Isaiah J. Poole

‘Protect Your Vote’ Campaign Calls For a Constitutional Right To Vote

It is unacceptable that the Supreme Court has given corporations the constitutional right to use their money to manipulate how ballots are cast in our elections, but has yet to assert that citizens have a constitutional right to cast those ballots to begin with. That’s why this week Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) have launched a campaign to win support for a constitutional amendment that would give citizens the right to vote. They are asking supporters to sign up as citizen co-sponsors. The Campaign for America’s Future is an organizational supporter, along with Daily Kos and the Rainbow Push Coalition.

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Leo Gerard

Like a Bad Neighbor, Chevron is There

The federal agency that investigates refinery catastrophes released its final report late last month on the massive fire, volatile vapor release and toxic smoke plume at Chevron’s Richmond, Calif., refinery in 2012 that imperiled 19 workers and sickened 15,000 residents of surrounding communities. The report says Chevron knew the pipe that ruptured was made of material likely to corrode, that pipes of the same material at Chevron plants had previously failed and caused fires, that Chevron repeatedly rebuffed experts’ recommendations to replace the pipe, and that when the pipe did begin to breach, Chevron disastrously attempted to patch it instead of shutting down the high-pressure, high-temperature hydrocarbon process unit to which it was attached.

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Robert Borosage

Why the Country Needs a Populist Challenger in the Democratic Primaries

Polls show Democrats want a contest, not a coronation, for their presidential nomination. The press yearns for a primary contest, if only to have something to cover. A raft of reasons are floated for why a challenge would be useful, most of them spurious. Hillary Clinton doesn’t need a contest to get her campaign shipshape. She’s already been central to three presidential campaigns, as underdog, incumbent and, disastrously, overwhelming favorite. She has every high-priced operative in the party. If she doesn’t know how to put together a campaign by now, an upstart challenger won’t help. Some suggest a challenger could move Hillary to the left, as if Hillary Inc. were a bloated ocean liner needing a plucky tugboat to put it on the right path. But the Clintons are adept at running more populist than they govern.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: Standing In The Courthouse Door

More than 50 years ago, Alabama governor George Wallace literally stood “in the schoolhouse door,” to prevent the integration of the University of Alabama. Wallace argued that “states’ rights” allowed Alabama to keep its schools segregated, and that the federal government had no authority to demand it integrate. This week, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore figuratively stood in the courthouse door, in defiance of a court ruling that struck down Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage. Moore’s argument is essentially the same one Wallace used. The usual wingnuttery commenced. Moore later said he blocked same-sex marriages because “men and their daughters or women and their sons” would want to marry next. Radio host Bryan Fischer declared Moore a modern day Martin Luther King.

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Isaiah J. Poole

More Proof Conservative Anti-Tax Dogma Only Applies To The Rich

Here’s a question to ask New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie the next time he appears at a public event: “Why is it in your state the top 1 percent of income earners pay state taxes at a rate that is on average 28 percent less than what middle-income earners pay?” Then watch the fireworks. You might even get a “sit down and shut up” out of him for having the nerve to lay this fact in front of him. Then try a similar question of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who, like Christie, is considering a run for president in 2016. There the discrepancy is far worse – the top 1 percent only pay taxes at one-third the rate of the middle 20 percent of taxpayers. In fact, the story is pretty much the same in conservative state after conservative state, whether it’s Florida under Gov. Rick Scott or Kansas under Gov. Sam Brownback.

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Emily Schwartz Greco

Green Believers

By framing measles vaccinations as a matter of choice, Senator Rand Paul made himself — along with all politicians who value individual liberty more than the common good — look silly. Bruce Jenner is sporting nail polish and a ponytail. If the Olympic gold medalist gets both a new identity a personal reality TV show, it may take a bite out of discrimination against trans people. And, conservative leaders are teaming up with environmentalists to give Florida voters a shot at “solar choice.” This “Green Tea Party” trend is making it harder for Republicans to embrace fossil fuels and shun renewable energy. Clearly, shedding flawed conventional notions of all kinds is tough — but not impossible. People “lock into belief systems,” explains the solar power entrepreneur and climate-action philanthropist Jeremy Leggett.

