Daily Clips: October 8th, 2015

Daily Clips: October 8th, 2015

It’s getting harder to move beyond a minimum-wage job: “Minimum-wage jobs are meant to be the first rung on a career ladder, a chance for entry-level workers to prove themselves before earning a promotion or moving on to other, better-paying jobs. But a growing number of Americans are getting stuck on that first rung for years, if they ever move up at all.” According to Five Thirty Eight’s Ben Casselman, the minimum wage is no longer a useful stepping stone to better paying jobs. In the past twenty years, the job ladder in America has developed an increasing gap between the bottom and middle rung. Gallup says it’s done with horse race politics:  Gallup has been the “elder statesman” of presidential primary polling, performing research on races since the 1940s. But all good things must come to an end. Gallup’s editor, Christopher Newport, admitted that the changing interest of Americans and the cost of developing such polling were big factors. (Though I believe it may also have something to do with their awful 2012 polling accuracy .) “We believe to put our time and money and brainpower into understanding the issues and priorities is where we can most have an impact,” Newport told Politico. Hold the gunmakers accountable:  EJ Dionne talks about the need to “hold those who make  billions of dollars from the sale of firearms accountable for what their products do to individuals and communities.” That is an interesting approach to gun violence and one that differs from more inter-personal solutions like background checks. Instead, Dionne is calling for corporate responsibility, noting: Responsible business people care about the well-being of their communities and live with all sorts of health and safety regulations. They above all should see how profoundly misguided it is that one of the least accountable industries in the United States involves enterprises selling products that kill people. Seattle tries to keep its soul in the midst of a tech boom:  Prosperity often leads to rising costs of living and Seattle is currently experiencing this negative aspect of
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Only Seattleites Get to Decide Whether Seattle’s $15 Minimum Wage Succeeds or Fails

Only Seattleites Get to Decide Whether Seattle’s $15 Minimum Wage Succeeds or Fails

I recently took some time to preemptively fend off future attacks on Seattle’s $15 minimum wage ordinance, pointing out that our local economy is currently so outlandishly strong that there’s almost nowhere for unemployment to go but up. Seattle’s current 3.15% unemployment rate has never proven to be sustainable in the past, and is unlikely to prove sustainable into the future. So when we do eventually see a bump in unemployment—and we will (be it in absolute terms or just relative to the larger state economy)—it will on its own be evidence of absolutely nothing. As I explained last week: The real measure of Seattle’s minimum wage experiment is not whether our jobs numbers tick up or down relative to some cherry-picked starting point or some arbitrary low-wage city comparison. The real measure of success is whether Seattle can sustain a reasonably healthy and robust economy while providing all our workers a livable wage. And if that seems like an intentionally vague metric, well, that’s exactly the point: I reject the very notion that numbers alone can provide an objective measure of what is ultimately a subjective experience. For example, let’s say through some sort of statistical magic you really could divine that Seattle’s unemployment rate would otherwise be a half point lower if not for the “disemployment effect” of our higher minimum wage. Would that prove our $15 minimum wage a failure? Or might Seattleites be perfectly willing to choose, say, a $15 minimum wage and 3.65% unemployment over a $10 minimum wage and 3.15% unemployment? Of course, we make economic choices like this all the time. Charged with balancing inflation versus unemployment, the Federal Reserve has long tilted toward maintaining low inflation, routinely adjusting interest rates and money supply accordingly. The fed could choose to raise its inflation target above 2% in pursuit of a tighter labor market and higher wages. But despite decades of stagnant wages, it hasn’t.
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People Magazine Leads the Public Conversation on Guns

