Robert Reich

The Democrats have a secret sauce to win the midterm elections

The beginning of May before midterm elections signals the official start of primary season and the kickoff of fall campaigns. Because midterms are usually referendums on a president’s performance, the conventional view now is that Democrats are in deep trouble because Biden’s approval ratings are in the cellar.

But the conventional view doesn’t account for the Trump factor, which gives Democrats a fighting chance of keeping one or both chambers.

According to recent polls, Trump’s popularity continues to sink. He is liked by only 38 percent of Americans and disliked by 46 percent. (12 percent are neutral.) And Trump continues to slide: Among voters 45-64 years old – a group exit polls show Trump won 50% to 49% in 2020 – just 39 percent now view him favorably and 57 percent unfavorably. Among voters older than 65 – 52 percent of whom voted for him in 2000 to Biden’s 47 percent – only 44 percent now see him favorably and more than half (54%) view him unfavorably. Importantly, independents hold him in even lower regard. Just 26 percent view him favorably and 68 percent unfavorably.

Republican lawmakers had hoped and assumed that Trump would fade from the scene by the 2022 midterms, allowing them to engage in full-throttled attacks on Democrats.

But Trump hasn’t faded. In fact, his visibility is growing daily.

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The media is framing the May Republican primaries as all about Trump. The Ohio primary was a giant proxy battle over him, in which Republican candidates outdid each other trying to sound just like Trump – railing against undocumented immigrants, coastal elites, “socialism,” and “wokeness,” and regurgitating the Big Lie.

Trump’s April 15 endorsement of JD Vance made the difference – as could his backing of Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania’s Mary 17 primary and Hershel Walker in Georgia’s May 24 primary. But whether Trump’s bets pay off in wins for these candidates is beside the point. Trump is making these races all about himself —and in so doing, casting the midterms as a referendum on his continuing power and influence.

June’s televised hearings of the House January 6 committee will likely show how Trump and his White House orchestrated the attack on the U.S. Capitol, and rekindle memories of Trump’s threat to withhold military aid to Ukraine unless Ukrainian president Zelensky came up with dirt on Biden.

Here again, the real significance of these hearings won’t be seen in Trump’s approval ratings but in Trump’s heightened visibility in the months before the midterms – and its almost certain shift in voters’ preferences toward the Democrats.

Also likely in June (according to leaked documents) is a decision by the Supreme Court to uphold Oklahoma’s near ban on abortion and reverse Roe v. Wade – courtesy of Trump’s three Court nominees whom Trump explicitly nominated in order to reverse Roe.

The high court’s decision will green-light other Republican states to enact similar bans, and spur Republicans in Congress to push for national legislation to virtually bar abortions across the country. Republicans believe this would ignite their base, but it’s more likely to ignite a firestorm among the vast majority of Americans who believe abortion should be legal. Score another one for Trump.

There is also the distinct possibility of criminal trials over Trump’s business and electoral frauds (such as his brazen attempt to change the Georgia vote tally). Again, their significance for the midterms is less about whether Trump is found guilty than about their continuing reminders of his lawlessness.

Meanwhile, America will be treated to more Trump rallies, interviews, and barnstorming to convince voters the 2020 election was stolen from him, along with his incessant demands that Republican candidates reiterate his Big Lie.

Somewhere along the line, also before the midterms, Elon Musk will allow Trump back on Twitter. The move would be bad for America, but it would remind voters of how whacky, racist, and dangerously incendiary Trump continues to be.

Oh, and don’t forget the antics of Trump’s many surrogates – Tucker Carlson, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Steven Bannon, Madison Cawthorn, and others – who mimic Trump’s bravado, bigotry, divisiveness, and disdain for the law. All are walking billboards for Trumpism’s heinous impact on American life.

All will push wavering voters toward Democrats in November.

I’m not suggesting Democrats seeking election or reelection should center their campaigns around Trump. To the contrary, Democrats need to show their continuing commitment to average working people. Between now and November, they should provide help with childcare, cut the costs of prescription drugs, and stop oil companies for price gouging, to take but three examples.

If they do this, they can count on Trump to remind Americans of the hatefulness and chaos he unleashed. The combination – Democrats scoring some additional victories for working people, and Trump being Trump – could well reverse conventional wisdom about midterms and keep Dems in control of Congress.

DC insider explains how the Supreme Court could make your life more dangerous

Your life could get a lot more dangerous. Republican appointees on the Supreme Court seem poised to strip away basic safety standards for our workplaces, our food, our air and water.

Congress gives federal agencies the authority to enact regulations that protect us in our daily lives. Congress defines the goals, but leaves it up to the health and safety experts in those agencies to craft and enforce regulations.

I know regulations don’t sound very exciting, but they’re how our government keeps us safe.

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Remember when lots of romaine lettuce was recalled because it was causing E.coli outbreaks? That was the Food and Drug Administration protecting us from getting sick.

Working in a warehouse? The Occupational Safety and Health Administration sets standards to ensure you don’t breathe in dangerous chemicals like asbestos.

Enjoying the fresh air on a clear, sunny day? Thank the Environmental Protection Agency for limiting the amount of pollution that can go into our air.

These agencies save lives. Since OSHA was established a half-century ago, its workplace safety regulations have saved more than 618,000 workers’ lives.

Republicans have been trying to gut these agencies for decades. Now, with the Supreme Court’s right-wing majority solidly in place, they have their best chance yet.

In January 2022, the Supreme Court blocked OSHA’s vaccine-or-testing mandate from going into effect, which was estimated to prevent a quarter-million hospitalizations.

The Court claimed that Covid isn’t an “occupational hazard” because people can become infected outside of work, and that allowing OSHA to regulate in this manner “would significantly expand” its authority without clear Congressional authorization.

This is absurd on its face. Section 2 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 clearly spells out OSHA’s authority to enact and enforce regulations that protect workers from illness, injury, and death in the workplace. Congress doesn’t need to list every specific workplace hazard before OSHA can protect workers.

What this ruling tells us is that the Republican appointees on the Supreme Court are intent on gutting the power of agencies to issue regulations.

This term, the Court will also hear a case regarding the EPA’s authority to enforce the Clean Water Act. If the Court undermines the EPA’s authority, it will put our environment – and our health – at risk. Remember when the Cuyahoga River caught on fire because it was brimming with oil, acid, and factory chemicals? That’s what we may be returning to.

And what’s next? Will they gut the Federal Trade Commission and put us all at risk of being defrauded? Target the Securities and Exchange Commission and deregulate the financial sector, sparking another financial crisis?

Beware. If Republican appointees on the Supreme Court succeed in gutting regulatory agencies, we all lose. This agenda is anti-worker, anti-consumer, and anti-environment. The only thing it’s good for is corporate profits.

How Corporations Could Make Your Life More Dangerous | Robert Reich www.youtube.com

DC insider explains the real reason why congress gets nothing done

Why doesn’t Congress get anything done? Well, one chamber actually does. Hundreds of bills have been passed by the House of Representatives, but have been blocked from even getting a vote in the Senate. Bills like –

The Freedom to Vote Act,

The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act,

The Equality Act,

Background checks for gun sales,

Reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act,

The Protecting the Right to Organize Act.

The Build Back Better Act.

The list goes on…

So why aren’t these crucial bills getting a vote in the Senate? Because the filibuster makes it impossible.

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All told, the House passed over 200 bills since the start of 2021 that have not been taken up in the Senate. Everything from investing in rural education to preventing discrimination against pregnant workers to protecting seniors from scams – bills that have real, tangible benefits for the public; bills that have widespread public support.

So don’t believe the media narrative that Congress is trapped in hopeless gridlock and both sides are to blame. One chamber of Congress, led by Democrats, is passing important legislation and delivering for the people. But Republicans in the Senate, and a handful of corporate Democrats, are hell-bent on grinding the gears of government to a halt.Why are Senate Republicans doing this? Because their midterm strategy depends on it. Republicans are blocking crucial legislation so they can point to Democrats’ supposed inability to get anything done, and claim they’ll be able to deliver if you give them majorities. Don’t fall for it.


Our Government Is Broken, But Not How You Think | Robert Reich www.youtube.com

Robert Reich explains why $100 billion is an unfathomable amount of money

Former United States Secretary of Labor Robert Reich released a new video on Tuesday in which he broke down the mind-bending reality of just how much $100,000,000,000 dollars actually is.

"The word 'billionaire' didn’t even exist until 1844. Fifty years later, we got 'multibillionaire.' And for the next 127 years, that was enough. But in 2020, while the working class faced near-record unemployment during the pandemic, the wealthiest Americans faced a different problem. Some of them had gotten so rich, there was no longer a word to describe just how rich they were," Reich began. "That’s why today I want to bring you one of the newest additions to the English language: 'centibillionaires,' people with $100 billion or more."

For scale, Reich compared the ultra-exclusive 12-digit-wealth club to that of their less-fortunate 10 and 11-digit counterparts. The math is truly staggering:

What’s it like being one of history’s first centibillionaires? It’s hard to even imagine, but let’s try it by comparing them to the less fortunate. By which I mean just … regular … billionaires.

If you’re a regular billionaire, you can afford a private jet. If you’re a centibillionaire, you can afford a brand-new Gulfstream jet every single day for more than ten years.

Not sure what you'd do with a new Gulfstream every day — maybe give one to each of your closest 4,000 friends?

A regular billionaire would struggle to buy their own professional baseball team. Sad, I know. But a centibillionaire could easily buy every team in the entire major league.

If you’re a regular billionaire, you can donate to your alma mater and get your name on a building. If you’re a centibillionaire, you could single-handedly give every teacher in America an $8,000 raise for 5 straight years.

Of course, that’s not all you could do. $100 billion is enough to wipe out all the medical debt in the United States. Or provide permanent shelter for every homeless person in America. Or buy Covid-19 vaccines for the entire world.

Basically what I’m saying is, $100 billion is a lot of money. More than two and a half million times what the average American worker makes in a year.

Reich then picked apart why – and how – so much money can accumulate in the coffers of such a minuscule fraction of people. And the answer is not that those few have "two and a half million times" the work ethic than basically everyone else:

As it turns out, the system that the super-rich themselves carefully crafted and lobbied for, benefits... the rich! And while you may not own more private jets than your average centibillionaire, you probably do pay a higher tax rate. And thanks to legal loopholes and the Trump tax cuts, when the wealthiest Americans die, they get to pass on most of their centibillions to their kids tax-free.

Reich said that Americans must come together to choose the kind of country they want to have:

We’ve got two choices as a country. We can tax the richest Americans fairly, and invest that money in ways that benefit all of us.
Or we can keep doing what we’re doing, and watch as centibillionaires get even richer while the rest of us get left behind. If you think wealth and power are too concentrated in the hands of a privileged few now, just imagine what a few more years of trickle-down nonsense will bring.

Reich warned that what comes next is even more unsettling:

Of course, it won’t be all bad. At least 'trillionaire' is easy to say.

Watch below:

Here’s What It’s Like Having $100 Billion vs. $1 Billion | Robert Reich www.youtube.com

How members of Congress use insider information to trade stocks

Members of Congress use privileged information to make money on the stock market, while they’re supposed to be working for you. Make no mistake, it’s legalized corruption.

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There’s no good reason for elected officials to trade individual stocks at all. Unless you have special insider knowledge, buying and selling individual stocks is a terrible way to get rich. It’s gambling, plain and simple. That’s why many Americans with retirement accounts prefer to invest in index funds — which are tied to the performance of the entire stock market

But many members of Congress continue to invest in individual stocks, and some do quite well. How do they do it?

Can Congress Really Use Insider Information to Trade Stocks? | Robert Reich www.youtube.com

Consider this: just before the economy crashed in 2008, several lawmakers frantically shifted their holdings to “safer” investments. This frenzy came just after private meetings with Treasury officials who had warned that an economic disaster was imminent.

I imagine most of you weren’t invited to these meetings — I certainly wasn’t. But those lawmakers were — and likely chose to act on that information.

When this story came to light, people were naturally outraged. After immense public pressure Congress passed the STOCK Act in 2012. The act required lawmakers to disclose their stock sales, and those of their spouses, within 45 days. By forcing these transactions to be public, the hope was that lawmakers would stop making questionable trades.

And it worked. Well… partially.

In January 2020, a handful of senators — including Richard Burr, Dianne Feinstein, and Kelly Loeffler — all made significant trades after receiving a classified briefing on COVID-19, well before the public knew the full extent of the threat.

Few, if any, lawmakers have faced serious consequences for violating the spirit or the letter of the law, as insider trading is notoriously difficult to prove.

In 2021 alone, news outlets identified 43 lawmakers who failed to properly disclose their trades. Their punishment? Nothing. Lawmakers are supposed to face a paltry $200 fine for failing to report on time — but congressional ethics officials usually waive it.

There is an obvious solution to all this: bar members of Congress from trading individual stocks.

