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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:

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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?

Hillary's Rope Trick Getting a Bum Rap

Chris Weigant   |   July 8, 2015    9:26 PM ET

The American public has a pretty high level of seething contempt for politicians. However, this is easily matched (if not surpassed) by the level of seething contempt the public also holds for journalists and the news media. I mention these two facts because whenever the media inserts itself into a story (or "becomes the story"), they usually are astonished that the public doesn't see them in the quite the sympathetic light they're aiming for. Which brings us, in a roundabout way, to the story of Hillary Clinton's rope trick.

If you haven't heard the story yet, you must not pay much attention to politics or the news in general, because it's been all over the place since last weekend. Hillary Clinton, as presidential candidates are wont to do, participated in a July Fourth parade in a town in an early-primary state. The press was invited to cover the parade. Which they were fully able to do. Instead of Team Hillary positioning groups of the media at static points along the parade route, they even allowed the media to walk in front of Clinton along the parade route. But there was a problem. To keep the journalists and photographers moving, Clinton aides stretched a rope across the street and walked it forward, to prod the journalists to keep up a decent pace. It was, after all, a parade, and nobody likes a parade which repeatedly grinds to a halt.

However reasonable this all sounds, it made for terrible optics. Reporters were "corralled" or "kept away from the candidate" the news stories screamed. The photos show Clinton trying to pay attention to the crowd rather than the media scrum in front of her, but (as far as the media were concerned) Hillary was "roping herself off" or some such nefarious thing.

Now, a photo's worth a thousand words and all of that, and I certainly agree that the pictures were not favorable to Clinton, since they seemed to reinforce the "Hillary has contempt for the public" theme. Look at that photo -- she's an elitist, who thinks she has to be protected from the public! But bad photo-oppery aside, for me the photos only showed what incredible jackasses most political reporters following campaigns truly are.

The most interesting (and most amusing) video clip from the 2016 campaign so far is the one showing the media scrum taking full flight in pursuit of Hillary's "Scooby Van," as it pulled around behind a building she was about to enter. This was, doubtlessly, to get that Pulitzer-winning shot of "Hillary Clinton exits van and enters building." Dozens and dozens of grown men and women running pell-mell to get the most pedestrian of shots only shows the shallow nature of the press scrum itself. And it was precisely that press scrum which was being corralled in last weekend's parade. It wasn't "Clinton roping herself off from the public" -- the public was on the sides of the street, not in front of her. In fact, the rope was there to provide the public with an actual view of (and chance to interact with) Hillary Clinton. Think about it -- if the media hadn't been corralled, they would have (and I say this without a shadow of a doubt) surrounded Clinton and refused to move, and as a direct result the parade would have halted (or, at the very least, been considerably slowed down) and Clinton herself would have been blocked from the view of the public.

The stories the next day (and again I say this without doubt) would have been: "Clinton refused to interact with public during parade" and "Clinton slows small town parade to a halt, upsetting crowd." This is precisely what Team Hillary was trying to avoid. But by doing so, the rope (and the media) became the storyline.

Now, I am no rabid supporter of (or regular apologist for) Hillary Clinton. And I do think the media has a valid point indeed about how Team Clinton manages her press interactions -- she's been an official candidate for months now, and she only this week gave her first sit-down interview with a national media outlet. That's a valid complaint about press access to any presidential candidate. Clinton feeds the frenzy of press scrums (like the one desperately running for a totally banal shot of her) by refusing almost all other casual interactions with the press. If the only shot you can even get is of Hillary walking from a van to a door, then it increases the importance of getting such a shot, in other words. The rope photos seemed, at first glance, to reinforce this theme.

