Saturday, April 25, 2015

Bank of America tries to seize widow's home while forgetting to mention that her loan was insured

by Walter Einenkel

Laura Coleman Biggs and her experience with Bank of America is absolutely criminal. When her husband George Mitchell passed away, 12 years ago this month, Ms. Biggs continued paying off her mortgage.
George “Kenny” Mitchell had taken out a special lender-pushed insurance policy to pay off most of his loan if he died.

But when he passed away on April 26, 2003, the subsidiary of Charlotte-based Bank of America did not arrange a payoff of the $100,000 policy and continued to charge his widow an insurance premium every month along with her mortgage payment.

Richard Eskow: Social Security Trust – or, Never Lend Money to a Conservative

Never lend money to a conservative. That’s one conclusion to be drawn from recent attacks on Social Security by Bloomberg View columnists Megan McArdle and Ramesh Ponnuru. Apparently promises, even legally executed ones, don’t mean much to their crowd.

McArdle recently expended 1249 words attempting to evade the government’s debt to the Social Security Trust Fund, never really getting much beyond the five-word assertion that “the trust fund isn’t real.” Ponnuru tried to argue that a cut isn’t really a cut.

Dean Baker: A Simple Progressive Economic Agenda for Hillary Clinton (or Anyone Else)

In the week since Secretary Clinton announced she is entering the presidential race there have been numerous stories asking about the agenda she will adopt in her campaign. In her announcement video, she indicated she wanted to be a champion for the average worker against the wealthy.

While many policies will be needed to improve the situation of the poor and middle class, there are three simple ones that could make a big difference: a more competitive dollar, a Federal Reserve Board committed to full employment and a financial transactions tax to rein in Wall Street. If Clinton or any other presidential candidate wants to level the playing field, these policies would be a great place to start.

The Big Cheat: Why Teachers Are Going to Prison While Charter School Operators Get Accolades

By Jeff Bryant

No one likes a cheater.

So you’d think plenty of people would be pleased to hear that educators in Atlanta, on trial for cheating on standardized tests, were found guilty of those charges and sentenced “harshly,” according to the New York Times.

As CNN reports, of the 12 educators who went on trial for “inflating test scores of children from struggling schools,” 11 were convicted of racketeering—a crime normally associated with mob bosses—and other lesser crimes. Of those who have been sentenced so far (one sentencing has been postponed), eight have been given jail or prison time and three will serve at least seven years. Only those who admitted guilt and waived appeals were spared.

Paul Krugman: Greece on the Brink

“Don’t you think they want us to fail?” That’s the question I kept hearing during a brief but intense visit to Athens. My answer was that there is no “they” — that Greece does not, in fact, face a solid bloc of implacable creditors who would rather see default and exit from the euro than let a leftist government succeed, that there’s more good will on the other side of the table than many Greeks suppose.

But you can understand why Greeks see things that way. And I came away from the visit fearing that Greece and Europe may suffer a terrible accident, an unnecessary rupture that will cast long shadows over the future.

The TPP: Toward Absolutist Capitalism

Posted on April 20, 2015 by Lambert Strether

There are many excellent arguments against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), two of which — local zoning over-rides, and loss of national sovereignty — I’ll briefly review as stepping stones to the main topic of the post: Absolutist Capitalism, for which I make two claims:

1) The TPP implies a form of absolute rule, a tyranny as James Madison would have understood the term, and

2) The TPP enshrines capitalization as a principle of jurisprudence.

Zoning over-rides and lost of national sovereignty may seem controversial to the political class, but these two last points may seem controversial even to NC readers. However, I hope to show both points follow easily from the arguments with which we are already familiar. Both flow from the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism, of which I will now give two examples.

Republicans who limit what medical students can learn doom us to stupid doctors

Some legislators want to keep women from having abortions by prohibiting anyone from teaching doctors how to perform one

Jessica Valenti

Most people expect their physicians to be smart – skillful, schooled and, perhaps above all else, knowledgable. So it’s somewhat baffling (and entirely infuriating) that some Republicans want to keep important medical knowledge from soon-to-be doctors.

A North Carolina bill introduced this month would prevent state medical school departments from allowing employees to perform abortions or to “supervise the performance of an abortion”. Essentially, the bill’s sponsors and supporters wants to make teaching how to perform an abortion – a safe, legal and necessary medical procedure – illegal. As The New Republic’s Jamil Smith wrote, if passed, the bill would “produce less intelligent doctors.”

The Ivy League’s favorite war criminal: Why the atrocities of Henry Kissinger should be mandatory reading

In an appearance at Yale last week, the Nixon official's horrific record was casually glossed over. But why?

Omer Aziz

Ex-government officials have always occupied a particular sweet spot for members the Ivy League. Regardless of what one did while in power, regardless of how disreputable or immoral or even criminal one’s actions, the elite academy has been all too willing to embrace even the most dubious of former officials.

So it was that last Friday night, Henry Kissinger spoke at Yale — to which he has donated an archive of personal documents, where he occasionally participates in a course with Cold War historian John Lewis Gaddis, and where he give an invite-only talk just a year ago. Last week’s “conversation” was moderated by Harvard Professor Niall Ferguson, who is also Henry Kissinger’s official biographer. As if to underscore the incestuous insider game on display, sitting in the third row was Paul Bremer, the “Administrator” of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, the man who de-Baathified the country, threw millions of people out of work, and helped destroy the Iraqi state, which spurred the insurgency, the Sunni-Shia civil war, and later the transmogrification of al Qaeda in Mesopotamia into the Islamic State. A record to proudly burnish in and around Yale University.

Cities And States Paying Massive Secret Fees To Wall Street: Report

By David Sirota, Matthew Cunningham-Cook

California’s report said $440 million. New Jersey’s said $600 million. In Pennsylvania, the tally is $700 million. Those figures are public worker pension fees being paid annually by taxpayers to Wall Street firms, and they have kicked off an intensifying debate over whether such expenses are necessary. Now, a report from an industry-friendly source says those huge levies represent only a fraction of the true amounts being raked in by Wall Street firms from state and local governments.

In all, CEM Benchmarking concludes that America’s public pension funds are paying billions of dollars in undisclosed fees to private equity firms.

