Robert Borosage

The Democrats’ Middle Class Jump-Start

House Democrats released their 2014 election year platform Wednesday, entitled “Middle Class Jump Start: 100 Day Action Plan to Put the Middle Class First.” Naturally, the release of a major party’s election year agenda received virtually no press coverage, far less than Hillary getting asked if she’s running in 2016 by John Stewart. That’s too bad because, despite its irritating title (leading one to wonder how many Americans still consider themselves part of the middle class), the agenda draws a clear contrast with Republicans, and offers a guide to how far Democrats have come – and how far they have yet to go – in reaction to an economic “recovery” that has yet to reach most Americans. Democrats remain a big-tent party, but they are remarkably united around a core economic agenda, presented here in three parts.

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Isaiah J. Poole

House Republicans Say No To A Fair Wage For Government Workers

House Republicans today unanimously rejected an agency funding amendment by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) that would have required the federal government to pay a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour to its employees. The vote – 193 to 230 – came a day after a bizarre exchange on the House floor in which the Republican opponent of the measure, ignoring Grayson’s explanation, claimed that the amendment would mean federal workers would not be paid at all. “This amendment would end the federal government’s practice of paying poverty wages to its workers and hopefully set an example for the private sector to stop paying poverty wages to its workers,” Grayson said Tuesday when he introduced the amendment to an appropriations bill funding financial services and general government operations.

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Diana Anahi Torres-Valverde

The Latest Crack in Our Broken Immigration System

In a bustling room at the Third Presbyterian Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico a group of white and Latino parishioners gathered for a workshop on immigration. They wanted to learn more about the issue. Julio Alvarez, a Mexican immigrant, was there to answer their questions. “Why can’t immigrants just wait in line and move here legally? Isn’t there a process to do that?” one parishioner asked. “The truth is,” Alvarez replied, “standing in line is a myth for the majority of us.” Stone Cold Immigrants, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib Alvarez’s personal experience with our nation’s immigration system illustrates this harsh reality. Mexico’s weak economy pushed Alvarez out of his country in 1996. “When I decided to immigrate to Albuquerque, New Mexico I had 5 pesos — or less than a dollar — in my pocket and a family to feed,” he recounts.

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Emily DiVito

Congressional Staff Find 40 Minutes Of Being Poor In America Exhausting

Working in Congress might be hard – but being poor is so much harder. That’s the lesson several members of Congress and congressional staff members were able to learn in a poverty simulation held on Capitol Hill Tuesday, put together by Catholic Charities USA with the support of the Entergy Corporation. Catholic Charities has done these simulations elsewhere to give people insight into the total stress, confusion, and backbreaking toughness of being poor in America. With Congress responsible for dictating the legislation that can help, or hurt, poor and working families, this experience could not come at a better time. At the start of the event, about 50 participants took on different identities and were told of their financial and familial circumstances before being thrust into the difficulties of life below the poverty line.

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Richard Eskow

Disabled Americans: Pawns in a Larger Social Security Game?

Sen. Sherrod Brown discusses Social Security expansion with Richard (RJ) Eskow on The Zero Hour William Galston writes in the Wall Street Journal about a Republican senator’s plans to force a confrontation on government disability benefits. Though Mr. Galston doesn’t seem to see it this way, it sounds as if Sen. Orrin Hatch plans to hold benefits for disabled Americans hostage in order to force Social Security cuts on everyone. Sen. Hatch, like many other Republicans, is raising alarms about the decreasing size of Social Security’s disability trust fund. But, in a rare moment of candor, a “Senate staff member” indicated to Galston that “Sen.

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Dave Johnson

China Says It Won’t Stop Manipulating Currency

Going into last week’s U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) a key issue was China’s ongoing currency manipulation. This matters. A February study by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) showed that China’s currency manipulation costs between 2.3 and 5.8 million U.S. jobs, increases the trade deficit by as much as $500 billion, and cuts U.S. GDP by up to $720 billion per year. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said going into the S&ED the Chinese currency remains “undervalued,” and that he would “press” China to do something about it. (An April 2014 Treasury Department report said the Chinese yuan “remains significantly undervalued.”) Sen.

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Jim Hightower

North Carolina’s Moral Freedom Summer

The Moral Monday movement is mobilizing again. This feisty coalition, based in North Carolina, is an inspiring model of workaday people coming together to reclaim their rights from far-right-wing politicians and plutocrats running amok. Led by the NAACP, tens of thousands of North Carolinians have joined the Moral Monday civil disobedience protests at the state capitol for more than a year. They’ve outed the extremist governor and legislators who have cut taxes for corporations and the rich, while raising taxes on low-income people. They’ve brought attention to how the state’s leaders are cutting funds for public education and jobless benefits while gutting environmental protections and women’s health funding. Now, the coalition is going after political kleptocrats in their districts.

