Jeb! thinks the Washington Redskins name is A-OK

Jeb Bush's Official PortraitRemember when Jeb! said that Republicans would have to “lose the primary to win the general” and that American voters are looking for an “uplifting, much more positive message?” Well, that Jeb! has well and truly gone AWOL; over the past two months, he has instead been checking off a list of racial minorities to belittle. I guess he’s found out that to win the primary in 2016, Republican voters are actually looking for racism, hatred, and a dash of white privilege. Go figure.

Today, Jeb! continued this newfound strategy, arguing that the Washington Redskins should not change their name. He added, “Native American tribes generally don’t find it offensive…It’s a sport for crying out loud. It’s a football team…I’m missing something here I guess.”

He was also presumably missing something when he talked about “anchor babies” and then clarified that, lest people think he was referring to Hispanics, that this term was related to “Asian people.” Maybe he was also missing something when he insinuated that Democrats get African Americans to vote for them by offering them “free stuff.” And he was most certainly missing something when he couldn’t tell you “what was on the mind” of the Charleston shooter – you know, that mass murderer who went to a historic black church and yelled, “You rape our women, and you’re taking over the country. And you have to go.”

So, let’s recap. October of 2015 hasn’t even arrived and already Bush has made racist comments towards:

  • Hispanic Americans
  • Asian Americans
  • Native Americans
  • African Americans

Keep utilizing that “uplifting” and “positive message,” Jeb!

Daily Clips: September 30th, 2015

Elizabeth Warren should (still) run for president: My favorite political commentator at the moment, Matthew Yglesias, writes an article that I wish I had concocted. He yearns for Warren to jump into the race, noting that “so far, [a search for an alternative to Hillary Clinton] has manifested in an odd yearning for a third Joe Biden presidential campaign.” I couldn’t agree more. Yglesias concludes:

In retrospect, Warren should have gotten into the race months ago, back when everyone was writing articles about how she should get into the race. But even though the campaign feels like it’s been going on since the beginning of time, it’s not remotely too late for Warren to change her mind.

Oregon to give second chance to residents with marijuana convictions: Our neighbor to the south is showing Washington how justice should be retroactively served. According to the New York Times, starting next year, almost all forms of marijuana-related offenses will be eligible for expungement. This news comes as Oregon looks to begin selling legal weed on October 1st.

Planned Parenthood stands tough against GOP misogyny: Congressional Republicans got what they wanted – a yelling match at PP President Cecile Richards, where they could interrupt her at will and be absolute d****. What exactly the point was all of this? I think we all know: Republicans want to ban abortions in this country and will go at any length to do so. If you’re a woman in this country, this news should absolutely alarm you. I hate to use the term “War on Women”, but the rhetoric of Republicans towards women today is getting to be very scary.

Obama’s Cadillac Tax is doomed: Americans hate the idea of taxing expensive health benefits; in fact 60 percent of Americans oppose taxes “on higher-cost employer-sponsored health plans.” With these poll numbers in mind, Hillary Clinton (ever the political pragmatist) has come out agains the Cadillac Tax (as has the Chamber of Commerce). The repeal of this tax is becoming “a bipartisan juggernaut in Washington,” a phrase you rarely hear coming from DC these days.

Marco Rubio & his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad paid leave policy

Marco drinking the Market's Kool-Aid.

Marco drinking The Market’s Kool-Aid.

Last week, in an eyebrow-raising move, Senator Marco Rubio detailed a plan for providing paid leave to workers. It’s a prudent political decision, seeing as 80 percent of Americans are in favor of requiring companies to provide paid family leave and also because the US is the only OECD country that doesn’t mandate such a policy.

Before you start thinking he’s a socialist in Milton Friedman’s clothes, note the key caveat in Rubio’s policy proposal: Whereas Democrats like Sanders and Clinton would institute paid leave via federal legislation, Rubio would merely give tax incentives to businesses that offered paid leave, thereby passing the responsibility of basic worker protections on to businesses themselves. Because if we’ve seen anything in the short history of capitalism, it is that businesses always have the best interests of their employees at heart.

Here’s how his plan would work:

Rubio’s plan would offer a 25% tax credit to employers who offer a minimum of 4 weeks of paid family leave. The maximum pay out per employee, to full-time and part-time workers, would be $4,000, and the maximum leave time would be 12 weeks. “For instance,” Rubio explained, “if you are offered $1,600 in paid leave for four weeks while you take care of your newborn, which would be the equivalent of about $10 an hour, your employer could claim a tax credit for $400.”

