In the years before becoming a full-time writer, Sirota worked as the press secretary for Vermont Independent Congressman Bernard Sanders, the chief spokesman for Democrats on the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, the Director of Strategic Communications for the Center for American Progress, a campaign consultant for Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and a media strategist for Connecticut Senate candidate Ned Lamont. He also previously contributed writing to the website of the California Democratic Party. For more on Sirota, see these profiles of him in Newsweek or the Rocky Mountain News. Feel free to email him at lists [at] davidsirota.com Note: this online publication represents Sirota's personal views, and not the official views of the organizations he works with.
Prosecution of White-Collar Crime Hits 20-Year Low
Holder has recently defended the administration's record of not prosecuting any individual financial executive involved in the financial crisis. He says the fines the administration has assessed against financial institutions were effective. Left unexplained is how those cultures have supposedly changed when many of the same individuals who were involved in the financial crisis have managed to avoid any punishment.
Saturday, September 5, 2015(8 comments)
Why Biden's Bankruptcy Bill Could Complicate a Presidential Run
Biden earlier this month met with Warren, a Wall Street critic who is well-known among Democratic voters. The meeting was widely seen as an effort by Biden to try to convince the Massachusetts lawmaker to support his prospective White House bid. While some Democratic activists are pining for a Biden-Warren ticket, Warren's writing suggests such a political marriage would be more than a bit complicated.
Friday, August 7, 2015(3 comments)
Hillary Clinton Says She Didn't Work on the Trans-Pacific Partnership
Considering all the evidence, Clinton nonetheless pretending she had nothing to do with TPP is clearly a strategic calculation: She is betting that few voters will notice the gap between her rhetoric and her own record. It is certainly a cynical tactic. Time will tell if it is a politically shrewd one.
Silicon Valley Emerges as a Political Force
All of a sudden, Silicon Valley has surpassed many traditional political powerhouses as a source of campaign cash. Specifically, in the last election cycle, technology firms delivered more money to candidates for president and Congress than defense contractors, pharmaceutical manufacturers, the automotive industry and Hollywood.
Jeb Bush's Audacious Announcement
Jeb Bush's announcement address at Miami Dade College this week was an extreme makeover that included passages that likely had America doing a double take. He did not offer voters a run-of-the-mill speech. He delivered a tour de force of sheer audacity. The trouble is, it's the kind of audacity that assumes America will never bother to consider even the most basic facts about Jeb Bush.
Saturday, June 13, 2015(7 comments)
Has the U.S. Learned Anything From Edward Snowden's NSA Revelations?
While Snowden's critics say he should come back to the United States to air out his grievances in open court, journalist Glenn Greenwald notes: "He's barred under the Espionage Act even from arguing that his leaks were justified; he wouldn't be permitted to utter a word about that."
Saturday, June 6, 2015(1 comments)
Can Jeb Bush Be His "Own Man"?
Jeb Bush will no doubt have more opportunities to try to distinguish himself from his family members. If he can't, though, even the enormous advantages that come with his last name might not be enough to carry him to victory.
Amtrak's Spectrum Gap
Amtrak had for years failed to acquire adequate rights to broadcast communications signals through the public airwaves. Without these so-called spectrum rights, Amtrak's trains could not communicate with the electronic brains of the safety system, preventing its use along key stretches of track.
Saturday, May 16, 2015
The Marijuana Economy Comes Out of the Shadows
After Colorado voters legalized marijuana in 2012, more states and cities are considering a similar path for themselves. At the same time, the cannabis market is looking less like a music festival and more like a Silicon Valley confab -- upscale, data-driven and focused on investors.
Sunday, May 10, 2015
Christie's Administration Is Facing Another Investigation
In recent months, details have emerged showing that Christie officials have directed lucrative pension management deals to some financial companies whose executives have made contributions to Republican groups backing Christie's election campaigns. Additionally, Christie's officials have admitted that they have not been fully disclosing all the fees the state has been paying to private financial firms.
Friday, May 1, 2015
In Defense of Hillary Clinton, Democrats Embrace Citizens United Decision
Is it morally acceptable for firms to pay a public official's spouse while those firms are getting government contracts from the agency headed by that same public official? That's a matter of opinion, and if the Democrats want to now champion the ideology behind Citizens United, that's their right.
Friday, April 24, 2015
Cities And States Paying Massive Secret Fees To Wall Street
Currently, about 9 percent -- or $270 billion -- of America's $3 trillion public pension fund assets are invested in private equity firms. If CEM's calculations are applied uniformly, it could mean taxpayers and retirees may actually be paying double -- more than $10 billion a year.