The proposed Ban Conflicted Trading Act does just this. Lawmakers would have six months after being elected to sell their individual holdings, transfer them to a blind trust over which they have no control, or hold onto them until they leave office without trading them.

But Congress has yet to hold a vote on this bill, even though 67 percent of Americans agree it’s a good idea to prevent members of Congress from trading individual stocks.

As usual, follow the money: a majority of lawmakers are millionaires, who likely get a sizable chunk of their wealth from investments and trades. So they won’t support this bill unless there’s enough public outcry to make them.

That’s where you come in.

With distrust in government near an all-time high, even the appearance of a conflict of interest hurts our democracy. Members of Congress are elected to represent the interests of the people, not the money in their brokerage accounts.

Banning members of Congress from trading individual stocks is a no-brainer. Let’s get it done.

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, and writes at robertreich.substack.com. Reich served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good," which is available in bookstores now. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

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DC insider: Corporate seditionists are no better than the seditionists who attacked the Capitol

Capitalism and democracy are compatible only if democracy is in the driver’s seat.

That’s why I took some comfort just after the attack on the Capitol when many big corporations solemnly pledged they’d no longer finance the campaigns of the 147 lawmakers who voted to overturn election results.

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Well, those days are over. Turns out they were over the moment the public stopped paying attention.

A report published last week by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington shows that over the past year, 717 companies and industry groups have donated more than $18m to 143 of those seditious lawmakers. Businesses that pledged to stop or pause their donations have given nearly $2.4m directly to their campaigns or political action committees.

But there’s a deeper issue here. The whole question of whether corporations do or don’t bankroll the seditionist caucus is a distraction from a more basic problem.

The tsunami of money now flowing from corporations into the swamp of American politics is larger than ever. And this money – bankrolling almost all politicians and financing attacks on their opponents – is undermining American democracy as much as did the 147 seditionist members of Congress. Maybe more.

The Democratic senator Kyrsten Sinema – whose vocal opposition to any change in the filibuster is on the verge of dooming voting rights – received almost $2m in campaign donations in 2021 even though she is not up for re-election until 2024. Most of it came from corporate donors outside Arizona, some of which have a history of donating largely to Republicans.

Has the money influenced Sinema? You decide. Besides sandbagging voting rights, she voted down the $15 minimum wage increase, opposed tax increases on corporations and the wealthy and stalled on drug price reform – policies supported by a majority of Democratic senators as well as a majority of Arizonans.

Over the last four decades, corporate PAC spending on congressional elections has more than quadrupled, even adjusting for inflation.

Labor unions no longer provide a counterweight. Forty years ago, union PACs contributed about as much as corporate PACs. Now, corporations are outspending labor by more than three to one.

According to a landmark study published in 2014 by the Princeton professor Martin Gilens and Northwestern professor Benjamin Page, the preferences of the typical American have no influence at all on legislation emerging from Congress.

Gilens and Page analyzed 1,799 policy issues in detail, determining the relative influence of economic elites, business groups, mass-based interest groups and average citizens. Their conclusion: “The preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” Lawmakers mainly listen to the policy demands of big business and wealthy individuals – those with the most lobbying prowess and deepest pockets to bankroll campaigns and promote their views.

It’s probably far worse now. Gilens and Page’s data came from the period 1981 to 2002: before the supreme court opened the floodgates to big money in the Citizens United case, before Super Pacs, before “dark money” and before the Wall Street bailout.

The corporate return on this mountain of money has been significant. Over the last 40 years, corporate tax rates have plunged. Regulatory protections for consumers, workers and the environment have been defanged. Antitrust has become so ineffectual that many big corporations face little or no competition.

Corporations have fought off safety nets and public investments that are common in other advanced nations (most recently, Build Back Better). They’ve attacked labor laws, reducing the portion of private-sector workers belonging to a union from a third 40 years ago to just over 6% now.

They’ve collected hundreds of billions in federal subsidies, bailouts, loan guarantees and sole-source contracts. Corporate welfare for big pharma, big oil, big tech, big ag, the largest military contractors and biggest banks now dwarfs the amount of welfare for people.

The profits of big corporations just reached a 70-year high, even during a pandemic. The ratio of CEO pay in large companies to average workers has ballooned from 20-to-1 in the 1960s, to 320-to-1 now.

Meanwhile, most Americans are going nowhere. The typical worker’s wage is only a bit higher today than it was 40 years ago, when adjusted for inflation.

But the biggest casualty is public trust in democracy.

In 1964, just 29% of voters believed government was “run by a few big interests looking out for themselves”. By 2013, 79% of Americans believed it.

Corporate donations to seditious lawmakers are nothing compared with this 40-year record of corporate sedition.

A large portion of the American public has become so frustrated and cynical about democracy they are willing to believe blatant lies of a self-described strongman, and willing to support a political party that no longer believes in democracy.

As I said at the outset, capitalism is compatible with democracy only if democracy is in the driver’s seat. But the absence of democracy doesn’t strengthen capitalism. It fuels despotism.

Despotism is bad for capitalism. Despots don’t respect property rights. They don’t honor the rule of law. They are arbitrary and unpredictable. All of this harms the owners of capital. Despotism also invites civil strife and conflict, which destabilize a society and an economy.

My message to every CEO in America: you need democracy, but you’re actively undermining it.

It’s time for you to join the pro-democracy movement. Get solidly behind voting rights. Actively lobby for the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

Use your lopsidedly large power in American democracy to protect American democracy – and do it soon. Otherwise, we may lose what’s left of it.

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Btw, if you’d like my daily analyses, commentary, and drawings, please subscribe to my free letter: robertreich.substack.com

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, and writes at robertreich.substack.com. Reich served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good," which is available in bookstores now. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

As job gains slow, the Fed and Congress apply the wrong medicine

Friday’s jobs report from the Department of Labor was a warning sign about the US economy. It should cause widespread concern about the Fed’s plans to raise interest rates to control inflation. And it should cause policymakers to rethink ending government supports such as extended unemployment insurance and the child tax credit. These will soon be needed to keep millions of families afloat.

Employers added only 199,000 jobs in December. That’s the fewest new jobs added in any month last year. In November, employers added 249,000. The average for 2021 was 537,000 jobs per month. Note also that the December survey was done in mid-December, before the latest surge in the Omicron variant of Covid caused millions of people to stay home.

But the Fed is focused on the fact that average hourly wages climbed 4.7% over the year. Central bankers believe those wage increases have been pushing up prices. They also believe the US is nearing “full employment” – the maximum rate of employment possible without igniting even more inflation.

As a result, the Fed is about to prescribe the wrong medicine. It’s going to raise interest rates to slow the economy – even though millions of former workers have yet to return to the job market and even though job growth is slowing sharply. Higher interest rates will cause more job losses. Slowing the economy will make it harder for workers to get real wage increases. And it will put millions of Americans at risk.

The Fed has it backwards. Wage increases have not caused prices to rise. Price increases have caused real wages (what wages can actually purchase) to fall. Prices are increasing at the rate of 6.8% annually but wages are growing only between 3-4%.

The most important cause of inflation is corporate power to raise prices.

Yes, supply bottlenecks have caused the costs of some components and materials to rise. But large corporations have been using these rising costs to justify increasing their own prices when there’s no reason for them to do so.

Corporate profits are at a record high. If corporations faced tough competition, they would not pass those wage increases on to customers in the form of higher prices. They’d absorb them and cut their profits.

But they don’t have to do this because most industries are now oligopolies composed of a handful of major producers that coordinate price increases.

Yes, employers have felt compelled to raise nominal wages to keep and attract workers. But that’s only because employers cannot find and keep workers at the lower nominal wages they’d been offering. They would have no problem finding and retaining workers if they raised wages in real terms – that is, over the rate of inflation they themselves are creating.

Astonishingly, some lawmakers and economists continue to worry that the government is contributing to inflation by providing too much help to working people. A few, including some Democrats like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, are unwilling to support Biden’s Build Back Better package because they fear additional government spending will fuel inflation.

Here again, the reality is exactly the opposite. The economy is in imminent danger of slowing, as the December job numbers (collected before the Omicron surge) reveal.

Many Americans will soon need additional help since they can no longer count on extra unemployment benefits, stimulus payments or additional child tax credits. This is hardly the time to put on the fiscal brakes.

Policymakers at the Fed and in Congress continue to disregard the elephant in the room: the power of large corporations to raise prices. As a result, they’re on the way to hurting the people who have been taking it on the chin for decades – average working people.

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, and writes at robertreich.substack.com. Reich served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good," which is available in bookstores now. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

Robert Reich has the perfect answer to Trumpism

As I’ve considered the real lesson of January 6, I’ve been prompted to rewatch a movie that provides a hint of an answer — Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life,” which was released 75 years ago this month.

When I first saw the movie in the late 1960s, I thought it pure hokum. America was coming apart over Vietnam and the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, and I remember thinking the movie could have been produced by some propaganda bureau of the government that had been told to create a white-washed (and white) version of the United States.

But in more recent years I’ve come around. As America has moved closer to being an oligarchy — with staggering inequalities of income, wealth, and power not seen in over a century — and closer to Trumpian neofascism (the two moves are connected), “It’s a Wonderful Life” speaks to what’s gone wrong and what must be done to make it right.

As you probably know (and if you don’t, this weekend would be a good time to watch it), the movie’s central conflict is between Mr. Potter (played by Lionel Barrymore) and George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart). Potter is a greedy and cruel banker. George is the generous and honorable head of Bedford Fall’s building-and-loan — the one entity standing in the way of Potter’s total domination of the town. When George accidentally loses some deposits that fall into the hands of Potter, Potter sees an opportunity to ruin George. This brings George to the bridge where he contemplates suicide, thinking his life has been worthless — before a guardian angel’s counsel turns him homeward.

READ: 'Its roots are deep': Noam Chomsky breaks down just how dangerous Trumpism is after ex-president's 'attempted putsch'

It’s two radically opposed versions of America. In Potter’s social-Darwinist view, people compete with one another for resources. Those who succeed deserve to win because they’ve outrun everyone else in that competitive race. After the death of George’s father, who founded the building-and-loan, Potter moves to dissolve it — claiming George’s father “was not a businessman. He was a man of high ideals, so-called, but ideals without common sense can ruin a town.” For Potter, common sense is not coddling the “discontented rabble.”

In George’s view, Bedford Falls is a community whose members help each other. He tells Potter that the so-called “rabble … do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community.” His father helped them build homes on credit so they could afford a decent life. “People were human beings to him,” George tells Potter, “but to you, they’re cattle.”

When George contemplates ending it all, his guardian angel shows him how bleak Bedford Falls would be had George never lived — poor, fearful, and dependent on Potter. The movie ends when everyone George has helped (virtually the entire town) pitch in to bail out George and his building-and-loan.

It’s a cartoon, of course — but a cartoon that’s fast becoming a reality in America. Do we join together or let the Potters of America own and run everything?

Soon after “It’s a Wonderful Life” was released, the FBI considered it evidence of Communist Party infiltration of the film industry. The FBI’s Los Angeles field office — using a report by an ad-hoc group that included Fountainhead writer and future Trump pin-up girl Ayn Rand — warned that the movie represented “rather obvious attempts to discredit bankers by casting Lionel Barrymore as a ‘scrooge-type’ so that he would be the most hated man in the picture.” The movie “deliberately maligned the upper class, attempting to show the people who had money were mean and despicable characters. This … is a common trick used by Communists.”

The FBI report compared “It’s a Wonderful Life” to a Soviet film, and alleged that Frank Capra was “associated with left-wing groups” and that screenwriters Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett were “very close to known Communists.”

This was all rubbish, of course — and a prelude to the Red Scare led by Republican Senator Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin, who launched a series of highly publicized probes into alleged Communist penetration of Hollywood, the State Department, and even the US Army.

The movie was also prelude to modern Republican ideology. Since Ronald Reagan, Republicans have used Potter-like social Darwinism to justify everything tax cuts for the wealthy, union-busting, and cutbacks in social safety nets. Rand herself became a hero to many in the Trump administration.

Above all, Reagan Republicans, CEOs, and Trumpers have used the strategy of “divide-and-conquer” to generate division among Americans (a kind of political social-Darwinism). That way, Americans stay angry and suspicious of one another, and don’t look upward to see where all the money and power have gone. And won’t join together to claim it back.

What would Republicans say about “It’s a Wonderful Life” if it were released today? They’d probably call it socialist rather than communist, but it would make them squirm all the same — especially given the eery similarity between Lionel Barrymore’s Mr. Potter and you know who.

The oligarchy’s ultimate political weapon

If you’re discouraged by what’s happening in the country, that is by design.

The forces undermining our democracy, polluting our planet, and stoking hatred are counting on you to give up. But we must not let them.

They use their allies in political office to grind the gears of government to a halt, so people see government as the problem, not the solution. But if there’s one thing we learned from this wretched pandemic, it’s that government intervention can reduce poverty and suffering, and we can afford to pay for it.

