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Robert Reich: 10 Steps To Finding Common Ground – OpEd

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Trump has intentionally cleaved America into two warring camps: pro-Trump or anti-Trump. Most Americans aren’t passionate conservatives or liberals, Republicans or Democrats. But they have become impassioned for or against Trump.

As a result, people with different political views have stopped talking with each other. This is a huge problem because democracy depends on our capacity to deliberate together.

So what can we do–all of us–to begin talking across the great divide? Here are 10 suggestions:

1. Don’t avoid political conversations with people who are likely to disagree with you, even in your own family. To the contrary, seek them out and have those discussions.

2. Don’t start by talking about Trump. Start instead with “kitchen table” issues like stagnant wages, shrinking benefits, the escalating costs of health care, college, pharmaceuticals, housing.

3. Make it personal. Ask them about their own experiences and stories. Share yours. Try to find common ground.

4. Ask them why they think all this has happened. Listen carefully and let them know you’ve heard them.

5. If they start blaming immigrants or African-Americans, or elites, or Democrats, or even Obama – stay cool. Don’t tune out. Ask them about why they think these people are responsible.

6. Gradually turn the conversation into one about power – who has it, who doesn’t. Ask about their own experiences at work, what’s happened to their jobs, how others among their families and friends are treated.

7. Ask them about the roles of big corporations and Wall Street. For example:

–Why is it that when corporations and Wall Street firms violate the law, no executive goes to jail?

–Why did Wall Street get bailed out during the financial crisis but homeowners caught in the downdraft didn’t get help?

–Why do big oil, big agriculture, big Pharma, and Wall Street hedge-fund managers get special subsidies and tax loopholes?

8. Get a discussion going about how the system is organized, for whom, and how it’s been changing. For example:

–Why is it that only 4 major airlines fly today when a few years ago there were 12? Why are there only 4 Internet service providers?

–How is this increasing concentration of economic power across the entire economy driving up prices?

–Why are pharmaceutical companies and health insurers able to charge more and more?

–Why can corporations and their top executives declare bankruptcy and have their debts forgiven, when bankruptcy isn’t available to people laden with student debt or to homeowners who can’t meet their payments?

–Why are the biggest benefits from the tax cut going to billionaires?

9. Then get to the core issue: Do they think any of this has to do with big money in politics?

–Is the system rigged? And if so, who’s doing the rigging, and why?

–How can average people be heard when there’s so much big money in politics? Should we try to get big money out of politics?

–And if so, how do we do it?

Notice, you’re not using labels. You’re not talking about Democrats or Republicans, left or right, capitalism or socialism, government or free market. You’re not even talking about Trump.

You’re starting with the everyday experiences of most people–with their wages and living expenses and experiences on the job– and from there moving to economic and political power.

10. Oh, and don’t forget to use humor. Humor is the great disinfectant. For example, the Supreme Court says corporations are people. Well, you’ll believe they’re people when Texas executes a corporation.

Remember, the point isn’t to convince them you’re right and they’re wrong. It’s to get us thinking about what’s really happening to America. It’s exposing the abuses of power all around us.

If we can join together around these fundamental issues, we will all win

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  • Saturday, August 11, 2018

    TRUMP AND THE ART OF THE NO DEAL

    Donald Trump promised to be America’s dealmaker-in-chief, touting his “extraordinary” ability to negotiate. But so far, Trump has shown he can’t make a deal. Here’s the list of biggest no-deals:

    1. No deal with North Korea. Following his summit with Kim Jong Un, Trump declared on Twitter that “there is no longer a nuclear threat” from North Korea. But in fact, there’s no deal. Kim conceded nothing on weapons and missile programs. Recent satellite imagery shows North Korea is actually improving its nuclear capability.

    2. No deal with Russia. At the Helsinki summit, Russia agreed to nothing. But Trump gave away the store, even casting doubt on Russia’s collusion in the 2016 election in the face of the conclusions of America’s own intelligence agencies.

    3. No deal with China on trade. Instead, we’re on the brink of a trade war with China, which is retaliating against U.S. tariffs.

    4. No deal with Europe on trade. Instead, Europe has merely agreed to negotiate towards a resolution of the trade war Trump provoked in the first place.

    5. No deal on Iran. Trump announced America’s exit from the Iran nuclear deal. Since then, no negotiations.

    6. No deal on climate change. Trump simply pulled out of the Paris accords. There have been no negotiations since.

    7. No deal with the Group of 7 leading economic powers. Instead, Trump just pulled out of the joint communique.

    8. No deal on immigration or the DREAMers. Trump promised a new immigration bill, and a new deal from the young people brought to America as children. But since then, nothing.

    9. No budget deal with Congress. The government is still operating under a “continuing resolution.”

    10. No deal on replacing the Affordable Care Act. Trump promised to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act. But there’s been no repeal, and no replacement. He and the Republican Congress never agreed to a new plan.

    11. No deal on gun control. After the Parkland shooting, Trump promised to tighten background checks for gun buyers and said he’d consider raising the age for buying certain types of guns. Instead, he bowed to the NRA.

    Bottom line: Trump can’t make deals. He can only pull out of deals already made, or pretend he’s made deals that soon evaporate, or give away the store.

    He’s perfected the art of the no deal.

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  • Where Trump Sees Foreign Danger

    Monday, August 6, 2018

    What’s the most worrisome foreign intrusion into the United States – unauthorized immigrants, Chinese imports, or interference in our democracy?

    For Trump, it’s immigrants and imports. He doesn’t care much about the third.

    “Border security is national security,” Trump said last week, as he threatened a government shutdown if Congress didn’t come up with money to build a wall along the Mexican border (at an estimated cost at least $25 billion).

    Meanwhile, Trump has ordered his administration to consider raising tariff rates on $200 billion of Chinese goods, prompting China to threaten higher tariffs on $60 billion more of American goods.

    Yet Trump continues to assert that talk of Russian meddling in American elections is “a big hoax.” And his White House still has no coordinated plan for dealing with it.

    Trump has it backwards.

    Illegal immigration isn’t the problem he makes it out to be. Illegal border crossings have been declining for years.

    And if the Chinese want to continue to send us cheap imports that we pay for with U.S. dollars and our own IOUs, that’s as much of a potential problem for them as it is for us.

    But Russian attacks on our democracy are a clear and present threat aimed at the heart of America.

    Facebook recently announced it uncovered a major disinformation campaign with the hallmarks of the same Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency responsible for election interference in 2016.

    Trump’s own Department of Homeland Security found that in that 2016 election, Russian hackers tried to breach election systems in at least 21 states, likely scanned systems in all 50 states, stole the private information of hundreds of thousands of people, and infiltrated a company that supplies voting software across the nation. These findings led to the July indictment of 12 Russian Intelligence Officers.

    Russian hackers are likely planning the same sort of intervention in this November’s midterm elections. Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of Homeland Security, worries about Russia’s ongoing “willingness and a capability” to hack into the American election infrastructure, including voter rolls and voting machines.

    FBI Director Christopher Wray warns that “Russia … continues to engage in malign influence operations to this day.” Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence, says “Russians are looking for every opportunity … to continue their pervasive efforts to undermine our fundamental values.”

    Trump himself has admitted that his campaign aides met with Kremlin-linked Russian nationals on June 9, 2016 “to get information on” Hillary Clinton – even though federal law prohibits soliciting help from foreign nationals in connection with a federal election.

    Russia isn’t the only foreign danger to our democracy.

    The trial of Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, reveals another. It shows that Manafort hired a small army of American lawyers and lobbyists from both parties to influence U.S. lawmakers on behalf of Kremlin-connected former Ukrainian strongman, Viktor F. Yanukovych,

    These were essentially laundered bribes – from Yanukovych through Washington-based influence peddlers, then on to U.S. politicians through the political action committees run by those influence peddlers.

    A similar kind of laundered bribe from abroad occurred recently after the Chinese telecom giant ZTE was caught red-handed violating international sanctions on Iran. When the Commerce Department imposed penalties on the firm, ZTE hired the big Washington firm Hogan Lovells – which got Trump to lift the sanctions.

    The timing was curious. Just before Trump came to ZTE’s rescue, Chinese state enterprises agreed to give $500 million in loans to a project in Indonesia that included Trump-branded hotels, residences and golf courses – funneling millions of dollars into Trump’s pockets.

    When Congress threatened to reinstate the penalties on ZTE nonetheless, Hogan Lovells turned its sights on lawmakers. The firm’s political action committee made fat donations to legislators who had the power to reduce the penalties.

    The strategy paid off. Last Wednesday, the Senate passed a bill containing far weaker sanctions on ZTE than lawmakers originally intended.

    The Trump administration is also ending the requirement that nonprofit groups that engage in political activity disclose the names of their large donors – another loophole through which foreign money can stream in to influence American politics.

    All this raises the fundamental question of what we mean by national security.

    Yes, our borders should be secure, and, yes, our trading partners should play fair.

    But the essence of America – the attribute we must hold most secure because it defines who we are and what we strive for – is a system of government “of the people, by the people, for the people,” as Lincoln put it.

    If Putin or a Kremlin-connected Ukrainian strongman or even a giant Chinese company undermines this, they rob us of our most precious legacy.

    Trump cares more about unauthorized immigrants and Chinese imports than about the sanctity of our democracy. This is a tragic mistake.

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  • Sunday, August 5, 2018

    THE BIGGEST THREAT TO OUR DEMOCRACY THAT YOU HAVEN’T HEARD OF

    The biggest threat to our democracy that nobody is talking about is the real possibility of a rogue Constitutional convention – empowering extremists to radically reshape the Constitution, our laws, and our country.

    If just a few more states sign on to what’s called an “Article V convention” for a balanced budget amendment, there’s no limit to the damage they might do.

    Let me explain.

    There are 2 ways to amend the United States Constitution: One way – the way we’ve passed every amendment since the Bill of Rights – is for two-thirds of the House and two-thirds of the Senate to vote for a proposed amendment, and then have it ratified by at least three quarters of the states – now 38 in number.

    But there’s a second way to amend the Constitution. Two thirds of the states may demand that Congress form a constitutional convention to propose amendments.

    Once such a constitutional convention is convened, there are no rules to limit or constrain what comes next.

    Amendments proposed by an Article V convention are supposed to be ratified by 38 states. But convention delegates could hijack the process and change the ratification process itself, tossing out the 38 state requirement.

    A balanced budget amendment would be crazy enough. But nothing would be safe. A woman’s right to choose. Marriage equality. First Amendment protections for free speech and a free press. Equal protection of the laws. Checks and balances.

    An Article V convention would allow delegates to write their own agenda into our Constitution.

    Already 28 states have called for a constitutional convention. They only need 6 more to succeed.

    Unlimited money in politics and partisan gerrymandering have already given Republicans control of a majority of state legislatures. Big money interests like the Koch Brothers and ALEC are investing heavily in the push for a constitutional convention – which means that they’d be calling the shots if one takes place.

    You’re probably already overwhelmed with political actions you need to take. But, believe me, this is important. With just a few states to go, your voice is needed. Please tell your state lawmakers to reject calls for an Article V convention.

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  • Thursday, August 2, 2018

    THE ROADBLOCK TO COMMON SENSE PENSION REFORM

    55 million Americans — about half of the entire private-sector workforce — have no employer-sponsored retirement plan at all. Many work for small businesses in the low-wage service and hospitality sectors. If they don’t save money independently, they will have nothing when they stop working.

    This is very different from four decades ago when most workers retired with a company pension.

    The good news is that several states – including Oregon, California, Illinois, Connecticut, and Maryland — now let such workers put money away in state-sponsored retirement plans that allow them to withdraw their accumulated savings, tax free, when they hit retirement.

    The bad news is that the investment industry is aggressively seeking to block these plans, fearing the competition.

    That’s because the fees charged by most state retirement plans are capped at around 1 percent – much lower than the fees of similar plans operated by banks and investment companies. And state fees are expected to drop even lower as more workers enroll.

    If each of America’s 40 million retirees saved on average $50,000 in the state program, they’d have an additional $20 billion in the first year. That’s $20 billion more in the pockets of retirees, not financial institutions.

    Right now, the industry’s efforts appear to be winning.

    Republicans in Congress – backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a coalition of Wall Street investment firms – are seeking to block states from implementing these plans at all.

    Investment and insurance companies are also spending like mad on election campaigns of friendly state legislators and threatening lawsuits. Which is why many proposed state-run retirement plans are languishing in statehouses around the country.

    Folks, the anger and frustration that led to Trump continues to simmer. If we allow the moneyed interests to block common-sense reforms like this, in future years, America could face an even worse fate than Trump.

    When you vote in November, vote for legislators who want to allow workers to save for retirement and against legislators who are shills for the financial sector.

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  • Trump’s Two Kinds of Lies – and Why They’re Undermining American Democracy

    Wednesday, August 1, 2018

    There are two kinds of Donald Trump lies. One is about facts. The other is about those who call him out on his fabrications.

    An example of the first occurred Sunday, when Trump issued a tweetstorm of lies:

    “The Robert Mueller Rigged Witch Hunt, headed now by 17 (increased from 13, including an Obama White House lawyer) Angry Democrats, was started by a fraudulent Dossier, paid for by Crooked Hillary and the DNC. Therefore, the Witch Hunt is an illegal Scam!”

    These assertions have all been contradicted by Trump’s own FBI director and even by GOP congressional leaders.

    It’s bad enough when a president of the United States tells the public nonstop lies. It’s worse when he impugns those who are pointing out he’s wrong — the second type of Trump lie.

    An example of this second category occurred last week when Trump was speaking to a veterans group. “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening,” he said.

    In other words, you should only trust me.

    Trump is ramping up both kinds of lies — lies about the facts, and lies about those who are reporting the truth.

    Both categories of lies are dangerous to a democracy. The first misleads the public. The second undermines the capacity of the public to discover they are being misled.

    In the words of George Orwell, “The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”

    For those who believe both kinds of lies, Trump (backed by his Fox News propaganda machine) is the only credible source of information in America. That means he can say anything at all and remain unaccountable.

    In escalating his war on the media, Trump is also blocking unfriendly reporters from covering him.

    Last week, newly installed Deputy Chief of Staff Bill Shine and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told CNN correspondent Kaitlan Collins she could not attend Trump’s open-media event in the Rose Garden because they objected to her questioning of Trump earlier in the day.

    Meanwhile, Trump’s increasing attacks on the media are causing journalists to worry about their safety. New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger warned that the attacks were “contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence.”

    Democracy is imperiled when a president of the United States tells bald-faced lies. It is doubly imperiled when a president convinces a portion of the public not to trust anyone who contradicts him.

    As statesman and poet Vaclav Havel put it, “If the main pillar of the system is living a lie, then it is not surprising that the fundamental threat to it is living the truth.”

    These two kinds of lies are becoming more common in Europe as well. Indeed, the central political divide in the West is no longer right or left as we’ve come to understand the terms since World War II — emphasizing choice between small or large government.

    It is coming to be authoritarianism based on lies versus democracy based on truth.

    Trump’s two kinds of lies are lending legitimacy to European leaders who are actively suppressing the truth to entrench their power, such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, and Poland’s Law and Justice Party.

    Close behind them, although not yet in power, are France’s Marine Le Pen and Britain’s Nigel Farage. Italy’s new deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, also falls into this category.

    It is tempting to attribute the public’s willingness to believe lies to a growing disillusionment with global capitalism, especially the broken promise of higher standards of living.

    Despite low unemployment, the median wage in the United States (adjusted for inflation) is barely higher than it was in the late 1970s, and economic insecurity is widespread. Europe still suffers high unemployment.

    As in the 1930s, when global capitalism broke down, economic hardships fuel the rise of demagogues who direct anger and resentment toward scapegoats such as immigrants and minorities – lying about them with impunity.

    Added to this has been a concerted effort by Russian President Vladimir Putin to attack democratic institutions across America and Europe. The aim of his cyber-warfare campaign is to confuse the public about both the truth and the reliability of truth-tellers.

