You are browsing the archive for 2014 June 11.

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Witness Wednesday Protests Launched In Washington To Highlight Tragedy of Longterm Unemployed

June 11, 2014 in Blogs

By Mara Kardas-Nelson, AlterNet

Three million American lives fall apart and not a single Republican lifts a finger to help.

In the sweltering mid-day Washington, DC heat yesterday, a small group of members of Congress and community leaders gathered outside of the capitol building.

Solemnly, as if at a funeral, they read a handful of stories written by a few of the more than 3 million Americans who are longterm unemployed (a category defined as being unemployed for six months or more and still looking for work). Since December 2013, when Congress let emergency unemployment compensation, or EUC, expire—a program that offers minimal financial support to the longterm unemployed—they have been without the help they need to get back on their feet.

The somber tone of Wednesday's event was appropriate: for many of these 3 million Americans, the demise of EUC was a death knell for their dreams and their normal lives. Story after story recounted jobs unexpectedly lost, cars sold, house payments missed, and education foregone in an attempt to keep things afloat.

“My significant other of 12 years also worked for the same company and also lost his job. He has cancer,” one story went. “Neither of us can find a job. We have no money left, no money for medications, and for the first time in our lives, we don't have enough to pay our rent this month…We have lost everything.”

“I spend 10 hours a day applying for jobs and countless interviews, always coming in second to the competition,” went another. “We are now faced with taking money from our children's college fund and our pension/IRA.”

“I am a single father of two small children, a boy who is 5 and a little girl who is 3,” went another. “I am 33 years old and have worked since I was 15 years old paying my taxes and never asking for a handout, but now I truly need one.”

Yesterday's event was the kick-off of a series of readings that will take place throughout the summer to put pressure on Congress to reinstate EUC. Called Witness Wednesdays and organized by a coalition of national …read more


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The 'King of Coal' Threatens to Sue EPA For Lying About Climate Change

June 11, 2014 in Blogs

By Cliff Weathers, AlterNet

Robert Murray, the largest independent coal producer in the U.S., says science is on the side of 'global cooling.'

The largest independent producer of coal in the U.S. insists that climate change is a lie, and he's threatening to sue the Environmental Protection Agency to make it shut up.

Robert Murray, the founder of Murray Energy, says that the EPA’s assertion that climate change exists violates the U.S. Data Quality Act, which requires government agencies to use only objective informational input to form its opinions. Murray asserts that the EPA’s new regulations on carbon emissions from existing coal plants violates the Act, saying the agency has lied about the existence of global warming to justify the regulations. Murray insists that the Earth is actually cooling.  

The impending lawsuit was confirmed by a spokesperson for Murray Energy who spoke to ThinkProgress this week. 

Murray recently told a West Virginia business magazine that government claims that climate change exists violates federal law.

“Under the act, they are obligated to tell the truth, and they are not telling the truth about global warming. They are not telling hardly any truth about the science,” Murray told West Virginia Executive. “The Earth has actually cooled over the last 17 years, so under the Data Quality Act, they’ve actually been lying about so-called global warming. This lawsuit will force them to not just take data from the environmentalists and publish it, as they have been doing, but to review that data and make sure it’s accurate.”

Unfortunately for Murray, the science about “global cooling” has been widely debunked by the scientific community.

Back in 2009, there was a plot by climate-change deniers is to push this bogus 'theory' that the Earth is actually cooling, instead of warming. But the temperature datathey used was reviewed by independent statisticians (not associated with the climate scientists) and debunked. Instead, the statisticians found “a distinct decades-long upward trend,” which of course has been backed up by the world's leading scientists for many years. However, the theory has since been aggressively pushed by right-wing radio talk-show …read more


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Brat's Immigration Stance Doesn't Square with His Free-Market Flare

June 11, 2014 in Economics

By Alex Nowrasteh

Alex Nowrasteh

David Brat won a stunning and surprising victory in last night’s primary election in Virginia, unseating House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). But Brat doesn’t seem to understand the very issue that seems to have dominated his historic upset and propelled him to Capitol Hill.

Brat considers himself a free-market conservative, claiming on MSNBC following his unexpected win that he’s against “any distortion to free markets.” Brat also campaigned against immigration reform, saying that “It’s the most symbolic issue that captures the difference between myself and Eric Cantor in this race.” But it’s impossible to square Brat’s laudable support for free markets and his opposition to immigration reform.

Brat’s support for free markets, if it is consistent, obligates him to support freer immigration.”

Immigration is an economic issue. Fundamentally, it is about the movement of workers, entrepreneurs and consumers to locations where they can maximize the value of their labor, businesses and purchasing power.

