About TRP

The Rational Progressive is a publication focused on progressive news and issues. Focused forward and focused on the facts, we avoid demons and demagogues.

by James Andre

  • The fight against the Right is over. The Left lost.

    The Guardian just out with a story connecting Trump's Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, Billionaire Robert Mercer, and the Brexit campaign that is severing England from the EU. This is a frightening, but not surprising, story that adds to a growing list of facts that demonstrate the existence and operation of a shrinking number of geopolitical players whose power is growing… Read more… 

  • Trump raised more money from small donors than Clinton and Sanders combined. America has a problem.

      The Campaign Finance Institute just released an analysis of FEC filings for the 2016 election. You may remember Bernie Sanders bragging about the money he was raking in from small donors at an average of $27 each. Well, Hillary Clinton beat him in small donations. And Trump beat them both - combined. Not only did Trump raise more small… Read more… 

  • Think About This – Monday 8/8/16

    Here are a few things to think about this week when you are talking politics and policy: • The world grows more peaceful and prosperous everyday. Violence and warfare have been declining since World War II. • Respect for civil and human rights in the U.S. is growing greater every day. More police are wearing cameras, and more are being… Read more… 

  • Haters, Whine All You Want. Hillary’s Nomination Is Unprecedented.

    I just wanted to write a quick note to Hillary supporters with some info for when you hear haters complaining that Hillary is not the first woman to run for president. That is true, however:   • The Clinton campaign is not making that claim. Maybe some in the media have. • Hillary is the first woman to win the… Read more… 

Election Info

Resources for information on local and national elections.

Inside Facebook Election Tracker





Progressivism is not an ideology at all, but an attitude towards the world of politics that is far less black-and-white than conservatism or liberalism, breaking free from the false and divisive dichotomy of liberal vs. conservative that has dominated American politics for too long.

Progressives aren't simply liberals; progressives see the world for what it is, accept it as ever-changing and dynamic, and choose the best course of action in line with decidedly American values.

-From an article on Alternet.org by Andrew Garib


@FilmFatale_NYC So he is "creating" something that already exists in the Air Force. 😂 I was actually assigned to the Space Warfare Center in 2003. This dude is a box of rocks.

.@HillaryClinton urges women to be resilient in the face of sexism and misogyny.

Extended interview: https://t.co/3HLT3h4Jsf

Hillary had no need of illegit help in debates. Was chalking Brazile's cheating up to passion. Now it appears it was just low character.

Get the vote put for a sensible choice and restore stability in our country! #DougJonesforSenate https://t.co/4Nv1agHZOl

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Consumer confidence index slips from thirteen-year high

The University of Michigan reported today that their index of consumer sentiment slipped almost three points from it’s thirteen-year high in January. The consumer expectations index dropped almost 5 points.

Both the stock market and consumer confidence increased after the national election in November, but now the numbers seem to be softening. Consumers who expressed an opinion about the policies of the current administration were nearly evenly split between those that viewed them negatively or positively. The University of Michigan reports that the number of respondents expressing an opinion, positive or negative, was unusually high.

Not surprisingly, the split was partisan, with Republicans anticipating growth, and Democrats predicting recession. Consumer expectations of inflation remain low as it appears a strong dollar is keeping prices in check.

While consumer confidence is relatively high, one economist did suggest that the slipping of confidence numbers may be due to a lack of concrete plans and proposals from the new administration.

Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-economy-imports-idUSKBN15P1MU

The Horrible Flaw In Bernie’s Tax Plan That No One Is Talking About

I have been promising for a few weeks to go into detail about how nutty Bernie’s tax proposals are, specifically when it comes to paying for medicare-for-all. Well, I finally saw the annoying and unofficial chart below one too many times, and I finally had my fill of watching liberals defend Bernie’s awful anti-liberal proposal.

I have two major problems with the proposal. One, it will raise taxes on the poor. Two, it will destroy small business.

First, the chart is not helpful. Look at it objectively. The IRS has four separate filing categories for taxpayers, and the chart simplifies the tax rate, making it less than it actually is.Let’s take an annual income of 30K. A single self-employed person will pay “$922.50 plus 15% of the amount over $9,225“. The same person making 40K will actually pay “$5,156.25 plus 25% of the amount over $37,450”, not the 15% the chart claims.

That is only income tax. Everyone must also pay medicare and social security tax. For individuals working for someone else that is 7.65%. But that is only half of the tax. Your employer pays the other half. The full tax is 15.3%. As a self-employed person you have to pay that all yourself.