    The logical endpoint to both kinds of lies is fascism.

    Few living today remember the birth of fascism in Europe and Soviet Russia in the 1930s. Maybe that explains why the free world seems relatively passive in the face of these current attacks on democracy and truth.

    This is no time for passivity. The truth is still getting through to most people. But in sharp contrast to the 1930s, an American president is now helping lead the charge against it.

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  • Why Wages Are Going Nowhere

    Monday, July 30, 2018

    The official rate of unemployment in America has plunged to a remarkably low 3.8%. The Federal Reserve forecasts that the unemployment rate will reach 3.5% by the end of the year.

    But the official rate hides more troubling realities: legions of college grads overqualified for their jobs, a growing number of contract workers with no job security, and an army of part-time workers desperate for full-time jobs. Almost 80% of Americans say they live from paycheck to paycheck, many not knowing how big their next one will be.

    Blanketing all of this are stagnant wages and vanishing job benefits. The typical American worker now earns around $44,500 a year, not much more than what the typical worker earned in 40 years ago, adjusted for inflation. Although the US economy continues to grow, most of the gains have been going to a relatively few top executives of large companies, financiers, and inventors and owners of digital devices.

    America doesn’t have a jobs crisis. It has a good jobs crisis.

    When Republicans delivered their $1.5tn tax cut last December they predicted a big wage boost for American workers. Forget it. Wages actually dropped in the second quarter of this year.

    Not even the current low rate of unemployment is forcing employers to raise wages. Contrast this with the late 1990s, the last time unemployment dipped close to where it is today, when the portion of national income going into wages was 3% points higher than it is today.

    What’s going on? Simply put, the vast majority of American workers have lost just about all their bargaining power. The erosion of that bargaining power is one of the biggest economic stories of the past four decades, yet it’s less about supply and demand than about institutions and politics.

    Two fundamental forces have changed the structure of the US economy, directly altering the balance of power between business and labor. The first is the increasing difficulty for workers of joining together in trade unions. The second is the growing ease by which corporations can join together in oligopolies or to form monopolies.

    What happened to unions

    By the mid-1950s more than a third of all private-sector workers in the United States were unionized. In subsequent decades public employees became organized, too. Employers were required by law not just to permit unions but to negotiate in good faith with them. This gave workers significant power to demand better wages, hours, benefits, and working conditions. (Agreements in unionized industries set the benchmarks for the non-unionized).

    Yet starting in the 1980s and with increasing ferocity since then, private-sector employers have fought against unions. Ronald Reagan’s decision to fire the nation’s air-traffic controllers, who went on an illegal strike, signaled to private-sector employers that fighting unions was legitimate. A wave of hostile takeovers pushed employers to do whatever was necessary to maximize shareholder returns. Together, they ushered in an era of union-busting.

    Employers have been firing workers who attempt to organize, threatening to relocate to more “business friendly” states if companies unionize, mounting campaigns against union votes, and summoning replacement workers when unionized workers strike. Employer groups have lobbied states to enact more so-called “right-to-work” laws that bar unions from requiring dues from workers they represent. A recent Supreme Court opinion delivered by the court’s five Republican appointees has extended the principle of “right-to-work” to public employees.

    Today, fewer than 7% of private-sector workers are unionized, and public-employee unions are in grave jeopardy, not least because of the Supreme Court ruling. The declining share of total US income going to the middle since the late 1960s – defined as 50% above and 50% below the median – correlates directly with that decline in unionization. (See chart below).

    Perhaps even more significantly, the share of total income going to the richest 10 percent of Americans over the last century is almost exactly inversely related to the share of the nation’s workers who are unionized. (See chart below). When it comes to dividing up the pie, most American workers today have little or no say. The pie is growing but they’re getting only the crumbs.

    What happened to antitrust

    Over the same period time, antitrust enforcement has gone into remission. The US government has essentially given a green light to companies seeking to gain monopoly power over digital platforms and networks (Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook); wanting to merge into giant oligopolies (pharmaceuticals, health insurers, airlines, seed producers, food processors, military contractors, Wall Street banks, internet service providers); or intent on creating local monopolies (food distributors, waste disposal companies, hospitals).

    This means workers are spending more on such goods and services than they would were these markets more competitive. It’s exactly as if their paychecks were cut. Concentrated economic power has also given corporations more ability to hold down wages, because workers have less choice of whom to work for. And it has let companies impose on workers provisions that further weaken their bargaining power, such as anti-poaching and mandatory arbitration agreements.

    This great shift in bargaining power, from workers to corporations, has pushed a larger portion of national income into profits and a lower portion into wages than at any time since the second world war. In recent years, most of those profits have gone into higher executive pay and higher share prices rather than into new investment or worker pay. Add to this the fact that the richest 10% of Americans own about 80% of all shares of stock (the top 1% owns about 40%), and you get a broader picture of how and why inequality has widened so dramatically.

    What happened to politics

    Another consequence: corporations and wealthy individuals have had more money to pour into political campaigns and lobbying, while labor unions have had far less. In 1978, for example, congressional campaign contributions by labor Political Action Committees were on par with corporate PAC contributions. But since 1980, corporate PAC giving has grown at a much faster clip, and today the gulf is huge.

    It is no coincidence that all three branches of the federal government, as well as most state governments, have become more “business-friendly” and less “worker-friendly” than at any time since the 1920s. As I’ve noted, Congress recently slashed the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%.

    Meanwhile, John Roberts’ supreme court has more often sided with business interests in cases involving labor, the environment, or consumers than has any Supreme Court since the mid-1930s. Over the past year it not only ruled against public employee unions but also decided that workers cannot join together in class action suits when their employment contract calls for mandatory arbitration.

    The federal minimum wage has not been increased since 2009, and is now about where it was in 1950 when adjusted for inflation. Trump’s labor department is busily repealing many rules and regulations designed to protect workers.

    The combination of high corporate profits and growing corporate political power has created a vicious cycle: higher profits have generated more political influence, which has altered the rules of the game through legislative, congressional, and judicial action – enabling corporations to extract even more profit. The biggest losers, from whom most profits have been extracted, have been average workers.

    America’s shift from farm to factory was accompanied by decades of bloody labor conflict.The shift from factory to office and other sedentary jobs created other social upheaval.

    The more recent shift in bargaining power from workers to large corporations – and consequentially, the dramatic widening of inequalities of income, wealth, and political power – has had a more unfortunate and, I fear, more lasting consequence: an angry working class vulnerable to demagogues peddling authoritarianism, racism, and xenophobia.

    [This article originally appeared in the July 29, 2018 edition of The Guardian, under the title “Almost 80 Percent of Americans Live From Paycheck to Paycheck. Here’s Why.”]

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  • Saturday, July 28, 2018

    6 REASONS FOR HOPE IN TRUMP TIMES

    In these darkest of days, here’s what gives me hope:

    First, Donald Trump has been a giant wake-up call that we can’t take democracy for granted. The young people of America get this. I’ve been teaching for 40 years and I don’t recall a generation as committed to social justice, reforming this country, and making it work for all and not just a few.

    Look at those kids in Parkland, Florida. Or the millions more who are getting involved in their communities and in politics. They are America’s future, and they won’t give up.

    The second thing that makes me optimistic is occurring at the grassroots of America, where there’s more activism than I remember in half a century. The #MeToo movement, Time’s Up, #BlackLivesMatter, #Neveragain, the Poor People’s Campaign, Indivisible.org, swingleft.org.

    They and thousands of other groups and millions of Americans are united by a commitment to end abuses of power – whether by sexual predators, or the police, the National Rifle Association, or billionaires out to undermine our democracy.

    Third, Fueled by Trump’s election, more women are running for office than ever before. According to Emily’s List, more than 36,000 women are interested in running for office in 2018 and beyond. By comparison, 920 women contacted Emily’s List in the 2016 campaign.

    Fourth, I’m optimistic because America’s history shows that every time we’ve gotten off track, Americans mobilize to get our country back on track. We did this after the Gilded Age of the 1880s and 1890s, when robber barons monopolized the economy; politics was poisoned by money; and poverty, and disease, and horrendous working conditions claimed thousands of lives each year.

    We did it again in the Depression decade of the 1930s, after the economy collapsed because of Wall Street’s excesses. And again in the 1960s and 1970s, when we embraced civil rights and voting rights, Medicare and Medicaid, and environmental protection. If history teaches us anything, we will again reform this system.

    Fifth, I’m also optimistic because these grueling years of the Trump presidency have made us all realize how fragile our democracy really is, and what we need to reform–from the Electoral College and super-delegates to gerrymandering, voter ID laws, and hacker-proof voting machinery.

    And most of us now know how important it is to vote.

    Finally, I’m optimistic because I don’t like the alternative. We must have hope.

    The fate of this nation depends on every one of us becoming an activist, joining with others, and reclaiming this land from those bent on destroying it.

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  • Monday, July 23, 2018

    WE’RE LIVING A CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS

    I keep hearing that if Trump fires Mueller, we’ll face a “constitutional crisis.” Or if Mueller subpoenas Trump to testify and Trump defies the subpoena, it’s a “constitutional crisis”. Or if Mueller delivers substantial evidence that Trump is guilty of colluding with Russia or of obstructing justice, and the House does nothing to impeach him, we have a “constitutional crisis.”

    Well, I have news for you. We’re already in a “constitutional crisis.”

    You see, the Constitution is a tiny document. It requires that presidents and others in positions of power be bound by norms, unwritten rules, and long-established understandings of their constitutional responsibilities.

    Yet look at what’s happened since January 2017:

    Trump fires the head of the FBI and conjures up a plot that the FBI installed a spy in his campaign; blames the entire Mueller investigation on a conspiratorial “deep state” that’s out to remove him from office; uses pardons to demonstrate to people already under investigation that they don’t need to cooperate because he can pardon them, too; and asserts that the appointment of the special counsel was unconstitutional, and that he has the power under the Constitution to end the investigation whenever he wants.

    He initially denies that Russia intruded in the 2016 election, when all America’s intelligence agencies show it has; and even now asserts that they are not continuing to mount a cyberattack on America, when his intelligence chiefs say otherwise.

    Beyond this, he berates judges who disagree with him, and journalists and news organizations that criticize him; uses the presidency like a personal fiefdom to enrich himself and his family; unilaterally breaks treaties, starts trade wars with long-standing allies, and cozies up to some of the most murderous dictators in the world; treats Americans who didn’t vote for him and disapprove of him as his enemies; and tweets and holds rallies with his followers that fuel division and hate.

    There is no exact definition of a constitutional crisis. Presumably it’s when the United States Constitution is in crisis. And it is in crisis now, today, because the president of the United States is abusing it to entrench his power.

    As long as he can get away with it, as long as Republicans who control Congress won’t stand up to him, as long as Americans who oppose this have no capacity to stop him, even though they may be in the majority, this rogue president will do more and more damage to our system of government. And the constitutional crisis will worsen.

    A malignant megalomaniac facing no countervailing power will continue to expand his terrain until he is stopped.

    The best response is to vote for a Congress this November that will constrain him. And then, in November 2020, vote him and his regime out of office.

    If he refuses to accept the results of that election – as he threatened to do if he lost the 2016 election – he must be removed from office.

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10 STEPS TO FINDING COMMON GROUND

Trump has intentionally cleaved America into two warring camps: pro-Trump or anti-Trump. Most Americans aren’t passionate conservatives or liberals, Republicans or Democrats. But they have become impassioned for or against Trump.

As a result, people with different political views have stopped talking with each other. This is a huge problem because democracy depends on our capacity to deliberate together.

So what can we do–all of us–to begin talking across the great divide? Here are 10 suggestions:

1. Don’t avoid political conversations with people who are likely to disagree with you, even in your own family. To the contrary, seek them out and have those discussions.

2. Don’t start by talking about Trump. Start instead with “kitchen table” issues like stagnant wages, shrinking benefits, the escalating costs of health care, college, pharmaceuticals, housing.

3. Make it personal. Ask them about their own experiences and stories. Share yours. Try to find common ground.

4. Ask them why they think all this has happened. Listen carefully and let them know you’ve heard them.

5. If they start blaming immigrants or African-Americans, or elites, or Democrats, or even Obama – stay cool. Don’t tune out. Ask them about why they think these people are responsible.

6. Gradually turn the conversation into one about power – who has it, who doesn’t. Ask about their own experiences at work, what’s happened to their jobs, how others among their families and friends are treated.

7. Ask them about the roles of big corporations and Wall Street. For example:

–Why is it that when corporations and Wall Street firms violate the law, no executive goes to jail?

–Why did Wall Street get bailed out during the financial crisis but homeowners caught in the downdraft didn’t get help?

–Why do big oil, big agriculture, big Pharma, and Wall Street hedge-fund managers get special subsidies and tax loopholes?

8. Get a discussion going about how the system is organized, for whom, and how it’s been changing. For example:

–Why is it that only 4 major airlines fly today when a few years ago there were 12? Why are there only 4 Internet service providers?

–How is this increasing concentration of economic power across the entire economy driving up prices?

–Why are pharmaceutical companies and health insurers able to charge more and more?

–Why can corporations and their top executives declare bankruptcy and have their debts forgiven, when bankruptcy isn’t available to people laden with student debt or to homeowners who can’t meet their payments?

–Why are the biggest benefits from the tax cut going to billionaires?

9. Then get to the core issue: Do they think any of this has to do with big money in politics?

–Is the system rigged? And if so, who’s doing the rigging, and why?

–How can average people be heard when there’s so much big money in politics? Should we try to get big money out of politics?

–And if so, how do we do it?

Notice, you’re not using labels. You’re not talking about Democrats or Republicans, left or right, capitalism or socialism, government or free market. You’re not even talking about Trump.

You’re starting with the everyday experiences of most people–with their wages and living expenses and experiences on the job– and from there moving to economic and political power.

10. Oh, and don’t forget to use humor. Humor is the great disinfectant. For example, the Supreme Court says corporations are people. Well, you’ll believe they’re people when Texas executes a corporation.

Remember, the point isn’t to convince them you’re right and they’re wrong. It’s to get us thinking about what’s really happening to America. It’s exposing the abuses of power all around us.

If we can join together around these fundamental issues, we will all win

TRUMP AND THE ART OF THE NO DEAL

Donald Trump promised to be America’s dealmaker-in-chief, touting his “extraordinary” ability to negotiate. But so far, Trump has shown he can’t make a deal. Here’s the list of biggest no-deals:

1. No deal with North Korea. Following his summit with Kim Jong Un, Trump declared on Twitter that “there is no longer a nuclear threat” from North Korea. But in fact, there’s no deal. Kim conceded nothing on weapons and missile programs. Recent satellite imagery shows North Korea is actually improving its nuclear capability.

2. No deal with Russia. At the Helsinki summit, Russia agreed to nothing. But Trump gave away the store, even casting doubt on Russia’s collusion in the 2016 election in the face of the conclusions of America’s own intelligence agencies.

3. No deal with China on trade. Instead, we’re on the brink of a trade war with China, which is retaliating against U.S. tariffs.

4. No deal with Europe on trade. Instead, Europe has merely agreed to negotiate towards a resolution of the trade war Trump provoked in the first place.

5. No deal on Iran. Trump announced America’s exit from the Iran nuclear deal. Since then, no negotiations.

6. No deal on climate change. Trump simply pulled out of the Paris accords. There have been no negotiations since.

7. No deal with the Group of 7 leading economic powers. Instead, Trump just pulled out of the joint communique.

8. No deal on immigration or the DREAMers. Trump promised a new immigration bill, and a new deal from the young people brought to America as children. But since then, nothing.

9. No budget deal with Congress. The government is still operating under a “continuing resolution.”

10. No deal on replacing the Affordable Care Act. Trump promised to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act. But there’s been no repeal, and no replacement. He and the Republican Congress never agreed to a new plan.