But America’s current immigration system is highly protectionist and restrictive. In contrast to the first 131 years of American history, there is currently no green card for lower-skilled workers. Some highly skilled workers, families and refugees can get green cards, but there is no category for lower-skilled workers unless they are closely related to an American. That severe prohibition on the movement of lower-skilled workers is a deep and destructive intervention into the market economy.

Similarly, the paltry number of highly regulated temporary guest-worker visas allowed for migrants cannot compensate for the lack of green cards. For example, four federal agencies regulate the H-2A visa for temporary farmworkers. Firms have to sponsor migrants, limiting the ability of the migrant to move to better opportunities and the ability of American firms to hire away the best workers from their sclerotic competitors. Minimum wages for guest workers and other rules limit worker and employer flexibility.

These are some of the issues that might have gotten fleshed out in the immigration reform bill that Congress was expected to vote on after the midterm elections. But with Brat’s campaign victory over Cantor, which focused on blasting the prominent Virginia Republican for working with the Obama administration on immigration reform, many are predicting it won’t happen.

Only a lightly regulated economy can determine efficient wages and the optimal allocation of workers to variously demanded tasks, but the government intercedes at every step of the immigration process. Expensive labor certification requirements that seek …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Elizabeth Warren Faces Right-Wing Stooge: Here’s Who’s Quietly Funding Her Top Critic

June 11, 2014 in Blogs

By David Dayen, Salon

Who's paying Matthew Chingos of Brookings to criticize the senator's student loan plan?

Today, the Senate votes on Elizabeth Warren’s bill to refinance previously issued student loans to current rates, which would save borrowers $55 billion over 10 years. The bill is designed to play up a contrast between the two parties on student aid; it’s not going to pass. And ultimately we need to give young people a free or near-free public option for higher education, rather than modestly subsidize the indebtedness that causes delays in major purchases and harm to the economy. But you could certainly do worse than reducing the massive amount of money the government makes off student borrowers (and I don’t think you have to pay for it; an investment in higher ed pays off itself in the long run).
That’s not how Matthew Chingos of the Brookings Institution sees it. Since Sen. Warren entered public office last year, Chingos has been one of her most persistent critics on higher education issues, calling her proposals “embarrassingly bad” and “not as progressive as it seems.” Chingos, with his affiliation with a centrist think tank, often gets cited in the media as an objective source in the student loan debate.

However, it’s always worth following the money. And Chingos gives you that road map at his own website, where he lists eight research grants he has received, totaling $1.34 million in all, from several conservative organizations. This includes $500,000 from the Lumina Foundation, which has close ties to Sallie Mae, the corporation that stands to lose the most from Sen. Warren’s refinancing bill.

These don’t automatically disqualify Chingos from having views on higher education, but they should inform the debate. Media outlets that freely quote Chingos should disclose his ties to right-wing foundations instead of allowing him to escape with the façade of an objective profile at the Brookings Institution.

Chingos and his colleague Beth Akers began their attacks on Warren last year, when they fulminated against her proposal to temporarily reduce student loan rates to 0.75 percent, the same rate big banks get from the government. The parallel to bank …read more


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TODAY: Faith Leaders, Patients, Caregivers, and Healthcare Providers Travel to Albany to Urge Passage of Comprehensive Medical Marijuana Legislation – the Compassionate Care Act

June 11, 2014 in PERSONAL LIBERTY

By drosenfeld

2 PM: Prayer Vigil for Suffering Patients and Families to be held outside of Senate Chambers;
Faith Leaders to Call on Senate Leaders to Take Action before June 19th

Faith Leaders and Patient Advocates Available for Interviews

Albany – Today, Faith leaders from across the state and patients living with cancer, multiple sclerosis, severe seizure disorders, and other serious, debilitating medical conditions will gather in Albany for an advocacy day. Traveling from across the state, patients will demand that the New York State Legislature pass the Compassionate Care Act — A.6357-C (Gottfried) / S.4406-C (Savino) – before the end of this year’s legislative session on June 19th.

June 11, 2014

Drug Policy Alliance

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New Ayn Rand Nutjob Goes to Washington? The Scary Economic Thinking of Dave Brat

June 11, 2014 in Blogs

By Lynn Stuart Parramore, AlterNet

Majority Leader Eric Cantor is ousted by a Rand-worshiping econ professor.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the second-ranking Republican in the House, was ousted yesterday in a primary challenge. He is a smarmy piece of work and we can’t say we’ll miss him. But the swamp creature who beat him! Meet Tea Party activist Dave Brat, who surfed to political center-stage on an anti-immigration wave and aims to bring his special brand of economic hokum to the nation’s capital.

