Robert Borosage

April Jobs Report: Is The Economy Slowing?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics April jobs report – 160,000 jobs, unemployment stable at 5.0 percent – is cause for concern. Job growth lags the yearlong average of 232,000 per month, and is accompanied by downward revisions in the February and March totals. Both labor force participation and the employment-to-population ratio edged down as well. There are still more than 15 million people in need of full-time work. And millions more forced into part-time, temporary, contract, and no-benefit service jobs that have been where most of the jobs growth has been. In this report, employment in mining continues to decline (sensibly enough), while manufacturing and construction showed little growth. Average hourly wage growth was up to 2.5 percent, but most workers still aren’t seeing much reward from the recovery.

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Jeff Bryant

Tell Republicans In Congress: Don’t Cut Free Lunches For Poor Children

Conservative lawmakers are well known for wanting to cut funding to public education. But just remember, every time they take a swing at public school budgets, they hit poor kids. The newest blow aimed at public schools will hit low-income students in the stomach – literally. A bill introduced by a Republican in Congress called The Improving Child Nutrition And Education Act does the exact opposite of what it claims to do. In this case, “improving” children’s nutrition means cutting the availability of federally subsidized lunches to hungry children in public schools. Specifically, the bill would tighten eligibility restrictions that govern how many schools can take full advantage of the free and reduced price lunch program, potentially cutting off food to thousands of schools and millions of students.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Finally, Justice For Consumers Wronged By Banks Is Within Reach

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is on the verge of correcting a fundamental perversion of our justice system and restore to consumers their right to their day in court when they are wronged by a bank or credit card company. A new regulation that the agency announced on Thursday it is publishing for public comment will sharply limit the routine use of binding arbitration to keep disputes consumers have with financial services companies out of the court system. If you have a bank account, credit card or receive some other financial service, you most likely have a binding arbitration clause buried in the fine print of the contract associated with the service. It basically says that if you agree to use the service, you also agree to resolve any disputes you have with the company through an arbitrator.

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Dave Johnson

Korea Trade Data Shows The Potential For The TPP To Do Real Damage

In 2011 the Obama administration sold the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) by promising “more exports, more jobs”. The U.S. Trade Representative’s website on KORUS still offers those promises. It still says right there the agreement “means countless new opportunities for U.S. exporters to sell more Made-in-America goods, services, and agricultural products to Korean customers – and to support more good jobs here at home.” So how has that worked out? New data is in on trade with South Korea and the numbers are really bad. Really bad. Public Citizen’s Eyes on Trade has looked at the data and a post up showing what the numbers mean: ● The U.S. goods trade deficit with South Korea has increased 115 percent, or $16 billion, in the first four years of the Korea FTA (comparing the year before it took effect to the fourth year data).

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Burning Issues Video

Burning Issues: Economic Growth To Fight Income Inequality

Presidential candidates who emphasize closing the federal spending deficit are ignoring a more important investment deficit in our infrastructure, our schools and in other fundamentals of future growth and shared prosperity, argues William Spriggs, chief economist for the AFL-CIO, in this Burning Issues segment. “We cannot keep building up this deficit for our children,” he says in the interview, referring to this investment deficit. He adds that we need to increase spending in these areas to speed up economic growth, create more jobs and place upward pressure on wages. “My hope out of this election is that politicians understand that the economy is supposed to be the servant of the people,” he says.

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Dave Johnson

Thursday Day Of Action To Support Verizon Workers – And Each Other

Thursday has been declared a Verizon Strike National Day of Action. There are 39,000 Verizon workers on strike right now. They are not just striking for better pay and conditions from Verizon; this is also about how all of the giant corporations are treating all of us, their workers and customers. It’s just that the workers at Verizon have a union that is still strong enough to carry out this fight for the rest of us. Fighting Corporate Greed Verizon makes almost $2 billion in annual profit. Some of this money could have gone to employees. Some of it could have been reinvested in the future of the company, expanding their fiber network and improving customer service. Verizon has had many chances to do the right thing for their employees and customers, but opted instead to give executives raises and bonuses.

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Courtney Freudenthal

Why Fight for $12 When $15 is Better?

Fight for $15 supporters won a major victory on Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to Seattle’s recent law phasing in a $15 minimum wage. That refusal let stand a lower-court ruling against restaurant franchises that asserted the Seattle law’s different phase-in rates for chains and for mom-and-pop businesses were unconstitutional. The Supreme Court’s dismissal of the case sets a strong positive precedent for supporters of an increased federal minimum wage. Now the Fight for $15 moves to Washington, D.C., in a big way – on both its political and its commercial corridors. On the political side, Democratic Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders continue to debate how firmly the Democratic Party should be on the side of the Fight for $15 movement, after seven years of having the national minimum wage stagnate at $7.25.