Even with such bad optics, though, Hillary's getting a bum rap. The media were not barred from the event, and they were not relegated to a designated spot along the parade route. Even though dozens of people shouldering television cameras is not a very parade-worthy sight (unless perhaps they broke out into choreographed precision backwards marching), they were still allowed to walk in the middle of the street in front of Hillary Clinton. They had more access then they really deserved, not less. Clinton's aides knew that media scrums follow absolutely no rules of politeness whatsoever, and they tried to avoid delaying the parade for the public. This also allowed Clinton to be clearly seen by the public, and even have a chance to interact with her (shake her hand, yell something rude, whatever). That's why the whole story was a bum rap. It was all about petulant cameramen (and camerawomen) who were denied their sacred opportunity to shove a camera right up Hillary's nostrils, thereby halting the parade and blocking any possible view of her by the spectators. That's precisely what happened, no matter how much the media would like to portray it differently.

Whenever the media "become the story," especially when they're trying for sympathy due to their supposed victimhood, they usually come off looking worse than if they had never tried to make it a story in the first place. Sure, being a reporter is tough and all, especially with a candidate who really doesn't like interacting with you and your fellows. But when the camera turns around and shows the press scrum itself, the public usually isn't very sympathetic in response.

Alexandra Pelosi used the experience of being a reporter assigned to cover George W. Bush's first presidential campaign to create a documentary movie about how campaigns were covered (Journeys With George). Many excellent books have been written about being part of the campaign media scrum (two of the best: Fear And Loathing On The Campaign Trail '72 and The Boys On The Bus). Bush, in Pelosi's movie, at one point is caught on a live microphone denigrating a reporter in eyebrow-raising terms, but he then turns the joke on its head by presenting all the reporters with baseball jerseys with "Major League Assholes" written on them.

Hillary Clinton's team hasn't shown such anywhere near such dexterity in press relations, but then Hillary Clinton has faced the national media for a lot longer than George W. Bush had when that movie was made. Where Bush responded with humor, Clinton usually responds with exasperation (at times bordering on contempt) towards the media. That's a valid complaint. But whining about a mild inconvenience for photographers which enabled a better parade experience for the public really isn't that big a deal. No matter how bad the pictures look.


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Like a Good Referee, the Next U.S. President Should Be Measured, Courageous, and Decidedly Not the Story

James Marshall Crotty   |   July 6, 2015   12:00 AM ET


I love basketball. Most Americans love basketball. President Obama loves basketball. So, let's use a basketball metaphor to define the best kind of U.S. President.

In the NBA (National Basketball Association), you have at least two referees, often three. For this discussion, think of them like the President (since one is the lead referee) and Vice-President, with the third being an amalgam of the agency heads within the executive branch.

The "refs" enforce the rules of the game. They do not make the rules. The rules are decided by the NBA's Competition Committee, consisting of two owners, four general managers, three coaches, and one representative from the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA). There are no referees on this committee. Any recommendation this committee makes goes to the NBA's Board of Governors for approval. There's no referee on that august body as well.

In the NBA, the referee's job is to consistently enforce the rules, while taking into account the context of play in any given game (e.g., excessively rough play results in more fouls, and even technical fouls, being issued). Moreover, the referee's job is to keep play safe and fair, while maintaining the flow of the game ("let the players play," in basketball parlance).

Above all, the referee's job is to not become the story. When the referee - because of some boneheaded, out-of-character or weirdly timed call - becomes the story, the citizens (fans, players, owners, coaches, et. al.) get upset, confidence in the game declines, and play suffers. What any nation, like any NBA game, like the world economic order itself needs most is predictable and competent rule enforcement. If a ref is calling a game correctly, players and coaches easily adjust. If a President is calling the game correctly, businesses, nations and citizens easily adjust.

The job of a great referee, like the job of a public servant, is to only assert his or herself into a contest when the rules have been clearly broken or the game has gotten out of hand. In this way, the NBA referee's primary role is akin to the Commander-in-Chief role of the United States President. Unless special circumstances warrant, the U.S. President rarely exercise the extraordinary enforcement power invested in his office. Instead, a U.S. President, like a good referee, works to facilitate a game that is neither "too tight" nor "too soft." Like Baby Bear's porridge, he or she wants a game that is "just right," so that the animal spirits of the free market, combined with the creative genius of entrepreneurs, can work their magic.

