Posts by Paul Constant

Ted Cruz Shut Down Gun Responsibility Laws After Sandy Hook, New Super PAC Ad Brags

Ted Cruz Shut Down Gun Responsibility Laws After Sandy Hook, New Super PAC Ad Brags

One of Ted Cruz’s super PACs, the Courageous Conservatives PAC, just released a 60-second ad attacking Marco Rubio for accomplishing nothing besides his failed “gang of eight amnesty bill.” The ad continues, “Marco Rubio looks good on TV, but that’s about it.” This is a good attack ad, but that’s not the reason I bring it up. Of course the Cruz camp is attacking Rubio. Cruz is banking on the race coming down to an establishment candidate (that’s Rubio, even though his tax plan is insane ) and a Tea Party candidate. Cruz also expects Trump and Carson to burn out, leaving him in the prime attacker spot. None of this is really noteworthy. What is worth noting is this tiny five-second sentence in the ad: “After Sandy Hook, Ted Cruz stopped Obama’s push for new gun control laws.” This is some kind of bravado from the Cruz people. They’re promoting Cruz’s refutation of commonsense laws which were introduced after one of the most grotesque crimes in American history. They’re proud of his protestation of Obama’s attempts to stop a similar massacre of children. Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut had even harsher words for the ad: The new Ted Cruz ad makes me want to throw up, and I’m pretty sure that’s a feeling shared by many who lived through the horror of Sandy Hook. If Ted Cruz wants to brandish his pro-gun credentials to Republican primary voters, that’s his right. But it’s sick that he thinks he’ll win votes by specifically pointing out that in the wake of 20 dead first graders, he was the face of the fight to ensure no action was taken to stop more deranged killers from walking into elementary schools with military-style assault weapons loaded with 30-round clips of ammunition. Showing off how callous he was in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting may win him some right wing votes that
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Marco Rubio’s Tax Plan Is Even Worse Than I Thought

Marco Rubio’s Tax Plan Is Even Worse Than I Thought

I’ve written about Marco Rubio’s tax plan before. I called it the same old trickle down story. But the more I learn about Rubio’s tax plan, the less I like it—in fact, Rubio’s plan is more like trickle down economics on steroids. He’s got one of the most extreme plans we’ve ever seen from a mainstream Republican presidential candidate. As Jonathan Chait reported for New York Magazine , Rubio’s plan “would eliminate all taxes on capital gains, dividends, interest, and inherited estates.” Basically, he would eliminate taxes on capital. Jared Bernstein explains in the Washington Post that Rubio’s plan is the answer to the question, “what tax change could I implement that would be most helpful to the wealthiest households?” He adds, “taxation on these forms of income, currently taxed at a top rate of 23.8 percent, is highly concentrated: according to the Tax Policy Center, 79 percent of the tax take from this asset-based income comes from the top 1 percent, 5 percent from the bottom 90 percent.” It gets worse: 12 percent of all taxable capital gains in America belongs to the richest 400 American taxpayers. Among just those 400 richest Americans, this amounts to 92 billion dollars that Rubio wants to take off the table. What you have here is a candidate who believes the wealthiest Americans—the top 1 percent, yeah, but more importantly the top 0.0003 percent, according to Bernstein—pay too much in taxes. And so naturally Rubio’s tax plan would result in significantly less revenue for the government. Wait, did I say “significantly?” I mean “disastrously.” Ramesh Ponnuru, senior editor for the conservative National Review, noted in Bloomberg : “The Tax Foundation estimated that over the first 10 years that revenue reduction would amount to $6 trillion, unless the reform boosted economic growth.” Six trillion dollars in revenue gone. Think about that. What would an America with six trillion dollars less in revenue even look like? This is more than
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Voting is power: A conversation with Ari Berman about the struggle for voting rights in America

Voting is power: A conversation with Ari Berman about the struggle for voting rights in America

