Daily Clips: October 31st, 2016

Hillary Clinton should add to the national debt: She has promised the American people that, “I am not going to add a penny to the national debt.” Politically, such a promise makes sense. But economically? Not so much.

It’s particularly disappointing that Mrs. Clinton is tying her promise not to add to the debt directly to her infrastructure plan, which offers perhaps the best bang for a government-borrowed buck. That becomes even more important if the economy careens into a ditch again, which some experts think we are due for soon. The best thing she could do would be to put forward a stimulus package with significant spending on building projects — and she would need to finance it by adding plenty of pennies to the debt.

Speaking on infrastructure…

Can we finally think big? 

Unfortunately, neither Clinton’s five-year, $275 billion plan nor Trump’s “at least double her numbers” calculation begin to address the trillions needed in leaky pipes, corroded tracks, decrepit trains, and faulty wiring, much less 21st-century smart grids, protections against sea-level rise, and innovative green investments.

US consumer spending increases: “When adjusted for inflation, consumer spending rose 0.3 percent after falling 0.2 percent in August.”

Gun ownership is not a human right: Absurd that this has to be stated over and over again, but here we are.

Are we fooled into believing we live in a meritocracy?

Today, spin classes, artisanal food, and the college application process have replaced Sunday promenades, evening lectures, and weekly salons. But make no mistake, they serve the same purpose: transforming class privilege into individual virtue, thereby shoring up social dominance.

Tweet of the day:

Daily Clips: October 28th, 2016

Must read on HRC advisor, Neera Tanden: I interned in the Executive Office of the Center for American Progress in the summer of 2014. There, I had the opportunity to meet Neera. She is a remarkably intelligent person. These emails also show she has great political instincts.

Where has “good” conservatism gone? A David Brooks article that is actually worth reading! However, his conclusions are…optimistic to say the least:

But I confess I’m insanely optimistic about a conservative rebound. That’s because of an observation the writer Yuval Levin once made: That while most of the crazy progressives are young, most of the crazy conservatives are old. Conservatism is now being led astray by its seniors, but its young people are pretty great.

I guess I fall under the “crazy progressive” label. Vox has put up an excellent rebuttal to Brooks’ piece.

US GDP grows by 2.9% in Q3: Huzzah. That’s the best growth for the US in the last two years.

Tweet of the day:




What Happened With The Spanish Translation Of This Voters’ Guide?


History demonstrates that democracy is better when more people are included as voters. As we’ve opened the polls to people who were Constitutionally banned from the vote—women, African-Americans, members of Native tribes—America has become a stronger, smarter, more prosperous, and more humane nation. We know that everyone does better when we embrace policies that ensure more people get the vote—and that it should be government’s role to ensure that every adult over the age of 18 makes their voice heard at the ballot box.

Here in Washington, that sacred trust falls to the office of Secretary of State. This means that our current SoS, Kim Wyman, should fight for the voting rights of every last eligible Washington adult.

Today Wyman’s challenger, former Seattle City Councilmember Tina Podlodowski, published a blistering press release accusing Wyman’s office of obfuscating the law in the Spanish-language edition of the state’s 2016 voting rights pamphlet. Here’s the relevant passage:

The English version of the voter’s pamphlet on eligibility reads, “You must be 18 years old, a U.S. citizen, a resident of Washington State and not under Department of Corrections supervision for a Washington State felony conviction.”

The Spanish version reads, “no estar bajo la supervisión del Departamento Correccional a causa de una condena por un delito del estado de Washington”

The literal translation of the Spanish text is “not under the supervision of the Department of Corrections by reason of conviction for an offense in the state of Washington.”

There is a big difference between a conviction for an offense and conviction of a felony.  Washington’s long-standing legal translation of “felony” in Spanish is “delito grave.” The lesser offense of “misdemeanor” is rendered as “delito menor.”

In other words, anyone reading the Spanish-language pamphlet with a misdemeanor on their record could interpret it to mean they don’t get to vote. In fact, this Twitter user says the removal of the word “grave” after “delito” means it could be interpreted as “any misdemeanor or parking ticket” (emphasis mine.)

With this translation Secretary Wyman’s office appears to be doing exactly the opposite of what she’s supposed to do: Rather than creating more opportunities for voters, Wyman’s office might potentially misinform Washington state citizens about their rights as voters.

Even more interesting: the 2014 edition of the pamphlet (PDF) seems to have the correct information. Note the use of “delito grave” in the below screenshot:


Google Translate turns that text into this:

You have to have at least 18 years of age, be a US citizen, a resident of the State of Washington, and not under the supervision of the Department of Corrections for a felony in Washington.

