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Recovery efforts in Puerto Rico would take a hit if Trump siphons funds to pay for his border wall

Rebekah Entralgo

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

President Donald Trump is considering siphoning billions of dollars from disaster relief programs in order to help fund his wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, following a discussion between the president and top defense officials during Trump’s trip to the southern border Thursday.

Bypassing Congress, Trump could declare a national emergency and use $13.9 billion of Army Corps funding to build 315 miles of barrier, NBC News reported. Under the proposal, the pot of money Trump could dip into includes $2.4 billion allocated to water projects in California and $2.5 billion set aside for reconstruction projects in Puerto Rico. Both areas are still reeling and rebuilding from devastating wildfires and a catastrophic hurricane, respectively.

In a statement this week, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, called the potential move an “obscenity” and vowed to stop the president should he attempt to follow-through on it.

“Any suggestion that he use these funds to construct his wall is an obscenity. These funds were intended by Congress to be used for real emergencies and to help millions recover from hurricanes and other disasters,” Rep. Thompson said. “Under no circumstance are these funds to be used to fund the President[‘s] pet project so he can claim a win. There is no emergency on the border. If necessary, my colleagues and I will use every available method to stop him in this effort.”

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Trump didn’t know the GOP tax bill incentivizes business to offshore jobs

Rebekah Entralgo

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

President Donald Trump was apparently unaware that a provision in his biggest legislative accomplishment encourages corporations to offshore jobs.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) spoke with Trump Wednesday night about the closure of at least five General Motors plants, including one assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio, and filled him in on how the GOP tax bill is partly to blame.

“I reached him last night, he said he wanted to help, I said the first thing you could do is you could take away that tax provision in his tax bill that gives a company a 50 percent off coupon on their taxes,” Brown told CNN’s New Day Thursday. “If you’re producing in Lordstown you pay a 21 percent tax rate, if you move to Mexico you pay a 10.5 percent tax rate, and I told the president to get rid of that tax break that encourages jobs to move overseas.”

The president apparently did not know that was in the tax bill.

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Minimum wage increases pass in Arkansas and Missouri

Rebekah Entralgo

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

Voters in Arkansas and Missouri have approved a ballot initiative that would significantly raise the minimum wage in their states, affecting nearly 1 million workers.

Despite President Donald Trump carrying both Arkansas and Missouri during the 2016 election and disapproval from Republican state legislatures, voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of a minimum wage hike, with 68 percent in favor in Arkansas and 61 percent in favor in Missouri.

In Arkansas, the current $8.50/hour minimum wage will be gradually increased to $11/hour by 2021, while in Missouri, the state’s measly $7.85/hour minimum wage would slowly reach $12/hour by 2023. That amounts to $455 million more in pay for Arkansas workers by 2021 — an average of $1,520 each — and more than $1 billion for Missourians by 2023, a total of roughly $1,485 per worker.

According to Rewire, the people most affected by the ballot initiatives are working women and mothers. Amy Wilson, a single mother of three children, works as a school custodian in Russellville, Arkansas and told the publication that an extra $1,520 in her pocket means a lot. She said she would be able to take care of “a lot of minor needs [that] add up over time,” like replacing car tires or buying clothes for her children somewhere other than Salvation Army.

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Fact from fiction: What you should know about the migrant caravan making its way to the U.S. border

Rebekah Entralgo

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

As many as 7,000 Central Americans are making their way to the U.S.-Mexico border, and along with them are a wealth of misinformation and conspiracy theories regarding their motives and character.

While this isn’t the first migrant caravan to make its way to the U.S.-Mexico border under the Trump administration, it is the largest — and with midterm elections only two weeks away, this one has elicited the most strident response from Republicans and the White House, who are leaning on the caravan to stoke anti-immigrant fears in the minds of voters.

To clear the air, here’s what you should know about the caravan itself, and the people in it who have left everything behind in search of a better life.

Who is traveling in the caravan?

Thousands of mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons from Central American countries like El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala are among the estimated 7,000 members of the caravan.

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The majority are leaving their countries of origin in search of greater economic opportunity and fleeing gang violence that has made life at home unlivable.