11. No deal on gun control. After the Parkland shooting, Trump promised to tighten background checks for gun buyers and said he’d consider raising the age for buying certain types of guns. Instead, he bowed to the NRA.

Bottom line: Trump can’t make deals. He can only pull out of deals already made, or pretend he’s made deals that soon evaporate, or give away the store.

He’s perfected the art of the no deal.

THE BIGGEST THREAT TO OUR DEMOCRACY THAT YOU HAVEN’T HEARD OF

The biggest threat to our democracy that nobody is talking about is the real possibility of a rogue Constitutional convention – empowering extremists to radically reshape the Constitution, our laws, and our country.

If just a few more states sign on to what’s called an “Article V convention” for a balanced budget amendment, there’s no limit to the damage they might do.

Let me explain.

There are 2 ways to amend the United States Constitution: One way – the way we’ve passed every amendment since the Bill of Rights – is for two-thirds of the House and two-thirds of the Senate to vote for a proposed amendment, and then have it ratified by at least three quarters of the states – now 38 in number.

But there’s a second way to amend the Constitution. Two thirds of the states may demand that Congress form a constitutional convention to propose amendments.

Once such a constitutional convention is convened, there are no rules to limit or constrain what comes next.

Amendments proposed by an Article V convention are supposed to be ratified by 38 states. But convention delegates could hijack the process and change the ratification process itself, tossing out the 38 state requirement.

A balanced budget amendment would be crazy enough. But nothing would be safe. A woman’s right to choose. Marriage equality. First Amendment protections for free speech and a free press. Equal protection of the laws. Checks and balances.

An Article V convention would allow delegates to write their own agenda into our Constitution.

Already 28 states have called for a constitutional convention. They only need 6 more to succeed.

Unlimited money in politics and partisan gerrymandering have already given Republicans control of a majority of state legislatures. Big money interests like the Koch Brothers and ALEC are investing heavily in the push for a constitutional convention – which means that they’d be calling the shots if one takes place.

You’re probably already overwhelmed with political actions you need to take. But, believe me, this is important. With just a few states to go, your voice is needed. Please tell your state lawmakers to reject calls for an Article V convention.

THE ROADBLOCK TO COMMON SENSE PENSION REFORM

55 million Americans — about half of the entire private-sector workforce — have no employer-sponsored retirement plan at all. Many work for small businesses in the low-wage service and hospitality sectors. If they don’t save money independently, they will have nothing when they stop working.

This is very different from four decades ago when most workers retired with a company pension.

The good news is that several states – including Oregon, California, Illinois, Connecticut, and Maryland — now let such workers put money away in state-sponsored retirement plans that allow them to withdraw their accumulated savings, tax free, when they hit retirement.

The bad news is that the investment industry is aggressively seeking to block these plans, fearing the competition.

That’s because the fees charged by most state retirement plans are capped at around 1 percent – much lower than the fees of similar plans operated by banks and investment companies. And state fees are expected to drop even lower as more workers enroll.

If each of America’s 40 million retirees saved on average $50,000 in the state program, they’d have an additional $20 billion in the first year. That’s $20 billion more in the pockets of retirees, not financial institutions.

Right now, the industry’s efforts appear to be winning.

Republicans in Congress – backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a coalition of Wall Street investment firms – are seeking to block states from implementing these plans at all.

Investment and insurance companies are also spending like mad on election campaigns of friendly state legislators and threatening lawsuits. Which is why many proposed state-run retirement plans are languishing in statehouses around the country.

Folks, the anger and frustration that led to Trump continues to simmer. If we allow the moneyed interests to block common-sense reforms like this, in future years, America could face an even worse fate than Trump.

When you vote in November, vote for legislators who want to allow workers to save for retirement and against legislators who are shills for the financial sector.

6 REASONS FOR HOPE IN TRUMP TIMES

In these darkest of days, here’s what gives me hope:

First, Donald Trump has been a giant wake-up call that we can’t take democracy for granted. The young people of America get this. I’ve been teaching for 40 years and I don’t recall a generation as committed to social justice, reforming this country, and making it work for all and not just a few.

Look at those kids in Parkland, Florida. Or the millions more who are getting involved in their communities and in politics. They are America’s future, and they won’t give up.

The second thing that makes me optimistic is occurring at the grassroots of America, where there’s more activism than I remember in half a century. The #MeToo movement, Time’s Up, #BlackLivesMatter, #Neveragain, the Poor People’s Campaign, Indivisible.org, swingleft.org.

They and thousands of other groups and millions of Americans are united by a commitment to end abuses of power – whether by sexual predators, or the police, the National Rifle Association, or billionaires out to undermine our democracy.

Third, Fueled by Trump’s election, more women are running for office than ever before. According to Emily’s List, more than 36,000 women are interested in running for office in 2018 and beyond. By comparison, 920 women contacted Emily’s List in the 2016 campaign.

Fourth, I’m optimistic because America’s history shows that every time we’ve gotten off track, Americans mobilize to get our country back on track. We did this after the Gilded Age of the 1880s and 1890s, when robber barons monopolized the economy; politics was poisoned by money; and poverty, and disease, and horrendous working conditions claimed thousands of lives each year.

We did it again in the Depression decade of the 1930s, after the economy collapsed because of Wall Street’s excesses. And again in the 1960s and 1970s, when we embraced civil rights and voting rights, Medicare and Medicaid, and environmental protection. If history teaches us anything, we will again reform this system.

Fifth, I’m also optimistic because these grueling years of the Trump presidency have made us all realize how fragile our democracy really is, and what we need to reform–from the Electoral College and super-delegates to gerrymandering, voter ID laws, and hacker-proof voting machinery.

And most of us now know how important it is to vote.

Finally, I’m optimistic because I don’t like the alternative. We must have hope.

The fate of this nation depends on every one of us becoming an activist, joining with others, and reclaiming this land from those bent on destroying it.

WE’RE LIVING A CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS

I keep hearing that if Trump fires Mueller, we’ll face a “constitutional crisis.” Or if Mueller subpoenas Trump to testify and Trump defies the subpoena, it’s a “constitutional crisis”. Or if Mueller delivers substantial evidence that Trump is guilty of colluding with Russia or of obstructing justice, and the House does nothing to impeach him, we have a “constitutional crisis.”

Well, I have news for you. We’re already in a “constitutional crisis.”

You see, the Constitution is a tiny document. It requires that presidents and others in positions of power be bound by norms, unwritten rules, and long-established understandings of their constitutional responsibilities.

Yet look at what’s happened since January 2017:

Trump fires the head of the FBI and conjures up a plot that the FBI installed a spy in his campaign; blames the entire Mueller investigation on a conspiratorial “deep state” that’s out to remove him from office; uses pardons to demonstrate to people already under investigation that they don’t need to cooperate because he can pardon them, too; and asserts that the appointment of the special counsel was unconstitutional, and that he has the power under the Constitution to end the investigation whenever he wants.

He initially denies that Russia intruded in the 2016 election, when all America’s intelligence agencies show it has; and even now asserts that they are not continuing to mount a cyberattack on America, when his intelligence chiefs say otherwise.

Beyond this, he berates judges who disagree with him, and journalists and news organizations that criticize him; uses the presidency like a personal fiefdom to enrich himself and his family; unilaterally breaks treaties, starts trade wars with long-standing allies, and cozies up to some of the most murderous dictators in the world; treats Americans who didn’t vote for him and disapprove of him as his enemies; and tweets and holds rallies with his followers that fuel division and hate.

There is no exact definition of a constitutional crisis. Presumably it’s when the United States Constitution is in crisis. And it is in crisis now, today, because the president of the United States is abusing it to entrench his power.

As long as he can get away with it, as long as Republicans who control Congress won’t stand up to him, as long as Americans who oppose this have no capacity to stop him, even though they may be in the majority, this rogue president will do more and more damage to our system of government. And the constitutional crisis will worsen.

A malignant megalomaniac facing no countervailing power will continue to expand his terrain until he is stopped.

The best response is to vote for a Congress this November that will constrain him. And then, in November 2020, vote him and his regime out of office.

If he refuses to accept the results of that election – as he threatened to do if he lost the 2016 election – he must be removed from office.

IS TRUMP A TRAITOR?

Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki was a betrayal of the nation he has a sworn duty to protect.

Under Article III Section 3 of the Constitution, the crime of treason is defined as “giving aid and comfort” to enemies of the United States. Trump has betrayed the American people in 5 ways we already know of:

1. He ignores attacks on our democracy. According to American intelligence, there’s no doubt about Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. And no doubt they’re continuing to attack, and planning further attacks, on our democratic institutions and even our energy infrastructure.

Yet Trump casts doubt about the conclusions of the intelligence community, blames past presidents, and turns a blind eye to safeguarding America from current and future attacks.

2. He publicly undermines U.S. intelligence officials – taking the side of Putin, a former KGB officer, when Putin claims Russia didn’t interfere in the election. And Trump accuses his own government officials of being part of a so-called “deep-state” conspiracy out to get him.

3. He attacks our closest allies, weakening America’s standing in the world and playing into Putin’s hands. During his trip to Europe, Trump insulted German Chancellor Angela Merkel, mocked British Prime Minister Theresa May, and was rebuked by the French President. His unreasonable demands on NATO – that members increase their military expenditures to 4 percent of their GDPs – have frayed our most important security alliance.

4. His campaign knowingly sought help from a Russian agent. In June, 2016, senior members of Trump’s campaign, including Don Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort, met with a Russian lawyer who, before they met, had promised them damaging information on Clinton.

5. Then in July 2016 Trump publicly encouraged Russia to meddle in our election, asking Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s email server and release the emails to the public. That same day Russian operatives initiated their cyberattack, and weeks later released the emails.

Never before has a President of the United States so brazenly sided with a ruthless dictator intent on destroying American democracy.

If this is not treason, what is it?

THE FOG OF TRUMP

Trump uses 5 tactics to create a fog of confusion and bewilderment, so we don’t pay attention to the real damage he’s doing – undermining our democracy; rewarding the rich and hurting the working class, middle class, and the poor; stoking hatefulness; and undercutting America’s standing in the world.

1. His first tactic is to distract us – dominate the news with tweets and rants, accusations, who he’s fired, who he’s insulted, what he’s demanded. He wants us to be so preoccupied with all this that we lose sight of the big picture.

2. His second tactic is to divide and conquer, pitting groups against each other, riling up his base, stoking racial tensions, and vilifying opponents. He targets transgender people in the military. Goes after athletes – mostly black – who won’t stand for the anthem. Fuels fears of immigrants and foreigners, of liberals and Democrats. This way, public dialogue and discussion becomes so angry, bitter, and vitriolic that we end up shouting at each other instead of seeing the damage Trump is actually doing.

3. His third tactic is to lie and distort. He generates a torrent of “alternative facts” so we become disoriented and confused. Asserting that 3 to 5 million people fraudulently voted for Hillary Clinton in the last election, with no evidence they did. That unauthorized immigrants are responsible for a disproportionate number of murders and rapes. That climate change isn’t caused by people. His goal is for us to lose confidence in the truth so we can’t be sure of what he’s doing.

4. Fourth: conjure up conspiracies. He fuels paranoia about a “deep state” that’s intent on removing him from office, engaged in a “witch hunt” to undermine him, plotting to impeach him. But he never identifies who or what this “deep state” actually is. The mere assertion of a conspiracy is enough to generate suspicion, erode trust in the political system and in the media, and sow doubts about anyone who criticizes him or any findings that could show he acted illegally.

5. Fifth and finally: accuse the accusers. He alleges that others are doing what he is in fact doing. When the media catch him in a lie, he accuses them of disseminating fake news. He allows corporate lobbyists to run departments and agencies, and then accuses critics of being part of the Washington swamp. He seeks to cover up whatever he and his aides did with Russian operatives, and then accuses investigators of a being involved in a coverup.

These 5 tactics are all designed to hide what Trump is actually doing so we don’t mobilize against him. Be aware. Don’t allow Trump’s fog to cloud the truth.

HOW TO PREVENT FUTURE TRUMPS

Why did so many working class voters choose a selfish, thin-skinned, petulant, lying, narcissistic, boastful, megalomaniac for president?

It’s important to know, because we need to stop more Trumps in the future.

The answer lies in the interplay between deep-seated racism and stagnant and declining wages. Both must be addressed.

Some white working class men and women were – and still are – receptive to Trump’s bigotry.  But what made them receptive? Racism and xenophobia aren’t exactly new to American life. Fears of blacks and immigrants have been with us since the founding of the Republic.

What changed was the economy. Since the 1980s, the wages and economic prospects of the typical American worker have stagnated. Nearly 80 percent now live paycheck to paycheck, and those paychecks have grown less secure.

Meanwhile, all the economy’s gains have gone to the richest ten percent, mostly the top 1 percent. Wealthy individuals and big corporations have, in turn, invested some of those gains into politics.

As a result, big money now calls the shots in Washington – getting subsidies, tax breaks, tax loopholes (even Trump promised to close the “carried interest” loophole yet it remains), and bailouts.

The near meltdown of Wall Street in 2008 caused a recession that cost millions their jobs, homes, and savings. But the Street got bailed out and not a single Wall Street executive went to jail.

In the two years leading up to the 2016 election, I revisited many of the places I had visited when I was labor secretary in the 1990s.

People told me the system was “rigged” against them. A surprising number said they planned to vote either for Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump – the two anti-establishment candidates who promised to “shake up” Washington.

But Trump’s racism and xenophobia focused the cumulative economic rage on scapegoats that had nothing to do with its causes. It was hardly the first time in history a demagogue has used this playbook.

If America doesn’t respond to the calamity that’s befallen the working class, we will have Trumps as far as the eye can see.

A few Democrats are getting the message – pushing ambitious ideas like government-guaranteed full employment, single-payer health care, industry-wide collective bargaining, and a universal basic income.

We also need ways to finance these things, such as a carbon tax, a tax on Wall Street trades, and a progressive tax on wealth.

To accomplish all this we have to get big money out of politics.

Even if “Citizens United” isn’t overruled, big money’s influence can be limited with generous public financing of elections, full disclosure of the source of all campaign contributions, and a clampdown on the revolving door between business and government.

Trump isn’t the cause of what’s happened to America. He’s the consequence – the product of years of stagnant wages and big money’s corruption of our democracy combined with a long legacy of racism and bigotry.

If we really want to stop Trump and prevent future Trumps, we will need to address these causes of Trump’s rise.

What We Must Do Now

My friends, this is a dark hour. Intolerance, cruelty, racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and environmental destruction have been let loose across the land.

Trump controls the Republican Party, the Republican Party controls the House and Senate, and Trump may soon control the Supreme Court.

But here’s the thing. Only 27 percent of Americans are Republican, according to the Gallop Poll.

Moreover, the vast majority of Americans disapprove of Trump. He lost the popular vote in 2016 by 2.8 million. Since then, his approval ratings haven’t exceeded 45 percent.

The GOP itself is no longer a political party, anyway. It is now little more than Donald Trump, Fox News, a handful of billionaire funders, and rightwing Christians who oppose a woman’s right to choose, gay marriage, and the Constitution’s separation of church and state.

Yet Trump is about to make the second Supreme Court nomination of his presidency. And that second nominee – like Trump’s first, Neil Gorsuch – is likely to be young enough to remain on the Court for the next 40 years.

If confirmed, Trump’s new justice would join four other Republican-appointed justices to form a majority that will interpret the U.S. Constitution and laws in ways inimical to the values of a majority of Americans.

For example, Trump’s new justice is all but certain to join the four other Republican-appointed justices in overturning Roe v. Wade, a 1973 compromise on abortion that still has the support of two-thirds of Americans.

Trump’s new justice is likely to do the same in revoking same-sex marriage, also now supported by about two-thirds of Americans.

I don’t have to remind you that this comes after Republicans essentially stole a Supreme Court seat by refusing to consider President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland.

In addition to everything I’ve noted above, Republicans also now control both chambers in 32 states (33 if you count Nebraska) and 33 governorships.

