Posts by Paul Constant

Even Richard Nixon Knew that Trickle Down Economics Was a Scam

Even Richard Nixon Knew that Trickle Down Economics Was a Scam

Despite its flaws, I read and enjoyed Destiny and Power , Jon Meacham’s new biography of George H.W. Bush. Meacham, who is a brilliant presidential biographer, gives Bush a little too much credit for being a decent man when he should have probed harder into Bush’s inability to be a decent leader. Privately, Bush was smart and reasonable about a number of issues—he seemed to oppose Dick Cheney’s lust for war during George W. Bush’s presidency, for example, and he was a moderate on abortion—but publicly, he failed to lead. Another example of Bush’s failure to lead? His stance on trickle down economics. During the 1980 presidential campaign, Bush rightfully ridiculed Ronald Reagan’s plan to provide tax breaks for the wealthy as “voodoo economics.” This is a term that caused the Reagan administration a lot of trouble after they brought Bush onboard as vice president: But even though Bush, as was his style, became an avid public supporter of trickle down economics, he privately understood that it was a scam. This passage from Chapter 31 of Destiny and Power indicates that the most influential members of the Republican Party understood it, too. On a snowy Saturday in in January 1987, Richard Nixon had come by to see Bush at the vice presidential reside. Nixon loved to talk politics, and he had handicapped the ’88 race for Bush. The most prescient thing the former president had said in the three-and-a-half hour session, though, was about governing, not running. “George, you know you were right about ‘voodoo economics,’ don’t you?” Nixon had asked. “We’ve got to handle the deficit. You know there is going to have to be a tax increase.” Nixon’s prediction had proven accurate. The month Bush defeated Dukakis, the General Accounting Office projected that tax increases “are probably an unavoidable part of any realistic strategy for
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Heartbreaking Target Employee Testimonials Highlight Why We Need to Raise the National Minimum Wage

Heartbreaking Target Employee Testimonials Highlight Why We Need to Raise the National Minimum Wage

For the last year or so, Gawker has run a series of occasional posts detailing the experience of working at Target , in Target employees’ own words. The most recent post in the series , published today, is full of heartbreaking testimonials from Target workers. These are low-wage jobs in an organization that treats employees as disposable. Target seems to be solely interested in exhausting the potential of their employees and tossing them aside after they’ve used them up. One of today’s testimonials ends with a lament that “in two months I may be out of a job for having a learning disability.” It’s just brutal stuff. The most telling passage, though, refers to Wal-Mart’s voluntary decision to raise their minimum pay : We are now treated like second class citizens by employers and customer alike. That’s why most of us last a year at most after hiring… Working for target is depressing and we don’t understand why we can’t make more money if people like Walmart charge less for their product and pay their employees more. We charge more but get less. We get mannequins and satellite tv but our manager won’t put the ac or heating on when the weather is sucky. I just wish target would look at us and not the customer as valued. The wording in that last sentence is a little sticky, but it highlights a very important point: companies should consider their employees as investments, not as drains on resources. Now that Wal-Mart has raised their minimum wage, it puts the pressure on dishonorable employers like Target to do the same. This is a perfect example of why it’s good for the government to set the minimum wage at a reasonable level: it takes the pressure off employers who support and encourage their employees and puts pressure on low-wage employment sinkholes like Target. Some employers will never raise the minimum wage on their own,
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GOP Presidential Candidates Continue to Make Un-American Statements About Syrian Refugees

GOP Presidential Candidates Continue to Make Un-American Statements About Syrian Refugees

It has been a depressing week to be an American. As Nick Cassella mentioned this morning , Governor Jay Inslee has been a rare voice of sanity with his vocal opposition to the rush to prosecute American Muslims and turn away refugees. But a cowardly Washington state legislator is loudly arguing against refugees , saying “We cannot differentiate between the innocent refugee who want to come to our shores and live in peace with the individual who is a terrorist who wants to exploit our freedoms and use those freedoms against us to do us harm.” ( ISIS is terrified  that it’s losing refugees, by the way, and they’re disseminating propaganda in an effort to convince them to come home. These politicians are in fact doing ISIS’s work by agitating to refuse refugees.) Yesterday, Donald Trump even suggested a national database for American Muslims, though he seems to be trying to backpedal right now: . @realDonaldTrump So when you said, “I would certainly implement that. Absolutely.” you were just playing pretend? pic.twitter.com/CCxWNtsKTC — Adam Mordecai (@advodude) November 20, 2015 Meanwhile, Marco Rubio tried to add some nuance to Trump’s call to close down mosques, but he kind of backfired when he announced that he wants to shut down any private business—”whether it’s a cafe, a diner, an internet site”— where “radicals are being inspired.” He also said the problem is that we’re not spying on ourselves enough: The bigger problem we have is our inability to find out where these places are, because we’ve crippled our intelligence programs, both through unauthorized disclosures by a traitor, in Edward Snowden, or by some of the things this president has put in place with the support even of some from my own party to diminish our intelligence capabilities. Here’s how we know we’ve entered topsy-turvy land: Jeb Bush is the only Republican candidate who’s exactly right about this . ““You talk about closing mosques, you talk about registering people, that’s just wrong,” Bush
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Even Gun Owners Think the NRA Has Gone Too Far