They want us to become so discouraged that we stop showing up to vote. Another victory for them. Those who want you to believe that change is not possible are counting on you to forget that history and give up. Don’t.

PS: If you’d like to join me on a (nearly) daily basis, please subscribe at https://robertreich.substack.com/

We're still missing the truth about what the Jan. 6 attack really meant

January 6 will be remembered as one of the most shameful days in American history. On that date in 2021, the United States Capitol was attacked by thousands of armed loyalists to Donald Trump, some intent on killing members of Congress. Roughly 140 officers were injured in the attack. Five people died that day.

But even now, almost a year later, Americans remain confused and divided about the significance of what occurred.

Let me offer four basic truths:

1. Trump incited the attack on the Capitol.

For weeks before the attack, Trump had been urging his supporters to come to Washington for a “Save America March” on January 6, when Congress was to ceremonially count the electoral votes of Joe Biden’s win. Without any basis in fact or law (60 federal courts as well as the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security concluded that there was no evidence of substantial fraud), Trump repeatedly asserted he had won the 2020 election and Biden had lost it.

“Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” Trump tweeted on December 19. Then on December 26: “See you in Washington, DC, on January 6th. Don’t miss it. Information to follow.” On December 30: “JANUARY SIXTH, SEE YOU IN DC!” On January 1: “The BIG Protest Rally in Washington, D.C. will take place at 11:00 A.M. on January 6th. Locational details to follow. StopTheSteal!”

At a rally just before the violence, Trump repeated his falsehoods about how the election was stolen. “We will never give up,” he said. “We will never concede. It will never happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved. Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore.”

He told the crowd that Republicans are constantly fighting like a boxer with his hands tied behind his back, respectful of everyone — “including bad people.”

But, he said, “we’re going to have to fight much harder…. We’re going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women, and we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them, because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong…. We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.“

He then told the crowd that “different rules” applied to them. “When you catch somebody in a fraud, you are allowed to go by very different rules. So I hope Mike [Pence] has the courage to do what he has to do, and I hope he doesn’t listen to the RINOs [Republicans in Name Only] and the stupid people that he’s listening to.”

Then he dispatched the crowd to the Capitol as the electoral count was about to start. The attack on the Capitol came immediately after.

2. The events of January 6 capped two months during which Trump sought to reverse the outcome of the election.

Shortly after the election, Trump summoned to the White House Republican lawmakers from Pennsylvania and Michigan, to inquire about how they might alter the election results. He even called two local canvassing board officials in Wayne County, Michigan’s most populous county and one that overwhelmingly favored Biden.

He phoned Georgia’s Republican secretary of state to “find 11,780 votes,” according to a recording of that conversation, adding “the people of Georgia are angry, the people of the country are angry. And there’s nothing wrong with saying that, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated.”

He suggested that Georgia’s secretary of state would be criminally prosecuted if he did not do as Trump told him. “You know what they did and you’re not reporting it. You know, that’s a criminal — that’s a criminal offense. And you know, you can’t let that happen. That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer. That’s a big risk.”

He pressed the acting US attorney general and deputy attorney general to declare the election fraudulent. When the deputy said the department had found no evidence of widespread fraud and warned that it had no power to change the outcome of the election, Trump replied “Just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me” and to Trump’s congressional allies.

Trump and his allies continued to harangue the attorney general and top Justice Department officials nearly every day until January 6. Trump plotted with an assistant attorney general to oust the acting attorney general and pressure lawmakers in Georgia to overturn the state’s election results. But Trump ultimately decided against it after top department leaders pledged to resign en masse.

Presumably, more details of Trump’s attempted coup will emerge after the House Select Committee on January 6 gathers more evidence and deposes more witnesses.

3. Trump’s attempted coup continues to this day.

Trump still refuses to concede the election and continues to assert it was stolen. He presides over a network of loyalists and allies who have sought to overturn the election (and erode public confidence in it) by mounting partisan state “audits” and escalating attacks on state election officials. When asked recently about the fraudulent claims and increasingly incendiary rhetoric, a Trump spokeswoman said that the former president “supports any patriotic American who dedicates their time and effort to exposing the rigged 2020 Presidential Election.”

Trump recently announced he would be hosting a news conference at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on January 6.

“Remember,” he said in the announcement “the insurrection took place on November 3rd. It was the completely unarmed protest of the rigged election that took place on January 6th.” (Reminder: they were armed.) Trump then referred to the House investigation: “Why isn’t the Unselect Committee of highly partisan political hacks investigating the CAUSE of the January 6th protest, which was the rigged Presidential Election of 2020?”

He went on to castigate “Rinos,” presumably referring to his opponents within the party, such as Republican Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, who sit on the January 6 committee. “In many ways a Rino is worse than a Radical Left Democrat,” Trump said, “because you don’t know where they are coming from and you have no idea how bad they really are for our Country.” He added, “the good news is there are fewer and fewer RINOs left as we elect strong Patriots who love America.”

Trump has endorsed a primary challenger to Cheney, while Kinzinger will leave Congress at the next election. Trump and other Republicans have also moved to punish 13 House Republicans who bucked party leadership and voted for a bipartisan infrastructure bill in November.

4. All of this reveals a deep problem in America that must be addressed

Trump and his co-conspirators must be held accountable, of course. Hopefully, the Select Committee’s report will be used by the Justice Department in criminal prosecutions of Trump and his accomplices.

But this in itself will not solve the underlying problem. A belligerent and narcissistic authoritarian has gained a powerful hold over a large portion of America. As many as 60 percent of Republican voters continue to believe his lies. Many remain intensely loyal. The Republican party is close to becoming a cult whose central animating idea is that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.

Trump has had help, of course. Fox News hosts and Facebook groups have promoted and amplified his ravings for their own purposes. Republicans in Congress and in the states have played along.

But even with this help, Trump’s attempted coup could not have gotten this far without something more basic: A substantial portion of the American population feels an anger and despair that has made them susceptible to Trump’s swagger and lies.

It is too simplistic to attribute this solely to racism or xenophobia. America has harbored white supremacist and anti-immigrant sentiments since its founding. The despair Trump has channeled is more closely connected to a profound loss of identity, dignity and purpose, especially among Americans who have been left behind – without college degrees, without good jobs, in places that have been economically abandoned and disdained by much of the rest of the country.

The wages of these Americans have not risen in forty years, adjusted for inflation, even though the economy is now three times larger than it was four decades ago. The norm of upward mobility has been shattered for these Americans. Through their eyes, the entire American system is now rigged against them.

This part of America yearns for a strongman to deliver it from despair. Trump has filled that void. To be sure, he’s filled it with bombast, lies, paranoia, and neofascism. But he has filled it nonetheless.

The challenge ahead is to fill it with a democracy and economy that work for everyone. Unless we understand and respond to this fundamental truth, we will miss the true meaning of January 6.

Robert Reich: It’s no secret — Joe Manchin represents the monied interests and nobody else

The next ten days may well offer the last opportunity to enact Biden's agenda, because once Congress returns from Christmas break it's the new year—which is a danger zone for new legislation. Even when Democrats control all three branches—as they do now and did during first two years of Obama and Clinton—the second year is perilous because of the overwhelming gravitational pull of the midterm elections (I have a searing memory of Bill Clinton unable to summon a Democratic majority in 1994 for his healthcare bill).

Joe Manchin illustrates that the real division in American politics is no longer left versus right, conservative versus liberal, even Democrat versus Republican. The real division is democracy versus the moneyed interests.

But Senator Joe Manchin, the putative Democrat from West Virginia, refuses to vote on Biden's sweeping "Build Back Better" climate and social spending package before Christmas—which puts BBB into the 2022 danger zone. (Arizona's Senator Kyrsten Sinema will go along with whatever Manchin decides.) Biden is meeting with Manchin today to try to get his and support for a vote before the holidays, but no one believes the meeting will change Manchin's position.

Why is Manchin so obstinate? I once thought he was trying to protect West Virginia's coal mining industry and he worried that Build Back Better's climate provisions would hasten its demise. But West Virginia's coal industry employs only around 13,000 workers—less than 2 percent of the state's work force. Not even Manchin's personal financial interests in coal would be much diminished if BBB's climate measures were enacted.

Manchin's resistance becomes even more puzzling when you realize that West Virginia's biggest industry by far is health care, which employs more than 100,000 people (including many middle-class jobs). Build Back Better would make it easier for many West Virginians to get health care.

West Virginians do not have particularly good health. Of all the data I've come across about West Virginia, what strikes me most is that a quarter of West Virginians 65 and older have no natural teeth. That's the highest rate of tooth loss of any state in America. Why is this? Because West Virginians can't afford dental care. So they skip regular cleanings and exams, which are crucial for preventing infections and tooth loss.

Medicare does not cover dental care. Biden and progressives, led by Sen. Bernie Sanders, tried to add dental benefits to the Build Back Better Act. But guess who opposes adding dental and other benefits for Medicare beneficiaries? West Virginia's own senior senator, Joe Manchin. He says adding a dental benefit will cost the federal government too much. Too much? Even when it comes to the health of his own constituents? By the way, this is the same Joe Manchin who has had no qualms about spending tens of billions more on the military.

In recent weeks Manchin has added another twist to his opposition to Build Back Better, raising concerns that it will worsen inflation. I'm not convinced we need to worry about inflation at all (even though a government report out Friday showed that prices have grown nearly 7 percent in the past year, the biggest one-year surge since the early 1980s). But even if you think inflation is a problem, Build Back Better won't worsen it. Study after study confirm that it's unlikely to have any effect on inflation. If anything, it will cut American's out-of-pocket costs for childcare, healthcare, housing, eldercare, and energy. And because BBB would be paid for with tax increases on large corporations, its inflationary impact would be zero at worst.

Manchin is riding a wave of negativity about the economy (and is contributing to it with all his worrying statements about inflation). Roughly 70 percent of Americans now rate the economy as bad (with nearly half of Americans and political independents blaming Biden for inflation, according to a recent Washington Post-ABC poll). The negativity is also making it difficult for Biden to get his agenda enacted before the holidays.

Yet apart from inflation, the U.S. economy hasn't performed this well in years. It's created more than 6 million jobs since Biden took office, a rate higher than any in history. New claims for unemployment insurance dropped to 184,000 last week, the lowest level in more than 52 years. Economic growth is surging far faster than most analysts predicted before this year. And a record 13 million Americans quit their jobs between August and October, a signaling unprecedented confidence in their ability to get better ones.

Even as Americans rate the overall economy poorly, they rate their personal finances as good. In an Associated Press poll, 64 percent describe their personal finances as good while only 35 percent describe the national economy as good. Why the split view? Probably because most people don't separate their assessment of the "economy" from their view of the state of America as a whole, which—given that 60 percent of Republican voters continue to believe the 2020 election was stolen, Americans continue to be stressed about Covid (average blood pressure has risen), and fatal drug overdoses have soared—is sour. (A report last week from the surgeon general found that depression, anxiety, impulsive behavior and attempted suicides had all risen among children and adolescents.)

Working-class and poor Americans have had an especially hard time of it. They also will be hardest hit when the Supreme Court, as expected, reverses Roe vs. Wade and allows states to ban abortions. That's because the working class and poor typically don't have the resources to travel to other states where abortions are legal. Since Sept. 1, when Texas's law banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy went into effect, hundreds of Texans have traveled out of state to obtain an abortion—but those who can't afford to do so have remained pregnant against their will. (On Friday, the Supreme Court's Republican majority decided not to block the law, which gives private citizens the right to sue abortion providers or anyone who helps someone terminate a pregnancy after six weeks.)

At some point soon, Americans will need a federal law that codifies the right to an abortion. Democrats appear ready to enact it. Who's likely to stand in the way? Joe Manchin.

Which takes us back to the Manchin paradox. If nothing else explains Manchin's delaying tactics on Build Back Better, what's the real explanation? I think it's Manchin's campaign donors. According to campaign-finance tracking by Accountable.US, as of September Manchin had received more than $1.5 million from corporations that are opposed to the Build Back Better bill (Sinema got nearly $1 million). That's a big chunk of change for a senator from West Virginia, and it's only likely to get larger over coming weeks as Manchin delays a vote.

Joe Manchin illustrates that the real division in American politics is no longer left versus right, conservative versus liberal, even Democrat versus Republican. The real division is democracy versus the moneyed interests.

What do you think?

From Your Site Articles

DC insider explains how unaccountable institutions are shaping your life

Three centers of power increasingly dominate our lives, but are less and less accountable: The Supreme Court, the Federal Reserve, and Big Tech.

The Supreme Court

Start with the high court. These nine unelected individuals – all appointed for life – are about to revolutionize America in ways the majority of Americans don’t want. This court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 reproductive rights ruling; declare a century-old New York law against carrying firearms unconstitutional; and strip federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency of the power to regulate private businesses. And much more.

