Daily Clips: June 26th, 2015

Obama will go down as a consequential president: According to Dylan Matthews, presidents and their legacies can usually be divided into two camps: “the mildly good or bad but ultimately forgettable (Clinton, Carter, Taft, Harrison) and the hugely consequential for good or ill (FDR, Lincoln, Nixon, Andrew Johnson).”

Matthews argues that the favorable SCOTUS rulings on Obamacare and gay marriage have firmly set President Obama in the latter camp. Think about that for a second.

It’s simply amazing that we are even having this conversation. Throughout his presidency, I have heard many liberals (including myself) express so much anger and frustration over Obama’s lack of gumption or his professorial indifference to those that loathed him. And yet, here we are: six years into his presidency and Obama’s legacy is starting to look pretty damn good. Today is a day that Democrats should cherish forever. UC Berkley’s Paul Pierson sums it up best by saying:

I don’t think there is any doubt: On domestic issues Obama is the most consequential and successful Democratic president since LBJ. It isn’t close.

And Matthews is quick to add:

And LBJ’s presidency was so marred by the Vietnam War that he declined to seek a second term — there is no similar stain on Obama’s record.

While Matthews waited until after these SCOTUS decisions to “make the call” on Obama’s legacy, Paul Krugman predicted such a legacy last year. Here’s his prescient analysis (which, at the time, went against the prevailing pundit narrative):

Despite bitter opposition, despite having come close to self-inflicted disaster, Obama has emerged as one of the most consequential and, yes, successful presidents in American history. His health reform is imperfect but still a huge step forward – and it’s working better than anyone expected. Financial reform fell far short of what should have happened, but it’s much more effective than you’d think. Economic management has been half-crippled by Republican obstruction, but has nonetheless been much better than in other advanced countries. And environmental policy is starting to look like it could be a major legacy.

Scalia is a poor loser: I would be remiss if I did not provide some of the dumbest quotes provided by Antonin Scalia’s bumbling dissent. Take a look at this doozy:

“The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality,'” he quoted from the majority opinion before adding, “Really? Who ever thought that intimacy and spirituality [whatever that means] were freedoms? And if intimacy is, one would think Freedom of Intimacy is abridged rather than expanded by marriage. Ask the nearest hippie.

Poor guy. I can see how it would be scary to see such rapid progress as a conservative. You can see his dated 1960’s viewpoints shine through with that hippie comment. My only hope is that he’ll still be alive for the legalization of marijuana. Hopefully he cities hippies then, too.

Washington’s population is growing: As of April 2015, the Evergreen State has over 7 million people living in its borders. All but two counties grew this year, with three quarters of the population growth occurring in Clark, King, Pierce, Snohomish and Spokane counties.

Jeb Bush Rushes Out Video Claiming He’ll Repeal and Replace Obamacare

After this morning’s excellent news that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of keeping Obamacare, Jeb Bush has doubled down on negativity. In fact, he just released the above video, succinctly titled “This Is Not the End of the Fight Against ObamaCare.” It seems that Bush will try to pick up where Mitt Romney’s failed presidential campaign left off: with a charge to repeal and replace Obamacare.

The thing that really bugs me about Bush’s video is that it’s built on an untruth. In the middle of the video, Bush says “any family will tell you that the premiums have gone up” on insurance since Obamacare was implemented. This is just not true, but Bush allows for a certain amount of disingenuousness by couching his claim in the language that “any family will tell you” that the premiums have increased. It’s a clever little trick.

Jeb Bush's Official Portrait But in a broader sense, I’m annoyed that Bush is still ringing the “repeal and replace” bell. Today’s ruling should have marked the end of that particular gambit. Republicans have had seven years to create and present a viable replacement for Obamacare. None of them have done so. In fact, the closest thing to a proposal for a Republican Obamacare replacement I’ve ever heard of came directly from Jeb Bush, and it was a stupid, untenable system that, interpreted the right way, could result in the creation of a single-payer catastrophic emergency room care program for the poorest Americans.

Do Republicans honestly intend to run on repeal and replace again in 2016? If so, this is a baffling decision. While the Affordable Care Act continues to be unpopular, most of the elements of the law are overwhelmingly popular. If Republicans were to somehow repeal Obamacare, the American people would notice that they are being dropped from plans for having pre-existing conditions, for example, or that women are being charged more than men. Then, they’d (rightly) blame the Republicans for taking those benefits away. It seems hard to believe that Republicans would want to rebuild America’s health care system for the second time in a decade. Plenty of people speculate that Republicans don’t really want to repeal Obamacare, but that they’re more than happy to capitalize on the crowds that anti-Obama sentiment delivers to them. As Romney proved in 2012, those crowds are loud but they’re not large enough to win an election.

