Mary Green Swig | Steven L. Swig | Richard Eskow

Free the Corinthian 15 – And 41 Million Other Student Debtors

MaryGreenSwig Steven L.Swig RichardEskow Last month the “Corinthian 15,” in collaboration with the Debt Collective, announced that they would not pay the debts they had accrued while enrolled at schools run by the for-profit corporation called “Corinthian Colleges Inc.” Corinthian, which had more than 70,000 students enrolled in its schools last year, collapsed amid a cloud of allegations after failing to meet regulatory requirements. Many students were caught with unfinished educations as well as mounting debt. The Corinthian story is certainly an unjust one. These strikers have raised issues that go to the heart of our nation’s entire student debt crisis. That crisis affects 41 million Americans, who hold an estimated $1.3 trillion in debt. Those are staggering numbers – and if we do nothing they will continue to soar. There is a solution.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Four Reasons The Coming Congressional Budget Battle Matters

We’ve heard many conservative elected leaders adopt a new tone when they talk about income inequality, but this week House Republicans will double down on the same-old-same-old when they release their proposed federal budget, which will continue their push to enrich the wealthy at the expense of the rest of us. What is different is that, with Republicans in control of both houses of Congress, the stakes are higher – as will be the audacity of some of their proposals. But also higher will be the opportunities to rally the public around a contrasting vision of how the economy would work for working people if our politics weren’t rigged to favor the few. That vision will be in the Progressive Caucus alternative budget to be released Wednesday.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: Rapping On Racism

Americans were appalled this week, when video surfaced of Oklahoma University SAE fraternity brothers singing an incredibly racist tune. Wingnuts were appalled that the rest of the us were appalled. Family Research Council senior fellow Ken Blackwell blamed SAE’s repeated use of the word “n*****s” on the “coarse language” of columnist and gay activist Dan Savage. “Morning Joe” hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski blamed the rap music for the fraternity’s racist chant.

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Jeff Bryant

How We End The War Over Standardized Testing

Anyone who grew up in the 1960s, during the time of the Cold War, remembers our nation’s response to the threat of nuclear war by enforcing “duck and cover” drills in our schools. The drill would start with the shrill whistle blast over the PA speaker at the front of the classroom – once, twice, then again. “Class! Class!” the teacher would shout, “Stop what you’re doing and duck and cover.” Duck and cover entailed dropping to the floor, on your knees, under your desk, being sure to rest your forehead on one arm, while covering your head with the other. The purpose of this perverted yoga pose was to protect your head from getting hit by the shattering windows and falling chunks of concrete caused by a nuclear bomb explosion.

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Bill Scher

Are Republicans Insane Enough To Propose a Balanced Budget?

Winning the Congress has mainly given Republican a bushelful of problems, and a big one is right around the corner: How are they ever going to pass a budget? For years, the Republican House mocked the Senate Democrats for failing to pass a budget. It was an overblown charge: the budget is merely a nonbinding resolution for guidance purposes, not the actual “appropriations” laws that disperse taxpayer funds to government agencies. But Republicans made passing a budget a benchmark of governance; now they will have to oblige. That means getting the House and Senate to agree, and House Republicans have been obsessed with balancing the budget in 10 years. Which is insane.

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Jeff Bryant

The ‘Thom Tillis Rule’ For Health Policy Won’t Work For Education Either

What fun we had recently with North Carolina’s recently elected U.S. senator, Republican Thom Tillis, who insisted we didn’t need government regulations to compel restaurant employees to wash their hands in between using the toilet and preparing our food. His solution to proper sanitation practices in restaurants – “the market will take care of that” – was roundly mocked by left-leaning commentators as an example of the way conservatives uphold the interests of businesses and money-making above all other concerns. Fun for sure, but it’s no laughing matter that the Tillis plan for public sanitation appears to increasingly be the philosophy for governing the nation’s schools.

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Chuck Collins

The Student Debt Time Bomb

There’s a generational time-bomb ticking — and the student debt crisis is the trip wire. Adults under 35 disproportionately bear the brunt of escalating inequality. America’s educated youth are graduating into an economy with stagnant wages and a torn safety net. Federal and state budget cuts, meanwhile, have spiked tuition costs and cut public services that aid young workers, such as transportation and affordable housing. A rumble of legitimate discontent is mounting from the 40 million Americans saddled with student debt totaling $1.16 trillion — a number expected to increase to $2 trillion by 2022. College debt now touches one in five U.S. households and exceeds total credit card indebtedness. The most frustrated students are blocking highways over tuition hikes. Others are launching “debt strikes” by refusing to pay the for-profit schools that bilked them.

