Posts by Nick Cassella

WA Secretary of State Kim Wyman is defending the indefensible

WA Secretary of State Kim Wyman is defending the indefensible

Washington State is leading again on another pressing civic issue. Earlier this year, Democrats in Olympia introduced legislation  that would “automatically register eligible voters who have an enhanced drivers license, commercial driver’s license or apply for benefits for certain programs through the Department of Social and Health Services or the state Health Benefits Exchange.” This proposal passed the state House (controlled by Democrats) but has since been bottled up in the Republican-controlled Senate. Washington’s secretary of state, Kim Wyman (R) is a supporter of the law, but admits that “ there are very, very long odds right now ” for its success. How has this come to pass? How can Republicans actually stand in the way of this legislation? Automatic voter registration shouldn’t be a policy which is considered “partisan” in a thriving democracy. Yet here we are in 2016 with the Republican party (both nationally and federally) opposed to any suggestion of increased democratic participation. Their arguments against this “liberal” proposal are hardly unfamiliar. They claim it is an example of creeping “big government” and warn that adopting such a policy would lead to a “slippery slope” where it would “ eventually lead to compulsory voting and fining people who don’t turn out, like in Australia .” As per usual, these arguments have little basis in reality and only prey on fear and philosophical fallacies. If opponents of voter registration actually cared about the truth, they would have seen that the proposed registration law actually gives citizens the opportunity to opt out. Our neighbor to the south, Oregon, did just that. It’s worth reading about the success of their registration law in full : Oregon began implementing its program through the state’s DMV at the beginning of the year, and through the first six weeks, 7 percent of people who received cards alerting them to their new registration returned the cards asking to be taken off the rolls. But the state registered more than 10,000 new voters over that same time period, dwarfing the monthly average of 2,000 new registrations it
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Daily Clips: February 29th, 2016

Daily Clips: February 29th, 2016

College, the skills gap, and the student loan crisis:  The American Prospect sat down with economist Marshall Steinbaum, someone who I had never heard of before this morning. His relative anonymity should not stop you from reading his thoughts on education, however. Steinbuam’s in-depth take on student loans and college in particular is much needed in today’s day and age where specificity is lacking. (Seriously, go to  Hillary Clinton’s website and try and find a specific number for refinanced interest rates. You can’t.) Here was my favorite answer from Steinbaum: I think we’ve made our bed: People have to go to college to work, and hence it’s incumbent on us to make sure they can actually find a job and that college is affordable and non-exclusionary. But we could rethink everything. We could forget the “skills gap” nonsense, and go back to a world where economic policy is organized around making sure everyone who works makes a decent living, regardless of educational attainment, and that our universal K-12 system actually gives everyone the academic background they need not just to enter the economy, but to prosper in it. SCOTUS and abortion: Reuters reports that this Wednesday the US Supreme Court will hear “a major abortion case for the first time in nearly a decade” where “the regulations at issue will not involve fetuses or the mother, but rather standards for doctors and facilities where the procedure is performed.” Remember, because of the recent death of Antonin Scalia, “if the justices split 4-4, no national legal precedent would be set but the lower court decision upholding the Texas law would stand.” A tipping point for automatic voter registration ?  “I have met many Democrats that are convinced that Republican are trying to keep their party from voting, and I’ve met many Republicans that are convinced that Democrats are cheating,” said Kim Wyman, the top elections official in Washington state. “And it’s really hard to convince either side otherwise.” Um…Kim
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Daily Clips: February 26th, 2016

Daily Clips: February 26th, 2016

Matthew Yglesias’ take on the GOP Debate: But at this point, Trump already has a commanding lead in the polls. And from the standpoint of someone who’s already bought into the idea of President Trump, it’s not clear what these attacks amount to. Trump’s pitch is that he’s a ruthless businessman who now wants to change careers and exercise his ruthlessness on behalf of the (implicitly white and Christian) traditional definition of the American nation. Nothing Rubio said or did really challenged any of the key premises of that pitch. David Brooks almost comes to terms with the modern GOP: Brooks bemoans how “over the past generation we have seen the rise of a group of people who are against politics. These groups – best exemplified by the Tea Party but not exclusive to the right – want to elect people who have no political experience.” Ok, first thing. How can he honestly say this is “not exclusive to the right”? What part of the Democratic party is revolting by pushing “outsiders”? As one astute commentator, SAF93 points out in the comment section: Your column skirts the fact that these sentiments grew out of a GOP strategy of blaming government for societal problems: Ronald Reagan declared that government is the problem. GOP politicians and SCOTUS since Reagan have governed badly, shifting power and resources from people toward corporations and elites, failing to address real problems and failing to uphold the core American values of democracy and fairness. US consumer spending gains momentum: The Commerce Department said consumer spending increased 0.5 percent, the largest gain since March, as households ramped up purchases of a range of goods and the return to normal winter temperatures boosted demand for heating. Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, rose by an upwardly revised 0.1 percent in December. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast consumer spending rising 0.3 percent last month after a
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NEW PODCAST EPISODE: “Gig Economy”

