washingtonpost.com — The growing progressive coalition that helped elect President Obama has emerged at the end of a failed and exhausted conservative era. The media now chronicle the flailings of Republican leaders slowly awakening to the weaknesses of a stale, pale and predominantly male party in today’s America. But the central challenge to this progressive coalition is not dispatching the old but rather defining what comes next. Will it be able to address the central challenge facing America at this time and reclaim the American Dream from an extreme and corrosive economic inequality?
thegrio.com — Let’s make no mistake about it: as the years pass, America is becoming a “browner” nation. With the present discourse over immigration reform, we have an extraordinary opportunity to mix our understanding and appreciation for race, culture and language with public policy. We, the people of America, have been wrestling with our self identity, and will continue to do so in the near future. With Black History Month imminently upon us, we can not only celebrate our history, heritage and culture, but we can also insert ourselves in a critical national debate on how to fix our broken immigration system. Likewise, this immigration debate provides the black community an opportunity to learn more about the stories and challenges of black immigrants who increasingly populate our states as asylees, refugees, legal immigrants, and undocumented persons.
robertreich.org — As President Obama said in his inaugural address last week, America “cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.” Yet that continues to be the direction we’re heading in. A newly-released analysis shows that the top 1 percent of earners’ real wages grew 8.2 percent from 2009 to 2011, yet the real annual wages of Americans in the bottom 90 percent have continued to decline in the recovery, eroding by 1.2 percent between 2009 and 2011. But the President is exactly right. Not even the very wealthy can continue to succeed without a broader-based prosperity. That’s because 70 percent of economic activity in America is consumer spending. If the bottom 90 percent of Americans are becoming poorer, they’re less able to spend. Without their spending, the economy can’t get out of first gear.
guardian.co.uk — The news that the UK, with negative growth in the fourth quarter of 2012, faces the prospect of a triple-dip recession, should be the final blow to the intellectual credibility of deficit hawks. You just can't get more wrong than this flat-earth bunch of economic policy-makers. They're pretty much batting zero. They failed to foresee the collapse of housing bubbles in the US and Europe and its consequent downturn. They grossly underestimated its severity after it hit. And their policy prescription of austerity has been shown to be wrong everywhere that applied it: in the US, the eurozone and, especially, the UK. By all rights, these folks should be laughed out of town. They should be retrained for a job more suited to their skill set – preferably, something that doesn't involve numbers, or people.
washingtonpost.com — If you care about deficits, you should want our economy to grow faster. If you care about lifting up the poor and reducing unemployment, you should want our economy to grow faster. And if you are a committed capitalist and hope to make more money, you should want our economy to grow faster. The moment’s highest priority should be speeding economic growth and ending the waste, human and economic, left by the Great Recession. But you would never know this because the conversation in our nation’s capital is being held hostage by a ludicrous cycle of phony fiscal deadlines driven by a misplaced belief that the only thing we have to fear is the budget deficit. Let’s call a halt to this madness. If we don’t move the economy to a better place, none of the fiscal projections will matter. The economic downturn ballooned the deficit. Growth will move the numbers in the right direction.
huffingtonpost.com — President Obama is off to a good start in his second term. "We, the people," he pledged in his second inaugural, "still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity." Amen to that. But as the economy continues its agonizingly slow recovery, his greatest challenge will be to reverse the economy's widening inequality. Ordinary working families are falling further and further behind the cost of living. The picture is especially brutal for young adults, who are likely to find themselves saddled with college debt, facing jobs that offer neither benefits nor career security. So the challenge, as President Obama famously told "Joe the Plumber" is to spread the wealth around. How do we do that? Here are four ways.
nytimes.com — President Obama’s second Inaugural Address offered a lot for progressives to like. There was the spirited defense of gay rights; there was the equally spirited defense of the role of government, and, in particular, of the safety net provided by Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. But arguably the most encouraging thing of all was what he didn’t say: He barely mentioned the budget deficit. Mr. Obama’s clearly deliberate neglect of Washington’s favorite obsession was just the latest sign that the self-styled deficit hawks — better described as deficit scolds — are losing their hold over political discourse. And that’s a very good thing. Why have the deficit scolds lost their grip? I’d suggest four interrelated reasons.
baselinescenario.com — Unsurprisingly, most Americans are split between various misconceptions of what Social Security and Medicare are. Many, particularly right-wing politicians and their media mouthpieces, see them as pure tax-and-transfer programs: they gather money from one set of people and give it to another set of people. From this point of view, they are bad bad bad bad bad and should be cut. Many others, particularly beneficiaries and people who hope to see beneficiaries, see them as earned benefits. The common conception is that you pay in while you’re working, so you earned the benefits you get in retirement. You didn’t “earn” them in the moral sense that people who work hard should get benefits; you “earned” them in the accounting sense that you’re just getting back “your” money that you set aside during your career. Both of these perspectives are wrong, the latter more obviously so.
robertreich.org — The richest 1 percent now own more than 35 percent of all of the nation’s household wealth, and 38 percent of the nation’s financial assets – including stocks and pension-fund. Think about this: The richest 400 Americans have more wealth than the bottom 150 million of us put together. The 6 Walmart heirs have more wealth than bottom 33 million American families combined. So why are we even contemplating cutting programs the middle class and poor depend on, and raising their taxes? We should tax the vast accumulations of wealth now in the hands of a relative few.
Since the moment I began researching my book “Hostile Takeover” at the end of George W. Bush’s first term, I’ve been consumed with how America’s political vernacular is subtly skewed to prefer certain legislative outcomes and preclude others. We see it in the debate over social programs, where those committed to cutting Social Security are not only portrayed as working to strengthen the program, but also billed as “moderates” despite their position on the decidedly radical, not-moderate outskirts of public opinion. We see it in how President Obama’s inaugural speech is depicted as advocating a “leftist” agenda, despite polls showing that nearly every policy he advocated is supported by a majority of all Americans — not just those on the left. And, no doubt, we see it in how the Obama administration labels its liberal critics “fringe” even though those critics who are advocating policies in the mainstream center of public opinion. more »
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