Month: December 2017

How Is Today’s Warming Different From The Past?

Earth has experienced climate change in the past without help from humanity. We know about past climates because of evidence left in tree rings, layers of ice in glaciers, ocean sediments, coral reefs, and layers of sedimentary rocks. For example, bubbles of air in glacial ice trap tiny samples of Earth’s atmosphere, giving scientists a history of greenhouse gases that stretches back more than 800,000 years. The chemical make-up of the ice provides clues to the average global temperature.



Earth has cycled between ice ages (low points, large negative anomalies) and warm interglacials (peaks). (NASA graph by Robert Simmon, based on data from Jouzel et al., 2007.)

Using this ancient evidence, scientists have built a record of Earth’s past climates, or “paleoclimates.” The paleoclimate record combined with global models shows past ice ages as well as periods even warmer than today. But the paleoclimate record also reveals that the current climatic warming is occurring much more rapidly than past warming events.

As the Earth moved out of ice ages over the past million years, the global temperature rose a total of 4 to 7 degrees Celsius over about 5,000 years. In the past century alone, the temperature has climbed 0.7 degrees Celsius, roughly ten times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming.



Temperature histories from paleoclimate data (green line) compared to the history based on modern instruments (blue line) suggest that global temperature is warmer now than it has been in the past 1,000 years, and possibly longer. (Graph adapted from Mann et al., 2008.)

Models predict that Earth will warm between 2 and 6 degrees Celsius in the next century. When global warming has happened at various times in the past two million years, it has taken the planet about 5,000 years to warm 5 degrees. The predicted rate of warming for the next century is at least 20 times faster. This rate of change is extremely unusual.

The Movement To Divest From Fossil Fuels Is Gaining Momentum

Tuesday should have been a day of unmitigated joy for America’s oil and gas executives. The new G.O.P. tax bill treats their companies with great tenderness, reducing even further their federal tax burden. And the bill gave them something else they’ve sought for decades: permission to go a-drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

But, around four in the afternoon, something utterly unexpected began to happen. A news release went out from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office, saying that New York was going to divest its vast pension-fund investments in fossil fuels. The state, Cuomo said, would be “ceasing all new investments in entities with significant fossil-fuel-related activities,” and he would set up a committee with Thomas DiNapoli, the state comptroller, to figure out how to “decarbonize” the existing portfolio. Cuomo’s office even provided a handy little Twitter meme of the type that activists often create: it showed three smoke-belching stacks and the legend “New York Is Divesting from Fossil Fuels.” The pension fund under Albany’s control totals two hundred billion dollars, making it one of the twenty largest pools of money on Earth.

Not to be outdone, half an hour later the comptroller of the city of New York, Scott Stringer, sent out a similar statement: he, too, was now actively investigating methods for “ceasing additional investments in fossil fuels, divesting current holdings in fossil-fuel companies, and increasing investments in clean energy.” Stringer’s pension funds add up to a hundred and ninety billion dollars—that’s in the top twenty, too.

Climate advocates—many of them at, the nonprofit that I founded—have been working for years to spur divestment from fossil-fuel stocks, and this was perhaps the biggest single day of that campaign, which in turn is the largest divestment campaign in history. With Tuesday’s announcements, the endowments and portfolios engaged in the process collectively manage more than six trillion dollars in assets. More important, Cuomo and Stringer sent the signal that, in the very center of world finance, sentiment is turning sharply against fossil-fuel investing. Activists have urged divestment for what you might call moral reasons: if it’s wrong to wreck the planet, it’s wrong to profit from the wreckage. But pension funds are willing to divest because they’ve come to believe that the future is not about coal and oil and gas—that these are now on the decline. The future lies elsewhere.

These divestments won’t happen overnight; Cuomo will have to persuade DiNapoli to coöperate, and in any event no one wants a fire sale of stocks at depressed prices. But the announcements offered an encouraging echo of other recent developments. Norway, for instance, last month began work to divest its giant sovereign-wealth fund, which is bigger even than New York’s combined pensions. The World Bank, last week, said it would no longer be lending money for oil and gas exploration. It’s not that the fossil-fuel industry will go bankrupt overnight; its supporters, including Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, will give it all the love they can. But the shift in the Zeitgeist has been dramatic. The same day that Cuomo was pumping out divestment memes, the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, sent out a tweet announcing that his country would no longer grant any licenses for oil and gas exploration in its various territories. He concluded with “#keepitintheground,” a hashtag until now confined to campaigners.

Tuesday’s news is also a reminder that, as thoroughly as Trump and the G.O.P. have captured D.C., there are other arenas in which to fight them. New York State is, obviously, smaller than the federal government, but it’s not that small. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, for instance, has been using state statutes to bedevil ExxonMobil, investigating the company’s sordid coverup of our climate peril. It’s likely that the actions of the pension funds will prove contagious to some degree. Other states and cities will begin to wonder whether they’re going to be left holding the bag.

It would make the most sense, of course, to have a concerted global battle against climate change—it is, after all, the first truly global problem we’ve ever faced. But this Administration will not fight it, as Trump’s recent pullout from the Paris climate accords showed. So if the battle, instead, is going to be local, three hundred and ninety billion dollars is a pretty good haul for one day. New York may be an empire in name only, but on Tuesday it demonstrated a global reach.

The American Dream Is At Stake If Low-Income Earners Can’t Own A Home

Even as multiple people rightfully express concerns over the federal tax bill, we should not lose sight of one of the major pillars of homeownership; Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) exist to make the promise of homeownership attainable for individuals of low- and moderate means.

For many people, the dream of homeownership is only attainable through federal guarantees, or loans insured by the federal government. The federal backing provided by the GSEs ensures banks will be paid if the borrower defaults on their loan. This guarantee is critical for the borrower and the lender, as it protects them both.

Without this critical guarantee, many banks would be unwilling to finance home loans, making the promise of the American dream elusive for hardworking families.

As successful as this program has been, it is now in trouble. However, to understand the present, one must consider the past.

At the height of the 2008 housing crisis, the federal government took control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The decision to take control of the GSEs was a protective one. The federal government wanted to ensure the GSEs would be around for the long term. Similar to the federal government takeover of General Motors, the conservatorship worked, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac returned to profitability.

Nearly 10 years into the government’s conservatorship, these agencies are now profitable. Even though the GSEs are performing well, the government still owns a significant percent of stock in the GSEs and continues to take dividends from its shares, rather than allowing them to capitalizeThis puts the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in jeopardy.

The housing crisis of 2008 may be fading from our nation’s collective memory, but policymakers in Washington, D.C. shouldn’t resign to letting a critical piece of unfinished business — the future role of the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — stay unfinished.

Unfortunately, that’s the path we’re on. The House Financial Services Committee is considering HR 4560, the GSE Jumpstart Reauthorization Act of 2017.

Despite the fancy name, the bill may further erode Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, again two key pillars supporting homeownership. The bill threatens to cut funding for the Housing Trust Fund should the Federal Housing Finance Agency retain quarterly earnings. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), wants the quarterly earnings returned to the U.S. Treasury, which would starve the GSEs of desperately needed funding. While returning the profits bolsters the federal government, it strips away money which Fannie and Freddie rely on to stay profitable.

If the Federal Housing Finance Agency goes under, borrowers as well as small, community banks are the ones who will suffer. At a time when many households already feel like the rug has been pulled from underneath them, starving the agency of resources is an especially low blow.

As a former state lawmaker who served at the height of the crisis and in the years of recovery shortly thereafter, I know firsthand how important home ownership is in communities across the country. Washington should set forth a comprehensive path for the mortgage lenders to continue to provide equal opportunity for all Americans. 

As our nation’s leaders consider reforming our housing finance system, they should remember that expanding access to the American dream of homeownership should be the overarching policy objective. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which package mortgages and incentivize banks to provide home loans in underserved or unserved communities, are vital players in the conversation. Their role should not be diminished. 

Our elected officials should focus on comprehensive housing finance reform and a path out of the “temporary” conservatorship of Fannie and Freddie that has lasted for nearly 10 years. Without them, many families would not be able to own a home.

GOP Tax Plan Viewpoints

With any piece of legislation, it is important to understand the reasons that people give for why it should be implemented, why it should not be implemented, and the data behind those reasons. The GOP tax plan is the largest overhaul in U.S. history. As we read about this piece of legislation, many of us  exist in echo chambers where we can only read and see one viewpoint. 

In this article, we expose you to varying viewpoints on the tax plan


On December 6th, Senator Mitch McConnell put out a press release entitled “One Step Closer to Tax Reform.” In this press release he indicates his support for the bill, the process, and his colleagues.

Specifically, he argues that the bill is much needed, and wanted, reform: ” Senators answered the calls of our constituents by voting to overhaul our complex and outdated federal tax code. We seized the opportunity to spur economic growth, to help create jobs right here at home, and to take more money out of Washington’s pocket and put more money into the pockets of hardworking American families”

He also points positively to portions of the bill that repeal the individual mandate and expands drilling opportunities in Alaska: ““Our bill also helps provide for our country’s energy security by further developing Alaska’s oil and gas potential in an environmentally responsible way. And it delivers relief to low- and middle-income Americans by repealing Obamacare’s individual mandate tax.”