Daily Clips: June 25th, 2015

SCOTUS rules in favor of Obamacare: Hear that? That’s Obama’s health care legacy being sealed. This morning, the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare’s insurance subsidies as legal in a 6-3 ruling. Chief Justice Roberts (who has become an extremely unlikely ally of Obama’s presidency) wrote for the majority:

State Exchanges and Federal Exchanges are equivalent—they must meet the same requirements, perform the same functions, and serve the same purposes.

Reason>ideology. Phew. However, don’t expect the “repeal Obamacare” crowd to go away after this ruling. Sarah Wheaton at Politico notes that:

While it won’t necessarily be a top issue, the candidates vying for their votes in the 2016 primary are likely to hew to a “repeal and replace” line.

While this may play nicely for the Republican base, it’s hard to see this message gaining any traction with the American people. Whereas 60 percent of Republicans want a full repeal, only 37 percent of Independents favored such a repeal.

But let’s put away the politics of Obamacare for a second and look at the big picture. Today, a frustratingly conservative SCOTUS just helped cement the legacy of one of the right’s most hated presidents. That’s got to be a tough pill to swallow for many across this nation (though they’ll probably be able to afford this pill thanks to Obamacare). Let’s enjoy this moment.

Minimum wage increases are “supercharging the economy” says Nick Hanauer: Trickle-down is a scam…not economics. That was the message Nick Hanauer had for “The Early Edition” at CBC News, a Canadian radio talk show. This interview went viral on r/politics, with the top commenter sarcastically writing:

Yes, heaven forfend people have extra money to spend in our consumer economy! It might drive up demand for goods and services, which create jobs….oh, what am I saying??? RICH people are the ones who create jobs, but only if they are given tax cuts first! Forgive me St. Reagan for my blasphemy.

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Shocker: CEO Pay Is Not Representative of Talent

Look, I love Chris Pratt as much as the next movie nerd. But his salary is not a stellar example of the wisdom and justice of the free market.

Look, I love Chris Pratt as much as the next movie nerd. But his salary is not a stellar example of the wisdom and justice of the free market.

One of the more pervasive arguments against the $15 minimum wage is that minimum wage employees are not “worth” $15 an hour. It’s a ridiculous assertion: can you define a scale on which one human being is “worth” $7.25 an hour and another is worth $12 million dollars for roughly three months’ work? No, minimum wage employees are “worth” whatever we as a society decide they are “worth.”

Don’t believe me? Well, let’s look at the opposite side of the spectrum from those minimum wage employees who supposedly aren’t “worth” $15 an hour. What about CEOs? Can you somehow prove that CEOs are “worth” tens of millions of dollars? Pedro Nicolaci Da Costa at the Wall Street Journal says a new report answers that question unequivocally:

The rapid rise in pay for corporate executive officers, which stands in contrast to the stagnant wages of many Americans, is a key driver of inequality that’s not clearly tied to talent or performance, a new report from a liberal think tank finds.

The Economic Policy Institute report says this means CEO pay could be reduced without hurting economic growth or productivity.

(You can read the full EPI report right here.)

Wait, so CEO pay is not tied to performance or talent and you could reduce it without hurting anything. So why is a CEO’s compensation package “worth,” say, $84.3 million, but a grocery store clerk isn’t worth $15 an hour? I’d love for someone to explain that math to me.

Daily Clips: June 24, 2015

IKEA: Home to weirdly delicious meatballs AND a living wage. What's not to love?

IKEA: Home to weirdly delicious meatballs AND a living wage. What’s not to love?

Minimum Wage Increases Are ‘Supercharging’ Economy, Says U.S. Multimillionaire” Another day, another great Nick Hanauer interview on the minimum wage. This time, he talks with the CBC’s Stephen Quinn.

The most common response to the idea of a higher minimum wage from business groups, and I suppose wealthy people like yourself, is that higher minimum wages kill jobs and hurt the economy. Why do you reject that way of thinking?

That’s just not how capitalism works. The fundamental law of capitalism is that when workers have more money, businesses have more customers and need more workers… [There’s been] essentially 100 years of wealthy owners telling workers that if wages go up, employment will go down, but in fact it never happens.

Ikea’s Minimum Wage Hike Was So Successful, It’s Raising Wages Again” The Huffington Post’s Dave Jamieson says IKEA was so pleased with the results of their last voluntary minimum wage increase that they’re going back to the well. By next year, “all of the company’s U.S. stores will be paying at least $10 per hour, and the average minimum wage across all locations will be $11.87 — a 10.3 percent increase over the previous year, according to the company.”

The Postal Service Wants You to Bank at Your Post Office” Here’s a fascinating idea, courtesy of Rich Smith at Daily Finance: Senator Elizabeth Warren and the USPS Inspector General want to make the Post Office into a bank, “permitting ‘unbanked’ and ‘underbanked’ customers to take out small loans, cash checks, pay bills, and open savings accounts — all at their local post office.” Other countries–rising global stars like Germany and Brazil, in fact–do exactly this. It’s time for America to investigate this option, too.

This Is How Uber Takes Over a City” Karen Weise at Bloomberg Business documents Uber’s Portland charm offensive.