Even Gun Owners Think the NRA Has Gone Too Far

Now that the NRA has been defeated at the ballot box twice in Washington state, the organization appears to be reeling from internal discord. It seems that NRA leadership has fallen out of touch with the needs and desires of NRA members. Need proof? The Center for American Progress released the astounding results of a Public Policy Polling survey of gun owners yesterday. This survey demonstrates the existence of an American populace that doesn’t resemble its radical lobbying group in the least. A vast majority, some 83 percent, of gun owners want background checks on all gun sales nationwide. Those are jaw-dropping numbers. Think about it—that’s more than eight out of ten of all gun owners. And way more than half of all gun owners—66 percent—say they’d be more likely to support a politician who does support background checks. But the real eye-opener is this result: Only 29 percent of gun owners feel that the NRA represents their thinking when it comes to background checks, with 62 percent saying the NRA is out of line with them on the issue. That fits in with a broader feeling that the NRA has lost it way: 59 percent of gun owners feel that the NRA used to be an organization devoted to gun safety but that it has been overtaken by lobbyists and the interests of gun manufacturers and lost its original purpose and mission. Nearly one-third of NRA members believe the organization has lost its way. Roughly one out of every three NRA members believe their organization is out of step with their beliefs. If the NRA’s claims that they have 4.5 million members is accurate, that’s about one and a half million people. Imagine the kind of explosive headlines we’d be seeing if this were a poll of Democrats, or Catholics. The NRA is an organization that has been unchallenged for far too long, and, like any cash-heavy lobbying group, they’ve
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Welcome to America, Where We Turn Away Orphans Out of Fear but Allow Suspected Terrorists to Buy Guns

Welcome to America, Where We Turn Away Orphans Out of Fear but Allow Suspected Terrorists to Buy Guns

The American response to the terrorist attacks in Paris has been horrifying. This cowardly refusal to accept Syrian refugees has done real damage to the American ideal of accepting “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Only a handful of governors, including Jay Inslee, have responded to the attacks by opening their arms to Syrian refugees , and the rest have adopted an utterly un-Christian stance of fear and hatred. On the right, presidential candidates have demanded (unconstitutional) tests to “prove” Christianity  before refugees are allowed in the US. President Obama, meanwhile, has rightfully mocked anti-refugee protesters of being “worried about three-year-old orphans.” Max Fisher at Vox looked at six ways the anti-refugee rhetoric fails to reflect reality . For one thing, governors can’t legally refuse refugees. For another, America vets its refugees very well. For a third, the Parisian attackers authorities have identified up until now have not been Syrian refugees. Even worse, many of the same people who refuse to accept refugees have actively fought against policies that would help keep guns out of the hands of terrorists. Today the New York Daily News reported : The NRA — and their gun-loving Republican cohorts — are refusing once more to stop terrorists intent on getting armed in the U.S.A. A legal loophole allows suspected terrorists on the government’s no-fly list to legally buy guns, but a bill to fix that will likely wither on the vine. The federal Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act, even in the wake of last week’s terrorist killing of 129 people in Paris, remains a long shot due to its rabid pro-gun opponents. The News goes on to report, “more than 2,000 suspects on the FBI’s Terrorist Watchlist bought weapons in the U.S. over the last 11 years.” So while Americans fall over themselves trying to deny citizenship to a group of people based on religious grounds, they fail to support actual legislation that could keep weapons out of the hands of terrorists. This is
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Pramila Jayapal: “Language and names matter in signaling that our public lands are for everyone.”

Pramila Jayapal: “Language and names matter in signaling that our public lands are for everyone.”

Over at Slog , Washington state Senator (and Civic Skunk Works contributor ) Pramila Jayapal notes that today, finally, the National Parks Service is expected to approve a very important name change. For eight years, Washington state residents have fought to change the offensive names of Coon Lake and Coon Creek in the North Cascades National Park to Howard Lake and Howard Creek. She applauds the change to the new names, which honors the history of the land, but she acknowledges that this isn’t enough. She calls for… …the National Park Service to use its [centennial] anniversary as an opportunity to unveil a new platform for inclusion. Data show that just 22 percent of NPS’s annual visitors are minorities, where almost 37 percent of America’s population is now minority. The NPS platform for inclusion should lay out plans to increase representation of people of color within the park service employees and to have targeted outreach to communities of color to encourage their usage of our natural treasures. Diverse representation creates a bridge to communities who might not otherwise see themselves in certain environments or feel culturally understood. The thing about inclusion is that it can be hard work. It involves scouring institutions for unwelcoming or exclusionary policies and features. It means reaching out to communities that you may not know. But once you’ve successfully created a diverse environment, the rewards that diversity bring more than make up for the effort. Please go read the essay and think about ways you can make your world a little more inclusive.

