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Big money in politics hurts the middle class.

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Here's a plain fact: record disinvestment in higher education at the state level leads to record tuition hikes. In 2012, the trend escalated with the biggest single year jump on record. That’s clear from the Wall Street Journal’s analysis of a new State Higher Education Officers Association (SHEEO) report, which finds that average tuition at public universities rose by 8.3%, after grants and scholarship. Simultaneously, funding per full-time student fell an equivalent 9%, the largest drop since 1980. 

California, for example, cut 14.3% of its funding for public higher education, the highest percentage in the country. As a result, the Journal found that 20,000 qualified students per year are being turned away from the California State University system alone. Those are students who are potentially denied a pathway to the middle class that was available to their parents, and promised to them. 

All told, investment in public higher education is down 26% since 1990. But the trend away from investment in higher education accelerated during the Great Recession. Since 2007, almost every state slashed funding for higher education, while almost every state, in turn, raised tuition. That's directly proportional to disinvesment: The Chronicle of Higher Education finds that where in 1987 tuition revenue accounted for 23% of public college revenue, today it accounts for 47%. State funding, meanwhile, has cratered to less than half. The result? As Charles Blow noted in his column today, state and local appropriates per student "reached their high in 2001, at $8,670. In 2012, those appropriations fell by nearly one third, to just $5,896."


 These tuition spikes and funding cuts have a disastrous impact on students, as all these trends come amidst a student-loan crisis that has already reached record heights. Student debt now totals $902 billion, larger than credit card debt. It averages around $27,000 per student in the class of 2011, according to estimates by the College Board. That’s debt that can’t be easily discharged in bankruptcy, that can be garnished from social security benefits or wages by the federal government. That’s debt taken on by students for a good that used to be public. Many of the same villains from the financial crisis are now profiting on the growth of student loans, with banks now marketing private student loans directly to students.

In his State of the Union, President Obama pledged to tackle the high cost of college and record student loan debt. Yet he didn't propose a solution. As Demos Vice President Tamara Draut said of the State of the Union, "while [Obama] rightly called on universities to be more accountable for rising costs, he failed to acknowledge the biggest driver behind skyrocketing tuition and college debt: a steady and swift decline in state funding for public colleges and universities."

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Fri Nov 30, 2012 at 04:25 PM PST

Retire Fix the Debt

by CupofJoe

Picture from the excellent New York Magazine profile yesterday.

The Campaign to Fix the Debt is the newest power-player in D.C. Founded by the beloved Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson (who are taking their act on the road to the tune of $40,000 dollars an appearance, around the average American's yearly income), Fix the Debt advocates a responsible solution to reducing our federal debt.

Unfortunately, Fix the Debt's conception of responsibility differs from that of the average American. That's because they're made up of some of the richest CEOs in the countrywith members that include Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan, Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, Larry Fink of BlackRock, and Kenneth Frazier of Merck, Steve Ballmer of Microsoft. 

In an insightful piece yesterday, Kevin Roose at New York Magazine investigated the group's roots. Not only are they seeking to reduce the debt on the backs of the poor, they see the organization as an opportunity to advance their own careers:

interviews with a number of organizers and CEO council members point to a massive networking effort among one-percenters — one that relies on strategically exploiting existing business relationships and appealing to patriotic and economic instincts.

With an impressive budget of $3 million at its inception in July, burned Wall Street financiers really began pouring money into the group after the election. They're now up to $42 million dollars. The well-funded millionaire cabal doesn't like to name specifics policies they want, preferring instead to advocate broad themes. They claim “we would lose people if we got more specific about our goals. We’d rather try to influence the overall broad parameters of what happens.”


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With fast food and Walmart workers striking for living wages and decent benefits, the corporations they enrich have never fared better. Catherine Rampbell analyzes the 3rd quarter GDP report for 2012.



That's all well and good, except that those gains haven't been widely shared. What makes these figures perverse is the corresponding plummet in median wages. Interestingly, Rampbell notes that the profits weren't derived from weakened global demand, but from bolstered earnings at home. 
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Even beyond voter ID, the rightwing plans on exercising extralegal, but not necessarily illegal, measures to suppress the vote in 2012. A new report released jointly by Demos and Common Cause surveys the state of the laws of ten states: Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia.

