Portable Benefits Get Big Nod In Obama’s Final SOTU

Portable Benefits Get Big Nod In Obama’s Final SOTU

Watching last night’s State of the Union was an emotional affair. The last SOTU of the Obama presidency, it was a particularly meaningful one; the empty chair left for victims of gun violence, the gravity of America’s many complicated issues, and the reality that the lectern would, in just a year, have a different face behind it weighed heavily on the room and on the millions of people watching at home. President Obama’s remarks served both to bolster the spirits of the public and to gently wag a finger at his colleagues, many of whom made up some of the least productive Congresses of the modern era. He took jabs at climate change deniers, hate-mongers, and Ted Cruz (because who else has been hot to carpet bomb civilians in the last year?), while encouraging Americans to think of themselves as creative, innovative, and hard-working people. He, like Jay Inslee just a few hours before him , tipped his hat to the myriad jobs being created by science, technology, research, and space exploration endeavors. He said, out loud, that we need to raise the minimum wage. All of that was great. But the point at which I nearly spat my tea at the C-SPAN broadcast was when I heard him mention what sounded to me an awful lot like an idea put forth by our very own Nick Hanauer and David Rolf in the Summer 2015 Democracy Journal. Here’s what they said: “Gone is the era of the lifetime career, let alone the lifelong job and the economic security that came with it, having been replaced by a new economy intent on recasting full-time employees into contractors, vendors, and temporary workers.” and also “Economic security is what frees us from the fear that one job loss, one illness—one economic downturn amidst a business cycle guaranteed to produce economic downturns—could cost us our home, our car, our family, and our
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Daily Clips: January 13th, 2016

Daily Clips: January 13th, 2016

Obama calls for an end to gerrymandering in the State of the Union:   First, Obama said, “We have to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters and not the other way around.” The president has condemned gerrymandering before — for instance, in his January 2015 interview with Vox — but many political scientists think his emphasis on it as a key cause of polarization  is a bit misplaced . And, ironically, a well-executed gerrymander of the Illinois state Senate was a key step in Obama’s rise to political prominence, as Ryan Lizza chronicled in a 2008 New Yorker article . Nikki Haley’s message to America:  For those of you that didn’t tune in, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley offered the GOP response to President Obama’s address. Her message was on point and savvy. She disavowed Trumpian anger and didn’t solely put blame on Democrats for the state of politics in America: There is more than enough blame to go around. We as Republicans need to own that truth. We need to recognize our contributions to the erosion of the public trust in America’s leadership. We need to accept that we’ve played a role in how and why our government is broken. It was an incredibly good speech (even though I disagreed with her solutions) and one that should launch her into VP talk. The age of protest: Thomas Friedman’s latest column is a thing of beauty. He argues that in the 21st century distance between individuals and injustice has shrunk. He quotes Dov Seidman to illustrate this point: “People everywhere seem to be morally aroused,” said Seidman. “The philosopher David Hume argued that ‘the moral imagination diminishes with distance.’ It would follow that the opposite is also true: As distance decreases, the moral imagination increases. Now that we have no distance — it’s like we’re all in a crowded theater, making everything personal — we are experiencing the aspirations, hopes, frustrations, plights of others in direct
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Obama’s Last State Of The Union Plot A True Course for 2016

Obama’s Last State Of The Union Plot A True Course for 2016

In last year’s State of the Union , Obama opened by telling the American people he wanted his speech to focus less on “a checklist of proposals and focus more on the values at stake in the choices before us.” This year he basically cut and pasted that line, starting off by promising Congress and viewers that he would “go easy on the traditional list of proposals for the year ahead.” Such laid back, colloquial language was dispersed throughout Barack “4th quarter” Obama’s speech. Just because his style was relaxed and informal doesn’t mean his speech was bereft of vision and substance. From the start, you could tell he felt compelled to set the direction for the progressive cause. He knows that big advances are coming. They are tantalizingly close to being within his legacy. While he may not be there for the culmination of many of these policies, Obama wanted this speech to be a touchstone for many of those accomplishments. Ever the man in control, and with the media spotlight slipping away from him, for now, he wants to be the compass for the next (hopefully) Democratic president. Let me be the first to admit, these speeches are notoriously tough to excel at (and often tough to watch). There’s so much to unpack, so many demographics to appeal to. As Zach Silk wrote to me during the speech, “every sentence has a constituency. And even with all that said some constituency is pissed they didn’t get mentioned.” Obama did some flexing in front of his colleagues, where he proceeded to essentially say “I told you so” to his doubters. He flaunted gas prices, talked about the recovery, and the robust jobs growth. He touted these successes for their due applause, but he didn’t dwell on them for long. He didn’t want to upset the economic
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Newsflash: The Market Can’t “Decide” People’s Wages Because the Market Is Not a Sentient Being