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Terrance Heath

Seven Things Obama Should Say From Flint

Today, President Obama is visiting Flint, Michigan for the first time since state officials revealed that the city’s water was contained with lead. The president was invited to Flint not by Michigan’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, but by eight-year-old Mari Copney. One of the 8,000 children exposed to lead contamination by the water from her own tap, Copney had hoped to meet the president while she was in Washington, DC for a hearing about Flint’s water crisis. The meeting was not to be. So, she wrote a letter to him instead, and gained a new pen pal. A week ago, Mari’s mother got a phone call that President Obama would write back to Mari personally letter. One day later, another call announced that the president would visit Michigan, and wanted to meet Mari while he was in town.

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Bill Scher

Conservatism 1980-2016, RIP

Modern American Conservatism died last night at 7 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. It was 35 years old. Born with the 1980 presidential election of Ronald Reagan, conservatism had an impressive childhood. After cutting taxes for the wealthy, deregulating the economy, sparking a decline in union membership and squelching a nascent push for renewable energy, conservatism appeared poised to live a long and healthy life. But its health began to wane in its adolescence. A stiff dose of fiscal conservatism administered by President George H.W. Bush caused a troubling side effect which impaired the part of the brain that handles mathematics. In the 1990s, a time when conservatism was led by a group of adulterers and pedophiles, an attempt to define conservatism as the arbiter of social morality backfired. Yet psychiatric counseling was not sought.

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Dave Johnson

Enormous, Humongous March Trade Deficit Gives Trump Election Ammunition

The U.S. Census Bureau reported Wednesday that the March goods and services trade deficit fell to “only” an enormous, humongous level of $40.4 billion in March. This is $6.5 billion less than February (revised) but not for good reasons (see below). Chinese imports were 44.4 percent of the overall U.S. goods deficit and were down $6.2 billion to $26 billion. The real goods deficit decreased $5.8 billion to $57.4 billion in March. From the report: “March exports were $176.6 billion, $1.5 billion less than February exports. March imports were $217.1 billion, $8.1 billion less than February imports.” MarketWatch reports that the deficit drop isn’t for good reasons, with consumers wary of spending after recent news of big stock market drops. U.S.

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Robert Borosage

Bernie Sanders Wins Indiana – And The Political Debate

Bernie Sanders, the democratic socialist insurgent, won Indiana convincingly Tuesday night – 52.5 percent to 47.5 percent – over Hillary Clinton, the establishment moderate. This is a remarkable victory, a statement of the extent and scope of the Sanders surge. Indiana is a Wonder bread state – Midwestern, centrist, largely white, religious. It gave us the blond and bland Evan Bayh, the former New Democrat governor and senator who thought Barack Obama was too liberal. Its current senators – Democrat Joe Donnelly and Republican Dan Coats – are centrists. Sanders has been already been counted out in the mainstream media. But young voters, liberals flooded into the polling booths and swept Sanders to victory.

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Dave Johnson

Another Secret ‘Trade’ Deal Leaks, Shows Corporations Still In Control

“”There are no red lines which would clearly protect environment and health.” – Jorgo Riss, director of Greenpeace EU There has been a major leak concerning another “trade” agreement that is currently being negotiated in secret. This time it is the TTIP and it was leaked by Greenpeace. TPP, TTIP, What? First, some explanation. If you are reading this you’ve been hearing a lot about the TPP, which is the Trans-Pacific Partnership. There’s another “trade” agreement being negotiated called the TTIP, which is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. So for shorthand on the shorthand: TPP = Pacific, TTIP = Atlantic. The TPP (Pacific) negotiations have been completed.

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Leo Gerard

Outlaw Chinese Steel

Forged with the despicable dividend of stolen trade secrets, priced with monopoly collusion, then traded with fraudulent labeling to dodge U.S. duties, steel from China violates every principle of capitalism. That’s in addition to defying both U.S. and international trade laws. It’s outlaw steel. And last week, U.S. Steel Corp. asked the U.S. government to outlaw its import. U.S. Steel requested this unusual intervention after China hacked into its computers, ripped off trade secrets, then used those secrets to directly compete with U.S. Steel in the American market. China is flooding the international market with excess, government-subsidized steel. That is closing mills and killing jobs from South Africa to Great Britain to North America. The United States can choose to ignore this.

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Burning Issues Video

Burning Issues: Pentagon Spending Out of Control?

