FROM Ross Kaminsky
The Minimum Wage, Income Inequality and Presidential Politics Two years ago New York City, 200 fast food workers demanded a minimum wage of $15 an hour. They started something. Since then, legal minimums have been raised in red states as well as blue. The current federal floor is $7.25, and President Obama has proposed $10.10. Democrats in Congress are now pushing a federal floor of $12 an hour. Some Republican presidential hopefuls are talking about working class beginnings and cheap off-the-rack sweaters. Are we seeing a political movement? With voters still suffering in the aftermath of the Recession, we look at how income inequality is emerging as a major issue in next year’s campaign.
Will the Campaign Never End? Because of possible runoffs in Louisiana and Georgia, it may be next year before it’s clear if Republicans have taken control of the Senate. Predictions all lead in their direction, but there’s lack of consensus in either party on major issues that have been submerged by relentless attack ads. Gridlock may be the best that President Obama can hope for, with Republicans likely to take harder lines in both the House and the Senate. We hear what to look for in tomorrow’s midterm elections with both parties already focused on the prospects for the next Presidential election in 2016.
America: Democracy or Oligarchy? The evidence is overwhelming. The wealth gap in America is growing. A new study claims that the wealthiest 10% of Americans influence public policy in this country more than any other group. Of that 10%, the top one percent pocketed nearly the entire gains from the recovery from the financial crisis. Yet many pay a lower tax rate than middle class. The top selling book on Amazon is a re-working of Marx's Das Kapital. It argues that income inequality is an inevitable result of free market capitalism, and that it threatens our democratic institutions at almost every turn. Is that just capitalism at work? Has income inequality eroded democracy to a vanishing point? If our country is indeed controlled by the very few and the very rich, how do we level the playing field?
Food Stamps and the Politics of Hunger Families with children, the elderly and the disabled are feeling the first cut ever in the Food Stamp program. Automatic reductions of $5 billion took place on Friday, cutting monthly benefits for 48 million people. For a family of four, that's a reduction of $36 a month, about $1.40 per meal. Democrats are fighting Republican efforts to cut much more, but the Democrats themselves are responsible for what's happening now. As part of the economic stimulus program — and to ease the hardship caused by the Great Recession -- Congress increased Food Stamp benefits in 2009. The number of recipients has doubled in the past six years. Food banks say they may not be able to meet increased need, and low-cost retailers are bracing to take a big hit. Conservatives say cuts have been too long in coming, that Food Stamps create a "culture of dependency." We hear a dispute about economics and hunger.
Nationalism's appeal on both sides of the Atlantic Nationalism, Populism, concerns about immigration and outright racism are part of election campaigns from the US to Europe. We hear how today's election in Holland reflects the recent past and may forecast the future.
Political appointments and the reshaping of the judiciary President Trump has the chance for a long-term impact -- not just on the US Supreme Court, but on the entire federal court system. And his nominees are likely to get the support of a massive spending campaign by donors who don't have to reveal their names. Can President Trump "pack" the federal court system?
The President and America's infrastructure: Bait and switch? President Trump's $1 trillion infrastructure proposal may not be what it seems. We look at the prospects for much-needed improvements in roads, bridges and airports.
Trump's travel ban and the long-term agenda The Trump Administration's revised travel ban may be good news for some visa holders and others, but it's still being challenged as unconstitutional. Some reporters call it the beginning of a long-term effort to change the demographic make-up of the United States.