So all self-employed small business owners pay an additional 7.65% in taxes right out of the gate.

Now Bernie wants to add a 2.2% tax on income, and a 6.2% tax on payroll. Self-employed pay their own payroll – they will have to pay both taxes – an additional 8.4%!

Under Bernie’s tax plan, becoming self-employed and starting your own small business will cost you an additional 16% in taxes right out of the gate!

That means that on an income of 625 a week, a self-employed person will pay $100 a week BEFORE even paying income tax. What do you think that will do to small business in this country?

Now let’s take Bernie’s claim that a family of four can make $28,800 and not have to pay his tax.

We will leave aside that for most businesses, payroll is one of the top expenses, and leave aside the question of what the average business might do if that cost was suddenly increased 6.2% – which is above the margin of profit for many businesses.

First, two adults making $28.8K means that on average they each make $14.4K a year. I can’t help being astounded that any liberal or progressive would actually advocate for raising taxes on anyone making $15,000 a year. As a progressive, my feeling is that people at that income should be taxed less than they currently are, if at all.

That’s before I even consider that many of the beneficiaries of this tax on the poor will be people who are upper middle class or wealthy.

And it is a tax on the poor. This is the most outrageous thing about Bernie’s plan. Poverty level for a family of four is $24,300 a year. For making $90 a week above poverty level, a family of four will have their taxes raised. And many of us far better off than that family will receive the benefit.

Now, I have been admonished many times: ‘but that family of four will actually save money because they will not have to pay for health care!’

But it’s not true.

If you are making a poverty level income, you already do not pay for health care. You will not ‘save’ anything, you will simply have an additional expense.

Take Florida. Like many states, Florida refused to expand medicaid to fill gaps in health insurance coverage. The Affordable Care Act allows that anyone making 138% of poverty level income in a state that has refused to expand medicaid is exempt from having to buy health insurance or pay a penalty. That means that same family of four mentioned in Bernie’s plan can make up to $33,534 a year as it stands now, and not face any additional expenses.

And health care is already a right. It is against the law for any hospital to turn away emergency cases, and against the law for a public hospital to turn away any patient. Health care is a right. What it is not is free. Not even Bernie is saying it should be free, as we can see from his tax plan.

Of course we need to improve our health care delivery system. Of course we need to reduce costs and expand coverage. But exacerbating an already unfair system while providing more benefits to the well-off is not the way to do it. No liberal or progressive in their right mind should be okay with raising taxes on people near the poverty level. No progressive in their right mind should be advocating for a poorly thought-out plan that tinkers with the tax code to fundamentally alter a sector that accounts for 18% of our economy.

What we need is a complete overhaul of the tax code, and the addition of a public option to the ACA, not an absurd plan to tax the poor and give benefits to the rich.


Great Recession: Where’s the Punishment After the Crime?



The U.S. Department of Justice has been investigating whether individuals and entities involved in toxic, collateralized mortgage-backed securities can be charged with crimes. But, as yet, there have been no criminal convictions of high-level corporate officials directly linked to the practice.

Michael Greenberger, former director of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s Division of Trading and Markets, says the Obama administration needs to step up and press charges against those involved in toxic mortgages.

“The American public as a whole expected there would be accountability for upending the economy,” says Greenberger, now a law professor at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. “There hasn’t been, and common sense tells us that the taxpayer is angry about this.”

On the other hand, the Justice Department, along with other agencies, has successfully held investment banks civilly responsible. JPMorgan Chase & Co. and other banks have agreed to pay millions or even billions of dollars to settle allegations they knowingly bundled toxic loans and then sold them to unsuspecting investors. As part of JPMorgan’s record-breaking $13 billion settlement, the bank admitted to making “serious misrepresentations” to investors.

But some critics, including an outspoken federal judge in the Southern District of New York, say the department’s failure to bring criminal charges against high-level individuals at investment banks depicts weakness in the prosecutorial system. Manns also thinks prosecutors are failing to deter the next generation of potential financial criminals.

“We are now seeing large dollar settlements but very little individual accountability,” says Manns. “If individuals aren’t held accountable, it’s not clear that there will be much deterrence. What’s the worst that happened to folks who engaged in dubious activities? They made money, they were bailed out, and now they have retired in places like Boca Raton.”

Former federal prosecutor Aitan D. Goelman says the Justice Department “has acutely felt the pressure and public desire for accountability on this issue.”

