Paul Krugman Destroys All Arguments Against Obama’s Immigration Action

Source: AlterNet

Author: Janet Allon

Emphasis Mine

 Now, that Obama has taken his much-needed and way overdue executive action to shield millions of undocumented families from heart-rending deportation, the fact that it was simply the right thing to do is abundantly clear. It also gives columnist Paul Krugman an opportunity to wax lyrical about his own family’s immigrant roots, and one of his favorite tourist attractions in New York City, the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side. “When you tour the museum, you come away with a powerful sense of immigration as a human experience, which — despite plenty of bad times, despite a cultural climate in which Jews, Italians, and others were often portrayed as racially inferior — was overwhelmingly positive,” he writes in his Friday column. “I get especially choked up about the Baldizzi apartment from 1934. When I described its layout to my parents, both declared, “I grew up in that apartment!” And today’s immigrants are the same, in aspiration and behavior, as my grandparents were — people seeking a better life, and by and large finding it.”

President Obama’s new immigration initiative, Krugman says, is “a simple matter of human decency.”

Krugman goes on to parse the issue, and to point out that supporting the humane treatment of children born in this country to undocumented immigrant parents is not the same as supporting completely open borders. Under F.D.R., he points out, “Once immigration restrictions were in place, and immigrants already here gained citizenship, this disenfranchised class at the bottom shrank rapidly, helping to create the political conditions for a stronger social safety net. And, yes, low-skill immigration probably has some depressing effect on wages, although the available evidence suggests that the effect is quite small.”

Yes, it is normal to be conflicted about immigration issues, Krugman allows. What is not normal is the desire to punish innocent children, who are already here, for their parents’ decision to bend the rules to give them a better life. Predictably, as we all know, there are far too many right-wing zealots and haters in politics and the media who are quite happy to exact this punishment. Krugman:

Who are we talking about? First, there are more than a million young people in this country who came — yes, illegally — as children and have lived here ever since. Second, there are large numbers of children who were born here — which makes them U.S. citizens, with all the same rights you and I have — but whose parents came illegally, and are legally subject to being deported.

What should we do about these people and their families? There are some forces in our political life who want us to bring out the iron fist — to seek out and deport young residents who weren’t born here but have never known another home, to seek out and deport the undocumented parents of American children and force those children either to go into exile or to fend for themselves.

Krugman gets downright sentimental about the issue, stating his belief that Americans are simply not “that cruel.” And anyway a crackdown on these families would cost money, which Republicans don’t want to spend.  (One hopes.) The real question is how they should be treated, he asks. his answer is not only humane but economical.

Today’s immigrant children are tomorrow’s workers, taxpayers and neighbors. Condemning them to life in the shadows means that they will have less stable home lives than they should, be denied the opportunity to acquire skills and education, contribute less to the economy, and play a less positive role in society. Failure to act is just self-destructive.

But more importantly, it’s the humane thing to do.

See: http://www.alternet.org/economy/paul-krugman-destroys-all-arguments-against-obamas-immigration-action?akid=12495.123424.dfemsb&rd=1&src=newsletter1027471&t=9&paging=off&current_page=1#bookmark

Top 5 Ways Obama Punked the GOP on Immigration; and the 2016 Campaign

Source: Reader Supported News

Author: Juan Cole

Emphasis Mine

The 2016 presidential election will be very different from the 2014 congressional midterms just held. In the off years, turnout is low (this time it was less than 36 percent) and the people who come out to vote are disproportionately older, well off, and of northern European heritage. That is why the Republicans did so well; it was mainly Republicans voting. Only 21% of youth turned out to vote. It was in essence a series of local elections in which core Democratic constituencies couldn’t be bothered to come out (or in some instances faced trouble voting because of GOP voter suppression). In India, the poor vote; in the US, they don’t, in part because of GOP voter suppression and in part because they’ve been given the impression they have nothing at stake.

The 2016 election will be a national election, and the electorate will be very different. A majority of the eligible voters will vote.  the minorities are key. African-Americans are nearly a quarter of the Democratic Party. In a national election, The Latino vote for Republicans will likely fall from 36% to only 30% in 2016, while the percentage of Latinos who vote Democratic will likely rise from 62% to 68% overall (what it was in 2012). Obama got a whopping 71% of the Latino vote versus 27% for Romney.

