WA Secretary of State Kim Wyman is defending the indefensible

Washington State is leading again on another pressing civic issue. Earlier this year, Democrats in Olympia introduced legislation that would “automatically register eligible voters who have an enhanced drivers license, commercial driver’s license or apply for benefits for certain programs through the Department of Social and Health Services or the state Health Benefits Exchange.”

This proposal passed the state House (controlled by Democrats) but has since been bottled up in the Republican-controlled Senate. Washington’s secretary of state, Kim Wyman (R) is a supporter of the law, but admits that “there are very, very long odds right now” for its success.

How has this come to pass? How can Republicans actually stand in the way of this legislation? Automatic voter registration shouldn’t be a policy which is considered “partisan” in a thriving democracy. Yet here we are in 2016 with the Republican party (both locally and federally) opposed to any suggestion of increased democratic participation. Their arguments against this “liberal” proposal are hardly unfamiliar. They claim it is an example of creeping “big government” and warn that adopting such a policy would lead to a “slippery slope” where it would “eventually lead to compulsory voting and fining people who don’t turn out, like in Australia.”

As per usual, these arguments have little basis in reality and only prey on fear and philosophical fallacies. If opponents of voter registration actually cared about the truth, they would have seen that the proposed registration law actually gives citizens the opportunity to opt out. Our neighbor to the south, Oregon, did just that. It’s worth reading about the success of their registration law in full:

Oregon began implementing its program through the state’s DMV at the beginning of the year, and through the first six weeks, 7 percent of people who received cards alerting them to their new registration returned the cards asking to be taken off the rolls. But the state registered more than 10,000 new voters over that same time period, dwarfing the monthly average of 2,000 new registrations it previously reported. Officials have projected that as many as 300,000 new voters could be added to the 2.2 million already signed up in Oregon.

That sounds really promising. So you’d expect Sec. Kim Wyman to ditch her partisan lens and tell her Republican colleagues that their obstructionism is absolutely unfounded. However, she gives her colleagues a pass and uses another logical fallacy to protect her party from looking intransigent and petty. Wyman gives a textbook example of false equivalency:

I have met many Democrats that are convinced that Republicans are trying to keep their party from voting, and I’ve met many Republicans that are convinced that Democrats are cheating. And it’s really hard to convince either side otherwise.

Talk about a specious statement. On the one hand, there is hardly any proof of widespread voting fraud (see John Oliver’s comedic take on this issue). In fact a comprehensive investigation of voter impersonation found 31 credible incidents out of one billion ballots cast. If the Democrats are, in fact, “cheating” - my goodness, they suck at it. 

Yet on the other hand, there are real, demonstrable examples of voter disenfranchisement in the USA today, as well as historically low records of voter turnout. Yet, Wyman makes it sound like each party’s qualms are one and the same. She must know better than that. Which leaves us with two possible conclusions that can explain Wyman’s position: she’s either completely ignorant about the issue or she’s falsely equating concerns in order to protect her Republican colleagues. I wonder.

What’s more, even if she did honestly believe both concerns cancelled the each other out, wouldn’t she want to err on the side of higher voter participation? Especially since she’s overseen an incredible drop in voter turnout during her time as secretary of state. Just look at this graphic to see the deplorable state of voting in Washington.

That's a bad trend line.

That’s a bad trend line.

With automatic voter registration, Washington has an amazing opportunity to bolster democratic participation, while also encouraging other states to lead on this important civic right. From gay marriage to marijuana legalization to universal background checks, Washington has set the pace for the nation many times before. It’s all well and good for Kim Wyman to support automatic voter registration (coincidentally during an election year!), but in order for her support to sound like more than just a self-serving election promise, she cannot continue to provide credibility to Republicans’ erroneous and egregious claims about voter fraud. If she continues to do so, she will be putting party loyalty over the truth.

Daily Clips: February 29th, 2016

College, the skills gap, and the student loan crisis: The American Prospect sat down with economist Marshall Steinbaum, someone who I had never heard of before this morning. His relative anonymity should not stop you from reading his thoughts on education, however. Steinbuam’s in-depth take on student loans and college in particular is much needed in today’s day and age where specificity is lacking. (Seriously, go to Hillary Clinton’s website and try and find a specific number for refinanced interest rates. You can’t.)

Here was my favorite answer from Steinbaum:

I think we’ve made our bed: People have to go to college to work, and hence it’s incumbent on us to make sure they can actually find a job and that college is affordable and non-exclusionary.

