Nel's New Day

June 14, 2014

‘A Fighting Chance’: Elizabeth Warren’s Thoughts on the Rigged System

fighting chanceMen complain how women take everything personally. Elizabeth Warren makes that a good thing. For the past four decades, she has taken the problems of the poor and the middle class of this country very personally. She’s fought against unfair bankruptcy, concealed bank practices, and now excessive interest for student loans.

Warren’s newest book, A Fighting Chance, is far more than her personal story about her family and political campaigns. Throughout her book about how the middle class is trapped in a vise of debt, she shows that she is a person determined to help desperate people in this nation.

Warren grew up when employers could refuse to hire her because she was pregnant—or just because she is a woman. She married and had children early, and her husband—as most men in society at that time—thought it was her responsibility to be sole caretaker of both him and the children. Yet she managed to earn a law degree from Rutgers. Part of her success in education, according to her book, is that education was much cheaper then. She attended a state commuter college and paid $50 a semester for tuition. Now a state college can cost $15,000 a year for instate students.

 

Her original title of the book, Rigged, shows that U.S. politics gives control to plutocrats and bankers at the expense of most of the people in the nation. She writes about this issue in clear, simple language instead of the vague, ambiguous, wordy “fed speak” that most people high in the economic leadership use. Past Federal Reserve chair Alan Greenspan said about his use of fed speak: “You soon learn to mumble with great incoherence.”

One joy of A Fighting Chance is the lack of mumbling. With clarity and common sense, Warren delivers her message of giving everyone in the country a fair chance. Early in her teaching career, she taught a class on bankruptcy at a time when textbooks didn’t cover the new 1978 Bankruptcy Reform Act. In doing her own research on the law, she learned that almost 90 percent of people declared bankruptcy because of a job loss, a medical problem, or a family breakup, not because of bad choices.

Passion about the subject of bankruptcy led Warren to write a book about it and talk to groups about the law. That led her to become an advisor to lawmakers, giving her the opportunity to advocate for vital updates that allowed desperate people to get relief from their debt. Through this advocacy, she met such greats as former Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), whose seat Warren now occupies in the U.S. Senate.

As Maura Casey said in her review:

“She’s mad as hell, and many readers will be, too, by the time they finish this book. Warren explains how the financial crisis was preceded by congressional and court decisions that shredded public protections for high interest rates and predatory banking practices during the 1980s and ‘90s. ‘Gradually [the bankers’] strategy emerged,’ she writes. ‘Target families who were already in a little trouble, lend them more money, get them entangled in high fees and astronomical interest rates, then block the doors to the bankruptcy exit if they really get in other their heads.’”

Her next project was to give the financial world transparency for everyone. Warren knew that as long as financial industries kept consumers and voters ignorant, that banks and credit cards could charge whatever fees and interest rates that they wished. The same ignorance on the part of consumers led to eight times as many bankruptcies in 2010 over 1980 and caused these same people to lose their homes at a enormous rate. Thanks to her support from such luminaries as Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and a Democratic president, a new agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, created a simpler way of looking at financial contracts. Credit card agreements are now one page, and mortgages use understandable language.

elizabeth_warren_graduates-620x412Republicans made a major mistake when they refused to make Warren the head of this agency. Because of this loss, she ran for Senate against a popular incumbent—and won. Her current crusade is to put student loans on the same footing as bank loans.

Banks pay less than 1 percent in interest, giving them a subsidy of $83 billion a year that they stash away instead of helping people with the funds. Students pay nonnegotiable rates of over 8 percent, in a time when mortgages are under 4 percent.

The bill allows students to take out government loans at 3.86 percent interest and let existing borrowers to refinance their current loans down to that lower rate. It also proposes that the $5.1 billion loss each year through refinancing would be off-set by $7.1 in new revenues from a surcharge tax on millionaires to ensure that they pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes.

Warren said:

“We put the plan to pay for it right on the table. No gimmicks or smoke-and-mirrors. We said that when the government reduces its profits on student loans, the money should be made up by stitching up tax loopholes so that millionaires and billionaires pay at least as much in taxes as middle class families.”

As Warren told the Boston Globe:

“It’s a basic question on our values. Does this country protect millionaires’ and billionaires’ tax loopholes? Or does it try to help young people who are just starting their economic lives?”

This past week, GOP senators filibustered her bill on student loans and temporarily killed it. She obtained 56 votes to overcome the filibuster: that’s six votes over a majority of the Senate but not enough for the filibuster policy that mandates 60 votes. There were actually 57 votes to close the filibuster, but Majority Leader Harry Reid changed his vote to no so that he could bring up the bill again. Thirty-eight GOP senators voted to protect the 22,000 millionaires/billionaires.

Warren never quits. She’ll be back with the bill again. And she’s got help. A few hours after the bill was blocked, Chuck Schumer, the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate, told Jon Stewart on The Daily Show:

“You can refinance your home, you can refinance your car, but the federal government doesn’t allow you to refinance your college loan if you’re paying too much. Why shouldn’t we do that? We’re gonna keep going at it. We’re going to bring this bill up over and over.”

Businesses and local governments can also refinance loans for a lower interest rate.

High interest on the $1.2 trillion that over 40 million people owe in student loans hurts the country’s economy. Most of them cannot buy cars and homes, causing fewer jobs to make and sell these. Dropping the interest rate would put billions into the economy and billions into the government coffers through tax revenue.

The GOP couldn’t even come up with a rationale justification for voting against the bill. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)  said, “The Senate Democrats’ bill isn’t really about students at all. It’s really all about Senate Democrats. They want an issue to campaign on to save their own hides this November.” At the same time, the Senate Finance Committee has approved a measure to cut taxes for the wealthy that cost $8 billion a year with no offset.

Warren has an answer for McConnell. She’s headed to Kentucky to campaign and fundraise for his opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes.

Although much of the book is about policy and law, it is a very personal book as Warren writes about how she developed her value system. She grew up poor and always has an eye on the dollar. It is that background that makes her valuable in her fight for the people struggling against a rigged system. She has lived their lives. And she understands how all these lives, rich and poor, are interconnected.

“There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: You moved the goods to market on roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory…. Now look, you built the factory and it turned into something terrific, or great idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid that comes along.”

