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Daily Clips: January 20, 2017

DT’s inaugural address transcript:

Get ready for unbridled nationalism and divisiveness. His words should prepare progressives for what is to come.

Trump to develop missile defense system against Iran, North Korea:

The fear-mongering begins.

Uber to Pay $20 Million to Settle FTC Charges on Earnings Claims for Drivers

Sanders: This is a ‘tough day for millions of Americans’

Tweet of the day:

 

Daily Clips: January 18, 2017

Tom Price, almost certainly, did some insider trading:

Mr. Price, who will testify at a Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday, has bought and sold stocks worth more than $300,000 over the last four years, The Wall Street Journal reported last month. His trades included shares of at least two companies that stood to benefit from legislation he voted for, had sponsored or was involved in.

Earth sets temperature record for third straight year:

“A single warm year is something of a curiosity,” said Deke Arndt, chief of global climate monitoring for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “It’s really the trend, and the fact that we’re punching at the ceiling every year now, that is the real indicator that we’re undergoing big changes.”

Inequality is killing the American Dream:

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Obamacare Repealers: Trickle Downer of the Week

Furthermore, the repeal of Obamacare would generate massive tax breaks—about $180 billion, according to an earlier CBO report—for pharmaceutical companies, health insurers, and medical device manufacturers.

 

Daily Clips: January 17, 2016

Republicans Plan to Roll Back Endangered Species Act:

Reforms proposed by Republicans include placing limits on lawsuits that have been used to maintain protections for some species and force decisions on others, as well as adopting a cap on how many species can be protected and giving states a greater say in the process.

It turns out that a major factor in “making America great again” was removing endangered species from protection. Good to know.

Wal-Mart to create 10,000 jobs this year:

The “classy way” to let companies sponsor parks: 

The marketization of our society is near completion.

How Cory Booker went from hero to zero:

Booker has long faced criticism on the left for cultivating the elite financial ties that much of the Bernie Sanders wing despises. And while it’s true that his vote may have had more to do with the concentration of the pharmaceutical industry in his home state, it’s also only served to confirm some progressives’ suspicions that he’s too closely allied with corporate interests in the Democratic Party.

Study Finds Millennials Earn 20 Percent Less Than Boomers Did at the Same Age

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Josh Boak and Carrie Antlfinger at the Associated Press reported on a new study about generational earning this morning:

With a median household income of $40,581, millennials earn 20 percent less than boomers did at the same stage of life, despite being better educated, according to a new analysis of Federal Reserve data by the advocacy group Young Invincibles. …Education does help boost incomes. But the median college-educated millennial with student debt is only earning slightly more than a baby boomer without a degree did in 1989.

This is important stuff. When we talk about inequality, it’s important to remember that we’re not just talking about a disparity in earnings from the top one percent to the other 99 percent. We’re also talking about a disparity between generations, an income gap that grows over time. It is part of the reason why, though President Obama’s policies did begin to shrink the traditional measures of inequality (link PDF), many Americans don’t feel as though the economy is improving.

This report should serve as a warning to Democrats in the midterm elections and the 2020 presidential election: just because you’re not young enough to feel this inequality, you should understand that it exists. This is a big reason why Senator Bernie Sanders enjoyed the success that he did during the 2016 Democratic primary: he was speaking to a serious problem that most candidates, and most media outlets, didn’t even recognize was a problem.

I realize that I’m not delivering some new insight here. Lots of people—including my colleagues at this here blog—have written extensively about student debt and other economic damages delivered exclusively onto millennials. But this new study is another solid piece of proof that inequality comes in a multitude of varieties, and Democrats need to be able to recognize and address all of them. The future of the party—and the future of this country—is at stake.

Daily Clips: January 13, 2017

In a scathing review, investigators with the justice department found that police violated both the fourth amendment of the constitution and department policy in the use of deadly force. Investigators faulted poor training and accountability systems for contributing to the department’s unconstitutional policing practices.

But Trump’s latest remarks demonstrate the malleable boundaries of the charge, leading even establishment outlets to take umbrage now they’ve been forced to defend themselves — not against other journalists, but the president-elect of the United States.

Daily Clips: January 11 2017

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“To me as a physician and as a research scientist, the idea that knowledge dissemination and knowledge generation was being systematically prevented, that was a pretty strong statement,” Stark recalled.

