Scott Klinger

Don’t Pave Our Potholes with Corporate Tax Cuts

Life was different in the 1990s. Back in ‘93, a lucky few used dial-up Internet to access one of 800 websites available worldwide. Smart phones were a distant dream. The TV dinosaur Barney had just started “edutaining” America’s children. And gas cost about $1.30 a gallon — including 18.4 cents in federal taxes to build and maintain our roads, bridges, and transit systems. Now, 22 years later, the Internet is all-encompassing, smartphones are ubiquitous, and Barney’s been dormant for years. Gas for $1.30 is a distant dream, even in these oil boom days. Yet for some reason majorities in both houses of Congress expect good roads for the same 18 pennies per gallon we paid in 1993. Rather than agreeing on a long-term fix for the gas tax, Congress has kicked the can down the road. It’s passed 33 short-term fixes in the last six years.

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Dave Johnson

Corporations Demand Budget Cuts, Owe Government $620 Billion

How MANY times have we heard corporate-funded conservatives and “centrists” whine about “deficits” and demand cuts in the things government does to make people’s lives better? How many times? “We’re broke.” “Taxpayers can’t afford these … (pensions, health programs, infrastructure repair, food stamps, high-speed rail systems, scientific studies, you name it).” Over and over we are subjected to demands that our own government cut back on the things it does — teachers and schools, roads, food programs, dams, bridges, scientific research, health care (but never, ever on military corporate contracts). This “deficits” drumbeat is incessant because it is so well funded with corporate cash.

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Dave Johnson

The First Democratic Presidential Debate Had Adults On The Stage

The first Democratic debate showed the country what it is like to have adults on a stage. It doesn’t matter who “won.” The candidates showed they all are concerned about governing the country and proposing actual policies that will help actual people have better lives. And they showed that we have a serious and lively Democratic primary race in front of us. The country will be the winner. In contrast to the entertaining Republican cage fight clown show racist, anti-government insult fest “debates”, the first Democratic debate was almost entirely a serious debate on issues and policies, by serious people with serious policy proposals, who all did very well. It was a debate for people who actually care about governing the country and making regular people’s lives better.

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Nancy Altman

Social Security Benefits Eroded By Inadequate Inflation Adjustment

The Social Security Administration on Thursday will announce some news that will be distressing to more than one in four households: there will be no Social Security cost of living adjustment (“COLA”) for 2016. This is no small matter. The purpose of the annual adjustments is to ensure that Social Security’s benefits don’t lose value over time. They are intended to keep seniors and other beneficiaries afloat, to allow them to tread water. But seniors are not floating; they are sinking. You would be hard pressed to find a senior who has not seen the cost of medical care, prescription drugs, food and other necessities go up. You would also be hard pressed to make the case that Social Security benefits are too generous. Averaging just around $16,000 a year, they replace just 40 percent of a medium-income worker’s wages.

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Bill Scher

The House Freedom Caucus Is a Cancer On The Republican Party

The House Republicans have a problem. The approximately 50-member strong Freedom Caucus won’t let them govern. Speaker John Boehner decided it was preferable to abandon his post instead of standing up to them. Rep. Kevin McCarthy chose to run away from the Speaker’s race instead of trying to beat them. Both cited party unity for their excuse. But their decisions avoid the underlying problem: the House Freedom Caucus is a cancer that needs to excised if the party is ever going to be able to function. Consider that as soon as eyes turned to Rep. Paul Ryan came the calls that the Ayn Rand disciple is not conservative enough.

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Eric Lotke

The Real Problem with Private Prisons. Hint: It’s Not the Lobbying.

Private prisons are a cancer. Private prisons make money by locking people up, and the more people they lock up for more time, the more money they make. Private prisons are morally distasteful, they don’t save money, and they have historic performance problems. But they persist. Why does this cancer continue to grow? The answer is not the lobbying or the political contributions — though the industry does both. The answer isn’t the contracts that guarantee 90% or 100% occupancy — though surely they help — or even the industry-financed research that purports to show cost savings when neutral research shows no such thing. The answer is deeper than that and goes to the very heart of the industry. Private prisons are filled because they are there. They succeed by being available. Companies build them, and the people come.