Obama’s freeze on deportations for certain classes of undocumented immigrants (those who have been here all their lives, having been brought as children, and parents of US citizens born in the US who have lived here as law-abiding residents for at least 5 years) throws a pigeon among the cats in several important ways.

1. Obama’s steps certainly matter to Latinos, some 2/3s of whom say that new immigration legislation is important or very important to them. There isn’t any doubt that the Democratic Party just picked up a lot of support in this demographic.

2. As Jonathan Chait and others have argued, Obama is enticing Republicans representing angry white men to denounce angrily and loudly his deportation freeze. The more they cavil against the executive order, they more they signal that their party is unsympathetic to Latinos.

3. Indeed, some Republicans have already been so crazed by the president’s action, which echoes that of Ronald Reagan, that they have gone beyond mere caviling and spoken of the possibility of violence against immigrants. Retiring Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn did this, effectively turning the GOP into the party of skinheads in the eyes of minorities.

4. Florida has a lot of immigrants, and Obama has just shored up the 2016 Democratic position in that state, where people were glued to the television Thursday night and weeping with joy. Many undocumented immigrants have citizen relatives, who can vote and who now have reason to be grateful to the Democratic Party. (Hundreds of thousands of people move to Florida every year, and it is about to overtake New York in population, so it is a very, very different state from the one that existed in 2000).

5. Latino voters have relatively low rates of turnout. In part this is because so many have come relatively recently and they have not developed a sense of civic commitment to US politics. They are working several jobs and busy establishing themselves and their communities. In some instances, they may be chary of having anything to do with the Federal government even if they are citizens and eligible voters because they have undocumented friends and/or family and don’t want to draw attention to themselves. That skittishness may decrease now in some instances, and likely to the Democrats’ advantage.

See: http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/27082-focus-top-5-ways-obama-punked-the-gop-on-immigration-and-the-2016-campaign

 

 

5 Egregious Right-Wing Moments this Week: Fox News’ Impeachment Follies

Source: AlterNet

Author: Janet Allon

Emphasis Mine

1. Fox News’ Megyn Kelly and Charles Krauthammer beat the impeachment drum . . . by likening undocumented immigrants to murderers.

Fox News loves Charles Krauthammer because they think he has the ability to sound rational, smart and calm while saying totally bonkers things. Fox thinks he gives them a veneer of respectability.

Fox also thought that of George Will, who calmly said insane things like how campus rape victims enjoy “special status.”

So, two Fox “smarties,” Megyn Kelly and Charles Krauthammer, were discussing their favorite topic this week, which is how the hell can we get rid of this black president, and when can we start the impeachment proceedings? 

This week’s “impeachable offense” that has so addled their uni-brain is the imminent prospect of Obama taking executive action to shield five million undocumented immigrants from being deported. It’s been done before, by both Reagan and Bush, but somehow, when Obama does it, it’s completely different.

“There’s no doubt that what he is doing now is a flagrant assault on the Constitutional system,” Krauthammer said, doing his best imitation of a person who actually knows something. “I’m sure Obama will be able to find a bunch of lawyers who say it is okay. This is clearly illegal. “

We’re sure he will. Those lawyers will say anything. Especially when there are plenty of precendents.

But wait, Megyn Kelly has some law background, and it was her turn to try to sound smart. “There’s no doubt that the president has prosecutorial discretion. But it’s a sliding scale. Just as a prosecutor has discretion. He might decide not to prosecute one murderer. But if he said he is not going to prosecute any of the murderers, that would be unacceptable.”

So, yeah, she’s comparing undocumented immigrants to murderers. And no, that is not a mistake.

What it is is unacceptable and disgusting. Quite apart from the whole impeachment discussion, which is merely ridiculous.

2. Ted Cruz: Net neutrality is the Obamacare of the Internet. Also, it’s like Hitler.

Texas Tea Partier Ted Cruz does not understand neutrality. What he does understand is that now that President Obama has come out strongly in favor of not selling the Internet out to the highest corporate bidder, Cruz is against it. You know what else Cruz does not like? Obamacare, or, for that matter any word starting with Obama.  So, this week, Cruz tweeted: “Net Neutrality” is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government.

Of course the tweet makes no sense, but since when did making sense become a priority of Ted Cruz? It’s all marketing anyway with those right-wingers. As Matt Iglesias at Vox explained, making sense is not the point: “What, if anything, that phrase means is difficult to say. But its political significance is easy to grasp. All true conservatives hate Obamacare, so if net neutrality is Obamacare for the internet, all true conservatives should rally against it.”

