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The Real Meaning of Obama's Trade Defeat

Labor is just part of the story. 

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster President Barack Obama walks with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, right and House Minority Assistant Leader James Clyburn of South Carolina, as he visits Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, June 12, 2015, for a meeting with House Democrats. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . T he labor movement won big in the defeat of the trade package Friday. But a lot of the commentators are somewhat mystified. After all, the labor movement is a smaller fraction of the workforce than it was when NAFTA was approved over labor's opposition in 1993. And the industrial workforce today is a much smaller percentage of the total. How could this have happened? Noam Scheiber, writing ( an excellent piece ) in The New York Times , quotes a puzzled John Murphy, senior vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which suffered a big loss when the trade deal went down. Murphy wondered why service sector unions were part of the opposition. "...

How the GOP Plans to Cut Affordable Housing (Again)

A 2008 program to help tens of thousands on housing waitlists is finally set to be funded, but House Republicans have other plans.

(Photo: AP/Bloomington Herald-Times/Jeremy Hogan)
(Photo: AP/Bloomington Herald-Times/Jeremy Hogan) Seekers of Section 8 housing line up in Bloomington, Indiana, in 2011. The National Housing Trust Fund, created in 2008, is set to finally be funded in 2016, but House Appropriations Committee Republicans just last month passed a housing and transportation bill that strips the fund to cover cuts in other housing programs, and prohibits any funding in the future. I n almost every part of the country, families struggling to pay rent and seek help find themselves at the end of a very long line. In California, I spoke to a woman who told me she was assigned a number higher than 57,000 on the waiting list when she applied for a subsidized apartment. In the suburbs of Denver, Colorado, where the lottery opens every few years for Section 8, which gives recipients money to pay rent and is the biggest of the programs, only 30 or 40 of about 2,500 applicants will receive vouchers. And that’s just when local agencies are even accepting...

How Big Money Lost in Philly’s Mayoral Race

Support from unions and public-education advocates won Jim Kenney the primary election, despite $7 million in outside spending for his opponent.

(Photo: AP/Matt Slocum)
(Photo: AP/Matt Slocum) Democratic mayoral candidate Jim Kenney, center, celebrates after winning Tuesday's primary election in Philadelphia. Broad union and progressive support gave the former city councilman more than half the votes in the six-candidate race. O n Tuesday, Philadelphia city council veteran Jim Kenney won the Democratic mayoral primary with 56 percent of the vote—a commanding victory in a crowded campaign of six candidates. Kenney’s win is not only a step in the right direction for the progressives who supported his candidacy; it’s also a refreshing reminder that heavy outside spending doesn’t always guarantee electoral success. Pennsylvania State Senator Anthony Hardy Williams, the runner-up with 26 percent, was backed by a trio of suburban Philadelphia hedge fund financiers with a strong interest in market-driven education reform. As Paul Blumenthal noted in The Huffington Post , the PAC’s $7 million support (as of the latest filing date) of Williams’s candidacy was...

Why Everyone Wants the Military Budget to Be Bigger

It's not about "defense." 

Vito Palmisano/Getty
Vito Palmisano/Getty N ow that we've finally ( almost ) clarified who would have invaded Iraq and who wouldn't have, it's time for a little perspective. Yes, it's a good thing that elite Republicans are moving toward agreeing with the rest of us that invading Iraq was a mistake, even if they base their argument on the myth of "faulty intelligence." But there's another consensus in Washington, one that says that our military should never be anything short of gargantuan, ready to start more wars whenever a future George W. Bush wants to. At the end of last week, the House passed a defense authorization bill worth $612 billion, a number that was possible to reach only with some budgetary hocus-pocus involving classifying $89 billion of it as "emergency" spending, thereby avoiding the cuts mandated by sequestration. While the White House has objected to the way the bill moves money around, that $612 billion number is exactly what President Obama asked for. Even the guy who's supposedly...

Little Magazine, Big Ideas: The American Prospect at 25

Reflecting on a quarter century of politics and change.

T he American Prospect began 25 years ago with a small circulation, a limited budget, and great ambitions. Our aim was to rethink ideas about public policy and politics and thereby to restore plausibility and persuasiveness to American liberalism. The first issue appeared in spring 1990, a moment when Democrats had lost three successive presidential elections, conservatives were pushing schemes for privatization, and liberals were in disarray. But in 1990, Congress was still in Democratic hands, the Cold War was coming to an end with the Soviet collapse, and the focus of politics was turning from foreign to domestic policy. Rising economic anxieties, it seemed, might spur political change just as a “peace dividend” could finance new initiatives. By historic good fortune, the Prospect had arrived at a time not only of global change but also of “liberal opportunity,” as Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., called it in the first issue, which carried a cover image of an old world cracking open to...