Let me remind you that five of the current justices were put there by presidents who lost the popular vote in their first election. Only 40 percent of the public now approves of the Supreme Court’s performance, a new low. Yet because justices are appointed for life, its members are immune to checks and balances, no matter how unpopular their rulings may be.

READ: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez brilliantly breaks down what’s really going on with inflation

The Federal Reserve

The Federal Reserve is almost as unaccountable as the high court.

Presidents appoint Fed chairs for 4-year terms, but tend to stick with them longer for fear of rattling Wall Street, which wants stability and fat profits. (Alan Greenspan, a Reagan appointee, lasted almost 20 years, surviving two Bushes and Bill Clinton). President Biden has just reappointed Jerome Powell, the current Fed chair, for example.

Because it sets interest rates and regulates finance, the Fed can either keep the economy going near full employment or put millions of people out of work. Powell has kept interest rates near zero —appropriate for an economy still suffering the ravages of the pandemic.

But he has also bailed out America’s biggest corporations by taking on their junk debt, which they then used to buy back their own stock to the benefit of their CEOs and major investors. And he’s allowed Wall Street to go back to risky betting—prompting Senator Elizabeth Warren to say this:

Warren: “Your record gives me grave concern. Over and over you have acted to make our banking system less safe, and that makes you a dangerous man to head up the fed.


How Unaccountable Institutions Are Shaping Your Life | Robert Reich www.youtube.com

Big Tech

Lastly, Amazon, Google, Apple, and Facebook all wield enormous power over our lives, and they too are unaccountable to the public good. They’re taking on roles that once belonged to the government, whether it’s blasting into space or running cybersecurity.

And their decisions about which demagogues are allowed to communicate with the public and what lies they’re allowed to spew have profound consequences for whether democracy or authoritarianism prevails.

Worst of all, they’re sowing hate and division. As Frances Haugen, a former data scientist at Facebook, revealed, Facebook’s algorithm is designed to choose content that will make users angry. Why? Anger generates the most engagement — and user engagement turns into ad dollars. (The same is likely true of the algorithms used by Google, Amazon, and Apple.)

And yet, decisions at these companies are accountable only to their shareholders, not the public.

Beware. Democracy depends on accountability. If abuses of power go unchallenged, those who wield power will continue to consolidate it. It’s a vicious cycle that erodes faith in democracy and breeds cynicism.

So how do we break the cycle and hold these power centers accountable?

  1. Rotate Supreme Court justices with appellate judges and add more justices to the Court.
  2. Demand transparency from the Fed, and have an open debate on who should run it instead of letting Wall Street effectively decide.
  3. And finally, treat Big Tech companies as public utilities and regulate them, or break them up.

I’ll be honest. It will take vast amounts of public pressure and intentional organizing to get these solutions enacted.

Our only option is to turn up the pressure and keep fighting for our democracy.

DC insider explains the shocking truth about who really benefits from America coming apart

Official Washington will be quiet this week, but the fallout from the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict will continue to divide America along the Trumpian fault lines of fear, violence, and racism.

Closing arguments are scheduled today in the trial of three men charged with the killing of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia. Though they chased him, they are claiming self-defense because, they say, Arbery tried to get control of a shotgun one of them was carrying. As with the Rittenhouse case, the trial raises questions of how self-defense laws will hold up as guns proliferate. Regardless of how it come out, the case also illustrates America's deepening split.

Congress's continuing investigation into the January 6 insurrection reveals the same rift, as will the Supreme Court's expected decision on executive privilege in that investigation, and its likely move to strike down New York State's law requiring people seeking licenses to carry handguns in public to show a "proper cause," as violating the Second Amendment.

The fault line has now extended into almost every facet of American lawmaking. When the "Build Back Better" bill passed the House late Friday night, 220 out of 221 Democrats voted for it. But all of the House's 213 Republicans voted against it. Why? The measures in the bill are hugely popular, according to polls. The bill includes the largest expansion of federal child-care assistance in history; free, universal prekindergarten for all American children ages 3 and 4; Medicare benefits covering hearing services; government for the first time being allowed to negotiate some prescription drug prices, aiming to lower the costs that seniors pay for lifesaving medicines such as insulin; and more than $550 billion to combat climate change — promoting greener energy and providing new perks for Americans who buy electric vehicles.

But policy popularity may be no match for fear, violence, and racism — which Republicans and the moneyed interests are now diligently exploiting to kill the bill in the Senate. So-called "moderate" Democrats (Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema) have expressed skepticism about its cost and scope. It would be one thing if Manchin's and Sinema's reservations were in good faith, but how can they be? Manchin frets about the bill's effects on inflation even though the bill lowers prices for most Americans of major expenses like childcare, drugs, and healthcare. Sinema says she prefers "legislation that is crafted in a bipartisan way," but who is she kidding? Mitch McConnell has made clear he won't allow a single Republican senator to vote for the bill.

The votes of every Senate Democrat are needed if the bill is to pass, but Manchin and Sinema are allowing rightwing tropes — and the big money behind them — to divide Democrats. As the New York Times reported yesterday, cash has poured into Manchin's and Sinema's political coffers from political action committees and donors linked to Wall Street, Big Pharma, and Big Energy, which have opposed proposals in the bill that Manchin and Sinema helped scale back.

The question that keeps haunting me is this: Is an America so deeply divided, and awash in political money that exploits that divide, any longer capable of doing bold things that are broadly popular? The only big thing we continue to do is feed the ravenous military-industrial complex — itself founded on fear, violence, and racism. (Efforts to whip up a new cold war with China conjure up old fears of a "yellow peril.") Congress is on the verge of giving the Pentagon even more money than the Pentagon and the Biden administration are seeking. The nation's military tab over the next ten years will be upwards of $8 trillion and is not paid for with expected revenue, in sharp contrast with the $2 trillion cost of the House's "Build Back America" plan, which would be paid for with tax increases on the wealthy and big corporations.

That America is becoming two separate nations is threatening everything we value. The most obvious beneficiaries (besides top executives of big corporations and Wall Street) are Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and Rupert Murdoch, who appear to be doing whatever they can to divide us even further.

How corporate power is the real driving force behind inflation

The biggest culprit for rising prices that's not being talked about is the increasing economic concentration of the American economy in the hands of a relative few giant big corporations with the power to raise prices.

If markets were competitive, companies would seek to keep their prices down in order to maintain customer loyalty and demand. When the prices of their supplies rose, they'd cut their profits before they raised prices to their customers, for fear that otherwise a competitor would grab those customers away.

But strange enough, this isn't happening. In fact, even in the face of supply constraints, corporations are raking in record profits. More than 80 percent of big (S&P 500) companies that have reported results this season have topped analysts' earnings forecasts, according to Refinitiv.

Obviously, supply constraints have not eroded these profits. Corporations are simply passing the added costs on to their customers. Many are raising their prices even further, and pocketing even more.

How can this be? For a simple and obvious reason: Most don't have to worry about competitors grabbing their customers away. They have so much market power they can relax and continue to rake in big money.

The underlying structural problem isn't that government is over-stimulating the economy. It's that big corporations are under competitive.

Corporations are using the excuse of inflation to raise prices and make fatter profits. The result is a transfer of wealth from consumers to corporate executives and major investors.

This has nothing to do with inflation, folks. It has everything to do with the concentration of market power in a relatively few hands.

It's called "oligopoly," where two or three companies roughly coordinate their prices and output.

Judd Legum provides some good examples in his newsletter. He points to two firms that are giants in household staples: Procter & Gamble and Kimberly Clark. In April, Procter & Gamble announced it would start charging more for everything from diapers to toilet paper, citing "rising costs for raw materials, such as resin and pulp, and higher expenses to transport goods."

Baloney. P&G is raking in huge profits. In the quarter ending September 30, after some of its price increases went into effect, it reported a whopping 24.7% profit margin. Oh, and it spent $3 billion in the quarter buying its own stock.

How can this be? Because P&G faces very little competition. According to a report released this month from the Roosevelt Institute, "The lion's share of the market for diapers," for example, "is controlled by just two companies (P&G and Kimberly-Clark), limiting competition for cheaper options."

So it wasn't exactly a coincidence that Kimberly-Clark announced similar price increases at the same time as P&G. Both corporations are doing wonderfully well. But American consumers are paying more.

Or consider another major consumer product oligopoly: PepsiCo (the parent company of Frito-Lay, Gatorade, Quaker, Tropicana, and other brands), and Coca Cola. In April, PepsiCo announced it was increasing prices, blaming "higher costs for some ingredients, freight and labor."

Rubbish. The company recorded $3 billion in operating profits and increased its projections for the rest of the year, and expects to send $5.8 billion in dividends to shareholders in 2021.

If PepsiCo faced tough competition it could never have gotten away with this. But it doesn't. In fact, it appears to have colluded with its chief competitor, Coca-Cola – which, oddly, announced price increases at about the same time as PepsiCo, and has increased its profit margins to 28.9%.

And on it goes around the entire consumer sector of the American economy.

You can see a similar pattern in energy prices. Once it became clear that demand was growing, energy producers could have quickly ramped up production to create more supply. But they didn't.

Why not? Industry experts say oil and gas companies (and their CEOs and major investors) saw bigger money in letting prices run higher before producing more supply.

They can get away with this because big oil and gas producers don't face much competition. They're powerful oligopolies.

Again, inflation isn't driving most of these price increases. Corporate power is driving them.

Since the 1980s, when the federal government all but abandoned antitrust enforcement, two-thirds of all American industries have become more concentrated.

Monsanto now sets the prices for most of the nation's seed corn.

The government green-lighted Wall Street's consolidation into five giant banks, of which JPMorgan is the largest.

It okayed airline mergers, bringing the total number of American carriers down from twelve in 1980 to four today, which now control 80 percent of domestic seating capacity.

It let Boeing and McDonnell Douglas merge, leaving America with just one major producer of civilian aircraft, Boeing.

Three giant cable companies dominate broadband [Comcast, AT&T, Verizon].

A handful of drug companies control the pharmaceutical industry [Pfizer, Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck].

So what's the appropriate response to the latest round of inflation? The Federal Reserve has signaled it won't raise interest rates for the time being, believing that the inflation is being driven by temporary supply bottlenecks.

Meanwhile, Biden Administration officials have been consulting with the oil industry in an effort to stem rising gas prices, trying to make it simpler to issue commercial driver's licenses (to help reduce the shortage of truck drivers), and seeking to unclog over-crowded container ports.

But none of this responds to the deeper structural issue – of which price inflation is symptom: the increasing consolidation of the economy in a relative handful of big corporations with enough power to raise prices and increase profits.

This structural problem is amenable to only one thing: the aggressive use of antitrust law.

Former labor secretary breaks down 'the cruelest form of capitalism in the world'

Elon Musk's wealth has surpassed $200 billion. It would take the median U.S. worker over 4 million years to make that much.

Wealth inequality is eating this country alive. We're now in America's second Gilded Age, just like the late 19th century when a handful of robber barons monopolized the economy, kept wages down, and bribed lawmakers.

While today's robber barons take joy rides into space, the distance between their gargantuan wealth and the financial struggles of working Americans has never been clearer. During the first 19 months of the pandemic, U.S. billionaires added $2.1 trillion dollars to their collective wealth and that number continues to rise.

And the rich have enough political power to cut their taxes to almost nothing—sometimes literally nothing. In fact, Jeff Bezos paid no federal income taxes in 2007 or in 2011. By 2018, the 400 richest Americans paid a lower overall tax rate than almost anyone else.

Watch:

But we can not solve this problem unless we know how it was created in the first place.

Let's start with the basics.

I. The Basics

Wealth inequality in America is far larger than income inequality.

Income is what you earn each week or month or year. Wealth refers to the sum total of your assets—your car, your stocks and bonds, your home, art—anything else you own that's valuable.Valuable not only because there's a market for it—a price other people are willing to pay to buy it—but because wealth itself grows.

As the population expands and the nation becomes more productive, the overall economy continues to expand. This expansion pushes up the values of stocks, bonds, rental property, homes, and most other assets. Of course recessions and occasional depressions can reduce the value of such assets. But over the long haul, the value of almost all wealth increases.

Lesson: Wealth compounds over time.

Next: personal wealth comes from two sources.The first source is the income you earn but don't spend. That's your savings. When you invest those savings in stocks, bonds, or real property or other assets, you create your personal wealth— which, as we've seen, grows over time.

The second source of personal wealth is whatever is handed down to you from your parents, grandparents, and maybe even generations before them—in other words, what you inherit.

Lesson: Personal wealth comes from your savings and/or your inheritance.

II. Why the wealth gap is exploding

The wealth gap between the richest Americans and everyone else is staggering.
In the 1970s, the wealthiest 1 percent owned about 20 percent of the nation's total household wealth. Now, they own over 35 percent.

Much of their gains over the last 40 years have come from a dramatic increase in the value of shares of stock.

