Daily Clips: December 15th, 2015

Daily Clips: December 15th, 2015

American kids are graduating from high school at record rates:   The U.S. high school graduation rate reached another record high in the 2013-14 school year, with teens graduating at 82 percent, the U.S. Department of Education announced Tuesday. Further, the achievement gap in graduation rates between black and white students and white and Hispanic students continues to narrow. Debates help fuel strong interest in 2016 campaign:  So says Pew Research, noting how “74% of Americans say they have given a lot or some thought to the candidates, higher than the shares saying this at comparable points in the past two presidential campaigns.” For comparison, “in December 2007 – the most recent election in which there were contested nominations in both parties – just 43% reported watching any of the debates.” Justice Ginsburg’s ominous warning about creeping corporate power:  I must admit that before I read this article, I had never heard of DIRECTV v Imburgia. This Supreme Court case was the first divided decision of the current SCOTUS term. On the surface, not very much is at stake in DIRECTV. The company allegedly charged early termination fees that violate California law. If the plaintiffs win, they get their fees back. So this is hardly a case where some innocent’s life or livelihood is at stake. However, “if you’re a business looking for new ways to squeeze money out of your consumers without having to worry about whether doing so is illegal, than you had a very good day in the Supreme Court on Monday.” Silence from Republicans on the Paris agreement:  Sorry Marco Rubio et al, you’re going to have a hard time convincing the American people that you are the “ party of the future ” when you still doubt man-made climate change. These outdated opinions on climate also do not sit well with the American public. According to the New York Times’ Editorial Board, “ about two-thirds of Americans want the United States to join an international pact to curb the growth of greenhouse gas emissions.” I’ll be keeping my eye on this
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Remember when 2016 was supposed to be about the economy?

Remember when 2016 was supposed to be about the economy?

I’ll admit that “5% unemployment and $38 oil will bring about our nastiest politics” wasn’t my expectation in 2011-12. — Conor Sen (@conorsen) December 7, 2015 The American economy, while certainly not perfect, is at least performing better than most expected. (Remember when Mitt Romney promised to bring unemployment down to 6 percent by 2016 ?) In fact, the very existence of our economy also flies in the face of Republican forecasts about Obama’s tyrannical rule of America. Here’s a brief refresher of what the GOP predicted  a couple of years ago: Obamacare will “destroy our economy…It’s going to push us into a total economic collapse.” The 2009 stimulus bill is “affirmatively job killing” and “about to get worse.” The US is about to go through “ the Great Depression times 100 .” Clearly, none of those statements were 1) true and 2) ever came to transpire. So, it should come as a surprise to no one that the GOP has pivoted from the economy as the “central issue” of the 2016 election and now gone full terrorism-mode. Donald Trump and his dire rhetoric has dragged his competition down to his level (or the base’s level). Therefore, Republican candidates have been forced to talk non-stop about the threat of terrorism, in order to appear “presidential.” As a result, economic discussions have largely been thrown to the wayside. Unfortunately, the GOP’s incessant chatter on the subject of terrorism has greatly impacted the American psyche. According to a recent Gallup survey , Americans now see terrorism as the number one problem facing the country. As Politico notes: The share of Americans worried about terrorism has not been this high since the mid-2000s, when 19 percent said it was the most important issue after the 2004 Madrid train bombings and 17 percent in the wake of the 2005 London bus and subway bombings. Notably, the survey showed that the economy’s importance in the minds of Americans has fallen to an eight
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Today, the City Council Is Considering a Bill That Would Let Rideshare Drivers Unionize

Today, the City Council Is Considering a Bill That Would Let Rideshare Drivers Unionize

