Author Archives: John A. Lippitt

HOW OUR ELECTIONS ARE RIGGED

Donald Trump has been claiming that our elections are rigged. He’s right. They are rigged – but not in the manner he suggests. Our elections are rigged to benefit wealthy interests and Republicans in three ways: Campaign finance laws allow unlimited and even secret spending by wealthy interests, States have made voting more difficult for […]

UNLIMITED, UNACCOUNTABLE CAMPAIGN SPENDING EXPLODES

Traditionally, campaign spending has been done by a committee set up and overseen by a candidate running for election. A candidate’s campaign committee is governed by state or federal laws depending on the office for which the candidate is running. These committees are required to publicly report donors and the size of contributions is limited. […]

CAMPAIGN SPENDING GROWING BIGGER AND DARKER

Campaign spending on the 2016 presidential and Congressional elections will exceed $7 billion, beating the previous record from 2014 by about $1 billion. This will continue the trend of ever increasing campaign spending. Unfortunately, the three forums (or “debates”) for the presidential candidates included no meaningful discussion of campaign financing, despite strong and broad-based concern […]

DRUG PRICE GOUGING CONTINUES

Valeant Pharmaceuticals is price gouging again. Having acquired the rights to the drug used to treat severe lead poisoning in 2013, it has increased the price from $950 to $27,000. There is no reason other than greed for this huge price increase on a decades-old drug. The cost is limiting availability of the drug to […]

PROBLEMS WITH PRIVATIZED PRISONS

The problems with privatized prisons have come to public attention largely due to the investigative journalism of The Nation and Mother Jones. Their reporting underscores the importance and challenges of investigative journalism. It has become relatively routine for targets of investigative journalism to sue (or at least threaten to sue) the journalists and their publishers. […]

PRISON PRIVATIZATION: A FAILED EXPERIMENT

The risks of privatizing government services have been highlighted by the recent bad experience with private prisons. The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) in the federal Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced that it will end its 20 years of using privately-run, for-profit prisons due to significant, clear cut problems. A DOJ Inspector General’s report in […]

SOLVING THE PROBLEMS OF OUR PRIVATIZED HEALTH CARE SYSTEM

Clearly, the private market is not working well for health insurance or health care in the U.S. Costs are rapidly escalating in a system that is already the most expensive in the world, but that has mediocre to poor outcomes. Many private health insurance, pharmaceutical, and health care corporations are putting profits before patients. Increasing […]

HEALTH INSURANCE: A BIG PROBLEM IN OUR PRIVATIZED HEALTH CARE SYSTEM

The goals of health insurance are to provide affordable access to health care and to protect people from the catastrophic costs of serious health problems. The health insurance system in the US is failing to meet these goals for many Americans. The most recent and newsworthy issues with private health insurance are occurring in the […]

DRUG PRICES: A BIG PROBLEM IN OUR PRIVATIZED HEALTH CARE SYSTEM

A series of recent events have highlighted the problems with our privatized, for-profit health care system. First, there have been numerous cases of drug prices that have increased dramatically. I’ll discuss this topic in this post. Second, health insurance corporations have been merging (and continue to try to) to create a few, enormous corporations that […]

COUNTERACTING THE LOW-WAGE BUSINESS MODEL OF PARASITIC CORPORATIONS

The low-wage business model of Walmart and McDonald’s, for example, is a choice, both of corporations and of our policy makers. In the restaurant industry, there are restaurants in Seattle and San Francisco that are paying their servers $13 per hour and are doing fine. Costco successfully competes with Walmart and In-N-Out-Burger with McDonald’s even […]

LOW-WAGE BUSINESS MODEL CREATES PARASITE ECONOMY

The term the parasite economy is being applied to employers whose business model is built on low-wage jobs. These corporations take more out of their employees and society than they put in, hence they are parasites. The low incomes of their workers mean that the workers can only survive with the support of the publicly-funded […]

