Jeff Bryant

The Growing Crisis Of Our Education Infrastructure

You’ve probably heard about the fierce battle over school bathrooms raging across the country. It’s an important story for sure because transgender students should not be blocked from entering facilities of their gender identity. But the current fight over gender equity shouldn’t take away from another bathroom battle taking place in our nation’s public schools: whether students have access to a functioning bathroom at all. In Detroit, a local news outlet recently reported bathroom facilities in some schools are in such poor states of repair that teachers are forced to tell students, “No, there’s nowhere in the building to go to the bathroom.” Physical conditions in Detroit public schools have gotten so bad, teachers created a Twitter campaign showing pictures of broken toilets, leaking ceilings, moldy walls and buckled floors.

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Terrance Heath

What Will Local Control Hypocrisy Cost The GOP in North Carolina?

Founding Father Thomas Jefferson is often credited with saying, “The government closest to the people serves them best.” Republicans in North Carolina — and elsewhere — think they know better. In Charlotte, North Carolina, “the government closest to the people” approved Ordinance 7056, prohibiting discrimination against LGBT citizens in public accommodations and allowing transgender people to use public restrooms appropriate to their gender identity. One year prior, the ordinance failed in a 6 – 5 vote. This year is passed in a 7 – 4 vote. Two new city council members at large, elected in November, supported the ordinance. It sounds like local democracy in action. Advocates for the ordinance kept working to persuade voters and candidates to support it, and managed to elect two more city council members who voted for it.

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Dave Johnson

Why This New Overtime Rule Is A Big, Big Deal

Overtime pay for working more than 40 hours a week is a right that had been taken away from many workers, but now they are getting the right back, thanks to a new rule the Obama administration issued Wednesday. This is a big, big deal. Soon a lot of people will get to spend time with their families, or get paid for the hours they work past 40 in a week. Currently, if a “salaried” worker makes more than $23,660 a year, the pay stops at 40 hours but the work hours don’t. Employers have been able to squeeze free work out of people just by declaring them to be “salaried.” Again, repeated because it is unbelievable, workers who are paid a salary of $23,660 or more do not get overtime (or any extra pay at all) when they work more than 40 hours in a week.

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Robert Borosage

The Test of Leadership as Sanders Rolls in Oregon

Bernie Sanders won the Oregon primary big last night – 54 percent to 45 percent for Hillary Clinton – while ending in a virtual tie in Kentucky (Clinton, 46.8 percent vs. Sanders, 46.3 percent). Both states were closed primaries, with independents barred from voting. That surely cost Sanders the victory in Kentucky, as he has been winning independents by large margins in primaries across the country. In his victory speech, delivered before a vibrant crowd in Carson, Calif., Sanders attributed his progress to the power of his message.

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Isaiah J. Poole

The Economic Revival Of Our Cities Must Include Everyone

Donna Mossman remembers the day, back in the 1970s living with her parents in an apartment in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., that water cascaded through the living room wall. Looking back, that was a life-defining moment. That water incident happened in a rent-controlled apartment building that the owner allowed to go into such disrepair that her family and other tenants were compelled to move out, with the expectation that they would return once the building was refurbished. But that was not to be; the newly renovated apartments were financially out of reach for the former residents. “I vowed that day that I would never allow that to happen to us again,” Mossman says.

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Dave Johnson

New Verizon Strike Day Of Action Thursday

The Verizon strike is still going on, and has passed the one-month mark. This is about working people versus giant corporations that have vast power. The 40,000 striking workers want a few things, but the immensely profitable corporation and its wealthy executives want to crush the union and have been refusing to even negotiate. The workers have been without a contract since August. This weekend the Secretary of Labor Verizon Thomas Perez met with Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam, Chris Shelton, Communications Workers of America (CWA) president and Lonnie Stephenson, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Washington. The company agreed to return to the bargaining table but good luck with that.

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Bill Scher

Nothing Populist About Trump’s Campaign of Character Assassination

You can say this for Donald Trump; he doesn’t delegate the job of attack dog. He likes to scorch his own earth. In what has to be an unprecedented interview, Trump gleefully shared with the New York Times his innermost thoughts on how he plans to rhetorically fillet his opponent: Donald J. Trump plans to throw Bill Clinton’s infidelities in Hillary Clinton’s face on live television during the presidential debates this fall, questioning whether she enabled his behavior and sought to discredit the women involved. Mr. Trump will try to hold her accountable for security lapses at the American consulate in Benghazi … And he intends to portray Mrs.

