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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Available Housing Drives Growth in Jobs

The Daily Escape:

Snow near Boulder, CO – November 2019 photo via

Last week, in our town’s Mayoral race, each side had a signature issue. For the Republicans, it was roads. For the Democrats, it was affordable housing. Wrongo has served on the town’s municipal roads committee for three years. He’s also attended a few town workshops on affordable housing. The incumbent Republican Mayor won in a landslide.

Did that mean that affordable housing was a non-issue? Not really. Like most of Connecticut, our town has a sharp income divide. And despite having among the most affordable housing in Litchfield County, we have elderly poor and younger middle-income people vying for limited multifamily housing stock.

The major problem is a concern that affordable housing equals more kids in our schools, and more infrastructure. The reality is that the incremental real estate taxes that landlords would pay the town will not offset the increased costs of schooling and infrastructure.

But, the town also desires greater economic development. New businesses and jobs are important to increasing our tax base. We’re not alone in this. Consider the city of San Jose, CA. The Silicon Valley region has added about 385,000 new jobs over the past five years, but only approved about 60,000 housing units. From Vox: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Communities sometimes mobilize in opposition to some kind of new project, but this…happened when someone proposed building some offices near a new football stadium in Santa Clara, California, is mind-boggling: San Jose has taken the rare step of publicly opposing the project, saying it would add far too many jobs, exacerbating the region’s housing shortage.”

It’s difficult to believe that we’ve reached a point in our economy where creating new jobs can be construed as bad for existing residents of an area.

The Bay area isn’t overbuilt with housing. San Francisco is less densely populated than Brooklyn, NY. Santa Clara County, where Silicon Valley is located, is significantly less populated than the Long Island suburbs. The fear is that meeting the need for housing will lead to many lower income residents living in high-rise buildings.

Or take New York City, where Amazon was shocked when the public said that Amazon could take their 25,000 new jobs and shove them. (brackets by Wrongo)

“It’s only natural that Amazon saw its promise to create 25,000 jobs as a blessing, for creating jobs is most [all] of what we have ever asked of American companies. But given the realities of our economy…. it’s also only natural that many New Yorkers wanted nothing to do with it.”

Promises of 25,000 new jobs in NYC sounded much different in 2019 than it would have sounded in 2009. If you’re among the sea of NYC hotel and restaurant workers, you know you’re never likely to be qualified for one of the jobs Amazon promised to create in your backyard. And since it would be built in an area where many hourly workers live, they naturally opposed what would have driven their costs of housing even higher.

Amazon already had 2,000 employees in NYC in November 2018, when the HQ search concluded. Despite not building a NY headquarters, that number has grown to 5,000 in the past year. Amazon’s continuing jobs expansion in NYC makes the case that those who fought against the state’s $3 billion dollar incentive package were correct.

No economic problem is simple, and neither are their solutions. Here is a good rule of thumb: When things are complicated, inputs are messy. Some factors may cancel out other factors.

And in the case of trying to increase economic growth in a given city or town, an available, skilled workforce in numbers sufficient to meet the new business needs is primary. Available housing is huge as well. These two inputs exist in a feedback loop. Our towns can’t grow if workers can’t find housing.

Freezing housing stock in a growing economy helps those who enjoy higher Socio-Economic Status (SES). Our cities are seeing an outflow of lower SES’s and an inflow of higher SES’s. This is making housing costs in our second-tier cities move closer to what they have become in NYC and LA.

Exurban ring towns like Wrongo’s are seeing inward migration, mostly of middle and lower SES’s who routinely commute long distances for work. That adds local spending on goods and services, but puts pressure on local housing stock and on schools.

The landslide results in our town’s election was a vote for better roads, and against changing zoning requirements to add affordable housing. Indirectly, it also was a vote in favor of lower economic growth, just like what happened in San Jose, CA.