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Leo Gerard

TPP: Foie Gras for Corporations; Dead Rats for Workers

Some terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the 12-nation trade proposal completed last week, are so repulsive that the New Zealand trade minister who helped negotiate the scheme described accepting them as swallowing dead rats. Here’s what New Zealand Minister Tim Groser said: “On the hardest core issues, there are some ugly compromises out there. And when we say ugly, we mean ugly from each perspective – it doesn’t mean ‘I’ve got to swallow a dead rat and you’re swallowing foie gras.’ It means both of us are swallowing dead rats on three or four issues to get this deal across the line.” There’s no reason for the United States to swallow a trade deal filled with rotten rodent terms. Previous so-called free trade deals have killed American factories and hundreds of thousands of family-supporting manufacturing jobs.

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Robert Borosage

The Democratic Debate: A Brief Field Guide

Will a policy discussion break out in the Democratic presidential debate tonight? Not if CNN’s moderators can help it. Already the pundits are dreading an exchange focused on ideas rather than insults. No Donald Trump to bait and goad. No Carly Fiorina to provoke. CNN, which has turned itself into Trump 24/7 in search of ratings, has to be fretting about the falloff in viewers. So, no doubt, the moderators will troll for trash. Sanders will be challenged about whether a “socialist” can win. He’ll be cross-examined about his polemic excesses from five decades ago, as if this were a measure of character. The ersatz scandals burdening Hillary – the email server, Benghazi, the family fortune – will be reheated. We’ll get horse race questions about why anyone thinks Hillary can be beaten. Here’s the reality behind the debate.

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Dave Johnson

What Is This ‘Cadillac Tax’ Health Insurance Thingy?

You may have heard about the “Cadillac tax” health insurance thing. As with so much else involved with the health care/insurance discussion, policymakers have chosen wording that causes most people to tune out. Terms like “Cadillac tax” have little meaning to regular people because they convey very little information – or they evoke an image that masks its true impact. When policymakers talk about a “Cadillac tax” on health insurance plans, what they are referring to is an upcoming tax on employers who provide really good health insurance plans that cover lots of things without requiring employees to pay large co-pays and deductibles when they get medical care.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: Boehner’s Nightmare

House Speaker John Boehner has a recurring nightmare about being stuck, unable to move. The complete implosion of the race for his successor this week might mean Boehner’s nightmare is coming true. It was going to be a smooth exit. Figuring that meeting the Pope was as good as it was gonna get, Boehner announced his resignation from Congress. He’d give himself another month, postpone a government shutdown until he was long gone and couldn’t be blamed for it. He had a ready successor lined-up in the form of Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). Then it all fell apart. The Freedom Caucus threatened the throw the House floor vote. McCarthy’s epic Benghazi gaffe only fueled opposition to his coronation as speaker. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) threw his hat into the ring after slamming McCarthy in the media.

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Bill Scher

Why Won’t Democrats Talk Straight About Trade?

For Politico Magazine, I analyzed the recent shift in position by Hillary Clinton on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Here’s an excerpt: While Hillary Clinton is probably lying about her newfound opposition to President Barack Obama’s trade deal, that doesn’t tell us much about her character. She is simply doing what every Democratic presidential nominee has done on trade for the past three decades: campaign one way, govern another. … In the 1992 presidential campaign, Bill Clinton tried to walk a fine line between President George H. W.

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Robert Borosage

Candidate Scorecard: Sanders Leads, Populism Drives Debate

When Hillary Clinton expressed doubts about the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and then issued a call for new Wall Street reforms, reporters suggested she was trying to mute her differences with Bernie Sanders in the run-up to the first Democratic presidential debate on Tuesday. A new Candidate Scorecard, released this week by the Campaign for America’s Future, tracks the scope and the limits of that effort. The scorecard grades the Democratic candidates against a popular populist agenda of economic and political reforms. Not surprisingly, Bernie Sanders gains the highest scores of the field, with Martin O’Malley second and Hillary Clinton third. Lincoln Chafee and Jim Webb lag far behind, largely because their campaigns have not begun to fill out their platforms.

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Hedrick Smith

How GOP Gerrymandering Is Disrupting the House

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Speaker John Boehner – both humbled by right-wing Republican rebels protected by gerrymandering. (CC) House GOP It’s already clear that the next House speaker will face crippling mutinies by the 45 Republican rebels who knocked off John Boehner and intimidated Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. And that’s because the insurgents know they can defy their party leadership without fear of retribution from the voters because Republican gerrymandering protects them. Yes, gerrymandering has been around since the dawn of American politics. But gerrymandering today is a different game – played on a national scale, operating with 21st century digital efficiency, capable of overruling the popular vote. It has baked gridlock into our political system.

