Sunday, August 28, 2016

What Do Conservatives Fear Most?

There has been a reemergence of a deeply rooted conservative fear—something close to an ideology—that giving full voting rights to the masses will dangerously destabilize society and usher in rad­ical change.

By Zachary Roth

The following is an excerpt from the new book The Great Suppression by Zachary Roth (Crown Publishers, 2016):

Conservatives just don’t think about voting the way most other Americans do. Liberals, even at the Founding, have seen voting straight­forwardly as a right and as our foremost guarantee of equality. Central to this idea is the need to represent everyone’s interests. Most people don’t really believe that elections have a right an­swer. Instead, we think different candidates will benefit differ­ent groups of voters, and that most people can figure out which candidate is on their side: parents of young children might sup­port a candidate who promises to invest in education, seniors might prefer the one who promises to protect Social Security, and so on. More people participating means more interests are represented, which leads to a more legitimate result and a stron­ger democracy.

But as the election law scholar Rick Hasen has written, many conservatives have never really bought into that way of think­ing. To them, voting is much more instrumental, with the goal of making a sensible collective choice that will produce effec­tive government and promote the common good. That’s how the eighteenth-century New Englanders who gathered on vil­lage greens to vote in public conceived of what they were doing. And that means an informed, independent electorate is crucial. After all, how else can voters be expected to choose wisely? It’s not hard to see how, under this logic, reducing the number of uninformed voters—or less motivated voters, or voters with less of a long-term stake in their community—isn’t antidemocratic, it’s civic-minded.

Sanders Launches 'Our Revolution,' Dedicated to a Progressive Agenda and Better Democratic Party

Reminds supporters of all they accomplished and the work ahead.

By Steven Rosenfeld

Bernie Sanders’ revolution seeking a kinder, fairer, more egalitarian and dignified America will continue, working to elect progressive candidates, introducing nationally significant state ballot measures and pushing the Democratic Party to abide by its recently adopted platform, the ex-presidential candidate told thousands of supporters in a national webcast Wednesday night.

“We changed the conversation regarding the possibilities of our country—that is what we changed,” Sanders said. “We redefined what the vision and the future of our country should be and that is no small thing. And what our campaign showed, making the establishment very very unhappy—and that is a good thing—what our campaign showed the world is that the American people are prepared to stand up to a corrupt campaign finance system, a rigged economy, a broken criminal justice system and the global threat posed by the fossil fuel industry that is destroying our planet through their carbon emissions.”

Why Walmart Matters to 21st Century Working-Class Struggle

What connects the recent movements that have shaken the foundations of US inequality? In her acclaimed book Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt, Sarah Jaffe introduces us to the people making trouble from Wisconsin to Ferguson, from Occupy Wall Street to Moral Mondays.

By Sarah Jaffe, Nation Books | Book Excerpt

In chapter three of Necessary Trouble, Sarah Jaffe covers the struggles of Walmart workers fighting for better pay, conditions and rights at work. This excerpt addresses the historical context for that struggle.

The image conjured by the term "working class" in the United States has been one of mostly white men toiling in a factory, wearing hard hats and those oft-evoked blue collars. Our labor policy was shaped around those men and the assumption that workers get health insurance from their jobs, have a pension on which to retire, and make a "family wage" that allows them to support a wife, who stays home to take care of the kids and the cooking and cleaning.

And yet with each year, that picture becomes less and less reflective of reality. The working class never was all white or all male, but now, more and more, the real story of the working class is the story of people like Colby Harris and Venanzi Luna, black and Latina, working in retail, restaurants, or another form of service work. The real story is not that women and people of color have moved into positions of power, but that more men are in "casualized" -- that is, in temporary, part-time, or presumably "unskilled" service jobs.

Real Washington Corruption? Not Hillary's Latest Emails, but Bush-Cheney Ties to Iraq's Wartime Profiteers

Right-wingers upset with Bono conveniently forget about the Carlyle Group and Halliburton.

By Steven Rosenfeld

The latest flurry of right-wing consternation over Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while Secretary of State has crossed over into the ludicrous.

Perhaps it’s inevitable that in a year dominated by Donald Trump’s excess the Wall Street Journal’s editorial team and others would parse through the latest batch of emails obtained through federal Freedom of Information requests by longtime Clinton foes at Judicial Watch and fabricate outrage over her State Department staff’s deliberations over granting access to businessmen, pop stars and foreign leaders who previously donated to the Clinton Foundation.

Paul Krugman: The Water Next Time

A disaster area is no place for political theater. The governor of flood-ravaged Louisiana asked President Obama to postpone a personal visit while relief efforts were still underway. (Meanwhile, by all accounts, the substantive federal response has been infinitely superior to the Bush administration’s response to Katrina.) He made the same request to Donald Trump, declaring, reasonably, that while aid would be welcome, a visit for the sake of a photo op would not.

Sure enough, the G.O.P. candidate flew in, shook some hands, signed some autographs, and was filmed taking boxes of Play-Doh out of a truck. If he wrote a check, neither his campaign nor anyone else has mentioned it. Heckuva job, Donnie!

Humans have caused climate change for 180 years

Australian National University

An international research project has found human activity has been causing global warming for almost two centuries, proving human-induced climate change is not just a 20th century phenomenon.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Nerilie Abram from The Australian National University (ANU) said the study found warming began during the early stages of the Industrial Revolution and is first detectable in the Arctic and tropical oceans around the 1830s, much earlier than scientists had expected.

U.S. Army fudged its accounts by trillions of dollars, auditor finds

By Scot J. Paltrow

The United States Army’s finances are so jumbled it had to make trillions of dollars of improper accounting adjustments to create an illusion that its books are balanced.

The Defense Department’s Inspector General, in a June report, said the Army made $2.8 trillion in wrongful adjustments to accounting entries in one quarter alone in 2015, and $6.5 trillion for the year. Yet the Army lacked receipts and invoices to support those numbers or simply made them up.

Paul Krugman: Obamacare Hits a Bump

More than two and a half years have gone by since the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, went fully into effect. Most of the news about health reform since then has been good, defying the dire predictions of right-wing doomsayers. But this week has brought some genuine bad news: The giant insurer Aetna announced that it would be pulling out of many of the “exchanges,” the special insurance markets the law established.