The report comes after True the Vote, which grew out of a branch of the Texas Tea Party organization, has ramped up its voter intimidation in advance of the presidential election. Their goal? To recruit a million thugs to monitor polls this November. Though they likely won't recruit that many volunteers, True the Vote is well on its way to swaying the election in crucial battleground states. And their funding remains opaque. Earlier this year, the chair of the Texas Democratic Party questioned their grassroots status, arguing that “nobody gets to know what they are doing. They are the one and only political operation in Texas that isn't disclosing its donors."

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This article originally appeared on the blog of Demos, a progressive policy and research group.

Ronald Reagan's hologram may not have shown up  to the Republican convention to extoll the virtues of draconian government cuts, but the anti-tax movement that launched his political career continues to strangle California's government. That's because the movement has continued to define the state's finances with a decades-old proposition leading to yearly budget crises. 

But despite government cutbacks driven by this dysfunction, California has pulled off a miracle. In contrast to every other year of the recovery, this year the state beat Texas to create the most jobs in the country, adding 365,000 new jobs to Texas’ 222,000, the most jobs that California's added since the dotcom bubble of the 2000s.


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Originally posted on  PolicyShop, the blog for the progressive thinktank Demos.

Should Dodd-Frank be overturned, the financial industry stands to make (with government backing, of course) a ton of money. It’s unsurprising that its repeal has become a centerpiece of the 2012 campaign, with Wall Street donating far more to candidates who want to overturn or weaken the law. What is surprising is how brazen they’ve gotten.

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If there was one thing that panelists agreed upon during the€™ recent conference on poverty in DC, it wa€™s that food stamps, officially known as SNAP,  has been a resounding success in preventing more Americans from falling into poverty. That's because SNAP is countercyclical, responding to need with spending. While welfare rolls remained flat during the Great Recession, SNAP enrollment nearly doubled, as it was supposed to. That's why it's puzzling that the new version of the House Farm bill, released from committee tonight, contains a SNAP cut over the next five years.

Food stamps are good policy because they have a multiplicative effect. In fact, it almost has double the impact. A USDA study finds that for "Every $5 in new SNAP benefits generates a total of $9.20 in community spending." 

It'€™s not as if the program is being overused. From 1995 to 2000, enrollment in the program dropped precipitously without a corresponding drop in the rate of poverty. Even during the current recession, in which enrollment doubled, only around 2/3 of eligible recipients took advantage of the program. The Brookings Institution speculates that this is because former welfare recipient are seldom informed that they remain eligible for food stamps. Brookings estimates €œ"in a typical month in 2001, 17.3 million people in 7.5 million households received food stamps at an annual cost of $20 billion." While that is nothing to scoff at, the annual pricetag is cheap for an effective social safety net. Particularly because it has a compelling societal purpose (preventing people from starving due to circumstances beyond their control) and is narrowly tailored to working people, usually with children.

Admittedly, the bill cuts a minuscule 2 percent from food stamps funding over the next five years. But still, during rough economic times SNAP is exactly the type of program that should be expanded rather than contracted.

When polling the public on issues of equality, Americans favor programs they perceive to promote equality of opportunity rather than equality of outcomes. For whatever reason, Americans are anomalously averse to the government ensuring equality of outcomes through redistribution, from "€œwinners"€ to "€œlosers."€ Regardless of the merits of that aversion, food stamps should be popular. Intended to ensure that children are not driven into abject poverty during a recession, SNAP certainly promotes equality of opportunity rather than equality of outcomes. With a record 37% of children under 5 at or near the poverty line, there is a good reason for the federal government to act. A child growing up hungry through no fault of their own has a dramatically diminished opportunities. It's hard to study in school when you're only thinking about your next meal.

There'€™s also a good reason that the Obama administration continues to try and increase food stamp enrollment while trimming government spending almost everywhere else. SNAP is a program that follows classic Keynesian economics. It meets need with muscle. It bolsters private demand by injecting cash directly into the market. And it distributes funds through state governments. Food stamps represent the best way to conduct stimulus in accordance with American values. National in scope and federal in implementation, SNAP has been an unambiguous success.We're in a period of unprecedentedly high levels of poverty, at least for the past fifty years. The poor need food stamps.

For more context about poverty in America, you should take a look at Demos' interactive visual of the past fifty years of poverty data. We should be acting now to reduce the unprecedented levels of poverty, and we have a program that has been proven to work.

