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Independent Voters Could Decide Senate Control

By Alex Roarty, National Journal

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Most senators up for reelection know their campaigns bear little resemblance to the races they ran six years ago, but even these incumbents might not understand just how dramatically voter identity has changed since 2008.

Their states, in short, have a whole lot more independents.

That’s according to a new study from Third Way, a center-left think that examined up-to-date voter-registration figures in 10 states with competitive Senate or gubernatorial contests. The analysis, shared first with National Journal, depicts an electorate that over the past six years has become increasingly eager to embrace a nonpartisan label.

The top-line numbers are striking: 1.3 million voters have registered as independents since 2008, a 17-percent increase. In the same 10 states, Democratic registration has shrunk by 658,000, or 5 percent, while GOP registration has grown by roughly 360,000, or 3 percent.

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Fed up with the rancor over Common Core? Our latest infographic puts the facts before the frenzy, revealing that the Common Core State Standards are more commonly accepted than you may think.
These state-driven educational goals are being implemented in 41 states and the District of Columbia—meaning that 76% of all U.S. students are benefiting from the Common Core. 
In most states where the standards have not been adopted, the existing standards were substantially similar or equal in rigor, and of the states which have dropped the standards, most are doing so basically in name only. 
The truth is that Common Core is here to stay.

Fed up with the rancor over Common Core? Our latest infographic puts the facts before the frenzy, revealing that the Common Core State Standards are more commonly accepted than you may think.

  • These state-driven educational goals are being implemented in 41 states and the District of Columbia—meaning that 76% of all U.S. students are benefiting from the Common Core.
  • In most states where the standards have not been adopted, the existing standards were substantially similar or equal in rigor, and of the states which have dropped the standards, most are doing so basically in name only.

The truth is that Common Core is here to stay.

A Bold New Plan to Fix the Retirement Savings Mess

By Eric Piann, The Fiscal Times

The greatest fear of many Americans is that they won’t have enough money for retirement.

Just over half – or 53 percent – of all full-time workers participate in an employer-provided retirement plan, according to the Employee Benefits Research Institute. Employers have long been phasing out defined benefit pension programs in favor of 401(k)s and other work-based retirement accounts. During the recession and afterward, many people’s personal savings were depleted as they dipped into retirement money to pay the rent or make ends meet.

Many young people also seriously question whether Social Security will be able to pay them anything by the time they retire. What to do?

The Third Way, a Washington centrist think tank, has unveiled a novel idea that may generate a lot of interest among worried workers – if not necessarily among their employers.

The idea is to create a Savings Plan for Universal Retirement accounts, with the centerpiece a 50-cent-per-hour minimum retirement contribution from all employers to just about all workers. Contributions put in this account would automatically go into a privately run low-fee life-cycle fund made up of a mix of stocks and bonds tailored to the employee’s age and distance from retirement.

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What Relief? How Student Loan Assistance Fails Teachers

Today, the average teacher with an advanced degree graduates $50k in debt ($8k more than the average MBA) and earns an average salary of $40k/year, making student loan assistance for teachers more important than ever. Unfortunately, our messy patchwork of loan assistance programs for teachers is both unwieldy and backloaded, and in some cases, it can leave teachers in worse shape than if they had not participated at all.

With the U.S. needing to hire more than three million new teachers over the next decade, it is time for the federal government to revamp the way it provides loan relief to these educators so that we can attract and retain the best and brightest in our classrooms for years to come.

Our new idea brief provides a simple proposal for how to provide teachers with federally-sponsored student loan relief that is clear, streamlined, and immediately assisting teachers from day one in the classroom.

NATO Must Build its Counterterrorism Capability, Not Just Focus on Russia

By Rep. Steve Israel and Mieke Eoyang

When President Barack Obama arrived at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit in Wales, he found a room full of member states that are focused on the original purpose of NATO: to provide a collective defense against the grave threat of Russian expansion. But the president must recognize that today’s threats are more complex than those of 1949, the year of NATO’s founding. NATO and its member countries are not only threatened by the prospect of war from the East, but also by a growing and dangerous new enemy on its southern flank — the terrorist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham, or ISIS.

NATO and other multinational alliances were built on certain mid-20th century assumptions — that generally, the laws of war would be followed, and conventional military power would deter conventional military power. And for decades, most NATO states viewed terrorism as a domestic matter to be dealt with inside their own borders.

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The Parenthood Pay Gap: Why Having Children Costs Women More Than Men

Bob Oakes and Shannon Dooling

While the wage gap between working men and women has shown signs of improvement over the years, a new study finds that for women, having children can mean taking a pay cut.

Michelle Budig’s research shows that women on the low end of the earnings spectrum are particularly vulnerable to this “wage penalty,” even while men often stand to benefit from what she calls the “fatherhood bonus.”

This piece was originally aired on WBUR Boston.

Even in the age of “Lean In,” when women with children run Fortune 500 companies and head the Federal Reserve, traditional notions about fathers as breadwinners and mothers as caregivers remain deeply ingrained. Employers, it seems, have not yet caught up to the fact that women can be both mothers and valuable employees.

The New York Times’ 

The Fatherhood Bonus and The Motherhood Penalty” author Michelle J. Budig examines the relationship between parenthood and the gender gap in pay and finds that having a child helps your career… if you’re a man. If you’re a woman, it does the opposite.

Why a Coup in Pakistan Could Endanger U.S. Withdrawal From Afghanistan

Protests against Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, have raised the specter of a military coup. While there are many broader political implications, a coup could further sour U.S.-Pakistani relations. One way that Pakistan has displayed its displeasure with the U.S. in the past has been to close the Khyber Pass—the main American supply route into Afghanistan. If they did so, the U.S. would have to use the Northern Distribution Network (NDN) which traverses Russia and several other former Soviet republics, at a time when U.S.-Russia tensions are high. 

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Why not growth?

As the self-described party of the middle class, Democrats’ principal concern should be growth.

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Democrats’ intense focus on income inequality is understandable, but why not the same obsession over economic growth?

From 2001 to 2013, a span of thirteen years, average annual growth in the United States came out to a lumbering 1.8 percent. That is half the average annual growth rate we experienced from 1950 to 2000 —a period during which the middle class shined and the poverty rate declined.

Yes, the Great Recession contributed to substandard growth rates, but since 2001, the U.S. economy has exceeded 3 percent growth only twice. In the half century prior, we surpassed 3 percent growth per year 34 times. What was once “normal” growth is now a rarity.

Economists predict that America’s future growth rate will settle somewhere between mediocre and sickly. The Congressional Budget Office projects an average of 2.5 percent annual growth over the next ten years, while PricewaterhouseCoopers projects an average of 2.4 percent growth through 2020. Middling growth like that just won’t make an appreciable difference in the lives of average working people.

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