Not sure I agree with this piece, but it’s worth a read. I was frustrated with Obama’s perma-optimism. It’s his greatest strength but also his greatest weakness. It makes him appear disconnected from lived experiences. Again, we saw that he touted the stock market and job creation, but only vaguely admitted “we still have work to do.” That’s not good enough, in my opinion.

When It Comes to Economics, Incoming Labor Secretary Andrew Puzder Is a Raging Elitist

“Hello, yes, how many senses of accomplishment do the chili cheese fries cost?”

“Hello, yes, how many senses of accomplishment do the chili cheese fries cost?”

A particularly damning quote from Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Labor, Andrew Puzder, is making the rounds again. Puzder, in his role as CEO of the Carl’s Jr fast food chain, published an editorial in the Wall Street Journal in 2014 against the idea of raising the overtime threshold:

…Workers who aspire to climb the management ladder strive for the opportunity to move from hourly-wage, crew-level positions to salaried management positions with performance-based incentives. What they lose in overtime pay they gain in the stature and sense of accomplishment that comes from being a salaried manager. This is hardly oppressive. To the contrary, it can be very lucrative for those willing to invest the time and energy, which explains why so many crew employees aspire to be managers.

Of course, we came very close to raising the overtime threshold last year, until an Obama-appointed judge from Texas shot it down and the incoming Trump administration — with Puzder in charge of the Department of Labor — crushed the hope of a lawsuit to save the threshold.

Here at Civic Ventures, we have made no secret of our efforts to promote overtime. Civic Ventures founder Nick Hanauer published a very influential piece in Politico back in 2014 about overtime, and then Hanauer and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich co-authored a piece for the New York Times explaining why overtime was so essential to America’s financial success in the 1950s, and why we sorely need to increase the threshold:

Today, if you’re salaried and earn more than $23,600 dollars a year, you don’t automatically qualify for overtime: That means every extra hour you work, you work free. Under the new proposed rules, everyone earning a salary of $50,440 a year or less would be eligible to collect time-and-a-half pay for every hour worked over 40 hours a week.

Reich and Hanauer call increasing the overtime threshold “a minimum wage hike for the middle class,” and that’s about right. It ensures either that workers are compensated for their time, or that workers don’t have to work more than 40 hours per week. Either way, the economy benefits because people either have more money to spend in their communities, or more time to be active members of their communities. These are real results that would happen immediately, as soon as the overtime threshold was raised.

But Puzder instead decided to fight policy with platitude. I’m going to repeat what he said because it’s so impossibly dumb that only through repetition can we understand Puzder’s worldview. Again, this is a CEO talking about his own employees: “What they lose in overtime pay they gain in the stature and sense of accomplishment that comes from being a salaried manager.”

You can’t eat a sense of accomplishment. Stature doesn’t pay the rent. It is frustrating that while Trump boosters complain about elitist progressives, a member of Trump’s prospective billionaire’s cabinet — a cabinet that will likely be wealthier than more than a third of all American households combined — is telling American workers that they are not worthy of payment for hours worked. At around the same time Puzder wrote those words, he was earning 291 times more annually than the minimum-wage employees at his restaurant, according to Forbes.

It’s pretty clear that unless he’s visited by three particularly convincing spirits on Christmas Eve, Secretary Puzder isn’t going to entertain raising the overtime threshold. This is because he knows that the money workers could be earning has, in his mind, a higher purpose: it could be funneled directly into his bank account and the bank accounts of people just like him. It’s pretty clear that Puzder believes he deserves the money more than his employees.

See, Puzder considers himself to be a job creator, even when he openly lusts after the idea of automating his restaurants so he doesn’t have to pay human beings to do work. What he doesn’t realize is that if every Puzder out there — every fast food CEO in America — were to automate their restaurants, their profits would plummet, because nobody would make enough money to frequent the restaurants. Robots don’t eat burgers.

No, it’s Puzder’s employees who spend the money that keep his restaurants open. And if he paid his employees what they deserve, they’d likely spend even more money there. But Puzder doesn’t care about details like that. He’s got his, and his friends have theirs, and everyone else? Eh. Puzder says let them eat their sense of accomplishment

Daily Clips: January 10, 2017

  • Tweet of the week (I’m already calling it). It’s really that amazing. 