But we could rethink everything. We could forget the “skills gap” nonsense, and go back to a world where economic policy is organized around making sure everyone who works makes a decent living, regardless of educational attainment, and that our universal K-12 system actually gives everyone the academic background they need not just to enter the economy, but to prosper in it.

SCOTUS and abortion: Reuters reports that this Wednesday the US Supreme Court will hear “a major abortion case for the first time in nearly a decade” where “the regulations at issue will not involve fetuses or the mother, but rather standards for doctors and facilities where the procedure is performed.”

Remember, because of the recent death of Antonin Scalia, “if the justices split 4-4, no national legal precedent would be set but the lower court decision upholding the Texas law would stand.”

A tipping point for automatic voter registration

“I have met many Democrats that are convinced that Republican are trying to keep their party from voting, and I’ve met many Republicans that are convinced that Democrats are cheating,” said Kim Wyman, the top elections official in Washington state. “And it’s really hard to convince either side otherwise.”

Um…Kim Wyman…cry me a river. Maybe look at the data and tell your Republican buddies that they are delusional and that their fears are almost totally unfounded. Give me a break. Talk about an example of false equivalence.

It’s Been a Very Good Week for Seattle’s Minimum Wage

This is Invictus's chart of employment levels for Bellevue, Everett, Federal Way, Lynnwood, Redmond, and  Seattle. Does this look like Seattle's employment levels are cratering?

This is Invictus’s chart of employment levels for Bellevue, Everett, Federal Way, Lynnwood, Redmond, and Seattle. Does this look like Seattle’s employment levels are cratering?

Mark Perry, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute, published a post on Seattle’s minimum wage earlier this month. As you’d expect from the conservative think tank’s most rabid attack dog, Perry claimed that since raising the minimum wage, Seattle was suffering poor employment numbers in relation to the rest of Washington. This is nothing new. Perry has published over two dozen anti-minimum wage posts in the last year, about half of which were centered directly on Seattle. But this latest post was different: Perry seemed more confident than in his dozen or so other hit pieces. Perry had previously based his numbers on regional data, which didn’t prove his point at all. But now he was claiming to highlight Seattle-specific numbers, which he said proved that Seattle employment has fallen by 11,000 jobs since last year’s unemployment hike.

Enter Michael Hiltzik at the L.A. Times, who published an excellent refutation of Perry’s latest claims, starting with this significant point:

Unfortunately, local economists say Perry is still using bad data. Although he attributes the city-only numbers to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, they’re not reliable jobs numbers. Perry’s source is the Local Area Unemployment Statistics file, or LAUS, which is based on a small sampling. It’s aimed at counting the number of employed people living in the sample area (in this case, Seattle), not the number of jobs. The data are “prone to error,” University of Washington economist Jacob Vigdor told me by email, and “basically worthless for any serious analysis.”

Indeed, Vigdor — who is overseeing the university’s analysis of minimum-wage data — notes that the same statistics for Bellevue and Everett, Wash., showed exactly the same percentage decrease that Perry found in Seattle, even though they haven’t increased their minimum wage.

There’s much more, and you should read the whole thing. But this isn’t the end of the assault on Perry’s latest post. Our old friend Invictus built on Hiltzik’s reportage over at the Big Picture blog and found that Seattle’s employment and unemployment levels ran almost in “lock-step” with the cities of Bellevue, Everett, Federal Way, Lynnwood, and Redmond. The charts that Invictus made with the data certainly put the lie to Perry’s fear-mongering. And his conclusion is a knockout:

The fact of the matter – as I’ve said right from the start – is that it will take years to assess the impact of Seattle’s experiment, and a group has been assembled to focus on precisely that task. Notwithstanding that fact, haters gonna hate. Meanwhile, Seattle is still booming, the sky is still aloft, and there have been no discernible adverse effects as yet. That said, I fully expect Professor Perry to continue to seize any and every data point to claim otherwise. Because that’s how ideologues roll.

So we have a systematic dismantling of Perry’s post by two very smart people. That’s got to be a black eye for the AEI, which nevertheless seems committed to amplifying Perry’s faulty claims.

But in some ways, the best teardown of all this came earlier this week, when two separate Redditors posted pieces based on Perry’s work on the r/Seattle subreddit. In both cases, the Redditors began immediately ripping Perry’s claims to pieces. Here’s user tehstone

$15 minimum wage in full effect for 2 months and employment drops slightly-> time to declare failure.

