Posts by Paul Constant

Should You Boycott North Carolina or Not?

Should You Boycott North Carolina or Not?

Yesterday, Seattle band Pearl Jam became the latest in a string of performers to boycott North Carolina due to its bigoted bathroom law. Daniel Kreps at Rolling Stone reports that last night frontman Eddie Vedder discussed the band’s thinking at a concert just before an encore: We thought we could take the money and give it to them and still play the show, but the reality is there is nothing like the immense power of boycotting and putting a strain, and it’s a shame because people are going to affected that don’t deserve it but it could be the way that ultimately is gonna affect change, so again, we just couldn’t find it in ourselves in good conscience to cross a picket line when there was a movement so… Pearl Jam joins Bruce Springsteen and Seattle author Sherman Alexie in boycotting North Carolina over the law. At the same time, up-and-coming Seattle band Tacocat posted on Facebook that they’re going ahead with a planned North Carolina show tonight: While we respect the decisions of giant acts like Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, and other mega-musicians whose shows have real economic impact on the region (and whose music has a wide enough fan base to possibly reach the ears of slime-brains in power), we feel that pulling out of our show—an all-ages show booked months ago at the Pinhook, a queer-friendly/ran venue—would only further punish those being marginalized. We, as much smaller, radical-leaning bands, do not feel that resources like live music should be cut off from LBGTQ folks, allies, and young people who actually live in North Carolina. We view our live music (and the music of so many other likeminded bands) as a special tool that can be used for fighting oppression, creating an outlet to vent, or at the very least, simply as an opportunity to dance around with like-minded peers in an environment we seek
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Gig Economy Leader to Embrace $15 Minimum Wage with Union Partnership

Gig Economy Leader to Embrace $15 Minimum Wage with Union Partnership

1. Elizabeth Dwoskin at the The Washington Post reports that SEIU and Airbnb are in talks about forming a partnership: Under the terms being discussed, Airbnb, which has previously been at odds with unions, will endorse the union’s Fight for $15 and encourage vendors who provide services to homeowners on the Airbnb platform to pay their staff at least $15 per hour. The platform will also direct Airbnb hosts to cleaners that have been given a seal of approval from SEIU. The cleaners will be trained, certified and provide green home cleaning services to Airbnb hosts, according to documents reviewed by the Washington Post. A poster child for the gig economy embracing the $15 minimum wage is a huge deal, obviously; it puts more pressure on organizations like Uber to do right by their employees. Dwoskin reports that the partnership was Airbnb’s idea. 2. Speaking of unions, local SEIU president (and friend of Civic Ventures) David Rolf has a wonderful piece in the new issue of American Prospect discussing many possible futures for the labor movement including worker ownership, control of work-distribution platforms, and the Shared Security platform he masterminded with Civic Ventures founder Nick Hanauer. It’s required reading which lays out a problem (declining union membership) and offers some forward-thinking solutions. Go check it out .

Gig Economy Leader to Embrace $15 Minimum Wage with Union Partnership

Gig Economy Leader to Embrace $15 Minimum Wage with Union Partnership

1. Elizabeth Dwoskin at the The Washington Post reports that SEIU and Airbnb are in talks about forming a partnership: Under the terms being discussed, Airbnb, which has previously been at odds with unions, will endorse the union’s Fight for $15 and encourage vendors who provide services to homeowners on the Airbnb platform to pay their staff at least $15 per hour. The platform will also direct Airbnb hosts to cleaners that have been given a seal of approval from SEIU. The cleaners will be trained, certified and provide green home cleaning services to Airbnb hosts, according to documents reviewed by the Washington Post. A poster child for the gig economy embracing the $15 minimum wage is a huge deal, obviously; it puts more pressure on organizations like Uber to do right by their employees. Dwoskin reports that the partnership was Airbnb’s idea. 2. Speaking of unions, local SEIU president (and friend of Civic Ventures) David Rolf has a wonderful piece in the new issue of American Prospect discussing many possible futures for the labor movement including worker ownership, control of work-distribution platforms, and the Shared Security platform he masterminded with Civic Ventures founder Nick Hanauer. It’s required reading which lays out a problem (declining union membership) and offers some forward-thinking solutions. Go check it out .

