Posts from Rebekah Entralgo

Acting DHS secretary can’t explain how Trump’s tariffs on Mexico work

Rebekah Entralgo

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper Sunday morning, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan wasn’t able to articulate how or when the White House will end its tariffs on Mexican goods.

McAleenan appeared on cable news to defend President Donald Trump’s decision to impose new tariffs on Mexico as a means to address migration to the United States. The longer apprehension rates along the U.S.-Mexico border continue to rise, the higher the tariffs.

As the White House announced last week, a 5% tariff is set to go into effect on June 10 if Mexico does not step up immigration enforcement measures. The tariffs would gradually increase — an additional 5% on the first day of each month for four months — to a maximum of 25% by October, unless “the illegal immigration problem is remedied.”

Tapper asked McAleenan at what point would the administration consider lifting the tariffs, but McAleenan had no concrete response.

“I guess one of the questions I would have is assuming these tariffs go through, and right now it’s just a threat, what specific benchmark are you going to be looking at to see if Mexico is actually doing what you want them to do?” Tapper asked.

“I think what the president said, we need a vast reduction in the numbers crossing,” McAleenan replied.

According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), there were roughly 100,000 apprehensions in April — so what would a “vast reduction” look like to the administration? McAleenan couldn’t answer that either.

Instead, McAleenan recommended the administration ask the Mexican government to enforce its own southern border with Guatemala, put an end to the organizations that help transport migrants across Mexico, and work with the United States on creating new asylum policies.

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4 big questions Trump has to answer about his tariffs on Mexico

Rebekah Entralgo

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

President Donald Trump announced Thursday that the United States will impose new tariffs “on all goods imported from Mexico” unless the country does more to stop migrants from reaching the U.S. border.

A 5% tariff is set to go into effect on June 10 if the country does not step up immigration enforcement measures. The tariffs would gradually increase — an additional 5% on the first day of each month for four months — to a maximum of 25% by October, unless “the illegal immigration problem is remedied.”

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador responded to the threats in a two-page letter to Trump Thursday evening, where he addressed him as a friend and warned that these kinds of punitive measures are not the answer.

“With all due respect, although you have the right to express it, ‘America First’ is a fallacy because until the end of times, even beyond national borders, justice and universal fraternity will prevail,” López Obrador wrote.

“Social problems don’t get resolved with duties or coercive measures,” he added. “I don’t believe … in ‘an eye for an eye.'”

In order to determine whether or not the imposition of this sort of punitive tariff on one of America’s most important trading partners would be effective or not, there are four major questions that need to be addressed first.

Isn’t Mexico already helping the U.S. on immigration?

The demographics of U.S immigration have been gradually shifting over the last five years. No longer are the majority of immigrants arriving at the southern border single men from Mexico looking for work. Instead, Central American families fleeing violence are making the dangerous journey through Mexico to apply for the asylum in the United States.

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The Pentagon can’t explain where $2.5 billion in border wall funding is coming from

Rebekah Entralgo

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

Military medical facilities and dining halls. A hangar for drones in South Korea. A wastewater treatment plant at West Point. All could lose money as the Trump administration shifts resources to pay for a border wall.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Monday delivered to Congress a list of military projects that could be impacted by Trump’s national emergency declaration. Shanahan’s list to Congress is general and includes $12.5 billion worth of program funding that is up for grabs. Funding could also be siphoned away from facilities that affect everyday life on domestic and international U.S. military bases, including dining halls, medical facilities, and roads.

Trump’s national emergency declaration allows him to divert $3.6 billion worth of funding from the programs Shanahan identified, in order to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. It isn’t known when the White House will make the $3.6 billion cut and from which Pentagon programs.

But Shanahan’s list doesn’t account for an additional $2.5 billion in funding that Trump requested for his wall.

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U.S. banks raked in record profits thanks to GOP tax bill

Rebekah Entralgo

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

The Republican tax bill helped U.S. banks gain an extra $28 billion in profits last year, according to new data released Thursday by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

In total, the nation’s 5,406 federally insured banks took in $236.7 billion in 2018, a 44 percent increase of $72.4 billion from 2017. Without the Republican tax bill, the FDIC estimates 2018 profits would have been $207.9 billion.

“Once again, the banking industry reported a strong quarter. Net income improved on higher net operating revenue and a lower effective tax rate,” FDIC Chairman Jelena McWilliams said in a statement. “The current economic expansion is the second-largest on record, and the nation’s banks are stronger as a result.”