Unfortunately, in 21st century America, we have this childish idea that our elected referees are the star athletes. They are, thus, supposed to be entertaining, lovable, even sexy, showmen, pandering to least common denominator sentiments, appearing on low-brow talk shows, or worse.

We recently elected a nice family man for two terms to the job of top referee on planet earth. This altruistic Junior Senator had no real world experience running a company. He had studied the constitutional rules of the game, but, in practice, his work history was that of community organizer and professor.

Though Mr. Obama possessed an emotionally intelligent demeanor, he differed in key respects from what this nation - born as it was of the prudent, self-reliant wisdom of Franklin, Jefferson and Madison - needs in a leader. First, he was ridiculously popular. This had a lot to do with his stylistic and lifestyle choices. He snorted cocaine as a teen, smoked a lot of dope too, and continued to smoke cigarettes and play basketball as an adult. Moreover, he was lanky and smooth, and said all the easy, wildly popular things that would get the liberal poor and young excited about his candidacy. He was thus thought to be "cool." He was also, quite admirably, cordial to friend and foe alike.

And, incidentally, he was half-black. So, electing him to the top job would not only be historic, but it would also be an historically symbolic gesture that would make "folks" (our President's favorite term of endearment) feel like they had finally buried the race hatchet that few Americans of any stripe actually want to talk about, despite the President's calls for a "national discussion" on this over-invoked subject.


However, the ultimate referee on planet earth should not be chosen by the color of his skin, his looks, or his suave "just folks" demeanor. He should be chosen because he or she can enforce the rules of the game in a humble, productive and consistent way. A good ref does so in such a manner that the flow of the game - whether in commerce or sports - is not unnecessarily impeded.

Like bankers, Presidents should be somewhat boring. You wouldn't trust your hard-earned income to a backslapping, hail fellow well met fiduciary, so why would you trust your taxes to a similar fellow running for President? If the subprime mortgage meltdown taught us anything, it's that bankers should not be allowed to take outsized risks that threaten the banking system. If you like risk, become an oil wildcatter, not a banker. Same applies to referees in all other incarnations.

Referees are not rockstars. They are supposed to be courageous and disciplined, able to make a tough, unpopular, but correct call when all the fans, players, coaches, managers, owners and commentators vocally hate them for making that decision. They should never be the story.

President Barack Obama has always been the story ever since he embarked on his rockstar run for President. His very autobiography suggested that a vote for him was a vote for a striking narrative. His narrative was the country's narrative.

Yet, despite all the orchestrated fanfare, in comparison to the intemperate Mr. Clinton, the measured Mr. Obama had all the makings of a great referee. He certainly was a breath of fresh air after the preemptive recklessness of his predecessor, George W. Bush. Indeed, in many ways, over the course of his scandal-free tenure, Mr. Obama has nobly done what any good referee should do: nimbly and fairly enforced the rules of the game.

Unfortunately, Mr. Obama's us vs. them, rabble-rousing demagoguery undercut the enormous promise he at times showed. He demonized business people who used private jets, even as he rode the world's most expensive non-commercial jet. He slammed Wall Street investment bankers, even as he took sizable donations from them. He routinely called out absentee fathers in America's inner cities, while refusing to back legislation that would mandate personal responsibility as a condition of government assistance.

Most intemperately, he called for "immigration reform," while deliberately - and for transparent political gain - failing to thoroughly enforce our immigration laws, and then proactively preventing states from picking up the slack. Ever the politician, he oversaw just enough deportations to keep conservative naysayers in his own party at bay, though his goal was never to end illegal immigration. That conscious and unconscionable dereliction of duty is akin to an NBA referee taking bribes to throw games that manifestly affect who wins an NBA championship.


