Commentary

Almost every culture has some variation on the saying, “rags to rags in three generations.” Whether it’s “clogs to clogs” or “rice paddy to rice paddy,” the message is essentially the same: Starting with nothing, the first generation builds a successful enterprise, which its profligate offspring then manage poorly, so that by the time the grandchildren take over, little value remains.

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When LBJ walked to the dais to give his first State of the Union address, on January 8, 1964, just a month and a half after President Kennedy had been assassinated, he looked more like a school teacher—a job he’d held, decades earlier, in an impoverished rural community in South Texas—than the most powerful man on earth. He wore a sedate black suit, white shirt and narrow black tie; his receding hair was cut short and brushed back. There was no bombast, no theatrics.

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Not only is the U.S. far from achieving a post-racial society, but dog-whistle politics is reinforcing the role of race and contributing to the decline of the middle class as whites vote against their own best interests.

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There was little merry or bright this holiday season for millions of unemployed Americans who are losing their extended unemployment benefits.

Many depend on these meager payments, a federal extension of state unemployment programs that expired as of the last Saturday of 2013, to stay afloat. After tapping out their savings, downsizing their living space, and draining their retirement funds, one-time managers and MBA grads bought Christmas gifts secondhand and worry over what the new year will bring. [...]

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Nitrogen and phosphorous runoff from agricultural activity is a major source of water pollution in many parts of the country. In the Chesapeake Bay watershed, half of the phosphorous and 40 percent of the excess nitrogen result from agricultural runoff, leading to algae blooms and destructive conditions for the bay’s legendary fish, oysters, and crabs.

When Senator Elizabeth Warren announced that she would not be running for president, she disappointed many who see her as one of the nation's most vigorous defenders of America's middle class. From her fight to end the risky lending practices that cost millions of Americans their homes to her efforts to protect Social Security, the Senator's calls to action consistently confront the ways that the system seems rigged against ordinary citizens.

With 10.9 million Americans still out of work and 1.3 million of them now on the verge of losing all jobless aid, the barriers that keep people from finding a job loom larger than ever. One barrier in particular stands out as especially unfair and unreasonable – the common practice of reviewing a job applicant’s personal credit history when hiring.

While the year’s end saw an uptick in concern about a new tech bubble, the truth is that there’s a much different, scarier bubble we need to worry about: the carbon bubble. What is the carbon bubble? Basically, it’s just another way to describe the worrisome fact that many energy companies are hoarding oil and gas, despite the rest of the world’s effort to move to a more environmentally sustainable economic system.

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Few names conjure the recalcitrant South, fighting integration with fire-breathing fury, like that of George Wallace.

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