Daily Clips: May 24th, 2016

Why is Clinton disliked: In his latest column, David Brooks asks the very fair question: Why is Hillary Clinton disliked as much as a raving bigot?

Honestly, I haven’t devoted a lot of thinking to this subject. Like gravity, I just assume its presence. Hillary is despised by a large portion of our body politic. Certainly there has been a concerted right-wing effort to make her sound like the anti-Christ, but even outside of Fox News, many liberals do not care for her at all.

Brooks makes a cogent point when he asks, “Can you tell me what Hillary Clinton does for fun?”

I certainly can’t. I know Bill Clinton loved McDonalds and jogging with excessively short shorts. I know that Barack Obama probably craves cigarettes and enjoys a game of golf. But what about Hillary? Outside of her professional domain, she doesn’t really let anyone into her personal life.

Obviously, this is not the only reason why people find her “untrustworthy” or “dishonest,” but Brooks’ point does have serious merit, in my opinion.

US new home sales race to eight-year high: While that sounds great on face value, remember that everyone’s paychecks have actually lost value since 2007.

Americans in small towns and rural communities are dramatically less likely to start new businesses than they have been in the past, an unprecedented trend that jeopardizes the economic future of vast swaths of the country.

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Watch Elizabeth Warren Explain Why America Needs to Have a Conversation About the Future of Work

Maybe the single best explainer in the Democratic Party talked about the gig economy at New America last week.

Maybe the single best explainer in the Democratic Party talked about the gig economy at New America last week.

Last week, Elizabeth Warren gave an important speech at New America, a progressive policy institute in Washington DC. Titled “Strengthening the Basic Bargain for Workers in the Modern Economy,” the speech addressed ways workers and employers can adapt to the gig economy while still keeping America’s middle class strong. It’s important to note that Warren did not attack Uber or Lyft for their employment practices, and she was not advocating a return to 1950s work standards. In fact, Warren praised those two companies for the way they encouraged “more rides, cheaper rides, and shorter wait times” than the taxicab industry.

But she acknowledged that the disruption caused by gig economy employers was affecting the nature of work in America today: fewer workers now enjoy the security of a middle-class life because their jobs have changed .”While their businesses provide workers with great flexibility,” Warren said, “companies like Lyft and Uber have often resisted the efforts of those same workers to access a greater share of the wealth generated from their work. Their business model is, in part, dependent on extremely low wages for drivers.” This is a problem: America is built on the strength of its middle class, and if we exclude low-wage workers from the economy, the economy will suffer.

So what should we do about this? We can’t (and in fact we shouldn’t want to) turn back the clock to a pre-gig economy time. Warren rightly compared the gig economy with the industrial revolution, which was another period of massive disruption:

America’s response wasn’t to abandon the technological innovations and improvements of the industrial revolution. We didn’t send everyone back to their farms. No. Instead, we came together, and through our government we changed public policies to adapt to a changing economy – to keep the good and get rid of much of the bad.

With these rights—40 hour workweeks, safety regulations, and so on—Americans could find work and employers could find workers. But those regulations also ensured that the middle class enjoyed a security that enabled them to enjoy their lives without the worry that they faced destitution at any moment: pensions, overtime pay, health insurance, and a stable salary.

So what Warren proposed last week wasn’t a call to turn back time. Instead, she called for a new set of standards for workers. You can read the speech (PDF) on Warren’s site, or you can watch it here:

Warren’s solutions closely resemble the Shared Security plan proposed by Nick Hanauer and David Rolf in the Democracy Journal last year. (The Democracy piece is referred to on multiple occasions in the footnotes.) She calls for every worker to enjoy a few basic benefits as a matter of course: Social Security, catastrophic health insurance, paid sick and family leave. She also calls for portable health and retirement benefits which a worker can carry from job to job.

Further, Warren calls for regulations to ensure certainty for all workers. And though this will never stop the trickle down crowd from crying wolf about job-killing regulations, Warren is clear that she’s not looking to penalize employers for hiring workers: “If it is done right, [a new regulatory framework] will [make it] possible to reduce red tape for large employers, small business owners, and entrepreneurs—cutting their costs and making it easier for them to employ people.” She calls to streamline some archaic regulations, making it easier to, for example, hire workers across state lines because a “small business owner with workers in several states shouldn’t have to spend her valuable time struggling to master different state regulations.” And she calls for improvements in our employment infrastructure, making it easier for American workers to get education and training and for American industry to get access to government-funded research and development.

