Posts by Paul Constant

Andrew Puzder Was Terrible, but He’s Not an Aberration

Andrew Puzder Was Terrible, but He’s Not an Aberration

It’s Time for (Civic) Action

It’s Time for (Civic) Action

Since we founded Civic Ventures in 2015, lots of people have enjoyed our writings and podcasts . We’ve attracted a loyal audience that’s interested in furthering a progressive, policy-focused agenda. Many of you have gotten in touch over the last two years and asked us how you can help, what you can do with all this newfound knowledge. Sometimes we’d ask you to publicly support secure scheduling , say, or to help debunk some trickle-downers’ bullshit excuse for why the minimum wage should be eliminated. But we were largely happy to spend our time thinking deeply about policy and working behind the scenes to enact change. Obviously, the election of Donald Trump has changed everything. We can’t just organize and obsess over the future of policy anymore. You know it as well as we do; this isn’t a time to just sit back and read, or to listen to a podcast. The age of passivity ended on November 8th, 2016. People still want to inform themselves, but they also want to take action. You can’t choose one; you have to do both. That’s why we’re proud to announce the debut of Civic Action, a new results-oriented partner organization of Civic Ventures. Civic Action is outward-facing and, as the name indicates, action-oriented. If you’re looking for public officials to call, or causes to take up, or information about where to best focus your energy, you’ll want to sign up for our email blasts , or follow us on Facebook and/or Twitter . For the first few months, we’re going to be figuring out how to make Civic Action the most effective, efficient organizing tool that it can be, but we know what we want it to do. We want to direct people to causes where they can make a substantial difference. We hope to make a big difference in elections by highlighting good work and supporting stellar candidates. We want to continue our efforts to
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Is This What Trumponomics Looks Like?

Is This What Trumponomics Looks Like?

It’s becoming clear in the first week of his presidency that Donald Trump has been telling us exactly who he is for a year and a half now. He did intend to build that wall, unlike what many of his supporters claimed during the 2016 presidential campaign. He really does believe that wealth has direct correlation to intelligence, that the amount of money you have is a perfect indication of your IQ, which is why he has claimed that his cabinet —  without question the wealthiest in American history  — has “by far, the highest IQ of any cabinet ever.” And he believes that if you cut taxes and regulations, and if you suppress the income of workers, the economy will grow.   Axios published highlights from a teleprompter-free speech that Trump delivered to a closed-press fundraiser last week, including this snippet where he says exactly that to a room full of wealthy Republican donors: We’re going to cut your taxes. We’re going to get rid of the regulations that are strangling the economy. [Applause.] … I know the biggest businessmen and the small ones that love me and voted for me, and I love them. … Almost every single person that I ask was more excited about the regulations being cut than the taxes, which is surprising. [Applause.] So, we’re going to do that. This is not a new philosophy; it’s one that conservatives have been espousing since the days of Ronald Reagan. Regular readers will know that it’s called trickle-down economics, and it’s based on the idea that if you suppress wages for the working class, cut taxes for the wealthy, and slash regulations for business, those wealthy Americans will supposedly then create jobs, that their wealth will trickle down to the poorest Americans. The problem with this economic philosophy, of course, is that it doesn’t work. Democratic presidents create more jobs , for the simple reason
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Study Finds Millennials Earn 20 Percent Less Than Boomers Did at the Same Age

Study Finds Millennials Earn 20 Percent Less Than Boomers Did at the Same Age

Josh Boak and Carrie Antlfinger at the Associated Press reported on a new study about generational earning this morning: With a median household income of $40,581, millennials earn 20 percent less than boomers did at the same stage of life, despite being better educated, according to a new analysis of Federal Reserve data by the advocacy group Young Invincibles. …Education does help boost incomes. But the median college-educated millennial with student debt is only earning slightly more than a baby boomer without a degree did in 1989. This is important stuff. When we talk about inequality, it’s important to remember that we’re not just talking about a disparity in earnings from the top one percent to the other 99 percent. We’re also talking about a disparity between generations, an income gap that grows over time. It is part of the reason why, though President Obama’s policies did begin to shrink the traditional measures of inequality (link PDF) , many Americans don’t feel as though the economy is improving. This report should serve as a warning to Democrats in the midterm elections and the 2020 presidential election: just because you’re not young enough to feel this inequality, you should understand that it exists. This is a big reason why Senator Bernie Sanders enjoyed the success that he did during the 2016 Democratic primary: he was speaking to a serious problem that most candidates, and most media outlets, didn’t even recognize was a problem. I realize that I’m not delivering some new insight here. Lots of people—including my colleagues at this here blog—have written extensively about student debt and other economic damages delivered exclusively onto millennials. But this new study is another solid piece of proof that inequality comes in a multitude of varieties, and Democrats need to be able to recognize and address all of them. The future of the party—and the future of this country—is at stake.