Warren’s  weapon throughout her achievements is her call for transparent systems. As she says, “When you have no real power, go public—really public. The public is where the real power is.” After the GOP blocked her bill, she said:

“I think it is time to come back louder than ever. I think it is time to show up at campaign events and town halls and ask every single Republican who voted against this bill why protecting billionaires is more important than giving our kids a chance to pay off their loans. I think we need to ask, and ask again, and ask again.”

That’s what Warren is doing in Kentucky, and it’s great advice. It might give the people of the United States a fighting chance.

November 22, 2013

We Need to Return to JFK’s Dream

Today is the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s death from a gunman in Dallas (TX). For weeks, the media has discussed the controversy surrounding his murder and the tortured activities of the Warren Commission that investigated the killing. Fox network, however, took a slightly different approach.

Fox News host Chris Wallace, son of 60 Minutes journalist Mike Wallace, tried to convince Kennedy’s niece, Kathleen Townsend Kennedy, that the president was “quite conservative.” When Wallace insisted that the president lowered taxes because he thought this would spur the economy, Townsend Kennedy pointed out he lowered the top marginal rates from 90 percent to 70 percent, over double today’s 33 percent.

Wallace claimed that Kennedy was a “Cold Warrior”; Townsend Kennedy responded that he resisted generals who wanted to declare war during the Bay of Pigs incident.

Conservative columnist George Will asserted, “Well, he was a conventional liberal before liberalism changed in the late 1960s. He … did indeed believe in supply side tax cuts, increased revenues from lower rates.” According to Will, that was the reason Kennedy was killed, because he was too conservative. “We happen to know he was killed by a silly, squalid, little communist,” Will finished.

Fox contributor Brit Hume followed up by saying, “I think he was the coolest president we ever had. I think, however, despite the thinness of the record that [Wallace] just mentioned and that George mentioned, he has been the subject of the most successful public relations campaign in political history. It is a legend bordering, I think, on myth.”

Missing from Wallace’s narrative is that conservatives hated Kenndy because he supported equality for blacks, suggested that the U.S. should agree to a nuclear arms treaty with Russia, and planned to withdraw U.S. troops from Vietnam after the 1964 election.

For his book JFK and the Unspeakable, endorsed by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Jim Douglass’  information from declassified government documents showed the actions of a man who was definitely not conservative:  

  • A major conflict with military contractor United States Steel because the corporation double-crossed the president by raising steel prices despite a deal between the two parties.
  • Refusal to start an all-out nuclear war despite regular pressure from the military-industrial complex.
  • A secret arrangement with Russia’s Nikita Krushchev for a nuclear disarmament treaty.
  • Open support for Castro in the Cuban Revolution.
  • Efforts to end the U.S. occupation of Vietnam.
  • Refusal to stage terrorist attacks on U.S. soil that would be blamed on Cuba.

Fifty years after Kennedy’s assassination, the government shows the destruction of conservative politicians. Minimum wage is 20 percent lower than 45 years ago, and Social Security benefits are 25 percent lower than 30 years. At the same time, 60 percent of the pensions disappeared, and the recent recession wiped out much of the retirement that some people had saved in 401(k)s.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is a leader in moving the United States back to Kennedy’s dream. In response to a study by Dr. Arindrajit Dube, a University of Massachusetts Amherst professor who has studied the economic impacts of the current minimum wage, she said, “If we started in 1960 and we said that as productivity goes up, that is as workers are producing more, then the minimum wage is going to go up the same. And if that were the case then the minimum wage today would be about $22 an hour.” Dube pointed out that growing the minimum wage at the same pace as the increase for the top 1 percent of income earners would make the minimum wage closer to $33.

Warren also spoke about other changes in the past 50 years:

“During the Great Depression and the years after World War II, our country made two remarkable decisions. First, in a boom-and-bust world, we created a basic set of fair rules that ended the financial panics and provided almost a half-century of economic stability and growth. Second, we invested in ourselves and our children, creating the basic building blocks for a strong middle class and a strong economy: education, roads and bridges, mass transit and rail, water and sewage, research, and energy. It worked. America’s middle class prospered. We celebrated success, but we always paid ahead, making sure that the basic ingredients would be in place so the next generation could do even better.

“But about a generation ago, Washington turned in a different direction and changed the rules.

“Financial cops were taken off the beat, and government regulators began to work for those they were supposed to regulate. We fought wars we didn’t pay for, recklessly piling on debt. Powerful companies got subsidies, and ordinary families and small businesses had to pick up the burden. We didn’t repair our roads and bridges, and we cut back on research.  We stopped investing in our future.”

An important piece of investment in the dream and the future is Social Security. Those wailing about how the program is going broke are forgetting about the free ride that the wealthy is getting. The current cap on deductions is under $114,000, much less than the $200,000 in 2013 several years ago. The wealthy also make most of their money now from capital gains which Social Security does not tax.

The growing wealth of the top percent of people in the United States might bring up the question of how people manage to spend hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars. People can have only so many mansions, jets, yachts, cars, and other expensive items yet still have left-over money. If that’s your problem, here’s help:

  • A $95,000 truffle: Russian billionaire Vladimir Potanin recently ordered this at Nello, a Wall Street restaurant. To him, $95,000 wouldn’t seem like much money: the relationship of $95,000 to $1 billion is the same as $.95 to $10,000. Before going to Nello, however, you might want to read Yelp reviews—two stars and complaints about inedible food and rude service.
  • A $5,000 hamburger: In Las Vagas at Mandalay Bay, the Fleur de Lys restaurant offers the “Fleurburger 5000, a Kobe beef patty “topped with a rich truffle sauce and served on a brioche truffle bun.” For that price it comes with a bottle of 1990 Chateau Petrus served in Ichendorf Brunello stemware that you get to keep.
  • A $500 milkshake: The Powder Room restaurant in Los Angeles includes “special stuff: edible gold, Belgian chocolate, and a crystal ring.”
  • A $117,000 bottle of 1811 Chateau d’Yquem: If that’s not enough, the Le Clos wine shop in Dubai International Airport offers three 12-liter bottles of 2009 Château Margaux for $195,000–each.
  • A $142 million piece of art by Francis Bacon: At the same auction, three other pieces sold for more than $50 million; 11 for more than $20 million; and 16 sold for more than $10 million. An Andy Warhol piece sold for almost $60 million.

