The Tea Party Plot to Unravel Government

By Robert Reich

Imagine a plot to undermine the government of the United States, to destroy much of its capacity to do the public's business, and to sow distrust among the population.

Imagine further that the plotters infiltrate Congress and state governments, reshape their districts to give them disproportionate influence in Washington, and use the media to spread big lies about the government.

Finally, imagine they not only paralyze the government but are on the verge of dismantling pieces of it.

Far-fetched? Perhaps. But take a look at what's been happening in Washington and many state capitals since Tea Party fanatics gained effective control of the Republican Party, and you'd be forgiven if you see parallels.

Sequestration Cuts Threaten California's Comeback

By Steve Smith

It's been a good start to the year for California. We lead the nation in job creation. Our budget is balanced. Unemployment is dropping. Prop 30 stopped devastating cuts to our schools. While we still have a lot of work to dig out from the recession caused by Wall St. greed and excess, there's no question that California is enjoying a major comeback.

But the California comeback could be short-lived if Republicans in Washington, D.C. continue this insane game they are playing with the so-called "sequestration" cuts. These automatic spending cuts would sap $500 million in federal funding from California putting priorities like education, health care and public safety at risk. The cuts could cost California 225,000 jobs.

Showdown Fatigue

By Robert Reich

We're one week away from a massive cut in federal spending - cuts that will hurt millions of lower-income Americans who'll lose nutrition assistance, housing, and money for their schools, among other things; that will furlough or lay off millions of government employees, reduce inspections of the nation's meat and poultry and pharmaceuticals and workplaces, eliminate the jobs of hundreds of thousands of people working for government contractors, and, according to Leon Panetta and other military leaders, seriously compromise the nation's defenses.

Governor Proposes Pivotal 2013 Budget, Boosts to Medi-Cal, Schools

By Christopher Allen
California Progress Report

California Governor Jerry Brown unveiled his 2013-14 budget proposal yesterday, declaring that the state's lean years of budget deficits are over. In place of dramatic spending cuts, the governor's $97.6 billion dollar plan instead offers modest boosts to school funding, along with an expansion of the Medi-Cal program as the state transitions to its Covered California health benefit exchange in compliance with the federal Affordable Care Act.

Now the Battle Over the Debt Ceiling

By Robert Reich

"It's not all I would have liked," says Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, speaking of the deal on the fiscal cliff, "so on to the debt ceiling."

The battle over the fiscal cliff was only a prelude to the coming battle over raising the debt ceiling - a battle that will likely continue through early March, when the Treasury runs out of tricks to avoid a default on the nation's debt.

The White House's and Democrats' single biggest failure in the cliff negotiations was not getting Republicans' agreement to raise the debt ceiling.

The last time the debt ceiling had to be raised, in 2011, Republicans demanded major cuts in programs for the poor as well as Medicare and Social Security.

School Reform: Why It’s So Hard

By Peter Schrag

Listening to even the best people in California’s school reform discussions doesn’t leave much clarity about the direction our money-starved education system school go or much confidence that things will get perceptibly better any time soon.

Many of those good people know what’s needed. It’s just that they don’t all know the same thing, or don’t know it at the same time. That much at least was apparent once again at last Wednesday’s Sacramento forum on school finance sponsored by PPIC, the Public Policy Institute of California.

What they agreed on was that the fixes of the last thirty or forty years – what state School Board Michael Kirst called “the historical accretion” of programs – wasn’t working. It’s become, someone said, “the Winchester Mystery House” of school finance, rooms added willy-nilly to solve one or another problem. 

Don't Give Up The High Ground In The Tax Fairness Fight

By Isaiah J. Poole

The gauntlet has been thrown down in the tax fairness fight. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced this week that House Republicans will schedule a vote before the August recess on making the Bush tax cuts permanent for everyone, including the rich and super-rich.

The question now is will Democrats continue to give away the high ground in this fight before the battle even begins.

With members in their districts for the Memorial Day recess, it is a good time to tell your member of Congress, face to face if you can, "Stop cutting essential programs for the middle class and economically struggling to protect and even increase tax breaks for the wealthy. Everyone should pay their fair share of taxes. Let those who are doing good in America do right by America."

Molly Munger’s Multi-Million-Dollar Bet

By Peter Schrag

With the $2.1 million she plunked into her school tax initiative campaign last week, Molly Munger is now in for about $6 million and, she says, prepared to spend a lot more.

The conventional political wisdom maintains that Munger, a Los Angeles lawyer and long-time civil rights activist with a deep purse, should get out of the way of Gov. Jerry Brown’s vaguely similar tax proposal – that when voters are confronted with two similar-sounding tax measures on the same ballot they’ll vote against both.

But what if the conventional wisdom is wrong? That’s what Munger believes and she’s prepared to put a lot more of her millions where her mouth is.

Progressives Force Compromise on Jerry Brown-Led Tax Initiative

By David Dayen

A major battle between progressive activists and a sitting governor in the nation’s largest state is nearing a conclusion today. California Governor Jerry Brown and a coalition of progressives have entered into negotiations to finalize a tax measure for the November 2012 ballot, after both sides offered competing plans.

The story is that Brown offered a measure to raise taxes for the ballot, and tied it to various cutbacks to state services. Fail to pass the ballot measure and the cuts would come down. In the world of California, where it takes a 2/3 vote to raise taxes, this was seen as a last resort in the face of resistance from Republicans. However, Brown’s measure included regressive taxes like sales tax increases, and dipped to hit people making as low as $250,000 a year.

The Obama State Of The Union: A Progressive View

By Robert Borosage
Institute for America’s Future

Last night in his State of the Union, President Obama presented himself as the champion of the American dream, or in his words, “the American promise” – “that if you worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, and put a little away for retirement.” And the instrument of recovering that dream was clearly the need for smart, activist government.

Obama described what he considered necessary to revive the promise – and evoked America’s wistful desire for national unity by opening and closing the address by evoking the nation’s pride in its military. The speech was designed to set up the coming presidential campaign, drawing clear contrasts with Republicans, but the tone was more assured than combative. Here’s my take on what was in – and not in – the speech.

I. The Populist Moment Embraced