Richard Eskow Archive

Medicare For All: Accept No Substitutes

Richard Eskow Writer, Host, "The Breakdown;" Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

This week, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced the Medicare for All Act of 2019. A companion bill of the same name has already been introduced in the House by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA). That’s good news for the country. Unfortunately, these bills are facing opposition from what, for some people, will be an unexpected direction.

I don’t mean Republicans. They’ve already lost the health care debate, in one sense, now that large majorities of voters support Medicare for All. The real threat may well come from its Democratic friends. They’re the people who say they support Medicare for All’s “goals,” but claim to have found a better way to achieve them.

Intentionally or not, Medicare for All’s “frenemies” are sowing confusion about it. Among them is Ezekiel Emmanuel, who argues, “At least four different approaches to health reform could truthfully carry the Medicare for all label.”

Why would that be so? The term was crafted by Sanders, Jayapal, and their allies to describe a single-payer system, administered by the government, with no copayments or deductibles, and without the participation of private insurers.

To be sure, the idea’s frenemies have added to the chaos. A variety of watered-down alternatives to Medicare for All have been proposed, most with names that sound like “Medicare for All”: “Medicare X,” “Medicare Extra for All,” “Medicare for America” … (I’m still waiting for a proposal called “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Medicare for All!”)

These plans are Medicare for All decoys. They claim to resemble Medicare for All, at least in their outcomes, but they’re not. Each depends on some naive combination of employer cooperation, insurance company goodwill, “smart shopping,” and Rube Goldberg-like fiscal contraptions. Each would continue to force working Americans to spend thousands of dollars on premiums, copays, and deductibles, at a time when most families say they’d have trouble finding $1,000 to cover an emergency.

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An Economy in the Fast Lane – With No Brakes

Richard Eskow Writer, Host, "The Breakdown;" Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

Donald Trump has been bragging about the economy a lot lately. He says the United States is now the “economic envy” of the world. Unfortunately, Trump is once again trying to reshape reality to fit his own delusions. Reality is refusing to cooperate.

It’s true the U.S. economy is in the fast lane, by some measures, just as it was in the final years of Barack Obama’s presidency.  But where, exactly, is it headed?

And what will happen when the next blowout comes, as it inevitably will?

We know one thing: average Americans, who have seen their incomes stagnate while inequality rises, and their wealth declines, will bear the brunt of the next recession.

Less Than Amazing

First, it should be noted that what Trump calls an “amazing” economy isn’t amazing for everyone. As Bernie Sanders correctly notes, 40 percent of Americans don’t have $400 on hand for an emergency – a brake job, for example, costs $567 on average for both axles – and 43 percent of Americans (50 million households) can’t afford to meet their basic monthly expenses.

A full two-thirds of Americans would have trouble coming up with $1,000 for an emergency.

More than 44 million Americans are struggling with more than $1.5 trillion in student debt. Others struggle to pay credit card debt, mortgages, and usurious payday loans.

Nor is the world likely to “envy” the tens of millions of Americans living in poverty, including the estimated 5.3 million Americans living in deep poverty like that of the poorest Third World countries.

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For Captured Regulators, Repealing the Volcker Rule is Child’s Play

Richard Eskow Writer, Host, "The Breakdown;" Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

Perhaps the most condescending and unintentionally revealing comments any banker made in the wake of the banker-created 2008 financial crisis came from Jamie Dimon, CEO of too-big-to-fail bank JP Morgan Chase.

“Not to be funny about it,” Dimon told a congressional panel in 2010, “but my daughter asked me when she came home from school ‘what’s the financial crisis,’ and I said, ‘Well it’s something that happens every five to seven years.”’

Millions of Americans lost their homes in the wake of Wall Street’s crisis – which, come to think of it, isn’t that funny at all.

Downturns are so simple, Dimon implies, that they can be explained to schoolchildren in a single sentence. Dimon also admitted his own industry’s ineptness and irresponsibility when he told the panel that “in mortgage underwriting, we somehow missed that home prices don’t go up forever.”

Dimon wasn’t the only banker to tell Congress that the titans of Wall Street were clueless. “We never knew what was happening at any minute,” said Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein.