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Leo Gerard

Really, Really Rich Trump Is No Workers’ Champion

Presumptive Republican Presidential Nominee Donald  “I am really, really rich” Trump is, according to Forbes, the 121st richest person in America. So, yes, he is really, really rich He loves the perks of being really, really rich, like flying to campaign events in one of his own private jets, which means he blithely skips those annoying airport security lines that non-billionaires must endure. He enjoys kicking back in one of his five houses, including the 58-bedroom Mar-A-Lago mansion, where the $600,000 annual property taxes are three times the entire cost of an average American home. And, of course, Trump relishes the power he has to tell workers, “You’re fired.” Born into wealth, Trump attended private schools and inherited $40 million when he was just 28 years old. He didn’t spend summers volunteering for Habitat for Humanity in Appalachia.

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Dave Johnson

This Week Is Infrastructure Week, But Every Week Should Be

Flint, Michigan is this year’s face of the infrastructure problem: Flint’s (and many other cities’) outdated water systems are literally poisoning people. All around us we see bridges and roads that are in (really) bad shape, aging and failing rail transit systems, traffic jams everywhere, power outages – problem after problem. Our country’s infrastructure is in bad shape and rapidly getting worse. But we can’t get our own government to spend the necessary money to fix the problem. That’s just maintenance, never mind modernization to a 21st-century infrastructure to drive the economy, with such features as high-speed rail, modern city rapid-transit systems, “smart grid” electrical systems transmitting renewable energy, fiber-optic internet.

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Lindsay Koshgarian

Our Failure to Invest in Infrastructure Is Literally Making Us Sick

Image via Keoni Cabral @ Flickr. My water’s clean, but I’m feeling sick anyway. The residents of Flint have gone without clean water for 748 days, and counting. That’s more than two years: long enough for toddlers to become preschoolers, for infants to graduate from lead-tainted formula to lead-tainted Kool-Aid. When you think of school kids subjected to lead poisoning for years in the supposedly greatest country on earth, it’s hard not to feel sick. It’s not my kid. But it could be. It’s one thing for congressional leaders to carry on with their budget antics year in and year out, skirting disaster, even with all that’s at stake. But the lack of response to the emergency in Flint takes it to a whole new level. Putting the federal government to shame, a group of foundations led by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation this week pledged $125 million to help Flint.

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Burning Issues Video

Burning Issues: Why The Pentagon Needs an Audit

An audit of the Defense Department’s finances must be the next president’s top priority to root out waste and “legalized corruption” in Pentagon procurement, says Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, in this Burning Issues video. All federal agencies have been required since 1997 to go through an audit of their finances, and almost all of the largest federal agencies have gotten “clean” audits from the Government Accountability Office. The Pentagon is the biggest exception; it “just can’t do it and continues to be unable to do it,” Brian says. Defense Department officials have offered up the complexity and size of the Pentagon as excuses, but she says those responses don’t pass muster.

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Richard Eskow

What’s Killing the American Middle Class?

A new study by the Pew Research Center spurred a rash of headlines last week about “the dying middle class.” But the word “dying” might be more appropriate if we were watching the regrettable but inevitable effects of natural forces at work. We’re not. We’re seeing the fruits of deliberate action – and sometimes of deliberate inaction – at the highest levels of power. The great American middle was never large enough, even at its height. It always excluded too many people – sometimes, shamefully, merely for their skin color. And now, instead of growing and becoming more inclusive, it’s fading away instead. It’s true that the middle class is dying, but not from natural causes. It’s being killed.

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Dave Johnson

Is This The Return Of U.S. ‘Gunboat Diplomacy’ Serving Corporations?

Colombia is allowing local production of a generic form of a cancer drug that is ultraexpensive because of a government-granted monopoly handed to a giant, multinational pharmaceutical corporation. The U.S. government is stepping in on the corporation’s side with a modern form of “gunboat diplomacy” — even though the giant corporation isn’t even “American.” In November 2014, a group of public health advocacy organizations called on the Colombian government to declare that the public interest warrants that the country can produce a generic version of the ultraexpensive cancer drug Gleevec, produced by the “Swiss” giant Novartis.