A true referee would have shut the border down to all illegal immigration and sent most of those here illegally back home in the most compassionate, but forthright, way possible. Mr. Obama, too needy for adulation, too cowardly to speak truth to fawning members of his liberal base, was not interested in that sort of tough love. It was if the President had a secret tape of Cleveland's Matthew "Delly" Dellavedova admitting that he purposely went out on the basketball court trying to harm opposing players, but decided not to prosecute because he wanted the long-suffering Cavaliers to finally win a championship. That's how this President rolled on immigration. And it was a disgrace that clouded his genuine achievements: opening up Cuba, offing Bin Laden, raising fuel efficiency standards, fostering LGBT civil rights, passing credit card reform, improving food safety and school nutrition, and at least trying to solve, however imperfectly, our nation's health care crisis.

Indeed, despite the refreshing balance and decorum be brought to this country's dealings with our allies after the knee-jerk bellicosity of Mr. Bush, Barack Obama lacked the steely fortitude needed in a world game increasingly dominated by a series of Ron Artests. For these reasons, he is a cautionary reminder of what we don't want in our next commander-in-chief.

A wise leader, like a wise referee, does everything in his power to not be the story. Moreover, he actively blocks all machinations that make him or her the story. Finally, because it's good for the nation, good for the game if you will, he has the courage to make the tough call, even when it might cost him an election.

This coming year, when you select our next President, please look for the person who gets these principles in his or her DNA. Though your baser instincts tell you otherwise, avoid the person (e.g., Obama, Bill Clinton, Reagan) who makes you feel good because of their preternatural need to be loved. Such candidates usually had an absentee, often alcoholic, father figure in their childhood.

Aristotle, in his Nichomachean Ethics, noted that the best leader, the true leader, eschews elective office, eschews popularity in all its forms, and thus eschews appeasing the masses in order to get ahead. The true leader eschews promotion or recognition, unless it is fully justified.

For these reasons, the true leader must be begged to lead. Only when a nation is desperate for wise, courageous, "high-minded" (in Aristotle's words) leadership will it stop falling for the usual demagogues. We are clearly not at that point in America, as the cavalcade of bombastic fools, charlatans, and opportunists currently running for President suggests.

What we need in our next President is someone who eschews the limelight, who is fully dedicated to the protection of the constitution, and who consistently calls plays the right way, despite enormous pressure from players, fans, coaches and owners.

And we need someone who knows when to call the game tight. For example, when rogue players (narco-terrorists, smugglers, illegal immigrants, looters, rioters, Wall Street cheats and other white-collar criminals, ISIS, Putin and his ilk, the financially derelict leaders in Greece, Argentina and Venezuela) threaten to destroy the game itself, you need to call the game very close indeed, lest you send a green light to further destructive behavior.

In 2016, fifteen years after 9/11, we do not need another people-pleasing co-dependent. Or someone who feels that is their time, their turn, their birthright, even as they couch it as "our turn." We don't need someone who says all the things that will make his or her base giddy with joy. We need a steady enforcer of the rules of the game. And those rules apply equally to Wall Street hedge fund tycoons, to cops in and out of uniform, to those who violently riot and loot because a court decision does not go their way, and to those who persistently and cavalierly cross our borders illegally.

- James Marshall Crotty

No Whistleblowing for David, Only Goliath

Sue Veres Royal   |   June 23, 2015    1:55 PM ET

"You will never work in nonprofits again"... "You have to look out for your family"... "You're throwing away your career and your connections"... "You will be sued"...or worse yet, "You could be Fosterized!!"

These, along with many other thoughtful, caring and understandable cautionary words have been spoken to me and, I am sure others, who have come forward regarding what they consider to be unethical practices in their work place - no matter the field. And yet, here I am, like many others now and before me. In the midst of the chaos, in the midst of a scary endeavor, in the midst of something I think is the right thing to do.

In 2013, the New York State Legislature apparently thought that oversight and transparency of nonprofit organizations was so important that they enacted The Nonprofit Revitalization Act of 2013, which took effect on July 1, 2014. To note, New York's nonprofit sector is the nation's largest - so the New York legislature should lead the nation in laws and protections. A critical new requirement for all organizations is to revise or adopt a whistleblower policy. The Act dictates that whistleblower policies must prohibit retaliation against any director, trustee, officer, employee or volunteer who reports illegal or fraudulent activities - or even suspected activates. However, there is a caveat - only people that belong to an organization with 20 or more employees and an annual revenue in the prior year of at least $1 million are afforded this protection. Does that sound like you? Well, you are one of the lucky ones.