Crazy conspiracy theorist Alex Jones backed Cruz, saying net neutrality reminded him of Hitler. Because everything Obama does and says and all government regulation remind him of Hitler.

Still, not even conservatives were buying either the Hitler connection nor the Obamacare link, as numerous comments on Cruz’s facebook page attested. Sample comment from one Jinnie McManus: “Goddammit, stop making my party look like morons and look up net neutrality. It doesn’t mean what you and your speechwriters think it means.”

Well, goddammit Jinnie, your party does a goddamn good impersonation of morons.

3. Senate’s lead climate change denialist is really bummed that the Chinese seem to believe in man-made climate change.

Something terrible happened this week. President Barack Obama and the leader of China took a major step to prevent the planet’s destruction, when they agreed to both cut carbon emissions. Boo. Hiss. How rotten can world leaders get? Shouldn’t you go back to selling out to big business and waging futile wars in the Middle East right away?

Five minutes later, America’s absurd right-wingers said this was the “worst deal since the Trojans accepted a horse from the Greeks.” The Senate’s two most powerful climate denialists, Mitch McConnell and James Inhofe, vowed to fight tooth and nail against this blatant and shameless attempt to possibly save the planet. Inhofe wrote a whole book about how climate change is a grand hoax, and has been rewarded the chairmanship of the Senate’s environment committee because no way do his views in any way reflect his close ties with the oil industry. But he could only muster the criticism that the deal is a “non-binding charade.” He doesn’t trust China and he does not like the EPA.

Wait, is that all you got? Nothing about the whole hoax thing, Senator Inhofe? A hoax that the leadership of China now seems to be in on?

4. Kirk Cameron gets into the Christmas spirit by attacking “pagans,” women who won’t stay in the kitchen, and Christians who do Christmas wrong.

Holidays bring out the best in fundamentalist Christian former actor Kirk Cameron. He already trick-or-treated his followers to his bizarre notion that Halloween is a Christian celebration hijacked by pagans. Now, he is fearlessly trying to rescue Christmas, and not from all us secularist heathens, but from other Christians. Huh?

Turns out lots of Christians are doing Christmas wrong, according to the former “Growing Pains” star. Only his brand of Christians are doing it right. In Cameron’s book, sure Christmas is about Jesus’ birth, but also Santa Claus is downright “biblical” because he once “punched a heretic.” So, go Santa!

Also, in Cameron’s book, good Christian women need to pull their weight, get back in the kitchen and cook for their families. “Because Christmas is about joy, and if the joy of the Lord is your strength, remember, the joy of the mom is her children’s strength, so don’t let anything steal your joy. If you let your joy get stolen, it will sap your strength,” Cameron said, sounding very loony indeed.

5. Men’s rights activist: Women and their vaginas ruin the workplace.

Paul Elam, founder of A Voice for Men, is not a big fan of vaginas, which are another word for women, since women tend to be the ones who carry vaginas around. If men had vaginas, then vaginas would be  A-OK in Elam’s book. Elam went on “ManStream Media this week and shared his view that work should be a vagina-free zone. Because everything was fine and excellent when only men and their penises populated the workplace.

“I’m sorry, ladies,” he says in the interview, “but if we want society to advance, we need to leave men alone to do their work — to do their thing and be with each other to get things done. Because that’s how it works.”

Is it just us, or does his apology to the “ladies” seem a tad insincere?

Elam argues that ever since women showed up in the workplace, men can’t do what they have always done and what makes their work so excellent, which is harass each other!

Elam does a really excellent imitation of how women really talk, “‘Hi!’” he says in a high, falsetto voice, “‘I have a vagina and a whole new set of rules! Never mind what’s worked for thousands of years, because I’m female and I know how to make 9,000 people work together to build a bridge across two miles of river!’”

We know we always start conversations by pointing out that we have a vagina.

