Category Government

DEREGULATION AND THE ELECTION OF TRUMP

Thirty years of deregulation have produced a declining standard of living and reduced economic security for the working and middle class. This is causing them significant stress and anxiety. In particular, there is strong evidence of the toll this is taking on the members of the white working and middle class. After decades of increasing […]

TO REGULATE OR DEREGULATE? THAT IS THE QUESTION

Regulations put in place after the financial collapse of 1929 and the resultant Great Depression served the country well. The current push for deregulation began with the deregulation of the railroad and trucking industries in the late 1970s. The consensus at the time was that regulations in these industries were not serving the public interest. […]

MAKING REGULATION WORK

For society to function, regulatory agencies must protect consumers, workers, and the public from self-interested and unscrupulous individuals, employers, and businesses. In a democracy, this requires a concerted effort and leadership from elected officials to put appropriate regulations in place and to ensure that they are enforced. In a recent speech, Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA) […]

SAVING OUR REGULATORS FROM THE WAR ON REGULATION

The war on regulation is a war not only on regulations themselves, but on the regulatory agencies that work to protect consumers, workers, and the public. The federal regulatory agencies that we rely on include the: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) that protects us from deceptive financial products (e.g., loans and credit cards) and abusive […]

FIGHTING RESISTANCE TO NEEDED REGULATIONS

We need rules and regulations to protect workers, consumers, and the public. However, opposition to regulations comes from organizations and individuals that have strong self-interests at stake and often lots of resources. Typically, it’s large corporate employers and producers of goods and services that oppose regulation. They use campaign spending and lobbying to persuade public […]

REPEALING OR DELAYING REGULATIONS HARMS WORKERS AND THE PUBLIC

The Trump administration and Republicans in Congress are repealing or delaying rules and regulations that protect workers, consumers, and the public. Some of these rules and regulations protect workers from unsafe working conditions, help them save for retirement, or protect their rights and pay. Trump and the Republicans are also delaying rules that would protect […]

DAMAGE IS BEING DONE BEHIND THE TRUMP SMOKESCREEN

What you don’t know can hurt you. Behind the smokescreen of President Trump’s high profile Executive Orders and public statements, he and Congress are undermining public health and safety, as well as government revenue. By undoing or weakening existing policies, they are allowing, among other things: Underpayment of royalties on fossil fuel extraction, Use of […]

IS TRUMP A POPULIST, A FASCIST, BOTH, NEITHER?

Some in the media and many political pundits have referred to President Trump as a populist or a fascist or both. These terms are not opposites, but they aren’t comfortable bedfellows. I cringe every time I see Trump referred to as a populist because my vision of populism is the inclusive, broad-based populism of Senators […]

THE RIGHT WAY TO STOP THE OFFSHORING OF US JOBS

The US needs to stop hemorrhaging jobs to other countries. For starters, we need to do three things: Impose financial disincentives for offshoring jobs, Change the mindset among corporate executives that offshoring jobs is the right and acceptable thing to do, and Reverse the resignation among workers and the public who believe that the offshoring […]

THE WRONG WAY TO STOP THE OFFSHORING OF US JOBS

President-elect Trump received a lot of good publicity for his claim that he saved 1,100 jobs at a United Technologies / Carrier (UT/C) plant in Indiana. Although the focus of his claim and effort – to keep good, middle income jobs in the US – is laudable, the facts of this case and the implications […]

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 […]

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, […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

WHY GOVERNMENT DOESN’T GET CREDIT FOR ITS SUCCESSES

ABSTRACT: Government rarely gets credit for its successful programs and initiatives in the media or among the public. On the other hand, government failures or shortcomings get lots of attention. One reason is that denigrating government is at the heart of the political strategy of small government proponents and special interests who want large corporations […]

GOVERNMENT SUCCESSES RARELY GET ATTENTION

ABSTRACT: There are many examples of successful government programs and initiatives but they rarely get much attention in the media or among the public. On the other hand, government failures or shortcomings get lots of attention. The media, and in particular right wing talk radio and Fox, along with “conservative” and libertarian politicians, fan the […]

RECLAIMING AN ECONOMY THAT WORKS FOR EVERYONE, NOT JUST THE WEALTHY

ABSTRACT: We need to reclaim our economy so it works for everyone, not just the wealthy. With different choices and policies that reflect a different set of values, our economy can once again be one where a rising tide lifts all boats, not just the yachts of the wealthiest. The policy changes that are needed […]

