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When it comes to the Baltimore riots, this guy gets it. Baltimore City Councilman Nick Mosby was interviewed by Fox News in which he eloquently said that the rioting was wrong but explained the reason for the protests as being "decades of anger and frustration for a system that has failed them" due to lack of opportunity in poor urban cities.

The interviewer, who didn't seem to be listening to anything the councilman had to say then followed up by asking if he thought it was "right" that rioters were looting the liquor store. Clearly this guy is no Walter Cronkite.

Unfortunately many of the Fox News viewers didn't seem to take the interview to heart either with the top comments ranging from "I don't remember this much rioting when Bush was president." to "What a joke this guy is !!" Thanks for the insight guys.

For those viewers, and anyone else who might not get it by now, the protests are bigger than Freddie Gray (as tragic as his death was). In many urban cities the government invest in education and the employment rates are dramatically lower than they are in the rest of America (especially when compared to wealthier neighborhoods).

For example, in Freddie's town only HALF of the residents have jobs. And it isn't as easy as just telling people to "go get a job" since many of the better paying jobs require a certain level of education (which many don't have due to crappy schools). And as a majority of those residents are poor, they don't have much of a voice in Washington in demanding more investments in jobs and education (hence perpetuating the cycle of poverty and hopelessness).

So while police violence may be the spark of many of these protests, they aren't always the root cause. And until our politicians address these issues, we're going to see more and more violent protests across our country for months and years to come.

Check out the full video below:

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401095 01: Former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, speaks at a political conference called,
As much as Republicans talk about wanting to shrink the deficit and reduce welfare spending in America, if you weren't paying too close of attention you'd almost start to believe them.

But then they go and do something like this.

In a Facebook post today, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich explained that the Republicans latest push - the push to eliminate the Estate Tax - is nothing more than a handout to the richest heirs and heiresses in our country (think Paris Hilton). This move would not only explode the deficit but then require that domestic spending be cut even further to make up for that deficit.

Check out Robert's post about it below (emphasis added):

Every time I think House Republicans can’t possibly come up with a worse proposal, they exceed my expectations. Tomorrow they’re voting to repeal the federal estate tax. At a time when the richest 1 percent has 42 percent of the nation’s entire wealth, while the bottom 90 percent has just 23 percent – a greater concentration of wealth at the top than at any time since the Gilded Age of the 1890s -- House Republicans are gearing up to abolish the tax on inheritance that reaches only the richest .2 percent, and applies only to dollars in excess of $10.9 million for married couples or $5.4 million for individuals. (Under current law, if a couple leaves $10.9 million to their heirs, they pay no estate tax. If they leave $10,900,001 to their heirs, they pay the estate tax on $1. The current estate tax rate is 40%, so that would be 40 cents.)

Yet according to House Republicans, current law demands too much from the wealthy. In reality, it's just the opposite. The estate tax should be raised.

Their proposal would accelerate the numbers of working poor and non-working rich in America. It would give each of the wealthiest .2 percent of American households an average tax cut of $3 million, and reduce tax revenues by $269 billion over ten years. The result would be either larger federal deficits or higher taxes on the rest of us to fill the gap. Meanwhile, Republicans are proposing even bigger cuts in food stamps, education, Medicare and Medicaid, job training, roads and bridges and other infrastructure.

Obama will veto, but Republicans will keep hammering. Abolishing the estate tax is one of the priorities of the Koch brothers and other billionaires who are financing the GOP.

So there you have it. According to Republicans, we can't spend more on education, infrastructure, and help for the poor and middle class in our country, cause well, Paris Hilton needs more money.
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Today former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich gave his take on what Democrats should take away from this week's election loss:
If you want a single reason for why Democrats lost big Tuesday it’s this: Median family income continues to drop, the first “recovery” when this has occurred. Meanwhile, all the economic gains are going to the richest Americans. If the Republicans think they can reverse this through their supply-side, trickle-down, fiscal austerity policies, they’re profoundly mistaken. The public will soon discover this.

But if the Democrats believe they can reverse it simply by raising taxes on the rich and redistributing to everyone else, they are mistaken, too.

We need to raise the minimum wage, invest in education and infrastructure, lift the cap on income subject to Social Security payroll taxes, resurrect Glass-Steagall and limit the size of the banks, make it easier for low-wage workers to unionize, raise taxes on corporations with high ratios of CEO pay to average worker pay, and much more.

In other words, we need an agenda for shared prosperity. Over the next two years the Democrats have an opportunity to advance one. If they fail to do so, we’ll need a new opposition party that represents the interests of the vast majority.

