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We Need to Fight Again to Stop Fast Track of the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Farmers in Japan protest the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Farmers in Japan protesting the Trans-Pacific Partnership. (Reuters/Yuriko Nakao)

Once again, fast track has reared its ugly head. While we were able to temporarily defeat fast track, also known as Trade Promotion Authority, in the House less than two weeks ago, the bill’s supporters have managed to send it back to the Senate. There lawmakers are expected to vote as soon as tomorrow. If it’s approved, it would clear the way for passage of the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Fast track would allow President Obama and his successor to ram trade deals through Congress, only allowing members an up-or-down vote and forbidding them from adding any amendments. After 20 years of NAFTA, it’s clear what these trade agreements do: they push jobs overseas, weaken food and consumer safety standards, circumvent environmental laws, restrict Internet freedom, and roll back financial protections. And the process by which the TPP has been negotiated has been decidedly undemocratic. While representatives of powerful corporations have had input, the American people have been left largely in the dark.


Write to your senators now and demand that they reject fast track. Then call to amplify your voice.


Representative John Conyers breaks down why the TPP is “a terrible deal for most Americans.”


From increasing drug costs to harming the environment to undermining labor protections, this video breaks down the danger of passing “the dirtiest deal you’ve never heard of.”

Keep Up the Pressure to Defeat Fast Track of the Trans-Pacific Partnership

A woman protests the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Police remove a woman protesting the Trans-Pacific Partnership during a Senate hearing in January. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

Last Friday, in a victory for progressives, members of the House of Representatives defeated fast-track trade authority, which would have all but guaranteed the passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But some members of the House are still intent on passing this undemocratic and damaging bill. Last week happened only because thousands of people demanded that Congress listen to the people, not the multimillion-dollar corporations that want yet another trade bill that privileges their profits over our well-being. If we’re going to sustain this victory, we need to keep fighting.


Write to your representative today and tell them to reject fast track. Then give them a call to amplify your voice.


George Zornick describes exactly what happened on Friday.


From increasing drug costs to harming the environment to undermining labor protections, this video breaks down the danger of passing “the dirtiest deal you’ve never heard of.”

If You're Worried About the Trans-Pacific Partnership, You Need to Call Congress Today

A woman protests the TPP

Police remove a woman protesting the Trans-Pacific Partnership during a Senate hearing in January. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

The House of Representatives is expected to vote any day now on the bill that would allow fast track of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The advocacy of a broad coalition of groups and thousands of constituents has managed to delay passage in the Senate. In the House, the votes are incredibly close, with both Democrats and Republicans on record that they will oppose it. If we keep up the pressure, we have a real chance of standing in the way of a trade bill that threatens to send job overseas, restrict governments’ ability to protect the environment, and weaken consumer safety standards.


Organizations such Fight for the Future, Public Citizen, Credo, and The Nation are asking Americans to call their representatives today to demand that they reject fast track of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Call 888-804-8311 or use this tool to call your representative today. You can also take a minute to write to your representative.


In the June 15 issue of The Nation, John Nichols explained why progressives are right to oppose President Obama on fast track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.


One of the most disturbing things about the TPP is that the public really does not know what’s in it. The American public has been barred from reviewing the document, while corporations such as Walmart, Chevron, and Cargill have been given special “cleared adviser” status in order to access negotiations. Wikileaks is raising a $100,000 reward for anyone who leaks the 26 chapters of the TPP that are currently still secret.

At Least 240,000 People Want to Cancel All Student Debt

Warren Student Debt

Senator Warren stands with activists from Campaign for America's Future, Left Action, Daily Kos, Working Families and Student Debt Crisis on April 30, 2015. (Credit: Trevor Davis)

“We need to get back not only to low tuition, but to no tuition,” said Roger Hickey, sporting an “I am a student debt voter” T-shirt outside Senator Elizabeth Warren’s office last Thursday. Hickey works for Campaign for America’s Future, and on April 30, he helped deliver a petition with over 240,000 signatures to Warren’s office. The petition, which gathered its signatures all in one month, demanded that the US government cancel all student debt, public and private.

There are currently 40 million student loan borrowers with $1.3 trillion in debt, which “pales in comparison to what we spent on the Iraq war,” said John Hlinko, founder of Left Action. “So what about a similar war on debt?” While there has been a huge increase in military spending, Pell grants, or money given to low-income students that does not need to be repaid, have been cut from the current budget. Many are starting to feel like the right to accessible education is under attack.