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Dave Johnson

A “Grand Alliance” To Save Our Public Postal Service

The Conservative/Wall Street/1 Percent/Republican anti-government strategy is to set government up to fail (usually by starving it of funding). Then they point to the resulting “crisis” they created and say it proves that government doesn’t work so we should “privatize” it – in other words, rig the system against We the People by handing our common wealth over to a few wealthy people to harvest for personal profit. Now they’re coming for the U.S. Postal Service. Manufacturing A Crisis Republicans created the problems with the Postal Service. In 2006 Republicans in Congress required it to come up with $5.5 billion per year to pre-fund 75 years of retiree costs. This means the Postal Service has to set aside money now for employees who are not even born yet. No other government agency – and certainly no company – has to do this.

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Terrance Heath

Obama’s Right: Shame On Staples. Shame On The Republican House, Too.

The president is right. Staples is cutting workers’ hours (and paychecks) to avoid providing health insurance. Shame on them, but that’s only half the story. Earlier this week, Buzzfeed reported that the office supply giant Staples Inc., has begun limiting part-time employees to no more than 25 hours per week. The company rolled out the new rules just in time to avoid the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate, which kicks in this year. The mandate requires companies like Staples to pay for health benefits for “full-time” employees, which it defines as anyone working more than 30 hours per week. Buzzfeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith asked President Obama about Staples’ blatant attempt to dodge covering its employees. The president didn’t hold back. Staples fired back that its policy of restricting hours for part-time employees is over a decade old.

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Jeff Bryant

Why Democrats Must Categorically Reject Bobby Jindal’s Education Plan

My colleague Bill Scher recently called our attention to an opinion piece by Thomas Edsall in The New York Times that revealed “the Republican appropriation of leftist populist rhetoric.” Republicans “plan to bring the fight to the Democrats on their own turf,” according to Edsall. He cites numerous examples of “the Republican appropriation of leftist populist rhetoric (and even policies),” and an “emerging Republican populism” that he pegs to “the compassionate conservatism of George W.

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Diane Archer

A Tax Holiday Has Begun For the 1 Percent

Most people pay a Social Security tax of 6.2 percent on their income throughout the year, on every dollar they earn. But the top 1 percent of working Americans are only taxed during the first six weeks of the year, on a small portion of what they earn. They pay the Social Security tax only on the first $118,500 of income, the amount at which Social Security payments are capped. That means from this week forward, they are enjoying a payroll tax holiday that lasts through the rest of the year. Is that fair? Today the Social Security trust fund has about $2.8 trillion. But, by 2033, if nothing is done to increase the amount of money in the trust fund, it will have spent down its assets and will only be able to pay about 75 percent of scheduled benefits. As it is, U.S. benefits are already stingy as compared with those of other wealthy countries.

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Richard Eskow

New Front In #RepublicanClassWar: Social Security for the Disabled

Nine out of ten Americans have fallen behind financially as the well-to-do – especially the ultra-wealthy – capture an ever-increasing chunk of our national income. This inequality threatens the entire economy’s future growth and stability. But whenever someone offers a solution to this growing problem, someone else on the right is likely to accuse them of “class war.” Class war is precisely what we’ve been seeing for decades now – but it’s been waged for, not against, the wealthy. And Republicans have been its dutiful servants from the start. It might make a good hashtag, come to think of it: #RepublicanClassWar. The wreckage of this war can be seen all around us. Incomes for the top 1 percent of households have more than doubled since the 1980s.

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Dave Johnson

Audio: Taking On Fast Track, TPP And Free-Trade Talking Points

On Sunday I was the speaker on a regular Sunday call for the National Campaign Call to Stop Fast Track for the TPP. (TPP stands for Trans-Pacific Partnership, a NAFTA-style trade deal that is being negotiated in secret right now.) My topic was “Deconstructing the Corporate Case for Fast Track – One Argument at a Time,” based on my recent post, Let’s Take Apart The Corporate Case For Fast Track Trade Authority. But I began by going over a few basics, like how our country has an enormous, humongous trade deficit, and what that does to jobs and the economy. Then I talked about what fast track means, and how it will be used to rig the approval process, essentially pre-approving the TPP. Finally, I talked about the problems with the corporate arguments in favor of fast track and TPP. Then there is a question and answer period.

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Dave Johnson

Tax Scams, Google Buses Mean Silicon Valley Is #StuckInTraffic

Silicon Valley companies dodge taxes and use some of the money to build shiny, luxurious, and private bus lines for their employees. The rest of us are — literally — stuck, because the tax scams these companies engage in have de-funded our — We the People’s — ability to maintain our vital infrastructure. I live in Silicon Valley. The traffic in Silicon Valley is absolutely terrible. We the People sit in traffic, with few alternatives. The Caltrain line that runs between San Jose and San Francisco is standing room only during the hours people are trying to get to work. The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) rail system doesn’t go where it needs to go, and its parking lots are full where there are stations further north. Light rail is limited. The bus system is a few buses on a few of the main roads.

