Immigration Isn’t a Problem; It’s the Solution

If Trump is so smart about business, why does he want to close our borders instead of opening them?

If Trump is so smart about business, why does he want to close our borders instead of opening them?

I have to admit that I don’t really get the whole anti-immigration thing. I mean, I know they’re brown and all that. I get that it’s mostly about race. I just don’t get how anybody rationalizes it to themselves as anything other than that?

For example, economically, immigration is a no-brainer:

The nation’s total fertility rate—a statistical measure of how many children each woman is likely to have over her lifetime—also rose slightly, to 1.862 children, from 1.858. That remains below the 2.1 children needed to keep the U.S. population stable, not counting immigration.

[…] Higher fertility is positive for the economy because it means more workers in the future to propel growth and pay for the social benefits of the elderly. It also means more people to consume the nation’s goods and services.

U.S. fertility is relatively high compared with that in other developed economies such as those in Europe and Japan, due to higher fertility among immigrants, earlier starts to families and social mores that facilitate women returning to work after having children, researchers say.

Certainly the same economic benefits that come from population growth through higher fertility must also come from population growth through immigration, right? So why not celebrate our new countrymen? Why not embrace the undocumented immigrants who are already here, bring them out from the shadows, and invite them to fully participate in our economy? Hell, why not make it easier for would-be Americans from around the world to come to our shores and add to US economic growth?

If not for immigration, the US population would be shrinking, bringing with it all of the same economic challenges currently facing Japan. Immigration isn’t a problem; it’s the solution. As it always has been throughout US history.

We need more immigrants!

I’m not saying anything that anybody who knows anything about economics doesn’t already know. I just don’t get why more people don’t say it out loud.

When Oil Prices Drop, The Media Shouldn’t Say That’s Good News For Americans

Oil prices have dipped below $39 per barrel for the first time since 2009 and true to form, the media is reporting this development as “great news for American consumers.”

But low gas prices should no longer be celebrated by our media. We’re now in the 21st century where 13 of the 15 hottest years on record have occurred. Earth is now on pace to have its hottest year on record and large parts of the West Coast of America are on fire.

Image courtesy of Naypong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Naypong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I guess the media never got the memo. They continue to depict low gas prices as excellent news. In their minds, the precious savings of Americans is of more importance than the future of our planet. As a result, the media is complicit in perpetuating our collective abdication of responsibility towards climate change. You can’t simultaneously fight against the ever-growing levels of greenhouse gases while at the same time celebrating “saving at the pump.”

When oil prices drop, the media should report this as terrible news. Rather than cutting to some journalist awkwardly interviewing drivers filling up at a gas station, perhaps the media could instead talk about the danger which climate change poses to our environment.

Christ, we know how much the media love promoting fear and unease. Climate change can tick both of those boxes! It’s a nightly story that is both true and super f&*^%$* scary.

And yet, here we are in 2015 celebrating the relative cheapness of a substance which is drastically altering our world.

Seven Things We Learned at This Morning’s Rand Paul Seattle Rally

Rand Paul at Town Hall Seattle, August 26, 2015.

Rand Paul at Town Hall Seattle, August 26, 2015.

1. Seattle is not the friendliest territory for Republican presidential candidates. This was the first Republican rally either of us have ever attended inside Seattle city limits: in 2012 Romney was in Bellevue, Santorum was in Tacoma, Gingrich was in Federal Way, and Paul the elder was in SeaTac. And now, having seen the crowd Senator Rand Paul gathered in downtown Seattle, it’s clear why those campaigns chose non-Seattle locations. For one thing, nearly everyone in line at 7:30 seemed to be from somewhere else: Marysville, Redmond, Bremerton. For another thing, the Paul campaign couldn’t come close to filling Town Hall—campaign officials told Jim Brunner of the Seattle Times that they’d drawn a crowd of 700, but Paul later mentioned that there were 500 people in attendance, a much likelier total.

2. Privacy stole the show. For the most part, the (99 percent white) crowd at the rally was fairly groggy and subdued—understandable, perhaps, for a rally taking place at 8:30 in the morning. The only standing ovation Paul received was when he brought up the right to privacy. (This is to be expected in a tech-centric city like Seattle.) Perhaps the most rowdy moment of the event came when he reached into his pocket, held out his phone and proclaimed, “There is absolutely no reason why the government should be looking at your phone records.” A guy at the back promptly bellowed, “THAT’S RIGHT!”. The second-biggest applause line came when Paul said he wanted to stop the “billions” of Seattle’s tax dollars from going to Washington DC.

