Posts by Nick Cassella

US Consumer Spending Climbs At Fastest Pace in Seven Years

US Consumer Spending Climbs At Fastest Pace in Seven Years

Personal consumption in our economy accounts for roughly 70 percent of our gross domestic product. And the consumption economy seems to be kicking back in, as “ US consumer spending recorded its biggest increase in more than six years in April .” Consumer spending went up 1 percent last month, in large part due to the “ strengthening labor market, which is steadily pushing up wages .” In the words of our plutocratic overlord Nick Hanauer, “when customers have more money, businesses have more customers.” You don’t say! This virtuous cycle of consumption and demand is known by many : Economists generally accept the idea that Americans who make more will be prone to spend more. While consumer savings preferences don’t always add up to an exact 1-to-1 ratio between income and spending, it’s generally believed that compensation gains ultimately help stimulate consumption. Perhaps unsurprisingly given the month’s solid spending totals, disposable personal income – or Americans’ earnings after taxes – climbed 0.5 percent last month for the metric’s best showing since January. An economy’s purpose, after all, is to provide solutions via market forces for citizens. Naturally, a citizen is going to be more active in the economy if he or she has enough money to participate in the economy. That’s why today’s news is good news. With the velocity of money in our society so beleaguered , any uptick in consumer spending is cause for celebration.

Daily Clips: May 31st, 2016

Daily Clips: May 31st, 2016

A basic income is smarter than a minimum wage:  It really is remarkable how quickly basic income has ascended the policy ranks. While it has academic cover from both the right and left, the very idea of unconditionally giving money to citizens seems so much more revolutionary than the concept of a minimum wage. The author here notes how basic income has a “libertarian flavor”: By guaranteeing basic survival, a government provides a service as necessary as, say, policing the streets or fighting off foreign enemies. At the same time, once this service is provided, the government can get out of trying to regulate the labor market: Its goal of keeping people fed and clothed is already achieved. In one sense, a basic income provides a negative form of liberty (in that there is no interference needed post-basic income), but in order to allow for no interference it requires a positive form of liberty (giving citizens money with no conditions). It’s a very interesting relationship, that makes the future of this policy choice extremely important to monitor. Democrats have more work to do with Latinos than you may think:  An informative piece on naturalizations and voter turnout from Vox.  German unemployment falls to record low in May: I usually don’t cover international news in these clips, but I saw this headline and thought it was worth sharing. Did you know that the German unemployment rate is at 6.1%, its lowest level since 1990? I didn’t. US struggles with goal of admitting 10,000 Syrians:  To put that pathetic number in perspective, Australia (a country with a little over 20 million people) is admitting 12,000 Syrians. Tweet of the day: Per April NBC/WSJ poll, just 12% of voters gave Trump high marks on having "the right temperament" to be president pic.twitter.com/MWiCZ0133f — Mark Murray (@mmurraypolitics) May 31, 2016

Daily Clips: May 27th, 2016

Daily Clips: May 27th, 2016

What is the Presidential Election Campaign Fund?  I had never heard of this fund before today, but its history is intriguing. The Presidential Election Campaign Fund was conceived 40 years ago to level the presidential playing field and to give political unknowns a fighting chance…The program boosted outsiders like Democrat Jimmy Carter and Republican Ronald Reagan, and for years, it helped limit campaign costs. But with the explosion of campaign spending, fewer and fewer candidates have embraced the program. Today, it has become irrelevant. What should we call the “sharing” economy?  In our podcast on the “sharing” economy , we outlined just how many terms were used to describe this modern economic situation. Similarly, this Atlantic piece looks at the power of naming. ‘Obviously ‘the sharing economy’ is a misnomer, which the industry no doubt likes a lot,’ said Dean Baker, an economist and the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. ‘It’s got nothing to do with sharing. They’re profit-making companies.’ David Brooks speaks for my generation…again: I have written in the past about David Brooks’ capacity for condescension towards young people and his latest article does not disappoint! This creates a tension in the minds of some students. On the professional side they are stressed and exhausted. On the political, spiritual and moral side they are unfulfilled. On the professional side some students are haunted by the anxiety that they are failing in some comprehensive but undefinable way. On the spiritual side they hunger for a vehement crusade that will fulfill their moral yearnings and produce social justice. This situation — a patina of genteel progressivism atop a churning engine of amoral meritocracy — is inherently unstable and was bound to produce a counterreaction. “A patina of genteel progressivism” – looks like someone pulled out the thesaurus for their latest column! US economic growth revised higher in first quarter:  Not a perfect measurement of our economy’s strength, but at least it provides a useful talking point for Democrats as the incumbent
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Daily Clips: May 26th, 2016