The Nation contributing writer Ari Berman ’s excellent new book Give Us the Ballot tracks the history of voting rights in America from the 1950s to today. No less a civil rights giant than Congressman John Lewis calls Berman’s history a “must-read” that “should become a primer for every American” on the topic of voting equality. (Lewis, of course, figures heavily into Ballot’s narrative.) This Friday, Berman appears in conversation with Supreme Court Justice Steven Gonzalez at Town Hall  to talk about the state of voting rights nationally and in Washington State. Berman freely admits he’s not an expert in Washington state voting law, but his research into the history of voting in America provides him with a unique perspective into what works and what doesn’t work. Washington’s vote-by-mail system was pitched as a way to increase voter turnout, but we’re still looking at some remarkably bad voting attendance here. As of yesterday, just 15.2 percent of King County voters had turned in their ballots , and turnout might stall at an astonishingly bad 40 percent when all the ballots are in. Is there any way to improve those numbers?“I think turnout is always low for municipal elections, and I’m not sure that’s the best barometer” for a healthy democracy, he explains over the phone. Colorado’s vote-by-mail system is more successful, he says, because it provides many locations around the state where voters can drop off ballots, as opposed to Washington’s limited ballot drop locations. But he promotes one particular type of voting reform more than any other: “States that have same-day voter registration tend to have higher voter turnout. I think that, more than any other single reform, same-day registration has boosted voter turnout in a lot of places.” (Automatic voter registration has been discussed in Washington , but it doesn’t appear to be moving forward.) One of the main talking points that politicians use to discriminate against minorities at the polls is the idea of voter fraud. “I think that there’s a right-wing echo chamber that has sustained
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Tired of Substantive Presidential Campaigns? The GOP Can Fix It!

Tired of Substantive Presidential Campaigns? The GOP Can Fix It!

This morning, the flailing Jeb Bush presidential campaign attempted to rebrand with something called the “ Jeb Can Fix It ” tour of the first three primary states. This, obviously, is a bad name, because that unspecific “it” in the catchphrase leaves us with the conclusion that the “it” Jeb is out to fix is his own campaign. And of course, Twitter has responded with its usual unsubtle sarcasm: Jeb Can Fix It actually refers to the 2000 election in Florida. — John Fugelsang (@JohnFugelsang) November 2, 2015 So. Why should we care that Jeb can fix his own campaign? He’s driven it into the ground by himself. They might as well call this the “Jeb Can Clean Up His Own Messes” tour. So the new motto fails the thematic test. And on a substantive note, Jeb Bush’s record argues that he can’t fix anything. He’s the same deregulating, tax-slashing politician that his brother was, the kind of hypocrite who wants a tiny government for business but a huge government when it comes to a woman’s right to choose, or military spending, or anti-immigration policy. If George W. Bush couldn’t fix “it” during his presidency why would Jeb be able to fix it with the exact same policies? In other news, the Republican presidential candidates are staging a revolt. They’re upset about the way their debates have been handled, it seems, and they’re not going to take it any more. Which, frankly, strikes me as a little weird. Sure, the CNBC debate was an unstructured mess, but part of that problem falls in the collective lap of the candidates, who rode roughshod all over the moderators. They whined about Democrats being lobbed softballs during their debate, which is categorically untrue. Here’s Anderson Cooper’s first question of the Democratic debate: But I want to begin with concerns that voters have about
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Don’t Believe the Hype: Marco Rubio Has No New Ideas

Don’t Believe the Hype: Marco Rubio Has No New Ideas

“While other candidates are repeating the formulas of the 1980s and 1990s,” David Brooks wrote in his New York Times column last night, Senator Marco “Rubio is a child of this century. He understands that it’s no longer enough to cut taxes and say bad things about government to produce widespread prosperity.” Oh boy. Anyone who watched the GOP debate on Wednesday knew we were up for a whole bunch of “Rubio rising” articles by end of day Friday. It’s what the media does. But I was not prepared for Brooks’s article, which teeters on the edge of gushing before just falling over into full rah-rah mode. Brooks praises Rubio for being “one of the few candidates who actually gives” policy speeches, although he dampens his own praise with the caveat that “it’s probably not sensible to get too worked up about the details of any candidate’s plans.” But then he gets a little worked up praising Rubio for wanting to “simplify the tax code, reduce rates and move us toward a consumption-based system by reducing taxes on investment.” He also adores Rubio for pushing “a big $2,500 child tax credit” and for calling to “reform the earned-income tax credit and extend it to cover childless workers,” as well as pushing welfare spending to the states. Rubio, he concludes is a “balance of marketing and product.” Okay, first of all: baaaaaaaaarf. Brooks is so smitten with Rubio that his writing has taken on the timber and logic of a mash note. Second of all, I’ve written at length about all the ways that Marco Rubio represents the politics of the past. Don’t believe me? As I said, Rubio is “ against equal pay for women (that’s an issue from 1972,) he’s backwards on marijuana reform (basically lifted from Richard Nixon’s 1971 War on Drugs announcement,) and he blasted Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty exactly 50 years to the day after it was announced. Because he’s timely like that.” But there’s so
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Nobody Mentioned the Minimum Wage in Tonight’s GOP “Economic” Debate