Newsflash: The Market Can’t “Decide” People’s Wages Because the Market Is Not a Sentient Being

Yesterday, Mark Perry wrote for conservative think-tank AEI that minimum wage laws are as ridiculous as laws that try to control the temperature. Because you can’t control the weather, right? Right. (Well, except through years of unregulated environmental destruction, but I’m sure that’s something else Perry and I disagree on.) Anyway, here’s his point: Bottom Line: If the proposed Minimum/Maximum Temperature Laws seem ridiculous, that’s because they are totally ridiculous. And so is the Minimum Wage Law.Unfair Government Mandate Preventing Thousands of Unskilled Workers from Finding a Job. Forcing employers to pay an unskilled worker $10.10 per hour (or $12 as proposed by Hillary Clinton and $15 an hour as is currently being proposed by Bernie Sanders and the NY Times, among others) won’t change the reality that many of those workers are actually only worth $7 or $8 per hour in the labor market. The artificially high minimum wage causes distortions and inefficiencies in the unskilled labor market because the minimum wage does not accurately and truthfully reflect many workers’ true productivity, and it’s like creating a government-mandated fantasy world (or government censorship and lies, according to Don above). A disconnect is created between the true measure (e.g. $7 per hour) and an artificial, government-mandated measure ($10.10, $12 or $15 an hour), of a worker’s value or productivity. As much as I hate to say it, I believe this paragraph contains the real reason why Mark Perry and I will never see eye to eye. In his mind, the economy is a natural law like the weather, and the minimum wage is an artificial way to control that law. If you think the economy just happens spontaneously and does whatever it would do regardless of human interaction, any attempts to guide the economy in a direction that the economy does not “want” to go in would
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Daily Clips: January 12th, 2016

Daily Clips: January 12th, 2016

Why are Democrats so gloomy about the economy?  Jobs are up, gas is down, and “more than 17 million people have gained access to health insurance.” High school graduation is also up, while crime has declined. So why the doom and gloom from Democrats? Americans are deeply anxious about the nation’s security and their personal finances. Polls show that only one-quarter of them think the country is on the right track. As a result, the Democratic White House hopefuls face a dilemma that Republicans are relishing…Attempts to strike the right balance were on display last week at a party dinner in Nevada , an early caucus state, where front-runner Hillary Clinton told a boisterous crowd: “We’re standing, but we’re not yet running the way America should.” Look for that metaphor to be employed by Democrats throughout 2016 (in all races, not just the presidential contest). David Brooks takes on Ted Cruz:  Brooks really does not like Cruz. And after reading this article, one has to wonder if he’d vote for the Democratic nominee over the Texas senator. That sounds crazy at first, but then you read some of Brooks’ qualms with Cruz: “Cruz is a stranger to most of what would generally be considered the Christian virtues: humility, mercy, compassion and grace.” “…there’s no variation in Cruz’s rhetorical tone. As is the wont of inauthentic speakers, everything is described as a maximum existential threat.” “He sows bitterness, influences his followers to lose all sense of proportion and teaches them to answer hate with hate.” There’s a lot to unpack here. The first is arguing how “humility, mercy, compassion and grace” can ever be isolated as “Christian” virtues? That reeks of ahistoricism and a blind love for one’s own faith. Did such virtues not exist before Christianity arrived? If so, how can they ever be labelled as “Christian” in nature? The second is claiming it is wrong to “answer hate
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Why Republicans Are Making This Election About Fear