The Politics of Offense and Defense

Once reliably blue strongholds, Wisconsin's and Minnesota's political paths have diverged in recent years.

(AP Photo/Andy Manis)
(AP Photo/Andy Manis) Sean Conard, left, of Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Shyla Deacon of Milwaukee cheer during protests at the state Capitol in Madison, Saturday, February 26, 2011. In a dramatic example of the politics of defense, protests of the governor's bill to eliminate collective bargaining rights drew as many as 150,000 people in an occupation of the capitol building. This article appears in the Spring 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine, as a sidebar to Ann Markusen's article, " The High Road Wins ," on the results for citizens of Minnesota and Wisconsin yielded by the opposing political ideologies of their governors. Subscribe here . Celebrate our 25th Anniversary with us by clicking here for a free download of this special issue . U ntil very recently, the political cultures of Minnesota and Wisconsin seemed pretty much in step. In the 1930s, both Minnesota’s Farmer-Labor Party and the Progressive Party of Wisconsin anticipated the New Deal with their own brands of...

Some More Radical Ideas for Hillary Clinton

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson) Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during the sixth annual Women in the World Summit, Thursday, April 23, 2015, in New York. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . I am going to periodically suggest ideas that Hillary Clinton might consider—both to establish that she is a real-deal progressive and to rally political support from voters whom the economy is leaving behind. Clinton might even outflank some leading progressives by going beyond what is considered politically safe in the current environment. Another name for that is leadership. So if Hillary wants to show that she's a fighter, let her pick some good fights. Control Drug Costs. On Thursday, Medicare released a detailed breakdown of the staggering costs paid for drugs prescribed under Medicare Part D. That's the privatized prescription drug insurance program sponsored by the Bush administration in 2003 as a gift to the drug and insurance industries, taking advantage of Medicare's good...

The Latest Target of 'Religious Freedom' Advocates: Reproductive Rights in the Nation's Capital

A House committee has voted to overturn a local D.C. law that prevents discrimination based on employees' reproductive choices.

(Photo from House Oversight and Government Reform Committee)
Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah is the chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which voted late Tuesday night to disapprove the District's Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act. H ere’s a riddle for all you students of the American political system: You are an elected representative, and you would like to curry favor in your home district among right-wing conservatives. One way to do this is to pass a local law sanctioning discrimination against LGBT citizens and women who choose to use birth control, under the guise of “religious freedom.” But you’ve recently discovered that such a law can backfire pretty spectacularly. Just look at poor Mike Pence, Republican governor of Indiana, regarded as presidential material not long ago. What other tactic, besides sanctioning religion-based discrimination, could you use? Well, if you’re a member of Congress, you’ve got the people of the District of Columbia to whom you can teach a thing or two; they’re not...

Federal Contract Workers and the Fight For a Living Wage

How your tax dollars are creating millions of underpaid jobs—and how workers are fighting back. 

Tommy Wells/Flickr
Tommy Wells/Flickr Public employees at a 2013 Good Jobs Nation rally in Washington, D.C. T oday, workers in hundreds of cities across the United States will take to the streets to protest meager minimum wages that are keeping them in poverty. Fight For 15 organizers and activists are speaking out against low wages. McDonald’s, Walmart, and other mega-corporations employ a good number of those workers, but the biggest creator of low-wage jobs in the United States is none other than the federal government through federal contracting. In 2013, a coalition of labor groups started Good Jobs Nation (GJN) to fight to increase and recover wages for government contract employees. On April 9 of this year, GJN released a report, “ The Return of Federal Sweatshops? How America’s Broken Contract Wage Laws Fail Workers ,” which details how the federal government creates poverty-wage jobs and how workers on federal contract routinely don’t receive their fair amount of pay. Alongside the report, the...

Sharing the Wealth

Why can’t we broadly distribute the wealth produced from America’s common resource pool? Conservative Alaska manages to do it.

(AP Photo/The Juneau Empire, Klas Stolpe)
(AP Photo/The Juneau Empire, Klas Stolpe) Governor Sean Parnell announces the 2010 dividend check amount that all Alaskans receive through the state's popular Permanent Fund. Looking on is Department of Revenue Commissioner Pat Galvin, a trustee on the Alaska Permanent Fund Board. This book review appears in the Winter 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . With Liberty and Dividends for All: How to Save Our Middle Class When Jobs Don’t Pay Enough By Peter Barnes 174 pp. Berrett-Koehler Publishers $19.95 I n the mid-17th century, Gerrard Winstanley led a series of protests in England against “enclosure,” the practice of landlords privatizing public lands. Nonviolent, with a utopian communist agenda, Winstanley’s followers, the Diggers, published pamphlets and, more quixotically, sang their hopes and fears. A stanza from one of their songs: “Your houses they pull down, stand up now, stand up now Your houses they pull down, stand up now. Your houses they pull...