Friday, April 3, 2015(9 comments)
A Deepening Democratic Party Divide
For those pining for a Democratic Party that tries to represent more than the whims of the rich and powerful, these are, to say the least, confusing times. National Democratic politicians may not yet be hearing the message, but if they hope to hang onto power, they probably should start listening.
Sunday, March 29, 2015(1 comments)
The SEC Illustrates the Danger of Regulatory Capture
When a government agency is effectively captured by -- and subservient to -- the industry that agency is supposed to be objectively regulating, it is a big deal. In 2013, the nonpartisan Project on Government Oversight published a study showing that "more than 400 SEC alumni filed almost 2,000 disclosure forms saying they planned to represent an employer or client before the agency."
Friday, March 13, 2015
The Ugly Truth Behind Chris Christie's Sweetheart Deal with Exxon
In agreeing to such a small settlement in the Exxon case, Christie placates his politically connected colleagues and gets himself some extra cash to spend on his budget's new tax cuts. He also gives a gift to an oil industry donor just as he starts raising money for a 2016 White House bid.
Sunday, March 8, 2015
Technology Does Not Guarantee Transparency
The proponents of secrecy may not have to use clunky document shredders anymore; instead, they can shred more of those documents with a click of a button. Preserving any kind of open government, therefore, requires continued vigilance and stronger freedom of information laws because new technology alone does not guarantee transparency. Too often it can foster the opposite.
Friday, February 20, 2015(1 comments)
Tax Fairness Could Mean More Resources
The facts about tax fairness are certainly compelling -- the numbers prove that the system could be at once more equal and raise more resources for public priorities. But those numbers will only become a reality if there is a serious political counterweight to the GOP -- and that remains a big if.
Friday, January 23, 2015
Big Tax Bills for the Poor, Tiny Ones for the Rich
Middle-and low-income Americans are facing far higher state and local tax rates than the wealthy. In all, a comprehensive analysis by the nonpartisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy finds that the poorest 20 percent of households pay on average more than twice the effective state and local tax rate (10.9 percent) as the richest 1 percent of taxpayers (5.4 percent).
Charter Schools Accused of Segregating America's Education System
In 2010, a University of Colorado report analyzing charter schools found that "as compared with the public school district in which the charter school resided, the charter schools were substantially more segregated by race, wealth, disabling condition and language."
Monday, November 24, 2014(2 comments)
The ominous reason voter turnout was so low this election cycle
What if you held an election and nobody showed up to cover it? Americans have now discovered the answer: You get an election with lots of paid ads, but with little journalism, context or objective facts. That requires two things: a genuine commitment and willingness to do the hard work of serious journalism and enough resources to succeed.
Friday, November 14, 2014(1 comments)
Wall Street Takes Over More Statehouses
No runoff will be needed to declare one unambiguous winner in this month's gubernatorial elections: the financial services industry. From Illinois to Massachusetts, voters effectively placed more than $100 billion worth of public pension investments under the control of executives-turned-politicians whose firms profit by managing state pension money.
A Pension Jackpot for Wall Street
The more public money that goes into alternative investments, the more fees alternative investment firms generate, the more campaign contributions are made by those firms, and thus the more money politicians devote to alternative investments, even as those investments deliver poor results for pensioners. It is a vicious cycle whereby the financial industry wins and taxpayers, once again, lose.
Friday, September 19, 2014(1 comments)
Are Some Banks Too Big to Punish?
The Obama administration announced its proposal to waive some of the possible sanctions against Credit Suisse. The little-noticed waiver, which was outlined in the Federal Register, comes amid criticism that the Obama administration has gone too easy on major financial institutions that break the law.
Friday, September 5, 2014(5 comments)
The Real Reason the GOP Is Obsessed with Voter Fraud
Republican efforts to prevent same-day registration and preclude voting betray a fear that has nothing to do with voter fraud and everything to do with political power. Essentially, the GOP fears that when more Americans exercise their basic democratic rights, Republicans may have less chance of winning elections.
The U.S. government's creeping war on journalists
Three-quarters of journalists surveyed now agree that "the public is not getting the information it needs because of barriers agencies are imposing on journalists' reporting practices." That's the whole point of government secrecy, of course -- and the ramifications are predictable. In an information vacuum, the public is being systematically divorced from public policy, which is exactly what too many elected officials want.
