Daily Clips: May 20th, 2015

The Minimum Wage Movement Gets Its Biggest Victory Yet
Washington Post – Paul Waldman.

It’s getting harder and harder to deny the power of the $15 minimum wage movement. Yesterday, LA joined the growing list of cities which are taking the issue into their own hands. And more than this, the actual number for the minimum wage keeps increasing in size. As Waldman correctly points out,

…politicians realize that the public is in favor of a more significant increase and that the debate has changed. And they follow along.

For instance, in his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama proposed a $9 minimum wage; in his 2014 SOTU he endorsed a bill in Congress to raise it to $10.10; and now his administration has come on board with a new bill that would it to $12. Something similar happened in Los Angeles: Mayor Eric Garcetti had proposed raising the minimum to $13.25 by 2017, but at the urging of activists the city council went all the way to $15, and now Garcetti says he’ll sign the bill they just passed.

Yet with all this momentum and broad public support towards higher minimum wages, Republicans are still against it (I’m looking at you Jeb). And this is disappointing. Because they are fast becoming the party of ‘no’ to every policy idea which is being talked about nationally: gay marriage, immigration reform, health care, public infrastructure etc…Their refusal to actively embrace any of these policies is a shame for our entire national discourse. In the words of my mother: I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.

Background checks & legalized marijuana in WA: A new Public Policy Polling report shows that voters in Washington State are becoming even more liberal (insert gasp here). Voters now support gay marriage by 20 points 56/36 (up from 8 points in 2012) and also support marijuana legalization by 19 points, 56/37 (up from 12 points in 2012).

Thousands of WA teachers take to the streets: Yesterday, thousands of public school teachers held a one-day walkout that caused “tempers to flare in Olympia”, where Democrats walked out of a hearing on a Republican-favored bill which would punish teachers for such strikes.

Immigration activists are excited about Clinton’s latest hire: The Clinton campaign has announced that Lorella Praeli will be the 2016 national director of Latino outreach. At the age of 10, Ms. Praeli came to the US from Peru and only realized that she was an unauthorized immigrant when she was a senior in high school. After receiving her green card in 2012, she has been the director of policy and advocacy for United We Dream, the leading DREAMer advocacy network.


Los Angeles City Council Catches Up to Seattle, Votes in a $15 Minimum Wage

This just in, from the New York Times‘s Jennifer Medina:

The nation’s second-largest city voted on Tuesday to increase its minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020, in what is perhaps the most significant victory so far in the national push to raise the minimum wage.

This is a big deal. Over 40 percent of the city’s workers earn less than $15 an hour.

15Now.orgCongratulations, Los Angeles! And welcome to the $15 party. Now get ready for the mass conservative hysteria every time a chain pizza place closes. But don’t believe the hype: since we raised the minimum wage, things in Seattle are going very well indeed.

Still, it’s a shame that Medina ends the article with a quote from a trade group president who claims that “A lot of businesses aren’t going to make it” and “a lot of employees are going to lose their jobs.” That’s not a fact, it’s a prediction, and nothing we’ve seen would indicate that it’s the truth. News tip for journalists: you don’t have to quote both sides if one of the sides is just spouting baseless fear-mongering.

Quibbles in coverage aside, this is a huge victory and it’s time to celebrate.

Now it’s your move, New York.

America’s Coming Civic Crisis: Only One in Ten Young People Interested in Running for Public Office

Over at Time, Katy Steinmetz interviewed the authors of an upcoming book called Running from Office, which is based on a stunning piece of research:

Political science professors Jennifer Lawless and Richard Fox asked more than 4,000 high school and college students if they would be interested in running for political office in America someday: 89% of them said “no.”

9780199397655Interestingly, this seems to be the first time that American youth were polled on the concept of political ambition, so Lawless and Fox didn’t have an earlier statistic to compare with that unequivocal 89 percent negative response. Instead, they had to find old data on political interest in young people—”whether they talk about politics with their families, whether they are talking about politics with their friends and whether they follow political news”—and compare that to the current generation. They found that young people are something like twenty to thirty percent less likely to be interested in politics than previous generations.

This, obviously, is a huge problem. Lawless explains the worst-case scenario:

We have more than 500,000 elected offices in this country. … We’re not concerned that no one will run for them. We’re concerned that the candidates will be the type of people who aren’t interested in bringing about a better system.

The appropriate response to this isn’t shaking your fist at kids today and asking why they’re not more interested in politics. The appropriate response is to look at politics and ask why it isn’t better about inspiring a new generation to get involved. The answer, of course, is pretty obvious: Americans don’t feel that politicians do anything, and the media has only exacerbated this perception.