30+ years of trickle down economics that only benefits a few folks -> keep on trying it, someday it will help the little guy!

…and a Redditor named flukz, who also calls Perry’s a “third rate blog post from a Koch-owned Libertarian freak-tank”:

This “analysis” also points to jobs flocking to the East side, which considering the minimum wage positions are all in the service industry, I’m sad every restaurant, chain, coffee shop, and retail store are all going to be ringing the city limits.

Shit post, springing from a shit proven wrong ideology, spouted mostly by white male college age software bros.

…and the delightfully named BroYourOwnWay gets the very succinct last word on this whole ordeal:

Correlation does not equal causation.

Make a note of it, Professor Perry.

Daily Clips: February 26th, 2016

Matthew Yglesias’ take on the GOP Debate:

But at this point, Trump already has a commanding lead in the polls. And from the standpoint of someone who’s already bought into the idea of President Trump, it’s not clear what these attacks amount to. Trump’s pitch is that he’s a ruthless businessman who now wants to change careers and exercise his ruthlessness on behalf of the (implicitly white and Christian) traditional definition of the American nation. Nothing Rubio said or did really challenged any of the key premises of that pitch.

David Brooks almost comes to terms with the modern GOP: Brooks bemoans how “over the past generation we have seen the rise of a group of people who are against politics. These groups – best exemplified by the Tea Party but not exclusive to the right – want to elect people who have no political experience.”

Ok, first thing. How can he honestly say this is “not exclusive to the right”? What part of the Democratic party is revolting by pushing “outsiders”? As one astute commentator, SAF93 points out in the comment section:

Your column skirts the fact that these sentiments grew out of a GOP strategy of blaming government for societal problems: Ronald Reagan declared that government is the problem. GOP politicians and SCOTUS since Reagan have governed badly, shifting power and resources from people toward corporations and elites, failing to address real problems and failing to uphold the core American values of democracy and fairness.

US consumer spending gains momentum:

The Commerce Department said consumer spending increased 0.5 percent, the largest gain since March, as households ramped up purchases of a range of goods and the return to normal winter temperatures boosted demand for heating. Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, rose by an upwardly revised 0.1 percent in December. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast consumer spending rising 0.3 percent last month after a previously unchanged reading in December.

 

NEW PODCAST EPISODE: “Gig Economy”

With more and more Americans moving from traditional jobs to freelance and part-time work, the so called “gig economy” is changing the very nature of employment. How will the middle class survive the loss of benefits and security? A new social contract – a “Shared Security System” – is one possible answer.

Listen to our fourth episode and let us know what you think of our solution!

Why Paid Sick Leave is Feminist AF

paid sick leave is feminist

What is or is not feminist when it comes to politics will likely never be fully resolved, but boy howdy, we sure do love to talk about it. There have been acres of pixels dedicated to the debate over whether a vote for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders is more or less feminist than a vote for the other candidate, not to mention plenty about the perceived feminism of candidates like Carly Fiorina and yes, even Sarah Palin. And of course, there’s John Kasich and his line about female voters “leaving the kitchen” to elect him—a statement which I would call arguably one of the least feminist comments uttered at a stump speech in the last decade if it weren’t for almost every single thing out of the mouths of Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee and any number of other white men who have run or are currently running for office.

So I completely understand the skepticism and even exhaustion around this line of political criticism and critical thinking. But I feel quite confident in saying that regardless of which presidential bubble you color in on your November ballot, a vote on behalf of paid sick leave is one of the more inclusive, intersectional votes you can cast. Basically, paid sick leave is feminist AF.

Allow me to explain. First, let’s get straight that intersectional feminism means raising up all kinds of people; it’s not about limiting the access or rights of men or white people or whatever else teenage trolls on Twitter seem to think. By “feminist,” I mean paid sick leave is extremely good for furthering the cause of equity, generally. Now let’s move on.

Both an increase to the minimum wage and requiring employers to provide paid sick leave would directly benefit women and families (of note: for the rest of this piece, I’ll be using male and female pronouns for clarity, but please note that plenty of people don’t fall into one of these categories and basically all of the data available is based on heterosexual couples; I would love it if there were data on non-binary couples and same-sex couples, but I have been hard-pressed to find much, though according to some of the existing research, lesbian households are pretty dang egalitarian) ; the majority of minimum wage workers identify as female, and minimum wage workers are the most likely to work in industries which don’t offer paid sick leave. But it’s much deeper than that.