This doesn’t mean that the reform is about to collapse. But some real problems are cropping up. They’re problems that would be relatively easy to fix in a normal political system, one in which parties can compromise to make government work. But they won’t get resolved if we elect a clueless president (although he’d turn to terrific people, the best people, for advice, believe me. Not.). And they’ll be difficult to resolve even with a knowledgeable, competent president if she faces scorchedearth opposition from a hostile Congress.

How ‘Think Tanks’ Generate Endless War

U.S. “think tanks” rile up the American public against an ever-shifting roster of foreign “enemies” to justify wars which line the pockets of military contractors who kick back some profits to the “think tanks,” explains retired JAG Major Todd E. Pierce.

By Todd E. Pierce

The New York Times took notice recently of the role that so-called “think tanks” play in corrupting U.S. government policy. Their review of think tanks “identified dozens of examples of scholars conducting research at think tanks while corporations were paying them to help shape government policy.”

Unfortunately, and perhaps predictably, while the Times investigation demonstrates well that the U.S. is even more corrupt – albeit the corruption is better disguised – than the many foreign countries which we routinely accuse of corruption, the Times failed to identify the most egregious form of corruption in our system. That is, those think tanks are constantly engaged in the sort of activities which the Defense Department identifies as “Information War” when conducted by foreign countries that are designated by the U.S. as an enemy at any given moment.

Richard Eskow: Will The “Fix the Debt” Manipulators Ever Reform Themselves?

I’ll say this for them: The Wall Street billionaires and corporate CEOs behind the “Campaign to Fix the Debt” have a lot of nerve. Once again they’re using cheap scare tactics, along with some manipulative “nudging,” to drum up support for cutting Social Security benefits.

The money behind the latest scare campaign – “How Old Will You Be When Social Security’s Funds Run Out?” – also funds a TV ad that shows jobs, teachers, and roads and bridges vanishing, supposedly because the national debt wasn’t brought under control.

How Trump and Christie Colluded to Steal $25 Million From NJ Taxpayers

An outraged Sarah Silverman says the money should go for education.

By Michael Hayne

The very thought of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a man with all the charm and temperament of Bluto, being commander-in-chief was luckily destroyed. His pathetic and nonexistent presidential run proved that America preferred an even bigger, louder and more unstable narcissistic a-hole in Donald Trump. But since he can't keep being governor of New Jersey forever, the blob of buffoonery has to kiss up to Trump in the hopes that it gets him an unelectable cabinet-level position. Well, that cynical effort appears to be playing out quite beautifully.

The sketchy relationship between Christie and Trump took on a new chapter after a New York Times report showed that Trump's $30 million casino tax debt, something New Jersey officials fought endlessly to collect, was suddenly reduced by a massive amount after Christie took office in 2010.

Police Can Use a Legal Gray Area to Rob Anyone of Their Belongings

When officers categorize wallets or cellphones as evidence, getting them back can be nearly impossible—even if the owner isn’t charged with a crime.

Kaveh Waddell

Last summer, Kenneth Clavasquin was arrested in front of the Bronx apartment he shared with his mother. While the 23-year-old was being processed, the New York Police Department took his possessions, including his iPhone, and gave him a receipt detailing the items in police custody. That receipt would be his ticket to getting back his stuff after his case ended.

But the recovery process would soon turn into a nightmare. Clavasquin’s case was dismissed on December 8, 2015, and one day later, he took a court document proving the dismissal to the NYPD property clerk’s office. He was told that the department had classified his possessions as arrest evidence, to give the district attorney the option of considering them in the case. But the district attorney didn’t, and now that the case was over, the classification meant Clavasquin was about to enter a bureaucratic obstacle course.

Everything Wrong With How Our Justice System Treats Poor People, In One Awful Case

Ian Millhiser

Maria Rivera’s young son spent over a year in Orange County, California’s juvenile detention facilities. When he was released, the county sent a $16,372 bill to Rivera, claiming she needed to pay for the food her son ate, the clothing he wore, and the medicine he took while he was incarcerated.

The debt imposed a considerable hardship on Rivera. She sold her home to cover the debt, although this sale only allowed her to pay off about $9,500. Moreover, the county appears to have charged her significant interest on the unpaid portion of the debt. It eventually obtained a court order requiring her to pay nearly $10,000 more in addition to the funds she raised through the sale of her home.

Paul Krugman: Wisdom, Courage and the Economy

It’s fantasy football time in political punditry, as commentators try to dismiss Hillary Clinton’s dominance in the polls — yes, Clinton Derangement Syndrome is alive and well — by insisting that she would be losing badly if only the G.O.P. had nominated someone else. We will, of course, never know. But one thing we do know is that none of Donald Trump’s actual rivals for the nomination bore any resemblance to their imaginary candidate, a sensible, moderate conservative with good ideas.

Let’s not forget, for example, what Marco Rubio was doing in the memorized sentence he famously couldn’t stop repeating: namely, insinuating that President Obama is deliberately undermining America. It wasn’t all that different from Donald Trump’s claim that Mr. Obama founded ISIS. And let’s also not forget that Jeb Bush, the ultimate establishment candidate, began his campaign with the ludicrous assertion that his policies would double the American economy’s growth rate.

David Sirota: Jobs Report: Donald Trump Joins Economic Experts Who Say The Official Unemployment Rate Is Inaccurate

When Donald Trump on Monday questioned the accuracy of the federal government’s glowing employment reports, it may have seemed like another unsubstantiated outburst from a famously loose-with-the-facts candidate. But in this case, he was joining a bipartisan chorus of businesspeople, economists and lawmakers who say the monthly employment report is an artificial portrait deliberately airbrushed by statisticians to make the jobs picture look better than it really is.

Last week, the Obama administration’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the economy added 255,000 jobs in July, and that the official unemployment rate had remained at 4.9 percent — the lowest it has been since early 2008. In a speech to the Detroit Economic Club, Trump derided the report, calling it “one of the biggest hoaxes in modern politics.”

