Posts by Nick Cassella

Daily Clips: February 18th, 2016

Daily Clips: February 18th, 2016

Glenn Beck begs South Carolinians to support Ted Cruz – “Fall to your knees and pray to God to reveal to you what the hour is.” Or alternatively, look at your watch. Obama’s strategy with the Supreme Court:   One thing Obama is likely to try to do is to minimize substantive grounds for opposition. A sitting federal judge who attracted bipartisan support and generated little controversy during the process of his or her previous confirmation would be an ideal starting point. Another advantage to choosing a sitting federal judge is that such a candidate would be more likely to agree to be nominated. A judge currently in private practice or academia would have little incentive to go on leave and undergo a comprehensive vetting process for what is almost certainly a doomed nomination. A federal judge would already have been vetted, and would be able to stay on the bench with his or her nomination pending. Pope says Trump’s views are “not Christian”:  Pretty rich coming from a dude that continues to malevolently cover up child rape in his own church .

Daily Clips: February 17th, 2016

Daily Clips: February 17th, 2016

Hillary Clinton vows to solve racial disparities: Her plan is ambitious, I’ll giver her that. Clinton claimed that if elected “she would spend $2 billion to encourage public school districts with a high number of troubled students to hire social workers and other experts to help young people before they get entangled in the criminal justice system.” While that my sound impressive at first, the more one thinks about it, the less likely they are to feel this program is going to solve the systemic problems. It feels like a mere clog. For example, why not legalize marijuana as a way to make sure young men and women do not get “entangled in the criminal justice system?” After all, “ of the 8.2 million marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010, 88 percent were for simply having marijuana .” That seems like a policy change which would significantly decrease our grossly oversized prison population. These arrests also disproportionately impact Blacks. In fact, “despite roughly equal usage rates, Blacks are 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana.” Look, I understand that Clinton’s program would help. It just seems like she’s pandering to special interests in this scenario. We know where marijuana legalization is going. Why not get out in front of that issue and really help racial inequalities? Unfortunately, we know through her past that that’s a very difficult thing for Clinton to do as a politician. She has a lot of gifts – and caution is one of them. It can also make her appear incrementalist to a fault. Video of the day: Thomas Piketty on the rise of Bernie Sanders: the US enters a new political era Sanders’ success today shows that much of America is tired of rising inequality and these so-called political changes, and intends to revive both a progressive agenda and the American tradition of egalitarianism. Hillary Clinton, who fought to the left of Barack Obama in 2008 on topics such as health insurance, appears today as if she is defending the status quo, just another
+ Read More

This Is What Happens When The Free Market Has Its Way

This Is What Happens When The Free Market Has Its Way

This weekend I caught glimpse of a jarring Seattle Times headline – “ Pot products recalled for pesticides in Colorado, but not in Washington ”. Here, in 2016, was a perfect example of what industries will do when the free market “has its way.” The use of harmful pesticides on marijuana is hardly an anomaly. Over the course of history, we have seen that when businesses are given the freedom to either poison their consumers or not, the results have been disturbingly lopsided. Why is this so? The answers lie in the faulty assumptions of free market philosophy; the very theory which allows for industries to be free from government regulation. The core assumption of human rationality influencing consumer choices, first and foremost, seems to be responsible. The concept is simply unnatural. It assumes a consistent and pure level of rationality that does not exist in buying practices . Look, I understand why Baruch Spinoza, Thomas Jefferson, and Adam Smith loved equipping their fellow humans with a virtuous capability like rationality. They lived in times where the power of the individual was stunted by various forms of Christianity and monarchism. Their motivations were pure. And while casting humans as “rational beings” helped create a myriad of powerful political concepts, it has also helped prop up a quixotic understanding of political economy. After all, human decision making is complex. Humans are not dumb, but we are also prone to myopic choices. Even if we grant that humans always make rational choices, the consumer is often not given the opportunity to make fully informed decisions. That’s because without any government regulation, businesses are not required to let you know what is in their products. The marijuana example I mentioned earlier illustrates this hands off approach. So too is the recently passed “ Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act ” which argues that it’s simply too burdensome for businesses to inform consumers about what is in their food. Here’s Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) justification: The government should not be
+ Read More