For example, if someone invested $1,000 in 1978 in a broad index of stocks—say, the S&P 500 they would have $31,823 today, adjusted for inflation.

Who has benefited from this surge? The richest 1 percent, who now own half of the entire stock market. But the typical worker's wages have barely grown.

Most Americans haven't earned enough to save anything. Before the pandemic, when the economy appeared to be doing well, almost 80 percent were living paycheck to paycheck.

Lesson: Most Americans don't make enough to save money and build wealth.

So as income inequality has widened, the amount that the few high-earning households save—their wealth—has continued to grow. Their growing wealth has allowed them to pass on more and more wealth to their heirs.

Take, for example, the Waltons—the family behind the Walmart empire—which has seven heirs on the Forbes billionaires list. Their children, and other rich millennials, will soon consolidate even more of the nation's wealth. America is now on the cusp of the largest intergenerational transfer of wealth in history. As wealthy boomers pass on, somewhere between $30 to $70 trillion will go to their children over the next three decades.

These children will be able to live off of this wealth, and then leave the bulk of it—which will continue growing—to their own children … tax-free. After a few generations of this, almost all of America's wealth could be in the hands of a few thousand families.

Lesson: Dynastic wealth continues to grow.

III. Why wealth concentration is a problem

Concentrated wealth is already endangering our democracy. Wealth doesn't just beget more wealth—it begets more power.

Dynastic wealth concentrates power into the hands of fewer and fewer people, who can choose what nonprofits and charities to support and which politicians to bankroll. This gives an unelected elite enormous sway over both our economy and our democracy.

If this keeps up, we'll come to resemble the kind of dynasties common to European aristocracies in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries.

Dynastic wealth makes a mockery of the idea that America is a meritocracy, where anyone can make it on the basis of their own efforts. It also runs counter to the basic economic ideas that people earn what they're worth in the market, and that economic gains should go to those who deserve them.

Finally, wealth concentration magnifies gender and race disparities because women and people of color tend to make less, save less, and inherit less.
The typical single woman owns only 32 cents of wealth for every dollar of wealth owned by a man. The pandemic likely increased this gap.

The racial wealth gap is even starker. The typical Black household owns just 13 cents of wealth for every dollar of wealth owned by the typical white household. The pandemic likely increased this gap, too.

In all these ways, dynastic wealth creates a self-perpetuating aristocracy that runs counter to the ideals we claim to live by.

Lesson: Dynastic wealth creates a self-perpetuating aristocracy.

IV. How America dealt with wealth inequality during the First Gilded Age

The last time America faced anything comparable to the concentration of wealth we face today was at the turn of the 20th century. That was when President Teddy Roosevelt warned that "a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power" could destroy American democracy.

Roosevelt's answer was to tax wealth. Congress enacted two kinds of wealth taxes. The first, in 1916, was the estate tax—a tax on the wealth someone has accumulated during their lifetime, paid by the heirs who inherit that wealth.

The second tax on wealth, enacted in 1922, was a capital gains tax—a tax on the increased value of assets, paid when those assets are sold.

Lesson: The estate tax and the capital gains tax were created to curb wealth concentration.

But both of these wealth taxes have shrunk since then, or become so riddled with loopholes that they haven't been able to prevent a new American aristocracy from emerging.

The Trump Republican tax cut enabled individuals to exclude $11.18 million from their estate taxes. That means one couple can pass on more than $22 million to their kids tax-free. Not to mention the very rich often find ways around this tax entirely. As Trump's former White House National Economic Council director Gary Cohn put it, "only morons pay the estate tax."

What about capital gains on the soaring values of wealthy people's stocks, bonds, mansions, and works of art? Here, the biggest loophole is something called the "stepped-up basis." If the wealthy hold on to these assets until they die, their heirs inherit them without paying any capital gains taxes whatsoever. All the increased value of those assets is simply erased, for tax purposes. This loophole saves heirs an estimated $40 billion a year.

This means that huge accumulations of wealth in the hands of a relatively few households can be passed from generation to generation untaxed—growing along the way—generating comfortable incomes for rich descendants who will never have to work a day of their lives. That's the dynastic class we're creating right now.

Lesson: The estate tax and the capital gains tax have been gutted.

Why have these two wealth taxes eroded? Because, as America's wealth has concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the wealthy have more capacity to donate to political campaigns and public relations—and they've used that political power to reduce their taxes. It's exactly what Teddy Roosevelt feared so many years ago.

V. How to reduce the wealth gap

So what do we do? Follow the wisdom of Teddy Roosevelt and tax great accumulations of wealth.

The ultra-rich have benefited from the American system—from laws that protect their wealth, and our economy that enabled them to build their fortunes in the first place. They should pay their fair share.

The majority of Americans, both Democrats and Republicans, believe the ultra rich should pay higher taxes. There are many ways to make them do so: closing the stepped up basis loophole, raising the capital gains tax, and fully funding the Internal Revenue Service so it can properly audit the wealthiest taxpayers, for starters.

Beyond those fixes, we need a new wealth tax: a tax of just 2 percent a year on wealth in excess of $1 million. That's hardly a drop in the bucket for centi-billionaires like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, but would generate plenty of revenue to invest in healthcare and education so that millions of Americans have a fair shot at making it.

One of the most important things you as an individual can do is take the time to understand the realities of wealth inequality in America and how the system has become rigged in favor of those at the top—and demand your political representatives take action to unrig it.

Wealth inequality is worse than it has been in a century—and it has contributed to a vicious political-economic cycle in which taxes are cut on the top, resulting in even more concentration of wealth there—while everyone else lives under the cruelest form of capitalism in the world.

We must stop this vicious cycle—and demand an economy that works for the many, not one that concentrates more and more wealth in the hands of a privileged few.

How wealth inequality spiraled out of control

Elon Musk's wealth has surpassed $200 billion. It would take the median U.S. worker over 4 million years to make that much.

Wealth inequality is eating this country alive. We're now in America's second Gilded Age, just like the late 19th century when a handful of robber barons monopolized the economy, kept wages down, and bribed lawmakers.

While today's robber barons take joy rides into space, the distance between their gargantuan wealth and the financial struggles of working Americans has never been clearer. During the first 19 months of the pandemic, U.S. billionaires added $2.1 trillion dollars to their collective wealth and that number continues to rise.

And the rich have enough political power to cut their taxes to almost nothing — sometimes literally nothing. In fact, Jeff Bezos paid no federal income taxes in 2007 or in 2011. By 2018, the 400 richest Americans paid a lower overall tax rate than almost anyone else.

But we can not solve this problem unless we know how it was created in the first place.

Let's start with the basics.

I. The Basics

Wealth inequality in America is far larger than income inequality.

Income is what you earn each week or month or year. Wealth refers to the sum total of your assets — your car, your stocks and bonds, your home, art — anything else you own that's valuable.Valuable not only because there's a market for it — a price other people are willing to pay to buy it — but because wealth itself grows.

As the population expands and the nation becomes more productive, the overall economy continues to expand. This expansion pushes up the values of stocks, bonds, rental property, homes, and most other assets. Of course recessions and occasional depressions can reduce the value of such assets. But over the long haul, the value of almost all wealth increases.

Lesson: Wealth compounds over time.

Next: personal wealth comes from two sources.The first source is the income you earn but don't spend. That's your savings. When you invest those savings in stocks, bonds, or real property or other assets, you create your personal wealth — which, as we've seen, grows over time.

The second source of personal wealth is whatever is handed down to you from your parents, grandparents, and maybe even generations before them — in other words, what you inherit.

Lesson: Personal wealth comes from your savings and/or your inheritance.

II. Why the wealth gap is exploding

The wealth gap between the richest Americans and everyone else is staggering.
In the 1970s, the wealthiest 1 percent owned about 20 percent of the nation's total household wealth. Now, they own over 35 percent.

Much of their gains over the last 40 years have come from a dramatic increase in the value of shares of stock.

For example, if someone invested $1,000 in 1978 in a broad index of stocks — say, the S&P 500 they would have $31,823 today, adjusted for inflation.

Who has benefited from this surge? The richest 1 percent, who now own half of the entire stock market. But the typical worker's wages have barely grown.

Most Americans haven't earned enough to save anything. Before the pandemic, when the economy appeared to be doing well, almost 80 percent were living paycheck to paycheck.

Lesson: Most Americans don't make enough to save money and build wealth.

So as income inequality has widened, the amount that the few high-earning households save — their wealth — has continued to grow. Their growing wealth has allowed them to pass on more and more wealth to their heirs.

Take, for example, the Waltons — the family behind the Walmart empire — which has seven heirs on the Forbes billionaires list. Their children, and other rich millennials, will soon consolidate even more of the nation's wealth. America is now on the cusp of the largest intergenerational transfer of wealth in history. As wealthy boomers pass on, somewhere between $30 to $70 trillion will go to their children over the next three decades.

These children will be able to live off of this wealth, and then leave the bulk of it — which will continue growing — to their own children … tax-free. After a few generations of this, almost all of America's wealth could be in the hands of a few thousand families.

Lesson: Dynastic wealth continues to grow.

III. Why wealth concentration is a problem

Concentrated wealth is already endangering our democracy. Wealth doesn't just beget more wealth — it begets more power.

Dynastic wealth concentrates power into the hands of fewer and fewer people, who can choose what nonprofits and charities to support and which politicians to bankroll. This gives an unelected elite enormous sway over both our economy and our democracy.

If this keeps up, we'll come to resemble the kind of dynasties common to European aristocracies in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries.

Dynastic wealth makes a mockery of the idea that America is a meritocracy, where anyone can make it on the basis of their own efforts. It also runs counter to the basic economic ideas that people earn what they're worth in the market, and that economic gains should go to those who deserve them.

Finally, wealth concentration magnifies gender and race disparities because women and people of color tend to make less, save less, and inherit less.
The typical single woman owns only 32 cents of wealth for every dollar of wealth owned by a man. The pandemic likely increased this gap.

The racial wealth gap is even starker. The typical Black household owns just 13 cents of wealth for every dollar of wealth owned by the typical white household. The pandemic likely increased this gap, too.

In all these ways, dynastic wealth creates a self-perpetuating aristocracy that runs counter to the ideals we claim to live by.

Lesson: Dynastic wealth creates a self-perpetuating aristocracy.

IV. How America dealt with wealth inequality during the First Gilded Age

The last time America faced anything comparable to the concentration of wealth we face today was at the turn of the 20th century. That was when President Teddy Roosevelt warned that "a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power" could destroy American democracy.

Roosevelt's answer was to tax wealth. Congress enacted two kinds of wealth taxes. The first, in 1916, was the estate tax — a tax on the wealth someone has accumulated during their lifetime, paid by the heirs who inherit that wealth.

The second tax on wealth, enacted in 1922, was a capital gains tax — a tax on the increased value of assets, paid when those assets are sold.

Lesson: The estate tax and the capital gains tax were created to curb wealth concentration.

But both of these wealth taxes have shrunk since then, or become so riddled with loopholes that they haven't been able to prevent a new American aristocracy from emerging.

The Trump Republican tax cut enabled individuals to exclude $11.18 million from their estate taxes. That means one couple can pass on more than $22 million to their kids tax-free. Not to mention the very rich often find ways around this tax entirely. As Trump's former White House National Economic Council director Gary Cohn put it, "only morons pay the estate tax."

What about capital gains on the soaring values of wealthy people's stocks, bonds, mansions, and works of art? Here, the biggest loophole is something called the "stepped-up basis." If the wealthy hold on to these assets until they die, their heirs inherit them without paying any capital gains taxes whatsoever. All the increased value of those assets is simply erased, for tax purposes. This loophole saves heirs an estimated $40 billion a year.

This means that huge accumulations of wealth in the hands of a relatively few households can be passed from generation to generation untaxed — growing along the way — generating comfortable incomes for rich descendants who will never have to work a day of their lives. That's the dynastic class we're creating right now.

Lesson: The estate tax and the capital gains tax have been gutted.

Why have these two wealth taxes eroded? Because, as America's wealth has concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the wealthy have more capacity to donate to political campaigns and public relations — and they've used that political power to reduce their taxes. It's exactly what Teddy Roosevelt feared so many years ago.

V. How to reduce the wealth gap

So what do we do? Follow the wisdom of Teddy Roosevelt and tax great accumulations of wealth.

The ultra-rich have benefited from the American system — from laws that protect their wealth, and our economy that enabled them to build their fortunes in the first place. They should pay their fair share.

The majority of Americans, both Democrats and Republicans, believe the ultra rich should pay higher taxes. There are many ways to make them do so: closing the stepped up basis loophole, raising the capital gains tax, and fully funding the Internal Revenue Service so it can properly audit the wealthiest taxpayers, for starters.

Beyond those fixes, we need a new wealth tax: a tax of just 2 percent a year on wealth in excess of $1 million. That's hardly a drop in the bucket for centi-billionaires like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, but would generate plenty of revenue to invest in healthcare and education so that millions of Americans have a fair shot at making it.

