Economy

The First Progressive Revolution

Flickr/Mike Chaput

Exactly a century ago, on February 3, 1913, the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, authorizing a federal income tax. Congress turned it into a graduated tax, based on “capacity to pay.”

It was among the signal victories of the progressive movement—the first constitutional amendment in 40 years (the first 10 had been included in the Bill of Rights, the 11th and 12th in 1789 and 1804, and three others in consequence of the Civil War), reflecting a great political transformation in America.

Jobs on Jobs on Jobs on Jobs

Steve Benen, Maddow Blog

According to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the economy created 157,000 jobs in January, a solid number, though behind what we need to see a robust recovery. More important, as always, are the revisions. November’s job growth was revised to 247,000 (up from 161,000) and December’s was revised to 196,000 (up from 155,000). 

These are big revisions, and when analyzed as part of a trend, it’s clear that the government was been underestimating job growth for most of 2012, to the tune of 28,000 jobs a month.

The Geography of Abortion Access

Mapping the national decline in abortion providers

Flickr/womenscampaignforum

As a collective unit, Americans are pretty keen on the civics-class idea that life in the 6,106,012 square miles of God’s green earth that is the USA is more or less equitable for the 313,847,465 people who have hunkered down to live on the craggy coasts, fruited plains, and purple mountains filled with majesty. We’ve got proportional representation in Congress, a legal system that presumes innocence before guilt, and the ability to walk into any 7-Eleven to get a Slurpee and slice of pizza that will cost you $4 and a year of your life, which has to say something about the level playing field we’ve got going, right?

The Wrong Kind of Immigration Spending

AP Photo/Tuscaloosa News, Robert Sutton

The Republican party's abysmal performance among Latino voters in the 2012 election, and the ensuing realization among many in the GOP that they need to change their stance on immigration or risk more defeats, have made it a real possibility that passage of the first comprehensive immigration reform bill in over a quarter-century could happen soon. The debate will no doubt be intense, so as it begins, some facts about the recent and not-so-recent history of immigration in America will be important to keep in mind.

New Marijuana Laws: Just a Smokescreen

Flickr/Rupert Ganzer

Before Washington state voters legalized marijuana in the 2012 election, pot was easy enough to access on the black market. Five percent of state residents have used the drug in one form or another while burning through a remarkable 187,000 pounds per year, according to estimates by Washington’s Office of Financial Management. Getting high without getting arrested wasn’t much of a problem, either. Washington decriminalized medical marijuana 15 years ago, and today dozens of dispensaries are operating under protection of state law. In addition, Washington’s biggest city, Seattle, had instructed its police force to treat personal possession of marijuana as the lowest law-enforcement priority.

A More Perfect European Union

David Cameron's speech has its fair share of detractors, but it should be embraced as an impetus to take Europe's governance to the next level.

Flickr/vsaid

As President Barack Obama embarks on his second term, he and many other global leaders hoping for economic recovery paid close attention to the recent speech given by British Prime Minister David Cameron about whether he would lead the UK out of the European Union. Europe is the largest trading partner with both the United States and China, so the continent’s recession and the restructuring of its basic institutions is no academic matter. What happens there affects the rest of the world.

Equality of Flying Time

Poking holes in the arguments that appear on The Wall Street Journal’s editorial pages bears a close resemblance, I admit, to shooting fish in a barrel, but an op-ed in Thursday’s Journal makes points so idiotic I cannot restrain myself.

Remember Your Salary Doubling? Oh Wait...

Flickr/Rich Johnson

Brace yourself. In coming weeks you’ll hear there’s no serious alternative to cutting Social Security and Medicare, raising taxes on the middle class, and decimating what’s left of the federal government’s discretionary spending on everything from education and job training to highways and basic research.

“We” must make these sacrifices, it will be said, in order to deal with our mushrooming budget deficit and cumulative debt. 

Equality, Brought to You by U.S. Airways?

Flickr/Robertsharp

Poking holes in the arguments that appear on The Wall Street Journal’s editorial pages bears a close resemblance, I admit, to shooting fish in a barrel, but an op-ed in Thursday’s Journal makes points so idiotic I cannot restrain myself.

Keystone XL: A Year in Review

What has happened with the pipeline in the year since the Obama administration rejected TransCanada's original permit?

Flickr/Bold Nebraska

Flickr/M.V. Jantzen

Deficits: The End of an Obsession

AP Photo/Alan Diaz

The consensus around debt reduction is beginning to crumble. Some straws in the wind are more careful attention to the actual numbers, as well as public conversions by such key players as Larry Summers and Peter Orszag, two former top aides to President Obama, who only yesterday were key members of the deflate-your-way-to-recovery club.

Summers wrote a piece in Wednesday’s Financial Times titled “End the Damaging Obsession with the Budget Deficit,” pointing out that the more serious deficits were in jobs, wages, and infrastructure.

David Cameron's Malaise Speech

Europe is not impressed with the British P.M.'s plan to loosen the country from the E.U.'s grip.

Rex Features via AP Images

Rex Features via AP Images)

Prime Minister David Cameron giving the keynote speech on Britain's future in Europe, Bloomberg head office, London, Britain.

Workers, Not Babysitters

There's still a long way to go to ensure domestic workers have the same protections as other workers, but progress is coming. 

Flickr/brk in bklyn

Some very welcome news may break soon for the domestic workforce: the White House appears to be close to announcing a rule change to the Federal Labor Standards Act, finally including home health aides—those who bathe, nurse, toilet, and care for the elderly and disabled in their homes—in its protections. It may sound out of another century, and it is, but home health care workers had been excluded from federal overtime and minimum wage protections through a companionship exemption. It was designed to leave out only those who provided company, but had become so widely interpreted as to encompass a vital, booming workforce.

Labor, and Middle Class, Still Shrinking

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

Can we at least agree to stop using the term “Big Labor?” Whatever else may be said of the American union movement, it’s not really big any more.

Why Balance the Budget?

Google

I mentioned in the previous post that Republicans have pledged to craft a plan that balances the budget in ten years. As a political matter, it’s easy to see why they would do this—Americans like the idea of a balanced budget. As an economic issue, however, the question is less clear. Here’s Matthew Yglesias asking if there’s anything—anything at all—that we gain from having a balanced budget:

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