Richard Eskow

The McConnell/Trump GOP Guts Ethics Rules For Its Billionaire Cabinet

“Ironic” is an overused word. And yet, how else can you describe what’s going on this week in Washington? The Republican president-elect says he wants “extreme vetting” for Syrian refugee families who already face years of scrutiny. Meanwhile, the Senate’s Republican leader is ramming Trump’s well-heeled nominees through the Senate review process in just a few chaotic days. Forget “extreme vetting.” These nominees won’t even face ordinary vetting. Instead, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is greasing the skids for some highly questionable appointees. And he’s doing it by hamstringing the government’s “corruption prevention organization” – which makes the GOP’s stand on corruption unclear, at best. House Republicans certainly betrayed a pro-corruption bias last week when they attempted to gut the House Ethics Committee.

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Dave Johnson

Postal Service Drops Staples Privatization Effort

The Postal Service’s experimental “pilot program” in privatizing the retail end of the USPS using Staples outlets has failed and ended. The “Grand Alliance to Save Our Postal Service” has forced the USPS to back off from partnering with Staples in their effort to privatize and undermine the wages and jobs of USPS employees. The American Postal Workers Union (APWU) reports that the “Approved Shipper” program will end operations in Staples stores by the end of February, Postal management informed the APWU in writing that the “Approved Shipper” program in Staples stores will be shut down by the end of February 2017. This victory concludes the APWU’s three-year struggle. The boycott against Staples is over! “I salute and commend every member and supporter who made this victory possible,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein.

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Bill Scher

How Trump Is Like Reagan … And How He Is Not

With eleven days until Donald Trump is inaugurated as President, at least half of the country is in disoriented shock. It remains hard to believe this is really happening. And while in many respects what is happening is unprecedented, in other respects, we’ve been here before. As Zachary Karabell noted in the Washington Post soon after the election, “People freaked out over Nixon and Reagan, too … In 1968 and 1980, the same liberal, educated and urban swaths of the country voiced similar fear and despair about the outcome — a sense that the nation as they knew it could not survive.” Reagan strikes me as a particularly close parallel to Trump. Both had a nontraditional celebrity background that caused Democrats to underestimate him but help forged a bond with voters. Both recoiled at policy details and in-depth briefings.

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Dave Johnson

Enormous, Humongous November Trade Deficit Drags Economy Down

The U.S. Census Bureau reported Friday that the November trade deficit was $45.2 billion. This is up $2.9 billion from a revised $42.4 billion in October. Exports fell 0.2% to $185.5 billion from the prior month while imports climbed 1.1% to $321.1 billion. The trade deficit in goods increased $3.4 billion to $66.6 billion. Again, these enormous, humongous trade losses were in a single month. According to a Wall Street Journal report on the November trade deficit, The U.S. trade deficit widened again in November, creating a likely drag on overall economic growth as the year ended. [. . .] Forecasting firm Macroeconomic Advisers on Wednesday said it expects GDP to expand at a 2.2% pace to end the year, a marked slowdown from the third quarter.

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Jeff Bryant

Democrats Who Oppose Betsy DeVos Have Nothing To Lose

In “an unprecedented break” from tradition, Democrats in the US Senate are expected to challenge as many as eight of Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees, including Betsy DeVos for US Secretary of Education, according to a report by the Washington Post. The opposition to DeVos, Politico reports, comes from “more than a dozen Democratic senators from all wings of the party” who “will portray DeVos’ views as being outside the education mainstream.” The non-mainstream “views” Politico cites include her “bankrolling efforts to create state voucher programs” and to expand a “loosely-regulated charter school sector” in Michigan, her home state. The Senators are “also intent on drawing attention to her lack of experience in a traditional public school setting.

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Dave Johnson

Billionaires Celebrate Their Own Social Security Freedom Day

Ninety-four percent of us pay into Social Security from every paycheck we receive. A few of us stop paying into Social Security in the first few working hours of the year. The “Tax Freedom Day” Scam Every year you hear a lot about Tax Freedom Day. This is the day the public supposedly has “earned enough money to pay its total tax bill for the year.” According to the Tax Freedom Day website: “Americans will collectively spend more on taxes in 2016 than they will on food, clothing, and housing combined.” The trick, of course, is the word “collectively.” As in “Bill Gates walks into a room full of homeless people. Collectively the room owns billions of dollars of wealth.” Non-billionaire Americans don’t pay nearly this much in taxes.