As Thomas Galbraith, of online auction house Paddle8, said, “Since the recession, the wealthy appear to be becoming even wealthier, while middle-class wages are more stagnant.”  Katherine Markley, artnet’s lead market analyst, added, “The 400 richest Americans [are] now worth a cumulative $2 trillion, up $300 billion from a year ago and with an average net worth of a record $5 billion, an $800 million increase from a year ago.”

As the first Catholic president of the United States, Kennedy swore he would not let his religion rule. His inspiring call to people of this nation led to the establishment of the Peace Corp, an organization that still sends thousands of U.S. volunteers around the world to help the needy. He was committed to land a human being on the moon; his support of space exploration helped that happen six years later. His Area Redevelopment Act helped states suffering from high unemployment rates, his laws ended segregation in interstate travel facilities, and his executive order stopped discrimination in housing sales and leases financed by the government. Kennedy also promoted the arts through concerts, plays, and musicals at the White House.

Fifty years later, the GOP wants its religion to rule the United States, works to deprive the poor of food and housing, fights the accomplishments of science through denial, increases unemployment rates by austerity, and demonstrates extreme racism. To the GOP, the arts are a waste of money.

Average hourly earnings have been flat for 50 years (after adjusting for inflation), as companies steer their wealth primarily to senior management and owners at the expense of average employees. Tax policies increasingly favor investors and high wage earners over middle-class and upper-middle-class wage-earners. An obsession with “shareholder value” at the expense of other stakeholders (namely, customers and employees) has led companies to cut employee costs to the bone.

These and other factors have contributed to the most radical redistribution of wealth that the United States has ever seen. Since the late 1970s, the country’s assets and income have moved steadily from “average” Americans to the richest Americans. The wealth inequality is the greatest since the 1920s. Consumers have little money to spend, businesses suffer and look for way to cut costs, and consumers are hurt even more.

Big companies and their owners and senior managers, however, are not suffering. They’re doing better than any other time in history. The free-market system, which worked well 50 years ago, is costing everyone except the top 1 percent. The result is a nation of over 300+ serfs who serve a few million overlords.

As Warren said, “The Republican vision is clear: ‘I’ve got mine, the rest of you are on your own.’ ” That wasn’t John F. Kennedy’s dream, and it shouldn’t be ours either.

November 14, 2013

Listen to Elizabeth Warren

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While the media and the GOP manage to keep focus in the United States firmly focused on the Affordable Health Care, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) spoke Tuesday about the danger of big banks. People in this country need to know that the oncoming disaster is not Obamacare. It’s our financial problems.

“Who would have thought five years ago, after we witnessed firsthand the dangers of an overly concentrated financial system, that the ‘too big to fail’ problem would only have gotten worse?” Warren said. Her indictment was not only of financial institutions that “have fought to delay and hamstring the implementation of financial reform,” after “exploiting consumers, larding their books with excessive risk, and making bad bets” but also of the regulators and lawmakers—many from her own party—who are refusing to hold the financial sector to account.

The four largest banks are now 30 percent larger than they were five years ago when the crisis began. More than half of the nation’s banking assets are held by just five banks. Yet regulators have failed to set the rules, and agencies responsible for implementing the reforms outlined in Dodd-Frank have missed more than 60 percent of their deadlines. Fewer than half of the regulations mandated under the law have been finalized, and more than quarter have not even been written. At the same time, regulators met with big banks 2,118 times since Dodd-Frank passed, fourteen times as many meetings as with advocates of financial reform.

“Since when does Congress set deadlines, watch regulators miss most of them, and then take that failure as a reason not to act?” Warren asked. “I thought that if the regulators failed, it was time for Congress to step in. That’s what oversight means.” Lawmakers are intent to dismantle financial reform legislation. In July, several Wall Street–friendly Democrats urged the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to delay rules for American banks engaged in derivatives trading overseas, a practice that has been unregulated. Last month, the House passed two bills, one written by Citigroup lobbyists, delaying provisions in Dodd-Frank by a bipartisan vote. Those two votes bring the total of recent bills passed by the House to undercut financial reform to ten.

In July, Warren and Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Angus King (I-ME) introduced a new version of the Glass-Steagall Act, which would force financial institutions to separate consumer banking activities like checking and savings deposits from risky practices such as credit swaps that brought the country down in 2008. The bill “would reduce failures of the big banks by making banking boring, protecting deposits, and providing stability to the system even in bad times,” Warren said. “Big banks would still be big—but not too big to fail or, for that matter, too big to manage, too big to regulate, too big for trial or too big for jail.”

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has met all of its deadlines, but Dodd-Frank has not changed the balance of power between financial giants and regulators. Other problems, such as shadow banking, exceed the scope of the legislation. A report provides many ways to limit risk and constrain mega-banks, but no one will enact them.

“Congress must act to protect our economy and prevent future crises,” Warren said. “What we need is a system…that recognizes we don’t grow this country from the financial sector; we grow this country from the middle class.” Legislators talk about the importance of the middle class, but their campaigns can’t profit from these people. They need donations from Wall Street and big business in their efforts to run for election. That was made obvious during the recent government shutdown when corporations made the GOP re-open government.

As Zoe Carpenter wrote, “People who determine policy and the institutions perpetuating the imbalances in the economy are locked in mutually beneficial relationship.”

According to Warren, the financial crisis cost people in the United States more than $14 trillion dollars, $120,000 for every household. “Where are we in making sure behemoth institutions on Wall Street can’t bring down the economy again? And make wild gambles that suck up all the profits in the good times? And stick the taxpayer with the bill when it goes wrong?” Warren asked.

“Three years since Dodd-Frank was passed, the biggest banks are bigger than ever, the risks to the system have grown and the market distortions continue.” Current regulators do not give “much reason for confidence,” she said. “It is time to act: the last thing we should do is wait for another crisis.”

