Thursday, March 22, 2018

Economic Inequality And Economics Theory-- Stiglitz To The Rescue


I used to be in the music business. Like in many businesses, there was always a tension between executives who put all their energy and resources into the current quarter and executives who felt a responsibility towards creating long-term (future) shareholder value. Bonuses-- which could be 6 or 7 figure amounts-- tended to be based on the short-term approach. That's, at least in part, why so many music companies have gone under.

Recently Business Insider ran a piece about Davos that deals with the problems around economic inequality, which stems, at least in part from 1970s stagnation, where chasing quarterly profits has resulted in a toxic short-termism. The piece is primarily about how Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz views this short-termism. Short version: "I want to emphasize that it was, in this period, not only activist shareholders but Milton Friedman," the late economist and fellow Nobel laureate, who was to blame for this prevailing ideology. "And he was wrong." Reporter Richard Feloni noted that "In his highly influential 1962 collection of essays, Capitalism and Freedom, Friedman proclaimed that in a free economy, 'there is one and only one social responsibility of business-- to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition, without deception or fraud.'"
We followed up with Stiglitz after the Davos panel, and he told us that Friedman's assertion "was not based on any economic theory." He then gave some background on the origins of this debate.

Friedman made his assertion as a natural extension of a defining passage in Adam Smith's definitive The Wealth of Nations from 1776, that of the "invisible hand." Smith wrote that an individual laboring in his own interest is "led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was no part of it. By pursuing his own interest, he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good."

Stiglitz pointed out that indeed the invisible hand's existence was "proven" in 1954 by the economists Kenneth J. Arrow and Gerard Debreu. Arrow and Debreu were able to show the existence of an equilibrium between supply and demand in a free, competitive economy-- but they also made clear that this could only exist if a given set of assumptions about the economy and consumer behavior were true.

And the latter part is essential, said Stiglitz.

"Then some of us, beginning in the late '60s, asked the question, 'Well what happens if those conditions aren't satisfied?'" he told Business Insider.

Stiglitz said that he and the economist Sandy Grossman investigated this question throughout the '70s. In 1980, they published a paper that declared that while market equilibrium can exist in theory, it was "impossible" for it to exist in a competitive economy in reality. Following this line of thinking, then, Friedman's argument falls apart. And therefore, existing solely to please shareholders will not-- as Friedman argued-- benefit other stakeholders, such as employees, consumers, and society as a whole.

Stiglitz respected Friedman (who died in 2006) for his work on consumption that won him a Nobel prize, he wrote in his 2012 book The Price of Inequality, but the two had several arguments about this idea of the free market. "I remember long discussions with him on the consequences of imperfect information or incomplete risk markets; my own work and that of numerous colleagues had shown that in these conditions, markets typically didn't work well. Friedman simply couldn't or wouldn't grasp these results."

Friedman's ideas, however, would take hold in the US for the next few decades.

When Stiglitz cites what he considers to be the problem of Friedman, he explained, he's using him as the figurehead for a movement that took advantage of the societal trends [Henry] Blodget mentioned. This movement was led by the Chicago school of economics, the free market ideology developed at the University of Chicago in the mid-20th century.

As Stiglitz sees it, Americans, particularly on the right, embraced the Chicago school's way of thinking because it appeared to be the efficient solution to stimulating a stagnant economy.

Within this free market ideology, pursuing short-term value is simultaneously a pursuit of long-term value. If you accept this, prioritizing short-term gains comes through the optimization of management and spending, which allows the company to grow, in turn supplying higher returns, more jobs and other benefits to society, and better products.

It is a rejection of a fundamental Keynesian belief, Stiglitz noted.

British economist John Maynard Keynes published his revolutionary book The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money in 1936, in the wake of the Great Depression. In it, he differentiated between short-term and long-term value, and expressed his frustration with the way the American stock market encouraged public companies to prioritize short-term gains, better for the majority of contemporary investors, over long-term gains, better for society as a whole. The basic premise of the argument Keynes had with his peers is the same as the one today.

"The social object of skilled investment should be to defeat the dark forces of time and ignorance which envelop our future," Keynes warned.