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Isaiah J. Poole

As You’re #StuckInTraffic, Don’t Get Stuck With A Bad Tax Deal

Unless progressives intervene, a scandalous corporate tax ripoff could gain some serious momentum on Capitol Hill today when President Obama’s transportation secretary, Anthony Foxx, makes his scheduled appearance before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to sell the administration’s roads and public transit spending plan. That plan would allow corporations that have stashed profits overseas to avoid federal taxes to repatriate or “bring those taxes home” at a sharply reduced 14 percent tax rate (down from a statutory rate of 35 percent), with the proceeds being used to help fund transportation projects. Foxx is not only going before Congress to advocate for that proposal, but is planning to participate in a Twitter town hall afterward with Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), the chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

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Sam Pizzigati

A Tiny Step Toward Ending a CEO Scam

CEOs would never bet against their own companies, would they? CEOs get paid, after all, multiple millions to make sure their companies succeed. Why would they ever put their money on their own companies failing? The quick answer: to make sure those millions keep coming, even if their companies take a nosedive. Corporate boards of directors typically tie the rewards CEOs get to the corporate share price. If that share price rises, the CEO collects big-time. This linkage gives CEOs, predictably enough, a powerful incentive to cut corners and do everything they possibly can to raise their corporate share price. So CEOs downsize and outsource. They cook the corporate books. They shortchange consumers. To jack up share prices, CEOs even have their corporations spend billions to buy back shares of their own stock on the open market. But sometimes all these maneuvers just can’t do the trick.

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Dave Johnson

Currency Manipulation Gets Hill Focus With Expert Panel, New Bill

Today was “Currency Manipulation Day” on Capitol Hill, declared to call attention to how it works and the damage it does to our economy. In the House there was a “Currency 101″ briefing, and in both the House and Senate bipartisan bills were introduced that would address that damage. House Briefing On Currency Manipulation On the House side. Reps. Dan “Rock Star” Kildee and Debbie Dingell, both Michigan Democrats, hosted “Introduction to Currency Manipulation: Implications for the Trade Deficit, Jobs, and the Trans Pacific Partnership.” A panel of experts representing economists, industry, and labor talked about currency manipulation and its implications for the U.S.

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Leo Gerard

Demanding Respect for Worker Safety

In Anacortes, Wash., last week, approximately 200 Tesoro workers began picketing the oil refinery where an explosion incinerated seven of their co-workers five years earlier. Butch Cleve walks that picket line, serving now as strike captain for the USW local union at Tesoro. On the day of the catastrophe in 2010, Cleve walked the coroner to the shrouded bodies of three of his friends. Steve Garey, who helped make the decision to strike as a member of the USW’s oil bargaining policy committee, wept repeatedly that April day five years ago as he told the relatives of his dead friends that their loved ones would never come home. Kim Nibarger, a USW health and safety specialist, suffered flashbacks of an earlier blast as he investigated the one at Tesoro.

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Terrance Heath

We Must Not Let Greece Go It Alone

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has written a letter asking Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen to explain her inaction and the Fed’s silence on Greece’s stand against austerity. The stakes are too high for the U.S. to let Greece go it alone. “Make it clear to the leadership of the European Central Bank that the United States and the Federal Reserve object to actions that affect our national interest and risk U.S. and global financial stability through the unnecessary and counterproductive implementation of deflationary policies,” Sanders asks Yellen in the letter. In other words, take a side.

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Bill Scher

Why Whites May Still Help Obama Forge an Enduring Democratic Majority

Over at Real Clear Politics, I responded to the John Judis essay in National Journal, in which he argues that there is an “Emerging Republican Advantage” that could give the GOP total control of Washington in 2016. While some have argued that demographic changes will usher in an “enduring Democratic majority,” Judis contends that any gains with people of color voters will be undercut by white workers who – despite the economic populism of the blue-collar and the social liberalism of the office-dwelling – have viewed President Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act and Recovery Act as too redistributive, an “expansion of government at their expense.” I take Judis’ point that these groups have had a long-standing suspicion of government, and that they haven’t been bowled over by Obama’s record to date.

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