Posts by Paul Constant

The Panama Papers Highlight the Inequality of Globalization

The Panama Papers Highlight the Inequality of Globalization

Nick Cassella wrote about the Panama Papers in Daily Clips this morning , but I can’t stop thinking about them, for obvious reasons. Have you seen this video of Iceland’s Prime Minister being asked about his role in the Panama Papers? It’s so uncomfortable to watch: And the above video led, in part, to this crowd of 22,000 Icelanders protesting outside their seat of government. (For reference, Iceland’s population was 323,002 in 2013.) This really does seem to resemble Nick Hanauer’s prediction that if income inequality persisted, pitchfork-wielding mobs would be coming after plutocrats. What we’ve seen in the Panama Papers is that global elites seem to believe that a different set of rules apply to them. They believe they can stash their money—much of which was made through unethical means—away from taxes and the media’s scrutiny and the attention of their fellow citizens. You know how Republican politicians complain that taxes take money outside of the economy? This is obviously baloney—governments are a huge part of the economy. By taking part in these Panamanian tax shelters, these global elites are actually removing money from the economy. Their taxes aren’t collected, the money isn’t invested into local businesses. It just—poof—disappears into a cozy little offshore account, waiting for its owner to collect it at a time of their choosing. Rana Foroohar at TIME writes , in a story titled “The Panama Papers Could Lead to Capitalism’s Great Crisis,” why this is such a big deal: Voters know at a gut level that our system of global capitalism is working mainly for the 1 %, not the 99 %. That’s a large part of why both Sanders and Trump have done well, because they tap into that truth, albeit in different ways. The Panama Papers illuminate a key aspect of why the system isn’t working–because globalization has allowed the capital and assets of the 1 % (be they individuals or corporations)
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New Report Reveals a Scheduling Emergency for Service Workers

New Report Reveals a Scheduling Emergency for Service Workers

Recently, Working Washington interviewed over 300 service industry Seattle workers about their schedules . If you don’t work in the service industry, or if you haven’t worked in the service industry for over a decade, you might find the results to be shocking. Everybody knows that retail and food service employers demand out-of-the-ordinary schedules from their employees. That’s just a fact of life; people don’t eat dinner inside a 9-to-5 schedule. Whenever I applied for a service job, I was warned that I’d be expected to work nights and weekends. It’s what you sign up for. But here’s what you shouldn’t have to sign up for when you get hired: schedules that refuse to make room for family, higher education, or even second jobs; schedules that are so wildly varied that you’ll have no idea how much money you’ll be making at the end of the month; and schedules that consistently leave you feeling sick, stressed out, and exhausted. Employer expectations for scheduling in the service industry have gotten way out of hand. Just take a look at what Working Washington has uncovered. Half of all the workers they talked to receive their schedules one week or less in advance. Of that half, 21 percent received less than one week notice for their weekly schedule. Imagine not knowing on Sunday if you’ll have to work on Monday. That’s the schedule that tens of thousands of people in the Seattle area live with right now. Of the 300 people Working Washington talked to, the average part-time work week was 25 hours, with a weekly variability of 14.9 hours—so you might work ten hours one week and 40 hours the next. In fact, three-quarters of all those employees polled saw their weekly schedules regularly grow or shrink by 8 hours or more. How do you plan around a schedule like that, with a full days
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In America, Cities Are Increasingly for the Rich

In America, Cities Are Increasingly for the Rich

Sometimes you bump into two news pieces that seem as though they’re the flip side of one story. Today was one of those days for me. First, I read this Atlantic piece by Derek Thompson about how people moving to cities are white, child-free, wealthy, and in their 20s and 30s: If the U.S. is returning to any previous period, it’s looking like another Gilded Age—one based on geography. The richest 10 percent of households were most likely to move into dense urban areas between 2000 and 2014. The poorest 10 percent fled cities the fastest. Meanwhile, the U.S. is becoming much more urban for the white childless elite, and much more suburban for everybody else. The fastest growing suburbs are the most prototypically suburban: They have the lowest density, the greatest need for cars, and the most single-family neighborhoods. Meanwhile, the fastest growing urban areas among this privileged demographic are the most dense—places like Manhattan and Brooklyn, San Francisco, Boston, Washington, D.C. And then I ran across this Vox story by Soo Oh about how low-income Americans can no longer afford food, transportation, and, most importantly, housing : A new Pew Charitable Trusts analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in 2013, low-income Americans spent a median of $6,897 on housing. In 2014, that rose to $9,178 — the biggest jump in housing spending for the 19-year period of data that Pew studied. This is why raising the minimum wage to livable levels is important, especially in urban areas: inequality has tipped over to a point where cities have become a battleground between the wealthy few and everyone else. Further, cities are losing diversity and catering to a shrinking pool of high-income spenders. This is antithetical to what a city is: cities, by definition, need lots of people. They cannot be exclusive; cities need lots of people from diverse backgrounds in
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Let’s Talk About the Real Issue with Bathroom Safety