The Senate vote on the tax plan was almost completely on party line. However, there was one Republican Senator who voted against the tax plan.

In his press release from December first, Senator Corker states that he was not able to vote for the plan due to the large increase to the federal deficit within the plan.

“My concern about the impact a rapidly growing $20 trillion national debt will have on our children and grandchildren has been a guiding principle throughout my time in public service… From the beginning of this debate, I have been a cheerleader for legislation that – while allowing for current policy assumptions and reasonable dynamic scoring – would not add to the deficit and set rates that are permanent in nature.”

He argues that “pro-growth policies” are not mutually exclusive from deficit neutral policies and says that he believes ” it would have been fairly easy to alter the bill in a way that would have been more fiscally sound without harming the pro-growth policies.”

The decision to vote agains the tax plan was clearly a difficult one for him. However, his commitment to reducing the debt was the stronger influence on Senator Corker.


The House was the first chamber of Congress to pass their version of the GOP tax plan on November 16th. Before it was passed, Representative Raúl Grijalva put out a press release outlining his opposition to the bill.

He states that he opposes it due to the fact that the economic theory upon which the plan is based has never worked: “The details of the Trump-Ryan tax plan reveal the same-old tried-and failed formula of trickle-down economics that does nothing to help America’s working families…History shows that massive corporate tax cuts do nothing to spur job growth and in many cases corporations who have reaped those benefits end up cutting American jobs.”

The redistribution of wealth, and ultimate outsourcing of jobs in the bill was also a point of contention for Senator Grijalva: “In ten-year’s time, 80% of the Republican’s tax breaks will exclusively benefit the top 1% of those making close to a million dollars, while one in four Americans will see a tax increase. This tax plan is a complete scam that does little to help working families.” and “Their territorial international plan is the ultimate job outsourcer by ending or dramatically lowering taxes on foreign profits and cementing the practice of offshoring American jobs.”

Senator Grijalva warns that this bill (and particularly the increase to the deficit) “provides Republicans with the ammunition they are after to force trillions of dollars in cuts from Social Security, Medicaid, education and other essential programs.”


On December 2nd, Independent Senator Angus King also put forward a press release opposing the GOP tax bill after its passage.

He first criticizes the way in which the bill was passed: “I’m disappointed, and I’m angry, because the American people deserve better. For months, moderates in the Senate reached across the aisle to colleagues – and friends – asking them to sit down and work together on a commonsense tax reform bill that supports hardworking Americans and fosters economic growth for businesses in Maine and across the country. In other words: to govern.”

Next, he argues that this bill does not do help hardworking Americans, instead, it raises the deficit and places the burden on American children: “This Senate has decided to pass a bill that helps the few instead of the many, and shifts a massive financial burden onto our children. Rather than maximize this opportunity to help working Americans and set our nation on a path to further prosperity, this bill pushes through at least $1 trillion in unfunded tax cuts for the wealthy and for corporations.”

An Open Letter To The US Congress

The letter about the GOP tax plan below was signed by over 200 PhD economists. It states their opposition to the GOP tax plan and their reasoning behind their statement.

December 5, 2017

An Open Letter to the U.S. Congress

The tax plan will have disastrous consequences for the American people

Dear Senators and Representatives:

The current tax plan will prove ineffective at best. More likely, it will further the collapse of wages and widen the already dangerous levels of income and wealth inequality that have become so obvious that both political parties referenced them during the 2016 presidential campaign. Our central problem is not insufficient profits for corporations. Consumers, not employers, are the real job creators and cutting the corporate tax rate won’t jumpstart the economy. The key to getting businesses to hire and invest is to swamp them with demand for their products, something that is accomplished by raising the incomes of the poor and the middle-class and not those at the very top of the income distribution. Unfortunately, not only have the former faced stagnating wages and unemployment, but they are burdened by mortgage debt, credit card debt, student debt, and payday loan debt. Little wonder this has been the weakest recovery in the post-World War Two era.

Cut taxes for the poor and the middle class and we will see an increase in wages and the creation of the kind of full-time jobs that we so desperately need. Cut corporate tax rates and corporations will end up sitting on an even bigger stockpile of cash. Period. There is no reason to believe that any jobs would come back to the United States or that more funds would be invested here. Firms invest because they expect strong demand for their products, not simply because they have higher profits. Strong demand will only materialize if consumers are empowered with higher wages and relieved of their debt burden.

We, the undersigned economists, stand firmly opposed to the President’s tax plan. Reforms of some sort are not unwarranted, but if our goal is to improve the lives of American workers then this is absolutely not the route to take. Indeed, it may prove to be disastrous. Tax cuts that create economic growth start at the bottom, not at the top. It is not too late to make the current bill into something that could spur growth and employment and usher in a new era of prosperity for all Americans.


John T. Harvey, Professor of Economics, Texas Christian University, TX

Stephanie Kelton, Professor of Public Policy and Economics, Stony Brook University, NY

Fadhel Kaboub, Associate Professor of Economics, Denison University, OH

James K. Galbraith, Lloyd M. Bentsen Jr. Chair in Government/Business Relations and a Professorship of Government, the LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas, Austin, TX

Aaron Pacitti, Associate Professor of Economics and the Douglas T. Hickey Chair in Business, Siena College, NY

Agnes Quisumbing, PhD Economics, Senior Research Fellow at International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington DC

Al Campbell, Emeritus Professor of Economics, University of Utah, UT

Alan Aja, Associate Professor and Deputy Chairperson Puerto Rican and Latino Studies, Brooklyn College, NY

Alexander Binder, Assistant Professor of Economics, Finance & Banking, Pittsburg State University, KS

Alexandra Bernasek, Sr. Associate Dean & Professor of Economics, Colorado State University, CO

Alfonso Flores-Lagunes, Professor of Economics, Syracuse University, NY

Allison Shwachman Kaminaga, PhD, Lecturer in Economics, Bryant University, MA

Andrew Barenberg, Assistant Professor of Economics, St. Martin’s University, WA

Andrew Larkin, Emeritus Professor of Economics, St Cloud State University, MN

Anita Dancs, Associate Professor of Economics, Western New England University, MA

Antonio Callari, Professor of Economics, Franklin and Marshall College, PA

Antonio J. Fernós-Sagebien, PhD Economist

Arthur MacEwan, Professor Emeritus of Economics, University of Massachusetts Boston, MA

Avanti Mukherjee, Assistant Professor of Economics, SUNY Cortland, NY

Avraham Baranes, Assistant Professor of Economics, Rollins College, FL

Baban Hasnat, Professor of Economics, The College of Brockport, SUNY, NY

Barbara Wiens-Tuers, Associate Professor of Economics Ermerita, Penn State Altoona, PA

Bernard Smith, Associate Professor of Economics, Drew University, NJ

Bill Luker Jr, PhD economist

Brian Werner, PhD Economist

Bruce Pietrykowski, Professor of Economics, University of Michigan at Dearborn, MI

Cameron Ellis, Assistant Professor of Economics, Temple University, PA

Carol Scotton, Associate Professor of Economics, Knox College, IL

Charalampos Konstantinidis, Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts at Boston, MA

Charles Becker, Research Professor of Economics, Duke University, NC

Charu Charusheela, Professor, Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, University of Washington, Bothell, WA

Chiara Piovani, Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Denver, CO

Chris Tilly, PhD in Economics and Urban Studies and Planning, Professor of Urban Planning at UCLA, CA

Christopher Brown, Professor of Economics, Arkansas State University, AR

Clara Mattei, Assistant Professor of Economics, New School for Social Research, NY

Dale Tussing, Professor Emeritus of Economics, Syracuse University, NY

Dania Francis, Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, MA

Daniel Lawson, Professor of Economics, Oakland Community College, MI

Daniele Tavani, Associate Professor of Economics, Colorado State University, CO

Daphne Greenwood, Professor of Economics, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, CO

Darrick Hamilton, Associate Professor of Economics and Urban Policy at The Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy and the Department of Economics, New School for Social Research, NY

David Eil, Assistant professor of Economics, George Mason University, VA

David Zalewski, Professor of Economics, Providence College, RI

Dell Champlin, PhD economist, Instructor of Economics, Oregon State University, OR

Devin T. Rafferty, Assistant Professor of Economics and Finance, Saint Peter’s University, NJ

Don Goldstein, Emeritus Professor of Economics, Allegheny College, PA

Dorene Isenberg, Professor of Economics, University of Redlands, CA

Douglas Bowles, Assistant Director, Center for Economic Information, University of Missouri at Kansas City, MO

Edith Kuiper, Assistant Professor of Economics, SUNY New Paltz, NY

Edward J Nell, Emeritus Professor, New School for Social Research, NY, and Vice-President, Henry George School of Social Science, Chief Economist, RECIPCO Corp

Eiman Zein-Elabdin, Professor of Economics, Franklin & Marshall College, PA

Elaine McCrate, Associate Professor of Economics and Women’s and Gender Studies, University of Vermont, VT

Elba Brown-Collier, PhD Economist

Elhussien Mansour, PhD Economist

Elizabeth Ramey, Associate Professor of Economics at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, NY