Rubio’s plan acts as a voluntary, market-based approach to solving a huge problem in America: less than 15% of US citizens have access to any kind of paid family leave. This is certainly not the first time Rubio has put the market in charge of improving complicated issues. In the past, he’s argued that we should leave it to the free-market to fix the environment and yes, he thinks we should repeal Obamacare and replace it with a market-based health care program instead. What’s more, he finds it troubling that most people believe “we need big government to protect the little guy.” Instead of being a guardian of the little guy, he thinks “big government — more often than not — is an impediment to the guy who is striving.” In essence, Marco Rubio has a cult-like devotion to the Republican god of all solutions, The Market.

Give me a break. The Market has had its chance to help workers who wanted paid sick leave. And guess what? It hasn’t come in and saved the day. Just like it didn’t eliminate child labor or establish a minimum wage. For such rights to be implemented, the better angels of our nature had to be channelled through the government. The Market couldn’t (or wouldn’t) do so. This isn’t a knock against the power or beauty of laissez-faire. It’s merely pointing out that The Market cannot solve every single problem which faces mankind. 

Republicans often like to invoke Reagan’s famous quip that the “nine most terrifying words in the English language” are “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” Similarly, if capitalism has taught us anything, the nine scariest words for workers should be: “I’m the market and I will look after you.”

The optimist in me wants to believe that although Rubio’s policy plan is lame, it is a good indication that Democrats are winning the economic argument in this election cycle. Here we have a Republican candidate meeting Democrats halfway on a key economic policy proposal that will benefit hard-working Americans. Sure, we don’t agree with how Rubio would go about solving the problem, but at least, unlike climate change, he is willing to admit we need a solution. That is cause for celebration, no matter how muted.

However, the problem with Rubio’s approach is that tax incentives are 1) more or less putting a price on a right and 2) not very effective. As the Upshot points out:

The government offers tax credits to encourage companies to do other things, like hiring veterans or people with disabilities and offering on-site child care. But there is little evidence that these credits significantly change employers’ behavior. Employer-sponsored child care is still extremely rare, for instance, and a subsidy for firms that hire various disadvantaged workers has been found to have little effect on their employment.

Even if you were to present Rubio and his fellow market followers with these facts, they would still be unwilling to admit that the government has a role to play in ensuring the rights of working Americans. That is disappointing for our political discourse. I suppose such a mindset is to be expected when one’s political ideology transforms from a set of ideals to market worship.

Daily Clips: September 29th, 2015

An American was arrested every 51 seconds for pot in 2014: When talking about marijuana policy, I always know I’m talking to someone in the upper echelons of society when they say, “But pot’s practically legal already!” No, it’s not. The US government spends a mind-boggling “$3.6 billion each year enforcing laws against marijuana possession, according to a frequently cited report by the American Civil Liberties Union.” That is a whole lot of taxpayer money that is being wasted on a substance which the majority of Americans want legalized.

Could Trey Gowdy be the next House majority leader? I know what you’re thinking and the answer is no, I also don’t have a clue who this guy is. After a quick Google search, I found this gem about Gowdy:

The South Carolina Republican, a former state and federal prosecutor, is best known for chairing the House Select Committee on Benghazi.

Oh, he sounds nice and bipartisan. Gowdy has a “Liberty Score” rating of 85% (basically, the closer to 100% you are the closer to craziness you get). To put that number in comparison, soon-to-be former Speaker of the House John Boehner had a score of 35%. Yikes.

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah: The South African’s first episode aired last night and it is definitely worth a watch. I’m one of the few people who is very excited about his future. Having an objective, outside-of-the-US perspective on our politics and culture is much needed (think of John Oliver).

Clinton gets recommendation endorsement from National Education Association: The 3 million-strong teachers union sent out an email to its members stating:

After months of interactions with the three candidates who chose to participate in our process [Clinton, Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders], certain things became clear…Clinton is the best positioned candidate to win both the Democratic primary and general election. She has unmatched organizational strength, ground game, and fundraising ability to defeat the candidate of the Koch brothers.