Thursday, August 7, 2014(1 comments)
Study: Government Blocks Specific Journalists From Accessing Information
Data from 2014 shows that three-quarters of journalists surveyed now agree with the statement that "the public is not getting the information it needs because of barriers agencies are imposing on journalists' reporting practices." Yet, despite that lament, the government's efforts to keep information secret may be having its intended effect on the psychology of journalists.
Friday, August 1, 2014(11 comments)
Clinton vs. Warren: Big Differences, Despite Claims to the Contrary
Hillary Clinton's political allies want Democratic primary voters to believe that the former secretary of state is just like populist Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, and they've been claiming that there are no differences between the two possible presidential contenders. There's just one problem: That's not true.
Friday, July 18, 2014
A Local Fight for the Future of the Internet
With Census figures showing more than one in five Tennessee residents having no Internet connection, EPB is now proposing to offer its ultra-fast services to new communities. But it needs the Federal Communications Commission to preempt the Tennessee statute prohibiting the utility from competing with private telecom companies outside its current market.
Friday, July 11, 2014
Corporate welfare's quiet enablers: How democrats pander to big business
If the Export-Import Bank debate ends up with the same results as years past (read: no reform), then it will be a reminder that the corporate lobby still calls the shots in a principle-free legislative arena. Big Business is still able to shape party politics to make sure its permanent interests remain Washington's permanent interests -- regardless of what is the best policy for the country as a whole.
Friday, June 13, 2014(8 comments)
Al Gore Tells Techpreneurs Some Truths They May Not Want to Hear About Inequality
Hedge funders make big donations to charter schools. Yet, the hedge fund industry lobbies against higher taxes that would generate new revenue for education. Likewise, there are the Koch Brothers, who simultaneously finance the nationwide anti-tax movement while making huge donations to public institutions. Al Gore is right -- "Democracy has been hacked by moneyed interests."
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Gore at Southland: Snowden Revealed Far Bigger Violations Than The One He Committed
Former Vice-President Al Gore said, "what he [Edward Snowden] revealed in the course of violating important laws included violations of the Constitution that were way more serious than the crimes he committed. In the course of violating important laws he also provided an important service because we did need to know how far this has gone."
Friday, May 23, 2014(1 comments)
Imagine Christie's Budget Crisis on a National Scale
The firms getting the New Jersey subsidies and the investment fees have far more political campaign cash at their disposal than the public workers whose retirements could be jeopardized by Christie's pension maneuver. And so Christie is choosing to side with the bigger money. Christie's move can certainly be seen as shrewd. But it was a self-serving decision to protect the donor class.
Friday, May 2, 2014(2 comments)
We're All Just Grenades in the Partisan Wars
In today's self-serving political wars, social emergencies are treated as partisan battlefields, and politicians are the field generals using human beings as cannon fodder. Worst of all, life-and-death crises are now viewed exclusively as political weapons rather than as pressing problems that need to be solved.
Friday, April 25, 2014(3 comments)
Wall Street's Outrageous Pension Swindle
The texts of the agreements signed between public pension funds and financial firms are almost always secret. Although they are public pensions that taxpayers contribute to and that public officials oversee, the exact terms of the financial deals being engineered in the public's name and with public money are typically not available to you, the taxpayer.
Friday, April 11, 2014(2 comments)
Rahm Emanuel's Bait-and-Switch with Public Employees' Pensions
According to a report by the taxpayer watchdog group Good Jobs First, the supposedly budget-strapped Windy City -- which for years has not made its full pension payments -- has mountains of cash sitting in a slush fund controlled by its poverty-pleading mayor. Indeed, as the report documents, the slush fund now receives more diverted property taxes each year than it would cost to adequately finance Chicago's pension funds.
Friday, March 28, 2014(4 comments)
Warren Buffett's Epic NCAA Humblebrag
This might not be so hideous if the cash were at least being offered to address a serious social crisis. But Buffett is not offering his billion-dollar check to find a cure for a disease, put people back to work, stop climate change, restore cuts to food stamps or anything else like that. He and Quicken Loans propose instead to reward someone for predicting the outcome of games.
Friday, February 21, 2014(1 comments)
The NFL Proves Why America Needs to Update Its Civil Rights Laws
Whether or not Sam was ultimately going to end up a top draft pick based purely on his skill is not the point. What's important here is that NFL executives are admitting that regardless of his skill, SEC Defensive Player of the Year Michael Sam will suffer consequences specifically because he is openly gay.
