Isaiah J. Poole

Is New Democratic Tax Plan The Best Way To ‘Grow Paychecks’?

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, unveiled a major tax proposal on Monday at the Center for American Progress that was billed as “An Action Plan to Grow the Paychecks of All, Not Just the Wealthy.” “I see this as the start of a conversation,” he said at the end of his one-hour presentation. If he’s right, it is an opportunity for progressives to shape a specific plan to raise the stagnant wages of working-class people; get perverse incentives out of the tax code; and get millionaires, billionaires and big corporations to pay their fair share toward rebuilding the pillars of economic growth.

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Isaiah J. Poole

A ‘Moral Monday’ Protest Against School Funding Inequity in New York

Rev. William Barber, the president of the NAACP’s North Carolina chapter and the leader of the state’s “Moral Mondays” movement joined education advocates in New York State today in a protest against inequitable education funding. The protest coincided with a report by the Alliance for Quality Education that said that educational inequality had grown to record-setting levels under New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The report said that the spending gap between rich and poor schools in New York in the past two years had increased by $700, to in excess of $8,700 more per student. “The only way you can accept the inequality of funding at public schools is to argue that certain children in certain communities are inherently inferior,” Barber said at the event, as reported by Time Warner Cable News.

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Harvey J Kaye

The People’s Team: Why Progressives Should Back The Green Bay Packers

The Green Bay Packers defeated the Dallas Cowboys Sunday. As a dear friend of mine remarked in an email: “It’s always nice when a collectively-owned team beats one owned by a greedy mega-capitalist, who’s beloved by Chris Christie.” So in that spirit, and given my excitement as both a fan and a team owner, not to mention the tough times ahead for progressives, I thought it worth recalling a couple of blasts from the past that I composed to celebrate the team and the town that has secured it.

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Bernie Horn

Let’s Be Clear: It’s The “Republican Congress”

Democrats suffered a shellacking in the 2014 election. One small but significant silver lining is that identifying who’s in charge of the legislative branch will be very easy for the next two years. Make no mistake: We have a Republican Congress. Last year, many voters would have gladly voted to punish the horrible do-nothing 113th Congress. Gallup and other polls found that Americans loathed the House and Senate; only about 15 percent approved of the job Congress was doing while nearly 80 percent disapproved. But voters had no idea which party was responsible for congressional dysfunction. There are two reasons for that. First, the mainstream media can’t bring itself to point out that since Obama became president, Republicans have obstructed congressional action to an unprecedented degree.

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Richard Eskow

Populism Rises – And The ‘Center’ Strikes Back

“Americans don’t want angry, defensive figures running for president,” Democratic operative Will Marshall told McClatchy’s David Lightman this week. But who, precisely, is angry and defensive? As the pushback to Wall Street’s influence on government grows stronger, it is the banking industry’s supporters who sound enraged. And as economic populism gains traction in Democratic circles, it is corporate Democrats like Marshall who find themselves increasingly on the defensive. Marshall and his organization (the misleadingly named “Progressive Policy Institute”) are part of a corporate-financed movement that has tacked the Democratic Party sharply rightward in recent decades.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: Wingnuts In Paris

This week, the world joined with the people of France in mourning and solidarity, following a deadly terrorist attack on the Paris offices of a satirical newspaper. Wingnuts wasted no time scoring political points. On Wednesday, men wearing hoods and wielding AK–47s killed 12 people in a terrorist attack on the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. They killed 10 journalists and two police officers, and injured 12 others. The police presence was part of the permanent protection the magazine was given after a firebomb attack in 2011.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Community College “Giveaway That Benefits Students” – How Awful!

Even today, it can still be stunning sometimes how unadorned conservatives can be in their contempt for ordinary people and their struggles. Take Ed Morrissey at Hot Air, who complains that President Obama’s proposal for free community college is “merely a construct to Show Obama Cares About You, while at the same time gives the media another Republicans Are Just Flint-Hearted Meanies narrative to push” – by which he must mean this: The latest entitlement proposal comes off the long and hoary list of progressive hobby horses, a giveaway that benefits students and even more the teachers needed to fill the sudden demand the erasure of pricing signals will create. “A giveaway that benefits students”? Horrors! And “even more the teachers”! OMG! At the Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal, the analysis is even more hot air.