But we shouldn’t be confused with Silicon Valley.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – November 10, 2019

Bill Gates is the second-richest person in the world, with a net worth of $106.2 Billion. Here’s what Bill Gates said about Elizabeth Warren’s tax plan:

“I’m all for super-progressive tax systems….I’ve paid over $10 billion in taxes. I’ve paid more than anyone in taxes. If I had to pay $20 billion, it’s fine. But when you say I should pay $100 billion, then I’m starting to do a little math about what I have left over….You really want the incentive system to be there without threatening that.”

Here’s what would actually happen to Gates under Elizabeth Warren’s tax plan: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“The Warren campaign calculates that under Ms. Warren’s plan, Mr. Gates would owe $6.379 billion in taxes next year. Notably, that is less than Mr. Gates earned from his investments last year. Even under Ms. Warren’s plan, there’s a good chance Mr. Gates would get richer.”

Gates won’t have to pay as much as he thinks. The fundamental question is whether it’s ok for a billionaire to add 6% less to his massive fortune under Warren’s plan? Can billionaires still be successful executives if they don’t pocket every last penny they can lay their hands on?

Billionaire Michael Bloomberg doesn’t think the current Democratic presidential field is sufficiently deferential to the rich, so he’s running to make sure we get there.

When you think about it, two billionaires, Bloomberg and Steyer are running as Democrats. A third, Howard Schultz, billionaire behind Starbucks, tried to run as an independent. All wanting the job of billionaire Donald Trump.

Billionaire Mark Zuckerberg has said he would fight the Warren’s taxes on billionaires. Tim Perkins, a billionaire venture capitalist compared the “progressive war on the American one percent” to the Kristallnacht and anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany.

Billionaire Stephen Schwarzman, Chairman of Blackstone, compared a tax increase for people like him to Hitler’s invasion of Poland.

Why does anyone care about the tax concerns of these people? They never have to think about money, and neither will their heirs. It’s a familiar story, the astronomically rich are willing to donate large portions of their wealth, so long as interfering with their cozy power relationship with politicians is off the table.

On to cartoons. No plan goes unpunished:

America has a difference of opinion on health insurance:

Bill Barr waves his God flag:

GOP wants to take a few shots at the whistle blower:

Trump misunderstood which turkey could do him a favor:

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Saturday Soother – September 21, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Badlands Storm, South Dakota – September 2019 photo by Bill Frazier

It’s officially the end of summer. We now move towards shorter days, sweater weather, and at least in the Northeast, raking leaves. But, in politics, few things change with the seasons.

Consider this factoid from Bloomberg about what the Trump administration has done to support farmers hurt by his China trade war:

“At $28 billion so far, the farm rescue is more than twice as expensive as the 2009 bailout of Detroit’s Big Three automakers, which cost taxpayers $12 billion.”

Remember the auto bailout? Republicans were largely against it. The government shouldn’t pick winners and losers, let Mr. Market do it. While the auto industry was bleeding jobs, the bailout saved GM and Chrysler. It also helped restore jobs. Marketplace reports that in the Great Recession, auto-manufacturing lost 334,000 jobs, and membership in the United Autoworkers Union (UAW) fell by 150,000.

Since then, as vehicle sales rebounded, those job losses were gradually reversed. In July 2016, US auto-manufacturing employment surpassed its December 2007 pre-recession level of 957,000 jobs. The UAW however, remains more than 50,000 members short of its pre-recession high.

Back to the farmers. Because of the tariff war with China, farmers will receive $19.5 billion in direct government bailout money in 2019, the most since 2005. That doesn’t include an extra $10.5 billion in federally subsidized crop insurance payments, the main vehicle of the farm subsidy program.

This is a move to protect Trump’s political advantage with his Midwest base for the coming election in 2020. But, who is benefiting? It’s mostly the corporate farms, and the largest individually-owned farms. From Modern Farmer:

“The idea is fairly clear: the larger a farm is, the more it has to lose, and thus the more money it takes to make whole.”

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) analyzed USDA data and found that 82 farmers collected over $500,000 each in 2018-2019. In comparison, the EWG found that the bottom 80% of farmers received less than $5,000 each.

This latest tranche of government money comes after the USDA changed the rules regarding who qualified. Previously, each farmer applying for assistance had to have an average adjusted gross income of less than $900,000 per year. Now, there’s no limit on the size of an applicant’s income, as long as 75% “is derived from farming, ranching, or forestry related activities.”

