How “Citibank Budget” Push Foreshadows “Fast Track” For Trade Deals

Dave Johnson

Dave Johnson Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

It is worth examining how the process was rigged to push that budget deal through Congress over the weekend that contained Citibank-written derivative deregulation and all kinds of other goodies for the rich and powerful. That’s because the “cromnibus” formula will be formalized in the next big deal, in a process called “fast track.”

Congress passed the “cromnibus” (continuing resolution for omnibus budget) right at the deadline for another government shutdown. (After they extended the deadline, actually.) The budget contained a Citibank-written provision that undoes some Dodd-Frank Wall Street regulations. It authorizes a cut in many people’s pensions by up to 60 percent, severely cuts the IRS budget and its ability to collect taxes, dramatically expanded the ability of big money to influence elections, reduced the EPA’s authority, and included many other provisions that could not have passed in the light of day. This budget “deal” was pushed through Congress using a rigged process that kept representative democracy from stopping it.

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How Walmart Rolls Back Worker's Rights

Terri Schiavo’s Husband Speaks Out On Jeb Bush’s Presidential Bid

Josh Israel

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

In his announcement Tuesday that he would explore a 2016 presidential bid, former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) promised to focus on “ideas and policies that will expand opportunity and prosperity for all Americans.” But he made no mention of his most controversial act during his two terms in office: his attempts to take custody of Terri Schiavo and overrule her husband Michael’s decision to remove her feeding tube, fifteen years after cardiac arrest had left her in a vegetative state.

ThinkProgress spoke with Michael Schiavo and the attorney who represented him in the matter, George Felos, about Bush’s presidential candidacy. Both expressed concern that Bush’s record was one of government interference and opposing individual liberty.

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The Pain of Inequality Among Yacht Buyers

Jim Hightower

Jim Hightower Author, Commentator, America’s Number One Populist

The Pain of Inequality Among Yacht Buyers

In the spirit of holiday harmony and good will toward all, I say it's time for you working stiffs (and even those of you who've been badly stiffed and can't find work) to extend your hands in a gesture of solidarity with America's millionaires.

Why? Because we now share a common cause: Inequality. You don't hear much about it, but millionaires are suffering a wealth gap, too, and it's having a depressing impact on both their level of consumption and their psychological well-being. While it's true that millionaires are still full members of the 1-percent club, that generalization overlooks the painful and personally-grating fact that mere millionaires today are ranked as "lesser 1- percenters." They don't dwell in the same zip-codes as the über-rich few, who comprise the uppermost one-hundredth of the 1-percenters, with wealth starting in the hundreds-of-millions of dollars and spiraling up into multiple-billions.

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How Walmart Profits from Poverty (And Sticks Taxpayers With The Bill)

7 Reasons Fast Track Is Off Track

7 Reasons Fast Track Is Off Track

During the secret discussion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, extreme corporate interests are pushing for a Fast Track process that would not only hurt working families in the United States, but in the other countries involved in any final deal. Here are seven reasons why Fast Track is off track:

1. People oppose it: More than 60% of voters oppose Fast Track for the TPP free trade deal. 

2. It doesn't reflect modern values: Fast Track is a copy of the approach to trade taken by President Richard Nixon, pursuing the passage of trade deals regardless of the effects a deal might have on wages, jobs, small businesses and the environment.

3. It's a job killer: Past trade deals have cost American jobs in large numbers. For example, the North American Free Trade Agreement led to the loss of more than 682,000 jobs.

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Limit Imports to Resolve Trade Deficit

Massive flows of imports are destroying U.S. industry and jobs.The first time I heard anyone warn us to control imports was when I was Assistant Secretary of Commerce under President Richard Nixon. The warning came from I.W. Abel, the great President of the AFL-CIO and former President of the United Steelworkers union.

That was almost 40 years ago, yet we haven’t done anything much about imports yet – now running at about $2.3 trillion per year!

Solving this problem by negotiating better trade agreements would take too long, and probably would fail because China, Japan and most other countries won’t cooperate.  What we need to do is act unilaterally to reduce imports until our trade is balanced. With import cuts of only 10% per year, we can balance our trade within three years.

My group, Balanced Trade Associates, has prepared legislation that’s ready to be submitted to Congress. We’ve tried the White House, but they’re impenetrable –didn’t even want to see our proposed bill: “The Balanced Trade Restoration Act of 2014.”

Ken Davis
Stamford, CT

 

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Chicago Raises Minimum Wage to $13 by 2019, But Strikers Say It’s Not Enough

Will Craft

Will Craft Editorial Intern, In These Times

The Chicago City Council has approved a bill to raise the city’s minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2019. The proposal, put forward by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, will give Chicago the second highest minimum wage in the nation, behind Seattle’s $15, set to take effect by 2018.

