Daily Digest - April 19: Austerity's Excel-lent Excuse

Apr 19, 2013Tim Price

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The Excel Depression (NYT)

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The Excel Depression (NYT)

Paul Krugman writes that Reinhart-Rogoff became the sacred text of the austerity movement, but they've been exposed as false prophets. Now policymakers will need to find some other thinly veiled excuse to keep doing what they were going to do anyway.

Let Cities Build Better Internet-Access Networks (Bloomberg)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford notes that Georgia voted down a bill that would have blocked cities from investing in access, and it could be a turning point in the effort to stop state legislators from acting as paid freelancers for AT&T and Time Warner.

The Debt We Shouldn't Pay (NYRB)

Robert Kuttner argues that debates over public debt have become a sideshow distracting from the privately held debt that actually triggered the Great Recession, as if someone shouted, "Hey, look over there!" and we all proceeded to stare at nothing for four years.

Did underwater mortgages kill the economy? (WaPo)

Housing may finally be bouncing back (though if you had a dime for every time someone's said that, you could buy a house), but Zachary Goldfarb highlights research that shows the biggest problem may have been household debt, not just falling home prices.

The Fed's Foreclosure-Relief Fail (Prospect)

David Dayen explores the strange odyssey of Debbie Marler, a woman who was kicked out of her home, foreclosed on twice more for good measure, asked to pay upkeep on the property she no longer lived in, and received a whopping $800 for her troubles.

This Is the Reality of Austerity: Greek Children Are Starving (The Atlantic)

When critics say austerity is taking food out of people's mouths, they're not speaking metaphorically. Derek Thompson flags a report of children going hungry and families burning furniture for warmth as Greece pays the price for being a member of the EU.

Kansas Passes Law to Drug-Test Welfare and Unemployment Recipients (Think Progress)

What's the matter with Kansas? If you believe Republican Governor Sam Brownback, it's that everyone's been getting high instead of working. Nicole Flatow notes that Kansas just became the ninth state to require drug tests for recipients of public benefits. 

Costly and Wrong: Background Checks for Social Services in North Carolina (Policy Shop)

Ilana Novick writes that North Carolina's legislature approved background checks for recipients of food stamps, but there's no such scrutiny for richer citizens who receive government grants. ("Are you now or have you ever been a member of a yacht club?")

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Daily Digest - April 18: United We Stand, Except When We Don't

Apr 18, 2013Tim Price

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The Dis-Uniting of America (Robert Reich)

Reich writes that while Americans still demonstrate their ability to come together and help one another when a sudden tragedy strikes, as it did in Boston, prolonged economic misery and soaring childhood poverty don't seem to set off the same alarm bells for us.

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The Dis-Uniting of America (Robert Reich)

Reich writes that while Americans still demonstrate their ability to come together and help one another when a sudden tragedy strikes, as it did in Boston, prolonged economic misery and soaring childhood poverty don't seem to set off the same alarm bells for us.

Are the Good Jobs Gone? (NYT)

Thomas Edsall reviews the debate about whether government policy can bring back disappearing middle-class jobs and argues that while President Obama may not have a New Deal in him, he might at least be able get the wheels of progress unstuck from the mud.

Is the successor to manufacturing jobs... manufacturing? (WaPo)

Jim Tankersley notes that the Obama administration is launching a small pilot program to provide grants to communities that develop a strategy for creating a local manufacturing renaissance. Suggested program title: the We've Got Nothing, But Maybe You Do? Fund.

Republicans Accuse Labor Nominee of Fighting for Civil Rights (CAF)

Dave Johnson looks at the GOP's effort to sink Thomas Perez's nomination by exposing the dark secrets of his time with the Justice Department, like how he tried to avoid giving the Roberts Court an excuse to strike down civil rights laws with a Slumlords United case.

Why Republicans Suddenly Became Afraid of Their Own Budget Shadow (TPM)

Brian Beutler notes that Republicans spent four years demanding that Senate Democrats produce a budget, but now that they got what they asked for, they're reluctant to move forward with the process until they're sure they won't have to accept anything in it.

