Bill Scher

Republicans Feeling The Climate Squeeze

Over the course of President Obama’s State of the Union addresses, he has become rhetorically bolder and more expansive on the subject of climate. In his first couple of speeches, climate was mentioned as part of the laundry list of bills he was trying to get through Congress. Once Republicans took the House, and prospects for legislation died, climate took a backseat in the SOTU. In 2011, the word was not used at all (though Obama continued to promote “clean energy”). In 2012, “climate” was only mentioned as an example of legislation Obama knew could not pass Congress. But in the second term, Obama is not thinking about legislation, but regulation.

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Richard Eskow

Yes, Obama “Won Twice” – as a Progressive. Deal With It, Everybody.

Today’s American right is burdened with a highly specialized and hyper-amplified sense of outrage. That outrage was triggered during this week’s State of the Union speech, especially by the president’s off-the-cuff response to a group of Republicans who sarcastically applauded the line, “I have no more campaigns to run.” “I know,” the President replied, “because I won both of them.” Cue the indignation. A conservative named Ben Shapiro, whose tweet was reproduced in Heritage’s Daily Signal, offered a typically huffy reaction. “What a classy guy,” snipped Shapiro (who presumably feels that interrupting the President of the United States with sarcastic applause is “classy”). President Obama gave a stirring speech, although at times he still seems like a reluctant populist warrior.

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Bernie Sanders

Roads and Bridges Need $1 Trillion. It Is Time to Rebuild America.

Our infrastructure is collapsing, and the American people know it. The Interstate 75 bridge collapse in Cincinnati on Monday is only the latest example. Every day, motorists across the United States drive over bridges that are in disrepair and on roads with unforgiving potholes. They take railroad and subway trains that arrive late and are overcrowded. They see airports bursting at the seams. They worry that a local levee could fail in a storm. For many years we have underfunded the maintenance of our nation’s physical infrastructure. That has to change. It is time to rebuild America. I will soon be introducing legislation for a $1 trillion investment, over five years, to modernize our country’s physical infrastructure. This bill will not just rebuild our country but it will create and maintain 13 million good-paying jobs that our economy desperately needs.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnuts And The State of the Union

President Obama’s State of the Union Address, complete with a “mic drop” moment,” couldn’t have annoyed Republicans more if he’d entered to the theme from Rocky, and exited to “How Ya Like Me Now.” Obama’s “Mic Drop” Moment If Republicans in Congress expected to see and hear a chastened and contrite President Obama, they got a big shock on Tuesday night. Maybe getting a hug from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg — one of his “favorite people” — emboldened the president as he made his way to the podium. Perhaps Obama’s bounce in the polls put a bounce in his step. After the midterm elections, The Grio’s Luvvie Ajayi had this advice for the president: I think the President just needs to get real petty. He has nothing to lose as a lame duck President, so who gon check him? He better use that to his advantage to make things happen.

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Dave Johnson

What Obama Got Wrong In His State of the Union Remarks On Trade

The President briefly spoke about trade in his State of the Union speech. He admitted that “past trade deals haven’t always lived up to the hype” but then he called for doing more of the same. He called for Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) — “Fast Track” — to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Here is what President Obama said about trade (from pre-released transcript): 21st century businesses, including small businesses, need to sell more American products overseas. Today, our businesses export more than ever, and exporters tend to pay their workers higher wages. But as we speak, China wants to write the rules for the world’s fastest-growing region. That would put our workers and businesses at a disadvantage. Why would we let that happen? We should write those rules. We should level the playing field.

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Dave Johnson

Call, Write Congress To Oppose Fast Track Today

Today is the National Call-in Day Against Fast Track. Call Congress now at (888) 804-8311 to oppose fast track trade authority. Or visit Stop Fast Track, enter your phone number and they will call you back and connect you to your representative. An auto-dialer will call you and connect you to your representative and senators, one at a time. Don’t hang up in between, just stay on the line. Call and say, “I am calling about fast-track trade policies. Fast Track is a way to make sure that bad trade deals become law. Prior fast-track trade deals like NAFTA have lowered our wages, sent jobs overseas, and put us in debt to countries like China.

