Commentary

A happy Labor Day to all -- a day for a last summer outing to the beach, a three-day weekend to shop the sales, or maybe just a day to stay home and get ready for the school year.

And, oh yeah, a day to honor working people.

When Walmart broke the bad news to shareholders last week about declining same-store sales and cuts to their profit and sales projections, the company offered a glib explanation. "The retail environment was challenging," asserted Walmart Stores President and CEO Michael Duke. Company executives pointed to weather conditions and the January payroll tax increase to justify the disappointing sales, but larger questions about why consumers weren't buying were never addressed.

In June, five Supreme Court Justices rolled back the Voting Rights Act, widely considered the most effective tool in preventing discrimination in our nation's history. Section 5 of the act required that certain states and localities "preclear" proposed election changes with federal officials to ensure the changes were not discriminatory.  The Court ruled that the formula used to determine which jurisdictions needed to get preclearance was outdated and unconstitutional. For those of us who care about voting rights, the question now is how do we respond?

The city of Richmond, California, has taken bold action to pull the community out of the depths of the residential real estate crisis. Its approach -- using eminent domain to forestall foreclosures -- promises relief for Richmond homeowners. But it also is a template for cities across the land suffering from their own fiscal crises and facing bankruptcy.

Going to college is an essential component of building financial stability, particularly if you come from a low-income family. At least that’s what we often assume. But assumptions often need qualification.

A month has passed since Congress allowed interest rates on federal student loans to double for some borrowers, increasing the cost of their college educations by as much as $4,500. While the debate continues to focus on the interest rate for future borrowers, it is ignoring the larger problem with student debt: the more than $1 trillion that had already been borrowed before the interest rate debate.

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And you thought the government didn’t have a jobs program. It does. The problem is that the pay and benefits are lousy, and in many cases the working conditions ain’t so great either.

At Demos, we are working for an America where we all have an equal say and an equal chance. The slaying of Trayvon Martin has reminded us that we have not yet achieved an America where we all have equal chance to merely live. Trayvon Martin was denied that chance because his identity was one that our society marks, in countless ways each day, as fearsome. This fear-based animus towards young African American men is so pervasive in our society that a jury found this fear to be reasonable -- so reasonable that it was justifiable grounds for his killing.

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Re “The Decline of North Carolina” (editorial, July 10):

The attack on voting rights in North Carolina is a shameful attempt by the state’s politicians to curtail access to the ballot, in ways devised particularly to discourage voting by African-Americans.

When Governor Lincoln Chaffee signed the Temporary Care Giver’s Insurance law last week, Rhode Island became the third state—along with California and New Jersey—to grant paid time off to care for a sick loved one or a new baby.

Rhode Island’s law, which goes into effect in 2014, will not only provide most workers with up to four weeks off with about two-thirds of their salaries (up to $752 a week), it will protect employees from being fired and losing their health insurance while they’re out.

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