Let’s Talk About the Real Issue with Bathroom Safety

The backlash to the latest spate of anti-transgender “bathroom laws” has begun, and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is right at the forefront : Seattle Mayor Ed Murray signed an executive order Monday banning travel to North Carolina for official business by City of Seattle employees. It is a response to that state’s passage of a bill that revoked civil rights protections for the LGBTQ community. Mayor Murray is absolutely doing the right thing here. (So is the governor of Georgia, who announced he would veto a similar law in his state .) These bathroom laws are not only hateful and anti-civil-liberty—they’re also likely unenforceable. What they do is they target and single out trangender individuals, who are already at grave risk for violence , and they give business owners the right to confirm anyone’s gender at any time. (How? Unclear. Very unclear.) And by forcing trans people to use the opposite gender bathrooms, the law is creating some very uncomfortable situations: #boycottNC #wejustneedtopee #transdiscrimination @_michaelhughes1 pic.twitter.com/u3X73HdfE0 — Shay Hughes (@stacyhughes) March 27, 2016 Oh America please, from a woman who has to pee quite a bit, please get over it #wejustneedtopee pic.twitter.com/lkcShCeoi9 — Justina Kennedy (@JuzzyK14) December 5, 2015 These are the kind of exclusionary tactics that bring damage upon economies like North Carolina. (Nick Hanauer wrote about this last year.) Boycotts like Mayor Murray’s are a great way to get the attention of a governor who puts hate before inclusion, and I expect North Carolina will find itself to be the recipient of a whole lot of boycotts by the time this story ends. And besides, there are plenty other pressing issues of bathroom safety to address than the fallacious concern of LGBT-on-straight-person violence that anti-trans groups have been peddling to the media. I’m talking, of course, about guns. Today, NRA Family published a blog post by Brad Fitzpatrick titled “ Concealed-Carry Safety…In the Bathroom .” It’s all about what to do when you’re out on the town with your gun and nature calls. Fitzpatrick’s
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Americans Want to Open Carry at the Republican National Convention. Why Won’t Republicans Let Them?

Americans Want to Open Carry at the Republican National Convention. Why Won’t Republicans Let Them?

As you’ve likely seen, t ens of thousands of people have signed a petition demanding that the Republican Party allow the open carry of firearms at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this year. Which, when you think about it, makes a lot of sense, right? Republican politicians love guns so much; they block any laws that might save lives from gun violence, and they even block  the study of gun violence , presumably because it might reveal some unflattering facts about guns (such as the fact that they kill people.) As the petition notes, every one of the three Republican candidates left in the race have argued that gun-free zones are targets for shooters. And Ohio is an open-carry state, so guns at the RNC seem like a no-brainer, on several different levels. Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was asked about the petition, and he said he’d have to “study the fine print” of the petition before he commented on it. (I looked at the petition, and there is no fine print anywhere on it. That was easy!)  But the Quicken Loans Arena, where the convention is happening, has a no-weapons policy . And the Secret Service has announced through spokesman Robert Hoback that “Individuals determined to be carrying firearms will not be allowed past a predetermined outer perimeter checkpoint, regardless of whether they possess a ticket to the event.” Another Secret Service spokesman told the National Review  that “Title 18 United States Code Sections 3056 and 1752, provides the Secret Service authority to preclude firearms from entering sites visited by our protectees, including those located in open-carry states.” Still, even if the two biggest authorities in this scenario—the Secret Service and the Quicken Loans Arena administration—didn’t say no to guns, why would we expect Republicans to practice what they preach? After all, visitors to the National Rifle Association’s headquarters are expected to hand over their guns . Republican leadership has never allowed guns to be carried at presidential debates . They don’t even allow guns at meetings designed to protest gun-free zones. Are you noticing a pattern, here? You should be: Republican leaders basically want guns to
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What Can You Do to Fight for Equity in Seattle Public School’s Libraries?