Social Security and the 1 Percent

by Nick Buffie

In February of last year, the Center for American Progress (CAP) released a report titled The Effect of Rising Inequality on Social Security. The report shows how the increase in economic inequality in the U.S. has led to deteriorating Social Security revenues, often to the tune of tens of billions of dollars a year. Earlier research by Dean Baker showed that the upward redistribution of wage income was responsible for 43.5 percent of the projected 75-year shortfall in Social Security funding as of 2013.

Social Security is funded through federal payroll taxes. These taxes are currently applied to the first $118,500 of a worker’s wages; this means that only a portion of high-wage workers’ earnings are subject to taxation. For example, a worker earning $237,000 a year will pay payroll taxes on just half his earnings in 2016; a worker earning a million dollars will pay payroll taxes on less than 12 percent of his earnings. By contrast, any worker making $118,500 or less will have all of his earnings held subject to taxation. This $118,500 “cap” rises in line with average wage growth every year.

Federal Court Delivers a Blow to Municipal Broadband

Candace Clement

The digital divide is alive and well in 2016 and there are still millions of people in the United States living without internet access. And a court decision that came down this week hasn’t helped matters.

On Wednesday, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the FCC’s 2015 order to preempt state-level restrictions in North Carolina and Tennessee on municipalities seeking to build their own high-speed broadband networks.

Donald Trump Gives the Game Away

GOP leaders will tolerate Trump so long as he promises huge tax cuts, and GOP voters will tolerate him so long as he's a bigot.

By Brian Beutler

Donald Trump just spent a week showcasing all of the qualities that make him unfit for the presidency. He began by directing a bigoted slander at the family of a Muslim soldier killed in Iraq, then followed it up with a sexist defense of serial sexual predator Roger Ailes. He attacked multiple fire marshals at a rally for following the law, used his stature as the GOP standard-bearer to settle personal scores with three prominent Republicans facing primary challenges (Paul Ryan, John McCain, and Kelly Ayotte), and repeatedly lied about having seen Iranian video footage of the United States delivering cash to Tehran.

As his polling tanked, Republican officials grew increasingly panicked and angry; many of them organized a sheepish pressure campaign to get him to drop out of the race altogether. Some Republican National Committee members reportedly began contingency planning for a vacancy at the top of the ticket.

Richard Eskow: The Incredible Shrinking Populist: Donald Trump’s Tiny Economic Vision

On Monday, Donald Trump talked about the economy on television for an hour. That may have exceeded the graduate-level curriculum at Trump University. But the biggest lesson I learned is that Trump contradicts himself more, and becomes more typically Republican, with every passing day.

It’s rare to see Trump put much effort into anything, so it was almost likable to watch him work so hard to read his speech from a Teleprompter. All that concentration! It was like watching a child learn to draw.

Anti-Transparency Agenda Hailed Inside ALEC

Submitted by PRWatch Editors

--A Special Report from Rep. Chris Taylor

I walked into my sixth ALEC conference over a week ago as one of two familiar Wisconsin myths was being told by the queen of the American Legislative Exchange Council, state Senator Leah Vukmir.

It wasn't the one Governor Walker continues to repeat. That's the one where newly elected tea party politicians who had all the power took away workers' rights and faced down thousands of school teachers, firefighters and high school kids (a/k/a "the union bosses," who were actually exercising the First Amendment rights our founding fathers had envisioned).

The Right Wants Glass-Steagall for the Wrong Reasons

By Mike Konczal

It’s impossible to look at any single financial regulation without understanding the problem it is trying to solve and how it would hang together with the rest of the financial regulatory regime. This is why cost-benefit analysis of financial rules isn’t very useful, as any rule depends on all the other rules. It also means that two people who agree on one idea for regulation could still bring about two very different worlds, one significantly worse than the other.

This has happened with Glass-Steagall, the Depression-era separation of commercial and investment banking. Both the Republicans and Democrats endorsed its return in their party platforms. But there are two ways to talk about the reform, a Left and a Right way to imagine what problem Glass-Steagall would solve and what kind of financial regulatory regime you would have after it was reinstated. I think the Right’s way is wrong, dangerously so, and would leave us with a split regulatory regime and a world very similar to 2007.

Dirty War Files Show How Clinton Ally Kissinger Backed Regime of Terror

Files released as Hillary Clinton reportedly courts Kissinger's endorsement

by Nadia Prupis, staff writer

Newly declassified papers on the U.S. government's role in Argentina's 1976-83 "Dirty War" have been released, detailing—among other things—how former secretary of state Henry Kissinger stymied attempts to end mass killings of dissidents.

The files were published just after Politico reported that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is courting Kissinger's support, among other Republican elites.

Kissinger lauded Argentina's military dictatorship for its "campaign against terrorism," which included the imprisonment, torture, and killings of tens of thousands of leftist activists and students, the files reveal.

Trump Trade Position Is Opposite Of What People Think It Is

Dave Johnson

One of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s stronger economic appeals to working-class voters is his position on trade. Trump understands that people are upset that “trade” deals have moved so many jobs out of the country and he offers solutions that sound like he is saying he will bring the jobs back so wages can start going up again.

But a deeper look at what he is really saying might not be so appealing to voters.

Trump says the U.S. is not “competitive” with other countries. He has said repeatedly we need to lower American wages, taxes and regulations to the point where we can be “competitive” with Mexico and China. In other words, he is saying that business won’t send jobs out of the country if we can make wages low enough here.

New Evidence Suggests Big Oil Didn’t Borrow Big Tobacco’s Playbook to Lie to the Public About Climate Change—They Actually Wrote It

In a major blow to ExxonMobil, documents reveal that the common tactical playbook is decades older than previously assumed.

By Reynard Loki

A recent analysis of more than 100 industry documents conducted by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, has revealed that the oil industry knew of the risks its business posed to the global climate decades before originally suspected.

It has also long been assumed that, in its efforts to deceive investors and the public about the negative impact its business has on the environment, Big Oil borrowed Big Tobacco’s so-called tactical “playbook.” But these documents indicate that infamous playbook appears to have actually originated within the oil industry itself.