Regulatory Rockstar (TNR)

Elizabeth Warren may be new to the Senate, but she's not your typical back-bencher. Jeff Connaughton writes that by using her seat on the Senate Banking Committee to subject hapless regulators to ritual flaying, she may just scare them into doing their jobs.

Foreclosure Settlement Checks Bounce in Latest Setback for Troubled Program (HuffPo)

As if it weren't embarrassing enough that the average payout for a wrongful foreclosure is roughly $20 and a coupon for half off your next purchase at Target, Ben Hallman notes that some of the first recipients weren't even able to cash the checks they received.

Forever Blowing Bubbles (ProPublica)

Jesse Eisinger writes that despite the Fed's efforts to jumpstart the economy with extraordinary monetary policy, those efforts don't seem to be helping the average American as much as they're encouraging speculators to drop some money on the roulette wheel.

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Daily Digest - April 17: The World's Most Dangerous Spreadsheet

Apr 17, 2013Tim Price

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The Great Debt Delusion: How Math Keeps Proving Austerity Wrong (The Atlantic)

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The Great Debt Delusion: How Math Keeps Proving Austerity Wrong (The Atlantic)

When will deficit hawks learn to Konczal-proof their research? First there was the Alesina-Ardagna paper. Roosevelt Fellows Mike Konczal and Arjun Jayadev poked holes in that one. Then Reinhart-Rogoff became the new holy grail. See how well that worked out?

How influential was the Rogoff-Reinhart study warning that high debt kills growth? (Quartz)

Tim Fernholz notes that Reinhart-Rogoff was the little Excel error that could. Cited by everyone from Paul Ryan to Tim Geithner, it's shaped the economic debate in the U.S. and Europe. With a result that useful, who has time to worry about "data" or "methods"?

How the IMF became the friend who wants us to work less and drink more (WaPo)

Neil Irwin writes that while the International Monetary Fund has traditionally played the heavy when it comes to advocating "tough" fiscal measures, policy's gone so far off the rails that it's been forced to step in and suggest countries ease up on the self-flagellation.

At Least the Big Banks Are Kickin' It... (On the Economy)

Jared Bernstein notes that banks like Goldman Sachs are adjusting well to increased regulation, as their multibillion-dollar quarterly profits would attest. But Main Street's not getting totally left behind: weekly earnings for middle-wage workers jumped 0.1 percent!

Big Corporations Won't Be Sweating the IRS This Year (MoJo)

Stephanie Mencimer writes that although corporations have faced increased public scrutiny for their tax-dodging, cutbacks at the IRS mean there will be 18 percent less effort devoted to auditing them. Time to get those creative juices flowing, accounting teams.

Taking the 'service' out of the service sector (WaPo)

Harold Meyerson writes that the experience of companies like J.C. Penney, Wal-Mart, and McDonalds, which have tried to boost profits by cutting staff and holding down wages, suggests that miserable workers don't leave customers whistling a happy tune.

How student debt is holding back the housing market (Think Progress)

Bryce Covert writes that college grads who might have once dreamed of setting out and buying their own homes have been forced to scale back their ambitions to perhaps buying their own futons, decreasing demand for construction of single-family homes.

The Hell of American Day Care (TNR)

Jonathan Cohn looks at the state of America's formal child care system, such as it is: unsafe, unregulated, unavailable or prohibitively expensive to many, but also the only option many working parents have until policymakers notice that it's no longer 1953.

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Daily Digest - April 16: Taxes? None for Me, Thanks

Apr 16, 2013Tim Price

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A Tax System Stacked Against the 99 Percent (NYT)

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A Tax System Stacked Against the 99 Percent (NYT)

Lots of Americans view filing their taxes as a hassle, but as Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joe Stiglitz writes, the wealthiest Americans approach Tax Day like seasoned escape artists donning their straitjackets and stepping into the water tank.

