Isaiah J. Poole

Burning Issues: The U.S. Role In The Israel-Palestine Conflict

The Israel-Palestine conflict should not be viewed as a millennia-old intractable conflict, but a recent crisis in which the United States has been a key instigator through its “blank check” support of Israel, says Raed Jarrar, government relations manager at the American Friends Service Committee, in this Burning Issues video segment. The pathway to addressing the conflict is clear, Jarrar says: Any agreement that assures Palestinians equal rights and equal access to resources. Jarrar says that while he is “not very hopeful” that the leading presidential candidates will on their own change U.S. policy toward Israel, there is “populist pressure” that could hold the U.S. more accountable and lead to a more balanced policy.

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Robert Borosage

Does the Democratic Party Platform Matter?

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has vowed to drive his bold policies ideas – from a $15 minimum wage and reviving union rights to tuition-free college and Medicare for All – into the Democratic Party platform to write the “strongest progressive agenda that any political party has ever seen.” After initial skirmishing, the divisive chair of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, announced a compromise on the composition of the committee that will draft the Democratic Party platform. Sanders got five representatives, Clinton six. Wasserman Schultz named four, including progressive legislator Rep. Barbara Lee of California and the committee chair, Maryland Rep.

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Courtney Freudenthal

Underemployed College Graduates Still A National Crisis

As a Class of 2015 graduate from the University of Chicago, Brianna Tong considers herself fortunate. She has a job that she loves that makes her degree worth attaining – as a lead organizer with the IIRON Student Network. But her work puts her in contact with plenty of young people – many of them her friends and former classmates – for whom a college degree has not opened the doors to anything other than low-wage service jobs. “From a very young age we are told we need to go to school to get a good job, need to do well in school to get a good job,” Tong said in a telephone interview. But even in 2016, eight years after the end of the Great Recession, that “good job” remains out of reach for too many college graduates.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Elizabeth Warren Launches Take On Wall Street Campaign

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) helped kick off the “Take On Wall Street” campaign on Tuesday by detailing the work that remains undone by the Dodd-Frank financial reforms that were signed into law six years ago. “The rules that protect our economy boil down to just two basic principles,” she said. “The first one: Government institutions shouldn’t be allowed to cheat people. … Second, financial institutions should not be allowed to force taxpayers to bail them out.” Warren explained the need for a new level of financial reform by saying that while the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill did impose some discipline on the financial sector, “let’s get real: Dodd-Frank did not end too big to fail.

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Burning Issues Video

Burning Issues: Our Failure in Afghanistan

Retired Lt. Col. Daniel Davis, who has done two tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan and who has since written articles critical of the way the United States has conducted the wars there, explains in this Burning Issues video his view of what the United States has gotten wrong in Afghanistan. While the U.S. military has had successful tactical actions in Afghanistan, “what never gets asked, and what is the most important question, is what are you accomplishing by this tactical activity?” Davis says. Davis’ stark conclusion: “It’s blatantly obvious that our mission is failing on every level,” and our intervention has actually made successfully achieving the goals of a stable government of a country that is not nurturing a terrorist threat much harder.

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Dave Johnson

Republicans Demand Flint-Like Solution To Puerto Rico Debt

Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) explains how Wall Street financial interests contributed to the economic crisis in Puerto Rico at the “Take On Wall Street” campaign event Tuesday at the U.S. Capitol.   In 2008 Wall Street got in over its head, and the U.S. government and Federal Reserve stepped in with trillions of dollars to bail them out. Now Puerto Rico has debt that it cannot pay. Instead of helping, though, Republicans in Congress are demanding increased austerity and an unelected “oversight board” that sets aside democratic governance – the same way Republicans imposed unelected government on Michigan cities like Flint. (We know how that turned out.) Trouble Puerto Rico is in trouble.

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Terrance Heath

House Republicans Vote For Anti-LGBT Job Discrimination

Three years after the Senate passed ENDA, and president Obama signed executive orders protecting LGBT employees of federal contractors from discrimination, House Republicans voted to write anti-LGBT discrimination in law. The floor of the House of Representatives erupted in chaos Thursday, when House Republican leadership arm-twisted several members into switching their votes to ensure the defeat of an amendment to protect LGBT workers from job discrimination in the National Defense Authorization Act. The amendment, offered by Rep. Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) would have prohibited federal funds being used to implement contacts with any company that did not comply with President Obama’s 2013 executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees.