That opens the trough to the biggest corporate farms, to super-rich investors, and the biggest family farms. Not surprisingly, since the Trump administration’s efforts are aimed at protecting those who are among his large donors, rather than the most vulnerable farmers, there are no cries that this is “socialism” by the GOP.

Apparently, this is capitalism at its best, but what we did to save the auto industry was socialism.

On to our Saturday Soother, that interlude in the week when we try to forget what Trump may have promised to a foreign leader, or what Cory Lewandowsky did to Jerry Nadler. We focus instead on what excuses we can use to avoid the coming fall clean-up. Here, on the fields of Wrong, we are taking in our bluebird houses, the fledglings left a week ago. A few hummingbirds are still around, but will certainly be gone next week. The apple trees have lost most of their leaves, and the deer are eating the fruit that falls to the ground. We’re trying to wait until early October to turn the heat on, but the last two nights have been in the high-30s.

Let’s warm up today by brewing up a hot, steaming cup of Ethiopia Sidamo Gora Kone ($19/12 oz.) from Sacramento, CA’s Temple Coffee Roasters. The roaster says it has a sweet-savory structure with a crisp, lightly satiny mouthfeel. You be the judge.

Now settle back and listen to a musical selection for the change of season. Here is “Autumn” a petit adagio from Alexander Glazunov’s “The Seasons”. The music was written as an allegorical ballet, but we’re going to listen to a symphonic treatment. It was composed in 1899, and first performed as a ballet by the Imperial Ballet in 1900 in St. Petersburg, Russia. Here, it is played by the Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra of Bratislava conducted by Ondrej Lenard:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Megan Rapinoe

The Daily Escape:

Going to the Sun Road, Glacier NP – 2016 photo by Wrongo

Megan Rapinoe, after the Women’s Soccer Team ticker tape parade in NYC on Wednesday:

“This is my charge to everyone: We have to be better. We have to love more. Hate less. We got to listen more and talk less….It’s our responsibility to make the world a better place.” https://t.co/7LJHPDVRm9 pic.twitter.com/5s5OuS4Gsx

— CBS News (@CBSNews) July 10, 2019

America knows by now that Megan Rapinoe is the outspoken co-captain of the USA Women’s Soccer team. She was the high scorer in the Women’s team’s march to their fourth World Cup victory. She’s also the person who said earlier in the tournament that she would not visit the White House if Trump extended an invitation.

Trump responded by criticizing Rapinoe on Twitter. He later congratulated the team on their win, but also vacillated on whether the team would be asked to visit. On Monday, Rapinoe said the team would visit Congress, but not the White House, even if Trump asked.

On Tuesday, Public Policy Polling conducted a poll about “Megan Rapinoe vs. Donald Trump, 2020”. It said:

“We found that Rapinoe gets 42% to 41% for Trump.”

The new poll numbers are humorous, if not dispositive. After all, she’s not running for president. But she has some of the leadership concepts down:

When asked by CNN’s Anderson Cooper what she would say to Trump, Rapinoe looked into the camera and said, “Your message is excluding people. You’re excluding me, you’re excluding people that look like me, you’re excluding people of color, and you’re excluding Americans that maybe support you.”

Rapinoe is openly gay. She’s advocating for equal pay for equal work for women. Like AOC, she’s Trump’s equal on twitter. The back-to-back World Cup champion added:

“we need to have a reckoning with the implications of Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan, because “you’re harking back to an era that was not great for everyone – it might have been great for a few people, and maybe America is great for a few people right now, but it’s not great for enough Americans in this world….You have an incredible responsibility as the chief of this country to take care of every single person, and you need to do better for everyone…”

More from Rapinoe to CNN’s Anderson Cooper:

“I don’t think anyone on the team has any interest in lending the platform that we’ve worked so hard to build, and the things that we fight for, and the way that we live our life – I don’t think that we want that to be co-opted or corrupted by this administration,”

Rapinoe accepted an invitation on behalf of the team from Democratic lawmakers, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), House Speaker Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). She added:

“This is such a special moment for us, and to be able to sort of leverage this moment and talk about the things that we want to talk about and to celebrate like this with the leaders of our country is an incredible moment….So yes to AOC, yes to Nancy Pelosi, yes to the bipartisan Congress, yes to Chuck Schumer – yes to anyone else that wants to invite us and have a real substantive conversation, and that believes in the same things that we believe in.”