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Richard Eskow

7 Reasons Consumers Won’t Love the $7 Billion Citigroup Deal

The Justice Department’s settlement with Citigroup was finally announced Monday. A $7 billion settlement against a too-big-to-fail bank? What’s not to love? We’ll answer that with another question: If the settlement that the Justice Department just negotiated with Citigroup is as punitive, why did Citigroup’s stock go up when the deal was announced? Reasons for the rise include the report of a good second quarter – a report that just happened to be released on the same day this deal was announced. Not bad for a bank that just settled fraud charges, recently failed a Federal Reserve stress test, and wouldn’t even exist if the American people hadn’t bailed it out. Apparently the fraud settlement was anything but a mortal blow for the bank, an entity created by the actions of both Democrats and Republicans in Washington.

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Alan Jenkins

Julian Castro Must Now Uphold Fair Housing

The U.S. Senate last week overwhelmingly confirmed San Antonio Mayor Juliàn Castro to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development. One of Castro’s first official acts as HUD Secretary should be to make concrete the Department’s duty to promote fair housing throughout its programs and activities. Protecting equal housing opportunity is at the core of HUD’s mission. For almost 50 years, the Department has been required by statute affirmatively to further fair housing. That duty includes ensuring that states and local governments that receive HUD funds for housing and community development efforts take proactive steps to address discrimination, foster residential integration, and promote equal access. Upholding fair housing where taxpayer dollars are deployed is the smart thing to do, as well as the legal thing to do.

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Dave Johnson

A Simplified Way To Tax Multinational Corporations

You’ve been hearing a lot about corporations “renouncing their U.S. citizenship” through “tax inversions.” This is when a company buys or merges with a non-U.S. company and claims to no longer be based in the U.S. to get out of paying certain taxes. The company does, however, keep the same employees, executives, buildings, sales channels and customers it had inside the U.S. before the switch. The epidemic of tax inversions represents just one of many ways corporations are dodging their taxes by taking advantage of our outdated and rigged corporate tax system.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Progressive Demand: “Robust, Long-Term” Transportation Funding

The House is scheduled to begin debate Tuesday on a short-term patch to get past an election-season crisis on federal transportation funding, but the Campaign for America’s Future sent a letter to members of Congress today calling on them to “quickly renew robust, long-term funding for the Highway Trust Fund.” This comes as the White House released a new report making the case for precisely that kind of approach to the nation’s transportation needs. “At a time when unemployment is still too high, Americans strongly support needed public investments in the roads, bridges, public transportation, ports and airports that are essential to American prosperity,” CAF’s letter to Congress says.

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Thom Hartmann

Banksters Get Help But Not Homeowners?! Are We Crazy?

It’s time to start helping the people, and stop helping Wall Street. According to an agreement announced earlier today, big bank Citigroup will pay $7 billion to settle a Department of Justice investigation into that bank’s involvement with risky subprime mortgages. The agreement stems from Citigroup’s role in the trading of subprime mortgage securities, which helped to cause the 2007 financial collapse and Great Recession. Of the $7 billion total settlement, $4 billion will be in the form of a civil monetary payment to the Department of Justice, $500 million will go to state attorney’s general and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and an additional $2.5 billion will go towards “consumer relief.” But make no mistake about it. This agreement is another win for the big banks. Under the agreement, Citigroup will most likely get a $500 million tax write-off.

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Dave Johnson

It’s Not Your Boss’ Business!

There is a new “Not My Boss’ Business” bill being introduced in the Senate to undo the damage done by the (older, Catholic males on the) Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby decision. According to the National Women’s Law Center, the Not My Boss’ Business bill would prohibit employers from refusing to cover any health care item — including birth control — guaranteed to their employees and dependents under federal law. It would: Prevent companies from singling out and discriminating against women’s health care. Block businesses from imposing the religious beliefs of their owners on their employees. Prevent companies from being emboldened to refuse other kinds of health coverage.

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Sam Pizzigati

A New Game Plan for Taking Down Privatizers

Analysts at the OECD, the Paris-based economic research agency, have just shared a grim prediction: If current trends “prevail,” all developed nations will show by 2060 “the same level of inequality as currently experienced by the United States.” If we let those current trends continue, that conclusion sounds about right. But why on earth should we let those trends continue? The trends that have made our world so unequal don’t reflect some inevitable unfolding of globalization. They reflect wrong-headed political decisions. We can make different decisions. Take privatization. Over the past four decades, governments all around the world have chosen to privatize a broad array of public services. These privatizations have generated vast new concentrations of private wealth, among them the $75 billion fortune of Carlos Slim, the world’s second-richest single individual.