I worked in an organization who fell about 14 people short but whose income was about four times that of the minimum requirement. This organization is not an anomaly. According to a report by the Urban Institute only 23% of nonprofit organizations nationwide have a budget larger than $1 million. And, according to a Philanthropy New York/Foundation Center report, organizations in New York City with budgets over the required $1 million (those with income between $1 million and $5 million) had a median staff size of 17 in 2009. Nonprofit employees, overall, may seem like a "fringe group" but in reality, it is a significant part of the economy; the same report notes that the nonprofit sector accounted for 14% of the workforce in New York City in 2000-2001.

So, what does this mean? This means that in the state with the largest nonprofit sector in the country whistleblower protection is not afforded to those employed by or involved in the majority of organizations. Why then would the New York Legislature require a certain number of employees and a budgetary requirement that circumvents the majority of nonprofit organizations? WTF? But I guess things could be worse, the whistleblower policy was originally only going to apply to organizations with 20 employees who had purple hair, nose rings, and were five-foot-three-and-a-half inches tall, but that would have been arbitrary (wink, wink). 

This sets up a system in which basically the majority of organizations could skirt the law's reach, if they so choose - not unlike the healthcare legislation. Nonprofits can assumingly be comprised of the following, for example, and still not have to enact whistleblower protections:
- Organization A: $100 million budget, 1,000 volunteers but only 18 employees
- Organization B: A celebrity, a hedge fund manager and a politician on the board, $5 billion budget and only two employees

This is unfortunately an inherently unfair situation for people at most organizations--who purposefully keep small staffs so that the most money possible can go directly to their missions.

I have worked at larger nonprofit organizations - and perhaps with irony - when I needed help (although I never encountered any illegal or unethical practices at them), I could turn to my supervisor, the human resources department, my supervisor's supervisor, and so on. In a small organization, it is far more difficult to report issues and find support. As an employee you have your Executive Director; if you can't turn to s/he, then you might be lucky to have a board member to whom you can go - but not often. And, as an Executive Director of a small nonprofit, you only have the board. The way in which the law is written now is leaving behind the people who are perhaps in most need of whistleblower protection - and it makes no sense.

If you have read these and The New York Times articles, then you know I was fired and I have been threatened with a lawsuit for filing a complaint with the Attorney General. So this lack of protection has and is affecting me. A revised law can help the person feeling stuck, feeling scared, feeling like they want to do what is right but who is currently being forced to weigh real personal responsibilities against those of the greater good.

We know that nonprofits make enormous contributions to society. To protect the integrity of the sector, a revision to this law is needed. In the meantime, nonetheless, I hope you will step forward if you find yourself in a situation in which unethical practices are taking place. And, remember if you don't see my blog for a while it's not first and ten at Hoffa -I mean Giants Stadium, I am probably just on vacation!

Solar Jobs: Growing at the Grassroots

Bill Ritter, Jr.   |   June 11, 2015   12:54 PM ET

For nearly a decade, first as governor of Colorado and now as the director of a clean energy policy group, I have been one of the many people working with state and federal officials to shape more sustainable energy and climate policies. It is a mission filled with the glacial pace of governments and constant competition with other priorities.

From time to time, however, I am reminded that much of the best work on America's necessary transition to a sustainable energy economy is being done at the grassroots level. The solar energy revolution is progressing community by community.

One of those moments occurred this week during a meeting convened by the Clinton Global Initiative (GCI), the entity best known for securing concrete commitments from business leaders, philanthropists and private organizations to invest time and money on initiatives that address pressing needs around the world.