Approved by a vote of 44-5, the vote phases in the increase over the next five years, from the current minimum wage of $8.25 to $10 by July 2015, then $11 by 2017, and $13 by 2019.

The bill comes at a time when minimum wage laws have taken center stage in the ongoing national debate about stagnating wages. American wages have been growing far slower than both productivity and inflation, with low-wage workers earning the lowest effective wages in 50 years.

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How Walmart Destroys Communities • Part 1

Immigrant Groups Warn Fast Track/TPP Could Cause More Migration North

Dave Johnson

Dave Johnson Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

On a media call today, several immigrant rights leaders talked about the relationship between “NAFTA-CAFTA-Style” trade deals and the number of people forced to immigrate north to the U.S. They worry that the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will move jobs from Mexico and Central America to lower-wage Asian countries like Vietnam.

Negotiators are in DC this week trying to finalize the TPP, and Congress is currently considering adopting the Fast Track process that essentially passes trade bills before Congress even reads them. In spite of a near-blackout in the U.S. media these negotiations are being met with protests. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are voicing opposition to the Fast Track process, because it involves Congress agreeing to give up its Constitutional responsibility to examine and fix trade deals.

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Holiday Gift Shopping? Check Out These Union-Made in America Ideas

Mike Hall

Mike Hall Senior Writer, AFL-CIO

Holiday Gift Shopping? Check Out These Union-Made in America Ideas

It’s getting there, but it’s not too late yet to find that perfect holiday gift that carries a union label and is made in America. Below is a wide range of gift possibilities, from clothes to games to sports equipment and more, made by members of UNITE HERE, Boilermakers (IBB), Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM), Machinists (IAM), United Steelworkers (USW), Teamsters (IBT), UAW, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union/UFCW (RWDSU/UFCW) and United Farm Workers (UFW).

This list is compiled from the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor's resource site, Labor 411, Union Plus, the AFL-CIO Union Label and Service Trades Department and the BCTGM website. Check them out for even more gift ideas.

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TPP: The Dirtiest Trade Deal You've Never Heard Of

Bad Trade

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW President Emeriti

Bad Trade
U.S. jobs lost because of trade deficit with China, 2001-2013, in thousands of jobs (EPI).

Under billions of tons of imports, the American dream is suffocating.

The American people have lost faith. They know that bad trade has bled factories, middle class jobs and wage increases from the country.

A report issued last week by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) details how bad trade has cost Americans hope. And hope is the essence of the American dream, hope for a good, steady job with benefits and a pension, one that supports a family and a home, one that enables the kids to achieve even better lives. Bad trade has battered all of that. And more damage is threatened by pending trade deals and a so-called fast track process to approve them without in-depth deliberation.

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Three Ways to Raise Wages

Liz Shuler

Liz Shuler Secretary-treasurer/Chief Financial Officer, AFL-CIO

Three Ways to Raise Wages

For a lot of working people, this holiday season will be one of belt-tightening rather than shopping sprees. Let’s face it, our wages just aren’t keeping up the way they used to. Here’s a fact: Average income for the least rich 90% of us has been flat since the 1970s, although people are working more hours. Not a recipe for a holiday-buying bonanza.

The answer isn’t to cut back even more, it’s to raise wages. One sure way to put more money in consumers’ pockets and place upward pressure on pay is by raising the minimum wage—a sorely needed move that is stymied in Congress, although 20 states and as many localities have raised their minimum wages over the past two years.

But that’s not the only way.

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Wall Street's Democrats

Robert Reich

Robert Reich Former U.S. Secretary of Labor, Professor at Berkeley

Wall Street's Democrats

In Washington’s coming budget battles, sacred cows like the tax deductions for home mortgage interest and charitable donations are likely to be on the table along with potential cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

But no one on Capitol Hill believes Wall Street’s beloved carried-interest tax loophole will be touched.

Don’t blame the newly elected Republican Congress.

Democrats didn’t repeal the loophole when they ran both houses of Congress from January 2009 to January 2011. And the reason they didn’t has a direct bearing on the future of the party.

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Nancy Pelosi on The Colbert Report: Better Know a District

President Obama Takes Over the Colbert Report (Full Episode)

Chris Christie's Pig Problem

Jim Hightower

Jim Hightower Author, Commentator, America’s Number One Populist

Chris Christie's Pig Problem

As the weather turns colder in this month of Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza, and the Winter Solstice, our hearts grow warmer and our thoughts turn to kindness and good will toward all. Unless, of course, you're Chris Christie.

The governor of New Jersey is a mighty big man, both politically and physically. But the portly 250-pounder who hopes to win the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, recently used his gubernatorial power in a way that shows just how small of a man he really is.