“There’s been a lot of attention and resources devoted to looking for fraud cases,” says Goelman, now a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Zuckerman Spaeder LLP. “But they have to prove criminal intent, and that can be difficult. If there were low-hanging fruit cases that could have been brought and won, they would have been brought. Prosecutors can only go where the evidence and law leads them.”

Read Full Article => Great Recession

Dear Bernie: I Like You, But These Red Flags Are Too Frequent to Ignore

The problem is that you’re talking to people who sense that something is wrong, are angry about it and want to know where to place the blame. You are giving them a cabal of boogeyman bankers, corporations and allegedly bought politicians to bear the brunt of that resentment. You’re doing this through a fair degree of dishonesty, and the response of your supporters and campaign to any kind of reality check has thus far been to impugn the motives of impartial observers.

Bernie — do you mind if I call you Bernie? That’s bullshit, Bernie.

Senator, you are forming a mob of angry, misinformed people and then turning it on the likely Democratic nominee. That, Senator, is a dangerous and destructive game. Does your campaign honestly wonder why it has become synonymous with nasty online invective? If you mention the Bernie Bros online, fifty people fitting the profile pop up with abusive comments informing you that they don’t exist. On the eve of the Nevada caucus, one of your supporters attempted to place an obituary for Secretary Clinton in the Las Vegas Sun-Journal. Don’t you think this all might have a little something to do with your “me against the corrupt establishment” bluster?

It is a bitter irony, then, that Paul Krugman, Barney Frank, Gary Gensler, Jared Bernstein and Felicia Wong and Mike Konczal of the Roosevelt Institute all agree that Clinton’s plans to rein in Wall Street have more teeth than yours.

Meanwhile, anyone hoping to back up your claims will almost certainly be directed to your surrogate Robert Reich–whosewebsite currently sports thirty-nine “above fold” links to purchase books targeted at leftist consumers. Your campaign is built on questioning the motives of the people who aren’t trying to sell your supporters anything, Senator, while simultaneously directing them toward someone who is.

Read Full Article=> Dear Bernie: I Like You, But These Red Flags Are Too Frequent to Ignore


Full Text of the Trans Pacific Partnership


The full text of the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement has been released. For all those complaining about how this is a secret deal, you’ve got a lot of dry reading ahead. Here’s the link:
TPP Full Text


For Cities, Big-Box Stores Are Becoming Even More of a Terrible Deal

It’s an established part of the big-box retail model that the boxes themselves be custom-built, cheaply constructed, and disposable. If retailers decide that they need a bigger space, it’s cheaper for them to leave the old one behind and build a new one. When Walmart, for instance, opened its wave of new, twice-the-size Supercenters across the country in 2007, it left hundreds of vacant stores behind it.   This means that new, successful stores like the Marquette Lowe’s are rarely the locations that are up for sale, and that when big-box stores do come on the market, it’s because they’ve already failed or been abandoned by the retailer that built them. In other words, Lowe’s was saying, it had built a property that, despite generating roughly $30 million in annual sales for the company, had very little value, and because of that, it should get a break in its property taxes.

Lowe’s went a step further. The properties that it offered up for comparison were properties that had been affected by another big-box retail tactic: deed restrictions. When big-box retailers are ready to move on to a new location, they often place these restrictions on the properties they leave behind. Designed to ensure that whoever buys the property won’t become a competitor, these restrictions limit how the store can be used, down to lists of specific items that the new occupant is banned from selling. In effect, they prevent most other retailers from moving into spaces designed specifically for retail, and so depress the values of these properties even further.*
One of the comparables used by Lowe’s, for instance, was a big-box store that, because of deed restrictions that kept out retail, had been partially converted into a go-kart track—a much less valuable use for that property. Marquette appealed the ruling, but the Michigan Court of Appeals sided with the tax tribunal, and in Dec. 2014, the Michigan Supreme Court announced that it would not hear the case.

Now, following the lead of Lowe’s, about 12 other large retail chains in Marquette have appealed their own assessments to the Michigan Tax Tribunal. These cases don’t just affect property tax revenue going forward, but can also force towns to rebate taxes already paid. So far, Marquette has had to refund over $1.5 million in taxes, money that it had already collected, allocated, and spent.

Full Article: For Cities, Big-Box Stores Are Becoming Even More of a Terrible Deal | Institute for Local Self-Reliance


Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) Questions and Answers


Senator Warren raises some important questions about an element of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) called Investor-State Dispute settlement, or ISDS.