In many of these states they are entrenching their power by gerrymandering and arranging to suppress votes.

Enough. The question is what are we – the vast majority – to going to do about this?

I have six modest suggestions.

First and most importantly, do not give up. That’s what they would like us to do. Then they’d have no opposition at all. Powerlessness is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Please do not succumb to it.

Second, in the short term, contact your senators and urge them to oppose Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court.

If your state has a Republican senator, you might mobilize and organize your friends and neighbors to do whatever they can to get that senator to reject Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. Or, at the least, postpone consideration of that nominee until after the midterm elections, so there’s a chance to change the composition of the Senate.

Third, make a ruckus. Demonstrate. Engage in non-violent civil disobedience. Fight lies with truth. Join the resistance.

Many grass-roots organizations are doing great work, and could use your help. Among them are: @IndivisibleTeam, @swingleft, @UpRiseDotOrg, @MoveOn. @Sister_District, and @flippable_org. I’m sure I’ve left out many others. Check with your friends, and check online.

Fourth, don’t engage in divisive incrimination over “who lost” the 2016 election. There’s no point in Hillary loyalists, Bernie supporters, Jill Stein voters, and others turning on one another again, and blaming each other for the outcome. We must be united.

Fifth, vote this November 6 for people who will stand up to the Trump Republican’s rampage. Mobilize and organize others to do so, too. If you live in a “blue” state, contact friends and relations in “red” states and urge them to do the same.

Sixth, help lay the groundwork for the 2020 presidential election, so that even if Trump survives Robert Mueller’s investigation and a possible impeachment proceeding, he will not be reelected.

Finally, know that this fight will be long and hard. It will require our patience, our courage, and our resolve.

The stakes could not be higher. We’re talking about the future of our democracy, and the wellbeing of our children and their children’s children.

The Trump Takeover of the Courts

Trump’s most lasting legacy might be his impact on the federal court system. It must be stopped.

Quite apart from the Supreme Court, Trump is already having a dramatic effect on the lower federal courts.

Even though much of his legislative agenda has stalled in Congress, Trump is nominating and getting Senate confirmation of judges to the federal bench much faster than previous presidents.

Many of Trump’s picks for these lifetime positions are extremists with little judicial experience. For example, Thomas Farr, his nominee for a North Carolina judgeship has ties to a group that has promoted white supremacist policies and eugenics.

Other Trump picks have openly spread conspiracy theories, defended lethal injection, and one even called a sitting Supreme Court justice a “prostitute.”

Fortunately, not all of them have been confirmed. But by the end of his first term Trump could end up filling over 20 percent of the judges in the federal courts.

And even if he’s removed from office, these judges will be around long after he’s gone. Trump has identified young candidates who could serve for decades.

Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell is greasing the wheels in the Senate to speed up the confirmation process.

Traditionally either senator from a judicial nominee’s home-state was allowed to block a nomination. But McConnell has done away with this rule, even though he did everything he possibly could to block President Obama’s nominees, including his pick for the Supreme Court.

This takeover of the federal bench is another assault on our democracy. The power of the courts is being placed in the hands of people who share Trump’s ideology.

That’s why we need to keep up the pressure, and it’s another reason why we need to win back the Senate.

THE MILITARY INDUSTRIAL DRAIN

As Trump stokes tensions around the world, he’s adding fuel to the fire by demanding even more Pentagon spending. It’s a dangerous military buildup intended to underwrite endless wars and enrich defense contractors, while draining money from investment in the American people.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower once noted, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

Eisenhower was a Republican and a former general who helped win World War II for the allies, yet he understood America’s true priorities. But Washington–and especially Trump–have lost sight of these basic tradeoffs.

Since 2001, the Pentagon budget has soared from $456 billion–in today’s dollars–to $700 billion, including the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other national security expenses. All told, when you include spending on the military and war, veterans’ benefits, and homeland security, military-related spending now eats up 67 percent of all federal  discretionary spending.

According to the 2018 Military Balance report by the International Institute of Strategic Studies, the United States already spends more on the military than the next 10 nations combined. Even if the Pentagon budget were cut in half, the United States would still outspend China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea combined.

The military budget has become bloated with waste and abuse. According to the Pentagon’s own internal figures, the department could save at least $125 billion by reducing operational overhead.

Out-of-control defense contractors also drive up spending. In the coming years, cost overruns alone are projected to reach an estimated $484 billion. Meanwhile, the CEOs of the top 5 defense firms took home $97.4 million in compensation last year.

Despite all this, some still argue that military spending is necessary to support good-paying jobs and economic growth. Baloney. America would be much better served by a jobs program that invested in things we really need – like modern roads and highways, better school facilities, public parks, water and sewer systems, and clean energy – not weapons systems.

The biggest reason for increases in Pentagon spending is the incredible clout of the military-industrial complex – Eisenhower’s term. Every year, defense contractors spend millions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions to keep federal dollars flowing their way. More than 80 percent of top Pentagon officials have worked for the defense industry at some point in their careers, and many will go back to work in the defense industry.

Since taking office, Trump has increased military spending by more than $200 billion. Let’s take a second to look at how else that $200 billion could be spent.  We could, for example:

Offer free public colleges and universities, as proposed by Bernie Sanders.

And fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

And expand broadband Internet access to rural America.

And meet the growing needs for low-income housing, providing safe living conditions for families and the elderly.

And help repair the physical devastation in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

Spending more on bombs and military machinery funnels money away from the American people and into wars. It’s time to rein in Pentagon spending and this endless war machine, and demand investment in America.

THE UNCONSTITUTIONAL CENSUS POWER GRAB

The Trump administration’s decision to alter the 2020 Census to ask people if they are American citizens is an unconstitutional power grab that would hurt many disadvantaged Americans. It must be stopped.

The U.S. Constitution calls for “actual enumeration” of the total population for an explicit purpose:  To count the residents – not just citizens, residents – of every state to properly allocate congressional representatives to the states based on population.

Asking whether someone is a citizen could cause some immigrants — not just non-citizens, but also those with family members or close friends who aren’t citizens — not to respond for fear that they or their loved ones would be deported. In the current climate of fear, this isn’t an irrational response.

The result would be a systemic undercounting of immigrant communities – with two grossly unfair results.

First, these communities and the states they’re in would get less federal aide. Census data is used in over 132 programs nationwide to allocate over $675 billion each year.

An undercount would deprive many immigrant communities and their states of the health care, education and assistance they need and are entitled to.

Second, these communities and the states they’re in would have fewer representatives in Congress. The Census count determines the distribution of congressional seats among states. Under the Constitution, these seats depend on the total number of people residing in the state, not just citizens.

Which is the real reason for this move by the Trump administration. It’s no secret that immigrants with the right to vote tend to vote for Democrats. So undercounting neighborhoods that are heavily Latino or Asian would mean fewer Democratic members of Congress.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says the citizenship question is necessary in order to better enforce the Voting Rights Act. Baloney. The Trump administration has shown zero interest in the Voting Rights Act. It has even defended voter suppression laws in court.

This is nothing but a Republican power grab orchestrated by the White House. Tell your members of Congress, it must be stopped.

VOTER TURNOUT IS EVERYTHING 

The largest political party in America isn’t the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. It’s the Party of Non-Voters.

94 million Americans who were eligible to vote in the 2016 election didn’t vote. That’s a bigger number than the number who voted either for Trump or for Clinton.

All of which means that voter turnout will determine who wins control of Congress next November, and who becomes president in 2020. Turnout is everything.

This is why it’s so important for you to vote – and urge everyone you know to vote, too.

THINKING BEYOND TRUMP: WHY WE NEED A FEDERAL JOBS GUARANTEE

We must not forget the economic frustrations that helped fuel Trump’s election.  For too long, too many Americans have faced lousy jobs or no jobs. One answer: A guaranteed job at a living wage.

The Republican answer won’t work

Republicans continue to push for work requirements for recipients of Medicaid, food stamps, and public housing benefits.  But the real problem is there aren’t enough adequately-paying jobs to go around.

Even today, with a low official unemployment rate, millions who work part-time jobs want full-time work. Millions more are too discouraged to look for work, having endured the brutalities of job discrimination for far too long, or unable to move to where the jobs are.

And a large and growing number of jobs don’t pay enough to get people out of poverty.

A federal jobs guarantee would work

At the same time, a lot of work needs to be done – “greening” our nation’s infrastructure, caring for the elderly, teaching in our public schools, adequately staffing national parks, you name it.

So why shouldn’t the federal government create jobs and connect them directly to people who can’t otherwise find one, with decent, predictable hours and at a living wage?

An added plus: The availability of such jobs would give more bargaining power to many low-wage workers to get better hours and wages – because if they don’t get them from their employer, they’d have the option of a public job. In this way, a federal job guarantee would raise the floor for job quality nationwide.

And a job guarantee would act as a giant economic stabilizer during downturns, when the first to lose their jobs are usually the most economically marginalized.

We can afford it

Can we afford a job guarantee today? Yes. It’s estimated to cost around $670 billion in its first year – $30 billion less than the defense budget.

But that tab would quickly shrink. With more people working at better wages, Americans would have more purchasing power to buy goods and services. This would lead to more hiring by the private sector, and eventually, less need for the federal job guarantee.

More people working would also generate more tax revenue, partially offsetting the direct cost of the job guarantee.

Additional savings would come from fewer people needing public assistance. The Center for Labor Research and Education at Berkeley estimates that the federal government now spends over $150 billion a year because workers aren’t earning enough to get out of poverty. Doesn’t it make more sense to use this money to create guaranteed jobs at a living wage?

So, let’s think beyond Trump – to what Americans need. Few things are more important than a decent job. Full employment through a federal job guarantee makes sense – for workers, for the economy, for America.

HOW TO END PARTISAN GERRYMANDERING

One of the biggest challenges to our democracy occurs when states draw congressional district lines with the principal goal of helping one political party and hurting the other. It’s called “partisan gerrymandering.”

Unlike racial gerrymandering – drawing districts to reduce the political power of racial minorities, which the Supreme Court has found to violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment – partisan gerrymandering would seem to violate the First Amendment because it punishes some voters for their political views.

In North Carolina in 2016, for example, Republicans won 10 of the state’s 13 House seats with just 53 percent of the popular vote.

In the 2018 elections, because of partisan gerrymandering, Democrats will need to win the national popular vote by nearly 11 points to win a majority in the House of Representatives. No party has won this margin in decades.

So what can be done?

The Supreme Court will soon decide on the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering. Hopefully, the Court will rule against it. But regardless of its decision, here are two other ways to abolish it:

First, state courts could rule against partisan gerrymandering under their state constitutions, as happened this year in Pennsylvania – where the state court invalidated a Republican congressional map that gave Republicans 13 out of 18 congressional seats even though the state is about evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. The state court implemented its own map for the 2018 election, creating districts that are less biased in favor of Republicans.

Second, states can delegate the power to design districts to independent or bipartisan groups. Some states, like California, have already done this.

But if you want your state to end gerrymandering, you’re going to have to get actively involved, and demand it.

After all, this is our democracy. It’s up to us to make it work.

THE MONOPOLIZATION OF AMERICA: The Biggest Economic Problem You’re Hearing Almost Nothing About

Not long ago I visited some farmers in Missouri whose profits are disappearing. Why? Monsanto alone owns the key genetic traits to more than 90 percent of the soybeans planted by farmers in the United States, and 80 percent of the corn. Which means Monsanto can charge farmers much higher prices.

Farmers are getting squeezed from the other side, too, because the food processors they sell their produce to are also consolidating into mega companies that have so much market power they can cut the prices they pay to farmers.

This doesn’t mean lower food prices to you. It means more profits to the monopolists.

Monopolies All Around 

America used to have antitrust laws that stopped corporations from monopolizing markets, and often broke up the biggest culprits. No longer. It’s a hidden upward redistribution of money and power from the majority of Americans to corporate executives and wealthy shareholders.

You may think you have lots of choices, but take a closer look:

1. The four largest food companies control 82 percent of beef packing, 85 percent of soybean processing, 63 percent of pork packing, and 53 percent of chicken processing.

2. There are many brands of toothpaste, but 70 percent of all of it comes from just two companies.

3. You may think you have your choice of sunglasses, but they’re almost all from one company: Luxottica – which also owns nearly all the eyeglass retail outlets.

4. Practically every plastic hanger in America is now made by one company, Mainetti.

5. What brand of cat food should you buy? Looks like lots of brands but behind them are basically just two companies.

6. What about your pharmaceuticals? Yes, you can get low-cost generic versions. But drug companies are in effect paying the makers of generic drugs to delay cheaper versions. Such “pay for delay” agreements are illegal in other advanced economies, but antitrust enforcement hasn’t laid a finger on them in America. They cost you and me an estimated $3.5 billion a year.

7. You think your health insurance will cover the costs? Health insurers are consolidating, too. Which is one reason your health insurance premiums, copayments, and deductibles are soaring.

8. You think you have a lot of options for booking discount airline tickets and hotels online? Think again. You have only two. Expedia merged with Orbitz, so that’s one company. And then there’s Priceline.

9. How about your cable and Internet service? Basically just four companies (and two of them just announced they’re going to merge).

Why the Monopolization of America is a Huge Problem

The problem with all this consolidation into a handful of giant firms is they don’t have to compete. Which means they can – and do – jack up your prices.

Such consolidation keeps down wages. Workers with less choice of whom to work for have a harder time getting a raise. When local labor markets are dominated by one major big box retailer, or one grocery chain, for example, those firms essentially set wage rates for the area.

These massive corporations also have a lot of political clout. That’s one reason they’re consolidating: Power.

Antitrust laws were supposed to stop what’s been going on. But today, they’re almost a dead letter. This hurts you.

We’ve Forgotten History

The first antitrust law came in 1890 when Senator John Sherman responded to public anger about the economic and political power of the huge railroad, steel, telegraph, and oil cartels – then called “trusts” – that were essentially running America.

A handful of corporate chieftains known as “robber barons” presided over all this – collecting great riches at the expense of workers who toiled long hours often in dangerous conditions for little pay. Corporations gouged consumers and corrupted politics.

Then in 1901, progressive reformer Teddy Roosevelt became president. By this time, the American public was demanding action.

In his first message to Congress in December 1901, only two months after assuming the presidency, Roosevelt warned, “There is a widespread conviction in the minds of the American people that the great corporations known as the trusts are in certain of their features and tendencies hurtful to the general welfare.”

Roosevelt used the Sherman Antitrust Act to go after the Northern Securities Company, a giant railroad trust run by J. P. Morgan, the nation’s most powerful businessman. The U.S. Supreme Court backed Roosevelt and ordered the company dismantled.

In 1911, John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Trust was broken up, too. But in its decision, the Supreme Court effectively altered the Sherman Act, saying that monopolistic restraints of trade were objectionable if they were “unreasonable” – and that determination was to be made by the courts. What was an unreasonable restraint of trade?

In the presidential election of 1912, Roosevelt, running again for president but this time as a third party candidate, said he would allow some concentration of industries where there were economic efficiencies due to large scale. He’d then he’d have experts regulate these large corporations for the public benefit.

Woodrow Wilson, who ended up winning the election, and his adviser Louis Brandeis, took a different view. They didn’t think regulation would work, and thought all monopolies should be broken up.

For the next 65 years, both views dominated. We had strong antitrust enforcement along with regulations that held big corporations in check.

Most big mergers were prohibited. Even large size was thought to be a problem. In 1945, in the case of United States v. Alcoa (1945), the Supreme Court ruled that even though Alcoa hadn’t pursued a monopoly, it had become one by becoming so large that it was guilty of violating the Sherman Act.

What Happened to Antitrust?

All this changed in the 1980s, after Robert Bork – who, incidentally, I studied antitrust law with at Yale Law School, and then worked for when he became Solicitor General under President Ford – wrote an influential book called The Antitrust Paradox, which argued that the sole purpose of the Sherman Act is consumer welfare.