Emily Blank, Associate Professor of Economics, Howard University, Washington DC

Ellis Scharfenaker, Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Missouri – Kansas City, MO

Enid Arvidson, Ph.D. economist, Associate Professor, College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs, University of Texas at Arlington, TX

Eric Tymoigne, Associate Professor of Economics at Lewis and Clark College, Portland, OR

Erik Dean, Ph.D., Instructor of Economics, Portland Community College, OR

F. Gregory Hayden, Professor of Economics (retired), University of Nebraska-Lincoln, NE

Farida Khan, Professor of Economics, University of Wisconsin at Parkside, WI

Fatma Gul Unal, Assistant Professor of Economics, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, NY

Firat Demir, Associate Professor of Economics, University of Oklahoma Norman, OK

Flavia Dantas, Associate Professor of Economics, SUNY Cortland, NY

Frank McLaughlin, Associate Professor of Economics (retired), Boston College, MA

Fred Moseley, Professor of Economics, Mount Holyoke College, MA

Frederic Jennings, PhD economist, Economic Consultant, MA

Gary Mongiovi, Associate Professor of Economics and Finance, St. John’s University, NY

Geoffrey Schneider, Professor of Economics, Bucknell University, PA

George DeMartino, PhD economist, Professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver, CO

Gerald Epstein, Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts Amherst, MA

Glen Atkinson, Foundation Professor of Economics Emeritus, University of Nevda, Reno, NV

Haider A. Khan, John Evans Distinguished University Professor, Professor of Economics, University of Denver, CO

Haimanti Bhattacharya, Associate Professor of Economics, University of Utah, UT

Haydar Kurban, Associate Professor of Economics, Howard University, Washington DC

Hector Saez, PhD economist, Faculty in Community Economic Development, Chatham University, PA

Howard Stein, Professor in the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies (DAAS) and the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Michigan, MI

Hyun Woong Park, Assistant Professor of Economics, Denison University, OH

Ilene Grabel, Professor of Economics in the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, CO

James G. Devine, Professor of Economics, Loyola Marymount University, CA

James Sturgeon, Professor of Economics, University of Missouri – Kansas City, MO

Jeffrey S. Zax, Professor of Economics, University of Colorado Boulder, CO

Jennifer Olmsted, Professor of Economics, Drew University, NJ

Jim Peach, Regents and Chevron Endowed Professor of Economics, Applied Statistics, and International Business, New Mexico State University, NM

Joelle Leclaire, Associate Professor of Economics and Finance, SUNY Buffalo State, NY.

Johan Uribe, Assistant Professor of Economics, Denison University, OH

John Dennis Chasse, PhD economist

John Hall, Professor of Economics, Portland State University, OR

John F. Henry, Professor of Economics (retired), California State University, Sacramento, CA

John Sarich, Economist at New York City Department of Finance and Cooper Union, NY

John Willoughby, Professor of Economics, American University, Washington DC

Jon Wisman, Professor of Economics at American University, Washington DC

Jonathan Cogliano, Assistant Professor of Economics, Dickinson College, PA

Jonathan Millman, Lecturer in Economics at University of Massachusetts at Boston, MA

Jonathan Wight, Professor of International Economics, University of Richmond, VA

Jose Caraballo, Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Puerto Rico, PR

Joseph Vavrus, Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Redlands, CA

Julie Nelson, Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts Boston, MA

Julio Huato, Associate Professor of Economics, Francis College, NY

June Lapidus, Associate Professor of Economics, Roosevelt University, IL

Karl Petrick, Assistant Professor of Economics, Western New England University, MA

Katherine Moos, Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Economist at the Political Economy Research Institute, MA

Kazim Konyar, Professor of Economics, California State University, San Bernardino, CA

Kimberly Christensen, Professor of Economics, Sarah Lawrence College, NY

Korkut Erturk, Professor of Economics, University of Utah, UT

Lance Taylor, Arnhold Professor Emeritus, New School for Social Research, NY

Laurence Krause, Associate Professor and Chair of Economics, SUNY Old Westbury, NY

Laurie DeMarco, Principal Economist Federal Reserve System, Washington DC

Leanne Roncolato, Assistant Professor of Economics, Franklin and Marshall College, PA

Linda Loubert, Associate Professor and Interim Chair of Economics at Morgan State University

Linwood Tauheed, Associate Professor of Economics, University of Missouri-Kansas City, MO

Lorenzo Garbo, Professor of Economics, University of Redlands, CA

Maggie R. Jones, PhD Economist, Washington DC

Maliha Safri, Associate Professor of Economics, Drew University, NJ

Marc Tomljanovich, Professor of Economics and Business, Executive Director of Business Programs, Director, Wall Street Semester Program, Drew University, NJ

Marilyn Power, Professor Emerita of Economics, Sarah Lawrence College, NY

Mark Maier, Professor of Economics, Glendale Community College, CA

Mark Paul, Postdoctoral Associate at the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity, Duke University, NC

Mark Setterfield, Professor of Economics, New School for Social Research, NY

Marlene Kim, Faculty Staff Union President and Professor Department of Economics, University of Massachusetts Boston, MA

Mary King, Professor of Economics, Portland State University, OR

Mathew Forstater, Professor of Economics, University of Missouri Kansas City, MO

Mayo Toruno, Professor Emeritus, California State University, San Bernardino, CA

Mehrene Larudee, Associate Professor of Economics, Hampshire College, MA

Michael Hudson, Professor of Economics, University of Missouri in Kansas City, MO, and Research Scholar at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, NY

Michael J. Murray, Associate Professor of Economics, Bemidji State University, MN

Michael Meeropol, Professor of Economics (retired), Wester New England University, MA

Michael Nuwer, Professor of Economics, SUNY Potsdam, NY

Michalis Nikiforos, Research Scholar at the Levy Economics Institute, NY

Mitch Green, PhD economist

Mona Ali, Assistant Professor of Economics, SUNY New Paltz, NY

Nancy Bertaux, Professor of Economics & Sustainability, Xavier University, OH

Nancy Folbre, Professor Emerita of Economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, MA

Nancy Rose, Professor of Economics, California State University, San Bernardino, CA

Nasrin Shahinpoor, Professor of Economics, Hanover College, IN

Nathaniel Cline, Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Redlands CA

Neva Goodwin, Co-Director of the Global Development And Environment Institute, Tufts University, MA

Nicholas Reksten, Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Redlands, CA

Nicholas Shunda, Associate Professor of Economics, University of Redlands, CA

Nina Banks, Associate Professor of Economics, Bucknell University, PA

Nurul Aman, Senior Lecturer in Economics, University of Massachusetts at Boston, MA

Omar S. Dahi, Associate Professor of Economics, Hampshire College, MA

Patrick Walsh, Associate Professor of Economics, St. Michael’s College, VT

Paul Smolen, Vice President Fox Smolen and Associates (formerly economist at the Public Utility Commission of Texas), TX

Paula Cole, Teaching Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Denver, CO

Pavlina R. Tcherneva, Chair and Associate Professor of Economics, Bard College, NY

Peter Bohmer, Economics Faculty, Evergreen State College, WA

Peter Eaton, Associate Professor of Economics, Director of the Center for Economic Information, University of Missouri at Kansas City, MO

Peter Dorman, Professor of Political Economy, Evergreen State College, WA

Philip Harvey, Professor of Law and Economics, Rutgers University, NJ

Praopan Pratoomchat, Assistant Professor, School of Business and Economics, University of Wisconsin Superior, WI

Pratistha Joshi, Postdoc Scholar at Global Development and Environment Institute, Tufts University, MA

Radhika Balakrishnan, Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, Rutgers University, NJ

Raechelle Mascarenhas, Associate Professor of Economics, Willamette University, OR

Ramaa Vasudevan, Associate Professor of Economics, Colorado State University, CO

Randy Albelda, Graduate Program Director and Professor of Economics, and Senior Research Fellow, Center for Social Policy, University of Massachusetts at Boston, MA

Reynold F. Nesiba, Professor of Economics, Augustana University, SD

Richard D. Wolff, Professor of Economics Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA, and currently visiting Professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School University, NY

Richard McGahey, PhD in economics, former Executive Director of the Congressional Joint Economic Committee

Robert Blecker, Professor of Economics, American University, Washington DC

Robert Pollin, Distinguished Professor of Economics and Co-Director of the Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, MA

Robert Scott III, Professor of Economics and Finance, Monmouth University, NJ

Robin L. Bartlett, Professor of Economics, Denison University, OH

Rodney Green, Professor, Chair and Executive Director, Center for Urban Progress Department of Economics, Howard University, Washington DC

Roger Even Bove, Professor of Economics & Finance (retired), West Chester University, PA

Ross M. LaRoe, Associate Professor of Economics Emeritus, Denison University, OH

Rudiger von Arnim, Associate Professor of Economics, University of Utah, UT

Sarah Jacobson, Associate Professor of Economics, Williams College, MA

Savvina Chowdhury, Ph.D., Economics Faculty, Evergreen State College, WA

Scott Carter, Associate Professor of Economics, University of Tulsa, OK

Scott Fullwiler, Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Missouri at Kansas City, MO