There are good answers.

The purpose of investment provisions in our trade agreements is to provide American individuals and businesses who do business abroad with the same protections we provide to domestic and foreign investors alike in the United States.

ISDS is an arbitration procedure – similar to procedures used every day by businesses, governments, and private citizens across the globe – that allows for an impartial, law-based approach to resolve conflicts and has been important to encouraging development, rule of law, and good governance around the world. ISDS does not undermine U.S. sovereignty, change U.S. law, nor grant any new substantive rights to multinational companies.

The reality is that ISDS does not and cannot require countries to change any law or regulation. 

ISDS has come under criticism because of some legitimate complaints about poorly written agreements. The U.S. shares some of those concerns, and agrees with the need for new, higher standards, stronger safeguards and better transparency provisions. Through TPP and other agreements, that is exactly what we are putting in place.

It is an often repeated, but inaccurate, claim that ISDS gives companies the right to weaken labor or environmental standards, for example, suggesting that a trade agreement could result in the United States having to lower its minimum wage.

The reality is that ISDS does not and cannot require countries to change any law or regulation. Looking more broadly, TPP will result in higher levels of labor and environmental protections in most TPP countries than they have today. If TPP is passed by Congress, it will also create strong, enforceable new labor protections that would allow the United States to take action – on its own, or on the basis of a petition from labor unions or other interested parties – against TPP governments that don’t honor their labor commitments. The same is true for enforcing environmental commitments.

Similarly, the investment provisions under TPP are designed to protect American investors abroad from discrimination and denial of justice.

Under our Constitution, the Government has wide powers to regulate on behalf of the public interest even if that impacts private property. But when government takes its citizen’s property from them – be it a person’s home or their business – the government is required to provide compensation. This is a core principle reflected in the U.S. Constitution and recognized under international law and the legal systems of many countries.

Unfortunately, foreign courts have not always respected this principle, and U.S. investors often face a heightened risk of bias or discrimination when abroad. That’s why governments have looked to international arbitration to resolve such disputes for centuries. Earlier in our history, the United States used gunboat diplomacy, sending our military to defend our economic interests abroad. The decision was made by our predecessors that it was better to rely on neutral arbitration instead.

Over the last 50 years, 180 countries have entered into more than 3,000 agreements that provide investment protections, the vast majority of which have some form of neutral arbitration. European countries are party to more than 1400 of those agreements. The U.S. is party to about 50.

Those thousands of agreements contain a wide range of standards, some that strongly protect a government’s right to regulate, others that do not. The U.S. has been at the leading edge of updating, upgrading and clarifying these standards; protecting the right to regulate; and drawing lessons from previous agreements to ensure that our agreements have the highest possible standards. TPP incorporates and builds on those efforts and goes beyond them by:

  • Further raising the standards: TPP will make it absolutely clear that governments can regulate in the public interest, including with regard to health, safety and the environment, and narrowing the definition of what kinds of injuries investors can seek compensation for.
  • Adding safeguards: TPP will include the ability to dismiss frivolous claims quickly and award fees against the claimant to deter such suits; making it possible for governments to provide binding direction to the arbitrators; and creating additional filters for cases having to do with financial services.
  • Closing loopholes: For example, TPP will prevent sham corporations from accessing the investment protections provided by the agreement.
  • Creating transparency: All arbitration proceedings under TPP will be open and non-parties, including labor unions and civil society organizations, will be able to file briefs to inform the outcome of cases.

There have only been 13 cases brought to judgment against the United States in the three decades since we’ve been party to these agreements. By contrast, during the same period of time in our domestic system, individual and companies have brought hundreds of thousands of challenges against Federal, state, and local governments in U.S. courts under U.S. law.

We have never lost an ISDS case because of the strong safeguards in the U.S. approach.

And because we have continued to raise standards through each agreement, in recent years we have seen a drop in ISDS claims, despite increased levels of investment.

Through TPP, we can set a new, higher set of standards, stronger safeguards and better transparency provisions.

The truth is that it is difficult for a claimant to win under our agreements and, if they have a legitimate claim, they tend to bring it under our domestic court system.

