Economy

Why Conservatives Learned Nothing From Sam Brownback's Failure

Flickr/J. Stephen Conn
Kansas governor Sam Brownback had a plan when he got elected in 2010, and it was a plan that could only be enacted in a place like Kansas: Pass huge tax cuts, then watch the state transform into a kind of economic heaven on earth. Brownback surely could never have doubted it would work, since he and those in his party have been saying for decades that tax cuts deliver economic growth, rising tax revenues, general happiness, and shinier, more manageable hair. You've probably heard the story: growth in Kansas did not, in fact, explode, but what did happen is that revenues plummeted, leading to severe cutbacks in education and other state services. Brownback nevertheless managed to get re-elected, because it was a non-presidential year and because it's Kansas. So now he's had a chance to reflect, and here's how he's looking at things , according to a Topeka newspaper: As Gov. Sam Brownback's first term comes to a close, the Republican governor has one regret — no, scratch that — one...

Intrigue: Doth Chuck Schumer Protest Too Much When Called 'Enabler' of Bad Budget Deal?

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) Sen. Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, talks on a phone as he walks from the Senate subway on Capitol in Washington, Friday, December 12, 2014. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . L ast week, I wrote a piece lamenting the fact that so many Democrats had voted for a budget package that gutted a key provision of the Dodd-Frank Act. The so called swaps push-out provision, now repealed, required banks to separate their speculative business in derivatives from depository banking covered by government insurance and further protected by the Federal Reserve. The broader budget deal, technically a continuing resolution to keep the government funded through next September, also cut a lot of needed public spending and added several odious riders, including one that raises the ceiling on individual campaign contributions to party committees about tenfold. Had Democrats resolutely opposed the deal, I argued, it would have revealed Republicans...

The 10 Most Important Econ Charts of 2014 Show Ongoing Looting By the Top 1 Percent

CEO pay soars and productivity far outpaces any wage gains for regular people. Then there's the inequality tax, which is epic.

Economic Policy Institute
This article was originally published by the Economic Policy Institute at their website, epi.org , under the title "The Top 10 Charts of 2014." T his last year saw the pace of job growth pick up, a welcome development. Yet the economy remains far from healthy. In 2014 the twin issues of income inequality and stagnant wage growth for the vast majority of Americans took center stage. Better late than never. The top charts of 2014 created and compiled by the staff of the Economic Policy Institute show why addressing inequality and spurring wage growth is so necessary–and so doable. Policy choices led to these trends, and different policy choices can reverse them. The first policy choice should be based on the “do no harm” principle: the Federal Reserve should not try to slow recovery in the name of fighting inflationary pressures until wage growth is much, much stronger. After this, policymakers should support those labor standards that can restore some bargaining power to low- and...

Obama Compared to Prior Presidents On Job Creation, In Graphs

B arack Obama has some reason to crow about the direction the economy has been moving lately. As he said in his press conference on Friday, "as a country, we have every right to be proud of what we've accomplished: more jobs, more people insured, a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, booming energy." And it's true that there are some kinds of economic data that look excellent, particularly job creation, which is what I want to focus on for the moment. We've had 50 straight months of positive job growth, since September 2010, which is pretty remarkable. Once we get the December numbers there will probably wind up being around 3 million jobs created in 2014, which would make it the best year since 1999. So how does Obama stack up against his predecessors in this department? As always, it depends how you look at it. But let's start with just the job numbers . Here's a graph showing every president since Eisenhower: A few things jump out from this graph. While we don't...

How Much Did Black-White Wealth Gap Widen During the Great Recession?

A lot, says a new study from the Pew Research Center.

© Steve Debenport/iStock.
This article originally appeared at BillMoyers.com . T he average African-American household takes home around 40 percent less income than a similar white family. The gap between non-Hispanic whites and Hispanics (who can belong to any race) is just over 30 percent ( Excel file ). But racial income inequality pales in comparison to the racial gap in net worth —in household wealth accumulated through one’s lifetime and passed from generation to generation—especially between whites and blacks. It’s the living legacy of hundreds of years of structural racism. And, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center , that wealth gap has grown significantly since Wall Street crashed the economy… The study’s authors note that while accumulated wealth dropped across the board during the crash, there has been “a stark divide in the experiences of white, black and Hispanic households during the economic recovery.” From 2010 to 2013, the median wealth of non-Hispanic white households increased...

The Great Budget Sellout of 2014: Do We Even Have a Second Party?

The Democrats not only lost this vote on issues they allegedly care about; they lost their role as a credible opposition.