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Frank Clemente

An Open Letter to Donald Trump: Make Your Tax Returns Public

It is critical that candidates for the highest office in the land release their income tax returns for multiple years, especially you Mr. Trump. After all, you are running for president based on your wealth and business ability. And every other presidential candidate has done so for the past 40 years. Instead, you’re hiding behind the phony excuse that you can’t release any returns until the IRS finishes auditing them, which might not be until after Election Day. The IRS has repeatedly stated that taxpayers can release whatever information they want about their own returns, whenever they want. (Of course, the very fact that, by your own complaint, you’re audited every year raises important questions about whether you are a tax dodger.) Nothing prevents you from releasing your tax returns prior to 2009, which have been cleared by previous IRS audits.

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Dave Johnson

More Than 1500 Groups Write Congress: No TPP

More than 1,500 environmental, labor, faith, consumer, LGBT, health, peace, business, social justice and other public interest organizations representing trade and democracy “stakeholders” sent a joint letter to Congress urging them to reject the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The letter begins: Dear Representative/Senator: We urge you to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a binding pact that poses significant threats to American jobs and wages, the environment, food safety and public health, and that falls far short of establishing the high standards the United States should require in a 21st Century trade agreement.

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Bill Scher

Trump’s Trade Con

Donald Trump was riffing on trade, sounding very populists by shrugging off concerns about sparking a “trade war” with China, when he said: “My trade deal is very simple, I am going to make great deals for our country. It might be free, it might not be free.” Well, which is it? The difference is a big deal. A “free trade” deal would have little to no rules governing trade. Progressive populist critics of such deals argue free trade deals create a “race to the bottom” in which countries keep wages low and labor and environmental protections light to maximize competitiveness. A “fair trade” deal seeks to codify a level playing field, so America regulations on wages, worker rights and environment rules can’t easily but undercut by other nations looking to keep the cost of production low.

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Isaiah J. Poole

The New Agenda For Taking On Wall Street

More than 20 progressive organizations representing millions of voters are putting their weight behind a five-point agenda for the next stage of Wall Street reform. What these groups will formally announce Tuesday, in an event featuring Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, sets a high but practical standard for what a candidate would have to embrace to be considered a progressive on reining in the financial sector. The Take On Wall Street campaign says it intends to ensure that the voices of working people and consumers are heard above the power and influence of Wall Street.

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Robert Reich

Why Trump Might Win

A new Washington Post/ABC News poll released Sunday finds Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in a statistical tie, with Trump leading Clinton 46 percent to 44 percent among registered voters. That’s an 11 percent swing against Clinton since March. A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, also released Sunday, shows Clinton at 46 percent to Trump’s 43 percent. Previously she led 50 percent to 39 percent. Polls this far before an election don’t tell us much. But in this case they do raise a serious question. Since he clinched the Republican nomination two weeks ago, Trump has been the object of even more unfavorable press than he was before – about his treatment of women, his propensity to lie, his bizarre policy proposals.

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Dave Johnson

Obama Visits Vietnam To Promote TPP. Wait, VIETNAM? Really?

President Obama is in Vietnam promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Vietnam? Really? A year ago the post “Obama To Visit Nike To Promote the TPP. Wait, NIKE? Really?,” noted how Nike pioneered moving jobs out of the country to take advantage of low wages and lack of environmental protections in places like Vietnam, which led to many of the problems in our economy today. It seemed that Nike was possibly the worst company to use to support claims that TPP would benefit the American economy. President Obama is scheduled to visit Nike’s Oregon headquarters on Friday to promote the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Yes, Nike – a company that grew to billions by outsourcing jobs to overseas sweatshops, a company that sets up P.O.-box subsidiaries in tax havens to avoid paying U.S. taxes, a company that uses threats to extort tax breaks from its “home” state.

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Robert Borosage

What Does Bernie Want?

The Democratic establishment and liberal commentariat lathered itself into a fine hysteria last week. What began as a Hillary Clinton surrogate meme – (Bernie has done his job, but now he’s hurting Clinton and should get out of the race) – became a maddened chorus. The predictably angry reaction of Sanders delegates — and truly deplorable behavior by some — to peremptory rulings by a pro-Clinton Nevada party chair was blown into a mythical scene of chair-throwing violence, based largely on a report by a biased reporter who wasn’t even there. The divisive Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz did her best to escalate rather than defuse the situation. Zealous Clinton advocates like Barney Frank and Paul Krugman slurred Sanders’ character because he wouldn’t drop out of the race.