Why Republicans Are Making This Election About Fear

Heading into 2016, Democrats should feel very confident about retaining the White House. Such a statement may seem unreasonably self-assured, seeing as the country appears to be more divided and partisan as ever . But consider the following opinions of Americans today: 90 percent support background checks on all gun sales 63 percent believe money and wealth distribution in our country is unfair 63 percent support a $15 minimum wage by 2020 58 percent support legalizing marijuana 65 percent support a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants 60 percent support gay marriage These numbers demonstrate that there is a clear hunger in America for bold, progressive policies. This certainly helps explain the appeal of Donald Trump to the modern Republican voter – the man is a strong advocate for a “big” and active government. He’s hardly your Koch-tested “small government conservative.” Because America yearns for collective action, Democrats have so far been able to define the issues of the campaign cycle with relative ease. Comforted by polls like the ones above, the Democratic candidates are bringing issues like gun responsibility, gay marriage, and the minimum wage to the forefront of the presidential race. Understandably, that has made Republican strategists quite anxious. Their candidates are being labelled as mere oppositionists, who have no fresh ideas and opposed measures which the majority of Americans agree with. Then, the attacks on Paris and San Bernardino happened. Out of these terrible events Republicans found their opportunity to start redefining the 2016 campaign. In unison, all the candidates started pumping out fear. Instead of having to focus on Trump or issues which Democrats largely defined, here they could all prey on American anxiety together. They found a cause which could unite them all and help them reclaim the trajectory of the national conversation. The media was all too willing to help their cause. Blinded by our sensationalist media, we couldn’t stop talking about fear and terrorism. Forget about the economy or Kim Davis! Death! Islam! Mosques! In a matter of weeks, the Republicans had successfully regained control of the political conversation. Since those attacks,  terrorism has leap-frogged the economy and became the number one concern of American voters . Manufactured fear, however, can only take this Republican field so far. Eventually, they will have to sell
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WA Coalition Files Initiative for $13.50 Minimum Wage, Paid Sick Leave

WA Coalition Files Initiative for $13.50 Minimum Wage, Paid Sick Leave

Raise Up Washington, a coalition of grocery store workers, home care providers, civic leaders, and public policy experts filed a citizen initiative this morning to raise the minimum wage and provide paid sick leave for every worker in Washington State. What does this mean for Washington’s workers? If the initiative is voted into law this November, it will raise the state hourly minimum wage to $11 on January 1st of next year, $11.50 in 2018, $12 in 2019, and $13.50 in 2020. (The minimum wage is currently $9.47 an hour statewide.) The department of labor and industries will adjust the minimum wage by rate of inflation every January 1st thereafter. The initiative also resolves a pernicious issue in food service by ensuring that employers must pay their employees all tips and gratuities received. (Think on that for a moment: employers aren’t legally required to share tips with their employees in Washington state right now.) Employers will also compensate their workers with one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. Workers start accruing sick time immediately, but employers won’t be legally required to pay out sick time until 90 days after employment begins. Those workers won’t be able to carry over more than 40 hours of sick time a year. This law applies to both full-time and part-time employees. Employers are welcome to provide more than one hour of paid sick leave per 40 hours worked, and they may choose to provide sick leave in advance of accrual. This initiative supplies a set of minimum standards. This would benefit a huge number of people around the state. Today, more than 730,000 Washington workers make less than $13.50 an hour—more than half of whom are over the age of 30—and over a million workers don’t enjoy any paid sick
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Daily Clips: January 11th, 2016

Daily Clips: January 11th, 2016

There are roughly 5 percent more Democrats than Republicans:  So what does this mean? “Because there are roughly 5% more Democrats than Republicans, the GOP needs a solid majority of independents to win a national election.” Unfortunately for Republicans, the two candidates with the best shot at winning the nomination (Trump & Cruz) have less than ideal numbers with independents. Consider the following: In YouGov’s three most recent surveys, Mr. Trump was viewed “very unfavorably” by an average of 43% of independents…Ted Cruz doesn’t do much better. Only 13% to 16% of independents had a very favorable view of him in YouGov’s three most recent surveys… Speaking of Mr. Cruz, check out FiveThirtyEight’s latest analysis: . @FiveThirtyEight projects @tedcruz has a 44% chance of winning the Iowa caucus: https://t.co/73D7qPtfhK pic.twitter.com/xdgeh2i95X — This Week (@ThisWeekABC) January 10, 2016 Brilliant video of Bernie Sanders taking it to Walmart: Economists thought Obamacare would kill full-time jobs. That’s not happening:  Let’s recap some of the more ludicrous quotes about Obamacare’s economic impact: There is no doubt [the Affordable Care Act] will be paid for on the backs of small business. It’s clear to us that, at the end of the day, the costs to small business more than outweigh the benefits they may have realized.” -National Federation of Independent Business, 2009 “[Health reform] will destroy the country [because] in the year or so [America will have to] dramatically cut the military because we can’t pay for it.” – Rick Santorum, 2010 “[Obamacare] will bankrupt our nation, and it will ruin our economy.” – Rep. John Boehner, 2011 God, I love when Republicans and the business lobby are wrong. Which is often.