A call to US educators: Learn from Canada

Ontario has taken a cooperative road to education reform

Boston College

CHICAGO, IL (April 18, 2015) - As states and the federal government in the U.S. continue to clash on the best ways to improve American education, Canada's Province of Ontario manages successful education reform initiatives that are equal parts cooperation and experimentation, according to a Boston College professor and authority on educational change.

"Although there have been battles in the past, the hallmarks of Ontario's education reform efforts are cooperation and experimentation - with an emphasis on cooperation," said Lynch School of Education Professor Dennis Shirley. "Ontario has struck the right balance. Unfortunately, in the U.S., we squander a lot of energy by fighting with each other. Instead, we should be pulling together to do the real work of improving teaching and learning."

Elizabeth Warren: The Unfinished Business of Financial Reform

Remarks at the Levy Institute’s 24th Annual Hyman P. Minsky Conference, As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you all for being here today.

We’re here to ask a critical question at a critical time: what are we to make of Dodd-Frank five years later? To answer that question, I think we should start by looking at how the government responded to the last major financial crisis – the Wall Street Crash of 1929.

After the 1929 crash, policymakers diagnosed what had gone wrong and changed the laws to make sure that excessive speculation and risk-taking on Wall Street couldn’t push the economy over a cliff.

The great American voting scam: How political insiders are gaining the power to steal our elections

If you thought the 2000 election debacle was bad, just wait until we have online voting

Brad Friedman, The Brad Blog

BRAD BLOG reader “Plumb Bob” left this comment recently, following our short piece on concerns about the results of last week’s Mayoral race in Chicago:
This alleged rigging of a lottery drawing reported today:…to-score-winning-ticket/So if one guy can do it with all the security measures (and lottery dollars are government money) and only get caught because he can’t figure out how to cash the ticket…He did this for a measly $14 mil; what’s a state wide or national election worth? Either in dollars for the mercenary, or in effort for the true believers?
Explain again how electronic voting is secure? This sure looks like a contrary proof to me.

New investigation reveals 3.4m displaced by World Bank

By Sasha Chavkin and Michael Hudson, April 16, 2015, 12:00 am

The World Bank regularly fails to enforce its own rules protecting people in the path of the projects it bankrolls, with devastating consequences for some of the poorest and most vulnerable people on the planet, a new investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, The Huffington Post and more than 20 other media partners have found.

Dams, power plants and other projects sponsored by the World Bank have pushed millions of people out of their homes or off their lands or threatened their livelihoods, the investigation found.

Anti-Choicers Are Going to Take Away Second-Trimester Abortion Without Much Notice

by Amanda Marcotte

Kansas and Oklahoma, both of which have passed laws banning the dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedure that is used in most abortions after 13 weeks, have graduated to a new level in their efforts to stamp out reproductive rights. As Dahlia Lithwick at Slate explained, these laws “are radically different” from those of the past few years, which have tried to tried to chip away at abortion access by using phony concerns about women’s health as a cover; instead, Kansas and Oklahoma’s new legislation is simply a vehicle “to overturn Roe once and for all.” So getting the Supreme Court to agree with the anti-choice side about these bans would open the door to just banning abortion outright—no pretending to care about women necessary.

Paul Krugman: That Old-Time Economics

BRUSSELS — America has yet to achieve a full recovery from the effects of the 2008 financial crisis. Still, it seems fair to say that we’ve made up much, though by no means all, of the lost ground.

But you can’t say the same about the eurozone, where real G.D.P. per capita is still lower than it was in 2007, and 10 percent or more below where it was supposed to be by now. This is worse than Europe’s track record during the 1930s.

The Public Deserves to Know Exactly What’s in the Trans-Pacific Partnership

By Dan Gillmor

In the next few weeks, Congress may give special status to a massive “free trade” treaty that you are not allowed to read. Based on leaks of portions of the deal, however, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) appears to be at least partly a grab bag of special favors for corporate interests—among them the entertainment and pharmaceutical industries—and an end-run around domestic law.

Naturally, given that Congress seems increasingly owned by moneyed interests, this mockery of thoughtful governance and policy may well happen. But there's still time to modify it, or block it outright if the worst provisions remain, and I'm glad to see an emerging coalition aiming to do just that.

Indisputable proof that Republicans are warriors for the aristocracy

GOP contenders are pretending to care about inequality. But it's all for show — and Congress is about to prove it

Heather Digby Parton

It’s been quite interesting to see Republicans embrace the notion that wealth inequality (or any inequality) is something to worry their pretty little heads about. Over the winter we heard numerous reports of various GOP luminaries expressing serious concern that average Americans were getting the short end of the stick while the wealthy few reaped all the rewards. Ted Cruz might as well have put on a blond wig and called himself “Elizabeth” when he railed against it after the State of the Union:
“We’re facing right now a divided America when it comes to the economy. It is true that the top 1 percent are doing great under Barack Obama. Today, the top 1 percent earn a higher share of our national income than any year since 1928,”
And here we thought that was supposed to be a good thing. Aren’t they the “job producers”? That’s how weird the GOP’s messaging has gotten lately. Mitt “47 Percent” Romney clutched his very expensive opera-length pearls, wailing that “under President Obama, the rich have gotten richer, income inequality has gotten worse and there are more people in poverty than ever before.” Rand Paul channeled his heretofore unknown inner Bernie Sanders, proclaiming that “income inequality has worsened under this administration. And tonight, President Obama offers more of the same policies — policies that have allowed the poor to get poorer and the rich to get richer.” It seemed to many observers at the time that this was a very odd choice of issue for potential Republican presidential aspirants to take up, since every item in the domestic GOP agenda would make wealth inequality even worse. This certainly wasn’t something they lost any sleep over before now.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Republicans push for a permanent aristocracy

By Dana Milbank

Give credit to Republicans in Congress.

They’ve discovered, belatedly, that income inequality is a problem, and they’re no longer proposing to give tax breaks to the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. Now they are proposing to give tax breaks to the wealthiest two-tenths of 1 percent of Americans.

BPA exposure affects fertility in next 3 generations of mice

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- When scientists exposed pregnant mice to levels of bisphenol A equivalent to those considered safe in humans, three generations of female mouse offspring experienced significant reproductive problems, including declines in fertility, sexual maturity and pregnancy success, the scientists report in the journal Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology.

