indictment of the “tale of two cities,” one rich and one impoverished, and laying out a bold agenda for reform.

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Dave Johnson

Investment In Infrastructure Would Cure Today’s Slow Growth Problem

What’s going on with the stock market? Here’s one piece of it. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued its World Economic Outlook last week, titled “Global Growth Disappoints, Pace of Recovery Uneven and Country-Specific.” The title gives away the IMF’s economic forecast: disappointment, slowdown and uneven recovery. To address this, the IMF called for “an increase in public infrastructure investment,” particularly in the U.S. and Germany, saying this “could provide a boost to demand in the short term and help raise potential output in the medium term.” Oddly, many if not most outlets reported this projected sluggishness with a “new normal” narrative, while mostly or completely leaving out the IMF’s call for (and report on the benefits of) increased public spending to fix it.

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Terrance Heath

Celebrating The Work Of Progressive Champions

On Tuesday night, progressive leaders and activists celebrated champions whose work shows that progressive leadership and governance improve the lives of hard-working Americans. Campaign For America’s Future co-director Roger Hickey opened the Celebrating America’s Future Gala, and set the tone for an evening celebrating the work of progressive champions dedicated to fighting for “good jobs, livable wages, and better lives” for millions of hard-working Americans. Hickey introduced, CNN contributor and columnist for The Daily Beast Sally Kohn as emcee for the evening. Hickey noted that not only is Kohn no. 35 on The Advocate’s list of “The 50 Most Influential LGBT People In Media,” but she “somehow survived” a year as a Fox News contributor. “I am not the 35th most gay person in the media,” Kohn clarified.

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Bill Scher

Midterm Ad Watch: Where Dems Are On Offense

The news in the New York Times is “Democrats’ Hopes to Gain in House Fade.” This is a bit misleading, since Democrats were never expected to make gains this year. Republicans are expected to pick up some seats, but not many. They’re reaching for 12 seats. Between five and ten is considered more likely. While it’s true Democrats are defensively reallocating resources to protect their own incumbents, it is also true that they are still playing some offense in about 10 Republican-held districts, complicated Republicans to make gains and fortify their House majority. What has gotten Republicans in trouble in the few remaining swing districts left in the country? Shutdown Memories: Florida’s 2nd & Nebraska’s 2nd In the Florida panhandle and in Omaha, Nebraska, the shutdown vote still lingers. Florida Democrat Gwen Graham knocks Rep.

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Richard Eskow

New Study Finds Big Government Makes People Happy, “Free Markets” Don’t

Interview with Patrick Flavin, principal author of the study “Assessing the Impact of the Size and Scope of Government on Human Well-Being,” conducted by host of “The Zero Hour” Richard Eskow Forget about feeling “like a room without a roof,” or whatever that “happy” song says. If you want to know “what happiness is to you,” try living in a social democracy. A recent study confirms something leftists have suspected for a long time: People are happier in countries with larger governments, a more generous “welfare state” and more government intervention in the economy. Policies that depend on the so-called “free market,” on the other hand, decrease personal satisfaction. This is not a matter of opinion, according to the data, but of fact.

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Dean Baker

The Damage From A High US Trade Deficit

Most economists recognize that the economy is still suffering from excessive unemployment. In fact, many acknowledge that excess unemployment has been a problem for some time. Even Lawrence Summers, who was treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton and head of the National Economic Council under President Barack Obama, now acknowledges that shortfalls in demand have been an ongoing problem for close to two decades. Summers and others often refer to this as a problem of secular stagnation. The idea is that the economy is not generating enough demand to sustain full employment. A big part of this story is that the upward redistribution of income we have seen in recent decades tends to reduce overall consumption. The rich people who have been getting the money don’t spend as large a share of their income as the middle class and poor people who have been losing it.

