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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 May 2011

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The Lineup: Week of May 30-June 5, 2011

May 30, 2011 ·

In this week's OtherWords editorial package, William A. Collins sums up the nation's health care woes and Martha Burk calls for corporate boardrooms to stop doubling as old boys' clubhouses.

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  1. A Decade of Magical Tax-Cut Thinking / Chuck Collins
  2. Mobile Mugging / Jenn Ettinger
  3. A Volatile Agenda on Agriculture / Karen Hansen-Kuhn
  4. Stop Investing in Sexism / Martha Burk
  5. Israel's Third-Rail Borders / Donald Kaul
  6. Academic Freedom for Sale--Cheap / Jim Hightower
  7. Chugging Down the Wrong Track / William A. Collins
  8. Big Bad Free Trade Accord / Khalil Bendib

Big Bad Trade Policy

Remembering Paul Jacobs as the Struggle for Better Nuclear Safety Continues

May 26, 2011 ·

Starting this Saturday, Link TV will air the Emmy-winning documentary “Paul Jacobs and the Nuclear Gang.” The film, produced by IPS fellow Saul Landau and Jack Willis in 1979, explores the effects of radiation exposure on different groups of Americans. Paul Jacobs, a former Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, a journalist, activist and co-founder of Mother Jones magazine, investigated the results of atomic bomb tests on civilians and soldiers who were unwittingly used as guinea pigs.

Unsafe nuclear practices affected many people. Residents of Utah and Arizona living downwind from the Nevada nuclear test sites of the 1950s, U.S. soldiers exposed to military nuclear blasts, and farmers living around a Colorado plant that produced plutonium triggers all got cancer at elevated rates. Because of his work, Jacobs himself was part of the production and a subject of the film. He believed his cancer, which would claim his life during the making of the documentary, had been caused by his work around exposing the dangers of nuclear power and weapons.

The Institute's current work still shows our commitment to clean and safe energy, evidenced by the new report by Robert Alvarez on the dangerous system of storing spent fuel at nuclear reactors. Clearly, nuclear hazards haven't receded. The nation's reckless approach to storing spent nuclear fuel without essential safeguards threatens us all.

In the film, Jacobs confronted the harm of nuclear exposure and the possibility of his own death. He interviewed many who felt the same pain, but he summarized his relentless passion for progressive work as being part of a legacy of change makers committed to building the world for the next generation:

At the time of Jacobs’ death, his fellow Mother Jones co-founder Adam Hochschild wrote:

“When he discovered he had cancer, he went to war against it with the same energy with which he fought every battle of his life. He saw this disease that had had the chutzpa to invade his body almost as a personal enemy.”

 To see the full list of show times for Paul Jacobs, click here.

A Winning Strategy: Voters in Upstate New York Rebuke Radicalism

May 26, 2011 ·

Earlier this year, New York’s 26th House district was left without representation following the resignation of conservative Republican congressman Chris Lee. You remember Lee. He was the congressman who was forced to resign after it was revealed that he had posted shirtless photos of himself, a married man, in the personals section Craigslist. In the bid to replace him were two conservatives, Republican Jane Corwin and Tea Partier Jack Davis. Also on the ticket was Democrat Kathy Hochul.

The 26th district is the most conservative House district in New York and one of the most reliably Republican districts in the nation. Indeed, it hasn’t elected a Democrat in half a century. Yet last night, Hochul, the Democrat, scored a victory. She did so by making the Republican effort to dismantle Medicare the central issue of the campaign.

The Ryan Budget gave Hochul a win and Democrats a celebration. Creative Commons photo by BuffaloPundit.

Medicare has been one of the most successful social programs in the history of the nation. It is a program that seniors desperately need. But the House budget committee chairman’s draconian budget proposal would dismantle Medicare, as we now know it. Today Medicare is a guaranteed healthcare insurance program for elderly Americans. Under the conservative plan, Medicare would be transformed from government guaranteed health insurance to a voucher-like program that would not cover the costs that many seniors will face when confronted with health problems. When Paul Ryan initially introduced his plan it was hailed as courageous and innovative by conservatives in the mainstream media. We were told that Ryan was being brave by starting a conversation. The voters in New York disagreed. They know that there is nothing courageous about cutting programs that help those in need. They know there is nothing brave about cutting taxes for the wealthy, while telling everyone else to fend for themselves.