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Terrance Heath

Ben Carson: Arrogant, Ignorant Victim Blamer

I’ve experience one shooting in my life. I know that no one truly knows what they would do when suddenly faced with their mortality. Ben Carson had a gun pointed at him once. He should know better. On October 1, Christopher Sean Harper-Mercer shot and killed nine people, and injured nine more, in his writing class at Umpqua Community College, in Roseburg, Oregon. It was the 18th mass shooting since President Obama took Office. Mass shootings since 2009 from Terrance Heath During his remarks on the Oregon shooting, President Obama spoke with frustration about the number of times he stood before the country to address a mass shooting, and eulogized the victims, only to see it happen again and again. Somehow this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine. The conversation in the aftermath of it. We’ve become numb to this.

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Dave Johnson

Clinton’s Opposition To TPP Marks “A Critical Turning Point”

Hillary Clinton gave a big boost to opponents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership when, in an interview on the PBS NewsHour Wednesday, she voiced her opposition to the just-completed “trade” treaty. Clinton joins fellow Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley, all of organized labor, all identifiable progressive organizations, almost all congressional Democrats and majorities of rank-and-file Democrats (and even Republicans) in opposing NAFTA-style, corporate-written “trade” deals like the TPP. Her stated reasons were spot-on with voter concerns: TPP could “… end up doing more harm than good for hard-working American families whose paychecks have barely budged in years.” Also, from the full interview, “But I do worry that we’ve got an equation here.

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Jeff Bryant

The Ugly Charter School Scandal Arne Duncan Is Leaving Behind

Arne Duncan’s surprise announcement to leave his post as secretary of education in December is making headlines and driving lots of commentary, but an important story lost in the media clutter happened three days before he gave notice. On that day, Duncan rattled the education policy world with news of a controversial grant of $249 million ($157 million the first year) to the charter school industry.

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Jim Hightower

A Perfect Portrait of Corporate Crime

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, here’s one worth a thousand times that. It’s a shot of three Volkswagen board members, gathered for a press conference to announce the resignation of Martin Winterkorn. VW’s disgraced CEO was forced out after the auto giant was busted for rigging its supposedly eco-friendly diesel cars with secret software. That dirty tricky let the vehicles spew up to 40 times more toxic pollutants into the air than allowed by law. In the picture, the lead-faced VW spokesman looked like he was gagging, as though he’d just swallowed a live toad.

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Dave Johnson

Sanders’ Workplace Democracy Act And The White House Worker Summit

Setting the stage for The White House Summit on Worker Voice, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) today introduced The Workplace Democracy Act. According to Sanders’ office, this legislation “would make it easier for workers to join unions and bargain for better wages, benefits and working conditions.” The Workplace Democracy Act allows the National Labor Relations Board to certify a union if a simple majority of eligible workers sign valid authorization cards, also called “card check.” Companies must begin negotiating within 10 days after certification. If no first contract is reached after 90 days, either party can request compulsory mediation. After 30 days of mediation, the parties will submit the remaining issues to binding arbitration.

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Bill Scher

How Do Republican Tax Plans Compare To George W. Bush’s?

Someday, the Republican Party will accept that, if it wants to be taken seriously as a governing party, it needs to have a platform that breaks with the failed policies of President George W. Bush. Today is not that day. First, let’s recall some of the key components of what George W. Bush did. 35 percent rate for the top tax bracket: In 2000, Bush campaigned on the (arbitrary) principle that “no one in America should have to pay more than a third of their income to the federal government.” At the time, the top tax rate was 39.6 percent. Once in office, Bush settled for 35 percent. Gradual elimination of the estate tax: The estate tax, which had been set at 55 percent for estates above $675,000, was reduced each year until it was eliminated in 2010. 15 percent rate for capital gains and dividends: These had been set at 20 percent and 39.6 percent respectively.

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Isaiah J. Poole

How 24 Economists Debunk Myth of “Uncompetitive” Corporate Tax Code

You’ve already heard, and will keep hearing incessantly as the presidential campaign heats up, the argument that U.S. multinational corporations are at a competitive disadvantage because of our high corporate tax rate. The latest takedown of that argument – and the argument that we should adopt a “territorial” tax system that would allow corporations to shield more of their profits from U.S. taxes – comes from 24 prominent economists whose letter to Congress was published this week in Tax Notes. The list of signers includes Emmanuel Saez of the University of California at Berkeley and his university colleague Robert B. Reich; Edward D. Kleinbard, University of Southern California professor and former congressional Joint Committee on Taxation chief of staff; Lawrence Mishel at the Economic Policy Institute, and Martin Lobel, chairman of Tax Analysts.

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