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Dean Baker

The Dark Side Of the Jobs Report: Shrinking Workforce, Stagnant Wages

The unemployment rate edged down to 5.6 percent in December from 5.7 percent in November (revised from an earlier reported 5.8 percent), the Labor Department reported today. However, the main reason was that 273,000 workers reportedly left the labor force. The employment-to-population ratio (EPOP) was unchanged at 59.2 percent, roughly 4.0 percentage points below the pre-recession level. The establishment survey showed the economy adding 252,000 jobs in December. With upward revisions to the prior two months’ data, this brings the three-month average to 289,000. Some of the job growth in December was likely attributable to better than usual weather for the month. For example, construction reportedly added 48,000 jobs; restaurant employment rose by 43,600. But even without these strong gains, there was still healthy job growth.

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Bill Scher

The Republican 40-Hour Work Week Scam

One of the first bills passed by the new Republican House after being in session for three days was the “Save American Workers Act of 2015″ – and by “save” Republicans meant saving 1.5 million workers from the burden of having health insurance. The Republican bill won’t save taxpayers any money. It would push more workers into receiving government-subsidized health insurance, costing $53.2 billion over 10 years. But it will save employers from taking responsibility for their employees’ health. At issue is the “employer mandate” component of the Affordable Care Act. As of this month, large businesses with 100 or more full-time employees need to provide health coverage to 70 percent of their employees.

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Richard Eskow

The Right Tries (and Fails) to Justify Its Assault on Social Security

How does the right justify the kind of action Congress took this week, when it moved to cut disability benefits for millions of people by 20 percent? Answer #1: With buzzwords and rhetorical dodges. Answer #2: Not very well. For details on the House’s action, we pointed yesterday to a number of well-informed analyses – by Nancy Altman and Eric Kingson, Kathy Ruffing, Alan Pyke, Dean Baker, and Michael Hiltzik. Republicans moved to cut Social Security disability benefits by blocking a routine reallocation of funds. That’s bad enough, but their end game is even worse: broad Social Security cuts and the privatization of the entire program. That would be bad for most Americans, but great for the people who finance the Republican Party – and think tanks like Heritage. There would be less pressure to increase taxes on billionaires.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Republicans Backing A Gas Tax Increase? Actually, We’ve Seen This Before

This week there are signs of a crack in the no-tax-increase-no-way-no-how stance of the Republican Party in Congress. Now that they have control of both the House and the Senate, it is the Republicans’ turn to figure out on their own how to pay for the federal program that helps maintain and expand the nation’s transportation system, the authorization for which expires this spring. And that means looking at the federal gasoline tax, which is the primary source of funding for the program and which hasn’t increased one iota since 1993. A small but potentially influential number of Senate Republicans are making news by leaving the door open – finally – to a gasoline tax increase, among them Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

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Dave Johnson

House Members, Activist Leaders Form United Front Against Trade Scheme

“We are tens of millions of Americans and we are committed that we are not going to have another raw deal on trade.” – Larry Cohen of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) Several members of Congress joined with representatives of a cross-section of organizations today to express opposition to “fast track” – a process under which Congress agrees to essentially pre-approve trade deals before even reading them. Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Donna Edwards (D-Md.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) and Dan Kildee (D-Minn.) and several others attended, representing the large number of House Democrats opposed to fast track.

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Jeff Bryant

An Education New Year’s Resolution We Can All Believe In

So far, most predictions for education policy in 2015 are pretty dreary. NPR’s Claudio Sanchez sees a series of bad to worse situations: “standardized testing under fire … more troubles for the Common Core … Vergara fallout … Ferguson effect.” Ugh. According to Alyson Klein at Education Week, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan foretells lots of big numbers resulting from what’s been done in the past (we’ll see) but tellingly doesn’t even mention a reauthorization of the federal government’s signature accomplishment: the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (now called “No Child Left Behind”).

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Richard Eskow

The Human Cost of the GOP’s Social Security Assault

It is striking that on their first day – their very first day! – Congressional Republicans moved against Social Security’s disability insurance fund, before some of them had even found the rest rooms or put out their family photos. As Jerry Seinfeld might ask, “Who does that?” Although the move was somewhat secretive, a number of very smart people caught it and brought it to the public’s attention. “The New Republican Attack on Social Security Starts Now!” Nancy Altman and Eric Kingson wrote in the Huffington Post. “House Rule Could Hurt Vulnerable Disability Beneficiaries,” explained Kathy Ruffing at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. “Republican Congress Launches With Back-Door Attack On Social Security Benefits,” wrote Alan Pyke of Think Progress.