She’s a proud American who understands that despite Trump wanting to go back in time, it’s never again going to be 1953 in America. These women aren’t ornamental, they’re not trophies.

They win trophies.

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Trump Still Wants His Citizenship Question

The Daily Escape:

Sandia Mountains, New Mexico – 2019 photo by cameforthegames

On June 27, the Supreme Court held that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s March 2018 order directing the Census Bureau to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census questionnaire could not go forward. At the time, we all thought that there would be no such question on the census.

Now, that’s no longer true.

“President Trump and Attorney General William P. Barr began working to find a way to place a citizenship question on the 2020 census just after the Supreme Court blocked its inclusion last month, Mr. Barr said on Monday, adding that he believes that the administration can find a legal path to incorporating the question.”

More from Barr:

“I felt the Supreme Court decision was wrong, but it also made clear that the question was a perfectly legal question to ask, but the record had to be clarified…”

The ruling left open the possibility that the citizenship question could be added to the census if the administration came up with a better rationale for it.

Here’s a way to look at what the Administration means: The Supreme Court said we couldn’t do this. Our reasoning was stupid and insulting. So now, we have to come up with something better. Yeah, we said it was too late for that, but we’re working on a brilliant new reason.

And you shouldn’t make anything of the fact that the lawyers the DOJ had working on it just quit:

“Barr also acknowledged that the career Justice Department lawyers who had worked on the census question had little appetite to continue on the case after Mr. Trump inserted himself into the process…. The Justice Department announced a day earlier that it was replacing them, a nearly unheard-of move.”

On Monday, the plaintiffs in the case asked a NY judge to block the DOJ lawyers’ withdrawal because they did not demonstrate “satisfactory reasons” for the change. On Tuesday, the judge denied the request, except for two DOJ attorneys.

Barr also said that the Trump administration would soon reveal how it plans to add the question, but he wouldn’t detail exactly how it would be justified.

On Monday, Speaker Pelosi announced that she intended to schedule a full House vote “soon” to hold Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for defying subpoenas for documents related to the census question. This had been recommended last month by the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

If Barr goes forward, the question will be provisionally added, and a new time clock for the case starts again.

But, Trump may have screwed the pooch. He admitted that the whole point was to favor Republican redistricting, which was exactly what his lawyers have said is not the case, because that’s unconstitutional. Trump said we need the census citizenship question for many reasons:

“Number one, you need it for Congress — you need it for Congress for redistricting,” he said Friday. “You need it for appropriations — where are the funds going? How many people are there? Are they citizens? Are they not citizens? You need it for many reasons.”

Trump apparently doesn’t realize that America bases redistricting on the population of the district, not the citizens in the district. Yet, there’s still a strong possibility that his question will be part of the census.

In the case mentioned above, four Supreme Court justices said they would vote for literally any position the administration takes on the issue. And a fifth vote (Chief Justice Roberts) searched in vain for any possible fig leaf that would allow him to join them. When he couldn’t, he sided with the liberals.

Americans should be outraged that the Trump administration willingly engaged in an illegal action, and then lied about it in federal court. They should be outraged that four members of the Supreme Court thought that was just fine. The Chief Justice thought it could have been fine, had they come up with a less blatant pretext, which he invited them to provide. Any Chief Justice worthy of the title would have simply ruled that the process couldn’t be salvaged.

The big story here isn’t the census question. It’s the DOJ’s legal team refusing to continue working on the case. This is unprecedented, and a really big deal.

The most plausible explanation for their quitting is that they told the Supreme Court it had to decide by June 30th, or the question couldn’t be included. If they now have to go back to SCOTUS, they would have to admit that was a lie.

