For a couple of odd timing reasons, this is my first full 5-day week at my new job...and it's already a 5½-day week. So I've barely enough time to jot these articles down for future reading:
Have fun. I'll catch up to these in a day or two.
Jeet Heer reminds Republicans that Donald Trump isn't going to disappear on November 9th:
[W]ill Trump really cease to matter in November? After all, no human being loves the spotlight more, and he’s chased after media attention since he was a young man. Being the nominee of a major party is a dream job for him, because it means people will hang on his every word. Even if he loses badly in November, Trump will likely cling to his status as the strangest “party elder” ever—and convert it into new, attention-grabbing and lucrative projects. He has indicated, for one thing, that he wants to monetize his ability to generate attention with his controversial views by creating Trump TV (whatever the election results). Don’t scoff: Sarah Palin was number two on a losing ticket in 2008 and embarrassed herself spectacularly in the process, but she still commanded millions of followers when the election was over—enough, in fact, that she became a precursor to Trump in her merger of politics and reality shows, as well as one of his key surrogates.
Donald Trump will not go gentle into that good night. Nor will he curse the dying of the light. Instead he’ll keep pursuing the klieg lights of the media circus, and through his televised antics continue to dominate the political conversation on the Republican side. He’ll be helped by his unusually loyal and rabid fan base. As Trump rightly said, even shooting someone in broad daylight on 5th Avenue wouldn’t warn them away. In order to maintain that fan base, Trump is, based on past precedent, likely to nurture a stabbed-in-the-back myth against the Republican and media “elites” if he loses.
It looks less and less likely he'll actually win the election, but he'll be around for many years poisoning the debate. Good work, Republicans.
Oh, Wisconsin. You gave the world Robert La Follette, but also Joseph McCarthy; Frank Zeidler, and Paul Ryan; and, of course, Scott Walker, whose latest rigidly-ideological imbecile move will keep Wisconsin firmly in the 20th century:
Gov. Scott Walker’s decision to hand back $810 million to the federal government — money that would have built a fast train from Madison to Milwaukee and Chicago — remains one of the most unfortunate and stupid acts in recent Wisconsin history. Not only did Walker deprive Wisconsin of a modern rail system, his ideological rigidity cost our state thousands of jobs and tens of millions of dollars.
Walker’s decision, supposedly based on avoiding about $5 million a year in operating costs, has cost the taxpayers plenty. Because the federal grant would have made necessary repairs to the Hiawatha line from Milwaukee to Chicago, returning the federal money has meant that the state has had to spend tens of millions of Wisconsin taxpayer dollars instead. The cancellation of the rail link also meant that the state was out $50 million to the train manufacturer Talgo for trains that were built but never used, plus a large punitive settlement.
It wasn’t just tax dollars we lost. In a state that has fallen behind the rest of the nation in job creation, we also forfeited a large number of employment opportunities. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, rail-related employment would have peaked at 4,732 jobs, largely in construction of the line. Operating and maintaining the trains would have created 55 permanent jobs. On top of that, the train manufacturer Talgo laid off its workforce and moved out of state. Talgo employed 150 workers in a section of Milwaukee that desperately needs jobs and held promise to expand future employment significantly. Also, a modern transportation system is a big draw for high-tech companies.
Progressive administrations are also draws for high-tech companies (or, rather, their employees), as North Carolina is finding out.
I wonder if voters will ever figure out that the Republican Party is killing their economic opportunities every chance they get?
New Republic's Joe Miller outlines how the Alabama Republican Party has made life worse for just about everyone in Alabama:
“There is nothing good that has come from the Republicans being in power in Alabama, and I’m a Republican,” says Arthur Payne, a former state representative from Birmingham. “Since the Republicans have taken over, we have borrowed more money than we ever have in the history of the state, and our budget is in worse shape than it’s ever been.”
That’s saying a lot for a state that for decades has ranked near the bottom of just about every socioeconomic measure. Nearly 660,000 Alabamians go without health insurance. The state has the highest infant mortality rate in the nation, and ranks in the top ten in heart disease, cancer, stroke, influenza, pneumonia, and kidney disease. It has the seventh-lowest percentage of residents with college degrees, the fifth-lowest with high school diplomas, and the sixth-highest unemployment rate. The median income is $42,278, third-lowest in the country, a mere 3 percent increase over what it was in 2010, when Hubbard and the Republicans took control. Over the same period, the nation’s median income has increased 8 percent.
