iOS app Android app More

Here's to 80 More Years of Keeping Seniors out of Poverty

Kevin Prindiville   |   August 21, 2015    5:59 PM ET

As Social Security turns 80 this year, we celebrate it as the nation's most successful anti-poverty program in history. In 80 years, it has lifted millions of our families out of poverty and never missed a payment. But millions of the seniors in our communities still live in poverty today.

There are currently 6.4 million older Americans living in poverty, and with 10,000 people turning 65 every day, that number is likely to grow over the next decade. Over the last several decades changes in our economy have made it harder for all of us to be financially prepared for retirement. Pensions are disappearing and wage stagnation has made it more difficult to save. This is particularly true for women who we know make less than men for working the same jobs and for people of color who are less likely to have benefited from growth in the economy. For many who had been able to save some money or develop equity in their home, those assets were lost or significantly depleted in the recent, persistent recession. In addition, due to rising housing, health care, and long term care costs, it is more expensive than ever to grow old.

Those of us in the field of aging know the statistics and the reasons why poverty persists and is growing among older adults. And we see the real life impact that poverty has on seniors like the women in this video . Now a number of the Presidential candidates are talking about this reality and calling for Social Security to be protected and expanded.

Senator Bernie Sanders has long advocated for strengthening and expanding Social Security benefits. He has even acted to help seniors living in deep poverty by introducing improvements to the little-known Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program that serves 8.4 million older adults and people with disabilities who live below the federal poverty level. He recently sponsored, with Senators Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, and others, the Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act of 2015 (S 1387 and HR 2442). Martin O'Malley has also come out strong in support of expanding Social Security.

And now, Hillary Clinton is talking about improving Social Security benefits as well. Clinton told the AFL-CIO via a questionnaire back in April (that was recently made public) that she wants to both "improve how Social Security works for women" and to "enhance benefits for our most vulnerable seniors."

And it is not just the candidates from one party. Mike Huckabee has also come out saying that he doesn't believe in cutting Social Security benefits. Even Donald Trump, not known for his empathy or firm grasp of the needs of everyday low and middle income people, has said that he wouldn't cut Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid.

It is likely that Social Security will continue to be a big issue throughout the long, and at times bewildering, Presidential campaign season. Some candidates will undoubtedly ignore the rising levels of economic insecurity among older adults and call for cuts to the program. And yes, don't be fooled, changing the formula for cost of living adjustments or raising the retirement age are benefit cuts for all of us that hurt low-income seniors and people with disabilities the most. Others will look at the economic reality facing older adults and continue to push proposals that would provide additional help to our poorest seniors that include expanding Social Security and restoring the SSI program.

In Social Security's 80th year, I hope to see more politicians of all stripes embracing its promise to be there for every American when they need it. I'd like to see more sentiments like this one from President Gerald R. Ford, "We must begin by insuring that the Social Security System is beyond challenge. [It is] a vital obligation each generation has to those who have worked hard and contributed to it all their lives." I'll go a step further and say that Social Security should be expanded to meet the growing and changing needs of seniors in today's economy.

Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child: Michael Fay's Caning in Singapore

  |   August 19, 2015   10:09 PM ET

Read More:

5 Ways Leaders Survive Election Season at Work

Chester Goad, Ed.D.   |   August 18, 2015    2:55 PM ET

Do you have friends or a co-workers who are hyper-political, easily offended or overly charged when it comes to politics? Do the folks on your team argue over state or national elections? Maybe the most opinionated person is you? It's disconcerting when your coworkers are overzealous but what's even more problematic is the hyper-political leader. You may have cheered in November when the mid-term elections ended, but make no mistake the campaign isn't over. On the contrary, if you haven't noticed, a new presidential election cycle has begun.

Political discourse at the right place, in the right company, and on the right time is a good thing. But we all know freedom of speech is never really free. Often there is a cost involved. While the right place and right time may be debatable, over-sharing your political ideologies in any work place is not best practice. Remember the old adage, "Everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial"?

Yes, election season is upon us, and believe it or not, it is possible to survive election cycles with your leadership integrity and the trust of your team intact. Use these five practical tips to avoid sabotaging your team's success with your own personal political biases.

Political Self-Sabotage Protection Plan

Silence Your Walls (and your desk): Don't let furniture, frames, or bulletin boards scream at your team. Would you wear a politically charged t-shirt to work? Then why would you tack that same message to your walls? How you choose to decorate your office speaks volumes to those who visit there. A poster that reads "Visualize Whirrled Peas" is one thing, but "Vote Right or Die" or "Vote Left or Die" is never a proper welcoming message (whether 50 percent of people agree with you or not). Party pins, bumper stickers and political propaganda are better left for other venues than the professional setting. Not only can a simple bumper sticker incite negative feelings or cause mistrust in the office, it can cost you friendships, customers, clients, partners and even profits. Purposefully placed negativity in any form has no place in the leader's toolbox.

Cut the Snark: Know when to zip it and nip it. It's ok to have opinions. This is where the wisdom of your parents comes in handy. Remember: "It's not what you say, it's how you say it." or "If you don't have something nice to say, then say nothing at all." Saying nothing at all has become a challenge for many people. Don't assume everyone agrees with you and don't give the impression that the team must think like you. Some of your team members may withhold sharing valuable work ideas or opinions because they think you may not value their opinions. A diverse team is a productive and creative team.

Reverse Your Forward Habit: Resist the urge to forward politically charged emails: That cartoon, video or meme may have made you LOL, but others may not find it so funny. Protect yourself from crossing the line or losing respect of others or even your job. Over simplifying complex problems by verbally or visually accosting those with opposing views is a bad idea. Leave that to the newspapers.