Daily Clips: May 26th, 2016

Marijuana smuggling is declining in the the era of legal weed:  Good news for marijuana advocates, who often combat with the idea that interstate smuggling has increased since Washington and Colorado legalized the devil’s lettuce. Econ 101ism, overtime pay edition: The Noahpinion blog has put out an excellent piece on overtime and how critics of the rule have responded. He writes: In the Econ 101 model of labor supply and demand, there’s no distinction between the extensive and the intensive margin – hiring the same number of employees for fewer hours each is exactly the same as hiring fewer employees for the same number of hours each. But with overtime rules, those two are obviously not the same. For a given base wage, under overtime rules, hiring 100 workers for 40 hours each is cheaper than hiring 40 workers for 100 hours each, even though the total number of labor hours is the same. That breaks the 101 model. Immigration isn’t that bad for native workers:  Some may find this headline (and article) surprising, but this conclusion follows from a lot of research. Indeed: These and other surveys and meta-analyses all reach one overwhelming conclusion: “Immigration has at most only a small harmful effect on the native-born.” Tweet of the day: Political science and history classes will spend years studying the Trump phenomenon as will communications and journalism classes — Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) May 26, 2016  

Daily Clips: May 25th, 2016

Daily Clips: May 25th, 2016

Paternity leave and family responsibility: Good, long read from the Atlantic.  Their 6-year-old was killed with a neighbor’s gun. A court just decided how much his life was worth.   Workers get a little more of the income pie:   Good news! Labor’s share of national income, which has been declining since the early 1990s, and which took a big hit in the 2008 recession, has been rising for two years. Asian-Americans increasingly identify as Democrats:   Asian-Americans are the fastest-growing immigrant group in the country, but they’re rarely polled and remain somewhat of a political enigma.

Daily Clips: May 24th, 2016

Daily Clips: May 24th, 2016

Why is Clinton disliked:  In his latest column, David Brooks asks the very fair question: Why is Hillary Clinton disliked as much as a raving bigot? Honestly, I haven’t devoted a lot of thinking to this subject. Like gravity, I just assume its presence. Hillary is despised by a large portion of our body politic. Certainly there has been a concerted right-wing effort to make her sound like the anti-Christ, but even outside of Fox News, many liberals do not care for her at all. Brooks makes a cogent point when he asks, “Can you tell me what Hillary Clinton does for fun?” I certainly can’t. I know Bill Clinton loved McDonalds and jogging with excessively short shorts. I know that Barack Obama probably craves cigarettes and enjoys a game of golf. But what about Hillary? Outside of her professional domain, she doesn’t really let anyone into her personal life. Obviously, this is not the only reason why people find her “untrustworthy” or “dishonest,” but Brooks’ point does have serious merit, in my opinion. US new home sales race to eight-year high : While that sounds great on face value, remember that everyone’s paychecks have actually lost value since 2007 . “ Americans in small towns and rural communities are dramatically less likely to start new businesses than they have been in the past, an unprecedented trend that jeopardizes the economic future of vast swaths of the country. “ Tweet of the day: Anything on ABC, CBS, FOX, CNN, MSNBC on the two legal cases where women accused Trump of rape or sex assault under oath? Just checking. — Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) May 24, 2016

