Jim Hightower

Wall Street Sodbusters

I love the names: Bobcat Farm, Golden Eagle Ranch, Long Prairie, Ten Mile Farm. They conjure up Americana, the old homestead, and our rich rural culture. Less bucolic, however, is the fact that all those farms are part of a massive Wall Street investment scheme called Farmland Partners Inc. It’s run by a couple of slicks trained in mergers and acquisitions as executives at the investment powerhouse Merrill Lynch. Rather than sodbusters, Farmland Partners are taxbusters. They’re using a legalistic plow called the Real Estate Investment Trust, or REIT, to get enormous tax breaks to subsidize their scheme. With this special subsidy, the partners have attracted hundreds of millions of dollars from investors to buy up farms and ranches. They now own 295 farm properties covering 144,000 acres in 16 states.

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Richard Eskow

Tech, Trump and Uber [video]

From online harrassment to digital strikebreaking, tech is different in the age of Trump. More precisely, the public policy concerns raised by powerful tech companies are heightened by the administration’s actions in a number of areas, from the Muslim ban to his own relentless tweeting. I recently spoke with Lauren C. Williams, a ThinkProgress tech reporter, about some of those concerns. The video of that conversation is above.

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Julie Chinitz

The Republican Bid to Kill the Affordable Care Act Is a Trojan Horse

In his last five years, my grandfather used Medicaid to cover his nursing-home care. He spent those years in a wheelchair and needed professional help for his most basic needs. Thanks to Medicaid, he got that help. Now House Speaker Paul Ryan and his fellow Republicans want to gut the program, as Ryan revealed in a set of talking points that received shockingly little press coverage. The changes that House GOP leaders are proposing for our health care are radical — far more radical than repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) standing alone. The House GOP plan uses ACA repeal as a Trojan horse for throwing health care for more than 74 million people into chaos. That’s the number covered by Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, including everyone from newborns to the very old. Will Medicaid Be There for Us? My grandfather was 89 when he underwent open-heart surgery.

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Dave Johnson

The ‘Lower the Tax Rate to Boost Businesses’ Competitiveness Scam

Now that Republicans are running Congress and the executive branch, they’re planning to “reform” (cut) corporate taxes (again). This time they using the subterfuge of “this will make companies more competitive.” What does that mean? Of course, under Republicans, it really means one and only one thing: cutting taxes on the rich — rich people. The top corporate tax rate used to be 52 percent. Under President Ronald Reagan it was 46 percent. Then Congress “reformed” corporate taxes and dropped the rate to just 35 percent. (Except for giant, multinational corporations. They were handed a “deferral” break that cut their taxes to zero.) Corporations used to shoulder 32 percent of the total tax burden. Now they shoulder only 10 percent of the burden — a drop of two-thirds.

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Robert Borosage

Keith Ellison’s Quest for DNC Chair

Rep. Keith Ellison offers a lifeline to a Democratic Party that is struggling to stay afloat. The question is whether party officials realize that they are sinking and accept it. When the 447 members of the Democratic National Committee select a new chairman in Atlanta on Saturday, they will decide whether they want the lift or would prefer to keep floundering. Clearly, Democrats are in dire shape. They are locked out of power in Washington, with Republicans in control of the White House and both houses of Congress. During the Obama administration, they lost nearly 1,000 state legislative seats, and Republicans now control 67 of 98 partisan state legislative chambers nationwide. From Kansas to Wisconsin and North Carolina, the right is driving an agenda that will expose Americans to the pillage of a new robber baron era.

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Sam Pizzigati

A New Rationalization for Riches

Cheerleaders for concentrated wealth have a new reason to cheer. They have chanced upon a fresh rationalization for inequality. This new rationalization comes from an unlikely source, a sober and thoughtful just-published book from a distinguished historian and classicist, Stanford’s Walter Scheidel. In the 14th century, the horror of bubonic plague left over a quarter of Europe’s population dead — and the continent’s distribution of wealth markedly more equal. In The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century, Scheidel builds upon his considerable academic expertise on the ancient world and explores how and when societies have actually become less unequal. In the process, he has brought forth a book that could hardly be more profoundly depressing.

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Liz Ryan Murray

We Need a Sea Change to See Change

Watching the bumbling circus that is the Trump White House means watching a master class in malevolent ineptitude. But below the bumbling circus, real and really terrifying policy is getting made. In Congress right now, that malevolence is focused and calculatingly efficient where Republicans are salting the earth — almost literally. Congress has already stripped away rules that block polluters from dumping coal waste into drinking water. They’ve killed a provision that requires those same multinational energy corporations to disclose bribes to foreign governments. They’re torching regulations that restrict gun access to people with debilitating mental illnesses. Congress is doing this right now.  And they’re doing it all with little to no debate and with a simple majority vote in Congress. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

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Dave Johnson

This Isn’t Just Trump. This Is Who the Republicans Are.