NEW PODCAST EPISODE: “Gig Economy”

With more and more Americans moving from traditional jobs to freelance and part-time work, the so called “gig economy” is changing the very nature of employment. How will the middle class survive the loss of benefits and security? A new social contract – a “Shared Security System” – is one possible answer. Listen to our fourth episode and let us know what you think of our solution!

Daily Clips: February 25th, 2016

Daily Clips: February 25th, 2016

The Party of ‘No way!’  Over the last eight years it’s become something of a cliche to label the Republicans as the party of “no.” They’ve fought against pretty much everything President Obama has thrown their way. It’s become astonishingly clear they have no intention to govern. They are simply there to clog up the system, get people angry at the government’s inadequacies, and then run campaigns which are centered around the old conservative trope “government is ineffective and evil.” Kristof’s piece highlights “the larger issue” of GOP obstructionism by waxing nostalgic about politics “back in his day.” See here: When I was growing up, the G.O.P. was the serious, prudent, boring party, while the Democrats included a menagerie of populists, rascals and firebrands. Today it’s the G.O.P. that embraces the George Wallace demagogues, and its aim is less to govern than to cause gridlock. That’s not true of everyone — the House speaker, Paul Ryan, seems to have genuine aspirations to legislate. But to be a Republican lawmaker today is too often to seek to block appointments, obstruct programs and shut down government. Politics becomes less about building things up than about burning them down. 8 in 10 Hispanics have unfavorable view of Trump:  A Washington Post and Univision News poll finds that among Hispanic voters, Trump falls behind Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders by historically large margins in general election matchups. It’s an incredibly detailed poll with many insights. Here are some of the best tidbits: The Post-Univision survey tested those four GOP candidates against Clinton and against Sanders. While all trail badly among Hispanics at this point, Trump does the worst — losing the Hispanic vote to Clinton by 73 to 16 percent. That 57-point gap is little changed from a 54-point deficit recorded last June, but is significantly wider than the 44-point margin by which former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney lost
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Why Does Hillary Clinton Champion Universal Pre-K, But Disregard Universal College?

Why Does Hillary Clinton Champion Universal Pre-K, But Disregard Universal College?

Hillary Clinton has made universal pre-k a major part of her campaign platform. She has thrown her support behind this ambitious policy proposal because she believes that it would offer “better prospects for lifelong economic opportunity.” She laments how “only 55 percent of all America’s 3 and 4 year olds are enrolled in preschool.” And predictably, lower income families are the most affected. Only 64 percent of four-year-olds from families making 50-60k a year are able to attend preschool . That’s well below the rate of attendance for families making more than $100,000 (89 percent). What’s worse? The rest of the developed world is passing us by. As Clinton notes, “many of our economic competitors are racing ahead. They are making big investments in preschool and early education.” If America wants to remain competitive, she implores that we must “ensure that every 4-year-old in America has access to high-quality preschool in the next 10 years.” Her argument for universalizing pre-k is extremely well made and convincing. I agree with her – “every child should have the tools and skills to thrive in tomorrow’s economy, especially those kids from our most vulnerable and at-risk communities.” But couldn’t all of these points be equally applied to free college? In fact, the Bernie Sanders campaign uses Hillary’s exact arguments for universal pre-k to advocate for tuition free college. According to Sanders, “in a highly competitive global economy, we need the best-educated workforce in the world.” Sound familiar? Bernie’s free college plan would originate from federal funding, where “ the federal government would pay $2 in matching funds for every dollar states spend on making tuition free at public colleges and universities . In a similar vein, Hillary’s pre-k plan would be achieved “by providing new federal funding for states that expand access to high quality preschool.” Their implementation is nearly indistinguishable. At this point, Hillary would probably retort that implementing free college would be far more difficult than universalizing pre-k. This, however, would be a broad generalization that doesn’t match the reality. For there are those within the
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Daily Clips: February 24th, 2016