Lynn Parramore: Stark New Evidence on How Money Shapes America’s Elections

Oversights of two generations of social scientists have weakened democracy.

Outrage over how big money influences American politics has been boiling over this political season, energizing the campaigns of GOP nominee Donald Trump and former Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders alike. Citizens have long suspected that “We the People” increasingly means “We the Rich” at election time.

Yet surprisingly, two generations of social scientists have insisted that wallets don’t matter that much in American politics. Elections are really about giving the people what they want. Money, they claim, has negligible impact on elections.

Joseph E. Stiglitz: Globalization and its New Discontents

NEW YORK – Fifteen years ago, I wrote a little book, entitled Globalization and its Discontents, describing growing opposition in the developing world to globalizing reforms. It seemed a mystery: people in developing countries had been told that globalization would increase overall wellbeing. So why had so many people become so hostile to it?

Now, globalization’s opponents in the emerging markets and developing countries have been joined by tens of millions in the advanced countries. Opinion polls, including a careful study by Stanley Greenberg and his associates for the Roosevelt Institute, show that trade is among the major sources of discontent for a large share of Americans. Similar views are apparent in Europe.

Paul Krugman: Time to Borrow

The campaign still has three ugly months to go, but the odds — 83 percent odds, according to the New York Times’s model — are that it will end with the election of a sane, sensible president. So what should she do to boost America’s economy, which is doing better than most of the world but is still falling far short of where it should be?

There are, of course, many ways our economic policy could be improved. But the most important thing we need is sharply increased public investment in everything from energy to transportation to wastewater treatment.

Matt Taibbi: Thomas Friedman Goes to the Wall

High priest of globalization lashes out against the enemies of progress

Thomas Friedman, master of metaphor, has a new set of fixations: walls, webs and the tacking of that presidentially-contending center-left sailboat, Hillary Clinton.

In a pair of recent articles, "Web People Versus Wall People" and "How Clinton Could Knock Trump Out," the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the New York Times expresses deep concern that Clinton’s primary-season "lean" toward the politics of Bernie Sanders isn't fake enough.

Dean Baker: NYT Does Impassioned Pitch for TPP in Its News Section

The NYT gave an analysis of changing attitudes towards trade agreements that completely misrepresented the key issues at stake. The headline pretty much said it all, "both parties used to back free trade. Now they bash it."


Rather these deals are about putting in place a regulatory agenda that is being designed to foster corporate interests. The deals provide a backdoor around the normal legislative process, since many of these measures would not receive the support of democratically elected officials.

Worst recovery in postwar era largely explained by cuts in government spending

by Robert E. Scott

In a story in the Wall Street Journal last Friday, reporter Eric Morath notes that the recovery from the Great Recession has been historically slow. “In terms of average annual growth,” he writes, “the pace of this expansion has been by far the weakest of any since 1949.” Missing from this story is the fact that our historically weak recovery has been accompanied by historically deep cuts in government spending. The figure below compares the strength of expansion for each recovery since 1949 with changes in government spending (it includes data on the strength of each expansion, as reported by Morath). You can see that almost every other recovery was accompanied by an increase in federal, state, and local government spending.

Jeremy Corbyn Launches Bold Progressive Vision to Transform UK

'Our country wasn’t run by Brussels, it’s run by boardrooms across the world,' says Labour Party leader as he calls for pro-worker public investments, peace abroad, and a clean energy transition

by Jon Queally, staff writer

Leader of the British Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn announced a 10-point plan on Thursday designed to "rebuild and transform" the U.K. while undoing the damage wrought by privatization schemes and concerted attacks on the public good.


The ten pledges include: An economy that works for all; Secure homes for all; Security at work; Secure our National Health Service and social care; A free national education service; Action to secure the environment; Democracy in our economy; Cut income and wealth inequality; Act to end prejudice and injustice; and Peace and justice abroad

The Federal Minimum Wage Has Been Eroded By Decades of Inaction

Economic Policy Institute

July 25, 2016--This week marks the seven-year anniversary of the last time the federal minimum wage was raised, from $6.55 to $7.25 on July 24, 2009. Since then, the purchasing power of the federal minimum wage has fallen by 10 percent as inflation has slowly eroded its value. However, this decline in the buying power of the minimum wage over the past seven years is not even half the overall decline in the minimum wage’s value since the late 1960s. As the figure below shows, at its high point in 1968, the federal minimum wage was equal to $9.63 in today’s dollars1. That means that workers at the minimum wage today are paid roughly 25 percent less than their counterparts 48 years ago.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Birds on Trump’s Brain

Richard Eskow

Donald Trump’s brain. It’s an unusual instrument, and a frightening one, even in the best of circumstances. Now someone has “put a bird on it”– a lot of them, in fact. Here’s what Trump said about wind power on Monday:
“The wind kills all your birds. All your birds, killed. You know, the environmentalists never talk about that.”
Your birds. All of them. Killed. Got that?

Medicaid Works: 10 Key Facts

Edwin Park

Medicaid provides health coverage to low-income families and individuals, including children, parents, pregnant women, seniors, and people with disabilities. Here are ten key facts about how Medicaid helps millions of Americans live healthier, more secure lives:
Medicaid provided quality health coverage for 97 million low-income Americans over the course of 2015. In any given month, Medicaid served 33 million children, 27 million adults (mostly in low-income working families), 6 million seniors, and 10 million persons with disabilities, according to Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates.

How One GMO Nearly Took Down the Planet

New law deals major blow to GMO labeling.

By Thom Hartmann

On July 29, President Obama signed bill S.764 into law, dealing a major blow to the movement to require GMO labeling. The new law, which food safety groups call the "Deny Americans the Right to Know" (DARK) Act, has at least three key parts that undermine Vermont's popular GMO labeling bill and make it nearly impossible for Americans to know what's in their food.

The law claims to set a federal labeling standard by requiring food producers to include either a QR barcode that can be scanned with a phone, or a 1-800 number that consumers can call to find out whether a product contains genetically modified ingredients.

