Commentary

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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For almost 20 years, I’ve sold tomatoes, basil, lettuce, kale and other vegetables at the Takoma Park Farmers Market on Sundays during the summer season. It’s one of several markets my wife helped start at the dawn of the farmers market movement.

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The money markets rejoiced when Larry Summers pulled out of the race to be Federal Reserve chairman. The reason was simple, self-serving and not necessarily wholesome: A different chairwoman — most likely Janet Yellen — would be more inclined to continue the Fed’s program of large-scale bond purchases and low interest rates.

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The latest Census Bureau figures on poverty in America, combined with the data on inequality released a week earlier, confirm a shocking new reality. While a sliver of top earners are doing better than they ever have before, for tens of millions of Americans, insecurity—and, for a distressing number, destitution—is the new norm.

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“It’s time to turn America right side up!” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka exhorted those in attendance at the labor alliance’s quadrennial convention in Los Angeles on Monday. Time, he said in his keynote address, to change the ratio of power, to put the 99 percent in charge rather than let the richest one percent dominate government, politics and society.

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Washington DC needs jobs. When D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray made this point at a press conference this week, he may not have realized he was making a strong case in favor of the Large Retailer Accountability Act.

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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.