Dave Johnson

Obama And Dems Tout Improving Economy. Are They Right?

The President says the economy is doing well. Democrats are circulating a “message document” to Democratic candidates that “highlights a string of recent positive economic indicators.” Who have they been talking to? (Hint: the wealthy donor class.) Economy Improving — For A Few It is a fact that the economy is improving and the behind-the-scenes numbers that economists and business types pour over look better than they have looked in a long time. As a result corporate profits are at record levels and a few people are doing very, very well, thank you. As they say, when Bill Gates walks into a room filled with poor people the average income in that room is incredible.

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Terrance Heath

Blink, And You’ll Miss The Latest “Libertarian Moment”

The latest “Libertarian Moment” is upon us, and will expire once it runs headlong into its own inherent shortcomings and the reality of a populist majority. Blink, and you’ll miss it. Robert Draper, in the New York Times, asks “Has the Libertarian Moment Arrived?”, and answers by asserting that “the age group most responsible for delivering Obama his two terms” is poised to become a political “wild card.” Turned off by the Iraq war, “reflexively tolerant of other lifestyles,” and appalled by NSA-style invasions of privacy, Draper claims that voters between the ages of 18 and 29 — also known as Millennials —  are uncommitted to either major party, and thus are ripe to be lured into libertarianism. Draper’s engaging in wishful thinking. Young voters were an important part of the diverse coalition that gave President Obama two terms — but just one part.

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Richard Eskow

Happy Birthday, Social Security – But Stay Away From That Cake!

August 14th is Social Security’s birthday, and I keep having this nightmare. In it, 300 million Americans are singing Social Security’s praises and celebrating its 79th year. Then a giant cake is rolled out while everybody sings “Happy Birthday” – and out pops Alan Simpson, looking like Freddy Krueger and swinging a buzz saw with the words “chained CPI” painted on it. Alan Simpson, in case you’ve forgotten, is the remarkably uninformed former Republican senator from Wyoming who has made a post-political career out of taunting seniors in need. But he’s not the only chainsaw-swinger who might haunt a Social Security nightmare. So could any one of the politicians, policy analysts, and “think tank” employees who have targeted the program – usually because they’re funded by bankers like hedge fund billionaire Pete Peterson.

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Lynne Stuart Parramore

Regulators: Mega-Banks Still a Giant Threat

Image via Michael Fleshman @ Flickr. We hear a lot of big talk about how Dodd-Frank has made the financial system safer. That law was enacted to make certain that the country never gets blown apart by a financial crisis like the one in 2008. But does anybody really believe it? The bank regulators sure don’t. The FDIC just put out a press release summarizing problems with resolution plans submitted by 11 big banks, including Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and other behemoths. These resolution plans, also called “living wills,” spell out how the banks will handle things in the event the financial shit hits the fan. The FDIC noted several areas where bank plans don’t pass the smell test: While the shortcomings of the plans varied across the first-wave firms, the agencies have identified several common features of the plans’ shortcomings.

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Harvey J Kaye

August 14: Time to Reinvigorate the Fight for the Four Freedoms

This Thursday, August 14, marks 69 years since the surrender of Imperial Japan – and with the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II coming up next summer we are sure to see significant efforts around the country during the next twelve months to once again honor the memory and legacy of the Greatest Generation. Just as we have many times before, we will undoubtedly celebrate “the Spirit of ’45″ and tell those who remain of that generation that we will never forget or forsake all that they accomplished. And yet the sad truth is that we have already forgotten and forsaken what they – our parents and grandparents – did in the face of the worst economic and social catastrophe in American history and the global march of Fascism.

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Dave Johnson

Dems Should Campaign On Trade And Jobs, Not On Being Like Republicans

Watch this video of a smart politician who knew how to campaign in the Midwest. He know what people were thinking had his finger on the pulse of what people wanted to do about it: Democrats Campaigning As Republicans? A recent Politico story, “Running as a Dem, sounding like a Republican,” says that many Democrats are campaigning by trying to “appeal to more conservative voters.” They are talking about cutting back on spending, tax cuts for businesses and going after immigrants. Some Democrats also argue that, with so many Republican candidates — pushed by tea party forces — staking out positions further and further to the right, there’s room for Democratic hopefuls to appeal to centrist Republican voters who feel alienated.

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Robert Borosage

Democrats: Party of Future Change or Past Accomplishment

Are Democrats the party of future change or the party of past accomplishment? Are they fighting for what needs to be done or touting what has already been done? Is the economy on the right track or is it rigged to benefit the few and not the many? Are Democrats responsible for current conditions or has Republican obstruction stood in the way? Who is on your side? Who is fighting for you and who is in the pocket of special interests and big money and part of the problem? Every electoral campaign is different. Local issues, individual personalities, money and organization count big time. But to generate momentum across the country, for every candidate, it helps for a party to have a clear set of themes, a narrative, an argument that will help voters understand what the stakes are, and who is fighting for them.

