Julie Duhn

For Iowa’s Sake, Steve King Must Resign

Communities like mine are dying. Steve King, the congressman who supposedly represents us in the Fourth District of Iowa, should be fighting for us in Washington. Yet he stays mostly silent about this crisis. Instead, King spouts racist rants about immigrants (whom he compares to livestock) and the electrified wall he wants to build to keep them out. But what about opportunities for our young people? Family farms? Our polluted water? About this and more, Steve King says — and does — nothing. The community where I live used to be vibrant — now we struggle. Like so many farming communities, our young people are leaving. Stores are closing, wages are low, schools are underfunded, and our water and air are fouled by manure from corporate animal factories. The only hospital in our county no longer delivers babies.

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Jacqueline Bediako

In Solidarity with Jussie

Photo courtesy of Music of Sound / Jussie Smollett In reading about the racist and homophobic attack on 36-year-old actor Jussie Smollett, I was plunged into deep sadness. I stand in spiritual solidarity with Jussie – I cannot be at his bedside tonight. Instead, I’ve picked up my pen. Historically, we (Black people) have been subject to unspeakable violence. Last summer, I visited The Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama created by the Equal Justice Initiative. At this chilling memorial, I learned about how many who looked like me were murdered, publicly. They were lynched – a noose was tied around their neck and they were hanged, while onlookers simply watched. A chemical, possibly bleach, was poured on Jussie and a rope was tied around his neck. Jussie was the victim of a hate crime and domestic terrorism.

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Jeff Bryant

Teacher Strikes Shift Politics of Charter School Agenda

Photo credit: Fibonacci Blue/flickr/cc The emergence of charter schools as an important consideration in teacher collective bargaining agreements, and the recognition of charters as a form of privatization, are two major developments in the education policy and politics of choice. Republican lawmakers held a press conference on Capitol Hill to kick off National School Choice Week, an annual event that began in 2011 under President Obama who proclaimed it as a time to “recognize the role public charter schools play in providing America’s daughters and sons with a chance to reach their fullest potential.” This year, Democratic lawmakers took a pass on the celebration. You can thank striking teachers for that.

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Robert Borosage

Why the ‘Ideas Primary’ Matters

U.S. presidential contests may seem never-ending, but if the debate is about policy – instead of personality – is that such a bad thing? The 2020 presidential campaign began long before the midterms ended. Reporters have already started covering the gaggle of Democrats (20? 30?) said to be “looking at” a run. Pollsters and pundits are already handicapping the horse race, brandishing polls that mostly register name recognition. The scramble for campaign money and talent is now well under way. More interesting for voters, the Democratic campaign is starting off with an “ideas primary,” with potential candidates competing on reform proposals and messages, seeking to hone their distinctive appeal. This cycle’s ideas primary is already fierce.

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Miles Mogulescu

Could Elizabeth Warren Be The Next President?

Over the past ten years, I’ve written hundreds of articles on topics from Medicare For All, voter suppression, Constitutional law, to Trump’s gold-plated toilet.  None has generated more excitement than an article I wrote in December, 2014, urging Elizabeth Warren to run for President and challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. That post blew up and went viral, with over half a million Facebook reposts and millions of tweets and retweets. The of level of enthusiasm Senator Warren’s ideas, and the idea of her candidacy, could generate was tremendous. There’s no proving it, but I believe there’s a high probability that Warren would have defeated Trump. Flash forward to this New Year’s Eve, when Warren announced she’s entering the 2020 Presidential race.

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Sam Pizzigati

What LA Teachers Tell Us About Rising Inequality

Back during the 1960s and 1970s, in cities, suburbs, and small towns across the United States, teacher strikes made headlines on a fairly regular basis. Teachers in those years had a variety of reasons for walking out. They struck for the right to bargain. They struck for decent pay and benefits. They struck for professional dignity. The teachers’ strike in Los Angeles, America’s second-largest school district, was the latest high-profile walkout in a new surge of teacher activism that began last year. L.A. teachers went on strike to demand the same dignity and decency teachers sought in the mid-20th century. But the L.A. struggle, many observers believe, amounts to much more than a battle over how school officials treat teachers. Teachers in L.A. went on strike, in a most fundamental way, against how unequal America has become.

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Leo Gerard

The Indignity of Work Without Pay

In the midst of the longest government shutdown in history, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown this week launched a “Dignity of Work” listening tour. The Democratic senator who just won reelection by nearly seven points in the red state of Ohio explained the concept to reporters: “Dignity of work means hard work should pay off for everyone, no matter who you are or what kind of work you do. . . dignity of work is a value that unites us all.” Well, maybe not everyone. Forty percent of conservative Republicans view the government shutdown as inconsequential. That is, 40 percent of conservative Republicans believe that furloughing 380,000 federal workers and giving them no idea when they might see another paycheck is no problem. That is, 40 percent of conservative Republicans say that ordering another 420,000 federal employees to work without pay is nothing.