One of the most important things you as an individual can do is take the time to understand the realities of wealth inequality in America and how the system has become rigged in favor of those at the top — and demand your political representatives take action to unrig it.

Wealth inequality is worse than it has been in a century – and it has contributed to a vicious political-economic cycle in which taxes are cut on the top, resulting in even more concentration of wealth there – while everyone else lives under the cruelest form of capitalism in the world.

We must stop this vicious cycle — and demand an economy that works for the many, not one that concentrates more and more wealth in the hands of a privileged few.

Former labor secretary: Don’t believe corporate America’s 'labor shortage' BS

For the first time in years, American workers have enough bargaining leverage to demand better working conditions and higher wages – and are refusing to work until they get them.

This originally appeared on Robert Reich's blog.

Here's where that leverage comes from. After a year and a half of the pandemic, consumers have pent-up demand for all sorts of goods and services. But employers are finding it hard to fill positions to meet that demand.

The most recent jobs report showed the number of job openings at a record high. The share of people working or looking for work has dropped to a near-record low 61.6 percent. In August, 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs, the highest quit rate since 2000.

Republicans have been claiming for months that people aren't getting back to work because of federal unemployment benefits. Rubbish.

The number of people working or looking for work dropped in September – after the extra benefits ran out on Labor Day.

The reluctance of people to work doesn't have anything to do with unemployment benefits. It has everything to do with workers being fed up.

Some have retired early. Others have found ways to make ends meet other than a job they hate. Many just don't want to return to backbreaking or mind-numbing low-wage jobs.

In the wake of so much hardship, illness and death, peoples' priorities have shifted.

The media and most economists measure the economy's success by the number of jobs it creates, while ignoring the quality of those jobs. Just look at the media coverage of the September jobs report: The New York Times emphasized "weak" job growth. For CNN, it was "another disappointment."

But when I was Secretary of Labor, I met with working people all over the country who complained that their jobs paid too little and had few benefits, or were unsafe, or required unwieldy hours. Many said their employers treated them badly.

With the pandemic, it's even worse. That's why, in addition to all the people who aren't returning to work, we're also seeing dozens of organized strikes around the country – 10,000 John Deere workers, 1,400 Kellogg workers, over 1,000 Alabama coal miners, and thousands of others.

Not to mention the unauthorized strikes and walkouts since the pandemic began, like the mostly Black sanitation workers in Pittsburgh or the Amazon warehouse workers in Staten Island.

In order to lure workers back, employers are now raising wages and offering other incentives. Average earnings rose 19 cents an hour in September and are up more than $1 an hour over the last year. But clearly, that's not enough to get workers back.

Corporate America is trying to frame this as a "labor shortage."

But what's really happening is more accurately described as a living-wage shortage, a hazard pay shortage, a childcare shortage, a paid sick leave shortage, and a health care shortage.

Unless these shortages are rectified, this unofficial general strike will continue.

I say it's about time.

America is on Strike | Robert Reich www.youtube.com

What should we do about the debt ceiling -- and why should you care?

OMG! The DEBT CEILING FIGHT is back.

Many of you may be asking yourself: what the hell is the debt ceiling? In brief, it's the limit on how much the government is allowed to borrow to pay for what it already owes on bills Congress has already agreed on and enacted — not for legislation that's currently being debated. If it's not raised, the government can't pay its bills (just as if you or I didn't pay our credit card bill). That would result in a default, which would mean chaos. Your variable-rate mortgage, for example, would go through the roof. The full faith and credit of the United States would be undermined.

The current debt ceiling has to be raised to pay for debt racked up by Republicans as well as Democrats, including trillions under the former guy. Senate Democrats raised the ceiling for Trump, so why won't Mitch McConnell and his Senate Republicans do it now for Biden?

Answer: because the debt ceiling is a political football used by both parties to gain leverage. (Democrats won some concessions when they agreed to raise it last time.) And McConnell wants as much leverage as possible for the pending fights over Biden's $3.5 trillion plan, the filibuster and voting rights, and so on.

But it's a dangerous football, akin to the one the President carries around with the nuclear codes. It could blow the place up.

Senate Democrats need to get 10 Republicans to vote for raising the ceiling (because of the filibuster). What's their plan? Tack a debt-ceiling measure (lifting it through the end of 2022) onto a bill to keep the government funded through December, which will also contain some goodies Republican senators want, such as urgently needed disaster relief for their states.

So what happens if Republican senators still won't budge? Will the government default on its debts? Will we have another government shutdown as we've had before when the government ran out of money?

No one knows, and that's part of the problem. It's spooking the market and causing tumult in the economy. And making Washington nervous.

My guess is that everything will be worked out. McConnell and his Republican colleagues don't want to bring the economy to its knees.

But the longer-term problem of the debt ceiling will remain. May I make a humble suggestion? Abolish the debt ceiling once and for all. Put a measure to abolish it in the Democrat's upcoming reconciliation bill.

When the debt ceiling was first adopted in 1917, it might have been a useful way to prevent a president from spending however much he wanted. But since 1974, Congress has had a formal budget process designed to control spending and the taxes needed to finance it.

There's no reason for Congress to authorize borrowing for spending that Congress has already approved, especially when a failure to lift the debt ceiling would be so horrific.

Having a debt ceiling doesn't discipline government, anyway. Remember: The national debt is obligations government has already made to those who lent it money. Discipline has to do with setting spending limits and legislating tax increases, not penalizing the lenders.

Which is why most modern democracies don't have debt ceilings. Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Australia – they do just fine without explicit borrowing limits.

Even more basically, the nation's debt is a meaningless figure without reference to the size of the overall economy and the pace of economic growth.

After World War II, America's debt was larger than our entire annual Gross Domestic Product, but we grew so much so fast in the 1950s and 1960s that the debt kept shrinking in proportion.

Today's debt is also higher than our GDP, but that's a problem only because the debt is growing faster than the economy is growing – so it's on the way to becoming larger and larger in proportion. But if we begin to spend more on public investments that will grow the economy (e.g., education and infrastructure in Biden's bills), the debt will start to decline in proportion to it.

This is what we ought to be focusing on. Fighting over whether to raise the debt ceiling is a dangerous distraction. Abolish it!

The Republican Party now poses a clear and present danger to the values it once espoused

I'm old enough to remember when the Republican Party stood for limited government – when Ronald Reagan thundered "Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem."

Today's Republican Party, while still claiming to stand for limited government, is practicing just the opposite: government intrusion everywhere.

Republican states are on the way to outlawing abortions. Texas has just banned abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, before many women even know they're pregnant. Other Republican states are considering similar measures.

Republican lawmakers are stopping schools from requiring students wear masks. Iowa, Tennessee, Utah, Texas, Florida, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Arizona and South Carolina have ordered public schools not to demand them.

Republican lawmakers are forbidding teachers from telling students about America's racist past. State legislatures from Tennessee to Idaho are barring all references to racism in the classroom.

Republican legislators are forcing transgender students to play sports and use bathrooms according to their assigned gender at birth. Thirty-three states have introduced more than 100 bills aiming to curb the rights of transgender people across the country.

Republican lawmakers are making it harder for people to vote. So far, they've enacted more than 30 laws that reduce access to polling places, number of days for voting, and availability of absentee voting.

This is not limited government, folks. To the contrary, these Republican lawmakers have a particular ideology, and they are now imposing those views and values on citizens holding different views and values.

This is big government on steroids.

Many Republican lawmakers use the word "freedom" to justify what they're doing, but that's bogus. What they're really doing is denying people their freedom – freedom to be safe from COVID, freedom over their own bodies, freedom to learn, freedom to vote and participate in our democracy.

Years ago, the Republican Party had a coherent idea about limiting the role of government and protecting the rights of the individual. I disagreed with it, as did much of the rest of America. But at least it was honest, reasoned, and consistent. As such, Republicans played an important part in a debate over what we wanted for ourselves and for America.

Today, Republican politicians have no coherent view. They want only to be reelected, even if that means misusing government to advance a narrow and increasing anachronistic set of values – intruding on the most intimate aspects of life, interfering in what can be taught and learned, risking the public's health, banning what's necessary for people to exercise their most basic freedoms.

This is not mere hypocrisy. The Republican Party now poses a clear and present threat even to the values it once espoused.

The $3.5 trillion bill that terrifies corporate America

Right now, Democrats are working to pass a $3.5 trillion package that will provide long overdue help for working Americans.

The final bill hasn't yet been determined, so we don't know the exact dollar amounts for all its policies. We'll probably find that out in late September or early October. For now, the Democrats' budget resolution frames what's in the bill.

First, on families:

The bill would make permanent key benefits for working families, including the expanded child tax credit in the pandemic relief plan that sends families up to $300 per child each month but is now set to expire in December, and is estimated to cut child poverty by half.

It would also establish universal child care, for which low- and middle-income households would pay no more than 7 percent of their incomes.

And provide a national program of paid leave — worth up to $4,000 a month — for workers who take time off because they are ill or caring for a relative.

Next, on education:

The bill would reduce educational inequality by establishing universal pre-K for all 3- and 4-year-olds, benefiting an estimated 5 million children, and providing tuition-free community college – essentially expanding free public education from 12 years to 16 years.

It will also invest in historically Black colleges and universities and increase the maximum amount of Pell grants for students from lower-income families.

On health care:

The bill expands Medicare to include dental, vision, and hearing benefits and lowers the eligibility age. It also expands Medicaid to cover people living in the 12 states that have not yet expanded Medicaid, and makes critical investments to improve healthcare for people of color.

The big question is how far it will go to reduce prescription drug prices by, for example, allowing Medicare to negotiate prices with pharmaceutical companies. That could reduce Medicare and Medicaid spending, and free up more money for other parts of the bill. But Big Pharma is dead-set against this.

Big corporations and the rich picking up the tab:

In another step toward fairness, all of these are to be financed by higher taxes on the rich and big corporations.

The bill would also increase the Internal Revenue Service's funding so the agency can properly audit wealthy tax cheats, who fail to report about a fifth of their income every year, thereby costing the government $105 billion annually.

In addition, the bill tackles the climate crisis, which also especially burdens lower-income Americans:

There are a range of solutions – subsidizing the use of solar, wind, nuclear and other forms of clean energy while financially penalizing the use of dirty energy like coal; helping families pay for electric cars and energy-efficient homes.

The bill might include something known as a carbon border adjustment tax — a tax on imports whose production was carbon-intensive, like many from China.

The bill would also establish a Civilian Climate Corps, and invest in communities that bear the brunt of the climate crisis.

And the bill helps American workers:

It will hopefully contain much of the PRO Act, the toughest labor law reform in a generation.

Finally, the bill includes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
This is all about making America fairer.

Remember: we won't know the exact details of the bill for at least a month, but these are the main areas that it will focus on. The big challenge will be ensuring Senate Democrats remain united to get it passed. All of us will need to fight like hell.

Don't listen to spending hawks who claim it's too expensive or too radical. For far too long, our government has ignored the needs of everyday Americans, catering instead to the demands of corporations and the super-rich. No more.

It's time to get this landmark bill passed and build a fairer America.

The Republican Supreme Court is squandering what remains of its authority

The U.S. Supreme Court won't block a Texas law that allows private individuals to sue to enforce a ban on abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy – before many women are even aware they're pregnant. The law went into effect Wednesday, September 1.

It's the most restrictive abortion law in the country, imposing a huge burden on women without the means or money to travel to another state where later abortions are legal.

It's also a sign that the Republican-appointed justices, who now hold six of nine seats on the Court, are ready to overturn the Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, striking down anti-abortion laws across the nation as violating a woman's right to privacy under the fourteenth amendment to the Constitution.

Last week the Court held that Biden's moratorium on evictions was illegal. A few days before, it refused to stay a lower court decision that people seeking asylum at the southern border must remain in Mexico until their cases are heard – often subjecting them to great hardship or violence.

What links these cases? Cruelty toward the powerless.

The U.S. Supreme Court won't block a Texas law that allows private individuals to sue to enforce a ban on abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy – before many women are even aware they're pregnant. The law went into effect Wednesday, September 1.

It's the most restrictive abortion law in the country, imposing a huge burden on women without the means or money to travel to another state where later abortions are legal.

It's also a sign that the Republican-appointed justices, who now hold six of nine seats on the Court, are ready to overturn the Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, striking down anti-abortion laws across the nation as violating a woman's right to privacy under the fourteenth amendment to the Constitution.

Last week the Court held that Biden's moratorium on evictions was illegal. A few days before, it refused to stay a lower court decision that people seeking asylum at the southern border must remain in Mexico until their cases are heard – often subjecting them to great hardship or violence.

What links these cases? Cruelty toward the powerless.

Sitting not far away from him was Thurgood Marshall – who succeeded in having the Supreme Court declare segregated public schools unconstitutional in the landmark 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education, and who did more than person then alive to break down the shameful legal edifice of Jim Crow.