A 2009 report entitled The New Breadwinners found that record numbers of women are either solely supporting families, or are co-supporting their families with a partner. In total, close to 64% of households relied on income from the mother; just over 41% were entirely reliant on her income. Which means that if she can’t take time off when she’s sick (or when someone else in the family is sick), or is forced to take a pay cut, the income of the family will certainly suffer.

feminist politics paid sick leave

This has huge implications on the gender wage gap and gender equity; though we often like to cite the 77 cents to the dollar figure, the truth is that the earning gap between genders isn’t just down to women being paid less per hour (also, it leaves out women of color, who make way less than that and every time a white woman cites this figure she effectively erases that truth).

Instead, it’s important to look holistically at how women end up bearing the brunt of a lack of paid time off in their actual lives, at work, and generally.

As Melinda Gates pointed out in the Gates Foundation’s annual letter this year, “time poverty” is a real and significant issue; unpaid work is still very much a barrier for women across the board (and across the world) because almost universally, it’s expected to be performed by women for no money, effectively limiting the amount of time they can spend on their paid work or on themselves. Gates defines it as such:

Unpaid work is what it says it is: It’s work, not play, and you don’t get any money for doing it. But every society needs it to function. You can think of unpaid work as falling into three main categories: cooking, cleaning, and caring for children and the elderly. Who packs your lunch? Who fishes the sweaty socks out of your gym bag? Who hassles the nursing home to make sure your grandparents are getting what they need?

A Pew study from 2013 found an interesting time breakdown, which ended with women accounting for one more hour per week than men; fathers reported spending 42 hours per work on paid work, nine hours per week on housework, and seven hours per week on childcare, adding up to a total of 58 hours per week. Women, meanwhile, reported spending 31 hours per week on average doing paid work, 16 hours on housework, and 12 hours on childcare, totaling 59 hours. However, in most dual-parent households, both the father and mother are working full time (and the mothers tend to disagree about how much housework the fathers actually do).

Paid sick leave, of course, can’t solely overcome centuries of conditioning, nor can it solve the problem of work created by one partner who does less of it (seriously, husbands literally make more unpaid work)—but it can help alleviate some of the career stress and pressure that women feel as part of this work, particularly when it comes to cold and flu season. Because of course, it’s not just the worker who needs to take time off sometimes.

A 2014 study found that in families with children, women are not only 10 times more likely to stay home with kids when they’re sick, they’re also five times more likely than husbands to make and attend doctor’s appointments. Even if the mother is working, she’s much more likely to be the one who takes time out of her day. From the Atlantic:

For working moms, 39 percent report missing work to care for their sick children, 33 percent report sharing the responsibility with their spouse, 16 percent report calling someone else to help, and 6 percent report their partner taking time off. Of the 39 percent of women who report taking time off to care for their sick children 60 percent report not getting paid. That’s up significantly from 2004, when 45 percent reported not being paid for missing work.

Without paid time off, women are then forced to make a choice: Stay home and get docked the pay (and risk losing their job), or try to find someone to stay home with the kid, thus still losing money and also feeling terrible for not being there, not to mention potentially spreading whatever disease your child may have given you?

The other alternative is sending kids to school sick; though most daycares require that children who aren’t feeling well stay home, schools offer no such requirement. Again, from the National Partnership for Women and Families, “parents without paid sick days are more than twice as likely to send a sick child to school or daycare as parents with paid sick days…[and] are five times as likely to report taking their child or a family member to the emergency room because they were unable to take time off work during normal work hours.” Unnecessary ER visits, the Partnership cites, “cause additional burdens on our health care system totaling more than $1.1 billion per year.”

Even in families without children, the bulk of caretaking falls on women; caring for ailing family members, particularly aging parents, pushes women into early retirement, often because they can’t get the time off that they need.

Taking unpaid time off disproportionately impacts women because, often, they work in industries where tips are essential to their income; three-quarters of tipped employees identify as female, according to the National Women’s Law Center. That means that their ability to, say, pay rent or buy groceries is directly dependent on their ability to perform their job both capably and with a smile (and possibly while being sexually harassed). That’s incredibly difficult to do when you’re sick—and it poses a huge risk to your customers; 63% of restaurant workers admit to cooking and serving food while sick.