Say No to Politicking and Say Yes to Voting: The leader sets the tone. Know your policies, preferences, and best practice and discuss them with your team. Rather than focusing on specific candidates or issues during election cycles, encourage the importance of voting and good citizenship. Most people will agree that it's important to vote. As the leader, go vote, encourage your team to do the same and leave it at that. Set a goal for 100 percent voting in your office, and celebrate the freedom we have to do so.

Mute the Media: Turn off TVs and radios or consider choosing a streaming service without the negative ads. Leaving the office tv on in the throes of election season is only asking for trouble and decreased productivity. Remember: The media no longer wants your undivided attentions. Your divided attentions are much more lucrative. Don't fall prey to media campaign ratings games.

To be certain, there's always another election around the corner. In order to avoid unnecessary divisiveness, choose to protect your team, your mission and your sanity. Doing anything otherwise will only serve to damage team trust, your leadership integrity, and quite possibly your bottom-line. None of that is worth the risk just for the sake of "being right" or "making political points".

Who Withdrew From Iraq? Was It Bush or Obama and Clinton?

John A. Tures   |   August 17, 2015    8:22 AM ET

Jeb Bush has claimed that President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were responsible for withdrawal from Iraq. But is that true? A look at the evidence, including George W. Bush's own words and White House website, shows who was really responsible for America's departure, contributing to the rise of ISIS.

BBC News reported that at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Jeb Bush said

"So eager to be the history-makers, they failed to be the peacemakers," Mr Bush said of Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton. "It was a case of blind haste to get out and to call the tragic consequences somebody else's problem. Rushing away from danger can be every bit as unwise as rushing into danger, and the costs have been grievous."

But were Obama and Clinton responsible for the withdrawal?

Here's the transcript from the George W. Bush White House Archives site, and his meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in December 2008. And here are the details of the Strategic Framework Agreement and Security Agreement with Iraq, also on the Bush White House Archives site. Here are the details of the deal Bush signed, or you could read it yourself at the link.

"The Security Agreement also sets a date of December 31, 2011, for all U.S. forces to withdraw from Iraq. This date reflects the increasing capacity of the Iraqi Security Forces as demonstrated in operations this year throughout Iraq, as well as an improved regional atmosphere towards Iraq, an expanding Iraqi economy, and an increasingly confident Iraqi government."

Perhaps it was Jeb Bush's brother who was so eager to be the history-maker, and sign the deal in December of 2008, so he could get credit for the withdrawal.

When confronted with this, Jeb Bush said that Obama didn't try hard enough to keep American troops in Iraq.

Obama did try to negotiate an extension, but Iraq's al-Maliki government would not give American troops immunity from Iraq law, something the U.S. President called "the deal breaker." And Iraq's decision not to provide such immunity was criticized by Republican conservatives.

When made aware of these arguments, Jeb Bush tried one last time to pin it all on Obama. In 2009, the "mission was accomplished," the former Florida Governor insisted.

Mission...Accomplished. Those were ironically the same words that President George W. Bush used to insist that the war was over in 2003, when in reality, we were unprepared for a brutal war, and the deaths of thousands of American military personnel at the hands of domestic insurgents and international terrorists.

Jeb Bush was attempting to deflect attention from George W. Bush and his Iraq policies. Instead, he reminded us not only who was in charge of the Iraq War and withdrawal, but how eerily similar the two brothers are about so many things. One may never think of one without thinking of the other.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. He can be reached at

Carter and Clinton: A Tale of Two Presidents

Peter Van Buren   |   August 14, 2015    5:11 PM ET

With the sad news that Jimmy Carter has cancer, it is time to take a look at what Carter, and another former president, chose to do with their lives after leaving the White House.

Seen the latest front-page Carter Center scandal? Hear about the six figure fees former president Jimmy Carter pulls in from shady foreign companies? Maybe not.

Take a moment to Google Jimmy Carter. Now do the same for Bill Clinton. The search results tell the tale of two former presidents, one determined to use his status honorably, the other seeking new lows of exploitation for personal benefit.

Carter's presidency carries an uneven legacy. Yet his prescient but unwelcome 1979 warning that the country suffered a crisis of confidence, preventing Americans from uniting to solve tough problems, anticipated the faux bravado and true spiritual emptiness of Reagan's "Morning in America."

Many feel Carter has been a better ex-president than he was a president. His Carter Center focuses on impactful but unglamorous issues such as Guinea worm disease. When Carter left office, the disease afflicted 3.5 million people. Now it's expected to be only the second disease, after smallpox, to ever be eradicated worldwide.

Carter, 90, still donates a week of his time each year to Habitat for Humanity. Not a photo-op, Carter goes out without the media in tow and hammers nails. Carter also tirelessly monitors elections in nascent democracies, lending his stature as a statesman to that work over 100 times already. Summing up his own term in office, Carter said "We never dropped a bomb. We never fired a bullet. We never went to war."

He is the last president since 1977 who can make that claim.

Bill Clinton pushed the NAFTA agreement through, seen now by many as a mistake that cost American jobs. He pointlessly bombed Iraq and sent troops into Somalia (see Blackhawk Down.) Clinton is remembered most of all, however, for his oral affair with an intern, then fibbing about it, and ending up one of only two American presidents ever impeached as a result.

As a former president, Clinton is nothing if not true to his unstatesman-like form. Bill makes six-figure speeches to businesses seeking influence within the U.S. government, earning as much as $50 million during his wife's term as secretary of state alone. TD Bank, the single-largest shareholder in the Keystone XL Pipeline, was also the single-largest source of speaking fees for Bill Clinton. He used a shell company to hide some of the income.

His own charity, humbly known as the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Global Foundation, is a two billion dollar financial tangle. It spent in 2013 the same amount of money on travel expenses for Bill and his family as it did on charitable grants. Instead of volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, Bill takes his big donors on executive safaris to Africa. Many of those same donors also give generously to the Hillary Clinton campaign and its constellation of PACs.

