fresh voices from the front lines of change








Sam Pizzigati

Can Bloomberg Buy The White House?

Michael Bloomberg’s first term as the mayor of New York began after the billionaire spent an incredible $74 million to get himself elected. He spent, in effect, $99 for every vote he received. Now Bloomberg appears to be on the verge of running — as a Democrat — for the White House. Could he possibly afford to replicate his lavish New York City campaign spending at the national level? The quick answer: absolutely. He could easily afford to invest $6.3 billion in a presidential campaign. Indeed, $6.3 billion might even rate as a fairly sensible business investment. If either Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders becomes the next president, after all, Bloomberg — and his fellow billionaires — could find themselves facing a wealth tax. Warren’s wealth tax proposal calls for a 6 percent annual levy on grand billionaire fortunes. The Sanders wealth tax plan puts the annual top rate at 8 percent. The Warren campaign estimates that Bloomberg would owe $3.079 billion next year with her wealth tax in effect. The Sanders plan would up Bloomberg’s tax liability by another billion or so. In other words, by stopping either the Warren or Sanders wealth tax, Bloomberg would save over $6 billion in taxes in just two years, enough to cover the cost of a $6.3 billion presidential campaign, give or take a couple hundred million. Bloomberg could spend ten times that amount on a presidential campaign and still, after pocketing his normal annual income, end the year worth at least several more billions than when the year started. Most Americans don’t yet believe that billionaires shouldn’t exist. But most Americans do believe the America’s super rich shouldn’t be able to buy elections or horribly distort their outcomes. The super rich now can do just that. And Michael Bloomberg, should he formally announce a candidacy for president, just might.

Sanders, AOC Unveil 'Green New Deal For Public Housing,' Jobs

Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez unveil 'Green New Deal for Public Housing'. Common Dreams: "Framing the climate crisis as both an existential threat and a "tremendous opportunity" to fundamentally transform American society, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Thursday unveiled a Green New Deal for Public Housing that would eliminate carbon emissions from federal housing, invest $180 billion over ten years in retrofitting and repairs, and create nearly 250,000 decent-paying union jobs per year. 'Faced with the global crisis of climate change, the United States must lead the world in transforming our energy system away from fossil fuel to sustainable energy," Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, said in a statement. "The Green New Deal is not just about climate change," the Vermont senator added. "It is an economic plan to create millions of good-paying jobs, strengthen our infrastructure, and invest in our country's frontline and vulnerable communities. This bill shows that we can address our climate and affordable housing crises by making public housing a model of efficiency, sustainability, and resiliency.' The 54-page Green New Deal for Public Housing Act , which Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez will introduce at a press conference Thursday afternoon, was co-sponsored in the Senate by Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and endorsed by more than 50 climate and affordable housing organizations. In an interview with the Washington Post Thursday, Ocasio-Cortez said the bill demonstrates that fighting the climate crisis 'is not a jobs versus environment paradigm.' 'We need electrical workers. We need construction workers. And it doesn't have to just be fossil fuel pipelines that create these kinds of jobs,' said the New York Democrat. 'We can create millions of jobs in this country by actually rising to the challenge of addressing what this crisis is going to represent.'"