Paid leave is a policy that will save taxpayers money, will cut down on the spread of disease, will improve worker productivity, and may even save lives—but it will also undeniably help close the gender wage gap. As women continue to balance the bulk of unpaid work, increasing the number of hours they do get paid for can help create a more egalitarian workforce, as well as ensure that workers at all levels are able to lead their most fruitful lives.

Mutually Assured Obstruction: McConnell’s SCOTUS Gambit Leaves Dems No Choice but To Go Nuclear

Nuclear option

Thanks to the obstructionist tactics of the GOP majority, 210 years of US Senate tradition are about to go “BOOM!”

Not only are Republicans refusing to consider any Obama appointment to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has even refused to commit to confirming a nominee put forth by the next president — you know, should that president be a Democrat. And for all the chatter about what this means for the future of the United States Supreme Court, I’d like to take a moment to consider what this means for the future of the US Senate.

Um… BOOM!!!

If a Republican Senate majority sets a precedent by denying a Democratic president his constitutional authority to appoint a SCOTUS justice, then given a similar opportunity, a Democratic Senate majority must return the favor in kind. The failure to retaliate would only incentivize the Republicans to do this again and again, leaving them exclusive control over the ideological balance of the Supreme Court. So Democrats must vow to reject the nominees of all future Republican presidents.

And I don’t just mean during an election year — I mean ever.

Republicans must be made to understand that if they deny this president his right to appoint a justice to this particular Supreme Court seat, the Republicans will assure that no president with an opposition Senate will ever be able to appoint a justice again.

Sounds pretty dysfunctional, right? So given the current rules (whereby a single spiteful member can pretty much block any bill or motion from coming to a vote), how could such a pathologically partisan Senate ever hope to function again? Of course, it can’t. That’s why, should the Democrats regain control of the Senate this November, the first thing the new majority must do is eliminate the body’s longstanding super-majority rules. In other words, Democrats must choose the “nuclear option” and kill the filibuster.

And should the Republicans retain their majority in the face of a justifiably angry and indignant Democratic opposition, McConnell would have to be an idiot not to do the same.

Assuming the Republicans carry through on their pledge to block any Obama nomination, the filibuster is as good as dead.

Daily Clips: February 25th, 2016

The Party of ‘No way!’ Over the last eight years it’s become something of a cliche to label the Republicans as the party of “no.” They’ve fought against pretty much everything President Obama has thrown their way. It’s become astonishingly clear they have no intention to govern. They are simply there to clog up the system, get people angry at the government’s inadequacies, and then run campaigns which are centered around the old conservative trope “government is ineffective and evil.” Kristof’s piece highlights “the larger issue” of GOP obstructionism by waxing nostalgic about politics “back in his day.” See here:

When I was growing up, the G.O.P. was the serious, prudent, boring party, while the Democrats included a menagerie of populists, rascals and firebrands. Today it’s the G.O.P. that embraces the George Wallace demagogues, and its aim is less to govern than to cause gridlock. That’s not true of everyone — the House speaker, Paul Ryan, seems to have genuine aspirations to legislate. But to be a Republican lawmaker today is too often to seek to block appointments, obstruct programs and shut down government. Politics becomes less about building things up than about burning them down.

8 in 10 Hispanics have unfavorable view of Trump: A Washington Post and Univision News poll finds that among Hispanic voters, Trump falls behind Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders by historically large margins in general election matchups. It’s an incredibly detailed poll with many insights. Here are some of the best tidbits:

The Post-Univision survey tested those four GOP candidates against Clinton and against Sanders. While all trail badly among Hispanics at this point, Trump does the worst — losing the Hispanic vote to Clinton by 73 to 16 percent. That 57-point gap is little changed from a 54-point deficit recorded last June, but is significantly wider than the 44-point margin by which former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney lost Hispanics four years ago and bigger than in any presidential exit poll since the 1970s.

Meanwhile, Clinton leads Rubio by 30 points, Cruz by 38 and Kasich by 43. Matched against Sanders, Trump trails by 56 points. Sanders leads Rubio by 24 points, Cruz by 33 and Kasich by 37.

Vermont Senate approves marijuana legalization 16-13: “If the House approves the bill and [Governor Peter] Shumlin signs it, Vermont would become the first state to legalize marijuana by state law.”

Tweet of the day/Question of the day: