Richard Eskow

Bill de Blasio: From Education to Poverty, Leadership by Example

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will receive the Progressive Champion Award at the Campaign for America’s Future 2014 Awards Gala on Tuesday, October 14. See the awards gala page for information and tickets. Progressives who are elected to executive office have a unique opportunity to highlight neglected issues and stimulate much-needed debate, by taking actions that challenge the “conventional wisdom.” They can change the political landscape by employing a principle that might be called “leadership by example.“ The mayor of New York City is uniquely positioned to play this role, thanks to that city’s prominence, and so far Bill de Blasio has done exceptionally well at it.

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Isaiah J. Poole

The Deficit Is Falling, But Where Are The Jobs?

The deficit scolds are getting what they wanted: Today the Congressional Budget Office announced that the federal deficit for this fiscal year is the lowest it has been for any year in the Obama presidency – $486 billion, or 2.8 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. The rest of us, though, aren’t getting what we were promised. Conservatives have repeatedly told us that cutting federal spending, and reducing deficits, would unleash economic growth and create jobs. Instead, what we have to show for it is a languid economy at best, with only enough jobs for half the people who are unemployed and looking for work. Economic growth is weak enough that the Federal Reserve, at its September meeting, agreed that it was not ready to signal that an interest rate increase would come soon, for fear of further hindering economic growth.

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Jim Hightower

Revealing Corporate Largesse

Some people have a recurring nightmare of rising to give a speech, but realizing they know nothing about the topic — and then discovering they’re naked. It turns out that corporations also have such nightmares. OK, corporations aren’t people, no matter what the Supreme Court fabulists claim, so they can’t dream. But their top executives can, and several recently suffered the same chilling dream — only to discover that it was real. These are chieftains of brand-name corporate giants who have secretly funneled millions of their shareholders’ dollars into the “dark money” vault of the Republican Governors Association. In turn, the group channels the political cash into the campaigns of assorted right-wing governors. Image via Jeff Gates @ Flickr. This underground pipeline is a dream come true for corporations.

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Dave Johnson

Republican Campaign Is All Fear All The Time

In advertising they say, “If you don’t have anything to say about a product, sing about it.” In this election, Republicans are singing a song of fear. In this ad the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) says Arizona’s Ann Kirkpatrick wants to let terrorists into the country. The midterms are approaching, and Republicans have nothing to offer. Well, that’s not exactly true, they are offering tax cuts to billionaires and giant corporations, and to the rest of us they offer cuts in the things government does to make our lives better. But they can’t say that. So instead they distract, divert, misinform and mostly, mostly try to scare people. Oh, one more thing: they try to keep “those people” from voting. Republicans are throwing fear around. And distraction. And diversion. And misinformation. And dirty tricks.

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Bill Scher

Is This The Worst Gaffe of 2014?

Nine years ago, textile CEO David Perdue probably didn’t think he’d ever run for office. Which would explain why in a deposition he bluntly answered a question on outsourcing by saying, “Yeah, I spent most of my career doing that.” But after it was uncovered last week, you might think that the Republican Senate candidate in Georgia would find a way to explain his past, claim he’s changed, and has the know-how to create jobs in America. Nope. Instead he told reporters about his statement, “Defend it? I’m proud of it. This is a part of American business, part of any business. Outsourcing is the procurement of products and services to help your business run. People do that all day.” That is quite the doubling down.

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Richard Eskow

Geithner and AIG: Hard Lessons From the “Bailout Trial”

A lawsuit currently being tried in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims argues that AIG shouldn’t have been treated any more harshly than Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, or any of the other institutions the government rescued. There’s merit to that argument. It goes on to assert that AIG deserved the same kind of cushy deal the government gave to the other institutions it rescued. That’s a stretch. The goal of the lawsuit – to provide even more for AIG’s bailed-out shareholders – seems absurd. But at least this lawsuit, which has already seen testimony from two former Treasury secretaries, is finally giving the American people some hard lessons in the workings of the bailout process and the shortcomings of our current economic system. We don’t know who’ll win in the end. But we probably know who’ll lose.

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Isaiah J. Poole

It’s Still Hard Out There For Jobseekers: We Need to Tell The Story

Last week’s report that the unemployment rate had fallen below 6 percent for the first time since July 2008 sparked a wave of optimistic talk about the job market regaining its health. Today comes the reality check: The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly report on job openings and labor turnover shows that in August there were 4.8 million job openings. That same month, there were 9.6 million unemployed people looking for work. Bottom line: For every job opening, on average, there were two jobseekers. As Elise Gould at the Economic Policy Institute points out in her analysis of the report, “job seekers so outnumbered job openings that about half of the unemployed were not going to find a job in August no matter what they did.” This is clearly better than in previous months, where we reported jobseeker-to-job vacancy rations that exceeded three to one.