Shaianne Osterreich, Associate Professor of Economics, Ithaca College, NY

Shakuntala Das, Assistant Professor of Economics, SUNY Potsdam, NY

Sheila Martin, Director of the Population Research Center and of the Institute of Portland Metropolitan Studies, Service and Research Centers, Portland State University, OR

Sohrab Behdad, John E. Harris Professor of Economics, Denison University, OH

Spencer Pack, Professor of Economics, Connecticut College, CT

Sripad Motiram, Associate Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts Boston, MA

Stacey Jones, PhD Economics, Senior Instructor of Economics, Seattle University, WA

Stephanie Seguino, Professor of Economics, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT

Stephen Bannister, Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Utah, UT

Steven Pressman, Professor of Economics, Colorado State University, CA

Sujata Verma, Professor of Economics at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, CA

Susan Feiner, Professor of Economics and Women and Gender Studies, University of Southern Maine, ME

Tara Natarajan, Professor of Economics, St. Michael’s College, VT

Ted Schmidt, Associate Professor of Economics, SUNY Buffalo State, NY

Teresa Ghilarducci, Professor of Economics, New School for Social Research, NY

Thea Harvey-Barratt, Faculty in Economics, Bard College at Simon’s Rock, MA

Thomas DelGiudice, Adjunct Associate Professor of Economics, Hofstra University, CA

Thomas Herndon, Assistant Professor, Loyola Marymount University, CA

Thomas Kemp, Professor of Economics, University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, WI

Thomas Lambert, Lecturer of Economics, University of Louisville, KY

Tim Koechlin, PhD economist, Vassar College, NY

Tim Miller, JP Morgan Chase Professor of Economics, Denison University, OH

Valerie Kepner, Department Chairperson and Associate Professor of Economics, King’s College, PA

Vange Ocasio, Assistant Professor of Economics, Whitworth University, WA

Will Milberg, Dean and Professor of Economics, New School for Social Research, NY

William Darity Jr, Samuel DuBois Cook Professor of Public Policy, African and African American Studies, and Economics, and Director of the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity, Duke University, NC

William McColloch, Assistant Professor of Economics, Keene State College, NH

William Van Lear, Professor of Economics, Belmont Abbey College, NC

William Waller, Professor of Economics at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, NY

Xiao Jiang, Assistant Professor of Economics, Denison University, OH

Yahya Madra, Visiting Associate Professor of Economics, Drew University, NJ

Yan Liang, Associate Professor of Economics, Willamette University, OR

Yasemin Dildar, Assistant Professor of Economics, California State University San Bernardino, CA

Yavuz Yasar, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Denver, CO

Yeva Nersisyan, Associate Professor of Economics, Franklin & Marshall College, PA

Ying Chen, Assistant Professor of Economics, New School for Social Research, NY

Zarrina Juraqulova, Assistant Professor of Economics, Denison University, OH

Zdravka Todorova, Associate Professor and Chair of Economics, Wright State University, OH

Zoe Sherman, Assistant Professor of Economics, Merrimack College, MA

The GOP’s Rush To Tax Cuts Was Brainless

I am writing from Beijing, China, where forward-looking policies in infrastructure, technology and diplomacy have fueled rapid economic growth and even more remarkable technological advancement. By the mid-2020s, China will most likely lead the world in key technologies for low-carbon energy, robotics and advanced transportation, among other areas targeted in China’s long-term development strategy.

In this context, the vacuity of US economic policy is especially poignant. President Donald Trump and Republican congressional leaders are rushing to spend a trillion dollars or more on unaffordable tax cuts for the richest Americans in a stunning monument to brainlessness.

The analyses by the Congressional Budget Office, the Joint Tax Committee and almost all independent experts come to the same conclusion. The tax cuts will have large effects on the budget deficit and negative effects for low-income Americans. The CBO has found that healthcare measures in the bill would reduce health coverage by 13 million Americans in 2027. The Joint Tax Committee has found that the growth effects are tiny and perhaps negative in the long term, once various short-term tax incentives are phased out and the public debt increases over time.

Does any of this matter to the President, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and most Republican members of Congress? No. The mega-donors of the Republican Party, who pull the strings, will reap vast tax savings whether or not there is growth, huge deficits, soaring public debt or harm to the poor. Trump and family will win big, despite Trump’s absurd claims to the contrary. This is a cabal that long ago gave up any interest for mainstream Americans, much less for the down and out.

What has happened to American democracy? It has gotten poisoned by partisanship and by big money, in both parties. In early 2009, President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi designed a “stimulus” bill behind closed doors at the cost of almost $1 trillion. They claimed at the time, wrongly in my view, that hundreds of billions of dollars of hastily-designed transfer payments and other public outlays were necessary to save the country from a great depression. They passed that mega-spending bill without a single Republican vote in the House of Representatives. Paul Krugman assured us at the time, and for a long time after, that deficits in a recession don’t matter (despite the fact that the debt would remain well after the downturn was over). Eight years later, the public debt is at 77% of GDP, up from around 39% at the time of the stimulus legislation.

Now the Republicans are doing the same thing — passing a budget-busting bill without a single Democrat on their side, and before anybody has had a moment to read it. They will drive the government debt far higher, perhaps to 100% of GDP, since the current baseline is one of high and rising deficits over the coming decade. Their proposed legislation is far more noxious than the 2009 stimulus, since the tax cuts are designed to flow to the richest Americans, at a direct and immediate cost to poor Americans.

I’m amazed that we even had the last-minute reports by the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Tax Committee, so determined were Trump and the Republicans to vote without any evidence at all. The President, for his part, has repeatedly smeared the CBO to discredit any honest non-partisan thinking in Washington.

Our political crisis is so dire that we will be lucky to avoid a nuclear war, much less a soaring budget deficit. The world looks on in fear and astonishment, with the overpowering sense that America has become a danger to itself and the world, shortsighted, deeply divided and unwilling to consider the common good.

How Net Neutrality Works

This video from CNN money gives a succinct explanation of the Net Neutrality issue. 

It begins with a metaphor: Internet is currently provided like a highway “vehicles, or content providers, can’t pay more to use a special fast lane.” Under current FCC rules, the internet is treated like a public utility. The video then outlines the issue if those net neutrality rules were to go away: “if Net Neutrality ends, some companies are going to be stuck in the slow lane and customers might stop using sites that never seem to load.”

The video then covers both sides of the Net Neutrality argument: the current FCC administration or telecom companies argue that government regulation stifles innovation, while tech companies and consumer advocacy groups argue that freedom is the paramount issue and that getting rid of net neutrality would allows internet providers too much control over internet use.


You’re The Real Job Creator – An Interview With Stephanie Kelton

As the GOP tax plan, officially known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, awaits reconciliation with the House, the threat of a mounting deficit is once again in the news.

According to the bipartisan Joint Committee on Taxation and the Congressional Budget Office, the tax plan will add roughly $1 trillion to the deficit over the next ten years—almost enough money to abolish student loan debt ($1.4 trillion). Democrats, who in the past two decades have grown increasingly cautious about federal spending, were quick to note the hypocrisy of the even more hawkish Republican party. What happened to protecting our children from the crushing burden of the national debt?

But while there are many things to fear in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act—a windfall for the rich at the expense of the poor, permission to drill in a wildlife refuge—the growing deficit should not be one of them. On the contrary, obsessing over the deficit could further imperil those whom the tax bill leaves worst off. In this interview, Stephanie Kelton, a professor of economics at Stony Brook University and former economic advisor to Bernie Sanders, explains why.



You recently shared a video in which you explain what the federal budget deficit is and what it’s not. I was hoping you could elaborate on that: How does the deficit differ from what people think it is?
It would be easier to answer if we could figure out what people think it is, so let’s start there. I think the most accurate way to portray it is that people think deficits are bad because they think they’re evidence that the government is overspending. In fact, when I served on the US Senate Budget Committee as the chief economist for the Democrats, I sat through many, many hearings called by the majority where the chairman, Senator Mike Enzi, would repeat variations on that phrase: “a deficit is evidence of overspending.”

I’d sit in the backbenches behind Senator Sanders and just kind of shake my head. Because as all economists know, a deficit isn’t evidence of overspending, inflation is evidence of overspending. A deficit is just evidence that the government put more money into the economy than it took out.

In the video, I try to explain it with very simple numbers. Say the government puts $100 into the economy and takes $90 out. The government’s books will show a deficit of $10. If the government spends more than it takes out in a given period of time, say a fiscal year, it’s recorded as a government deficit. OK. But what about the rest of the books in the economy? If all we do is focus on the government’s ledger, we’re looking at the picture with one eye shut. What people should understand is that when the government runs a deficit, it’s adding dollars to the economy. Somebody gets those dollars. If the government adds $100 and only takes back $90, somebody in the economy ends up with $10 they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

The real question to ask is: Why did the government run the deficit? What was it trying to achieve? Was it the product of spending to repair crumbling infrastructure, or to better fund schools, or to give greater aid to the sick and the poor? Or if the deficit increased because the government cut taxes, why did they do that? To lift the incomes of households that haven’t seen real wage gains for many decades? Once you know, you can at least have a conversation: “Well, that’s where the money went.” But to just look at the deficit and say that it’s good or bad without any further information is crazy.

