prospect.org — The Newtown elementary school massacre has finally sparked a discussion about what to do about the 80 gun deaths in America each day, seven of which are children. But the dialogue remains constrained, as if we know we have to talk about gun control but we’re still afraid the National Rifle Association (NRA) will scold us as anti-freedom oppressors or start shooting. Beyond the obvious—banning assault weapons and limiting the size of gun clips—there is little information or analysis about concrete reforms that could make a difference. Gun crimes are usually discussed as if the transactions and guns involved are illegal, but the truth is that most guns that end up being used in crimes are obtained legally. The problem is not illegal guns, but the essentially unregulated market in devices designed to kill. The unsurprising result is something we know all too much about—easy access for anyone who wants a gun, and for those so inclined, the capability to rather effortlessly inflict death and misery.
jaredbernsteinblog.com — As private pensions weaken, we need to strengthen public ones. The loss of private pensions—and their partial replacement by financial-market-dependent defined contribution plans—represents a shift in the locus of risk of retirement security from employers to workers. Simple economics dictates a role for government to absorb the risk as it can do so far more efficiently than individuals on their own. That means ensuring the viability of social insurance. That, in turn, is not an argument against “entitlement reform,” whatever that is. But it’s very much an argument that such reform must absorb the added risk in such a way as to protect vulnerable retirees as private pensions fade.
huffingtonpost.com — President Obama is Time magazine's "Person of the Year" -- the first Democratic president to receive two consecutive popular-vote majorities since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Yet these are clearly tough times for progressives. Everything progressives have fought for is seemingly on the chopping block nationally, and in many states and cities. Programs are being cut; public assets are being sold off; school teachers are losing their jobs; unions are being attacked; pension and health care benefits are being slashed -- even Social Security is being challenged. Progressives, in short, remain on the defensive. No one would deny that defense is important. But even as every effort must be made to hold the line, how, specifically, might it be possible to regain the political initiative? History suggests one powerful strategy -- one that begins by getting clear about the checkerboard of power, and its possibilities.
colorlines.com — Both parties start the year in the red on immigration. Republicans have for years blocked all action on immigration reform, including the passage of the DREAM Act in 2010. Democrats, for their part, also have some making up to do. So both parties say they now want to do right by immigrants, and immigration rights advocates say they’re gearing up for a ground game to push for the broadest possible legislation. What’s inside the bill will make all the difference. The Senate deliberations remain in the weeds and insiders say there’s nothing yet in writing. But there are some things that we know, at least about the parameters.
colorlines.com — By shifting the definition of who is rich, the “fiscal cliff” deal passed by the Congress this week extends many of the notions that have made the United States the most economically unfair it has been in almost 50 years. At first blush, the American Taxpayer Relief Act, as it’s officially known, makes a lot of progress on the changes required to bring racial and economic fairness to America’s tax code. For the first time in almost 20 years, tax rates on the wealthy will rise. The estate tax on inheritances over $5 million will go up. The capital gains tax, which is the cornerstone of preserving the wealth of the super rich, will edge upward. These are all all positive developments. But the trouble is not in the top line of the deal, it’s in the details.
progressive.org — In the debate over the so-called fiscal cliff, many in the media have missed something critical that both parties must understand: People of color, whose votes are increasingly crucial, believe in the positive role of government. They don’t want domestic social programs cut. According to the Census Bureau, people of color will be America’s new majority by the year 2043. African-Americans, Asians and Latinos already outnumber whites in several states and play a growing role in presidential swing states. Neither party can ignore them Neither party will win voters of color by preserving tax cuts for the wealthy while slashing Medicare and other vital programs.
prospect.org — The behavior of political elites on the subject of deficits, debts, and the economic recovery requires some combination of Buñuel and his contemporary John Maynard Keynes to do it justice. With the economy stuck at about $1.5 trillion below its potential and at least 15 million people unable to find full-time jobs, the debate is fixated on the question of how to cut the deficit instead of how to restore jobs, wages, and output. Until President Obama changes the subject to the real issue of economic recovery, he will be mired in an enervating form of retrench warfare where budget cuts are inevitable. He needs to isolate Republicans on the issue of how to produce a recovery, just as he did on taxes. Here again, public opinion is on his side if he will lead. Cutting Social Security and Medicare are no more popular than raising taxes on the middle class.
thegrio.com — Moving off of his desired numbers on taxes allowed the president to get billions of dollars in programs for the working poor and unemployed Americans that Republicans would only agree to as part of a larger compromise. The deal includes $30 billion to help Americans who have been unemployed for longer than six months, as well about $120 billion spread over five years to keep in place increased child tax credits for low-income families with children and those paying for college that were in the 2009 stimulus and scheduled to expire. While cuts may come later, there are actually almost no new spending reductions in this agreement. Obama successfully fought a Republican push to include Medicare or Social Security reductions in this deal. Most importantly, almost every Republican senator and more than a third of House Republicans voted to raise taxes.
colorlines.com — Regardless of when the president and Congress decide to end their current budget standoff, it is increasingly clear that the emerging deal will do very little to reverse the fiscal wrongs at the heart of the tax code. These wrongs have transformed America’s economy into the least equitable and most racially unfair it’s been in almost a half century. Our collective denial over the fundamental injustice at the heart of our economic system is a result of white supremacy. The words “white supremacy” are radioactive to be sure. It pains me to write them. However, as a trained economist I go where the facts lead me. Since I have written potentially inflammatory words, let me be clear about what I mean.
washingtonpost.com — If you’re reading this, the Maya were wrong. Rather, they would have been wrong if they’d actually predicted the end of the world, which scholars are pretty sure they didn’t. On the other hand, if there’s nobody around to thumb through the morning newspaper — if, indeed, there are no more scholars, newspapers, mornings or thumbs — then I guess it was a poor decision to spend Earth’s final day in my office. I’d have regrets, except I’m pretty sure that no more world means no more second-guessing. Assuming we’re all still here: What is it that humans find so compelling about impending oblivion?