Nobody Mentioned the Minimum Wage in Tonight’s GOP “Economic” Debate

In terms of pure optics, Marco Rubio obviously won the GOP debate tonight, and Jeb Bush lost. That early confrontation between the two men positioned Rubio as a good communicator and Bush as a terrible one, and that narrative stuck for the rest of the night. Bush practically disappeared, while Rubio dominated the rest of the debate. The narrative about Bush quitting is going to gain steam after this disastrous performance. So far as the other candidates go: Donald Trump and Ben Carson continued to float over all the other candidates on their expectation-free clouds; they neither won nor lost, because typical campaign physics don’t apply to them right now. Chris Christie had a good night, but it won’t be enough to save his campaign from irrelevancy. Ted Cruz earned a few more votes. Carly Fiorina delivered another whopping lie with a straight face, but it wasn’t enough to kick her out of the middle of the pack. Nobody else mattered. But let’s reflect on what matters, here: tonight’s Republican debate was purportedly on the topic of economics. Instead, we saw every single candidate whine about their media coverage. Nobody mentioned the minimum wage. Income inequality barely came up. As I predicted , their proposed solutions to America’s economic problems involved tax cuts and removing regulations and all the other trickle-down techniques we’ve seen since the dawn of time. The CNBC moderators did a terrible job of keeping the candidates in line—in fact, Rubio and the rest trampled the moderators at every opportunity—and they didn’t press the candidates on the issues that matter. So instead, the public has to wrestle with the same impossible math problem they’ve been handed at the end of every Republican debate in recent memory: if government can’t raise any more money, and if government is supposed to increase the size of
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Please Don’t Die of Alcohol Poisoning During Tonight’s Debate

Please Don’t Die of Alcohol Poisoning During Tonight’s Debate

Tonight’s GOP presidential debate will undoubtedly be interesting*. You can’t get Donald Trump and the scions of the Paul and Bush families into the same room without something noteworthy happening, in a ghastly sort of this-is-so-terrible-my-brain-is-interpreting-it-as-entertaining sort of way. John Kasich is itching for a fight . Chris Christie is p racticing being extra-loud . Jeb Bush has been floundering in the polls and in fundraising, and he’s getting ready to target Marco Rubio . Rand Paul basically doesn’t exist anymore. Donald Trump is running second to Ben Carson . There will be fireworks, and attacks, and all sorts of ugliness. I’ll be live-tweeting the whole debate on the Civic Skunk Works Twitter feed . But as the first Democratic debate of the year proved , all that hoopla over who’s yelling at which person and why doesn’t really matter. Tonight’s debate is supposed to be about jobs and the economy. Whenever Republican presidential candidates get together to talk about the economy, the clown shoes come out and the baloney starts flying. The problem is that every single candidate on that stage—every candidate, without exception—is running on the same failed trickle-down economic narrative that has been around since the Reagan administration. You’d think a crowd that diverse—from sitting senators to long-since-retired governors to real estate magnates to brain surgeons—would be able to come up with at least one single good, new idea. But no. So here are some drinking game rules for tonight’s debate: DO A SHOT whenever a candidate says lowering taxes on the wealthy will help the middle class. If a candidate calls raising taxes on the wealthy “redistribution,” DRINK AS MANY OF YOUR NEIGHBORS’ DRINKS AS YOU CAN. DRAIN YOUR BEER whenever a candidate says cutting regulations will result in more jobs. ORDER A MARTINI when a candidate refuses to support raising the minimum wage. DRINK THE MARTINI when a candidate says that cutting the corporate tax rate is better for workers than a minimum wage. DRINK A FLAMING
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REI Wins Millions of Dollars in Free Advertising for Treating Its Employees Like Human Beings

REI Wins Millions of Dollars in Free Advertising for Treating Its Employees Like Human Beings