Of course, that’s what we all do. We judge the government’s behavior as if smaller deficits are by definition good, bigger deficits are by definition bad, and a balanced budget is by definition the goal. All of that, in my view, is just getting it wrong.

One point of confusion is where the money for the federal budget comes from. Most people assume the US government runs on taxpayer dollars, because that’s how it works on the state level: local schools are paid for by taxpayers, et cetera. But you’ve written before that unlike individuals or local governments, the federal government doesn’t need to “get” money from anywhere before it can spend it. Can you say more about the difference?
It is absolutely true that states, municipalities, and local governments depend on tax revenue in order to fund themselves. It is absolutely untrue that the federal government of the United States depends on tax revenue to fund itself. The United States government is the issuer of our currency—the US dollar. It has to spend dollars before the rest of us can get any. Households, local governments, private businesses, state governments—they are all users of the dollar. They have to get dollars in order to spend them. That’s the big difference.

Not only do people tend to think of the government like a household—believing it can’t go on spending more than it takes in, taking on more and more debt and never paying off all its debt—they also assume they can draw parallels between the federal budget and a state budget. For example, many people who should and probably do know better have used Kansas to argue that massive tax cuts will leave the federal government without the revenue it needs to operate, just as they did in the state of Kansas. Governor Brownback massively cut taxes on the advice of Arthur Laffer, Reagan’s former economic adviser, who was hired as a consultant to the Republicans and was paid a hefty sum of $75,000. The experiment did not work the way Brownback and other Republicans told voters it would. It didn’t attract companies and businesses and jobs, it didn’t create so much growth that revenues exploded. Instead it bled the coffers—because the state does need revenue from taxes to fund itself. You can’t do Reaganomics at the state level. When revenues crashed in Kansas, they ended up cutting funding for schools and other programs. It was a disaster.

You wrote in the Times that the reason to oppose the GOP tax bill is not the projected deficit but the fact that it’s a tax break for the rich. I can understand being fixated on cutting taxes as a way to lift your income, if you’re a regular person and haven’t seen any real wage growth in decades, but why would any non-rich person support this bill when it’s not even a tax break for them?
It’s kind of interesting. Anecdotally, some people have written me and said they’re talking to low-income people who are OK, actually, with the fact that most of the benefits go to those at the very top. People are saying, “Well, they are the people who hire people like me.” So the Republicans have been effective, I think, in selling this trickle-down idea that the wealthy and businesses are the real job-creators in the economy. I don’t know if that’s representative of millions of Americans or whether I’m just seeing an exception to the rule, but I am hearing, second-hand, poor people saying basically they don’t mind.

And yet there’s no good reason to believe that the people getting these tax cuts will spend in a way that creates jobs. You mentioned something in your video called “the marginal propensity to consume.” Can you explain that?
The marginal propensity to consume is the likelihood that if you get an extra margin, that extra dollar, you will spend it or spend part of it into the economy. A very poor person has an MPC of 99 percent or more: give them an extra dollar, or an extra $100, and they will spend virtually all of it, just because they’re surviving on so little. But if you give a tax break to someone like Oprah Winfrey or Bill Gates, and they get an additional dollar or $100 or $1,000, their MPC is something like 0.01 percent. They’re only going to spend a penny out of any additional $100 they get, because they already have enough to buy whatever it is they want to buy.

And when I say spend, I mean buying newly produced goods and services in the economy so that it adds to the GDP. Say you’re Jay Leno—you’re a car guy, you have lots and lots of money, and you get a windfall from these Republican tax cuts. If you go out and buy a classic Corvette convertible or whatever manufactured in the 1950s, that’s not adding to the GDP, because that car was already added to GDP the year it was first purchased. If you buy somebody else’s mansion, that doesn’t add to GDP. If you buy stocks and bonds and investments, or you buy a Picasso, that doesn’t boost GDP. 

As a result of this bill, the ultra-rich—I’m talking about the one-tenth of 1 percent—will see on average about a quarter of a million dollars in additional income per year. People like Bill Gates and Oprah will get a lot more, but the average household in the one-tenth of 1 percent will see about a quarter of a million dollars. How much of that quarter million will they turn around and spend into the economy, creating demand that leads to higher sales that tell business they can produce more and hire people?

Remember a few weeks ago when John Bussey from the Wall Street Journal asked that room full of CEOs how many of them intended to create new jobs with money they’d save from the tax cuts, and only a handful raised their hands? Gary Cohn, Trump’s economic adviser, was embarrassed. He said, “Why aren’t the other hands up?” Well, the answer is that businesses don’t hire when profits go up, they hire when sales go up. That’s what drives hiring and investment. Businesses do not want to hire; the last thing they want to do is put another employee on payroll, train them, and provide them with health care. You have to make them hire. You have to swamp them with customers and create such strong demand for their product that they have no choice but to add staff.

This is where I would put the focus. The Republicans are doing the old trickle-down thing, “We’ll give the money to the people at the very top and somehow it will incentivize them to go out and start businesses in the US, or bring businesses domiciled abroad back home.” No, it won’t. The real job creators are the American consumers. It’s a shame that more consumers don’t know that: You’re the real job creator. If people have rising income, secure jobs, better pay, higher wages, they’re spending more in the economy—that’s the demand that tells these businesses it’s OK to produce more and hire more.

So in sum: it’s OK to run a deficit for good reasons; the federal government is not funded by taxpayer dollars, unlike local governments; and consumers, not rich people, create jobs. These are simple enough ideas. So why are we stuck in this austerity, trickle-down framework? Is part of the issue that Democrats also buy into it?
Exactly. Look what happened over the course of the past eight years or so. The Democrats had an opportunity to come in and really restructure things. Rahm Emanuel famously said, “you never want a serious crisis to go to waste” . . . Well, they did waste a good crisis. The economy was crashing and nearly a million people a month were losing their jobs. You lose your job you lose your income, you lose your income and guess what? You don’t pay income tax, because you can’t pay income tax on income you don’t have. Tax revenue is falling off a cliff, and spending to support the unemployed is automatically increasing. We call them the “automatic stabilizers”: unemployment compensation, food stamps, Medicaid. And so the deficit explodes.

The Obama Administration sees this happening and they panic. They say, “We have to fix it!” They turn the away from fixing the fundamental problems in the economy—away from homeowners, from joblessness—and turn their attention to the deficit. Obama famously formed the bipartisan deficit reduction commission, and thank God we didn’t do what the commission was proposing, which included entitlement reform and all kinds of stuff . . .

It seems to me that the Democrats, especially the progressive wing of the Democrats, like to repeat this talking point about how the rich aren’t paying their fair share: “The problem in this country is that the rich aren’t paying their fair share.” I don’t like that. I don’t like it because basically, it says that income is flowing up to the rich and our job is to take some of it away from them. I prefer to say: the problem is not that the wealthy don’t pay their fair share, the problem is that they’re taking more than their fair share—that’s why they’re so damn rich. That’s why real wages have stagnated for the median household for decades, because people at the top are taking more than their fair share. You don’t want to let that continue and then take back taxes and redistribute to the bottom. You want pre-distribution, not redistribution. Focus on the problem at its origin.

Americans really do believe that we should not be “punishing success.” They don’t like the idea that someone who’s worked hard and has been successful would be punished. So while a lot can be accomplished through the tax codes, there are other ways to change the distribution of wealth before anyone gets all of it.

So are politicians who fixate on the debt or the deficit lying to us about it, or do they not understand economics? I mean, Barack Obama is a smart guy. Did he not understand what was happening?
So much of it is politics. If you read some of the reports about the conversations that took place between Obama and his advisors about the stimulus—between Christina Romer [former Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers], Tim Geithner [former Treasury Secretary], and Larry Summers [former Director of the National Economic Council]—you see it. It’s clear that the economy is melting down and that it’s going to take more than simply the Fed to prevent the economy from spiraling into a depression. They start batting around these numbers, thinking, “How much do you think it’s going to take?” They had a low-end number and a high-end number. The low-end number was about $750 billion, the high end was $1.8 trillion. Christina Romer—the only female in the room—was pushing for the $1.8 trillion, and she was right. She even went down to $1.3 trillion under pressure.

This became public when Obama said, “We’re looking for something in the range of . . .” and gave these numbers. At the time, in January 2009, I was part of a panel with [former Clinton labor secretary] Bob Reich, [economist] Jamie Galbraith, and others, and we all came out and said it has to be $1.3 or trillion, at least, to keep this recession from becoming the kind that takes forever to claw our way out of.

But they didn’t listen to Romer. Larry Summers had a lot to do with it, reportedly. What I read many, many times was that he was concerned about “sticker shock.” A trillion was too big a number. People could not accept that. And he said, “We can’t do this, we can’t go to voters with a trillion.” So they settled on $787 billion. And Obama said, “our attitude is that with the legislative process, we’ll start with the low end and see what happens”—which was exactly the wrong strategy. That’s not how you negotiate. You never start with the low number.