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) For in the great budget sellout of December 2014, fully 57 House Democrats voted with the Republicans to narrowly pass this deal. Key Senate Democrats close to Wall Street, such as Chuck Schumer of New York, shown here, were its enablers. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . I n principle, Saturday's vote to keep the government open should be the perfect curtain-raiser for the political debates between now and the 2016 election. As their price for averting a government shutdown, Republicans demanded and got a gutting of one of the most important provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act, preventing banks from speculating with government insured money. Agencies hated by Republicans such as the Environmental Protection Agency took big cuts, and a rider was inserted permitting "mountaintop removal" coal mining once again. Another extraneous provision demanded by conservatives permits massive increase in individual campaign contributions. The IRS...

Carnage at The New Republic and Prospects for the Liberal Press

The New Republic
A .J. Liebling, the early New Yorker ’s celebrated press critic (he invented the genre) once wrote : The pattern of a newspaperman's life is like the plot of 'Black Beauty.' Sometimes he finds a kind master who gives him a dry stall and an occasional bran mash in the form of a Christmas bonus, sometimes he falls into the hands of a mean owner who drives him in spite of spavins and expects him to live on potato peelings. You might say the same thing of magazine publishers. Political magazines are something close to public trusts—key elements of a robust democracy--but most are privately owned. Like newspapers, they are at the mercy of the whims of owners who are sometimes astute at the publishing business, and sometimes inept; sometimes kind masters, and sometimes capriciously cruel. The New Republic , where I worked for a decade, was once America’s leading liberal magazine of essay, reporting, and criticism. In the past half-century, TNR went through a convoluted odyssey. A chain of...

'All I Want For Christmas Is Justice!' A Protester's Dispatch

This is what the new civil rights movement looks like.

(AP Photo/ Joseph Kaczmarek)
(AP Photo/ Joseph Kaczmarek) Angelica Simmons, center, holds her arms up in the air while participating in a demonstration at a tree lighting ceremony, Wednesday, December 3, 2014, in Philadelphia. The crowd, protesting the deaths of two unarmed black men at the hands of police, rallied at the train station and marched through downtown before disrupting a tree lighting ceremony at City Hall. A t the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony, the president and his family sought a moment of lightness. It was not to be had. The street in front of the White House was filled with demonstrators, who had blocked off highly-trafficked thoroughfares after the justice system once again failed to call police to account for the killing of yet another unarmed black person: Eric Garner, who died when a New York City police officer pushed Garner to the ground, wrapped his hands around the black man’s neck, and held them there while the man gasped for air. As traditional Christmas songs blared from...

Businessmen Don't Understand Politics, Part 3,486

Flickr/Sam Graf
Yesterday, Barack Obama, who as we all know is on a mission to destroy capitalism, sat down with a group of capitalists from the Business Roundtable to hear their sage advice and answer their insightful questions about the economy and the state of the nation. During the session , Fred Smith, the CEO of Federal Express, mentioned a couple of bills floating around Congress to increase the gas tax, and asked the president, "Why not, before the Congress goes home for December, just pass a bill that takes the two bipartisan bills that I just mentioned, up, and solves the problem?" Yes, why not "just pass a bill"? Strange how nobody in Washington seems to have thought of that. It took a can-do business leader to cut through all the baloney and find the solution to the problem of crumbling infrastructure. I'm sure Smith is a smart guy in his way — I can't imagine an idiot could run a huge company like FedEx. But it's obvious that he knows nothing about politics. Yet I'm sure that like most...

A Modest Proposal: The Universal Christmas Bonus

Wikimedia Commons/Square87
L ast year, Paul Ryan passed along this made up story: This reminds me of a story I heard from Eloise Anderson. She serves in the cabinet of my buddy Governor Scott Walker. She once met a young boy from a poor family. And every day at school, he would get a free lunch from a government program. But he told Eloise he didn’t want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch—one in a brown-paper bag just like the other kids’. He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown-paper bag had someone who cared for him. Insofar as the point of this story is to push against free lunches in school, it's obviously a rather craven sentiment. The opponents and critics of free school lunch are an odd bunch. They seem to think it's basically alright to send over 90 percent of children to these big welfare programs called public schools, but that feeding them while they are at these welfare schools is over the line. It's not hard to see what's going on: public school is so commonplace and nearly...