We have to hope that the administration’s malevolence will be ruined by their incompetence.

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Can Democrats Be Republican Lite in 2020 and Win?

The Daily Escape:

Bowman Lake, Glacier NP – June 2019 photo by TheChariot77

We’re facing multiple crises over the next few years that require big policy fixes. Climate change is an existential threat, and the consequences of inaction far outweigh the risk of doing too much, too soon in trying to solve it. Education, healthcare, and housing costs are growing in unsustainable ways, and threaten to leave large swathes of Americans behind. The under-investment in our infrastructure is approaching a point of no return. The toxic combo of immigration, income inequality and political division could lead us into a second Civil War.

When we look at both Party’s candidates for 2020, do any of them have ideas that can solve these problems? Trump offers nothing to address them. A few of the Democrats running for the nomination have big ideas, and a few newbies in Congress have big ideas of their own.

The question is, will the Establishment Democrats prevent the candidates from offering big ideas to American voters?

In a prescient article in the WaPo, “Haunted by the Reagan era”, Ryan Grim made the point that older Democrats, like Pelosi, Schumer and Biden were scarred by past defeats, and subsequently, have attempted to placate their Republican opposition. From Grim:

“It’s hard to overstate how traumatizing that 1980 landslide was for Democrats. It came just two years after the rise of the New Right, the Class of ’78 led by firebrands like Newt Gingrich, and it felt like the country was repudiating everything the Democrats stood for. The party that had saved the world from the Nazis, built the modern welfare state, gone to the moon and overseen the longest stretch of economic prosperity in human history was routed by a C-list actor. Reagan won 44 states….”

It also happened in 1972, when Nixon swamped the liberal Democrat, George McGovern, 49 states to one. More from Grim: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“When these leaders plead for their party to stay in the middle, they’re crouching into the defensive posture they’ve been used to since November 1980, afraid that if they come across as harebrained liberals, voters will turn them out again.”

Maybe it’s political PTSD. For younger politicians like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), this is a strategic error. For the young Democrats, Republicans shouldn’t be feared, they should be beaten.

But, Joe Biden is leading the polls for the Democratic nomination. He, like the other Establishment Dems, assume the voters won’t agree with them on fundamental change. They think that Democrats only get elected by avoiding riling up the conservative silent majority, or, at least, the majority of those who actually turn out to vote. From David Atkins:

“They hew to the late 20th century perspective that the wisest course lies in not making change too quickly, or giving any political party the power to make sweeping changes. This status-quo philosophy is part of why America hasn’t made any major changes to its economic or political structures since enacting Medicare in the 1960s.”

They believe this, no matter how much polling shows that voters increasingly reject conservative precepts. More from Atkins:

“Voters swept Barack Obama and the Democrats into unitary control of government in 2008, and got for their trouble a too-small stimulus and a relatively minor adjustment to the healthcare system. Voters… swept Donald Trump and Republicans into unitary control of government in 2016, and for their trouble got a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans….And when neither party has total control of government, practically nothing happens at all.”

So, should the Democrats run to the center in 2020? Hillary lost doing precisely that in 2016, but the Dems took back the House in 2018 mostly by winning centrist districts, including many that had voted for Trump in 2016. The Establishment Democrats want to hedge their bets, protecting a status quo that, in the medium-term, may prove very dangerous to the country.

The Dems won 2018 in part by promising to reign in Trump. Once in control, Pelosi took all substantive actions off the table, opting instead for a series of small, politically-irrelevant investigatory gestures.

Those who voted for them have to wonder: If this all that they’re going to do, why give them the power?

Sanders and Warren are old enough to be Establishment Dems, but they are true progressives. Neither Warren, nor Sanders is a once-in-a-generation superstar like Barack Obama. Assuming none of the current pack of nominees are like him, the question is whether the Dems on the extreme left, or the center-left, are more likely to turn out enough voters to carry Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and possibly, Florida.

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Random Tuesday Thoughts

(Wrongo and Ms. Right are away until July 9th visiting our CA family. Expect the next column to be posted then.)