At their fifth annual CGI America meeting -- held in Denver and focused on strengthening the U.S. economy -- CGI received commitments from several organizations for grassroots projects that demonstrate how solar energy creates good local jobs, alleviates energy poverty and cuts carbon emissions.

The solar-powered jobs engine is working across the United States. The latest census by the Solar Foundation found that the solar industry has created more than 705,000 jobs in companies that build, install, service and support solar energy equipment. Over five years, solar-related employment has increased by a remarkable 86 percent. More Americans work in the solar industry today than in the coal industry.

The latest commitments created through CGI focus particularly on giving low-income households access to community solar energy systems. For example, the Southeastern Ohio Public Energy Council committed to organize community-scale solar power generation and household energy efficiency programs in the heart of Appalachia.The project will operate initially in the city of Athens and in Athens County, OH, and serve households, businesses and schools. The Council anticipates that the program will serve 2,600 families while creating 120 permanent and 180 temporary jobs in Appalachia.

To make energy efficiency and solar power affordable, the Council will use a state program that allows homeowners to organize "power buying groups" with leverage to negotiate prices with suppliers. As a result, the Council expects that homeowners will install a variety of energy efficiency measures that will reduce their energy bills by 25 percent, on average. The energy savings will more than offset the cost of the efficiency improvements, giving families an immediate monthly savings on their bills, the equivalent of a tax-free monthly paycheck.

The Council was one of several organizations to step up with a plan to bring solar to underserved communities. Based in Pine River, MN., the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance pledged to train 120 people to deploy solar energy systems for low-income households where families often have to choose between paying their energy bills and affording other essentials. The Alliance calls it the "heat or eat" dilemma.

In two tribal areas and five economically depressed rural counties, the Alliance plans to show how community action agencies can become solar power producers that serve low-income households. The goal is to liberate 750 households from federal energy assistance and serve as a model for other communities.

Likewise, the National Housing Trust committed through CGI to help the owners of multi-family affordable housing units install and own solar equipment on buildings. That approach will make solar energy available to 10,000 residents. Where multiple buildings are located, the Trust will help establish shared solar energy systems, starting in Washington D.C., California, Minnesota and Maine.

And yet another organization, Standard Solar Inc., has demonstrated its commitment to moving Americans toward a clean energy economy by pledging to invest $52 million in innovative local applications of solar energy storage.

The projects mentioned above share two exceptional features. First, they focus on families who pay a disproportionate amount of their income for energy and who are unable to afford solar energy on their own. Second, they demonstrate an important way to make solar energy available to virtually everyone. In 2008, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimated that fewer than one-third of the residential rooftops in the United States are suitable for on-site solar systems. As governor in 2010, I signed the nation's first legislation to make community solar systems -- often called "shared solar" -- available to utility customers. These systems avoid the limitations of rooftop systems; they are sited where the sun shines and distributed close by to consumers.

These are the types of power systems the American people want. A Gallup poll in March found that 79 percent of Americans want more solar energy -- in fact, their preference for solar and wind energy ranks far ahead of coal, oil, natural gas or nuclear power.

The growing interest among utility customers to become power producers is challenging the 20th century utility business model of big central power plants and hundreds of thousands of miles of transmission lines. Utility executives tell me that the clean energy revolution is 10 years ahead of power companies while power companies are 10 years ahead of regulators. With projects like those presented to the CGI, local organizations and the communities they serve are ahead in the lead.

For those who work to spread the energy revolution to Washington and to state capitols, it is inspiring to see clean and renewable energy taking root in communities around the country. The deeper those roots grow, the less vulnerable American families will be to the "heat or eat" dilemma and to a lack of good local jobs. And the less vulnerable all of us will be to the risks of power outages, rising energy prices and global climate change.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the Clinton Global Initiative in recognition of the latter's fifth meeting of CGI America (June 8-10 in Denver). This week, nearly 1,000 leaders from business, government, and civil society are coming together to develop solutions for economic growth, long-term competitiveness, and social mobility in the United States. For more information on CGI America, read here. To see all of the posts by authors in the series, read here.

