Jeff Bryant

What DeVos Means When She Says ‘Public Schools’

Betsy DeVos once called public schools a “dead end.” But now that she’s U.S. Secretary of Education, she’s suddenly all for them. At least that’s what she claims now. During her nomination process, numerous reporters noted DeVos’s obvious bias against public schools. As education journalist Valerie Strauss reported on her blog at the Washington Post, DeVos “made some controversial statements” about public schools, “calling the traditional public education system a ‘dead end.’” Strauss noted DeVos had once said, “government truly sucks.” But now she claims to be all for public schools, at least according to reports on her recent speech to a conference of big city school leaders.

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Andy Spears

Nashville Says “No!” to Trump’s Health Care Con

President Trump came to Nashville to peddle the Republicans’ disastrous plan to cut health care for millions of Americans. Tennesseans responded to this con with a resounding, “No!” More than 2,500 of us – organized by a coalition including Tennessee Citizen Action (TNCA), the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, Nashville Indivisible, Planned Parenthood and others – marched from Nissan Stadium and other locations, converging on Municipal Auditorium, where Trump planned a campaign-style rally. There, Tennessee Citizen Action called on Trump to drop the repeal plan and demanded that our Republican senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, vote against it.

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Tim Wilkins

Wisconsin to Ryan: Let Us Live “A Life of Dignity”

Winter gusts could not keep hundreds from converging on the Racine offices of Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan to deliver a simple message. “I want to live a life of dignity,” said Reggie Griffin, a retiree in his seventies who traveled from Chicago to join the protest. Griffin, who works as a home health aide to make ends meet, joined Wisconsin activists to protest Ryan’s proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Ryan’s plan would end insurance for 14 million Americans over the next year, and 24 million within a decade. “This attack on seniors and families will devastate Midwest communities,” said Anna Marin, manager of civic engagement for the Jane Addams Senior Caucus, an Illinois group. Their members joined Wisconsin’s SEIU Healthcare, the Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans and Citizens Action Wisconsin in the protest.

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Alan Jenkins

Robert L. Carter’s Civil Rights Legacy is Essential Today

This month marks the 100th birthday of civil rights legend and revered federal judge Robert L. Carter.  Best known as a principal architect of Brown v. Board of Education, Carter brilliantly wove together history, social science, constitutional jurisprudence, and our nation’s professed values to topple legal segregation. But both before and after Brown, Carter pursued equal justice and freedom of expression, fearlessly confronting white supremacy in law and practice and upholding the right to protest our government. Though Judge Carter left us in 2012, his legacy and example are alive and well.  And, today, we need them more than ever.  The challenges that Carter surmounted during his career are all too familiar in today’s political landscape. One of Carter’s first experiences with the U.S.

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Richard Eskow

Nixon, Reagan Paved Way for GOP’s Race-Charged Health Agenda

After a presidential campaign filled with racist rhetoric, the Republicans have proposed a healthcare agenda that will harm many black, brown, and poor Americans while helping the white and wealthy. It’s the same cynical strategy Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan pioneered decades ago. Southern Strategy To be sure, the Democratic Party has its own legacy of racism. They couldn’t have prevailed for so long in the Jim Crow South without it. Richard Nixon, who was openly racist in private, sought to undermine Democrats with his 1968 campaign’s “Southern strategy,” which welcomed segregationists into the Republican party. It worked. Urban riots in 1967 had already provoked fear among many white voters, who didn’t understand their underlying causes. Mass demonstrations for peace and civil rights confused and disturbed them.

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Dave Johnson

Should We Pay the Rich to Build Infrastructure, Then Pay Them to Use It?

It’s starting to look like President Trump’s promised $1-trillion plan to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure will be as bad for us as his health care plan turned out to be. Infrastructure Report Card The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has issued their 2017 Infrastructure Report Card. We didn’t do so well. Our “grade” is a miserable D+. Why? Go outside and look around at our out-of-date and crumbling roads, bridges, dams, airports, water systems, and electrical grid. President Obama was able to address a bit of the problem in the 2009 “stimulus.” This passed because Democrats had supermajority control of the Senate at the time. But then they lost enough seats that Republicans could block things, and block they did. Republicans filibustered everything after that.