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James Mumm

Organizing To Win Governing Power

As we enter a perilous period in American history, with Donald Trump’s bottomless insecurity fueling white supremacy and fascism on the one hand and environmental Armageddon on the other, there is an opening of historic proportions for mass revolutionary organizing. Will we break out of self-limiting orthodoxies, face oppressive structures head-on, and take risks that swing for the fences? Over two centuries, the ambitions of people-powered organizing in this country have grown from stopping material suffering – as in the abolition of slavery – to winning freedoms such as women’s right to vote and the end to child labor, civil rights, and marriage equality. This has advanced to sharing abundance and the common good (Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security, and the right to organize). Today, the cutting-edge ambition of organizers is to step up and win governing power.

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Sam Pizzigati

U.S. Tax Policy Can Turn on a Dime. Has Ocasio-Cortez Just Turned It?

Who gets taxed in the United States — and by how much — can change both drastically and fast. Back in early 1916, for instance, America’s richest faced income tax rates that posed, at worst, no more than a minor inconvenience. On income over $500,000, about $11.5 million in today’s dollars, deep pockets faced a mere 7 percent federal income tax levy. In September 1916, with a costly war already raging in Europe, lawmakers in Congress moved to upend that tax calculus. They more than doubled the top tax rate, to 15 percent on income over $2 million. Congressional leaders would be pleased with their handiwork. The top federal tax rate on the incomes of the rich, future House speaker Henry Rainey from Illinois proudly announced, had reached “the very highest notch.” Not quite.

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Miles Mogulescu

Trump Violates Law by Taking Putin Notes

The Washington Post has reported that Trump “has gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal details of his conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, including on at least one occasion taking possession of the notes of his own interpreter, and ordering the linguist not to discuss what had transpired with other administration officials. As a result, U.S. officials have said there is no detailed record, even in classified files, of Trump’s face-to-face interactions with the Russian leader at five locations over the past two years.     This is unprecedented in Presidential history, and truly chilling. After all, fourteen U.S. intelligence agencies have already concluded that Russia interfered with the 2016 elections, and Trump and his campaign is under investigation for possible conspiracy and obstruction of the probe.

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Negin Owliaei

How New Yorkers Hold New Politicians to Their Word

Photo credit: VOCAL-NY November’s Blue Wave didn’t only take place on a federal level. Democrats flipped hundreds of state legislature seats, including in New York, where they took control of the Senate for the first time in a decade. Now, the activists across the state who got those politicians elected have turned their attention to holding them accountable. Despite huge voter margins, this is only the third time over the past 50 years that Democrats have won the Senate, which they’ve controlled for a total of less than three years since World War II. But now the party has a trifecta of control over the governorship and both bodies of the state legislature. The change means progressive activists have a new opportunity to demand their representatives make good on the progressive promises that got them elected.

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Tara Raghuveer

It’s Time For A Homes Guarantee

Our nation is in a full-blown housing emergency. Today, a person working full time in a minimum-wage job cannot afford a two-bedroom apartment – anywhere in the United States. More than half of all Americans spend a third or more of their income on housing. Only one in five households that qualify for federal housing assistance receives it. And right now, thanks to President Trump’s irresponsible government shutdown, hundreds of thousands of households may face eviction and homelessness. So we have to ask again, with even greater urgency, the question we put to HUD Secretary Ben Carson when we confronted him in Las Vegas last spring: “Where will we live?” This is the humanitarian crisis we should be talking about: the one that’s right under our noses, and is growing larger every day.

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Leo Gerard

Tax Dollars Can Buy Happiness

Corporatists have sought to shame two clear-eyed lawmakers in recent weeks for daring to offer prescriptions to cure America’s rampant economic anxiety.  “Stupid” is what they tried to call new Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as she became the youngest woman ever to serve in the U.S. House. “Unlikeable” is what they wanted to peg on U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren as she began exploring a run for the presidency. Right-wingers and one percenters felt they had to try and crush Ocasio-Cortez, Warren and others whose ideas promote dignified jobs with living wages, universal health insurance, affordable access to pre-K and college degrees and a national sense of social cohesiveness.  That’s because in capitalist America, where there are summer homes and pleasure boats for the wealthy, there is no rest for the weary and worried.

