Posts by Paul Constant

If You Care About Growing the Economy from the Middle Out, This Is Required Listening

If You Care About Growing the Economy from the Middle Out, This Is Required Listening

Tomorrow, we’re relaunching the second season of our podcast, The Other Washington, with a fantastic interview with author and progressive truth-teller Thomas Frank. Frank, the author of Listen, Liberal, believes that the Democratic Party has been hijacked by a professional class of elites, at the expense of the working class. I can’t think of a better way to kick off a new (weekly!) season of The Other Washington, and I can’t wait for you to hear it. ( You can read a sample of our talk here .) But while we wait for the second season of the podcast to arrive, I’d like to urge you to visit (or revisit) the first season of The Other Washington. “Why would I want to listen to some old political podcast,” you ask? Well, because the first season of the Other Washington was constructed to be an evergreen listen. It establishes the foundation of our beliefs at Civic Ventures, and explains why we promote the policies that we do.  The first season is a primer that says what we’re all about. The second season will put those bedrock policies into action and show how here in the other Washington  we’re moving forward while leaders over in the other other Washington — that’s Washington DC—keep pushing us back. Here’s a rundown of our first season: Episode 1: The Minimum Wage Our signature issue here at Civic Ventures is the minimum wage. We realized a long time ago that when workers don’t have money to spend, inequality grows and the economy stops thriving. We discuss the history of the minimum wage as an American ideal and why Seattle became ground zero of the $15 minimum wage movement. This is a great podcast to share with friends who think that the minimum wage should be increased, but wonder if $15 seems like too much. Episode 2: Gun
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The Latest Poster Children for the Anti-$15 Crowd: Low-Quality Restaurants?

The Latest Poster Children for the Anti-$15 Crowd: Low-Quality Restaurants?

I simply can’t respond to every single dumb trickle-down take on the $15 minimum wage. If I felt the need to write back to every jerk who took an Econ 101 class and thought it earned them a Nobel laureate in economics, I’d be writing takedowns every hour of every day, with no sleep and no breaks. My fingertips would bleed from all the typing, and I’d need to rent a helper monkey to put drops in my eyes so they wouldn’t dry out as I type. But when I noticed that someone named Peter Heck published a piece titled “ Minimum Wage Hikes are Killing the Poor ” — well, how could I just ignore a title as ridiculous as that? Heck says that the “wealthy liberal city of San Francisco” is facing a “coming disaster” as it’s raising its minimum wage to $15 next year. He quotes a new working paper from Harvard Business school which, according to its abstract, finds that… …lower quality restaurants, which are already closer to the margin of exit, are disproportionately impacted by increases to the minimum wage. Our point estimates suggest that a one dollar increase in the minimum wage leads to a 14 percent increase in the likelihood of exit for a 3.5-star restaurant (which is the median rating), but has no discernible impact for a 5-star restaurant (on a 1 to 5 star scale). Heck then extrapolates from their abstract: Bob’s Burgers may not be able to absorb the cost associated with paying $15 an hour for their entry level employees without coming to economic ruin. But swanky, upscale Eagle’s Nest Steakhouse, on the other hand, can simply jack up the cost of their filet by a few bucks and be okay. In other words, the liberal minimum wage policy lets the rich get richer and the poor lose their job when the business they work
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United Airlines, Economic Inequality, and First-Class Privilege

United Airlines, Economic Inequality, and First-Class Privilege

You’ve probably by now seen the video of the doctor who was physically beaten and removed from a United flight because United wanted the seat for its employees. If you haven’t, here it is. Be warned: it’s an incredibly disturbing video: Hey United Airlines … when a flight is overbooked, it’s YOUR FAULT not the passengers! ✈️ #NeverFlyUnited pic.twitter.com/oA5SslUs0t — Shannon Self (@self24) April 10, 2017 And here’s the story, f rom Lucas Aulbach at the Courier-Journal : Bridges said the man became “very upset” and said that he was a doctor who needed to see patients at a hospital in the morning. The manager told him that security would be called if he did not leave willingly, Bridges said, and the man said he was calling his lawyer. One security official came and spoke with him, and then another security officer came when he still refused. Then, she said, a third security official came on the plane and threw the passenger against the armrest before dragging him out of the plane. The man was able to get back on the plane after initially being taken off – his face was bloody and he seemed disoriented, Bridges said, and he ran to the back of the plane. Passengers asked to get off the plane as a medical crew came on to deal with the passenger, she said, and passengers were then told to go back to the gate so that officials could “tidy up” the plane before taking off. This is a horrifying story, and it’s still unfolding on social media. I’ve noticed something about the reaction to United. People have been making jokes about the incident on Twitter. Which is okay! Jokes are part of the news cycle. They’re how we process things as a culture. And particularly in this case, the jokes are very telling. This one is a perfect
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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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