THE BENEFITS OF RAISING THE MINIMUM WAGE

Our mainstream media rarely present the numerous benefits of increasing the minimum wage. The benefits more than offset any negative effects and include: Increased incomes for workers at and just above the minimum wage, Benefits for children in families where income increases, Health benefits for workers whose income increases, Reduced need for publicly-funded safety net […]

THE TRUTH ABOUT RAISING THE MINIMUM WAGE

 Whenever a proposal to raise the minimum wage is put forth, especially one for a significant increase such as to $15 per hour (the current federal minimum wage is $7.25), the business community and its allies among elected officials immediately warn that there would be dramatic negative effects on the number of jobs and the […]

LACK OF GOVERNMENT SPENDING LEADS TO WEAK RECOVERY

The current economic recovery from the Great Recession of 2008 has been the weakest recovery since World War II. The average annual growth of our economy since the recession officially ended in June 2009 has been only 2.1%. [1] The other ten recoveries since 1949 have had annual growth rates of 2.8% to 7.6%, with […]

A LARGE CORPORATION BLACKMAILS OUR GOVERNMENT

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is blocking two mergers, each of which would combine two of the five largest health insurance corporations in America. Aetna and Humana have plans to merge as do Anthem and Cigna. As a result, the big five health insurers would become three, reducing competition and choice for consumers, and, […]

BLUNTING THE IMPACT OF BIG AND SECRET MONEY IN OUR ELECTIONS

Big money and secret money in our election campaigns undermines democracy. They can prevent voters from knowing who, with what interests, is trying to influence their votes. They can also unduly influence the decisions of our elected officials and lead to outright corruption. (See my previous posts here and here for more detail.) There are […]

SECRET MONEY IN STATE AND LOCAL ELECTIONS FACILITATES CORRUPTION

The growth of secret money in state and local elections means that voters know less and less about who is working to influence their votes and the outcomes of their elections. Secret money is money spent by organizations that do not have to report their funding sources. Therefore, it is referred to as “dark” money. […]

BIG MONEY, BIG IMPACT IN STATE AND LOCAL ELECTIONS

Big money may have a bigger effect on state and local elections than federal ones. Most of my past posts on campaign finance have focused on spending on races for federal offices (here, here, here, and here). However, state and local races are less expensive and get less media attention, so some big money can […]

CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM FOR WHOM??

Efforts to reform our criminal justice system were hijacked in Congress at the last minute by an effort to weaken the ability to prosecute corporate and white collar crime. Our criminal justice system is in need of reform. Incarceration in the U.S. has grown dramatically while the crime rate has fallen. There are over 2.2 […]

MONOPOLY POWER AND HOW TO STOP IT

Monopolistic corporate power is a big problem in the US. Ever since the Reagan presidency in the 1980s, our government has effectively given up on enforcement of anti-trust (i.e., anti-monopoly) laws. Our anti-trust regulators have ignored evidence that the monopolistic power of huge corporations results in higher prices, lower wages, job losses, declining entrepreneurship, and […]

MORE EFFECTS OF MONOPOLY POWER AND CRONY CAPITALISM

Huge corporations with monopolistic economic power not only affect economic outcomes, but also political and policy outcomes. As my previous post described, economically, corporate power results in higher prices, lower quality service, depressed wages, fewer jobs, increased profits, higher CEO pay, and a redistribution of income upward to big corporations, their executives, and big shareholders. […]

EFFECTS OF MONOPOLY POWER

My last post described the efforts of the big food and agricultural corporations to block the labeling of food that contains genetically modified ingredients. Here are some other examples of the effects of the monopolistic power of large corporations, which is allowed and abetted by crony capitalism. (See my Crony Capitalism = Monopoly Power post […]

ACT NOW: CORPORATE POWER BLOCKING GMO FOOD LABELING

One reason large corporations succeed in influencing policies is that they are relentless. If at first they don’t succeed, they try, try again and again and again. They can do so because they have: Lots of money and other resources, such as top notch lawyers, and As much time as it takes, given they are […]