AEI Professor Mark Perry Can’t Tell the Difference Between a Human Being and Ground Beef

AEI Professor Mark Perry Can’t Tell the Difference Between a Human Being and Ground Beef

AEI economist Professor Mark Perry has a lot of issues. First of all, he was busted last week for data manipulation , which is pretty much unforgivable in his line of work. But yesterday, he committed another unforced error: he published a blog post comparing human beings to ground beef. Well, technically, he quoted another economist comparing human beings to ground beef, but Perry enthusiastically ran with the analogy. Here’s the passage , which Perry employed in opposition to raising the minimum wage: Economist Walter E. Williams has used the following example to illustrate the competition described above between unskilled and skilled workers by looking at the market for different qualities of beef. Suppose that hamburger sells for $4 per pound and sirloin steak sells for $8 per pound. Hamburger is a much lower quality variety of beef compared to sirloin steak, but can attract a significant number of buyers who choose hamburger over the higher quality option for the 50% savings in price. Likewise, many employers may choose lower quality, unskilled workers over higher skilled employees for the significant savings in labor costs. But now suppose the government imposes a “$8 per pound minimum beef price law.” In that case, most shoppers who buy beef will then purchase more sirloin steak and less hamburger because the lower quality meat has lost it main weapon to successfully compete against higher quality sirloin steak – a significantly lower price that compensates for the lower quality. Result? Hamburger sales will suffer due to the “minimum beef price law” and sirloin steak sales will increase. Just like in the labor market, a $15 an hour minimum wage will remove the most effective weapon that unskilled workers currently have to compete against skilled workers – the ability to work for a lower wage. Result? Employment opportunities for unskilled and limited-experience workers will contract, while employment opportunities for skilled workers will
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Elizabeth Warren Is Right: It’s Time to Reform Tax Preparation

Elizabeth Warren Is Right: It’s Time to Reform Tax Preparation

Michael Arria at Alternet says that Senator Elizabeth Warren introduced a bill called the Tax Filing Simplification Act, which would “direct the Internal Revenue Service to create a free tax preparation and filing service.” This is an absolute no-brainer. President Ronald Reagan proposed a similar, “totally voluntary” system in which Americans would “automatically receive your refund or a letter explaining any additional tax you owe.” And since the 1980s, computers have only made it easier to track and tabulate what people owe in taxes. And for those who fear dirty tricks from the IRS, this would be a system with plenty of checks and balances: most importantly, if you disputed the IRS’s return, you could simply do your own taxes and file them, the way you do now. Nothing would change for you. Automatic tax filing makes so much sense! Who would possibly argue against making tax preparation easier? Well, that’d be Intuit, the company that owns TurboTax. Arria says they’ve put $13 million into lobbying against automatic tax preparation legislation. In 2014, Jordan Weissmann at Slate pointed out the sleazy ways that Intuit fights tax prep reform. Their lobbyists trick advocates for poor Americans into believing that automatic tax legislation would somehow harm the poor. They claim that the institution of tax prep reform would mean the end of free tax preparation services for low-income Americans, which is patently false. If you haven’t already, I’d urge you to read Tom Heberlein’s great article on Vox about Sweden and taxes . It’s packed with all sorts of interesting information about why Sweden isn’t the socialist hellhole that conservatives would have you believe. But the part that’s most relevant to our interests for this post is this description of what tax preparation is like: In Sweden, the four-page tax form comes in the mail already filled out. On a Saturday morning, Betty and I take our coffee to
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Paul Ryan Is Not Running for President Because He Knows His Party Is Falling Off a Cliff

Paul Ryan Is Not Running for President Because He Knows His Party Is Falling Off a Cliff