More Americans in positions of power began gravitating toward the Chicago school's ideas in the '70s, and Friedman became an adviser to President Ronald Reagan.

Not only did Friedman have the ear of the leader of the free world, but the Chicago school's theories around lawmaking for the intended purpose of market efficiency also came to fruition.

In his 2015 book Rewriting the Rules of the American Economy, Stiglitz said that the normalization of shareholder primacy was solidified under the Reagan administration through changes to federal income tax law and securities law, including relaxed antitrust laws. This fostered the rise of activist investors.

"If all of this had led to more efficient and innovative corporations, that would have been one thing," Stiglitz wrote. "But in fact, the new 'activist' investors pushed for seats on boards and pressured management into policies that were viewed as more 'shareholder-friendly'-- meaning friendlier to short-term investors-- including increasing dividends and buyouts."

The Securities and Exchange Commission continued this trend through the early 1990s.

And while the increasingly linked nature of CEO pay and stock performance was ostensibly to keep CEOs accountable to their shareholders, Stiglitz argued, it instead materialized as "an incentive to manipulate stock prices by using company money to buy back shares in order to drive prices higher." That's how you got from the average ratio of CEO-to-median-level-employee pay from 20-to-1 in 1965 to 295-to-1 today.

For Stiglitz, the outrage isn't that individuals making that much is a moral outrage by itself, it's that it's happening at the expense of the entire economy.

Stiglitz told us that this decades-old debate about how to balance the creation of short-term and long-term value is recently gaining new life in the US because of the venomous class class tensions and ugly politics arising out of income inequality, and because people in positions of power are looking at the big picture and realizing that something has to change.

And regardless of the performance of the stock market this year, the economy overall is not doing too well, Stiglitz argued, when you look at it from the perspective of GDP growth.

"When we were growing at 4% we might have been able to grow even faster," he said. "But we took the 4% and enjoyed it. But when we're growing at 2-2.5%, and we had been growing at 3.5%, the natural question is, 'What's happened? Is there something wrong?'"

What we're seeing today is largely the result of the ideas championed by the likes of Friedman that seemed so promising to those in power in the '80s, Stiglitz argued. It's contributed greatly to this combination of inequality and low growth in America.

Stiglitz said that while CEOs aren't going to solve inequality on their own, the reason they exist in society is to grow the economy, and more are realizing they need to make changes.

It's why, for example, someone like BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, as the head of the largest asset manager in the world, has felt compelled to take a stand against short-termism. In a letter to CEOs this year, Fink announced that BlackRock will only do business with companies that have clearly defined long-term strategies that benefit in society in some way.

"Without a sense of purpose, no company, either public or private, can achieve its full potential," Fink wrote. "It will ultimately lose the license to operate from key stakeholders. It will succumb to short-term pressures to distribute earnings, and, in the process, sacrifice investments in employee development, innovation, and capital expenditures that are necessary for long-term growth. It will remain exposed to activist campaigns that articulate a clearer goal, even if that goal serves only the shortest and narrowest of objectives."

For Stiglitz, Fink's letter and similar declarations from large companies like Unilever aren't calls to feel good and congratulate each other, but are arising out of a sense of urgency. It's an urgency to shed the Friedman doctrine.

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Pete Peterson Is Dead-- Guest Post By Jonathan Tasini


Author and labor activist-- former president of the National Writers Union-- Jonathan Tasini has been doing a phenomenal series of informative candidate interviews on his podcast, The Working Life, like the one above with Kaniela Ing. He manages to get all the candidates with the cutting edge ideas. Today he did the definitive obituary for Pete Peterson, the billionaire Wall Street crook who died Tuesday, age 91.
The Pete Peterson myth the media ignores
-by Jonathan Tasini

Should I be surprised by a fawning, embarrassing obituary for Pete Peterson? No. But, it ignores some very important truths about Pete Peterson and it is instructive about how other elites are treated in the traditional press.