If you’ve spent any amount of time on social media in the last twelve hours, chances are good that you’ve seen or heard about REI’s #optoutside campaign. If you’re just now joining the internet (Welcome! Don’t read the comments) here’s the deal: while other retailers are forcing their employees to show up ridiculously early to work on Black Friday—or even in some cases, forcing their employees to come to work on Thanksgiving—REI is closing for the day and urging the public to spend Black Friday in the great outdoors. As Amy X. Wang reports for Quartz , “The company knows it will lose some money by keeping its doors shut on the biggest shopping day of the year, but, as a member-owned consumer co-up, REI doesn’t need to worry about the disapproval of shareholders.” So they’re in a perfect position to zig when everyone else is zagging. And the response has been tremendous. People are tweeting and Facebooking about REI, they’re signing on to the #optoutside campaign—over a third of a million people so far have committed to opting outside, according to REI’s special site for the program —and they’re publishing stories on news sites. So basically, REI has earned millions of dollars of free, positive advertising with #optoutside for a very low initial investment. But why did this work so fantastically well? Is it a wave of anti-consumer sentiment? Are Americans upset about our collective lack of respect for the sanctity of Thanksgiving? Sure, those are probably some reasons why individuals are sharing the campaign with friends. But a lot of the excitement for #optoutside comes from the fact that REI is giving its employees a paid day off on the day after Thanksgiving—basically the same benefits that upper class white collar workers enjoy. A chain retailer treating their workers like human beings is an outlier in America today; too many
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If You’re Sick of Big Money in Politics, You Should Vote “Yes” on I-122

If You’re Sick of Big Money in Politics, You Should Vote “Yes” on I-122

Here at Civic Ventures, we believe in creating civic change on a local level. At a time when Congress is locked up in partisan stasis, we look to our cities to be laboratories of democracy, the places where we experiment with new policies that carry government into the 21st century. This is not always ideal; city government doesn’t always possess the far-reaching authority that the federal government enjoys. But those limitations shouldn’t discourage us. Gay marriage started in the city of San Francisco, grew to a state issue in Massachusetts, and eventually became a federal issue. Cities tend to start these conversations, which then become national issues. And no city in America has been more innovative over the last few years than Seattle. We’ve been at the forefront of the $15 minimum wage fight and we’re engaging in civic conversations that will likely change the way future generations of Americans talk about gun responsibility , criminal justice reform, and marijuana legalization. The United States desperately needs campaign finance reform. The system was already in decline when the Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision established personhood for corporations and gave money the same protected status we give to free speech. But since then, corporate influence on elections has reached staggering heights. It now takes hundreds of millions of dollars to elect a president in America. The rules that stop candidates from conferring with political action committees are getting blurrier all the time. Politics has become super-saturated with money. That money results in real-world consequences: wealthy people and corporations enjoy greater access to political power than at any moment in modern American history. And Americans understand this; a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll recently found that one third of all Americans are concerned about the influence of money on politics, “more than for any of five other issues tested.” When you
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You Should Read This Story About Seattle’s “Minimum Wage Meltdown That Never Happened”

You Should Read This Story About Seattle’s “Minimum Wage Meltdown That Never Happened”

This morning, Puget Sound Business Journal published an extraordinary cover story by Jeanine Stewart. The headline? “Apocalypse Not: $15 and the cuts that never came.” The story is right now hidden behind a paywall , but PSBJ managing editor Steven Goldsmith has outlined the piece as an “Editor’s Pick.” Here’s the front page: I encourage you to go out and pick up a copy, because it’s a rare case of the media making a clear-eyed assessment of threats levied by small business owners when local government starts discussing a minimum wage increase. As an autopsy of those threats, this is top-notch work. Stewart quotes Tom Douglas’s prediction, published by The Stranger , warning that “I don’t know that [a $15 minimum wage] would put us out of business, but I would say we lose maybe a quarter of the restaurants downtown.” Of course, anyone who has visited downtown Seattle in the last few months knows that we’re not hurting for restaurants. Stewart puts Douglas’s claims up against the facts: Dozens of new restaurants have opened in the city since April 1, including many new eateries run by the law’s fiercest critics, such as Douglas… King County has issued 5,227 permits for food service establishments in Seattle so far this year, which new and existing restaurants must get each year. That’s well on the way to surpassing the 5,458 permits issued all last year and the 5,415 issued in 2013. So Douglas’s prediction in that Stranger story was entirely wrong. In fact, Stewart notes, “Douglas has now changed his mind about the law, saying he was ‘naive’ to think that restaurants would raise pay on their own.” Douglas’s restaurant empire continues to expand—my favorite Douglas restaurant, Cantina Lena , opened after the minimum wage increase was approved—and his employees are happy about both developments. Stewart quotes Dezi Bonow, a head chef at another new Douglas restaurant, as
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