How the “People’s Budget” Can Help Redress Inequality

Robert Borosage

Robert Borosage Co-Director, Campaign for America's Future

The Congressional Progressive Caucus released “The People’s Budget” this week, which it dubs a “roadmap for the resistance.” Maybe the mere mention of a federal budget plan makes your eyes glaze over, but the “People’s Budget” is a dramatic document.

 

Representative Mark Pocan of Wisconsin at a press conference for the “People’s Budget” on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (Photo via Congressional Progressive Caucus)

It presents a compelling alternative to Donald Trump’s “skinny budget.” Unlike Trump’s fanciful promises, it offers a sensible path out of the hole that we are in. Its values and priorities reflect those of the majority of Americans. The Progressive Caucus frames its budget around the central challenge of our time: how to make this economy work for working people, and redress the savage inequality that is undermining our democracy. It offers a strategy to get there, and a budget framed to support that strategy.

Not surprisingly, this makes it an outlier in the beltway debate.

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Jobs Report: Change Still Needed

Robert Borosage

Robert Borosage Co-Director, Campaign for America's Future

The June jobs report – a cheery 287,000 new jobs, with unemployment ticking up to 4.9 percent – is cause for both relief and concern.

The relief is that jobs creation picked up after the slowdown of April (revised upward to 144,000) and May (revised downward to 11,000). Even subtracting the 35,000 jobs “created” by striking Verizon workers returning to work, the June report suggests an economy that is continuing to grow and generate jobs.

The continuing concern is the pace of that growth. Jobs creation is slowing, down from a monthly average of 229,000 last year, to 196,000 in the first quarter, and now to 147,000 in the second quarter. Yet over 15 million people are still in need of full-time work. The percentage of Americans of working age who are employed or looking for work is at 62.7 percent, still below pre-Great Recession levels. Average hourly wages ticked up by 2 cents in June, and wage growth remains slow – 2.6 percent over the past year – far below the levels associated with previous recoveries.

This is the last jobs report before the political conventions formally kick off the presidential campaign (which already feels like a recurring and unending nightmare). For Clinton and Democrats, the report provides some relief that the economy isn’t slowing dramatically. For Donald Trump and the Republicans, it provides continued evidence that the economy isn’t soaring. Working families are likely to continue to wonder when they will begin to share in the recovery.

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Democrats and the TPP: Who Speaks for the Future?

Robert Borosage

Robert Borosage Co-Director, Campaign for America's Future

Texas populist Jim Hightower will present the Democratic Party platform committee with a Bernie Sanders-sponsored amendment to the draft platform when it meets in Orlando this Friday and Saturday. It will read:

It is the policy of the Democratic Party that the Trans-Pacific Partnership should not get a vote in the lame duck session of Congress and beyond.

This should be a no-brainer. All of the Democratic candidates for the presidential nomination were opposed to the TPP trade deal, as of course is Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee.

The Clinton campaign has emphasized that there is “no daylight between Senator Sanders and Secretary Clinton on TPP.” Were that true, the 187-member platform committee would pass the amendment unanimously. But in the drafting committee, the Clinton delegates and most of the Democratic National Committee delegates voted against similar language and instead forced through language that states only that “there are a diversity of views in the party” on the TPP and reaffirms that any trade deal “must protect workers and the environment.”

Say what? Democrats are a big tent. There is a “diversity of views” on many issues. That does not keep the party majority from taking a clear stand in the platform. The primary reason offered to mute opposition to the TPP was that the platform should not “embarrass” President Obama, who appears intent on forcing a vote on the TPP in the lame-duck session. But President Obama isn’t on the Democratic ticket, and many of the other policies of the platform diverge from his agenda. His apparent insistence that the platform remain neutral on the TPP will surely be used by Trump to prove that Clinton’s stated opposition is a lie. That will add to doubts already widespread given the support she and her husband gave to NAFTA and other trade accords, including initially the TPP itself.

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Clinton on the Economy; Trump Ever Offensive

Robert Borosage

Robert Borosage Co-Director, Campaign for America's Future

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on Wednesday departed from the running exchange of insults with Donald Trump to present her strategy to create an economy “that works for everyone, not just those at the top.”

