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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Dave Johnson

Does Moving Jobs Out Of The Country Affect What People Here Get Paid?

Economists are still arguing over whether moving our jobs out of the country affects what the people still here get paid. Yes, really. For example, Jared Bernstein in The Washington Post looks at different studies of the effect of moving jobs out of the country. One study, by economists David Autor, David Dorn and Gordon Hanson (referred to by Bernstein as “ADH”), was published in January by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The other, by economist Josh Bivens at the Economic Policy Institute, was published in 2013. Both found that moving jobs out of the country hurt the wages of not just the affected workers but everyone in the surrounding area. The question is, does this wage-depressing effect spread outside the local area? Bernstein writes, “The analytic question is twofold.

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Damon Silvers

How We Must Face The Rise Of The Radical Right

Throughout the developed world, extreme right wing politics have surfaced in ways not seen since the Second World War. In Europe, parties of the far right have levels of public support that would have been unthinkable even a decade ago. In the United States, Donald Trump is the “presumptive nominee” of one of our two major political parties. His platform tries to mix the traditional hatreds of the racist right with the economic anxieties of America’s beleaguered middle class. A couple of days ago, Ross Douthat, a conservative columnist for the New York Times, said of Donald Trump, “his unfitness starts with basic issues of temperament. It encompasses the race-baiting, the conspiracy theorizing, the flirtations with violence, and the pathological lying that have been his campaign-trail stock in trade.

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Dave Johnson

New Rules On Corporate Secrecy Have Glaring Loopholes

The Treasury Department released a new rule and several proposals last week that they said are intended to address the problem of corruption and dirty money in secret U.S. shell companies. A White House news release announced what it called “several important steps to combat money laundering, corruption, and tax evasion, and called upon Congress to take additional action to address these critical issues.” (A White House fact sheet is available here.) The new rules at first glance appear strong. But after examining the details, several watchdog groups are warning that the new regulations and proposals leave open several glaring loopholes, and even practically provide instructions for how to get around the regulations. The New Rules Reuters has the story on the new rules, in” U.S.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Conservative Solution For Puerto Ricans In Pain Is More Pain

Puerto Rico is in dire straits, and its citizens – no, make that “our fellow citizens” – need immediate relief from a crushing debt that is already causing severe hardship to people who can least bare it. Yet, Republican leaders in the House of Representatives were stymied once again Wednesday in their ability to advance legislation that would address the island commonwealth’s fiscal crisis. In a way, though, that might be a good thing. What Republicans were considering proposing would have made conditions much worse for Puerto Rican families and retirees. Economist Jared Bernstein has an excellent column for washingtonpost.com that explains the stakes both for Puerto Rico residents and for the rest of us.

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Bill Scher

Can Trump Really Win Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania?

The most recent round of Quinnipiac polls re-ignited Democratic fears that Donald Trump could actually win the presidency. The polls put him ahead of Hillary Clinton by 4 in Ohio, and behind her by only 1 point in Florida and Pennsylvania. Democrats should not be complacent about the threat of Trump, but neither should they revert to panic at the sight of a single poll. Always beware of outliers. First, if you average all of the polls in each state taken since March, Clinton holds a 5.6 percent lead in Florida, a 7.0 percent lead in Pennsylvania and a 3.0 percent lead in Ohio. None of states are a lock for Clinton, but the Quinnipiac results are a clear outlier.

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Burning Issues Video

Burning Issues: The Arms Trade As A Foreign Policy Tool

The next president should end the practice of recent presidents of using arms sales as an instrument of foreign policy, says William Hartung, director of the arms and security project at the Center for International Policy, in this Burning Issues video. The Obama administration has engaged in record levels of arms deals, Hartung points out, because the administration’s interventionist strategy relies heavily on arming surrogates rather than directly engaging in foreign conflicts. The problem, Hartung says, is that “the arms last much longer than the relationships,” and thus end up being used against U.S. and long-term peace interests. There are international treaties that we should hold the next president to honoring, Hartung says. Plus, certain weapons should not be on the international market, he says.

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Robert Borosage

Bernie Takes West Virginia

West Virginia really likes Bernie Sanders. He swept the Democratic primary yesterday, winning 51.4 percent to Clinton’s 36 percent, even in the face of the mainstream media essentially declaring the race over. Speaking in Salem, Ore., Sanders described the key to his victory: “West Virginia is a working-class state, and like many other states in this country, including Oregon, working people are hurting. And what the people of West Virginia said tonight, and I believe the people of Oregon will say next week, is that we need an economy that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent.” After winning Indiana last week, Sanders pockets West Virginia and his prospects are improving in coming contests in Oregon, Kentucky and Washington.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Questionable Assumptions Behind Critiques of Sanders’ Economic Plan

It’s “Neoliberals Gang Up on Bernie Sanders Week” along the corridor of Washington establishment think-tanks that include the Brookings Institution, the Urban Institute and a Brookings offspring, the Tax Policy Center. Out of this corridor came not one, but two reports this week that give negative reviews to Sanders’ health care and tax plans. Both reports essentially reinforce one of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s chief attack lines against the Vermont senator running to her left: that Sanders’ “numbers don’t add up” and that he is making promises “that cannot be kept.” But in reality it’s the reports themselves that make questionable negative assumptions about the effects of Sanders’ proposals.

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Terrance Heath

Battle Over N.C. “Bathroom Law” Exposes Fissures on The Right

A week after Ted Cruz’s defended it in a failed attempt to boost his presidential bid, the battle over North Carolina’s anti-LGBT “bathroom bill” is exposing fissures in the conservative movement. Since North Carolina hastily passed HB 2, in reaction to the city of Charlotte passing an ordinance prohibiting anti-LGBT discrimination in public accommodations, the backlash against the bill has focused on corporations, organizations and individuals taking their business — and money — elsewhere in protest. At a press conference on Monday, Attorney General Loretta Lynch made a passionate moral case against such laws and accused North Carolina of “state-sponsored discrimination against transgender individuals.” Let me speak now to the people of the great state, the beautiful state, my state of North Carolina.

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Bill Scher

Trump’s Uphill Battle For Bernie Voters

“I think I’ll get a lot of his supporters” Donald Trump said on CNN of Bernie Sanders voters. A few seconds earlier, Trump smeared Sanders, saying he “could be beyond a socialist.” That sums up his problem. Trump and Sanders are like oil and water, and so are their supporters. I delved into Trump’s conundrum today in Politico Magazine. The two overlap some on trade and foreign policy, but there is much more that keeps them apart: Sanders supports a carbon tax; Trump calls global warming a hoax. Sanders wants a $15 minimum wage; Trump has said “our wages are too high.” Sanders wants to jack the top income tax rate up to 54 percent; Trump wants to slash it to 25 percent. Their foreign policies do not dovetail that neatly. Sanders’ anti-imperialist fans would not echo Trump’s call to “take the oil” in Iraq.

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