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Sam Pizzigati

Prices, Plutocrats, and Corporate Concentration

Andrew Leigh, a member of the Australian parliament, has a side gig. He just happens to be a working economist. Other lawmakers may spend their spare hours making cold calls for campaign cash. Leigh spends his doing research — on why our modern economies are leaving their populations ever more unequal. Leigh’s latest research is making some global waves. Working with a team of Australian, Canadian, and American analysts, he’s been studying how much the prices corporate monopolies charge impact inequality. The conventional wisdom has a simple answer: not much. Yes, the reasoning goes, prices do go up when a few large corporations start to dominate an economic sector. But those same higher prices translate into higher returns for corporate shareholders.

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Miles Mogulescu

Trump’s Delusion About the Wall That Never Was

Three weeks have passed since Donald Trump shut down much of the government because Congress won’t give him $5.6 billion in taxpayer money to build 200 miles of his illusory Wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Let’s be clear on one thing: There is no Wall. There never has been a serious plan to build a Wall. And there never will be a Wall. And that’s just fine with Trump, as long as he continues to keep the Wall as a political cudgel. Like most everything else having to do with the so-called “Wall,” the government shutdown is nothing more than Trumpian political theater aimed at his base and their media enablers like Anne Coulter and Rush Limbaugh.

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Sara LaWall

Showing Up at the Border for Our Shared Humanity

Two thousand years ago, a young mother and father fled for their lives and left everything behind for the safety of their child. Their names were Mary and Joseph. I can’t help but think what would happen to this migrant family and their brown-skinned baby at our southern border today. This child, Jesus, would likely be torn from his mother’s arms. These thoughts passed through my mind as I knelt, praying, at Tijuana Beach, near the border fence that separates Mexico from the United States. Migrant families could see us from the other side; I could see their eyes. “I’m here with you,” I thought, as I looked through the gaps in the fence. “There are people in this country who deeply, deeply care for you, and who are willing to put our bodies on the line to say this is not right.” Moments later, I was arrested.

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Elder Leslie

Justice Demands We Free Cyntoia Brown

The facts of the case are simply horrifying: Cyntoia Brown was a child of 16 in Nashville, Tennessee when she was sex-trafficked by a pimp named “Kut-throat.” Just days after being repeatedly drugged and raped by different men, a 43-year-old real estate agent purchased her for sex and took her to his home.  When she feared for her life, she acted in self defense and killed him.  Cyntoia survived this trauma and a childhood of unspeakable violence. She found the courage to save her own life, but the state of Tennessee put her on trial as an adult for first degree murder. This week, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that Cyntoia will have to serve 51 years before she is eligible for release.  My demand is simple: free Cyntoia Brown. As of right now, Cyntoia has already served 14 years in prison.

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Linda Armitage

Our Housing Crisis Needs Action Now

Our nation is in a housing crisis that’s getting worse. We need action from our lawmakers now. That’s the message I traveled to Washington with People’s Action housing activists from all across the country to deliver. My name is Linda Armitage, and I’m 76 years old. I live in a building run by the Chicago Housing Authority in Wrigleyville, just a block from Lake Michigan.  It’s a nice neighborhood, and you’d think I’m one of the lucky ones – but that’s just part of my story. I lost my life savings – every penny in my 401k – in the 2008 financial crisis. I had to find a cheaper place to live. The banks got bailed out, Wall Street got bailed out – everybody got bailed out, it seemed, except seniors like me – and others affected by the crisis. We had nowhere to turn.

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Ben Ishibashi

A Green New Deal Must Be 100 Percent Just

Excitement is building among environmentalists as Washington prepares for the arrival of new lawmakers elected by the #PeoplesWave. Led by New York Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, these insurgents promise to infuse new energy into the movement for climate justice. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Photo credit: Sunrise Movement Ocasio-Cortez, through a series of high-profile public protests and statements, has focused the minds and hearts of activists, and laid down a gauntlet for the Democratic Party. Now is the time, she says, for a Green New Deal that confronts climate change head-on with bold solutions that can fundamentally alter our nation’s course on both the environment and rising income inequality through a real commitment to renewable energy.

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Sam Pizzigati

Can an Unequal Earth Beat Climate Change?

We either keep fossil fuels in the ground, or all of us are going to fry. So essentially posits still another new blockbuster study on climate change, this one just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Our fossil-fuel industrial economy, the study details, has made for the fastest climate changes our Earth has ever seen. “If we think about the future in terms of the past, where we are going is uncharted territory for human society,” notes the study lead author Kevin Burke from the University of Wisconsin. “In the roughly 20 to 25 years I have been working in the field,” adds another researcher on the effort, Wisconsin’s John Williams, “we have gone from expecting climate change to happen, to detecting the effects, and now, we are seeing that it’s causing harm,” as measured in property damage and deaths, in intensified flooding and fires.

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