“We’re traveling to find a better future for my daughters,” Fanny Rodríguez, a Honduran woman traveling with her husband and their two young daughters, told The New York Times. “We aren’t going because we want fancy things. I don’t have to give them luxuries, only what’s necessary — that my daughters don’t lack food, that my daughters don’t lack clothes. Things like that.”

“No one is capable of organizing this many people,” Irineo Mujica of Pueblo Sin Fronteras — the group supporting the caravan — said. Instead, Mujica said, they are motivated by two factors: “hunger and death.”

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Ohio Democratic campaign staffers fight the state party for a fair contract

Rebekah Entralgo

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

Democratic field organizers in Ohio working roughly 60-84 hours hours a week are fighting their own state party as they attempt to negotiate a fair union contract.

More than a month ago, the Ohio Democratic Party, with 90 percent support, recognized a union of coordinated campaign staff that collectively bargained with the help of the Campaign Workers Guild. Now, however, staffers say the party isn’t holding up its end of the bargain.

“After several day-long bargaining sessions, the ODP has made it clear to us that they are not serious about negotiating a fair contract that lives up to our Democratic values,” union leaders wrote last week in a letter to Ohio county party chairs across the state.

“We were so excited to see our party stand for working people by ultimately recognizing our union,” they continued. “Unfortunately, this excitement has not held at the bargaining table, where we’ve been continually disappointed and angered as the ODP has refused to present proposals that ensure us the union protections and provide us the working conditions we need and deserve.”

While the negotiations are still ongoing and a bit rough at the moment, it is still extremely early in the negotiation process. The party only recognized the union five weeks ago and most contract negotiations take months.

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There is more than meets the eye when it comes to the most recent jobs report

Rebekah Entralgo

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

Many economists were pleasantly surprised by the Labor Department’s August jobs report Friday morning.

201,000 jobs were added last month when economists only expected a gain of about 190,000 and the unemployment rate remained at 3.9 percent. The number that shocked most experts, however, was that wages grew 2.9 percent faster than last year, making it the fastest growth rate since the recession.

But there is more than meets the eye when it comes such a glowing jobs report, especially when it comes to wage growth. The White House will likely point to these numbers as tangible evidence that the Trump administration is putting more money into the pockets of everyday Americans.

While on paper 2.9 percent wage growth is impressive, when calculating for 2 percent inflation, it’s still quite slow.

In what might have been a preparation for the August jobs report, the White House sent out an email Thursday titled: “The latest Trump Economy myth: Wages are stagnant.” In it, the administration goes on the defensive, offering a full-throated defense of the Trump economy and saying the economic results of the Trump presidency are “undeniable.”

The White House specifically calls out ThinkProgress’s reporting in the email: “Looking for a new talking point, the left found one: Jobs, stocks, and economic growth may be soaring, but pay is not. ‘Worker wages remain stagnant,’ ThinkProgress declared in July.”

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Republicans admit they’ll slash Medicare, Social Security to pay for their tax cuts

Rebekah Entralgo

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

Slowly but surely, Republicans that supported the trillion dollar Trump tax bill are revealing their true motivations: slashing Medicare and Social Security.

During a Sunday interview with CNBC’s John Harwood, Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) urged entitlement reform as the deficit continues to balloon as a result of the GOP tax cuts.

“I do think we need to deal with some of our spending,” Stivers said. “We’ve got try to figure out how to spend less.”

Stivers, who also serves as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), is a self-proclaimed “budget hawk” and frequently criticized national debt levels under the Obama administration. Despite his previous trepidation at increasing the deficit, he voted in favor of a costly tax bill that even the White House admitted would not pay for itself over time.

In his interview with CNBC, Stivers admitted this as well saying, “I don’t think that tax cuts, themselves, can grow the economy for 20 or 30 years.”

But Republican politicians did not go into the tax bill vote blind. There were multiple studies released after the bill was drafted that showed massive tax cuts for the wealthy would only add to the deficit.