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Originally posted on PoliticsOlogy

That's called juxtaposition.

To understand how the conservative movement has been so successful in shaping government policy over the past couple of years, it helps to take a look at the organization behind the movement. One such organization is the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. ALEC first drew attention for its support for Florida's Stand Your Ground law, but that’s not all they're up to: in state after state, ALEC has been pushing conservative plans for education, taxes, and the environment, with The Koch brothers giving an undisclosed amount of money to the organization.

John Nichols at The Nation summarizes ALEC's modus operandi:

ALEC is a critical arm of the right-wing network of policy shops that, with infusions of corporate cash, has evolved to shape American politics. Inspired by Milton Friedman’s call for conservatives to "develop alternatives to existing policies [and] keep them alive and available," ALEC’s model legislation reflects long-term goals: downsizing government, removing regulations on corporations and making it harder to hold the economically and politically powerful to account.

While they make actual content of their bills and legislation only available to dues paying members, the Center for Media Law and Democracy has posted many sample bills on their website.

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Originally posted on PoliticsOlogy

And you thought we were going to just stop talking about the public option...

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Thu Jun 14, 2012 at 12:29 PM PDT

Obama: I Want to Hire More Teachers

by CupofJoe

Originally posted on PoliticsOlogy





Look, dude, we all want to flee to the Cleve.

Obama delivered another economic address in Cleveland, Ohio on Thursday to deflect criticism over his poorly-worded comment in a press conference last Friday that "the private sector is doing just fine."
Ohio provides the perfect setting for Obama’s broader argument. The state, much like other swing states, have weathered the recession better than the nation as a whole. In 2009, Ohio had a 10% unemployment rate; today it’s 7.4%, despite sharp decreases in public sector spending. That’s because Ohio, like the rest of the nation, has seen a fairly robust growth in the private sector (even if that growth has been slower than in other states).

In Ohio, Obama cited Romney, not Bush, by name, in an implicit rebuttal critics who claim that Obama is trying to run against Bush. "I've got a different vision for the future," said Obama, to emphasize his campaign theme, Forward, saying that,
I believe you cannot bring down the debt without a strong and growing economy. And I don't believe you can have a strong and growing economy without a strong and growing middle class.

Obama knows, even if he won’t say it publicly again, that our economic future, at least our immediate economic future, lies in the public sector. Here’s a piece of anti-conventional wisdom for you: the private sector is doing just fine. Joe Weisenthal at BusinessInsider exhaustively provides a million charts to prove it. My favorite of his charts:




There are more private sector jobs today than there were when Obama took office. That's saying something. That's why when Obama talks about renewing growth, he emphasizes the public sector. The private sector IS doing just fine! This recession has seen an unprecedented decrease in public sector jobs. Want to know why the job report today was lower than expected? The Fiscal Times'Matt Goozner constructs a telling graph:




See the difference? Reagan's recovery was fueled by public sector growth. What a socialist!
That’s where unique pain in this recession has been concentrated and that’s where it could be reversed. Worrying about the deficit while in a recession is like shooting yourself in the foot. You won’t see a reduction in our deficit until we raise more money to pay it off. And we won’t raise more money until the economy starts growing. Obama knows that. It’s about time everyone else catches up.

---

The full speech:







To read more about Obama’s jobs plan, see: Barack Obama's Jobs Plan: Overview and Analysis

Similarly, for Romney’s see: Mitt Romney's Jobs Plan: Overview and Analysis
Follow on Ology: Joe Hines |  PoliticOlogy
Follow on Twitter: @JPHines90 |  @OlogyPolitics

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Thu Jun 14, 2012 at 10:27 AM PDT

Obama Aims High with Jobs Plan

by CupofJoe

Originally posted on PoliticOlogy





Today, Obama will go and reiterate his campaign message. More fiscal stimulus, particularly in the form of the American Jobs Act. The Obama administration has been put in a corner concerning jobs. Vacillating between what’s politically feasible and economically essential, the White House seems to have moved into campaign mode, pushing for an idealistic vision that has little chance of making it through Congress. The Obama team manifested that vision in the American Jobs Act (AJA), initially proposed in September of 2011. Obama made a big political event out of the announcement of the American Jobs Act, convening a joint session of Congress:





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