Economy & Business

Welcome to the ‘Second Tier’: US Failing Big League on Social Progress

by Jon Queally – Given its immense wealth, the United States is seriously underperforming. And its citizens are paying the price. Contrary to the mythological story known as “American Exceptionalism,” the United States does a poor job, according to a fresh analysis, of meeting even “the basic human needs of its citizens” and should now be considered a “second tier” country in terms of promoting social progress.   Released by the Social Progressive Imperative (SPI), the 2017 Global Social Progress Index reveals that the U.S. ranks 17th in the world when it comes to promoting the general welfare, coming in behind its Canadian neighbor to the north and far behind Scandinavian countries and the other social democracies of Europe. Of all countries, Denmark comes in first when it comes to providing for its citizens and fostering progress on various fronts. The Index, designed to offer “holistic” measurements of a country’s social...

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Canadian Leaders Have Given Up on Trump—So Now They’re Going Around Him

by Hunter  – Donald Trump is not fit for office. He’s not stable, he has little to no interest in the nation itself, and is so self-absorbed as to judge every international interaction solely through the lens of his own momentary needs. This has turned our relationships with our allies immediately sour as each leader Trump meets with, dictators aside, finds it impossible to hold a coherent conversation with the man. When German leader Angela Merkel came to the public conclusion that the world could no longer count on a United States led by Trump, it was a dramatic policy shift by a key ally. After only a few interactions with Trump, the Canadian government likewise decided that attempting to communicate substantively with Team Trump was a lost cause. Their workaround is now to largely ignore him, instead focusing on working with individual states and cities. It’s been more effective,...

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Big Pharma Gets $28 Billion Tax Break in GOP Health Plan

by Will Rice – One of the few winners if this bill passes would be the nation’s pharmaceutical industry. There will be a lot of losers if the House GOP’s disastrous plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act ever becomes law: people with preexisting medical conditions, working families, older folks, kids. One of the few winners would be the nation’s pharmaceutical industry: $28 billion richer thanks to a big tax cut. The Senate is likely to keep this tax break in its version of the legislation. Do America’s drug makers deserve a $28 billion tax cut over 10 years, when the profits of the top 10 companies topped $83 billion last year alone, with the top 5 pocketing nearly $58 billion? Hardly. In fact, they need to start paying their fair share. The Republican plan passed by the House and endorsed by President Trump this spring would cost 23 million Americans their...

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Trump’s Carrier Deal Falls Apart; Hundreds of Jobs Ship Off to Mexico, 600 to be Fired Next Month

by Jameson Parker – It was supposed to be Trump’s one, big win. Now it’s completely falling apart. The much-publicized deal to save American manufacturing jobs at the Carrier plant in Indianapolis is looking less like a feather in Trump’s cap and more like a black eye. The latest details out of the plant paint a grim picture for the employees who were told just months ago that they had been saved by Trump. According to a report by CNBC: More than 600 employees at a Carrier plant in Indianapolis are bracing for layoffs beginning next month, despite being told by President Trump that nearly all the jobs at the plant had been saved. The deal, announced with great fanfare before Trump took office, was billed not only as a heroic move to keep jobs from going to Mexico but also as a seismic shift in the economic development landscape. Nearly seven months later the...

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Trump’s Trade Rhetoric Was Key to His Campaign. Now it’s Totally Incoherent

by Casey Quinlan – Trump has walked back most of his comments on trade. Trump appears to be ready to take major steps toward safeguarding the American steel industry, which has been threatened by foreign-made steel. But before your praise him for his trade policies, it’s important to look at the bigger picture. During his campaign, President Donald Trump focused on renegotiating NAFTA, labeling China a currency manipulator, and bringing back lost manufacturing jobs. Instead, Trump has backed away from some of his promises on China and NAFTA, and is taking on smaller efforts. If Trump moves ahead with protecting the domestic steel industry, it will be one of the few trade moves that would correspond with his campaign promises. But on the whole, Trump’s trade policy is completely incoherent. The Commerce Department has been considering whether steel imports are an economic security and national security threat. On Monday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur...

