The Week in Review

As the nation celebrated Independence Day on Friday, Americans driving to see fireworks displays or go on family vacations found that it costs more to fill their gas tanks. Pump prices were at a six-year high for July. In Washington on Monday, the Supreme Court recessed for the summer after handing down rulings in two major cases involving the rights of women and workers.  And on Thursday, the Labor Department’s monthly job report showed real unemployment in June remained in double digits.

Gas Prices Going Up Going into the Independence Day weekend, gasoline prices hit a six-year high. Sanders blamed commodity market speculators for driving up oil and gas prices. He introduced a bill, which now has 20 cosponsors, to make federal regulators clamp down. “There is more supply today than there was five years ago and less demand, so if you had a normal functioning market with supply and demand the price should go down,” Sanders said. In fact, supplies are up 2.4 percent since 2009 and demand is down 5 percent since 2009, when gas only cost $2.64 a gallon. The average price of regular gas this week was $3.70-a-gallon nationwide, 20-cents more than one year ago, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Prices haven’t been so high in July since the summer of 2008. Watch MSNBC

Unemployment at 12.1% The Labor Department announced on Thursday that unemployment in June was 12.1 percent counting workers forced to settle for part-time jobs as well as those who gave up looking for employment. A more widely reported figure put the June unemployment rate at 6.1 percent, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that “the number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) increased by 275,000 in June to 7.5 million.” Read more

Poverty is a Death Sentence “When we talk about income and wealth inequality, we’re not just talking about somebody having a nicer house or newer car or some fancy electronic gadgets. What we are talking about now, in an unprecedented way, is literally a life and death issue.  Working people now live significantly shorter lives than wealthy Americans,” Sen. Bernie Sanders said. “Income and wealth inequality means that while upper-income people can now often live vital and healthy lives until they are 85 or 90, we are seeing an actual decrease in life expectancy for low-income and working people.” According to an article posted Wednesday by the online Aeon Magazine, “the life expectancy gap between the affluent and the poor and working class in the United States is 12.2 years.” Read the Aeon Magazine article

Supreme Court Rules Against Women Sanders criticized a “very troubling” Supreme Court ruling on Monday that lets some business owners opt out of an Affordable Care Act requirement that they cover contraceptives for women workers. “Bosses should not be able to impose their religious beliefs on their employees. This ruling is another attack on the rights of working people by the 5-4 conservative majority on the Supreme Court,” said Sanders.  “At a time when tens of millions of women use birth control, there is no valid reason to restrict a woman’s access to safe, widely-used preventive services simply because her employer does not approve of what should be her private medical decisions. This ruling undermines the government’s interest in providing women access to preventive health care, including contraceptive coverage,” Sanders said. Read more

Supreme Court Rules Against Workers  The Supreme Court ruled against a union that had collected fees from workers who were not members but nevertheless benefited from better pay and working conditions that the union negotiated. The case decided on Monday involved home-care workers in Illinois whose hourly wages rose from $7 in 2003 to $13 in 2014. The workers also received health insurance paid for by the state and other benefits. The state and taxpayers benefited by paying less for home care than it would have cost to put people in expensive institutional care. Sanders called the court decision “another attack on the rights of workers to collectively bargain for higher wages and decent benefits.” The decision by Justice Samuel Alito Jr., and four other extreme right-wing Republicans “is another attack on the rights of workers to collectively bargain for higher wages and decent benefits.” It could have been worse, Sanders noted. The ruling did not go as far as some worker advocates had feared so other public-sector employees may still have an effective voice at the bargaining table. Read more

War in Iraq President Obama on Monday ordered another contingent of combat-ready troops to Iraq to protect American property and citizens. The latest deployments will bring to about 700 the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, the Pentagon said, including in security and training roles.  Of the almost 40,000 people who have taken our online poll, overwhelming majorities oppose sending combat troops to Iraq. There was less but still significant opposition to sending military advisors to Iraq. Take the poll and see the results.