While this endorsement will certainly ruffle feathers within the #FeelTheBern crowd, the NEA’s logic is spot-on. However, I can see how Sanders supporters would be upset with the endorsement process:

“There was recently a phone interview that was arranged for Secretary Clinton with their board of directors,” said a Sanders campaign official. “That was never offered to us.” An NEA spokesman did not respond to a request for comment about the phone interview.

Lies, Damn Lies, and the Idiots Claiming Seattle Is Losing Jobs

In his online bio, Forbes contributing blogger Mike Patton claims to provide “simple, straight-forward and unbiased analysis.” Well, he got “simple” right, in the sense that his analysis is simplistic. As for “straight-forward” and “unbiased,” not so much.

Turning his analytical prowess toward the effects of Seattle’s $15 minimum wage, Patton looked at the city’s unemployment numbers and determined that “the early results are in:”

Almost six months have passed since the first wage hike (April 1, 2015). Although it’s early, thus far the data doesn’t bode well for supporters of this law. … The following graph contains Seattle’s unemployment rate from January 1, 2014 to July 31, 2015. I have marked two important dates and included the unemployment rate at those times. When the law was signed, May 1, 2014, Seattle’s unemployment rate was 3.70%. When the first wage hike occurred, April 1, 2015, unemployment was 3.0%. Since then, unemployment has risen steadily while the national average has trended lower.
Seattles-Min-Wage-Law-Unemployment-Graph

“If I had to guess,” Patton haphazardly guesses, “I’d say the unemployment rate will likely trend higher for several years as businesses seek ways to mitigate the negative financial consequences of this law.”

Wow. I mean, just wow. We’ve seen a lot of shoddy analysis in the service of slandering Seattle’s $15 minimum wage ordinance, but Patton’s work is downright embarrassing.

Patton looks at Seattle’s low unemployment rate in April of both 2014 and 2015, and the subsequent rate jumps after the city first passes and then implements its minimum wage ordinance as “clear” evidence that Seattle’s “unemployment rate has been rising.” And apparently, he conducted this simple, straight-forward, and unbiased analysis by Googling “Seattle unemployment rate” and grabbing a chart from Ycharts.com (Ycharts is the second hit on Google’s results page after a post from even-stupider Forbes blogger Tim Worstall).

But any idiot clicking through that Google link to Ychart’s initial five year chart should instantly see an obvious pattern: Seattle’s unemployment always bottoms out in April, followed by an offsetting rise over the next two or three months:

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 7.32.12 AM

What explains this extraordinarily consistent pattern? Ychart is reporting non-seasonally adjusted data (hence the parenthetical “NSA” in the header on Patton’s chart), and this pattern merely represents the natural seasonal rhythm of unemployment, not just in Seattle, but in Washington state and the nation as a whole.

That’s why when we usually talk about the unemployment rate (and just about every other economic statistic) we talk about seasonally adjusted numbers. And when we run the same data set through the US Census Bureau’s X-13ARIMA-SEATS seasonal adjustment software we find that Seattle’s unemployment rate has actually fallen since April:

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 7.59.37 AM

Oops.

Patton saw in the data what he expected to see—a substantial minimum wage disemployment effect—leaving him utterly blind to the obvious shortcomings of the non-seasonally adjusted data. His bio says that he is a financial planning advisor, but if this is what Patton means by “simple, straight-forward, and unbiased analysis,” I wouldn’t want him anywhere near my money.

The truth is, all this early analysis is a fool’s errand led by erroneous fools like Mark Perry, Tim Worstall, and Patton. Whatever the month-to-month ticks of the unemployment rate or the number of food service jobs, it will take years to determine the employment effect, if any, of Seattle’s $15 minimum wage. And even then there will be a healthy debate over how to properly analyze the data. In the meanwhile, anyone who asserts, based on a few months of non-seasonally adjusted data, that “it’s clear that the unemployment rate has been rising,” is either an idiot or a liar or both.

Starbucks Demonstrates Why Corporate Self-Policing Is Not the Best Policy

The best-laid plans of mermaids and men often go awry.

The best-laid plans of mermaids and men often go awry.

Back in April, I wrote on this blog about the problem with clopening shifts, which are fast becoming a normal state of affairs with minimum wage workers. (Clopening shifts, if you were unaware, are when employees work a late-night shift and then an opening shift one after the other.) I noted with approval that “Under pressure from outside sources, Starbucks agreed to self-police their clopening problem.” But I warned that other businesses would need to have regulations imposed in order to ensure that they weren’t unfairly dominating their workers’ schedules.