 

See: http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/5-egregious-right-wing-moments-week-fox-news-impeachment-follies?akid=12471.123424.dS_Nqg&rd=1&src=newsletter1027194&t=2

 

 

Resounding “No” to Personhood in Conservative North Dakota

Source: National PartnerShip

Author: Sarah Stoesz, President, Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota Action Fund

Emphasis Mine

On November 4th, voters in North Dakota made history when they made it the third state in the nation to decisively reject a “personhood” amendment and, with it, the extreme agenda of the personhood movement. The road to this victory was long, but it was also remarkable. Many North Dakotans, from all walks of life, traveled the road together and left no doubt about what a committed group of individuals can accomplish together — even in the face of great opposition. It also left no doubt as to where the people of this country, even in the most conservative states, stand on this issue.

Proponents of this measure made it clear from the beginning their intent was to end access to safe and legal abortion. Measure 1 would have also gone much farther. It would have forced in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics in North Dakota to close their doors, forced families struggling with end-of-life decisions to answer to the government and put a total ban on abortion, with no exceptions, in place. This was the anti-women’s health agenda we were up against.

The wide range of harmful consequences convinced many courageous North Dakotans — doctors, religious leaders, patients, families, judges, lawyers, domestic violence and sexual assault advocates and hospice care workers — to defeat the measure.

Dr. Stephanie Dahl, one of three reproductive endocrinologists in North Dakota, came forward because Measure 1 would have made it impossible to offer IVF at her clinic in Fargo (the only IVF center in the state). Medical students from the University of North Dakota also expressed concerns that Measure 1 could worsen the physician shortage in the state.

The measure also activated women from across the political spectrum. U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D – N.D.) issued a strong letter of opposition to the measure. In addition, GOP women in the state published a letter-to-the-editor proclaiming, “As lifelong Republicans, we fundamentally believe that individuals — not the government — are responsible for their actions and have the right to make decisions about their life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Measure 1 contradicts our principles of individual freedom and responsibility.”

Parents who have struggled with difficult decisions during pregnancy also spoke up. Becky Matthews of Bismarck recalled her family’s devastating loss of twin girls seven years ago and urged voters to reject Measure 1 because, had it been in place during her pregnancy, she and her husband would have been left with no options to consider at all. Even though her options — all of which put either herself or her twins in danger — were not options she expected or wanted, they were at least hers to consider.

Countless others came forward as well. These are the heroes who defeated this atrocious constitutional amendment. North Dakotans — and all of us — are in their debt.

This serves as a reminder to all of us — especially to legislators across the country, even in the most conservative of stateswhen you put the personhood agenda in front of voters and have a conversation with them about the consequences, they will reject it. That’s because these measures are extreme and don’t reflect the complexity of people’s lives or values. Legislators and our new U.S. Congress would do well to heed this lesson.

See: http://www.nationalpartnership.org/blog/general/resounding-no-to-personhood-in-conservative-north-dakota.html

The Plain Dealer’s John Kasich cover-up and other Election Day stories

Author: Peter Pattakos

Source: Cleveland Frowns

Emphasis Mine

The City of Cleveland hasn’t had a legitimately contested mayoral election since 2005, with incumbent Frank Jackson having run essentially unopposed in the two elections since then. Jackson will be the longest-serving Mayor in Cleveland’s 200+year history by the time his current term is up, and now folks are hearing that he’ll run for yet another four-year term in 2017. There’s less reason than ever to suggest that it’s not his if he wants it.

Case in point, this year’s Ohio gubernatorial race that incumbent Republican John Kasich is expected to win in a landslide over Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald, the current Cuyahoga County Executive. Kasich will waltz to his second term as Governor despite having won by only a two-point margin with 49% of the vote the first time around, and despite that the great majority of Ohioans are worse off than ever on his watch. According to uncontradicted research by Policy Matters Ohio: Job growth statewide is fourth worst among states since 2005, and the percentage of working Ohioans is at a 34-year low; For those who are lucky enough to be working at all, median hourly wages are down despite massive productivity gains, and 11 of the state’s 12 most common occupations “pay too little to get a family of three above 150% of the poverty line;” So, naturally, the bottom 99% of Ohioans make less than they did a generation ago while the top 1% makes 70% more. Which is to say nothing of Kasich’s decisions to sell our environment to the oil companies, our education system to venture capitalists, and our reproductive rights to his party’s lunatic fringe.

Yet there will be no real election for Governor of Ohio this time around, and Cleveland’s only “daily” newspaper would have us believe it’s because FitzGerald didn’t have a drivers license for a few years and was once spotted in a parked car with an Irish lady in Lakewood at 4 AM. Count them, 45 stories at Cleveland.com about FitzGerald’s parking/drivers license improprieties published over the last three months, and then try to find a single piece of concise and comprehensive analysis by the Plain Dealer/Northeast Ohio Media Group comparing the two candidates’ policies.