Corey Fedde at the Christian Science Monitor says : Seattle City Council member Mike O’Brien has proposed a bill to help Uber and Lyft drivers to unionize in Seattle. The proposed bill would provide a route to collective bargaining and could have dramatic impact on the ride-service and taxi industries. If passed, Seattle would be the first city in the nation to legally mandate the right to unionize for drivers using ride share web applications. The bill is being discussed today in Council chambers. This is a big deal. Mike Isaac, Nick Wingfield, and Noam Scheiber explain why it’s important in the New York Times . They open their story with a driver named Don Creery who invested in a new car because his work for Uber and Lyft was paying so well. Of course, things went awry: Since then, Uber and Lyft have cut the rates they charge passengers for rides and ended the incentives used to recruit drivers. Mr. Creery said he now has to drive 10 to 12 hours a day to make the amount of money he once did working six to eight hours. It’s because of experiences like Creery’s that the bill is being disussed. Civic Skunkworks co-founder Nick Hanauer was quoted in the same New York Times article, calling the bid to unionize a “step in the right direction in terms of trying to bring some sanity and balance to these new business models.” Of course, if you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know that Hanauer and SEIU 775NW president David Rolf also proposed another solution for the problem of the sharing economy. It’s called a Shared Security System , and it would ensure that workers in the sharing economy would enjoy the same benefits and pay as workers in more traditional circumstances. This isn’t a punitive measure for businesses in the sharing economy, it’s a way to
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Daily Clips: December 14th, 2015

Daily Clips: December 14th, 2015

Congress could renew solar & wind tax credits:  The renewable energy sector may be getting a wonderful present this holiday season. Congressional Democrats may be open to lifting the US crude oil export ban in exchange for long-term extensions of the wind and solar tax credits. These tax credits are set to expire at the end of 2016 and so renewing them would provide a greater sense of stability to the renewable energy sector. Environmentalists will most likely not celebrate this development, however this agreement could “ actually be a huge boost to the renewable industry in 2017 and beyond, and thus actually help continue accelerating the switch to renewables long term.Hillary Clinton is whitewashing the financial catastrophe:  So says William Greider at The Nation, who was not impressed by Clinton’s recent op-ed about “reining in Wall Street.” Clinton’s brisk recital of plausible reform ideas might convince wishful thinkers who are not familiar with the complexities of banking. But informed skeptics, myself included, see a disturbing message in her argument that ought to alarm innocent supporters. Those are some strong words. Greider believes Clinton’s op-ed also redefined the financial crisis of 2008 and deflected “the blame from Wall Street’s most powerful institutions, like JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, and instead fingers less celebrated players that failed.” He contends that she did this in order to reassure her allies on Wall Street that “she will not come after them.” Americans see terrorism as the number one issue: Remember when the 2016 election was going to be about the economy? Yeah, those were the days. Turns out, you can’t run a very effective campaign when oil is under $40 a barrel and unemployment is at 5%. On Sandy Hook anniversary, US activists call for gun restrictions:  Today marks the third anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre, and yet our gun laws still remain stubbornly weak and feckless. What an exceptional country we are.

You Should Be a Candidate

You Should Be a Candidate

I was a skeptic about Gawker’s recent refocus on politics, but I’ve enjoyed what they’ve done so far. This piece, by Tom Scocca, is the best political piece that I’ve read there: You can run for office, too. Yes, you. Why not? Why worry about how to send a message as a passive consumer of politics, when you can be an active participant? Democracy isn’t people arguing about how best to vote between foreordained options. Democracy is people running for office. You are a person. Scocca’s mainly agitating for people to run for Congress, and primarily in places where candidates are uncontested, but it’s true on every level. Politics works better when more people are involved. The conservative side of the spectrum enjoys a full complement of potential candidates, from the humblest of local posts to the highest office in the land. Until we see more progressive volunteers, we’re not going to get the kind of progressive candidates that we need. Speaking of running for office, the newest episode of former Mayor Mike McGinn’s podcast, You, Me, Us, Now features an interview with three first-time city council candidates who lost their races. Michael Maddux, Tammy Morales, and Jon Grant discuss the various problems they encountered as they tried to face off against better-funded candidates. It’s an interesting conversation, and it also makes clear the fact that none of these candidates are polished, perfect robots who come from some political factory somewhere. They’re people, same as you and me, and they care enough about the way things are going to take a stand. That’s all it takes. As these candidates proved, you don’t have to win to cause change——sometimes getting involved is all it takes to help alter the conversation.