Paul Krugman: No Right Turn

All the experts tell us not to pay too much attention to polls for another week or two. Still, it does look as if Hillary Clinton got a big bounce from her convention, swamping her opponent’s bounce a week earlier. Better still, from the Democrats’ point of view, the swing in the polls appears to be doing what some of us thought it might: sending Donald Trump into a derp spiral, in which his ugly nonsense gets even uglier and more nonsensical as his electoral prospects sink.

As a result, we’re finally seeing some prominent Republicans not just refusing to endorse Mr. Trump, but actually declaring their support for Mrs. Clinton. So how should she respond?

For the Wealthy, a Taxing New Worry

Sam Pizzigati

Tax law professors don’t normally have much of a public profile. Victor Fleischer does. In fact, one business journalist has just tagged this ace analyst from the University of San Diego “the closest thing the tax world has to a rock star.”

Most rock stars have big break-out hits. Fleischer’s big break-out came about a decade ago when his scholarship exposed an incredibly lucrative tax giveaway to the rich that hardly anyone knew existed. The “carried interest” loophole, Fleischer detailed, was helping private equity and hedge fund billionaires chop their tax bills by nearly half.

More Coca-Cola Ties Seen Inside U.S. Centers For Disease Control

by Carey Gillam

In June, Dr. Barbara Bowman, a high-ranking official within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, unexpectedly departed the agency, two days after information came to light indicating that she had been communicating regularly with – and offering guidance to – a leading Coca-Cola advocate seeking to influence world health authorities on sugar and beverage policy matters.

Now, more emails suggest that another veteran CDC official has similarly close ties to the global soft drink giant. Michael Pratt, Senior Advisor for Global Health in the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the CDC, has a history of promoting and helping lead research funded by Coca-Cola. Pratt also works closely with the nonprofit corporate interest group set up by Coca-Cola called the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), emails obtained through Freedom of Information requests show.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The college debt crisis is even worse than you think

We tell students they need a bachelor’s degree to get ahead. But for too many, the numbers no longer add up.

By Neil Swidey

IT’S ONE OF THE MOST enduring selling points for the value of higher education: The best route out of poverty is through the college quad. Spend four years in college, and all that book learning, mind opening, and network expanding will help even the lowest-income student jump up several rungs on the economic ladder. Nowhere is that message preached as often or with as much evident authority as in Massachusetts, the nation’s historic capital of private, nonprofit higher education, where the concentration of colleges in some areas is surpassed only by the number of Dunkin’ Donuts franchises.

But just how true is this truism about college lifting low-income students out of their circumstances, Horatio Alger style? In fact, like the actual story of author Horatio Alger, who was born into a well-established family and graduated from Harvard, there’s more myth than truth. That’s been especially so in recent years, as nonselective private colleges from around the region have increasingly filled their freshman classes with low-income students — often the first generation in their families to go to college — from Boston and other urban areas. Quite a few of these small schools are former junior colleges and women’s colleges with rich histories of opening doors to students traditionally shut out from higher education, an admirable pursuit that officials refer to as “access.” Many of the colleges are also in tough financial straits, struggling with rising costs, stunted endowments, and declining enrollments.

Embodied by Sanders and Corbyn, Resistance to Neoliberalism Won't Melt Away

Neither movement is just about one man. They’re a reflection of millions of people wanting to move beyond neoliberalism

by Diane Abbott

I spent last week at the Democratic national convention in Philadelphia. In the early hours of the first day of the convention, there was a spectacular thunderstorm with flashes of lightning and crashing thunder. If you were a Bernie Sanders supporter and of a religious bent, you might well have wondered whether it was God herself making clear her displeasure at the prospect of the Democratic party making Hillary Clinton its presidential nominee.

Just one subject was on most people’s lips – the Sanders delegates and how they could be controlled. Many of the people I met were interested in Jeremy Corbyn, who they saw as Britain’s answer to Sanders.

How ‘Competitiveness’ Became One of the Great Unquestioned Virtues of Contemporary Culture

How did mounting inequality succeed in proving culturally and politically attractive for as long as it did?

Will Davies

Widening economic inequality is the academic topic du jour, but the trend of growing wealth and income disparity has been underway for several decades. How did mounting inequality succeed in proving culturally and politically attractive for as long as it did?

The years since the banking meltdown of 2008 have witnessed a dawning awareness, that our model of capitalism is not simply producing widening inequality, but is apparently governed by the interests of a tiny minority of the population. The post-crisis period has spawned its own sociological category – ‘the 1%’ – and recently delivered its first work of grand economic theory, in Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-first Century, a book dedicated to understanding why inequality keeps on growing.

A Georgia town is sending police to black residents’ homes to challenge their voting rights

Brad Reed

Jim Crow laws have been off the books for years, but that hasn’t stopped individual states and cities from coming up with new ways to depress minority voter turnout.

Last week, for instance, a U.S. appeals court struck down a North Carolina voter ID law that it said was specifically designed to lower turnout among black voters. And now the New York Times is reporting that a town in Georgia is using its police department to challenge the rights of its black residents to vote.

Dean Baker: Don't believe Wall Street's scare stories about a financial transactions tax

Thanks in large part to Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Democratic Party recently added a financial transactions tax to its platform. In his run for the presidential nomination, Sanders had promoted the idea of an FTT — a small sales tax on the purchase of stocks, bonds or other financial assets — as a way to finance free college for everyone, with money left over for infrastructure and other important needs. The idea has currency beyond the platform, too: Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.) recently reintroduced an earlier proposal for a tax of 3 cents on every 100 dollars on most financial transactions.

Talk of FTTs scares the financial industry: They would significantly reduce the industry’s revenue and profits. As soon as anyone starts taking FTTs seriously, the industry immediately begins issuing dire warnings — which, unsurprisingly, almost always amount to nonsense.

Paul Krugman: Worthy of Our Contempt

Donald Trump said some more disgusting things over the weekend. If this surprises you, you haven’t been paying attention. Also, don’t be surprised if a majority of Republicans approve of his attack on the parents of a dead war hero. After all, a YouGov survey found that 61 percent of Republicans support his call for Russian hacking of Hillary Clinton.