Clinton presented herself as a populist progressive. The measure of our economy, she argued, is “how much incomes rise for hardworking families. How many children are lifted out of poverty? How many Americans can find good jobs that support a middle class life…jobs that provide a sense of dignity and pride?”

To achieve that, she called for “five ambitious goals” for the federal government. Clearly, the “era of big government is over” is over.

First, public investment: “the biggest investment in new good paying jobs since World War II.” Second, investment in education, with emphasis on “debt free college” or training for all (and some relief for those already burdened with student debt). Third, new rules to encourage companies to share profits with their employees, and ship fewer profits and jobs abroad, including opposition to bad trade deals like the Trans Pacific Partnership. Fourth, progressive tax reform requiring “Wall Street, corporations and the superrich to pay their fair of taxes.” Fifth, “put families first,” with a broad range of reforms to lift the floor under workers including raising the minimum wage, paid family sick days and vacation days, and predictable scheduling. And to achieve all this, curbing the influence of big money in politics: “I will fight hard to end the stranglehold that the wealthy and special interests have on so much of our government….”

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Clinton Makes History; For Sanders “The Struggle Continues”

Robert Borosage

Robert Borosage Co-Director, Campaign for America's Future

Photo courtest of iStockHillary Clinton became the “presumptive nominee” of the Democratic Party Tuesday night, and will be the first woman ever to win the presidential nomination of a major party.

Clinton won primaries in New Jersey, New Mexico and California, the large states at issue. She will finish the primary season having won a majority of the votes cast, a majority of the primaries contested, and a majority of the pledged delegates.

In a clear statement – largely distorted by the media – Bernie Sanders vowed to keep building the movement for change, designating the defeat of Donald Trump as the vital next step.

The Presumptive Nominee

Clinton’s pledged delegates will not provide the majority needed to win the nomination because superdelegates constitute 15 percent of the convention votes and have the right to change their minds up until they cast their votes at the convention. With polls showing Sanders running much stronger against Donald Trump, he has every right to lobby those delegates to vote for him.

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Tax Day: Global Corporations Prefer to Defer

Robert Borosage

Robert Borosage Co-Director, Campaign for America's Future

Tax Day: Global Corporations Prefer to Defer

Tax day. In the District of Columbia, the main post office stays open until midnight. Taxpayers who waited until the last moment line up to get a receipt showing they filed on time. America’s civic ritual.

But not everyone participates. America’s major corporations – Apple, Pfizer, Microsoft, Citigroup – have stashed a stunning $2.4 trillion abroad in order to avoid paying an estimated $700 billion in taxes.

Under American tax law, multinationals earning profits abroad get a credit for the taxes they must pay to a foreign country. They are supposed to pay the difference between those taxes and the U.S. rate. Congress passed a loophole in the law called “deferral.” They can defer paying taxes on profits earned abroad until they return the money to the U.S.

This doesn’t make much sense. Why would Congress want to give companies an incentive to ship jobs and plants abroad to earn profits outside the U.S.? And, of course, the whole thing is rigged. Companies routinely cook their books to record profits as earned in tax havens abroad. Plus, the money doesn’t really stay there. It’s on the books as foreign profits for accounting purposes, but it’s in American banks, and circulates in our economy. The corporations can borrow against those profits if they need money for investment at home, or for buying back stock to boost CEO bonuses. Of course, deferral is just one of many loopholes.

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Interfaith Coalition Calls for Moral Action on the Economy

Robert Borosage

Robert Borosage Co-Director, Campaign for America's Future

The largest employer of low-wage workers in America is the federal government. U.S. government contractors employ over two million workers in jobs that pay too little – $12.00 an hour or less – to support a family. Contract workers – organizing under the banner of Good Jobs Nation – have walked off of their jobs repeatedly in protest, demanding a living wage and the right to a union.

This Monday, on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s death, this movement will gain a powerful ally. Led by Jim Winkler, general secretary of the National Council of Churches and Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of the Catholic social justice lobby NETWORK, an interfaith coalition of religious leaders is issuing a call for “moral action on the economy.” They will seek to meet with presidential candidates, asking each to pledge that, if elected, he or she would issue an executive order to reward model employers “that pay a living wage of at least $15.00 an hour, provide decent benefits and allow workers to organize without retaliation.”