The petition given to Warren was sponsored by a coalition of organizations including Campaign for America’s Future, Democracy for America, Working Families, Daily Kos, and The Nation, among others. Senator Warren has spoken out frequently about reforming student loans, and she recently tried to introduce a budget amendment that would have decreased the interest rate on loans to 3.9 percent, but Senate Republicans blocked it. She also recently joined a liberal push to make college at least debt-free.

Natalia Abrams, the executive director of StudentDebtCrisis.org, graduated shortly before the UC system increased tuition by 32 percent in one semester in 2009. Many of her friends had to drop out of college. “I started Occupy Colleges, literally a Facebook page and a Twitter page from my bedroom”, she said. “But I just had to do something. It felt like that was the economic injustice for students.”

Abrams believes that this is also part of a larger movement against austerity and state disinvestment—states have been spending less per student than they have at any time in history. This means that students have to make up that difference. She feels the country needs debt-free college and debt cancellation simultaneously “to be able to get out of this mess.”

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Student debt has also worsened inequality in the United States by burdening working- and middle-class students and keeping them at the bottom of the social and economic ladder. Other countries, however, despite lower federal budgets, don’t seem to be facing this issue with the same severity. Mexico, a poorer country than the United States, currently has certain universities that are free with a high-quality education. Similarly, in Quebec tuition fees are below $2800 per year. In 2012, when the government tried to raise tuition, there was a massive student strike which forced the government to scrap their proposal.

Student debt is bankrupting students before they even enter the workforce. Hlinko said he believes investing in education is beneficial for the future. “This is the best investment we can make, an investment in our people,” he said.

Read Next: Zoe Carpenter on Elizabeth Warren, the Education Department, and student borrowers

Republicans Want to Mark Tax Day With a Gift to the Top 0.2 Percent

John Boehner

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) 

This week, members of the House of Representatives plan to mark tax day with a vote to repeal the estate tax, potentially giving millionaires and billionaires a huge tax break that will deprive the government of more than $270 billion over 10 years.

While Republicans want you to think that the estate tax harms small businesses and family farms, it primarily affects the very wealthy. Only individual estates worth more than $5.4 million pay any estate tax. Just two out of every 1,000 estates are affected.

In the meantime, the House recently passed a budget that cuts $5 trillion in benefits and services that mostly help working families. While members of Congress question whether or not parents and children in poor households deserve the smallest bit of help, they’re voting on yet another huge tax giveaway to the extremely affluent.


The Nation is part of a new coalition defending the importance of progressive taxation. Join our campaign to preserve the federal estate tax.


The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities compiled a list of “Ten Facts You Should Know About the Federal Estate Tax.”


Earlier this year, John Oliver hilariously broke down the absurdity of the wealth gap in America.

Should Philip Morris Be Able to Sue Governments That Try to Curb Smoking?

A woman protests the TPP

Police remove a woman protesting the Trans-Pacific Partnership during a Senate hearing in January. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

Last week, Wikileaks released the “Investment Chapter” of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and what it revealed was scary and surprising. The leak revealed plans to create a supranational tribunal where foreign corporations can sue governments for “expected future profits.” We already know the consequences of these tribunals. In 2012, a Swedish company sued Germany for phasing out nuclear power, and the cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris is currently suing Uruguay and Australia for laws that aim to curb smoking. 

Experts like Senator Elizabeth Warren fear that the tribunals included in the TPP would make these kinds of lawsuits even more common—allowing multinational corporations to stand in the way of governments looking to protect the environment or the health and safety of their citizens. 

In the meantime, President Obama wants Congress to grant him fast track authority for the TPP. That means that he would sign the trade deal without holding a vote and then railroad the deal through Congress in only ninety days with limited debate and no amendments allowed. 


Activists believe that our best bet right now to stop the TPP is to convince members of the House of Representatives. Write to your representative now and demand they say ‘no’ to fast track for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.


President Obama has said he needs to pass the TPP so that “we” write the rules for trade with Asia. In her column in the Washington Post, Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel points out that currently, “we,” the American people, are not writing the trade agreement. Shadowy corporate interests are writing it.


From pushing up drug costs to harming the environment to undermining labor protections, this video breaks down the danger of passing "the dirtiest deal you've never heard of."

We Need to End the Student Loan Debt Crisis

Student loan protest

Andrew Bossi, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Americans now owe more than $1.3 trillion in student loan debt. With 40 million people burdened by this particularly intractable form of debt and the number growing, this crisis is out of control.

It doesn’t have to be this way. College costs have increased 1,000 percent since the 1970s. Just a few decades ago, you could pay for a public college education with a common summer job. Now, students are leaving school with an average of more than $25,000 in debt. Some have over $100,000.