In her speech at the Roosevelt Institute/Americans for Financial Reform conference, Warren explained the importance of her proposed bill:

“Big banks would once again have understandable balance sheets, and with that would come greater market discipline. Now sure, the lobbyists for Wall Street say the sky will fall if they can’t use deposits in checking accounts to fund their high-risk activities. But they said that in the 1930s, too. They were wrong then, and they are wrong now. The Glass-Steagall Act would restore the stability to the financial system that began to disappear in the 1980s and 1990s….

“We should not accept a financial system that allows the biggest banks to emerge from a crisis in record-setting shape while working Americans continue to struggle. And we should not accept a regulatory system that is so besieged by lobbyists for the big banks that it takes years to deliver rules and then the rules that are delivered are often watered-down and ineffective.

“What we need is a system that puts an end to the boom-and- bust cycle. A system that recognizes we don’t grow this country from the financial sector; we grow this country from the middle class.

“Powerful interests will fight to hang on to every benefit and subsidy they now enjoy. Even after exploiting consumers, larding their books with excessive risk, and making bad bets that brought down the economy and forced taxpayer bailouts, the big Wall Street banks are not chastened. They have fought to delay and hamstring the implementation of financial reform, and they will continue to fight every inch of the way.

“That’s the battlefield. That’s what were up against. But David beat Goliath with the establishment of CFPB and, just a few months ago, with the confirmation of Rich Cordray. David beat Goliath with the passage of Dodd-Frank. We did that together with Americans for Financial Reform, the Roosevelt Institute, and so many of you in this room. I am confident David can beat Goliath on Too Big to Fail. We just have to pick up the slingshot again.”

The original Glass–Steagall Act would have been 80 years old this year. After the severity of the Great Depression, the law was passed to limit the connection between commercial banks and securities firms. Weakened in the 1960s, the law was largely eviscerated in the 1980s when Alan Greenspan took over the Federal Reserve. The law’s death came in 1999 when two provisions removed the wall between banks and securities firms in the Gramm/Leach/Bliley Act. With no wall, Wall Street investment banking firms could legally gamble with depositors’ money, a factor that led to the 2008 recession.

As the House fails to go into session most of the time and the Senate plays with filibusters, financial institutions are again driving the country toward the cliff. Congress needs to make consequences for bank executive who lack integrity in their business dealings and then expect taxpayers to refinance them so that they can continue receiving their huge bonuses. Congress also needs to force huge banks to break up into smaller entities and prevent other mergers resulting in more big banks. And Congress needs to stop trying to destroy Dodd-Frank that guides the wind-down of failing financial institutions rather than giving them unlimited taxpayer bailouts.

It’s been 26 years since the stock market crash that fell 22.6 percent in one day. Another crash is eminent. Combining that with no responsibilities for banks and the huge difference between the wealthy and the rest of the people will bring disaster on the United States. It may all happen while the House continues to pass bills against Affordable Care Act and sets its trajectory toward shutting down the government and defaulting on the debt. We need to listen to Elizabeth Warren.

April 2, 2013

Conservatives’ Misplaced Idea of Immorality

Democrats cast the majority of votes for both chambers in Congress last year and for the United States president, yet the first three months of this year have shown the conservatives pushing even harder to ban abortions, reduce access to contraception, close down women’s clinics including Planned Parenthood, and stop marriage equality. With loss of money from  sequester devastating programs across the country, Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL) wants one-half billion dollars to teach teenagers that that they shouldn’t get pregnant despite studies that show comprehensive sex education decreases the rates of teen pregnancy and STDs.

For the first time in his 18 years of teaching, Tim McDaniel received a complaint about using the word “vagina” in his tenth-grade biology classes during his lesson on the human reproductive system.

These ongoing actions by conservatives supposedly come from their sense of morality, to control people in their private lives and force them to live the way that conservatives think they should. At the same time, the conservatives’ outrage at immorality doesn’t extend to the real problem in the United States, the “crisis of public morality,” as Robert Reich describes the way that this nation is suffering from the worst economic inequality in almost a century.

The percentage of income in the hands of the top 10 percent remained fairly static for the first three decades after World War II, but President Reagan’s policies started the meteoric rise obvious in this chart during the past 30+ years. The percentage moved down during President Clinton’s second term, but another GOP president started another increase so that the top 10 percent holds 50 percent more of the nation’s income than they did over a half century ago.

top 10%

Immoral behavior that conservatives ignore is billionaires buying democracy and bankers controlling the nation’s economy. The far-right group Citizens United convinced a majority of the Supreme Court justices that corporations are really “people,” and much of the $12-billion expenditures for the 2012 election campaigns came from corporations and the uber-wealthy like Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson who want conservatives who will provide lower taxes, weaker trade unions, and no regulations.

Corporations and banks are using the money that they get interest-free from the government to make their money through proprietary trading, derivative securities, and other areas that most people don’t, because they don’t have enough money to invest. Banks aren’t making loans because interest is too low; they prefer to gamble in other areas instead. So the government gives them money at nothing—that’s federal funds effect rate—to lend to people, which they don’t do. If they lose their money, they can always get subsidies from the taxpayers who can’t get mortgages and other loans.

There is no outrage from the supposedly moral conservatives about the revelation that JPMorganChase, the nation’s biggest bank and “too large to fail” and probably “too large to jail,” lied to shareholders and the public about its $6 billion gambling losses in 2012. This is the corporation who, along with many others, paid big bucks to get rid of the Dodd-Frank Act, succeeded in watering it down, and kept it from having a director for years.

Corporations showed their success last month with a bipartisan vote in the House Agriculture Committee to further weaken Dodd-Frank. The bill to move onto the House floor extends exemptions and lets banks (including, of course, JPMorganChase), that do their derivative trading outside the U.S. to just ignore the laws intended to protect the public. The only greater success would be the total repeal of the Dodd-Frank Act, which is what the conservatives are aiming toward.

Despite their immoral behavior, no major Wall Street executives have yet been held accountable for the wild gambling that led to the near meltdown in 2008. The people who did not prosecute any of them are now profiting from their actions. There is no “morality brigade” to fight the dishonest actions that destroyed savings, retirement accounts, jobs, and salaries.

