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Teen Minimum Wage?

[ 17 ] August 24, 2016 |

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To say the least, the idea of a teen minimum wage of $4.25 is a horrendous idea with enormously awful policy implications. It also underplays the actual cost of being a teenager which is not going out with Biff and Cindy to the drive-in and maybe getting some malts afterwards and gee isn’t that soda jerk cute. Unfortunately, a 1996 amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act (thanks Bill!) allows employers to pay workers under the age of 20 $4.25 an hour for their first 90 days of employment. This needs to change. Not only has that number not increased with inflation, but it always was nothing more than a way for the government to allow exploitative employers to be even more exploitative. At its heart is the idea that teenagers aren’t real workers and shouldn’t be treated as such. This still animates conversations about certain sectors of work, as conservatives and even too many liberals dismiss thinking of fast food work as legitimate work worthy of being covered by labor law or being the target of organizing campaigns. That’s teen work, right? But no, it’s often not. Allowing employers to pay young workers less only undermines the wages for everyone. Meanwhile, many of these teen workers are working to pay for AP exams and to contribute to their family’s income. Repealing the teen minimum wage needs to be a top progressive priority.

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Bad Campaign Will Make Futile Attempt to Counter Accurate Perception

[ 60 ] August 24, 2016 |

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The Trump campaign perceives a problem:

Donald Trump is rapidly trying to turn around his presidential campaign with a vigorous and at times strained effort to shed a label applied to him by a substantial portion of the electorate: racist.

Guided by his new campaign leadership, the Republican nominee has ordered a full-fledged strategy to court black and Latino voters and is mobilizing scores of minority figures to advocate publicly for his candidacy.

I would have to agree that there’s one problem with this:

The main difficulty Trump faces in dispelling the impression that he is a racist is that Trump is, in fact, a gigantic racist. His first appearance in the New York Times came in the context of his being caught refusing to rent apartments to African-Americans. A former Trump employee has detailed a series of private racist statements and acts — saying “laziness is a trait in blacks,” objecting to black people working for him in accounting, his staff shooing black people off the casino floor when he arrived. Trump has replied that the comments were “probably true,” but berated the person who made them as a “loser.” He has questioned the legitimacy of President Obama’s birth certificate, called him a “terrible student,” and implied he only made it into Harvard Law School due to affirmative action.

[…]

Attacking Clinton for having supported punitive crime policies two decades ago is quite a turn for Trump, who is running on a platform of punitive crime policies right now. It was only last month when he made the entire theme of his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention “law and order,” promising a brutal crackdown on crime, and lambasted Obama for encouraging black criminals by calling attention to police mistreatment of African-Americans. Trump also once spent his own money on a newspaper ad calling for five minority youths to be executed for a rape they turned out not to have committed. “What has happened to the respect for authority, the fear of retribution by the courts, society and the police for those who break the law, who wantonly trespass on the rights of others?,” he wrote, urging, in hysterical all-caps, “CIVIL LIBERTIES END WHEN AN ATTACK ON OUR SAFETY BEGINS!”

Trump has spent more than a year identifying himself as the candidate of white-backlash politics, using his appeal to the most racially resentful Republicans to win the nomination. And now he’s running to Clinton’s left on criminal justice! Trump adviser Roger Stone tells the Post, “an entire generation of young black men are incarcerated” because of the 1994 bill. So African-Americans should instead vote for the candidate who literally called for “retribution” and an end to civil liberties. Does Trump’s campaign really think anybody is going to believe this?

But I’m sure a quick tour of Detroit with Ben Carson will solve everything!

Affordable Child Care

[ 38 ] August 24, 2016 |

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The number of policy options that would make people’s lives better while also spurring the economy is quite large. These commonsense choices would be a huge boon for 99 percent of Americans while having the singular downside of making rich people pay higher taxes. Therefore it is of course impossible. But the government taking the lead in creating affordable child care makes more sense than just about anything else and the election is the time to talk about these issues.

Affordable day care, for instance, would stanch the income loss experienced by parents who now must leave the work force while their children are young. The damage of such career interruptions does not end when a parent goes back to work; among other things, there are the raises that were missed and the savings that otherwise would have accrued. A 26-year-old mother who takes five years off from a median-paying job — $30,253 in 2014 — would forfeit $467,000 over a work life, reducing her lifetime earnings by 19 percent, according to a calculator by the Center for American Progress.

The losses are even more profound when multiplied over the economy. International comparisons indicate that more family-friendly policies in the United States, including quality child care, would allow roughly 5.5 million more women to work, assuming the economy was adding jobs at a reasonable pace. All else being equal, that surge could generate an astounding $500 billion a year in economic growth, or about 3.5 percent of gross domestic product.