People Magazine Leads the Public Conversation on Guns

If you asked me last week to predict which national magazine would lead the fight against gun violence, People would have most definitely not have appeared on my short list. But this is our world now, apparently : In this issue we pay tribute to the nine Oregon victims, as well as 22 other men, women and children who’ve lost their lives in mass shootings – incidents where a murderer has opened fire on a crowd – in the U.S. during the past 12 months. … We need to know that our representatives in Washington, D.C., are looking for solutions and not giving up, and they need to know if we agree or disagree with their strategies. Below, we’ve provided phone numbers, email addresses (provided by the Sunlight Foundation’s OpenCongress project) and Twitter handles (when available) for all 535 voting members of the House and Senate. Let’s make sure they know that from now on, “routine” responses just won’t cut it. That’s People editorial director Jess Cagle, leading the way on gun responsibility. In fact, Cagle even correctly identifies the number of people who have died due to gun violence in America this year by including suicide and domestic violence statistics in his tally*. (That number, in case you haven’t read Cagle’s editorial, is 10,006. That’s 10,006 people shot dead in America this year so far.) When even our celebrity gossip magazines can’t sit quietly by and allow this massacre to happen, you know we’ve reached a turning point. Everybody knows America has a gun problem. The only people who refuse to act are our representatives, and the only way to make them listen is by repeatedly bringing the conversation to them. I never thought I’d write this sentence, but: Good job, People magazine! Way to lead by example! * Why wouldn’t you include every person
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35% of Americans think mass shootings are “just a fact of life”

35% of Americans think mass shootings are “just a fact of life”

Earlier this week, I pointed out that the American people are complicit in the gun violence epidemic which cripples this nation every single day. Unfortunately, our citizens aren’t losing any sleep over this. In fact, they are utterly abdicating responsibility on the matter. A recent YouGov poll  shows that  over a third of our nation  believes that mass shootings are “just a fact of life in America today.” What’s worse, fewer than half of Americans believe that mass shootings can be stopped. As Americans, we should be ashamed of ourselves and our inability to confront this issue at all. We upturned the Middle East and shredded habeas corpus because 2,977 innocent Americans were killed in the horrific 9/11 attacks. And yet every single year we sit back and accept 30,000 gun deaths?  Gun violence has now killed 428 times more Americans over the last decade than terrorism.  And we’re supposed to believe that this a “just a part of life” in the so-called greatest country on earth? Here at Civic Skunk Works, we lambasted Jeb Bush  last week for shrugging his shoulders in response to the UCC shooting and grumbling, “Stuff happens.” Yet, this YouGov poll indicates his callous reaction actually represents many Americans. If that doesn’t get your blood boiling, I don’t know what will. “Every nation gets the government it deserves,” said the political philosopher,  Joseph de Maistre . Ultimately, this country will continue to be ravaged by gun violence if we continue to elect leaders who do nothing to address this epidemic. If you vote for individuals who are gun responsibility skeptics, you need to consider the implications of your vote. As President Obama advised the nation , “Our thoughts and prayers are not enough.”

Daily Clips: October 7th, 2015

Daily Clips: October 7th, 2015

Bernie Sanders nets his first congressional endorsement:  While Bernie can pack stadiums full of supporters, he has had a very difficult time of securing support from his colleagues on Capitol Hill. In fact, up until today Sanders was behind Martin O’Malley on the “ endorsement count ” – yes, that same O’Malley who basically has zero national support at this time. Bernie’s first congressional endorsement will come from Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, who is a “member Congressional Hispanic Caucus and is expected to help Sanders’ outreach to Latino voters.” What if the House can’t elect a new speaker?  An interesting article from The Atlantic on the internal politics of electing a new Speaker of the House. Front-runner, Kevin McCarthy, needs 218 votes to earn the new position, however it looks like the Tea Party members will do everything they can to not make that happen. As per usual, chaos rules the day in this pathetic branch of government. Stuff happens to the environment…like climate change:   Thomas Friedman has written a rousing piece on climate change and the danger of completely ignoring the science on this issue. He warns, “The next eight years will be critical for the world’s climate and ecosystems, and if you vote for a climate skeptic for president, you’d better talk to your kids first, because you will have to answer to them later.” Powerful stuff. Clinton starting to distance herself from Obama:  It was inevitable that we would see Clinton distance herself from Obama on certain policies and so far, she has done so admirably. However, she needs to be careful to not completely disavow the president. As the author notes: Putting distance between herself and the president she used to serve as the nation’s top diplomat has risks, particularly among voters who helped elect Obama and still support him. But Clinton is seeking to chart her own policy agenda — more liberal on many fronts and more hawkish on others — and reassert control of the primary
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Ben Carson Keeps Establishing New Lows in the Gun Responsibility Debate