1- The man made his fortune from piling up DEBT (more on that in a moment) to realize profits from buying and selling companies-- which cost tens of thousands of people good-paying jobs. His fortune came at great cost and pain to a lot of people and communities. NO MENTION OF THIS IN THE Times OBIT. Instead, he's treated like some genius and great pillar of the community

2- Despite having made a massive fortune piling up DEBT, Peterson spent years running around screaming about government DEBTS, and funding and promoting the entirely false narrative of a deficit/debt "crisis." Which simply does not exist. Which I wrote a book about here. He was singularly responsible for managing to convince an uncritical media and way too many Democrats that a crisis existed, leading to, among other things, the dangerous/lunatic Obama-appointed deficit commission-- better remembered as the "Catfood Commission" because if its recommendations had been implemented, calling for cuts in Social Security and Medicare, millions of seniors and others would be eating just that for 3 meals a day. As an aside: one reason I am skeptical about the drumbeat to depose Nancy Pelosi is that she, opposing her own president (Obama), said, at the time, there would be no cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

3- But this is how elites are treated in this country-- with amnesia or blatant disregard/ignorance of the truth. We just marked the 15th anniversary of the Iraq War-- yet neither George Bush nor Dick Cheney have been held accountable for their war crimes and lies to the public. The man sitting in the Oval Office today benefitted from years of fawning media coverage about his business "acumen," despite years of cheating thousands of people and bankruptcies-- not to mention blatant bigotry and despicable behavior towards women…and, yet, little of that was covered regularly, and, thus, we live with the hand-held-to-the-mouth shock coverage about each day's tweets when the character, behavior and record of this lowlife was abundantly clear years ago. If only one could hope that reading Peterson's obit critically would change perspectives…but, alas…

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What Do You Do About Maine?


Angus King, an Independent and popular Senate incumbent, caucuses and generally votes with the Democrats. He's up for reelection in November. His ProgressivePunch lifetime crucial vote score is pretty miserable, closest to Missouri conservaDem Claire McCaskill, but slightly better than 3 Democrats, Joe Donnelly (IN), Heidi Heitkamp (ND) and Joe Manchin (WV). Still, his 67.71 score is considerably better than the least horrible Republican, Susan Collins (also from Maine), whose score is 26.24. The state's PVI is D+3-- but the Democratic Party is not exactly thriving there. Not exactly.

Maine has one of the worst governors in the country, Paul LePage. In fact, one of the worst governors in American history. How is that possible? Here's how. The foul mouthed and uneducated pig became governor with just 37.6% (218,065 votes) in 2010. Eliot Cutler, an independent came in second with 208,270 votes (35.9%) and a weak and uninspiring Democrat, Elizabeth Mitchell, was crushed with just 109,387 votes (18.8%). LePage also won his reelection battle in 2014 with less than 50%. This time it was Cutler, again running as an Independent, who was the spoiler:
Paul LePage (R)- 294,519 (48.2%)
Mike Michaud (D- 265,114 (43.4%)
Eliot Cutler (I- 51,515 (8.4%)
That same year, Democrats ran an awful EMILY's List corporate Democrat, Emily Cain, in the second district to hold onto Michaud's then open congressional seat (ME-02). Horrible candidate, albeit not as horrible as the monster the GOP ran, Bruce Poliquin. But Poliquin beat her-- not necessarily because she was such as wretched and uninspiring candidate but because an indecent, Blaine Richardson, took 10.6% of the vote. Poliquin won with 45.2% to Cain's 40.2%. Again, the Independent was the spoiler who threw the election to the Republican.

Hillary beat Trump in Maine but very narrowly-- 357,735 (47.83) to 335,593 (44.87). But in the state caucuses, Democratic voters were not looking for a status quo candidate. Bernie beat her 64.3% to 35.5%. In fact, Bernie beat her in every single county. She didn't win one. Bernie was an inspiring candidate. In the general, a plurality of Maine voters held their noses and picked her-- the lesser of two evils, although she lost one of Maine's 4 electoral votes by losing ME-02. She ws such a shitty, uninspiring candidate that she put a state in play that Obama had won 401,306 (56%) to 292,276 (41%) against Romney.