We need to find solutions for this problem immediately. If we want politics to work effectively, we need politics to be inclusive. In order to represent the American people, our politicians need to represent as many backgrounds and beliefs and experiences as possible.

This should be considered a crisis. Running from Office supposedly offers several proposals for solutions, but  we need as many people to be thinking about ways to resolve this problem as possible. As Lawless says, “If we had heard that 89% of young people said that under no circumstances would they ever become a lawyer or a doctor or a journalist or a teacher, there would probably be a national outcry.” If the only people who run for office in the future are people who’ve always wanted to run for office, we’ll likely wind up in a government run by and for politicians, and not for the people.

Daily Clips: May 19th, 2015

Class Matters: What job insecurity does to our kids
New Republic – Allison Pugh.

While inequality looks to be the defining topic of the day, economic insecurity is fast becoming an issue which confronts the same questions surrounding inequality: what is an economy for and what is the purpose of economic life?

As James Fallow explained in 1994, “in the American-style [economic] model the basic reason for having an economy is to raise the consumer’s standard of living.” Inherent within this purpose comes the expectation that as your standards of living are raised, so are your children’s prospects.

And if these are the outcomes you expect from the economy, you’d better hope you are affluent. Because,

Thanks to University of Pennsylvania sociologist Annette Lareau, we know that affluent parents teach entitlement through the customization of their children’s experience and the endless solicitation of their views. Less advantaged parents, meanwhile, imbue their children with a sense of constraint, given a world filled with what they experience as powerful authorities and impervious institutions.

This brand of “insecurity parenting”, Pugh says, has three potential effects that warrant our notice:

First, it is possible that it helps at least partially to create the futures that children inherit, by equipping some with take-charge optimism and others with head-down wariness.

Second, it directs our attention to how individuals might better cope with a precariousness presumed to be inescapable, and thus lowers our standards for the kind of commitments we might expect from each other at work and at home.

Finally, it serves to distract us from how society might tackle the broader causes of widespread insecurity, such as the downsizing and layoffs that even economists now regard as hardly inevitable.

Our national conversation on economic insecurity is in its infancy. But articles like these will make our discussions on the economy more teleological. In this way, we can begin to focus on how effectively our economy is achieving its supposed purpose, instead of fixating on values and numbers, like GDP, which are an imperfect measure of our economy’s progress.

How machines destroy (and create) jobs: NPR offers four interactive graphs that beautifully illustrate the tension between innovation and job security. Here’s one of the graphs which shows the decline of farming and the rise of everything else:

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 9.24.42 AM

Minimum wage’s time is now in LA: After months of talk and speculation, the debate over an increased minimum wage is scheduled to go before the full Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday. The current minimum wage in California is $9 an hour. The proposal that goes before the council today would raise it to $10.50 an hour by July, 2016 $12 by July 2017, $13.25 by 2018, $14.25 by July 2019 and then $15 by 2020. Small businesses would have an additional year to reach $15.

The stupidity of America’s humongous defense budget: I would be doing a disservice to Paul Waldman’s article if I merely paraphrased it, so I’ll let him explain why spending $612 billion on our military is ridiculous:

So let’s be honest: We build our military not to deal with threats to us, but to accommodate the myriad ways we’d like to project American power outward. Though we’ve referred to our military as “defense” since the Department of War was renamed in 1949, almost nothing our military does is about defending the United States from direct attack. If you joined up tomorrow, the chances that you’d be trained and deployed to stop foreign invasion would be almost nil. 

You can fervently support every mission we’ve given the U.S. military in the last few decades and still acknowledge that fact. Yet for some reason, presidential candidates seem to believe that they can only justify the military budgets they want by telling the voters that unless we keep spending more, before you know it your kids will have to pledge allegiance to a poster of Kim Jong Un. 


“Mobility” Has More Than One Meaning: How Public Transit Helps Ease Income Inequality

I encourage you to read this Atlantic post by Gillian B. White about income inequality and public transportation.

“Without really good public transportation, it’s very difficult to deal with inequality,” [Harvard professor Rosabeth Moss] Kanter said. Access to just about everything associated with upward mobility and economic progress—jobs, quality food, and goods (at reasonable prices), healthcare, and schooling— relies on the ability to get around in an efficient way, and for an affordable price. A recent study from Harvard found that geographic mobility was indeed linked to economic mobility, and a 2014 study from NYU found a link between poor public-transit access and higher rates of unemployment and decreased income in New York City.