Voters should judge a candidate not just on examples of past competency, but with an eye toward the core things that really matter: character, values, honesty, humility and selflessness. Perhaps this tale of two presidents has a lesson in it for 2016.

A Practical Solution to College Costs

Peter Van Buren   |   August 13, 2015   11:47 AM ET

A better educated workforce is needed to compete more effectively. A high school education is no longer sufficient in a post-industrial society. But can enough people afford that?

Yes, but they need to work for it, in a different way than you think: balance the minimum wage against tuition costs.

The ever-increasing costs of higher education are well-known. A state school like The Ohio State University wants over $21,000 a year for tuition, room and board for in-state students (private schools can be triple that.)

All multiplied by four years of course. Plus an average rise in costs of about five percent per year. Student loans, the way many pay for at least part of their education, average over four percent interest rates.

These costs drive some students away from higher education entirely, while those who graduate in debt suffer a loss in productiveness to society for years as they pay off what they owe. If they pay off what they owe - Americans currently hold $1.2 trillion in student loan debt, and about eight million young people are in default.

The only way to get a free or low-cost education is receive a limited number of need-based scholarships, to be really good at sports, or through the Post-9/11 GI Bill. No one begrudges people good at football or who volunteered for the military a shot at college; the point is that handing out education as a reward to a few misses the value to our nation of unfettered access to education for the many.

Three Democrats have offered their versions of a solution (the Republicans seem more in favor of actually cutting funding for higher education.) None are very practical.

-- Eight months ago President Obama proposed a low-cost community college-based program with many hoops built into it. Anyone ever heard anything more about that idea since the big speech?

-- Bernie Sanders would introduce a bill designed to make state schools tuition-free for all, in part by passing a tax on financial transactions, including stock, bond, and derivatives trades. Thoughts on the viability of that idea?

-- Hillary Clinton wants $175 billion in Federal grants (Clinton would pay for the plan by capping the value of itemized deductions wealthy families can take on their tax returns) to go to states that guarantee students would not have to take out loans to cover tuition at four-year schools. In return for the money, states would have to end budget cuts and increase spending on higher education, while also working to slow the growth of tuition. See any potential points of failure in Clinton's plan?

It was once realistic for a student to work his or her way through school. That can be made possible again.

In 1978, tuition, room and board at The Ohio State University, as an example, was $1,253. The Federal minimum wage was $2.65. It took 472 hours, less than ten hours a week, to earn a year at school (leaving out taxes for simplicity.)

In 2015, the cost for a year at The Ohio State University is $21,000 and the Federal minimum wage is $7.25. That means it will take 2,896 hours to earn a year at school, an impossible 55 hours a week. It can't be done.

So consider this.

In-state tuition, room and board cannot exceed what someone can earn at minimum wage working 20 hours a week. A state can subsidize the gap, or a state could raise its minimum wage as needed to allow students to earn more, and thus the state could raise its tuition costs. States would decide themselves where the balance is, but one way or another, a student willing to work half-time could afford to go to college and graduate debt-free.

Could it be that simple?

Hillary Clinton Still Has a Big Lead: Here's How She Could Lose It

John A. Tures   |   August 12, 2015   10:25 AM ET

Despite what you read in the headlines, Hillary Clinton still has a commanding lead over Bernie Sanders nationwide, and beats Republicans in head-to-head match-ups nationwide. It's only in New Hampshire where she's polling poorly. But here's how Hillary could lose the election, or even the nomination, if she doesn't watch out.

"Bernie Sanders surges ahead of Hillary Clinton in stunning new 2016 poll," trumpets the headline from Brett LoGiurato with Business Insider. But you have to read past the heading to realize that it's only a New Hampshire poll where Senator Sanders is beating her. It's also a state where's she's not faring as well against Republicans, though she does best Donald Trump by ten percentage points in New Hampshire. Across the country, it's a different story.

At the bottom of LoGiurato's story, he admits that former Secretary of State Clinton is beating Sanders by 35 points on average across the country, and sports a 25 point lead over Sanders in Iowa.


Think Vice-President Joe Biden's presence would present a problem for Hillary? Actually, his presence gives Clinton a whopping 52%-16%-12% over Sanders and Biden respectively in a Monmouth poll, numbers confirmed by a CBS poll, one from Fox News, and an NBC/Wall Street Journal survey, all taken earlier this month.

Against Republicans, Hillary Clinton is in good shape too. In a McClatchy/Marist poll, she tops the Republican leaders by six points to holding double-digit leads over potential GOP rivals.

So could Clinton still stumble? If so, it wouldn't be in New Hampshire, where she could merely concede the state somewhat, much as her husband did in 1992, where he brushed off his loss to Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas. He touted his second place finish and noted he lost to a regional candidate, something Clinton could claim of Senator Sanders who is from Vermont. Of course she won the state in 2008, so she may make a run at the state. But a loss there wouldn't be as fatal as the shocker LBJ experienced to Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy, when the latter's strong showing was problematic.

If Hillary Clinton is to be derailed, it would be in Iowa.

Back in 2008, nearly everyone was picking Clinton to be the Democratic nominee. Obama was just a vice-presidential option, someone who could be groomed for 2016. But the Obama activists realized that a caucus is very different from a primary. It isn't about having a good aerial attack from TV advertising, but having a good ground game, with strong turnout from activists, especially those who knew the rules and how to build coalitions with also-ran candidates like Edwards and Richardson.

Obama stunned Clinton in Iowa this way. He also went on to win other caucus states, which were poor in delegates but rich in publicity, giving his campaign momentum. Building donor bases slowly gave him an advantage over Hillary, who tapped out her donors early and had to recruit new ones, while Obama could ask his donors, with room to give, to bet on him, an easier prospect as he took more states.