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Isaiah J. Poole

The Housing Crisis In the Shadow Of the Capitol

Washington looks like a city that has done remarkably well in the absence of a national urban agenda. The last decade has seen most of its once derelict neighborhoods undergo a striking revival, and the city is a fundamentally different place from what it was even 10 years ago. But that revival has come at a devastating price for many of its working-class residents – and that is a consequence of the lack of an urban agenda that ensures everyone can share in the fruits of economic revitalization. The evidence comes in a housing affordability report released today by the D.C. Fiscal Institute. The report’s bottom line: The people who make Washington function – the servers at the restaurants, the people maintaining the hotel rooms, the cashiers at the shops, the taxi and Uber and Lyft drivers competing for fares – increasingly can’t afford to live in the city they work in.

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Dave Johnson

Will Media Continue Its Blackout Of Progressive Budget?

Next week, progressives in Congress will release their annual budget proposal. They do this every year, and every year the national news media largely ignores it. Will the elite media report on it this year? Make some noise, and maybe they will. There are alternative ways to run a government budget, but they are just excluded from the national debate. The elite position creates a “conventional wisdom” that there are no alternatives. But America’s top income tax rate used to be more than 90 percent, to combat inequality and the threat inequality poses to democracy — and the rich still got richer. At the same time, the corporation tax rate was 50 percent, and corporations paid 32 percent of all taxes. That has dropped to just 8.9 percent now, and Congress and the president are now proposing to reduce the corporate tax rate dramatically — again.

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Bill Scher

Tom Cotton Should Watch More ‘Schoolhouse Rock’

Several observers have commented on the condescending “Schoolhouse Rock” tone of Sen. Tom Cotton’s open letter to Iran. He explains the basics of the U.S. Constitution to note that the “next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.” Cotton, of course, knows less about the terms of a possible agreement than the Iranians, and other nations, involved in the negotiations. The Iranians are well aware that the parties are pursuing a technically “nonbinding” agreement. We could renege on the deal in time. So could they. But the point of a deal is to craft a way that if Iran reneges, we would know and have the ability to respond militarily if desired.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Thousands Today Say #WeRise To Reclaim Government For The People

At the office of Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, more than 2,500 demonstrators, most wearing white “We Rise” T-shirts, staged a protest against cuts in Medicaid and other social services. In Albany, N.Y., more than 2,000 people marched to the state capitol to protest education funding cuts. In Denver, dozens of activists came out in support of immigration rights measures, including driver’s licenses for undocumented workers. These are just a few of the dozens of actions that took place in 16 states today as part of “We Rise: National Day of Action to Put People and Planet First.” Local and national progressive organizations mobilized around different aspects of a common agenda that stood in opposition to the right-wing and corporatist policies pushed through state legislatures in these states.

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Dave Johnson

Over 100 Legal Scholars Warn About TPP Dangers

Over 100 law professors sent an open letter to Congress and the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) saying they need to “protect the rule of law and the nation’s sovereignty” in trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). While TPP is still secret, leaks and precedent indicate that it will contain provisions allowing giant, multinational corporations to bypass our country’s legal system. These provisions will allow these multinational corporations to sue governments, including ours, in “corporate courts” if they decide to pass laws and regulations that restrain the profits of these giant corporations, such as efforts to help citizens quit smoking. The provisions in question are called investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) and let corporations take cases to a tribunal made up of corporate attorneys instead of civil courts.

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Dave Johnson

Krugman Gives the TPP a “Thumbs Down”

Paul Krugman gives a “thumbs down” to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) today on his New York Times blog “in TPP at the NABE.” Taking it a bit further, he writes, …it doesn’t look like a good thing either for the world or for the United States, and you have to wonder why the Obama administration, in particular, would consider devoting any political capital to getting this through. Krugman then goes after the way many economists reflexively support “free trade” in spite of the obvious damage this ideology has done to the world, writing that economists favor trade deals based on outdated assumptions. One is “comparative advantage.” This is the idea that different geographical regions have certain things they can do that others can’t, like growing bananas.

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Dave Johnson

A Trade Campaign Built On Four Pinocchios

A newly launched public relations campaign in support of trade promotion authority, a.k.a. “fast track,” and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) calls itself “the Progressive Coalition for American Jobs.” At its foundation is a set of misleading (at best) claims that begin with a four-Pinocchio whopper.