Hillary and Undocumented Immigrants

Ryan Campbell   |   May 13, 2015    6:27 PM ET

As far as immigration rhetoric goes, Hillary has created what can be called a seismic change in the rhetorical field on the issue. This has sent everyone from other candidates like Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, to even the current White House, scrambling as they attempt to either change, clarify or reinforce their current position.

While there was much said, and most of it was the safe sort of "hard-working immigrant" rhetoric that is essentially "political fluff," considering where we are in the very long 2016 race, she did say a lot of things that turn into political liabilities if not acted upon.

Perhaps the most important quote from Hillary's meeting with Dreamers was "... if Congress continues to refuse to act, as President, I would do everything possible under the law to go even further [than President Obama]." When Hillary was talking on this, she was referencing DAPA and DACA, and talked about how "There are more people with deep ties and contributions to our communities who deserve a chance to stay."

Building on her theme, she called for "a simple, straightforward, accessible way for parents of Dreamers and others with a history of service and contribution to their communities to make their case and to be eligible for the same deferred action as their children." This could potentially allow for some of the more sympathetic cases that don't quite qualify for DACA or DAPA to remain in the country, and could potentially cut down on forcing immigrants to be unnecessarily detained in one of the GEO Group's detention facilities.

Hillary then made points on the detention system:

I also am very worried about detention and detention facilities for people who are very vulnerable, and for children. I think we could do a better job if we kept detention to people who have a record of violent illegal behavior and that we have a different approach for people who are not in that category, and I don't think we should put children and vulnerable people into detention facilities because I think they're at risk, their physical and mental health are at risk.

This, and her saying that we should have representation for the children that wind up at the border, are a bit of a departure from her notedly harsh rhetoric on sending the border children back as soon as a responsible adult in the family can be located in the past.

These centers Hillary referenced have horrible conditions where every corner on detainee health and welfare is cut to provide a larger margin of profit for the corporation, typically the Corrections Corporation of America or the GEO Group.

There has been arbitrary use of solitary confinement for offenses like not speaking English, patterns of unchecked violence from guards with no accountability, maggot-infested food, background checks so poor they have enabled pedophiles to guard (and sexually molest) teenage girls in facilities, and this is just a few items on a list too long for this article.

Anyone who focuses on LGBT and women's rights within immigration have heard how the conditions in detention facilities are even worse for them: LGBT people are about fifteen times more likely to be raped while in one, and there has been a mothers' hunger strike in Karnes center after a string of sexual assaults from the guards. This facility is only one of many known for rape problems that are part of a multi-billion dollar detention industry that spends tens of millions of dollars lobbying Congress and the Dept. of Homeland Security, as well as donates at least hundreds of thousands of dollars to candidates on both sides of the aisle (though with so much dark money, I would wager it's in the millions).

This industry has shown, time and time again, that it does not care for the human rights of those in their facilities.

That is why it was particularly welcome when Hillary started talking about the bed mandate and private detention centers:

I'm not sure that a lot of Americans know that the detention facilities for immigrants are run by private companies, and that they have a built-in incentive to fill them up. That there is actually a legal requirement that so many beds be filled. So people go out and round up people in order to get paid on a per-bed basis. That just makes no sense at all to me, that's not how we should be running any detention facility.

Lastly, however, Hillary reminded us a bit that she is running, decrying a "second class status" that other countries have which we should not. This was seen as a thinly-veiled shot at Rubio and Bush, who are talking about offering some status short of citizenship to undocumented immigrants in the country.

In the cynicism of politics, we need to consider the source: Hillary Clinton just got a primary challenge from Bernie Sanders, and either is or should be trying to mess with the GOP field: putting pressure on Jeb to move further to the left on immigration while Walker can continue to jump rightward and fire up an anti-immigrant base that can hurt Jeb, the most likely general election opponent, during the primary.

For a politician like Hillary, going on the record is a strong sign that she intends to follow through. While the plans are still quite vague, it is still very early, and we will have a long time to drag out details.