Bork argued that mergers and large size almost always create efficiencies that bring down prices, and therefore should be legal. Bork’s ideas were consistent with the conservative Chicago School of Economics, and found a ready audience in the Reagan White House.

Bork was wrong. But since then, even under Democratic administrations, antitrust has all but disappeared.

The Monopolization of High Tech

We’re seeing declining competition even in cutting-edge, high-tech industries.

In the new economy, information and ideas are the most valuable forms of property. This is where the money is.

We haven’t seen concentration on this scale ever before.

Google and Facebook are now the first stops for many Americans seeking news. Meanwhile, Amazon is now the first stop for more than a half of American consumers seeking to buy anything. Talk about power.

Contrary to the conventional view of an American economy bubbling with innovative small companies, the reality is quite different. The rate at which new businesses have formed in the United States has slowed markedly since the late 1970s.

Big Tech’s sweeping patents, standard platforms, fleets of lawyers to litigate against potential rivals, and armies of lobbyists have created formidable barriers to new entrants. Google’s search engine is so dominant, “Google” has become a verb.

The European Union filed formal antitrust charges against Google, accusing it of forcing search engine users into its own shopping platforms. And last June, it fined Google a record $2.7 billion.

But not in America.

It’s Time to Revive Antitrust

Economic and political power cannot be separated because dominant corporations gain political influence over how markets are organized, maintained, and enforced – which enlarges their economic power further.

One of the original goals of the antitrust laws was to prevent this.

Big Tech — along with the drug, insurance, agriculture, and financial giants — is coming to dominate both our economy and our politics.

There’s only one answer: It is time to revive antitrust.

CAN TRUMP FIRE SPECIAL COUNSEL ROBERT MUELLER?

Yes, but at a huge cost to our system, and to Trump’s presidency.

Begin with the law: Justice Department regulations issued in 1999, in the wake of Kenneth Starr’s investigation of Bill Clinton, say that only an Attorney General can remove a special counsel, and not just for any reason. Such a removal must be based on a finding that the special counsel was guilty of “misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or for other good cause, including violation of Departmental policies.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from overseeing the Mueller investigation, so the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, is in charge. If Trump directed Rosenstein to fire Mueller, Rosenstein would have to find “good cause” to remove Mueller, or repeal the Department’s regulation requiring such a finding, and then fire Mueller.

If Rosenstein refused, Trump could fire Rosenstein, and direct the next official in line to fire Mueller. And he could keep firing people down the chain of command until he got someone who would fire Mueller.

Richard Nixon did something like this in what came to be known as the “Saturday Night Massacre,“ ordering Attorney General Elliott Richardson to fire the Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox. When Richardson refused and resigned in protest, Nixon then ordered Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to fire Cox. Ruckelshaus also refused, and resigned. Nixon then ordered the Solicitor General, Robert Bork, who was then acting head of the Department, to fire Cox. Bork did the deed.

There’s an alternative open to Trump. He could simply order Attorney General Sessions to repeal the special counsel regulations, and then Trump could fire Mueller himself.

But, as the Nixon saga showed, these routes would be perilous – both for Trump’s presidency and for our system of government, because they would undermine public trust in the impartiality of our system of justice and in the office of the presidency.

They would also further divide the country between Trump supporters who believe the Mueller investigation to be part of a conspiracy to undermine the Trump presidency, and the vast majority of Americans who are more likely to believe, as a result of these actions, that Trump has done something that he wants to hide at all costs.

The question is whether Trump is willing to risk it, nonetheless

A THIRD PARTY? HOW NOT TO SETTLE FOR THE LESSER OF TWO EVILS

Are you happy with the electoral choices provided you by the two major parties? If not, should you vote for a third party candidate?

Not so fast. Remember what happened in 2016, when Libertarian Gary Johnson got 3.2 percent of the popular vote and Green Party candidate Jill Stein got 1.06 percent. Enough votes that, had they gone to Hillary Clinton, she’d have won the Electoral College, and Donald Trump wouldn’t be in the White House.

Oh, and anyone remember what happened in 2000, when the votes that went to Ralph Nader all but sealed the fate of Al Gore, and gave us George W. Bush.

You see the problem? In a winner-take-all system like ours, votes for third party candidates siphon away votes from the major party candidate whose views are closest to that third-party candidate. So by not voting for the lesser of two evils, if that’s what you want to call them, you end up with the worse of two evils.

But here’s the good news. You’ve got at least 2 ways to avoid the lesser of two evils other than voting for a third party candidate.

First, you could build support for your favorite primary candidate inside one of the major parties – like some of you did for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primaries.

But, you might say, look what happened to Bernie! The Democratic Party establishment rigged the game against him.

I don’t want to open up this particular can of worms, but if a party establishment has a chokehold on the primaries – the answer isn’t to go with a third party and end up with the worse of two evils, but to organize and mobilize inside the party to break that choke hold, as some would say the Tea Party has done in the GOP.

Never underestimate the power of grassroots activism focused like a laser on taking over a major political party that has ossified.

Another way to avoid the lesser of two evils: Get your state to institute ranked-choice voting, also known as instant-runoff voting, which allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference.

The process is simple: In the first round, only voters’ first choices are counted. If a candidate gets a majority, that’s the end of it: That candidate wins. If no candidate gets a majority, the candidate who received the fewest votes is eliminated, and then the second choices of voters who preferred that candidate are counted.

If that gives a majority to one candidate, that candidate wins. If there’s still no one with a majority, the process continues,  until one candidate gets a majority.

Ranked-choice voting isn’t perfect, but it enables you to vote your conscience –even for a third-party candidate – without the worry that you’re giving ground to the candidate you like least.

The idea is gaining popularity. Last year, some form of ranked-choice voting was proposed in 19 states. In 2016, citizens in Maine initiated a referendum for ranked-choice voting and won. It’s already being used in statewide special elections in North Carolina, and in 10 major cities.

You don’t have to settle for the lesser of two evils. But in order to get the candidates you want elected you need to get involved, now. In the primaries. And in changing your state to ranked-choice voting.

It’s our democracy. Whether it works, is up to us.

5 REASONS THE NRA IS WRONG

The next time you hear someone repeating pro-gun NRA propaganda, respond with these five points:

1. Gun laws save lives. Consider the federal assault weapons ban. After it became law in 1994, gun massacres – defined as instances of gun violence in which six or more people were shot and killed – fell by 37 percent. The number of people dying from mass shootings fell by 43 percent. But when Republicans in Congress let the ban lapse in 2004, gun massacres more than doubled.

2. The Second Amendment was never intended to permit mass slaughter. When the Constitution was written more than 200 years ago, the framers’ goal was permit a “well-regulated militia,” not to enable Americans to terrorize their communities.

3. More guns have not, and will not, make us safer. More than 30 studies show that guns are linked to an increased risk for violence and homicide. In 1996, Australia initiated a mandatory buyback program to reduce `the number of guns in private ownership. Their firearm homicide rate fell 42 percent in the seven years that followed.

4. The vast majority of Americans want stronger gun safety laws. According to Gallup, 96 percent of Americans support universal background checks, 75 percent support a 30-day waiting period for all gun sales, and 70 percent favor requiring all privately owned guns to be registered with the police. Even the vast majority of gun owners are in favor of common-sense gun safety laws.

5. The National Rifle Association is a special interest group with a stranglehold on the Republican Party. In 2016, the group spent a record $55 million on elections. Their real goal is to protect a few big gun manufacturers who want to enlarge their profits.

America is better than the NRA. America is the young people from Parkland, Florida, who are telling legislators to act like adults. It’s time all of us listen.

April Fools

Con Mannity here. Shrink deficits! States’ rights! Stand up to Russia! Free Markets!  I’m a conservative from the old school, with a capital “Con.”  And I love Donald Trump because he’s sticking to the time-tested conservative beliefs I’ve been pushing on this show for years.

For Example, if there’s one thing we conservatives believe its that we’ve got to shrink the deficit.

[News bulletin: Trump and Republican tax cut will explode the deficit]

Huh? [agitated] Actually, a lot of people don’t understand this, but I tell people all the time… if the real conservative goal is to cut the deficit, then sometimes, maybe the best way to do that is to expand the deficit – so there’s more to cut!  Just think about that. …

Old school conservatives like me have other principles, too, that Trump is championing. States’ Rights! We conservatives hate having big government in Washington telling the states what to do.

[News bulletin: Trump and Sessions attacking California law legalizing pot]

Ok, I’m cool! [More agitated] When something bad is going down, like hippies smoking grass, that’s more important than states rights. I hate hippies, don’t you?  And hate is a basic Republican principle. …

Back to Basics! You can’t trust Russia.  Which is why Republicans came out against Obama’s New Start treaty with Moscow, and complained that Obama wasn’t doing enough to deter Russia in Ukraine.  We have to get those bad-guy Ruskies and teach em’ whose boss!

[News bulletin: Russia helped Trump win election.]

What? Russia helped Trump? [Wildly agitated] I mean, one thing I know, Trump’s the boss, so Russia helping him get elected is teaching ‘em who’s boss.

Finally and not the least – basic conservative principle – free trade! Government, bad! Free markets, good!

[News bulletin: Trump starts trade war.]

Okay, we’re back. [He’s now upside down] It appears that  everything is upside down. But that’s okay.  As long as we stay just…like…this… I’m still a conservative. I’m still Con Mannity, and this is still Rox News.

America has had its share of crooks (Warren G. Harding, Richard Nixon), bigots (Andrew Jackson, James Buchanan), and incompetents (Andrew Johnson, George W. Bush). But never before Donald Trump have we had a president who combined all these nefarious qualities.

America’s great good fortune was to begin with the opposite – a superb moral leader. By June of 1775, when congress appointed George Washington to command the nation’s army, he had already “become a moral rallying post,” as his biographer, Douglas Southall Freeman, described him. He was,“the embodiment of the purpose, the patience, and the determination necessary for the triumph of the revolutionary cause.”

Washington won the war and then led the fledgling nation “by directness, by deference, and by manifest dedication to duty.”

A president’s most fundamental legal and moral responsibility is to uphold and protect our system of government. Donald Trump has degraded that system.

When he threatens to loosen federal libel laws so he can sue news organizations that are critical of him and revoke licenses of networks critical of him, he isn’t just bullying the media. He’s threatening the constitutionally guaranteed freedom and integrity of the press.

When he equated Neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members with counter-demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, by blaming “both sides” for the violence, he wasn’t being neutral. He was condoning white supremacists, thereby undermining the constitution’s guarantee of equal rights.

When he pardoned Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, for a criminal contempt conviction, he wasn’t just signaling it’s okay for the police to engage in violations of civil rights. He was also subverting the rule of law by impairing the judiciary’s power to force public officials to abide by court decisions.

When he criticized NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem, he wasn’t just demanding they demonstrate their patriotism. He was disrespecting their – and, indirectly, everyone’s – freedom of speech.

When he berates the intelligence agencies and the federal bureau of investigation, he isn’t just questioning their competence. He’s suggesting they’re engaged in a giant conspiracy to remove him from office – potentially inviting his most ardent supporters to engage in a new civil war.

When he boasts that he made up information in a meeting with the prime minister of Canada, he isn’t just undermining his own credibility. He’s undermining the credibility of the united states in the eyes of the world.

Donald Trump is degrading the core institutions and values of our democracy.

But America is fighting back.

In Alabama, voters turned out in droves to elect a Democrat to the senate for the first time in 25 years. In Pennsylvania, Republicans lost control of a congressional district that went for Trump by nearly 20 percentage points. Since Trump took office, Democrats have flipped 39 Republican-held state legislative seats.

The 2018 midterm elections are approaching. It’s up to all of us to keep up the momentum. In the face of the worst president in history, we are at our best when striving to strengthen our democracy.

THE BUYBACK BOONDOGGLE IS BEGGARING AMERICA

Trump and Republicans branded their huge corporate tax cut as a way to make American corporations more profitable so they’d invest in more and better jobs.

But they’re buying back their stock instead. Now that the new corporate tax cut is pumping up profits, buybacks are on track to hit a record $800 billion this year.

For years, corporations have spent most of their profits on buying back their own shares of stock, instead of increasing the wages of their employees, whose hard work creates these profits.

Stock buybacks should be illegal, as they were before 1983.

Stock buybacks are artificial efforts to interfere in the so-called “free market” to prop up stock prices. Because they create an artificial demand, they force stock prices above their natural level. With fewer shares in circulation, each remaining share is worth more.

Buybacks don’t create more or better jobs. Money spent on buybacks isn’t invested in new equipment, or research and development, or factories, or wages. It doesn’t build a company. Buybacks don’t grow the American economy.

So why are buybacks so popular with Corporate CEOs?

Because a bigger and bigger portion of CEO pay has been in stocks and stock options, rather than cash. So when share prices go up, executives reap a bonanza. The value of their pay from previous years also rises – in what amounts to a retroactive (and off the books) pay increase on top of their already outrageous compensation.

Buybacks were illegal until Ronald Reagan made them legal in 1982, just about the same time wages stopped rising for most Americans. Before then, a bigger percentage corporate profits went into increasing workers’ wages.

But since corporations were already using their profits for stock buybacks, there is no reason to believe they’ll use their tax windfall on anything other than more stock buybacks.

Let’s not compound the error. Make stock buybacks illegal, as they were before 1982.

TRUMP’S HUMONGOUS INFRASTRUCTURE CON

It’s the biggest Trump con since he told Americans the tax cut would help them more than the rich. He’s calling for a $1.5 trillion boost in infrastructure spending – but he’s proposing just $200 billion in federal funding.

So where does the rest come from? Tax hikes on the middle-class and poor, and from private investors.

1. State and local governments, already starved for cash, would have to raise taxes.

2. Private investors, for their part, won’t pitch in unless they’re guaranteed a good return on their investment, most likely in the form of tolls and other user fees. Or worse, governments might be forced to transfer ownership of roads and bridges to private corporations.

So the public will end up paying twice: in higher taxes and higher tolls, and won’t even get what’s needed.

3. Projects that will be most attractive to big investors are where tolls and fees will bring in the biggest bucks: Brand new highways and bridges rather than the thousands of smaller bridges, airports, pipes, and water treatment facilities most in need of repair.

4. Trump’s infrastructure plan only worsens the racial justice divide in America, by leaving disadvantaged communities behind while giving massive profits to the rich and corporations through new tolls and fees.

5. It’s a double con because now that Trump and the Republicans have enacted a huge tax cut for corporations and the rich, there’s no money left for infrastructure. The White House says the $200 billion of federal spending will be offset by cuts elsewhere in the federal budget, but doesn’t explain how or where. Given what we know of Trump’s and the GOP’s priorities, that means taking money from programs that protect vulnerable Americans, not from the billions in wasted on military spending.

A real infrastructure program – as opposed to Trump’s fake program – would focus on repairing existing infrastructure, doing so based on need rather than financial returns, prioritizing public transportation over private, and clean water and renewable energy over projects that generate more pollution.

And it would be paid for by closing tax loopholes used by big corporations and the rich, not by imposing higher taxes, Trump tolls and user fees on the rest of us.

To really make America great again we need more and better infrastructure that’s for the public – not for big developers and investors.

 TRUMP’S BRAND IS AYN RAND

Donald Trump once said he identified with Ayn Rand’s character Howard Roark in “The Fountainhead,” an architect so upset that a housing project he designed didn’t meet specifications he had it dynamited.

Others in Trump’s circle were influenced by Rand. “Atlas Shrugged” was said to be the favorite book of Rex Tillerson, Trump’s secretary of state. Rand also had a major influence on Mike Pompeo, Trump’s CIA chief. Trump’s first nominee for Secretary of Labor, Andrew Puzder, said he spent much of his free time reading Rand.

The Republican leader of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, required his staff to read Rand.