Perhaps schoolchildren should have been doing the underwriting. Their analyses couldn’t have been much worse, and their ethics would almost certainly have been better.

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How Trump and the GOP’s SCOTUS Screw Workers

Richard Eskow Writer, Host, "The Breakdown;" Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

Many  have observed, correctly, that the Supreme Court’s recent 5 to 4 decision upholding forced arbitration for employees is a “devastating blow” to the rights of working people. This decision by the court’s conservative majority will affect an estimated 60 million workers, who will now be unable to band together to fight the legal and financial power of their employers when they have been mistreated in the workplace.

Judges in the Machine

Americans have traditionally viewed the Supreme Court as an unbiased, apolitical institution. But today, more than ever, this is an illusion. The court’s conservatives are now an openly partisan cadre. They’re political operatives, not jurists. They’re part of a vast and well-funded Republican machine that seeks to screw American workers so it can further enrich its wealthy patrons.

Were it not for some underhanded Republican machinations, they wouldn’t even have a court majority.

Republican justices openly placed party above country in 2000 when they handed the presidency to a fellow Republican despite being unable to defend their decision as a precedent for future rulings. If they hadn’t done that, neither John Roberts nor Samuel Alito would be on the Court today.

Another cog in the Republicans’ anti-worker machine, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, denied a rightfully-elected president another Supreme Court appointment when he and his GOP Senate colleagues refused to hold confirmation hearings for Obama’s nominee, the moderate, highly qualified and widely respected Federal Judge Merrick Garland. Obama picked Garland to fill the seat of Antonin Scalia, the conservative ideologue who sat on the court from his appointment by Ronald Reagan in 1986 until his death in 2016.

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Mnuchin Flips Tax-Scam Grift, Hopes Nobody Notices

Richard Eskow Writer, Host, "The Breakdown;" Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

With a little-noticed remark at a friendly event, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin discarded his past arguments for the Trump/GOP tax bill. All Mnuchin could offer in their place was one of the oldest and most discredited ideas in the conservative playbook (and that’s saying something).

It was a startlingly cynical move, even for the preternaturally cynical gaggle of gold-plated grifters running our government – a crowd whose sole ambition is the single-minded pursuit of additional wealth for themselves and their fellow Gilded Age grandees.

When the final taxonomy of these Trump Era swamp creatures is conducted, a special category will be reserved for Mnuchin, the Goldman Sachs banker turned Treasury Secretary who took a leading role in selling the Trump/GOP tax scam to the American people. His rule seems to be: If they don’t believe one lie, tell another.

Selling the Scam

From the tax bill’s name – the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” – to the arguments made in its favor, the bill has been a three-card monte played on middle-class Americans.

This revamp of this age-old streetcorner scam was devised by Trump, in collaboration with GOP congressional leaders Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, but Steve Mnuchin was the pitchman holding the bets and fast-talking the crowd.

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Death by Inequality: Poverty and Racism Are Killing America’s Children

Richard Eskow Writer, Host, "The Breakdown;" Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

A new report concludes 600,000 children have died in the United States for no reason over a 50-year period. Thousands more will die this year, and next year, and the year after that. 600,000 is a lot of people. it’s more than the population of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Or Oakland, California. Or Minneapolis, Minnesota. Or Omaha, Miami, Atlanta, and Milwaukee.

An entire city of children has been lost.

This is the real “death tax.” It’s a tax on poverty, a tax on race, a tax on political powerlessness. And it’s paid with the lives of the innocent.

These deaths should have led every news broadcast and been a banner headline in every newspaper in the country. They would have been, if terrorists had killed these kids. After all, we changed our way of life after 3,000 people died on 9/11.  But after the deaths of 600,000 children, nothing’s changed at all.

Lost Children

The report, published in the journal Health Affairs, compared child mortality in the United States with that of 19 other comparably developed nations. Here’s what the authors found:

A child born in the U.S. is 76 percent more likely to die before reaching adulthood than a child born elsewhere in the developed world.

“From 2001 to 2010 the risk of death in the U.S. was 76 percent greater for infants and 57 percent greater for children ages 1–19.”

