By Lisa Schiff
Re-electing President Obama may have felt like a huge accomplishment, but it was really just the beginning of the work to come. With the rather low-key confirmation that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will be continuing on into the second term, the President gave the clear signal that federal education policies and strategies will remain essentially the same, meaning a continued emphasis on competitive grants, further support for privatization via charter schools, and a focus on formulaic assessment of students, teachers and the overall quality and outcomes of our educational system. Arne Duncan was a troubling choice from the outset and his actions as Secretary proved those worries to be well-founded. In other words, we have nothing to be excited about and much to be gravely concerned over.
By Duane Campbell
The Sacramento Bee editorial board started in the right direction in their editorial of November 26, 2012 by calling for small steps to avoid the "fiscal cliff". Then, strangely, they list small steps that only call for compromise as advocated by the Republican-austerity side. While unemployment remains high and economic growth slow, we do not need more austerity. If you want some small steps, President Obama suggested that we extend the Bush era tax reductions for the bottom 98% of earners. This is a proposal that almost everyone agrees with - or at least say they agree with. Then, we can disagree over the 2%, and work out a compromise.
By Jackie Tortora
Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid aren't just numbers on a budget line, they're vital family protection lifelines for working people.
As many as 55.4 million Americans across the United States receive monthly Social Security checks, including 8.6 million workers with disabilities and 4.4 million children. A total of 48.7 million Americans get their health care coverage from Medicare and 64.4 million Americans get their health care coverage from Medicaid, including 29.8 million children and 4.2 million seniors.
By Anthony Wright
The new movie Lincoln, remarkable in so many ways, is not primarily about Civil War re-enactments, an unlikely election campaign, or a shocking assassination, but about the more mundane work of politics, policy, and passing legislation.
If nothing else, it reminds those of us who work in politics that merely being right is often not enough to make progress. There is perhaps no more clear-cut moral issue than the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. But passing the amendment took power and persuasion, personality and perseverance.
By Mike Males and Barry Krisberg
Over the last 30 years, California has created an oversized, overcrowded prison system entailing billions of dollars in taxpayer expense, endless safety and health crises, a dismal record of rehabilitation, and increasingly proscriptive court orders to regulate almost all aspects of prison operations.
One major reason for this crisis is that a number of counties were over-relying on the state system by sending thousands of lower-level property and drug offenders to prison. California's legislature and governor had no choice but to cut prisoner numbers. They mandated that counties, as of October 1, 2011, could no longer send offenders to state prison unless they were convicted of serious, violent, or sex crimes.
By John Logan
So the day of action at Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, has passed at least for the time being. And it turned out to be much larger than the company's executives in Bentonville had predicted or care to admit.
Thousands of Wal-Mart workers and their allies protested for better wages, affordable healthcare benefits, full-time jobs and an end to management retaliation for speaking out in at least 100 cities, including in Dallas and Lancaster, Texas, Miami and Kenosha, Wisconsin, and several other locations not know for their activism. Although the final tally will not be clear for some time, "open-source" actions of some kind took place at Wal-Mart stores in 46 different states across the nation, with major demonstrations in California, Washington, New York and Massachusetts.
By Robert Cruickshank
The passage of Prop 30 has stopped the bleeding at California's K-12 schools, at least for the time being. The $6 billion in revenues it raises won't fully backfill the nearly $10 billion in cuts made to K-12 education since 2008, nor will it restore the huge funding cuts made to the community college, CSU and UC systems in that same time. But it's a start.
Transportation funding faces a crisis too. It has been slashed over that same amount of time, and even before that, revenues weren't keeping pace with basic road maintenance needs nor were they sufficient to fund the level of mass transit that the state desperately needs. Years of reckless tax cuts had led to cuts in these important programs and transportation services, leaving California vulnerable to the impact of rising gas prices while existing infrastructure deteriorates.
By Julie Driscoll
As a proud union family - my husband has been a Teamster for almost 30 years - I put my boots on the ground for four weekends in Wisconsin, for a couple of protests in Lansing, Michigan, and for every pro-union rally that popped up in Chicago.
Two things stand out in recent days: Hostess closing its doors, and Wal-Mart's Black Friday worker strike. Hostess is a union shop, Wal-Mart is not (yet). But in both cases, CEOs are (or, at least in the case of Hostess, were) raking in the dough, while workers struggled, granted concessions, and gave up benefits and pay raises. Worker security was sacrificed on the altar of CEO mega-millions, and even mega-billions.
I'm sick of it.
By David Dayen
We can now see why the imminent Walmart strikes on Black Friday have spooked the company.
Walmart has engaged in a two-prong PR strategy, dismissing the strikes as being carried out by a small faction of its 1.4 million associates, while also seeking National Labor Relations Board relief to block the strikes as illegal union-based activity. The thinking here is that the strikes have gained in strength over the month of October, with wildcat walkouts ongoing at both stores and warehouses, and that they want to nip this in the bud. In the Internet age, actions like this hold the potential for going viral.
By Robert Reich
I wish President Obama and the Democrats would explain to the nation that the federal budget deficit isn't the nation's major economic problem and deficit reduction shouldn't be our major goal. Our problem is lack of good jobs and sufficient growth, and our goal must be to revive both.
Deficit reduction leads us in the opposite direction - away from jobs and growth. The reason the "fiscal cliff" is dangerous (and, yes, I know - it's not really a "cliff" but more like a hill) is because it's too much deficit reduction, too quickly. It would suck too much demand out of the economy.