Danish innovations in water sector keep pollution at bay

In Denmark, tap water is as pure as spring water and the sea off city harbours are clean enough to swim in. How is that so?

by Tan Cheng Li

WHEN it comes to good examples of managing water resources, Denmark comes to mind. The country is touted as a world leader in the water sector, and it must be doing something right – its water consumption has dropped almost 40% since 1980. Its treated water is of such high quality that everyone drinks straight from the tap; there’s even a national competition for the best-tasting tap water. And its non-revenue water is a mere 7% (Malaysia’s is over 30%).

These achievements are derived from: charging consumers the real cost of water; “save water” campaigns; and a strong focus on reducing leakage in water pipes. Also, mandatory benchmarking against best practices in the industry has driven innovative and cost-effective ways to manage water and wastewater.

Wall Street’s Wealth Transfer System Is Imperiling the U.S. Economy

By Pam Martens: April 13, 2015

For nine years now we have written about Wall Street’s institutionalized system of transferring wealth from decent, hardworking Americans to the denizens of Wall Street and those it selectively chooses to favor in the one percent class. The methods of wealth transfer are as diverse as they are diabolical, thus even well intentioned members of Congress cannot stem the havoc on the financial well being of the average American and the overall economy.

One facet that all of these wealth transfer systems have in common is that they all masquerade under a benign sounding name. The 401(k) plan is viewed by most Americans as a way to save for retirement. That’s a good thing – right? It is not a good thing when two-thirds of your savings over a working lifetime end up in Wall Street’s pocket, as carefully demonstrated by Frontline and math-checked by us.

Dean Baker: Bonanza for the Super-Rich: The Fund Managers' Tax Break

The reason most of us have seen little gain from economic growth over the last three decades is that the rich have rigged the rules to ensure that money flows upward. Through their control of trade policy, Federal Reserve Board policy, and other key levers of government, they have structured the market to weaken the bargaining power of ordinary workers and benefit the CEOs and Wall Street crew. As a result, the typical worker has seen almost none of the gains from economic growth over the last four decades.

Most of this rigging comes in before-tax income. The big gains to the rich have not been primarily because they have become better at avoiding taxes than they were four decades ago, but there are some notable exceptions. At the top of this list is the fund managers' tax break (a.k.a. the carried interest tax deduction). As tens of millions of people prepare to file their tax returns this week, it is a good opportunity to celebrate this tax deduction which gives billions of dollars every year to some of the richest people in the country for no reason whatsoever.

Paul Krugman: It Takes a Party

So Hillary Clinton is officially running, to nobody’s surprise. And you know what’s coming: endless attempts to psychoanalyze the candidate, endless attempts to read significance into what she says or doesn’t say about President Obama, endless thumb-sucking about her “positioning” on this or that issue.

Please pay no attention. Personality-based political analysis is always a dubious venture — in my experience, pundits are terrible judges of character. Those old enough to remember the 2000 election may also remember how we were assured that George W. Bush was a nice, affable fellow who would pursue moderate, bipartisan policies.

Warren Buffett's mobile home empire preys on the poor

Billionaire profits at every step, from building to selling to high cost lending

By Daniel Wagner, Mike Baker

Denise Pitts walked into the pawn shop not far from where she bought her mobile home in Knoxville, Tennessee, and offered up her wedding rings for $100. Her marriage wasn’t over, but her husband was battling cancer and, Pitts said, her mortgage company told her the only way to keep a roof over his head would be to sell everything else.

Across the country in Ephrata, Washington, Kirk and Patricia Ackley sat down to close on a new mobile home, only to learn that the annual interest on their loan would be 12.5 percent rather than the 7 percent they said they had been promised. They went ahead because they had spent $11,000, most of their savings, to dig a foundation.

Wall Street has gobbled up billions of New York City pension dollars

Apr 09, 2015 9:27am PDT by Laura Clawson

Wall Street, not retired workers, has been getting the profits from New York City's pension funds, according to the city comptroller's office. Management fees have sucked up more than $2 billion over 10 years, virtually erasing gains for the funds that provide pensions for 715,000 city workers:
Most of the funds’ money — more than 80 percent — is invested in plain vanilla assets like domestic and foreign stocks and bonds. The returns on those investments are generally reported after the fees, which are usually paid as a percent of the assets each firm manages.

Over the last 10 years, the return on those “public asset classes” has surpassed expectations by more than $2 billion, according to the comptroller’s analysis. But nearly all of that extra gain — about 97 percent — has been eaten up by management fees, leaving just $40 million for the retirees, it found.

In the “private asset classes,” fees have been an even bigger drag on returns, Mr. Stringer said. To figure out just how big was not easy, he said.

The 1 percent are parasites: Debunking the lies about free enterprise, trickle-down, capitalism and celebrity entrepreneurs

The rich don't generate jobs. Rising tides do not lift all boats. And they probably built that with government help

Andrew Sayer

‘When did you last get a job from a poor person?’ So goes my favorite Tea Party slogan. The Americans are good at slogans but the Tea Party specializes in discombobulatingly daft ones. Of course you won’t get a job from a poor person, we wearily concede, but it doesn’t follow that the rich create jobs, as if they have special powers that turn their gains into a gift of jobs to the rest of us. U.S. billionaire Nick Hanauer is refreshingly honest about this: ‘If it was true that lower taxes for the rich and more wealth for the wealthy led to job creation, today we would be drowning in jobs.’ So why hasn’t the spectacular shift in income and financial wealth to the rich over the last four decades led to unprecedented jobs growth?

Scapegoat Economics 2015

By Richard D. Wolff, Truthout | News Analysis

As economic crises, declines and dislocations increasingly hurt or threaten people around the globe, they provoke questions. How are we to understand the forces that produced the 2008 crisis, the crisis itself, with its quick bailouts and stimulus programs, and now the debts, austerity policies and deepening economic inequalities that do not go away? Economies this troubled force people to think and react. Some resign themselves to "hard times" as if they were natural events. Some pursue individual strategies trying to escape the troubles. Some mobilize to fight whoever they blame for it all. Many are drawn to scapegoating, usually encouraged by politicians and parties seeking electoral advantages.

Toxic Weed Killer Glyphosate Found in Breast Milk, Infant Formula

The widely-used herbicide glyphosate, now classified as probably carcinogenic to humans by the World Health Organization (WHO), has been found in a number of items, including honey, breast milk and infant formula, according to media reports.