President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans marketed their bill, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, as a gigantic boon for the middle class — even promising the average family would receive a $4,000 pay raise. In spite of the economic boom in the corporate and banking sectors, the American middle class has been largely unaffected by the measure, which passed in December of 2017. Meanwhile, corporations and big banks are rolling in cash.

Hourly wages have basically remained stagnant while corporate profits have skyrocketed. While the U.S. economy added over 300,000 jobs in January, workers got what amassed to just a 3-cent hourly raise.

“Donald Trump said he would tax Wall Street and stop them from ‘getting away with murder.’ It was all a con,” Seth Hanlon, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, told ThinkProgress in an email. “His tax plan shoveled tens of billions of dollars to Wall Street and the financial sector. At the same time, he’s rolled back the reforms to protect consumers and prevent another financial crisis. There is no clearer example of how he sold out American workers.” (ThinkProgress is an editorially independent project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.)

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Recovery efforts in Puerto Rico would take a hit if Trump siphons funds to pay for his border wall

Rebekah Entralgo

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

President Donald Trump is considering siphoning billions of dollars from disaster relief programs in order to help fund his wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, following a discussion between the president and top defense officials during Trump’s trip to the southern border Thursday.

Bypassing Congress, Trump could declare a national emergency and use $13.9 billion of Army Corps funding to build 315 miles of barrier, NBC News reported. Under the proposal, the pot of money Trump could dip into includes $2.4 billion allocated to water projects in California and $2.5 billion set aside for reconstruction projects in Puerto Rico. Both areas are still reeling and rebuilding from devastating wildfires and a catastrophic hurricane, respectively.

In a statement this week, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, called the potential move an “obscenity” and vowed to stop the president should he attempt to follow-through on it.

“Any suggestion that he use these funds to construct his wall is an obscenity. These funds were intended by Congress to be used for real emergencies and to help millions recover from hurricanes and other disasters,” Rep. Thompson said. “Under no circumstance are these funds to be used to fund the President[‘s] pet project so he can claim a win. There is no emergency on the border. If necessary, my colleagues and I will use every available method to stop him in this effort.”

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Trump didn’t know the GOP tax bill incentivizes business to offshore jobs

Rebekah Entralgo

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

President Donald Trump was apparently unaware that a provision in his biggest legislative accomplishment encourages corporations to offshore jobs.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) spoke with Trump Wednesday night about the closure of at least five General Motors plants, including one assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio, and filled him in on how the GOP tax bill is partly to blame.

“I reached him last night, he said he wanted to help, I said the first thing you could do is you could take away that tax provision in his tax bill that gives a company a 50 percent off coupon on their taxes,” Brown told CNN’s New Day Thursday. “If you’re producing in Lordstown you pay a 21 percent tax rate, if you move to Mexico you pay a 10.5 percent tax rate, and I told the president to get rid of that tax break that encourages jobs to move overseas.”

The president apparently did not know that was in the tax bill.

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Minimum wage increases pass in Arkansas and Missouri

Rebekah Entralgo

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

Voters in Arkansas and Missouri have approved a ballot initiative that would significantly raise the minimum wage in their states, affecting nearly 1 million workers.

Despite President Donald Trump carrying both Arkansas and Missouri during the 2016 election and disapproval from Republican state legislatures, voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of a minimum wage hike, with 68 percent in favor in Arkansas and 61 percent in favor in Missouri.

In Arkansas, the current $8.50/hour minimum wage will be gradually increased to $11/hour by 2021, while in Missouri, the state’s measly $7.85/hour minimum wage would slowly reach $12/hour by 2023. That amounts to $455 million more in pay for Arkansas workers by 2021 — an average of $1,520 each — and more than $1 billion for Missourians by 2023, a total of roughly $1,485 per worker.

According to Rewire, the people most affected by the ballot initiatives are working women and mothers. Amy Wilson, a single mother of three children, works as a school custodian in Russellville, Arkansas and told the publication that an extra $1,520 in her pocket means a lot. She said she would be able to take care of “a lot of minor needs [that] add up over time,” like replacing car tires or buying clothes for her children somewhere other than Salvation Army.

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Fact from fiction: What you should know about the migrant caravan making its way to the U.S. border

Rebekah Entralgo

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

As many as 7,000 Central Americans are making their way to the U.S.-Mexico border, and along with them are a wealth of misinformation and conspiracy theories regarding their motives and character.

While this isn’t the first migrant caravan to make its way to the U.S.-Mexico border under the Trump administration, it is the largest — and with midterm elections only two weeks away, this one has elicited the most strident response from Republicans and the White House, who are leaning on the caravan to stoke anti-immigrant fears in the minds of voters.