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Dave Johnson

Budget Cuts Don’t Save Money

Cutting federal spending doesn’t “save money” – certainly not the way conservatives in Congress and in the states have been doing it. If you cut the Internal Revenue Service budget, that obviously increases the deficit because it lowers the government’s ability to collect tax revenue. If you cut the infrastructure budget, obviously after a while bridges start to fall down. That costs money. And lives. And, of course, if you cut the health and research budgets, diseases can spread and cures are not found. An article in Scientific American magazine by an infectious disease specialist spells out the consequences as the United States deals with the threat of the Ebola virus: NIH’s [National Institute of Health] budget was reduced by $446 million from 2010 to 2014, and subjected to inappropriate politically motivated interference in its decision making.

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Leo Gerard

Happy Halloween from the GOP

Republicans have adopted a Halloween-themed campaign strategy that they hope will incite voters to run screaming from Democrats. The GOP message: Americans should be very, very afraid because the homeland is under attack from ghouls and goblins manifest as Ebola and ISIS. Republicans even threaten boogeymen in the form of ISIS suicide agents strapping themselves with Ebola virus vests and sneaking across the southern U.S. border. This embrace of Halloween tricks is not surprising from the party pushing voter suppression while masquerading as a democracy-loving founding father.  The GOP is warning Americans that they should be scared witless of impending government disintegration because a guy with a knife got into the White House. This “caution” comes from the political party that favors government disintegration.

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Robert Borosage

Celebrating America’s Future: Light in Dark Times

Ferguson; ISIS; Ebola; accelerating climate change; growing inequality; deepening poverty; an election likely to worsen, not reduce paralysis – pessimism of the intellect is easy these days; optimism of the will takes some work. The Campaign for America’s Future on Tuesday will honor three progressive heroes for their work to improve the lives of working people. Get tickets to the 2014 Awards Gala on our gala page.Tonight at its annual Gala, the Campaign for America’s Future will honor sources of light in this dark time. (To get tickets go here.) New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio won a sweeping victory with a populist campaign in the heart of Wall Street. And in office, despite getting blindsided by Governor Andrew Cuomo and assailed by the corporate school reformers, he’s forcing change.

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Dave Johnson

Democrats – There’s Still Time

“It is hard to understate the intensity of the response to the role of big money.” Mike Lux, writing at The Huffington Post in “Four Weeks Out: What Will Be the Narrative of Election 2014?,” echoes something that we have been pounding on here at OurFuture.org: Democrats who campaign with a populist message will do better than Democrats who support the “centrist” – big corporate, Wall Street – positions. In his post, Lux writes: In a fascinating memo from Stan Greenberg and James Carville’s Democracy Corps and Page Gardner at Women’s Voices Women’s Vote Action Fund, they suggest that there is a modest but nonetheless quite significant trend toward Democratic candidates in the battleground Senate races.

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Richard Eskow

Populism: A Light Against Republican Darkness

The Campaign for America’s Future on Tuesday will honor three progressive heroes for their work to improve the lives of working people. Get tickets to the 2014 Awards Gala on our gala page.As autumn descends on the nation’s capital, people are saying there’s a darkness on the edge of town. It’s born of the fear, pessimism and uncertainty that have become the Republican political brand. And if the polls are right, there’s every chance that its shadow will fall upon Capitol Hill and envelop both houses of Congress. Here Comes the Night This onrush of conservative gloom was featured prominently this week in the New York Times, in language so shadow-haunted it could’ve come straight from the pen of the 1980s-era Springsteen.

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Terrance Heath

The Five Worst Things Republicans Have Promised To Do To Americans

The GOP is rolling out a list of “principles” and pretending to have a “positive agenda,” because Republicans can’t tell Americans what they really want to do. Twenty years after Newt Gingrich launched the “Contract With America,” Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus presented a pablum of 11 vague “principles.” There’s a reason Republicans have gone milquetoast. It’s not that Republican’s aren’t for anything. It’s that Republicans can’t tell Americans what they are for — not if they want to have a shot at governing. Here are the five worst things Republicans have promised to do to Americans. Slash Spending Republican majorities in the House and Senate will team up to make sequestration look like amateur night. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said as much to a roomful of billionaires, at a secret meeting convened by the Koch Brothers.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Pelosi Is Right: We Shouldn’t Have To Wait For A Minimum Wage Increase