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Richard Eskow

Will Social Security Decide Maryland’s Senate Race?

The race for Barbara Mikulski’s Maryland Senate seat has just begun. But Social Security is already shaping up as a major issue, especially between two leading contenders: Maryland representatives Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards. Van Hollen is favored by some party leaders, including Sen. Harry Reid. Edwards, for her part, is extremely popular among progressives and economic populists. Democracy for America and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee promoted a “draft Edwards” movement before she declared her candidacy on Tuesday. Van Hollen has a problem. He was an outspoken supporter of the “Simpson-Bowles” plan, a proposal drawn up by Republican former Sen. Alan Simpson and Democratic operative Erskine Bowles, the two co-chairs of a presidential commission on federal deficits and Social Security.

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Terrance Heath

Republicans Ignore the Message of Selma

On Friday, Politico reported that no members of House Republican leadership were going to Selma, Alabama, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery. Thousands would attend, but House GOP leadership would be a no-show. Fifty years ago, on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, state troopers and a posse of white men met civil rights marchers on their way from Selma to Montgomery, to protest voting discrimination against African-Americans, and attacked them with billy clubs and tear gas. Images of the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” appeared on television, and in newspapers and magazines across the country, and around the world.

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Diane Archer

Medicare Controls Costs While Private Insurers Sit Idly By (Part 1)

In a presentation to the National Academy on Social Insurance that traces Medicare’s 50-year history, influential Princeton health economist Uwe Reinhardt explains how Medicare controls costs despite the overwhelming influence of special interests in shaping Medicare when it was passed into law in 1965. We hear a lot of talk from the health insurance industry about how hard it works to hold down health care costs, but that claim doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. The surprising truth is that when insurance companies adopt new techniques to rein in health costs, they take their cues from the phenomenally successful Medicare program – run by Uncle Sam. Congress was able to pass Medicare only by satisfying the demands of the American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association that doctors and hospitals be paid whatever they wanted to charge.

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Bill Scher

Citizens United Is Making GOP Learn To Love Government Regulations

When we think of Citizens United putting our democracy for sale, we think of the Koch Brothers taking over the Republican Party and drowning our elections in attack ads. In fact, back during the 2013 shutdown I argued that the Supreme Court’s campaign finance rulings had “backfired” on the GOP because it gave ideologically extreme oligarchs too much control, leaving “a party compelled to carry out a doomed legislative strategy concocted by the party’s most aggressive funders.” But this past weekend showed that Citizens United (and the subsequent appellate court ruling in SpeechNow.org that created Super PACs) has scrambled the GOP more thoroughly than I realized. On Saturday, most of the GOP presidential hopefuls participated in the Iowa Agriculture Summit.

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Bill Scher

MSNBC Roundtable: What If Hillary Doesn’t Run? [VIDEO]

Yesterday on MSNBC’s “Up With Steve Kornacki,” I discussed my recent POLITICO Magazine analysis “What If Hillary Bows Out?” Of course, the former Secretary is highly likely to run, recent flaps notwithstanding. But exploring the matter is a way to assess the underlying health of the party. One conclusion I draw that probably would not be quickly agreed upon by other progressives is that Sen. Elizabeth Warren wouldn’t have an easy path to the nomination even if Clinton were not in the race … though the rest of the MSNBC panel didn’t challenge me on that point. In my view, she would have a relatively hard time with fundraising from big money donors because of her uncompromising nature, while challengers with a more flexible posture could co-opt much of her rhetoric and sooth donor nerves. But please watch the segment and share your thoughts.

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Bernie Horn

Promote “Fair Markets,” Not “Free Markets”

Last week’s column bemoaned the fact that average Americans believe unquestioningly in “free markets,” even though there are no such things. Indeed, every market relies on a dense web of laws and regulations. Subsidies, loopholes, grants, contracts, trade policy, labor law and inconsistent enforcement all warp markets. To say the words “free markets” is to perpetuate a dangerous right-wing myth. So promote “fair markets,” not free markets. Can this expression help persuade voters? Yes, it can. For example, voters already prefer “fair trade” to “free trade.” More important, every time we say free markets we hurt the progressive cause. Persuadable voters keep two somewhat-contradictory economic concepts in their minds. The words free markets evoke the conservative belief that governments should stay out of the economic sphere and let markets work things out.

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