Today, House Speaker  Paul Ryan is supposedly going to make an announcement that he’s formally ruling out a presidential run in 2016. Ryan has made this same denial in the past , but as Donald Trump’s delegate numbers flag below the necessary 1,237 votes to get nominated on the first try at the Republican National Convention, Ryan’s name keeps getting floated as a possible last-minute nomination. There is a recent historical precedent for this kind of move; Ryan, you’ll remember, didn’t even run for his current position of House Speaker; it was basically handed to him once John Boehner quit and every other Republican who aspired to the Speaker position turned out to be terrible.   Why Ryan, though? Why do Republicans enthusiastically nominate Paul Ryan for every single job from Vice President to Speaker to President? Well, he’s young for a nationally known politician. He’s from Wisconsin, so he doesn’t carry any of the stigma that, say, a Texas politician does. And as we all know from 2012, he’s very into physical fitness. paul ryan doesn't respect obama because he doesn't lift, bro. pic.twitter.com/rbd5E0PgMr — Hunter Hurt Helmsley (@rayze1) January 13, 2016 It seems pretty clear that Ryan is not the most likable or charismatic guy. He didn’t provide any lift to the 2012 Romney ticket. But he does like to promote himself as the brains of the Republican Party. And he likes to present his budgets as thoughtful documents that mark a way forward for the party and the nation. Since far-right congressional Republican s don’t like Ryan’s budget, surely they must be sensible and bipartisan, right? Not so much. In 2014, Ryan’s budget, if passed, would have privatized Medicare . His 2015 budget was full of the typical far-right folderol: repealing Obamacare, cutting funding for humanities and PBS, adding all sorts of new restrictions to social programs. So if Ryan is a typical post-George W. Bush conservative—one with a Tea Partier’s obsession with cutting social programs back to a nub—why are Republicans so eager
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Grover Norquist Thinks Pistol-Packing Frackers Who Home-School Their Kids Will Elect a Republican President in 2016

Grover Norquist Thinks Pistol-Packing Frackers Who Home-School Their Kids Will Elect a Republican President in 2016

Everybody knows Republicans are suffering from demographic troubles in presidential elections. Mitt Romney’s loss in 2012 highlighted the fact that you can’t win the Oval Office with just the straight white vote. Even Republicans know  that they mathematically need the LGBT and minority vote to win the White House. But rather than going about the difficult work of reforming the party, Republicans instead doubled down on restrictive voter ID laws  to keep those people away from the ballot box. We’ll find out this fall whether these laws are successful or not. But in the meantime, Republican strategists are struggling to find ways for the party to achieve a demographic win without actually welcoming any non-white, non-straight voters to their side. The preeminent Republican mathemagician, Grover Norquist, has devised six subgroups that he believes are going to be the “soccer moms” of the 2016 election, swinging the demographics back to the Republican side. Nancy LeTourneau at Political Animal sums up his categories like this: 1. Home schoolers 2. Charter school supporters 3. Concealed-carry permit holders 4. Fracking workers 5. Users of e-cigarettes and vapor products 6. Uber drivers Uh, okay. The immediate problem with Norquist’s Six Great Republican Demographic Saviors is that I see a whole lot of overlap with the sole remaining Republican demographic of straight white people.  Homeschoolers? Yeah, the vast majority of homeschoolers are white . Whites make up 90 percent of all active concealed carry permit holders in Illinois. Whites only make up 37% of Uber drivers , but almost 90 percent of all Uber drivers are male. Norquist is not calling out many diverse groups, here. In fact, what he’s doing is taking the one piece of the pie that the Republican Party can lay claim to, dividing it into many smaller slices, and arguing that because there are more slices, Republicans somehow have a larger share of the pie. Of course, I don’t really expect political genius from Grover Norquist; he’s the schmuck who had the big idea to shame Republicans into signing his anti-tax pledge . The pledge scored Norquist visibility as a kingmaker, and
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What if Minimum Wage Opponents are Frauds?

What if Minimum Wage Opponents are Frauds?