“When chemical agriculture blankets millions of acres of genetically engineered corn and soybean fields with hundreds of millions of pounds of glyphosate, it’s not a surprise babies are now consuming Monsanto’s signature chemical with breast milk and infant formula,” said Ken Cook, president and co-founder of Environmental Working Group. “The primary reason millions of Americans, including infants, are now exposed to this probable carcinogen is due to the explosion of genetically engineered crops that now dominate farmland across the U.S.”

Paul Krugman: Where Government Excels

As Republican presidential hopefuls trot out their policy agendas — which always involve cutting taxes on the rich while slashing benefits for the poor and middle class — some real new thinking is happening on the other side of the aisle. Suddenly, it seems, many Democrats have decided to break with Beltway orthodoxy, which always calls for cuts in “entitlements.” Instead, they’re proposing that Social Security benefits actually be expanded.

This is a welcome development in two ways. First, the specific case for expanding Social Security is quite good. Second, and more fundamentally, Democrats finally seem to be standing up to antigovernment propaganda and recognizing the reality that there are some things the government does better than the private sector.

Raising Wages From the Bottom Up

Three ways city and state governments can make the difference.

By Harold Meyerson

In 1999, while he was working at a local immigrant service center in Los Angeles, Victor Narro began encountering a particularly aggrieved group of workers. They were the men who worked at carwashes, and their complaint was that they were paid solely in tips—the carwashes themselves paid them nothing at all.

At first, the workers came by in a trickle, but soon enough, in a flood. Narro, whose soft voice and shy manner belie a keen strategic sensibility, consulted with legal services attorneys and discovered that while every now and then a carwash was penalized for cheating its workers, such instances were few and far between. “There were no regulations overseeing the industry,” Narro says. The state’s labor department conducted no sweeps of the carwashes to investigate what looked to be an industry-wide pattern of violations of basic wage and hour laws. When Narro took a new job at UCLA’s Labor Center, he had researchers survey L.A. carwashes. They reported that roughly one-fourth of the industry’s 10,000 workers were paid only in tips.

The rush to humiliate the poor

By Dana Milbank

Rick Brattin, a young Republican state representative in Missouri, has come up with an innovative new way to humiliate the poor in his state. Call it the surf-and-turf law.

Brattin has introduced House Bill 813, making it illegal for food-stamp recipients to use their benefits “to purchase cookies, chips, energy drinks, soft drinks, seafood, or steak.”

How America Became an Oligarchy

Posted on April 6, 2015 by Ellen Brown
The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t...You have owners.—George Carlin, The American Dream
According to a new study from Princeton University, American democracy no longer exists. Using data from over 1,800 policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002, researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page concluded that rich, well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country, regardless of – or even against – the will of the majority of voters. America’s political system has transformed from a democracy into an oligarchy, where power is wielded by wealthy elites.

“Making the world safe for democracy” was President Woodrow Wilson’s rationale for World War I, and it has been used to justify American military intervention ever since. Can we justify sending troops into other countries to spread a political system we cannot maintain at home?

The Minimum Wage: Could the Democrats Please Give Consideration to the Idea of Ceasing to Betray Working People?

Posted on April 8, 2015 by Lambert Strether

Let’s begin by noting that the current minimum wage is miserably inadequate and a flat insult to working people. The MIT Living Wage Calculator project[1] has this to say:
While the minimum wage sets an earnings threshold under which our society is not willing to let families slip, it fails to approximate the basic expenses of families in 2013 [or today]. Consequently, many working adults must seek public assistance and/or hold multiple jobs in order to afford to feed, cloth, house, and provide medical care for themselves and their families.
An analysis of the living wage using updated data from 2013 and compiling geographically specific expenditure data for food, childcare, health care, housing, transportation, and other basic necessities, finds that:
The minimum wage does not provide a living wage for most American families. A typical family of four (two working adults, two children) needs to work more than 3 full-time minimum-wage jobs (a 68-hour work week per working adult) to earn a living wage. Across all family sizes, the living wage exceeds the poverty threshold, often used to identify need. This means that families earning between the poverty threshold ($23,283 for two working adults, two children) and the median living wage ($51,224 for two working adults, two children per year before taxes), may fall short of the income and assistance they require to meet their basic needs.

A Vote in April on Fast Track & TPP?

by Gaius Publius

A what-to-expect note on TPP. There will be several battles; the first is coming in the Senate Finance Committee, likely in April, with a vote on "Fast Track" enabling legislation. ("Enabling" legislation means Fast Track enables TPP by disabling Congress's ability to debate and amend it.) If Fast Track passes out of committee, it will go to the Senate floor. If it passes the Senate, it will go to the House. If Fast Track passes both houses of Congress, TPP will be introduced. If Fast Track fails at any of these points, TPP will never see the light of day (unless Wikileaks leaks more of it).

Therefore, the first chance we have to kill TPP is to kill Fast Track in the Senate Finance Committee. (To help that effort, see the last few paragraphs below, about Sen. Ron Wyden. Then send him a nice note discussing his re-election.)

One Food Security Remedy in the Face of Global Crises

By Jon Letman, Truthout | Report

LIHUE, Hawaii - Political instability, poverty, war, disease and climate change are testing humanity like never before, but in a world beset by rapidly compounding crises, one thing remains constant: People need to eat.

Even as Western industrialized and rapidly developing nations face an epidemic of health problems related to obesity and associated "lifestyle illnesses," the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations reports that approximately one in eight people in developing nations is chronically undernourished. According to a 2014 FAO Hunger Map, that number has fallen by some 100 million in the last decade, but still remains around 805 million worldwide. Progress in fighting malnutrition in Latin American and Southeast Asia is offset by widespread chronic hunger in sub-Saharan Africa (nearly one in four) and Southern Asia (over half a billion).

‘National Competitiveness: A Crowbar for Corporate and Financial Interests

Posted on April 6, 2015 by Yves Smith

Yves here. We’ve regularly derided the notion of “national competitiveness” as a an inevitable accompaniment to the oversold notion of “free trade”. Economists are aware of, yet choose to ignore, the Lipsey-Lancaster theorem, which says when an idealized state cannot be attained, moving closer to it may not be an improvement; it can often produce worse outcomes. You need to evaluate the “second best” options specifically and not go on faith.