What Can You Do to Fight for Equity in Seattle Public School’s Libraries?

Over at the Seattle Review of Books , I’ve been interviewing Seattle-area school librarians  all month long. They have, to a person, been delightful interviews: friendly, optimistic, and eager to talk about their work. Almost every one of them told me that they believe they have the best job in the world. But they’ve also all talked about a problem that plagues every school librarian in Seattle. It’s a problem that is frankly unbelievable for a modern American city, especially one that considers itself to be as progressive as Seattle does. To be blunt: Seattle Public Schools’ libraries are criminally underfunded. Not only are school librarians in Seattle all expected to perform a more than full-time job on a half-time salary, but there is no budget to buy materials for school libraries. As in, none. When Kathleen Eads started as the librarian at Greenlake Elementary School, she was greeted by the school’s Parent Teacher Association with a $5000 fund to buy books. Eads was thrilled to receive such generous support — to put it in perspective, Greenlake Elementary School has roughly 350 students, so $5000 is a lot more than the $10-per-student minimum that national school library organizations recommend as the bare minimum for school libraries to sustain themselves by replacing lost, stolen, and damaged books, and buying new books to keep the collections fresh and relevant. But Eads also knows that other librarians in the Seattle area aren’t so lucky. She says our school libraries are suffering from egregious inequality. When a librarian starts the school year, they’ll receive a certain amount from the PTA “and maybe if your principal is nice, he’ll give you some money from the discretionary fund.” Librarians share stories about school libraries in Seattle that have only $1000 per year for schools of 750 kids. Other Seattle Public School libraries get nothing at all.
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Political Campaigns Are In the Business of Making Money, Not Winning Votes

Political Campaigns Are In the Business of Making Money, Not Winning Votes

Andrew Cockburn has written a must-read piece for Harper’s about big money in politics. Cockburn argues that while more and more money is avalanching into politics every year, and while politicians must spend more and more time on fundraising with each passing year, the money that is raised is not being spent on anything worthwhile. As Cockburn explains it, it’s a classic negative feedback loop. Politicians hire professional fundraisers who are, obviously, interested in making a lot of money. The fundraisers encourage the politicians to spend a lot of time raising money. The money is then spent on television advertising, because the advisers warn that getting outspent on television advertising would be fatal. And TV news media focuses on television spending in part because they’re making a whole lot of money on it. But the thing is, television advertising is ridiculously ineffective. Same with direct mail and robocalls. The thing that works best is human-to-human contact: phone calls, canvassing, and generally organizing a campaign’s ground game. Advisers and the media tend to scorn those aspects of elections because, well, they’re not where the money is. Cockburn compares this over-reliance on advisers and wasted money with the bloat in the military industrial complex, and he makes a compelling case. This is obviously an unsustainable situation. Not only is it incredibly wasteful, and not only does the relentless fundraising prevent politicians from focusing on campaigning, but it’s also a case of the medium fitting the message. If a candidate runs an exclusionary campaign—that is to say, one focused on the wealthy and not interested in engaging large numbers of active citizens—they are more likely to govern with exclusionary policies. A good political campaign inspires a feeling of ownership in its voters. If advisers are focused instead on placing ads and talking at, rather than with, the people, they’re
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Reporters and Redditors Agree: Seattle’s Minimum Wage Increase Is Great for Business

Reporters and Redditors Agree: Seattle’s Minimum Wage Increase Is Great for Business

