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by Mary Bottari
It’s debt ceiling time and the US economy is once again on the brink, held hostage by extremists hell-bent on forcing cuts to Medicare and Social Security.
Oh wait. That was last year.
by Paul Buchheit
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Members of Congress grilled a representative from the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Tuesday at a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and slammed the office for failing to acknowledge key facts about marijuana.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The nation’s largest marijuana policy organization, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), is calling on President Barack Obama to fire the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Michele Leonhart, and replace her with someone who will uphold his mandate that administration decisions be guided by science instead of ideology and politics.
by Chris Hedges
This is our last gasp as a democracy. The state’s wholesale intrusion into our lives and obliteration of privacy are now facts. And the challenge to us—one of the final ones, I suspect—is to rise up in outrage and halt this seizure of our rights to liberty and free expression. If we do not do so we will see ourselves become a nation of captives.
by Dean Baker
As we passed the fifth anniversary of the peak of the financial crisis this fall, the giant insurance company AIG was prominently featured in the retrospectives. AIG had issued hundreds of billions of dollars of credit default swaps (CDS) on subprime mortgage backed securities. When these mortgage-backed securities failed en masse, AIG didn't have the money to back them up.
This would have forced AIG into bankruptcy. However Lehman had declared bankruptcy the day before and the world was still engulfed in the aftershocks. The Bush administration and the Federal Reserve board decided that they would stop the cascade of failing financial institutions and bail out AIG. As a result, the government agreed to honor all the CDS issued by AIG and effectively became the owner of the company.
by David Cay Johnson
Anyone in a public-sector job looking forward to retiring in comfort should look carefully at what is going on in Detroit and Springfield, Ill. Sherlock Holmes would call it the case of the missing pension money.
News leaking out this week from the Motor City tells how the enormous gap between the pensions workers earned and the money set aside to pay for them will be closed. By stealing from the workers.
Courts, legislatures, and corporations are all working in concert not to pay the full benefits owed. For decades, political and business leaders failed to set aside the right amount of money each payday to cover the pensions workers earned and, in some cases, covered up the mismanagement of pension fund investments.
This is nothing short of theft, as pensions are simply deferred wages, that is, money that workers could have taken as cash in their regular paychecks had they not opted to set it aside.
by John Atcheson
Within the next few weeks, as the budget and deficit ceiling deadlines come closer, conservatives will start unleashing their five standard economic bogeymen so they can call for austerity budgets. Let’s examine their bogeymen, one by one.
Bogeyman number 1: The deficit is exploding and needs to be reined in.
Fact: The deficit is shrinking. Deficit hawks and austerity mongers raise the specter of debts and deficits as if we were in uncharted territory. In fact, we are, but not the territory they warn about. Within the last year and a half, the US deficit has been shrinking faster than at any time since World War II. In fact, one reason our economic recovery has been so anemic is the collapse of public spending, at a time when banks and corporations are shipping money overseas, playing bingo on Wall Street with our money, and hoarding it for CEO bonuses and other non-productive uses.
by Dean Baker
A widely held view in elite circles is that the rapid rise in inequality in the United States over the last three decades is an unfortunate side-effect of technological progress. In this story, technology has had the effect of eliminating tens of millions of middle wage jobs for factory workers, bookkeepers, and similar occupations.
These were jobs where people with limited education used to be able to raise a family with a middle class standard of living. However computers, robots and other technological innovations are rapidly reducing the need for such work. As a result, the remaining jobs in these sectors are likely to pay less and many people who would have otherwise worked at middle wage jobs must instead crowd into the lower paying sectors of the labor market.