3. Paul railed against the GOP more than Dems. Paul placed blame on both parties for a “broken” Washington DC, telling the audience that “everyone in Washington ought to come home and we ought to start over.” But the majority of his contempt was aimed at the GOP establishment. He took shots at Christie (“a certain Governor from New Jersey”) on the matter of privacy and McCain (“the senator from Arizona”) on the war in Syria. He also called out Trump (“a guy with orange hair”), warning the audience that liberty-lovers could not let him “take over our party” because he’s not part of the Republican”intellectual tradition.” He claimed that the entire Republican Party had lost its way and that it was no longer “boldly for what it’s supposed to be for.” By this, he meant that Republicans “need to be the party of the entire Bill of Rights.”

4. Isolationism 101. Paul told the crowd, “If you’re eager for war there will always be a Bush or a Clinton for you.” He then proceeded to lay out an isolationist platform on foreign policy (even though he explicitly stated “this is not isolationism”). He focused primarily on the Middle East, where he argued that America shouldn’t be giving military aid to moderates in Syria. He also maintained we shouldn’t have waged “Hillary’s War in Libya”, because this act of gung-ho interventionism had unintentionally created a breeding ground for ISIS. In fact, he claimed that one-third of Libyans were now in support of ISIS. For the most part, his anti-war message fell flat. The audience couldn’t be bothered to clap on several occasions. It all seemed very banal.

5. The Rand Paul at this rally was the presidential candidate Democrats were worried about last year. Which means that the Rand Paul at Town Hall was not the same Rand Paul who’s been presenting at the Republican debate and in the media for the last few months. He talked about race in a mostly non-terrible way, bringing up “driving while black” and the Japanese internment. (Though he was tone-deaf in some ways, assuring the audience that  you can be a minority not just by the color of your skin, but by “the shade of your ideology.”) And he’s basically right about the importance of civil liberties, although his Constitutional preaching, like his dad’s, can get pedantic and tiresome. His seemingly extemporaneous speaking style ranges on a scale from lecturing to scolding to sarcastic—exactly none of which are ideal for a presidential candidate. But on the issues, he didn’t sound at all like the other Republican candidates, which should work in his favor. (In a field that big, distinctive policy positions are a blessing.) It’s weird that when Paul talks to a mass-media audience he dials up the evangelical noise and dials down the talk about civil liberties; that obfuscation of his message is part of the reason why he’s been on the sidelines since he got into the presidential race.

6. Make no mistake: this was a libertarian rally. The people sitting next to us were proud libertarians first and Republicans second. (They seemed to indicate that Donald Trump was their second choice for president, because he would supposedly fill his administration with businesspeople. At least one of them was a big Glenn Beck fan, too.) It’s unclear if they understood that their libertarian beliefs only reinforce Republican trickle-down economics. Paul’s unspecific tax plan—eliminate the tax code and institute some basic tax you can fill out on a postcard—would greatly benefit the one percent and worsen income inequality. Out of the many issues he touched on, possibly the most untrue thing he said onstage at Town Hall was that he cared about poor people. Paul has adopted his dad’s claims of leading with reason, but he somehow can’t understand the simplest equation of them all: if you give money to the top one percent, they will only use that money to make more money. The trickling down of funds to the very poor will never come. You simply can’t care about the very poor in America and not want to address income inequality.

7. It was a terrible morning to glorify guns. At the exact same time that everyone on the internet was horrified by the latest in a seemingly unending string of mass shootings, Paul’s adulation of the 2nd amendment  felt awkward and dripping with an unpleasant machismo. ( “If you doubt me on the 2nd Amendment, come into my house unannounced,” Paul warned as the room applauded the thought of Paul shooting another person to death.) Before Paul took the stage, local politician Elizabeth Scott was proudly introduced as a member of the NRA. Meanwhile, on Twitter, people were scrolling past auto-play videos filmed by a man as he murdered two innocent people in cold blood. For a candidate who repeatedly claims to be uniquely in touch with reality, Paul is surprisingly out-of-step with an America that overwhelmingly favors commonsense gun safety laws. 