This morning a very politically powerful friend of mine asked me if I thought she should get behind the Democrat, Zak Ringelstein, in this year's Maine Senate race. She knows Angus King well enough to detest him. But she is also aware that backing Ringelstein, could help throw the race to Republican Eric Brakey, a state Senator from Auburn with Libertarian leanings; (the guy in the red speedos). Brakey, for example, wrote the bill that eliminated the requirement to obtain a permit to carry a concealed firearm in the state.

So it's the old conundrum about deciding who's the spoiler and then backing the lesser of two evils candidate. In Ringelstein's case, though, he's a really good candidate. Without a doubt the DSCC and Schumer would fully back King. Ringelstein is the kind of Berniecrat they fear (and loathe). Just look at his campaign site issues page: Medicare-For-All; corporate money out of politics; fair taxation; and here's his 20 steps to reduce income inequality:
Getting big money's influence out of politics
Cutting taxes for the working class and small businesses, and making the rich pay their fair share
Ending tax loopholes for big corporations
Increasing the federal minimum wage to $15/hour and creating a rule that allows minimum wage to rise with inflation
Getting tough on federal antitrust laws
Encouraging investment in entrepreneurship, innovation, and research and development
Giving American workers more vacation time, more sick leave, and better pay standards
Empowering communities to create tougher local laws against multinational corporations
Rewriting international trade agreements to favor American workers over multinational corporations
Investing in better public schools for all American children
Investing in research-backed early childhood and in-home/community education programs
Making college affordable and ending the era of crippling college debt
Creating an effective single-payer healthcare system
Making financial literacy a public school course that bears equal importance with traditional classes like math and English
Investing in adult education and career counseling programs for Americans who want or need to switch careers
Creating a federal law protecting net neutrality
Restoring Glass-Steagall to break up large banks
Giving all workers the right to organize and collectively negotiate in the workplace
Creating a participatory budgeting framework on the local, national and state levels of government
Ending agricultural monopolies to benefit local farms and give consumers healthier native crop options
You won't be hearing anything like that -- especially not the cutting edge stuff-- from Angus King... or Chuck Schumer, at least not in a serious way.

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Whacking Self-Sown Weeds


by Gaius Publius

In a nice piece at TomGram ("On Seeing America’s Wars Whole: Six Questions for A.G. Sulzberger," h/t Naked Capitalism) Andrew Bacevich takes the new editor of the New York Times to task for not adequately covering America's endless war in the Muslim (and increasingly, the African) world:
I ... want to suggest that obsessing about this administration’s stupefying tomfoolery finds the Times overlooking one particular issue that predates and transcends the Trump Moment. That issue is the normalization of armed conflict, with your writers, editors, and editorial board having tacitly accepted that, for the United States, war has become a permanent condition.
Bacevich doesn't fault the Times for not covering these events, but for failing to connect the dots, something it never fails to do when covering Russian adventures abroad.

The Shape of the Forever War

What struck me most about the piece, however, were the dots themselves. Displayed as he displays them, they seem to connect themselves:
* Over 6,000 days after it began, America’s war in Afghanistan continues, with Times correspondents providing regular and regularly repetitive updates;

* In the seven-year-long civil war that has engulfed Syria, the ever-shifting cast of belligerents now includes at least 2,000 (some sources say 4,000) U.S. special operators, the rationale for their presence changing from week to week, even as plans to keep U.S. troops in Syria indefinitely take shape;

* In Iraq, now liberated from ISIS, itself a byproduct of U.S. invasion and occupation, U.S. troops are now poised to stay on, more or less as they did in West Germany in 1945 and in South Korea after 1953;

* On the Arabian Peninsula, U.S. forces have partnered with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud in brutalizing Yemen, thereby creating a vast humanitarian disaster despite the absence of discernible U.S. interests at stake;

* In the military equivalent of whacking self-sown weeds, American drones routinely attack Libyan militant groups that owe their existence to the chaos created in 2011 when the United States impulsively participated in the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi;

* More than a quarter-century after American troops entered Somalia to feed the starving, the U.S. military mission continues, presently in the form of recurring airstrikes;

* Elsewhere in Africa, the latest theater to offer opportunities for road-testing the most recent counterterrorism techniques, the U.S. military footprint is rapidly expanding, all but devoid of congressional (or possibly any other kind of) oversight;