CRONY CAPITALISM = MONOPOLY POWER

The vote in Great Britain to exit from the European Union and the support that Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump received in the U.S. presidential primaries all reflect a strong belief among voters that corporations and the economic elites have rigged our economies and governments to work in their favor. Workers and average citizens struggle […]

SOLUTIONS TO THE PROBLEMS ELECTIONS CREATE FOR JUDGES

State court judges are facing unprecedented challenges to their ability to deliver fair, impartial justice due to growing campaign spending, including the rapid increase in unlimited spending by outside groups and individuals. There are two policy solutions to this problem: Appoint judges using a good, non-partisan process with reasonably long or lifetime terms (with a […]

HOW JUDICIAL ELECTIONS AFFECT CRIMINAL SENTENCING

My previous post outlined the challenges to the impartiality and integrity of state judges due to the growing spending on judicial elections. It highlighted civil cases where campaign money has the potential to influence (or appear to influence) judges’ decisions and to create conflicts of interest. In criminal cases, there is statistical evidence that the […]

IS JUSTICE FOR SALE IN STATE COURTS?

There is widespread recognition that a fair and impartial judiciary is essential to the maintenance of public trust and confidence in our court system and our democracy. In 39 states, at least some judges are elected; in aggregate, 87% of state judges nationwide run in elections. (In some states and for the federal judiciary, judges […]

ILLEGAL COORDINATION BETWEEN CANDIDATES AND “INDEPENDENT” CAMPAIGN SPENDING

As I described in my last post, one of the Supreme Court’s justifications for its decisions allowing unlimited spending by outside groups in our elections was that their spending would be independent of any candidate’s campaign. Therefore, as Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in the Citizens United decision, such expenditures “do not give rise to […]

UNLIMITED DONATIONS AND SPENDING ARE CORRUPTING OUR ELECTIONS

The unlimited donations to and spending by Super PACs and non-profit “social welfare” groups [aka 501(c)(4)s] allowed by the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United and other decisions have changed the whole pattern of funding for our presidential campaigns. These supposedly independent, “outside” entities are the dominant players in this election. Every one of the major […]

DEMOCRACY IS AWAKENING, BUT NOT IN THE CORPORATE MEDIA

One of the goals of this blog is to provide information on policy and politics that the mainstream corporate media fails to provide. One of the most blatant examples of news ignored by the corporate media is last month’s Democracy Awakening protests. The Democracy Awakening protests were undertaken to highlight the issues of money in […]

$200,000+ CHECKS ARE BEING GIVEN DIRECTLY TO CANDIDATES

In 2014, the Supreme Court, in a decision known as McCutcheon, ruled that it is unconstitutional to limit how much an individual can give in aggregate to all candidates’ campaigns and political parties during an election cycle. This ruling affects contributions that go directly to candidates, whereas the better known Citizens United decision allows unlimited […]

FIXING ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL INEQUALITY

Since President Teddy Roosevelt took on the mantle of trust buster at the turn of the 20th century, government regulation through anti-trust laws and other regulatory mechanisms has been recognized as the only way to counterbalance corporate power and individual wealth. However, since the 1980s, the corporate and financial elite of the country has increasingly […]

ECONOMIC INEQUALITY IS DUE TO SHIFTS IN POLITICAL AND MARKETPLACE POWER

The debate over the causes of and remedies for growing economic inequality in the US has been in the forefront of the presidential campaign. Economists and most politicians have traditionally argued that economic inequality was the inevitable result of technological change, workers’ education and skill levels, and globalization. However, a stronger and stronger sentiment – […]

A CONSENSUS ON TRADE TREATIES?

Most of the presidential candidates agree that past trade treaties have had negative effects on US workers and that future trade treaties need to take a different approach. This would appear to be bad news for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other trade agreements that are in various stages of negotiation and ratification. Bernie Sanders […]

TAX BREAKS: PROMOTING SAVING FOR RETIREMENT OR PERPETUATING FAMILY WEALTH?