When It Comes to Economics, Incoming Labor Secretary Andrew Puzder Is a Raging Elitist

When It Comes to Economics, Incoming Labor Secretary Andrew Puzder Is a Raging Elitist

A particularly damning quote from Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Labor, Andrew Puzder, is making the rounds again. Puzder, in his role as CEO of the Carl’s Jr fast food chain, published an editorial in the Wall Street Journal in 2014 against the idea of raising the overtime threshold: …Workers who aspire to climb the management ladder strive for the opportunity to move from hourly-wage, crew-level positions to salaried management positions with performance-based incentives. What they lose in overtime pay they gain in the stature and sense of accomplishment that comes from being a salaried manager. This is hardly oppressive. To the contrary, it can be very lucrative for those willing to invest the time and energy, which explains why so many crew employees aspire to be managers. Of course, we came very close to raising the overtime threshold last year, until an Obama-appointed judge from Texas shot it down and the incoming Trump administration — with Puzder in charge of the Department of Labor — crushed the hope of a lawsuit to save the threshold. Here at Civic Ventures, we have made no secret of our efforts to promote overtime. Civic Ventures founder Nick Hanauer published a very influential piece in Politico back in 2014 about overtime, and then Hanauer and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich co-authored a piece for the New York Times explaining why overtime was so essential to America’s financial success in the 1950s, and why we sorely need to increase the threshold: Today, if you’re salaried and earn more than $23,600 dollars a year, you don’t automatically qualify for overtime: That means every extra hour you work, you work free. Under the new proposed rules, everyone earning a salary of $50,440 a year or less would be eligible to collect time-and-a-half pay for every hour worked over 40 hours a week. Reich and Hanauer call increasing the overtime threshold “a minimum wage hike for the middle class,” and that’s about right. It ensures either that workers are compensated for their time, or that workers
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The Biggest Problem for Seattle Restaurants in 2017? Too Much Competition.

The Biggest Problem for Seattle Restaurants in 2017? Too Much Competition.

On January 1st, the minimum wage for some, but not all, Seattle workers increased to $15 per hour. Seattlish explains the ins and outs of the law , but the gist is that large employers (defined as businesses that employ more than 500 people nationwide) who don’t provide health insurance for their employees are up to $15. Other large employers are at $13.50, and small employers range from $11 to $13 per hour, depending on the benefits they provide. And so where are we now? Well, before the minimum wage became law, restaurant owner Tom Douglas estimated that “we would lose maybe a quarter of the restaurants in town.” Now, as Working Washington noted , Douglas has done an about face. The Puget Sound Business Journal interviewed Douglas about the competition he’s facing as a Seattle restaurateur staring down a new year. Douglas replied, “Almost 400 restaurants have opened in the last year. It is a challenge.” Huh. So which is it? Will increasing the minimum wage kill a quarter of all restaurants, or does Seattle have way too many restaurants since raising the minimum wage? Douglas, who has previously recanted his opposition to the $15 minimum wage , seems to be entirely on the other side of the fence now: the minimum wage isn’t a problem for restaurants, he’s saying, aggressive competition is the problem. Of course, some folks can promote two opposing ideas at the exact same time. Over the holiday break , conservative talk radio KIRO’s website published a story about the closure of Louisa’s Café on Eastlake. Louisa’s owner, Alcena Plum, is asked about her business’s closure. “I don’t want to put this all on the minimum wage,” Plum told KIRO, “but it was definitely a factor.” But another factor that Plum says led to the decline of her business is “the huge labor shortage for kitchen staff in this city.” The article says when she placed help-wanted ads, she would get “zero response.” Again: which is
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Will Progressives Have to Fight for State’s Rights in 2017?

Will Progressives Have to Fight for State’s Rights in 2017?

It’s so predictable that it’s almost a joke: Republicans are against debt… unless there’s a Republican in the White House . Republicans are against foreign intervention…unless there’s a Republican in the White House. Republicans say they stand for state’s rights… Well, you can figure out where this is going. This morning, I read Justin Miller’s piece at the American Prospect about the “heartbeat” abortion bill that Republican legislators in Ohio are trying to pass. In its lame-duck rush to push through a controversial legislative package, the Republican-controlled Ohio Legislature made headlines by passing the “ heartbeat bill ,” an oppressive—and likely unconstitutional—anti-abortion measure that, if signed by Republican Governor John Kasich, would be the most restrictive law in the country. But there was another harsh measure in the mix that flew under the radar: a measure that would force Ohio localities to comply with state minimum-wage regulations that top out at $8.10 an hour. That minimum-wage measure is, of course, a giant middle finger to Cleveland workers’ attempts to get a $12 minimum wage on the ballot next year, and I think it’s a warning sign for all of us. Because the Fight for $15 has made such terrific strides in cities and states around the country—even in bright red states—it seems likely that Republicans at the state and federal level could very likely try to crack down on regional minimum wages in the year to come. Miller lists several recent attempts by state officials to preempt municipal attempts to ban plastic bags or provide paid sick leave, and it’s not hard to imagine a Republican Congress doing the same on a national level. Please bear in mind that this is speculation. And also bear in mind that it’s easier said than done: any politician will tell you that it’s about ten thousand times easier to stop something from becoming law than it is to take a right or privilege away from someone.
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How We Won the Fight for $15, and What Progressives Can Do Next