Can Dodd-Frank fix mortgage servicing if we don't know what went wrong? (WaPo)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal writes that even as the rules for curbing mortgage abuses are being written, regulators are refusing to divulge the evidence they've gathered about those abuses. It's filed away in the warehouse next to the Ark of the Covenant.

America Doesn't Need Google Fiber Everywhere -- But We Do Need Its Buzz (Wired)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford argues that as Google Fiber expands to Austin, more Americans will start to look at their own access choices and ask why telecoms are selling them candlesticks when the next town over is running on electricity.

More Cracks Undermine the Citadel of TV Profits (NYT)

David Carr writes that while the TV industry has thrived by bundling what its customers want with a ton of stuff they don't, there's a shift toward consumer choice -- but Susan Crawford warns providers will try to ensure you either go for the Triple Play or get benched.

The Terrifying Reality of Long-Term Unemployment (The Atlantic)

Matthew O'Brien notes that being out of work for more than six months has become an inescapable trap for many workers, trumping experience or job churn in the eyes of potential employers. When you get laid off, you also get stamped with an expiration date.

Why This is the Worst Recovery on Record (Robert Reich)

Reich argues that what we're seeing unfold around us is what happens when all the economic gains go to the top and the rest are left with nothing, but austerity advocates insist that it's all just swamp gas and weather balloons and there's no need to be alarmed.

Everything We Know About What's Happened Under Sequestration (ProPublica)

Theodoric Meyer offers a comprehensive guide to what's been cut and what's been spared so far, with vital government functions like the White House Easter Egg Hunt being preserved while frivolities like energy research or airport control towers get shut down.

This Week in Poverty: Banks Got Nowhere to Run to, Baby (The Nation)

Greg Kaufmann looks at a grassroots effort to make working Americans' voices heard at US Bank's shareholder meetings -- and if the bank can't escape progressive criticism in Idaho, it may need to hold its next meeting on the International Space Station.

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Daily Digest - April 12: Liberal vs. Liberal vs. Social Security

Apr 12, 2013Tim Price

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India's Patently Wise Decision (Project Syndicate)

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India's Patently Wise Decision (Project Syndicate)

Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joe Stiglitz and Arjun Jayadev praise the Indian Supreme Court's decision to deny Novartis a patent on its cancer drug, noting that big pharma will survive with less revenue, but without affordable medicine, lots of people might not.

The Liberal Civil War Over Social Security Cuts (MoJo)

Erika Eichelberger writes that the progressive movement is fracturing and turning against itself over President Obama's proposal to switch to chained CPI, though even in the pro-administration camp, the rallying cry tends to be a resounding "Ugh, okay, if we have to."

Even With Exemptions, Chained CPI Proposal Will End Up Hurting Low-Income People (CEPR)

Shawn Fremstad argues that even if the president's plan comes with built-in protections for the most vulnerable, already modest benefits and the value of refundable tax credits will decrease, and exemptions won't last forever once the GOP smells blood in the water.

The Flaw in Obama's Budget Approach (NYT)

Simon Johnson writes that the right way to make a budget is to decide what government should do and then figure out the best way to fund all of that. Instead, Obama chose a container size and then tried to figure out how much government he could pack in there.

Elizabeth Warren Tears Into Federal Regulators For Shielding Big Banks (Think Progress)

Igor Volsky notes that Warren was once again spitting hot fire at yesterday's Senate Banking Committee hearing, pressing regulators from the Fed and the OCC to explain why they'd settle with banks without knowing how many crimes they committed. (A: All of them.)

Lust for Gold (NYT)

Paul Krugman notes that conservatives who were taken in by conspiratorial rants about fiat money and the coming inflation crisis are experiencing a rude awakening now that it turns out gold isn't a fool-proof investment either. Of course not. That would be Bitcoin.

Debunking today's carried interest tax arguments (CNNMoney)

Two takeaways from Dan Primack's case for closing the carried interest loophole as the president proposes: First, it's not some cruel punishment to ask fund managers to pay a normal tax rate on their income. Second, the phrase "sweat equity" is kind of gross.