Back to sticker shock: Why doesn’t someone like Obama just get up onstage and say, “By the way, this is how the economy works, all the economists will tell you”?
I’m pretty sure nobody’s told him. I don’t know that he understands. I don’t think Larry Summers, you know, sat him down and walked him through monetary operations. For example: two days ago, Larry Summers went on television and said, “If these tax cuts pass, the US is going to be living on a shoestring for decades to come because of the increases to the deficit that will result. We are not going to be able to defend ourselves militarily—we won’t have the ability to go to war if we need to protect ourselves.”

Now, I don’t think for a second that Larry Summers believes that. Not for a second. He’s too smart. That’s a political argument. But it’s a dangerous one. If you’re on record saying, “If the Republicans pass this bill”—which they are about to do, by the way; this bill is passing—“if the Republicans pass this bill the US will be broke,” aren’t you setting up the Republicans to then say, “Uh oh, we cut taxes and now we’re broke, we better cut social security, Medicare, Pell Grant, all the social services”? You just told them you’re out of money. And you told North Korea that we won’t be able to defend ourselves. It’s obviously intended to shake people up and scare some senators into opposing the bill, to get voters worried so that they turn the pressure up. But it’s a crazy statement to have made.

So yes, I think no one around Obama either understood or was going to explain this to him.

What do we do now? What is the next move for people who are getting screwed by this bill?
What do you do? You better sweep the House, you better take back the Senate, and take back the White House in 2020, and hold your resistance at a very high level. I mean, people have to be prepared to stand up and fight back. There’s three more years before there’s any chance of changing course. If you win the House in 2018, you can at least stop a lot of stuff from happening. That has to happen. That’s the quickest way to stop the pain for the poor and the middle class—because we can expect more of this for three more years if we don’t.

So, that’s number one. To the extent that people are able, in an environment like this, to organize, to protect themselves in the workplace, to form unions—those are safeguards. Communities are doing more. States like New York, California, and Tennessee are moving to make public colleges and universities tuition-free. Fight for $15 has made the greatest inroads in blue states. In places where it’s still possible to make gains in policy—environmental, economic, racial, and social justice policy—those fights will continue. But at the national level it’s going to be very difficult if 2018 comes to pass and the Republicans still have the Senate, the House, and of course the White House.

Many people on the left argue that the Democrats need a more inspiring platform to run on, one that includes big spending policies to fix the economy and repair the social safety net. The Center for American Progress recently floated the idea of a job guarantee, which is a longstanding proposal on the left. What other good ideas should the Democrats be stealing?
Here’s the great thing: they don’t have to steal them, they just have to remember them. The most beloved President of all time, the guy who won four times—FDR—left us with a blueprint for an agenda that the Democrats have ready-made for them, and that is the Second Bill of Rights. This should be considered the unfinished business of the Democratic Party.

People are so damn frustrated. They go year after year, working harder and harder, and never get ahead. There’s so much anxiety. Work has become more precarious, people don’t know their hours ahead of time, bosses schedule changes at the last minute. A third or so of the working population is engaged in some kind of freelance employment. These are not the kinds of jobs that people had forty years ago, when they had a job for life and got regular pay increases and had a pension. People don’t have safety and security.

So what is the Second Bill of Rights? It’s a safety and security contract. It’s a social contract. And it says, as a citizen of the country, you have a right to employment at a decent wage. You have a right to health care. You have a right to a secure retirement. You have a right to an education. There’s also a right to housing on that list.

If you stood as a party for those basic rights, those fundamental rights, you could win. Everything else is up to you. You could still have a capitalist economy, where people still have to compete and work hard if they want more than the basics, so there are still plenty of incentives to be innovative and invest and all that—but the basics are guaranteed. It removes that insecurity, that anxiety that you won’t be able to send your kids to college or aren’t going to have money to survive on for retirement. If you look at surveys, when you ask peope “At what age do you expect to retire?” A share of the population says, “I’m never going to be able to retire, I’m going to work until I die, because I can’t afford it. I don’t have anything set aside. I don’t have a 401k or a pension or whatever. I can’t live on social security, so I’m never going to retire.” I don’t think the Democrats need to steal ideas. I think they need to remember what this party once stood for and champion a bold agenda.

What about journalists and talking heads, what can they do? How are they contributing to misconceptions about federal spending?
Journalists have been very bad. They have just repeated the same talking points that the Republicans got from Peter Peterson. “Fix the Debt” is an absolutely toxic campaign, and it came out of the Peterson Foundation.

What’s the Peterson Foundation?
The Peterson Foundation is Peter Peterson’s nonprofit umbrella organization. He’s a billionaire whose dream in life seems to be the evisceration of what remains of the New Deal or the Great Society. If it had to do with LBJ or FDR, Peterson wants no trace of it. So, Medicare, which came from LBJ—gone. Social security, from FDR—gone. He wants to gut entitlements.

Underneath the Peterson Foundation is “Fix the Debt,” his $60 million campaign to convince people that the deficit is a national crisis as a way to justify austerity and privatization. Joe Scarborough and half the people who sit at the table every morning on MSNBC with Scarborough, either are or have been affiliated with Fix the Debt. Senators from the state of Virginia, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, both Democrats—Fix the Debt gave them awards. So anyone who comes under the spell of this Pete Peterson “Fix the Debt” stuff gets their talking points from him. It’s Republicans and Democrats. Angus King, Independent. Paul Ryan is dogmatic: “How can we do this to our children and grandchildren?” And then you have Democrats repeating exactly the same arguments. 

So Peterson is a very bad guy. Bernie always talks about Pete Peterson. And I mean, he is my nemesis. I wake up every single day, and the motivation for crawling out of bed is to do battle with this faction. Because it’s powerful! And it’s incredibly destructive. It’s mind-warping and it’s brain-washing. Fix the Debt goes out and gets these people to be talking heads—they recruit them, pay them, train them, send them out—and then suddenly you have an army of pundits and people writing in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times pushing this hysteria. So that’s all anybody’s ever heard: that deficits are bad, the debt is bad, and the US faces a long-term debt crisis. Even a guy like Paul Krugman, the most he can do is muster, “Well, it’s only a long-run problem, not a short-run problem,” which is the same as saying “we have a deficit crisis, it’s just not here yet.”

Very few people are trying to explain anything to any American other than that. They argue about when it’s coming—“How fast is the sky falling?”—but not enough are saying that the national debt is not a national crisis. The fact that 21 percent of all children in the United States live in poverty—that’s a crisis. The fact that our infrastructure is graded at a D+, that’s a crisis. The fact that income inequality is at 1920s levels is a crisis. The fact that wages haven’t increased in real terms, that’s a crisis. Those are real crises. The national debt is not a crisis.

More Than Half The Members Of Washington’s Lobbying Corps Have Plunged Into The Tax Debate

More than half the members of Washington’s lobbying corps have plunged into the debate on taxes in 2017. In all, 6,243 lobbyists have been listed on lobbying disclosure forms as working on issues involving the word “tax” through the first three quarters of 2017, according to Public Citizen’s analysis of a massive data download provided by the Center for Responsive Politics. That is equal to 57 percent of the nearly 11,000 people who have reported engaging in any domestic lobbying activities at all in 2017.

Put another way, this equals more than 11 lobbyists for every member of Congress. Perhaps surprisingly, the number of lobbyists working on tax issues this year has been only slightly higher than in the previous two years, during which tax overhaul was also debated but not expected to pass.

To be clear, most of the lobbyists who have sought to influence tax issues have worked on other issues, as well. And not all of the tax issues upon which they reported lobbying have been relevant to the comprehensive tax overhaul measure that is being debated in Congress. But each of the 20 organizations that hired the most lobbyists on tax issues reported lobbying specifically on “tax reform,” meaning that they have sought to influence the sorts of topics that are currently under debate. Likewise, of the more than 6,200 lobbyists who reported working on any issue involving “tax” in 2017, more than 4,200 specifically reported working on “tax reform.”

Of 41 lobbyists with connections to President Donald Trump or Vice President Pence whom Public Citizen identified earlier this year, 31 have lobbied on tax issues in 2017.

Many of the discrete tax issues that these lobbyists and organizations have sought to influence are at the heart of the debate over the current legislation. Corporate tax rates, repatriation of corporate profits, intra-organizational transfers of assets, depreciation rules and deductibility of interest were among frequently listed topics by the organizations that have hired the most tax lobbyists.

Twenty-Six Industries Hired at Least 150 Lobbyists Each to Work on Tax Issues in the First Three Quarters of 2017

Lobbying disclosure laws do not require organizations to disclose the amount they spend on individual issues, but the laws do require organizations to disclose the names of lobbyists who worked on individual clusters of issues. Thus, calculating the number of lobbyists is likely the most accurate – albeit imperfect – obtainable measure of an organization’s degree of lobbying on a given issue.

Tabulating the number of lobbyists working on tax issues reveals an influence effort of staggering proportions.

The pharmaceutical industry deployed 653 lobbyists to work on issues including the word “tax” in the first three quarters of 2017. Three pharmaceutical companies hired at least 50 lobbyists to work on tax issues. Insurance companies – including life insurance, property & casualty, and health insurance providers – hired 600 lobbyists. Other perennial forces, such as electronics firms, manufacturers, securities firms, energy firms, telecom, Internet, automotive and retail businesses all hired hundreds of lobbyists each.