Daily Clips: February 16th, 2016

Daily Clips: February 16th, 2016

Donald Trump is fanning conspiracy theories about Scalia’s death: Yes, you read that right. The GOP frontrunner is a “conspiracy theory aficionado” of sorts, so there’s really no reason why anyone should be surprised. A right wing radio host, Michael Savage, asked Trump about the circumstances of Scalia’s death. This is how Trump responded: I just landed, and I’m hearing it’s a big topic — that’s the question. And it’s a horrible topic, but they say they found a pillow on his face, which is a pretty unusual place to find a pillow. I can’t tell you what — I can’t give you an answer. You know usually I like to give you answers but I literally just heard it a little while ago. Talk about politicizing a death. The ugly political spectacle around Justice Scalia’s death:  Dana Milbank, as usual, delivers his opinion with great force. McConnell and his colleagues appear to be asserting that they won’t even consider a nominee — no hearings and no vote. This is a grim commentary on the current state of dysfunction in American government. If Republicans refuse to confirm an Obama nominee, they will almost certainly break the record for the longest vacancy on the court since the court expanded to nine members in 1869. And that delay — 391 days in 1969-1970, was because the Senate rejected two of Richard Nixon’s nominees, not because it wouldn’t take up any. We already had an election to decide who gets to appoint the next Supreme Court justice. It was in 2012.   Unfortunately, a strategy of obstruction without regard to consequence is not new. There are also 34 judicial nominees to other federal courts pending, including four to circuit courts of appeals. Yet no votes are scheduled, and this Senate is on pace to confirm the fewest judges in a two-year congress since 1951-52. Even in the minority, Republicans worked to block President Obama’s judicial nominees, including in 2013, when they filibustered three nominees to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.
+ Read More

Daily Clips: February 12th, 2016

Daily Clips: February 12th, 2016

Weekly David Brooks analysis:  Yes, it’s that time of the week again! In this column, Brooks is stunned that Bernie is upset with the economic status quo. And he can’t get over why millennials buy this stance. It’s amazing that a large part of the millennial generation has rejected this consensus. In supporting Bernie Sanders they are not just supporting a guy who is mad at Wall Street. They are supporting a guy who fundamentally wants to reshape the American economic system, and thus reshape American culture and values. As he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos , he wants to make us more like northern Europe. And this: Fourth, Sanders would Europeanize American public universities. It sounds great to make college free. In fact, it’s a hugely expensive program that would mostly benefit the already affluent. It would create, as in Germany , a legion of eternal students who have little incentive to leave school because the costs are so low. It would give Washington officials greater control over state universities, determining what sort of faculty they could hire and what sort of programs they could run. It would threaten hundreds of private colleges, which could no longer compete against the completely subsidized state system. It would reduce the pressures universities now feel to reform themselves because it would cushion them with federal largess. Slowly, American universities would look more like their European counterparts. They’d be less good. I love how Brooks is worried about the poor “private colleges” and how free college would effect them. Screw the American students who have to pull out $50,000 in loans! The real victims are institutions that hoard $38 billion and still make their students pay for tuition . He concludes: It’s amazing that so many young people want to mimic a continent that has been sluggish for decades. It’s amazing that so many look to the future and want a country that would be a lot less vibrant. Wait, is
+ Read More

Daily Clips: February 11th, 2016

Daily Clips: February 11th, 2016

Low US jobless claims underscore labor market strength:  Amidst all of the chatter about the 2016 primaries, the US economy’s labor market continues to show signs of growth – an excellent figure for Democrats and their chances to retain the White House. “The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week,” reports Reuters. This news suggests “the labor market remains on solid footing despite slowing economic growth and a stock market rout.” Elizabeth Warren urges CDC to look at marijuana as a potential fix to prescription painkiller epidemic:  I wonder what industry would hate to see marijuana legalized? I don’t know, maybe the industry that is profiting off the constipation caused by opioids… To be clear: The opioid CONSTIPATION market is expected to hit $500 million by 2019. — Matt Pearce (@mattdpearce) February 11, 2016 Marco Rubio’s tax plan would increase the deficit by $8.2 trillion: That’s…something. Let’s see how David Brooks spins Rubio’s trickle-down budget.

Daily Clips: February 10th, 2016

Daily Clips: February 10th, 2016

New Hampshire women chose Bernie in a landslide:   Sanders won 53 percent of the female vote compared to Clinton’s 46 percent, according to exit poll analysis by ABC News. Among young women, Sanders’ numbers were even higher: 69 percent of Democratic women under 45 backed him in the primary, a statistic which includes 82 percent of female primary voters under the age of 30… These results are incredible. I was explaining this phenomena to my father the other day, and he admitted that he couldn’t wrap his head around why young women weren’t voting for Hillary Clinton. And it’s not like they’re voting for Elizabeth Warren either. They are voting for an old white man. Why? One theory I have is that women under 45 probably feel very comfortable that they will have many opportunities to nominate a female presidential candidate in their lifetime. The same cannot be said for older women who 1) see this as a novelty and 2) probably don’t feel like they’ll have many more opportunities to nominate a woman. (See Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright.) Here’s an excellent overview of last night’s results:  “The tight grip of oligarchy upon the American political system slipped a little last night in New Hampshire.” Hillary’s “do-not-panic” memo:  Chris Cillizza annotates the memo, highlighting specific passages and what they “actually” mean. A very good read to get inside the mind of the Clinton campaign.