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GOP Cuts Critical Services to Pay for Wealthy Tax Cuts

by Frank Clemente – At a recent press conference at the U.S. Capitol, Marta Conner told reporters, “My daughter Caroline is alive because of Medicaid.” Caroline suffers from Rett Syndrome, a rare, debilitating neurodevelopmental disease that prevents her from using her hands, talking, and walking. Marta says that Caroline has roughly 90 seizures a year and relies on 10 medications. Without her medication, Caroline would have seizures every day. Caroline’s care requires hospital-grade equipment including a cough assist machine, a nebulizer, oxygen supplies, and help from nurses. Marta relies on Medicaid to pay for the substantial costs that her insurance doesn’t cover. So why would President Trump so cruelly threaten Caroline’s care and the care of millions of other Americans by drastically cutting Medicaid in his recently released budget? Sadly, there’s a simple explanation: he wants to give huge tax cuts to big corporations and billionaires like himself. It’s been widely reported...

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‘The Sky Didn’t Fall’: Study on Seattle $15 Minimum Wage Proves Critics Wrong

by Jake Johnson – “These findings are consistent with the lion’s share of rigorous academic minimum wage research studies” In an analysis bolstering the arguments of those fighting for minimum wage hikes nationwide, a group of University of California, Berkeley economists has found that Seattle’s decision to gradually raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour has not hampered job growth, despite the frequent warnings of doom-and-gloom critics. The study (pdf), released on Tuesday, examined the effects of the incremental wage increases in 2015 and 2016. After analyzing Seattle job data prior to the wage hikes—which were signed into law by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray in 2015—and after they began to take effect, researchers found “no evidence of job loss in the city’s restaurant industry, even as pay reached $13 for workers in large companies.” Professor Michael Reich, lead author of the analysis, said the Seattle wage hikes are “working as intended, raising pay for low-wage workers, without negatively affecting...

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What They Want to Hide Tells You Who They Are

by Liz Ryan Murray – The Treasury Department has released their report on financial regulations they want to scrap. Spoiler alert: the Wall Street sharpies who Trump put in charge of our economy, who made fortunes on both ends of the housing collapse, think pretty much all regulations on banks, including home lenders, should go. This report was driven by Craig Phillips, who packaged and sold billions in bundled home loans for Morgan Stanley before he moved over to hedge fund giant BlackRock. His boss is former Goldman Sachs executive Steven Mnuchin, who made his bones by aggressively foreclosing on homeowners at IndyMac after the 2008 financial meltdown. These guys think we should go a lot easier on the poor, poor megabanks, who’ve suffered enough, and toughen up on the real culprits – middle-class families. First, they want to make the financial system less safe for consumers by repealing the Volcker rule, so banks...

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The Truth About Trump’s Golden Boy

by Ryan de Laureal – Perhaps no figure embodies the bizarre state of US politics better than Jared Kushner. With Trump’s victory in November, the bland and unremarkable 36-year-old real estate tycoon went from being a virtual nobody — the husband of Trump’s daughter Ivanka and, like Trump himself, the pampered heir to his father’s business empire — to a key powerbroker in the new administration. In his new role as senior adviser, Kushner has influence over some of the most significant areas of world politics — tasks normally reserved for people who spent their careers on them — from US policy in the Middle East to solving the US opioid epidemic to restructuring the American executive state. But more important than the “experience” question, Kushner is a shining example of the web of hypocrisy, contradiction and intrigue surrounding Trump himself and his promises to rejuvenate American capitalism. Despite Kushner’s frequent portrayal in the media...

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GOP Senate Plan Would ‘Gouge Poor People’ With Even Deeper Medicaid Cuts

by Jake Johnson – “This change would thoroughly demolish Medicaid funding over time, much more so than even the House bill,” wrote Slate‘s Jordan Weissmann. Further indicating their willingness to “gouge poor people,” Senate Republicans are reportedly considering even deeper cuts to Medicaid than those proposed by the House version of Trumpcare, which amounted to around $800 billion over ten years. The Hill’s Peter Sullivan first reported on this latest development Monday in a healthcare fight that continues to intensify as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) plans to bring Trumpcare to the floor for a vote before the July 4 recess without any semblance of public debate. Citing several aides and lobbyists, Sullivan reports that the proposal to make even larger cuts to Medicaid—a program that provides insurance for one in five Americans—has become a “consensus option.” “The proposal would start out the growth rate for a new cap on Medicaid spending at the same levels as the House bill,”...