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Roger Hickey

Build a 21st Century Economy? GOP Stalls Even the Highway Bill.

Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008 with a pledge to end the recession and then build a 21st-century, full-employment economy. His program: invest big time in America’s transportation and energy infrastructure – and in education and training. Today, Americans still support that vision. Conservatives have blocked every significant plan for investing in jobs and growth since the stimulus. They claim they have an alternative, but their program – conservative austerity – has so damaged the recovery it deserves to be called what it is: economic sabotage. Americans who care about getting back to the kind of growth, and job creation that can raise wages and reduce inequality, need to call out conservative economic sabotage as it happens. And we can see it happening in the Congress today.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week in Review: The GOP’s Borderline Personality Disorder

Remember Elian Gonzales? He was the little Cuban boy found clinging to an inner tube of the coast of Florida, on Thanksgiving Day in 1999. He’d been rescued by fishermen after his mother and 11 others drowned in an attempt to reach the U.S. from Cuba. His fate sparked a seven-month long national debate, and caused Peggy Noonan to have a dissociative episode on the pages of the Wall Street Journal, before he was returned to his father in Cuba. Bak then a child trying to enter the U.S. illegally was celebrated by conservatives, rather than vilified. Perhaps young Gonzales’ was simply fleeing the “right “ country, thus giving conservatives an opportunity to burnish their patriotic, anti-communist credentials, and another way to attack President Bill Clinton, all wrapped up in one telegenic child.

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Joshua Holland

America’s Response to Child Refugees on the Border Is Downright Shameful

Those seething with so much rage and xenophobia that they’d hurl ugly epithets in the faces of children fleeing bloody violence in Central America bring shame to the whole nation. But the response of mainstream America hasn’t been much better. The media’s characterization of what’s going on at our southern border as a “crisis,” politicians pointing fingers at one another and Washington’s refusal to provide the resources necessary to care for a small wave of refugees — not to mention the bipartisan push to send them back home — is just as shameful when one considers the context. In June, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that in 2013, the global population of refugees from war and persecution hit 51.2 million — exceeding 50 million for the first time since World War II. Half of them were children.

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Bill Scher

Boehner Wants An Immigration Reform That Trusts Obama To Enforce The Law

Speaker John Boehner, who has long said “the biggest impediment we have to immigration reform is that the American people don’t trust the president to enforce or implement the law that we may or may not pass,” made an unusual comment yesterday. Asked at a press conference if the “2008 trafficking law needed to be revised” to address the influx of Central American child immigrants, Boehner said: I do, and I think the President agrees with it as well … I do believe the House should act this month … I think we all agree that the non-contiguous countries, that now we’re required to hold those people, I think clearly, we would probably want the language similar to what we have with Mexico.

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Richard Eskow

Citigroup’s $7 Billion Fraud Deal: The Clique’s Still Clicking in D.C.

Pop quiz: Which bank is widely considered too big to fail, needed (and got) a $45 billion government loan during the financial crisis, recently failed a stress test performed by the Federal Reserve – and has enjoyed a revolving-door relationship with both the Clinton and Obama administrations? If you answered Citigroup, congratulations. Citigroup is back in the headlines as the result of a new settlement with the Justice Department over its mortgage fraud, reportedly for the sum of $7 billion. This deal is being trumpeted as a major win for the American people. It’s not. The money’s not enough (and some of it probably won’t be paid out), the wrong people are paying, and there will be no prosecutions for criminal behavior. From a moral perspective, the lack of prosecutions is probably the most troubling aspect of this deal, and it keeps happening.

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Dave Johnson

Is Walgreens Trying To Leave The U.S.?

Here’s the latest corporate tax scam: Companies are renouncing their U.S. corporate status and claiming that their headquarters are instead located in one or some other low-tax country, like Switzerland. The technical word for what they are doing is an “inversion.” It involves buying or merging with a company in the new country while actually keeping the same employees, operations, sales outlets and other assets right here. Lately Walgreens – the nation’s largest pharmacy retailer with 8,200 stores and locations in all 50 states – is in the news because they are considering an “inversion.” The company is deciding whether to renounce its U.S. corporate status and instead claim on paper to be a Swiss company. To do this it will merge with a Swiss company, Alliance Boots. This would let them dodge billions in U.S. taxes.

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