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Isaiah J. Poole

After 5 Years Of ‘Recovery,’ Still Only Half As Many Jobs As Job Seekers

Here’s the sobering reality brought home today by the latest monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary by the Labor Department: After five years of economic “recovery,” there are still only half as many jobs as there are people looking for work. This monthly report gives a total of the number of job openings: a seasonally adjusted 4.7 million job openings in June. But that month, according to a separate monthly employment report, almost 9.5 million people were counted as unemployed. As Economic Policy Institute economist Heidi Shierholz writes in her analysis of the latest JOLTS report, “Put another way: Job seekers so outnumbered job openings that half of job seekers were not going to find a job in June no matter what they did.

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

If Congress Won’t, President Obama May Have To Address Inversions

Corporate “inversions” are all the rage. No, I’m not talking about Wall Street yoga — although the term does refer to a method for companies to twist and contort themselves in order to evade taxes. Inversions are when a corporation buys a foreign company and reincorporates overseas in a country with a lower corporate income tax rate. Operations remain the same — they still benefit from U.S. infrastructure and stability and research and development. They just change their answer when the government asks where home is, thereby avoiding paying billions of tax dollars. As Stephen Colbert said, “It’s like me adopting an African child, then claiming myself as his dependent.” And it’s becoming increasingly popular. Enter Walgreens, which made big news last week when it announced that it would forgo its inversion plans.

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Richard Eskow

“Running as Dems While Sounding Republican.” Hey, What Could Go Wrong?

They say that one swallow doesn’t make a summer, and one Politico story certainly doesn’t make a campaign season. But if a recent article there is correct – if the Democratic Party’s strategy this year really is “Running as a Dem (while) sounding like a Republican” – then the party may be headed for a disaster of epic but eminently predictable proportions. “It’s one thing for Democrats running in red parts of the country to sound like Republicans on the campaign trail,” writes Alex Isenstadt. “It’s another when Democrats running in purple or even blue territory try to do so. Yet that’s what’s happening in race after race this season.” Red Dems Certainly this isn’t true of every race. Populist Sen. Elizabeth Warren has been brought in to help with Senate contests in several red states, for example.

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Bill Scher

What Would a GOP Senate Do? Boehner: “Nobody’s Given … Much Thought”

At The Week today I argued “Why the GOP Should Tank the Midterms.” In short, Republicans not ready for prime time. They were too divided to govern one house of the Congress without constantly humiliating themselves, so how do you think running two will do? Much of their division came from the House rank-and-file chafing against any attempt from the leadership to be for anything that had a remote chance of becoming law. As a result, the Republican Party has no unified agenda with which to begin the process of governing. This is a worse problem that the Republicans of 1994 suffered. Then, Newt Gingrich unified the House candidates around the “Contract With America” platform, but the Senate Republicans weren’t on board.

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Joshua Holland

Wall Street Analysts: High Inequality Makes Us Vulnerable to Crashes

For many years there were some economists who argued that their discipline shouldn’t worry about inequality. Economists, they said, should focus on efficiency and growth, and leave the distribution up to the political world. But a research brief released on Tuesday by the Wall Street ratings agency Standard and Poor’s concludes that growth versus equality is a false choice. The authors argue that while some inequality may be desirable in a market economy — it spurs entrepreneurship and innovation — when those at the top take too large a share of a nation’s output, they tend to bank it rather than spend it. This ultimately hurts consumer demand and slows down economic growth. They also note that “higher levels of income inequality increase political pressures, discouraging trade, investment, and hiring.” Image via Alex Proimos @ Flickr.

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Robert Borosage

August Distemper: Will Change Yet Come?

No surprise, Americans are in a foul temper. In an August NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 71 percent considered the country on the wrong track. Nearly half thought the economy was still in recession. Over three-fourths were not confident their children’s generation will do better than they have. Nearly two-thirds were still dealing with damage done in the Great Recession five years after the official “recovery.” Half think the growing income divide is undermining the American dream. Americans are looking for change and get gridlock. They are disgusted with Washington. The president’s approval rating hovers around record lows. Republicans in Congress have the highest disapproval rating in polling history. Congress as a whole ranks even lower.