“During this decade, children ages 15–19 were eighty-two times more likely to die from gun homicide in the U.S.. Over the fifty-year study period, the lagging U.S. performance amounted to over 600,000 excess deaths.”

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Mulvaney’s In, Bankers Win, and Trump Shafts Americans Again

Richard Eskow Writer, Host, "The Breakdown;" Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

A Trump-appointed judge has issued his ruling. Mick Mulvaney – the Tea Party Congressman turned Trump apparatchik – will run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The political extremist who once said the CFPB was “extremely frightening,” who called it “a joke… in a sick, sad kind of way”  and said he would “like to get rid of it,” is now its Acting Director.

Mulvaney didn’t wait for the judge’s ruling before taking the helm. He showed up at the office bearing doughnuts for the staff.

Were the condemned being served their last meal?

A quick review of the CFPB website on Monday showed that he had already placed himself at the top of the org chart:


On his first day on the job, Mulvaney froze all hiring and rule-making, bringing the bureau’s critical work to an effective standstill. The banks had won the first round. And Trump proved once again that, when it comes to fighting for working Americans, he’s just another fast-talking huckster.

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Orrin Hatch’s “Bullcrap” on Taxes Is Exactly That

Richard Eskow Writer, Host, "The Breakdown;" Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

That’s the epithet Orrin Hatch threw at his fellow senator, Sherrod Brown, during a meeting of the Senate Finance Committee.  Brown’s offense? He pointed out that Republicans aren’t shooting straight when they say their tax cuts for the rich will help the middle class.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) had called the GOP’s bluff with an amendment to their bill that would have cancelled tax cuts for corporations if middle-class wages don’t rise – something Republicans have promised their tax plan will deliver.

Republicans promptly blocked it.

Stating the Obvious

As he spoke for Wyden’s doomed amendment, Brown commented upon the obvious. “I just think,” he said, “it would be nice, just tonight, before we go home, to just acknowledge, well, this tax cut really is not for the middle class, it’s for the rich.”

Apparently that remark hit a little too close to home, because Sen. Hatch pretty much lost it. “I come from poor people,” Hatch said, “and I’ve been here working my whole stinkin’ career for people who don’t have a chance. And I really resent anybody saying that I’m just doing this for the rich… We didn’t have anything. So don’t spew that stuff on me — I get a little tired of that crap!”

Added Hatch: “This bullcrap that you guys throw out here really gets old after a while.”

Believing In Opportunity

The problem with Hatch’s impassioned tirade is that Brown was correct, and voters know it. Only one-third of registered voters support the Trump/GOP tax plan, according to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, while slightly more than half oppose it.

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Why We Need to Confront the Billionaires’ Paradise

Richard Eskow Writer, Host, "The Breakdown;" Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

The concentrated wealth of the global plutocracy is the dark matter of the world economy: it is rarely glimpsed and difficult to measure, yet it reshapes everything around it.

Two recent reports – the UBS/PwC report on the “new Gilded Age” of the international billionaire class, and the “Paradise Papers”  released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) reveal ways corporations and the ultra-wealthy avoid taxes. In doing so, they offer a glimpse into this darkness.

Together, these releases tell us a lot about the wealthy few who run the world.

We now know that the British royal family has been less than open with the people they rule, who preserve their dubious privilege to monarchy. And we have learned that, by investing in a Lithuanian shopping center as an end run around taxes, U2’s Bono may have finally found what he’s looking for.

But these reports also help us see how much we still don’t know about the powerful few. In an era when, according to the Institute for Policy Studies, only three Americans  – Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffett – own more wealth than half of our entire population, we need to do more to understand  – and confront – the super-concentration of resources.

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Medicare For All Can Reshape the ‘Art of the Possible’

Richard Eskow Writer, Host, "The Breakdown;" Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

Bernie Sanders unveiled his Medicare for All bill this week, and 16 Democratic senators signed on as cosponsors. The last time he introduced a bill like it, not one senator was willing to join him. They considered the idea impossible, utopian.

Times have changed.

The senators who shared a podium with Sanders understand this bill won’t pass in today’s Republican-dominated Congress. They signed on because it’s a good idea, and because they recognize that by doing so they can both reflect and reshape a shifting political landscape.