Why the Financial Crisis of 2008 Was All Ayn Rand’s Fault

“[Ayn] Rand’s fans are rarely the sort of intrepid, self-reliant, go-it-alone entrepreneurial heroes she writes about,” Michael Goodwin explains in the introduction to Darryl Cunningham’s new graphic novel  The Age of Selfishness. Goodwin continues:

Rather, they’ve typically spent their lives in the comfortable embrace of large institutions, going from school to university to corporation, or from think tank to government and back again. If Paul Ryan—a government bureaucrat if ever there was one—loves reading about [Atlas Shrugged protagonists] John Galt and Hank Rearden, it’s because he doesn’t resemble them at all.

9781419715983This is a cogent argument against Ayn Rand fandom. Or more accurately, it’s one of many cogent arguments against Ayn Rand fandom. If you’ve spent any amount of time on the internet, you’ve seen plenty of arguments against Rand: her books are poorly written; her ideas, though appealing to college freshmen, immediately fall apart when exposed to the real world; her own biography is riddled with hypocrisy. People love to hate Ayn Rand. But Rand’s books are tremendously popular; every generation, like clockwork, seems to lose a significant percentage of its most impressionable thinkers to Rand. She’s treated like a legitimate philosopher by a huge percentage of the population, and her work still exerts a tremendous influence on American politics. All the debunking in the world seemingly can’t poke a hole in Rand’s fame.

But in all my years of collecting anti-Rand rants, I’ve never seen anything quite like Darryl Cunningham’s The Age of Selfishness. It’s a book-length survey of Rand’s philosophy that also directly accuses her fans of causing the financial crisis of 2008. Cunningham mounts a case against Rand, finding evidence and testimony to build to an almost lawyerly case implicating her guilt in the biggest swindle of the 21st century. A decent alternate title for Selfishness could be “The People Vs. Ayn Rand.” Oh, and did I mention? It’s a comic book.

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Daily Clips: June 23rd, 2015

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Changes in Public Policy Could Put a Lid on Executives’ Excessive Pay Packages: Jon Talton’s Seattle Times editorial about reigning in out-of-control CEO pay went live on the site late last week, but a Facebook friend just brought it to our attention. Holy cow! This is great stuff. It’s hard to imagine the Seattle Times running this paragraph five years ago:

Tax rates on the top earners should be raised back to the 70-percent neighborhood. Capital-gains taxes should be tailored to reward long-term ownership. Regulation should become independent again. Unionization should be made easier. Banks backed by the taxpayers should be prohibited from their compensation practices.

Seriously, go read the whole thing.

Nick Hanauer, Early Internet Adopter: Over at the great Big Picture blog, Barry Ritzholtz interviewed Civic Ventures co-founder Nick Hanauer for his Masters in Business podcast. If you don’t use a podcasting service, you can also listen to the interview here:

Slavery’s Long Shadow: In a scathing editorial, Paul Krugman at the New York Times ties trickle down economics back to the Civil War. Which states are refusing to take part in Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion? Mostly, the ones that have a history of slaveholding. “And it’s not just health reform: a history of slavery is a strong predictor of everything from gun control (or rather its absence), to low minimum wages and hostility to unions, to tax policy.” Damn. You’ve gotta love Krugman when he’s angry.

Obamacare Repeal Still Vexes GOP: As the Supreme Court’s Obamacare ruling looms over Washington DC, Rachael Bade at Politico looks at the countless ways Republicans have screwed themselves over with their never-ending Obamacare opposition.

When Wages Go Up, Employment Goes Down (Microsoft Style)

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella: “My package is this big.” (image source: Microsoft)

The most common rejoinder to any proposal to raise the minimum wage (or pretty much any labor standard) is that when wages go up, employment goes down. “When you raise the price of employment, guess what happens? You get less of it,” US House speaker John Boehner once told reporters in dismissing President Obama’s call to raise the minimum wage.

Which would be a pretty compelling argument against raising the minimum wage… assuming there was at least a shred of evidence to back it up.

Unfortunately for the trickle down crowd, there’s not. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “a review of 64 studies on minimum wage increases found no discernable effect on employment.” And contrary to popular belief, relatively large minimum wage hikes like those recently passed in Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles are not unprecedented. Of course, correlation does not equal causation, but when it comes to demonstrating an inverse relationship between wages and jobs, the best I could come up with was Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s $84.3 million compensation package correlating with the company’s largest round of layoffs ever:

The Redmond software company announced in July that it would eliminate 18,000 jobs, 14 percent of its workforce. Chief Executive Satya Nadella said the goal was to streamline the company and integrate its newly purchased phone-hardware business. Rounds of layoffs were carried out in July, September and October, and Microsoft said the process would be complete by June 30 of this year.

So there you have it. With his promotion to CEO, Nadella’s wages went up and Microsoft’s employment numbers went down—both quite dramatically. Not sure that’s exactly what Boehner had in mind, but it’s the closest I could come to proving his thesis.