Robert Reich looks at the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s “near-death experience” in Congress last week and explains that it is not that unions have gotten stronger or that the president has gotten weaker, but that the public no longer supports these trade deals. By about 2 to 1, as it works out. All the arguments in favor “are less persuasive in this era of staggering inequality.” Faced with the in-your-face unfairness of promised benefits accruing primarily to those in the top one percent, the public feels relatively worse off even if they are better off in some absolute sense. Reich writes:

To illustrate the point, consider a simple game I conduct with my students. I have them split up into pairs and ask them to imagine I’m giving $1,000 to one member of each pair.

I tell them the recipients can keep some of the money only on condition they reach a deal with their partner on how it’s to be divided up. They have to offer their partner a portion of the $1,000, and their partner must either accept or decline. If the partner declines, neither of them gets a penny.

You might think many recipients of the imaginary $1,000 would offer their partner one dollar, which the partner would gladly accept. After all, a dollar is better than nothing. Everyone is better off.

But that’s not what happens. Most partners decline any offer under $250 – even though that means neither of them gets anything.


When a game seems arbitrary, people are often willing to sacrifice gains for themselves in order to prevent others from walking away with far more – a result that strikes them as inherently wrong.

Even a monkey can figure that out. Just not the One Percent.

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It’s all Hillary Clinton all the time in the news this morning and, you can be sure, on the Sunday bobblehead shows later this morning. I was on the road yesterday, so I’m just catching Clinton’s Roosevelt Island speech on C-Span.

There’s no lack of snark. Politico calls the speech “the expected proto-State of the Union stuff.” But that’s not an unfair description.

Digby mentioned that Clinton’s line yesterday about not being a quitter is what makes her admired by those who respect her and frustrates those on the right who have spent a generation trying to knock her down. Like the those she asked yesterday to champion, she refuses to be knocked out. It was for that (not for any affiliation with Margaret Thatcher’s policies) that I suggested she is the Democrats’ Iron Lady. Weakness is the cardinal sin for the alpha dogs of the right, and something they try hard to pin on every Democratic candidate. With Hillary Clinton? Good luck with that.

John Nichols called the speech “short on populist specifics.” He calls for Clinton to go “all in,” as FDR did much earlier than the Four Freedoms speech Clinton’s Four Fights speech was meant to echo. Roosevelt went all in against “economic royalists.”

“There are two ways of viewing the Government’s duty in matters affecting economic and social life,” Roosevelt explained. “The first sees to it that a favored few are helped and hopes that some of their prosperity will leak through, sift through, to labor, to the farmer, to the small business man. That theory belongs to the party of Toryism, and I had hoped that most of the Tories left this country in 1776.”

Roosevelt called out the party of “trickle down” before the phrase existed, a phrase that drew strong boos when Clinton did the same yesterday. And indeed, most of the Tories — Royalists by temperament — did not leave the country after the Treaty of Paris, as I have noted here and at Scrutiny Hooligans:

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Categories : Presidential Race
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Sunday Morning Music

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Reclaiming the heartland

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Hagerty Ryan, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Public domain via Wikipedia.)

At Washington Monthly, a worthwhile examination of the conservative (and not so conservative) mindset extant in the American heartland and what progressives might do to reclaim the politics there. Driving across country with the radio on, it is easy to conclude that the heartland is a monolithic, Rush-fueled sea of conservative rage. Not so, writes Andrew Levison as part of a Washington Monthly/The Democratic Strategist roundatable on Stan Greenberg’s “The Average Joe’s Proviso.” To begin, Levison quotes Rutgers University political scientist, Lilliana Mason, on how it is that people who support some liberal policies elect Republican candidates:

Alaska elected a Republican senator and passed a recreational marijuana initiative, along with an increase in the minimum wage. North Dakota elected a Republican congressman and rejected a Personhood amendment. Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota elected a Republican senator and governor, and passed a minimum wage increase. This led Zachary Goldfarb to write: “Americans will vote for Republicans even though they disagree with them on everything.”

My research suggests a key reason why this happened: our partisan identities motivate us far more powerfully than our views about issues. Although voters may insist in the importance of their values and ideologies, they actually care less about policy and more that their team wins.

Democrats are seen as representing alien ideolgogies, Levison believes. It is often not so much that heartland citizens embrace Republicans as much as they have been taught to loathe Democrats. Understanding how the heartland works is key to cracking it. Levison writes:

In non-heartland areas, such as the formerly industrial regions of the East and Midwest, however, there were also countervailing value systems in working class life as well. Trade unions, precinct level Democratic clubs and liberal catholic churches provided support for an alternative value system that supported New Deal liberalism.

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First things first. If you haven’t called Washington to weigh in on (or inveigh against) Fast Track — it comes up for a vote in the House today — find your representative’s number here. Operators are standing by.

As Reuters calls it:

President Barack Obama’s quest for “fast-track” negotiating authority on a Pacific Rim trade deal passed its initial tests in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday ahead of a final vote on Friday on contentious trade measures.

By a vote of 397-32, the House approved a measure authorizing funds to help workers who lose their jobs as a result of trade deals, without cutting Medicare health benefits for the elderly to pay for it, as the Senate had proposed.

Turns out Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim wasn’t enough of a poison pill. The Senate had slipped Medicare cuts into the Fast Track trade authorization package. A late-night deal between Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosistripped the provision on Tuesday, Pelosi helping smooth the way for passage. She’s just helpful that way.