Brat, you’ll be delighted to hear, is an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College who counts the fantastically nutty Ayn Rand as his intellectual hero. Not another one! Paul Ryan was about as much Randian baloney as we could swallow. But there could be another course coming: As Samantha Lachman reported, the professor gets dough from the banking sector to push Rand’s libertarian nonsense on college students:

“Brat has taught classes for a program sponsored by BB&T bank that aims to spread Ayn Rand's principles to college students. Brat got a $500,000 grant from the bank to bring the program to Randolph-Macon College and co-authored a paper titled ‘An Analysis of the Moral Foundations in Ayn Rand.’”

We tried to find that paper, which was “presented and published in the proceedings of Southeast Informs, Myrtle Beach, SC, October 6, 2010,” but that publishing venue evidently doesn't quite make the cut for Google scholar and JSTOR, so we can only guess at its contents.

But looking over Professor Brat’s faculty page, you get the sense of his, um, intellectual perspective. A sample: “God and Advanced Mammon—Can Theological Types Handle Usury and Capitalism?”

No, we did not make that up. Brat actually attended Princeton Theological Seminary at one time, which is known to be a right-wing hotbed. The moral gymnastics required to defend usury from a Christian point of view are not too much for Professor Brat.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, Brat has also mused on the need for a church model that fully supports capitalism, warning that if we don't get on that, a new Hitler will surely rise.

America’s big banks …read more


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Expanding the Reach and Lifelong Impact of Teachers

June 11, 2014 in Economics

By Nat Hentoff

Nat Hentoff

For years I have been reporting on and learning from ASCD, previously the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Its characteristic challenge to teachers in “The Myth of Student Engagement” (, April. 15) begins:

“Each day that you enter your classroom, are you educating students? Or are you teaching at them?

“Do your lessons only improve their academic knowledge? Or do they foster their personal growth?”

And then: “You could shift your perspective to stop teaching at students and begin learning about them.”

In a few places around the nation, it’s not only ASCD asking and doing something about these questions. Before examining where this is happening, I cannot resist starting with a single teacher who is answering those questions by herself — without the exceptionally knowledgeable and creative ASCD staff.

New York Daily News reporter Megan Monk shows how “a Queens second-grade teacher is cultivating lifelong learners through hands-on activities in her school garden” (“Queens teacher takes learning from the classroom to the garden,” Megan Monk, New York Daily News, June 6).

At Public School 146 in Howard Beach, Jodi Tucci got approval from her school to plant “a garden on the property where the children could learn about plants, bugs, ecosystems and clouds in a real-world environment.”

She tells the Daily News: “This is the best way for them to get excited and motivated about what they’re learning.”

That isn’t all her kids are learning about. Monk writes: “To supplement what they study in school, Tucci’s class takes trips to museums, aquariums and historical sites in Manhattan.”

Remember: These are second-grade students.

Tucci discusses her methods with the Daily News: “When they look at the exhibits we visit, the students remember everything I taught them. I link these trips to what we learn in the classroom to make it a real-life experience.”

Getting back to the garden, she also uses it “as a space for her pupils to read outdoors.”

And dig this: “She allows them to choose their own books based on what they are interested in learning about.”

Wow! That’s how I got so much of my education, from elementary school on.

For instance, at the public library near my home, the librarian, seeing what I was reading, broke the rule that limited the number of books borrowed per visit at certain ages and gave me whatever volumes I chose.

“Inspired by teachers who taught her to value knowledge,” Monk writes, “(Tucci) studied education and anthropology and set out …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Obamacare: Still Failing

June 11, 2014 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

It may turn out that the VA scandal and the controversy surrounding the prisoner swap for Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl were actually good news for congressional Democrats. That’s because they’ve managed to keep the media and voters from focusing on the latest bad news about Obamacare.

And that news just keeps getting worse.

For example, according to documents leaked to the Associated Press, roughly 2.1 million people who purchased health insurance through the federal exchange have problems with their enrollment data that could affect what they pay for coverage, or even their legal right to benefits. This only counts the people who signed up through the federal exchange — there could be many more enrollees with discrepancies among the roughly 2.6 million people who signed up through the state exchanges, driving the total number even higher.

With the bad news still flowing about the law, Dems could almost use another scandal.”

As many as 1.2 million of them could have received subsidies higher than what they were actually eligible for. If so, they would be required to repay the difference. That means a lot of Americans are going to get a bill from the government sometime this fall that will surprise them. Of course, while many of the errors resulted in overly generous subsidies, some didn’t receive the full subsidy that they should have given their incomes, meaning that they are currently paying more than they should. Oops.