The movement for living wages is taking off. The federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 for nearly seven years. Unable to provide for their families, fast food and other low-wage workers began to demonstrate, even at risk of losing their jobs. “Fight for 15” – the demand for a $15.00 an hour minimum wage and the right to a union – swept across the country. And is beginning to win.

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Sanders Soars: The Democratic Race Is Closer Than The Republicans’

Robert Borosage

Robert Borosage Co-Director, Campaign for America's Future

Bernie Sanders routed Hillary Clinton in three Western states on Saturday. He isn’t just winning; he’s winning with stunning percentages: Alaska 82-18; Hawaii 70-30; Washington 73-27. He’s taken five of six in the West, and chipped away Clinton’s lead in pledged delegates, trailing in pledged delegates by 1243 to 975.

The Clinton campaign, echoed by the talking heads, sought to discount the victories as “expected” from the “largely white and liberal” Pacific northwest. But just as Clinton’s victories in the South should not be dismissed because they were built on loyal African-American voters, Sanders’ victories shouldn’t be dismissed either. Liberals are Democrats, too.

Sanders remains an underdog, but he keeps surging and Clinton keeps sinking. Sanders has won 15 primaries and caucuses compared to Clinton’s 20, and he’s virtually tied four others (Iowa, Massachusetts, Missouri and Illinois). This from an unknown candidate who started at single digits in early polls. His crowds keep growing. The turnout in Washington was “huge,” state officials reported, nearly at the unprecedented levels of 2008. And he’s done this in spite of a mainstream media that can’t cover his campaign without dismissing it.

Sanders has now caught Clinton in the most recent poll of Democrats. He raised more money than she did in February (probably one reason the Clinton campaign didn’t blanche at sponsoring a $353,000-a-plate sit down with the Clooneys on April 15 in San Francisco. That number is not a misprint.)

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The Democratic Choice: Change or Continuity

Robert Borosage

Robert Borosage Co-Director, Campaign for America's Future

The Democratic Choice: Change or Continuity

Ten million people watched the Democratic debate on Sunday despite Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s best efforts to bury it on a holiday weekend night after the NFL playoffs. All three candidates had strong moments in a generally substantive debate. By the end, the exchanges between the two front-runners, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Rodham Clinton, clarified the choice they offer Democrats between change and continuity.

Clinton, the favorite, made a calculated decision to wrap herself tightly to Barack Obama. She praised his health care reforms and pledged to “defend and build on the Affordable Care Act” and to “make it work,” dismissing Sanders’ call for a Medicare-for-All plan as starting a “contentious debate.” She touted President Obama’s financial reforms as “one of the most important regulatory schemes we’ve had since the 1930s,” and promised to “defend President Obama for taking on Wall Street…and getting results.” She celebrated his economic record and promised to build on it. Naturally she defended his foreign policy record that she helped build as secretary of state.

Sanders, her fast-closing challenger, made his case for dramatic change from his first words in the debate:

As we look out at our country today, what the American people understand is we have an economy that’s rigged…We have a corrupt campaign finance system where millionaires and billionaires are spending extraordinary amounts of money to buy elections. This campaign is about a political revolution to not only elect the president, but to transform this country.”

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The CNBC Republican Debate: Bring In the Clowns

Robert Borosage

Robert Borosage Co-Director, Campaign for America's Future

The CNBC Republican presidential debate last night opened with a startling bolt of straight talk: “We are on the verge, perhaps, of picking someone who cannot do this job,” said Ohio Governor John Kasich, ignoring the inane moderator request that the candidates begin the debate by naming their biggest weakness.

“I’ve watched to see people say that we should dismantle Medicare and Medicaid and leave the senior citizens out – out in the – in the cold. I’ve heard them talk about deporting 10 or 11 [million ]– people here from this country out of this country, splitting families. I’ve heard about tax schemes that don’t add up, that put our kids in – in a deeper hole than they are today.”

Donald Trump sniffed dismissively: “[Kasich] was such a nice guy. And he said, oh, I’m never going to attack. But then his poll numbers tanked… And he got nasty.”

Straight talk never had a chance after that. Kasich began looking like the drunk railing at the end of the bar. And the debate veered into the wingnut fantasies about 10 percent flat taxes (Ted Cruz, Ben Carson), government so small “I can barely see it” (Rand Paul), corporations and markets that somehow self-regulate (virtually everyone), the liberal media and government as the root of all evil (unanimous).

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