* From the Levant to South Asia, a flood of American-manufactured weaponry continues to flow unabated, to the delight of the military-industrial complex, but with little evidence that the arms we sell or give away are contributing to regional peace and stability;

* Amid this endless spiral of undeclared American wars and conflicts, Congress stands by passively, only rousing itself as needed to appropriate money that ensures the unimpeded continuation of all of the above;

* Meanwhile, President Trump, though assessing all of this military hyperactivity as misbegotten -- “Seven trillion dollars. What a mistake.” -- is effectively perpetuating and even ramping up the policies pioneered by his predecessors.
Emphasizing Bacevich's main point, Tom Engelhardt asks us in his introduction to "imagine what kind of coverage [Russia] would be getting if, almost 17 years after it had launched a 'Global War on Terrorism,' Russian troops, special operations forces, airplanes, and drones were still in action in at least eight countries across the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Niger, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen".

I can't get past that list, however. It's stunning in its scope. From it I draw a different set of conclusions.

Liking What Trump Is Doing; Wishing Someone Else Were Doing It

As Bacevich points out, we're "whacking self-sown weeds." The implications are frightening. My takeaways:

• The entire Establishment is waging this global war. With bipartisan consent we'll be at war forever unless a truly peace-minded, anti-Establishment candidate is elected president, and even then he risks being brought back down by the government that answers to him, elected or not. With respect to war policy, Sanders is such a candidate, perhaps, and there may be others. Yet no one else of his popular stature and appeal, with his authenticity and viability, has yet emerged.

• The Washington elites are crazy if we view them through the lens of their own words. To decry Trump as in the pocket of Russia one minute...
and increase his domestic spying powers in the next...
is crazy by that measure.

For another, simpler explanation, consider this: It isn't crazy logic that drives them, but calculated hypocrisy. Why hypocrisy? Because...

• Leaders of the ruling bipartisan consensus like most of what Trump is doing; they just want someone else doing it. Perhaps Pence, to choose just one.

Enough Democrats were ambivalent about the Trump tax cuts, for example, that they campaigned softly (and ineffectively) against it, unlike their vigorous (and effective) campaign to protect their president's signature achievement, Obamacare.

Enough Democrats voted for former Eli Lilly president Alex Azar to run HHS to get him confirmed.

And enough Democrats will vote for torturer Gina Haspel as CIA director to make the confirmation bipartisan. After all, 14 Senate Democrats (plus Angus King) voted to confirm pro-torture Mike Pompeo as CIA chief, and Pompeo almost immediately appointed Haspel as his deputy. No one in DC wants to piss off the CIA. As Chuck Schumer noted, it would take a fool to do it. (Trump, at one time, was such a fool. Now, not so much.)

Will the next round of power-holding Democrats keep us out of war and take the CIA out of the torture business? It's fair to be extremely doubtful.

It's therefore fair to conclude this war will last forever, will be waged at our will, where and as long as we choose. It's also fair to ask: Is forever war, fought forever abroad, a stable new world order? Or failing to be reduced, will it expand and come home?

The Weeds Whack Back

A prediction: This war will come back to bite us. It will come back home to the shopping malls, airports, schools and hospitals of America. Not just the large, big-city ones, but the regional ones as well, those in the "heartland" where live the solid citizens who blissfully rubber-stamp everything the bipartisan war-making leaders want to do.

After all, with a volunteer (undrafted) army deployed abroad and just "lone gunmen" at home to be troubled about, why should heartlanders care about foreign deaths, so long as their fossil fuel–iPhone lifestyle is provided for? When the combatants stop looking like lone gunmen, however, and start looking more like the organized terrorizing warriors we've become overseas, perhaps they'll care then.

But caring, if it comes, will come too late. A non-military government, in substance already lost, will be lost in form as well. The next new American state will be born, a naked military one, but c'est la guerre as they say: It can't be helped.