Daily Clips: December 11th, 2015

Daily Clips: December 11th, 2015

I’ll never get sick of watching Colbert and Stewart together. Long live the dynamic duo. A brokered convention? Here’s an interesting discussion between FiveThirtyEight’s team on the likelihood of the GOP turning to a brokered convention  (if you are unsure what that means, click on the link). Nate Silver puts the odds of such a convention at 10%, while their senior political writer, Harry Enten, says “the Eagles had only a 12 percent shot to beat the Patriots last week, according to our Elo ratings . I put a contested convention on about the same plane as that.” Jeb!’s tax plan loses trillions and worsens inequality:  Jared Bernstein looks at the Tax Policy Center’s analysis of Jeb Bush’s proposed tax cuts, pointing out that “the bad stuff in the plan far outweighs the good.” The Bush plan: Lowers tax rates on both individuals and businesses (on both earnings and investment income) Repeals the estate tax Increases the Earned Income Tax Credit The bulk of the tax cuts go to the wealthy (surprise): 39 percent to the 1 percent, 10 percent to the middle fifth, and 2 percent to the bottom fifth. In other words, regressive. US consumer spending gauge rises strongly:  It’s the most wonderful time of the year…According to Reuters, “retail sales excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services increased 0.6 percent after gaining 0.2 percent in October.” “It dismisses any concerns of a potential slump in household spending after a couple of weaker months in August and September,” said Steve Murphy, U.S. economist at Capital Economics in Toronto.

Daily Clips: December 11th, 2015

Daily Clips: December 11th, 2015

I’ll never get sick of watching Colbert and Stewart together. Long live the dynamic duo. A brokered convention? Here’s an interesting discussion between FiveThirtyEight’s team on the likelihood of the GOP turning to a brokered convention  (if you are unsure what that means, click on the link). Nate Silver puts the odds of such a convention at 10%, while their senior political writer, Harry Enten, says “the Eagles had only a 12 percent shot to beat the Patriots last week, according to our Elo ratings . I put a contested convention on about the same plane as that.” Jeb!’s tax plan loses trillions and worsens inequality:  Jared Bernstein looks at the Tax Policy Center’s analysis of Jeb Bush’s proposed tax cuts, pointing out that “the bad stuff in the plan far outweighs the good.” The Bush plan: Lowers tax rates on both individuals and businesses (on both earnings and investment income) Repeals the estate tax Increases the Earned Income Tax Credit The bulk of the tax cuts go to the wealthy (surprise): 39 percent to the 1 percent, 10 percent to the middle fifth, and 2 percent to the bottom fifth. In other words, regressive. US consumer spending gauge rises strongly:  It’s the most wonderful time of the year…According to Reuters, “retail sales excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services increased 0.6 percent after gaining 0.2 percent in October.” “It dismisses any concerns of a potential slump in household spending after a couple of weaker months in August and September,” said Steve Murphy, U.S. economist at Capital Economics in Toronto.

It’s Been a Good Week for Syrian Refugee Inclusion

It’s Been a Good Week for Syrian Refugee Inclusion

Yesterday, our founder Nick Hanauer published an editorial in the Seattle Times advocating for the inclusion of Muslim immigrants in general, and Syrian refugees in particular. Turns out, yesterday was a very good day for the cause of accepting Syrian refugees in America. President Obama left a comment on a Humans of New York Facebook post * profiling an unnamed Syrian refugee, currently living in Turkey, who is about to relocate to Michigan. Here’s what the Commenter-in-Chief said: As a husband and a father, I cannot even begin to imagine the loss you’ve endured. You and your family are an inspiration. I know that the great people of Michigan will embrace you with the compassion and support you deserve. Yes, you can still make a difference in the world, and we’re proud that you’ll pursue your dreams here. Welcome to your new home. You’re part of what makes America great. From all appearances, Obama is right: the man is an inventor, and one of his inventions is “being used right now on the Istanbul metro to generate electricity from the movement of the train.” He also says he has sketches of “a plane that can fly for 48 hours without fuel.” Of his new home, the man says “I just hope that it’s safe and that it’s a place where they respect science. I just want to get back to work.” Today is another great day for Syrian refugees in America. Ian Millhiser at ThinkProgress writes : Last week, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) filed a lawsuit seeking to halt “any and all activities of the [United States] regarding placement of Syrian refugees in Texas,” at least until the Obama administration complies with a list of demands made by the state. Among other things, they sought a temporary order suspending Syrian refugee resettlement until Judge David Godbey, a George W. Bush appointee, had more time to consider the case. On Wednesday, Godbey
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Daily Clips: December 10, 2015