Senator Warren alludes to a number of specific cases, most of which are not under U.S. agreements and based on different standards, but each one of which is instructive:

  • In the only U.S. case alluded to in Senator Warren’s op-ed, a regulation was adopted banning a chemical used in gasoline additives made only by a Canadian company. An arbitration panel found in favor of the government and underscored the right of governments to regulate for public purposes, including regulation that imposes burdens on foreign investors, and noted that investors cannot expect that environmental or health regulations will not change.
  • The French-Egyptian case is instructive for two reasons.  First, we don’t know much about it because the facts and briefs are not public. Our proposal creates transparency to address that issue.  Second, the information currently available on the case suggests it is not based on the fact that there was an increase in the minimum wage, but rather on a claim that the government has not honored its contract to pay a fixed percentage of the operating costs.
  • The Swedish suit against Germany is also instructive. Here, too, details on the case are not public, unlike cases under U.S. agreements. But available information suggests that the case is not about whether Germany can change its national energy policy to do away with nuclear power, but whether Germany needs to provide compensation for abrogating its existing commitments. German domestic courts have upheld claims relating to these issues in cases filed by Germany’s domestic energy companies under German law. This case is also instructive because the Swedish company is pursuing claims both in German domestic courts and through neutral arbitration. Our reforms would prevent this kind of forum shopping.
  • In the case of the Dutch bank’s lawsuit against the Czech government, the investment agreement at hand had a different standard than what we are proposing in TPP. Our approach is more demanding and, among other things, would affirm the right of governments to take prudential measures to protect the financial system.

Senator Warren also questions the integrity of the arbitrators who decide cases, suggesting that they are biased against governments. In fact, ISDS panels more frequently side with respondent governments. The U.S. government, for example, has won every single case concluded against it.

The arbitration rules used under TPP require the independence of arbitrators and provide for challenge and disqualification in the event of conflict of interest or bias. They also provide a central role for the government being sued to determine which arbitrators hear the case.

We share a number of the theoretical concerns Senator Warren raises. But we disagree with her suggestion that we leave it to the free market to put in place basic rule of law and protections. That hasn’t worked in the past and government has a role to play.

We can’t change the standards in the more than 3,000 agreements among other countries. Most of those agreements will continue to exist, with or without TPP. But through TPP, we can set a new, higher set of standards, stronger safeguards and better transparency provisions.

That’s exactly what we’re doing.

Learn more about ISDS and it’s role in our trade agreements here.

jeffrey_zients_ombJeff Zients is the Director of the National Economic Council.

Source: Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) Questions and Answers | The White House


Magical Mystery Tour of American Austerity: How One State Is Destroying Democracy and Poisoning Its People | Alternet

One city neglected to inform its residents that its water supply was laced with cancerous chemicals. Another dissolved its public school district and replaced it with a charter school system, only to witness the for-profit management company it hired flee the scene after determining it couldn’t turn a profit. Numerous cities and school districts in the state are now run by single, state-appointed technocrats, as permitted under an emergency financial manager law pushed through by Rick Snyder, Michigan’s austerity-promoting governor. This legislation not only strips residents of their local voting rights, but gives Snyder’s appointee the power to do just about anything, including dissolving the city itself — all (no matter how disastrous) in the name of “fiscal responsibility.”

If you’re thinking, “Who cares?” since what happens in Michigan stays in Michigan, think again. The state’s aggressive balance-the-books style of governance has already spread beyond its borders. In January, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie appointed bankruptcy lawyer and former Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr to be a “legal adviser” to Atlantic City. The Detroit Free Press described the move as “a state takeover similar to Gov. Rick Snyder’s state intervention in the Motor City.”

And this spring, amid the hullabaloo of Republicans entering the 2016 presidential race, Governor Snyder launched his own national tour to sell “the Michigan story to the rest of the country.” His trip was funded by a nonprofit (fed, naturally, by undisclosed donations) named “Making Government Accountable: The Michigan Story.”

To many Michiganders, this sounded as ridiculous as Jeb Bush launching a super PAC dubbed “Making Iraq Free: The Bush Family Story.”  Except Snyder wasn’t planning to enter the presidential rat race. Instead, he was attempting to mainstream Michigan’s form of austerity politics and its signature emergency management legislation, which stripped more than halfof the state’s African American residents of their local voting rights in 2013 and 2014.

As the governor jaunted around the country, Ann Arbor-based photographer Eduardo García and I decided to set out on what we thought of as our own two-week Magical Michigan Tour. And while we weren’t driving a specially outfitted psychedelic tour bus — we spent most of the trip in my grandmother’s 2005 Prius — our journey was nevertheless remarkably surreal. From the southwest banks of Lake Michigan to the eastern tips of the peninsula, we crisscrossed the state visiting more than half a dozen cities to see if there was another side to the governor’s story and whether Michigan really was, as one Detroit resident put it, “a massive experiment in unraveling U.S. democracy.”