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Robert Borosage

Obama Gets His Swagger Back: The State of the Union’s Scope and Limits

President Obama has his swagger back. Ignoring the electoral rebuke of 2014, he claimed the growing economy as a mandate for his progressive agenda, delivering a State of the Union address bristling with veto threats and challenging the Congress to stand with working families. The speech was designed to rouse Obama’s popular majority coalition against the Republican congressional majority. While it ended with a long, soaring peroration about “one America,” in Obama’s signature voice, the speech itself threw down a gauntlet at Republicans, inviting a debate about direction that will frame the 2016 election. It presented a president willing to compromise but ready to fight. To that end, Obama focused the speech about values and direction, not on programs.

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Jeff Bryant

A Fight Over Education In Nashville Might Come Your Way Next

“We know we need to do something about students who are not achieving in our schools.” That anxious appeal – along with its many variations – has become the refrain now firmly embedded in speeches and opinion columns about American public education. Yes! Do something. About those kids. Only this time, the anxious appeal is coming from Jai Sanders, an African-American parent in Nashville, Tennessee, who has a stake in the matter: The something about to be done is aimed squarely at him and his children.

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Dean Baker

Democrats Take on Wall Street with Financial Transactions Tax

The House Democratic Party leadership made a remarkable step forward last week in putting out a proposal for a financial transactions tax (FTT). The proposal is part of a larger package which includes a substantial tax credit for workers, and also a limit on the tax deductibility of high CEO pay, but the FTT portion is the most remarkable. There has long been interest in financial transactions taxes among progressive Democrats. The list of people who have proposed financial transactions taxes over the years includes Representatives Peter DeFazio and Keith Ellison, along with Senators Tom Harkin and Bernie Sanders. But the proposal last week came from Representative Chris Van Hollen, who is part of the party’s leadership. And Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi indicated that she also supports the proposal.

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Sam Pizzigati

A Blue-Ribbon Panel’s Inequality Blindspot

The Commission on Inclusive Prosperity, a project of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for American Progress, has just released what journalists like to call a “blue-ribbon panel report.” This commission certainly rates — by any standard — as “blue-ribbon.” The commissioners range from Larry Summers, a former treasury secretary under Bill Clinton, to current and former high-ranking treasury officials in the United Kingdom, Sweden and Australia. Also serving on the panel: the president of the Rockefeller Foundation, assorted transatlantic business and labor leaders, two influential journalists, and various top-flight academic analysts. A distinguished collection, in other words, of public policy heavyweights. But not a random collection. Most of the Commission’s panelists appear to circle in the Bill and Hillary Clinton orbit.

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Leo Gerard

Not So Fast, Congress

Instead of the plodding turtle he’s normally satirized as, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is all cat-on-a-hot-tin-roof about Trade Promotion Authority, better known as Fast Track. He said as Congress convened this month that he wants to fast track Fast Track. He intends to ’git ’er done so fast no one notices that with it, Republicans will provide, as McConnell put it, “an enormous grant of power. . .to a Democratic President.” Fast Track is nothing more than Congress pulling a fast one on the American people. It’s a plan for lawmakers to abdicate their Constitutional responsibility to regulate international trade. With Fast Track, Congress shirks its duty to subject trade deals to lengthy line-by-line scrutiny, fulsome public hearings and amendment.

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Robert Borosage

The President’s State of the Union Address: A Progressive Field Guide

The annual State of the Union address that President Obama will deliver tonight before the Republican-controlled Congress serves many functions. It provides the president with a chance to boast upon progress made, and to highlight next steps. It frames, particularly with this obstructionist Congress, upcoming battles. And with the presidential election of 2016 already begun, it gives the president a chance to define themes and contrasts that the emerging challengers must respond to. Obama has already revealed, in the pre-speech rollout of message and proposals, that this speech will pick up the populist themes of his 2012 campaign, calling on Congress to pass progressive tax reforms to provide concrete benefits to working families – child care credits, college affordability, aid in savings for retirement, investment in education.

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Bernie Horn

The State of the States and Localities

Due to the ghastly 2014 elections, more state legislators are Republican and the GOP controls more state legislative bodies than at any time since the 1920s. Republicans now control the governorship and both houses of the legislature in 23 states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Statehouse Republicans won’t want to appear too extreme in 2016, both for the presidential election and for their own reelections. Therefore, we must expect a deluge of ultra-conservative legislation in 2015; we’ll start to see it within weeks.

