Posts by Nick Cassella

Daily Clips: February 7, 2017

More trouble for Andrew Puzder: The Secretary of Labor nominee hired an undocumented worker—an inconvenient truth for a president who is staunchly against illegal immigration. Puzder supposedly told the Trump team about this “flag”.

“Based upon what I’ve learned,” [Senator] Alexander said in a statement, “since Mr. Puzder reported his mistake and voluntarily corrected it, I do not believe that this should disqualify him from being a Cabinet secretary.”

Such logic seems…flawed. Simply because someone reported a mistake and “voluntarily corrected it” that means they should be absolved of all moral and political backlash?

Trump’s H1-B Visa Crackdown Threatens Cutting-Edge U.S. Medicine: Scientists warn the Trump administration of an impending “crisis in science”.

Repealing Obamacare could kill more people each year than gun homicides: 24,000 lost lives is an estimate provided by Vox.

California and Trump are going to battle: The “sanctuary state” takes on the president.

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The Democratic Party Needs a Change in Messaging

Earlier this year, Harvard professor Michael Sandel spoke at the World Economic Forum. I happened to stumble upon his interview this weekend, and ever since watching it I’ve not been able to get it out of my head. During the Q&A, Sandel was asked to give advice to the flailing Democratic Party, which to his mind, has become far too technocratic in their political messaging.

Although the interviewer pressed him to provide bumper sticker policies like “Make America Great Again”, Sandel shrugged off this fascination with abbreviation. “Philosophers are not good at snappy slogans,” he admitted to the audience and then proceeded to show what good philosophers actually do: speak at length. During this fifteen minute back and forth, he presented four political themes which Democrats need to reassess in order to win again.

The first theme he addressed was a need for promoting a sense of national community that was directed towards “a shared common life, restoring public places, public institutions, and class mixing.” Sandel thought Democrats all too often revert to speaking only to urban, elite communities. To take away the conservative movement’s control and manipulation of patriotism, Democrats must develop their inclusive narrative in a way that leads to solidarity, not in a frame designed to end conversations, such as one which frames one side as “progressives” and the other side as deplorable “racists”.

The second theme is one we here at Civic Skunk Works spend a lot of time fretting over: the meaning and dignity of work. “Work is a way of making a living, of generating an income,” Sandel stated, “but is that its only purpose? Or does it confer meaning and identity?” We would argue (and so does Sandel) that Democrats should never, ever think of work as solely an economic concern. We know that “since many of us spend the majority of our waking hours at work, work is a major source of dignity in our lives.” To give the average American worker a sense of self-worth again, Democrats must engender a sense of “recognition and trust, as well as autonomy and self-mastery.”

Thankfully, liberals promote policies that can restore these feelings to the American public. A higher minimum wage and an increased overtime pay threshold strike me as perfect examples of recognizing the importance of all work, while new labor contracts like the Shared Security system would give economic benefits, stability and security to all. That is an effective one-two punch that Democrats should deliver over and over again.

The third theme Sandel elucidated was getting rid of our society’s obsession with meritocracy. “Meritocracy is not an alternative to inequality,” he told the audience, “it is a justification for a certain kind of inequality.” I’m so pleased that he highlighted this, as Americans all too often fall for this myth. A couple of months ago, in fact, I reviewed Thomas Friedman’s latest bookand my biggest criticism came from his faith in hard work and perseverance. I wrote:

Friedman subscribes (a little bit too much) to the myth that life is a meritocracy, where the most adaptable and hard-working win out. In fact, last week when I heard him speak at Seattle Town Hall he remarked, “sometimes no one is to blame but yourself.”

Sandel seems to agree in some ways with my argument. With his finger wagging, he pointed out that Democrats “should shift their emphasis from talking about mobility and perfecting individual opportunity, and instead talk more about solidarity and community and what that means.”

Finally, Sandel’s fourth theme was in relation to inequality and mobility. And in many ways, this connects with his meritocracy theme. He believed that the left needed to think less about mobility and speak about “creating a more equal society where the focus is not on the scramble to the top.” It’s not just economic inequality that Democrats should highlight either. Sandel argued that we need to show how economic inequality is corrosive to our civic life and our public institutions. Unfortunately, he never really developed upon that statement or provided instruction on how to effectively communicate these tensions, which made this theme come off as quite vague.

Nonetheless, I was extremely impressed with his messaging guidance. These broad themes are probably not specific enough (and a little bit too philosophically vague) for today’s focus-grouped Democratic Party. However, if leaders within the DNC listened to Sandel’s prescriptions, the left could offer a much more convincing socio-economic argument to Americans in urban and rural areas.

Daily Clips: February 6, 2016

Manufacturing accelerates in the US for a fifth straight month: Very impressive.

Dismantling Dodd-Frank: An excellent read on how regulations are slowly and methodically taken apart by special interests. There was one paragraph that particularly caught my interest, however, I’m not sure whether there is any merit to the point being made. Read for yourself:

For example, Trump owes $364 million in commercial loans to Deutsche Bank, his biggest private lender. Deutsche Bank is simultaneously negotiating a fine with the Justice Department over bubble-era abuses in the mortgage-backed securities market. Trump’s Justice Department could pursue a bigger fine and more punitive treatment of executives unless Deutsche Bank renegotiates the president-elect’s debt.