We’re still in the early days of figuring out how to navigate the gig economy. At this point, we’re in the brainstorming stage, determining what in the American employer-employee contract still works and what doesn’t. But last week’s speech from Elizabeth Warren is a huge step forward in the process. A former teacher, Warren articulated perfectly the many problems we face, and she suggested some basic solutions with a mind to start a conversation in the political mainstream. With the definition of work changing so rapidly, this is a conversation that America desperately needs to have, and Warren is the perfect person to get us talking about what really matters.

Daily Clips: May 23rd, 2016

Single-payer health care is more popular than ever: Gallup released a poll which found that “58 percent of US adults favor the idea of replacing [the ACA] with a federally funded health care system that provides insurance for all Americans.”

Now, this poll may turn out to be a false positive. Because, one would assume, that while the American public is behind single-payer health care, they are largely split on how we go about providing insurance for all Americans.

If Citizens United falls, will progressives notice? On nearly every Robert Reich Facebook post, you see the Bernie supporter saying that all will be right only when Citizens United is repealed. That’s simply not true.

Campaign finance was a problem before 2010 and this article does a really good job of walking you through the history of the issue. For example, the author notes that Citizens United “will not automatically eliminate super PACs. Constitutional protection for super PACs hinges not on Citizens United but on SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission.”

Ted Nugent reelected to NRA Board: What’s there really to say? The NRA is standing behind a bigoted, uneducated white man who has said some terrible things in public. Here’s a recap:

In a May 10 post to his Facebook page, Nugent shared a fake video that showed Hillary Clinton being graphically shot to death by Bernie Sanders. He added his own comment: “I got your guncontrol right here bitch!”

On March 31, Nugent posted a racially derogatory image on his Facebook page that he said was an advertisement for a moving company called “2 niggers and a stolen truck.”

He’s just “telling it like it is,” I’m sure.

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Daily Clips: May 20th, 2016

The Stupidest Thing Republicans Have Done (Lately)? Threaten to Take Away Middle Class Overtime Pay: 

 

Paul Ryan overtime

 

How long can Ivanka Trump defend her father? Finally! An article which holds Ivanka accountable for defending her father’s misogyny. Solid read.

David Brooks actually bemoans how “we’re also less embedded in tight, soul-forming institutions.”

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If You Think the New Overtime Rule Is “Entirely Trivial,” You Really Should Get Out More

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 4.29.58 PM

Our old “friendTim Worstall is back at it on his occasionally almost nearly coherent Forbes blog. This time, he’s talking about the increased overtime threshold. As you may have expected, he thinks paying more overtime is a bad idea. Here Tim is being, if nothing else, consistent; he thinks a minimum wage is a bad idea, after all, so why wouldn’t he be against a policy like overtime that benefits workers?

But the truth about overtime is that Tim just doesn’t care all that much. No, really. He calls the new threshold “entirely trivial.” That’s a direct quote. In fact, he uses the word “trivial” twice to describe the effects of overtime and then he says he’s not even sure the White House estimates of what the overtime raise will pay out—”$1.2 billion a year over the next decade”—are worthy of the word “trivial,” they’re so insignificant. He concludes:

Probably the correct way to think of this is as a nice piece of politics that everyone can have a good shout about rather than a piece of useful economics. Everyone gets to show where they stand with a lot of heat and not much light. Or, of course, that very small tempest in a not very large teapot.

Wow. Tim, here, is a classic example of what happens when someone argues politics on the internet for too long. Everything becomes academic. When you call a policy that will directly improve the lives of 12 and a half million Americans “a nice piece of politics,” you’ve passed a very significant point. When you have your head in the conservative economics bubble for years at a time, apparently, you forget that you’re arguing about real human beings with real lives and you start to think of it as points on a scorecard.