Which sure seems correct to me. The million-dollar question, of course, is why, if the language was correct in 2014, would Secretary Wyman’s office introduce an error into the text this time around? Isn’t that exactly what the Secretary of State’s office shouldn’t do?

More troubling: this is the latest in a series of problems that have happened under Wyman’s watch. Just today, Washington State Democrats threatened to sue over Pierce County ballots urging voters to mail their ballots by November 4th when the actual deadline is four days later, on November 8th. And at the beginning of this month, Wyman was accused of violating campaign finance laws “by failing to file disclosure reports on time.” All together these three issues, which Wyman’s supporters could singly wave away as minor mistakes, appear to form a more distressing pattern. What’s happening in Kim Wyman’s office? And how long has it been going on? The fact that these three issues came to light when the heat of a campaign is on Wyman leaves me wondering what else might come to light in the last days of the campaign.

Daily Clips: October 27th, 2016

Gary Johnson cannot defend his tax policy: Watch the video.

Who wins in the gig economy and who loses: Nothing groundbreaking here—especially if you’ve listened to our podcast episode on the gig economy. Nonetheless, it’s a solid overview:

Similarly, the economic plight of an on-demand worker for companies like Task Rabbit or Postmates is not materially different from that of a low-wage hourly worker in a fast-food restaurant or retail store. Both workers have low wages, no benefits, and limited rights and protections. The difference is that workers who wouldn’t dream of applying for a job in a fast-food restaurant are willing to bid for work on Task Rabbit or Postmates partly because they can do so when and to the extent that they choose.

The progressive tax reform you’ve never heard of:

Unlike most trading partners, the U.S. system purports to tax the worldwide income of multinational companies at the statutory rate of 35 percent, granting a tax credit for taxes paid to other countries. Yet, because U.S. taxation is not triggered unless income is repatriated, multinationals can avoid residual tax by indefinitely holding income abroad. … As a result, the U.S. “worldwide” system of taxation is substantially more generous to foreign income than many alternative systems of taxation. – Professor Clausing of Reed College

Cruz says GOP may block SCOTUS nominees indefinitely: Constitutional conservatives at work.

Tweet of the day:


Stop Reading the News Right Now: Why the Final Two Weeks Before a Presidential Election Is Always a Media Black Hole

The best feeling in the world!

When you run a presidential campaign that makes it through the primaries, you spend two years building a giant machine with many moving parts: messaging, policy, communications, field agents, transition. The last two weeks before Election Day, that machine finally lurches fully into motion and you find out exactly what you’ve built. We are right now living in that two-week window, the period where all the hard work of building a campaign is either paying off or blowing up.

What this means is that the campaigns shake off all the glitz and wheel-spinning and get down to the business of actually campaigning in swing states. The candidates mostly stick to their stump speeches, surrogates try to keep to their strengths, and the parties roll out their time-tested local teams. It’s very difficult to change a narrative at this point in a campaign—especially given that early voting has already started in quite a few states. So for high-level campaign staff, you rely on momentum and planning to carry you through, and you supervise how everything’s going, and you wait to see what America decides.

So, yeah. These final two weeks before a presidential election are always strange. I’ve lived through these periods both as an ardent political spectator and as a journalist. And I hope you believe me when I tell you a little secret: the media has no idea what to do with itself during this time. There’s rarely any proper “news” during the last two weeks of a campaign*: candidates are disciplined, messages are honed down to a sharp edge, and campaign staffers are unlikely to try anything especially crazy.

My point in all this is to tell you that your instincts right now are telling you to keep an eye on the news all the time. Ignore your instincts. All we’re getting right now are pedantic stories about the meaning of the word “landslide” and stories about celebrities and meta-stories about the media. This is because the media knows that nobody is interested in reading about anything other than politics, but they don’t have any news to report, so they’re spinning their tires and desperate for clicks. Virtually nothing published in this two-week dead zone is worth reading. All keeping a close eye on the news will do for you right now is ramp up your anxiety.

Instead, you should consider extreme measures. Stop endlessly refreshing the news in your browser. Maybe you should even consider deleting Twitter or Facebook or your other preferred news-gathering app from your phone entirely. You can always re-download the app on Election Day. Turn off cable news**. Try getting your news from a physical newspaper for two weeks; you might even find that you don’t miss the continual updates about nothing.