So far President Donald Trump has signed very few bills. One lets coal companies dump waste into streams. Another lets oil companies bribe foreign dictators in secret. Now he is moving to block a Labor Department “fiduciary rule” that requires financial advisers to act in the best interests of their clients when advising on retirement accounts. Here’s the thing: this isn’t just Trump doing this. The Republican-controlled House and Senate passed those two bills, and the Republicans have been fighting that fiduciary rule tooth and nail. It’s not just Trump, Republicans as a party are using Trump to engage in a general assault on protections from corruption, pollution, corporate fraud and financial scams. This is who they are. “We Just Need A President To Sign This Stuff” This is not just Trump.

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Julie Chinitz

Five GOP Health Care Buzz Phrases You Need to Inoculate Yourself Against

Bruised in heated town halls in Florida, Tennessee, Georgia and elsewhere, the right wing in Congress now realizes it could pay a steep political price for throwing tens of millions of people off their health care, destabilizing our health care system, and putting people at risk of death. “I’m fighting Congress for my life,” Virginian Matt Skeens, a grassroots leader with Virginia Organizing, told local media and NBC Nightly News during a protest on February 9. Skeens has twice survived cancer and was able to have a brain tumor removed thanks to his coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Protesters like Skeens have thrown a wrench in Republican plans to quickly repeal the ACA.

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Libero Della Piana

The People Fired Puzder

Andy Puzder, President Trump’s pick to run the Labor Department, didn’t really bow out. He was fired. But even though Trump made the phrase “you’re fired” his motto, he didn’t force Puzder out. We did. Working people sent him the pink slip. When Trump was inaugurated less than one month ago, he figured he could dictate his policies and ram his appointments through the Republican-run Congress. Being the least popular president elected since polls began recording public sentiments apparently didn’t faze him. Trump loaded his proposed cabinet with billionaires, cronies and crooks, goading his opponents. One of the Worst Of all the unqualified and inappropriate crew of cabinet nominees, Puzder was one of the worst. As the CEO of the parent company of the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. fast-food chains, he has both personal and political beliefs that clash with public values.

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Robert Borosage

Resisting Trump Is Not Enough

Cross-posted from The Nation, with permission.  Donald Trump’s provocations have stirred a resistance that is ferocious, diverse and growing, shaking Republicans and stiffening Democratic spines. Raucous town-hall meetings targeting members of Congress in their home districts are making the fabled Tea Party protests of old look like, well, tea parties. This resistance is vital but not sufficient. While it dramatizes what we are against, our challenge is to integrate it into a demand for all the progressive changes we are for. The danger here is that the default position of resistance is reversion, a return to what was. As Trump assails all things Obama, Obama’s agenda becomes what we have to protect. Trump postures about repealing the Affordable Care Act; Democrats defend it. Trump attacks the Dodd-Frank banking regulations; Democrats protect them.

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Richard Eskow

A Big Day for Trump’s Budget Pick, Social Security — and Millionaires

—This post has been updated with news of Mulvaney’s confirmation.— The Senate has confirmed Donald Trump’s pick for White House Budget Director, Rep. Mick Mulvaney, in a 51-49 vote. Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, joined with every Democrat in the chamber in opposing Mulvaney’s nomination as a group of lawmakers and experts spoke on the Hill in support of Social Security — and millionaires stopped paying their Social Security taxes. The timing is interesting, since Mulvaney has been trying to cut Social Security for years. BREAKING: The Senate votes 51-49 to confirm @RepMickMulvaney as OMB Director. Sen.

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Robert Borosage

Donald Trump Has Pulled an Epic Bait-and-Switch

Cross-posted from The Nation, with permission. President Donald Trump lies. He lies about the size of his inaugural crowd, about millions of supposedly fraudulent votes, the number of jobs he “saved” at Carrier, terrorist incidents that supposedly go underreported, the crime rate, and other things too numerous to catalog here. Compared to Donald Trump’s big lie, however, these are mere peccadilloes. As Steven Mnuchin’s confirmation as treasury secretary confirms, the big lie is Trump’s campaign promise to clean out the “corrupt political establishment” and “to put the American people back in charge.” Consider Trump’s final ad of the 2016 campaign.