Today's Supreme Court majority is a group of knee-jerk conservatives whose intellectual leader (to the extent they have one) is Samuel Alito, perhaps the most conceptually rigid and cognitively dishonest justice since Chief Justice Roger Taney.

Five of today's Supreme Court majority were appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote; three of them by a president who instigated a coup against the United States.

The authority of the Supreme Court derives entirely from Americans' confidence and trust in it. As Alexander Hamilton wrote in The Federalist Papers 78, the judiciary has "neither the sword" (the executive branch's power to compel action) "nor the purse" (the Congress's power to appropriate funds).

The Court I was privileged to argue before almost fifty years ago had significant authority. It protected the less powerful with arguments that resonated with the core moral values of the nation. Americans didn't always agree with its conclusions, but they respected it.

Today's cruel and partisan Supreme Court is squandering what remains of its authority. It is also imposing unnecessary suffering on those least able to bear it.

The Constitution's framers knew a filibuster would be a huge mistake

You've probably been hearing a lot about the filibuster these days. But here's one thing about this old Senate rule you might not know: the filibuster actually violates the Constitution.

41 Senate Republicans, who represent only 21 percent of the American population, are blocking the "For the People Act," which is supported by 67 percent of Americans. They're also blocking an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour, supported by 62 percent of Americans. And so much else.

Even some so-called moderate Democrats, like Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema, have outsized power to block crucial legislation thanks to the filibuster.

Many of those who defend the filibuster consider themselves "originalists," who claim to be following the Constitution as the Framers intended.

But the filibuster is not in the Constitution. In fact, the Framers of the Constitution went to great lengths to ensure that a minority of senators could not thwart the wishes of the majority.

After all, a major reason they called the Constitutional Convention was that the Articles of Confederation (the precursor to the Constitution) required a super-majority vote of nine of the thirteen states, making the government weak and ineffective.

James Madison argued against any super-majority requirement, writing that "the fundamental principle of free government would be reversed," and "It would be no longer the majority that would rule: the power would be transferred to the minority."

Alexander Hamilton, meanwhile, warned about "how much good may be prevented, and how much ill may be produced" if a minority in either house of Congress had "the power of hindering the doing what may be necessary."

Hence, the Framers required no more than a simple majority vote in both houses of Congress to pass legislation. They carved out specific exceptions, requiring a super-majority vote only for rare, high-stakes decisions:

Impeachments.

Expulsion of members.

Overriding a presidential veto.

Ratification of treaties.

Constitutional amendments.

By being explicit about these exceptions where a super-majority is necessary, the Framers underscored their commitment to majority rule for the normal business of the nation.

They would have balked at the notion of a minority of senators continually obstructing the majority, which is now the case with the filibuster.

So where did the filibuster come from?

The Senate needed a mechanism to end debate on proposed laws, and move laws to a vote — a problem the Framers didn't anticipate. In 1841, a small group of senators took full advantage of this oversight to stage the first filibuster. They hoped to hamstring the Senate and force their opponents to give in by prolonging debate and delaying a vote.

This was what became known as the "talking filibuster" as popularized in the film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. But the results were hardly admirable.

After the Civil War, the filibuster was used by Southern politicians to defeat Reconstruction legislation, including bills to protect the voting rights of Black Americans.

In 1917, as a result of pressure from President Woodrow Wilson and the public, the Senate finally adopted a procedure for limiting debate and ending filibusters with a two-thirds vote (67 votes). In the 1970s, the Senate reduced the number of votes required to end debate down to 60, and no longer required constant talking to delay a vote. 41 votes would do it.

Throughout much of the 20th century, despite all the rule changes, filibusters remained rare. Southern senators mainly used them to block anti-lynching, fair employment, voting rights, and other critical civil rights bills.

That all changed in 2006, after Democrats won a majority of Senate seats. Senate Republicans, now in the minority, used the 60-vote requirement with unprecedented frequency. After Barack Obama became president in 2008, the Republican minority blocked virtually every significant piece of legislation. Nothing could move without 60 votes.

In 2009, a record 67 filibusters occurred during the first half of the 111th Congress — double the entire 20-year period between 1950 and 1969. By the time the 111th Congress adjourned in December 2010, the filibuster count had ballooned to 137.

Now we have a total mockery of majority rule. And it bears repeating that just 41 Senate Republicans, representing only 21 percent of the country, are blocking critical laws supported by the vast majority of Americans.

This is exactly the opposite of what the framers of the Constitution intended. They unequivocally rejected the notion that a minority of Senators could obstruct the majority.

Every time Republicans use or defend the filibuster they're directly violating the Constitution — the document they claim to be dedicated to. How can someone profess to be an "originalist" and defend the Constitution while repeatedly violating it?

Senators whose votes have been blocked by a minority should have standing to take this issue to the Supreme Court. And the Court should abolish the filibuster as violating the U.S. Constitution.

The real socialism in America isn't what you think

You may have heard Republicans in Congress rail about how the Democrats' agenda is chock-full of scary "socialist" policies.

We do have socialism in this country — but it's not Democrats' policies. The real socialism is corporate welfare.

Thousands of big American corporations rake in billions each year in government subsidies, bailouts, and tax loopholes – all funded on the taxpayer dime, and all contributing to higher stock prices for the richest 1 percent who own half of the stock market, as well as CEOs and other top executives who are paid largely in shares of stock.

Big Tech, Big Oil, Big Pharma, defense contractors, and big banks are the biggest beneficiaries of corporate welfare.

How? Follow the money. These corporations and their trade groups spend hundreds of millions each year on lobbying and campaign contributions. Their influence-peddling pays off. The return on these political investments is huge. It's institutionalized bribery.


The Real Socialism in America is Not What You Think | Robert Reich www.youtube.com


An even more insidious example is corporations that don't pay their workers a living wage. As a result, their workers have to rely on programs like Medicaid, public housing, food stamps and other safety nets. Which means you and I and other taxpayers indirectly subsidize these corporations, allowing them to enjoy even higher profits and share prices for their wealthy investors and executives.

Not only does corporate welfare take money away from us as taxpayers. It also harms smaller businesses that have a harder time competing with big businesses that get these subsidies. Everyone loses except those at the top.

It's more socialism for the rich, harsh capitalism for the rest.

It should be ended.

DC insider: There's a mainstream media bias no one is talking about

The mainstream media has historically tried to balance left and right in its political coverage, and present what it views as a reasonable center.

That may sound good in theory. But the old politics no longer exists and the former labels "left" versus "right" are outdated.

Today it's democracy versus authoritarianism, voting rights versus white supremacy. There's no reasonable center between these positions, no justifiable compromise. Equating them is misleading and dangerous.

You hear the mainstream media say, for example, that certain "Republican and Democratic lawmakers are emerging as troublemakers within their parties." These reports equate Republican lawmakers who are actively promoting Trump's big lie that the 2020 election was stolen, with Democratic lawmakers who are fighting to extend health care and other programs to help people.

These are not equivalent. Trump's big lie is a direct challenge to American democracy. Even if you disagree with providing Americans better access to health care, it won't destroy our system of government.

You also hear that both sides are gripped by equally dangerous extremism. Labeling them "radical left" and "radical right" suggests that the responsible position is somehow between these so-called extremes.

Can we get real? One side is trying to protect and preserve voting rights. The other side is trying to suppress votes under the guise of "election integrity."

The Media Bias Nobody is Talking About | Robert Reich



Robert Reich breaks down how the mainstream media draws a false equivalence between the right and the left and misleads the public about what's really at sta...

The media is dangerously distorting the truth about American politics

The mainstream media has historically tried to balance left and right in its political coverage, and present what it views as a reasonable center.

That may sound good in theory. But the old politics no longer exists and the former labels "left" versus "right" are outdated.

Today it's democracy versus authoritarianism, voting rights versus white supremacy. There's no reasonable center between these positions, no justifiable compromise. Equating them is misleading and dangerous.

You hear the mainstream media say, for example, that certain "Republican and Democratic lawmakers are emerging as troublemakers within their parties." These reports equate Republican lawmakers who are actively promoting Trump's big lie that the 2020 election was stolen, with Democratic lawmakers who are fighting to extend health care and other programs to help people.

These are not equivalent. Trump's big lie is a direct challenge to American democracy. Even if you disagree with providing Americans better access to health care, it won't destroy our system of government.

You also hear that both sides are gripped by equally dangerous extremism. Labeling them "radical left" and "radical right" suggests that the responsible position is somehow between these so-called extremes.

Can we get real? One side is trying to protect and preserve voting rights. The other side is trying to suppress votes under the guise of "election integrity."

But there isn't and never was a problem of "election integrity." The whole issue of "election integrity" in the 2020 election was manufactured by Donald Trump and his big lie about voter fraud, and was bought and propagated by the Republican Party.

Today's Republican Party is behind what historians regard as the biggest attack on voting rights since Jim Crow, but the media frames this as a right-versus-left battle that's just politics as usual. Equating the two sides is false and dangerous.

Or compare the coverage of Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, on one hand, with the coverage of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar on the other. You'd think they were all equally out of the mainstream, some on the extreme right, some on the extreme left. That's bunk.

Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, in addition to spreading dangerous conspiracy theories, harassing colleagues, and promoting bigotry, don't actually legislate or do anything for their constituents. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar both organize to help everyday people, deliver for their constituents, and have pushed legislation to provide universal school meals, expand affordable housing, and combat the climate crisis.

Equating all these lawmakers suggests that the responsible position is halfway between hateful, delusional conspiracy theories on the one hand, and efforts to fight white supremacy, save the planet, and empower working people on the other.

It's similar to what the media did following Donald Trump's infamous condemnation of "both sides" after the deadly violence sparked by neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017. In the ensuing weeks, America's six top mainstream newspapers used just as much space condemning anti-Nazi counter-protesters as they did actual neo-Nazis.

But research shows white supremacists pose a significantly graver threat than those trying to stop them. White supremacists are animated by racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of bigotry, violence and hate.

Battling white supremacy is not the same as advocating it. Passing laws to prevent voter suppression is not the same as passing laws to suppress votes. Fighting for our democracy is not the same as seeking to destroy it.

The media equating both sides, one "left" and one "right," suggests there's a moderate middle between hate and inclusion, between democracy and proto-fascism.

This is misleading, dangerous, and morally wrong. Don't fall for it.

Why young people are broke

There's a narrative out there that millennials and the Generation Zs behind them are lazy.

Well, that is just bunk.

The reason a lot of young people are not doing nearly as well as their parents at this stage is that they're paying huge amounts – much more than their parents ever paid, as a proportion of their paychecks, for education, higher education or student debt, housing for rent, health care, even transportation.

All of these costs have increased faster than inflation, and at the same time, jobs are not paying that much more.

One in 10 college graduates are underemployed. By underemployed, we mean they are not spending 40 hours a week doing things that are challenging and taking advantage of their education. One out of 20 is unemployed.

In the post World War II era, we have never seen anything like this. We have always expected that we're going to do better. Individuals and families are going to do better. They're going to be trading upward, and their children are expected to do better than they have done.

For the first time now, we see the pendulum moving in exactly the opposite direction. Today, your chance of getting ahead as a young person is hugely dependent on the parents you have and their income and their wealth.

Meanwhile, we are on the verge of the largest inter-generational wealth transfer in history. You've got 74 million baby boomers. They've never done so well, raking it in. This extra resource is going to be going to those small slice of Millennials and Generation Zs who have wealthy parents and grandparents.

If nothing changes, the two-tiered society we have now is going to become a chasm between the haves and the have nots.

The most important things America can do is make college free, make healthcare cheaper, and provide more affordable housing.

We cannot continue on the way we are right now.

Trump Republicans are falling back on their old game as Covid surges

As the highly contagious Delta variant surges, public health officials are trying to keep the focus on the urgent need for more vaccinations.

But with increasing vehemence, Trump Republicans are falling back on their old game of deflecting attention by blaming immigrants crossing the southern border.

Last week, Trump issued a characteristic charge: "ICYMI: "Thousands of COVID-positive migrants passing through Texas border city," linking a New York Post article claiming that "nearly 7,000 immigrants who tested positive for COVID-19 have passed through a Texas city that has become the epicenter of the illegal immigration surge."

You may recall Trump employing this racist-nationalist theme before. For years he fixed his ire on Mexicans and Central Americans from "shitholes," as he has so delicately put it. He began his 2016 campaign by charging that "criminals, drug dealers and rapists" were surging across America's southern border, and then spent much of the subsequent four years trying to erect a fence to keep them out.

Trump acolytes are adopting the same demagoguery for the Delta surge. As hospitalizations in Florida soared past 12,000 this week, exceeding a record already shattered last weekend, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis accused President Biden of facilitating the virus by not reducing immigration through the southern border.

"Why don't you do your job?" DeSantis snapped after Biden suggested DeSantis stop opposing masks. "Why don't you get this border secure? And until you do that, I don't want to hear a blip about Covid from you, thank you."