So say you follow my advice and mute the news for the next couple weeks. What should you do with all that time? Luckily, I have some advice for you:

  1. Take care of yourself. This is important. Go to bed early. Take a long bath. Prepare and eat a nice homemade meal. Go see a movie. Try to remember what your life was like before the name “Trump” was a daily occurrence.
  2. Vote early. Trust me: I always love to vote, but voting has never felt as wonderful as it did this year. Knowing that your vote has already been counted is one of the best feelings this wretched year has to offer.
  3. Make sure your family and friends are voting early. Talk about the issues with folks you love. The next time someone says “did you hear about [insert the latest dumb thing Donald Trump just said]?,” you should respond, “no, and I’m good, thanks. But, say—have you voted yet? Do you need any help with your ballot? Do you need a stamp?” Don’t get into arguments, but do offer to be a resource. Ballots are complex, and many people are too embarrassed to ask for help. Offering assistance and information in a non-intrusive way can be just the push your friends need to do their civic duty.
  4. Volunteer your time. Those machines I was talking about at the top of this piece? They’re made out of people who care. And they could really use your help. Even if you just contribute one night of phone banking for a candidate or an initiative you really believe in, that could make a huge difference. Campaigns need all sorts of help from all sorts of different kinds of people: door-knockers, drivers, envelope-stuffers. Whatever your special talent is, they can likely put it to use. And along those lines…
  5. Contribute your resources wisely. Figure out where you (and your last-minute donations) can be of the most use. Pick one or two local campaigns you really care about and focus on those. In Seattle, I’d say you should consider working to get the word out about Sound Transit 3—strong conservative anti-tax backlash arrived late in this race, and the future of Seattle is hanging in the balance. But no matter what, you should get behind the candidates and causes that most speak to you.

This has been the longest, most grueling presidential campaign I’ve ever seen. It’s been emotionally taxing and mentally frustrating. The good news, though, is that we’re finally coming up on the end. After a year and a half as a bystander, you have a chance to speak up and to do your part. Nobody benefits when you refresh Twitter twelve times an hour, but if you’re smart about it, you can make a real difference in the real world. It’s your time to shine.

 * Of course this is an oversimplification. There will often be a surprising bit of news in the last few days of a campaign. The archetypical version of this is George W. Bush’s drunk driving record surfacing just before the 2000 presidential election. And I fully expect there to be a Late-October-Early-November Surprise in this election; you can’t have a candidate as unpredictable, undisciplined, and media-friendly as Donald Trump without some ugly truths hiding in plain sight, and there are thousands of miles of video tape that have yet to be completely scoured. Odds are good we’ll see something break in the next 13 days. But staring at Twitter won’t cause the news to break any faster. Trust me: if shocking news breaks in the next two weeks, you’ll hear about it almost immediately. Set the notifications on your phone to alert you the minute big news happens and you’ll learn about it with everyone else.

 ** Turning off cable news is always a good idea, no matter where you are in the news cycle. Cable news is less about information and more about endless regurgitation and it should be avoided at all costs.

Daily Clips: October 26th, 2016

Why the good economy may be a problem for the next president:

A recession — or even a decline in economic momentum — could rapidly expose the new president to criticism and change the ability of the new administration to accomplish its goals.

“When the economy goes south in the first term, it’s a treacherous situation for a president hoping for reelection,” said Nicole Hemmer, a presidential historian at the University of Virginia.

Newt Gingrich melts down on Fox over Trump spiral: It’s so great to see a disgusting human being show his true self.

Politics is crippling the economy, Harvard study says:

According to thousands of Harvard alumni, MBA students and non-Harvard responders, the country’s biggest problem is a tax code that hasn’t been updated in decades, even as the world has become more globalized, digitized, and as closed-off economies have opened for business.

Hostility awaits Clinton:

Arizona Republican Senator John McCain’s pledge that Republicans would unite against any Clinton Supreme Court nominee could lead to changes in the filibuster rules. Republicans’ stance could lead to the end of the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, or even to the elimination of the filibuster in its entirety. More importantly, Republicans could set a damaging precedent that Supreme Court vacancies will only be filled when the president and the Senate Majority Leader are from the same party.

Tweet of the day:

Daily Clips: October 25th, 2016

Obamacare’s premiums are spiking. What’s wrong with the law? According to Caroline Pearson, “the dramatic premium increase should be a one-time correction.”

North Carolina race could determine whether GOP keeps the Senate: I haven’t read much about this race, but as it stands Sen. Richard Burr (R) is in a very close contest with Deborah Ross (D). Currently, “Ross is benefiting from a strong Democratic turnout effort and from campaign visits” from Obama, Kaine, and Clinton.

AT&T’s merger could be a bad sign for the economy: I’m reading “Cornered: The New Monopoly Capitalism” at the moment and its relevance to the AT&T merger is frightening. Our economy is full of big companies and “that trend worries a growing number of economists, who fear it suggests an economy that is becoming less dynamic and competitive over time.”

Obama was right about Republican extremism all along: Excellent article.

