In today's On the News segment: The Sanders platform could bring about a modern-day "New Deal" that would raise incomes, create jobs and generate a budget surplus; President Obama releases his eighth and final budget; the Maryland General Assembly passes legislation to restore voting rights to 40,000 residents with a prior felony conviction; and more.
Thom Hartmann here - on the best of the rest of Economic and Labor News...
You need to know this. Regardless of which presidential candidate you vote for in November, you might want to take a second look at progressive economic policies. According to a recent analysis by Gerald Friedman, an economics professor at University of Massachusetts Amherst, the Sanders platform could bring about a modern-day "New Deal" that would raise incomes, create jobs and generate a budget surplus. And, that means that "We The People" must keep fighting for those economic goals, regardless of who makes it in to the White House. Progressive policies like infrastructure spending, free public college, higher social security benefits and a $15 an hour minimum wage are just what we need to put our economy back on track to grow the middle class and help the US worker. Professor Friedman said, "Like the New Deal of the 1930s, Senator Sanders' program is designed to do more than merely increase economic activity." He added that the plan will "promote a more just prosperity, broadly-based with a narrowing of economic inequality." Friedman's analysis found that under Senator Sanders' policies, poverty would drop to a record low of about 6 percent, the economy would grow by more than 5 percent, and our deficit would turn into a surplus by the end of his second term. This presidential race has already brought tens of thousands of new voters into the political process, and the Sanders' candidacy has changed the entire discussion of what we can achieve when we work together. The most important thing is, no matter who wins the Democratic nomination, "We The People" have to use our power to demand that these policies become reality. There is still a long way to go to the election, so let's keep fighting to make sure that progressive policies win in November.
Speaking of fighting for progress - sometimes it's important to remember who it is that we're fighting for. According to recent data from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the direct answer is low-wage workers. The indirect answer is that we are fighting for ourselves. That recent analysis by David Cooper at EPI found that the majority of low-wage workers earn so little that they must rely on public assistance to survive. Despite the myth of welfare recipients sitting around refusing to work, the facts show that almost half of those who receive public assistance actually have full-time jobs. And, more than 53 percent of workers who make less than $12.16 an hour rely on some form of benefits to get by. Raising wages would help millions of working Americans get off of public assistance, and higher pay would shrink this massive form of corporate welfare. When corporations cheat workers out of a living wage, it's US taxpayers who must pick up the tab. The fact of the matter is that we can pay for the corporate welfare that's currently subsidizing low wages, or we can say that it's time corporations put people ahead of profit, and pay all workers a living wage.
Last week, President Obama released his eighth and final budget, and Republicans used the opportunity to remind us why it's important to regain control of Congress in this election. Before they even read a single word in Obama's plan, Republicans announced that they would not even invite the president's budget director to testify before the House and Senate budget committees. In his plan, President Obama proposed bold solutions like $11 billion in funding to end homelessness and a $10-a-barrel oil tax to repair and modernize our infrastructure. But Republicans in Congress must be terrified that the public would like what they heard in that testimony because they broke a 40-year tradition of inviting the budget director to Congress to explain the administration's proposals. Even Republican economic advisers, like Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office, said, "I believe that permitting the administration the courtesy of explaining its intent and what it thinks of policy should have been maintained." Perhaps we should thank Republicans for reminding all of us why it's time to take back control of our country and vote them out of office.
Jeb Bush wants to "eliminate" Citizens United. But don't give him too much credit for that headline just yet. According to a recent article over at the ThinkProgress blog, "He would not so much end political corruption as make it far more efficient." Jeb's basic complaint is that Citizens United allows "unregulated money for the independent and regulated [money] for the campaign." In other words, he doesn't like the fact that rich people can donate unlimited amounts to super PACs and not directly to his campaign. But, instead of advocating that billionaires stop buying our politicians indirectly through super PACs, Jeb Bush simply wants the wealthy to purchase their lawmakers directly. Most Americans these days agree that there is too much money in our elections already, and few would argue that removing our last few campaign finance regulations will fix the system. But, considering that Jeb's campaign finance plan is about as likely as his presidency, we shouldn't be too concerned about either.
And finally… Maryland legislators believe in the right to vote. Last week, the Maryland General Assembly overrode a veto by Gov. Larry Hogan and passed legislation to restore voting rights to 40,000 residents with a prior felony conviction. That law will immediately restore the right to vote for those released from jail or prison, including those who are currently on parole or probation. Governor Hogan attempted to block that new law, but the Maryland State Senate and House of delegates had "definitive majorities" strong enough to stop his efforts. Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, applauded the new legislation. She said, "Maryland's actions to expand voting rights today mark a crucial step, but we must not forget the millions of Americans - disproportionately people of color - who remain unable to cast ballots because of prior mistakes." She added, "We celebrate today, and continue to press forward." No citizen should ever be denied the right to participate in our democracy. The state of Maryland has corrected their mistake of denying people that right, and it's time for all states to do the same.
And that's the way it is - for the week of February 15, 2016 - I'm Thom Hartmann - on the Economic and Labor News.