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has also been quick to blame the Delta surge on immigrants crossing into Texas from Mexico, while barring Texas municipalities from mandating masks or inoculations.

On July 28 Abbott issued an order allowing state troopers to stop vehicles suspected of carrying illegal immigrants on the grounds they might be spreading COVID. (The order was subsequently blocked by a federal judge.) Days later, Abbott issued the order prohibiting Texas counties, cities, or universities from mandating masks or inoculations.

The Trumpist media is quickly falling in line behind this nativist rubbish. In the last week, Fox News' Sean Hannity has asserted the "biggest super-spreader" is immigrants streaming over the southern border rather than the lack of vaccinations.

The National Review claims "Biden's border crisis merges with his Covid crisis" and asserts that "the federal government is successfully terrifying people about COVID while it is shrugging at the thousands of infectious illegal aliens who are coming into the country and spreading the virus." A headline in the Fort Worth Star Telegram demands we "Stop pretending that crush of immigrants at Texas border isn't driving COVID cases."

Hold it. Can we please look at the actual data?

The Delta variant was first detected in India in December, and then moved directly to the United States in March and April according to the CDC.

GISAID, a nonprofit organization that tracks the genetic sequencing of viruses, has shown that each of the four variants now circulating in the United States arrived here before spreading to Mexico and Central America. International travel rather than immigration over the southern border brought the viruses to America.

Haven't we had enough demagoguery and deflection? Haven't Trump and his ilk done enough damage already?

The blame game must stop. Let's be clear. The best way to contain deaths and hospitalizations from Covid is to get more Americans vaccinated. Period.

The solutions to the climate crisis no one is talking about

In light of the latest IPCC report on climate change, it's crucial we remember these four steps to avoiding a climate catastrophe.

First, create green jobs. Investing in renewable energy could create millions of family sustaining, union jobs and build the infrastructure we need for marginalized communities to access clean water and air.

Second, stop dirty energy. A massive investment in renewable energy jobs isn't enough to combat the climate crisis. If we are going to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we must tackle the problem at its source: Stop digging up and burning more oil, gas, and coal.

Third, kick fossil fuel companies out of our politics. For decades, companies like Exxon, Chevron, Shell, and BP have been polluting our democracy by pouring billions of dollars into our politics and bankrolling elected officials to enact policies that protect their profits. The oil and gas industry spent over $103 million on the 2016 federal elections alone.

Fourth, require the fossil fuel companies that have profited from environmental injustice to compensate the communities they've harmed. As if buying off our democracy wasn't enough, these corporations have also deliberately misled the public for years on the amount of damage their products have been causing. If these solutions sound drastic to you, it's because they are. They have to be if we have any hope of keeping our planet habitable. The climate crisis is not a far-off apocalyptic nightmare — it is our present day.

DC insider: A Trump bombshell quietly dropped last week and it should shock us all

We've become so inured to Donald Trump's proto-fascism that we barely blink an eye when we learn that he tried to manipulate the 2020 election. Yet the most recent revelation should frighten every American to their core.

On Friday, the House oversight committee released notes of a 27 December telephone call from Trump to then acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen, in which Trump told Rosen: "Just say the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R congressmen." The notes were taken by Richard Donoghue, Rosen's deputy, who was also on the call.

The release of these notes has barely made a stir. The weekend news was filled with more immediate things – infrastructure! The Delta strain! Inflation! Wildfires! In light of everything else going on, Trump's bizarre efforts in the last weeks of his presidency seem wearily irrelevant. Didn't we already know how desperate he was?

In a word, no. This revelation is hugely important.

Rosen obviously rejected Trump's request. But what if Rosen had obeyed Trump and said to the American public that the election was corrupt – and then "left the rest" to Trump and the Republican congressmen? What would Trump's and the Republicans' next moves have been? And which Republican congressmen were in cahoots with Trump in this attempted coup d'état?

Make no mistake: this was an attempted coup.

Trump knew it. Just weeks earlier, then attorney general William Barr said the justice department had found no evidence of widespread fraud that could have overturned the results.

And a few days after Trump's call to Rosen – on 2 January – Trump told Brad Raffensperger, Georgia's secretary of state, to "find" votes to change the election outcome. He berated Raffensperger for not doing more to overturn the election.

Emails released last month also show that Trump and his allies in the last weeks of his presidency pressured the justice department to investigate totally unsubstantiated claims of widespread election fraud – forwarding them conspiracy theories and even a draft legal brief they hoped would be filed with the supreme court.

Some people, especially Republican officeholders, believe we should simply forget these sordid details. We must not.

For the first time in the history of the United States we did not have a peaceful transition of power. For the first time in American history, a president refused – still refuses – to concede, and continues to claim, with no basis in fact, that the election was "stolen" from him. For the first time in history, a president actively plotted a coup.

It would have been bad enough were Trump a mere crackpot acting on his own pathetic stage – a would-be dictator who accidentally became president and then, when he lost re-election, went bonkers – after which he was swept into the dustbin of history.

We might then merely regret this temporary lapse in American presidential history. At best, Trump would be seen as a fool and the whole affair an embarrassment to the country.

For the first time in the history of the United States we did not have a peaceful transition of power. For the first time in American history, a president refused – still refuses – to concede, and continues to claim, with no basis in fact, that the election was "stolen" from him. For the first time in history, a president actively plotted a coup.

It would have been bad enough were Trump a mere crackpot acting on his own pathetic stage – a would-be dictator who accidentally became president and then, when he lost re-election, went bonkers – after which he was swept into the dustbin of history.

We might then merely regret this temporary lapse in American presidential history. At best, Trump would be seen as a fool and the whole affair an embarrassment to the country.

This final revelation – Trump's 27 December call to the acting attorney general in which he pleads "Just say the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me" – should trigger section 3 of the 14th amendment, which bars anyone from holding office who "engaged in insurrection" against the US. The current attorney general of the United States, Merrick Garland, should issue an advisory opinion clearly stating this. If Trump wants to take it to the supreme court, fine.

How Republicans’ cynical exploitation of lies and anti-scientific rubbish to divide and divert us

I don't know about you, but I was elated earlier this spring when it seemed as if Trump and COVID were gone, and Biden seemed surprisingly able to get the nation rapidly back on track.

Now much is sliding backwards. It's not Biden's fault; it's Trump's ongoing legacy.

The new Delta strain of the virus requires, according to the CDC, that we go back to wearing masks inside in public places where the virus is surging, even if we're fully inoculated.

This would be nothing more than a small disappointment and inconvenience were it not for Republicans using it as another opportunity to politicize public health.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy responded to the new CDC recommendation with the kind of unhinged hyperbole Trumpers have perfected. "The threat of bringing masks back is not a decision based on science, but a decision conjured up by liberal government officials who want to continue to live in a perpetual pandemic state," he said.

Republican politicizing of public health will get worse if the Delta variant continues to surge. At some point vaccines will have to be mandated because being inoculated is not solely a matter of personal choice. Herd immunity is a common good. If infections mount, that common good can only be achieved if nearly everyone is vaccinated.

But those eager to exploit the virus's resurgence – the know-nothings, Trump wannabe's, vilely ambitious political upstarts, Tucker Carlsons and similarly cynical entertainers – are already howling about "personal freedom" threatened by "socialism."

The investigation into the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6 is further evidence of how far the Republican Party has descended into opportunistic treachery.

We need to know what happened and why if we are to have half a chance of avoiding a repeat. Just as with the history of systemic discrimination and brutality against Black people in America – which Republicans are calling "critical race theory" and trying to ban from classrooms – the truth shapes our responses to the future.

Here again, the dispiriting aspect of the present moment is Republican denial and obfuscation.

As Officer Michael Fanone – who suffered traumatic brain injury on Jan 6 when rioters attacked him – testified yesterday at the start of the hearings, "What makes the struggle harder and more painful is to know so many of my fellow citizens — including so many of the people I put my life at risk to defend — are downplaying or outright denying what happened."

With the exception of Rep. Liz Cheney – whom I never expected to hold up as a model of integrity – Republicans are eager to divert the public's attention. Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik declared at a press conference yesterday that "Nancy Pelosi bears responsibility, as speaker of the House, for the tragedy that occurred on Jan. 6."

This is absurd on its face. The Speaker of the House shares responsibility for Capitol security with the Senate majority leader, who at the time of the attack was Mitch McConnell. If Pelosi was negligent – and there's zero evidence she was – McConnell was as well.

Stefanik and other Republican leaders don't want the public to know about Republican members of Congress who were almost certainly involved in the travesty, either directly or indirectly. The list includes Representatives Jim Jordan, Mo Brooks, Paul Gosar, Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Andrew Biggs, and McCarthy himself. Senator Josh Hawley also seems to have been on the know, given his fist-salute to the rioters.

And then there's Trump himself, cheerleader and ringleader.

All should be subpoenaed. All, presumably, will fight the subpoenas in court.

Meanwhile, Trump continues to stage rallies for his avid followers as he did last weekend in Phoenix, where he declared "Our nation is up against the most sinister forces… This nation does not belong to them, this nation belongs to you."

Wrong. America belongs to all of us. And we all have a responsibility to protect its public health and its democratic institutions. The real sinister force is the Trump Republicans' cynical exploitation of lies and anti-scientific rubbish to divide and divert us.

Months ago, it seemed as if this darkness was behind us. It is not.

The GOP reveals itself to be the anti-family party

Last Thursday, 39 million American parents began receiving a monthly child allowance ($300 per child under 6, and $250 per child from 6 through 17). It's the biggest helping hand to American families in more than 85 years.

They need it. Even before the pandemic, child poverty had reached post-war records. Even non-poor families were in trouble, burdened with deepening debt and missed payments. Most were living paycheck to paycheck – so if they lost a job, they and their kids could be plunged into poverty. It's estimated that the new monthly child allowance will cut child poverty by more than half.

But every single Republican in both the House and Senate voted against the measure.

After I posted a tweet reminding people of this indisputable fact, Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah responded Friday with a perfectly bizarre tweet: "If you're one of the 39 million households receiving their first Child Tax Credit payment today, don't forget that every single Democrat voted against making it larger."

Hello? Did we just go through the funhouse mirror?

In point of fact, when the American Rescue Plan was being debated last February, Lee and Senator Marco Rubio did propose slightly larger payments. But here's the rub: They wanted to restrict them only to "working parents." Children of the unemployed would be out of luck. Yet those kids are the poorest of the poor. They're most at risk of being hungry without a roof over their heads.

In a joint press release at the time, Lee and Rubio said they refused to support what they termed "welfare assistance" to jobless parents, warning against undercutting "the responsibility of parents to work to provide for their families." Then Lee, Rubio, and every other Republican voted against the whole shebang – help for working and non-working parents. And now Lee wants to take credit for wanting to make the payments larger to begin with? Talk about both sides of the mouth.

As we move toward the gravitational pull of the midterm elections – and polls show how popular the monthly child payments are – I expect other Republicans to make the same whopper of a claim.

But underneath this hypocritical Republican rubbish lie two important questions. The first: will a payment of up to $300 per child every month – totaling up to $3,600 per child per year – invite parents to become couch potatoes?

That seems doubtful. Even a family with three kids under six would receive no more than $10,800 a year. That's way below what's needed to pay even subsistence expenses, and still far below what a full-time job at the federal minimum wage would pull in.

But even if the payment caused some parents to work a bit less, it's far from clear their children are worse off as a result. Maybe they benefit from additional parenting time.

Which only raises a second question: should children be penalized because their parents aren't working, or are working less than they would without the child payment?

This question has been debated in America for many years – ever since Franklin D. Roosevelt first provided "Aid for Families with Dependent Children" (AFDC) in the Social Security Act of 1935.

It can't be decided based on facts; it comes down to values. We know, for example, that child poverty soared after Bill Clinton and congressional Republicans ended AFDC in 1996 and substituted a work requirement. Many people – myself included – look back on that decision as a horrible mistake.

But many of its proponents call it a success because it resulted in additional numbers of poor adults getting jobs and thereby setting good examples for their children of personal responsibility. In the view of these proponents, a country where more parents take responsibility to provide for their children is worth the collateral damage of a greater number of impoverished children.

Since the 1990s, the Republican view that public assistance should be limited to families with breadwinners has taken firm hold in America. Only now, with the American Rescue Plan – put into effect during the worst public health crisis in more than a century and one of the fiercest periods of unemployment since World War II – has that view been rejected in favor of a universal family benefit.

It's too early to know whether this about-face is permanent. The Act's payments will end a year from now unless Congress passes Biden's proposed $3.5 trillion addition. Almost every Senate Democrat has signaled a willingness to go along. But here again, not a single Senate Republican has signed on.

Let's be clear. Mike Lee's Republican Party – the putative party of "family values" – doesn't support needy families. It supports a pinched and, in these perilous times, unrealistic view of personal responsibility – children be damned.

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