Our income tax system provides incentives to save for retirement. Individuals can contribute up to $5,500 per year to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or $18,000 to an employer-sponsored retirement plan and not pay income tax on the amount saved. (These amounts are $1,000 and $6,000 higher, respectively, for those over 50.) This exemption from […]

ISSUES WITH THE OPERATION OF CHARTER SCHOOLS

SUMMARY: Having looked at problems in our public schools and the problems with student selection, retention, and outcomes in charter schools, let’s take a look at some issues with the operation of charter schools. Charter schools: Divert money, time, and attention from public schools; Lack financial accountability and transparency; Often have high administrative costs and […]

PROBLEMS WITH STUDENTS AND STUDENT OUTCOMES IN CHARTER SCHOOLS

SUMMARY: Having looked at problems in our public schools, let’s take a look at problems in charter schools. One problem has to do with claims of improved student outcomes that are confounded by issues with student selection and retention. Student outcomes at charter schools are no better than those of public schools when similar students […]

THE MASSACHUSETTS EFFORT TO PROVIDE EQUITABLE FUNDING FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS

My previous post described the need for additional funding for schools with high numbers of at-risk children. Current school funding is inequitable because these students require greater resources to be successful than their better-off peers, but the low income communities they tend to live in typically are not able to provide those resources. Massachusetts responded […]

EQUITABLE FUNDING FOR PUBLIC SCHOOL SUCCESS

Schools need the resources to provide the supports and services students need to succeed. However, our public schools are largely locally funded. Therefore, schools in poor communities often lack the necessary resources to meet their students’ needs. These communities typically have many parents with low incomes and low levels of education, i.e., low socio-economic status […]

IMPROVING STUDENT SUCCESS IN OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS

ABSTRACT: Students who are struggling in our public schools are ones who for a variety of reasons are experiencing barriers to learning and to succeeding in the classroom. They should be identified as early as possible, starting at birth, and effective intervention should be provided. For families who have issues that put children’s school success […]

AUSTERITY AGENDA RESULTS IN THE POISONING OF FLINT MICHIGAN

You may have heard that the tap water in Flint, Michigan, has been poisoning its residents and particularly its children. What you may not have heard was that this was caused by the austerity agenda of the Michigan Governor and legislature (the same ones that pushed Detroit into bankruptcy). Moreover, as with Detroit, the residents […]

THE YEAR-END SPENDING BILL: A BIG WIN FOR SPECIAL INTERESTS, WHILE KEEPING GOVERNMENT OPERATING

The year-end spending bill that Congress passed on December 18 was loaded with riders that had nothing to do with the budget. For example, it lifted the 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports from the US, just as the climate summit in Paris concluded that emissions from burning fossil fuels must be lowered to address […]

THE YEAR-END TAX BILL: A BIG WIN FOR CORPORATIONS AND A LITTLE WIN FOR WORKING AMERICANS

Because of the gridlock in Congress, so few bills pass that those that have to pass get laden with special interest provisions and riders like ornaments on a Christmas tree. The recent year-end spending bill (2,009 pages long) and tax legislation (233 pages long) are the latest two examples. There were literally thousands of riders […]

WHAT IS THE PROBLEM WITH OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS?

SUMMARY: Every child should receive high quality educational experiences that lead to a trajectory of progress and success throughout his or her years in school, as well as in life beyond school. Many children who are educated in public schools in the US are very successful. There are, however, two problems that face US public […]

WHO IS BEHIND THE PUSH FOR CHARTER SCHOOLS?

