Category Archives: Austerity

‘We Reject Politics of Fear’: Groups Urge Congress to Build Schools, Not Wall

Teacher in Milwaukee said six-year-old student “crawled into her lap crying [and] told her, ‘I am so scared that somebody is going to take my daddy away'”

By Nadia Prupis, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 4-27-2017

“Instead of funding President Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda, we are seeking additional funding for our nation’s public schools.” (Photo: doug turetsky/flickr/cc)

More than 150 advocacy groups sent a letter (pdf) to Congress on Thursday urging lawmakers to reject President Donald Trump’s proposal to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall and spend the money on education instead.

Trump’s “targeting of Muslims, refugees, and undocumented immigrants…are eroding the trust built by educators, parents, law enforcement, and communities over decades,” the letter states.

Its signatories include the Center for Popular Democracy, SEIU, and the National Immigration Law Center, among other community groups and labor unions. Continue reading

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Trump Administration Considering ‘Back-Door Way’ to Cut Social Security

‘If Trump proposes this Trojan horse, it would be the newest shot in the ongoing Republican war against Social Security’

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 4-11-2017

Social Security Works president says latest proposal is “a Trojan horse: It appears to be a gift, in the form of middle class tax relief, but would, if enacted, lead to the destruction of working Americans’ fundamental economic security.” (Photo: Tama Leaver/flickr/cc)

President Donald Trump, who campaigned on a promise not to cut Social Security, is reportedly considering a plan to eliminate much of the payroll tax that funds the critical safety net program.

According to the Associated Press on Monday, the proposal is being floated as the Trump administration goes “back to the drawing board in a search for Republican consensus behind legislation to overhaul the U.S. tax system.” Continue reading

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Trump slams brakes on Obama’s climate plan, but there’s still a long road ahead

 

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Trump signed the executive order surrounded by coal miners, saying it was ‘about jobs.’ AP Photo/Matthew Brown

Henrik Selin, Boston University

Badly looking for a political win that would both fulfill some campaign promises to his political base and satisfy the demands of rank-and-file Republicans in Congress, President Trump on March 28 signed an expansive Energy Independence and Economic Growth Executive Order. The Conversation

The executive order signals a sharp shift in federal climate change rules, standards and work procedures. This was expected based on Trump’s campaign rhetoric and his selection of Cabinet members and advisers. But as with other Trump White House initiatives, it is unclear how much change the administration can deliver and at what pace.

It took a long time for the Obama administration to formulate some of the central climate change rules now targeted by the Trump administration, and it will take years trying to change them. The signing of the executive order is just the administration’s opening salvo in what is destined to become a protracted and high-stakes battle.

The Trump attack

Cloaked in unsubstantiated “pro-growth” rhetoric, the executive order targets the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. It also focuses on mandates to cap methane emissions, looks to increase support for the extraction and use of coal and other fossil fuels, and changes the ways in which climate change concerns are embedded in actions by federal agencies (including taking into consideration the social cost of carbon).

The Clean Power Plan was designed to curb carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants as well as to promote renewable energy production and greater energy efficiency. The Obama administration also set emissions standards for new power plants. These and other measures were issued in response to the unwillingness by the U.S. Congress to pass any separate climate change legislation.

Announced in August 2015, the Clean Power Plan was immediately challenged in court by a group of 29 states and state agencies with the support of a variety of firms and industry organizations, including Oklahoma while current EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was the state’s attorney general. The opponents argued the EPA had overstepped its regulatory authority with the new rules and they therefore should be struck down.

The Supreme Court in an unprecedented decision in February 2016 ordered the EPA to temporarily stay the implementation of the Clean Power Plan until a lower-level court had made a ruling on the EPA’s authority to set such standards. Oral hearings were held in the D.C. Circuit Court in September 2016, but a decision is still pending.

Coal miners were visible supporters of Trump during the presidential campaign and at the signing of a sweeping executive order to reverse regulations to limit greenhouse gases. flavor32/flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Because the EPA under Pruitt will review the Clean Power Plan and roll back other Obama initiatives, the executive order alters basic legal dynamics. Now, lawsuits making their way up the court system will change. Instead of challenging the Obama rules, suits will be aimed at forcing the Trump administration to either uphold them or take other forms of meaningful regulatory action.

Many states and environmental groups that support the Clean Power Plan and other existing measures stand ready with a lineup of lawyers to fight back. They will argue that the federal government must act based on a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision classifying CO2 as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act and a 2009 EPA Endangerment Finding stating that current and projected atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.

Will we still always have Paris?

The executive order is silent on the Trump administration’s intent vis-à-vis the 2015 Paris Agreement, in which nearly 200 countries agreed to lower greenhouse gas emissions. But it casts a long shadow both on the U.S. ability to meet its Paris goal and the future of U.S. international leadership on climate change.