A Third of Americans Like Taxes. Who Are They? (Slate)

If you're one of the 34 percent of Americans who told Pew they enjoy doing their taxes, Abby Ohlheiser writes that chances are you're getting a refund, you're a Democrat or a minority, or you just don't mind doing math and filling out forms. Happy Tax Day, nerds.

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Daily Digest - April 11: Obama's Two-in-One Budget

Apr 11, 2013Tim Price

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A Budget Focus on Inequality (NYT)

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A Budget Focus on Inequality (NYT)

Annie Lowrey writes that President Obama's latest budget reflects his oft-stated desire to protect and expand the middle class with measures like raising the minimum wage and funding universal preschool, i.e. the parts that aren't pre-chewed for Republicans.

Will Voters Forgive Obama for Cutting Social Security? (The Nation)

William Greider expects that Social Security will make it through the budget negotiations intact, if only because there's an election coming, but that's no guarantee that the Democratic Party's reputation won't be left in tatters once the GOP brings out the knives.

Fiscal frauds (WaPo)

In case anyone thought Chained CPI would win Obama some brownie points with the GOP, Greg Sargent notes that while Boehner, Cantor, and McConnell have all backed the idea, the NRCC is adding it to the evidence file labeled "History's Greatest Monster."

Stiglitz Says More Fiscal Stimulus Needed in U.S. (Bloomberg)

Appearing on "Bloomberg Surveillance," Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz reiterates that what the economy needs now is more government spending, not less, though what we're getting lately is just austerity with the serial numbers scraped off.

Rand Paul's Revisionist History (Washington Monthly)

Ed Kilgore notes that in a speech to Howard University, Rand Paul claimed that African Americans left the GOP because they were lured by the siren song of the New Deal, when they should have just waited for the invisible hand to anoint them as equals.

Where Did All the Workers Go? (The Atlantic)

Derek Thompson looks at why labor force participation has fallen to just 63 percent and posits that the rest went to school, retired, saw their factories shuttered, or decided the job market's so miserable that they'd rather spend some quality time with Netflix.

'Obama phones' subsidy program draws new scrutiny on the Hill (WaPo)

Karen Tumulty examines the pseudo-controversy over "Obama phones," a.k.a. Lifeline, a federal program started under Ronald Reagan that offers phone service subsidies to low-income Americans. Probably so they can call in to the secret strategy meetings.

Bitcoin, Explained (MoJo)

Adam Serwer and Dana Liebelson offer a beginner's guide to the wonderful world of Bitcoin, a virtual, central bank-free alternative currency that's been rapidly fluctuating in value all week. Tl;dr version: the Internet's doing something weird again. Look away.

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Daily Digest - April 10: A New Bank Reform Recipe Calls for Less Basel

Apr 10, 2013Tim Price

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Sherrod Brown and David Vitter have a new bipartisan bill to end Too Big to Fail. Here's what it does. (WaPo)

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Sherrod Brown and David Vitter have a new bipartisan bill to end Too Big to Fail. Here's what it does. (WaPo)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal breaks down the leaked Brown-Vitter bill that would significantly raise capital requirements but would throw out the barely established Basel III ground rules, potentially giving banks a reason to smile through their tears.

The Hard Work of Achieving Results (Chronicle of Philanthropy)

Everyone wants to be part of it, but no one's sure what it is. Phil Buchanan writes that Roosevelt Institute Fellow Georgia Levenson Keohane's book, Social Entrepreneurship for the 21st Century, details the shape of its subject based on the footprints it's creating.

Social Security's needed expansion (WaPo)

Katrina vanden Heuvel writes that the only thing worse than the politics of handing the GOP their next cycle of attack ads neatly gift-wrapped in Social Security checks is the economics of cutting the program's meager benefits instead of increasing them.

Cash Benefit Programs Are Not Really Government Spending (Policy Shop)

Matt Bruenig argues that the go-to right-wing critiques of government spending -- that it leads to waste and corruption and that individuals can better prioritize their needs -- fall apart when applied to programs that simply send people money and wish them well.