The Seattle Times Editorial Board Can Go Phở Itself

Mmm, pho!

Image courtesy of nuttakit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Okay, so I obviously agree with the Seattle Times editorial board that it’s way too early to judge the impact, positive or negative, of Seattle’s $15 minimum wage ordinance. Hell, I wrote as much yesterday morning. But I absolutely take issue with the editors’ partisan dismissal of minimum wage “cheerleaders” for engaging in so-called “selective analysis”:

Despite cheerleading from labor and advocates, it is too early to weigh the ultimate consequences of a huge increase that won’t fully take effect in Seattle until 2019.

The cheerleaders see the opening of a few pizza parlors or pho shops in Seattle, during a boom economy, as definitive proof that higher wages are no impediment to business. That is selective analysis.

First of all, let’s be clear that the evidence for a booming Seattle restaurant industry goes way beyond “the opening of a few pizza parlors or pho shops.” The number of food service establishments and food service employees are both up substantially since Seattle passed its $15 ordinance in June of last year. That’s correlation, not causation, but still, numbers are numbers.

Second, it was minimum wage opponents, not advocates, who attempted to engage in selective analysis by conflating a single pizza parlor into a definitive case study on the impact of a $15 minimum wage.

Which brings me to my third objection to the editors’ one-sided mischaracterization. In calling out “cheerleading from labor,” I presume they’re referring to labor-funded Working Washington. Minimum wage advocacy is part of Working Washington’s mission, and they’re doing a damn fine job of it. Yet it’s an uphill struggle bordering on Sysyphean in the face of the avalanche of anti-minimum wage right-wing propaganda from the likes of the Washington Policy Center, the American Enterprise Institute, Forbes Magazine, Fox News, and yes, if more subtly, the pho-metric editorial pages of the Seattle Times.

(Really, Seattle Times? Did you actually forget who dragged pho into this debate in the first place?)

No doubt there are some on the left who are guilty of taking data points out of context (for example, me, though always in an intentionally mocking tone). But that’s nothing compared to the multi-billion-dollar faux-news/faux-think-tank bullshit-industrial complex that is busy raining down anti-minimum wage misinformation from the right.

So if the editors can’t manage a little editorial balance in their criticism, the least they could do is serve up their usual steaming bowl of false equivalency. That would be a tiny improvement.

Class Warfare

billboardddd-2

From a billboard a right-wing “think tank” is putting up in NYC’s Times Square

 

“There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” —Warren Buffett

Daily Clips: August 25th, 2015

Jeb Bush qualifies his racism: After defending his use of the term “anchor babies,” Jeb! probably had a good little sit-down with his campaign team. They probably told him, “Hey, Jeb, cool off on that sort of stuff. In order to win this thing, we gotta get the Hispanic vote! So, you know, tone your hatred down for a second.”

Jeb!, being the “smart” Bush, took this advice and decided to say his anchor baby comments were “frankly more related to Asian people.” And at that point, his campaign team probably all smacked their heads in unison.

If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the full video:

Internet and the poor: PolitiFact examined a statement made by Julian Castro, the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. (Side note: Castro is considered to be a serious VP choice for Hillary Clinton.)  Last month, he claimed:

“Less than half of the poorest American households have a home Internet subscription.”

Unfortunately, PolitiFact ruled this as “True.” They noted “about 48 percent of the nation’s poorest quintile of households–the bottom 20 percent–reported a home Internet connection in 2013. Home web access correlates with income, it appears.”

Obama may endorse in the 2016 Democratic primary: White House spokesman, Josh Earnest said that Obama ” wouldn’t rule out the possibility of … an endorsement in the Democratic primary.”

Even if Joe Biden runs, does anyone honestly think Obama won’t back Clinton?

NRA sues the city of Seattle: Only a few days after Mayor Ed Murray signed gun responsibility bills into law, the NRA has struck back. Chris Cox, the Executive Director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, had this to say about the commonsense legislation:

Once again, anti-gun activists in Seattle have chosen to violate the Washington State Constitution and trample on the Second Amendment Rights of law-abiding citizens.

But the hyperbole doesn’t stop there! The lawsuit claims “[n]either Outdoor Emporium nor Precise Shooter will be able to continue selling firearms or ammunition in Seattle after the imposition of the newly passed tax, with the possible exception of a select few high-end firearms and ammunition.”