But economists and policy makers treat “free trade” as an article of faith, and with that comes the idea that countries must compete to find customers overseas. There is too little consideration of the fallacy of expecting countries to be competitive and by implication, seek to be exporters. It is impossible for all countries to be net exporters. Moreover, countries are often better served to design their policies primarily for the benefit of domestic workers and markets, and to promote export-oriented programs only to the extent that they do not undermine conditions at home, or will clearly produce a net benefit.

Three Reasons Why the United States Is Broken, Bloated and Bleeding

By Pierce Nahigyan, Truthout | Op-Ed

I've heard both EPA Chief Gina McCarthy and "The Newsroom's" Will McAvoy say that the United States used to be a lot tougher than it is now. "We have not shied away from difficult decisions," McCarthy told the American Meteorological Society in January. "We didn't scare so easy," said McAvoy in 2012.

Those sound like fine virtues, but I'm 28 years old, and I can't recall a time I ever felt like the United States wasn't scared of something. I already know the super patriots will castigate me based on the title of this piece alone.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

People Who Influence Influential People Are the Most Influential People in the World

George Scialabba


Insurrections of the Mind: 100 Years of Politics and Culture in America, edited by Franklin Foer,
Harper Perennial, $17.99

“Twentieth-century liberalism has won.” So ran the first sentence of The New Republic’s eightieth-anniversary anthology back in 1994. Liberalism “inspired democratic revolutions from the Soviet Union to South Africa,” according to the anthology’s editor, Dorothy Wickenden, and finally “disabused this country of its prolonged infatuation with conservatism.” Occupying the White House were two men with “intellectual edge and moral intuition,” the magazine’s editors enthused, who offered “the best chance in a generation to bring reform and renewal to a country that desperately needs both.”

How accurate you think this judgment is depends on what you understand by that perennially disputed word, “liberalism.” Originally it meant the opposite of mercantilism, the close government regulation of commercial policy to benefit domestic merchants by means of tariffs and restrictions on the movement of capital and technology. Mercantilism, protectionism, and industrial policy all name various aspects of the impulse to limit competition from abroad. As Britain and the United States became the world’s leading economic powers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, respectively, each decided that other countries’ efforts to favor the home team were no longer cricket and that unregulated (i.e., “free”) competition—which, by the merest coincidence, they were most likely to win—was in everyone’s best interest. “Liberalism,” from the Latin word for “free,” is the name of this ideology. Even now, European political parties that call themselves “liberal” mean by it “pro-business.” The leading voice of nineteenth-century liberalism was The Economist, which famously argued that to provide famine aid to Ireland would be to interfere with the necessarily benign workings of the free market.

Plutocracy the First Time Around: Revisiting the Great Upheaval and the First Gilded Age

By Steve Fraser, TomDispatch | News Analysis

What came to be known as the Great Upheaval, the movement for the eight-hour day, elicited what one historian has called "a strange enthusiasm." The normal trade union strike is a finite event joining two parties contesting over limited, if sometimes intractable, issues. The mass strike in 1886 or before that in 1877 - all the many localized mass strikes that erupted in towns and small industrial cities after the Civil War and into the new century - was open-ended and ecumenical in reach.

So, for example, in Baltimore when the skilled and better-paid railroad brakemen on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad first struck in 1877 so, too, did less well off "box-makers, sawyers, and can-makers, engaged in the shops and factories of that city, [who] abandoned their places and swarmed into the streets." This in turn "stimulated the railroad men to commit bolder acts." When the governor of West Virginia sent out the Berkeley Light Guard and Infantry to confront the strikers at Martinsburg at the request of the railroad's vice president, the militia retreated and "the citizens of the town, the disbanded militia, and the rural population of the surrounding country fraternized," encouraging the strikers.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Senate Candidate Donna Edwards Fights the Establishment for the Soul of the Democratic Party

By Steven Rosenfeld

Imagine, for a minute, if the next U.S. senator from Maryland was Democratic congresswoman Donna Edwards—a charismatic, principled, black single mother whose work as a national leader against domestic violence and grassroots activism has been a role model for women.

Imagine if she faced Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans and told them—as she told Fox News in 2013 after a Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman for Trayvon Martin’s murder—that the struggle for racial justice doesn’t stop at one courthouse door. Or that America needs an economic agenda for women, as one in six women are stuck below the poverty line. Or how it is “wretched” when a Farm Bill passes without a penny for Meals on Wheels, food stamps for the poor, or public school lunch programs.

Your Dollars at Work - for the Rich

By Sam Pizzigati, OtherWords | Op-Ed

The taxes we all pay should bankroll quality public services, not grand fortunes.

Conservative pundits and politicians routinely divide our US economy into two totally distinct spheres. We have the noble private sector over here, they tell us, and the bumbling, bloated public sector over there.

In reality, of course, we have just one economy, with the private and public sectors inextricably entangled. Each year, in fact, hundreds of billions of tax dollars end up flowing directly into the private sector.

Turns out the world’s first “clean coal” plant is a backdoor subsidy to oil producers

By David Roberts

The world’s first “clean coal” plant — that is, the first full-size coal-fired power plant ever to capture and store the majority of its CO2 emissions — is located in, of all places, Saskatchewan. (They should change the name to “Of All Places, Saskatchewan.”) According to the first financial analysis done on the project, it appears to be functioning primarily as a public subsidy to the province’s aging oil industry.

This takes a little explanation. First some quick background on the project.

David Dayen: Barney Frank's Biggest Bombshell: His Shocking Anecdote About the Financial Crisis

Ever wonder why we waited six years to get a decent economic recovery? This new revelation will disgust you.

Barney Frank has a new autobiography out. He’s long been one of the nation’s most quotable politicians. And Washington lives in perpetual longing for intra-party conflict.

So why has a critical revelation from Frank’s book, one that implicates the most powerful Democrat in the nation, been entirely expunged from the record? The media has thus far focused on Frank’s wrestling with being a closeted gay congressman, or his comment that Joe Biden “can’t keep his mouth shut or his hands to himself.” But nobody has focused on Frank’s allegation that Barack Obama refused to extract foreclosure relief from the nation’s largest banks, as a condition for their receipt of hundreds of billions of dollars in bailout money.