But this isn’t a column about Mr. Trump and the people who are O.K. with anything he says or does. It is, instead, about Republicans — probably a minority within the party, but a substantial one — who aren’t like that. These are people who aren’t racists, respect patriots even if they’re Muslim, believe that America should honor its international commitments, and in general sound like normal members of a normal political party.

The Fallacy of ‘Regime Change’ Strategies

“Regime change” or destabilizing sanctions are Official Washington’s policy options of choice in dealing with disfavored nations, but these aggressive strategies have proved harmful and counterproductive, says ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.

By Paul R. Pillar

Many variables are involved in the messy predicaments in the Middle East, but one way of framing the history and issues of U.S. policy toward the region is in terms of the approaches that have been taken toward so-called rogue regimes. That term, one should hasten to add, obscures more than it enlightens. But it has been in general use for a long time. Take it as shorthand to refer to regimes that have come to be considered especially troublesome and are subjected to some degree of ostracism and punishment.

Three basic approaches are available in formulating policy toward such a regime: (1) keep ostracizing and punishing it in perpetuity; (2) try to change the regime; or (3) negotiate and do business with it, to constrain it and to influence its actions. There are some contradictions between the approaches. Any regime that is led to believe that it is going to be overturned anyway, or that it will be perpetually punished anyway, lacks incentive to make concessions in a negotiation.

One Democratic Convention Speech Nailed The Progressive Vision

Isaiah J. Poole

When Rev. William Barber, best known in progressive circles as the leader of the Moral Mondays protests against the right-wing governor and legislature in North Carolina, was brought to the stage at the Democratic National Convention Thursday night, there was cheering from the North Carolina delegation but polite applause from the rest the hall. They did not know who Barber was, and they did not know what was coming.

Ten minutes later, when Barber finished his address, the entire convention hall was on its feet.

“I come before you tonight as a preacher,” he began, and from that moment Barber took the convention delegates through the convergence of progressive populism and “faith and morality.”

'Disappointed' in Obama, Sanders Calls on Top Dems to Drop Lame Duck TPP Push

TPP "will cost American jobs, harm the environment, increase the cost of prescription drugs, and threaten our ability to protect public health"

by Andrea Germanos, staff writer

Hillary Clinton may not have heeded progressives' call to clearly say she'll urge the White House and her fellow party members to oppose a "lame-duck" vote on the Trans Pacific Partnership, but Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has done just that, calling on Democratic Congressional leadership to publicly oppose a post-Election Day vote on the "job-killing trade deal."

Sanders' statement, issued Friday, comes as the Obama administration continues its push to get the TPP passed this year.

Paul Krugman: Who Loves America?

It has been quite a week in politics.

On one side, the Democratic National Convention was very much a celebration of America. On the other side, the Republican nominee for president, pressed on the obvious support he is getting from Vladimir Putin, once again praised Mr. Putin’s leadership, suggested that he is O.K. with Russian aggression in Crimea, and urged the Russians to engage in espionage on his behalf. And no, it wasn’t a joke.

I know that some Republicans feel as if they’ve fallen through the looking glass. After all, usually they’re the ones chanting “U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” And haven’t they spent years suggesting that Barack and Michelle Obama hate America, and may even support the nation’s enemies? How did Democrats end up looking like the patriots here?

Greenwald Explains What Out-of-Touch Media Doesn't Get About Trump, Russia, and US Electorate

'People have been so fucked by the prevailing order in such deep and fundamental and enduring ways that they can't imagine that anything is worse than preservation of the status quo'

by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer

Donald Trump poses "extreme dangers" to the United States and the world, journalist and co-founding editor of The Intercept Glenn Greenwald says in a new interview published at Slate.

But to stop the GOP presidential nominee from getting elected, "U.S. media and U.S. elites" must take a lesson from the recent Brexit debacle, he warns—and bending over backwards to link Trump to Russian President Vladimir Putin isn't the right approach.

"U.K. elites were uniform, uniform, in their contempt for the Brexit case, other than the right-wing Murdochian tabloids," Greenwald told Slate contributor Isaac Chotiner by phone.

FLASHBACK: When Millions of Lost Bush White House Emails (From Private Accounts) Triggered a Media Shrug

Millions of missing White House emails that were sought in connection to a congressional investigation.

By Eric Boehlert / Media Matters

Even for a Republican White House that was badly stumbling through George W. Bush's sixth year in office, the revelation on April 12, 2007, was shocking. Responding to congressional demands for emails in connection with its investigation into the partisan firing of eight U.S. attorneys, the White House announced that as many as five million emails, covering a two-year span, had been lost.

The emails had been run through private accounts controlled by the Republican National Committee and were only supposed to be used for dealing with non-administration political campaign work to avoid violating ethics laws. Yet congressional investigators already had evidence private emails had been used for government business, including to discuss the firing of one of the U.S. attorneys. The RNC accounts were used by 22 White House staffers, including then-Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, who reportedly used his RNC email for 95 percent of his communications.

Koch's Latest Propaganda Disaster: Another Academic Sell-Out Sets Off Controversy With Remarks

Charles Koch's incestuous academic network serves only to promote his brand of tax-slashing, regulation-killing economics.

By Alex Kotch

Yet another controversy is boiling at a Charles Koch-funded university project to promote an extreme economic agenda, this time at Troy University in Alabama. The libertarian billionaire, who is known for his powerful, conservative political donor network, has led a movement to create academic centers on college and university campuses that promote his brand of tax-slashing, regulation-killing economics, benefiting his massive industrial corporation’s bottom line.

Since 1980, the Charles Koch Foundation (CKF) has granted $200 million to hundreds of colleges and universities, often to establish free-market academic centers and in other cases funding professors, doctoral students and free-market courses within established programs. From 2005 to 2014, Koch family foundations, led by CKF, donated nearly $108 million to 366 colleges and universities, as Facing South reported.

Corporate Democrats Have Always Hated the Left — Now They're Shocked to Learn That We Hate Them Back

by Jake Johnson

Since the 1970's, the American left has been on the defensive.