The post makes me very excited to read Kanter’s new book, Move: Putting America’s Infrastructure Back in the Lead. And it reminds us that Seattle, which is having a very public, very difficult conversation about income inequality right now, needs to remember that investment in public transit is not just a traffic issue; it’s also one of the most important ways to shrink income inequality. There’s a lot more riding on this issue than a few traffic jams.

Daily Clips: May 18, 2015

Bill Gates: High taxes and high growth can co-exist
Politifact – Jon Greenberg

This Sunday on Fareed Zakaria GPS, Bill Gates said “the highest economic growth decade [in the US] was the 1960s. Income tax rates were 90 percent.” Politifact checked that statement and found it to be “Mostly True” on their “Truth-O-Meter”.

As they note in their analysis, the 1960s saw the greatest average growth by decade. They go on to stipulate that,

For the first four years of the 1960s, individuals faced a top tax rate of 91 percent on each dollar over the $400,000 mark. In 1964, the top rate dropped to 77 percent, followed by another decline to 70 percent (this time on every dollar over $200,000.) By the end of the decade, it inched back up to 77 percent.

However, they are quick to point out that,

Gates’ point was that lowering tax rates does not, by itself, create a more prosperous economy. But the reverse also must be said: Higher tax rates don’t mean a booming economy. In fact, many factors drive the economy, from energy prices and global competition, to interest rates and government spending.

All in all, it is good to see the richest man in the world pointing out that historically, low taxation has not lead to the best years of our economy.

Chris Christie: fears of government spying are ‘baloney’: Right now there is an interesting dichotomy within the Republican party; on one side you have Republicans who are terrified of anything the federal government does (like the innocuous Jade Helm military exercise) and on the other side you have Republicans, like Christie, that want you to believe that the federal government isn’t invading the privacy of Americans unconstitutionally. Both sides will be on full display when Congress decides whether or not it will reauthorize section 215 of the Patriot Act (which expires on June 1st) to permit the government’s collection of telephone data.

Bernie Sanders will introduce bill to make college tuition-free: In words that could have been stolen from Thomas Friedman himself (hardly a socialist), Sanders made a strong case for (what I believe) is an inevitable and needed shift in the level of education our government provides. Here’s his full statement,

We live in a highly competitive global economy and, if our economy is to be strong, we need the best-educated work force in the world. That will not happen if, every year, hundreds of thousands of bright young people cannot afford to go to college, and if millions more leave school deeply in debt.

US Ranks 40th in preparing youth to enter and excel in the workforce: Carrying on from Sanders’ cry for free post-secondary education comes this sobering statistic: According to the World Economic Forum’s Human Capital Index, the US is lagging behind 39 countries in their ability to provide robust “primary and secondary enrollment rates and the quality of primary education.” But please, tell me again how we’re the best country on earth!

We’ll All Soon Be Drinking Our Own Pee, and We Have Ron Sims to Thank (No, Really, Thank You, Ron Sims)

Brightwater Reclaimed Water

Brightwater sewage treatment plant’s reclaimed water is 99.9% pure!

Much to William Shatner’s surprise, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee declared a statewide drought emergency last week, what with the state’s average snowpack only at 16 percent of normal and the national weather service predicting a hotter than usual summer.

Anticipating a decline in snowmelt, Seattle took advantage of winter rains to fill its reservoirs to above normal levels, so the city won’t likely face any water restrictions this summer, but our future water security is less certain. The mountain snowpack is by far our state’s largest reservoir, and as climate change shifts much of our winter precipitation from snow to rain, snowpack levels are expected to steadily decline over the coming the decades. But fortunately for the region, at least one of our leaders was thinking ahead.

At the time, former King County Executive Ron Sims was the target of a fair bit of criticism for the planning, execution, and cost of our state-of-the-art Brightwater sewage treatment facility, and one of the design decisions that added to the expense was its then-unneeded water reclamation capacity: up to 21 million gallons a day of Class A reclaimed water. Class A reclaimed water isn’t certified as potable, but it’s safe to drink, and it wouldn’t take much more processing to get it the rest of the way there. Diluted into the 140 million gallons a day Seattle Public Utilities currently delivers, we wouldn’t notice the difference at the tap, even as reclaimed water made up 15 percent of the supply.

With our population growing even as our source of fresh water shrinks, reclaimed water will become an ever more valuable resource.

