The Democrats’ Dastardly Plan

This post first appeared at Imagine Democracy.

The Democrats have a sinister plan. They are going to trick people into voting for them by doing things to make their lives better.

They plan to use the people’s government to bribe the voters. They are strategically scheming to allocate government resources to deliver things like safety from the Covid-19 virus, health care, education, even modernized infrastructure. They plan to address problem like the climate crisis, racial injustice, even inequality, They will pass laws preventing companies from polluting, committing fraud and other things that companies have been allowed to do for so long! This hijacking of the government by Democrats for their own purposes could mean voters reward them by allowing them to do even more for them.

However the good Republicans also have a plan. To prevent the seizure of the government away from the corporations, they are passing laws to stop the voters from being able to reward the Democrats for their bribery schemes. They are gallantly making sure that it is very, very difficult for the bribed voters to get to polling places – of course prohibiting the ease of voting by mail – and if they get to voting places they will face all kinds of rules designed to keep the from the voting booths themselves.

In case voters actually do make it to the voting booths to cast votes, the districts are carefully drawn in ways that Democrat votes are concentrated into a very few districts, while the majority of districts remain under Republican control, no matter how the statewide vote turns out.

So be aware of this sinister plan by Democrats to bribe voters by making their lives better. Do not let them get away with it.

The #FightFor15 Minimum Wage WAS The Compromise. #FightFor24!

The minimum wage should be $24 if it had kept up with the gains in the economy.

Instead all those gains went to a top few.

CEPR: This is What Minimum Wage Would Be If It Kept Pace with Productivity

While the national minimum wage did rise roughly in step with productivity growth from its inception in 1938 until 1968, in the more than five decades since then, it has not even kept pace with inflation. However, if the minimum wage did rise in step with productivity growth since 1968 it would be over $24 an hour today, as shown in the Figure below.

$15 WAS the compromise!

$15 is a compromise already. If the minimum wages had kept pace with the gains in the economy it would be $24 or so per hour now, which is around $96K per year for a couple. What this means is that if labor’s share of the economy had stayed the same the minimum lifestyle equivalent would be what a $96K lifestyle today is. The house you’d be able to buy, etc. That would be our minimum.

#FightFor24

If they kill the $15 compromise there is no reason to keep fighting for $15. It should be $24 and we should all rightfully be fighting for that. It just gets us back to where we were before the great financialization, the great separation of labor wages from the economy, the great inequalizer.

So fuck 15, #FightFor24

Always Say “Jim Crow Filibuster” or “Racist Filibuster”

Always use the phrase “Jim Crow Filibuster” or “Racist Filibuster.” This takes away the cover of pretending the filibuster is a “norm” or “tradition” as an excuse for not killing it.

Senators like Manchin should not be asked if they support “ending the filibuster,” they should be asked if they support “keeping the racist filibuster.”

The Senate filibuster has a racist past and present. End it so America can move forward.

The nature of the filibuster, its rules and norms, is hardly an iron-clad tradition. It has changed and adapted greatly over the years since it first became popular in the civil rights era. But what hasn’t changed is its enduring connection to racism. The filibuster has always stood in the way of racial progress, whether employed by Southern Democrats of the Jim Crow era or the Republican Party today after a major shift in the party’s stance on racial equality. When you understand the filibuster’s racist past, it becomes clear that it has a racist present as well — and that we need to get rid of it.

Call it what it is, don’t let them take cover under “tradition.”

Don’t Nuke The Filibuster – Reform It

Dems should reform the filibuster to make it into what the public thinks it already is.

Currently there is a Senate rule that effectively means legislation is not allowed to pass unless it gets 60 votes. This is called the filibuster rule. It has allowed Republicans to obstruct everything that government can do to make people’s lives better for more than a decade.

But if you ask “regular” people what a filibuster is (I don’t mean people on Twitter or who obsessively follow the news, I mean regular, busy people) they will almost universally answer that a filibuster means senators talking all day and all night. They have no idea that there is a rule that effectively requires 60 votes for anything to pass.

The 1939 movie “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” led to public belief that a filibuster involves a senator talking until he or she can’t stand up anymore when they believe something being done is just wrong. They would go on as long as they could. This dramatic act gets news, and alerts the public to pay attention. It gives supporters time to rally their forces. Then the public can contact their senators and let them know if they should go ahead or stop.

Reform The Filibuster

In stead if “nuking” the filibuster Democrats should ask for filibuster reform. Get rid of the ridiculous rule that allows every bill to be blocked if it can’t get 60 votes. Return to a rule that allows a senator to talk and talk and give the public time to rally. Bring back this system that protects the minority, but in a way that makes it a rare, dramatic event. It is the rarity of the event that gives it its value.

It is not a “nuclear option” to change the rules to what the public thinks the rules already are.

On “Speaking Fees,” Biden and Yellen

In the 90s there was a scandal about “buckraking,” where journalists were reporting positively about certain moneyed interests while raking in huge “speaking fees” from them. (A good example was 1996’s Money Talks by Howard Kurtz, Part 1, Part 2.)

While Congress has since banned honoraria for its members, the market for reporters and pundits who speak to business audiences has never been hotter. Some big-name media people routinely receive $15,000, $30,000, even $50,000 for a single speech. And the bulk of that money comes from corporations and lobbying organizations with more than a passing interest in the issues the journalists write about and yak about for a living.

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Stop Blaming “Congress”

The American media likes to report that “Congress” isn’t getting anything done.

For example, for the last several months the media has been reporting that “Congress” hasn’t been passing a relief bill. That doesn’t give voters any information they can use. It just tells the public “Congress” is failing them, etc. But it doesn’t tell them WHO to hold accountable and so people turn against government in general. And against democracy.