In the spring of last year, we here at Civic Skunkworks spent a lot of time debunking stories about raising the minimum wage. At times it seemed like every reporter left in America last year was publishing a scary piece about business closures . I’m not complaining—it’s fun to debunk those pieces! But it’s interesting to look around and see that except for a pair of very loud holdouts —the Abbott and Costello of trickle down economics, you might say—most of those complaints have fallen away. Today, Jed Graham at Investor’s Business Daily has published the latest story about minimum wage increases around the country. And Graham goes out of his way to point out that the doom and gloom that was predicted has not come to pass: in fact, the story is headlined “Has Minimum Wage Knifed Seattle Restaurant Jobs? New Data Say No.” Here’s the section on Seattle: Data through the end of 2015 released in February suggested that Seattle restaurants had trouble adapting as employment at area food and drinking places grew at the slowest pace since 2009. The newly revised data show that restaurant employment actually has accelerated since the wage hike, rising 5.4% from a year ago in January. The Seattle-area data cover the entire Seattle-Bellevue-Everett metro, of which Seattle is just one-fourth of the population. You really ought to go read the rest of the story , which travels around the country dismantling negative claims about the minimum wage. Honestly, I’m most happy about that last quoted sentence about the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett metro data, which clarifies a point that minimum-wage opponents often use to obfuscate the data. Such clear-headedness! It’s not just reporters who have gotten the message about the minimum wage: regular folks on the internet aren’t suffering any fools, either. Three days ago, the Redditors at r/Seattle debunked a post from someone who wanted Seattleites to acknowledge the (nonexistent) “negative trend” in business since the wage went up. The user,
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Wave Goodbye to Marco Rubio, the Failed Candidate of Outdated Thinking

Wave Goodbye to Marco Rubio, the Failed Candidate of Outdated Thinking

Conservative Ross Douthat’s column in the New York Times today is a post-mortem of Marco Rubio’s campaign. It concludes with these two paragraphs: At times, Rubio’s biography, his youth and his eloquence seemed to make him the natural candidate for a party in search of What Comes Next. And in certain ways he was victimized by a conservative electorate that fears the future, that wants any “new” synthesis to simply recreate the glories of a vanished American past. But he was also a victim of his own fateful look backward, his assumption that what worked for the last Republican president could be made to work again. It didn’t, it couldn’t, and it probably won’t be tried again: Whoever wins the nomination in 2016, George W. Bush has gone down to defeat. So he’s saying that Marco Rubio is the candidate of the past? Huh. That’s certainly original . What a unique thought ! Why has nobody else pointed this out ? Even though Douthat has finally come around to the obvious, it’s important to note that he still got it kind of wrong. The collapse of Rubio doesn’t just denote the end of Bushism. Rubio’s collapse—as well as Jeb Bush’s collapse, and Rick Perry’s collapse, and the impending collapse of John Kasich—signifies the end of the trickle-down narrative that has dominated conservative politics since the Reagan years. What we’re seeing in Trump is a candidate who has capitalized on voter exhaustion at trickle down economics. Republican voters believe income inequality is a huge problem, and they think Trump, a candidate who repeatedly says he’s not beholden to big money interests, is the one who can fix it. Douthat is correct to note that Rubio, with his slick persona and his stage-managed campaign, represents a very old conservative political concept that has been worn paper-thin. But he’s wrong about the reasons why. When it comes to the
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Poll: Seattle Voters Overwhelmingly Favor Secure Scheduling

Poll: Seattle Voters Overwhelmingly Favor Secure Scheduling

Working Washington reports : A new poll of Seattle voters by EMC Research finds overwhelming 74% support for secure scheduling policies, matching the high level of public approval for the $15 minimum wage law reached during the height of that debate. Support is widespread across demographic groups, including 79% of those 18-49, 68% of older voters, and even 49% of self-identified Republicans. To be clear, that’s 74 percent of five hundred Seattle-area likely voters who heard both pro and con arguments on secure scheduling. Support is very strong among Democrats and independents. The policies that they approved would apply to “food service and retail employers with at least 250 employees,” and they included hypothetical requirements that employers… give their employees their schedules 2 weeks in advance; provide 11 hours of rest between a closing shift and an opening shift for each employee; offer additional hours to current part-time employees before hiring additional part-time or temporary workers; pay workers if they are called in and their shift is cancelled or reduced; and give workers up to 4 hours of pay for last-minute short-notice shift cancellations or reductions. If you’d like to learn more about why it’s so important, Civic Ventures founder Nick Hanauer explained the importance of secure scheduling in an editorial for the Seattle Times . Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold hosted the first committee hearing on secure scheduling last week . No law has been proposed yet, but Herbold and Lorena González will be fighting for secure scheduling in the Council for weeks to come. It’s good to know that the vast majority of Seattleites support their efforts.

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