The Republicans have now tried to claim that the Ryan budget was just a marker. Meaning that it is a starting point. This is utter nonsense. The entire House Republican conference, with the exception of four members, voted for the budget. They cannot just sweep their support for dismantling Medicare under the carpet. And there’s no hiding from their goal of forcing American seniors to pay more for deductibles and co-payments, as will inevitably happen when the cost of healthcare skyrockets and the premium support, offered in the conservative budget, fails to keep up with the rise.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that seniors would have to pay up to two-thirds of the cost for their insurance, as opposed to the 25 percent they pay now. No one should be surprised; the conservatives always seek, during tough economic times, to shift the onus to the elderly, middle-class, working class and poor, instead of to the economic elites — the ones who should be sacrificing the most during this sluggish economic recovery. If last night’s election was any indication, the American people are finally waking up to this reality. 

Juan Thompson is a student at Vassar College and a current intern at IPS. 

A Case Study for Why We Need a Stiff Estate Tax

May 25, 2011 ·

Great wealth, the philosopher Philip Slater once noted, tends to make wealthy people instinctively suspicious because they can never be quite sure whether others love or admire them for their fortunes or themselves.

"If you gain fame, power, or wealth, you won't have any trouble finding lovers," Slated added, "but they will be people who love fame, power, or wealth."

Exhibit A for Philip Slater's wisdom: the long, sad life of Huguette Clark, the copper mining heiress who died this week at the age of 104.

Over a century ago, Clark's father, the fearsome William Andrews Clark, abused mine workers and poisoned the environment on his way to one of the Gilded Age's greatest fortunes. Mark Twain called Clark "as rotten a human being as can be found anywhere under the flag," and the enormous wealth he left daughter Huguette in 1925 would define — and burden —the rest of her life.

Huguette Clark married in 1928, then divorced in 1930. She never had children and, after her mother's 1963 death, lived as a recluse in a 42-room Manhattan Park Avenue apartment. She also owned — but hadn't visited since the 1950s — a beach house in Santa Barbara.

At Clark's third home, a country home in Connecticut now worth $23 million, the guard who had spent almost his entire adult life watching over the property never even knew the name of the estate's owner until a reporter asked him about Clark the day after she died.

Clark did have some cousins, nephews, and nieces, but she refused to see them. Her closest friends, an acquaintance once told MSNBC, "have always been her dolls." She used to pay servants to iron their clothes.

Clark's father died before the stiff federal estate tax rates of the 1940s and 1950s — as high as 77 percent on estate value over $10 million — kicked in. Now estate tax rates are running back close to their 1920s-era levels, and Clark's cousins, nieces, and nephews may eventually inherit most of the $500 million fortune Clark has apparently left behind.

Will congratulations be in order?

Sam Pizzigati, the co-editor of Inequality.Org, also edits Too Much, the online weekly on excess and inequality published by the Washington, DC-based Institute for Policy Studies. Read the current issue or sign up to receive Too Much in your email inbox.

The Lineup: Week of May 23-29, 2011

May 23, 2011 ·

In this week's OtherWords editorial package, Kate Colarulli calls for an end to oil and gas tax breaks and Carl Gibson explains why luring corporate profits stashed overseas back to America with a tax holiday would actually push us further into debt. We're also running an op-ed by Christine Ahn and Kavita N. Ramdas, a column by Donald Kaul, and a cartoon by Khalil Bendib that put former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn's alleged sex crimes into context.

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  1. The IMF's Assault on Women / Christine Ahn
  2. Big Oil's Free Ride / Kate Colarulli
  3. Wanted: Real U.S. Leadership / Adotei Akwei
  4. Tax Holiday Would Cheat American Taxpayers / Carl Gibson
  5. Some Good News, at Last / Donald Kaul
  6. A Little Less Corporate Political Corruption / Jim Hightower
  7. Fukushima, USA / William A. Collins
  8. DSK's Defense / Khalil Bendib

DSK's Defense

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