United States’ banks get help from other countries to bilk the public. The fraud discovered in London with fraudulently-reported interest rates for London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) for more than two decades bled over to U.S. banks that use LIBOR in their derivatives market, causing massive losses.

When 22 plaintiffs, including the City of Baltimore, sued 16 banks for rigging global benchmark interest rates affecting over $550 trillion, they lost. Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald (U.S. District Court in Manhattan) dismissed a “substantial portion” including federal antitrust claims, racketeering, and state-law claims as well as partially dismissing commodities manipulation claims.

One senator with a sense of morals might make a difference. When Massachusetts voters had their choice between Cosmopolitan model Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren, they picked the person who could help the country, despite Brown’s personal attacks against her. Now Sen. Warren is working to make the banks just a little more honest.

About one of these, HSBC, which recently settled money laundering charges by paying $1.9 billion, Warren said:

“If you’re caught with an ounce of cocaine, the chances are good you’re gonna go to jail. If it happens repeatedly, you may go to jail for the rest of your life. But evidently if you launder nearly a billion dollars for drug cartels and violate our international sanctions, your company pays a fine and you go home and sleep in your bed at night.”

Warren also went after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke concerning a Bloomberg report showing that big banks average an $83 billion subsidy from the government to guard them from insolvency. Once again, “too big to fail.”  Her next target was Attorney General Eric Holder after he admitted his hesitancy in prosecuting these same banks.

She has help from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Sanders wrote:

“The 10 largest banks in the United States are bigger today than they were before a taxpayer bailout following the 2008 financial crisis. U.S. banks have become so big that the six largest financial institutions in this country (J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley) today have assets of nearly $9.6 trillion, a figure equal to about two-thirds of the nation’s gross domestic product. These six financial institutions issue more than two-thirds of all credit cards, over half of all mortgages, control 95 percent of all derivatives held in financial institutions, and hold more than 40 percent of all bank deposits in the United States.”

Sanders plans to introduce tough new legislation intended to break up the country’s “too-big-to-fail” banks. It would give Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew 90 days to make a list of financial institutions–banks, hedge funds and insurance companies–that he believes are “too big to fail” and one year to break up all of the financial institutions on the list.

His proposed legislation has a few supporters from the banking world: Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Richard Fisher, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard, and Former Kansas City Federal Reserve President Thomas Hoenig.

If you also find the banking situation immoral, you can sign a petition to the Treasury secretary. And ask a Republican why they won’t fight immorality on Wall Street.

December 4, 2012

GOP’s Dilemmas–Money, Public Response

Great news from today. Sen.-elect Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) will be sitting on the chamber’s banking committee. This action can provide fireworks for the next six years! After preventing her from from running the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, she still has regulatory control over the industry.

If you eat at Olive Garden or Red Lobster, you might want to contact owners Darden Restaurants about their plans to cut workers’ hours to avoid providing health insurance. Although they previously announced that they would do this if President Obama were re-elected, they now worry about negative publicity and loss of business. Papa John’s Pizza and Applebee’s have already decided that public opposition to cutting workers’ hours will hurt them and changed their position.

About 25 percent of the people in the country want to secede from the United States, about the same as last year. I would be one of the people who would vote to let them.

The House will lose 5 percent of GOP women, giving women a total percentage of about 8 percent, when Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (MO) leaves in February to head up the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, a lobbying organization for rural utility companies and her biggest all-time campaign contributor. There is no primary for her replacement, and state party leaders—Republicans—control the election. Emerson follows Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL) with her proposed resignation. She didn’t declare herself job-looking or declare a conflict of interest, in opposition to House rules, but she’ll be gone in a couple of months and won’t care.

House Speaker John Boeher (R-OH) has tried to send a message to his members who fail to vote in lockstep. Reps. David Schweikert (AZ-06) and Walter Jones (NC-03) are gone from the Financial Services Committee, and Reps. Justin Amash (MI-03) and Tim Huelskamp (KS-01) disappeared from the Budget Committee. Only one of the four was too left, mostly on foreign policy; the others are the ultra-conservatives who oppose Boehner’s agenda. Amash considers the GOP budget measures too liberal, and Schweikert defeated Ben Quayle, a Boehner favorite. There’s a thorn in paradise!

Boehner doesn’t seem to be in control, however. His ridiculous fiscal proposal, recommending $150 billion less in revenue than the one from before the election, has been rejected by both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate. That may be why he didn’t speak to the president at the White House holiday party last night. No photos this year as in the past. And the GOP is now going to lobbyists for advice.

Hoping to get traction from the name of Democrat Erskine Bowles who joined with Alan Simpson to lead the failed fiscal discussions almost two years ago, Boehner calls his plan after him. Bowles, however, opposes the “Bowles plan,” or at least John Boehner’s manipulation of it, saying that it has nothing to do with the plan from the Simpson-Bowles debt reduction commission.

Republicans are fond of saying that Democrats refuse to compromise in fiscal matters. The following chart shows the extent to which Republicans plan to compromise:

fiscal compromise

If Republicans look unhappy these days, it might be because they have noted the polling about who is to blame for the fiscal stalemate. It would be nice if they would start paying attention to polling after their disastrous conclusions before Election Day.

blame

Another poll shows that only 10 percent of the people in the U.S. view the honesty and ethical standards of House of Representative members as very high or high. In an examination of 22 different professions, only car salespeople did worse, at 8 percent. Senate members faired slightly higher at 14 percent.

The Senate’s standing may go down after they voted down the U.N. treaty ban on discrimination against people with disabilities, 61-38. Treaties require a two-thirds vote; Rick Santorum had promised 36 no votes, and he got two extra. GOP senators voting in favor of the treaty were Kelly Ayotte (NH), John Barrasso (WY), Scott Brown (MA), Susan Collins (ME), Dick Lugar (IN), John McCain (AZ) and Lisa Murkowski (AK). Three of these “moderates” fought the nomination of Susan Rice for Secretary of State although President Obama has not appointed anyone for the position. Even Bob Dole, 1996 Republican presidential candidate, came in a wheelchair to support the passage of the treaty and got nowhere.

Supporters of the treaty argued that the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities would merely require the rest of the world to meet the standards that Americans already enjoy under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.