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Jeff Bryant

Why Oppressing Transgender Students Is An Attack On Public Education

It didn’t take long for conservatives to turn their attack on the rights of transgender students into an attack on another favorite target of theirs: public schools. In the pages of the conservative journal National Review, the latest screed declares, “The Obama administration just destroyed the traditional American public school.” First, it’s not hard to miss the dog whistle language in this piece, primarily, using “traditional” as a code word for white, straight and Christian and posing as a victim while arguing for “the right” to discriminate against a vulnerable minority. Nevertheless, the target of conservative ire is the recent joint announcement from the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education that public schools must allow transgender students to use the restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: Masquerade

Just when it seemed things couldn’t get any weirder, it turns out Donald Trump likely masqueraded as his own publicist, during phone calls with reporters — proving he probably belongs in a shrink’s office, instead of the Oval Office. It sounds like the kind of thing a not-very-bright high school student would attempt; impersonating someone else on the phone, in an attempt to stay out of, or get out of trouble. The only difference is that a high school student might be smart enough to do a better job of it, or at least come clean when they’re caught. But there’s smart and then there’s Donald Trump. This week transcripts and recordings surfaced of a 1991 phone call between People magazine Sue Carswell reporter and a man identified as Donald Trump’s publicist, John Miller.

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Dave Johnson

Larry Summers Gets This Right: We Really Need An Infrastructure Decade

Here we are in “Infrastructure Week” and here we are with a new argument for a massive infrastructure investment project – worldwide. Last week Peter Coy wrote at Bloomberg, in “How to Pull the World Economy Out of Its Rut,” about economist Larry Summers’ argument that we need massive public investment. Coy writes that Summers has been “jetting around the world” trying to convince central bankers “to reach out to the governments they work for … and insist on strong fiscal stimulus in the form of infrastructure spending and the like.” (i.e. “Public investment”.) The case for this is very, very strong. Never mind that around the world infrastructure is crumbling.

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Larry Cohen

How to Make the Democratic Nominating Process Actually Democratic

In late July, delegates to the Democratic National Convention will gather in Philadelphia, not only to nominate a president and vice president but to debate a reform agenda for the party itself. Bernie Sanders’ call for a political revolution is centered on democratizing U.S. politics, including the Democratic Party, and his delegation will number at least 1,700. “Big money out and voters in” should be their rallying cry; spending on the 2016 election is on track to exceed the 2012 record of $7 billion. #1 Get superdelegates out of the nominating process As Jesse Jackson’s delegates did in 1988, Sanders’ delegates are likely to demand a significant reduction or elimination of the role of superdelegates in the nominating process. If the Democratic Party wants to broaden its base, it must move toward populism and away from control by the financial establishment.

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Robert Borosage

Ways Bernie Sanders Will Be A Force At The Democratic Convention

The Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July seems set to continue the fierce nomination battle – and launch a major debate about what the party stands for. Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, won the Oregon primary handily on Tuesday and was barely edged out in Kentucky. Last week, he took West Virginia by almost 16 percentage points. Yet, supporters of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are already calling for him to stand down. The Clinton team is intent on putting on a tightly scripted convention show that displays unity behind Clinton and focuses the attack on presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump. But an early exit by Sanders remains unlikely. He has defined his campaign as building a movement to transform the Democratic Party and change the direction of the nation.

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Dave Johnson

Best-Case Projections For TPP Show Few Benefits, Worse Trade Deficit

The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) has released a report predicting the effect the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will have on the U.S. economy. In the past these reports have been skewed to promote trade agreements, with numbers that turned out to be much better than what actually happened. Even with this history of exaggerated promises of benefits from trade agreements, the ITC says that TPP won’t do all that much for our economy, and will make the trade deficit worse. The ITC report says TPP will increase the U.S. trade deficit by over $21 billion per year and will harm employment in key industries. ITC Reports Have History Of Rosy Projections In the past the ITC reports have made flowery promises about what will happen when we sign trade agreements. The actual results varied considerably and were much worse for the U.S. than projected.

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