Facing both an increasingly ambitious business offensive against the core tenets of the New Deal and a Democratic Party establishment that was slowly beginning its rightward shift, progressive activists were pushed out of the mainstream, where they had remained a solid force during the Roosevelt era and through the 1960's.

These consequential shifts were, in large part, due to the changing composition of the Democratic Party's donor base — a base that moved away from union halls and into the lucrative embrace of corporate America.

ALEC 2016 Agenda Boosts Charters, Coal and Other Corporate Funders

By Jessica Mason and Lisa Graves, PR Watch | News Analysis

The American Legislative Exchange Council will push bills to protect failing charter schools, silence political speech, and obstruct environmental protections in the ALEC 2016 agenda introduced at its annual meeting in Indianapolis this week.

ALEC faces renewed public attention as it gears up for the annual meeting, where corporate lobbyists sit side-by-side with state legislators in luxury hotels to vote as equals on "model bills" that then get pushed to become law in states across the country.

Want to Stop Gentrification? Start a Union.

Like labor unions, neighborhood unions could help residents bargain collectively for affordable housing, housing security, protections for local businesses, and community reconciliation.

By Brandon Ward

Historical communities around the nation are being threatened by gentrification. Neighborhoods that have served as spaces for social advancement and vibrant local cultures for generations are under threat as they become targets for gold-digging investors and developers.

I live in Hampden, one of many communities in Baltimore being threatened by gentrification.

Forbes ranked Hampden as America’s 15th most hipster neighborhood. Known for its walkability, coffee shops, local food trucks, and an assortment of local restaurants and bars, Hampden has a thriving local economy. These small shops and local businesses have been around for decades and helped establish the culture and generate wealth within the neighborhood.

Turbo-Capitalism Will Wreck Us, Unless Hillary Moves Faster

Breaking the glass ceiling won't fix the walls and foundation.

By Jim Sleeper

In a prescient, darkly prophetic, lecture at the conservative American Enterprise Institute in 2007, the writer Sam Tanenhaus, biographer of Whittaker Chambers and, soon, of William F. Buckley, Jr., put his finger on American conservatism's original sin: It can’t or won’t reconcile its sincere yearnings for an ordered, republican liberty, rooted in civic virtues and national sovereignty, with its devotion to almost every whim and riptide of a new capitalism that's destroying the very virtues and sovereignty conservatives cherish.

"You can't build a clear conservatism out of capitalism, because capitalism disrupts culture," Tanenhaus said, adding that capitalism can invigorate a society only if it’s answerable to republican vigilance against excessive profit-maximizing as well against excessive government.

How climate change is rapidly taking the planet apart

Writing up articles on climate change is difficult these days. Last week alone, 46 new papers and reports were published. I am certain that there are many more. The figure only refers to the sources I usually consult. I try to read all abstracts and all articles I find interesting, but sometimes I shy away from it: it is just too depressing. As, for example, Camille Parmesan (Nobel prize laureate together with Al Gore) and Jason Box said on several occasions, many climate scientists suffer from some sort of mood imbalance or mild or serious depression. It is easy to understand why: we see the climate change taking the planet apart right in front of our eyes. We also clearly see, right in front of us, what urgently needs to done to stave off global disaster on an unprecedented scale. We need carbon taxes and the reconversion of industry and energy towards zero CO2 emissions systems. This route is without any doubt technically and economically feasible, but politically it seems to be permanently locked. If we do not unlock it, the future looks bleak, not to say hopeless, for humankind.

We Must Reject Economic Cannibalism

By John Perkins

"What can I do to fix a broken global economy?" It's a question I've been asked a lot these past few months as I've crisscrossed the US speaking at TED venues, music concerts, the World Affairs Council, bookstores, on radio and TV shows, and at a variety of other forums.

During this election year it is important to recognize that corporations pretty much run the world. Despite the outcome of the elections, they will continue to do so -- at least until we organize and change the rules that have created the dominant neoliberal system.

We all support corporations. We buy from them, work for them, manage them, invest in them, and help them with our tax dollars.

Chomsky: America Is on the Decline: Guess Who's to Blame?

Noam Chomsky wants to make America great again, but you’ll never believe who he thinks will save it.

By Alexandra Rosenmann

Noam Chomsky has some tough love for America.

"The United States is a victim of self-inflicted wounds which are significantly harming the economy and society in many ways," Chomsky recently stated, though he also admitted that, "even with the neoliberal policies, since President Reagan and comparable to Europe, the U.S. remains, in realistic terms, the richest country in the world and has enormous advantages. Still a position of overwhelming power, but “not as what it was, in particular, with regard to Latin America.”

But Chomsky remains hopeful both for Latin America and the U.S.

Paul Krugman: Delusions of Chaos

Last year there were 352 murders in New York City. This was a bit higher than the number in 2014, but far below the 2245 murders that took place in 1990, the city’s worst year. In fact, as measured by the murder rate, New York is now basically as safe as it has ever been, going all the way back to the 19th century.

National crime statistics, and numbers for all violent crimes, paint an only slightly less cheerful picture. And it’s not just a matter of numbers; our big cities look and feel far safer than they did a generation ago, because they are. People of a certain age always have the sense that America isn’t the country they remember from their youth, and in this case they’re right — it has gotten much better.

The far-right’s 50-year project to transform American values with a clandestine ‘counterrevolution’

History News Network

The current U.S. presidential election cycle may seem over the top. But in one important way, it is no different than any other over the past several decades. Since the 1970s, presidential candidates running under the Republican ticket have successively shifted further and further to the political right. How many times have we heard—or said—that George W. Bush made Richard Nixon look like a liberal?

The rightward political shift is no accident. Since the end of World War II, far-right conservatives and libertarians have patiently laid the groundwork for a national climate receptive to their ideals of weak government and a strong corporate presence.

Oil Lobby Paid Washington Post and Atlantic to Host Climate-Change Deniers at RNC

Alex Emmons

At the award-winning seafood restaurant in downtown Cleveland that The Atlantic rented out for the entire four-day Republican National Convention, GOP Rep. Bill Johnson turned to me and explained that solar panels are not a viable energy source because “the sun goes down.”