The treaty was negotiated and first signed under President George W. Bush and signed again by Obama in 2009. At least 153 other countries have signed it; 126 have ratified it. Democrats and advocates for people with disabilities argued that recommendations from a panel created by the treaty would be advisory only, not binding, and that the treaty did not create any new legal rights in state or federal courts. John Kerry countered that the treaty would allow the United States to serve on the committee to advocate for the rights of U.S. veterans and citizens living or traveling abroad.

Newly elected Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) can drive the Senate into a crazier position on the U.N. Last summer he wrote a blog vowing to fight “a dangerous United Nations plan” on environmental sustainability that, according to Cruz, would abolish “golf courses, grazing pastures and paved roads.” He lays the fault on the Democratic financier-philanthropist George Soros. Cruz also agrees with Glenn Beck that the supposed ban on light bulbs was intended to shut down manufacturing in the United States.

Forty-nine percent of people in the United States join Ted Cruz in his conspiracy theories: they think that the supposedly-illegal work of ACORN, the organization to help poor people that went bankrupt two years ago, is responsible for the re-election of President Obama. If the organization was so powerful, why did it let so many Tea Party members go to Congress in 2010?!

The Finale: Disturbed by Fox’s failures regarding Election Day 2012, Roger Ailes has send out orders that producers must get permission from higher up before booking people connected with the election—including Karl Rove and Dick Morris. The comedy shows will be poorer because of Ailes’ mandate.

September 26, 2012

Last Two Weeks – Part Two

Republican desperation is getting more and more obvious as Election Day gets ever closer–41 days now.  Mitt Romney is back on the campaign trail blaming the president for the loss of over 500,000 manufacturing jobs during the last four years while his company, Bain Capital, has been sending them out of the country for years.

Missing in his talking points were the facts that George W. Bush lost 4.5 million manufacturing jobs in eight years and President Obama has picked up over 300,000 in the last two years. The most recent loss of manufacturing jobs are the 170 workers in Freeport (IL) who will be laid off in November when Bain sends Sensata Technologies to China. As usual, Romney tries to hide behind a “blind trust” that he said in the past that he controlled.

During Romney’s campaigning he has also accused President Obama of raising taxes during his tenure. The new Romney, however, has different information. Yesterday he told a reporter,  “[Obama’s] idea, now, he’s got one new, he’s got one new idea. I admit this, he has one thing he did not do in his first four years, he’s said he’s going to do in his next four years, which is to raise taxes.” As usual, his campaigners have tried to show that Romney really didn’t mean what he said.

The most desperate campaign tack, however, comes from a sitting senator, Scott Brown (R-MA). Throughout the summer he has attacked his opponent, Elizabeth Warren, because she has described herself as having Native American background. There’s no proof that she has this background, but that’s true of many people with the same background. My partner’s family, for example, has always told her that she is part Choctaw. No proof, but it’s part of her family legend.

In the lead-up to their debate last week, Brown declared that he knew Warren couldn’t have any Native American background because she didn’t look like one. It appears that Brown can identify ethnic background based on appearance. The situation got even uglier when his staffers, financed by tax payers, ridiculed Native Americans by fake war whoops and tomahawk chops at a Republican fundraiser.

Bill John Baker, the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation denounced Brown’s campaign staffers for their actions against Native Americans and asked Brown to apologize: “The conduct of these individuals goes far beyond what is appropriate and proper in political discourse. The use of stereotypical ‘war whoop chants’ and ‘tomahawk chops’ are offensive and downright racist. It is those types of actions that perpetuate negative stereotypes and continue to minimize and degrade all native peoples.”

After a long day of criticism, Brown decided to say that he could not condone such behavior. For the record, Brown has no proof that Warren does not have Native American heritage.

Evidently Rep. Todd Akin (R-MI), authority of how women cannot get pregnant from “legitimate rape,” is not the only family member who is knowledgeable about rape. In raging against the Republican party for abandoning her husband after his ill-conceived statement, Lulli Akin, the U.S. Senate candidate’s wife, described the attempt get Akin to drop out of the race as “tyranny, a top-down approach.” In an interview with The National Journal, she also said, “Party bosses dictating who is allowed to advance through the party and make all the decisions–it’s just like 1776 in that way.” According to Lulli Akin, that was when colonists “rose up and said, ‘Not in my home, you don’t come and rape my daughters and my … wife. But that is where we are again.”

Yesterday I wrote that Congress had left town to campaign while blaming Democrats for stalling and inaction. Here are a few things that they left undone, proving that Romney is not the only politician who doesn’t care about 47 percent of the country’s population:

  • The re-authorization of the Violence against Women Act
  • The American Jobs Act [although they blame the president for not enough jobs]
  • Sequestration [that started when the Republicans played games with raising the debt ceiling]
  • Tax Cuts for Working Families
  • The Farm Bill [with the current bill expiring in four days]
  • Veterans Job Corps. Act [passed by the Senate with a 95-1 vote, Rand Paul (R-KY) the only  opposition, and the Air Force Times reporting that the Republican-controlled House has shown “no interest in passing an Obama-initiated measure before the November elections”]
  • Wind Tax Credit [originally authored by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and providing jobs]

Many of us in this country assume that all young people are required to have an education. Not in four states, including Virginia. The state’s religious exemption from mandatory school attendance means there are no educational requirements. There may be 7,000 young people who fit into this category.

Good News:

Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas (WI) has ruled that the state law ending collective bargaining rights for most public workers violates both the state and U.S. Constitution and is null and void. The ruling comes after a lawsuit brought by the Madison teachers union and a union for Milwaukee city employees. The law was one of the first that Gov. Scott Walker brought to the state. 

Odd News:

The Mormon religion has a bad habit of posthumously baptizing people, sometimes causing great anguish to their families. Ann Romney’s father, an atheist, was baptized after his death. Many Jewish Holocaust victims have also been supposedly converted to Mormonism through this practice. Recently it was discovered that President Obama’s mother was posthumously baptized by the Mormon Church on June 4, 2008. The Mormon Church has claimed that it asked congregations to stop doing this, but it’s still occurring. [It’s old news, but I hadn’t heard this before.]