The Daily Escape:

White Sands National Monument, NM – 2019 photo by Bernard-F

#1: Wrongo watched the video of Trump walking across the Korean DMZ. While most foreign policy professionals will have a cranky reaction to the event, it represents progress. Both sides had stopped negotiations and in fact, were not even talking, after Trump walked out of the Hanoi meeting.

Whether it is a breakthrough that leads to a deal remains to be seen. OTOH, Trump took his daughter Ivanka and Tucker Carlson to the DMZ, while sending John Bolton (who he called “Mike”), and Mike Pompeo on to other tasks. Anything that drives the GOP neocons crazy can’t be all bad.

The incoherence of Trump’s global strategy shows itself in extending himself to North Korea, a country that has nuclear weapons, and the means to deliver them. The US has no agreement with NorKo to contain its weapons of mass destruction. We don’t even have a peace agreement after the War that ended in 1953, but we’re talking.

Contrast that with Trump’s walking away from the signed Iranian nuclear deal, which was negotiated to prevent an exact North Korea-type situation from happening. Inexplicable.

#2: Forbes has a very interesting article on new solar power capacity in California:

“Los Angeles Power and Water officials have struck a deal on the largest and cheapest solar + battery-storage project in the world, at prices that leave fossil fuels in the dust and may relegate nuclear power to the dustbin.”

Cheaper than fossil fuels, the new plant will be built north of LA, in Kern County. LA officials said that it will be the largest and lowest-cost solar and high-capacity battery storage project in the US. When up and running, it will operate at half the estimated cost of power from a new natural gas plant. The plant is expected to deliver its first megawatt by April 2023.

#3: Reuters reports that Trump’s “deal” with China may not be a deal at all. In their article, China warns of long road ahead for deal with US after ice-breaking talks, Reuters quotes the official China Daily, an English-language daily often used by Beijing to put its message out to the rest of the world. It warned there was no guarantee there would ever be a deal: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Agreement on 90 percent of the issues has proved not to be enough, and with the remaining 10 percent where their fundamental differences reside, it is not going to be easy to reach a 100-percent consensus, since at this point, they remain widely apart even on the conceptual level.”

#4: Next, it’s that time of year again where Americans camp out for days in order to visit with a pop-up rural clinic nurse. Why? Because we have the most expensive “health care” on earth, and a system absolutely designed to keep it that way:

“They were told to arrive early if they wanted to see a doctor, so Lisa and Stevie Crider left their apartment in rural Tennessee almost 24 hours before the temporary medical clinic was scheduled to open. They packed a plastic bag with what had become their daily essentials after 21 years of marriage: An ice pack for his recurring chest pain. Tylenol for her swollen feet. Peroxide for the abscess in his mouth. Gatorade for her low blood sugar and chronic dehydration.”

A view from the volunteers:

“…a clinic volunteer….patrolled the parking lot late at night and handed out numbers to signify each patient’s place in the line. No. 48 went to a woman having panic attacks from adjacent Meigs County, where the last remaining mental-health provider had just moved away to Nashville. No. 207 went to a man with unmanaged heart disease from Polk County, where the only hospital had gone bankrupt and closed in 2017.”

With Republicans doing everything they can to break the Affordable Care Act, and then refusing to fix it, this is what their actions have caused. Rural hospitals are closing, people in rural counties have no health care. And the GOP tells them to blame Democrats. The reality is that Republicans in these states have cut funding for the programs that kept red state rural clinics and hospitals operating.

#5: Columbia University reported that scientists have discovered a gigantic aquifer of relatively fresh water trapped below the Atlantic Ocean. This undersea aquifer stretches from Massachusetts to New Jersey, extending more or less continuously out about 50 miles to the edge of the continental shelf.

The water was trapped in mile-deep ice 15,000 to 20,000 years ago. When the ice melted, sediments formed huge river deltas on top of the shelf, and fresh water got trapped there. It would have to be desalinated for most uses, but the cost would be much less than processing seawater.

See you next week!