Just to be clear, these businesses are saying that they will be unable to sell any guns or ammunition due to a tax of $25 per gun and 2 or 5 cents per round of ammunition. Are you kidding me?

Seattle Restaurants Post Largest Month-to-Month Jobs Gain Ever!

Statistical noise, or absolute proof that higher wages produce more jobs?

Statistical noise, or absolute proof that higher wages produce more jobs?

I love to taunt the trickle-downers with tweets of “Damn you, $15 minimum wage!” every time another impressive monthly jobs report is released for booming Seattle. But of course, I’m only joking.

One month’s jobs data on its own is little more than statistical noise when it comes to proving the positive or negative impacts of Seattle’s high-minimum wage experiment, while what useful jobs data we have is incredibly coarse—the entire Seattle-Bellevue-Tacoma metropolitan area rather than just Seattle proper. And who’s to say at this point that Seattle’s booming jobs market wouldn’t be booming even more if not for our higher minimum wage?

It will take years to gather and analyze the relevant economic data, and even then there will be room for reasonable disagreements. So out of respect for, you know, facts, I generally limit my short term analysis to an occasional mocking tweet.

But conservative commentators have proven far less cautious honest.

First there was the Washington Policy Center’s effort to intentionally misrepresent a handful of Seattle restaurant closings into a case study of a minimum wage hike gone awry, despite the protest from restaurateurs that the minimum wage had nothing to do with their decisions. Then there was the hullabaloo over the minimum-wage-linked closing of a single pizzeria, a lone data point the conservative propaganda machine attempted to inflate into a trend. (Ironically, the closed pizza place is being replaced by a better pizza place.)

Then Mark Perry from the conservative American Enterprise Institute (allegedly a “think tank”) attempted to spin a one-month downturn in the preliminary seasonally-adjusted food service employment data for the larger Seattle-Bellevue-Tacoma metropolitan area into “evidence” that Seattle’s minimum wage ordinance may already have “started having a negative impact on restaurant jobs in the Seattle area.” Really.

Which is why we should all enjoy a little fun mocking Perry with the chart above—courtesy of our good friend Invictus—showing the largest month-over-month gain in restaurant employment ever recorded over the life of the data set!

Sigh.

Look, when I snarkily retweet a single data point—or Forbes’ libertarian propagandist Tim Worstall tortures one in one of his typically torturous posts—well, that’s almost okay, because we’re just dumb bloggers. But Professor Perry is an actual economist, for Chrissakes! So when Perry claims that “the loss of 1,000 restaurant jobs in May” (and that’s seasonally adjusted data—the real number of restaurant jobs actually increased by 1,000 in May) is indicative of anything more than a fluctuation in one month’s data, he knows better.

He’s just hoping you don’t.

The Stock Market Tumbled and I Agree with Donald Trump—Is This the End Times?

If you’re like me, you woke up to a phone chirping with news alerts about the stock market’s freefall. And if you’re like me, you didn’t take those alerts as a sign that you should lose your mind and close out your 401(k). It’s easy to feel nervous when your future is on the line, but if you want to deal with stocks you have to be willing to accept the fact that one data point does not make for a trend. To keep your head in the right space, I’ve collected a couple of smart takes from today’s wild stock-market ride.

Tara Culp-Ressler at ThinkProgress explains:

Experts say that you should not rush to sell on a day when the headlines about the stock market seem particularly bad. The stock market is an avenue for long-term investment that can appear to be unstable on a day-to-day basis. It’s not a good idea to make financial decisions based on a few days of dire headlines, particularly if you’re invested in a diverse portfolio.

And Ron Lieber at the New York Times writes:

Nothing about the events of recent days suggests that the fundamentals of capitalism have changed. So neither should your confidence in very long-term ownership of the pieces of the for-profit enterprises that benefit from your fortitude….Most of us have to save somewhere, and history suggests that stocks are the most accessible route to get the returns you’ll need to retire someday. It would take decades of systemic economic erosion to prove otherwise, and a few days of market declines do not suggest that anything like that is upon us.

Bear in mind, though, that this doesn’t mean that Wall Street is perfect. In fact, I’m about to say something that might blow your minds: I agree with Donald Trump.

+ Read More