Ben Carson Keeps Establishing New Lows in the Gun Responsibility Debate

I must admit to feeling kindly toward Ben Carson. Unless he’s spreading nonsense about vaccines , Carson is an amusing standout among the Republican presidential candidates. His slow speaking style has been a refreshing change of pace during the Republican presidential debates, and his weird, dumb mistakes seem kind of amusing to me. He’s always struck me as harmless enough, especially since he’s never actually going to win the Republican nomination. But Carson has finally said too much. He’s no longer amusing. Last night, Carson wrote about the Oregon mass shooting on his Facebook page , and he said something unbelievably stupid: As a Doctor, I spent many a night pulling bullets out of bodies. There is no doubt that this senseless violence is breathtaking – but I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away. Today, Carson told USA Today that his solution for mass shootings in schools involves putting police on campuses, or arming kindergarten teachers: “If I had a little kid in kindergarten somewhere I would feel much more comfortable if I knew on that campus there was a police officer or somebody who was trained with a weapon,” he says. Including the teacher? “If the teacher was trained in the use of that weapon and had access to it, I would be much more comfortable if they had one than if they didn’t.” But probably the most breathtakingly dumb thing Carson has said so far is this morning’s comment to Fox & Friends on what he’d do if he were in a place where a mass shooting was happening: “Not only would I probably not cooperate with him, I would not just stand there and let him shoot me,” Carson, a presidential candidate who leads in several polls, said on national television. “I would say, ‘Hey guys, everybody attack him. He may
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Daily Clips: October 6th, 2015

Daily Clips: October 6th, 2015

Lindsey Graham is a hypocrite when it comes to federal aid:  For those of you who do not know, Senator Graham voted against extending federal aid to those states effected by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. And wouldn’t you know it, just three years later he has called for an unlimited amount of federal resources to aid his state due to the flooding. In fact, when talking to Wolf Blitzer he completely feigned ignorance on his previous vote, saying, “Anyway, I don’t really recall [voting against Hurricane Sandy aid], but I’d be glad to look and tell you why I did vote no, if I did.” How pathetic. This hack is a supposed to be a Christian and yet he can’t even follow the Golden Rule. 90 percent of Americans want universal background checks on all gun purchases:  PolitiFact looked at this statement and rated it “True.” Their analysis is, per usual, excellent and offers this tidbit about Texas’ views on background checks: And in Texas? A February 2013 University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll of 1,200 Texas voters found 78 percent of respondents somewhat or strongly supporting criminal and mental health background checks for all U.S. gun purchases, including at gun shows and for private sales. Hillary Clinton just made a Benghazi ad: Kevin McCarthy’s truthful gaffe last week has opened up a new opportunity for Hillary to strike back against the Benghazi committee. Before the Democratic debate on October 13th (and her appearance in front of the House committee on October 22nd), she has released an ad which attacks Republicans for wasting $4.5 million of tax payer money on a partisan adventure. You can watch it here: America’s fragile Constitution: If you can read one piece on American politics today, I’d recommend this article by Yoni Appelbaum. I warn you: it’s long. But it takes a deep dive into the history of our democracy and the nature of leadership. Like all good written works, it makes you feel uncomfortable and challenges you with new perspectives. A must
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Striking French Workers Tear the Shirts Off Air France Executives