Uber’s founder and former CEO, Travis Kalanick, has described himself as a Rand follower. Before he was sacked, he applied many of her ideas to Uber’s code of values, and even used the cover art for Rand’s book “The Fountainhead” as his Twitter avatar.

Who is Ayn Rand and why does she matter?  Ayn Rand – best known for two highly-popular novels still widely read today – “The Fountainhead,” published in 1943, and “Atlas Shrugged,” in 1957 – didn’t believe there was a common good. She wrote that selfishness is a virtue, and altruism is an evil that destroys nations.

When Rand offered these ideas they seemed quaint if not far-fetched. Anyone who lived through the prior half century witnessed our interdependence, through depression and war.

After the war we used our seemingly boundless prosperity to finance all sorts of public goods – schools and universities, a national highway system, and healthcare for the aged and poor (Medicare and Medicaid). We rebuilt war-torn Europe. We sought to guarantee the civil rights and voting rights of African-Americans. We opened doors of opportunity to women. Of course there was a common good. We were living it.

But then, starting in the late 1970s, Rand’s views gained ground. She became the intellectual godmother of modern-day American conservatism.

This utter selfishness, this contempt for the public, this win-at-any-cost mentality is eroding American life.

Without adherence to a set of common notions about right and wrong, we’re living in a jungle where only the strongest, cleverest, and most unscrupulous get ahead, and where everyone must be wary in order to survive. This is not a society. It’s not even a civilization, because there’s no civility at its core. It’s a disaster.

In other words, we have to understand who Ayn Rand is so we can reject her philosophy and dedicate ourselves to rebuilding the common good.

The idea of the common good was once widely understood and accepted in America. After all, the U.S. Constitution was designed for “We the people” seeking to “promote the general welfare” – not for “me the selfish jerk seeking as much wealth and power as possible.”

Yet today you find growing evidence of its loss – CEOs who gouge their customers, loot their corporations and defraud investors. Lawyers and accountants who look the other way when corporate clients play fast and loose, who even collude with them to skirt the law.

Wall Street bankers who defraud customers and investors. Film producers and publicists who choose not to see that a powerful movie mogul they depend on is sexually harassing and abusing young women.

Politicians who take donations (really, bribes) from wealthy donors and corporations to enact laws their patrons want, or shutter the government when they don’t get the partisan results they seek.

And a president of the United States who lies repeatedly about important issues, refuses to put his financial holdings into a blind trust and then personally profits off his office, and foments racial and ethnic conflict.

The common good consists of our shared values about what we owe one another as citizens who are bound together in the same society. A concern for the common good – keeping the common good in mind – is a moral attitude. It recognizes that we’re all in it together.

If there is no common good, there is no society.

WHY WE NEED RISE-UP ECONOMICS, NOT TRICKLE-DOWN

How to build the economy? Not through trickle-down economics. Tax cuts to the rich and big corporations don’t lead to more investment and jobs.

The only real way to build the economy is through “rise-up” economics: Investments in our people – their education and skills, their health, and the roads and bridges and public transportation that connects them.

Trickle-down doesn’t work because money is global. Corporations and the rich whose taxes are cut invest the extra money wherever around the world they can get the highest return.

Rise-up economics works because American workers are the only resources uniquely American. Their productivity is the key to our future standard of living. And that productivity depends on their education, health, and infrastructure.
Just look at the evidence.

Research shows that public investments grow the economy.

A recent study by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth found, for example, that every dollar invested in universal pre-kindergarten delivers $8.90 in benefits to society in the form of more productive adults.

Similarly, healthier children become more productive adults. Children who became eligible for Medicaid due to expansions in the 1980s and 1990s were more likely to attend college than similar children who did not become eligible.

Investments in infrastructure – highways, bridges, and public transportation – also grow the economy. It’s been estimated that every $1 invested in infrastructure generates at least $1.60 in benefits to society. Some research puts the return much higher.

In the three decades following World War II, we made huge investments in education, health, and infrastructure. The result was rising median incomes.

Since then, public investments have lagged, and median incomes have stagnated.

Meanwhile, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush’s tax cuts on the top didn’t raise incomes, and neither will Donald Trump’s.

Trickle-down economics is a hoax. But it’s a convenient hoax designed to enrich the moneyed interests. Rise-up economics is the real deal. But we must fight for it.

Why the Common Good Disappeared (And How We Get it Back)

In 1963 over 70 percent of Americans trusted government to do the right thing all or most of the time; nowadays only 16 percent do.

There has been a similar decline in trust for corporations. In the late 1970s, 32 percent trusted big business, by 2016, only 18 percent did.

Trust in banks has dropped from 60 percent to 27 percent. Trust in newspapers, from 51 percent to 20 percent. Public trust has also plummeted for nonprofits, universities, charities, and religious institutions.

Why this distrust? As economic inequality has widened, the moneyed interests have spent more and more of their ever-expanding wealth to alter the rules of the game to their own advantage.

Too many leaders in business and politics have been willing to do anything to make more money or to gain more power – regardless of the consequences for our society.

We see this everywhere – in the new tax giveaway to big corporations, in gun manufacturer’s use of the NRA to block gun controls, in the Koch Brother’s push to roll back environmental regulations, in Donald Trump’s profiting off his presidency.

No wonder much of the public no longer believes that America’s major institutions are working for the many. Increasingly, they have become vessels for the few.

The question is whether we can restore the common good. Can the system be made to work for the good of all?

Some of you may feel such a quest to be hopeless. The era we are living in offers too many illustrations of greed, narcissism, and hatefulness. But I don’t believe it hopeless.

Almost every day I witness or hear of the compassion of ordinary Americans – like the thousands who helped people displaced by the wildfires in California and floods in Louisiana; like the two men in Seattle who gave their lives trying to protect a young Muslim woman from a hate-filled assault; like the coach who lost his life in Parkland, Florida, trying to shield students from a gunman; like the teenagers who are demanding that Florida legislators take action on guns.

The challenge is to turn all this into a new public spiritedness extending to the highest reaches in the land – a public morality that strengthens our democracy, makes our economy work for everyone, and revives trust in the major institutions of America.

We have never been a perfect union; our finest moments have been when we sought to become more perfect than we had been. We can help restore the common good by striving for it and showing others it’s worth the effort.

I started my career a half-century ago in the Senate office of Robert F. Kennedy,  when the common good was well understood, and I’ve watched it unravel over the last half-century.

Resurrecting it may take another half century, or more. But as the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr once said, “Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope.“

Trump Voters: One Year in, and he’s Broken 20 Big Promises He Made to You

1. He told you he’d cut your taxes, and that the super-rich like him would pay more. You bought it. But his new tax law does the opposite. By 2027, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, the richest 1 percent will have got 83 percent of the tax cut and the richest 0.1 percent, 60 percent of it. But more than half of all Americans — 53 percent — will pay more in taxes. As Trump told his wealthy friends at Mar-a-Lago just days after the tax bill became law, “You all just got a lot richer.”

2. He promised to close “special interest loopholes that have been so good for Wall Street investors but unfair to American workers,” especially the notorious “carried interest” loophole for private-equity, hedge fund, and real estate partners. You bought it. But the new tax law keeps the “carried interest” loophole.

3. He told you he’d repeal Obamacare and replace it with something “beautiful.” You bought it. But he didn’t repeal and he didn’t replace. (Just as well: His plan would have knocked at least 23 million Americans off health insurance, including many of you.) Instead, he’s doing what he can to cut it back and replace it with nothing. The new tax law will result in 13 million people losing health coverage, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

4. He told you he’d invest $1 trillion in our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. You bought it. But after his giant tax cut for corporations and millionaires, there’s no money left for infrastructure.

5. He said he’d drain the Washington swamp. You bought it. But he’s brought into his administration more billionaires, CEOs, and Wall Street moguls than in any administration in history, to make laws that will enrich their businesses, and he’s filled departments and agencies with former lobbyists, lawyers and consultants who are crafting new policies for the same industries they recently worked for.

6. He said he’d use his business experience to whip the White House into shape. You bought it. But he has created the most dysfunctional, back-stabbing White House in modern history, and has already fired and replaced so many assistants (one of them hired and fired in a little more than a week) that people there barely know who’s in charge of what.

7. He told you he’d “bring down drug prices” by making deals with drug companies. You bought it. But now the White House says that promise is “inoperative.”

8. He told you he’d “stop foreign lobbyists from raising money for American elections.” You bought it. But foreign lobbyists are still raising money for American elections.

9. He told you “I’m not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican and I’m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid.” You bought it. But he and House Speaker Paul Ryan are already planning such cuts in order to deal with the ballooning deficit created, in part, by the new tax law for corporations and the rich.

10. He promised “six weeks of paid maternity leave to any mother with a newborn child whose employer does not provide the benefit.” You bought it. But the giant tax cut for corporations and the rich doesn’t leave any money for this.

11. He said that on Day One he’d label China a “currency manipulator.” You bought it. But then he met with China’s president Xi Jinping and declared “China is not a currency manipulator.” Ever since then, Trump has been cozying up to Xi.

12. He said he “won’t bomb Syria.” You bought it. Then he bombed Syria.

13. He said he’d build a “wall” across the southern border. You believed him. But chief of staff John Kelly says it is “unlikely that we will build a wall, a physical barrier, from sea to shining sea.”

14. He promised that the many women who accused him of sexual misconduct “will be sued after the election is over.” You bought it. He hasn’t sued them, presumably because he doesn’t want the truth to come out.

15. He said he would not be a president who took vacations, and he called Barack Obama “the vacationer-in-Chief.” You bought it. But since becoming President he has spent nearly 25 percent of his days at one of his golf properties for some portion of the day, according to Golf News Network, at a cost to taxpayers of over $77 million. That’s already more taxpayer money on vacations than Obama cost in the first 3 years of his presidency. Not to mention all the money taxpayers are spending protecting his family, including his two sons who travel all over the world on Trump business.

16. He said he’d force companies to keep jobs in America, and that there would be “consequences” for companies that shipped jobs abroad. You believed him. But despite their promises, Carrier, Ford, GM, and the rest have continued to ship jobs to Mexico and China. Carrier (a division of United Technologies) has moved ahead with plans to send 1,000 jobs at its Indiana plant to Mexico. Notwithstanding, the federal government has rewarded United Technologies with 15 new contracts since Trump’s inauguration. GE is sending jobs to Canada. IBM is sending them to Costa Rica, Egypt, Argentina, and Brazil. There have been no “consequences” for sending all these jobs overseas.

17. He promised to revive the struggling coal industry and “bring back thousands” of lost mining jobs. You bought it. But coal jobs continue to disappear. Since Trump’s victory, at least 6 plants that relied on coal have closed or announced they will close. Another 40 are projected to close during the president’s four-year term. Utilities continue to switch to natural gas instead of coal, and renewable energy is cheaper than ever.

18. He promised to protect steel workers. But according to the American Iron and Steel Institute, which tracks shipments, steel imports were 19.4 percent higher in the first 10 months of 2017 than in the same period last year. That import surge has hurt American steel workers, who were already struggling against a glut of cheap Chinese steel.

19. He said he’d make America safer. You believed him. But according to Mass Shooting Tracker, there have been 377 mass shootings so far in the Trump administration, including 58 people killed and hundreds injured at a concert in Las Vegas, and 26 churchgoers killed and 20 injured at a church in Texas. Trump refuses to consider any gun control legislation.

20. He said he’d release his taxes. “I’m under a routine audit and it’ll be released, and as soon as the audit is finished it will be released,“ he promised during the campaign. He hasn’t released his taxes.

THE NEXT BIG FIGHT

Fresh off passing massive tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, Trump and congressional Republicans want to use the deficit they’ve created to justify huge cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

As House Speaker Paul Ryan says “We’re going to have to get… at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit.”

Don’t let them get away with it.

Social Security and Medicare are critical safety-nets for working and middle-class families.

Before they existed, Americans faced grim prospects. In 1935, the year Social Security was enacted, roughly half of America’s seniors lived in poverty.  By the 1960s poverty among seniors had dropped significantly, but medical costs were still a major financial burden and only half of Americans aged 65 and over had health insurance. Medicare fixed that, guaranteeing health care for older Americans.

Today less than 10 percent of seniors live in poverty and almost all have access to health care. According to an analysis of census data, Social Security payments keep an estimated 22 million Americans from slipping into poverty.

Medicaid is also a vital lifeline for America’s elderly and the poor. Yet the Trump administration has already started whittling it away by encouraging states to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients.

Republicans like to call these programs “entitlements,” as if they’re some kind of giveaway.  But Americans pay into Social Security and Medicare throughout their entire working lives. It’s Americans’ own money they’re getting back through these programs.

These vital safety nets should be strengthened, not weakened. How?

1. Lift the ceiling on income subject to the Social Security tax. Currently, top earners only pay Social Security taxes on the first $120,000 of their yearly income. So the rich end up, in effect,  paying a lower Social Security tax rate than everyone else. Lifting the ceiling on what wealthy Americans contribute would help pay for the Baby Boomers retirements and leave Social Security in good shape for Millennials.

2. Allow Medicare to negotiate with drug companies for lower prescription drug prices. As the nation’s largest insurer, Medicare has tremendous bargaining power. Why should Americans pay far more for drugs than people in any other country?

3. Finally, reduce overall health costs and create a stronger workforce by making Medicare available to all. There’s no excuse for the richest nation in the world to have 28 million Americans still uninsured.

We need to not just secure, but revitalize Social Security and these other programs for our children, and for our children’s children.  Millennials just overtook Baby Boomers as our nation’s largest demographic.  For them — for all of us — we need to say loud and clear to all of our members of congress:  Hands off Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Expand and improve these programs: don’t cut them.

THE BIG PICTURE OF HOW WE GOT INTO THIS MESS (OF TRUMP) AND HOW WE GET OUT OF IT

There’s too much yelling these days, so we made this a silent video. (The only casualty was my arm, which ached for days afterward.) Hope you find it helpful. Best wishes for a 2018 that’s better for America than 2017 was.

TELL THE FCC NOT TO END NET NEUTRALITY!

The FCC is voting Thursday on whether to repeal the “Net Neutrality” rule adopted in 2015.

Since its creation, the internet has been an open exchange of ideas and information, free from corporate control and influence. But corporations could soon have tremendous power over what we can access and share online, ending the internet as we know it.

In 2015, the FCC passed a landmark rule that prevents internet service providers from favoring some sites over others – slowing down connections or charging customers a fee for streaming or other services. It gave Americans equal access to all the content that’s available on the internet – videos, social media, e-commerce sites, etc – at the same speeds.

Now, though, Donald Trump’s handpicked chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, wants to abolish “Net Neutrality.” He wants to give telecommunications giants like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T the upper hand.

Pai – himself a former Verizon executive – defends the rollback by “Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet.” Baloney. His plan would be a huge gift to cable companies. It would:

1. Drive up prices for internet service. Broadband providers could charge customers higher rates to access certain sites, or raise rates for internet companies to reach consumers faster speeds. Either way, these prices hikes would be passed along to you and me.

2. Give corporate executives free reign to slow down and censor news or websites that don’t match their political agenda, or give preference to their own content – for any reason at all.

3. Stifle innovation. Cable companies could severely hurt their competitors by blocking certain apps or online services. Small businesses who can’t afford to pay higher rates could be squeezed out altogether.

Broadband providers claim that Net Neutrality rules actually hurts consumers because it  discourages investment in their networks.

Rubbish. Since Net Neutrality was adopted, investment has remained consistent. During calls with investors, telecom executives themselves have even admitted that Net Neutrality hasn’t hurt their businesses.

In the modern age, unfettered access to the internet is essential to a vibrant democracy and strong economy.

There’s still time. Please help stop this corporate power grab over what we can say and do online.

SLAPP LAWSUITS: THE BIGGEST THREAT TO THE RESISTANCE YOU NEVER HEARD OF

Have you heard of SLAPP lawsuits? You soon will.