When the PD/NEOMG asked the candidates to fill out a questionnaire on policy issues, Kasich simply refused to participate. Which was only consistent with his refusal to participate in any debates with FitzGerald (“the first time since 1978 that Ohio’s major gubernatorial candidates have not debated”), and also his behavior in a joint meeting with FitzGerald and the PD/NEOMG editorial board, where Kasich “slumped in his chair, refused to acknowledge the other candidates and ignored repeated attempts by PD staff to answer even basic questions about his policies and programs.”

PD gubernatorial race coverage accurately summarized in one cartoonOf course, Kasich doesn’t answer any questions about his policies and record because he doesn’t have to. Thanks to his extraordinary willingness to rewrite policy in favor of the state’s corporate and financial elite, he had $20 million in his campaign war chest to FitzGerald’s $4.4 million at last count. Which is surely the determinative reason why the PD/NEOMG went on to endorse him despite all the above by a way of a series of conclusions unsupported by the paper’s reporting or anything else.

From there, the PD/NEOMG threatened to sue the website Plunderbund for having re-published a video — inexplicably pulled from the PD/NEOMG’s website — of Kasich refusing to answer the editorial board’s questions (edited excerpt of video available here).

And all regular people can do is keep repeating to anyone who will listen: When we let the newspapers’ advertisers buy the government, too, we lose our government and our newspapers. Giant chandeliers, green eggs and government cheese.

Here’s hoping next election day will be better.

—————

And here’s a few related good reads:

Julie Kent at the Cleveland Leader: Cuyahoga County Exec Candidate Jack Schron lies on social media about misleading Scene cover ad;

Angie Schmitt at StreetsBlog: Ohio DOT hosts transit meeting that no one can reach via transit;

And Tim Russo from the Plunderbund archives asking why LeBron tolerates hate speech broadcast by the radio home of the Cavaliers, WTAM 1100.

Sorry I didn’t come up with a Cavs season preview but MKC pretty much covered it anyway.

See: http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/

.1% of America Now Controls 22% of Wealth: The Wealth Gap Has Killed the Middle Class

Source: AlterNet

Author: Natalie Shure

Emphasis Mine

 A new working paper by London School of Economics professors Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman sheds some very unflattering light on the American wealth gap, which has reached levels unseen since the Roaring ‘20s. The wealth gap has been overtaking the income gap as a popular cultural topic since Thomas Piketty’s splashy Capital in the 21st Century, and Saez and Zucman’s work fills in some crucial blanks to flesh out Piketty’s contentions. Saez and Zucman conclude that the top .1% of America now controls 22% of the aggregate wealth – an especially troubling figure when examined in the context of America’s stubbornly conservative political landscape.

Piketty – who has worked alongside Saez in the past – sealed his rock star status this year with his argument that the megarich hold an increasing share of capital in the Western world. To combat the potentially frightening fallout, Piketty controversially recommends a worldwide progressive tax on wealth instead of income. How exactly this might work has been the topic of much squabbling, nicely boiled down by James Galbraith in Dissent:

In any case, as Piketty admits, this proposal is “utopian.” To begin with, in a world where only a few countries accurately measure high incomes, it would require an entirely new tax base, a worldwide Domesday Book recording an annual measure of everyone’s personal net worth. That is beyond the abilities of even the NSA. And if the proposal is utopian, which is a synonym for futile, then why make it?

That’s where Saez and Zucman come in. Their paper ambitiously takes up the challenge of measuring a century of American wealth, the existing data on which is notably scarce. To do this, the duo had to synthesize information from a variety of sources. They explain their methodology in a post for the Washington Center for Equitable Growth:

We try to measure wealth in another way.  We use comprehensive data on capital income—such as dividends, interest, rents, and business profits—that is reported on individual income tax returns since 1913. We then capitalize this income so that it matches the amount of wealth recorded in the Federal Reserve’s Flow of Funds, the national balance sheets that measure aggregate wealth of U.S. families. In this way we obtain annual estimates of U.S. wealth inequality stretching back a century.