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West Virginians are Realistic About Coal’s Demise, Even if Politicians Aren’t

by Mark Hand – Lawmaker praises Scott Pruitt for creating “sense of hope” in state. A West Virginia congressman on Thursday praised Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt for supporting the state’s coal industry and helping to bring a sense of optimism back to the state, even as the Trump administration plans major cuts to programs that help West Virginians. U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV), in comments at a House Appropriations Committee hearing on President Donald Trump’s proposed fiscal year 2018 budget for the EPA, accused former President Barack Obama of putting “so many people on the unemployment line” in his state. With Trump as president, coal jobs are returning to West Virginia, Jenkins said. “We have got people going back to work to create a sense of hope and opportunity in their lives. So, I want to thank you for that,” he told Pruitt. The coal industry nationwide accounted for a total of 51,000 jobs...

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Trump Details How He’s Profiting Off the Presidency

by Tara Culp-Ressler – The president’s financial disclosure forms show where his profits have been boosted since he ran for office. New financial disclosure forms provide insight into where and how Donald Trump has reaped profits since he launched his bid for the presidency. The 98-page filing with the Office of Government Ethics, released on Friday afternoon, provides an incomplete snapshot of Trump’s financial picture. But since Trump has broken presidential precedent by refusing to release his taxes, it’s the closest look into his investments the public has gotten so far. The documents provide financial information for the period of time between last January and this spring — encompassing the lead-up to the presidential election and Trump’s transition into the White House. Trump’s sprawling business empire is difficult to definitively quantify. However, the filings do show that the properties Trump has visited frequently as president have seen significant gains in income, the D.C. hotel at the center of an...

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Inexperienced Former Event Planner to Run Major Federal Housing Program

by E.A. Crunden – At HUD, she will oversee the distribution of billions of funds for a region with urgent needs. Event planner Lynne Patton, a Trump loyalist without any housing experience, will run the office overseeing New York’s housing programs. Trump named Patton to the position Wednesday, where she’ll oversee the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Region II, home to both New York and New Jersey. Vacant since January 20, the job has been in need of new shoes — but Patton may not be what many had in mind. Up until now, Patton’s biggest claim to fame seems to be planning the wedding of Eric Trump, the president’s son. According to her LinkedIn public profile, Patton says she holds a law degree from Quinnipiac University (with an unexplained “N/A” written next to the degree), in addition to an unnamed degree from Yale University. But Quinnipiac school registrar Jim Benson told the New...

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The House GOP Health Care Bill is a Job Killer, Says a New Report

by Amanda Michelle Gomez – The House GOP bill could cost the country nearly 1 million jobs. New York could be hit the hardest. In addition to potentially increasing the number of uninsured by 23 million and being unequivocally unpopular, House Republicans’ Obamacare replacement plan could leave nearly a million people unemployed. That’s according to a new study published Wednesday by the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University and The Commonwealth Fund projects, which finds that the U.S. economy could see a loss of 924,000 jobs by 2026 if the American Health Care Act (AHCA) becomes law. CREDIT: The Commonwealth Fund The study concentrated on coverage-related and tax repeal policies included in the AHCA. Some of the key provisions it said could add to job losses would: Phase out enhanced funding for Medicaid expansion by restricting eligibility in 2020, and imposing either a block grant or per capita caps. Replace premium tax credits...

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The Justice Department’s Nixonian Defense of Trump

by Ian Millhiser – Remember “when the president does it, that means it is not illegal.” Two days after Donald Trump took office, an all-star team of lawyers and legal scholars filed a lawsuit claiming that the Trump Organization’s business dealings with both the U.S. and foreign government’s violates the Constitution’s bans on “Emoluments.” On Friday, the Justice Department filed a motion seeking to dismiss this lawsuit, and that motion includes an unusually Nixonian argument. The plaintiffs in Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington v. Trump, DOJ claims, “seek an unconstitutional remedy: an injunction against the President is his official capacity.” This argument isn’t quite the same thing as “when the president does it, that means it is not illegal.,” but it’s pretty close. Instead of echoing President Nixon’s infamous suggestion that the law bends to the president’s will, DOJ makes the more nuanced argument that, even if Trump is violating the Constitution, the courts are...