Low Oil Prices Are History's Greatest Case of Market Failure

(AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, File)
(AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, File) R emember "Peak Oil?" The world was running out of oil , we were told: Prices would soon skyrocket, and we had better find other fuels. Well, that argument didn't work out so well for environmentalists, did it? As oil reserves and those of other carbon fuels became scarce and prices rose, the law of supply and demand kicked in. The industry invested the profits from those higher prices in new technologies, and the oil barons found even more destructive ways to extract oil and gas—by exploiting the muck from tar sands, inventing hydro-fracking, and despoiling sources in developing countries. So now, oil is cheaper than it's been in years, about $66 a barrel. Regular unleaded gasoline can be had for well under $3 a gallon. One of the few things sustaining U.S. consumer purchasing power in the face of dismal wages is close to $100 billion saved in energy costs. OPEC's pricing power has been broken , and the United States is about to surpass Saudi Arabia as...

Walmart Workers Stage Black Friday Protests at Stores Throughout the Country

Workers walked off the job in 10 states, employees in Los Angeles staged a fast, and workers in D.C. orchestrated a sit-in.

(AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
(AP Photo/Brennan Linsley) Colorado Walmart employees and supporters join nationwide protests, in front of a Walmart store in Lakewood, Colorado, Friday, November 29, 2013. This article was originally published by ThinkProgress . A s Americans rushed to take advantage of jaw dropping deals this Black Friday, thousands of Walmart employees and labor union members protested at 1,000 stores across the country for higher wages and consistent full-time work. At least 11 Walmart workers and supporters were arrested for blocking traffic outside a Walmart in Chicago. The strikes, organized for the third year in a row by the labor group OUR Walmart and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, come after a week of actions in which workers walked off the job in 10 states, employees in Los Angeles staged a fast, and workers in D.C. orchestrated a sit-in. The associates wore masking tape over their mouths to protest of Walmart “silencing of employees who complain about working...

Is Obama's Treasury Nominee a Wall Street Shill?

For most of his Wall Street career, the president's nominee to lead the domestic financial has epitomized everything that reeks about financial abuses.

Flickr/Alex E. Proimos
Flickr/Alex E. Proimos I f you want to understand what makes Elizabeth Warren so special in American politics, consider her nervy leadership of the campaign to block President Barack Obama's foolish nomination of one Antonio Weiss to be the top Treasury official in charge of the domestic financial system, including enforcement of the Dodd-Frank Act. For most of his Wall Street career, Weiss has epitomized everything that reeks about financial abuses. As chief of international mergers and acquisitions for Lazard, Weiss orchestrated what are delicately known as "corporate inversions," in which a domestic corporation moves its nominal headquarters offshore, to avoid its U.S. taxes. It's hard to improve on Senator Warren's description of this play, in her Huffington Post blog of last Wednesday: Basically, a bunch of companies have decided that all the regular tax loopholes they get to exploit aren't enough, so they have begun taking advantage of an even bigger loophole that allows them to...

The Next Cool Thing: Great Writing From the Middle of America

Marking its first year in publication, Belt Magazine, with its focus on the industrial Midwest, is the nation's new literary darling.

(AP Photo/Mark Duncan, File)
(AP Photo/Mark Duncan, File) This Tuesday, September 11, 2012, file photo shows the Cleveland skyline taken from the city's Edgewater Park. W hen news outlets and websites write about the industrial Midwest, the coverage can vacillate between boosterism and “ ruin porn ,” often at the expense of telling compelling stories about the people and complexities of cities like Detroit, Cleveland, and Buffalo. Belt Magazine , an online publication based in Cleveland, just celebrated its first anniversary with the release of Dispatches from the Rust Belt , a collection of the magazine’s best content. The American Prospect spoke with Belt ’s editor-in-chief Anne Trubek about the magazine’s first year and its mission to elevate longform writing and first-person essays alongside original reporting and stories from—and for—the Rust Belt. TAP: Where did you grow up and what brought you to Cleveland? And what made you stay for nearly two decades? Anne Trubek: I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin—so not...

Whither Wheeler? FCC Mulls the Fate of Net Neutrality

Whatever choice the FCC chairman makes will need the support of the other two Democrats on the commission to make it stick. Most believe he’ll have that backing.

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh) Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, left, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013, before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. This post first appeared on BillMoyers.com. A week has passed since President Obama surprised everyone with a strong statement in support of net neutrality, declaring that the Internet should be available to everyone—reclassified under Title II of the Telecommunications Act as a common carrier — a public utility like telephone service or electricity without special privileges to companies willing to pay a premium for faster, more exclusive access. In those seven days, opposition from the telecom and cable companies and their supporters in Congress has countered the initial, intense burst of enthusiasm from the media reform community. And the big question remains: When push comes to shove, where will Federal Communications Commission Chair Tom Wheeler — an Obama loyalist but former lobbyist...

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