With Republican actions so misinformed and ignorant during this election round, identifying satire has become increasingly more difficult. Craig Robinson, a former political director of the Republican Party of Iowa, told the New York Times, “I hate to say this, but if [Paul] Ryan wants to run for national office again, he’ll probably have to wash the stench of Romney off of him.” The question of satire comes from Politico’s columnist, Roger Simon, when he described how Paul Ryan doesn’t like the directions “dictated by his Romney handlers.”

According to Simon, Ryan has “been marching around his campaign bus, saying things like, ‘If Stench calls, take a message’ and ‘Tell Stench I’m having finger sandwiches with Peggy Noonan and will text him later.'” According to Rachel Maddow, “the piece isn’t identified as satire, Simon is a chief political correspondent and not a satirist, and the column is filled with details and anecdotes that are, in fact, accurate. If it is satire, it’s awfully tough to tell.”

Romney got a little specific about taxes in a speech in Ohio: “We have got to reform our tax system. Small businesses most typically pay taxes at the individual tax rate. And so our individual income taxes are the ones I want to reform. Make them simpler. I want to bring the rates down. By the way, don’t be expecting a huge cut in taxes because I’m also going to lower deductions and exemptions. But by bringing rates down we will be able to let small businesses keep more of their money so they can hire more people.”

Huh?

September 6, 2012

Democratic Convention 2012 – Day Two, Extraordinary

Topping the first day of the Democratic convention was difficult, but the second day  displayed as much–if not more– electricity with non-stop speakers throughout the evening, capped by a 48-minute speech from former President Bill Clinton.

Many of the convention speakers, in contrast to those at the GOP convention last week, have been non-politicians. For example, three workers from Bain-controlled companies talked about problems of Mitt Romney’s leadership. Randy Johnson began by describing how Bain bought his company in 1994 and fired hundreds of employees without any warning. “They rushed in security guards to walk us out of our plant. We weren’t even allowed to take our personal items.”

Cindy Hewitt, a worker at Dade Behring, told how Bain drop her company, an important part of the community, was driven into bankruptcy, destroying 850 jobs.

David Foster, worker at a steel mill said, “When Romney and Bain took over the mill, they loaded it up with millions in debt, and within months, they used some of that borrowed money to pay themselves millions. Within a decade, the debt kept growing and was so large the company was forced into bankruptcy. They fired 750 steelworkers while they pocketed $12 million in profit. A steelworker at GST Steel would have had to work 240 years to make $12 million.”

Sister Simone Campbell, who led the “Nuns on the Bus” tour for social justice this past summer, used her seven-minute speech to decry Paul Ryan’s budget: “Paul Ryan claims this budget reflects the principles of our shared faith. But the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that the Ryan budget failed a basic moral test, because it would harm families living in poverty.”

Sandra Fluke, the activist who has fought for contraception from insurance companies and called a slut and worse by Rush Limbaugh, talked about the alternate futures, depending on who is elected as president. ”Six months from now, we’ll all be living in one or the other. But only one. A country where our president either has our back or turns his back; a country that honors our foremothers by moving us forward, or one that forces our generation to re-fight the battles they already won; a country where we mean it when we talk about personal freedom, or one where that freedom doesn’t apply to our bodies and our voices.”

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (MD) said, “My friend Paul Ryan talks about fiscal responsibility but voted to put two wars on a credit card. He voted to spend trillions of dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. He voted for a prescription drug benefit with no plan to pay for it. He abandoned the bipartisan principle that we must pay for what we buy.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA) said that a vote for Democrats in the November election is a vote to preserve Medicare and Social Security and a vote in favor of women.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s claims that President Barack Obama is weak on Israel make “no sense” and are “ludicrous.” Earlier in the day when during an MSNBC interview, she said, “I think we do not know what Gov. Romney’s position on national security is, frankly. He has advisers that are some neocons, some of the people that brought you the previous policies under the [President George W.] Bush administration and he barely talked about foreign policy in his speech.”

Elizabeth Warren, who founded the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2010, talked about how “the [financial] system is rigged” but that President Obama is working to give everyone a chance at a “level playing field.” She described the GOP approach to governing in this statement:  “I’ve got mine; the rest of you are on your own.” Aiming at the GOP, Warren said, “Republicans say they don’t believe in government. Sure they do! They believe in government to help themselves and their powerful friends. After all, Mitt Romney’s the guy who said, ‘Corporations are people.’” She finished her speech by quoting the Bible: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”–Matthew 25:40.

Bill Clinton was the highlight of the evening when he shredded all the arguments from the GOP convention speakers about President Obama’s four years. “He inherited a deeply damaged economy, put a floor under the crash, began the long, hard road to recovery, and laid the foundation for a modern, more well-balanced economy that will produce millions of good new jobs, vibrant new businesses and lots of new wealth for the innovators.”

In answer to the objections that life is not better under this president, Clinton said, “Are we where we want to be? No. Is the president satisfied? Of course not. But are we better off than we were when he took office with an economy in free-fall, losing 750,000 jobs a month? The answer is yes.” He continued, “President Obama started with a much weaker economy than I did,” he said. “No president–not me or any of my predecessors–could have repaired all the damage in just four years. But conditions are improving and if you’ll renew the president’s contract you will feel it.”

Andrea Mitchell said, “As a political document, this speech was extraordinary,” providing an “explanation of all of the policy points.” Republican strategist Steve Schmidt, who managed GOP nominee John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, said, “I wish to God, as a Republican, we had someone on our side who had the ability to do [what Clinton did tonight].”

Blogger Michael Hayne said, “In short, the 42nd President of the United States beautifully encapsulated how Obama has consistently extended the olive branch to Republicans and they have proudly taken that branch, ripped it up into a million pieces, stomped it into the sand and buried their heads with it so that the economic worsened and they could easily say ‘vote Republican’ in 2012.”

Unlike Paul Ryan’s and Mitt Romney’s speeches in Tampa, Clinton’s speech was on policy and gave specifics in amazing detail, so much that there isn’t enough room for it here. Even more amazing, no matter how much FactCheck.org and USA Today scoured the multitude of facts that Clinton provided in his speech, the two organizations could not find anything false. This is far different from their investigation of Ryan’s and Romney’s speeches when they had trouble finding anything true.