Johnson had just stepped off the stage where he was one of the two featured guests speaking at The Atlantic’s “cocktail caucus,” where restaurant staff served complimentary wine, cocktails, and “seafood towers” of shrimp, crab cakes, oysters, and mussels to delegates, guests, reporters and, of course, the people paying the bills.

How Individualist Economics Are Causing Planetary Eco-Collapse

By Richard Smith

While capitalism has brought unprecedented development, this same motor of development is now driving us towards ecological collapse, threatening to doom us all. Adam Smith's capitalist economics can offer no solution to the crisis because the crisis is the product of the same dynamic of competition-driven production for market that generates the ever-greater accumulation of wealth and consumption that Smithian economists celebrate. In his 1996 book The Future of Capitalism, Lester Thurow lucidly captured the socially suicidal aggregate impact of individualistic economic decision-making:
"Nowhere is capitalism's time horizon problem more acute than in the area of global environmentalism... What should a capitalistic society do about long-run environmental problems such as global warming or ozone depletion?... Using capitalist decision rules, the answer to what should be done today to prevent such problems is very clear -- do nothing. However large the negative effects fifty to one hundred years from now might be, their current discounted net present value is zero. If the current value of the future negative consequences is zero, then nothing should be spent today to prevent those distant problems from emerging. But if the negative effects are very large fifty to one hundred years from now, by then it will be too late to do anything to make the situation any better, since anything done at that time could only improve the situation another fifty to one hundred years into the future. So being good capitalists, those who live in the future, no matter how bad their problems are, will also decide to do nothing. Eventually a generation will arrive which cannot survive in the earth's altered environment, but by then it will be too late for them to do anything to prevent their own extinction. Each generation makes good capitalist decisions, yet the net effect is collective social suicide."

Elizabeth Warren Opens Broad Attack Against Rent-Seeking Oligopolists Like Amazon, Apple, Google, Walmart, Comcast

Posted on July 1, 2016 by Yves Smith

While the media has been obsessed with Elizabeth Warren acting as the new heavy in the Clinton campaign against Donald Trump, it has curiously neglected a front she and other progressives are opening against powerful companies that are strong backers of the Clinton presidential bid. She has called out some of the most powerful companies in America as having too much economic power and has called for them to reined in.

At a minimum, this suggests that Warren has not fallen into Clinton’s orbit, nor is operating under a delusion as far as the likelihood of her becoming Vice President is concerned, despite some unseemly behavior, like at one point stating her willingness to take the job. Warren and Trump have a strong mutual antipathy. Warren will be able to play a more influential role in a Clinton administration than in a Trump administration whether she is offered a post or not.

How Billionaires Are Successfully Fooling Us Into Destroying Public Education—and Why Privatization Is a Terrible Idea

The billionaire-backed privatization movement is stealthily advancing an undemocratic agenda, cloaked in deceptive rhetoric, that the public is not aware of and does not understand.

By Diane Ravitch

Something unprecedented is happening to American public education. A powerful, well-funded, well-organized movement is seeking to privatize significant numbers of public schools and destroy the teaching profession. This movement is not a conspiracy; it operates in the open. But its goals are masked by deceptive rhetoric. It calls itself a “reform” movement, but its true goal is privatization.

This movement has had strange bedfellows. Some of its funders and promoters on the far right of the political spectrum are motivated by ideological contempt for the public sector; others earnestly believe they are providing better choices for poor children “trapped in failing schools.” Still others believe that elected local school boards are incompetent and should be replaced by private management, or that the private sector is inherently more innovative and effective than the public sector. And some are motivated by greed, while others are motivated by religious conviction. These strange bedfellows have included the US Department of Education (during the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama); major foundations and think tanks, both conservative and centrist; billionaires committed to free-market solutions—and certain they know what is best because they are so rich; entrepreneurs hoping to make money from school privatization or by selling technology to replace teachers; the far-right American Legisla­tive Exchange Council (ALEC), which has drafted model legislation to promote corporate interests and to expand the privatization of almost all government services, including education; and numerous governors and legislators (mostly but not exclusively Republicans) who want schools to operate in a free-market system of school choice.

The Republicans' Platform Eviscerates Workers’ Rights

A government for the people?


The Republican Party's official 2016 platform, released this week, proudly states “the greatest asset of the American economy is the hard working American.”

The writers must have a twisted sense of humor.

In a not particularly unexpected move, the party platform eviscerates the “hard working American,” denying workers of their right to unionize while targeting their most vulnerable communities.

What’s Taking Little Rock Back To Its Segregated Past?

Jeff Bryant

Stories about historic efforts to address racial segregation in American public education often start with Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. But the story of Little Rock and segregation badly needs updating.

Central High became one of the first practical tests of principles established in Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruling that overturned racially separate public schools. When nine black students showed up for opening day of the historically all-white school, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus called in the National Guard to prevent them from entering. President Dwight Eisenhower responded by calling in federal troops to escort the students into the school, and Faubus eventually backed down.

Regulating Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals Could Improve the Health of the Next Generation

By Christina Rudén and Laura Vandenberg, Environmental Health News | Op-Ed

With more than 100,000 chemicals on the global market, it is a tremendous challenge to identify those that might cause harm to humans or wildlife. One class of chemicals, endocrine disruptors (chemicals that interfere with natural hormones), is receiving significant attention in the United States, European Union, and elsewhere.

Expert panels from the United Nations Environment Programme and World Health Organization, the Endocrine Society, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and others have concluded that the evidence linking endocrine disrupting chemicals to human diseases is strong.

John Dewey Was Right: American Politics Is Merely the Shadow Cast by Big Business

by Jake Johnson

Writing in the midst of the Great Depression, the American philosopher John Dewey understood deeply the need for a new political order.

The destitution brought about by the crash of 1929 and the subsequent economic meltdown were, Dewey thought, the predictable consequences of an economy — and a political system — controlled by, and dedicated to the needs of, large corporations.

Dewey is seldom remembered as a radical, but, in an essay published in 1931, he argued that social change can only be brought about by changing the fundamental structure of the political order — refurbishing the exterior would always, Dewey argued, be insufficient.