Paranoia Reigns in Congress Over an International Financial Cabal

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: March 30, 2015

It’s tough to keep up with the conspiracy theories that run rampant from day to day in the hallowed halls of Congress. But one that is gaining traction is that the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Stability Oversight Council (whose acronym is pronounced F-SOC) is the handmaiden of an international finance cabal and is obediently marching to its beat instead of the mandates of Congress.

These suspicions were on display at the Senate Banking Committee hearing last Wednesday and the House Financial Services Committee hearing the week before where U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, who Chairs F-SOC, was pummeled with thinly veiled, and not so thinly veiled, accusations.

Wall Street’s new student loan scheme: Subprime loans are coming to financial aid

Slimy new loan options proliferate, as Wall Street looks to do for education what it did to the economy

Jeff Bryant

Wall Street wants to own your education destiny.

To the old saying about “death and taxes,” you can now add another: debt.

In fact, in contemporary America, debt is likely becoming at least as all-encompassing as the other two.

Generous welfare benefits make people more likely to want to work, not less

Survey responses from 19,000 people in 18 European countries, including the UK, showed that "the notion that big welfare states are associated with widespread cultures of dependency, or other adverse consequences of poor short term incentives to work, receives little support."

Sociologists Dr Kjetil van der Wel and Dr Knut Halvorsen examined responses to the statement 'I would enjoy having a paid job even if I did not need the money' put to the interviewees for the European Social Survey in 2010.

Dean Baker: Don't Worry About the Robots; the Fed Might Take Your Job

It is rare that a week goes by when we don't hear a story warning us that robots are going to be taking our jobs. (For example, here, here and here.) This is bizarre even as measured by a standard of economic reporting that allowed an $8-trillion housing bubble to grow largely unnoticed.

The basic point is a simple one: there is no real evidence that robots are displacing workers on any substantial scale. The other part of the story that makes the robot discussion so annoying is that the Federal Reserve Board is actively debating policy that has the explicit purpose of taking away people's jobs and almost no one seems to care.

The GOP has spoken: The wealthy and powerful could use more help

The GOP-dominated House and Senate passed their budget resolutions last week, and in the process proved beyond reasonable doubt that the majority party is less interested in governing than in sending symbolic valentines to the wealthy.

As usual, this will lead to the same ideological war that consumes our politics, but this budget also represents a war against cognitive function, because only in the fantasies of ideologues can one expect to make $5 trillion in cuts over the next 10 years without raising any taxes.

Your Retirement Needs To Be Protected From These Predators

Richard Long

Imagine your career winding down and being presented with these two offers: $1,500 a month for the rest of your life, or a $350,000 lump sum that you can use however you see fit. Which would you choose? How would you make sure you lived comfortably for the rest of your life?

In 2002 Phil Ashburn, working for what was at the time Pacific Bell telephone company, was presented with just this choice. He spoke to a financial adviser who had done business with Pacific Bell, and based on her advice decided that the lump sum was his best chance to make sure that he not only had enough money to live well, but could also leave some money behind for his family. The adviser assured him he’d “never go broke, always have money.” He placed his money in an account she recommended and chose to take out $2,700 a month.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Richard Eskow: Big-Bank Bad Guys Bully Democracy – And Blow It

For so-called “masters of the universe,” Wall Street executives sure seem touchy about criticism. It seems they don’t like being painted as the bad guys.

But if they don’t like being criticized, why do so many of them keep behaving like B-movie villains? That’s exactly what executives from Citigroup, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America looked like after an article appeared last week detailing their coordinated attempt to intimidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and other Democrats who want to fix the mess on Wall Street.

Latest Assault on Net Neutrality Launched at Telecom Industry-Funded Think Tank

By Lee Fang

Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., last week addressed the Free State Foundation to announce his new plan to undermine recently enacted net neutrality rules by going after the funding of the Federal Communications Commission, the agency behind the decision.

The FCC’s approach to net neutrality represents “potential untenable rules and regulatory overreach that will hurt consumers,” said Walden, the chair of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, speaking at the foundation’s annual Telecom Policy Conference. Walden outlined a plan to limit FCC appropriations, cap its other revenue sources, and change the hiring process for the FCC’s inspector general.

Neocons: the Echo of German Fascism

Exclusive: The “f-word” for “fascist” keeps cropping up in discussing aggressive U.S. and Israeli “exceptionalism,” but there’s a distinction from the “n-word” for “Nazi.” This new form of ignoring international law fits more with an older form of German authoritarianism favored by neocon icon Leo Strauss, says retired JAG Major Todd E. Pierce.

By Todd E. Pierce

With the Likud Party electoral victory in Israel, the Republican Party is on a roll, having won two major elections in a row. The first was winning control of the U.S. Congress last fall. The second is the victory by the Republicans’ de facto party leader Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel’s recent election. As the Israeli Prime Minister puts together a coalition with other parties “in the national camp,” as he describes them, meaning the ultra-nationalist parties of Israel, it will be a coalition that today’s Republicans would feel right at home in.

The common thread linking Republicans and Netanyahu’s “national camp” is a belief of each in their own country’s “exceptionalism,” with a consequent right of military intervention wherever and whenever their “Commander in Chief” orders it, as well as the need for oppressive laws to suppress dissent.

The Gates Foundation vs. the World Social Forum: A Tale of Two Meetings

by Morten Thaysen

This week the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID hosted a meeting in London with big agribusinesses to discuss strategies to increase corporate control over seeds in Africa. The location of the meeting was secret. So was the agenda. Attendance was strictly invite-only and nobody who even came close to representing African small farmers was invited.

Meanwhile farmers and food sovereignty activists met at the World Social Forum in Tunis, Tunisia to discuss their solutions to the problems of our food system. These two meetings represent not just two different types of meeting – a closed, secretive meeting of the powerful versus an open, democratic meeting of grassroots activists – but also two radically different paths for the future of our food. One is based on corporate control and would generate vast profits for a small elite; the second is centred on sustainable, democratic, local food production.

Secretive group destroys candidates' chances, leaves few fingerprints

NRA-launched Law Enforcement Alliance of America targets state races

By Rachel Baye

LAKE RIDGE, Va. — Wedged between a nail salon and a pizza shop in a strip mall about 25 miles south of Washington, D.C., is a postal supply store where a small brass mailbox sits stuffed with unopened envelopes.