Reuters continues:

The House also voted 217-212 in favor of procedural rules that set up Friday’s votes on the core issue before it: the fast-track bill. Already approved by the Senate, fast-track is needed, Obama says, to help him promptly conclude a 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal.

Eight Democrats were also helpful. They jumped in at the last minute to shore up the vote for passage. Howie has got a little list. Gaius has more gory details below.

Categories : National
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Friday Open Thread

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The U.S. House will vote on Fast Track today. Let your voice be heard.

NC-10: Rep. Patrick McHenry
2334 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Telephone: 202.225.2576

NC-11: Rep. Mark Meadows
1024 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Telephone: 202.225.6401

Categories : Labor, National, Open Thread
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The Walmart of states

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A Montana man committed suicide last weekend after murdering his family. His wife was “mocking” him, he told a friend. Police described the survivalist as “a Constitutionalist who didn’t believe in government.” They’re like oxymorons who don’t believe in contradiction that way.

Speaking of not believing in government, Rick Perry, the returning presidential contestant and former Texas governor, boasts how the job-creating, Texas economic “miracle” is a model for how to run the country. (It was the same with another former Texas governor-president. What happened with that?)

The Washington Post’s Harold Meyerson finds the Texas miracle less than miraculous. By two measures of job quality, “Texas rates dead last.” Texans have the highest percentage
of people without health insurance in the country. What’s more, Meyerson writes:

The second measure of job quality is the share of people qualifying for government poverty programs who are nonetheless employed. In April, the University of California Center for Labor Research and Education released a study quantifying the number of Americans receiving Medicaid, food stamps, welfare, children’s health insurance coverage or the earned-income tax credit who have an employed family member. Low-paid work has become so prevalent, the study showed, that the yearly tab of federal dollars going to working families was $128 billion. The state with the highest share of funds going to such families was Texas.

By this measure, Texas is the Walmart of states — something else Texans who don’t believe in government can be proud of. After all, Walmart is a BIG box store.

The 49 other states are subsidizing Perry’s “so-called Texas miracle,” Meyerson writes. “Texas’s use of federal dollars to keep its workers afloat is only deepened by its favor-the-rich-and-soak-the-poor tax policies.”

Should he succeed in taking his model national, Rick Perry’s Texas-sized plan for America, I guess, is to recruit enough “downline” countries to do for America what America is already doing for Texas.

I wonder, does Perry also sell Amway?

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I work with numbers all day. But it drives me crazy how they get used.

“Eating blah-blah gives you an increased risk of cancer.” Really? Increased how much? “People with red hair have a two times greater risk of whatever.” Two times what? Two times one in a million?

Correlations are particularly misleading. This short video explains why numbers are not all they’re cracked up to be.

Categories : Breather
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This Tweet went by the other day and I just had to go back and find it:

Comparisons have been made and disputed between Walker’s diversion of state funds to the arena and his cuts in state education funding. And yes, team owners have conned Democrats too. But the specifics of the Wisconsin deal are not what interests me this morning.

These deals always remind me of the Blazing Saddles scene in which Sheriff Bart puts his own gun to his head and threatens to shoot himself. Except with sports arena deals it is owners threatening to shoot their teams, “Build us a new stadium or your team gets it!” Flustered officials blurt out, “Hold it, men. He’s not bluffing.” Then they ante up taxpayer dollars. We pay them to make money.

We regularly decry corporate capitalism’s race to the bottom. But the phrasing assumes there is a bottom. I’m not so sure. Considering offshoring, tax incentives, and tax repatriation legislation, you have to wonder just what level of taxation — including none — would rent-seeking, modern corporations accept without whining, without looking for even more ways to squeeze blood from a stone or more work from workers for even less?

There is a runaway, kudzu-ish element to corporate capitalism, but there is a Tom Sawyer-ish feature as well. Public corporations won’t be satisfied until We the People are paying them for making a profit — the way Tom Sawyer tricked friends into paying for the privilege of whitewashing Aunt Polly’s fence. These sports arena deals remind us that when an Obama tells business owners, you didn’t build that, he’s right.

Pretty soon working people will be paying the elite in brass door knockers (or their equivalent) for building it for them.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Republicans pound sand

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It is unlikely that Eugene Robinson wrote the online headline for his column today: “Republicans might as well pound sand.” But that is the gist of it. Their progress in weakening Hillary Clinton so far is “pretty close to zero.”

The  Democrats have the most admired woman in the country 17 out of the last 18 years. The Republicans have contenders bent on taking away health care from over 6 million neighbors and throwing the weak to the wolves. Can’t imagine why they’re having trouble getting traction.

And while Republican presidential hopefuls are still emerging — the party seems to think it is still a couple bozos short of a clown car — Robinson believes Hillary Clinton is hitting all the right notes:

Her fiery speech last week in defense of voting rights was her campaign’s best moment so far. Clinton slammed several of the leading Republican candidates — by name — for their roles in GOP-led efforts to restrict the franchise through voter-ID laws and other means. And she called for automatic voter registration of all citizens upon reaching age 18.

Talk about hitting the right buttons. The big question about Clinton’s candidacy is whether she can inspire the coalition that twice elected President Obama — young people, minorities, women. Voting rights is an issue that reliably sends African Americans to the polls in large numbers. I’ll be surprised if Clinton doesn’t soon have major messages for Latinos on immigration policy and women on issues of reproductive rights.

How cynical, Republicans complain. Translation: How effective.

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