The implications of that next change, including the implications for climate change mitigation, have a world-historical shape. Life in the "homeland" will be very much different from this one, if or when the U.S. military starts to fight the forever war here like it's fighting it abroad. Teasing out the shape of that new American state is beyond the scope of this piece, but your imagination may suffice to paint the picture.


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Republicans Have Another Candidate Problem... This One In West Virginia


The Republican Party attracts bizarre crackpots and because of the nature of the GOP support system, sometimes those bizarre crackpots wind up as officials party nominees. Last night we saw the Illinois Republican Party mortified as Nazi Party leader Arthur Jones win their nomination in a Chicagoland district. And whether it's Arthur Jones, Roy Moore (AL), Sharron Angle (NV), Rich Iott (OH), Christine O'Donnell (DE), Todd Akin (MO), Richard Mourdock (IN)... there is always a chance the Republicans will wind up with a candidate so horrifying that a Democrat can win in even the reddest of constituencies. And now the Democrats have Trump in every constituency. That might not work in West Virginia, though. West Virginia is the Trumpiest state in the union. The PVI is R+19 and Trump beat Hillary there 489,371 (68.5%) to 188,794 (26.4%). Keep in mind though, that Bernie had also crushed Hillary in West Virginia in the primary-- 51.4% to 35.8%. In fact, in some key counties, Bernie not only beat Hillary, he also beat Trump! Here's just a dozen examples:
Boone Co-- Bernie- 2,410; Trump- 1,388
Braxton Co-- Bernie- 1,321; Trump- 861
Brooke Co-- Bernie- 1,966; Trump- 1,963
Fayette Co-- Bernie-3,585; Trump- 2,683
Lincoln Co-- Bernie- 1,510; Trump- 1,193
Logan Co-- Bernie- 3,201; Trump- 1,665
Marion Co-- Bernie- 5,324; Trump- 4,035
McDowell Co-- Bernie- 1,453; Trump- 760
Mingo Co-- Bernie- 2,425; Trump- 1,161
Monongalia Co-- Bernie- 8,096; Trump- 5,971
Wetzel Co-- Bernie- 1,744; Trump- 1,096
Yesterday, Alex Isenstadt reported on another Republican potential disaster in West Virginia, the heart of Trumpville. Ex-con Don Blankenship wants to Make West Virginia Great Again. As of the December 31 FEC reporting deadline Blankenship had written his Senate campaign a $400,000 personal check-- it's over a million in self-funding now... and there's plenty more where that came from. "With Blankenship skyrocketing in the West Virginia Republican Senate primary and blanketing the airwaves with ads assailing his fractured field of rivals as career politicians," wrote Isenstadt, "senior party officials are wrestling with how, or even whether, to intervene. Many of them are convinced that Blankenship, who served a one-year sentence after the deadly 2010 explosion at his Upper Big Branch Mine, would be a surefire loser against Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin-- and potentially become a national stain for the party."
The discussions have intensified over the past few weeks. During separate meetings with the National Republican Senatorial Committee, aides to Blankenship’s two primary opponents, Rep. Evan Jenkins and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, pointed to Blankenship’s traction and questioned what could be done to stop him. The Senate GOP campaign arm, which heard out the appeals, recently commissioned a survey to gauge the coal king’s electoral strength and determine his staying power in the race.

Those familiar with the party’s deliberations say the results are clear: With a little more than a month until the May 8 primary, Blankenship, a towering figure in West Virginia politics long before this campaign and an avid opponent of unions, has vaulted into essentially a three-way tie with his rivals and is positioned to move ahead.

The talks underscore the intense pressure Republicans are under in the era of Trump, as they struggle to control insurgent figures with large grass-roots conservative followings. While some senior Republicans are anxious to block Blankenship, others believe that such a move could backfire and turn him into a martyr-- much as it did when the national GOP dropped millions of dollars in an unsuccessful attempt to take down Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore in a Republican primary. [And much like the DCCC stumbled into be attacking Laura Moser in Texas.]

Like Moore, Blankenship is an entrenched, anti-establishment figure running in a conservative state. In an interview with Politico, the 68-year-old Blankenship dared the party to come after him.

“I think it would get me votes if they did,” he said. “I think the Republicans in West Virginia are not really happy with the Republicans in the Senate and the House in general.”