There are multiple, powerful forces behind the push for charter schools. Some of them like to avoid the spotlight. In no particular order, the four major forces behind the charter school movement are the following: Those who are looking to make a profit by tapping into the funding for public education, which is a good […]

THE TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP SHOULD BE REJECTED

In addition to the concerns about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) treaty raised in my two previous posts (see list below), it lacks provisions for addressing currency manipulation. This has brought criticism from many parties, including some in the corporate world. Although China (which is not a participant in the TPP) is the most notorious manipulator […]

THE TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP: CORPORATE POWER GRAB Part 2

With the full text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) treaty now available, groups espousing environmental and workers’ interests state that the actual text is even worse than what they had expected. Environmental groups note that climate change is not even mentioned in the treaty. Workers’ groups note that the TPP will continue the experience under […]

THE TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP: CORPORATE POWER GRAB

The full text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – a trade treaty and much more – was recently released. It was negotiated over 8 years in secret from the public and even Congress, although corporate executives were routinely involved. The treaty includes 12 countries: the US, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Peru, Chile, Singapore, […]

PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE SANDERS ON DEMOCRATIC SOCIALISM

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders recently gave a speech focused on defining what he means by democratic socialism and why he has identified as a socialist for his entire political career. Our mainstream corporate media can’t seem to cover him or his campaign without labeling him a socialist. The intent seems to be to identify […]

BIG CORPORATIONS BEHAVING BADLY PART 2

In my previous post, I focused on the big Wall St. corporations’ efforts to weaken financial regulations and consumer protections. In this post, I’ll share two much less visible examples of the power of big corporations to tilt the playing field in their favor: H-1B visas Consumer agreements and employee contracts First, large corporations are […]

BIG CORPORATIONS BEHAVING BADLY

FULL POST: One of the themes that runs through many of my blog posts is the prevalence of corporate power in our politics, policies, economy, and lives. The power of large, often multi-national, corporations is evident in: Financial industry regulation (See my posts Protecting our economy and democracy from Wall Street and Government by the […]

STOPPING THE SECRET MONEY IN OUR ELECTIONS

ABSTRACT: Dark money organizations – non-profit, tax exempt groups that do not have to disclose their donors – are spending tens of millions of dollars every year in our election campaigns. This means that when voters go to vote they don’t know who paid for the dark money funded ads, mailings, and other political activity […]

SECRET MONEY FOR THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES

ABSTRACT: The fastest growing and perhaps the most troublesome of the four main avenues for presidential campaign fundraising and spending are the “dark money” organizations. These are non-profit organizations that can accept unlimited amounts of money and keep their donors secret. They are social-welfare groups that are supposed to work exclusively to further the common […]

BIG MONEY FOR THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES

ABSTRACT: Tracking the tons of money already flowing into the 2016 presidential campaign is not easy. There are four main avenues for presidential campaign fundraising and spending today, when as recently as 2008 there was really only one major one – the candidate’s official campaign committee. A candidate’s official committee is limited to donations from […]

GOOD NEWS FOR US WORKERS

ABSTRACT: This Labor Day workers were able to celebrate falling unemployment, increased hiring, improved access to health insurance, and increases in the minimum wage. Expanded eligibility for overtime pay is also in the works. And the US Labor Department has proposed a new regulation that would cover home care workers under minimum wage and overtime […]

WORKING HARD, GAINING LITTLE

FULL POST: We recently celebrated the Labor Day holiday and workers in the US do have some things to celebrate, but in general the outlook is bleak. First, the bad news, and then in my next post the good news. Wages (adjusted for inflation) fell 4% between 2009 (when the recovery officially started) and 2014. […]

SUPPORTING FAMILIES IS AN INVESTMENT IN HUMAN CAPITAL Part 2

ABSTRACT: More than one out of every five American workers is working a non-standard work schedule. This increases stress for parents, hurts their ability to be good parents, and adversely affects child and adolescent outcomes. Providing predictable work schedules for parents and allowing them flexibility to meet parenting responsibilities is good for them and their […]

SUPPORTING FAMILIES IS AN INVESTMENT IN HUMAN CAPITAL Part 1

ABSTRACT: Parents with a child under 18 years of age make up over 22% of the of the US labor force. These parents represent an important part of the human capital of our economy, and their children represent the human capital of our future economy. Therefore, supporting these families with paid leave when a new […]