Proper child care also lays the foundation for future productivity gains. Research shows that public investment in early education yields benefits for children far in excess of its cost, including higher academic and career achievement well into adulthood, as well as better health. McKinsey researchers estimated that closing academic achievement gaps between low-income students and others would increase the size of the economy by roughly $70 billion a year; closing racial and ethnic gaps would add $50 billion annually.

But hey, taxes might go up on the wealthy. And those parents shouldn’t be having kids if they aren’t millionaires. Why can’t the breeding poor just pull themselves by their bootstraps like I did by being born to a corporate lawyer who graduated from Yale?

Hillary Clinton has something of a plan to deal with these problems. Donald Trump does not. But both parties are the same, amiright? Stein ’16!

Welcome to Trump’s America

[ 82 ] August 24, 2016 |

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Racists, let your freak flag fly.

The message on the receipt rattled Sadie Karina Elledge, but it made her grandfather see red.

Instead of leaving a gratuity on Monday, a couple eating at the Harrisonburg, Va., restaurant where Sadie works scrawled: “We only tip citizens.”

The dig was aimed at Sadie, 18, who was born in the United States but is of Honduran and Mexican descent. So, John Elledge took a photo of the grease-stained receipt left for his granddaughter and posted it on Facebook.

Beneath the photo he typed: “You are a complete and total piece of dung.”

Earlier on Facebook, the lawyer had written some other harsh words:

I’d happily do the jail time if I could get just one solid punch in to the face of the son of a bitch who paid for his meal at the luncheonette where my granddaughter works and left the receipt for her with a note saying, “Sorry, we only tip citizens.”

Elledge, who is white, told The Washington Post he’s particularly sensitive to slights directed at his multicultural family.

FWIW, this is also another reason why we need to pay restaurant workers a decent wage and eliminate tipping.

The Fundamental Dilemma of Health Care

[ 42 ] August 24, 2016 |

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I have a piece at the Prospect about Aetna bailing on most of the ACA exchanges is participates in. On the one hand, it shows the necessity of the public option; on the other hand, is shows (as Erik said yesterday) why it will be enormously difficult to pass:

The Obama administration shouldn’t cave. Instead, Democrats should take steps to address the health law’s underlying problems. The obvious solution is one that surfaced repeatedly in the multiple draft versions of the legislation that eventually became the ACA, and that is now part of the 2016 Democratic Party platform: a public option. This would entail making a government-operated health-care plan available on public markets. Allowing good public insurance to compete would both ensure that decent, affordable insurance is available in all 50 states, and prevent power plays like Aetna’s by making public insurance available as a backstop. If private companies can provide insurance that people want to buy at rates competitive with the public option, good. If they can’t, this would also be fine, because the public sector would absorb a bigger share of the health insurance market, a positive development in itself.

What makes the public option desirable will also make it very hard to pass, of course, even in the event that Congress becomes more Democratic and more progressive after Election Day. Insurance companies know full well how a robust public option would eat into their customer bases and profits, and will fight it with everything they’ve got. Democrats should exhaust every avenue for winning a public option. But if they fall short, there are other ways to strengthen health insurance exchanges.

There are some alternative measures which might be more viable, the best of which is the Medicare buy-in Joe Lieberman torpedoed. You can click the link to find out!

What Is this…Steven Ooniverse?

[ 55 ] August 24, 2016 |

I’ve just recently discovered “Steven Universe” so I reckon it’s roughly a decade old. Anyway, I have thoughts. What are yours?

Inspiration is inspiring and inspirational

[ 43 ] August 24, 2016 |

Since this is the Land of All Internet Traditions and it’s possible y’all need this as much as I do, here is your morning inspirational:

LEMONS

Now go out there and dominate All The Things, you beautiful fools.

Donald Trump Is A Terrible Candidate Running A Terrible Campaign

[ 213 ] August 24, 2016 |

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Donald Trump is not raising as much money as a presidential candidate should be raising in 2016, and much of what he is raising he’s using to add a third layer of fake gold to plaster his toilets. If he were running a serious presidential campaign, this would make it all the more crucial that his remaining time and resources would have to be spent very efficiently. This is…not happening:

Donald Trump might be moderating his rhetoric, but he hasn’t adjusted a campaign strategy that has him spending valuable time in states that will not prove decisive on Election Day.

With fewer than 80 days to go and lagging in the polls, the Republican nominee will host a rally Tuesday in Austin, Texas, and another on Wednesday in Jackson, Mississippi. Both cities sit inside strongly Republican states that are safe and uncompetitive.