97 tech companies support legal challenge to Trump’s entry ban: We’re less than a month into this administration. Jeez.

Here’s how 2018 midterms could be undermined: Just in case you were getting a little bit too optimistic about the future of our country.

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Daily Clips: February 3, 2017

A tyrant’s ghost in the White House:

The fate of the republic may hinge on how much Trump decides to emulate the slaveholding, Indian-hating, Constitution-violating man staring at him from that portrait in the Oval Office. Jackson is too close for comfort.

David Brooks is clearly not a fan of multiculturalism:

But now the [American] myth has been battered. It’s been bruised by an educational system that doesn’t teach civilizational history or real American history but instead a shapeless multiculturalism.

Shapeless multiculturalism? What?

Trump is going to go after Dodd-Frank:

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday will scale back major regulations that resulted from the financial crisis, directing a review of the Dodd-Frank Act and putting the brakes on a retirement advice rule.

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Daily Clips: February 2, 2017

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House Republicans Vote to End Rule Stopping Coal Mining Debris From Being Dumped in Streams: Deregulation!

Productivity slows to 1.2 percent rate in Q4: Meanwhile, “labor costs rose at a 1.7 percent rate, up from a tiny 0.2 percent gain in the third quarter.”

Fear, American style:

Here’s what I learned about Fear, American Style: The worst, most terrible things that the United States has done have almost never happened through an assault on American institutions; they’ve always happened through American institutions and practices. These are the elements of the American polity that have offered especially potent tools and instruments of intimidation and coercion: federalism, the separation of powers, social pluralism, and the rule of law. All the elements of the American experience that liberals and conservatives have so cherished as bulwarks of American freedom have also been sources and instruments of political fear. In all the cases I looked at, coercion, intimidation, repression, and violence were leveraged through these mechanisms, not in spite of them. (You can read an article-length version of the argument here.)

Daily Clips: February 1, 2017

At CNN Town Hall, Pelosi is asked if Democrats would turn socialist:

I was not prepared for Nancy Pelosi to knock this question out of the park. She does a compelling job of telling the audience she believes in capitalism, while stating that capitalism needs to do a better job of spreading the wealth around.

NPR’s legal affairs correspondent on Trump’s SCOTUS pick:

Scalia, the sequel:

Robert Bork’s nomination for the Supreme Court was rejected by the Senate in 1987 precisely because of such originalist views. An originalist would reject constitutional protection for privacy, including for reproductive autonomy, reject constitutional protection for marriage equality for gays and lesbians, and reject protecting women from discrimination under equal protection because none of these were envisioned by the framers of the Constitution. All of these were Justice Scalia’s positions. If they are Gorsuch’s, if he is truly an originalist like Bork and Scalia, he definitely should be denied confirmation, including by filibuster.

Teachers with guns could eventually become the norm in Texas classrooms

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Daily Clips: January 31, 2017

Parties of the left…wake up! Here’s a wonderful quote from the piece:

“To start, center-left parties must:

  1. Put working-class economics front and center.
  2. See the country’s challenges through the lives of working people and be skeptical of conventional wisdom emanating from the elites in metropolitan center.
  3.  Acknowledge frontally that immigration needs to be better controlled and people are right to want a framework that includes real borders, new migrants contributing through taxes and learning the country’s language, and a framework where citizens receive greater benefits than non-citizens.
  4. Take on the elite, big money special interests that play too big a role and are the prime drivers of economic and social inequality.
  5. Offer much bigger economic vision and policies.”

Paul Ryan urges Republicans to back travel ban despite anger over rollout: I cannot tell you how much I despise this man. He is a coward. He is a snake.

The psychology of why 94 deaths from terrorism are scarier than 301,797 deaths from guns

Three reasons trickle-down tax cuts don’t work: Excellent article by Jared Bernstein and Ben Spielberg.

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Daily Clips: January 30, 2017

Flirting with theocracy: As a young man who interned for a summer at the Secular Coalition for America, religion’s place in politics has always been a key topic for me. While I’ve had issues with American policy before this moment, Trump’s travel orders are a perfect example of why, as a democracy, we cannot let religion play a prominent role in the decision-making process. The opening paragraph of David Leonhardt is poignant:

Let’s not mince words. President Trump’s recent actions are an attempt to move the United States away from being the religiously free country that the founders created — and toward becoming an aggressively Christian country hostile to other religions.

Trump orders two-for-one repeal of all new regulations: A key pillar of trickle-down economics, Trump’s executive order shows that he is not a man of the people, but a man of the rich.

The ACLU says it got $24 million in donations this weekend, six times its yearly average: Incredible news in dark times.

900,000 Brits Sign Petition to Block Trump’s State Visit Due To ‘Misogyny and Vulgarity’

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