They found that the level of wealth controlled by the top .1% of Americans has followed a “spectacular U-shape evolution.” That is, the hyper-elite held up to 25% of the country’s wealth on the eve of the Great Depression. These resources were then more democratically distributed for four decades – the .1% share was only 7% in 1977 – only to flip

The Return of the Roaring Twenties
Photo Credit:
Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman
Click to enlarge.

While the top .1% got richer, so too did the Bottom 90% get poorer. Saez and Zucman find that the portion of total wealth held by the bulk of America peaked in 1980 at 36%. Today, the bulk of America hangs onto a mere 23%, and the number seems poised to tumble further.

back to 1920’s numbers in the ‘80s and beyond.

The Rise and Fall of Middle Class Wealth.
Photo Credit:
Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman
Click to enlarge.

Unsurprisingly, the majority was also hit far harder by the economic crisis than their monied counterparts, for whom “the Great Recession looks only like a small bump along an upward trajectory.” The shrinking 90%, Saez and Zucman contend, is a result of rising debt, especially from mortgages and student loans.

Their work provides a persuasive counterpoint to the criticism that the soaring .1% owes itself more to the rise of cultural megastars in entertainment and tech than it does to structural trends. The .1% is surely just stocked with the likes of anomalies like Mark Zuckerburg and J.K. Rowling, dissenters allege. (According to Piketty’s own research , these unicorns account for only 30% of the top.) Zucman and Saez add weight to the viewpoint that elite wealth increasingly comes from preexisting wealth, not labor or accomplishments.

As evidence of the staggering American wealth gap mounts, the debate about it will likely shift from its allegedly dubious existence to whether or not it matters enough to be changed. The conservative side of this discussion is likely to be disingenuous – not to mention, depressingly rigged by the ever-strengthening correlation between American capital and political agency.

Take, for example, the Right’s tone-deaf response to Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century. In an analysis of the conservative critique, Brian Beutler at the New Republic noted that “Conservatives don’t like Piketty’s policy remedy, and other far-reaching proposals to reduce or curb the growth of inequality. That’s in part because they don’t agree with his normative premise that massive wealth concentration is undemocratic.” Garrett Jones at Reason went so far as to argue that “the best way to defuse the situation is to teach tolerance for inequality” – which sounds pretty darn close to, ‘just get over it, poors!’

But to deny that the American wealth gap is undemocratic is to deny decades of policies that have colluded not only to concentrate wealth at the top, but to solidify it as the primary means of political influence. Saez and Zucman point out that the reasons for the exploding wealth gap are similar to the oft-documented causes of the more-scrutinized income gap – deregulation at the top, and degraded labor and debt at the bottom. If this weren’t enough to cast serious doubt on the meritocracy invoked by the debunked American Dream, capital is now more inexplicably tied to basic survival than ever before.

When considering the wealth gap, you must also consider political developments like the landmark decision in Citizens United vs. FEC, which famously ruled that political spending by corporations cannot be legally capped. This obviously ensures a serious entanglement of money and politics. And while the Court argued that this spending will be subject to the pressure of shareholders, it would be batty to posit that their interests aren’t aligned. After all, the 1980s ushered in an era of thought that maximizing shareholder value should come at any cost – one source of the very wealth discussed by Saez, Zucman and Piketty. In other words, not only does a Reagan-inspired ideology of deregulation and taxing boost corporations and the people who invest in them, it also gives them free reign over the American political system.

As the ultra-rich have been enriched and empowered, the middle class and poor have weathered an equal and opposite reaction. As globalization and anti-union sentiments push former middle-class positions overseas, higher education has become a practical requirement for basic livelihood, but accessing it comes with a price. Saez and Zucman find that student loans are one of the main sources of debt weighing down the bottom 90%. Perhaps the most clearcut example of poverty barring citizens from civic participation are the rise of voting restrictions that disproportionately affect the poor—often backed by the same Republicans who fight against basic protections of the middle class. All things considered, it’s no surprise that a recent Princeton study deemed the United States to be an oligarchy instead of a democracy. Their reasons had all to do with the toxic combination of the American wealth gap and pro-corporate politics : “The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy,” wrote researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page, “while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.” (Indeed, monied interests seem to be getting their way regardless of the party in power – as noted by The Nation, the Obama-era rich are wealthier than ever.)