Clinton has to learn from history, or suffer the same fate to another little known senator in a Democratic nomination battle.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. He can be reached at

A Tipping Point in the Politics of Climate Change

Keith Gaby   |   August 11, 2015    6:00 PM ET

While solving climate change is the right thing to do, it hasn't always been considered a smart political move. Like any issue where action needs to be taken now to avoid bad consequences later, opponents have exploited people's reluctance to make change today in service of a better future.

But when President Obama announced the final rule to stop unlimited carbon emissions from power plants last week, we may have hit a tipping point in the politics of climate change.

Since climate change first emerged in the public debate several decades ago, it's moved from worrisome to urgent - and from an ignored scientific novelty to a partisan wedge. For a long time, opponents of policies to act on climate simply dismissed the issue, or made fun of it.

But eventually, the weight of scientific evidence pushed them to adopt scare tactics about the cost of solutions, while ignoring the much higher price of failing to act. This strategy often worked.

In 1993, an attempt by the Clinton administration to address climate pollution was seen as politically risky by many in Congress. Then in 2010, the failure of comprehensive climate legislation to overcome a Senate filibuster was viewed in the same light.

In politics, it's very often perception that counts. Even more than polling, elected officials rely on their own gut sense of public attitudes. So despite the majorities in favor of climate action, pollution limits, and clean energy, vulnerable members of Congress were reluctant to take action.

They worried too many people would yell at them, and that few would stand up in support.

But if you follow the issue closely, you can now sense that changing. Today, politicians no longer risk facing anger for daring to act on climate change, but for ignoring it.

More than 80 percent of voters under 35 - people who will dominate elections going forward and, through their power with advertisers and outlets, dominate our media landscape - want climate action. Polls show the public views those who dismiss climate change as out-of-touch.

And, importantly, those poll numbers match the way many elected officials are feeling about the politics of this issue. You can see that in the reactions to the Clean Power Plan by candidates up for re-election in swing states.

Part of this shift is also due to the fact the United States has now started to take serious action on climate. Meanwhile, none of the doomsday scenarios predicted by opponents have come to pass:

  • The Obama administration limited greenhouse gas emissions and raised fuel efficiency in cars, and Detroit is doing better than it has in years.
  • Utilities have begun to comply with an Environmental Protection Agency rule to limit toxic mercury pollution from fossil fuel power plants, and our electric system remains reliable.
  • Big investments in renewable energy in the 2009 Recovery and Reinvestment Act helped spur dramatically lower clean energy costs.

Of course, turn on any news channel and you'll hear some of the familiar noise and partisanship in reaction to the Clean Power Plan. Some members of Congress and media personalities will use all the same hot rhetoric they've always used.

But underneath it you can feel the tipping point...tip. Standing up to say climate change is a hoax, or a minor problem to be ignored, is now the province of candidates seeking support from a vocal minority of more ideological voters.

Candidates in competitive general election races are loath to be labeled climate deniers - for fear of looking silly or out of the mainstream.

None of this means the fight is over. Climate change, which should be a scientific matter, is still wrapped around the axle of partisan politics - and unwinding it will take time.

But the shift in the political landscape is clear.

This post originally appeared in EDF Voices.

What Makes This GOP Presidential Debate Matter

Earl Ofari Hutchinson   |   August 5, 2015    1:26 PM ET

The debate has fiercely raged ever since the first modern era glamour presidential debate in 1960 between Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy and Republican presidential candidate Richard M. Nixon over whether presidential debates really matter. The short answer from the mountains of research on the question is "no." Most voters cling to their party affiliations, political beliefs, and personal likes and dislikes of candidates no matter what the candidates say on the issues. In short, the mass of voters aren't generally swayed by a candidates verbosity, good looks, or seeming erudition on the issues.

The only exception is if a candidate makes a statement, or more accurately, gaffe that seems so far out of the pale that it exposes his ignorance or incompetence on an issue. This happened with President Gerald Ford when he bumbled and said "There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe" in his debate with Democratic presidential rival Jimmy Carter in 1976.

The other exception is a "gotcha" question or statement that leaves the put upon candidate red-faced, stumbling, fumbling and stewing to come up with an answer. This happened with Democratic presidential contender Michael Dukakis in the 1988 debate with George H.W. Bush when he was asked by the debate moderator whether he would support the death penalty should his wife, Kitty, be raped and murdered. His fumble of the out of left field question didn't help his image with many voters.

The question then of a presidential debate's seeming irrelevancy loomed big in the first of the marathon series of scheduled debates between the pack of GOP presidential candidates. Before the first question was posed and the first candidate pursed his lips to answer, the GOP debate was poo-pooed by some as just another exercise in posturing, bluster and a carnival side show.

The reason for the blow-off is simple. The 2016 presidential election is more than a year off. That's a comparative lifetime in the world of issues and practical problems such as a new Benghazi type attack that demands an intense look at foreign policy concerns and decisions, another shoot up of a school or mall that demands a fresh reassessment of gun control laws, or a new oil supply disruption that demands a hard look at energy costs and policy.

Whoever ultimately winds up in the White House will have to scramble and rethink ways and means to deal with these issues. So just regurgitating a stock position on the issues that is always subject to change seems trite. Even in the best circumstances, the GOP candidates simply do not have enough information on the never ending array of crucial issues, policies and programs that's part of their White House watch. Every president has found that grim political fact of life out and been on a hard learning curve from the instant he has put his first foot in the White House. January 2017 will be no different for the eventual presidential derby winner.

Now with that out of the way, the GOP presidential hopefuls, beyond the marginal name recognition they have outside of their states, will be on full public display in the debate for the first time to voters. And even though most voters won't be tuning into Fox Network at this early stage of the game, to watch and listen to them, they'll be fed enough bits and pieces of what the candidates said to get at least some idea of what they think on some issues. It will also provide a measuring stick of whether the GOP candidates can shed the image of being variously obstructionists, nay sayers, chronic Obama loathers, closet bigots, and in the case of Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and especially neurosurgeon Ben Carson, and billionaire Donald Trump, shoot-from-the lip, loose cannons who will hopelessly inflame, polarize, and embarrass the nation.

