This is the time of year when people try to make sense of the preceding twelve months. It’s a fool’s errand, in one sense. A year is an arbitrary division of time. We decide what it means in retrospect, and we never get it exactly right. But the meaning we give it will guide our actions in the future, in thousands of conscious and unconscious ways.
“I’m also very much of a germaphobe, by the way, believe me.”
Try not to think too much about the story that led to this comment from the President-Elect of the United States. It’s not easy, I know. We’re only human, after all, and that story is so ... so out there. It’s hard to turn away.
For the first time in a quarter-century, we’re about to see a vacuum of political and intellectual leadership in the Democratic Party. An entire generation of leaders — including Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Bill and Hillary Clinton — will be leaving the political stage. With them will go an entire infrastructure of policy advisers, political strategists, associates, friends, and hangers-on.
As Donald Trump prepares to assume the presidency, Americans must learn to distinguish the ways he is uniquely terrible from the ways in which he is not so terribly unique — except as a matter of degree. His extreme behavior shouldn’t be “normalized,” to use the year’s newest word. But neither should the lies and deceptions of his more “respectable” colleagues.
A new study by the Pew Research Center spurred a rash of headlines last week about “the dying middle class.” But the word “dying” might be more appropriate if we were watching the regrettable but inevitable effects of natural forces at work. We’re not. We’re seeing the fruits of deliberate action—and sometimes of deliberate inaction—at the highest levels of power.
The Brookings Institution recently issued a report showing that poor Americans die at a much earlier age than rich Americans, and that this life expectancy gap between rich and poor is growing rapidly. A professor of public health at Yale University told the New York Times, “It’s embarrassing.”
Economic inequality inspired Occupy Wall Street, a movement that in a few short months transformed our political discourse with the concept of the “1 percent” and the “99 percent.” Today the presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders is altering the political landscape with a call to reduce inequality.
The piece, when it is not distracting the reader with rather unimaginative vitriol (phrases like “lame socialist agenda” are hardly Pulitzer material), bases its argument on a trendy libertarian idea called “open borders.”
Like many libertarian ideas, “open borders” is bold, has superficial intellectual appeal - and is incapable of withstanding thoughtful scrutiny. It would benefit the wealthy few at the expense of the many, here and abroad.
Few political advisors would suggest running on a platform of open hostility toward the elderly. Most families include an older person, after all, and everyone who lives long enough will become older themselves someday.
Seniors vote in greater numbers, too.
That may be why the GOP isn’t openly presenting itself as the “anti-elderly party.” But how else are we to interpret its deeds and actions? Its leading presidential candidates are pushing cuts to Social Security, while its congressional budgets would end Medicare as we know it.
We live in a political era dominated by corporate cash, billionaire “beauty pageants,” and a right-wing noise machine whose rhetorical phasers are permanently set to “stun.” It’s easy to lose track of ourselves when we’re distracted from moment to moment by Fox News pinwheels and celebrity-driven media circuses.
But out behind the tents, where the carnival lights aren’t as bright, a lot of people are fighting the good fight. How’s that fight going? One way to track its progress is by measuring recent developments against a populist or progressive agenda.
Despite the power of incumbency, the backing of President Obama, and an array of wealthy and powerful backers, Rahm Emanuel nevertheless became the first mayor in Chicago history to be forced into a runoff. Sure, Jesús “Chuy” Garcia’s defeat was a setback for the left, but Emanuel’s struggle to retain his office is a warning for politicians everywhere: Corporate Democrats are likely to find themselves on the defensive in 2016 and beyond.
For so-called “masters of the universe,” Wall Street executives sure seem touchy about criticism. It seems they don’t like being painted as the bad guys. But if they don’t like being criticized, why do so many of them keep behaving like B-movie villains? That’s exactly what executives from Citigroup, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America looked after an article appeared last week detailing their coordinated attempt to intimidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and other Democrats who want to fix the mess on Wall Street.
The race for Barbara Mikulski’s Maryland Senate seat has just begun. But Social Security is already shaping up as a major issue, especially between two leading contenders: Maryland representatives Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards.
Frank Underwood is known for deceiving people into acting against their own best interests. (We’ll miss you, President Walker.) Now we learn that this trait may extend to the series that features him. The greatest betrayals on “House of Cards” can be found in the misleading arguments, presented as “truth,” that suggest that cutting “entitlements” is a necessity and raising taxes isn’t even an option.
A lone bureaucrat has been fighting the financial industry for years, on an issue that stands at the intersection of two national challenges: investment regulation and retirement security. Along the way she’s collected some new and interesting allies. Is that a sign of things to come?
Last week the nation was treated to the sad and embarrassing spectacle of Jeb Bush, mollycoddled scion to an empire of failure, proclaiming that “I’m my own man.” Here’s a simple rule of thumb: Anyone who has to say he’s his own man, or woman, isn’t. The 62-year-old Mr. Bush has been coasting on his family’s power and privilege since he was a weed-smoking, Steppenwolf-listening prep school student in the sixties.
We talk a good game about opportunity in this country, but here are three signs that we’re failing to provide young people a fair shot at prosperity. Sign #1: People typically achieve most of their earnings gain in the first 10 years of employment. A new study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows that “the bulk of earnings growth happens during the first decade” of a person’s employment. (The study actually focused on men, for methodological reasons.)
Nine out of ten Americans have fallen behind financially as the well-to-do – especially the ultra-wealthy – capture an ever-increasing chunk of our national income. This inequality threatens the entire economy’s future growth and stability. But whenever someone offers a solution to this growing problem, someone else on the right is likely to accuse them of “class war.”
We have become a profoundly unequal society. That reality is explored in new detail in a recent study from the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET). Even more importantly, the INET study shows that it will take a dramatic shift in policy to restore the equilibrium. Unless we can build momentum for a new political agenda, we’ll be divided into a small minority with fabulous wealth and a permanent underclass with few hopes or prospects.
Every day brings more headlines in the European debt drama: “Greece elects anti-austerity government.” “Greek Finance Minister says he won’t negotiate with the ‘Troika.’” “Anti-austerity movements gain ground across Europe.”
The fact that this even needs to be said demonstrates that there’s been a breakdown in the democratic process, but we’ll say it anyway: Our number one priority should be protecting the planet for future generations. That said, green energy makes sense even if we base our thinking on economic considerations alone.
Today’s American right is burdened with a highly specialized and hyper-amplified sense of outrage. That outrage was triggered during this week’s State of the Union speech, especially by the president’s off-the-cuff response to a group of Republicans who sarcastically applauded the line, “I have no more campaigns to run.”
Here it was again. This holiday weekend we saw a lot of media coverage of Martin Luther King, Jr. But we heard very little about who he really was – a brave and visionary leader whose vision is as relevant today as ever. Dr. King’s life and legacy stand as a challenge to an entrenched society of privilege and injustice. Here are nine quotes that reflect that legacy.
“Americans don’t want angry, defensive figures running for president,” Democratic operative Will Marshall told McClatchy’s David Lightman this week. But who, precisely, is angry and defensive? As the pushback to Wall Street’s influence on government grows stronger, it is the banking industry’s supporters who sound enraged. And as economic populism gains traction in Democratic circles, it is corporate Democrats like Marshall who find themselves increasingly on the defensive.
If Democrats don’t make the right choice now, they may not have the chance to make economic policy – not for a long time to come. There’s been a lot of economic recovery talk lately, but most people will probably tell you that things still aren’t that great. Most Americans – 99 percent of them or so – are still struggling. Economic inequality is soaring, social mobility is declining, earnings at most income levels are stagnant or falling, and the percentage of working-age Americans who are actually working is at a record low.