Sure, maybe to our buddy Tim 1.2 billion dollars a year is nothing. But to a retail manager who’s trying to raise two kids on her $470-a-week salary, this threshold means a hell of a lot. It stands for security. With the new overtime rules, our manager will enjoy one of three outcomes: either her boss will keep asking her to work overtime at time-and-a-half so she’ll make more money per paycheck; or her boss will ask her to work only 40 hours per week, giving her the time to look for a second job, start her own business, or spend more time with her children; or her boss will give her a raise above the $47,476 annual threshold and ask her to keep working the same long hours at a much higher rate of pay. Any one of those possibilities results in a better outcome for our retail manager. Now multiply her experience by 12.5 million and spread those people around the country and you start to get a sense of how huge the idea of restoring the overtime threshold really will be for Americans.

How is this not “useful economics,” Tim? My God, what else is economics for, if not broadly improving the lives of more people? Maybe a blogger for Forbes might think of economics as something you blab about on the sidelines while things happen in the real world, but most of us out here understand that economics is about making a difference for everyone. That’s why we’re winning across the country on the $15 minimum wage and overtime while you keep pontificating about how many digits a number can have before it becomes worthy of your attention.

But you know what? Enjoy your dumb little bubble, Tim. You can keep talking on your blog about how 1.2 billion dollars is basically nothing, and how a real economist wouldn’t even bother with that kind of pocket change. In the meantime, real Americans will be earning more money, getting more of their own time back, and enjoying some of the security that Americans used to enjoy. To me, that sounds like the exact opposite of “trivial,” but I guess we can’t all have the high-minded  macro-vision of a Forbes blogger, now can we? And if you keep ceding topics like overtime as unworthy of your haughty attentions, that means progressives can keep winning the battles that matter to real human beings out here in the real world. So by all means, keep wallowing in your ignorance, Tim. It makes things easier for us.

Carl’s Jr. CEO Concern-Trolls Workers Whose Jobs He Wants to Automate

Lost in Space

Danger, Will Robinson: I’m coming for your job!

Writing in an op-ed on Forbes.com, Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s CEO Andy Puzder warns about “The Harsh Reality of Regulating Overtime Pay.”

Turning highly sought-after entry level management careers into hourly jobs where employees punch a clock and are compensated for time spent rather than time well spent is hardly an improvement on the path from the working class to the middle class.

“Highly sought-after entry level management careers,” my ass. During my coverage of the fast food strikes in 2013, I heard from a number of fast food workers who turned down “assistant manager” promotions because the extra 50 cents an hour wasn’t worth the extra 20 hours a week of unpaid overtime work. But either way, Puzder’s alleged concern for employee welfare is nothing short of ironic coming from a guy who fondly muses about the idea of replacing all of his workers with robots:

“They’re always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case,” says Puzder of swapping employees for machines.

What a charmer.

The harsh reality is that CEOs like Puzder couldn’t give a shit about the welfare of their employees (let alone the welfare of their franchisees’ employees). “Millennials like not seeing people,” Puzder explained to Business Insider in describing his robotized utopia. So if he could have automated all his workers out of their jobs, he’d already have done so.

But he can’t. So he hasn’t. Likewise, you can be sure that if Puzder could run his restaurants with fewer employees working fewer hours he already would be. So don’t expect to see any overtime-rule-induced mass layoffs at Carl’s Jr. or Hardee’s anytime soon.

Of course, it’s not just Puzder wiping away crocodile tears on behalf of the 12.5 million Americans who will soon be forced to endure higher pay for fewer hours at the cold unfeeling hands of government bureaucrats. Paul’s got a rundown of various conservative objections to the new higher overtime threshold, and frankly, they all strike me as rather weird. Most bizarre is the repeated assertion that salaried workers would somehow prefer to go unpaid for their overtime hours rather than suffer the humiliation of having to “punch in” like a lowly hourly prole. “Forcing More Workers to Punch a Clock Isn’t Progress,” cries Koch-funded Carrie Lucas at the National Review.

Oy. Speaking of things I’d like to punch.

Puzder proudly describes himself as a member of the Job Creators Network—a network with close ties to notorious D.C. public relations firm Berman and Company, and from the looks of their landing page, apparently consists of rich old white men concern-trolling on behalf of the young off-white workers they pay poverty wages. (Um, maybe they should’ve focused-grouped their website’s white-man-on-top motif?)

