Posts by Nick Cassella

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,...

Democrats Are Holding Back The Economy By Not Advocating For Free College

Democrats Are Holding Back The Economy By Not Advocating For Free College

After endorsing Hillary Clinton, Representative Jim Clyburn (D-SC) thought it righteous and necessary to come out against the idea of free college – a clear response to Bernie Sanders’ “socialist” proposal. Here are Clyburn’s  incredibly shallow, ahisotrical, and insulting reasons to deny such a right: Well, let me put it this way. I do not believe there are any free lunches and certainly there’s not going to be any free education. I have made the White House aware of my disenchantment with the proposal they came out with because I do believe we ought to make education affordable. But I think for you to believe that they’re going to make education free, I don’t think that’s going to happen, not in my lifetime, and not in my children’s lifetime. What a dreamer. Seriously though, Clyburn’s comments are very disappointing. They come at a time where the average student now exits college with $35,051 in student debt . Combine these record levels of debt with stagnant wages and rising tuition and you wonder what world Clyburn is living in. How does he find the gall to tell young people that there isn’t such a thing as a “free lunch?” Tell that to Wall Street. Or the American auto industry. Believe me, young people in America know they aren’t getting a free lunch. While Clyburn and many Congressional Democrats advocate for lowering student interest rates to 4.5 percent (oh goodie!), do they not recognize that such policy prescriptions have almost no inspirational quality? How will that stop college tuition from increasing year after year? How will that ease the burden of ever-expanding student debt? As we often say here at Civic Skunk Works, civic innovation must keep pace with the times. If it does not, our society falls behind. We don’t get the outcomes we desire. Clyburn and Clinton need to recognize that reality as they lecture young people about college affordability.
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Daily Clips: February 19th, 2016

Daily Clips: February 19th, 2016

How student debt impacts Americans:  According to census data, “African-American and Latino families have the lowest median incomes in the United States.” These lower-income families with smaller debts “have difficulty paying back the loans,” whereas higher-income families have higher debt because “people in high-income areas are more likely to go to more expensive schools and pursue graduate degrees.” Krugman’s variety of voodoo economics: By endorsing outlandish economic claims, the Sanders campaign is basically signaling that it doesn’t believe its program can be sold on the merits, that it has to invoke a growth miracle to minimize the downsides of its vision. It is, in effect, confirming its critics’ worst suspicions. Oregon just passed the highest state minimum wage in the country: It is also the first ever statewide minimum wage system that will be tiered, with different wage levels for different regions. Over the next six years, Oregon’s already high minimum of $9.25 per hour (only eight states and Washington, D.C., have equal or higher minimums right now, according to EPI ’s minimum wage tracker) will “jump to $14.75 in metro Portland, $13.50 in smaller cities such as Salem and Eugene, and $12.50 in rural communities by 2022,” according to the Guardian . This will reportedly result in raises for more than 100,000 workers. Tweet of the day: If you were to squeeze all of the decency and good intentions out of Richard Nixon all that would remain would be @tedcruz . — John Nichols (@NicholsUprising) February 19, 2016