So where do we go from here to salvage democracy and avoid calamity? Saez and Zucman have a few ideas:

What should be done to avoid this dystopian future? We need policies that reduce the concentration of wealth, prevent the transformation of self-made wealth into inherited fortunes, and encourage savings among the middle class. First, current preferential tax rates on capital income compared to wage income are hard to defend in light of the rise of wealth inequality and the very high savings rate of the wealthy. Second, estate taxation is the most direct tool to prevent self-made fortunes from becoming inherited wealth—the least justifiable form of inequality in the American meritocratic ideal. Progressive estate and income taxation were the key tools that reduced the concentration of wealth after the Great Depression. The same proven tools are needed again today.

In short, as long as accrued capital continues to overshadow earned income as the determining factor of having and having not, let’s be honest about it and tax what really matters. Only then will Americans have any hope of getting by based on on what they do, rather than who they are.

Natalie Shure has written for the Atlantic, Gawker, Slate, Metro, New York Observer and the Awl.

 

 

See: http://www.alternet.org/economy/1-america-now-controls-22-wealth-wealth-gap-has-killed-middle-class?akid=12466.123424.2jkFMn&rd=1&src=newsletter1027058&t=8

Obama is having a really good week for a lame duck President

Source: New Republic

Author: Jonathon Cohn

Emphasis Mine

The failed Obamacare presidency continued not to fail this week. Twice.

The first time it happened was on Tuesday morning, when Craig Spencer left Bellevue Hospital in New York. Spencer is the Doctors Without Borders volunteer who famously rode the subway and went bowling a day before developing Ebola symptoms. The president and his advisers, including Centers for Disease Control Director Thomas Frieden, assured the public that everything would be fine. Spencer had not been symptomatic while traveling around the city and only symptomatic people can transmit the disease (and, even then, only through bodily fluids).

Obama’s critics said that the Administration was under-reactingthat it needed to ban travel to West Africa or at least quarantine returning health workers. Obama, worried that such actions would deter health care workers from going overseas, resisted the pressure. Twenty-one days later, Spencer has recovered from Ebola, nobody else in New York has gotten the disease, and workers remain free to help fight the epidemic in Africawhere it remains a potent threat not only to locals, but also to regional and eventually global stability. New cases might yet show up in the U.S., but the public health infrastructure seems prepared to handle it. You can read more about it here.

Obama’s other non-failure came late on Tuesday night, when, while traveling in Asia, he announced that he’d secured a major agreement on climate change with the Chinese. The U.S. is the world’s second largest producer of greenhouse gases. China is the first. But Chinese officials have sometimes resisted calls for reducing carbon emissions, because they said China was still a developing nation that needed to burn carbon fuels in order to modernize its economy. Here in the U.S., conservatives cited that resistance as reason the U.S. should not act to reduce its emissions. Why bother, the argument went, when the Chinese wouldn’t agree to do something about their carbon problem?

Now the Chinese have done just that. Under the terms of the agreement, both the U.S. and China agreed to greenhouse gas targetswhich for the U.S. means continued reduction of emissions and for China means slowing the growth in emissions until they stop rising in 2030 (or maybe sooner, if China can achieve that). Those are ambitious targets that will challenge both countries, albeit for different reasons. But it’s a legitimately big deal, for reasons Rebecca Leber laid out at QED on Wednesday. Among other things, she writes, it gives other countries more incentive to set their own emissions targetsa necessary precursor for reaching an international agreement on climate at next year’s summit in Paris. 

The two milestones are a pretty good proxy for the two kinds of achievements this Administration has made. As my colleague Danny Vinik has observed, Obama catches a lot of grief for his lack of crisis management. There are times he’s deserved that. But his patient, analytic approach to situations like the influx of young Central American immigrants at the Texas border seems largely to have worked. Obama sometimes stumbles at first, which may be why critics are quick to call every new episode his Katrina. But remember this: Obama actually had a Katrina, it was called Sandy, and by all accounts the Administration handled that disaster well.

The agreement with China, meanwhile, is part of Obama’s broader strategy to reduce U.S. emissions. It’s a legacy that will last long after he leaves office, in the form of a planet that is heating more slowly. Policy success isn’t the same as political success, of course. Last week’s election showed that. And ultimately the two are related. On climate, like most issues, either Congress or Obama’s White House successors could halt or even reverse progress in the future.

But the China agreement is something history will probably remember well, just as it does the Recovery Act and the Affordable Care Acteven if those two achievements, like Obama’s environmental accomplishments, get remarkably little love right now.

Jonathan Cohn

 

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