In the most recent legislative session, Alabama faced another budget shortfall, and instead of raising taxes or finding places to cut state programs, legislators took it all out of Medicaid’s budget.
They've also made it unlikely that any foreign companies will open factories there for at least a generation, in party by arresting executives from Honda and Mercedes-Benz on charges of giving food to illegal immigrants.
So when you say that Donald Trump doesn't represent the mainstream GOP, your definition of "mainstream" is awfully narrow.
These are the kinds of articles that make me want to go into exile:
- A years-long investigation by journalist David Cay Johnston uncovered links between Donald Trump and key mafia figures, which would make Trump the most corrupt presidential candidate since Harding.
- James Fallows warns us not to assume that even though because the U.S. has gotten out of previous political crises, we shouldn't complacently assume that we'll do it again if Trump gets elected. He draws on Madison's Federalist #10 to make his point: "It is in vain to say that enlightened statesmen will be able to adjust these clashing interests, and render them all subservient to the public good. Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm."
- Finally, The New Yorker's Adam Gopnik comments on "The dangerous acceptance of Donald Trump," underscoring the point Fallows made: "[U]nder any label Trump is a declared enemy of the liberal constitutional order of the United States—the order that has made it, in fact, the great and plural country that it already is."
It's going to be a long five months.
Too many things to read before lunchtime:
Now, back to work.
On this day in 1954, the Supreme Court handed down Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, which ended "separate but equal" education after finding that the two concepts are antagonistic. Also on this day in 1954, the City of Chicago announced plans for the Stateway Gardens housing project, which eventually replaced an African-American slum with a high-rise hell-on-earth housing African Americans. As historian John R. Schmidt comments, "Maybe the new public housing projects were an attempt to keep Black people on 'their side of the tracks.'" (They were; he's being sarcastic.)
A similar pattern exists today. Despite historic, unprecedented support for the LGBT community throughout most of the U.S., the right has taken on the non-existent issue of predators in bathrooms to win votes in an election year. The small minority of people who (a) care about this issue and (b) are afraid of gays nevertheless has support from latter-day Sheriff Clark figures like Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and other Republicans.
Progress is never smooth. I just wish people on the wrong side of history would get out of the way sometimes.
New Republic's Brian Buetler reports that the wing-nuts in the Republican Party (i.e., about half of them) are already laying the psychological groundwork for the increased reporting on Donald Trump's past coming out now that he's the presumptive nominee:
The Republican primary campaign revealed (or rather reestablished) that Donald Trump is a bigot and a sexist and a creep. In fairness, this was not entirely a testament to fearless journalism; Trump happily exhibited all of these behaviors in front of live television cameras week after week. But reporters and campaigns did bring incidents of bigotry, sexism, and creepiness from his past to light, which helped feed the public’s exceedingly negative impression of the GOP’s new standard-bearer.
Despite months of digging, though, they may have only scratched the surface of Trump’s public and private sordidness. Now that he’s effectively secured the Republican Party nomination, we can expect the full details to pour out in the weeks and months ahead.
Before he dropped out of the race, Ted Cruz predicted this would happen. He attributed it to a liberal conspiracy: The media would sit on their most explosive Trump exposés until he’d won the nomination thanks to the invaluable free airtime they’d given him—and then destroy him with a series of damning revelations they’d been waiting to unleash.
It goes without saying that Democrats have none of those perverse incentives to worry about. They will unearth what Republicans missed; they will find what reporters can’t, if they haven’t already. And to the extent that their dossiers overlap, they will release what Republicans withheld. Reporters will happily field this opposition research, run it to ground, and publish it. It isn’t the media that’s been strategically holding fire—it’s the Democrats. They even boast about it.
And it's not like this guy doesn't have a whole load of dirty laundry to air. But such is the pathology of the Republican base right now that any bad news about their candidate must be part of a larger conspiracy, because the cognitive dissonance otherwise would be incapacitating.
Wow, this is going to be a long campaign.