First Day Of Impeachment Hearings Confirm Ukraine Plot

4 things we learned from the first day of impeachment hearings. PBS: "House lawmakers heard five dramatic hours of testimony Wednesday from key witnesses, bringing Capitol Hill to a standstill as Congress embarked on the first public impeachment hearings in two decades. The newest details came from Bill Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Taylor said that a member of his staff overheard a phone conversation between Trump and a senior administration official, in which Trump was heard asking about possible investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine. The overheard call took place one day after Trump’s now-famous phone call with Ukraine’s president. The revelation, along with testimony from another career diplomat, painted a searing portrait of a president and his aides withholding military aid from Ukraine while they sought a public probe into one of Trump’s chief 2020 opponents. Republicans hit back, however, showcasing the strategy they’ll use throughout the hearings to try and discredit the investigation. GOP lawmakers defended Trump’s approach to Ukraine and delivered effective attacks on the witnesses’ second and third-hand information. The phone call Taylor described took place July 26 at a restaurant in Kiev. Taylor said that a member of his staff was present when Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, called Trump and that Trump could be heard asking about the “investigations.” Taylor said his aide later asked Sondland what the president’s views were on Ukraine. 'Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden,' Taylor said in his opening statement. The revelation generated immediate interest inside the room on Capitol Hill where the hearing took place. Democrats seized on it, arguing that it offered further proof that Trump was at the center of the White House attempt to pressure Ukraine to interfere in a U.S. election."

DeVos Pushes "Alternatives" To Higher Ed

DeVos pushes alternative credentials, flexibility in speech to business leaders. EducationDive: "U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Wednesday extolled the potential benefits of microcredentials and other alternatives to traditional degrees, calling on the higher education sector to innovate and look to inexpensive programs for college students. Speaking to corporate leaders at an event run by The Conference Board, a public policy and economic think tank, DeVos touted the department's moves to give more flexibility to institutions by loosening federal policies on accreditation and federal student aid. The session was moderated by Scott Pulsipher, president of the nonprofit online giant Western Governors University. The Ed Department reversed a hefty fine levied against Western Governors earlier this year after the Office of Inspector General (OIG), the agency's internal watchdog, found in an audit that it had not met certain federal requirements for online programs. The OIG said the university would have to pay back $713 million in Title IV funding, but the department declined to enforce the recommendation, and OIG signed off on the decision."

Court Rules Trump Must Hand Over Tax Returns

Federal Appeals Court lets stand ruling that Congress can subpoena Trump tax returns. NPR: "A U.S. appeals court opened the door for Congress to gain access to eight years of President Trump's tax records, setting the stage for a likely review by the U.S. Supreme Court. The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit declined to re-visit an earlier ruling by a three-judge panel that allowed Congress to subpoena the president's tax records. The House Oversight and Reform Committee subpoenaed those records in March. The divided three-judge panel ruled in October that the House had a legitimate legislative pursuit in seeking Trump's personal tax returns. The president's lawyers had asked that the full D.C. Circuit reconsider the case. But Congress likely will not see those documents soon. The D.C Circuit already had said it would give the president seven days to file an appeal. Trump's outside legal counsel, Jay Sekulow, told NPR that he and his client 'will be seeking review at the Supreme Court.' The president and his lawyers are also hoping to get the Supreme Court to block another, separate bid to get his tax returns."

Warren's Medicare For All Math Is Right

Economist: Warren is right. Her Medicare for All plan won't raise taxes on the middle class. CNN:Editor's note: Mark Zandi is chief economist of Moody's Analytics. He was an advisor to John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign and supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. "It's no secret that I'm not a fan of Medicare for All. That's why I'm impressed that Senator Elizabeth Warren's campaign reached out to me to independently review her proposed financing plan for the program. Her numbers add up and her plan fully finances the program without imposing any new taxes on middle-class families. The most important source of revenue for Warren's Medicare for All plan is simply to have businesses pay their employees' health insurance premiums to Medicare instead of private insurance companies. Over time, businesses would be required to pay slightly less to Medicare for health insurance than they would otherwise have paid to private insurers. New small businesses with fewer than 50 employees would not be required to make these payments. There has been some handwringing that this would be regressive. That is, lower-paid workers would suffer, since businesses would pay more for lower-paid workers' health insurance as a percent of their pay than for higher-paid workers. But companies' current premiums generally vary by the type of insurance plan and family size, and not by employee income. Warren's Medicare for All plan effectively preserves this. And by replacing trillions of dollars in individual spending on health care with new taxes on large corporations and the rich, her plan overall is clearly progressive."

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