Source: Magical Mystery Tour of American Austerity


Why Obama is happy to fight Elizabeth Warren on the trade deal


What’s mostly going on here, though, is that frustrated liberals see in the Asian trade deal an opportunity to draw the line on globalization, period. No one thinks this deal is going to be the ruin of American workers, when all is said and done. What they think is that there has to be a moment when industry loses and the country finally turns its attention to the things you can do for workers, like raising the minimum wage (a more than reasonable suggestion) and relaxing rules that make organizing more difficult.

Taking a stand against the trade pact is really just a way of taking a stand against 30-plus years of policies that favored business over everyone else.

And this is what so frustrates Obama, to the point where he would come to make his stand at the headquarters of a company reviled by labor, almost as a provocation. Obama, as his detractors have often pointed out, is a study in cool-blooded analysis and professorial debate; whatever his gift of oratory, his real passion is for the triumph of reason over histrionics.

So you can see how it would annoy Obama no end that no matter how many mitigating facts and figures he throws at the opponents in his own party, their determination to sink the deal only intensifies. What they really want, it seems to him, isn’t a better trade deal, but rather a time machine that can transport us all back to the moment before globalization began.

Obama assured me that he’s right there with his party when it comes to making the case for a higher minimum wage or limiting the compensation of corporate executives — all part of the national conversation about inequality and how to address it. “We are going to have to concentrate on getting our own act together to make sure that workers are getting a bigger share of corporate profits,” he said. “But I’m not going to shrink the overall economic pie just because we’re mad about some things that have happened in the past.”

Source: Why Obama is happy to fight Elizabeth Warren on the trade deal

Officials: Kansas Faces $279M Budget Gap By July


For the next fiscal year, the new projection was $5.8 billion in revenues — short of the nearly $6.2 billion that legislative researchers had been assuming in their unofficial forecasts. The projected shortfall of $436 million is about 7 percent, and higher than the $282 million gap estimated unofficially.

The new revenue projection for the fiscal year beginning in July 2016 is a little less than $5.9 billion — again, short of the nearly $6.4 billion legislative researchers had assumed. But the new forecast assumes that spending by that time will be in line with the lower revenues.

The projections also assume Kansas will continue to see modest economic growth, said Raney Gilliland, director of the nonpartisan Kansas Legislative Research Department.During the governor’s race, Democratic challenger Paul Davis argued the tax cuts championed by Brownback were wrecking the state’s finances. Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, predicted the state will have to cut spending on schools and social services and divert money from highway projects.

“There is absolutely no good way out of this,” Hensley said. “You can’t find enough efficiencies or growth to make up these devastating numbers.”

via Officials: Kansas Faces $279M Budget Gap By July.





Ohio Is Poised To Be The First State To Roll Back Its Renewable Energy Standard

Ohio’s first-term Republican Governor John Kasich said in a statement earlier this month that the renewable energy standards “are simply unrealistic and will drive up energy costs for job creators and consumers.” He made the case that the bill was a compromise from scrapping the RES entirely, and by “temporarily holding at our current level while problems are ironed out, we keep the progress we’ve made, ensure we steadily grow new energy sources and preserve affordable energy prices for both businesses and consumers.”

Former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, currently President of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, signed the original RES into law, and has a different take.

“Let me be clear, this vote does not represent a compromise, it represents a giveaway to utility companies and the end of Ohio’s leadership in the renewable energy industries.”

“When I signed SB 221 into law it put consumers on a level playing field with the utility companies,” Strickland said. “It was legislation developed over months of bipartisan discussions about how to create jobs in an emerging industry and position Ohio as a national leader in the production of renewable energy. It has been working — jobs are being created, investments are being made, and rate-payers are saving money.”

Since the standard came into effect, Ohio’s clean energy sector provided 25,000 jobs and at least $1 billion in private sector investment. This has saved ratepayers roughly $230 million, dropping electricity rates by almost a percent and a half.

So who is driving the opposition to the standards? Akron-based, coal-dominated utility FirstEnergy has been leading the charge, with a group of utilities spending $694,000 to donate to state legislators. According to CAP Action analysis, the six co-sponsors of SB 310 have received $141,200 in total political contributions from FirstEnergy. FirstEnergy’s CEO said that his company is “being hurt by various mandates that drive down electricity demand.” The company has even asked its customers to push for the bill freezing the clean energy and efficiency standards.