THE UNDERMINING OF THE MIDDLE CLASS

ABSTRACT: Senator Elizabeth Warren gave a great speech recently in which she laid out how actions taken by corporations and related policy changes have undermined the middle and working class. She also spelled out what we need to do to change the rules of our economy so it works for everyone, not just the wealthiest. […]

SECRETS OF THE FY15 FEDERAL SPENDING BILL

ABSTRACT: Congress recently rushed to pass a 1,700 page, $1.1 trillion spending bill. Such last minute, have-to-pass pieces of legislation are ideal vehicles for enacting laws that wouldn’t withstand the scrutiny of the regular legislative process. In my 12/14/14 post, I wrote about 2 such provisions: the repeal of the ban on banks investing in […]

POLICY INNOVATION IN OUR CITIES

ABSTRACT: With our federal government gridlocked, many cities around the US are taking the lead in policy innovation. Progressive policies are bubbling up in cities from Seattle and Santa Fe to Cleveland. Minneapolis’s new mayor has championed infant health care, universal pre-kindergarten education, closing racial gaps, and new public transit lines to better connect minority […]

WHAT IT WILL TAKE TO ADDRESS THE PROBLEMS WE FACE

ABSTRACT: Our country has important problems that need to be addressed. Not only aren’t they being addressed, but serious proposals (let alone efforts) to address them are not even on the table for discussion. These problems include: Stagnating wages and a stagnating economy; Corporations doing very well but employees losing ground and unemployment stubbornly high; […]

OBAMACARE IS WORKING!!

ABSTRACT: Obamacare, or more formally the Affordable Care Act (ACA), is working: more people have health insurance. Nationwide, over 20 million people now have health insurance who didn’t before the ACA went into effect. With this and other good news about the ACA, the American public is growing more positive about it, despite continued efforts […]

INEQUALITY IS NOT INEVITABLE

ABSTRACT: “Inequality is not inevitable” is the title of a recent piece in the New York Times by Joseph Stiglitz. Our current levels of inequality – and the undermining of the middle class – are the result of policies and politics, not a fundamental feature of capitalism. One example is the recent bailout of the […]

CAUSE FAILURE, BLAME GOVERNMENT

ABSTRACT: Government agencies perform many necessary and important functions. However, inadequate funding results in ineffective agencies. But the fault doesn’t lie with the government agencies; it lies with those who make the funding decisions. A classic strategy of the small government ideologues is to cause government agencies to be ineffective by underfunding them and then […]

REASONS FOR LACK OF PROSECUTIONS AFTER 2008 COLLAPSE

ABSTRACT: In Judge Rakoff’s article entitled “The Financial Crisis: Why have no high-level executives been prosecuted?” [1] he discusses the reasons given by officials of the Department of Justice (DOJ) for the failure to criminally prosecute either individuals or corporations. Finding the publicly presented explanations for the failure to prosecute unconvincing, Rakoff then proposes some […]

TOO LITTLE PUNISHMENT FOR MISBEHAVIOR IN THE FINANCIAL SECTOR

ABSTRACT: One person who has both spoken out and acted when he felt the punishment for misbehavior in the financial sector was too lenient or lacking is federal District Court Judge Jed Rakoff.* In 2011, he refused to approve a proposed settlement with Citigroup related to the 2008 financial crisis because he thought that it […]

WEAK PENALTIES FOR FINANCIAL CORPORATIONS’ MISBEHAVIOR

ABSTRACT: If you follow the financial news, you regularly hear about financial corporations paying penalties as they reach settlements with regulators for their misbehavior. Although the amounts of some of the recent penalties have been noteworthy, keep in mind that to these large corporations they barely put a dent in their annual profits. Furthermore, in […]

THE IGNORED DEFICIT IN PUBLIC GOODS

ABSTRACT: The federal government’s budget deficit is getting more attention than it deserves. It is half of what it was in 2009 and is at what economists consider a manageable level. Meanwhile, our deficit in investments in public goods is being almost totally ignored. Public goods are things of value to society but in which […]

SHORT TAKES ON CURRENT EVENTS

ABSTRACT: CONFIRMING PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEES: The US Senate voted on 11/21 to change its rules and eliminate the use of the filibuster to block presidential nominees other than Supreme Court Justices, given that Republicans had returned to full-scale obstructionism since the deal to approve 7 nominees in July. Under the new rules, the Senate has confirmed […]

REPUBLICANS OBSTRUCTING NOMINEES AGAIN

ABSTRACT: The Republicans are back to blocking the President’s nominees for judgeships and executive branch positions by filibustering. Currently, there are roughly 90 vacancies for judgeships. In terms of Executive Branch nominees, the Chair of the Federal Reserve and the Secretary of Homeland Security are among those waiting for Senate confirmation. Senate Democrats are again […]

LACK OF GOOD JOBS IS OUR MOST URGENT PROBLEM

ABSTRACT: The most urgent problem facing the US right now is a lack of jobs, especially jobs that pay middle class wages and provide benefits. Unemployment is high and long-term. The jobs being created during our 4 year old economic recovery are disproportionately low-wage, low skill jobs. Fast food workers are emblematic of the low […]

WHY IS THE GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN?