Advocates for workers have declared today “Minimum Wage Day,” as the 10th day of the 10th month calls attention to the demand for an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, from the current $7.25. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi marked the day by calling on Congress to drop its campaigning and come back to Washington to vote on a minimum wage increase, as well as an authorization for combat operations against the Islamic State terrorists in Iraq and Syria. The Hill reported: “The American people deserve an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy and well-connected,” Pelosi said Friday during a press call.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: Forever Hold Their Peace

The Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit Court boosted the number of gay marriage states to somewhere between 30 and 35. Needless to say, the floodgates of wingnuttery opened wide. On Monday, the Supreme Court let stand lower court rulings striking down same-sex marriage bans in five states, effectively making same-sex marriage legal in 30 states. On Tuesday, the Ninth Circuit Court reaffirmed same-sex couples right to marry in Idaho and Nevada, and cleared the way for same-sex couples to marry in Alaska, Montana, and Arizona. The sound of wedding bells ringing across the country was punctuated by the sound of wingnut heads exploding on Twitter.

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Jeff Bryant

Education ‘Reformers’ Have Lost Their PR War, So Now What?

Americans have become accustomed to seeing the figureheads of big-money interests distort reality to suit their needs and get a lot of well-meaning folks to agree with them in turn. Recall, if you will, as Jonathan Chait recently did in New York magazine, how Wall Street-backed elites “fomented panic” about the national debt and influenced policy leaders to promulgate devastating austerity measures. Now we know their forecasts of imminent financial disaster were wrong and their judgment was in error. Yet their well-honed PR machine continues to buoy their influence forward despite the evidence. But every once in a while, there are exceptions to the supremacy of wealth-driven messaging, and you see foundational, progressive beliefs that remain resilient among Americans despite what they have been told again and again by the spokespeople of the 1 percent.

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Dave Johnson

Tuesday’s Awards Gala Celebrates The Populist Revival

Politicians who make a case for regular people get regular people to come out out to vote for them. Unfortunately, very few are making a case for regular people, with the result that many regular people ask, “Why bother to vote?” There is an American populist revival underway. After years of jobs being hard to find – resulting in wage and benefit cuts – the people are in a populist mood, and want action on jobs, wages, jobs, climate, jobs and … wait for it … jobs. They also understand that much of what government does is about making our lives better. Polls show programs like Social Security, maintaining the infrastructure, education, health programs, job training, scientific research, housing programs, the “safety net,” food security, and so much else are very popular.

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Emily Schwartz Greco

The Not-So-Good News about the Border Crisis

Did you notice that all that fuss over those Central American kids who were crossing the U.S. border alone suddenly died down? As recently as June, more than 10,000 children fleeing unchecked gang violence in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala made it here over the course of a month. Then, a major security crackdown in Mexico slowed the pace of their arrivals down to about 3,000 in August — the lowest rate since January and about the same as the pace of arrivals last year. It’s what passes for “normal” in this sad situation. jonathan mcintosh @ Flickr Customs and Border Protection chief Gil Kerlikowske calls this decrease “good news.” He’s only right if you believe that putting a problem out of sight and out of mind constitutes solving it.

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Joshua Holland

The Three Million Forgotten Victims of the Great Recession

Washington greeted the latest jobs numbers with enthusiasm. In September, the unemployment rate fell below six percent for the first time since July, 2008. We’ve netted 2.64 million jobs over the past 12 months, and are on pace to add more jobs in 2014 than in any year since 1999. But today, five years after the economy officially went into “recovery,” three million people remain among the ranks of the long-term unemployed — jobless for 27 weeks or more. That number is down from its 2010 peak, but as the Economic Policy Institute’s David Cooper noted earlier this year, it still “far exceeds pre-Great Recession levels in virtually every state.” About a million Americans have been unemployed for two years or longer, and approximately 100,000 have been jobless for at least five years.

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