Foreclosure Review Finds Potentially Widespread Errors (HuffPo)

Shahien Nasiripour reports that after a thorough review, regulators have determined that mistakes were made by mortgage companies at the height of the foreclosure crisis. And then made again, and again, until a third of all foreclosures were screwed up.

Bank stole your house? Have 10 pitchforks' worth of compensation (Salon)

Lots of people might have been kicked out of their homes because some bank factotum misplaced their paperwork, but at least they'll be compensated for it. Alexis Goldstein's new Tumblr offers advice on how to spend the big $300 check they have coming.

The Gender Wage Gap Differs by Occupation (CAP)

In honor of Equal Pay Day, Sarah Jane Glynn and Nancy Wu find that a whopping 97 percent of full-time working women have occupations that pay them less than men, while the ladies earn more in exactly seven jobs, like the booming stock clerk field.

The Tax Police Budget Shrinks (Tax Analysts)

David Cay Johnston notes that due to our leaders' overwhelming concern with reducing the deficit, we can expect another round of budget cuts for the Internal Revenue Service, also known as that agency responsible for collecting money to pay for stuff.

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Daily Digest - April 9: What Did the Deficit Ever Do to You?

Apr 9, 2013Tim Price

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Why do people hate deficits? (WaPo)

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Why do people hate deficits? (WaPo)

Suggesting America doesn't need to balance its budget strikes a lot of people like saying bald eagle should be the main course at the next state dinner, but as Dylan Matthews writes, there's no reason for us to consider deficit spending the eighth deadly sin.

The Stealth Sequester (Robert Reich)

Reich notes that while sequestration cuts haven't lived up to their hype yet, that's mainly because they're localized, focused on the poor, causing furloughs instead of layoffs, and just getting started. If you were hoping for terrible news, patience will be rewarded.

When will this do-nothing Congress wake up to America's jobs crisis? (Guardian)

Heidi Moore writes that while unemployment remains stubbornly high, labor force participation continues to drop, and poverty continues to rise, the only time the idea of job creation seems to stir Republicans in Congress is when they get a chance to block it.

The Economic Story of the Year: The Stock Market vs. the Labor Market (The Atlantic)

Derek Thompson argues that the stock market soaring to all-time highs while jobs reports show the recovery limping along is no coincidence; it's the result of a 40-year trend of corporations leaving workers behind like spectators at a space shuttle launch.

How Many FDR Democrats Will Oppose 'Chained-CPI' Social Security Cut? (The Nation)

John Nichols looks at the progressive effort to convince President Obama to leave Social Security cuts out of the "compromise" budget he plans to release tomorrow. Meanwhile, a very nervous White House intern's mouse cursor hovers over the print button.

The People's Choice for the People's Pension (NYT)

Nancy Folbre notes that there's a way to shore up Social Security's finances that actually enjoys broad popular support: eliminating the payroll tax cap so the highest earners pay more into the system. But that option is right out, because who asked us?

The U.S. Collects Smaller Percentage in Taxes Than Most Developed Countries: Study (HuffPo)

While conservatives like Paul Ryan often talk like there's an IRS agent camping in the bushes outside every American home, a new study of OECD nations shows that only Mexico and Chile tax less and the U.S. has a ways to go to catch up to Slovakia.

Kitchen Sink Socialism (Jacobin)

Andrew Fogle argues that we shouldn't be wasting our breath debating whether or not allowing same-sex marriage will destroy traditional family structures when austerity is already doing a fine job of pushing straight people to go live in hippie communes.

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Daily Digest - April 8: Draining the Secretarial Pool

Apr 8, 2013Tim Price

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How much money do you make? (WaPo)

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How much money do you make? (WaPo)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal examines a question that complicates income inequality -- partly because no one wants to answer it, but also because when liberals and conservatives are asked to show their work, they don't even agree on the math.

Where Have All the Secretaries Gone? (Businessweek)

Sheelah Kolhatkar notes that Mad Men's return highlights changes in the workplace. Fewer bosses are getting soused in the middle of the day, and their assistants are disappearing entirely. Research by Mike Konczal and Bryce Covert explains the latter.