ABSTRACT: The federal government’s shutdown for lack of a budget has nothing to do with the deficit or democracy; rather, it has everything to do with politics, ideology, and the tyranny of a minority. The extreme wing of the Republican Party, without the support in Congress to pass legislation and having lost the last election, […]

“TRADE” AGREEMENTS & CORPORATE POWER

ABSTRACT: The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “trade” treaty that is currently being negotiated (see post of 9/10) would give corporations the right to sue governments if their laws, regulations, or actions negatively affect current or expected future profits. Under existing trade agreements, over $380 million has already been paid to corporations by governments. Furthermore, there are […]

“TRADE” AGREEMENT SUPERSIZES CORPORATE POWER

ABSTRACT: The US is currently negotiating a trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The negotiations have been so secretive that most members of Congress have never seen a draft of the treaty and the public is mostly unaware of its existence. The mainstream (corporate) media have hardly mentioned the TPP, despite its target […]

UPDATES ON POSTS ON LOW PAY FOR FAST-FOOD WORKERS, PESTICIDES AND BEES, & DETROIT

PAY FOR WORKERS IN THE FAST-FOOD INDUSTRY (A follow-up to my 9/2/13 post) As the portion of the jobs in our economy that are in the retail sector grows, it is important to the well-being of individuals and families, as well as the health of the economy, that these jobs provide better pay. But could […]

LABOR DAY AND THE MIDDLE CLASS

ABSTRACT: Labor Day is a time to celebrate the contributions working people make to our country. But with unemployment still high, inequality on the uptick, and the middle class shrinking and under serious financial strain, many working families just don’t have much to celebrate. For 30 years, wages for the middle and lower income workers […]

DETROIT’S BANKRUPTCY

ABSTRACT: Detroit’s bankruptcy is the result of a long term decline with many contributing factors. Detroit’s bankruptcy proceeding will favor the big financial corporations because of federal bankruptcy laws, which give priority to paying off financial firms’ interest rate swaps before paying pensions or bond holders. If Detroit ends up cutting workers’ pensions and defaulting […]

THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT PART II

ABSTRACT: Other than the individual mandate (see 8/19 post), the biggest focus of resistance to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been the expansion of Medicaid, the health insurance program for low income individuals. If all states implement the Medicaid expansion called for by the ACA, over 21 million individuals, including 4.5 million children, who […]

THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT PART I

ABSTRACT: As implementation of another key piece of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (also known as Obama Care) approaches, the information and disinformation in the media and from the opposition builds. On January 1, 2014, the “exchanges” – where individuals can purchase health insurance if they don’t have it – will begin operation. On October […]

LARGE FINANCIAL CORPORATIONS CONTINUE ILLEGAL ACTIVITY

ABSTRACT: The large US financial corporations, whose illegal and unethical activities caused the 2008 financial crash and recession, continue to engage in a wide variety of illegal activity. Clearly, the fines and penalties they’ve paid to-date, although hundreds of millions of dollars, haven’t been sufficient to deter them. Or they are so large and so […]

BANNING BEE KILLING PESTICIDES

ABSTRACT: Pesticides and other toxic chemicals are ubiquitous in our environment and even in our blood. Regulation of them is weak. One of the unintended consequences of widespread pesticide use is the harming or killing of animals, other than those targeted. Last month, 50,000 bumblebees died after a spraying of the pesticide dinotefuran. The class […]

FINANCIAL SYSTEM REFORM

ABSTRACT: The need for financial system reform was made clear by the 2008 crash. One of the goals of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law was to end speculative trading by large financial corporations that are also banks because it has the potential to jeopardize consumer deposits. However, speculative trading has continued. Therefore, a tri-partisan group […]

OVERSIGHT OF FINANCIAL CORPORATIONS – PETITIONS YOU CAN SIGN

INTRO: The need for strong oversight of our large financial corporations was made starkly clear by their collapse in 2008. Nonetheless, necessary changes have not happened. The six huge financial corporations are bigger than ever, despite concern that they were too big to fail back in 2008. News of illegal activity in the financial sector […]