This month, the New York Times reports, Starbucks’s self-policing is not going well:

Starbucks has fallen short on these promises, according to interviews with five current or recent workers at several locations across the country. Most complained that they often receive their schedules one week or less in advance, and that the schedules vary substantially every few weeks. Two said their stores still practiced clopenings.

Do I think that Starbucks intentionally lied last year when they said they would instate their own schedule fairness? Absolutely not. But I also think the difference between a corporate promise and the day-to-day operations of a cafe is quite substantial. Without the threat of a financial penalty or legal actions, management likely either didn’t absorb the importance of the clopening ban or they sacrificed it as soon as scheduling got tight.

Conservatives argue often and loudly against the idea of regulations, but this is a perfect counterexample to their arguments. We need regulations not because corporations are evil entities that need to be managed by government, it’s because the institutionalization of these laws better combat the creep of wishy-washiness that occurs through self-policing, and because penalties are often a more persuasive tool than praise.

If the Starbucks stores in question were violating anti-clopening laws, those aggrieved employees would be eligible for compensation for the time that they put in. As it is, because of the wonder of self-policing, Starbucks owes them nothing—not even an apology. In a world where corporations are expected to behave out of the kindness of their hearts, corporations suffer absolutely no repercussions for misbehavior. This is why we need to make clopening and other tactics of institutionalized scheduling abuse illegal.

Skunkworks Stinker of the Day: Donald Trump

Donald TrumpRepublican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump insists that his tax cut plan would increase tax revenues, because growth!

“Overall, it’s going to be a tremendous incentive to grow the economy and we’re going to take in the same or more money. And I think we’re going to have something that’s going to be spectacular,” Trump said. “We’re going to grow the economy so much.”

Which would be great. Except, this trickle-down fantasy never, ever works.

That said, it’s not luck Trump’s tax plan is any stupider than any of the other Republican tax plans. So there’s that.

Daily Clips: September 28th, 2015

Fox Host confronts Jeb! on his tax plan: In a rather tense interview, Fox host Chris Wallace pointed out that “Bush’s tax plan would, according to his last six years of tax returns, give the former Florida governor a $3 million tax cut” and asked the candidate, “Does Jeb Bush need a $3 million tax cut?”. Wallace was also quick to point out “that his father, George H. W. Bush, called Ronald Reagan’s theory that lower tax rates would spur income growth ‘voodoo economics.'” Jeb was visibly taken aback by these straightforward questions and his answers were, quite frankly, pathetic. This has got to unnerve those within his campaign, because these same (basic) questions are sure to pop again if Jeb! makes it to the general election. You can watch the full exchange below:

Jeb Bush says tax policies of his brother led to dynamic growth: Unfortunately for Jeb!, PolitiFact exists and they looked into one of his statements made in the aforementioned Wallace interview. Here was their final ruling on his claim that the tax policies of his brother “created a dynamic effect of high growth”:

The definition of “high,” of course, is relative, but if you look at the most directly comparable examples — the past five presidents’ records in average, annual, inflation-adjusted growth in gross domestic product — George W. Bush ranked fourth among the five presidents, and trailed the two strongest presidents in this regard, Clinton and Reagan, by a particularly wide margin. (Reagan’s policies included both tax cuts and tax increases.)

The Ben Carson bubble is bursting! It was inevitable, folks. Ben Carson was always a bigot, but his nap-like persona led the American people to believe otherwise. (“He seems so reasonable and thoughtful…and he was a doctor!”) This weekend, CNN’s Jake Tapper spoke with Carson about his views on Muslims, asking hard-hitting questions, but certainly nothing below the belt. After about seven minutes of bulls*** from Carson (“I’m assuming that if you accept all the tenets of Islam that you would have a very difficult time abiding under the Constitution of the United States.”) his campaign manager came in and said, “This interview is over.” So too is his candidacy.

Audi just announced they too have been breaking the emissions rules: After the announcement of Volkswagen’s diesel emissions scandal, Audi probably thought, “Dammit, they’re gonna come for us now.” So they admitted (because they are so moral) that they had also been lying and that “2.1 million of its cars around the world were outfitted with software that enabled them to cheat emissions standards.” But don’t worry, people, justice will be served. In fact, Audi recommended the “immediate suspension” of some employees. Yeah, that’ll teach ‘em.