To clear the air, here’s what you should know about the caravan itself, and the people in it who have left everything behind in search of a better life.

Who is traveling in the caravan?

Thousands of mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons from Central American countries like El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala are among the estimated 7,000 members of the caravan.

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The majority are leaving their countries of origin in search of greater economic opportunity and fleeing gang violence that has made life at home unlivable.

“We’re traveling to find a better future for my daughters,” Fanny Rodríguez, a Honduran woman traveling with her husband and their two young daughters, told The New York Times. “We aren’t going because we want fancy things. I don’t have to give them luxuries, only what’s necessary — that my daughters don’t lack food, that my daughters don’t lack clothes. Things like that.”

“No one is capable of organizing this many people,” Irineo Mujica of Pueblo Sin Fronteras — the group supporting the caravan — said. Instead, Mujica said, they are motivated by two factors: “hunger and death.”

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Ohio Democratic campaign staffers fight the state party for a fair contract

Rebekah Entralgo

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

Democratic field organizers in Ohio working roughly 60-84 hours hours a week are fighting their own state party as they attempt to negotiate a fair union contract.

More than a month ago, the Ohio Democratic Party, with 90 percent support, recognized a union of coordinated campaign staff that collectively bargained with the help of the Campaign Workers Guild. Now, however, staffers say the party isn’t holding up its end of the bargain.

“After several day-long bargaining sessions, the ODP has made it clear to us that they are not serious about negotiating a fair contract that lives up to our Democratic values,” union leaders wrote last week in a letter to Ohio county party chairs across the state.

“We were so excited to see our party stand for working people by ultimately recognizing our union,” they continued. “Unfortunately, this excitement has not held at the bargaining table, where we’ve been continually disappointed and angered as the ODP has refused to present proposals that ensure us the union protections and provide us the working conditions we need and deserve.”

While the negotiations are still ongoing and a bit rough at the moment, it is still extremely early in the negotiation process. The party only recognized the union five weeks ago and most contract negotiations take months.

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There is more than meets the eye when it comes to the most recent jobs report

Rebekah Entralgo

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

Many economists were pleasantly surprised by the Labor Department’s August jobs report Friday morning.

201,000 jobs were added last month when economists only expected a gain of about 190,000 and the unemployment rate remained at 3.9 percent. The number that shocked most experts, however, was that wages grew 2.9 percent faster than last year, making it the fastest growth rate since the recession.

But there is more than meets the eye when it comes such a glowing jobs report, especially when it comes to wage growth. The White House will likely point to these numbers as tangible evidence that the Trump administration is putting more money into the pockets of everyday Americans.

While on paper 2.9 percent wage growth is impressive, when calculating for 2 percent inflation, it’s still quite slow.

In what might have been a preparation for the August jobs report, the White House sent out an email Thursday titled: “The latest Trump Economy myth: Wages are stagnant.” In it, the administration goes on the defensive, offering a full-throated defense of the Trump economy and saying the economic results of the Trump presidency are “undeniable.”

The White House specifically calls out ThinkProgress’s reporting in the email: “Looking for a new talking point, the left found one: Jobs, stocks, and economic growth may be soaring, but pay is not. ‘Worker wages remain stagnant,’ ThinkProgress declared in July.”

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Union Matters

PRO Act Would Put Power Back in Workers’ Hands

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

Between 1935 and 1965, union membership rose precipitously in the United States. Wages increased in tandem with productivity, benefits improved, the middle class blossomed and income inequality dwindled.

Those good times are over, however. After 1965, the rate of unionization steadily fell from the high of about 30 percent to 10.5 percent now. Wages stagnated after 1970, even as productivity increased. Income inequality rose to Gilded Age rates.

This was no accident. It was a result of a calculated campaign launched by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and financially fed by corporations and right wing billionaires. They secured appointment of conservative, anti-union judges who ruled against unions. They bankrolled right-wing political candidates who passed anti-union legislation. And they subsidized anti-union organizations that taught corporations how to skirt the law and twist workers’ arms to defeat union organization efforts at workplaces.

Now, however, Democrats in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate have introduced legislation intended to reverse the union slide by restoring workers’ rights. 

The Protecting the Right to Work (PRO) Act, introduced on May 2, would make it easier for workers to form unions and would more effectively punish employers that violate the rights of workers trying to organize.

The proposed law would facilitate unionization, which Democrats believe would raise workers’ wages and reduce income inequality. Union workers earn about 13 percent more than nonunion workers and receive better benefits and pensions.

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The Richest Fantasy

The Richest Fantasy