How We Won the Fight for $15, and What Progressives Can Do Next

Four years ago this week, fast food workers in New York City took to the streets to demand a $15-an-hour minimum wage. A little over three years ago, the city of SeaTac approved a $15 minimum wage for workers serving Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. And in the intervening years, cities across the country (including Seattle, San Francisco, Washington D.C., and New York City and states including California, Oregon, and Arizona) have approved minimum wage increases that will put them well above the federal minimum of $7.50 per hour. None of that is new to you. It’s fact. It’s history. But we can’t afford to let these substantial victories become something that we take for granted. The truth is, it’s already difficult to remember now how far-fetched the Fight for $15 seemed at the time, but literally every part of the political establishment was dead set against it: business owners, newspaper editorial boards, and elected leaders on the right and the left. Here’s one example of the change that’s taken place over the last four years: The editorial board at the Seattle Times fought tooth and nail against raising the minimum wage for years, threatening apocalypse after apocalypse if the wage in SeaTac or Seattle was increased. But just five months after their last anti-wage editorial, bucking decades of tradition, the same editorial board endorsed an initiative to raise Washington state’s minimum wage to $13.50 . (Perhaps part of the reason why the Times changed its tune was that those apocalypses — apocalypsii? — that they promised never arrived.) This was an unprecedented endorsement in the history of the Times, a watershed moment for minimum wage advocates, and it turned out to be a significant precursor to a historic moment, too. On election day this year, four states voted to raise their own minimum wage. Some might consider the blue states of Washington ($13.50) and Colorado ($12) to be easy wins, but Maine, which split its
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Fidel Castro, the Minimum Wage, and Other Things That Aren’t Remotely Connected

Fidel Castro, the Minimum Wage, and Other Things That Aren’t Remotely Connected

Question: what does Fidel Castro’s death have to do with the minimum wage? Well, if you’re a normal human being, the correct answer is “nothing.” But if you’re an economist named Bryan Caplan, the correct answer…well, it’s still “nothing.” But Bryan Caplan will apparently stop at nothing to advance his anti-minimum-wage agenda. As proof, here’s a post he published today on EconLog . It’s titled “How Castro is Like the Minimum Wage,” which is maybe the clickbaitiest headline I’ve ever clicked on. So how is Fidel Castro like the minimum wage? Caplan says it’s because Castro was “mild” so far as dictators go but it was morally correct for America to fight him as “a symbol of larger evils.” The same is true of the minimum wage, apparently: Caplan says the minimum wage is “something we must stubbornly decry even though there are far greater ills in the world.” Then he quotes from his own blog post from waaaaaaaay back in 2013 : The minimum wage is far from the most harmful regulation on the books.  Why then do I make such a big deal about it?  Because it is a symbol of larger evils. From the standpoint of public policy, the minimum wage is a symbol of the view that “feel-good” policies are viable solutions to social ills: “Workers aren’t paid enough?  Pass a law so employers have to pay them more.  Problem solved.”… We need to get rid of the minimum wage.  But that’s only a first step.  Our ultimate goal should be to get rid of the errors that the minimum wage has come to represent. Ugh. Caplan’s views apparently hadn’t changed at all in the almost four years since first publishing that post, and that’s more than a little weird, considering how much new evidence we’ve seen in the intervening years. Caplan constructs a hell of a straw man in that passage, and
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Kansas Proves That Trickle Down Economics Doesn’t Work

Kansas Proves That Trickle Down Economics Doesn’t Work

I interrupt your long week of freaking out over weird poll results—seriously, you can stop reading the news right now —to highlight this very important Los Angeles Times piece by Michael Hiltzik . As you probably know, Governor Sam Brownback’s leadership in Kansas is the most straightforward example of trickle down economics that we have in the United States right now . Brownback and a supermajority of conservative state legislators have done everything in their considerable power to enact into law the three main pillars of trickle down economics, which I will recount for you right here: Tax cuts for the rich. Deregulation for the powerful. Wage suppression for everyone else. Brownback immediately cut the income tax for the wealthiest Kansans and passed “business-friendly” laws like exempting pass-through business income from taxes. The thinking with trickle down economics is that when government redistributes the wealth to the top one percent, that money trickles down—ugh, that image—to everyone else. This is why Republicans refer to really rich people as “job creators.” No other state has gone this far in the effort to create a trickle down economy; Kansas is in uncharted waters, here. So how’s it going? Hiltzik says the state’s income tax collection has fallen by more than 20 percent, and even the Brownback administration’s own financial report… …painted a “doom and gloom scenario” in which the gross state product had declined from 2014 through 2015, and that growth in personal income, nonfarm employment and private industry wages all trailed the region and the country as a whole. Sales tax collections were up, but that’s because Brownback enacted two sales tax increases to compensate for his other tax cuts. The general effect was to burden the middle class and poor with costs that wealthier Kansans escape. Huh. So it looks to me that when you take money from the middle class and give it to the richest people in your economy, the richest people tend to keep that money. Who would’ve thought? Seriously, look at the map at the top of Hiltzik’s story  and tell me everything in Kansas is fine.  It’s
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