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Jacob Swenson-Lengyel

Forget Building Our Own Tea Party. The Left Can Win So Much More

On February 19, 2009, just 30 days after President Obama was sworn in, Rick Santelli’s rant on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange launched the Tea Party. The conservative establishment worked together with the grassroots to fan the flames of opposition. The resulting tidal wave swept Republicans to power at the national and state level in 2010, and set the stage for Trump’s victory in 2016. Since at least 2012, I’ve worked in and with organizations that saw the Tea Party as a model for the Left. While we abhorred their politics, we admired their tactics and coveted their success. The Tea Party pioneered a strategy that enabled grassroots activists and candidates to work inside and outside of the Republican Party to advance a “principled” conservative agenda. And they won—big time. In the wake of Trump’s election, we’re seeing a tsunami of progressive activism.

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Robert Kraig

Wisconsin and Illinois Activists Challenge House Speaker Paul Ryan

Hundreds of Wisconsin and Illinois activists will brave snowstorms Tuesday to converge on House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office in Racine, Wisconsin, to challenge the GOP’s bid to take health care away from millions of Americans. The two groups leading the event, Fair Economy Illinois and Citizen Action of Wisconsin, are affiliates of the national organizing network People’s Action. The action is one of the #ResistTrumpTuesdays events that have been held around the country since January. The strength of the grassroots resistance against GOP plans to gut health coverage has caught the political establishment by surprise, and put Congressional Republicans across the country on the defensive, prompting many to cancel public meetings with their constituents.

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Dave Johnson

Trump’s China Trademarks Violate the Constitution

During the campaign Donald Trump pledged that “on day one” as president, he would label China a currency manipulator. Then he didn’t. Then China granted Trump’s businesses lucrative trademarks he has been seeking. Coincidence? “On Day One“ On the campaign trail, Trump repeated again and again that if elected president he would label China a currency manipulator “on day one.” For example, in an August, 2016 speech in Tampa, he outlined a seven-point plan that included this promise: I am going to instruct my Treasury Secretary to label China a currency manipulator… Any country that devalues their currency in order to take unfair advantage of the United States will face tariffs to stop the cheating.

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Miles Mogulescu

GOP Plan Kicks Grandma to the Curb or Kicks Mama Off Health Care

How mean-spirited are Republican plans to repeal The Affordable Care Act? Among other things, they will make states choose between kicking millions of old people out of nursing homes or kicking millions of poor and near-poor people off Medicaid health insurance. This is one of the most pernicious effects of the Republican plan, and so far, it has been little reported in the media and hasn’t been discussed by the Democrats. It’s time for that to change. Most people think of Medicaid as a program to provide health insurance to poor and near-poor people, to prevent them from dying in the streets or waiting until they’re really sick and going to emergency rooms where their mandatory care drives up costs for everyone else. Nearly a quarter of the U.S. population, 70.5 million Americans, were were enrolled in Medicaid last year.

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Richard Eskow

The GOP Health Bill Is an Assault on People of Color

The American Health Care Act is a rich person’s bonanza. Under the plan proposed by House Republicans, each of the nation’s 400 richest families will save $7 million per year, as part of a tax giveaway. The plan offers no benefits at all to those who earn $200,000 or less a year. The burden from this cynical wealth grab falls disproportionately on the nation’s black, brown and poor households. To be clear, people of color cannot be stereotyped.  Most black Americans are not poor, and most live in the suburbs. Donald Trump made repeated assertions on the campaign trail that African-Americans live in a “hell” of poverty and violence. Those remarks were rightly condemned as implicitly racist. Wherever they reside, people of color don’t live in “hell.” They live in humanity. Nevertheless, our economy is divided along racial lines.

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Robert Borosage

Finding New Solutions for Foreign Policy

Few entities have been more discombobulated by our madcap president than the bipartisan foreign policy establishment, which former Obama foreign-policy adviser Ben Rhodes once dubbed “the blob.” Donald Trump assaulted the blob with his “America First” posture and his explicit indictment of the “corrupt establishment.” In the campaign, he scorned NATO as “obsolete,” praised Putin, indicted the waste of $6 trillion in the Middle East, and denounced our failed trade deals. As president, he’s continued the assault. He has indicated no preference for a two-state or one-state “solution” for Israel and the Palestinians. He undermined our “One China policy” before re-affirming it. He pulled the plug on the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal. He alienated allies across the Middle East with his two Muslim bans.

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Jeff Bryant

Yes, Schools Can Improve; Here’s How

In its waning hours, the Obama administration gave conservatives poised to take the reins in Washington, DC a huge gift when it issued a highly negative report on the results of its efforts to rescue the 5,000 lowest performing public schools across the nation. “Obama administration spent billions to fix failing schools, and it didn’t work,” reads the headline at the Washington Post, where education journalist Emma Brown writes, One of the Obama administration’s signature efforts in education, which pumped billions of federal dollars into overhauling the nation’s worst schools, failed to produce meaningful results … Test scores, graduation rates, and college enrollment were no different in schools that received money.