Lobbying Table 1


List of Organizations Most Active in Tax Debate Reads Like a Who’s Who of American Corporations

Twenty organizations reported hiring at least 50 lobbyists who worked on tax issues during the first three quarters of 2017. This list consists of many of the best-known corporations in the United States, as well as their representative associations in Washington, D.C.

Hiring the most tax lobbyists was the business trade association U.S. Chamber of Commerce (100 lobbyists on tax issues). Also in the business association category was the Business Roundtable, which consists of chief executives of major corporations (51 lobbyists).

The specific issues that the Chamber of Commerce has lobbied upon focus on core issues, such as corporate tax rates, corporate tax inversions, repatriation of multinational business earnings, Scorporation tax provisions, depreciation rules, the border adjustment tax, the estate tax and interest deductibility.

But many corporations hired their own lobbyists, as well, either as in-house employees or through outside firms. Among those hiring the most lobbyists were household names including, Anheuser-Bush, AT&T, Boeing, Comcast, General Electric, Verizon, Wal-Mart and more.

The securities and investment industry is perhaps less represented than one might expect on the list of organizations hiring the most lobbyists, given the interest in tax issues shared by the industry’s wealthy clients and its lavishly compensated employees. But that is largely because the industry diversified its hiring among representative groups. Four of its representative organizations hired at least 20 lobbyists each: Managed Funds Association (54 lobbyists), Securities Industry & Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) (46), Investment Co. Institute (33) and National Venture Capital Association (22). The Managed Funds Association lobbied on taxation of investment fund managers, carried interest, taxation of pass-through entities and limitations on deductions, among many other topics.

Perhaps most indicative of the staggering degree of many corporations’ lobbying offensives is the number of outside companies they hired in addition to their typically extensive in-house lobbying operations. Five corporations have hired at least 15 separate lobbying firms apiece to work for them on tax issues so far in 2017: Comcast Corp. (23 firms), Anheuser-Busch (19), Verizon Communications, (17), Microsoft (16) and Altria Group (15).

In March, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy listed 12 multinational corporations that it said received the greatest tax subsidies over the past eight years. Four of these companies – AT&T, Verizon, General Electric and Boeing – are among those that have hired at least 50 lobbyists to work on tax issues so far in 2017.


Lobbying Table 2


Lobbying Table 2.1

In October, Public Citizen documented that 44 individuals who worked on Trump’s campaign or his transition team (or had other past connections to Trump or Vice President Mike Pence) have acted as registered lobbyists so far in 2017. This was a notable finding because Trump placed his pledge to “drain the swamp” at the forefront of his message in the closing weeks of the campaign, and rolling back the influence of lobbyists was at the heart of Trump’s plan to carry out his promise.

Of the 44 Trump/Pence-connected lobbyists we identified, 41 had registered under the domestic Lobbying Disclosure Act in 2017. (The other three solely reported lobbying activities under the Foreign Agent Registration Act.) Of these 41 lobbyists, 31 have reported lobbying on tax issues so far in 2017.


Lobbying Table 3


Lobbying Table 3.1


Lobbying Table 3.2


With their enormous complexity and high-stakes, tax issues are the buffet that keeps Washington’s swamp creatures fed. This undoubtedly costs a fortune. But the success of the nation’s largest corporations and wealthiest interests in shaping the current tax legislation to suit their interests shows that bankrolling the lobbyists’ unending feast is a small bill to pay in the big scheme of things – because it is a very big scheme, indeed.

Winning Slowly Is The Same As Losing

If we don’t win very quickly on climate change, then we will never win. That’s the core truth about global warming. It’s what makes it different from every other problem our political systems have faced. I wrote the first book for a general audience about climate change in 1989 – back when one had to search for examples to help people understand what the “greenhouse effect” would feel like.

We knew it was coming, but not how fast or how hard. And because no one wanted to overestimate – because scientists by their nature are conservative – each of the changes we’ve observed has taken us somewhat by surprise. The surreal keeps becoming the commonplace: For instance, after Hurricane Harvey set a record for American rainstorms, and Hurricane Irma set a record for sustained wind speeds, and Hurricane Maria knocked Puerto Rico back a quarter-century, something even weirder happened. Hurricane Ophelia formed much farther to the east than any hurricane on record, and proceeded to blow past Southern Europe (whipping up winds that fanned record forest fires in Portugal) before crashing into Ireland. Along the way, it produced an artifact for our age: The warning chart that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency issued shows Ophelia ending in a straight line at 60 degrees north latitude, because the computer program never imagined you’d see a hurricane up there. “When you set up a grid, you define boundaries of that grid,” a slightly red-faced NOAA programmer explained. “That’s a pretty unusual place to have a tropical cyclone.” The agency, he added, might have to “revisit” its mapping software.

In fact, that’s the problem with climate change. It won’t stand still. Health care is a grave problem in the U.S. right now too, one that Donald Trump seems set on making steadily worse. If his administration manages to defund Obamacare, millions of people will suffer. But if, in three years’ time, some new administration takes over with a different resolve, it won’t have become exponentially harder to deal with our health care issues. That suffering in the interim wouldn’t have changed the fundamental equation. But with global warming, the fundamental equation is precisely what’s shifting. And the remarkable changes we’ve seen so far – the thawed Arctic that makes the Earth look profoundly different from outer space; the planet’s seawater turning 30 percent more acidic – are just the beginning. “We’re inching ever closer to committing to the melting of the West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, which will guarantee 20 feet of sea-level rise,” says Penn State’s Michael Mann, one of the planet’s foremost climatologists. “We don’t know where the ice-sheet collapse tipping point is, but we are dangerously close.” The latest models show that with very rapid cuts in emissions, Antarctic ice might remain largely intact for centuries; without them, we might see 11 feet of sea-level rise by century’s end, enough to wipe cities like Shanghai and Mumbai “off the map.”

There are plenty of tipping points like this: The Amazon, for instance, appears to be drying out and starting to burn as temperatures rise and drought deepens, and without a giant rainforest in South America, the world would function very differently. In the North Atlantic, says Mann, “we’re ahead of schedule with the slowdown and potential collapse” of the giant conveyor belt that circulates warm water toward the North Pole, keeping Western Europe temperate. It’s tipping points like these that make climate change such a distinct problem: If we don’t act quickly, and on a global scale, then the problem will literally become insoluble. We’ll simply move into a dramatically different climate regime, and on to a planet abruptly and disastrously altered from the one that underwrote the rise of human civilization. “Every bit of additional warming at this point is perilous,” says Mann.

Another way of saying this: By 2075 the world will be powered by solar panels and windmills – free energy is a hard business proposition to beat. But on current trajectories, they’ll light up a busted planet. The decisions we make in 2075 won’t matter; indeed, the decisions we make in 2025 will matter much less than the ones we make in the next few years. The leverage is now.

Trump, oddly, is not the central problem here, or at least not the only problem. Yes, he’s abrogated the Paris agreements; true, he’s doing his best to revive the coal mines of Kentucky; of course it’s insane that he thinks climate change is a Chinese hoax.

But we weren’t moving fast enough to catch up with physics before Trump. In fact, it’s even possible that Trump – by jumping the climate shark so spectacularly – may run?some small risk of disrupting the fossil-fuel industry’s careful strategy.?That strategy, we now know, began in the late 1970s. The oil giants, led by Exxon, knew about climate change before almost anyone else. One of Exxon’s chief scientists told senior management in 1978 that the temperature would rise at least four degrees Fahrenheit and that it would be a disaster. Management believed the findings – as the Los Angeles Times reported, companies like Exxon and Shell began redesigning drill rigs and pipelines to cope with the sea-level rise and tundra thaw.

Yet, year after year, the industry used the review process of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to stress “uncertainty,” which became Big Oil’s byword. In 1997, just as the Kyoto climate treaty was being negotiated, Exxon CEO Lee Raymond told the World Petroleum Congress meeting in Beijing, “It is highly unlikely that the temperature in the middle of the next century will be significantly affected whether policies are enacted now or 20 years from now.” In other words: Delay. Go slowly. Do nothing dramatic. As the company put it in a secret 1998 memo helping establish one of the innumerable front groups that spread climate disinformation, “Victory will be achieved when average citizens ‘understand’ (recognize) uncertainties in climate science,” and when “recognition of uncertainty becomes part of the ‘conventional wisdom.’ ”

And it’s not just the oil companies. As America’s electric utilities began to understand that solar and wind power could undercut their traditional business, they began engaging in the same kind of behavior. In Arizona, whose sole reason for existence is the sun, the local utility helped rig elections for the state’s public-utility commission, which in turn allowed utilities to impose ruinous costs on homeowners who wanted to put solar panels on their roofs. As The New York Times reported in July, the booming U.S. market for new residential solar has come to “a shuddering stop” after “a concerted and well-funded lobbying campaign by traditional utilities, which have been working in state capitals across the country to reverse incentives for homeowners to install solar panels.” It’s not that they think they can keep solar panels at bay forever – every utility website, like every fossil-fuel industry annual report, has pictures of solar panels and spinning windmills. But as industry analyst Nancy LaPlaca says, “Keeping the current business model just another year is always key for utilities that have a monopoly and want to keep that going.”