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Sam Pizzigati

An Arrogant Entrance, A Sad Exit

Republican leaders in Congress have never — in any of our lifetimes — entered a new year with higher hopes. They don’t just have a lockgrip on both chambers. They have an incoming president who’s itching to sign pretty much any legislation GOP lawmakers plop on his desk. The plopping, GOP lawmakers have pledged, will begin almost as soon as Donald Trump takes his first steps into the Oval Office. They’re now rushing along legislation that would repeal Obamacare, neutralize the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and undo a host of new regulations that protect working people. The economist Anthony Atkinson, the godfather of modern research on inequality, passed away on New Year’s Day. The responsibility for tracking — and resisting — the inequality of the new Trump era will fall on the many scholars he inspired.

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Bill Scher

Sorry Donald, Republicans Own Health Care Now

With Republicans making Obamacare repeal their first order of business, queasiness has already set in among congressional leaders and the President-elect. “Even people who voted for [repeal] before are [saying], ‘Wait a minute, wait a minute, we knew that wasn’t going to happen. There were no consequences,” one nervous anonymous Senator told Bloomberg. Sen. John McCain told CNN he wants a slow process because, “always worried about something that took a long time in the making and we’ve got to concentrate our efforts to making sure that we do it right so that nobody’s left out.” Sen.

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Dave Johnson

Oxfam: Ten Multinational Corporations Control Most Food Brands

Take a look at Oxfam’s report, “Behind the Brands: Food justice and the ‘Big 10’ food and beverage companies.” A Food System In Crisis The Behind the Brands report explains, “For more than 100 years, the world’s most powerful food and beverage companies have relied on cheap land and labor to produce inexpensive products and huge profits.

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LeeAnn Hall

My Friend Pramila Jayapal Goes to Congress and Makes History

This week I had the honor of joining my friend Pramila Jayapal as she made history. Along with her family and other close friends, I accompanied Pramila as she was sworn in as the U.S. Representative for Washington’s 7th congressional district. She is the first Indian-American woman to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. She is also the kind of progressive champion we need in the Congress in this challenging time. Her victory is a reminder that the majority of Americans didn’t vote for Trump or sanction his bigotry. I met Pramila in my home state of Washington in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant soon after September 11, 2001. She had recently founded the Hate Free Zone (Now ONEAmerica), which grew from a one-person volunteer operation to the largest immigrant rights group in the state.

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Jeff Bryant

The Carolina Coup and the Fight for Public Education

The nation’s eyes are on my home state of North Carolina, where what many are calling a coup has shown the lengths to which Republicans will go to protect and expand their political power. The naked power grab by Republicans has shocked the nation. But few people really understand that a struggle over public education is at the center of the fight against an authoritarian government in the era of Donald Trump. What did Republicans do? In a nutshell, according to a review of the carnage by David Graham for The Atlantic, “Having lost the governor’s seat in November’s election, the GOP legislature opted to simply reduce the governor’s power drastically.

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Dave Johnson

Trump Nominates Non-Free-Trader Robert Lighthizer to Trade Office

President-“elect” Donald Trump today announced his nomination of Robert Lighthizer for the cabinet-level office of US Trade Representative (USTR). Lighthizer, who served as deputy USTR under President Ronald Reagan, is known for criticizing Republican “free trade” ideology. Before serving in the Reagan administration he was chief of staff for the Senate Finance Committee. Lightizer’s nomination signals that Trump is likely to oppose the wide-open “free trade” ideology and policy that ruled the last several decades, enriching the Wall-Street “investor” class while wiping out US-based industries like textiles and electronics manufacturing, devastating entire regions and communities like the “Rust Belt” and Detroit, as well as much of the American middle class.

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Jeff Bryant

Girding For The Education Fight Ahead

If you want to get an idea of what kind of education policies to expect from a Donald Trump administration, Wall St. has a clue for you. A report from BuzzFeed explains, online charter schools are “gearing up for a boom during the Trump administration, judging by where investors are placing their bets.” The article points to K12 Inc., which is the country’s largest operator of online charters, whose stock price has risen in value by more than 50 percent since Election Day – hitting a 2-year high at one point. The article quotes K12 executives who’ve “told investors the company was one of the ‘best positioned under Trump,” especially due to the “‘personal’ experiences that high-level Trump administration members have with the company.” Among Trump personnel who’ve had these “experiences” with K12 is his pick for US Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.

