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by Robert Kuttner
Austerity has failed in Europe, where the European Union just racked up 18 months of negative growth with no end in sight. It is failing in the United States, where this year's deficit reductions will cut the growth rate in half.
But austerity is succeeding as politics. The German government shows no signs of taking its heavy foot off Europe's oxygen hose, and President Obama seems determined to strike a 10-year deal with the Republicans that would equal 10 years of sequesters and then some.
What might change this grim politics?
Last seek, Senator Elizabeth Warren -- how splendid to be able write the words Senator and Warren in the same sentence -- showed the way. Warren introduced her very first free-standing bill, and fittingly it was a bill to cut interest rates on student loans.
Warren's bill is only a start. It would prevent an increase in Stafford Loans, federally subsidized loans to low and middle-income families, which are slated to double in cost on July 1 from 3.4 percent interest to 6.8 percent. Warren's bill would cut the rate to the Federal Reserve lending rate to banks, currently 0.75 percent.
by Kevin Gosztola
During a press briefing on Tuesday, White House spokesperson Jay Carney mechanically repeated a line when asked about the Justice Department’s seizure of the Associated Press’ phone records, suggesting President Barack Obama supports a “balance” between freedom of the press and national security.
“The president feels strongly that we need a—the press to be able to be unfettered in its pursuit of investigative journalism, and you saw, when he was a senator, the president co-sponsor legislation that would have provided further protections for journalists in this regard,” Carney said. “And he is also mindful of the need for secret and classified information to remain secret and classified in order to protect our national security interests. So there are — there is a careful balance here that must be attained.”
by Deborah Burger
If there is one problem that symbolizes the ongoing national healthcare emergency, it is the rampant price gouging in the healthcare industry that continues to price too many Americans out of access to care and into financial ruin. Not only is the problem not solved by the Affordable Care Act, but it is a likely reason many will continue to demand more effective reform, as in expanding and extending Medicare to cover everyone.
Predatory pricing practices can be found nearly everywhere in healthcare, by the drug companies, insurance companies, medical suppliers, outpatient clinics, boutique medical services, and many others as chronicled this spring in Time magazine.
U.S. hospitals are among the biggest abusers, as illuminated in recent data released by Medicare on hospital charges for a variety of common procedures as well as brand new findings by the Institute for Health and Socio-Economic Policy, the research arm of the National Nurses United, based on Medicare cost reports.
The editorial board of the News-Gazette felt compelled to issue an editorial in the May 14 edition blasting a medical marijuana law that, after more than 3 decades, will finally let Illinois citizens have legal access to cannabis.
Make not mistake about it. Just about any patient in Illinois who needs cannabis can get it now. Except for the News-Gazette's editorial board and State's Attorney Julia Rietz, most other citizens of Illinois are not so dorky they can't find a dealer if in need. The ONLY thing the new law does is allow them _legal_ access. It does create a government-regulated monopoly system that requires those participating to give up some fundamental human rights. The state apparently feels it can't compete with the black market, so imposes its use on anyone who participates, as well as a number of ridiculous restrictions.
Since Citizens United, the super rich are using nonprofits to shield their political spending. They need more oversight
by Arn Pearson
The recent IRS admissions about the use of "tea party" or "patriot" labels to flag applications for nonprofit status for additional scrutiny raise serious questions about political bias, and should receive a thorough and independent investigation.
There is rightly a growing call for House and Senate hearings to answer those questions, but any investigations must delve deeper into the bigger problem facing our democracy after the Supreme Court's decision in Citizen United: the dramatic surge in the misuse of nonprofits to hide political spending by billionaires and corporations from American voters, and the lack of any meaningful enforcement response.
Although the IRS must enforce the law impartially, the agency should not abrogate its responsibility to enforce it in the first place. While Common Cause strongly supports an investigation, we are concerned that partisans on both sides will use this tempest to cow the IRS and forestall enforcement of the tax code.
by Will Bunch
Attytood spoiler: That day was May 7, 2012...but first a quick history lesson.
Sigh...I know, I know, I write too much about the late 1960s and early 1970s, but this time it's really important. Because today that is the rallying cry for any presidential scandal, that this one is "worse than Watergate." But the Watergate break-in happened 41 years ago, which means that more than half of all Americans weren't even born yet, so you can't blame a lot of voters if they don't know much about what Watergate and the related scandals of Richard Milhous Nixon were all about.
by Doug Fine, National Cannabis Coalition
Stigma, the final front in the Drug War, was on my mind as I addressed my colleagues at the Society of Professional Journalists’ Southwest Regional Conference in Santa Fe on a recent brisk spring afternoon. I assumed, since 80% of Americans want the Drug War to end, that I was of like mind with the news anchors, radio hosts and newspaper editors who had traveled to the conference from Wyoming to the Mexican Border. After all, everywhere I go to speak, young and old, left and right, and men and women alike seem to nearly universally recognize that the United States’ longest and most expensive war soon will finally end on the federal level.
by Americans for Safe Access
BERKELEY, CA — As U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder delivered a commencement speech Friday for UC Berkeley law school graduates, a plane flew overhead with a banner that read “Holder: End Rx Cannabis War. #Peace4Patients,” in protest against recent actions by the Justice Department (DOJ) in the Bay Area.