Do you agree or disagree? Share your thoughts below.
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In the aftermath of the horrible murders that occurred near UCSB, a flurry of articles have been written on how to curb mass shootings and gun violence in America. Many on the left have once again proposed the need for universal background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally unstable, but while background checks have been proven to work, even if it passed the Senate it would almost assuredly be killed in the Republican-controlled House.

However, journalist Elizabeth Stoker recently wrote an article in The Week that proposes a great way to curb gun violence in our country that doesn't actually propose any new gun legislation. In short, Stoker argues that one of the best ways to fight gun violence is by reducing income inequality. More on how this could work after the jump.

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According to The Huffington Post, President Obama has picked Mayor Julian Castro to be the new Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. If confirmed he would replace Shaun Donovan, who is reportedly being tapped to head up the Office of Management Budget, replacing Sylvia Mathews Burwell, who is leaving her position to take over as Secretary of Health and Human Services for the outgoing Kathleen Sebelius.

The most intriguing piece of this shuffle however is Julian Castro. At the age of 39, Castro is currently serving his third two-year term as mayor of San Antonio. Not only has he been a popular mayor, but he has also been seen as a rising star in the Democratic party, delivering the keynote address for President Obama in September 2012 at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.

I speculated in a previous diary that he could potentially be a Vice Presidential pick if Hillary decides to run in 2016, and a few commenters made a good argument that while he could be a good pick eventually, him simply being mayor of a large city may not be quite enough experience for him to be one heartbeat away from the Presidency.

But what about if he were also a Secretary in President Obama's cabinet?

Granted, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development isn't as sexy as Secretary of State or as flashy as Secretary of Defense, but it is still an important position. According to their website, the cabinet's mission is:

"to increase homeownership, support community development and increase access to affordable housing free from discrimination."
And not only are things like homeownership and community development important to most Americans, it's also important to the Hispanic community, something that Mayor Castro could speak directly to as a Mexican American.

And if Hillary Clinton were at the top of the ticket, her experience in foreign affairs as Secretary of State could compliment perfectly with Mayor Castro's domestic experience as Mayor and HUD Secretary. And not only could Hillary help turn out the female vote, but Mayor Castro could help by turning out the Hispanic vote. Essentially, this could make 2016 a very good year for Democrats.

I expect most Republicans to be able to put two and two together and try to fight his nomination as much as possible, obviously citing Benghazi as a reason (just kidding...sort of). But if he does get confirmed as HUD Secretary, do you think he would be the front-runner for the VP slot in 2016? Sound off in the comments below.

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Last week at San Francisco State University, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich endorsed the idea of a Universal Basic Income as being something that was “almost inevitable” in America, in the face of job losses due to the increase of technological advances in the economy.

The response came to a question during a Q&A session at the end of a screening for his documentary film, Inequality For All, in which Robert Reich discusses the widening gap between the rich and the middle class and the effect that it is having on our economy.

When asked by the questioner if he would support the idea of a fully funded Negative Income Tax, Secretary Reich simply answered "yes" but went on to say:

That is the original [Milton] Friedman idea of a negative income tax really was provided as a way of eliminating poverty. And I think that we do need to seriously think particularly as productivity increases, technological change provides us with great benefits but requires fewer and fewer people to actually do the work...We've got to seriously think about how we widen the circle of prosperity, how we get shared prosperity. Otherwise, who's going to be the customer? And a minimal guarantee with regard to income, it seems to me as almost inevitable in terms the direction that the structural changes of our economy are taking us in."
For those of you that don't know of what a Universal Basic Income is, it is the idea that lieu of (or in addition to) certain welfare programs, the government would simply cut a check every month to all American citizens regardless of income or employment status. The amount would be small enough so that it would not encourage a high percentage of people to immediately quit the work force, but also large enough to help Americans pay for basic necessities, thereby reinvesting in the economy.

The link to the video is below and the segment about a Universal Basic Income begins at around the 46 minute mark, although you may want to start at the 44 minute mark if you're interested in what Secretary Reich has to say about the idea of Universal Healthcare eventually happening in America:

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In an interview with CNBC today, billionaire Warren Buffett argued that raising the Earned Income Tax Credit would be a better idea than raising the minimum wage. While speaking with CNBC's Becky Quick, Warren said:

“The Earned Income Tax Credit I think is much clearer," Buffett said. "That puts more money in the pockets of people earning low wages and that’s what I’d like to see."
And he does have a point about the EITC. According to an article in The Huffington Post:
A July study from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimated that expanding the EITC by lowering the age of eligibility for childless workers would lift an additional 300,000 Americans out of poverty.
The IRS also claimed that the tax break helped lift 6.6 million people out of poverty in 2011, which is the most recent year that full data is available. Buffett's remarks come on the heels of a report by the Congressional Budget Office which states that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would increase earnings for 16.5 million low-wage Americans but would also cost the nation about 500,000 jobs, as employers cut back on hiring to avoid adding to their payroll expenses.