These visits follow a recent trip by Trump into heavily Democratic Connecticut, a choice that enraged and confused Republicans.

“I have never known a general election campaign in my adult life, a Republican campaign, to spend time in Mississippi outside of raising money,” said Austin Barbour, a Mississippi-based Republican operative. “Donald Trump’s going to win Mississippi by at least double digits.”

But Trump is behind, several polls show, in North Carolina, a state that has gone Republican in eight of the past nine presidential elections. Georgia, which hasn’t voted Democratic since 1992, is competitive, with the latest poll showing a tied race. And more traditional battleground states have moved away from Trump: Ohio, which polls showed was a tied race last month, is now tilting in Hillary Clinton’s direction. Meanwhile, he is up in Mississippi by double digits, one recent survey shows.

He has totally hacked and disrupted presidential campaigning!

Maybe Trump’s benefactor Woody Johnson can solve his logjam at QB by trading Christian Hackenberg to the Trump campaign. It’s hard to imagine that he could be worse at campaign consulting than he is at NFL quarterbacking.

Steven Hill, R.I.P.

[ 44 ] August 23, 2016 |

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The great character actor has died. Somebody needs to make gifs of great Adam Schiff one-liners; my nominee would be “the only pattern here is that you have no facts.”

Irving Fields, RIP

[ 9 ] August 23, 2016 |

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The wonderful Irving Fields has died at the age of 101. Fields was a brilliant piano player and probably the last living man on the Catskill circuit of the postwar years who in the 1950s combined Jewish music traditions with Latin rhythms. His most famous album is 1959’s Bagels and Bongos, the height of this combination. It’s simply a wonderful album that is a tremendous amount of fun to listen to. Fields, having great success on that album, recorded a bunch of other albums combining European lounge and Latin traditions. I also Champagne and Bongos, which builds on French cafe music. It’s good, but not as good as Bagels. In his late career, he was picked up in the John Zorn circle, which allowed him to record some albums of Zorn’s Tzadik label. His album Oy Vey! Ole! with the percussionist Roberto Rodriguez is absolutely fantastic. His solo album on Tzadik, My Yiddishe Mama, is quite good, although in my view it has the limits of most solo piano albums which is a lack of varied sound. Fields played weekly in an Italian restaurant in New York until just a few months ago. I am disappointed with myself for not finding a reason to go see him play. Here’s a few available clips from his long career. RIP.

Texas Conservatives Are Winning Their War on Women

[ 53 ] August 23, 2016 |

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Good god Texas.

The rate of Texas women who died from complications related to pregnancy doubled from 2010 to 2014, a new study has found, for an estimated maternal mortality rate that is unmatched in any other state and the rest of the developed world.

The finding comes from a report, appearing in the September issue of the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, that the maternal mortality rate in the United States increased between 2000 and 2014, even while the rest of the world succeeded in reducing its rate. Excluding California, where maternal mortality declined, and Texas, where it surged, the estimated number of maternal deaths per 100,000 births rose to 23.8 in 2014 from 18.8 in 2000 – or about 27%.

But the report singled out Texas for special concern, saying the doubling of mortality rates in a two-year period was hard to explain “in the absence of war, natural disaster, or severe economic upheaval”.

From 2000 to the end of 2010, Texas’s estimated maternal mortality rate hovered between 17.7 and 18.6 per 100,000 births. But after 2010, that rate had leaped to 33 deaths per 100,000, and in 2014 it was 35.8. Between 2010 and 2014, more than 600 women died for reasons related to their pregnancies.

No other state saw a comparable increase.

In the wake of the report, reproductive health advocates are blaming the increase on Republican-led budget cuts that decimated the ranks of Texas’s reproductive healthcare clinics. In 2011, just as the spike began, the Texas state legislature cut $73.6m from the state’s family planning budget of $111.5m. The two-thirds cut forced more than 80 family planning clinics to shut down across the state. The remaining clinics managed to provide services – such as low-cost or free birth control, cancer screenings and well-woman exams – to only half as many women as before.

No one can say that Texas conservatives don’t know what they are doing. I would like to see how this specifically affects Latinas, because dollars to donuts, the biggest impact is in south Texas. But this article doesn’t explore that.

Building on Obamacare

[ 116 ] August 23, 2016 |

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The Affordable Care Act is arguably the biggest progressive legislative victory since the Johnson administration. It’s also deeply flawed and in need of update in many areas. These two statements are not contradictory. The question, as Jim Newell asks, is whether Democrats are ready to build upon that great victory and improve the law.

First, some of the issues, which have been more in the news lately because of Aetna deciding to play the villain.