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Terrance Heath

Historic Court Decision Weds Marriage Equality To Economic Justice

Yesterday, the Supreme Court made history, by deciding not to make history. The Court rejected appeals in the marriage equality cases set to appear before it, and left intact appeals court rulings striking down same-sex marriage bans in Virginia, Utah, Wisconsin, and Indiana — effectively legalizing same-sex marriage in those states. The same goes for North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Kansas, and Colorado, which are under the jurisdiction of the same circuit courts. Almost overnight The number of marriage equality states jumped from 17 to 30.

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Dave Johnson

Amazon Responds To Wage Theft Post

Amazon has passed along the following response to Monday’s post, “Amazon Wage Theft Case Comes Before The Supreme Court“: I saw your story mentioning Amazon today. I wanted you to have our statement. We have a longstanding practice of not commenting on pending litigation, but data shows that employees walk through post shift security screening with little or no wait. Kelly Cheeseman Amazon Corporate Communications Two points on this. 1) Theft costs stores a great deal. If you go to Costco and some other outlets, they check your cart against your receipt on the way out. The Bloomberg story cited in Monday’s post notes that employee theft costs retailers billions. Employee theft costs retailers an estimated $18 billion in 2012, more than any other type of larceny, according to a study by Richard C.

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Richard Eskow

Mr. President, Here Are Two Outstanding Choices for Attorney General

The kindest word one can apply to Attorney General Eric Holder’s record is “undistinguished.” Now that his time in office is drawing to a close, it’s clear that his failure to pursue criminal bankers will always overshadow his other accomplishments in public memory. But President Obama’s tenure is not yet over, and his next pick for attorney general could help reshape both the nation and his own legacy. Two candidates could be truly transformative as the next attorney general: Former regulator William K. Black and Labor Secretary Tom Perez. A Change is Needed Holder’s refusal to pursue criminal action against his former Wall Street clients was matched only by his contemptuous dismissal of the criticism engendered by his inaction. He attempted to disguise this inaction with false claims that earned widespread rebukes. He ran out the clock on a number of criminal prosecutions.

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Harvey J Kaye

Americans Should Embrace their Radical History (Redux)

American history education is once again a political and cultural battleground. Dominated by conservatives, the Jefferson County Colorado School Board decided to revise the teaching of Advanced Placement U.S. History to not only “promote patriotism and … the benefits of the free-enterprise system,” but also to discourage “civil disorder.” Meanwhile, liberals have insisted that we must teach both the good and the bad in America’s past. And any good historian must agree. Nevertheless, both right and left too often ignore, if not deny, that Americans are radicals at heart – that the American experience represents a Grand Experiment in democracy, an experiment that requires us to continually challenge exploitation, oppression, and inequality – and that at our best we have struggled to promote justice and advance freedom, equality and democracy.

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Leo Gerard

Good People Don’t Get Good Jobs

When Mary Grace Gainer anxiously told her master’s and doctoral advisors that she’d noticed want ads for college professors diminishing, they assured her, “Good people get good jobs.” So she focused on being very, very good. She earned straight A’s. She presented papers at academic conferences, including at Princeton. She sweated over her instructional duties, earning rave reviews from her students. She served as an officer for academic organizations and helped plan educational events. But then, to her horror, with $90,000 in student debt and a family to support, she discovered good people don’t always get good jobs. Against her will and her efforts, Gainer joined the world’s growing ranks of marginalized workers. They live precariously, without health insurance, without a living wage, without a schedule for duty, without a guarantee of work the next week or month.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Wellstone Award Winner Saru Jayaraman: Empowering Restaurant Workers

When restaurant workers around the country this year mounted strikes and demonstrations to push for higher wages, Saru Jayaraman and the organization she helped to create, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, were at the front lines with them, highlighting their plight and giving them a voice to challenge the lobbying muscle of business groups like the National Restaurant Association. “I guarantee you in every restaurant in America there’s at least one person who’s on the verge of homelessness or being evicted or going through some kind of instability,” Jayaraman said in a 2013 interview with Bill Moyers. “It’s an incredible irony that the people who put food on our tables use food stamps at twice the rate of the rest of the U.S. workforce.