Charles Koch, Who Made Politics Exclusionary, Is Upset That Politics Is So Exclusionary

Charles Koch, Who Made Politics Exclusionary, Is Upset That Politics Is So Exclusionary

I read an astounding paragraph about conservative mega-donor Charles Koch this morning. It’s in the New York Times , it was written by Alan Rappeport, and here it is: In an interview with The Financial Times, Mr. Koch bemoaned the state of the field of Republican candidates seeking the nomination and suggested that big money was losing its influence in politics these days. His concern over the policies of Donald J. Trump and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas was especially clear. An appropriate alternative headline for this story would be “In Retrospect, Frankenstein Regrets Constructing Monster Out of Deceased Human Parts.” Koch says two head-shakingly stupid things in this interview. Let’s take them apart, one by one. First of all, Koch, who previously announced with his brother David that he’d be spending 900 million dollars in the 2016 election cycle, laments the fact that money doesn’t have as much influence in politics as it once did. This is an incredible admission. The Kochs are the poster boys of campaign overspending; their names have become intertwined with the Supreme Court’s terrible Citizens United decision. Spending did not correlate with success in the 2012 presidential election cycle, leading many people to theorize that excessive spending has led to a saturation point. Basically, there are only so many TV ad spaces you can buy, and only so much public attention you can purchase. So in short, Koch is complaining that other rich people came in and ruined the wonderland that he had imagined he and his brother would dominate. This is not just whiny, it’s also incredibly short-sighted. How did Koch not realize this would happen? And what’s he going to do next—pursue legislation that only people named “Koch” can donate more than $50,000 to a campaign? I bet some congressional Republicans would endorse that legislation. And secondly, Koch says that Trump’s (unconstitutional) plan
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Daily Clips: January 8th, 2016

Daily Clips: January 8th, 2016

The US economy just got some very good news:  The economy created jobs “at an unexpectedly strong pace throughout the last quarter of 2015.” There were 292,000 jobs created in December, far above the 200,000 estimate economists were predicting. Unemployment rate stayed at 5 percent and wages increased by 2.5 percent. Overall, 2015 saw the economy create 2.7 million jobs, just slightly weaker than the 3.1 million jobs created in the previous year. As this article highlights, “there are also signs in the report that the economy still has some room to grow.” Of particular importance is: Labor force participation. Prior to the financial crisis, the rate hung at around 66 percent, but in 2015 that number is just above 62 percent. Obama’s Town Hall on Guns: Here’s a great two minute recap of Obama’s appearance last night on CNN. My favorite part was Obama smacking down Anderson Cooper at 1:19. What a moronic question from the host. Trump states, “I will get rid of gun-free zones on schools”:  The man continues to parrot far-right talking points with genuine conservative fervor. He promised that on his first day there would be “no more gun-free zones.” So…guns on planes? Guns at fundraisers? Guns in the White House? Tweet of the day: If you haven’t seen “Inequality for All” – here’s your chance! See "Inequality for All" free. Password: bernie2016 https://t.co/BAHXgg2MEM — Robert Reich (@RBReich) January 8, 2016 Trump would be the end of the GOP: So says Michael Gerson at the Washington Post. It’s hard to disagree with him there. He goes on to claim, “Trump would make the GOP the party of racial and religious exclusion.” That’s where he lost me. Because Trump is hardly the first Republican to promote (forcefully) the exclusion of “the other.” This is how “moderate conservatives” like Gerson and Brooks rationalize their party’s situation. Trump is an outlier, in the words of Gerson. In fact, he thinks “liberals who claim that Trumpism is the natural outgrowth, or logical conclusion of
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