Daily Clips: February 24th, 2016

Twilight of the Super PAC:   Super PACs are new phenomena in American politics. They are a product of two judicial decisions : the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, delivered in January 2010, and the D.C. Circuit’s decision in Speechnow.org v. Federal Election Commission, two months later. Together, these two decisions enabled the creation of a new entity: a political action committee that could accept unlimited donations so long as it did not coordinate its expenditure with any political campaign… Disgust with the costly ineffectiveness of super PACs may explain one of the most important mysteries of the current phase of the 2016 campaign. Bill Gates says the energy breakthrough that will “save our planet” is less than 15 years away:  Ezra Klein talks with Gates at length (forty minutes) about technology, innovation, and energy. As you may expect, the conversation is riveting. Here are some tidbits from the interview I found particularly interesting (and relates to our robots and automation podcast where we address Gates’ dystopian visions): EK: I know you take the risk of creating artificial intelligence that ultimately turns against us pretty seriously; I’m curious where you think we are in terms of building artificial intelligence. I know there’s a lot of disagreement in the field about, are we 40 years away? Are we 500 years away? What do you think is the state of AI research right now, and when do you think it will really begin feeding back into the economy and into innovation? BG: Well, with robotics, you have to think of three different milestones. One is just pure labor substitution for jobs that are largely physical and visual manipulation — driving, security guard, warehouse work, waiter, maid. That threshold — I don’t think you’d get much disagreement that over the next 15 years the robotic equivalents in terms of cost, in terms of reliability, will become a substitute to those activities. So that’s the first stage, and you’d
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Daily Clips: February 23rd, 2016

Daily Clips: February 23rd, 2016

David Brooks pontificates about marriage:  Of course he does. The guy cannot write a column without the words “moral” and “spiritual.” Get a load of this generalization he endorses from psychologist Eli Finkel: The best marriages today are better than the best marriages of generations ago; the worst marriages now are worse; over all, the average marriage is weaker than the average marriage in days of yore. Does he provide any specific data to back up such an anecdotal claim? Of course not. Also, check out this amazing reader comment: One of the most popular forms of marriage until recently was the ‘shotgun’ marriage, where marriage proposals took the form of coitus pregnantus, and a lifelong union was born, for better or for worse. Many of these marriages lasted a lifetime, and many caused a lifetime of utter misery. Fortunately, thanks to the waning hypnotic power of both religious prisons and traditional misogyny and modern contraception – including a woman’s right to manage her own body parts – the ‘shotgun’ wedding has mostly been relegated to America’s Bible Belt where the dynamic duo of abstinence ‘sex education’ and Bible Study still seems to produce a bumper crop of impregnated teenage girls, forced pregnancies and shattered economic futures.   Congress has only now banned slave labor in US imports:  TIL. US consumer confidence ebbs:  Worries of a recession coupled with “relentless declines in oil prices” contributed to a fade in consumer confidence this month. The Conference Board Consumer reported that its consumer confidence index “fell to 92.2 from a reading of 97.8 in January.”

Daily Clips: February 22nd, 2016

Daily Clips: February 22nd, 2016

Donald Trump’s rise is a scary moment in America: Yesterday, Vox uploaded this gorgeous video which outlines the absurdity of Trump’s campaign and its implications for our country. It’s extremely well produced and Ezra Klein does a great job of explaining why a Trump presidency could be so dangerous. Can Sandy Hook families hold the gun industry accountable?   The most chilling legacy of the entrustment of AR-15s to the general population may be that Americans are no longer shocked when combat weapons are used to kill people as they work, shop, commute, attend school, and otherwise go about their lives. We may be horrified, saddened, even sickened, but we can no longer be shocked,” lawyers wrote in their filing. Center for American Progress’ Neera Tanden talks Hillary:  Tanden has worked with Hillary Clinton during various stages of her political career. Consequently, the Center for American Progress Executive Director can offer some interesting insights into Hillary’s mind. No doubt, there are plenty of men who have been fierce and laudable advocates for women’s issues. But I know from my many years in Washington that when setting priorities and creating an agenda, it matters who sits around the table. We’ve accomplished so much for women over the last few decades, but we’re still far from where we should be. We’ve fallen short on ensuring equal pay and protecting reproductive rights. And we remain the world’s only developed nation that doesn’t guarantee the basic protection of paid family leave to its citizens. If we want to make meaningful progress, we need more than just promises and policy proposals.

We’ve Got A New Podcast Episode Out! This Time We Look At Robots & Automation

We’ve Got A New Podcast Episode Out! This Time We Look At Robots & Automation

February 19, 2016 Nick Cassella
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Whenever we talk about raising the minimum wage, some supply-sider/trickle-downer/Jeb! supporter always shoots back that if we raise wages, employers will automate low-wage workers out of a livelihood. So on the latest episode of The Other Washington,...