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A few well-written words can convey a wealth of information, particularly when there is no lag time between when they are written and when they are read. The IPS blog gives you an opportunity to hear directly from IPS scholars and staff on ideas large and small and for us to hear back from you.

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Entries since April 2012

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The Lineup: Week of April 16-22, 2012

April 16, 2012 ·

In this week's OtherWords editorial package, Donald Kaul connects the racist dots linking the Supreme Court's strip-search ruling and the Trayvon Martin case, and Raul A. Reyes says that if Romney chooses Marco Rubio as his running mate it wouldn't make Latino voters swoon. On our blog, I weigh in on the lack of byline diversity in the nation's top op-ed sections. Get all this and more in your inbox by subscribing to our weekly newsletter. If you haven't signed up yet, please do.

  1. Pothole Nation / Sam Pizzigati
    We can thank inequality for America's inadequate -- and increasingly unsafe -- basic infrastructure.
  2. Rubio's False Promise / Raul A. Reyes
    He's on the wrong side of too many issues that matter to Latinos.
  3. Let's Protect Children, Not Guns / Marian Wright Edelman
    If Congress passed stronger gun laws and closed loopholes, it would save lives.
  4. High-Speed Collusion / Joel Kelsey
    Verizon wants to ink cartel-like deals with a cabal of cable companies -- its former competitors -- to resell each other's products.
  5. Breathing While Black / Donald Kaul
    Strip searches are now legal after arrests for violating leash laws or riding a bicycle without an audible bell.
  6. The GOP's Money Man / Jim Hightower
    Like ugly on a hog, Romney just can't hide the depth of his personal wealth.
  7. The Poor as Collateral Damage / William A. Collins
    There are places where basic food, shelter, health care, and good schools are available to everyone, but not here.
  8. Crime Watch / Khalil Bendib (Cartoon)

Crime Watch, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib.

The Great White Mancave

April 13, 2012 ·

For years, researchers have parsed the nation's top op-ed sections and deemed them to be too male and too white. With this problem so openly acknowledged, you'd think that there'd be some improvement. Well, you'd be wrong.

The media reform organization FAIR, an OtherWords partner, reviewed the commentaries featured in The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal between September and October 2011. It summarized the results in the latest edition of Extra!, the organization's monthly magazine.Newspaper Grape Purple by NS Newsflash

FAIR's report is packed with interesting data and observations. A few examples:

  • Latinos, who now make up 16 percent of the U.S. population, wrote less than 0.5 percent of the commentaries published in these three top newspapers over the two-month period.
  • African American bylines comprise 1 percent of the commentaries the Wall Street Journal published over this two-month period.
  • Women remain underrepresented in these three op-ed sections. They penned only 6 percent of the Journal's guest columns, for example.

Having tried to improve the diversity of voices that OtherWords features for the past two and a half years, I've learned that this challenge is harder than it sounds. FAIR's study serves as a great reminder of why it's so important for this editorial service to meet that challenge.

After some improvement under IPS stewardship, OtherWords is doing a better job at amplifying the voices of women and people of color than these three op-ed sections. But that's not saying much. In September and October 2011, the period FAIR reviewed, 25 percent of OtherWords commentaries were by women and 5 percent were by people of color. We can and will improve this track record.

FAIR's report also notes that these three prominent opinion sections range from right-of-center to conservative. I've noticed the same thing. The Washington Post touts centrists Dana Milbank and Richard Cohen as being part of its "left-leaning" lineup. The Post's right-leaning squad, however, is packed with "severe conservatives" like George Will and Charles Krauthammer.

FAIR also found that the Occupy movement's arrival during the period studied didn't make a dent on the overall conservative tenor of the commentaries these newspapers published. "While coverage in papers’ news sections increased dramatically from September to October (2011), the opinion pages at the Times, Post and Journal remained entirely free of the voices of those involved," wrote researcher Nick Porter.

Because the Post, Times, and Journal are widely syndicated, the imbalance in their lineups is magnified throughout the media. Their columns run in hundreds of newspapers and new media outlets. Here are some examples.

In 2007, Media Matters released an in-depth study on the rightward tilt of op-ed sections. It found that the top three, measured in terms of the number of newspapers in which they are featured, were George Will, Cal Thomas, and Kathleen Parker. Will, Thomas and Parker all appear on Townhall.com, which bills itself as "the leading source for conservative news and political commentary and analysis." Today, Thomas and Will are in about 500 newspapers and Parker's in more than 350.

Emily Schwartz Greco is the managing editor of OtherWords, a non-profit editorial service run by the Institute for Policy Studies.

The Lineup: Week of April 9-15, 2012

April 9, 2012 ·

In this week's OtherWords editorial package, Donald Kaul's column and four op-eds — including one by Matias Ramos regarding the taxation of immigrants without representation — focus on Tax Day. There's also a related cartoon by Khalil Bendib debunking the "job creator" label on the richest Americans. Get all this and more in your inbox by subscribing to our weekly newsletter. If you haven't signed up yet, please do.