The Promise of Abenomics (Project Syndicate)

Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz argues that Japanese PM Shinzo Abe's "three arrows" of economics, focused on monetary policy, fiscal stimulus, and growth, will get better results than U.S. and European policymakers' empty quivers.

Destroying the Economy and the Democrats (Prospect)

Robert Kuttner writes that while there was probably no good time for President Obama to leak that he was putting Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block, the week we found out the economy added just 88,000 jobs in March definitely wasn't it.

Insurance and Freedom (NYT)

Paul Krugman notes that since "Poor people: gross!" is no longer a winning message for opponents of the safety net, the Republicans blocking Medicaid expansion are framing it as a blow to the soul-crushing tyranny of insurance and affordable health care.

This Week in Poverty: Sequestration, Housing, Homelessness (The Nation)

Greg Kaufmann writes that sequestration is anything but abstract for the 140,000 low-income families who will have their housing vouchers cut off, which should generate at least 3 percent as much outrage as the canceled tours of the president's house.

Debtors' prisons are back: how heart-warmingly Dickensian! (Washington Monthly)

Kathleen Geier highlights a report from Ohio's ACLU on the state's new debtors' prisons and the various ways in which they violate local law, constitutional law, and plain old standards of human decency, all for the chance to claim that glorious $300 bounty.

The Fries-With-That Economy (NYT)

Catherine Rampell notes that employment in food services and drinking places accounted for one in 13 American jobs in March, with an average hourly wage of $11.98. And the more this news spreads, the more popular those "drinking places" get.

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Daily Digest - April 5: Obama Cuts to the Chase

Apr 5, 2013Tim Price

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Obama Budget Reviving Offer of Compromise With Cuts (NYT)

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Obama Budget Reviving Offer of Compromise With Cuts (NYT)

Jackie Calmes reports that the president plans to reissue his final offer to John Boehner from last year's deficit negotiations, including chained CPI and cuts to Medicare, though the GOP is still giving increased tax revenue the full Green Eggs and Ham treatment.

Abolish the 401(k) (Salon)

Michael Lind writes that Social Security was never meant to be the sole source of retirement income, as its critics love to point out, but that means we should be focused on expanding the one program that works, not breaking it so it matches all the other options.

The Urge to Purge (NYT)

Paul Krugman notes that Mellonites who saw the Great Depression as a necessary corrective, like medieval bloodletting, were once thought thoroughly discredited, but conservative commentators have rescued that philosophy from the garbage disposal of history.

The New Telecom Oligarchs (The Nation)

Michael J. Copps writes that Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford's Captive Audience offers insightful analysis of a trend that plagued him as FCC commissioner: the Katamari Damacy-like growth of merger-happy telecom giants that roll right over their customers.

Cancer clinics are turning away thousands of Medicare patients. Blame the sequester. (WaPo)

Sarah Kliff reports that cancer clinics are turning away patients whose chemotherapy has become too costly due to the sequester's Medicare cuts. But remember: Barack Obama was exaggerating about the sequester, just like Al Gore is a liar every time it snows.

The McJobs Strike Back: Will Fast-Food Workers Ever Get a Living Wage? (The Atlantic)

Sarah Jaffe looks at the second strike to hit New York's fast food industry in the last six months as workers build on the momentum of recent victories on the minimum wage and paid sick days. If they keep it up, they might even be able to afford to live in their own city.

Young Adults Make Up Nearly Half of America's Unemployed Workforce (Think Progress)

Travis Waldron highlights a new Demos report that finds 10.3 million Americans ages 18 to 34 are either out of work or underemployed, with minority youths and those without a college degree hit especially hard. Stay in school, kids. Forever, if at all possible.

Wages of young college graduates have failed to grow over the last decade (EPI)

Heidi Shierholz reports that instead of increasing by more than 19 percent like they did from 1995 to 2000, wages for young college grads did that other thing where they shrank by 7.6 percent between 2007 and 2012. Sorry about your future, class of 2013.

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