Daily Clips: February 9th, 2016

Daily Clips: February 9th, 2016

President Obama’s budget calls for a new wage insurance program. Here’s what that means:  Matthew Yglesias outlines Obama’s plan to bolster wage insurance in a succinct fashion, making this complicated subject easy to comprehend. The basic idea is that you would get 50 percent of the difference between your old salary and your new salary in the form of a check coming out of your state’s unemployment insurance program. The fine print: You have to have worked at least three years at your old job. Your new job must pay less than $50,000 a year. The maximum amount of money available is $10,000 over two years. So if you worked for three years at a job that paid you $55,000 a year, got laid off, and then took a new position that pays $45,000 a year, you could get $5,000 a year in wage insurance for two years while you build skills and experience in your new position. David Brooks spins Rubio’s flub in a hilarious way: By now, you’ve heard of Marco Rubio repeating himself (nearly verbatim) four times over the course of the last debate. So, did those pathetic gaffes make Brooks rethink his support? Of course not! Listen to his rationalization: I happen to find it charming that Marco Rubio gets nervous on the big occasions — that he grabs for the bottle of water, breaks out in a sweat and went robotic in the last debate. It shows Rubio is a normal person. If by “normal person” you mean someone that doesn’t answer the question and regurgitates talking points that are vague and unspecific, then sure, he’s normal. Elizabeth Warren’s endorsement matters: So why is she holding back? It’s a question that has been tossed around by many progressives. Some are frustrated, others suspicious. The fact remains, her endorsement will be a huge boost for either Hillary or Bernie. Here’s an interesting passage from the piece: Most importantly, Warren can afford to wait
+ Read More

Jeb! Says Taxing Millionaires Will Hurt The Middle Class

Jeb! Says Taxing Millionaires Will Hurt The Middle Class

The last GOP debate was a lot like previous ones. There were ad hominem attacks, cries about Hillary Clinton’s emails, and general frustration with the trajectory of the country. Rinse and repeat, RNC. That said, for once there was a fantastic question about millionaires and their taxes. About halfway through the debate, ABC’s David Muir asked Marco Rubio, “A recent poll [shows that] 68 percent of Americans favor raising taxes on people making more than $1 million a year. Are they wrong?” Now, if you were Marco Rubio how would you answer this? Remember, his campaign is propped up by very rich people who want to maintain the status quo. In fact, Marco Rubio’s super PAC just “ won major donations from conservative hedge fund billionaires Paul Singer and Ken Griffin .” Those donations came with some strings attached, let me tell you. So, how do you answer this question when you are funded by millionaires/billionaires who don’t want to see their taxes increase? Well, you just completely ignore the question. Look at Rubio’s reply: I don’t know of any problem in America that’s going to be fixed with a tax increase. We have an economy today…that is not creating jobs that pay enough. And one of the reasons why is because we have one of the most expensive business tax rates on the planet. Our combined business rate puts us among the highest in the industrialized world. And then on top of that, we are the only one that has a worldwide system of taxation, where an American company who makes money abroad has to pay taxes where they made the money and then taxes a second time when they bring it back. Notice how Marco doesn’t address individual tax rates, but instead pivots to business taxes. The moderators, being as pathetic as usual, don’t hold him accountable for his complete non-answer. They switch to Jeb! Again, they
+ Read More

Daily Clips: February 8th, 2016

Daily Clips: February 8th, 2016

Why economists don’t know how to think about growth:  At Evonomics there is a really interesting interview with Fritjof Capra, an Austrian physicist. Capra, like Nick Hanauer, argues that we need to judge economic success not on “quantitive growth” (like GDP, unemployment etc) and instead focus on qualitative indicators like poverty, healthy, and education. If this leap makes you uncomfortable, you’re not alone. For a very long time, economics has been analyzed through quantitative lenses. This is a mistake, says Capra, because an economy is like an ecology and “ecologists use multiple indicators to map the interplay of growth and decay, of expansion and maturation.” Such thinking can and should be applied to economics, he argues. Capra also believes that neoliberal economists are obsessed with quantitative growth “which is manifestly unsustainable.” He warns that “we urgently need to shift to criteria of qualitative growth and development, most of which are non-financial, to overcome our multi-faceted global crisis.” Bernie and the New Left:  There is a “generation gap as wide as the Grand Canyon” which has opened up between the Democratic Party and American liberalism, says Harold Meyerson. Why is that so? One reason is that “there’s been the emergence of a distinct civi left, as the nation’s big cities have come under Democratic control. Today, 27 of the nation’s 30 largest cities have Democratic mayors, the greatest partisan imbalance, possibly, since before the advent of Jacksonian democracy.” Meyerson argues that “in city after city, with variations based on the cities’ demographics, these coalitions tend to consist of immigrant rights and advocacy groups; civil rights organizations; environmental activists, and – usually the main funders and key player – unions.” The author also points out that the future looks bright for socialism in America. In 2011, a Pew Research Center poll showed that “49 percent of Americans under 30 had a positive view of socialism – more
+ Read More