Striking French Workers Tear the Shirts Off Air France Executives

I can’t stop thinking about this slideshow in The Atlantic showing angry crowds of union activists literally tearing the shirts off the backs of Air France executives. These are powerful images, especially toward the end of the slideshow, when you see middle-aged men wearing scraps of clothing—a tie, a cuff from a shirt—being helped over a fence to escape the angry mobs. It’s an astonishing piece of photojournalism, a dramatic and discomfiting representation of very real problems happening in France right now. Perhaps for obvious reasons, these photos keep swirling around in my head with the news that former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke admitted that “more corporate executives should have gone to jail for their misdeeds” in the Great Recession of 2008. Of course, this should not be a controversial statement, but given how intensely people agitated for prosecution in the case of corporate malfeasance at the time, and given how little action the government actually took, it’s actually fairly explosive. And the combination of these two stories popping up in the same twenty-four hour period has me thinking about Civic Ventures co-founder Nick Hanauer’s piece “ The Pitchforks Are Coming…for Us Plutocrats .” But the problem isn’t that we have inequality. Some inequality is intrinsic to any high-functioning capitalist economy. The problem is that inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution. And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last. If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society
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Our gun violence paradox: How the US government undermines the protection of Americans

Our gun violence paradox: How the US government undermines the protection of Americans

While listening to President Obama’s moving press conference after the UCC shooting, my interest was piqued by a phrase he used to describe the tragic situation. In exasperated tones, he asserted , “[Gun violence] is something we should politicize. It is relevant to our common life together. To the body politic.” It’s been awhile since I’ve heard the term “body politic” referenced by a politician and its appearance in Obama’s remarks gave me pause. Here was a leader pleading for his nation to examine the motivations behind joining in “common life together.” In essence, he was asking us to consider: What is the primary duty of government?  At first, it sounds like a daunting question, but it is a question that has been answered many times by our nation’s presidents – and unvaryingly so.  Thomas Jefferson  wrote about the deontological priorites of our government, claiming, “[It is the obligation] of every government to yield protection to their citizens as the consideration for their obedience.” Ronald Reagan admitted, “Government’s first duty is to protect the people…” So, too, did George W. Bush : “I believe the most solemn duty of the American president is to protect the American people.” And so has our current president : “If the people cannot trust their government to do the job for which it exists – to protect them and to promote their common welfare – all else is lost.” So, if the safeguarding of Americans is our government’s first duty, we are confronted with a paradox: What happens when the American people elect representatives who support policies which actively undermine the protection of Americans? Lest you think that question is hypothetical, it is not; it represents what is happening in America today with gun violence. Since 9/11, more than 150,000 Americans have been killed in gun homicides alone. As Fareed Zakaria highlights , that’s equivalent to nearly three Vietnams…in a 14 year span. Pull back the curtain even further and the image
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Daily Clips: October 5th, 2015

Daily Clips: October 5th, 2015

994 mass shootings in 1,004 days: The Guardian compiled data on our nation’s gun violence epidemic and, to put it frankly, it’s deeply depressing. They define a mass shooting as having “four or more people shot in once incident” and after applying these parameters their findings reveal that a mass shooting occurs almost every day in this nation. John Oliver exposes the hypocrisy of politicians who blame shootings on the mentally ill: Believe me, this segment is worth your time. John Oliver is a genius. Hillary Clinton’s crackdown on guns would bypass Congress:  Good for Hillary. She isn’t shying away from the issues of gun control. In fact, she’s outright going to politicize the issue. Clinton would push for the following legislation if elected president, according to Jonathan Allen: 1. “Clinton would also back legislation closing the “Charleston loophole,” which federal officials say allowed the man accused of killing nine people in a South Carolina church earlier this year to obtain a gun. Under current law, a gun sale can go through if a background check isn’t completed within three days.” 2. “Clinton would support two other legislative efforts: to repeal the gun industry’s exemption from lawsuits against manufacturers — an exemption Bernie Sanders has supported — and to prevent stalkers and those convicted of abusing people they were dating from obtaining guns.” It’s interesting to consider that Clinton could use guns as an issue to make her look more progressive than Bernie Sanders. She may not have him on the economic populist language, but she could certainly surpass Sanders’ rhetoric and policies in the gun violence conversation . America needs to let go of its reverence for the bachelor’s degree:  The author, Mary Alice McCarthy, contends that “many high-school graduates must choose between two bad options: a four-year program for which they’re not academically or emotionally prepared, or job-specific training that might put a ceiling on their careers.” I certainly agree with the author’s exasperation. She laments how
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