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What the Dem Debates Are Telling Us

The Daily Escape:

Yosemite Falls from floor of Yosemite Valley – June 2019 iPhone8 photo by Believeland313

Wrongo, Ms. Right and a few friends saw the play “Ink” on Broadway this week. It’s the story of Rupert Murdoch, and how he disrupted the newspaper business in England in the early 1970s. Everyone knows the story’s outline: A tradition-bound business is revolutionized by an outsider who uses tactics that the industry won’t consider using.

When the Newspaper old guard finally understand that failure is staring them in the face, they try half-heartedly to change, and fail.

Flash forward to America in 2019: The Murdoch-owned FOX network has disrupted our news organizations, assisted mightily by the internet and by little people like Wrongo. Trump disrupted our politics in 2016, and now it’s the Democrats’ time to decide to disrupt, or stay the course. Their Party is dominated by Biden, Schumer and Pelosi. Schumer is 68, while the others are in their 70s. All represent the old guard.

After two Democratic debates involving 20 would-be candidates, it’s clear that the Party is on the horns of a dilemma: Embrace disruption? Or, stay the course? One of the fringe candidates, Marianne Williamson said it’s not about policies, it’s about playing Donald Trump’s game and beating him.

The MSM says Dems should get down in the weeds, talk policies and how to pay for them. But we should really talk about the direction the country should be taking in a post-Trump America.

Democrats face a conundrum. The Democratic disruptors may be out in front of the public. Those candidates are Warren, Sanders, Harris, Buttigieg, and a few others. Republicans will attack them as radical socialists, but their message, that the average person has gotten screwed for at least 40 years and only systemic change can solve that, resonates.

For the disruptors, Incremental change hasn’t worked. That’s something Trump realized, and these few Democrats have as well. You have to be playing the long game. It’s not about one debate. You stick to your message, and make sure it resonates.

Then there are the traditional politicians like Biden, Beto and Klobuchar who are playing the old style game. Biden in particular says, “look at what I’ve done in the past. Give me the reins again“.

But it’s unclear whether voters want to play it safe. Wrongo had a good conversation with his Trump-supporting friend Dave C., who says he’s fiscally conservative, but may be flexible on some social issues. He knows that Trump won’t fulfill all of his promises. And no one should think that Sanders, Warren or any Democrat will be able to fulfill theirs either.

DC doesn’t work that way. But many things count bigly, like the appointment of Supreme Court Justices.

And regarding the “socialism” epithet, Bernie had a piece this week in the WSJ entitled “Trump Is The Worst Kind of Socialist.” If you read it, you’ll be sold. Bernie is not just saying Trump must go, he’s going at the Right’s main attack on him, while doubling-down on his position.

Bernie may not be your cup of tea; he isn’t Wrongo’s. But, he delivers his position with passion. This isn’t Hillary taking a poll, and trying to cover all bases. Bernie’s willing to drop a few bombs, and then deal with the fallout.

Biden can only go downhill from here. He’s rusty. The Biden we saw may not be around for Iowa if he doesn’t sharpen his game. Here’s Wrongo’s view of Biden and Bernie: (hat tip: Sean O.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kamala Harris showed passion, and her prosecutorial skills to viewers. But will that convince voters? Particularly those in the suburbs? Warren won night one. Let’s see how she does when she’s on stage with night two’s survivors. She’s certainly got the vision thing down, but Kamala seems to have more fight.

Ultimately, the next 18 months are going to be about who can win the suburbs. In 2018, Dems reversed their 2016 losses in the ‘burbs, while again losing rural areas, just like in 2016. The difference was that in 2018, they won control of the House.

Trump’s 2016 formula worked. He traded suburban votes for small-town and rural votes and it got him an Electoral College win. Democrats can win in 2020 if they continue their 2018 success in the suburbs.

If the Democratic presidential candidate focuses exclusively on climate change, he/she will lose a lot of rural votes. A candidate who berates everyone who works in financial services will lose suburban support. But, a candidate that offers solutions on health costs, a fairer, less monopolized economy, more affordable education, a serious approach to the opioid crisis can probably win urban and suburban America.

It’s a long slog from here. And the winning candidate’s job is to keep voters engaged about how important 2020 will be to our kids and grandkids.