It’s the unlikely home of one of the country’s most mysterious political hit squads.

Naomi Klein: Shock of Oil Price Plunge Is Opportunity World Must Seize

Riffing on key ideas from her last two books, Canadian author argues time is perfect to employ "shock doctrine" for good by using climate change as opportunity to "change everything" about our economy and energy systems

by Jon Queally, staff writer

As part of the Guardian newspaper's recently launched "keep it in the ground" campaign, Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein appears in a new video on Wednesday in which she argues the current moment is ripe for the world to take advantage of the dramatic drop in global oil prices by kicking the fossil fuel industry "while it's down."

Calling on themes from her two most recent books—'The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster' in 2007 and the more recently published 'This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate'—Klein says the fall in oil prices since last year should be seen as an opportunity for those concerned about both the prevailing economic order and the dangers of climate change. "Let's turn this shock," she says in the nearly five-minute video essay, "into the shift we need."

Glenn Greenwald: Court Accepts DOJ’s ‘State Secrets’ Claim to Protect Shadowy Neocons: a New Low

A truly stunning debasement of the U.S. justice system just occurred through the joint efforts of the Obama Justice Department and a meek and frightened Obama-appointed federal judge, Edgardo Ramos, all in order to protect an extremist neocon front group from scrutiny and accountability. The details are crucial for understanding the magnitude of the abuse here.

Walmart, Lowe's, Safeway, and Nordstrom Are Bankrolling a Nationwide Campaign to Gut Workers' Comp

America's biggest employers want to pick and choose the benefits they give their injured workers.

—By Molly Redden

Nearly two dozen major corporations, including Walmart, Nordstrom, and Safeway, are bankrolling a quiet, multistate lobbying effort to make it harder for workers hurt on the job to access lost wages and medical care—the benefits collectively known as workers' compensation.

The companies have financed a lobbying group, the Association for Responsible Alternatives to Workers' Compensation (ARAWC), that has already helped write legislation in one state, Tennessee. Richard Evans, the group's executive director, told an insurance journal in November that the corporations ultimately want to change workers' comp laws in all 50 states. Lowe's, Macy's, Kohl's, Sysco Food Services, and several insurance companies are also part of the year-old effort.

Matt Taibbi: Regulatory Capture, Captured on Video

SEC official slobbers over private equity titans, suggests his son might want a job in the field

This is courtesy of Yves Smith over at Naked Capitalism, who's been following the strange story of SEC Examination chief Andrew Bowden's evolving position on financial corruption for a while.

That story blew up recently in a remarkable public appearance by Bowden, in which the would-be enforcement official cravenly compliments the industry he supposedly polices and then — get this — jokingly puts forward his own son as a candidate for a job in private equity. On video. You won't see a more brazen example of regulatory capture anywhere.

The Retirement Crisis

Posted on March 26, 2015 by Yves Smith

This interview, with Teresa Ghilarducci, who the Wall Street Journal called “the most dangerous woman in America,” discusses how and why pensions are under stress, and what can be done to fix them. While she agrees that the retirement crisis is real, she also argues that it is eminently fixable, particularly since there really is no free lunch. The alternative, of widespread poverty among the aged, also imposes costs on government and society.

Gaius Publius: New Leaked TPP Chapter; Worse Than the Last Leaked Version

There's a new leaked chapter from the TPP draft agreement, thanks to WikiLeaks, and it confirms our worst fears. From a press release by Lori Wallach at Public Citizen (my emphasis):

TPP Leak Reveals Extraordinary New Powers for Thousands of Foreign Firms to Challenge U.S. Policies and Demand Taxpayer Compensation

Unveiling of Parallel Legal System for Foreign Corporations Will Fuel TPP Controversy, Further Complicate Obama’s Push for Fast Track

WASHINGTON, D.C.– The Trans-Pacific Partnership’s (TPP) Investment Chapter, leaked today, reveals how the pact would make it easier for U.S. firms to offshore American jobs to low-wage countries while newly empowering thousands of foreign firms to seek cash compensation from U.S. taxpayers by challenging U.S. government actions, laws and court rulings before unaccountable foreign tribunals. After five years of secretive TPP negotiations, the text – leaked by WikiLeaks –proves that growing concerns about the controversial “investor-state dispute settlement” (ISDS) system that the TPP would extend are well justified, Public Citizen said.

The World Bank, Poverty Creation and the Banality of Evil

By Alnoor Ladha, Truthout | News Analysis

This week, the World Bank is convening its 16th annual "Conference on Land and Poverty," which brings together corporations, governments and civil society groups to ostensibly discuss how to "improve land governance."

As this is happening, hundreds of civil society organizations are denouncing the World Bank's role in global land grabs. As the organization I am part of, The Rules, is a member of Our Land Our Business, the umbrella campaign of farmer organizations, indigenous groups, trade unions and grassroots organizers from around the world protesting against the Bank's policies, I often get asked the question, why do civil society and the World Bank have such differing views of the Bank's role? Reading the Bank's website, one would think that the World Bank was in the same line of work as the activists challenging their policy. In fact, they have recently adopted the earnest tagline of "Working for a world free of poverty."

WikiLeaks Leaks TPP Draft!!!

by Tasini

Per WikiLeaks:
This is an advanced January 2015 version of the confidential draft treaty chapter from the Investment group of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks between the United States, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand and Brunei Darussalam. The treaty is being negotiated in secret by delegations from each of these 12 countries, who together account for 40% of global GDP. The chapter covers agreements on investments from one TPP nation to another, including empowering foreign firms to "sue" other states' governments, as well as regulations around investor-state dispute settlements and tribunals. This document was prepared by TPP investment chapter negotiators in advance of the informal round of negotiations held in New York City 26th January to 1st February, 2015

To move beyond boom and bust, we need a new theory of capitalism

Finding one is the the holy grail of economics

Paul Mason

This is the year that economics might, if we are lucky, turn a corner. There’s a deluge of calls for change in the way it is taught in universities. There’s a global conference at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris, where the giants of radical economics – including Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis – will get their biggest ever mainstream platform. And there’s a film where a star of Monty Python talks to a puppet of Hyman Minsky.