After announcing yesterday that Sears will close its oldest retail store in the U.S. in the wake of a $1.13 bn loss last year, CEO Eddie Lampert told investors that he intends to return the chain to profitability in five years. Apparently their loyalty program is the problem:
Shop Your Way members sign up to receive coupons, and free shipping, and earn points that can be converted into dollars. Membership also provides access to a “social commerce” community on shopyourway.com that lets shoppers see what merchandise their friends have "liked" or purchased. Sears, in return, receives rich data about these customers that helps it adapt more quickly to serving them.
The program has been Lampert's pet project of the last five years. But after defending it and explaining that building such a platform and changing customers' behavior requires a lot of patience, he admitted what a lot of skeptical observers have long assumed: Shop Your Way just isn't getting people to spend enough money.
He said the platform has an enormous number of registered members, but many of them are not as active as he would like. Three-quarters of Sears' revenue comes from registered Shop Your Way members, but many of them are not frequent buyers.
"Getting people engaged and interested is super-important," he said. "We've built the platform, (but) we've fallen short on getting them engaged. Are we really getting the bulk of their purchases? We want to serve our members deeper. If you shop with us 10 times a year and spend $300, we'd like you to shop 100 times a year and spend $3,000."
NO, you putz, the problem isn't your loyalty platform; it's that you, personally, have spent ten years turning Sears into someplace no one wants to shop. Have you even been inside one of your stores lately?
A few years ago I spent two days inside a Sears store that had been converted into a health-insurance company's head office. I have never worked in a more depressing environment, and I'm including in "never" the time I worked graveyard shifts in a dorm security booth in college.
Eddie, the only way the company can return to profitability in five years is if you terminate retail operations and sell the remaining assets to Seritage. But face it: you killed one of America's greatest brands, all by yourself.
As someone with both student debt and mortgages, our encroaching deflation (and consistent below-target inflation) frustrates me. Take a look at this special report by Crain's showing how bad the problem of student debt has become in general:
The share of college grads owing at least $30,000 in inflation-adjusted dollars jumped from 6 percent to 30 percent in the eight years ended in 2012, according to the College Board, while the average debt of new graduates in Illinois ballooned 85 percent, to $29,984, over the last decade. Among 46 Illinois schools reporting data to the Princeton Review, 19 say 2014 graduates' debt averaged more than $30,000. Debt for graduates of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago was $42,097, topped only by downstate MacMurray College's $50,039. Neither school commented.
A study published in 2014 by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, noting that small businesses account for about 60 percent of net jobs and rely primarily on personal debt for startup capital, found "a significant and economically meaningful negative correlation" between growth of student debt and small-business formation.
February's unemployment rate for 25- to 34-year-olds was a seasonally adjusted 5.1 percent, not much higher than the 4.9 percent overall rate and down from 9 percent four years ago. Yet median compensation for 30-year-olds in 2014 has dropped over the last decade to mid-1980s levels, according to the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C.
So let's review:
- You need a college degree to meet the minimum qualifications for most jobs.
- College costs have risen at multiples of inflation for 20 years or more.
- Students have to borrow more money than ever before to get the college degrees they need to get jobs.
- The resulting debt service depresses consumer spending, reducing demand for goods and services, and making the jobs even scarcer.
- Republican Party policies aimed at reducing taxes and government spending, especially in the wake of the 2008 crash, have also suppressed demand for services.
- Republicans have also simultaneously chipped away at the social safety net built up by bipartisan governments from 1934 to 1976, making repaying debt even harder for people living on the edge.
- Let's not forget the Republican-drafted, Bush-approved bankruptcy law of 2005 that makes it impossible to get out from under crushing student-loan debt in most circumstances.
- All of these Republican policies cause—cause—lower inflation verging on deflation, which makes it harder to repay debts. Keep in mind that the biggest beneficiaries of lower inflation are the bankers who contribute disproportionately to Republicans.
As we say in software, the transfer of wealth from young students to old bankers is a feature, not a bug, of Republican economic and tax policies.
You want to know how to keep student debt from destroying the Millennials? Simple. Government stimulus to get us out of the deflation trap, and allowing student loans to be discharged in bankruptcy.
You want to know how to do those things? Simple. Elect Democratic majorities in Federal and state legislatures, and vote for Hillary Clinton on November 6th.