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GOP farm bill will be a nightmare for state SNAP programs

Rebekah Entralgo

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

The House Agriculture Committee farm bill currently snaking its way through the House of Representatives will likely be huge migraine for states, according new analysis from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

According to the CBPP analysis, under the current farm bill, states would have to jump through hoops in order to provide their most vulnerable residents with the means to feed themselves, no doubt impacting low-income families and individuals and making their lives harder than they are already.

The primarily GOP-backed farm bill also unravels nearly two-decades-worth of progress toward streamlining and simplifying SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. States would be required to collect monthly information from 7 million SNAP recipients, detailing how many hours they worked at a job or work program. Currently, most states collect data on a participants’ income only every six months or when a major change occurs that could affect the household’s eligibility, but don’t track small changes in work hours or earnings.

Reporting hours and earnings on a monthly basis could dramatically impact SNAP participants who work low-wage service industry jobs, where workers aren’t entirely in control of their hours. The House farm bill imposes harsh penalties on participants who fail to meet the number of hours required, meaning an individual could be lose SNAP benefits for 12 months if they failed to meet the 20 hour requirement. After a second month of non-compliance, a SNAP participant could lose their access to SNAP for three years.

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Amazon puts 7,000 jobs on hold because of a tax that would help Seattle’s homeless population

Rebekah Entralgo

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has more money than he knows what do deal with.

While visiting Germany in late April to pick up the Axel Springer Award for innovation, Bezos gave an exclusive interview to Business Insider about how it feels to be the richest man in the world.

Bezos, who has a net worth of $130.8 billion, told the outlet that the only logical way to spend his money is by funding space tourism through his spaceflight company, Blue Origin.

“The only way that I can see to deploy this much financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel. That is basically it,” Bezos said.

What Bezos does not want to spend money on at all is helping the homeless population in the city where his company is located.

On Wednesday, Amazon announced the company would halt the construction of a new building in downtown Seattle it was planning to build, jeopardizing some 7,000 jobs.

Why? Because the company opposes a tax being considered by the City Council.

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Corporations, not workers, are receiving the greatest benefits from GOP tax bill

Rebekah Entralgo

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

Four months after Republicans in Congress passed the largest tax code overhaul in three decades, American corporations have gotten a huge tax cut.

New analysis from Americans for Tax Fairness, however, suggests these corporations aren’t using their recently freed up cash to help middle class workers like the administration said it would — more than 84 times.

The organization analyzed corporate data from primarily Fortune 500 companies, whose revenues are two-thirds of the entire gross domestic product (GDP), in addition to news reports and independent analyses of top U.S. companies. What they found was that these powerful corporations have spent a total of roughly $238,244,348,330 in stock buybacks since December 20, 2017 when the tax bill passed.

Working class Americans won’t see a penny of that.

Stock buybacks help those who own corporate stock, which typically means the already-rich. The wealthiest 10 percent of American households own 84 percent of all shares, while the top 1 percent own 40 percen. Roughly one-half of American households don’t own stock at all.

According to the data, few corporations have decided to use the savings from the tax bill to benefit their workers directly. Out of the over 1,500 companies from which Americans for Tax Fairness collected data, just 359 of them actually promised to increase wages for their employees. Of those that have, the majority only offered a bump of $15 an hour in entry-level pay — which, by all accounts, should already be what companies pay entry-level employees in a tightening labor market.

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Union Matters

No Money for Pensions, But Plenty for Parties

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

Private equity work has been sweet for Marc Leder, the numero uno at Sun Capital Partners. He’s parlayed his takeovers of troubled firms into a fortune big enough to make him a co-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers in basketball and the New Jersey Devils in hockey. New York’s tabloids, meanwhile, have come to dub the hard-partying Leder “the Hugh Hefner of the Hamptons.” The secret to his success? Private-equity firms, notes Center for Economic and Policy Research economist Eileen Appelbaum, plunder assets from the companies they buy, then send them into bankruptcy to sidestep their obligations to workers. Over the past decade alone, Sun Capital has bankrupted five firms and left their pension funds $280 million short. Leder, for his part, claims that the “vast majority” of Sun Capital deals have been successful. And he only parties hearty, the private-equity kingpin adds, 25 nights a year.

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Embracing a Legacy

Embracing a Legacy