Why Markets Can't Price the Priceless

It takes government planning to promote the rational conservation and use of water.

(AP Photo/Wichita Falls Times Record News, Torin Halsey)
(AP Photo/Wichita Falls Times Record News, Torin Halsey) A public works wastewater reuse project accounts for approximately half of the water used daily by Wichita Falls, Texas. This article appears as part of a special report, "What the Free Market Can't Do," in the Winter 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . W ater sources for many Southwestern cities such as Las Vegas and Phoenix are drying up. Meanwhile, most Eastern cities have ample supplies but decaying infrastructure that can’t handle the more frequent and severe flooding brought on by climate change. The Cato Institute and Reason Foundation are part of a libertarian movement arguing that market pricing of water could solve both problems. But water, as a public good, can’t just be left to private markets, or we will have billionaires watering lush lawns while other citizens have dry taps. Privatizers are also notorious for underinvesting in the infrastructure needed both to supply fresh water and to...

A Talent for Storytelling

Rick Perlstein tells how Reagan imagined his way into the American psyche.

(AP Photo)
This book review is from the Fall 2014 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here. Simon & Schuster The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan By Rick Perlstein 880 pp. Simon & Schuster $37.50 I n 1959, as the Cold War heated up and the economy cooled down, President Dwight Eisenhower received a letter from World War II veteran Robert J. Biggs. Tired of hearing the president explain the complexities of the modern world, Biggs begged Eisenhower to lead the nation with firm assertions rather than “hedging” and “uncertainty.” The former general responded that such guidance by authority was imperative in a military operation but fatal in a democracy. Self-government demanded that men reject easy answers and instead carefully weigh the often contradictory facts about great issues facing the nation. Just as Eisenhower did, Rick Perlstein’s new book, The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan , illuminates the deadly attraction of...

Did Koch Brothers Just Doom America to a Future of Crumbling Roads and Tunnels?

First, their minions called for Chris Christie to cancel a much-needed rail project, and he did. Now they've set their sights on Congress to do much the same.

A.M. Stan
It was never going to be easy for the Republican-controlled Congress to pass an increase to the federal gas tax—a tax that finances the Highway Trust Fund and pays for roads and bridges around the country. Last raised in 1993 to 18.4 cents per gallon, the tax has since lost much of its value , especially with the rise of fuel-efficient cars. With the Highway Trust Fund running huge annual deficits, plans for many infrastructure projects and repairs have been left hanging out to dry. But there were signs that raising the federal gas tax was possible, as when Republican Senators John Thune of South Dakota and chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said in early January that a gas tax increase couldn’t be ruled out , and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, later agreed with him. Well, forget it. Because last week more than 50 conservative groups, a number of them funded through the Koch brothers’ network, sent a...

'Housing First' Policy for Addressing Homelessness Hamstrung By Funding Issues

The new approach may spring from good intentions, but is undermined by a lack of affordable housing stock.

(AP Photo/The El Paso Times, Mark Lambie)
(AP Photo/The El Paso Times, Mark Lambie) Andre Stokes, who is homeless, tries to stay warm in a shelter he built in downtown El Paso Tuesday, January 13, 2015. Temperatures were in the 30s, which is unusual for the El Paso area. I n an era of shrinking financial resources, policymakers, providers, and activists who work on homelessness prevention and care in the United States have been forced to develop new strategies. There was a time when officials at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) saw it as their responsibility to provide both housing and supportive services for homeless individuals, but now HUD now is refocusing its budget predominately on rent and housing—with the hope that other local, state, and federal agencies will play a greater role in providing supportive care. However, whether other organizations will actually be able to pick up those costs and responsibilities remains unclear. The first major federal legislative response to homelessness was the...

How Bernie Sanders, In New Role, Could Make Wall Streeters Very, Very Unhappy

The iconoclast from Vermont plans to use his place as opposition leader on the Senate Budget Committee in a whole new way.

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)
(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images) Senate Budget Committee ranking member Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, holds a news conference on the budget on Friday, January 16, 2015. B ig banks now have to contend with an old enemy in a new position of power. Bernie Sanders, the United States senator from Vermont, plans on using his new position as ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee to take on too-big-to-fail financial institutions by advocating for their dissolution. Though a registered independent, Sanders caucuses with the Democrats, allowing him to assume the ranking member role representing the minority party. While normally the domain of the Senate Banking Committee, the oversight of Wall Street, Sanders and his staff believe, is a critical budgetary issue. Democrats need to directly challenge Wall Street’s power, they assert, by boldly reframing the argument against the consolidation of financial institutions in terms of its cost to...

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