Asides: The reading level for Michelle Obama’s speech was Grade 12; Ann Romney’s speech was seven grades below. [Note: Is this what each person thinks of her political party’s education?]

Clinton said, “Though I often disagree with Republicans,” he said, “I never learned to hate them the way the far right that now controls their party seems to hate President Obama and the Democrats.” Ann Coulter’s tweets show how vicious the far right is:

“Bill Clinton just impregnated Sandra Fluke backstage…”

“To get Bill Clinton to speak at the convention, Obama had to agree to carry his bags.”

In another hateful spate, Rush Limbaugh claimed that President Obama isn’t actually black because he lacks any slave ancestry. Not that it matters, but one of the president’s ancestors is the first documented slave, John Punch, according the The New York Times. 

The ADP National Jobs Report reported the addition of 201,000 private-sector jobs in the month of August, almost 50 percent more than the estimated increase of 140,000 jobs. It also revises the number of jobs added in July up to 173,000 from 163,000. In addition, the Department of Labor’s weekly report today showed the number of new claims for state unemployment benefits had fallen by 12,000 when Wall Street had expected only 1,000.

Things are looking better!

December 31, 2011

2011–Not All Bad

Although the year 2011 began on a dark note—and got blacker—as the conservatives fought to wipe out a century of progressive movements that gave people in the United States a safety net, I find many things to be grateful on the last day of the year.

First, I am most thankful for my wonderful family (who is visiting me as I write), my fantastic partner of 42+ years, and my fabulous friends, many of whom send me topics and information for Nel’s New Day. And a thumbs-up to my pets, especially the new kitten who is turning everything upside down in our household.

After almost nine years, the Iraq War, that killed at least 120,000 people and left far more wounded, has come to an end. At a conservative estimate of $806 billion, the war left over 1.6 million refugees and another 1.24 million internally displaced with the country’s infrastructure almost disseminated.  The war that conservatives started planning almost two decades ago has taught some people in our nation a lesson about being wary of government “intelligence” and avoiding pre-emptive wars.

The political scene may be looking up for progressives. The Occupy people  are willing to suffer extremely discomfort not only in the wet, snowy cold or while being indiscriminately pepper-sprayed or tasered but also jailed for following their First Amendment rights. Their slogan, “We are the 99 percent,” has made the country acutely aware of economic inequities despite the naysayers who live in their comfortable homes and ignore hungry and homeless people.

The Occupy Movement wasn’t the first big protest of the year, however. Wisconsin fought their new governor Scott Walker, Ohio won against union-busting politicians, Maine voted down unfair election changes, and Time made “the protester” its person of the year. Conservatives have gone so far to the right in denying people their rights that the rest of the United States—like the “Arab spring”—may have reached the tipping point to fight back.

Change.org and the Internet have helped to right some wrongs perpetrated by large corporations. The most recent win is Verizon’s reversal in its attempt to charge customers a fee for paying bills online. Bank of America decided not to charge a monthly fee just for using a debit card. These are the companies that net billions of dollars while paying no taxes and having the right—as “persons”—to pay unlimited funds to elect more conservatives who will take more money from the poor to give to the wealthy.

Yet not all corporations are greedy blood-suckers. In Alternet, Lauren Kelley highlighted five companies that support the environment and economy: Ben & Jerry, Patagonia, H&M, Hewlett Packard, and Method Products. May more companies join them in the coming year!

Through their humor, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert continue to enlighten millions of Americans, particularly young ones who might have been lost to Fox lies. Republican presidential candidates have provided these two comedians much fodder although these politicians look ridiculous on their own.

After the disappointing show of progressives in last August’s debacle of raising the debt ceiling, Democrats seem to have found a spine. Led by President Obama, Congressional Democrats refused to roll over (mostly!) this month to the Republicans’ demands regarding the payroll tax reduction. Democrats wanted to keep the tax, aka Social Security taxes, the same; Republicans wanted to increase it. The 99 percenters discovered that Republicans want to lower taxes only for the wealthy, a good lesson for them.

A new political figure in town, Elizabeth Warren, may turn things around. After Republicans refused to consider her nomination as director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency that she created, she decided to run for Massachusetts senator. Despite the huge funding that corporations are pouring into incumbent Republican Sen. Scott Brown’s re-election and his recent turn toward a more moderate position,Warren is leading! And she knows where all the bodies are buried!

Courts are also taking a constitutional (what conservatives call “activist” if it opposes their far right positions) approach to new laws for immigration, elections, etc. For example, after Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer fired the chair of the state’s nonpartisan commission to determine redistricting for the House of Representatives because it didn’t favor Republicans 100 percent, the state supreme court overturned her decision. Courts in Texas overturned the legislature’s partisan redistricting decision, and the Department of Justice overruled the highly restrictive South Carolina photo ID mandates.

American minorities made advances when the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell ban on gays and lesbians openly serving in the military was finalized. New York legalized same-sex marriage, and California’s Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage, stayed unconstitutional for the time-being. Representatives and senators are working to advance the Respect for Marriage Act to repeal the “Defense of Marriage Act,” that keeps marriage to one man with one woman even if it only lasts for 72 hours.

More people in theUnited States are getting health care, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, and the economy is supposedly improving. Approval rating for the Tea Party has shrunk, and  “Progressive” is the most positively viewed political label inAmerica, ahead of “Conservative.” And all these positive facts are just the tip of the iceberg.

In the words of former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich:

“Yet the great arc of American history reveals an unmistakable pattern: Whenever privilege and power conspire to pull us backward, the nation eventually rallies and moves forward. Sometimes it takes an economic shock like the bursting of a giant speculative bubble; sometimes we just reach a tipping point where the frustrations of average Americans turn into action.

“Look at the progressive reforms between 1900 and 1916; the New Deal of the 1930s; the Civil Rights struggle of the 1950s and 1960s; the widening opportunities for women, minorities, people with disabilities and gays; and the environmental reforms of the 1970s. In each of these eras, regressive forces reignited the progressive ideals on whichAmericais built. The result was fundamental reform.

“Perhaps this is what’s beginning to happen again across America.”

We’ll all hope so! Happy New Year!

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