The debate will also serve as an early weeding out process for the candidates who are so ill-informed, ignorant and light weight on the issues to render them clearly unfit for a serious White House bid. This happened in the 2012 GOP presidential debates with then Texas governor Rick Perry. He terribly embarrassed himself with an "ouch" moment by not being able to remember the third federal agency he had pledged to eliminate if elected president. He was soon finished as a viable candidate after that.

The GOP debate will be watched and critically assessed if for nothing else because one of the candidates will eventually emerge from the pack, and get the party nod to challenge the, at this point, likely Democratic presidential contender, Hillary Clinton. This in itself will be a litmus test whether that candidate can actually go toe to toe with Clinton in a general debate on the issues that will be much more sharply defined in 2016.

Debate number 1, then, is not the terrible waste that many think and say. With Trump and Carson and Cruz on the stage, it might even be entertaining.


Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a frequent MSNBC contributor. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One's Reach Media. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KTYM 1460 AM Radio Los Angeles and KPFK-Radio and the Pacifica Network.

Candidate Speech Series: Hillary Clinton

Chris Weigant   |   July 16, 2015   11:25 PM ET

[This is a continuing series of candidate speech transcripts from all the Democratic presidential campaigns, which will be running all week long. Please see the introduction to this series for more information.]


Hillary Clinton

Introduction to Roundtable Discussion

Rancho High School, North Las Vegas, Nevada

It is wonderful to be back in Nevada and at Rancho. I am delighted to be joined by a number of young people who are going to talk with me, and all of you, about their lives and their stories, particularly immigration. I want to acknowledge my friend and Congresswoman Dina Titus for being here, thank you. And it is Cinco De Mayo, so it's an especially appropriate day to be having this conversation.

I want to begin by thanking everyone at Rancho High School for hosting us today. I am looking forward to hearing from each of our panel participants. I have wonderful memories from my time here in Nevada. I have gone door to door meeting with families not far from this school. I've met with a lot of culinary workers and other workers who keep the economy going strong. I accompanied a registered nurse on her 12-hour shift at St. Rose Dominican Hospital and then was very pleased to go back to her home and have dinner with her kids.

I know how hard hit Nevadans were by the Great Recession. This state in particular suffered some very tough blows. There was a much higher than average foreclosure rate, for example. A lot of people lost their jobs or their hours were cut dramatically, which made it more difficult for them to continue to make a good living.

We now see that this state is coming back from these tough economic times. Families have found a lot of different ways to make it work for them. We also saw people once again starting businesses, thinking about sending their kids to college, maybe doing some of those home repairs, maybe putting a little aside for retirement. But we're not yet back on our feet.

We have certainly climbed out of the hole we were in, but now we have to do more than get by, we have to get ahead and stay ahead. And there are a lot of ways that we have to think about how we do that together. I think that it's important to recognize that even with all the hard work and sacrifice that so many families made. In many ways, the deck is still stacked for those at the top. And I'm well aware that in Las Vegas, there's nothing worse than a stacked deck. I want to reshuffle the deck.

I want to be a champion for hardworking Americans, I want to work across party lines, I want to work with the public and private sector, I want people to get back to the good old-fashioned American style of problem solving and setting us back on the right course.

Now to help reshuffle the deck, people have to do their part, they have to step up and take education seriously, they have to be willing to work hard.

My father was a small-business man, and when I say that, he was a really small-business man. A couple day workers, my mom, my brothers, and I. But he understood that hard work was the way forward in the United States, and he made a good living, and I will forever be grateful for that.

Because when families are strong, America is strong, and I am convinced having fought for families going all the way back to my days in law school and ever since, there is nothing is more important.

Now in this campaign I think we have to wage and win four big fights. One is to build the economy of tomorrow, and not yesterday, and that means we have to be really focused on what is going to help prepare young people, and we have to start early. Education is the key, but education in the first years of life is essential because now we know that brain development has formed really by the time a child is three or four.

So we have to do more to make sure that every single child has the best chance to do well in school, to get ahead, to chart his or her own future, to live up to his or her own God-given potential. It is also essential that we strengthen families and communities and that means that we have to finally and once and for all fix our immigration system -- this is a family issue, it's an economic issue too, but it is at heart a family issue. If we claim we are for family, then we have to pull together and resolve the outstanding issues around our broken immigration system.

The American people support comprehensive immigration reform not just because it's the right thing to do -- and it is -- but because it will strengthen families, strengthen our economy, and strengthen our country. That's why we can't wait any longer, we can't wait any longer for a path to full and equal citizenship.

Now, this is where I differ with everybody on the Republican side. Make no mistake: Today not a single Republican candidate, announced or potential, is clearly and consistently supporting a path to citizenship. Not one. When they talk about "legal status," that's code for "second-class status."

And we should never forget that this debate is about people who -- and you're going to meet some of them in a second -- people who work hard, who love this country, who pay taxes to it and want nothing more than to build better lives for themselves and their children.

We're talking about the young people here at this table. They're DREAMers in much more than name. They are kids that any parent would be proud of. I don't understand how anyone could look at these kids and think we should break up more families or turn away more hard workers with talent.

So I will fight for comprehensive immigration reform and a path to citizenship for you and for families across our country. I will fight to stop partisan attacks on the executive actions that would put DREAMers -- including many with us today -- at risk of deportation.

And, if Congress refuses to act, as President I will do everything possible under the law to go even further. There are more people -- like many parents of DREAMers and others with deep ties and contributions to our communities -- who deserve a chance to stay. I'll fight for them too.