The implementation of the Clean Power Plan is central to fulfilling U.S. commitments under the Paris Agreement of reducing national GHG emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 and to make best efforts to reduce its emissions by 28 percent. By 2014, national emissions were down 9 percent compared with 2005 levels.

The EPA Clean Power Plan was a linchpin in the U.S. global climate commitments because it restricted carbon emissions from power plants, directly affecting coal-fired plants. AP Photo/Matthew Browne

Electing to either leave or ignore the Paris Agreement would not provide the United States with more independence and flexibility, as it reduces its political influence and ability to shape future decisions in global climate negotiations.

There are other global environmental treaties around biodiversity protection and the management of hazardous chemicals and wastes to which the United States is not a party. As a result, the U.S. ability to influence regulatory decisions under these treaties is severely limited – for example, specific chemical compounds where there is a need to protect human health and the environment, or where U.S. firms have economic interests. This foreshadows the kind of outsider status that the United States may gain if it backs out of the Paris Agreement.

Notably, ceding international leadership on climate change may serve only to embolden other countries, including China, to take on a more prominent role at the expense of U.S. influence. It would also further increase many other countries’ rapidly mounting frustration with the Trump administration.

Many different stakeholders, including ExxonMobil, argue that it is better for the United States to be on the inside rather than the outside when it comes to the future climate change cooperation. Former ExxonMobil CEO and current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has suggested the U.S. should stay in the agreement.

US paying for assistance or ammunition?

Even if the United States stays with the Paris Agreement, President Trump and Republicans in Congress have made it clear they want to severely limit, or completely cut off, U.S. contributions to climate finance in support of mitigation and adaptation measures in developing countries. The United States so far has provided US$1 billion of the $3 billion pledged by the Obama administration to the Green Climate Fund.

Carrying through on these statements by significantly reducing U.S. international assistance would effectively erode an important basis of U.S. political leadership and influence. But they appear to be part of a larger shift in the use of foreign policy instruments from nonmilitary means, such as climate and development aid, to military ones.

Trump’s “skinny budget” proposed a 31 percent cut to the EPA budget and a 29 percent reduction in funds for the State Department and other development programs. There is very little chance that Congress will approve such dramatic cuts, but these proposals tie in with what seems to be a broader change in U.S. foreign policy strategy.

As Trump proposed a 10 percent increase in the military budget, foreign policy experts worry that a significant cut in nonmilitary resources will severely undermine U.S. leadership and the ability by the State Department and other government agencies to promote U.S. interest and political stability.

The court of public opinion

As the battle over federal climate change policy continues, President Trump risks losing the public opinion battle on climate change beyond his most ardent base.

A recent poll shows that 75 percent of Americans believe that carbon dioxide should be regulated as a pollutant and that 69 percent believe that there should be limits on emissions from existing coal-fired power plants.

If such polling numbers remain strong, the Trump administration will be fighting an uphill battle in both courtrooms and the public sphere.

Henrik Selin, Associate Professor in the Frederick S Pardee School of Global Studies, Boston University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Defenders of Social Security Mobilize Against GOP Attack on Retirees

On “Valentine’s Day for millionaires,” U.S. Senate confirms safety-net opponent Mick Mulvaney for head of Office of Management and Budget

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 2-16-2017

“Between the end of their payroll taxes for the year, and [Mick] Mulvaney’s…confirmation, Thursday could turn out to be an especially pleasant day for millionaires,” Campaign for America’s Future senior fellow Richard Eskow wrote in an op-ed. (Image: Social Security Works)

On the same day that U.S. millionaires stop paying into Social Security for the rest of the year, President Donald Trump’s pick to head the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)—who wants to slash the safety net program—was confirmed to that post by the U.S. Senate.

Citing his support for cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, lawmakers and advocacy groups took to social media on Thursday to denounce Rep. Mick Mulvaney’s (R-S.C.) nomination to head OMB. During his confirmation hearing last month, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) voiced concern that Mulvaney’s views were “way, way out of touch with what President Trump campaigned on.” (Sanders elaborated in a tweet storm highlighting several instances in which the Tea Party Republican went on the record as wanting to slash funding for the programs and raise the retirement age.) Continue reading

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‘Spectacular Betrayal’ as Trump Hands Economy ‘Back Over to Wall Street’

‘The Wall Street bankers against whom Trump ran are making policy now,’ says Public Citizen

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 2-3-2017

Executive orders seen as “a cave-in to the power of Wall Street and the financial lobby.” (Photo: Dave Center/flickr/cc)