Outside the Hearst Greek Theater, where Holder gave his speech, medical marijuana advocates also handed out fake DOJ recruitment flyers, detailing how the Obama Administration is engaging in harmful tactics that are adversely affecting the lives of hundreds of thousands of patients in California.
by Gail Collins
Let's talk about what makes a delinquent state legislature. I know it’s been on your mind.
The newest political trend in New York involves corrupt state legislators attempting to curry favor with federal prosecutors by wearing wires to work. Perhaps there have been worse fads. There was a time, not long ago, when Assembly members could punch in early in the day, leave to play golf and still be recorded as voting “yes” on every single bill that hit the floor.
Officials recently revealed that a 74-year-old senator named Shirley Huntley secretly recorded assorted pols who she invited over for a chat while claiming to be laid up with a broken ankle. She was sentenced to prison for embezzlement anyway, but not before putting an entirely new spin on the concept of visiting the sick.
There was also a state assemblyman who was wired up for virtually his entire two-term career, before resigning recently to pursue a new life as a defendant in a perjury case.
Change happens everywhere, all the time. Whether you believe what happens around us is caused by the will of a greater being, by science or some combination thereof, the world around us that made by man, and that belonging purely to nature, never stops changing. Even if you feel you do nothing, and everything is exactly the same for you, that simply never is the case. The clouds in the sky today are never the same as there were yesterday, and every creak you hear, even in the dead silence of your house, is the sound of shifting and breaking down happening.
by Alexander Main
DENVER – The Colorado state legislature passed the first bills in history Wednesday to establish a regulated marijuana market for adults. Representatives of the Amendment 64 campaign will discuss the landmark achievement and next steps at a news conference Thursday at 10 a.m. in the Creswell Mansion Office Building (1244 Grant St., Denver).
"The adoption of these bills is a truly historic milestone and brings Colorado one step closer to establishing the world's first legal, regulated, and taxed marijuana market for adults," said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, who served as an official proponent and campaign co-director for the ballot measure approved by Colorado voters in November.
by Jamilah King
Assata Shakur has been given many names over the past four decades. Her political allies in the 1970s struggle for black liberation knew her as a comrade and freedom fighter. Ever since her escape from a New Jersey prison and exile in Cuba, she’s become an icon to many on the radical left. Some, mostly critics, still call her by her birth name, Joanna Chesimard. Now the Federal Bureau of Investigation has a new name for her: terrorist.
Occupy Wall Street’s dynamic grass roots movement is quiescent and may or may not return. Its respite or demise is due to a combination of deliberate and apparently nationally directed police violence and federal, state and local government spying, as well as to its own lack of political direction. It remains a political space to focus tremendous energy and passion, and draw to it many millions of the 99%.
Many sympathetic to OWS maintain that it needs a political party. One of them is Patrick Walker, a native of the gritty industrial city of Scranton in northeastern Pennsylvania. Walker participated the OWS movement as part of Occupy Scranton. He has also joined in anti-fracking activism via the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition and End Gasocracy Now, which put him under the watchful eye of Homeland Security.
Following a move to Georgia, Walker now seeks to gain political traction by focusing his efforts on progressive Democrats within the Democratic Party (D.P.), hoping to bring the party “back” to the 99%. He does not seek D.P. permission as do many other insider party reform efforts.
by Glenn Greenwald
The US and European economies need government spending to boost jobs, but sanity isn't winning in politics today
by Dean Baker
It appears that the Reinhart-Rogoff battles (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/apr/16/unemployment-reinhar...) over their faulty data about government debt have flamed out. Even the inventors of the 90% debt cliff are now anxious to portray themselves of cautious supporters of expansionary fiscal policy. This should mean that sober policy types everywhere can turn to the immediate problem of reducing unemployment with more expansionary fiscal policy.
Unfortunately, this does not appear likely to happen. Even though the case against fiscal policy has been blown to smithereens, there is little impulse in the United States or Europe to change course. The counter-argument appears to have two sides. First, growth has picked up so that we don't really need it. Second, we really wouldn't know what to spend money on in any case.
Neither of these arguments deserves to be taken seriously on its merits. But they nonetheless must be taken seriously because of the prominence of the people who say them.
by Julie Hollar
As the Supreme Court finished hearing oral arguments on two same-sex marriage cases, the Wall Street Journal editorial page (3/27/13) proclaimed what has become a mantra of the right on this subject: The liberal media frame opponents of marriage equality as bigots.
America’s cultural and media elites are attempting to browbeat the High Court into coercing the country into recognizing same-sex marriage by casting opponents as bigots for holding a position that President Obama held less than a year ago.
WASHINGTON, DC — Nearly nine out of ten Americans — including 80 percent of self-identified Republicans — now say that marijuana should be legal if its use is permitted by a physician, according to nationwide Fox News telephone poll of 1,010 registered voters.
The poll, released Wednesday, was conducted by under the direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) and possesses margin of sampling error of ± 3 percentage points.
According to the poll, 85 percent of voters agree that adults ought to be allowed to use cannabis for therapeutic purposes if a physician authorizes it. The total marked an increase in support of four percent since Fox last polled the question in 2010 and is the highest level of public support for the issue ever reported in a scientific poll.
Although respondents were divided on whether they believed that “most people who smoke medical marijuana truly need it,” the overwhelming majority of voters nonetheless agreed that consuming the plant should be legal if a doctor permits it.