It's easy to argue that big businesses should just suck it up and pay a higher minimum wage as they are currently sitting on tons of univested cash, but raising the minimum wage would also affect small businesses that don't have those same large cash reserves.

Raising the minimum wage is very popular among Democrats, Independents, and even a slight majority of Republicans. But while it is the most popular thing to do, and could be a winning argument this election year, is raising the Earned Income Tax Credit the better idea for the economy, or should another alternative be discussed? Sound off in the comments below.

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As we head deeper into this election year, the big issue that is up for debate among politicians is income inequality. In order to combat that, Democrats would like raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, or in some cases $15 an hour. Republicans (and some Democrats) meanwhile are opposed to the idea saying that it would hurt businesses or raise the white flag of surrender (whatever that means).

There's no doubt that raising the minimum wage is popular. A Washington Post poll found that 85% of Democrats and 65% of Independents support raising the minimum wage, while Republicans are split 50-45 on the issue. This issue, if put on the ballot would help turn out young people and minorities in November, which are key demographics for Democrats.

But while this issue is popular, should Progressives be fighting for more? Specifically, should Progressives be pushing politicians to consider a Universal Basic Income? This idea has gained more attention recently as activists in Switzerland recently collected enough signatures to put the idea on the ballot in their country, and if it passes it could be a model for all other countries to follow.

The idea is simple: a guaranteed income for all American citizens, that are currently not in prison and are 18 or older, and it would be paid to citizens regardless of their income or employment status. The amount paid to Americans is open for debate but a Universal Basic Income (or UBI) of $2900 (or $241 a month) would immediately cut the poverty rate in half while also being low enough to keep most people from quitting their jobs simply to live off a UBI.

A UBI could be paid for through a series of spending cuts in things like military and welfare programs (the latter of which Americans would need less of as a UBI would push many of them out of poverty), eliminating some tax deductions (most Americans would benefit more from a UBI than a home mortgage interest income deduction, for example), and raising taxes on capital gains.

A UBI has been supported by those on the right including Milton Friedman, as well as those on the left such as Martin Luther King, and even libertarians such as Charles Murray.

Not only would a UBI be more cost-effective (you hear that conservatives?) than all of the programs we have in place now, but it could have the added benefit of reducing crime, poverty, and simply giving Americans a better piece of mind overall.

Robert Reich once said that Progressives must make Democrats listen to them by speaking up and not simply being submissive to the establishment and centrist wings of the party. If we started speaking up, couldn't a Universal Basic Income be a great idea for them to hear?

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South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley recently signed a bill into law allowing guns into bars. That is clearly a horrible idea, but hey, if you're already on the crazy train why get off on the first stop?

Clearly Governor Haley isn't planning on getting off anytime soon as she recently stated that she now is in favor of a bill allowing anyone in South Carolina to carry a firearm without a permit or training. Because America.

According to Yahoo News:

The proposed Constitutional Carry Act (S. 115) would decriminalize carrying a firearm without a permit — effectively eliminating the need for a concealed weapons license and related training — and would allow people to carry firearms either concealed or out in the open.
In a statement on Tuesday supporting the bill, Governor Haley said:
“Criminals are dangerous and I think that every resident should be allowed to protect themselves from criminals."
However, the facts show that the fewer restrictions you have on guns, the more gun violence you have, which is clearly the opposite of what any sane governor would want. But when you're bought and paid for by the NRA, an organization whose main objective is to sell more guns for gun manufacturers, using things like facts and figures start to become a real nuisance.

Governor Haley is up for reelection this November against State Senator Vincent Sheheen, after barely beating him in 2010, so perhaps she's just doing this to fire up the fringe element of her party. But with extreme ideas like this, let's hope that the residents of South Carolina choose to send her packing come November.

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A few days ago, a diary was posted explaining that the US Inspector General had recently endorsed the idea of the United States Post Office offering simple banking services in addition to its normal mail delivery service.