SLAPP stands for “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.” It is a lawsuit brought by big corporations intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the overwhelming costs of a legal defense until they’re forced to abandon their criticism or opposition. And it may be the biggest threat to the resistance you’ve never heard of.

Here’s an example: Resolute Forest Products, one of Canada’s largest logging and paper companies, has sued, in a U.S. court, environmental groups that have been campaigning to save Canada’s boreal forest.

Resolute based its lawsuit on a U.S. conspiracy and racketeering law (RICO) intended to ensnare mobsters. Resolute alleged that the environmental groups have been illegally conspiring to extort the company’s customers and to defraud their own donors.

The suit wasn’t designed to win in court. It was designed to distract and silence critics. This is punishment for speaking out. Thankfully, a federal court agrees and a judge just dismissed Resolute’s claims. But other corporate bullies are still trying to use this playbook.

Here’s another example: Remember the indigenous led movement at Standing Rock, when hundreds of nations and their allies came together and stood up against the destructive Dakota Access Pipeline?

In August, Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind that pipeline, filed a similar RICO case against Greenpeace entities and two other defendants over Standing Rock. The suit accuses them of participating in a sprawling criminal conspiracy to disrupt business and defraud donors. The lawsuit even alleges they support eco-terrorism and engage in drug trafficking.

The lawsuit claims Greenpeace cost the company $300 million. Since RICO claims entitle plaintiffs to recover triple damages, the case potentially could cost Greenpeace $900 million. That would be the end of Greenpeace.

But, again, winning isn’t necessarily the goal of SLAPP suits. Just by filing the suits, Energy Transfer Partners and Resolute are trying to drain environmental groups of time, energy, and resources they need, so they can’t continue to fight to protect the environment.

Connect the dots, and consider the chilling effect SLAPP suits are having on any group seeking to protect public health, worker’s rights, and even our democracy.

Who’s behind all of this? Both the lawsuits I just mentioned were filed by Michael Bowe. He is also a member of Donald Trump’s personal legal team. Bowe has publicly stated that he’s in conversations with other corporations considering filing their own SLAPP lawsuits.

If the goal is to silence public-interest groups, the rest of us must speak out. Wealthy corporations must know  they can’t SLAPP the public into silence.

The New Poll Tax

Hundreds of thousands of Americans are being denied the right to vote because they are poor.

In nine states, Republican legislators have enacted laws that disenfranchise anyone with outstanding legal fees or court fines. For example, in Alabama more than 100,000 people who owe money – roughly 3 percent of the state’s voting-age population – have been struck from voting rolls.

This is unconstitutional. In 1964, the 24th amendment abolished the poll tax, a Jim Crow tactic used to bar poor blacks from voting.

These new laws are a modern reincarnation of that unconstitutional system, disproportionately disenfranchising people of color.

Income and wealth should have no bearing on the right to vote. Many Americans are struggling to make ends meet. But they still have a constitutional right to make their voices heard.

Preventing people from voting because they owe legal fees or court fines muzzle low-income Americans at a time in our nation’s history when the rich have more political power than ever.

These state laws are another form of voter suppression – like gerrymandering, voter ID requirements, and bars on anyone with felony convictions from voting.

We must not let them stand.

A YEAR WITHOUT A PRESIDENT

It seems like forever, but it was just one year ago that Donald Trump was elected president. So what have we learned about the presidency and who is running the country?

1. The first big thing we’ve learned is that Trump is not really the president of the United States – because he’s not governing.

A president who’s governing doesn’t blast his Attorney General for doing his duty and recusing himself from an FBI investigation of the president.

A president who’s governing doesn’t leave the top echelons of departments and agencies empty for almost a year.

He doesn’t publicly tell his Secretary of State he’s wasting time trying to open relations with North Korea. Any president with the slightest interest in governing would already know and approve of what his Secretary of State was doing.

He doesn’t fire half his key White House staff in the first nine months, creating utter chaos.

A president who is governing works with his cabinet and staff to develop policy. He doesn’t just tweet new public policy out of the blue – for example, that transgender people can’t serve in the military. His Secretary of Defense is likely to have some thoughts on the matter – and if not consulted might decide to ignore the tweet.

He doesn’t just decide to withdraw from the Paris Accord without any reason or analysis.

A president who is governing works with Congress. He doesn’t just punt to Congress hard decisions – as he did with DACA, the Iran nuclear deal, insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, and details of his tax plan.

He doesn’t tell a crowd of supporters that he’s ended the Clean Power Plan – “Did you see what I did to that? Boom, gone” – when any such repeal requires a legal process, and must then withstand court challenges.

Instead of governing, Donald Trump has been insulting, throwing tantrums, and getting even:

Equating white supremacists with people who protest against them. Questioning the patriotism of NFL players who are peacefully protesting police violence and racism.

Making nasty remarks about journalists, about his predecessor as president, his political opponent in the last election, national heroes like Congressman John Lewis and Senator John McCain, even the mayor of San Juan Puerto Rico.

Or he’s busy lying and then covering up the lies. Claiming he would have won the popular vote if millions hadn’t voted fraudulently for his opponent – without a shred of evidence to support his claim, and then setting up a fraudulent commission to find the evidence.

Or firing the head of the FBI who wouldn’t promise to be more loyal to him than to the American public.

A president’s job is to govern. Trump doesn’t know how to govern, or apparently doesn’t care. So, logically, he’s not President.

2. The second thing we’ve learned is that Trump’s influence is waning.  

Since he lost the popular vote, his approval ratings have dropped even further. One year in, Trump is the least popular president in history with only 37 percent of Americans behind him.

Most Republicans still approve of him, but that may not be for long.

He couldn’t get his pick elected to a Senate primary in Alabama, a state bulging with Trump voters.

Republican senators refused to go along with his repeal of the Affordable Care Act. And they’re taking increased interest in Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

Business leaders deserted him over his remarks over Charlottesville. They vacated his business advisory councils.

NFL owners have turned on him over his remarks about players. Tom Brady, who once called Trump “a good friend,” now calls him “divisive” and “wrong.”

There’s no question he’s violated the Constitution. There are at least three grounds for impeachment – his violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution by raking in money from foreign governments, his obstruction of justice by firing the head of the FBI, and his failure to faithfully execute the law by not implementing the Affordable Care Act. And a fourth if he or his aides colluded with Russia in the 2016 election.

But both houses of Congress would have to vote for his removal, which won’t happen unless Democrats win control in 2018 or Republicans in Congress decide Trump is a political liability.

3. The third big thing we’ve learned is where the governing of the country is actually occurring.

Much is being done by lobbyists for big business, who now swarm over the Trump administration like honey bees over a hedgerow of hollyhocks.

But the real leadership of America is coming from outside the Trump administration.

Leadership on the environment is now coming from California – whose rules every automaker and many other corporations have to meet in order to sell in a state that’s home to one out of eight Americans.

Leadership on civil rights is coming from the federal courts, which have struck down three different versions of Trump’s travel ban, told states their voter ID laws are unconstitutional, and pushed police departments to stop profiling and harassing minorities.

Leadership on the economy is coming from the Federal Reserve Board, whose decisions on interest rates are more important than ever now that the country lacks a fiscal policy guided by the White House.

Most of the rest of leadership in America is now coming from the grassroots – from people all over the country who are determined to reclaim our democracy and make the economy work for the many rather than the few.

They stopped Congress from repealing the Affordable Care Act.

They’re fighting Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s plan to spend taxpayer money on for-profit schools and colleges that cheat their students.

They’re fighting EPA director Scott Pruitt’s crusade against climate science.

And Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s attempts to tear down the wall between church and state.

They’re fighting against the biggest tax cut for the wealthy in American history – that will be paid for by draconian cuts in services and dangerous levels of federal debt.

They’re fighting against the bigotry, racism, and xenophobia that Trump has unleashed.

And they’re fighting for a Congress that, starting with next year’s midterm elections, will reverse everything Trump is doing to America.

But their most important effort – your effort, our effort – is not just resisting Trump. It’s laying the groundwork for a new politics in America, a new era of decency and social justice, a reassertion of the common good.

Millions are already mobilizing and organizing. It’s the one good thing that’s happened since Election Day last year – the silver lining on the dark Trump cloud.

If you’re not yet part of it, join up.

TRUMP’S TROJAN HORSE TAX CUT

The goal of Trump and the Republican leaders is to pull off a giant redistribution of over $1 trillion from the middle-class, working-class, and poor to the rich, who are already richer than ever.

They’re selling this to the public with a false claim that the middle-class will benefit from their tax cut plan. It’s a gigantic Trojan horse.

For most Americans, the proposed tax cuts are tiny and temporary. That’s right – temporary.  They will shrink in just a few years.  And some middle class Americans will actually get a tax increase.

Meanwhile, the top 1 percent will get a gigantic tax cut. The Tax Policy Center estimates that the current plan will save the bottom 80 percent between $50 and $450 in taxes per year, but that it saves each person in the top 1 percent an average of $129,000 a year. For people at the very top, like Trump himself, the tax cuts are humongous. And the corporations they own will also get a massive tax cut.

Republicans say economic “growth” will pay for the tax cuts, so there’s no need to cut social programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

But Republicans have just passed a budget that would cut nearly $1.5 trillion from Medicare and Medicaid to pay for these tax cuts.  Pell Grants, housing assistance, and even cancer research are also on the chopping block.

Now, they say we shouldn’t take their budget resolution seriously. It was just a device to get the tax bill through the Senate with 51 votes.

But once these tax cuts are passed, the budget deficit will explode. The Tax Policy Center predicts that it will cut federal revenue by $2.4 trillion over the next 10 years.

When that happens, the only way out of the crisis will be something dramatic  –  exactly the cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, and maybe even Social Security – that Republicans have wanted for years.

By this time, any talk of raising taxes on the rich will be dismissed.

Using the promise of middle-class tax cuts as a Trojan horse for a tax windfall for the rich and deep spending cuts is a tactic dating back to the Reagan administration.

But the version they’re aiming for now is “YUGE.”

We must see the strategy for what it is.  And it must be stopped.

AMERICA NOW HAS 6 POLITICAL PARTIES

The old Democratic and Republican parties are exploding. When you take a closer look, America actually has six political parties right now:

1. Establishment Republicans, consisting of large corporations, Wall Street, and major GOP funders. Their goal is to have their taxes cut.

2. Anti-establishment Republicans, consisting of Tea Partiers, the Freedom Caucus, and libertarians. Their goal is to have a smaller government with shrinking deficits and debts. Many of them also want to get Big Money out of politics and end crony capitalism.

3. Social conservative Republicans – evangelicals and rural Southern whites. They want America to return to what they call “Christian” values.

4. Establishment Democrats – corporate and Wall Street executives and upper middle-class professionals. They’d also like a tax cut, but they believe in equal rights.

5. Anti-establishment Democrats – younger, grassroots movement types, and progressives who still call themselves Democrats. Their biggest issues are widening inequality, racism, sexism, and climate change. They also want to get Big Money out of politics and they reject crony capitalism.

6. The sixth party is Trump. This party consists of Donald J. Trump and his fanatical followers. Trump’s goal is to get more money for himself, get more power for himself, get more attention to himself, and get even.

Whoever can put together elements of a governing coalition among these six parties will win future elections.

One possibility is a coalition of anti-establishment Democrats who want to get big money out of politics and who reject crony capitalism, and anti-establishement Republicans who want the same.

The other possible coalition is establishment Democrats who want their taxes cut and establishment Republicans who want the same.

Why We Must All Fight for the Dream Act.

By repealing DACA – Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals – Trump has endangered both these young immigrants and the economic security of America.

In 2012, the Obama  administration created DACA as a temporary way to address the needs of young people who came to America as infants or toddlers, and know no other country.

To apply and qualify for DACA, these young people had to risk entering the system by giving their identifying information. Once approved, they were granted two years of “deferred action” on deportation, with the promise that they could reapply every two years indefinitely.

This allowed “dreamers” to go to college, get a job, and pay taxes without fear of deportation. DACA was never perfect, but for 800,000 immigrant youth it meant freedom from fear and an opportunity to fully contribute to the country they were raised in.

But now these young people are threatened with deportation.

For no reason. These young people are not taking jobs away from native-born Americans.  Even the conservative Cato Institute has said that the economic cost of cancelling DACA would be $200 billion over ten years.  And that’s just direct costs. The Center for American Progress estimates that if we lost these young workers the U.S. gross domestic product would shrink by $433 billion over the next decade.

The moral case is even more compelling than the economic one.

These kids grew up in America. To enter the DACA program they already had to step forward and show that they were contributing  to their communities and then prove it again every two years to stay in the program. It is immoral to now put them in the crosshairs of deportation.

This is just the latest effort by Trump to play to his base and divide us, but we must not allow that. Americans of all races and creeds must push congress to pass the Dream Act, and allow these young people to become American citizens – without the Act being a bargaining chip for more border security or anything else.

These DACA young people are our neighbors, our colleagues, and our classmates. They represent the the best of the dream that my parents and most of our ancestors had when they came to America:  To make a better life for themselves, and for their kids.  Trump’s attempt to divide us and fuel our differences along racial and ethnic lines is an attack on the America I believe in, and we must not let it stand.

That’s why the DACA fight is my fight, and why I stand with the dreamers – and I hope you will too.

WHY THE REPUBLICAN TAX PLAN IS MORE FAILED TRICKLE-DOWN ECONOMICS*

Trump and conservatives in Congress are planning a big tax cut for millionaires and billionaires. To justify it they’re using the oldest song in their playbook, claiming tax cuts on the rich will trickle down to working families in the form of stronger economic growth.

Baloney. Trickle-down economics is a cruel joke. Just look at the evidence:

1. Clinton’s tax increase on the rich hardly stalled the economy. In 1993, Bill Clinton raised taxes on top earners from 31 percent to 39.6 percent. Conservatives predicted economic disaster. Instead, the economy created 23 million jobs and the economy grew for 8 straight years in what was then the longest expansion in history. The federal budget went into surplus.

2. George W. Bush’s big tax cuts for the rich didn’t grow the economy. In 2001and 2003, George W. Bush lowered the top tax rate to 35 percent while also cutting top rates on capital gains and dividends. Conservative supply-siders predicted an economic boom. Instead, the economy barely grew at all, and then in 2008 it collapsed. Meanwhile, the federal deficit ballooned.

3. Obama’s tax hike on the rich didn’t slow the economy. At the end of 2012, President Obama struck a deal to restore the 39.6 percent top tax rate and raise tax rates on capital gains and dividends. Once again, supply-side conservatives predicted doom. Instead, the economy grew steadily, and the expansion is still continuing.

4. The Reagan recovery of the early 1980s wasn’t driven by Reagan’s tax cut. Conservative supply-siders point to Ronald Reagan’s 1981 tax cuts. But the so-called Reagan recovery of the early 1980s was driven by low interest rates and big increase in government spending.

5. Kansas cut taxes on the rich and is a basket case. California raised them and is thriving. In 2012, Kansas slashed taxes on top earners and business owners, while California raised taxes on top earners to the highest state rate in the nation. Since then, California has had among the strongest economic growth of any state, while Kansas has fallen behind most other states.

So don’t fall for supply-side, trickle-down nonsense. Lower taxes on the rich don’t generate growth and jobs. They only make the rich even richer, at a time of raging inequality, and they cause bigger budget deficits.

[*Our thanks to Alexandra Thornton and Seth Hanlon from the Center for American Progress]

WHY WE NEED SANCTUARY STATES

California lawmakers have just passed “sanctuary state” legislation – the first state since Oregon, which 30 years ago passed a law preventing state agencies from targeting undocumented immigrants solely because of their illegal status.

Other states should follow California’s and Oregon’s lead.

Since January, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered immigration authorities to target “public safety” threats, federal arrests of undocumented immigrants have increased by over 37 percent. California is home to an estimated 2.3 million unauthorized immigrants.

California’s law limits the authority of state and local law enforcers to communicate with federal immigration authorities, and prevents officers from questioning or holding people depending on their immigration status or immigration violations. But it still allows federal immigration authorities to enter county jails to question immigrants, and allow police and sheriffs to share information on people who have been convicted of serious crimes.