Job Creator's Network

2015 Webby Awards winner for “Most Condescending Landing Page”

But Puzder and his Job Creators Network buddies aren’t really interested in creating jobs at all. Quite the opposite. Like all self-interested businesspeople, they’re focused on minimizing their labor costs as much as possible. And if that means a brave new world of employee-free restaurants, Puzder is eager to embrace the future without an ounce of regret: “I want to try it,” he told Business Insider.

So enough already with this paternalistic bullshit about defending “entry-level” workers from the dangers of higher wages and more benefits. It just isn’t believable. And it never has been.

Every Conservative Argument Against Overtime, and Why They’re All Wrong

Paul Ryan says raising overtime wages will be an "absolute disaster." That's because Paul Ryan doesn't work for you—he works for the Koch brothers.

Paul Ryan says raising overtime wages will be an “absolute disaster.” That’s because Paul Ryan doesn’t work for you—he works for the Koch brothers.

Now that the Labor Department has announced the new overtime threshold, conservative pundits and politicians are responding. Unsurprisingly, they’re against it! But what is surprising is how bad their responses are. Let’s look at some of the most common responses and examine exactly why they’re terrible.

At Forbes, Andy Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants and “a member of the Job Creators Network,” huffs:

Turning highly sought-after entry level management careers into hourly jobs where employees punch a clock and are compensated for time spent rather than time well spent is hardly an improvement on the path from the working class to the middle class.

Now, I don’t know Andy Puzder’s personal biography, but he sure sounds like someone who has never had an entry level management job. Why else would he straight-facedly argue that a bullshit title is more coveted than actual compensation for actual hours worked? For decades, employers have given out management titles to their employees like candy, in exchange for many hours of unpaid labor. As we talked to many Seattle-area employees while working on our secure scheduling podcast, we even heard stories about employees who were fired because they didn’t accept a “promotion” from hourly pay to a salaried manager position, simply because those employers knew they could get someone else to do unpaid work. What the new overtime rule does is it reestablishes a basic American tenet: if you work more than 40 hours a week, you get compensated for that work. Doesn’t matter if your title is “assistant manager to the assistant manager of the deputy director of operations” or just “a barista” — those rules apply to you and to your employer.

Puzder also says:

Most employers incentivize their managers to run the businesses they manage like they own them with salaries and incentive compensation including performance-based bonuses rather than overtime pay.

This is a super-weird argument to make. This rule doesn’t require employers to take any rights or privileges away from their workers. It may demand a slight readjustment to how those funds are paid out: if, say, Best Buy was previously offering out “performance-based bonuses” for their salaried managers, they can simply reallocate those bonuses to overtime pay, or pay the best salaried managers more than $47,476 a year to put them above the overtime threshold.

All Puzder is basically complaining about here is having to change the way he does business. It’s a bad argument because American workers clearly cannot continue down the path that trickle downers have laid out for them over the last 40 years. Disappearing benefits, flat or sinking wages, and parasitic employment practices have resulted in mammoth inequality that threatens to tear this country apart. The “incentive compensation” route hasn’t worked out for the majority of us, partly because a lot of the money that used to go to wages has gone to corporate profits and the top one percent instead. Why not return to a system that worked back when the America was at its most prosperous, when every worker could count on certain secure standards?

Puzder then immediately shifts to an even less convincing argument:

Owners set their own hours and work the hours necessary using their best business judgment rather than a schedule set by a superior. For many beginning managers, this new rule will reduce or eliminate that flexibility…

The “flexibility” argument was also mirrored by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who said the overtime rule will “require workers to fit their lives into a mold that bureaucrats impose, not what works best for them.” This is a scare tactic that doesn’t even make sense in this context, because the overtime rule doesn’t dictate when employees work, only how much they should make after they work 40 hours a week. People can still work the hours necessary at the time the work needs to be done; the only thing that changes is that if they work more than 40 hours a week, they have to be compensated for that time, rather than volunteering the time to their employers free of charge. Anyone who says this law would force schedules to change or be less flexible is either grossly uninformed about the law or lying to scare workers against the law.