They’re aware that Sanders’ presidential campaign triggered a wave of energy and activism that continues today. They recognize that this nascent political movement is a powerful political engine, and its diverse millennial base makes it the Democratic engine of the future.

They understand how change happens: as an ongoing dance between street-level activism and electoral politics.

A Declaration of Principles

With this bill, 17 senators – nearly one-third of the Senate’s Democrats, including several presidential prospects – are saying health care is a human right and a public good. That’s a declaration of principle.

They are also defending the principle of progressive taxation. The program would be funded through higher taxes on the wealthy, eliminating special tax breaks, a one-time tax on offshore profits, and a fee levied against big banks.

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Grow Up and Apologize, Ted Cruz

Richard Eskow Writer, Host, "The Breakdown;" Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

People whose lives have been destroyed by floods, hurricanes, and other natural disasters face a special kind of anguish. The things they trusted the most – the ground beneath their feet, and the sky above – have turned against them.

Their most personal spaces have turned to ruins, and their most precious belongings have been destroyed. Their private misery has become a public spectacle, as cameras in circling helicopters put them on display to the entire planet. Their world has betrayed them, and they feel they have nowhere left to turn.

That’s why millions of people have offered support and compassion to the people of Houston in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

It’s also why politicians from areas hit by Hurricane Sandy five years ago have been right to point out the hypocrisy of Senator Ted Cruz and the other Texas Republicans who turned their backs on victims in their states.

All but one member of Cruz’s Texas GOP delegation voted against aid for Sandy’s victims. Now that their constituents are in need, they’re singing a different tune.

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Open Letter to Louise Linton About Angels and Humanity

Richard Eskow Writer, Host, "The Breakdown;" Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

Dear Ms. Linton,

This has undoubtedly been a difficult couple of days for you, both as a person and as the wife of the United States Treasury Secretary.

Nobody enjoys the sudden onrush of hostile attention that comes when something they’ve said goes viral, and not in a good way. Your public record, and even your recent infamous post, suggests you want to be a good person – or, at the very least, that you’d like to be seen as one.

That’s not how people are seeing you at the moment, and that has to be rough.

Perhaps it would help if someone explained why you’ve received so much negative attention in the last 48 hours.

Bubble Life

Simply put: You live in a bubble. That’s not your fault. It’s just the way it is. According to the Internet – the same Internet that has turned on you with such ferocity – you were born into a wealthy Scottish family and educated at the prestigious St George’s School for Girls and Fettes College.

Your family owns a real-life, honest to God castle, for God’s sake.

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Uber Democrats: Workers Should Cooperate, Not ‘Compete’

Richard Eskow Writer, Host, "The Breakdown;" Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

If a picture’s worth a thousand words, what’s the value of a single word?

If you’re a Democratic Party leader and the word is “compete,” the answer may be: more than you can afford.

Much of the Democratic Party’s rhetoric has been ‘Uberized’ by a creeping free-market ideology that treats workers as lone competitors in a survival-of-the-toughest economy.

The time has come to reject this language as well as the thinking behind it. The notion that people must compete with each for low-paying jobs undermines worker solidarity and weakens our sense of national community.

Better Than What?

When the Democratic Party rolled out its “Better Deal” language in July, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi each wrote op-eds promoting an agenda whose subtitle is, “Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future.”

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Medicare For All Is Coming, No Matter What They Say

Richard Eskow Writer, Host, "The Breakdown;" Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

The idea of Medicare for All, or single-payer health care, has grown in popularity so quickly that it was recently an answer on the quiz show Jeopardy:


More than half of all Americans, 53 percent, now want a single-payer plan, up from 40 percent in 1998-2000.

But at the same time, Medicare for All suffers from the rise of a new growth industry: telling Americans what can’t be done to make their lives better. It seems like the nation that used to pride itself on its “can-do” spirit is constantly being told, “No, we can’t.” Why do critics oppose this idea, which could improve the lives of so many?

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Cuomo Wants to Privatize Penn Station; That’s a Bad Republican Idea

Richard Eskow Writer, Host, "The Breakdown;" Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

New Yorkers face a “summer of hell”  as Governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie seek to hand over the city’s historic Penn Station to private investors. This “hell” is the result of our leaders’ “bipartisan” reluctance to invest in needed government infrastructure.

Donald Trump is working with his fellow Republicans in Congress to enact a “privatization” program that could become the largest giveaway of public resources to private corporations in our nation’s history. (See Part 1 of this privatization series.)

Why wouldn’t they? Republicans claim to hate “big” government, and privatization – the dismantling of government and giveaway of publicly owned resources to corporate interests – has been a core part of the Republican agenda for years.  Unfortunately, a number of corporate-friendly Democrats have also embraced the idea.

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The Koch Brothers & Trump: The Men Who Sold the World

Richard Eskow Writer, Host, "The Breakdown;" Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

When he withdrew from the Paris climate agreement, Donald Trump gave a speech so filled with falsehoods that it triggered detailed rebuttals by publications ranging from Politifact to Scientific American.

The Washington Post‘s “Fact Checker” column, which hands out “Pinocchios” for false or misleading statements, was forced to note that “we do not award Pinocchios in roundups of speeches.” But by then Trump probably had more Pinocchios than the Disneyland gift shop.

Sign at Tompkins Square Park protest. Photo credit: Meshae Studios, Flickr

But Trump is not the only truth-denier in the Republican Party. In a front-page story by Coral Davenport and Eric Lipton, the New York Times documented the GOP’s transformation from a party with leaders like John McCain and Newt Gingrich, who accepted the scientific consensus on the climate, to one whose leader believes it is a hoax perpetrated by China.

When Trump pulled the U.S. from the Paris agreement, “the Senate majority leader, the speaker of the House and every member of the elected Republican leadership were united in their praise.”

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Trump’s Budget Director Declares War on the American People

Richard Eskow Writer, Host, "The Breakdown;" Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney has issued a declaration of class war against the American people. His words may have sounded wonkish or technical, but underneath the coded language, Mulvaney was expressing Republicans’ extreme ideas with unusual directness.

The Interview

In an interview with CNBC’s John Harwood, Mulvaney was asked about Trump’s stated intention to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure spending. (Trump won’t. He will almost certainly propose far less, offer tax breaks to corporations and billionaires, sell off public resources, and then claim the total adds up to $1 trillion.)

“Will Republicans be comfortable with adding to the deficit to pay for a trillion dollars in infrastructure?” Harwood asked.

Mulvaney’s response began this way: “Bad spending to me in terms of its economic benefit would be wealth transfer payments. It’s a misallocation of resources.”

The term “transfer payment” is commonly applied to health and welfare programs, and other forms of public assistance, since the people who receive the payments don’t provide any goods or services in return. Mulvaney is essentially saying that he opposes taxing the rich and using any of that money to help those who are in need.

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The CFPB Protects Us From Bad Banks; Republicans Want To Kill It

Richard Eskow Writer, Host, "The Breakdown;" Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, created in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, has been remarkably effective at reining in lawless banks. How effective? So much so, that Republicans now target the agency for destruction. And some Democrats may be willing to help them.

Wells Fargo, Repeat Offender

The CFPB was created as part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform to defend ordinary citizens from bad actors in the financial sector. For instance, the agency imposed a $100 million fine on Wells Fargo Bank last year after it came to light the bank pressured its employees to open at least two million false accounts in the names of current customers. The bank was also forced to settle a customer lawsuit for $110 million and was downgraded by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a key regulator, for these predatory practices.

As law and economics professor William K. Black, Jr. told us last year, those actions amount to “two million felonies.”

According to reports, the practices that led to these offenses were deeply embedded in the bank’s organizational culture.  $110 million may sound like a lot of money. But it’s “small change,” in the words of Bloomberg columnist Gillian Tan, compared to the enormity of its offenses. So are its settlements for past frauds – and there have been many.

Last August it was fined $3.6 million for misleading student loan borrowers and fraudulently dunning them for extra fees.

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Nixon, Reagan Paved Way for GOP’s Race-Charged Health Agenda

Richard Eskow Writer, Host, "The Breakdown;" Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

After a presidential campaign filled with racist rhetoric, the Republicans have proposed a healthcare agenda that will harm many black, brown, and poor Americans while helping the white and wealthy. It’s the same cynical strategy Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan pioneered decades ago.

Southern Strategy

To be sure, the Democratic Party has its own legacy of racism. They couldn’t have prevailed for so long in the Jim Crow South without it. Richard Nixon, who was openly racist in private, sought to undermine Democrats with his 1968 campaign’s “Southern strategy,” which welcomed segregationists into the Republican party.

It worked. Urban riots in 1967 had already provoked fear among many white voters, who didn’t understand their underlying causes. Mass demonstrations for peace and civil rights confused and disturbed them. Nixon’s “law and order” rhetoric, which foreshadowed Donald Trump’s, sent a thinly-disguised message to white voters that he would protect them from blacks and hippies.

Nixon’s “war on drugs” was another racially-based stratagem, as top White House aide John Ehrlichman later admitted:

You want to know what this was really all about? (We) had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people … We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or blacks, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news.

Ehrlichman added: “Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

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The GOP Health Bill Is an Assault on People of Color

Richard Eskow Writer, Host, "The Breakdown;" Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

The American Health Care Act is a rich person’s bonanza. Under the plan proposed by House Republicans, each of the nation’s 400 richest families will save $7 million per year, as part of a tax giveaway. The plan offers no benefits at all to those who earn $200,000 or less a year. The burden from this cynical wealth grab falls disproportionately on the nation’s black, brown and poor households.

To be clear, people of color cannot be stereotyped.  Most black Americans are not poor, and most live in the suburbs. Donald Trump made repeated assertions on the campaign trail that African-Americans live in a “hell” of poverty and violence. Those remarks were rightly condemned as implicitly racist. Wherever they reside, people of color don’t live in “hell.” They live in humanity.

Nevertheless, our economy is divided along racial lines. While more than half of all Americans experience poverty at some point in their lifetimes, people of color are far more likely to be poor than whites.  The poverty rate is nearly 25 percent for black Americans and more than 21 percent for Hispanic Americans. By contrast, the white poverty rate is 9.1 percent. Any rate above zero is unacceptable, but the level of racial disparity is striking.

Black and Hispanic households are far more likely to experience food insecurity than white households. Black children are three times as likely to live in poverty as white children. And, while many Americans will experience at least one year of poverty in their lifetime, black poverty is more persistent than white poverty.

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The American Health Care Act Is a Wealth Grab, Not a Health Plan

Richard Eskow Writer, Host, "The Breakdown;" Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

The Republicans’ plan to replace the Affordable Care Act is a disaster for the health of the American people. But that may be nothing more than a byproduct of the bill’s main impact: it will increase inequality, and make the rich even richer than they’ve become in the last few decades.

It’s not a “health” plan. It’s a wealth grab for the already wealthy. Its benefits will go, first and foremost, to billionaires who make more money from investments than from work. The 400 highest-earning households in the country will get an average tax break of $7 million per year under the Republican plan.

Who will benefit the least? Teachers, nurses, firefighters… pretty much anyone who works for a living.

If this plan becomes law, the rich will get richer, most other people will lose out, and our nation’s already record-high levels of inequality will become even worse.

Richer Than Ever

The middle class is dying all across America. More precisely, it’s being murdered. The Republican “health” plan would be one more nail in its coffin.

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Trump Stands Up for Bad Bankers

Richard Eskow Writer, Host, "The Breakdown;" Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

The best way to spot a con artist is by paying attention to what you don’t see, as well as to what you see. Donald Trump says he represents working people, but he has already moved aggressively to tilt the scales in favor of Wall Street’s criminal elite.

As Trump moved to rob Americans of some basic financial protections, his choice of companions only added insult to injury.

Now You See It, Now You Don’t

Last year Wells Fargo became enmeshed in scandal when it was learned that 2 million false accounts were opened in its customers’ names without their knowledge. It turned out that the bank’s employees, many of whom are poorly paid and dependent on bonuses and commissions, were being threatened with loss of income or termination if they fell behind on production. Those who complained to higher-ups or authorities risked retaliation. There were reports of other unfair labor practices as well.

The bank paid a fine. In a rare moment of executive accountability, its CEO resigned and was forced to forgo some deferred income. The Department of Labor set up a special page to register employee complaints and protect whistleblowers.

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Welcome to Swamp Trump. Please Don’t Feed the Gators.

Richard Eskow Writer, Host, "The Breakdown;" Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

It’s already a Washington truism that Donald Trump, who promised to “drain the swamp” of lobbyists and others who exploit government for personal gain, has turned to it instead for his key appointments.

It’s true. The reptiles are taking over. Let’s take a tour of the place while we still can.

Welcome to Trump Swamp. Join us on the glass-bottom boat as we gaze on the denizens below. Keep your hands inside the railings – and please don’t feed the gators.

It’s hard to get past the white nationalist in any discussion of Trump’s team. Sure, they call Steve Bannon’s worldview “alt-right,” but that’s deceptive. That makes it sound like something new, when hatred is as old as the hills.

White supremacist Jared Taylor cheered Bannon’s hire, saying he suspected Bannon will serve as an “anti-waffler” to maintain Trump’s ideological and racial purity. (Taylor’s most recent tweet, as of this writing is, “Excellent Boston Globe article about the Hispanic invasion. This is how we throw away our country.”)

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Obamacare’s Biggest Problem is Profit, Not Government

Richard Eskow Writer, Host, "The Breakdown;" Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

It’s true: the Affordable Care Act is having problems. But Republicans who say those problems are caused by “big government” have it exactly backward. Obamacare’s current difficulties are grounded in our country’s political fetishization of the private sector – a fad that began in the Republican Party, but has unfortunately spread to much of the Democratic establishment.

Government isn’t the problem here. It’s the solution.

When the ACA is attacked, most Democrats point to the good it has done. They should. Some of its work, particularly in extending coverage to children and economically vulnerable populations, is highly laudable

But the flaws are real. One person in five on the exchanges will have no choice of insurers next year. Premiums for “mid range” plans – which offer fairly paltry coverage – will increase by an average of 25 percent, according to the Administration. States like Arizona are faring even worse, with an average projected increase of 116 percent. Many people have found insurance on the exchanges to be unaffordable and are taking a tax penalty instead.

And while lower-income people will see their premium costs offset by subsidies, those subsidies represent a shifting of wealth from the general public to for-profit insurance corporation. That, too, is a legitimate policy concern.

What went wrong, and what can be done to fix it?

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Stiglitz Speaks: Globalization’s Grand Failure, Apple & Bad Trade Deals

Richard Eskow Writer, Host, "The Breakdown;" Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has a new book out entitled “The Euro: How a Common Currency Threatens the Future of Europe.” On “The Zero Hour,” we spoke with Professor Stiglitz about the tension between globalization and democracy, the mistaken thinking that gave rise to the euro experiment, and what that experience can tell us about the need to resist bad trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, renegotiate older ones like NAFTA, and invest in jobs and growth in the United States. He also expressed opposition to a tax giveaway that’s reportedly in the works for corporations like Apple.

Stiglitz described the euro as “a fascinating experiment from an economist’s perspective,” adding that “it’s a failed experiment” but “there’s a lot we can learn.” As with globalization overall, he said, “the economics advanced faster than the political institutions that would make it work.”

Stiglitz noted that 62 percent of the voters in Spain, Portugal and Greece have voted against the draconian austerity policies imposed upon them by the Germans and the European Central Bank. He shared the concern that these policies are undermining European democracy and giving rise to extremist parties and movements on the far right.

Wells Fargo Had a Bad Day. That’s a Start.

Richard Eskow Writer, Host, "The Breakdown;" Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

People who came looking for drama in Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf’s Senate testimony on Tuesday did not come away disappointed. Stumpf was called before the Senate Banking Committee after his bank was fined $185 million for opening more than two million accounts in customers’ names, without their knowledge or consent, over a five-year period.

We now know that these two million phony accounts, and the 5,300 employees held responsible, may not reflect the full extent of the wrongdoing. Stumpf announced that the bank had agreed to extend its review of its misconduct to 2009 and 2010, and said he would consider reviewing earlier years as well.

Witness for the Prosecution

Stumpf squirmed, shifted and shuffled under the relentless questioning of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who asked, “Since this massive year’s long scam came to light you have said ‘I am accountable.’ What have you done to hold yourself accountable? Have you returned one nickel of the money you earned while this scandal was going on?”

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Al Capone, Meet Wells Fargo

Richard Eskow Writer, Host, "The Breakdown;" Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

As the latest Wells Fargo scandal was breaking, the music world learned of the death of Prince Buster. He’s the Jamaican ska legend who made a record called “Al Capone” and sang “Enjoy yourself/it’s later than you think.” I wonder what he thought about Wall Street?

Banking giant Wells Fargo agreed to pay a $185 million fine last week, after it was discovered that its employees have opened than 2 million phony checking and credit card accounts in its customers’ names.

There’s a pattern here.

A week before Wells Fargo’s settlement was announcement, banking giant HSBC was charged with foreign-exchange trading violations. That appears to have voided a deal which allowed its bankers escaped prosecution for a persistent pattern of violating international sanctions and laundering money for the Mexican drug cartels.

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Creating Change: Lessons From a Private-Prison Victory

Richard Eskow Writer, Host, "The Breakdown;" Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

Sometimes you win.

That can be an unfamiliar sensation for people on the left. When you fight for good causes, against powerful forces and overwhelming odds, you lose a lot of battles.

But sometimes you win. Take this month’s announcement from the Justice Department that it’s planning to phase out the use of for-profit prisons. Like many such victories, it is only a qualified success. But qualified success is still success.

This victory seemed politically impossible as recently as last year. What changed? Like many such victories, it began with consciousness. Attacks on the “prison industrial complex” were once considered the province of radical activists and crusading (but possibly lonely) left journalists.

Some church groups got wind of the issue in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s and divested themselves of for-profit prison stock. Writers and thinkers and activists continued to shine a light on the problem. Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow,” has been writing about this issue for years. Books like “Prison Profiteers: Who Makes Money From Mass Incarceration” explored the issue in depth.

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Trump’s Estate Tax: An Aristocrat’s Gift to His Friends and Family

Richard Eskow Writer, Host, "The Breakdown;" Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

“There is a myth out there that…at heart, he’s really on the side of the little guy,” Hillary Clinton said recently of Donald Trump. “Don’t believe it.”

I agree. But I’ve never liked using the phrase “little guy” to describe America’s working men and women. A lot of people in this country are managing to survive against pretty long odds, and that’s a pretty big accomplishment in my book.

I have nothing against anybody who was born rich. But if anybody is a “little guy” in this story, it’s Trump himself — and I’m not just talking about his hands. It takes a little heart to be born into such wealth and yet be filled with such self-regard and selfishness. It takes a little heart to want so much for himself and so little for others, to bring out the worst in our neighbors and be so cruel to the strangers at our door. Come to think of it, maybe we should call this spoiled child of privilege a “little prince.”

Trump’s empathy seems to extend only as far as his aristocratic peers, for they—and only they—will directly benefit from his economic policies. His tax breaks for rich people and corporations have received a lot of attention. But his call to repeal the estate tax is even more precisely targeted toward his fellow princes and princesses, the other children of billionaires and mega-millionaires.

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The Incredible Shrinking Populist: Donald Trump’s Tiny Economic Vision

Richard Eskow Writer, Host, "The Breakdown;" Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

Last week, Donald Trump talked about the economy on television for an hour. That may have exceeded the graduate-level curriculum at Trump University. But the biggest lesson I learned is that Trump contradicts himself more, and becomes more typically Republican, with every passing day.

It’s rare to see Trump put much effort into anything, so it was almost likable to watch him work so hard to read his speech from a Teleprompter. All that concentration! It was like watching a child learn to draw.

Trump pretended to be unfazed as protesters from the Michigan People’s Campaign, all of them women, interrupted his speech 14 separate times – or was it 17 times? (Dave Johnson has more on the protesters and their demands here.) He scowled an authoritarian scowl at some of the interruptions but didn’t respond directly, even when a protester reportedly shouted, “Tiny hands! All you got is tiny hands!”

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