Building that reclamation capacity into Brightwater wasn’t cheap, but it was a helluva lot cheaper than adding it on later. At least, that’s what Sims told me a decade ago when he explained that the county had to start preparing now (well, then) for the inevitable impacts of climate change. And a declining snowpack, Sims said, was inevitable.

To be clear, Sims was no latecomer to the issue. Way back in 1988, when he was just a county council member, the Seattle Times editorial board excoriated him for proposing that the county spend a mere $100,000 a year to study how to prepare for climate change:

IF THE “greenhouse effect” is exacerbated by political hot air, the world is in real trouble.

The hyperbolic clouds of rhetorical gas belched out on this issue in recent weeks could easily choke someone – or at least cloud the vision of otherwise rational people.

… many reputable scientists dispute the reality of the greenhouse effect. Others seriously question its long-term impact …

The point is that the sky-is-falling, icecaps-are-melting, oceans-are-rising rhetoric must be tempered by common sense.

If Sims and Laing want to study the greenhouse effect, they should buy themselves some tomato plants and a bag of steer manure – which shouldn’t be at all hard for such experienced politicians to find.

It’s not so much the wrongness of the editors that stands out, but the utter eye-rolling contempt in which they attacked Sims’ foresight.

Fortunately, Sims wasn’t cowed by the editorial board, and continued to stick by his convictions (and the science) throughout his years in office. And so on that inevitable day some years hence when reclaimed wastewater starts flowing through our faucets, I hope the editors of the Seattle Times join in raising a glass of recycled pee to the vision and perseverance of Ron Sims.

It’s not easy for politicians, facing the present day demands of taxpayers, to keep the needs of future generations in sight. But on many issues—from transit, to education, to income inequality, to the environment—that is the only way to assure that our region continues to thrive well into the future.

[Cross-posted at HorsesAss.org]

One Pizza Place Closes, Another Opens: The $15 Minimum Wage Doesn’t Seem to Be Killing Seattle’s Restaurant Scene Just Yet

Pictured: the nightmarish future that Seattle media predicts will occur when restaurants are forced to pay employees a living wage.

Pictured: the nightmarish future that Seattle media predicts will occur when restaurants are forced to pay employees a living wage.

Now that the (misplaced) media furor over the Capitol Hill Z Pizza franchise closing has died down a little bit, maybe it’s time to investigate the aftermath. Have we lost more restaurants, franchise or otherwise, on Capitol Hill? Well, no. And in fact Seattle Metropolitan magazine yesterday reported that this fall—shortly after Z Pizza closes its doors—a new pizza restaurant from beloved Seattle restaurateur Brandon Pettit (of Delancey fame) will open on Capitol Hill. Dino’s Tomato Pie will serve thick-crust Sicilian pizza through a takeout counter and in a bar in a space formerly occupied by a Western Union checks cashed location. How can this be, when Capitol Hill has supposedly become an anti-business wasteland?  Pettit tells Seattle Metropolitan why he’s trying a restaurant in this part of town, which is new to him:

“It definitely felt a bit like cheating on Ballard,” says Pettit of his Capitol Hill plans, but [local bar owner Rachel] Marshall took him on a neighborhood walk that included stops at Lark, Juicebox, and Kurt Timmermeister’s new Kurt Farm Shop, selling him on the district’s neighborhood vibe.

Wait, let me get this right: a business owner was enticed to the area by another business owner in part thanks to a tour of the thriving local business scene? Huh.

But I thought the minimum wage was destroying restaurants in Seattle and panicking small business owners?  If you’re looking for some responsible reporting on the actual impact of the $15 minimum wage, make sure you read Sara Jones’s Eater Seattle post, featuring interviews with six Seattle-area restaurateurs. They’re not all enthusiastic about the wage—Manu Alfau of the excellent Pioneer Square lunch spot La Bodega is very pessimistic, in fact. But they’re canny businesspeople who are realistic about the consequences of the new law. As Huxley Wallace Collective chef and owner Josh Henderson says, “It’s complicated, but certainly not the end of the world. If businesses are going out of business over this, that’s ridiculous: either their product is not good, or their business model is not good.” I’d encourage you to read the whole thing; it’s a much more nuanced report than anything we’ve seen from outlets like Q13 Fox, or, sadly, local NPR station KUOW.

But this is all anecdotal evidence and a handful of personal experiences. How are the numbers doing after last month’s wage increase? According to friend-of-Skunk-Works Invictus, this week delivered a gain of seven new food small business licenses:

So that’s the minimum wage update from Seattle. Despite all the media hand-wringing and a plague of comment-section Chicken Littles, the sky  has yet to fall.