Commentary

In Vittorio De Sica’s bleak, postwar Italian movie “The Bicycle Thief,” a man is humbled by a personal catastrophe involving a tiny amount of money: unemployed, he is given a chance at a job, but he is required to have a bike to travel to work sites. Antonio Ricci doeshave a battered old bike, but he is in the process of pawning it for food. Undaunted, his wife pawns the family linens instead. All is good until the bike is stolen, leaving Ricci to haunt the markets of Rome while trying to find it.

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This year marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark paper that helped delineate the federal poverty line. A huge leap forward in its day, the poverty line established credible criteria for what constituted an acceptable standard of living.

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Three and a half years have passed since the afternoon when the stock markets went into a trillion-dollar free fall and just as suddenly reversed course, recovering 80 percent of that loss. It all happened in less than 45 minutes.

I discussed the U.S. Supreme Court’s McCutcheon  case Saturday on Karen Finney’s MSNBC show Disrupt, and also last week in this HuffPo commentary.

Next month, voters in Washington will decide whether their state will be the first in the nation to require labeling of foods with genetically modified ingredients. In this debate, a key point of contention is whether food costs would rise if I-522 passes.

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At a small gathering in Los Angeles recently, Miles Rapoport, president of the 13-year-old progressive think tank Demos, expressed optimism about the future for progressive values and policies.

Miles's talk was inspiring, but I asked him to elaborate by answering questions from a skeptic's point of view. Following is Part 2 of our dialogue. (Here is Part 1.)

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TaskRabbit.com markets itself as a Web service that matches clients seeking someone to do odd jobs with “college students, recent retirees, stay-at-home moms, [and] young professionals” looking for extra income. The company website calls it “a marketplace dedicated to empowering people to do what they love.” The name Task Rabbit doesn’t exactly suggest the dignity of work, and the love often takes humble forms. Customers hire Task Rabbits to clean garages, haul clothes to the laundry, paint apartments, assemble Ikea products, buy groceries, or do almost anything else that’s legal.

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The American Prospect
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People have paid a great deal of attention this past week to how the government shutdown has disappointed national-park visitors, closed monuments, and made it impossible to enter the Smithsonian museums. All true. But what about the services that provide necessities to low-income people: food, education, cash?

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Americans are outraged over the power of money on our government. In Citizens United the Supreme Court already increased the dominance of the wealthy and special interests on politics and policy. Now, in McCutcheon v FEC, the court is being asked to strike down one of the few remaining campaign finance laws that we have to fight corruption of our democratic government. After all, in a democracy the size of your wallet shouldn't determine the impact of your voice or your right to representation.

At a small gathering in Los Angeles last week, Miles Rapoport, president of the 13-year-old progressive think tank Demos, declared that although the U.S. economy is struggling at best, the gap between rich and poor is ever-widening and a host of other seemingly intractable problems are worsening, we've arrived at a key historical moment: everything we need to address these crises is at hand.

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