But it’s becoming clearer that the Affordable Care Act, for all its advances, is due for the sort of legislative maintenance that most major laws require after implementation. Two temporary federal programs, reinsurance and risk corridors, designed to cushion losses for insurers as they determined sustainable premium price points in new markets, expire in 2017 as the exchanges enter their fourth year of operation. Carriers serving sicker-than-expected pools or rural areas find that their options are either to sharply increase premiums or to leave the exchanges altogether. Average premium increase requests from insurers on the individual exchanges are well into the double digits across much of the country. And a Kaiser estimate in May projected the number of counties that could have a single exchange insurer in 2017 to be 664—70 percent of which are mostly rural—up from 225 in 2016. That number will increase following Aetna’s withdrawal and could reach roughly a quarter of all counties in the country. Alabama, Alaska, South Carolina, and Wyoming are set to have just one insurer offering coverage on their exchanges in 2017. Most of North Carolina, except for the Raleigh metropolitan region, will be down to one insurer as well.

One problem with legislative redress for Obamacare is that the legislators who are supposed to do the redressing seem less than eager to return to the front where not long ago they’d declared victory. The second problem is that, once again, the fight will almost certainly involve the public option.

So what about the public option and what, if anything, are Democrats ready to do if they have a big win in November? Newell correctly notes that most Democratic politicians see the fight as protecting the ACA from Republicans and therefore really not articulating any changes. He does have a slight bit of hope that Hillary Clinton will push toward something like the public option.

There is one Democratic figure who might be in office in 2017 who has treated the law’s shortcomings seriously and put together a bevy of health care proposals—and she happens to be the party’s presidential nominee.

In the beginning of the campaign, Hillary Clinton, too, suffered from the “everything is fine!” bug, going so far as to red-bait Sen. Bernie Sanders over his Medicare-for-all plan. Sanders’ specific proposal suffered from some fuzzy math. But he understood that though the ACA was a vast improvement on an untenable status quo, its flaws really were flaws, and it made little sense to avoid confronting them just because doing so would be a pain. One staple of Sanders’ events during the campaign was to ask members of his crowds to raise their hands if they were facing sharp premium increases, and then to say how large the increase was. There was never a shortage of volunteers.

Eventually Clinton put together a series of health care proposals. It wasn’t the overhaul Sanders wanted, but he gave his enthusiastic endorsement anyway. Clinton would add a Medicare “buy-in” option for those 55 and older, and she also committed to doubling the money for community health centers from the funding mark set in the original ACA, an important provision won by Sanders in 2009. She offered further inducement for states that haven’t already accepted the Medicaid expansion to do so and would grant the HHS secretary additional “authority to block or modify unreasonable health insurance premium rate increases,” increase resources for enrollment outreach, and expand existing exchange subsidies.

And yes, she’s also pledged to “pursue efforts to give Americans in every state in the country the choice of a public-option insurance plan.”

It’s unclear how high a public option, and the political fight that will come with it, ranks atop Clinton’s list of priorities. But if 2017 open enrollment goes poorly and more insurers flee the exchanges, the public option—which has always polled well—would be an obvious go-to solution for restoring competition. The idea doesn’t rely on hand-holding private insurers until they feel properly incentivized to perform their societal function. It is a direct delivery of health insurance plans to health insurances exchanges. “Health care markets will inevitably differ from region to region,” Jacob Hacker, the Yale professor and so-called “father of the public option,” wrote in Vox on Thursday, “but there’s no reason every one of the existing marketplaces couldn’t offer a Medicare-like plan—a plan that’s stable; a plan with predictable costs; a plan that gives patients a broad choice of providers just as Medicare does.” It would also save money—$158 billion over 10 years, according to a 2013 Congressional Budget Office estimate.

There’s another problem that Newell does not discuss, but that I feel. The ACA was a big win but the Tea Party’s rise and McConnell destroying the historical norms of the Senate has meant that it’s now been 7 years since we have seen a major progressive bill become law. The victories of the last 7 years have been in the courts (especially in the last few months) and through the executive branch. There are a lot of other priorities that have been ignored or put aside. If Clinton wins and has the ability to pass any legislation (just play along here), I think her top two priorities should be an immigration bill with a path to citizenship for undocumented Americans and a sizable minimum wage increase. Both of these have significant political support and are fairly simply to articulate. After that, maybe health care comes back on the table, but so does a climate bill, college tuition and debt issues, a revived Employee Free Choice Act, and a whole lot of other things. Given all of this, to what extent should Democrats fight to improve Obamacare?

Which, in other words, means that this could serve as a thread on what you think Clinton’s top legislative priorities should be, in particular keeping in mind what is actually possible, even if she does have 55 senators and a narrow House majority for the precisely 2 years that will probably last.

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