This is a fair balance. Sanctuary protections like these make sense because:

1. Under them, undocumented immigrants are more likely to come forth with information about crime when doing so won’t put them at risk of deportation. This improves public safety and builds trusts with law enforcement.

2. By contrast, turning state and local police into immigration agents invites more crime because it diverts limited time and resources to rounding up undocumented immigrants.

3. Undocumented immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than native-born citizens, so it makes even less sense for local and state police to spend their precious time and resources rounding them up.

4. A dragnet aimed at finding and deporting all of America’s 11 million unauthorized immigrants is cruel, costly, and contemptible. It turns this country into more of a police state, breaks up families, and hurts the economy.

We must resist Jeff Sessions and his dragnet. Help make your state a sanctuary.

 Six Reasons Why American Corporations Shouldn’t Get a Tax Cut

Trump and Republicans are trying to sell you the idea that American corporations need a tax cut in order to be competitive. That’s rubbish. Here are 6 reasons why:

First, American corporations don’t need it in order to be competitive internationally. After tax credits and deductions, their effective tax rate is just about the same as paid by corporations in most of our major trading partners, according to the U.S. Treasury.

Second, American corporations are making more money than ever. Their after-tax profits are a higher share of the total economy than ever. American corporations earn nearly half of all global profits, even though the U.S. economy is about a fifth the size of the world economy.

Third, the long-term competitiveness of American corporations depends far more on a well-educated and skilled workforce, modern infrastructure, and basic research than on tax rates. And the way we finance these necessary public investment is through … taxes.

Fourth, American corporations are now paying less in taxes than they have in 65 years. Corporate tax receipts are the lowest percentage of the economy since just after World War II. If corporate taxes are cut, you will have to pay even more in taxes in order to make up the difference.

Fifth, if their taxes were cut, corporations won’t use the extra money to make new investments in plant, equipment, research and development, or jobs. They’re already using their vast stockpiles of cash to buy back shares and thereby boost stock prices, and for extravagant bonuses and salaries to CEOs and other top executives. That’s what they would do with any additional cash.

Sixth, the reason they’re not investing more is because consumers don’t have the purchasing power to buy more, and that’s because most people’s incomes have gone nowhere for decades. And why is that? Because corporations have been holding down wages by outsourcing abroad, substituting software for jobs, contracting work out to part-time workers, and fighting unions.

A corporate tax cut is the wrong solution to the wrong problem. The real problem is stagnant wages of most Americans, coupled with declining public investments in schools, roads, public transportation, and basic research – all the things average working Americans need in order to become more productive and get higher wages. To finance these we need higher corporate taxes, not lower.

How to Make the Electoral College Irrelevant

We must make sure our democracy doesn’t ever again elect a candidate who loses the popular vote. That means making the Electoral College irrelevant.

Here’s how: As you probably know, the Constitution assigns each state a number of electors based on the state’s population. The total number of electors is 538, so any candidate who gets 270 of those Electoral College votes becomes president.

Article II of the Constitution says states can award their electors any way they want. So all that’s needed in order to make the Electoral College irrelevant is for states with a total of at least 270 electors to agree to award all their electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote.

If they do that, then automatically the winner of the popular vote gets the 270 electoral college votes he or she needs to become president.

Already 10 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws to do this – awarding all their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote, as soon as the 270 elector goal is met. Together, these states total 165 electoral votes.

So all we need now is some additional states with 105 electors to pass the same law, agreeing to reward all their electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote – and it’s done. We’ll never again elect a president who loses the popular vote.

The effort is known as the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. If your state hasn’t yet joined on, make sure it does.

TRUMP’S OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE

Steve Bannon recently called Trump’s firing of James Comey the biggest political mistake in modern political history. But it was more than that. It was outright obstruction of justice – another impeachable offense to add to the impeachable offenses Trump has already committed (violation of the Constitution’s “emolument’s clause,” failure to faithfully execute the laws, and abuse of power).

Obstruction of justice was among the articles of impeachment drafted against both Presidents Nixon and Clinton. The parallel between Nixon and Trump is almost exact. White House tapes revealed Nixon giving instructions to pressure the acting FBI director into halting the Watergate investigation.

It’s worth recalling that two weeks after Trump told Comey privately “I need loyalty. I expect loyalty,” he had another private meeting with Comey in the Oval Office. After shooing out his advisers – all of whom had top security clearance – Trump said to Comey, according to Comey’s memo written shortly after the meeting,“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.”

Then on May 9, Trump fired Comey. In a subsequent interview with NBC Trump said he planned to fire Comey “regardless of [the] recommendation” of the Attorney and Deputy Attorney General, partly because of “this Russia thing.” Trump also revealed in the interview that he had had several conversations with Comey about the Russia investigation, and had asked Comey if he was under investigation.

The federal crime of obstruction of justice applies to “[w]hoever corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication influences, obstructs, or impedes or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law” in a proceeding or investigation by a government department or agency or Congress.

As in Nixon’s case, a decision to support an “inquiry of impeachment” resolution in the House—to start an impeachment investigation—doesn’t depend on sufficient evidence to convict a person of obstruction of justice, but simply probable cause to believe a president may have obstructed justice.

There’s already more than enough evidence of probable cause to begin that impeachment inquiry of Donald Trump.

WHY WE SHOULD ABOLISH THE DEBT CEILING 

Congressional Democrats have pulled a fast one on Republicans by striking a deal with Trump to raise the federal debt ceiling only until the end of the year. This will give them bargaining leverage in December to strike a bigger bargain with Republicans: Democrats will agree to raise the debt ceiling then in return for Republican cooperation on legalizing Dreamers (unauthorized immigrants brought into the U.S. as children), making small but necessary fixes in the Affordable Care act, and other things Democrats seek.

Raising the debt ceiling is always a political football, used by whichever party is in the minority to extract concessions from the majority party or from the majority party’s president.

The debt ceiling is how much the government is allowed to borrow. It shouldn’t be a political football. It should be abolished. It serves absolutely no purpose.

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 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. 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 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 about 77 percent of our total national product. The reason it’s a problem is it’s growing faster than the economy is growing, so it’s on the way to becoming larger and larger in proportion.

This is what we ought to be focusing on. Fighting over whether or not to raise the debt ceiling is a meaningless and dangerous distraction. So abolish it.

What Do Democrats Stand For?

The Democratic Party can lead the country in a new direction, but will it?

Millions of Americans who are politically engaged for the first time in their lives are crying out for a bold alternative to bigoted and destructive policies.

But Democrats can’t just be anti-Trump or move to the middle.

To be successful Democrats must address the forces that created Trump: The toxic combination of widening inequality and racism.

The richest one percent now own more than the bottom 90 percent. Corporations and the rich are running our politics.

The resulting economic stresses have made many people vulnerable to Trump’s politics of hate and bigotry.

If Democrats stand for one thing, it must be overcoming this unprecedented economic imbalance and creating a multi-racial, multi-ethnic coalition of the bottom 90 percent, to take back our economy and politics.

This requires, at the least:

1. Public investments in world-class schools and infrastructure for all.

2. Free public universities and first-class technical training for all;

3. Single-payer Medicare-for-All;

4. Higher taxes on the wealthy to pay for this;

5. Using antitrust to break up powerful monopolies on Wall Street, Big Tech, Big Pharma, and Big Agriculture.

6. Getting big money out of our politics.

Together, these steps form an agenda to reclaim our economy and democracy for all. Will Democrats lead the way?

DEAR TRUMP VOTER

If you voted for Donald Trump, I get it. Maybe you feel you’ve been so badly shafted by the system that you didn’t want to go back to politics as usual, and Trump seemed like he’d topple that corrupt system.

You voted to change our country’s power base – to get rid of crony capitalism and give our government back to the people who are working, paying taxes, and spending more just to survive. Lots of Americans agree with you.

But now, the president is turning his back on that idea and the many changes he promised.

He did not drain the swamp. After telling voters how he would take control away from special interests, he has surrounded himself with the very Wall Street players he decried. Now, those who gamed politicians for tax loopholes and laws that reward the rich don’t even have to sneak around with backroom deals.

Steve Mnuchin, Gary Cohn, Dina Powell and others from Wall Street, as well as corporate lobbyists by the dozens, are now inside the Trump administration rigging the system for the extremely wealthy from the inside.

They want to make it easier for banks to once again gamble with your money and repeat our financial crisis. They want to cut health care for millions of you. They want to lower taxes on corporations and the rich. They want to get rid of rules that stop corporations from harming your health or safety.

That’s not the change you were promised.

Make America Great Again? The Trump administration wants to expand on policies that have kept American wages stagnant for almost four decades. Huge corporations and billionaires get the breaks, and hard working Americans once again get left waiting for the crumbs. That’s not the change you were promised.

Bringing back fiscal responsibility? The Secret Service budget is skyrocketing to protect his family on international business trips, ski vacations, and separate New York City living quarters.

At the same time, the president still refuses to untangle himself from his businesses and prove he’s not leveraging our government for his financial gain. You’re paying for his lifestyle while he’s doing nothing to help yours.

That’s not the change you were promised.

A SUMMER SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR THE TRUMP ERA

Here’s a summer survival guide, 10 ways to relax during the era of Trump.

1.  Take a day off from the news, one day a week.

2.  Don’t get into an argument with a Trump supporter, especially if it’s a member of your family. Remember, there are more independents and non-voters than Trump Republicans. And the 2018 midterm election will be won on the basis of turnout.

3.  Pay no attention to Trump’s tweets. They’re becoming increasingly bizarre and irrelevant.

4.  Watch an old movie of biting political satire, like “Wag the Dog.”

5.  But don’t watch “Doctor Strangelove.

6.  Join an Indivisible group near you and take action with them, attending a congressional town meeting and organizing others to contact your members of congress. It’s having an effect. Plus, it’s therapeutic.

7.  Drink lots of water and get plenty of exercise. Helps with the anger.

8.  Read good books of fiction, like Harry Potter. Don’t read George Orwell’s “1984” or Sinclair Lewis’s “It Can’t Happen Here” or Philip Roth’s “The Plot Against America.”

9.  Go to a county fair with your kids, and watch the pigs.

10. Have a cookout with your neighbors and see what resources you yourselves can offer to your community. Start a tool collective or teach a class in a library or out of someone’s house. Tangible change can come from your hands, not only your votes. Remember, resistance works best when people come together and work together.

Have a great summer!

THE ART OF THE (TRUMP AND PUTIN) DEAL

Say you’re Vladimir Putin, and you did a deal with Trump last year. Whether there was such a deal is being investigated. But if you are Putin and you did do a deal, what might Trump have agreed to do for you?

1. Repudiate NATO. NATO is the biggest thorn in your side – the alliance that both humiliates you and stymies your ambitions. Trump seemed intent to deliver on this during his recent European trip by bullying members about payments and seemingly not reaffirming Article 5 of the pact, which states that any attack on one NATO ally is an attack on all. (He’s backtracked on this since then, under pressure from Congress.)

2. Antagonize Europe, especially Angela Merkel. She’s the strongest leader in the West other than Trump, and you’d love to drive a wedge between the United States and Germany. Your larger goal is for Europe to no longer depend on the United States, so you can increase your influence in Europe. Trump has almost delivered on this, too. Merkel is already saying Europe can no longer depend on America.

3. Take the United States out of the Paris accord on the environment. This will anger America’s other allies around the world and produce a wave of anti-Americanism – all to your advantage. You’d also love for the whole Paris accord to unravel because you want the world to remain dependent on fossil fuels. Russia is the world’s second-largest exporter of oil after Saudi Arabia, and biggest exporter of natural gas. And the oil and gas industry contributes about half the revenues to your domestic budget. And, hey, there’s also all those Arctic ports that are opening up now that the earth is warming. Trump has delivered on this.

4. Embark on a new era of protectionism. Or at least anti-trade rhetoric. This will threaten the West’s economic interdependence and loosen America’s economic grip on the rest of the world. Trump is on the way to delivering on this one.

5. End the economic sanctions on Russia, imposed by the United States in 2014. Oil production on land is falling so you want to tap the vast petroleum and gas reserves offshore in the Arctic. In 2011, you and ExxonMobil’s Rex Tillerson, signed a $500 billion deal to do this. But the sanctions stopped it cold. Trump has promised to lift them, but he hasn’t delivered on this yet, because he has got to cope with all the suspicions in America about his deal with you. Once it dies down, he’ll end the sanctions. In the meantime, he’ll give you back the two compounds that were seized by the Obama administration when the U.S. intelligence discovered you’d interfered in the election.

And what might you have agreed to do for Trump in return?

Two things: First, you’d help him win the presidency, by hacking into Democratic Party servers, leaking the results, sending millions of fake news stories about Hillary to targeted voters, and tapping into voter lists.

Second, after he was elected, you’d shut up about your help so Trump wouldn’t be impeached and convicted of treason.

In other words, if you did a deal, you both still have every incentive to fulfill your side of it. That’s the art of the deal.

POLITICAL JUJITSU: NOW’S THE TIME FOR MEDICARE FOR ALL

As Republicans in Congress move to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Democrats are moving toward Medicare for All – a single-payer plan that builds on Medicare and would cover everyone at far lower cost.

Most House Democrats are already supporting a Medicare for All bill.

With health care emerging as the public’s top concern, according to recent polls, the choice between repeal of the Affordable Care Act and Medicare for All is likely to be the major domestic issue in the presidential campaign of 2020 (other than getting Trump out of office, if he lasts that long).

And the better choice is clear. Private for-profit insurers spend a fortune trying to attract healthy people while avoiding the sick and needy, filling out paperwork from hospitals and providers, paying top executives, and rewarding shareholders.

And for-profit insurers are merging like mad, in order to make even more money.

These are among the major reasons why health insurance is becoming so expensive, and why almost every other advanced nation – including our neighbor to the north – has adopted a single-payer system at less cost per person and with better health outcomes.

Most Americans support Medicare for All. According to a Gallup poll conducted in May, a majority would like to see a single-payer system implemented. An April survey from the Economist/YouGov showed 60 percent of Americans in favor of “expanding Medicare to provide health insurance to every American.”

That includes nearly half of people who identify themselves as Republican.

If Republicans gut the Affordable Care Act, the American public will be presented with the real choice ahead: Either expensive health care for the few, or affordable health care for the many.

NOW’S THE TIME FOR MEDICARE FOR ALL

As Republicans in Congress move to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Democrats are moving in the opposite direction, toward Medicare for All – a single-payer plan that builds on Medicare and would cover everyone at far lower cost.

Most House Democrats are already supporting a Medicare for All bill. Senator Bernie Sanders is preparing to introduce it in the Senate. Both California and New York state are moving towards single-payer plans.

With health care emerging as the pubic’s top concern, according to recent polls, the choice between repeal of the Affordable Care Act and Medicare for All is likely to be the major domestic issue in the presidential campaign of 2020 (other than getting Trump out of office, if he lasts that long).

And the better choice is clear. Private for-profit insurers spend a fortune trying to attract healthy people while avoiding the sick and needy, filling out paperwork from hospitals and providers, paying top executives, and rewarding shareholders.

And for-profit insurers are merging like mad, in order to make even more money.

These are among the major reasons why health insurance is becoming so expensive, and why almost every other advanced nation – including our neighbor to the north – has adopted a single-payer system at less cost per person and with better health outcomes.

Most Americans support Medicare for All. According to a Gallup poll conducted in May, a majority would like to see a single-payer system implemented.

An April survey from the Economist/YouGov showed 60 percent of Americans in favor of “expanding Medicare to provide health insurance to every American.” That includes nearly half of people who identify themselves as Republican.

If Republicans gut the Affordable Care Act, the American public will be presented with the real choice ahead: Either expensive health care for the few, or affordable health care for the many.


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Robert Reich

Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He 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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