This is a problem for all of us. Students burdened by debt struggle to make large purchases like homes or cars, dragging down the economy. Furthermore, debt makes it virtually impossible for many students to pursue indispensable careers that offer only modest paychecks, depriving society of potentially life-changing teachers and social workers.


To draw attention to the magnitude of this crisis, we partnered with Daily Kos, Working Families, the American Federation of Teachers and number of other organizations to call on our elected officials to forgive all student loan debt. Join us by signing onto the campaign.


The United States government already spends billions of dollars on higher education, including subsidies to predatory for-profit institutions with abysmal track records. Strike Debt put together a proposal to reallocate this money to make public higher education free for all.


Watch John Oliver detail the disturbing absurdities of our student loan crisis: debt that can’t be discharged in bankruptcy, for-profit colleges that prey on brain-damaged veterans and funding cuts so bad that a nursing program in North Carolina has a waiting list to get on its waiting list.

Today Is a Big Day for the Internet

A net neutrality rally

Net neutrality rally (Creative Commons)

The FCC voted today to protect net neutrality, and to use Title II reclassification (exactly what open Internet advocates have been demanding) to ensure that it sticks. That means that the Internet will remain an open playing field—no slow lanes and no fast lanes—where small non-profits, every-day people and independent media outlets like The Nation can compete against multi-billion dollar corporate giants.

A hearty congratulations is due to the organizers at Fight for the Future, Free Press, OpenMedia, ColorofChange, the Voices for Internet Freedom Coalition, the Center for Media Justice, the Media Action Grassroots Network, Demand Progress and the many other groups who have been at the forefront of this crucial fight.

Our own readers have also continually stood up for the open Internet. Over the past year, Nation readers sent thousands of comments to the FCC. When Congress threatened to get in the way just as the FCC was coming down on our side, they wrote to their elected officials. Finally, this past week they submitted messages and photos to be streamed on a giant Jumbotron right outside the FCC’s headquarters (you can check out some of those messages here).


Now that we’ve won, our friends at OpenMedia are using the net neutrality Jumbotron to stream celebratory messages and photos from this past year’s organizing. Click here to send along a quick message of support.


Although today is a big deal, we can’t afford to be complacent. John Nichols outlines the challenges that lie ahead to make sure that net neutrality is here to stay.


Check out Fight for the Future’s video of highlights from this year’s activism.

We Want to Stream Your Net Neutrality Messages on a Jumbotron

net neutrality cat

This cat cares about Internet freedom. So should you (Meghan Sali).

We’ve almost won. Under pressure from millions, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has said that he will support Title II reclassification, exactly what we need to ensure that the Internet remains a fair playing field for all.

That said, it’s not quite time to celebrate. Telecom lobbyists are pulling out all the stops to undermine real net neutrality before the final vote on February 26. From Time Warner Cable to AT&T to politicians looking to divide the public on what should be a bipartisan issue, we’re up against some powerful players.


The FCC has closed formal public comments in the days leading up to the vote. To make sure that commissioners know that we’re still watching, our friends at OpenMedia are setting up a Jumbotron right outside FCC headquarters. Send us your pro-net neutrality messages, images and memes and we’ll display them on the big screen.


In The Nation, Mychal Denzel Smith makes a forceful case for the indispensable role that net neutrality plays in #BlackLivesMatter and other contemporary social movements.


Still confused as to why net neutrality is important? Watch the John Oliver rant that famously broke the FCC’s website.

Tell Congress to Put an Expiration Date on Mass Surveillance

Copy of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Order

Copy of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Order requiring Verizon to hand over information to the NSA (AP Photo).

Key parts of the USA Patriot Act are set to expire this summer—including Section 215, the provision that the NSA cites as justification for the bulk collection of our telephone records.

The spying is so extreme that the original sponsor of the Patriot Act, Republican Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, is urging colleagues to sign a letter asserting that they will vote against reauthorization if the law is not amended to ban mass surveillance.


The Nation has joined a broad coalition to call on all members of Congress to sign on to Representative Sensenbrenner’s letter. Urge your elected officials to sign and to commit to ending unconstitutional mass surveillance.


Without the brave sacrifices of whistleblowers, most famously Edward Snowden, we would have no idea of the extent of the government’s mass spying. This fall, The Nation spoke with Snowden about the surveillance state, the American political system and the price he’s paid for his understanding of patriotism.


In the fall of 2013, Fight for the Future and Demand Progress put together a video breaking down the different ways that the government spies on us.

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