WHY ECONOMIC INEQUALITY IS A PROBLEM Part 3

The lack of equal opportunity and upward mobility when there are high levels of economic inequality is most dramatically clear when looking at children. Children born and raised in low income families are more likely to have: health problems at birth, worse living conditions including toxins in their environment (e.g., lead and air pollution), worse […]

WHY ECONOMIC INEQUALITY IS A PROBLEM Part 2

Economic inequality is a problem because it undermines our economy and our democracy. High levels of economic inequality make the US economy fragile, and perhaps unsustainable. Our economy is built on consumer spending, which accounts for about two-thirds of our economic activity. However, the rich don’t spend as much of their incomes as those with […]

WHY ECONOMIC INEQUALITY IS A PROBLEM Part 1

Some conservative commentators and politicians argue that economic inequality isn’t a problem. They claim that as long as there’s opportunity and social mobility, inequality in income and wealth doesn’t matter. They’re wrong, because high levels of economic inequality mean that social mobility is limited and opportunity is far from equal. [1] One of the conservatives’ […]

BIG MONEY IN ELECTIONS IS CORRUPTING OUR DEMOCRACY

ABSTRACT: The 2016 elections, for President, Congress, and in the states, will be the most expensive elections ever by far. All the national and gubernatorial candidates (with perhaps a couple of exceptions) will be dependent on wealthy donors and will repay them with access and favors. The policies of the winning candidates will, therefore, reflect […]

MEDICARE FOR ALL WOULD CONTROL COSTS AND IMPROVE OUTCOMES

The health care system in the US is broken. It costs far more per person than other countries’ health care and its outcomes are worse – from infant mortality to life expectancy. Costs are escalating, typically faster than the general inflation in the economy. And millions of Americans don’t have health insurance and millions more […]

HIGH INCARCERATION RATE IN US IS COUNTERPRODUCTIVE

ABSTRACT: The get tough on crime policies of the last 30 – 40 years have been counterproductive. They have swelled our prison population from less than 200,000 in the mid-1970s to 2,500,000 today. Our incarceration rate is the highest in the world and 5 times the world average. This is costing us a fortune – […]

A CARBON TAX IS A WIN-WIN

Air pollution has real costs for all of us, from negative health effects (such as asthma), to climate change, to more severe weather and the damage it creates. We all suffer these effects and pay their costs while the polluters pay nothing. They are allowed to dump their pollution into our air for free. The […]

A FAIR ESTATE TAX WILL REDUCE INEQUALITY

Wealth inequality in the US is even more dramatic than income inequality. The richest 1% of Americans own 42% of all the wealth in the country. And the richest 0.1% (300,000 people) have as much total combined wealth as the combined wealth of the bottom 90% (270 million people). This is the highest concentration of […]

A VOICE FOR WORKERS

Workers need to have a strong voice in the workplace and in our democracy to maintain an equitable balance of power with large, corporate employers. As the voice of labor has weakened over the last 35 years, workers’ pay has barely kept up with the cost of living and has fallen far behind workers’ growing […]

CORPORATE WELFARE IS MAKING US POOR

When we hear the term welfare, we think of public programs to help poor people. However, there are numerous public programs that provide welfare to corporations, most of whom are not poor at all. Corporate welfare occurs through so many subsidies and tax breaks that it is hard to keep track of them all. And […]

IMPORTANT ISSUES FOR THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN

ABSTRACT: There’s no shortage of important issues facing the U.S. today. As candidates announce their intention to run for president, it will be interesting to see which issues they make priorities and which issues the mainstream corporate media decide to cover. Many candidates and the mainstream media are likely to avoid the issues of the […]

EDUCATION FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

We need to reinvent our education system, much of which was designed to train students for an assembly line economy that is no longer with us. Early childhood care and education, K-12 schools, and higher education need to be improved. This is the fifth of the Ten Big Ideas to Save the Economy, presented by […]