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Richard Eskow

Today’s Visionary: A Guide to MLK’s 21st Century Insights

(Previously published, with some revisions) Here it comes again. This holiday weekend we’ll see a lot of media coverage of Martin Luther King, Jr. But we’ll hear very little about who he really was – a brave and visionary leader whose vision is as relevant today as ever. Dr. King’s life and legacy stand as a challenge to an entrenched society of privilege and injustice. Here are nine quotes that reflect that legacy. 1. “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.” Where Do We Go From Here? August 1967 speech. “Bain Capitalism” – a k a “vulture capitalism” – didn’t happen out of nowhere. It was made by politicians. It should be un-made by politicians.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Needed: The Case For Public Investment In Public Infrastructure

A White House announcement today made it clear that progressives will be on their own in the battle to boost public investment in our public assets. The White House today announced the creation of an infrastructure bonds program designed to attract private financing for transportation projects, from bride repairs to airport construction. The administration also dispatched Vice President Joe Biden to a wastewater project in the Anacostia section of Washington, D.C., to announce a national program to help states and municipalities finance water and sewer repairs and expansion.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: Benghazi To Beyoncé

From Benghazi and Beyoncé, to the terrorist attack in Paris, this week was a smorgasbord of wingnuttery. The world is still reeling from the terrorist attack on the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, in which ten journalists and two police officers died. At least, most of the world was still reeling. America’s wingnuts were riding the fresh wave of Islamophobia rising in the western world. Rupert Murdoch warned of a “growing jihadist cancer” via Twitter. Maybe most Moslems peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible. — Rupert Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch) January 10, 2015 Comedian Aziz Ansari proceed to mock Murdoch unmercifully. .@rupertmurdoch Rups can we get a step by step guide? How can my 60 year old parents in NC help destroy terrorist groups? Plz advise.

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Dave Johnson

How To Avoid Another Job-Killing Trade Fiasco Like NAFTA

  We all know how NAFTA turned out for us (for most of us, anyway). We all know how opening up trade with China turned out. It’s right in front of our faces. Who hasn’t seen the boarded-up downtowns of closed-down “factory towns?” Who hasn’t felt the fear of hearing, “We’re moving your job to China”? We all know what has happened to jobs, wages, factories, and the ability to buy things that are “made in America.” But instead of saying “Oh my God, sorry, let’s see if we can fix this and bring back the jobs and factories and get wages back up,” our DC elites are instead pushing for even more of these job-killing, factory-closing trade deals. No wonder the pubic thinks that the government works against the interests of most of us. When it comes to these “trade” deals, the public is exactly right.

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Jeff Bryant

Why The Test Debate Is About Politics, Not Education

Here’s how ridiculous the nation’s obsession with standardized testing has gotten: Last week Education Week reporter Catherine Gewertz came across a news item about a school in Florida that “forbid the flushing of toilets during testing … to cut down on the distraction.” (emphasis original) As she quoted from her news source, the school administrators feared, “The whooshing water sounds from classroom bathrooms … might disturb test-taking classmates and send their focus, and their scores, spiraling down the drain.” Before you dismiss that as just one “over the top” anecdote, consider that the big new assessment fad sweeping the nation is to demand testing of our youngest students, the earlier the better.

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Isaiah J. Poole

This Weekend: #ReclaimMLK

This weekend, National People’s Action is highlighting an effort to “reclaim” the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. memorial holiday from “efforts to soften, sanitize, and commercialize” his legacy. “We resist efforts to reduce a long history marred with the blood of countless women and men into iconic images of men in suits behind pulpits,” proclaims the #ReclaimMLK action page on FergusonAction.org. “From here on, MLK weekend will be known as a time of national resistance to injustice.” The campaign was launched Thursday with a “day of resistance” that featured planned demonstrations in several cities around the country. The events continue with a “day of resilience” on Sunday and a “day of action” on Monday, the official Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

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Richard Eskow

Today’s GOP: Too Much “Rand” and Not Enough “Paul”

It’s tough to be disabled in America. It’s tough anywhere, of course. But, as Rebecca Vallas notes: “According to the OECD, the U.S. disability benefit system is the most restrictive and least generous of all member countries, except for Korea.” And nowhere else in the developed world is there a political party which routinely stigmatizes, mocks, and slanders disabled people the way Republicans do in this country. Sen. Rand Paul’s recent comments were typical of the calumny Republicans routinely heap upon the disabled – or, for that matter, on anyone in need of assistance. In case you haven’t heard, the Presidential hopeful told a New Hampshire audience that more than half of the people currently receiving Social Security disability insurance don’t deserve it. Sen.

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