Optimism among America’s small businesses soared in December by the most since 1980 as expectations about the economy’s prospects improved dramatically in the aftermath of the presidential election.

The National Federation of Independent Business’s index jumped 7.4 points last month to 105.8, the highest since the end of 2004, from 98.4. While seven of the 10 components increased in December, 73 percent of the monthly advance was due to more upbeat views about the outlook for sales and the economy, the Washington-based group said.

My Dentist, the Free Market, and Moral Cavities

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When my dentist handed me a teeth-whitening pamphlet before I had even reclined in the dental chair, I thought of Michael Sandel.

Not because the Harvard professor has particularly memorable choppers, but because Sandel has spent a considerable amount of time questioning pursuits like this. Specifically, highlighting the drawbacks of a society where market values infect all areas of our life.

“Today,” Sandel writes, “the logic of buying and selling no longer applies to material goods alone. It increasingly governs the whole of life.”

My experience with the dentist is a perfect example. There is something deeply troubling about medical professionals treating patients, first and foremost, as consumers. This runs counter to the very promise made in The Dentist’s Pledge, the dental version of the Hippocratic Oath, whose first point reads:

…Let each come to me safe in the knowledge that their total health and well-being is my first consideration.

Yet, in that dentist’s office, dentistry’s primary responsibility had been displaced by profit motive. The norms of the profession have been commercialized—health isn’t the primary goal anymore; rather, making money drives all decisions.

While “economists often assume that markets are inert: that they do not affect the goods they exchange,” this assumption is naive. Market values are some of the most powerful forces on earth. They most certainly reconfigure priorities, and to my mind, they often do so in suboptimal and intangible ways, as dentistry proves.

When there is no respite from being sold something, people are forced to doubt the true motivations behind everything. Intent, from politicians to the dentist, becomes questioned. That’s an undesirable way to live.

Furthermore, in a market society, “where everything is for sale, life is harder for those of modest means.” Inequality is exacerbated, as money becomes the “sole value on which all choices are based.”

And in 2017, that reality hits too close to home for most Americans—the majority of whom have less than $1,000 in savings.

When you perceive the world through this lens, you begin to understand why both political parties endlessly spoke about the economy being rigged against “normal” Americans.

They were attempting to explain to voters why they were feeling so discontent. Trump blamed it on a variety of people and forces which were largely imagined or disingenuous. Clinton awkwardly admonished Wall Street and greedy politicians for the state of things.

Yet, looking back on 2016, Bernie Sanders was the only candidate who seemed to understand that part of our economic anxiety came from a world where everything is for sale. He persistently delineated where markets belong and where they do not. In fact, his “socialism” was in many ways just a repudiation of a society governed by market values. And it turns out that the majority of Americans agreed with his policies that severed the connection between profit motive and “services”—namely, health care.

Progressives (and conservatives) dismiss the effects of a market society at their own peril. They can point to a successful stock market all they like and argue that GDP growth is sensational, but these expressions of economic success do not directly affect most Americans (53% of whom don’t have any money in the stock market, including retirement accounts).

To level with the American people, politicians need to ask Americans, do we want to live in a society where everything is for sale? Is this innate? Or is this a choice? And if it’s a choice, how do we correct this? How can we stop letting the market have the final say on every good and service?

These are not easy questions to answer. I don’t pretend to make it seem that way. But it is important we analyze our societal assumptions. Otherwise, we will be obliged to pay doctors for benefits like unhurried appointments and 24/7 access. Oh wait, that already happens.

Daily Clips: January 9, 2017

For the next four, maybe eight, years, we will have a president who half the country thinks is the Manchurian Candidate, Russian-born. I can’t think of a greater symptom of the weird fever dream that is the American empire, whereby the most powerful state on earth imagines, over a twelve to sixteen year period, that its elected leaders hail from the far reaches of its various antagonisms.

Short-termism has been called, “the tyranny of shareholder value” and our boss, Nick Hanauer, thinks that this myopic vision plays a huge role in our current economic malaise. Here is a blog post which deals with this pervasive financial perspective.

In other words, we will re-run a version of the economic experiment previously conducted in the 1980s under Reagan and again under George W. Bush.