While this idea might seem foreign to many Americans, in the past the post office actually offered banking services for over 50 years. Per The New Republic, beginning in 1911:

"...the Postal Savings System allowed Americans to deposit cash with certain branch post offices, at 2 percent interest. By 1947, the system held deposits for over four million customers. Though dismantled in 1967 (after banks offered higher interest rates and eroded its market share), the post office continues to issue domestic and international money orders, including $22.4 billion worth in 2011, as well as prepaid debit cards through a deal with American Express."
Putting aside the sad fact that banks once offered 2% interest rates (and you would now be lucky to get even half a percent), today post offices could offer basic banking services such as check-cashing, saving accounts, and even small-dollar loans similar to payday lenders, yet at much lower interest rates which could potentially save low-income Americans thousands of dollars per household per year.

The idea is so good that Senator Elizabeth Warren has now endorsed the idea.

In an op-ed for The Huffington Post, Senator Warren explains that because of the exorbitant fees that payday lenders charge, low-income Americans spend roughly 10% of their income on things like checking cashing and short term loans, which is roughly the same amount that the average American spends on food.

Having grown up in a low-income family myself, I've experienced far too many times to recall when my single mother would go to one of these payday lenders for a short-term loan just to keep the lights at home from being shut off or to pay the rent and would quickly find herself in a vicious cycle of more loans, fees, and high interest rates.

Fortunately in my adult life I haven't had to endure that same hardship, but in today's world of stagnant wages and an increasing cost of living, many Americans still turn to these payday lenders as they struggle to stay in the middle class.

As Elizabeth Warren points out, this idea has been done in other countries around the world and has been proven successful. Furthermore, not only could it help millions of Americans but it could also prove beneficial to the postal service's bottom line at a time when USPS - which employs over half a million people - desperately needs it.

This idea could easily be adopted by the Postmaster General and begin without Congressional approval, but so far he has declined to endorse the Inspector General's recommendation. But hopefully now with people like Senator Warren endorsing the idea,  public pressure will mount for this idea to become a reality.

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Sandra Fluke, attorney and women's rights activist addresses the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
In news that is likely to make Rush Limbaugh's head explode, activist and lawyer Sandra Fluke is reportedly considering running for Congress this year. According to the Huffington Post, the former Georgetown Law student is weighing whether or not she will run for Congressman Henry Waxman's seat, who announced today that he will not be seeking another term in the House of Representatives.

Sandra first made national news after she testified in Congress on the need for affordable access to birth control via the Affordable Care Act. Radio host and Lady-Parts-Expert Rush Limbaugh quickly denounced her as being a slut because she needed so many birth control pills because she was having so much sex (because we all know, that's how birth control works, right?).

Fluke responded to today's news of her potential House run by saying:

"I’m flattered that I’m being discussed as a potential candidate, especially for Rep. Waxman's seat, considering his incredible legacy," Fluke said. "A number of folks I respect very deeply have reached out today and encouraged me to run. I am strongly considering running. I’ll be making my decision soon."
Waxman's district is a deep blue district but as California recently instituted a top-two primary system, the candidates on the November ballot could easily both be Democrats. So we'll see in the coming days and weeks which other Democratic contenders will be throwing their hat into the ring to succeed Congressman Waxman as well.
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In an article by Slate, columnist Daniel Politi reported on a just released profile of President Obama written by The New Yorker’s David Remnick, and buried in the 17,000 word essay is President Obama's surprising response to Remnick's question about the legalization of marijuana.

“As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life,” Obama said. “I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.” When Remnick pressed on whether marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol, Obama thought about it for a while and said it was less dangerous “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer,” but emphasized that “it’s not something I encourage.” The president expressed particular concern with the disproportionate number of arrests for marijuana possession among minorities. “Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do,” he said, adding that individual users shouldn’t be locked up “for long stretches of jail time.”
The President didn't stop there as he expressed mild support for legalization in Colorado, saying that “it’s important for it to go forward.”

He did however caution that the legalization across the country would be a “challenge,” due to the slippery-slope argument that could arise:

“[W]hen it comes to harder drugs, the harm done to the user is profound and the social costs are profound. And you do start getting into some difficult line-drawing issues. If marijuana is fully legalized and at some point folks say, Well, we can come up with a negotiated dose of cocaine that we can show is not any more harmful than vodka, are we open to that? If somebody says, We’ve got a finely calibrated dose of meth, it isn’t going to kill you or rot your teeth, are we O.K. with that?”
A statement by a President not thoroughly denouncing pot as a vile, horrible drug would've been unheard of just a few years ago, but now we have a President brushing it off as simply being no worse than alcohol. Let's hope that we can look forward to hearing more statements like these from our nation's leaders in the near future.
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