Daily Clips: May 23rd, 2016

Daily Clips: May 23rd, 2016

Single-payer health care is more popular than ever:  Gallup released a poll which found that “58 percent of US adults favor the idea of replacing [the ACA] with a federally funded health care system that provides insurance for all Americans.” Now, this poll may turn out to be a false positive. Because, one would assume, that while the American public is behind single-payer health care, they are largely split on how we go about providing insurance for all Americans. If Citizens United falls, will progressives notice?  On nearly every Robert Reich Facebook post, you see the Bernie supporter saying that all will be right only when Citizens United is repealed. That’s simply not true. Campaign finance was a problem before 2010 and this article does a really good job of walking you through the history of the issue. For example, the author notes that Citizens United “will not automatically eliminate super PACs. Constitutional protection for super PACs hinges not on Citizens United but on SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission.” Ted Nugent reelected to NRA Board:  What’s there really to say? The NRA is standing behind a bigoted, uneducated white man who has said some terrible things in public. Here’s a recap: In a May 10 post to his Facebook page, Nugent shared a fake video that showed Hillary Clinton being graphically shot to death by Bernie Sanders. He added his own comment: “I got your guncontrol right here bitch!” On March 31, Nugent posted a racially derogatory image on his Facebook page that he said was an advertisement for a moving company called “2 niggers and a stolen truck.” He’s just “telling it like it is,” I’m sure. Tweet of the day: When u look at everything that's happening now, it's heartbreaking that THIS was once a deal breaker pic.twitter.com/By0Ns8Bj7c — jenny slate (@jennyslate) May 23, 2016

Daily Clips: May 20th, 2016

Daily Clips: May 20th, 2016

The Stupidest Thing Republicans Have Done (Lately)? Threaten to Take Away Middle Class Overtime Pay:       How long can Ivanka Trump defend her father?  Finally! An article which holds Ivanka accountable for defending her father’s misogyny. Solid read. David Brooks actually bemoans how “we’re also less embedded in tight, soul-forming institutions.” Tweet of the day: Wayne LaPierre says a terrorist would meet his match if he walked into NRA annual meeting here….except attendees aren't allowed guns here — Jeremy Diamond (@JDiamond1) May 20, 2016    

Daily Clips: May 18th, 2016

Daily Clips: May 18th, 2016

Clinton’s medicare option is not a result of Bernie:  The American Prospect offers a level-headed analysis on Hillary’s “new” positions. In fact, the author says, her Medicare buy-in option has been a policy prescription she’s been advocating for awhile now (emphasis mine): There’s nothing remotely new about Clinton’s support for a Medicare buy-in or a public option for health insurance. From the beginnings of her husband’s administration, health care has been a major priority for her, and she deserves major credit for the Affordable Care Act, which closely resembles the plan that was a centerpiece of her 2008 campaign. Sanders is having an effect on Clinton, but he is not causing her to change her stance, so much as he is compelling Clinton to emphasize her existing, more-liberal positions. The biggest deal for the middle class since the Affordable Care Act:  I’m not going to steal Paul Constant’s thunder, as he put together a fantastic article which outlines Obama’s new overtime rule. Give it a read if you want to know the ins and outs of the rule. The US needs to stop focusing on GDP: It’s not a useful measure for understanding the economic state of the American people, so why are we so obsessed with GDP? Worse than the shortcomings of these statistics are the consequences of our over-dependence on them as measures of the success of our society. A country, for example, that overemphasizes G.D.P. growth and market performance is likely to focus policies on the big drivers of those — corporations and financial institutions — even when, as during the recent past, there has been little correlation between the performance of big businesses or elites and that of most people. Sanders wins Oregon, Clinton wins Kentucky: And so it goes. Tweet of the day:  Bernie Sanders supporters sent threats to Nevada Dem Party chairwoman: "We know where you live … prepare for hell" https://t.co/9qZbyw1OLo — The Seattle Times (@seattletimes) May 18, 2016

Daily Clips: May 17th, 2016

Daily Clips: May 17th, 2016

Samantha Bee on the Seattle City Council: A must watch. She does a great job pointing out the misogyny of *some* Sonics fans. Nicholas Kristof: Like many Americans, I’ve been wary of labor unions. I was wrong.  Thanks for noticing way too late. David Brooks’ latest: What is the central challenge facing our era? My answer would be: social isolation. Excuse me? Climate change, income inequality, poverty, radical religion, misogyny – none of these top “social isolation”? Give me a break. Tweet of the day: Being laid-off in a recession can dramatically reduce a worker's wages for decades.Compelling @WSJ chart pic.twitter.com/GVzMOY8Wzi — Paul Kirby (@paul1kirby) May 16, 2016