The law currently allows for sympathetic cases to be reviewed, but right now most of these cases have no way to get a real hearing. Therefore we should put in place a simple, straightforward, and accessible way for parents of DREAMers and others with a history of service and contribution to their communities to make their case and be eligible for the same deferred action as their children.

But that's just the beginning. There's much more to do to expand and enhance protections for families and communities. To reform immigration enforcement and detention practices so they're more humane, more targeted, and more effective. And to keep building the pressure and support for comprehensive reform.

On a personal basis, the first time I ever met anyone who was in our country and working I was about 12 years old, as I recall, and through my church was recruited along with some of the other girls in my Sunday school class to serve as babysitters on Saturday for the small children so that the older children could join their parents in the fields. Because, believe it or not, when I was growing up in Chicago, it was farm fields as far as the eye can see. The immigrant workers would come up through Texas, up through the Midwest, up to Chicago, and then through Michigan, and we were asked to help out.

And I remember going out to the camp where the families lived and taking care of the little kids while kids my age were out doing really hard work.

And what stuck in my mind was how at the end of the day, there was a long road at the end of the camp that went out to a dirt road in the middle of the field.

And the bus that had the workers from the field on it that came back in around four or five o'clock in the afternoon, stopped and let the workers off and all these little kids started running down that path to go see their parents and were scooped up by these really really tired people.

And I watched this and just thought, they're just like me and my brothers when my dad comes home from work and we go out there to see him when he comes back from his day of doing what he has to do to support us. I've never gotten that experience or that image out of my mind.

And so for me this is about what kind of people we all are and what kind of country we all have. I am absolutely convinced this is in our economic interest, in the interest of our values, and it's even in the interest of our long-term security as a nation.

So you know where I stand and there can be no question about it because I will do everything I can as President and during this campaign to make this case.

Now I know there are people who disagree with me, and I want them to have a conversation with me.

The facts are really clear, we know how much people who are working hard contribute to our economy both in what they buy and what they pay in taxes. In fact, in New York, which I know a little bit about because I represented it for eight years and I live there now, our undocumented workers in New York pay more in taxes that some of the biggest corporations in New York. So I'm ready to have this conversation with anyone anywhere.

And now let me turn to those who are living this story I want you to meet them and to talk with them.


Chris Weigant blogs at:

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant
Become a fan of Chris on The Huffington Post


Marina Fang   |   July 16, 2015    6:43 PM ET


WASHINGTON -- As president, Bill Clinton was wrong about Wall Street deregulation and various elements of his foreign policy, pushed trade policies that painfully drove up drug prices around the world, sowed chaos in Mexico through his prosecution of the drug war and exacerbated the problem of mass incarceration through an overly punitive approach to sentencing. 

It may be a harsh judgment, but it's one that carries weight considering the source: former President Bill Clinton. 

Unlike a lot of politicians, Clinton has shown a willingness to own up to his mistakes. Earlier this week, he offered a mea culpa around sentencing at the NAACP convention. Here's an incomplete list of policies he pursued as president that he has since acknowledged were not the best choices. 

Criminal justice

Clinton addressing the NAACP convention in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

 Clinton’s 1994 omnibus crime bill included mandatory minimum sentences, even for minor offenses such as drug crimes. It also contained a federal "three strikes" provision, which imposed life sentences for anyone convicted of a violent felony after two or more previous convictions.

Addressing the NAACP convention on Wednesday, Clinton admitted that his tough crime laws led to swelling prison populations.

“I signed a bill that made the problem worse,” he said. “And I want to admit it.”

In April, Clinton acknowledged in an introduction to a book of essays about criminal justice that these policies were "overly broad instead of appropriately tailored." 

"Some are in prison who shouldn't be, others are in for too long, and without a plan to educate, train, and reintegrate them into our communities, we all suffer," he wrote.

He again referenced his mistake in May, telling CNN that “we had too many people in prison” and that criminal justice policies did not place enough emphasis on rehabilitating criminals and supporting them once they were out of prison.  

“We wound up ... putting so many people in prison that there wasn't enough money left to educate them, train them for new jobs and increase the chances when they came out so they could live productive lives,” he said.

Financial deregulation

Clinton and Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers (L) in 2000. 

As president, Clinton turned a blind eye to big banks when he repealed FDR’s Glass-Steagall Act, which separated commercial and investment banking. This allowed big banks to merge, becoming “too big to fail.” Clinton also signed the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which prevented derivatives from being regulated, opening the door for risky business on the part of banks. Finally, he passed policies that made it easier for banks to practice predatory lending and give risky mortgages to low-income homebuyers. All of these policies eventually wrecked havoc on the global economy in the form of the 2007-08 financial crisis.

In 2010, Clinton said his decision to exempt derivatives from regulation was shortsighted and that he should not have listened to his economic advisers, who urged him to do it.

"On derivatives, yeah, I think they were wrong, and I think I was wrong to take [their advice],” he said. "Now, I think if I had tried to regulate them, because the Republicans were the majority in the Congress, they would have stopped it. But I wish I should have been caught trying. I mean, that was a mistake I made."

The drug war

While speaking in Mexico in February, Clinton apologized for the U.S. war on drugs that led to drug smuggling, which led to corruption, crime and violence across Central America. Though it began under President Ronald Reagan, the drug war escalated as a result of the NAFTA treaty championed by Clinton. Free trade benefitted drug cartels and enabled more drug trafficking.

“I wish you had no narco-trafficking, but it’s not really your fault,” Clinton said. “Basically, we did too good of a job of taking the transportation out of the air and water, and so we ran it over land. I apologize for that.”

Marriage equality

Clinton addresses the 18th annual Human Rights Campaign National Dinner in Washington on Oct. 25, 2014. HRC is the largest U.S. civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. 

 In 1996, Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act, defining marriage to be between a man and a woman. Though he had reservations about the bill and understood its impact on LGBT couples, he feared that not signing it would cost him the 1996 election.