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Leo Gerard

Coming Soon: American Made Battle of the Heavyweights

Virtually every time President-elect Donald Trump performs in cities across America on his thank you tour, he mentions, to grand applause, his preference for Made in America. He describes his plan to create jobs with a federal infrastructure spending project – that is improvements to the likes of crumbling roads, bridges, waterlines and airports – and then says, “We will have two simple rules when it comes to this massive rebuilding effort. Buy American and hire American.” That American-job-creating, buy-American thing is supported by 71 percent of the American public. But it is a smack in the face to GOP Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who just made it clear in the Water Resources Development Act that he’s fine with creating slave-wage iron-and-steel-making jobs in China with U.S. tax dollars so long as a few fat-cat iron-and-steel importers make a profit on the deal.

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Sam Pizzigati

Waging Class War in Comfort

In a typical corporate board of directors meeting, what do CEOs see when they look out across their richly lacquered boardroom tables? They see . . . lots of other CEOs. That’s no accident. CEOs today purposely pack their corporate boards with their pals, who often turn out to be current or former chiefs at other corporations. Everybody who’s anybody just feels more comfortable that way The most powerful corporate executive in 1950s America, GM’s Charlie Wilson, served as U.S. secretary of defense — and paid three-quarters of his income in taxes. President-elect Donald Trump, a big-time business chief himself, certainly seems to want to feel comfortable, too. No other President-elect has ever packed his cabinet with more business bigwigs. For secretary of state, Trump has tapped Exxon Mobil chief executive Rex Tillerson.

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Dave Johnson

“Corruption” Then And Now

Remember how the “news” media was going on and on about the Clinton Foundation — at least when they weren’t going on and on abut Hillary Clinton’s emails, or airing entire Trump rallies for free? Media “coverage” of the 2016 campaign was almost entirely devoid of discussion of the important issues. Climate change? Housing policy? Instead it consisted of media coverage of anything Donald Trump said — including repeatedly giving free time to air entire Trump rallies — insinuations about the activities of the Clinton Foundation and insinuations that Clinton did something illegal with her emails.

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Bill Scher

What Happened? Doing the Math on Election 2016.

Just in time for the Electoral College set to cast their ballots on Monday, all 50 states have finally certified their popular vote totals. Hillary Clinton: 65,844,610 (48.2%) Donald Trump: 62,979,636 (46.1%) Others: 7,756,035 (5.7%) Now we have the hard numbers to do a thorough assessment of what really happened in our nation’s 58th presidential election. Not by only looking at the percent share of the vote, but also by comparing the raw vote totals from four years ago. The following relies on the Cook Political Report Popular Vote Tracker, the United States Election Project and data from the Federal Election Commission. Turnout Slightly Larger In 2016 Than 2012, But Not So In Every State Those who believed that the historically low favorable ratings of the two major candidates would drive down turnout were wrong.

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Richard Eskow

Beyond Resistance: The Story of 2016

This is the time of year when people try to make sense of the preceding twelve months. It’s a fool’s errand, in one sense. A year is an arbitrary division of time. We decide what it means in retrospect, and we never get it exactly right. But the meaning we give it will guide our actions in the future, in thousands of conscious and unconscious ways. We tell ourselves stories, and before we know it our stories are telling us. Democratic operatives got the story wrong. Too clever by half, as always, they thought victory lay in canned phrases and obsolete data models. But the political class that gave us “Microtrends” missed the macro trends all around us, the ones affecting most people’s lives.

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Jeff Bryant

Hillsdale College Connection Reveals Trump’s Extremist Education Agenda

Donald Trump’s election to the US Presidency left education policy experts at a complete loss to explain what this would mean for the nation’s schools. During his campaign, Trump had given few clues about what would inform his education leadership, only that he had some antipathy for the US Department of Education, that he was no fan of Common Core, and that he would advocate for more “school choice.” After his election, experienced education journalists at Education Week predicted Trump would embrace conservative Beltway think tanks and state education policy leaders who had bristled under the rule of Obama’s education department, and he would reject the influence of teachers unions, civil rights groups, and politically centrist education “reform” groups.

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Dave Johnson

Coal Communities Ask Trump To Honor His Promises

Coal miners, their communities and Faith groups are calling on President-presumed-Elect Donald Trump to honor his campaign promise to help coal workers. In an “Open Letter to President-Elect Donald Trump from coal miners,” hundreds of coal miners from Appalachia to Western coal lands asked for help for coal communities across the country. They want Trump to take action to make sure coal CEOs and companies keep promises to restore the landscape and local environments by “reclaiming” the old mines, which would mean jobs in coal communities. They also asked Trump to protect the pension and health benefits they were promised. The companies and CEOs made millions from the mines and should not be allowed leave behind a devastated environment and ruined communities.

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