Terry Jones’s documentary film Boom Bust Boom hits the cinemas this month. Using puppetry and talking heads (including mine), Jones is trying to popularise the work of Minsky, a US economist who died in 1996 but whose name has become for ever associated with the Lehman Brothers crash. Terrified analysts labelled it the “Minsky moment”.

Guess Which Ultra Liberal State Is About to Become a Hellish Place for People to Work in?

Bad news for Bernie Sanders' back yard.

By Michael Arria / AlterNet

Vermont, a state perceived as a liberal utopia by many, is being hit with a barrage of anti-labor policies. In a recent budget address, Gov. Peter Shumlin called out Vermont State Employees' Association, declaring he expected VSEA to reopen its contracts to ditch pay increases. The governor also announced that he plans to hack away at state jobs by consolidating emergency call centers and closing a school that serves state prisoners. In addition, he said that Vermont parents should “expect better outcomes for our students at lower costs.” He’s called for education cuts and higher student-teacher ratios, moves that will probably result in layoffs. This past fall, he announced he wants to outlaw teacher strikes in the state. That idea might soon become a reality: a bill prohibiting public school teachers from striking was recently introduced by Republican Rep. Kurt Wright and passed the House Education Committee by a vote of 8-3.

ALEC Pushes to Repeal "Prevailing Wage" Laws

By Jody Knauss, PR Watch | Report

As unions and working people battle "right-to-work" legislation in several states, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and allies have opened another flank in their war on good jobs. Targeted this time are state prevailing wage laws, which require public construction projects to support local wage standards instead of undercutting them. Studies have repeatedly found that prevailing wage laws do not harm taxpayers but are effective in providing something increasingly rare in regional labor markets, upward pressure on wages.

The Capitalist Takeover of Higher Education


The great under-reported crime against education by corporate America is not the buying and selling of schools by for-profit corporations; that this is a significant threat to education is indubitable and well-documented. But the little-discussed threat to education is the deliberate “hollowing-out” of education from within—i.e. by the philosophy which views education, especially at and up through the community-college level, as preparing students to take jobs in the business world upon their graduation, rather than to learn the art of deepening their distinctly human character by engaging in learning and reflection through courses and content that cannot be bought or sold in the business world, such as philosophy, art, humanities, the history of human cultures, logic and critical thinking, ethical decision-making, etc. These are all activities the deepening of which has traditionally been seen as part of the very definition of a college-level education. These are the activities usually called “academic,” and their function was to deepen and expand the humans who engaged in them, in what, for many students, would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

U.S. Congress Clears Deck for Pension Decimation

The Columbus Dispatch reported:
Many retirees are unaware "of the risk to their pension as a result of the legislation passed in December as part of a spending bill meant to run the federal government through the rest of its fiscal year. The legislation affecting the retirees was added at the last minute. It is targeted at companies that enter into pension plans with other companies. There are about 10 million workers and retirees in 1,400 multiemployer plans, according to the Pension Rights Center in Washington."

AP Investigation: Is the fish you buy caught by slaves?


BENJINA, Indonesia (AP) — The Burmese slaves sat on the floor and stared through the rusty bars of their locked cage, hidden on a tiny tropical island thousands of miles from home.

Just a few yards away, other workers loaded cargo ships with slave-caught seafood that clouds the supply networks of major supermarkets, restaurants and even pet stores in the United States.

“Apocalypse is right around the corner”: Rick Perlstein unloads on Mike Huckabee-style conservatives

Author-historian Rick Perlstein tells Salon why the crypto-candidate's avarice fits so well with today's party

Elias Isquith

Earlier this month former governor of Arkansas, Fox News host and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee found himself on the receiving end of some well-deserved ridicule. But although his views on women’s rights (and BeyoncĂ©, apparently?) are so retrograde that it’s almost funny, Huckabee’s mistake wasn’t letting slip that he thinks women sound “trashy” when using cuss words. No, his goof was something even sillier and even more lacking in dignity: He got caught hawking some snake oil cure for diabetes.

As many noted, Huckabee is far from the first ex-presidential candidate to trade his name for some grubby money; Bob Dole and Fred Thompson both carved out nice little niches in their post-politics years doing just that. What was new — or at least newer — however, was Huckabee selling himself to the highest bidder while simultaneously preparing to make another run for president. Reaching for the White House requires all manner of indignities, of course. At least for the time being, though, offering Americans some magic beans in exchange for their money is simply considered unpresidential.

Prenatal exposure to common air pollutants linked to cognitive and behavioral impairment

Everyday pollutants in and outside the home can be bad for the environment...and bad for your baby's brain

Children's Hospital Los Angeles

Researchers at the Institute for the Developing Mind at Children's Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) and colleagues at Columbia University's Center for Children's Environmental Health have found a powerful relationship between prenatal PAH exposure and disturbances in parts of the brain that support information processing and behavioral control. Their study of 40 children, followed from before birth until 7 to 9 years of age as part of the Center's large community-based cohort, will be published online by JAMA Psychiatry on March 25.

'Recipe for Disaster' as US Supreme Court Refuses Challenge to Voter ID Law

As general election already underway, Wisconsin law threatens to impact 300,000 voters

by Lauren McCauley, staff writer

In a move that will impact hundreds of thousands of voters and may carry national implications, the Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear a challenge to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's restrictive voter identification law.

Immediately after the high court rejected, without comment, to hear the case of Frank v. Walker, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed an emergency motion with the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals asking that the court stop the law from taking immediate effect. In Wisconsin, voting is currently underway in the April 7 general election as absentee ballots have already been sent to voters and early voting began Monday morning. ACLU warned that if the law is immediately enacted, some 300,000 Wisconsin voters will be impacted.

With $8.5 Trillion Unaccounted for, Why Should Congress Increase the Defense Budget?

By Jacqueline Leo and Brianna Ehley, The Fiscal Times

The U.S. military is good at fighting wars, but it sucks at managing money. Partly because of its convoluted bookkeeping systems, $8.5 trillion—yes, trillion—taxpayer dollars doled out by Congress since 1996 has never been accounted for.

That was also the first year that Congress passed a law requiring the Defense Department to be audited, which it has failed to do. In 2009, Congress passed another law requiring the DOD to be audit-ready by 2017. After spending—no wasting—billions on failed accounting software, the department is likely to miss that deadline, too.