The planetary futurist Alex Steffen calls this tactic “predatory delay, the deliberate slowing of needed change to prolong a profitable but unsustainable status quo that will be paid by other people eventually.” It’s not confined to the moneybags at the oil companies and the utilities – he’s written extensively about the otherwise-liberal urbanites in his home state of California. “A lot of cities are happy to talk about providing their power cleanly, but reducing cars, densifying, spending on bike paths, raising building standards – those things are all so contentious they’re not even discussed.” Ditto the folks who block windmills out of fear of chopping birds, thus helping lock in the next great mass extinction. Much of the labor movement has grown more outspoken on climate change. They know that a dollar invested in renewable energy generates three times as many jobs as one wasted on fossil fuel, but the union that builds pipelines has fought so tenaciously to avoid change that the AFL-CIO came out for building the Dakota Access Pipeline, even after guards sicced German shepherds on native protesters. In careful language that might have been written by a team at Exxon, the union said it supported new pipelines “as part of a comprehensive energy policy that creates jobs, makes the United States more competitive and addresses the threat of climate change.” “Comprehensive,” “balanced,” “measured” are the high cards in this rhetorical deck. “Realistic” is the ace in the hole.

There’s a reason this kind of appeal is so persuasive. In almost every other political fight, a balanced and measured and “realistic” answer makes sense. I think billionaires should be taxed at 90 percent, and you think they contribute so much to society that they should pay no tax at all. We meet somewhere in the middle, and come back each election cycle to argue it again, depending on how the economy is doing or where the deficit lies. Humans and their societies do work best with gradual transitions – it gives everyone some time to adapt. But climate change, sadly, isn’t a classic contest between two groups of people. It’s a negotiation between people on the one hand and physics on the other. And physics doesn’t do compromise. Precisely because we’ve waited so long to take any significant action, physics now demands we move much faster than we want to. Political realism and what you might call “reality realism” are in stark opposition. That’s our dilemma.?You could draw it on a graph. The planet’s greenhouse-gas emissions are still rising, though more slowly – let’s say we manage to top out by 2020. In that case, to meet the planet’s goal of holding temperature increases under two degrees Celsius, we have to cut emissions 4.6 percent annually till they go to zero. If we wait till 2025, we have to cut them seven percent annually. If we wait till 2030 – well, it’s not even worth putting on the chart. I have to sometimes restrain myself from pointing out how easy it would have been if we’d acted back in the late 1980s, when I was first writing about this – a gradual half a percent a year. A glide path, not a desperate rappel down a deadly cliff.

Yes, we’ve waited too long. But maybe, just maybe, our task is not yet an impossible one. That’s because the engineers have been doing their jobs much more vigorously than the politicians. Over the past decade, the price of a solar panel has fallen 80 percent; across most of the U.S., wind is now the least expensive form of power. In early October, an auction in Saudi Arabia for new electric generation was won by a solar farm pledging to deliver electrons for less than three cents a kilowatt hour, the cheapest price ever paid for electricity from any source in any place. Danny Kennedy, a longtime solar pioneer who runs California’s Clean Energy Fund, a nonprofit connecting investors and startups, says every day brings some new project: “Just this week I’ve had entrepreneurs in here doing crowdfunding by Bitcoin to build microgrids in Southern Africa, and someone using lasers to cut silicon wafers to reduce the cost of solar cells by half.” He’d just come back from a conference in Shanghai – “You should feel the buzz; the Chinese have really realized their self-interest lies in dominating the disruptive technologies.”

That is to say, if we wanted to power the planet on sun and wind and water, we could. It would be extremely hard, at the outer edge of the possible, but it’s mathematically achievable. Mark Jacobson, who heads Stanford’s Atmosphere/Energy program, has worked to show precisely how it could happen in all 50 U.S. states and 139 foreign countries – how much wind, how much sun, how much hydro it would take to produce 80 percent of our power renewably by 2030. If we did, he notes, we’d not only dramatically slow global warming, we’d also eliminate most of the air pollution that kills 7 million people a year and sickens hundreds of millions more, almost all of them in the poorest places on the planet (pollution now outweighs tuberculosis, malaria, AIDS, hunger and war as a killer). “There’s no way you can be in Houston or Flint or Puerto Rico right now and not feel the urgency,” says Elizabeth Yeampierre, one of America’s leading climate-justice advocates. “Moving quickly can happen, but only if you uplift the work that’s really innovative, that’s already happening on the ground.”

Even much of the money is in place. For $50,000 in insulation, panels and appliances, Mosaic, the biggest solar lender in the country, can make a home run on 100 percent clean energy. “And we can make a zero-down loan, where people save money from Day One,” says the company’s CEO, Billy Parrish. Mosaic raised $300 million for its last round of bond financing, but it was nearly six times oversubscribed – that is, investors were ready to pony up about $1.8 billion. But even that amounts to small change: 36,000 homes in a nation of more than a hundred million dwellings. To go to scale, government is going to have to lead: loan guarantees for poor people, taking subsidies away from fossil fuels, making sure that when homeowners feed lowcarbon energy into the grid they get a good price from utilities. Even in California that kind of change comes hard: As Kennedy says, “The state legislature did not pass key legislation on clean energy this year despite a lot of hot air expended on it, and despite the fact that the Dems have a supermajority. I’m told to be patient and ‘we’ll get it done next year,’ but I find it frightening that folks think we have another year to wait.”

And so the only real question is, how do we suddenly make it happen fast? That’s where politics comes in. I said earlier that Trump wasn’t the whole problem – in fact, it’s just possible that in his know-nothing recklessness, he has upset the ever-so-patient apple cart. You could almost see the oil companies wincing when Trump pulled out of the Paris Agreement – for them, the agreement was a pathway to slow and managed change. The promises it contained didn’t keep the planet from overheating – indeed, even if everyone had kept them, the Earth would still have gotten 3.5 degrees Celsius hotter, enough to collapse every ecosystem you’d like to name. The accords did ensure that we’d still be burning significant amounts of hydrocarbons by 2050, and that the Exxons of the world would be able to recover most of the reserves they’ve so carefully mapped and explored.

But now some of those bets are off. Around the rest of the world, most nations rejected Trump’s pullout with diplomatically expressed rage. “To everyone for whom the future of our planet is important, I say let’s continue going down this path,” said Angela Merkel, the German chancellor. (The exception: petro baron Vladimir Putin, whose official remarks concluded, “Don’t worry, be happy.”) In this country, the polling showed that almost nothing Trump had done was less popular. Perhaps, if Trump continues to sink, this particular piece of nonsense will sink with him.

And with Washington effectively gridlocked, the fight has moved elsewhere. When Trump pulled out of the climate accords, for instance, he explained that he’d been elected to govern “Pittsburgh, not Paris.” The next day the mayor of Pittsburgh said his town was now planning on 100 percent renewable energy, a pledge that’s been made by places as diverse as Atlanta, San Diego and Salt Lake City. Next year, representatives of thousands of regions, provinces, cities, parishes, arrondissements, districts and counties will descend on San Francisco for a Paris-like gathering of subnational actors, summoned by California Gov. Jerry Brown. According to Brown (who is as sadly compromised as most other leaders – he continues to allow wide-scale fracking and oil production across the state), Trump’s decision to leave the path of gradualism “is a stimulus … In a way, it’s a rising of … awareness.”

The pressure has also increased on banks and corporations. In Australia, campaigners have forced the four major banks to refuse financing for what would have been one of the world’s biggest coal mines; BNP Paribas, the world’s eighth-largest lender, just announced it was out of the tar-sands and coal business. Several big California cities just announced they were suing the big oil companies for the damages caused by sea-level rise. The attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts have Exxon under investigation for pretending to take climate change seriously. All of that adds up to weaken the spreadsheet and the corporate resolve: “We’re trying to persuade a dying industry to get out of the way,” says Mark Campanale, the head of the NGO Carbon Tracker.

The best chance of forcing the future, of course, lies with movements – with people gathering in large enough numbers to concentrate the minds of CEOs and presidential candidates. Here, too, Trump seems to be upping the ante – nearly a quarter million Americans marched on D.C. for climate action in April, the largest such demonstration in Washington’s history. That activism keeps ramping up: At, we’re rolling out a vast Fossil Free campaign across the globe this winter, joining organizations like the Sierra Club to pressure governments to sign up for 100 percent renewable energy, blocking new pipelines and frack wells as fast as the industry can propose them, and calling out the banks and hedge funds that underwrite the past. It’s working – just in the last few weeks Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, the largest in the world, announced plans to divest from fossil fuels, and the Nebraska Public Service Commission threw yet more roadblocks in front of the Keystone pipeline.

But the question is, is it working fast enough? Paraphrasing the great abolitionist leader Theodore Parker, Martin Luther King Jr. used to regularly end his speeches with the phrase “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” The line was a favorite of Obama’s too, and for all three men it meant the same thing: “This may take a while, but we’re going to win.” For most political fights, it is the simultaneously frustrating and inspiring truth. But not for climate change. The arc of the physical universe appears to be short, and it bends toward heat. Win soon or suffer the consequences.