Yet FirstEnergy admitted to state regulators that the law’s efficiency standards helped consumers save $2 for every $1 spent. In total, the energy efficiency program has saved Ohio $1 billion in formerly wasted energy.

As former Governor Strickland put it: “With this vote Ohioans can say goodbye to jobs and hello to higher electric bills.”

via Ohio Is Poised To Be The First State To Roll Back Its Renewable Energy Standard | ThinkProgress.





Right vs. Left in the Midwest


MINNESOTA and Wisconsin share much more than bone-chilling winters: German and Northern European roots; farming; and, until recently, a populist progressive tradition stretching back a century to Wisconsin’s Fighting Bob La Follette and the birth of Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.

But in 2010 these cousin states diverged. By doing so they began a natural experiment that compares the agendas of modern progressivism and the new right. Wisconsin elected Republicans to majorities in the Legislature and selected a bold and vigorous Republican governor, Scott Walker. Minnesotans elected one of the most progressive candidates for governor in the country, Mark Dayton of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.

A month after Mr. Walker’s inauguration in January 2011, he catapulted himself to the front ranks of national conservative leaders with attacks on the collective bargaining rights of Civil Service unions and sharp reductions in taxes and spending. Once Mr. Dayton teamed up with a Democratic Legislature in 2012, Minnesota adopted some of the most progressive policies in the country.

Minnesota raised taxes by $2.1 billion, the largest increase in recent state history. Democrats introduced the fourth highest income tax bracket in the country and targeted the top 1 percent of earners to pay 62 percent of the new taxes, according to the Department of Revenue.

Which side of the experiment — the new right or modern progressivism — has been most effective in increasing jobs and improving business opportunities, not to mention living conditions?

MORE:  Right vs. Left in the Midwest – NYTimes.com.




Special Report: The Cost of Crisis-Driven Fiscal Policy

Even as Congressional leaders and the president discuss a potential temporary solution to the current stalemate over the government shutdown and the debt ceiling, the repeated cycle of lurching from crisis to crisis has significant and real costs to the U.S. economy.

A new report, prepared by Macroeconomic Advisers, LLC for the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, examines the cost of crisis-driven fiscal policy over the past few years by looking at indicators including GDP growth, the unemployment rate and the corporate credit spread. The paper considers recent policy and political battles including the sequester, the government shutdown and brinksmanship on the debt ceiling.

MORE: Special Report: The Cost of Crisis-Driven Fiscal Policy | pgpf.org.




China state media blasts US shutdown, calls for a ‘de-Americanized’ world


With days to go before the United States debt default deadline, Beijing aired its frustrations with the shutdown Sunday, saying it was time to consider a “de-Americanized” world order.

With $1.28 trillion in U.S. Treasuries, China is easily the biggest foreign holder of American debt.

China has also funneled billions of dollars into private American investments – to the tune of an estimated $54 billion in 2012 alone.

“As U.S. politicians of both political parties are still shuffling back and forth between the White House and the Capitol Hill without striking a viable deal to bring normality to the body politic they brag about, it is perhaps a good time for the befuddled world to start considering building a de-Americanized world,” according to a stinging op-ed article by state news agency, Xinhua.

MORE: China state media blasts US shutdown, calls for a de-Americanized world – Behind The Wall.




WTF Are The GOP Up To? Independent Senator Sanders Breaks It Down


This isn’t all about the affordable care act. This is about the destruction of the federal government. This is about a few rich people who don’t have enough, and want the federal government out of their way so that they can have an ever larger slice of the pie – all while you get less.

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A U.S. Default Seen as Catastrophe Dwarfing Lehman’s Fall


Anyone who remembers the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. little more than five years ago knows what a global financial disaster is. A U.S. government default, just weeks away if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling as it now threatens to do, will be an economic calamity like none the world has ever seen.

Failure by the world’s largest borrower to pay its debt — unprecedented in modern history — will devastate stock markets from Brazil to Zurich, halt a $5 trillion lending mechanism for investors who rely on Treasuries, blow up borrowing costs for billions of people and companies, ravage the dollar and throw the U.S. and world economies into a recession that probably would become a depression. Among the dozens of money managers, economists, bankers, traders and former government officials interviewed for this story, few view a U.S. default as anything but a financial apocalypse.