President Donald Trump is handing the U.S. economy “back over to Wall Street” on Friday, with a regulatory rollback that critics say could put consumers and the financial system at risk.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Trump signed executive orders Friday “establish[ing] a framework for scaling back the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial-overhaul law” and rolling back an Obama-era regulation requiring advisers on retirement accounts to work in the best interests of their clients. That rule was set to go into effect in April. Continue reading

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Trump Vows to Make Paul Ryan’s Nightmarish Budget Vision a Reality

President Donald Trump’s campaign promises on safety net programs would certainly be broken if House Speaker Paul Ryan gets his way

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 1-26-2017

President Donald Trump on stage with Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan at the GOP congressional retreat on Thursday. (Screenshot)

In Philadelphia on Thursday, President Donald Trump seemed to reassure his party that he supports right-wing budget priorities like those embraced by House Speaker Paul Ryan—whose past budget plans have been denounced as “cruel,” “draconian,” “a massive cut-off of state funds to the most vulnerable population in the country,” “going after what Americans want, on issue after issue,” and “a Koch brothers’ dream and the American peoples’ nightmare.”

“He’s writing his heart out,” Trump said, looking over at Ryan during his address at the Republican congressional retreat. “And we’re actually gonna sign the stuff that you’re writing—you’re not wasting your time.” To the room of GOP lawmakers, who erupted in whistles and applause, Trump continued: “He would write and send it up—and nothing would happen. But now it’s gonna happen.” Continue reading

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Actually, Goldman Sachs ‘Hacked’ the Presidential Election

By Carey Wedler. Published 1-13-2017 by The Anti-Media

As the media continues to parrot American intelligence agencies’ as-of-yet unsubstantiated claims that Russia hacked the U.S. election, there is far more evidence to implicate an equally dangerous infiltrator: Goldman Sachs.

The infamous banking company, which was widely implicated in the 2008 economic crash, appears to have come out on top in the most recent U.S. presidential election.

On one hand, Goldman Sachs was hedging its bets on a Hillary Clinton victory. Considering the banking monolith was one of her top donors — and that she received harsh criticism for accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees from the firm — it’s clear the powerful financiers had every intent of influencing the election and politics in general. Continue reading

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Protests in Mexico Push Country to Brink of Revolution and Nobody’s Talking About It

By Nick Bernabe. Published 1-10-2017 by The Anti-Media

Photo: paola/Twitter

San Diego, CA — Long-simmering social tensions in Mexico are threatening to boil over as failing neoliberal reforms to the country’s formerly nationalized gas sector are compounded by open corruption, stagnant standards of living, and rampant inflation.

The U.S. media has remained mostly mute on the situation in Mexico, even as the unfolding civil unrest has closed the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego, California, several times in the past week. Ongoing “gasolinazo” protests in Mexico over a 20 percent rise in gas prices have led to over 400 arrests, 250 looted stores, and six deaths. Roads are being blockaded, borders closed, and government buildings are being sacked. Protests have remained relatively peaceful overall, except for several isolated violent acts, which activists have blamed on government infiltrators. Continue reading

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Flint Residents Barred From Closed-Door Water Quality Meeting

Advocates and residents are concerned that officials are rushing to declare the city’s water supply safe

By Lauren McCauley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 1-10-2017

“My eyes are still burning. I can’t breathe when I get out of the shower…we’re still melting here,” Flint resident Tony Palladeno said. (Photo: Flint Rising/ Facebook

Residents of Flint, Michigan who traveled to Chicago were barred from attending a private meeting Tuesday between Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and other officials, who advocates say are rushing to declare the city’s water supply safe.

Outrage over the closed-door meeting prompted protests in Flint and Chicago, where residents held signs outside the Water Quality Summit asking for their detailed water quality report. Continue reading

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Conservatives Plot Their Course on the Rising ‘Sea of Red’ in State Capitals

Meeting in private, enthused activists promise that the growing Republican dominance in state government will unleash a wave of laws to cut business taxes, restrict unions and expand school privatization.

By Robert Faturechi, Pro Publica. Published 1-7-2017 by Common Dreams

The Kentucky State Capitol. Photo: Seifler (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Shortly after the November election, with the nation’s political attention focused on the Trump transition, an influential advocacy group met outside Washington to discuss how to leverage the extraordinary shift of power to Republicans in the rest of the country.

The American Legislative Exchange Council — a nonprofit better known as ALEC — briefed its members and allied groups on the bright future for its agenda now that Republicans will effectively control 68 of the nation’s 99 state legislative bodies, as well as 33 governor’s mansions. Among other things, group members said they would push bills to reduce corporate taxes, weaken unions, privatize schooling and influence the ideological debate on college campuses. Continue reading

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