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“Coal is Dead” Declares the World’s Largest Investment Group. Suck it Donald!

by Idontknowwhy –  And nothing the orange idiot does is going to change this. This is truly good news. “Coal is dead,” Jim Barry, the global head of BlackRock’s infrastructure investment group, explained in a recent interview. BlackRock, the world’s largest investment group, with $5 trillion in assets — more than the world’s largest banks — has begun to bet on clean energy. Why? “The thing that has changed fundamentally the whole picture is that renewables have gotten so cheap,” said Barry. Meanwhile: Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) has a message for the new president: You are not going to bring coal back. Snip, In a new analysis, leading independent energy experts at BNEF dismantle these claims. “Whatever President Trump may say, U.S. coal’s main problem has been cheap natural gas and renewable power, not a politically driven ‘war on coal,’” explain BNEF chair Michael Liebreich and chief editor Angus McCrone. Therefore “it will continue being pushed out of the...

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The Eric Trump Cover-up

by Judd Legum – “It is so disgusting what’s happening.” On Tuesday, Forbes reported that Eric Trump has diverted more than $1 million donations to his kids-cancer charity to Trump golf courses. These costs were incurred during the Eric Trump Foundation’s annual golf fundraiser. But according to charity experts, “the listed expenses defy any reasonable cost justification for a one-day golf tournament.” The golf fundraiser was marketed as an opportunity for donors to have nearly their entire gift go to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, since the golf and other services were provided free of charge. A former employee of the club, however, told Forbes that beginning in 2011, the charity was charged for the use of course and other services. Ian Gillule, membership and marketing director at Trump National Westchester, said the club began billing Eric Trump’s foundation after Donald Trump “had a cow.” “I don’t care if it’s my son or...

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South Korea to Invest $36 Billion in Renewable Energy by 2020

by Amanda Froelich – The country is taking a swift U-turn away from coal and nuclear power. U.S. President Donald Trump may believe that climate change is a “hoax” invented by the Chinese, but South Korea leader Moon Jae-in — in addition to dozens of other world leaders — isn’t so willing to believe that 97% of scientists are lying about the threats posed by global warming. In result, the South Korea government will be investing 42 trillion won ($36.6 billion) in developing renewable energy industries — including solar, wind and eco-friendly power plants — by the year 2020. The new energy strategy was unveiled mid-2016 but is still relevant, considering the country is working tirelessly to meet its clean energy goals. Moon Jae-in supports natural gas and renewable energy sources like hydro and solar, which is why he wants natural gas to climb from 18 percent of power to...

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Good Luck Trying to Pass an Infrastructure Bill Without Democratic Votes

by Casey Quinlan – An official hinted that the Senate might try budget reconciliation. But that would create a whole host of new problems. A White House official signaled Monday night that the Trump administration might try to push its infrastructure plan through the Senate without Democratic support using a parliamentary maneuver called budget reconciliation. But such a plan would face potentially insurmountable hurdles — meaning there may be no way for Senate Republicans to overcome a filibuster threat without reaching across the aisle. The official later told a reporter that he had not “intended to say” infrastructure would be passed through reconciliation, and that the White House is still aiming for the bill to get 60 votes to end cloture. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) urged the president to work with Democrats. Reconciliation, which allows certain types of legislation to pass the Senate without any danger of a filibuster, can only be used...

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Obama’s Legacy on the Economy Is Anything But a Mess

by Christian E. Weller and Brendan Duke – The economy improved markedly under former President Barack Obama, from the start of 2009 through the end of 2016. Faced with the specter of another Great Depression in winter 2009, President Obama enacted a series of policies that helped the economy avoid that fate. The economy was growing again by the second half of 2009, and jobs followed suit by early 2010. Economic growth continued apace for the rest of President Obama’s time in office, and job growth logged its longest expansion on record by early 2017, dating back to 1939.1 Employment opportunities improved, the unemployment rate fell, wages eventually increased, and household debt dropped sharply. While things could have been better—faster growth, more jobs, and less inequality, for instance—the economic situation at the end of President Obama’s second term does not resemble “a mess” or a uniquely poor performance, as the Trump...

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