The $12 trillion of outstanding government debt is 23 times the $517 billion Lehman owed when it filed for bankruptcy on Sept. 15, 2008. As politicians butt heads over raising the debt ceiling, executives from Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s Warren Buffett to Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s Lloyd C. Blankfein have warned that going over the edge would be catastrophic.

If it were to occur — and it’s a big if — one would expect a series of legal triggers, potentially transmitting the default to many other markets,” said Mohamed El-Erian, chief executive officer of Pacific Investment Management Co., the world’s largest fixed-income manager. “All this would add to the headwinds facing economic growth. It would also undermine the role of the U.S. in the world economy.”

Lehman Aftermath

The U.S. stock market lost almost half its value in the five months following Lehman’s failure. The country had its worst recession since the Great Depression INDU, taking the global economy down with it. Unemployment USURTOT surged to 10 percent, the highest in three decades.

Another depression was prevented only by unprecedented action by the Federal Reserve, which pumped $3 trillion into the financial system. The U.S. Treasury provided about $300 billion of capital for the nation’s banks.

MORE: A U.S. Default Seen as Catastrophe Dwarfing Lehman’s Fall – Businessweek.




Banks Are Doing Better Than Ever. The Middle Class, Not So Much.


The nation’s banks are reporting record profits, according to new numbers out Wednesday from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Most of the rest of us aren’t faring quite so well.

Bank profits topped $40.3 billion in the first three months of the year, according to the FDIC, attesting to a strong recovery… in the banking sector. “The banks are back,” Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi told the Washington Post Wednesday. “Only four years after the banking system was literally looking into the abyss, it is highly profitable again.” The biggest banks, including Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Citigroup, accounted for most of the industry’s profits.

MORE:  Banks Are Doing Better Than Ever. The Middle Class, Not So Much. | Mother Jones.




Kansas Gov. Doubles Down On Taxing The Poor More Steeply Than The Rich


Gov. Sam Brownback R will soon sign what he calls the “fabulous package” of sales tax hikes and income tax cuts passed by the Republican-dominated legislature over the weekend. The sales tax rate increase will apply to food as well as other purchases, making it even more targeted at the lower end of the income scale than a similarly regressive North Carolina proposal that would at least exempt groceries and prescription drugs.

The bill continues a trend whereby Brownback and fellow conservatives have shifted the tax burden in the state towards sales and property taxes, which are disproportionately paid by the poor and middle class. Even prior to this legislation, Kansas’ taxes were steeply regressive. A January report from the Institute for Tax & Economic Policy found that the top 1 percent of non-elderly Kansans paid state and local taxes at a rate less than half that faced by the bottom 85 percent of earners.

MORE:  Kansas Gov. Doubles Down On Taxing The Poor More Steeply Than The Rich.




Wonkbook: If austerity is so bad, why is the economy doing so well?

The economy is holding up well in an age of austerity. “Housing prices rose faster over the past year than they have in the past seven, according to data out Tuesday. Consumer confidence hit its highest level in five years. The stock market rallied another 0.6 percent as measured by the Standard & Poor’s 500, leaving it just short of an all-time high reached last week. And the national retail price of gasoline fell for six days straight through Monday and is down 16 cents a gallon since late February…It adds up to this reality: In a year when tax increases and spending cuts by the federal government were expected to bleed life out of the economy, the strengthening housing and financial markets are proving to be more powerful than acts of Congress.” Neil Irwin and Ylan Q. Mui in The Washington Post.

Why hasn’t there been more of a drag? “At the start of the year, it looked like 2013 would be a battle between positive and negative forces shaping the economy…So far, the positives seem to be winning…Meanwhile, the direct evidence that tighter fiscal policy is damaging growth is scarce, so far at least; study the internal details of major economic reports, and even if you squint you don’t see a lot of concrete evidence of the squeeze.”

MORE:   Wonkbook: If austerity is so bad, why is the economy doing so well?.




Texas legislature passes tax cuts for businesses


Texas lawmakers sent Governor Rick Perry more than $1 billion in proposed business tax cuts shortly before the end of the biennial legislative session on Monday.

The tax-cut package – the final piece of which was approved by the House and Senate late on Sunday – includes an extension of a business franchise tax exemption for small businesses and a rate cut for businesses of all sizes.

The Republican-majority legislature also approved about $300 million in electricity rebates.

Perry, a Republican, had called on lawmakers to pass tax relief for businesses. Thirty-five states are taking up tax reform in their current legislative sessions, according to a recent survey by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

MORE:   Texas legislature passes tax cuts for businesses | Reuters.