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Fixing Social Security

The Daily Escape:

Tahitian Gardenia, Maui – 2013 photo by Wrongo

On June 13th, The New York Times had an article on the Social Security (SS) shortfall: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Unless a political solution is reached, Social Security’s so-called trust funds are expected to be depleted within about 15 years. Then, something that has been unimaginable for decades would be required under current law: Benefit checks for retirees would be cut by about 20 percent across the board.”

With life expectancy increasing, by 2035, Social Security estimates, the number of Americans 65 or older will increase to more than 79 million, from about 49 million today. This is the high point of eligibility, as the number of Baby Boomers will start to decline by then.

Americans are counting on Congress to fix this problem. As usual, there are two answers, one offered by each Party. The GOP thinks that we can’t afford SS and Medicare. In fact, they’ve been trying to cut our SS checks since the Reagan presidency. The right-wing Heritage Foundation offered a new policy paper in May. As in the past, they favor cuts to benefits and siphoning money from payroll taxes into individual investment accounts. This is a recycling of George W. Bush’s 2005 idea, that the Democrats blocked at the time. The Heritage Foundation overlooks that at one time, pensions were widespread, and SS was a supplementary source of income for many retirees, not their primary source as it is for most today.

The Democrats have suggested an increase in Social Security benefits, along with higher taxes for the wealthy. Taken together, these measures would eliminate the SS program’s financial shortfall.

Millions of words have been written about how to deal with the shortfall. Here is one idea from Dale Coberly posted at the Angry Bear:

“All we have to do is pay an extra dollar per week per person per year.  After next year It will be more like a dollar and ten cents.  And if we wait another year it will be about a dollar and twenty cents for the first few years, then a great deal less than a dollar per week on average. This would keep Social Security solvent essentially forever.  The Deputy Chief Actuary at Social Security agrees that this is true.”

Most of the political discussion is about “we can’t afford it”. They mean the US government. But, when we think that if the individual wage earner CAN afford it, there’s no reason why the government can’t pay for it. This isn’t socialism, and the US government doesn’t have to come up with $ Trillions all at once.

Social Security was not designed to be welfare. It isn’t an “entitlement”, as though it’s an unearned benefit. People contribute a hefty portion of their annual income for their entire working lives to the SS fund, and they have the right to their SS payments in retirement. The original intent was for workers to save enough money to pay benefits when they were too old to work. Today, even the “rich” are not paying in more than they will get back with reasonable interest.

The Times article doesn’t mention that the easiest, and most obvious solution is raising or eliminating the SS cap. Most people forget that only the first $132,900 are taxed. Anyone earning more than that is paying into Social Security at the same rate as the rest of us.

Here’s a message to Jeff Sommers, who wrote the NYT article: You are fanning the flames of a false emergency when there is a sound solution to be implemented.

Several studies have shown that simply removing the cap, which affects less than 10% of US taxpayers, would solve the SS program’s solvency issues indefinitely. No benefit cuts needed. No political horse trading needed between the Republicans and Democrats, except that the GOP base will scream bloody murder if they are forced to pay in more than they will get back.

But, why should we give a pass to the rich, when the rest of us depend disproportionately on social security income to meet basic needs?

Now all we need is the political courage to get it done, which is in absurdly short supply these days.

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Monday Cartoon Blogging – June 10, 2019

We’re back from the beach to review the week that was! Trump toured Buckingham Palace. The world observed the 75th anniversary of D-day, and the 30th anniversary of China’s Tiananmen Square. Some are saying that the vicious attack by security forces on protesters in Sudan is Africa’s first Tiananmen Square-type event. At home, Joe Biden renounced the Hyde Amendment that barred public financing for abortions, a position he held for nearly 40 years. Republicans pounced, framing Biden’s change in position as a gaffe. You might say he was for it before he was against it. On to cartoons.

Biden has another bi-partisan moment with GOP:

 

Trumpy oh Trumpy, where have you been? I’ve been to London to visit the Queen:

What D-Day shows us about today:

Mueller’s subliminal messages:

GOP ponders raising voting age:

Trump has genuine concerns about voting:

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