VOTING RIGHTS AT RISK

ABSTRACT: Judicial activism by the conservative majority of the Supreme Court was on display on June 25 when by a 5 to 4 vote the Voting Rights Act (VRA) was ruled outdated and unnecessary despite: 1) Previous Supreme Court rulings upholding the law including as recently as 2009; 2) Use of the Voting Rights Act […]

OBSTRUCTIONISM AND EXTREMISM BLOCK PROGRESS IN THE US HOUSE

ABSTRACT: While the use of the filibuster in the US Senate gets more attention, the obstructionism and extremism in the US House is more insidious. And it is no less harmful. One of the tactics in the House is the so-called “Hastert rule.” It stipulates that no piece of legislation will be voted on unless […]

A RESPITE FROM OBSTRUCTIONISM

ABSTRACT: The US Senate reached a bipartisan agreement that ended the obstruction of confirmation for seven of the President’s nominees for executive branch positions. Votes will be held before the August recess on these seven nominees. To obtain this concession, Senate Democrats threatened to change the filibuster rule to prevent its use on executive branch […]

BLOCKING JUDICIAL NOMINATIONS

ABSTRACT: Senate Republicans have delayed and filibustered President Obama’s nominees to fill vacant judgeships nationwide, resulting in 87 vacancies for federal judges, 10% of the total judgeships. Even when President Obama goes out of his way to nominate what would seem to be uncontroversial choices with bipartisan support, Senate Republicans have blocked and delayed confirmation. […]

BLOCKING EXECUTIVE BRANCH APPOINTMENTS

ABSTRACT: The willingness of some Republicans to impede the effective functioning of the federal government has extended to consistent efforts to block or delay the President’s nominees to fill positions in the Executive Branch. Senate Republicans have filibustered, threatened to filibuster, or have otherwise delayed a number of Obama’s selections for cabinet posts, including the […]

IDEOLOGY, OBSTRUCTIONISM, AND MAKING GOVERNMENT WORK

ABSTRACT: Democrats believe in making government work. Republicans, at least many current ones, don’t exhibit a commitment to making government work. They block legislation and an unprecedented number and breadth of Presidential appointments, including judges and cabinet secretaries. Rigid ideology and extreme partisanship are drivers of the gridlock: many Republicans seem willing to use any […]

OUR TOXIC ENVIRONMENT AND WHAT YOU CAN DO

ABSTRACT: On a societal level, a disproportionate burden of toxic pollution is borne by Americans of color. At the specific level, every day skin care products contain toxic chemicals. Many contain formaldehyde (a known carcinogen), phthalates (linked to hormonal disruption and birth defects), and/or parabens (which mimic the hormone estrogen and have been linked to […]

CHILDREN AND TOXINS

ABSTRACT: Children are continuously exposed to many toxic chemicals. None of the over 75,000 synthetic chemicals in use in the US are regulated based on their potential to affect children. Chemicals in a mother’s blood can cause a preterm birth or even a miscarriage, and do get into her fetus’s blood. After birth, breast milk […]

BLOCKING REGULATION OF TOXINS

ABSTRACT: Corporations with a financial interest in the use and sale of toxic chemicals are engaged in a major, multi-faceted effort to prevent, weaken, and delay regulation. They work to prevent clear, unbiased, scientific information from being available to our policy makers and the public. They engage in efforts to affect the regulatory process – […]

THE REAL SCANDAL BEHIND THE IRS “SCANDAL”

ABSTRACT: Overwhelmed IRS employees, trying to sort through hundreds of applications for tax exempt status to identify ones that should be rejected because they were political rather than true social welfare organizations, used search terms that may have been tilted toward identifying conservative groups, although there were terms used that are neutral or tilted toward […]

HOW AND WHY TOXINS ARE IN YOUR BLOOD

ABSTRACT: The dozens of toxic chemicals we all have in our blood are there because they are in the clothes we wear; the toys, furniture, fabrics, paint, and construction materials in our homes; the cleaning and personal care products we use; and the containers for our food and beverages. They are in all these places […]

REDUCING GUN VIOLENCE

ABSTRACT: There’s good news and bad news after the recent obstruction by filibustering in the US Senate of a law to reduce gun violence. Information on the votes in the Senate and how to contact your Senators (and Representatives) is below. Efforts to reduce gun violence are getting unprecedented attention. Four states have recently passed […]