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Dave Johnson

Enormous, Humongous Trade Deficit Falls To Enormous, Humongous Level

The U.S. Commerce Department reported Wednesday that America’s monthly goods trade deficit in November was $39 billion. This is down $3.2 billion from a revised $42.2 billion in October. The primary reason for the drop was a reduction in the volume and price of imported oil. However, 2014’s goods and services deficit was up 5.1 percent ($22.3 billion) from the same period in 2013 – with one month’s reporting still to come. November exports fell to $196.4 billion, $2.0 billion less than October. November imports were $235.4 billion, down $5.2 billion from October. A trade deficit of $39 billion, while lower than it had been, is still an enormous, humongous amount drained from our economy in a single month. It demonstrates the extent to which our trade “partners” are not reciprocating and actually “trading” with us.

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Isaiah J. Poole

‘Raising Wages’ Is The Latest Battle Cry In The Fight For Workers

More than 300 progressive activists and labor leaders on Wednesday embraced “raising wages” as the theme of a series of battles in 2015 to reverse policies that have led to record levels of income inequality and a shrinking middle class. “We are tired of people talking about inequality as if nothing can be done,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka at the “Raising Wages” summit in Washington. “The answer is simple: Raise the wages of the 90 percent of Americans whose wages are lower today than they were in 1997. Families don’t need to hear more about income inequality – they need more income.” “A lot of broad national economic statistics say our economy is getting better, and it is true that the economy overall is recovering from the terrible crash of 2008, said Sen.

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Alan Jenkins

The Supreme Court Must Preserve a Strong and Effective Fair Housing Act

Open, inclusive communities free of discrimination are critical to our national success and central to our values of equal opportunity for all. Our country has made significant progress toward that goal, due in large part to the Fair Housing Act. But much work remains before the Act’s vision is a reality across our nation. That’s why it’s troubling that the U.S. Supreme Court is considering weakening the Act – and why it should think again. Intentional housing discrimination remains a problem. There are still some real estate agents, landlords, and others who intentionally exclude people because of their race, religion, disability, or other aspects of their identity.

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Dave Johnson

Will Fast-Track/TPP Warnings Reach The Public? It’s Up To You.

Corporations are busy negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in secret. TPP is a huge, huge treaty that will redefine the rules for interaction between countries and the giant corporations – and not in a way that favors citizens over corporations. There is a virtual media blackout of news that might inform the public about TPP and the “fast track” process that will be pushed through Congress. Fast track essentially pre-approves TPP before its contents are even revealed. Meanwhile, people who understand the legal, trade and economic issues involved are sounding warning after warning that something very bad is coming at us. But with everything in Washington obstructed by Republicans, the public has largely tuned out from politics as meaningless to their lives.

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Terrance Heath

Mitch McConnell’s “Scary” Problem

Mitch McConnell’s goal for the new Republican-led Congress is simple: Don’t scare voters away from a GOP presidential candidate in 2016. Recent events, both silly and serious, suggest that will be an uphill battle. The Silly John Boehner (R, Ohio) was re-elected Speaker of the House on Tuesday. There was little doubt that he would. However, Boehner faced some opposition from the far right wing of the party. On Sunday, Rep. Louis Gohmert (R, Texas) threw his hat in the ring to challenge Boehner for Speaker. Yes, that Louie Gohmert. Gohmert garnered support from right-wing media stars like Glenn Beck and Laura Ingraham. Sean Hannity tweeted his support. “@3462727: Yea !!!! Your Buddy, Veteran, great American Louie Gohmert challenging Boehner for Speaker of the House! YES!” I support Louie! — Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) January 4, 2015 Rep.

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Robert Borosage

In Praise of John Conyers

The Institute for Policy Studies on Wednesday is honoring Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) for his 50 years of service in Congress. This is an edited version of a tribute to Conyers written for that event in Washington. It is difficult to sum up the works of a man whose career in Congress has outlasted the Capitol Dome, now once more under repair. Rep. John Conyers has been re-elected 25 times, in a series of nail-biters with his lowest winning percentage dropping down to 77 percent. Even in his worst year, three out of four of his constituents wanted him back here championing their interests. As a founder of the Congressional Black Caucus, a chair of the Judiciary Committee, and a force unto himself, Rep. Conyers has racked up remarkable accomplishments through the years: reforms in voting rights, civil rights and civil liberties, countering violence against women and much more.

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