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Robert Reich

Why We Allow Big Pharma to Rip Us Off

According to a new federal database put online last week, pharmaceutical companies and device makers paid doctors some $380 million in speaking and consulting fees over a five-month period in 2013. Some doctors received over half a million dollars each, and others got millions of dollars in royalties from products they helped develop. Doctors claim these payments have no effect on what they prescribe. But why would drug companies shell out all this money if it didn’t provide them a healthy return on their investment? America spends a fortune on drugs, more per person than any other nation on earth, even though Americans are no healthier than the citizens of other advanced nations. Of the estimated $2.7 trillion America spends annually on health care, drugs account for 10 percent of the total.

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Dave Johnson

Amazon Wage Theft Case Comes Before The Supreme Court

Picture this: You are supposedly “off work” but every day after the end of your shift you have to wait in a line for up to 25 minutes to get “checked” to see if you are stealing things. The Supreme Court is going to decide if you should be paid for your time. This is part of the larger issue of “wage theft.” The Roberts Supreme Court is notorious for siding with big corporations over regular Americans. Now they are going to hear a case involving Amazon warehouse workers who are required to check out from “paid time” but then wait up to 25 minutes to go through a screening to see if they are stealing. Who is stealing from whom? Bloomberg News has the story, in “Amazon Workers Take Security-Line Woes to Supreme Court“: Jesse Busk spent a 12-hour shift rushing inventory through an Amazon.com Inc.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Progressive Champion Lee Saunders: “Disrupter” For Working People

When Lee Saunders talks about his mission as the president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, he often refers to the fateful 1968 showdown between sanitation workers and the city of Memphis – the strike that brought Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to the place where he would be assassinated. Saunders evokes the memory of those workers who were members of AFSCME Local 1733. “These men, who were poor and black, upset the social order merely by starting a union,” he says, and by doing so and by striking for better pay and benefits, “gained the voice, the dignity, the respect they had struggled for.” “It’s time for you to be disrupters, just as they were,” he tells college students at his frequent lectures.

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Sam Pizzigati

America’s Ridiculously Rich: The 2014 Edition

Imagine yourself part of the typical American family. Your household would have, the Federal Reserve reported last month, a net worth of $81,200. Not much. But 50 percent of America’s households would actually have less wealth than you do. The other half would have more. Now imagine that your net worth suddenly quadrupled to about $325,000. That sum would place you within the ranks of America’s most affluent 20 percent of income earners. You would be “typical” no more. On the other hand, you still wouldn’t be rich, or even close to grand fortune. So suppose we quadrupled your wealth still again, enough to get your net worth — your assets minus your debts — all the way up to $1.3 million. Congratulations. You now hold 16 times more wealth than the typical American. You probably have paid off your mortgage. You have a healthy balance in your 401(k).

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Dave Johnson

“Trade” Agreements Or “Corporate Rights” Agreements?

The public is finally “getting it” about these one-way trade agreements. They were sold to us as “job creators,” but the record is the reverse. They have cost jobs and increased the trade deficit (which is a metric for jobs) in every instance. This is because these agreements were not really about trade at all, they were about placing corporations above governments. The Wall Street Journal on Thursday complained that people are “getting it,” in “Politics, Not Economics, Impede U.S. Trade Deals, Former Officials Say.” Six years after the financial crisis arrived in earnest, much of the public and its elected representatives remain suspicious about opening up barriers to trade and investment out of fear American jobs will leak to low-wage countries.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: Intruder Alert

Given their longstanding loathing for him, it was touching to see so many right-wingers express concern for President Obama’s safety this week. A knife-carrying intruder jumped the White House fence, got past the front door, breached at least six Secret Service Safeguards, and made it pretty far into the building, before he was tackled by an off-duty Secret Service agent. Omar J. Gonzalez, a 42-year-old veteran, had been arrested in Virginia two months earlier, heavily armed and carrying a map of Washington tucked in a Bible — with a circle drawn around the White House. Gonzalez had 800 rounds of ammunition in his car when he scaled the White House Fence. The whole mess cost Secret Service director Julia Pierson her job, and revealed that conservatives are very concerned about President Obama’s personal safety. Or are they? Rep.

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Terrance Heath

Corporations Abandon ALEC’s Agenda; Some States Are Still Stuck With It

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt made news on Monday when he told NPR’s Diane Rehm that Google was dropping its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) because of the organization’s environmental policies — especially its climate denialism: “Everyone understands climate change is occurring. And the people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place. And so we should not be aligned with such people. They’re just literally lying.” It started a stampede of Silicon Valley companies either distancing themselves from ALEC or leaving altogether. Microsoft announced last month that it was leaving ALEC. Both Microsoft and Google had been on ALEC’s task force for communication and technology. Facebook announced on Tuesday that it is “not likely to renew” its membership in ALEC.

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