New Elway poll shows Initiative 1491 with 67% support: Initiative 1491, which would enact extreme risk protection orders (thus preventing firearms access to those posing a danger to themselves or others), is at 67%. That is a three percent increase in support from August. Only 18% oppose it.

It sure looks like Washington citizens will defeat the gun lobby for the second election in a row.

Tweet of the day:

WHYY Duped by Fake Research Director at Fake Think Tank Citing Fake Poll

No one takes the Employment Policies Institute seriously

I grew up in Philadelphia, so I’ve got a ton of respect for WHYY, the local NPR and PBS affiliate (perhaps best known nationally as home to Terry Gross’ award-winning Fresh Air). Which is why I was so sorely disappointed to see WHYY’s “Newsworks” website give op-ed space to fake-think-tank anti-minimum wage shill Michael Saltsman: “Op-ed: Raising minimium wage won’t flip the Senate.”

I mean, for chrissakes, why not just print a goddamn press release?

Saltsman claims to be the research director at the mendaciously-named Employment Policies Institute, which likes to describe itself as a “non-profit think tank” while in fact being neither. Indeed, Saltsman’s faux-think-tank is actually just one of several profitable front groups run out of the DC-offices of lobbying and PR firm Berman and Company. And if the editors at WHYY think I’m exaggerating, they might want to listen to this 2014 interview with Terry Gross, in which the New York Times‘ Eric Lipton explains how this scam works:

LIPTON: Yeah, I was – you know, set up an interview with the research director. I got the address of his office. I went to the eighth floor of the building on Vermont Avenue, like four blocks from the White House. The elevator opens, and it’s Berman and Company. And I go in and, you know, there’s a bunch of awards on the wall, advertising awards, public relations awards that Berman and Company has won for its work, you know, doing ad campaigns on behalf of various industry groups.

And so I didn’t see any evidence at all that there was an Employment Policies Institute office. And in fact when I started to interview the people there, they explained that there are no employees at the Employment Policies Institute and that all the staff there works for Berman and Company, and then they sometimes are just detailed to the various think-tanks and various consumer groups that he operates out of his office.

And he bills them, sort of like a law firm would bill various clients.

Wow. What a great scam. And it has been from the Employment Policies Institute’s start. (Note: I refuse to refer to the organization by its three-letter abbreviation, EPI, because it was obviously named to sow confusion with the real EPI, the pre-existing and pro-minimum wage Economic Policy Institute. Hell, not-EPI even apes EPI’s favicon, causing me to repeatedly click on the wrong browser tab.)

A Tale of Two EPIs

What a bunch of shameless trolls.

Legally, not-EPI is registered as a tax-exempt 501c3 (or, illegally one might reasonably argue), so it doesn’t have to report the names of its funders—though it’s safe to assume its money mostly comes from the restaurant, accommodations, and retail industries. As for how it spends its money: “more than half” of its multi-million dollar budget is paid to for-profit Berman and Company for staffing and operations, an “atypical” arrangement that prompted Charity Navigator to issue a “Donor Advisory.”

For WHYY to allow Saltsman to misrepresent himself as a “research director” at an “institute” is just out-and-out irresponsible. He’s a PR flack, period. And as for the content of Saltsman’s op-ed, well, that’s just as bullshitty as its author.

Saltsman argues that Republicans shouldn’t run away from their longstanding opposition to the minimum wage, based on the thesis that opposing the minimum wage didn’t hurt them 2014. Oh please. First, even without Trump tearing apart the fragile Republican coalition, 2016 was always going to be an entirely different electorate than 2014; Democrats simply turn out in far greater numbers during presidential elections than they do during the midterms. Second, there has been an undeniable and dramatic shift in public opinion over the past couple years in favor of substantially raising the minimum wage.

Those are just facts. There’s no disputing them. Which perhaps explains why Saltsman felt forced to resort to inventing a poll:

This matters. My organization used Google’s consumer survey tool to survey 500 Pennsylvanians who plan to vote this fall. Over 40 percent of respondents said they were no more or less likely to vote for a candidate based on their opposition to minimum wage.

Well, if his PR firm conducted an online poll, I guess we should just take his word for it. It’s almost as ridiculous as his anecdotal citation of a single business closure in booming Brooklyn as evidence that a higher minimum wage is wreaking havoc on the New York economy.

I can sum up Saltsman’s “research” in six words: No data. No methodology. No credibility.

Saltsman is nothing more than a fake “research director” at a fake “institute” citing a fake “poll.” WHYY and other media outlets should be ashamed for allowing him to present himself as anything other than what he really is: a paid spokesperson for the hospitality and retail industries.