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Dave Johnson

Three Updated Charts to Email to Your Right-Wing Brother-In-Law

Problem: Your right-wing brother-in-law is plugged into the FOX-Limbaugh lie machine, and keeps sending you emails about “Obama spending” and “Obama deficits” and how the “stimulus” just made things worse. Solution: Here are three “reality-based” charts to send to him. These charts show what actually happened. Spending Government spending increased dramatically under President Bush. It has not increased much under President Obama. This is just a fact. Deficits Note that this chart starts with Clinton’s last budget year for comparison. The numbers in these two charts come from Budget of the United States Government: Historical Tables Fiscal Year 2015. They are just the amounts that the government spent and borrowed, period, Anyone can go look them up.

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Isaiah J. Poole

This Student’s Story Shows What’s Wrong With The Tipped Minimum Wage

You don’t get to be an actor by being shy, so it should not have surprised me that Olivia Russell would do something attention-getting while she was serving me and a guest earlier this week at the Carolina Kitchen, a small chain restaurant in Washington’s Brentwood neighborhood. She handed me a slip of paper that made me angry – not at her, but at the economic forces that she felt gave her no choice but do something this dramatic. “I am a rising senior at Howard University where I am studying Musical Theater,” the note read. “My DREAM in life is to be an actor, following in the footsteps of my Uncle” (who I found out later is Montae Russell, who played the character Dwight Zadro in the 1990s TV hit “ER,” appeared in the movies “Godzilla” and “The Players Club,” and several August Wilson plays on Broadway).

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Bill Scher

All Pro-Immigration GOP Senators Have Won Their Primaries

Three Republican Senators up for re-election this year, Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Susan Collins (Maine) and Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) voted for the bipartisan immigration reform bill despised by the anti-immigrant right-wing. And as of last night’s victory by Sen. Alexander, all three won their Republican primaries. Thankfully, this fact was noted by the Washington Post today. Yet the overall media coverage of the immigration triumph pales in the comparison to the media scapegoating of immigration — and the subsequent Republican panic — when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his primary, despite the lack of evidence that immigration was the cause.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: Rand On The Run

Sen. Rand Paul turned tail and ran away when confronted by undocumented DREAMers. But the GOP has a “Latino problem” it can’t run from, and right-wingers seem determined to make it worse. Sen. Paul was with fellow-Republican Rep. Steve King in Iowa when undocumented DREAMers Erika Andiola and Cesar Vargas confronted King on his immigration stance. King stood his ground, but Paul dropped his burger and scampered away. Sen. Paul later explained to Fox News that he wasn’t running away. He just suddenly had somewhere else to be. Right away, obviously. It’s fair to say that Republicans have given up on the Latino vote, whether they realize it or not.

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Jeff Bryant

‘Better Than Republicans’ Not Good Enough For Education

A common admonition progressives have gotten used to hearing over the years is to support more conservative Democratic candidates because “Republicans are worse.” This admonition makes some sense in electoral politics, when, in most cases, progressives face a ballot box decision where they have to choose the “lesser evil” instead of someone who wants to do something really horrible like roll back government policies to what was in favor a hundred years ago. Elections, after all, are societal constructions where you’re forced to make a choice between only two candidates, usually. To not vote at all forfeits your right to have a say-so in the matter. And few Americans get the opportunity to vote for third-party candidates who have viable shots at winning.

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Richard Eskow

How Big Is a $16 Billion Bank Fraud Settlement, Really?

Preliminary reports say that a $16 to $17 billion settlement will soon be announced between the Justice Department and Bank of America. That would break the record for the largest bank settlement in history, set less than a year ago by a $13 billion agreement between Justice and JPMorgan Chase. The numbers that accompany these deal announcements always seem impressive. But how large are they, really? That depends on your point of view. The Big Picture Bankers fraudulently inflated a housing bubble. They became extremely wealthy as a result, but the U.S. housing market lost $6.3 trillion in value when the bubble burst. It had only recovered 44 percent of that lost value by of the end of 2013, according to Zillow’s data. That’s more than $3 trillion still missing from American households.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Young And Low-Skilled Workers Aren’t Being Hurt By Minimum Wage Hike

The right-wing argument that we shouldn’t increase the minimum wage because doing so especially hurts the job prospects of young and low-skilled workers is not standing up to scrutiny. The latest evidence comes from two University of Delaware economists who have looked at employment trends in the 13 states that have raised their minimum wage above the federal minimum since 2011. Their paper concludes that for two groups most likely to be affected by a minimum-wage increase – workers under age 19 and adults without a high-school diploma – the differences between their employment prospects in states that raised their minimum wage and in states that didn’t “are not statistically significant.” The bottom line: “There is no evidence of negative employment effects due to increases in state minimum wages,” the report said.

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