Let The Public Know WHO

It was Republicans who blocked the bills. Voters need that information for democracy to work and hold the right people accountable so the country can get better. Don’t blame “Congress,” let the pubic know WHO to hold accountable so democracy can work.

My drumbeat on this has been going on for a while.

Protectionism, Trade and Democracy

This post originated at Imagine Democracy

“Protectionism” literally means we, as a nation, protect our national interests. It is one more word that has been twisted to make people think it’s a bad thing, like “entitlement” (the things we are entitled to as citizens in a democracy) or “welfare” (people in a democracy making each others’ lives better.)

“Trade” is about competitive advantages. It used to mean one region can grow bananas and another can grow corn, and by trading they each end up with both bananas and corn in their kitchens. (Good.) Today, though, it means authoritarian governments have the “competitive advantage” of allowing slavery and pollution so their factories can make things for less. So (the executives of) big corporations move production there, then squeeze the remaining workforce here with threats to move their jobs as well if they won’t lower their standard of living. (Bad.) All the gains of that “trade” are passed to a few already-wealthy owners and managers of that means of production. They use some of the gains to influence our laws to allow them to do this.

A democracy obviously would consider its people’s standard of living an interest worth “protecting” and would never allow businesses to influence lawmaking.

Trade can be done a different way but that requires democratic governance. Economists (used to) tell us that society gained from trade because making the economy more “efficient” by moving production to lower-cost regions frees up resources, providing increased investment and general prosperity; better infrastructure, higher pay and more free time for everyone in the society. And the production moved to the lower pay area means jobs and investment there, so they also move up that same ladder to increased investment and prosperity. That assumption depended on viewing society as liberal democracies capable of making and enforcing rules that would pass these gains on to everyone.

The failure of our country to maintain itself as a democracy has resulted in the allowance of trade with savers and polluters, resulting in the extreme inequality we see. Thereby enabling further squeezing of workers and environment here. It also incentivises authoritarian governments to allow slavery and pollution.

The solution to this, and so many other problems, is, of course, to remove the influence of money from our political system.

MMT Explains What Governments Can Do. It Is Not A Proposal.

This post originally appeared at We CAN Have Nice Things.

At Business Insider, Jim Edwards and Theron Mohamed do a good job explaining MMT in, “MMT: Here’s a plain-English guide to ‘Modern Monetary Theory’ and why it’s interesting.”

They begin with these bullet points:

  • MMT is a big departure from conventional economic theory. It proposes governments that control their own currency can spend freely, as they can always create more money to pay off debts in their own currency.
  • The theory suggests government spending can grow the economy to its full capacity, enrich the private sector, eliminate unemployment, and finance major programs such as universal healthcare, free college tuition, and green energy.
  • If the spending generates a government deficit, this isn’t a problem either. The government’s deficit is by definition the private sector’s surplus.
  • Increased government spending will not generate inflation as long as there is unused economic capacity or unemployed labour, MMT proposes. It is only when an economy hits physical or natural constraints on its productivity — such as full employment — that inflation happens because that is when supply fails to meet demand, jacking up prices.
  • MMT proponents argue governments can control inflation by spending less or withdrawing money from the economy through taxes.
  • Needless to say, traditional economists have some issues with all this.

Just ONE quibble with that, where they write, “It proposes governments that control their own currency can spend freely.” They should have written It EXPLAINS, not that it “proposes.” Big difference.

MMT EXPLAINS that governments that control their own currency can do a lot of things.

The Lockdown

The “lockdown” that started in March was intended to “flatten the curve” so hospitals didn’t get overwhelmed. This would “buy time” for the federal government to get containment measures in place – testing, tracing and isolation – so we could reopen the economy. The “stimulus” was to help businesses and people get through that time.

But the federal government didn’t get containment measures in place. The terrible history of what happened instead will be remembered.

And now the virus is spreading out of control, the stimulus is running out and tens of thousands of us are dying.

No one knows where this will go. It is just a horrifying situation.

Elections have consequences.

Means Testing Sucks

In a democracy government should be for everyone equally. If we’re going to have a program just give it to everyone, not just a few people. Limiting like that breeds resentment, of course, but the resentment is the correct reaction because limiting like that is just wrong.

It’s humiliating to have to prove you are poor enough to qualify for a government program, plus the masses of forms you have to fill out require huge bureaucracies to check. There is an assumption you’re trying to cheat. Means testing also sets up people to be ostracized as “Takers”. It tells the non-poor that the government is not for them, they just have to pay for it.

I could go on.

No wonder everyone hates the older generation of Democrats. Well-meaning, but they did this. Social Security, Medicare, even roads and bridges should have been the guide. Everyone deserves the things government does to make our lives better.

We Need Regulation Compliance Assistance Agencies

Along the lines of the voter assistance agency idea I posted the other day, here is something that I’ve wondered about since I had a business.

Government makes rules and regulations to protect the people and environment. But the compliance can be difficult and cost money. So people responsible for operating a business are left in this situation of not just having to run the business but also having to deal with all of that, too. It really can be “burdensome,” especially for smaller businesses.

Shouldn’t governments that regulate also have a function like some kind of Regulation Compliance Assistance Agency? The mission would be to help businesses comply and even assist with the costs if needed. The agency would send people familiar with the regulatory environment and requirements into the business to do the work and interact with the regulators until the job is done. They would help with any compliance costs in cases where the business was not intentionally cutting corners.

If the idea is that we need regulations to protect people, then clearly this would further that idea by getting the businesses complying as quickly and easily as possible? Why just put out some rule and then expect all the businesses to fix problems on their own. This necessarily creates anti-govt resentment.

It’s a win-win. The mission to get the public protected is achieved. Businesses are stronger for it. People can appreciate that govt is supposed to make our lives better.