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Jeff Bryant

DeVos’s Stumbles Right Out of the Gate Are Nothing to Laugh About

The Trump administration’s national security scandals may have obscured Betsy DeVos’s rough start as the new Secretary of Education, but her stumbles right out the gate reveal disturbing characteristics of her leadership. Unfortunately, the least significant gaffe is the one that has gotten the most notoriety so far. As Politico reports, “In quoting civil rights activist W.E.B.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Organizing and Persistence Pays Off in N.J. for Hurricane Sandy Victims

It took two years of agitation and protest, but finally this week homeowners in New Jersey still seeking relief in the wake of the devastation of superstorm Sandy could claim an important victory, as Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill giving homeowners still recovering from the disaster protection from foreclosure. Christie’s signing of a bill that he had vetoed a version of last year was the culmination of work done by the People’s Action affiliate New Jersey Organizing Project as well as other groups. “We’ve spent two long years trying to get Sandy families protection from foreclosures and so today is a good day for us,” said Joe Mangino, Superstorm Sandy survivor and New Jersey Organizing Project co-founder. “Even though the governor doesn’t seem happy about signing the bill, we are happy it got signed.

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Dave Johnson

Andy ‘Women Are Meat’ Puzder’s Troubles Grow — But Wait, There’s More

Donald Trump didn’t really appoint Walter White, the guy from Breaking Bad, to run the DEA, but his nomination of fast-food CEO Andrew “women are meat” Puzder to be Labor Secretary sure comes close. Update: Amid reports that as many as 12 Republicans were ready to vote against his confirmation, Puzder withdrew his nomination. Puzder “Fails Every Test of a Labor Secretary” In December, Ross Eisenbrey of the Economic Policy Institute wrote of Puzder’s nomination, Andrew Puzder fails every test for a Labor Secretary He’s opposed to the new overtime rule that gave the right to time and a half pay to millions of salaried employees earning less than $47,476 a year. Wal-Mart has already raised its managers’ pay, as did about half of all big retailers, even before the rule was supposed to take effect on December 1.

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Miles Mogulescu

What Did Trump Know About Flynn and When Did He Know It?

If Michael T. Flynn informed Donald Trump about his multiple conversations with the Russian ambassador about rolling back President Barack Obama’s sanctions to punish Russia for interfering in the U.S. presidential election, it’s an impeachable offense for President Trump. It would mean that while still a civilian, Trump violated the Logan Act, which makes it a crime for Americans “without authority of the United States” to engage in diplomatic negotiations with foreign governments in a dispute with the U.S. government. Either Flynn was freelancing, which seems unlikely for a matter of such gravity. Or he was representing his boss, The Donald, which makes Trump equally guilty. Congress must hold hearings on Russia’s dangerous interference in American elections and diplomacy.

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Leo Gerard

Off-Shorers Should Shut Up

Whirlpool, the big appliance manufacturer, stressed in recent years its preference to make it in America. In 2013, it actually moved dishwasher manufacturing jobs back to the United States from Mexico. The next year, it announced a $40 million investment in its Greenville, Ohio KitchenAid plant, adding 400 jobs. Last year, Whirlpool CEO Jeff Fettig said the company would spend another $40 million to expand its Findlay, Ohio dishwasher plant, adding 50 jobs and raising to $1 billion its investment in U.S. manufacturing since 2010. Last week, Intel announced it would spend $7 billion to upgrade an Arizona facility and employ 3,000 people to fabricate advanced computer wafers — meaning its CEO Brian Krzanich chose the United States over Ireland, Israel and China where Intel already produces silicon wafers.

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Dave Johnson

#ResistTrumpTuesdays: Protect Our Protections on Valentine’s Day

President Donald Trump and his Republican-controlled Congress are getting ready to kill off our public “Dodd-Frank” protections passed after the financial crash, including killing or maiming the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Our lawmakers need to hear from us so they can know how we feel about that. So the #ResistTrumpTuesdays movement is urging them to “Make a Date” to hold town hall meetings with their constituents. The next congressional recess will run from February 18-26. Senators and representatives typically use that time away from Washington, D.C. to hold local “town hall” meetings with their constituents.

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Robert Reich

The Real Reason Republicans Want to Pull the Plug on Obamacare

Don’t be fooled by Trump’s and Republican promises to “repeal and replace” Obamacare. They could repeal it, but they can’t and won’t replace it. They’ve tried for years to come up with a replacement that keeps at least as many people covered. Their “replacement” never appears. So why do Republicans want to repeal Obamacare and leave millions without insurance?  Because it would mean a huge tax windfall for the wealthy. Repealing Obamacare will put an average of $33,000 of tax cuts in the hands of the richest 1 percent this year alone, and a whopping $197,000 of tax cuts into the hands of the top 0.1 percent. The 400 highest-income taxpayers (with incomes averaging more than $300 million each) will each receive an average annual tax cut of about $7 million.

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