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Isaiah J. Poole

The $3,400 ‘Tax’ You’re Paying That The Media Decided Not To Talk About

An alarm bell went off this week about the state of the nation’s infrastructure and what government inaction is costing every American household – but the news media seems to have hit the mute button on the alarm in the rush of wall-to-wall Donald Trump coverage. But something that is costing each American family on average $3,400 a year is worth at least a few minutes of discussion – especially in the context of this Trump-besotted presidential campaign. That is the money that the American Society of Civil Engineers this week said in its latest “Failure to Act” report that each U.S.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: True Colors

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign says that selecting a well-known white nationalist as one of its delegates in California, was due to a “technical error.” But it was really Trump’s campaign showing its true colors, again. When California’s secretary of state published the list of delegates chosen by Trump’s campaign for the state’s upcoming presidential primary, one name stood out: William Johnson. Johnson happens to be one of the most prominent white nationalists in the country. Currently, he’s the chairman of American Freedom Party, which seeks to run racist candidates nationwide, but Johnson’s white supremacist activities go back a long way. In 1985, he proposed a constitutional amendment that would revoke the citizenship of every non-white inhabitant of the U.S. Named after the pseudonym, James O.

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Bill Scher

Trump Removes All Doubt: He Will Give The Rich a Massive Tax Cut

After trying to sow confusion with different audiences regarding whether he would reverse course on his plan to slash top-end tax rates, the Donald Trump campaign sent a clear message that his extremely right-wing tax cut plan is here to stay. The New York Times reported: …his spokeswoman on Thursday sought to clear things up: He plans no changes, Hope Hicks said, and advisers who say otherwise do not speak for him … … Politico reported on Wednesday that two informal advisers — Larry Kudlow, a CNBC host, and Mr. Moore, an economic commentator — said they were helping Mr. Trump at his request and had proposed changes to slash the plan’s cost from $10 trillion in its first decade to $3.8 trillion… Ms.

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Dave Johnson

Tech Companies Dodge Taxes; Silicon Valley Region Pays The Price

When companies dodge taxes, it’s not just the federal government that takes the hit; people, communities and entire regions pay, too. For example, Silicon Valley’s tech companies create billionaires and magnificently reward the “investor class.” But like so many giant corporations, they grab what they can, use everyone and everything up and use their wealth and power to rig the rules to get even more. Tech companies get a lot from government. They receive government contracts and purchases. Their products grow out of government-financed research. They use the government-provided infrastructure. They have access to publicly educated employees. They use the court system. They draw on all kinds of national, state and local services. Their foreign-manufactured products are protected at sea by our navy. The list is endless.

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Burning Issues Video

Burning Issues: Is the Iran Nuclear Deal Working?

Critics of the nuclear deal with Iran have stepped up their opposition even though it is a clear success. Kate Gould of the Friends Committee on National Legislation, an expert on the Middle East policy, explains why now is the time for supporters of peace and diplomacy to reassert what the deal the Obama administration struck with Iran has accomplished. As a result of the deal, there have already been more conversations between the U.S. and Iran over other regional conflicts, which is tremendously significant. Now that this diplomatic channel is wider, the U.S. should hold up its end of the bargain and lift more of the economic sanctions against Iran, which can only be done by Congress, Gould says.

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Courtney Freudenthal

Work-Life Balance Matters To Millennial Voters

Despite their generous philanthropy as they battle massive levels of student debt and a bleak job market, millennials are frequently misunderstood as narcissistic and social-media-obsessed. It might then come as a surprise that today’s young generation deeply cares about having a flexible work-life balance in order to foster strong families and careers. In the 2016 presidential race candidates would do well to understand the hardships millennials face in and outside of the office to further connect to these young voters.

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Jeff Bryant

Teachers Are Increasingly Frustrated, And That’s Bad For Students

Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week. So some folks thought it might be a swell idea to ask teachers how “appreciated” they feel. The short answer? Not so much. Results of a wide-ranging new survey of 3,328 K-12 classroom teachers finds the nation’s front-line educators are committed to their students and generally satisfied with their schools and their colleagues but are deeply frustrated with how they’re being treated. Most teachers believe their voices are ignored by policy makers at the district (76 percent), state (94 percent), and national (94 percent) levels. Most teachers say what would really help their work would be smaller class sizes and more time for planning and collaboration with colleagues.

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