Further deepening the tensions is a long-simmering distrust between Blankenship and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), another powerful Appalachian Republican. Blankenship has spoken with McConnell over the years and said he never found him sufficiently supportive of the coal industry. McConnell, for his part, was recently quoted as saying he did not want Blankenship to win the nomination.

National Republicans have been struck by the potency of Blankenship’s campaign. Earlier this year, Blankenship and his longtime political strategist, Greg Thomas, traveled to Washington to meet with the White House political affairs office. During the meeting, Blankenship described his battles with Manchin and outlined how he’d used his deep pockets to fund Republican campaigns in a state that until the past decade had been dominated by Democrats.

White House officials, who’ve also met with Jenkins and Morrisey, came away thinking that Blankenship was for real.

Blankenship’s rise has been driven in part by his self-financed TV ads. Since launching his campaign in late November, Blankenship has spent over $1.1 million on roughly a dozen commercials, according to media buying totals, far surpassing his opponents. Morrisey has so far spent nothing on TV ads and Jenkins only about $38,000.

Blankenship has used the ads to paint his rivals as insufficiently conservative, blasting Jenkins over his positions on Obamacare and climate change and Morrisey on abortion. He’s positioned himself as an unshakable ally of President Donald Trump, who received 68 percent of the vote in the state.

Yet he has also undertaken an effort to clear his name.

The spots have accused the Obama administration and Manchin-- who was governor at the time of the mine disaster and has said Blankenship has “blood on his hands”-- of conspiring to imprison him. He has also featured testimonials from his daughter, Jennifer, who’s described her father as a soft-hearted family man and provider for West Virginians.'

Even before he entered the race late last year, Blankenship was a familiar face on West Virginia TV sets. After being released from prison in 2017, he invested around $600,000 on a slate of commercials aimed at redeeming himself.

“He’s running ads, he has money. He’s not a wallflower,” said Hoppy Kercheval, an influential radio show host in the state. “He’s a puncher and a counterpuncher.”

“He’s the guy that’s on the move. He’s the guy that’s gaining traction in this wide open race,” Kercheval added. “I think it has this everyman appeal in West Virginia.”

Yet Blankenship’s appeal, many believe, runs deeper. During the 2000s, he spent heavily out of his own pocket to buttress the GOP at a time when it was weak in the state, earning him goodwill with many in the party. And while many blamed him for the 2010 explosion, which killed 29 miners, others in the coal-dependent state came to see Blankenship as a pivotal economic force through his leadership of Massey Energy.

Blankenship’s allies insist that any comparison to Moore is unfair, and argue that he’ll be a viable nominee in November. Unlike Moore, in Alabama, they say, Blankenship has established a substantial campaign apparatus and surrounded himself with seasoned advisers who’ve worked with him over the years, including Thomas. His ability to self-fund makes him a serious threat to Manchin, they contend.

National GOP officials say they’ve made no decision on whether to weigh in against Blankenship, though several said they expected the Senate committee to create a menu of options. But they contend that any possible option poses serious risks. The GOP, which wants to remain neutral in the primary, is reluctant to endorse either Jenkins or Morrisey. And advertising against Blankenship directly risks a serious backlash. Some simply want to leave it up to Jenkins and Morrisey to take him on.

Blankenship acknowledged the possibility that the national party could intervene against him. But he argued that it shouldn’t.

“Fundamentally, I support the Republican Party. I have supported them for years,” he said. “I certainly think they should embrace me because I’ve been a Republican in West Virginia long before it was cool to be a Republican in West Virginia.”

“They shouldn’t be afraid of me being up there,” he added.
Blankenship ads are really negative. Democratic voters hate negative ads in primaries; Republicans totally love them. Blankenship would like to make West Virginia Republican voters think he's running against Obama. Listen to this crackpot-- and false-- radio ad his campaign started running last week. And this is the TV ad he's running against Congressman Even Jenkins, the Republican (slight) front-runner:

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

Yesterday was the first day of spring, at least that's what the calendar says, although, judging by the northeast weather, one might be forgiven for not believing it. Still, there are signs of spring to be seen in some locales. For instance, this morning, the DWT paparazzi caught this happy duo going for walkies in a slightly warmer climate. In fact, it now seems to be getting a little warm wherever Trump goes. With any luck, and if justice prevails for a change, Trump will be feeling downright hot soon, and, by that, I don't mean because of the weather.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

How About The Death Penalty For People Who Call People On The Do Not Call List?