In addition, nearly a million enrollees have problems with their citizenship or immigration data. It may turn out that many — perhaps most — of these people are indeed citizens and simply have data errors with their applications. But nobody knows how many of those who have conflicts or other issues with their immigration data are really not entitled to participate in the exchanges. It is likely to be several hundred thousand. Nor does anyone know what will happen to those who enrolled despite being legally ineligible. Will they lose their insurance? What happens if they show up seeking care, thinking they are insured when they really aren’t?

The law does allow for a 90-day grace period during which people can provide additional documentation or otherwise clear up problems with their application. But at least 840,000 enrollees are already outside of the 90-day window. Meanwhile, according to the Washington Post, even if people provide further proof of their eligibility, the government currently lacks the ability …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Congratulations, David Brat: Your Win over Eric Cantor is Totally Meaningless

June 11, 2014 in Blogs

By Ana Marie Cox, The Guardian

Beating a House Majority Leader for the first time in 115 years doesn't mean Washington needs to hail the conquering Tea Party hero…even if it already has.

David Brat ran against Eric Cantor as the epitome of everything that's wrong with Washington. It wasn't a bad synecdoche; like the city, Cantor exuded southern efficiency and northern charm. By the standards of the Tea Party, however, Cantor simply wasn't inefficient enough. They would like less done, please.

On the other hand, Cantor's lack of personal charm probably didn't mean much in terms of the race – though you can see how years of terse brush-offs to reporters has already given the coverage a particularly giddy aftertaste. (See: “DC is running out of champagne”.) Neither the left nor right will miss Cantor much, even if David Brat might. The Randolph-Macon College economics professor will never be more important to the Washington political class than he is right now, afterdefeating the House majority leader by double digits in their primary on Tuesday night.

In other words, Professor Brat, I have some bad news: it's all downhill from here. At least for you, personally. You are neither the death knell for immigration reform nor the prime mover of the GOP agenda. You are the victor in a 65,008-person vote that came down to rural Virginia. And your legacy as a harbinger of things to come is even more in doubt: there is no clean Tea Party electoral narrative at this point in the midterms – only Beltway political journalists believe in clean narratives anyway.

But as Cantor's vanquisher, Brat nonetheless became an overnight symbol for Tea Party and its future. News that Cantor spent over $150,000 at steakhouses during the campaign had to be squared with having failed to serve up sufficiently red meat. And the March Madness-level magnitude of the upset gave the coverage an hysterical edge. Both left and right raced to be the side most please by the outcome. (Indeed, any more Tea Party upsets and this might be the election cycle when I finally learn to spell schadenfreude.)

So on the morning after, Brat is either the Tea …read more


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Solve Public Teachers’ Strikes Once and For All

June 11, 2014 in Economics

By David Howden

The British Columbia’s teachers union just voted 86% in favour of an all out strike. If a settlement is not reached with the provincial government before the end of this week, nearly 40,000 teachers could be walking the picket line come Monday.

At stake are the common issues of class size, salary, and benefits.

Strikes by public teachers are unusually disruptive for two reasons. The first is that the vast majority of parents send their children to a public school. Since our tax dollars automatically go to this system, only a wealthy few can afford to send their children to a private school and avoid such disruptive wide-scale strikes. Eschewing the public education system for the private alternative means that parents must pay for their children’s education twice – once in the form of taxes and again in the form of tuition at the school of their choice.

Second, and more importantly, teachers’ strikes are unusually disruptive because school administrators are left with no options to replace them. Nearly 2/3 of all recent education graduates in Ontario are unemployed or underemployed the following year. British Columbia certifies nearly 3 times the number of teachers it needs each year. Even fast growing Alberta has seen many of its school boards laying off teachers in recent years.

As a simple law of economics, when there is a supply of a resource going unused it is because its price is above the market-clearing level. In one common example this outcome can achieved by a poor law, as is the case with those who are unemployed because of the minimum wage. As workers cannot offer a lower price for their labour services, businesses are unwilling to hire them. The result is forced unemployment.

The question of what is a “fair” salary and remuneration package for public school teachers is a difficult one. I don’t have an answer for it either. I do know that the masses of unemployed recent teaching graduates implies that the total remuneration package for teachers is above the market-clearing level. Schools do not want to hire more teachers because they cannot afford them. Incidentally this is one reason why the teachers’ union and school administrators cannot meet eye-to-eye on the issue of class sizes. Teachers want smaller classes, but administrators cannot afford to hire the number of teachers necessary for this at the current remuneration packages.

These fresh graduates – bright eyed and …read more