  1. Taxation without Representation / Matias Ramos
    Undocumented immigrants consistently contribute to the government's coffers through payroll, sales, property, and income taxes.
  2. Rich Freeloaders / Betsy Malcolm
    It's time for wealthy people like me to become more responsible and pay our fair share of taxes.
  3. Invoking Fake Job Creators to Cut Taxes on the Rich / Robert L. Borosage
    We're squandering an extraordinary opportunity to rebuild America.
  4. How the Rich Welsh on Retirement Taxes / Gerald Scorse
    Withdrawal rules provide big tax breaks to the retirees who need them the least.
  5. Chairman of the Con Man Committee / Donald Kaul
    It's hard to take Rep. Paul Ryan's proposal seriously.
  6. Keystone XL's Dirty Little Secret / Jim Hightower
    The people and companies pushing the tar-sands pipeline don't want you to know that most of this oil won't be made into gasoline for our vehicles.
  7. Where We Dwell Is Changing Fast / William A. Collins
    The American homeownership rate has declined.
  8. Taxing Job Creators / Khalil Bendib

Taxing Job Creators, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib.

Conservative Candidate Supports Wall Street Speculation Tax

April 5, 2012 ·

The conservative presidential candidate has decided he can't win unless he raises taxes on the financial sector. No, I'm not talking about Mitt Romney, but this isn't a belated April fool's joke either.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Credit: UMP photos.French President Nicolas Sarkozy has rushed through Parliament a new tax on securities trades, hoping it will give him a boost in what is expected to be a close election against Socialist Party candidate François Hollande on April 22. The French government will start collecting revenue from the 0.1 percent tax on stock trades in August.

This is the first clear win in a two-year campaign by labor unions, environmentalists, global health and other groups for taxes on financial speculation. The ultimate goal is to have broad-based taxes on trades of all financial instruments, including stocks, derivatives, and currency, in all of the world's major financial markets. Sarkozy described his new French tax, which applies only to stock trades, as a first step towards a more comprehensive levy at the European level.

Such taxes have garnered widespread popular support because they could generate massive revenue while discouraging short-term speculation that has no real social value and can undermine market stability. Hardest hit would be the computer-driven high frequency trading that makes up about 55 percent of all trading on U.S. stock markets. Such warp speed robot trading played a role in the May 2010 "flash crash" and there are growing concerns that it could cause the next "Big One." Since these guys make money through razor-thin profit margins on zillions of trades, a transaction tax of even a small fraction of a percent could throw a major wrench in their business model. For ordinary investors, the costs would be negligible.

European State of Play

Beyond France, the European debate on financial transactions taxes has moved forward in fits and starts. In a major reversal of their earlier opposition, the European Commission introduced draft legislation last fall for a tax of 0.1 percent on shares and 0.01 percent on derivatives. But momentum behind the proposal has slowed as Germany, a key supporter, has had its hands full with another not so small matter -- the euro debt crisis. As it has sought to win over other key economies to its position on that front, Germany has tried to lower the tension level with opponents of the transaction tax by floating various compromise ideas. But the most vocal opponent, Prime Minister David Cameron, whose party receives more than half of its donations from the financial sector, has shot them all down. John Major, a previous prime minister from Cameron's party, went so far as to conjure up painful World War II memories by comparing the proposed tax to a "heat-seeking missile" aimed at the City of London (the UK's Wall Street).

Nevertheless, Max Lawson of Oxfam GB says that "despite fierce opposition and lobbying by the financial sector, there is a good chance that a coalition of European countries could push ahead and implement a financial transaction tax in 2012." He points out that nine countries representing 90 percent of Eurozone GDP recently wrote to the Danish EU Presidency to ask them to fast-track the debate on the European Commission draft legislation. A minimum of nine countries is needed for an "enhanced cooperation" agreement -- EU-speak for a pact that involves less than the full 27 member countries.

This week Germany's main opposition party, the Social Democrats, increased the odds of a breakthrough by announcing they would block a new EU "fiscal pact" to contain the debt crisis unless the ruling party moved forward on a coordinated European financial transactions tax. They have the votes to back up the threat.

U.S. State of Play

The Obama administration shifted to a neutral stance on the European proposal last fall but they have not yet expressed support for taxing speculation here in the land of Wall Street. There is, however, growing support for the general concept in the halls of Congress, thanks in part to a big educational push coordinated by Americans for Financial Reform. Last week, the 76-member Congressional Progressive Caucus released a budget proposal that includes a tax on trades of stocks, derivatives, credit default swaps, foreign exchange, and other exotic financial products that could generate an estimated $378 billion over the period 2013-2017. A summary of the bill explains that "this is a tax levied directly against the types of opaque, complex trades that Wall Street manipulators used to inflate their profits and were a direct cause of the financial crisis."

On May 18, National Nurses United will spearhead a major demonstration in Chicago to call on President Obama to tax Wall Street. Scheduled to coincide with a G8 summit hosted by Obama, the event will kick off campaigning events and activity around the world as part of a global week of action for financial transactions taxes. The AFL-CIO and other labor, environmental, and health groups have endorsed the Chicago rally.

The G8 summit offers an opportunity to shine a global spotlight on President Obama during a key moment of the election campaign. Perhaps he will be inspired by the conservative European leaders who have shown more nerve in taking on the mighty financial sector.

Organizing Across Generations

April 2, 2012 ·

On Sunday night, the legendary TV talk host, Bill Moyers, focused on hope.  His guests were three of the most dynamic young leaders in social movements today: George Goehl of National People's Action, Sarita Gupta of Jobs with Justice, and Ai-jen Poo of the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

The three laid out the plans for the 99% Spring, which their groups and IPS are planning with over 40 other groups.  This included hundreds of trainings coming up next week and the actions later this spring to take on corporations

Sarita and Ai-jen also laid out the plans for the Caring Across Generations campaign (which IPS is also a part of). Caring Across Generations is uniting dozens of groups to transform care for elders and the lives of the 2 million women who provide the care.  The three were so great that they inspired Moyers to add a "Take Action" section to his show's website.   

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