McCarthy also claims that the law “will force employers to waste time and resources logging hours.” Carrie Lukas at the National Review agrees, warning in a post titled “Forcing More Workers to Punch a Clock Isn’t Progress” that employers will “face significant new compliance costs as they have to track more workers’ hours in order to assess when they qualify for overtime.”

Okay. We live in the 21st century, and many of us work on these wondrous devices called computers and smart phones, which provide employers with an astounding amount of information about exactly when and where we work. And employers like Starbucks and Target use highly sophisticated scheduling software to dictate their employees’ schedules down to the minute. Tracking employee schedules is no longer a burden, if in fact it ever was a burden; it’s the easiest thing in the world, and many employers already do it as a matter of course.

And if you think your employer isn’t already tracking the hours you work, you’re probably in for a rude awakening. Don’t believe me? Here’s a simple experiment: if you’re at a full-time job, start working less than 40 hours a week on a regular basis. See how long it takes for your boss to sit you down for a conversation about why you’re not working enough. I’m betting it won’t be very long.

After these very specific protestations, we start to move into the more general scare tactics that trickle-downers always drag out when someone suggests that their workers should be treated a little better. In a statement, Speaker Paul Ryan called the new overtime rules an “absolute disaster,” adding that it “hurts the very people it alleges to help.”

Oh, the workers. Whenever a minimum-wage increase is proposed or overtime is brought up or a regulation is suggested, conservative lawmakers suddenly seem to care a lot about the workers, especially minorities and women. Funny thing about this is they don’t ever seem to care about workers at any other time. They never bring up workers when they talk about cutting taxes for the wealthy. Paul Ryan didn’t to be helping minority unemployment numbers when he tried to deregulate banks last year. Nope! The only time Paul Ryan suddenly cares about workers is when he’s battling a law intended to compensate workers fairly for their time.

It’s a scam and an intimidation tactic: the scam is that Ryan claims to be for the little guy when he’s really concerned that the wealthy bosses won’t get record-breaking bonuses this year, and he’s trying to intimidate workers by arguing that their jobs will disappear if they’re fairly compensated. This threat has been rolled out every time workers get a break in America—Ryan’s predecessors argued that getting rid of child labor laws would cripple the economy—and these predictions have never come true.

When overtime has passed and Americans start getting larger paychecks, Ryan will never be challenged on his comment that overtime would cause “disaster.” Instead, he’ll be predicting another disaster for American workers somewhere else, and that disaster won’t ever come true, either. It’s a behavioral pattern that is as sickeningly predictable as it is dishonest. Unfortunately for Ryan, we’re starting to catch on to his trick. His warnings on overtime—along with those of McCarthy, Puzder, and Lukas—aren’t worthy of being taken seriously. They’re just the latest in a long line of phony trickle-down prophecies intended to prop up the one percent’s profit margins.

Daily Clips: May 18th, 2016

Clinton’s medicare option is not a result of Bernie: The American Prospect offers a level-headed analysis on Hillary’s “new” positions. In fact, the author says, her Medicare buy-in option has been a policy prescription she’s been advocating for awhile now (emphasis mine):

There’s nothing remotely new about Clinton’s support for a Medicare buy-in or a public option for health insurance. From the beginnings of her husband’s administration, health care has been a major priority for her, and she deserves major credit for the Affordable Care Act, which closely resembles the plan that was a centerpiece of her 2008 campaign. Sanders is having an effect on Clinton, but he is not causing her to change her stance, so much as he is compelling Clinton to emphasize her existing, more-liberal positions.

The biggest deal for the middle class since the Affordable Care Act: I’m not going to steal Paul Constant’s thunder, as he put together a fantastic article which outlines Obama’s new overtime rule. Give it a read if you want to know the ins and outs of the rule.

The US needs to stop focusing on GDP: It’s not a useful measure for understanding the economic state of the American people, so why are we so obsessed with GDP?

Worse than the shortcomings of these statistics are the consequences of our over-dependence on them as measures of the success of our society. A country, for example, that overemphasizes G.D.P. growth and market performance is likely to focus policies on the big drivers of those — corporations and financial institutions — even when, as during the recent past, there has been little correlation between the performance of big businesses or elites and that of most people.

Sanders wins Oregon, Clinton wins Kentucky: And so it goes.

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