Morning Reads

As we continue our effort to keep you up-to-date on how money corrupts American government and politics, as well as other news of the day, we’re pleased to publish this daily digest compiled by’s Michael Winship.

Another whopper of a win for fast-food workers –> “A New York wage board recommended today that Governor Andrew Cuomo’s labor commissioner raise the minimum for the state’s 180,000 fast food workers to $15 over several years… The board recommends gradually increasing wages for workers in New York City to $15 by Dec. 31, 2018, and to $15 for the rest of the state (where the cost of living is lower) by July 1, 2021,” reports BuzzFeed News.

The hallowed halls of our moribund Congress –> “Prompt corrective action” is needed from Capitol Hill, according to the annual report from the trustees of Social Security’s disability fund, to shore up its resources. If not, it will only be able to pay 81 percent of its benefits. The fix is simple, Congress just has to move money from the main retirement fund; together they’re solvent until 2034. That’s the good news. But conservatives are resisting, writes Michael Hiltzik at the Los Angeles Times, “in favor of concocting some broader Social Security reform — which, given the tenor of the current Congress, undoubtedly would involve benefit cuts to retirees and the disabled… What’s needed is for the economy to keep improving, and for a higher share of profits to show up in working Americans’ paychecks.”

There’s no highway bill yet either, as our infrastructure crumbles, prompting Alec MacGillis at ProPublica to ask, “If even red states can raise the gas tax, why can’t Congress?”

And this, from Huffington Post’s Marina Fang: “Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) abruptly pulled her bill to end a ban on fertility treatments for female veterans receiving care at VA hospitals from the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee after Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) attached amendments targeting Planned Parenthood and other family planning organizations.”

ALEC, I’ll take “hijacking the legislative agenda” for $500 –> The annual meeting of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, began in San Diego yesterday. Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Scott Walker are there. Miles Rapoport, president of Common Cause, describes it as “a festival of closed-door deal-making by politicians, corporate executives and lobbyists. They gather to do the public’s business in private, fashioning legislation that undercuts the public interest in things like clean air and water, quality public schools, economic fairness and participatory democracy.” And it’s all deductible because “ALEC is classified as a ‘charity’ for tax purposes. That’s wrong and it has to stop.”

Earlier this week the Center for Media and Democracy’s Brendan Fischer published a useful rundown of “Hot Topics” at the San Diego meet, including “Undermining Renewable Energy” and “Fighting to Protect Dark Money.” And AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, rolled out their “pop-up” version of ALEC’s new promotional video.

Because it’s so hard keeping $400 million under your mattress –> Phil Mattingly at Bloomberg Politics has this fascinating look — with helpful charts — at the financial institutions where presidential candidates stash all that campaign cash, especially a small, single-branch joint called Chain Bridge Bank in McLean, Virginia. It’s a favorite of such Republicans as Jeb Bush, Rick Perry, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, Ben Carson, Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal. Why? Hint: it’s not just the no-fee checking.

Who knew Greece is the biggest defense spender in Europe? –> So why, asks Sam Ross-Brown at The American Prospect, don’t the Greeks make more cuts in the military rather than slash social programs? One interesting fact: Germany is one of its leading arms suppliers. ALSO: Tariq Ali in the London Review of Books: “For Greeks of virtually all political persuasions the EU was once seen as a family to which one must belong. It has turned out to be a pretty dysfunctional family.” FYI, the Greek parliament passed a second round of legal and banking reform measures early this morning and hopes to begin bailout negotiations next week.

You owe it to yourself –> To try out the Donald Trump Insult Generator at Mother Jones. Then read Media Matters’ coverage of the how Rupert Murdoch’s empire is split asunder over The Donald — with Rupert himself tweeting, “When is Donald Trump going to stop embarrassing his friends, let alone the whole country?” while his underling at Fox News, Roger Ailes, touts all Trump all the time.

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