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Fast Food Workers, Joined By Other Low Wage Workers, Strike in Record 190 Cities

David Moberg

David Moberg Senior Editor, In These Times

Two years after fast food workers in New York walked out of stores and restaurants throughout the city to demand $15 an hour and a union, their movement has grown and changed dramatically. That was evident on December 4, when fast food workers in approximately 190 cities went out on strike, according to organizers—the largest number so far. 

In addition, since the “Fight for 15” came at a time of continuing decline in real wages for most Americans, the workers’ demands have triggered new, broad-based campaigns that are winning much higher minimum wages than anyone dreamed possible in many states and localities. Organizers claim that in large part thanks to this spreading campaign, nearly 7 million workers have received significant pay raises.

But the workers’ reliance on direct action, including civil disobedience that started last year and has been part of many protests and strikes since, has also inspired workers from other industries to join in, especially low-wage service workers who are largely interchangeable in the job market.

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The Explosive Greed of Americas 0.01-Percenters

Jim Hightower

Jim Hightower Author, Commentator, America’s Number One Populist

The Explosive Greed of Americas 0.01-Percenters

In this season of mass commercialism, let's pause to consider the plight of simple millionaires.

Astonishingly, they're being abandoned by retailers that are now catering to the most lux of the luxury market. "Whether the product is yachts, diamonds, art, wine, or even handbags," says Robert Frank, a chronicler of American wealth, "the strongest growth and biggest profits are now coming from billionaires and nine-figure millionaires, rather than from mere millionaires." What this reflects is not the wealth divide between the 1-percenters and the rest of us, but a stunning concentration of America's total wealth in the vaults of the ever-richer 0.01-percenters.

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Don't Look Now- Economy Booming!

We Don’t Need More Public Service From Wall Street Bankers

Dean Baker

Dean Baker Co-Director, Author, Center for Economic and Policy Research

Sen. Elizabeth Warren kicked off a firestorm last month when she said that she would not support Antonio Weiss, President Barack Obama’s nominee to be undersecretary of the treasury. Her reason was that Weiss had made his career at Lazard, an asset management company that has taken the lead in structuring corporate inversions, the practice of relocating a corporation’s headquarters to escape U.S. taxes.

In addition, Lazard planned to give Weiss $20 million in deferred compensation, that he was not actually owed, as a parting gift. This practice of promoting public service with large payments of deferred compensation to those taking on government positions is apparently common among Wall Street banks. But Warren, the AFL-CIO and others have criticized it: Being awarded large amounts of money before becoming public servants could make these bankers more positively disposed towards their former employers in the same way as an outright bribe.

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Wall Street Moves In For The Kill

Richard Eskow

Richard Eskow Writer, Host, "The Breakdown;" Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

Wall Street Moves In For The Kill

It’s been six years since Wall Street’s recklessness and criminal fraud caused trillions of dollars in economic damage and nearly shattered the global economy. The 2008 financial crisis opened millions of Americans’ eyes to the widespread corruption and mismanagement in the financial industry, and built public support for stronger bank oversight. Initial steps were taken in that direction, primarily in the Dodd/Frank financial reform bill, and more remains to be done.

But today Wall Street is on the offensive. Banks are expanding their political influence, fighting to roll back the measures already in place and working to block further reforms. In our money-driven political system, they have plenty of ammunition with which to wage their battle.

Bankers still hold powerful government positions, just as they’ve done in the last several Republican and Democratic administrations. “Regulatory capture” has led top banking watchdogs to claim that they are not “cops on the beat,” when that is exactly what they’re supposed to be. And after this year’s Republican electoral sweep, Wall Street is moving to consolidate its wins.

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Elizabeth Warren: "Who Does Congress Work For?"

Wall Street to Workers: Give Us Your Retirement Savings and Stop Asking Questions

David Sirota

David Sirota Author, Radio Show Host, Columnist

Wall Street to Workers: Give Us Your Retirement Savings and Stop Asking Questions

If you are a public school teacher in Kentucky, the state has a message for you: You have no right to know the details of the investments being made with your retirement savings.

That was the crux of the declaration issued by state officials to a high school history teacher when he asked to see the terms of the agreements between the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System and the Wall Street firms that are managing the system’s money on behalf of him, his colleagues and thousands of retirees.

The denial was the latest case of public officials blocking the release of information about how billions of dollars of public employees’ retirement nest eggs are being invested. Though some of the fine print of the investments has occasionally leaked, the agreements are tightly held in most states and cities. Critics say such secrecy prevents lawmakers and the public from evaluating the propriety of the increasing fees being paid to private financial firms for pension management services.

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