Edward Snowden Is the Whistleblower of the Year
Sure, the opinion-based speculation about Snowden's social status -- is he a narcissist or a hero? is he unpatriotic or a patriot? -- can and will continue. But from a legal perspective, this former NSA contractor is clearly a whistleblower -- one entitled to the most basic whistleblower protections.
Sunday, December 15, 2013
Three Questions About the Motor City
Michigan taxpayers and retirees have a right to some basic answers. The same goes for taxpayers and retirees in the next city that tries to follow Detroit's current path -- and yes, that will almost certainly happen. The class war is clearly going local.
Friday, October 11, 2013(9 comments)
Right-wing coup: Deluded secessionists have already won
Through gerrymandering, conservatives have geographically walled themselves off in a way that prevents them from having to electorally answer to anyone but themselves. They have, in other words, made a deliberate choice to secede into their own separate nation. Call it Conservastan. The right chose to use redistricting to create a whole separate political country for themselves.
Monday, October 7, 2013(1 comments)
Enron billionaire expands craven plot to abuse workers
In states where Arnold has operated, the end result is usually that retirement benefits are cut in order to keep financing the corporate subsidies. And in some states like Rhode Island -- and now, possibly California, depending on Arnold's specific ballot initiative language -- reformers additionally press to use some of the remaining pension money to pay newly mandated Wall Street fees for "alternative investments."
Sunday, October 6, 2013
GOP's massive fraud: The shutdown isn't really a shutdown!
There is an insidious method to the madness of government shutdowns. In general, the dividing line between what gets shut down and what doesn't is a similar dividing line between what America's political culture typically venerates as The State and what that culture lambasts as The Government.
Wednesday, September 4, 2013(1 comments)
4 Essential Questions Before We Rush To War
Ask yourself: is it really so indisputably good, moral or constructive to support dropping bombs on Syria -- most likely in heavily populated civilian areas -- to make some sort of abstract political statement, but with no real expectation that doing so will make anything better?
Thursday, August 22, 2013(1 comments)
This Cowardly Silence Is An Act Of War
That Western governments needed such a public reminder that "journalism is not terrorism" is an illustrative commentary on how intense today's assault is on basic press freedom.
Saturday, August 17, 2013(9 comments)
Huge majority wants Clapper prosecuted for perjury
With these new polls, it doesn't seem so far-fetched that Clapper could be prosecuted for perjury. In fact, it seems more and more like shrewd politics -- especially if the White House continues to grant de facto immunity to Clapper and others who hid potentially illegal and unconstitutional surveillance from Congress.
Friday, August 2, 2013(4 comments)
Pennies at the Register, Dollars in the Paycheck
What is more devastating: wages that relegate millions of people to a life of poverty or having to fork over just a bit more pocket change during your next trip to McDonalds and Wal-Mart? As Congress contemplates raising the minimum wage and more workers take collective action in the fight for better pay, the answer should be more obvious than ever.
Wednesday, July 24, 2013(1 comments)
Don't buy the right-wing myth about Detroit
From the right, Detroit is being cited in the discussion about budget shortfalls as proof of the need for austerity. Yet, we aren't hearing much about why in the face of such shortfalls Gov. Snyder just devoted $1.7 billion to a new corporate tax cut that will likely exacerbate the state's deficit, nor are we hearing much about why state law compelled Detroit to forfeit other desperately needed tax revenues.
Permanent Washington's Backlash to Edward Snowden
First and foremost, the backlash reveals that Permanent Washington doesn't work for We the People -- it works to protect itself. We know this because whereas Snowden is vilified for disclosing information that's inconvenient to Permanent Washington, those who leak classified information that is advantageous to Permanent Washington are left alone.
Return Of The Anti-Muslim Bigots
Right now, the Republican Party is tearing apart at the seams. the GOP's unholy alliance of super-wealthy country clubbers and working-class cultural conservatives is now fraying.
They are grasping for any issue or cause that unifies the conservative audience across increasingly wide economic, cultural and class lines. Islamophobia is sadly one of the few things that can achieve that among Republicans.
Wednesday, May 1, 2013(3 comments)
Rise Of The Conservative Revolutionaries
A civilized society should solve disputes through a democratic process and democratic institutions, rather than through the barrel of a gun. And while our democracy has been corrupted by Big Money, it still functions better than autocracy. In that sense, Churchill had it right when he said "democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others."