Watch the Republican Frontrunners Argue Against Raising the Minimum Wage

Watch the Republican Frontrunners Argue Against Raising the Minimum Wage

For me, the most meaningful part of last night’s debate came in the first fifteen minutes, when the three frontrunners were asked about raising the minimum wage. They all argued against it. Donald Trump even argued that wages are too high in America right now. I’ve already pointed out that these arguments are lies and unfounded threats . Even though the candidates said a lot of untrue things—maybe especially because they said untrue things—it’s important to remember their replies. These clips could likely come in handy later on, if one of these candidates makes it to the general election and tries to convince voters that they care about average Americans. These videos show them arguing the opposite, in their own words. Al Jazeera’s Gregg Levine, too, debunked the candidate claims in an excellent article that you should read.

The Republican Candidates Lied About the Minimum Wage in Tonight’s Debate

The Republican Candidates Lied About the Minimum Wage in Tonight’s Debate

Let’s briefly sum up the debate performances of the Republican candidates who don’t really matter in the long run: John Kasich floundered. Rand Paul got in one good hit on Donald Trump and then faded into the background. Jeb Bush seemed to find his pace for about thirty seconds before collapsing into the same old catastrophe that he’s been since he first announced his candidacy for president. Carly Fiorina was fine, but she doesn’t have what it takes to attract voters. And the frontrunners, Donald Trump and Ben Carson, did exactly what they needed to do: they floated above the fray, speaking directly to their supporters and avoiding any topics that were not their pet issues. This debate was about two men: Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. Rubio was exactly the kind of presidential candidate he needed to be. He launched an unprovoked attack on Rand Paul, simply so he could deliver a practiced rant on foreign policy. He talked about the economy and blue collar workers with concern on his face. He was a little wobbly when a moderator lobbed him a softball question about the difference between he and Hillary Clinton, but maybe that was just because the question was so easy that he was taken by surprise. There’s something about Rubio’s approach that rubs me raw–too overproduced, trying a little too hard–but it was easy to imagine him as the Republican nominee tonight. He had the comportment of a winning candidate. Cruz, though, is the sleeper. There was a moment where he dove in on John Kasich on the topic of banking bailouts. It was a ridiculous moment in American politics, because they were both trying to sound like populists, even though Kasich is a former Lehman Brothers employee and Cruz’s wife until recently worked at Goldman
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What to Expect When You’re Expecting a GOP Presidential Debate

What to Expect When You’re Expecting a GOP Presidential Debate

Tonight, starting at 4 pm Seattle time, Republican presidential candidates will debate on the Fox Business Channel. (You can watch the debates streaming live on foxbusiness.com .) We’ll be live-tweeting all four hours on the Civic Skunkworks Twitter handle. The first debate is between Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, and Rick Santorum. The main event starts at 6 pm, and there are only eight candidates this time: Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Carly Fiorina, and, for some reason, Rand Paul. So! What should you expect? • The pack will turn on Rubio. The supposed frontrunner (once you ignore the two real frontrunners, Carson and Trump, who everyone for some reason just assumes will miraculously disappear at some point between now and February when the voting starts) opened up big ol’ can of Looking Presidential at the last debate, and it won him a decent little bump in the polls. Trump might take a shot at Rubio, and Bush might muster up the courage to try it again. Meanwhile, Rubio is going to try to look even more presidential tonight, which is a position that many candidates have tried and failed to adopt. It’s the classic debate conundrum: the better you do, the better people expect you to be. Rubio doesn’t always do well in high-pressure situations , so the chance of a slip-up is high. • Meanwhile, everyone is going to watch Bush for signs of life. He’s failed miserably in every single one of the debates so far. He hasn’t had a good moment since…actually, I can’t remember a time in the 2016 presidential cycle in which Bush had a good moment. He has to do something tonight, and he has to look competent while doing it. Otherwise, the media will be all over him as a failure tomorrow. Which brings me to my next point… • Everyone
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The More You Examine Rubio’s Tax Plan, the Worse It Looks

The More You Examine Rubio’s Tax Plan, the Worse It Looks

Last week , I said that Rubio’s tax plan would remove six trillion dollars from government revenue over a decade. Last night, Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine reported that it’s even worse than that. Chait is fast becoming the best observer on Rubio we have, which means he’s the one to watch as Rubio’s star continues to rise, in part because he can deliver devastating facts like this: All told, Rubio’s plan would reduce federal revenue by $11.8 trillion over the next decade. The entire Bush tax cuts cost about $3.4 trillion over a decade, making the Rubio tax cuts more than three times as costly. This is part of the reason why the media has been obsessing over Marco Rubio’s credit card bills over the last few days. Even people who haven’t done the deep dive into Rubio’s economic plans understand that there’s something missing. He claims to represent the future, but he’s promising both EITC benefits for the very poor and tremendous tax cuts for the very rich, in addition to boosting the military budget. Even a child could tell you that there’s no way to pay all those bills without making more money, somehow. So while it’s ridiculous to believe that one’s personal finance should indicate how one would run a financial system as complex as the US budget, this mysterious gap in Rubio’s budget leaves us looking for signs—any kind of sign—how he handles numbers in the real world. Because this tax plan is many things, but it does not represent, by any means, the real world.

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