In the years since, his public stance has evolved on marriage equality. When the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case to overturn DOMA in 2013, Clinton admitted the law was a mistake and urged the court to rule against it.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

A political compromise was the reason Clinton signed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which required LGBT military members to keep their sexual orientation a secret. The House had voted for an outright ban on gays in the military, while Clinton supported completely allowing gays to serve.

When asked in 2010 if he regretted the policy, he said: “Oh yeah, but keep in mind, I didn’t choose this policy. The reason I accepted it was because I thought it was better than an absolute ban.”

Rwandan genocide

 Clinton and his daughter, Chelsea, visit a cassava farm Aug. 2, 2008, in Rwinkwavu, Rwanda. 

 Clinton has said that one of his biggest regrets as president was not intervening in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Administration officials knew of the potential magnitude of the genocide but chose not to send troops to support the relatively small and ineffective United Nations peacekeeping force. 

In 2006 while on a trip to Rwanda, he was blunt in his assessment of how he handled the situation. “The United States just blew it in Rwanda,” he said.

"If we'd gone in sooner, I believe we could have saved at least a third of the lives that were lost,” he told CNBC in 2013. “It had an enduring impact on me."

Haitian rice tariffs

Clinton visits the Caribbean Craft art workshop in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on  Aug. 16, 2011.

As president, Clinton called for Haiti to eliminate tariffs on imported, subsidized U.S. rice, which crippled Haiti’s rice farmers, a major contributor to the country’s economy. He became a UN special envoy to Haiti in 2009, and after the devastating earthquake in 2010, Clinton called the tariff decision “a devil’s bargain.”

“It was a mistake. It was a mistake that I was a party to. I am not pointing the finger at anybody. I did that,” he said. “I have to live every day with the consequences of the lost capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people, because of what I did. Nobody else.”

HIV/AIDS & drug prices

Bill Clinton poses with HIV-positive children at the Treatment and Research Aids Center in Kigali, Rwanda, on July 23, 2005. The HIV infection rate in the Rwandan countryside is a little over 4 percent; in the towns, 11 percent. 

HIV/AIDS experts have criticized Clinton for not doing enough to fight the global AIDS epidemic as it grew in the 1990s. Worse than what he didn't do was what his trade office did do: fought hard for trade policies that strengthened and extended pharmaceutical patents, driving up prices worldwide, making not just HIV medications unaffordable. "It was wrong," Clinton later said of the patent push. In the 15 years since his presidency, he has committed himself to the AIDS cause through the Clinton Foundation, working to undo the damage.


Yeah, that famous apology.

To Ensure Their Election, Democrats Will Make Sure Iran Agreement Passes

MJ Rosenberg   |   July 15, 2015    1:24 PM ET

The media is already running tallies of how the final Congressional vote on the Iran agreement is likely to go. The assumption is that both houses will pass a "Resolution of Disapproval" first. President Obama will veto it. And the ultimate vote will come when Congress attempts to override Obama's veto, thus killing it once and for all.

To override requires a two-thirds vote in both houses. Because the Republicans do not constitute two-thirds of either house, a successful veto override will require (assuming every Republican votes against the President) support from 15 Democratic senators plus 43 Democratic House members.

That is a total of 58 Democrats who must vote with the Republicans against an agreement negotiated by a Democratic president.

That will not happen. It won't happen (beyond the merits of the deal) because Democrats will not want to go into their 2016 election campaigns having just repudiated the Democratic president and their 2016 nominee. All the Democratic candidates for the 2016 nomination support the agreement and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even claims credit for starting the process that produced it.

Any Democrat who votes against the agreement is saying that the single biggest foreign policy achievement of the incumbent Democratic administration is a dangerous failure. Specifically he will be buying into the key arguments against the deal -- that it will deliver (rather than prevent) a nuclear Iran, thereby jeopardizing American national security and, in the words of Sen. Lindsey Graham, issuing a "death sentence" to Israel.

Imagine the GOP ads with those messages!

Republicans will run ads like that against Democrats no matter how they vote on the deal (after all, they are still Democrats). Prevailing against them requires fighting back, demonstrating that the agreement enhances both U.S. and Israeli security. Opposing the agreement is acknowledging that the Democratic administration knowingly jeopardized the security of the American people and the existence of the State of Israel.

Following that admission, how could any Democrat ask for support for himself, let alone for the Democratic nominee for president? For the party that sold out both the U.S. and Israel to Iran!

In other words, voting against the Iran deal is not just wrong, it is stupid politically. And that, more than anything else, is the reason the agreement will pass. Enjoy the sideshow but that is all it is. The Iran agreement is a done deal.

Digital Skills Urgently Needed to Bridge Digital Literacy Gap

Lisa Chau   |   July 14, 2015    4:02 PM ET

Photographed at Dev Bootcamp on Wall Street during a Write, Speak, Code meeting.
Annually, only 10% of speakers at technology conferences are women.

Digital technology has changed our world for the better, but the innovation that helps some rise also threatens to leave millions behind. As technology transforms our economy at a blinding pace, more and more people are being locked out of a job market increasingly dominated by the demand for computer skills.

The digital skills gap is the divide between the technological skills a job requires and the skills a worker possesses. In the words of management consultancy McKinsey & Company, educational gaps like the digital skills gap, "impose on the United States the economic equivalent of a permanent national recession."

Policymakers and businesses alike are beginning to recognize that closing this gap is essential to preparing our nation for a successful future, and that the rapid pace of technological change makes fixing it more urgent than ever. It's now clear that increasing digital fluency is critical to keep our economy healthy and give more Americans the chance to secure well-paying jobs.


America's Digital Literacy Problem

Digital literacy is much more than the ability to use the internet or a smartphone -- this is just a small slice of the much wider problem with implications across individual job performance as well as entire systems like healthcare, financial planning and education.