Daily Clips: December 10, 2015

The middle class is no longer the majority:  As you can see the in the graphic below, the American middle class has eroded significantly since 1971, while the lower and upper classes have ballooned in size. Something something the pitchforks are coming If voting were mandatory, America would shift to the left:  You’ve probably heard this argument before, but it bares repeating. In a recent study, mandatory voting was found to cause “stronger support for leftist, redistributive policy, for example, bills that proposed stricter market regulation and expanded welfare programs.” Putting a price tag on gun violence:  A Mother Jones analysis claims that the yearly cost of gun violence is $229 billion per year, which represents 1.4 percent of GDP.Gun suicides outnumber gun homicides in this country, yet “the overwhelming majority of the direct costs of gun violence come from homicides and assaults.” This is mostly due to the cost of imprisoning the perpetrators of such violence. For a variety of reasons, this article states that Mother Jones’ estimate might be too high, but nonetheless shows that gun violence does leave us with quite a bill. Stock buybacks enrich the bosses even when businesses sag:   As corporate America engages in an unprecedented buyback binge, soaring CEO pay tied to short-term performance measures like EPS is prompting criticism that executives are using stock repurchases to enrich themselves at the expense of long-term corporate health, capital investment and employment. “We’ve accepted a definition of performance that is narrow and quite possibly inappropriate,” said Rosanna Landis Weaver, program manager of the executive compensation initiative at As You Sow, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit that promotes corporate responsibility. Pay for performance as it is often structured creates “very troublesome, problematic incentives that can potentially drive very short-term thinking.”

Texas Pro-Gun Groups to Stage a Mock Mass Shooting

Texas Pro-Gun Groups to Stage a Mock Mass Shooting

Yeah. You read that right. A pair of pro-gun organizations are going to have an open carry march to protest gun-free zones, and then they’re going to stage a mock mass shooting. From Asher Price at the Austin Statesman : The Open Carry Walk and Crisis Performance Event will involve actors “shot” by perpetrators armed with cardboard weapons, said Matthew Short, a spokesman for the gun rights groups Come and Take It Texas and DontComply.com. “It’s a fake mass shooting, and we’ll use fake blood,” he said. He said gun noises will be blared from bullhorns. Other people will then play the role of rescuers, also armed with cardboard weapons. Supposedly, this fake mass shooting will demonstrate that last week’s San Bernardino shooting could have been stopped if someone in attendance was armed with a gun. Which is, of course, bullshit . And get this: the fake mass shooting will take place at University of Texas’s Austin campus, which is where Charles Joseph Whitman killed 14 people and injured 32 others in 1966, decades before America’s new mass-murder trend kicked off. Here, via the New Republic , is the poster for the event: Price quotes a spokesman for the group as saying they’re staging the protest because “We love freedom and we’re trying to make more freedom.” There is so much wrong with this, on so many levels, that I literally don’t know where to start. I don’t even want to think about this anymore, it’s so wrong-headed. But, okay, let’s talk about it. This isn’t about freedom. You know what I call a mob of heavily armed people roaming through a public place shouting? I call that tyranny. You know what I call a staged mass murder? Sounds like they’re terrorizing people to me. The thing about guns is that they’re scary, because they can kill you. They kill lots of people. Thousands of people this year . (Have you tried this tool from The Trace that
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