Danielle Brian, the executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, highlights the reasons why our Pentagon budget is so bloated in this Burning Issues segment. One simple answer: It’s politics. The way the Pentagon procures weapons favors corporate contractors and incentivizes overspending, Brian says. So does the spreading of a single weapons project across a number of congressional districts in order to earn the support of particular members of Congress. Finally, the revolving door between Pentagon officials and the defense industry is a built-in disincentive for government officials to be tough on their potential future employers. Brian calls for changing this system, and points to presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ call for an audit of the Pentagon as a place to start.

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Dave Johnson

Indiana’s Carrier Factory Cuts Focused The “Trade” Election Issue

Sometimes an event comes along that crystallizes people’s awareness of an issue. It is just the right things at the right time. The layoffs at the Indianapolis Carrier air conditioner factory are an example of this kind of event. The layoffs have focused many people’s feelings about our disastrous “trade” agreements that enable, even encourage, companies to move jobs and factories out of the country so that executives and Wall Street can pocket the wage and environmental-cost differential for themselves. What Happened At Carrier? In February air-conditioner manufacturer Carrier, a wing of United Technologies, announced that beginning next year it will move its Indianapolis production to Mexico and lay off the company’s U.S. workers.

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Robert Reich

Share-the-Gains Capitalism

Marissa Mayer tells us a lot about why Americans are so angry, and why anti-establishment fury has become the biggest single force in American politics today. Mayer is CEO of Yahoo. Yahoo’s stock lost about a third of its value last year, as the company went from making $7.5 billion in 2014 to losing $4.4 billion in 2015. Yet Mayer raked in $36 million in compensation. Even if Yahoo’s board fires her, her contract stipulates she gets $54.9 million in severance. The severance package was disclosed in a regulatory filing last Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. In other words, Mayer can’t lose. It’s another example of no-lose socialism for the rich – winning big regardless of what you do. Why do Yahoo’s shareholders put up with it? Mostly because they don’t know about it.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Kansas Republicans Again Stab Workers, And Democracy, In The Back

Once again, that conservative maxim about the government that’s closest to the people serves the people best was thrown out the window by conservatives when it comes to protecting the interests of workers against the abuses of businesses. The latest example is Kansas, which just passed a law that said that local governments could not pass laws regulating just-in-time work scheduling, the practice of scheduling workers for shifts with as little as a few hours notice. The practice makes it impossible for workers on such schedules to plan to work second jobs or attend classes during their off hours. Employers who engage in this real-time scheduling expect workers to be on call, uncompensated, for when they might be called to work.

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Bill Scher

Hillary Clinton’s Balancing Act

In The New Republic today I explore how Hillary Clinton could campaign when there are two disparate camps of voters she will be compelled to pursue: Bernie Sanders voters on her left, and anti-Donald Trump Republicans on her right. Sanders voters are anti-Trans-Pacific Partnership and anti-interventionist. But the Republicans fleeing Trump are pro-free trade and hawkish. It’s possible Clinton can lean right, and still win over the Bernie vote because she’s preferable to Trump. It’s possible Clinton can double down on progressive populism, and still pick off Republicans because she’s preferable to Trump. So this is not necessarily a question of how she has to do to win, but how she wants to govern: Does she want to pursue a 55 percent-plus coalition? An enormous landslide is sorely tempting and could produce a big governing mandate.

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Burning Issues Video

Burning Issues: Hidden Wealth and the Rigged Financial System

The Panama Papers, which opened a window into the world of secret bank accounts and money flows, help reveal the extent to which the global financial system is rigged to favor the wealthy and powerful, says Eryn Schornick, policy adviser at Global Witness, in this Burning Issues segment. While much of the attention has been focused on overseas tax havens, Schornick notes that “the U.S. is one of the easiest places in the world for a corrupt politician or a criminal to create a company and hide the fact that they own it.” These corporations can then outbid legitimate, transparently created companies for government contracts, take advantage of investors and customers and, of course, deprive governments of needed tax revenues. Legislation pending in Congress would require corporations registered in the U.S.

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Larry Cohen

Three Next Steps in the Political Revolution

Bernie Sanders will campaign all the way up to the Democratic convention in Philadelphia to seek the nomination—and to continue building the “political revolution.” What is that political revolution, beyond his call to get the billionaires and corporations out and the people in? Electing candidates to public office like Sanders—both this year and in years to come—is one leg. The second leg is democratic, structural political reform. This means changes to our electoral system, such as instituting automatic voter registration and matching small donations with public funds. It also means transforming the Democratic Party to a populist-based party by reforming its inner workings. Sanders’ campaign offers the most comprehensive challenge to the wealthy Democratic establishment since Jesse Jackson’s historic 1988 campaign.

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