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Robert Borosage

We Must Create Good Jobs: Sherrod Brown Shows the Way Forward

February, the first full month of the Trump presidency, witnessed solid jobs growth of 235,000 with the headline unemployment rate little changed, at 4.7 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Services monthly report. Trump has already tweeted to claim credit for the results, but neither his plan nor his administration were in place. In fact, the February figures, a record 77th straight month of jobs growth, result from the momentum of the Obama recovery, plus whatever benefit or harm came from Trump’s bombast. The jobs growth will harden the Federal Reserve’s resolve to raise interest rates again when its Open Market Committee meets next week. The Fed is acting in anticipation of an expected rise in inflation, that is to date not much in evidence. By raising rates, The Fed is choosing to put a drag on the economy, even though full recovery is a long way off.

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Dave Johnson

Republicans Repealing A Rule To Stop Wage Theft? It’s Who They Are

Who could be against rules that try to protect workers from having their pay stolen, having their health and safety put at risk, and being subjected to civil rights and labor law violations? See if you can guess who. Last August, President Obama implemented a ‘Fair Pay And Safe Workplaces’ executive order that aims to stop companies from getting federal contracts if they violate labor and civil rights laws, steal workers’ wages and risk their health and safety. Actually, it just says the government will take violations into consideration, and yes, he waited eight years to implement this. So of course, Republicans being who they are, have now voted in the House and Senate to repeal this act, exposing workers once again to having their pay stolen, having their health and safety put at risk, and being subjected to civil rights and labor law violations.

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Richard Eskow

The American Health Care Act Is a Wealth Grab, Not a Health Plan

The Republicans’ plan to replace the Affordable Care Act is a disaster for the health of the American people. But that may be nothing more than a byproduct of the bill’s main impact: it will increase inequality, and make the rich even richer than they’ve become in the last few decades. It’s not a “health” plan. It’s a wealth grab for the already wealthy. Its benefits will go, first and foremost, to billionaires who make more money from investments than from work. The 400 highest-earning households in the country will get an average tax break of $7 million per year under the Republican plan. Who will benefit the least? Teachers, nurses, firefighters… pretty much anyone who works for a living. If this plan becomes law, the rich will get richer, most other people will lose out, and our nation’s already record-high levels of inequality will become even worse.

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Leo Gerard

Trumping the WTO for Fair Trade

This month is the one-year anniversary of Alcoa closing the largest aluminum smelter in the United States – the Warrick in Indiana. More than 325 workers lost their family-supporting jobs, including Brandon Marshall, who, like most aluminum workers, was a member of my union, the United Steelworkers (USW).  Brandon told the New York Times last week that he found another job, but it pays only about half what he earned before, so his wife had to go back to work. Alcoa also shut down its Wenatchee smelter last year, laying off 420 workers in Washington State, including Josh Busjahn, who told a reporter from public radio’s Marketplace that he had to cut his family’s budget in half. In 1970, there were 24,000 aluminum smelter workers nationwide. Now, there are 2,200. Just 17 years ago, the United States had 23 smelters. Now, there are five. And only one is operating at full capacity.

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Sam Pizzigati

The Foreign Aid Fallacy: Has America Become Too Generous?

Americans, on average, believe that over a quarter of the federal budget – 26 percent – goes for foreign aid, pollsters report. But actual outlays for foreign aid make up just 1 percent of what the federal government annually spends. Don’t expect this startling gap between perception and reality to narrow anytime soon. We now have in the White House a president who’s exaggerating — at every opportunity — what the United States spends on foreign assistance. The World Health Organization now sees Somalia at risk for its third famine in 25 years. The last famine left over a quarter-million dead. [UNICEF]“For too long, we’ve watched our middle class shrink as we’ve exported our jobs and wealth to foreign countries,” Trump pronounced February 28 before a joint session of Congress.

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Jacob Swenson-Lengyel

Shareholders Showdown: Will Disney Break From The Beast?

Exclusive access to President Trump might sound good to a CEO, but it comes at a cost to your business. Just ask Uber chief Travis Kalanick. In early February, Kalanick was compelled to step down from Trump’s closed-door economic advisory council after People’s Action and other grassroots groups called for his resignation, and more than 200,000 Uber customers deleted their accounts. Yet, others remain eager to get Trump’s ear. Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger, for instance, has said serving on the economic advisory council is a “great opportunity for me to have a direct pipeline to the president.” But many of Disney’s customers, workers and shareholders disagree, and that disagreement will be on prominent display Wednesday at Disney’s annual shareholder meeting in Denver.

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