Digital literacy encompasses fluency in digital systems, the ability to use a range of tech tools to accomplish work-related tasks and the flexibility to adapt as technology changes. These are the baseline requirements for the majority of jobs currently powering the U.S. economy. In fact, 78% of middle-skill jobs (occupations that require education beyond high school, but not a four-year degree) now require digital skills like spreadsheet and word processing, according to recent data released by Burning Glass Research.

"[Digital] literacy is the basic understanding of how to interact with a computer, how to interact with applications on that computer, how to make it do what you want," said Carol Smith, manager of Google's Summer of Code open source programs, at a recent panel at Github. "Nine in ten jobs that we're creating right now require some form of digital literacy."

However, according to the PIACC test results released by OECD this March, U.S. millennials scored almost dead last on digital literacy compared to other developed nations. This new assessment of problem-solving skills focused on how well adults understood and interacted effectively with digital technology. According to the Educational Testing Service's analysis, "The comparatively low skill level of U.S. millennials is likely to test our international competitiveness over the coming decades. If our future rests in part on the skills of this cohort -- as these individuals represent the workforce, parents, educators, and our political bedrock -- then that future looks bleak."

Fueling the Digital Economy

Digitally intensive middle skill jobs show robust demand, healthy growth and stable prospects. They also represent the biggest opportunity for the 68 percent of Americans without a bachelor's degree. As promising as these jobs are, they are closed off to the millions who lack digital literacy.

This new reality is dawning on businesses and governments alike, as major players across industries are pledging to create a more digitally educated workforce. "Companies like Capital One are going to help recruit, train and employ more new tech workers -- not out of charity, but because it's a smart business decision," President Obama said during the National League of Cities conference.

Today, the interest, recognition and support needed to create a more digitally literate America has finally spread to the highest offices and the biggest companies in the nation. Now, as the evolution of technology accelerates, we need to unite even more to accelerate our efforts in helping people catch up, keep up and thrive in the digital economy. Tomorrow's opportunities are contingent on our ability to achieve digital literacy today.

Co-authored with Jeff Fernandez, CEO of Grovo. Last month, his company partnered with Capital One to announce the Future Edge Digital Literacy Challenge at the Clinton Global Initiative America. Designed to bring free digital literacy education to the masses, the initiative empowers people with the skills needed to compete for the millions of secure, well-paying middle-skill jobs that today's employers are actively looking to fill.

Prediction: Hillary Will Bail Out Banks

Judy Frankel   |   July 13, 2015    2:55 AM ET

On Monday, Hillary unveiled her economic agenda for strengthening the middle class. But looking at solutions like raising the minimum wage is only half the story. To evaluate the bigger picture, a review of Hillary's history with the banking industry is necessary.

Remember taxpayers bailed out the banks in 2008 to keep the economy from crashing? Remember the deregulation of derivatives with the Commodity Futures Modernization Act in 2000? Thanks to Congress neutering Dodd Frank regulations that were meant to reinstate sane checks and balances on the financial industry, our economy can be expected to go through a rough roller coaster ride for the next President. Banks and speculators have not stopped the types of behaviors that would cause another financial disaster. As the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission warned in their February 2011 report explaining the 2008 crash:

"More than 30 years of deregulation and reliance on self-regulation by financial institutions...has stripped away key safeguards, which could have helped avoid catastrophe."
Those key safeguards are still not reinstated. As proof that banks know a bailout seems imminent, Citigroup wrote their own bailout scenario into the 11th-hour government funding bill that passed December, 2012. Citigroup lobbyists made sure Congress passed a specially designed provision to override the "push out rule" of Dodd Frank which required risky derivatives to go through non-bank affiliates that aren't insured by the FDIC. This last-minute addendum puts the government on the hook yet again when their trading practices threaten to make Citigroup insolvent. We Americans have every right to be angry at this kind of socialism-the kind where government gives "social welfare" to banks.

I don't think Hillary is prepared to handle the onslaught of a financial crisis, and I'll explain this assertion in two words-campaign contributions.

Husband Bill Clinton gleefully deregulated the banking industry by signing the Financial Modernization Act of 1999 and the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000. The first Act dismantled the regulations that had kept our economy stable since after the Great Depression (Glass Steagall) and the second made sure that derivatives were traded secretly.

To undo this mess, Hillary would have to specifically address the banking industry insiders--the same people who have been promoting and paying for her campaign.

Hillary's donors are a who's who of banks and financial institutions. According to, Citigroup, Inc., Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Lehman Brothers were five of her top ten supporters between 1999 and 2014.

In The System Worked, author Daniel Drezden writes of the Dodd Frank reforms and bailouts: "The more that people realize the system worked after 2008, the more likely they are to believe the system will continue to work in the future." So what if we bail out the banks? Many of my friends thought Obama averted catastrophe by giving banks enough money to stay solvent. Better than having them fail, right? Not necessarily. Borrowing money from the Fed and giving money to irresponsible banks makes our government look like it's printing play money, and other countries don't like that. The BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) are setting up their own reserve currency paradigm. In the event that the US dollar loses its cache as the world's reserve currency, other countries are prepared to smooth out market volatility by having their own currency pool.

Unregulated derivatives are the biggest bubble yet. Just as we had no clue about the blowback from detonating the first nuclear bomb to take out human lives, we have no idea how this meltdown will play out. When the derivatives unravel this time, instead of relying on $1.3 trillion from the Fed and $700 billion from taxpayers as they did in 2008 and 2009, it will be much, much more. The International Bank of Settlements has reported that the notional value of derivatives is over $600 trillion. That's a lot of balls to keep in the air. If traders can't keep moving this fantastical amount of money around, their bubble bursts all over us.

Will Hillary bail out her banking friends who are helping her run for President? Or will she do what is necessary to bring back stability to our economy?