(Andrew Napolitano, the senior judicial analyst for Fox News, wrote  an editorial for Reason about the $15 minimum wage that consists of nothing but rhetorical questions, which inspired us to wonder: can’t we do that too?) What if the longest-running craze among the trickle-down crowd in both major political parties is to use threats about the mysterious “invisible hand” to force employees to work for less than a living wage? What if those artificially low wages are a violation of the employer-employee relationship? What if employers are effectively saying that they know the financial worth of employees’ services despite the fact that wages have been stagnant for decades ? What if the minimum wage, now on the verge of being raised to $15 per hour everywhere in the land, is really an attempt to ensure that Americans who work 40 hours a week don’t have to live under the poverty line? What if the $15-per-hour figure was actually lower than if the minimum wage tracked American productivity since 1968—a stunning $21.72 an hour ? What if the minimum wage increase will have profound economic consequences and will positively affect everyone by increasing the spending power of minimum-wage workers within their communities? What if the employees who get raises show their gratitude to their employers by increasing productivity and staying at their jobs longer than they would have at a lower minimum wage, thereby lowering the high costs of hiring and training new employees? What if the right of an employee to sell labor by going to work and the right of an employer to purchase that labor by paying a livable salary are part of the general welfare, which the Constitution was written to promote? What if during America’s most prosperous periods, workers’ right to a livable minimum wage was protected by lawmakers? What if there are clauses in the Constitution that protect the right
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Republican Admits Voter ID Laws Help Republican Candidates

Republican Admits Voter ID Laws Help Republican Candidates

Last night, Wisconsin Republican Congressman Glenn Grothman did something unforgivable for a Republican politician: he told the truth. Here’s what Grothman told a Milwaukee TV reporter when he was asked about Republican presidential prospects in November: “I think Hillary Clinton is about the weakest candidate the Democrats have ever put up. And now we have photo ID, and I think photo ID is going to make a little bit of a difference as well.” Grothman is referring, of course, to Wisconsin’s incredibly restrictive new voter ID law. Amée Latour at Bustle explains that the law demands that voters show certain types of photo ID at the polls, including “different types of IDs issued by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, the military, or colleges.” If you don’t have a photo ID with you on election day, you vote on a provisional ballot and then you have until end of day on Friday to show a photo ID to a county clerk. Usually when you ask the conservatives who promote these kinds of voter ID laws, they’ll tell you that they’re only trying to stop voter fraud. Never mind that US District Judge Lynn Adelman found that The evidence at trial established that virtually no voter impersonation occurs in Wisconsin. The defendants could not point to a single instance of known voter impersonation occurring in Wisconsin at any time in the recent past. The only evidence even relating to voter impersonation that the defendants introduced was the testimony of Bruce Landgraf, an Assistant District Attorney in Milwaukee County. Landgraf testified that in “major elections,” by which he means gubernatorial and presidential elections, his office is asked to investigate about 10 or 12 cases in which a voter arrives at the polls and is told by the poll worker that he or she has already cast a ballot. However, his office determined that the vast
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Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant Signs Anti-Gay Bill Into Law

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant Signs Anti-Gay Bill Into Law

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed a so-called “religious freedom” bill into law this morning. He tweeted this statement justifying his reasoning: I am signing HB 1523 into law to protect sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions of individuals, organizations and private associations from discriminatory action by state government or its political subdivisions, which would include counties, cities and institutions of higher learning. This bill merely reinforces the rights which currently exist to the exercise of religious freedom as stated in the First Amendment to the US Constitution. This bill does not limit any constitutionally protected rights or actions of any citizen of this state under federal or state laws. It does not attempt to challenge federal laws, even those which are in conflict with the Mississippi Constitution, as the Legislature recognizes the prominence of federal law in such limited circumstances. The legislation is designed in the most targeted manner possible to prevent government interference in the lives of the people from which all power to the state is derived. CBS News reports that this law’s “stated intention is to protect those who believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman, that sexual relations should only take place inside such marriages, and that male and female genders are unchangeable.” There are so many problems with this premise. First up is the demand for sincerity in religious beliefs, which I’m pretty sure is impossible to prove in court. And Bryant for some reason neglects to mention in his statement that the bill would allow anyone to deny housing to someone for reasons of gender identity, sexual preference, or even sex outside the bounds of marriage. I can’t imagine this law would survive even the tiniest challenge in court. And hey, didn’t North Carolina pass one of these bigoted anti-gay laws a while ago? How are they doing? Dominic Holden reports for BuzzFeed : PayPal announced Tuesday that it is canceling an expansion in North Carolina that would have employed 400
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