I've been telling politicians for years that whoever solves the flood of invasive telemarketing calls we all get from people trying to sell us stuff, despite the completely ineffectual and widely ignored "Do Not Call Registry," would become a hero-- could even run for president. Here in California, we just learned, is that we've been receiving more calls than ever. I can attest to that personally. No matter how much I curse or just hang up, the calls ae unending-- and daily. Californians received nearly 3 billion robocalls in 2017; The FCC and FTC aren't doing don't anything to stop calls made to cell phones illegally and without consent.
According to the YouMail Robocall Index, which tracks the volume and extent of robocalls in the United States, more than 2,974,676,000 robocalls were made to California area codes in 2017.

The industry data comes ahead of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) March 23 policy forum, Fighting the Scourge of Illegal Robocalls. Both agencies have taken a strong stance against scam and spoofed number robocalls but have been softer on legitimate businesses making illegal calls to cell phones and without consent. In February of this year, Capital One was the top generator of robocalls to California phone numbers while Comcast and Wells Fargo appeared in the top 5 in a number of area codes.

“This data illustrates a rapid expansion of the use of robocall technology and the toll these abusive calls take on California consumers,” said Margot Saunders, senior counsel at the National Consumer Law Center.

Earlier this year, the FTC’s “Biennial Report to Congress” revealed a sizeable uptick in consumer complaints about robocalls in 2017, with 4.5 million complaints filed in 2017 compared to 3.4 million in 2016. More than 824,000 Californians complained to the FTC about robocalls and other violations of the “Do Not Call Registry” in 2017.

“Critics seeking to gut the TCPA’s protections against robocalls claim the law leads to frivolous lawsuits,” said Saunders. “On the contrary, the overwhelming number of robocall violations go unchecked, with even the most conservative estimates showing a 1000-to-1 ratio of complaints to government agencies as compared to lawsuits filed. And that does not even account for the tens of millions of illegal robocalls to consumers who do not file complaints or lawsuits.”

Even as robocall complaints increase and TCPA lawsuits decline (there was a 10% reduction in 2017 from the previous year), banks and other companies, backed by industry lobbyists, are continuing to petition the FCC for exemptions to this key consumer privacy law.

“Rather than petition the FCC for exemptions that weaken robocall protections, companies should focus on following the rules,” said Saunders. “We hope that this FCC will protect consumers against these illegal calls. Maintaining a strong TCPA will benefit consumers and level the playing field for law-abiding businesses.”
How about this, though-- a quarter of a million people in the U.S. are employed by telemarketing firms-- and that doesn't even count the robocalls! That's a lot of daily calls. And a lot of bullets if they're all to be shot.


Who Will Bring Down Trump? Mueller? Stormy? Or Is It Us?


Quinnipiac released a new poll today. It isn't especially good news for Trumpanzee. 57% of voters say he's damaged rather than improved (34%) the U.S. reputation around the world. But it gets worse. 55% of voters say he has no sense of decency and 67% say he isn't a good role model for children. (29% of voters say he is a good role model. Obviously they should be sterilized immediately and if they have minor children, the kids should be assigned social workers.)

I tend to think of Stormy Daniels as a distraction. I mean everyone already knows Trump is an amoral scumbag, right? Well... everyone you and I know do, but there are plenty of voters who don't believe any of it-- and more who could care less. They think of Stormy Daniels as a distraction too-- even the 2011 lie dictator test that showed a 99% probability that she told the truth when she said they had unprotected sex with Señor Trumpanzee in 2006. Which means Trump has been consistently lying about it. The examiner asked her a series of questions, three of which were relevant to the alleged affair: 'Around July 2006, did you have vaginal intercourse with Donald Trump? Around July 2006, did you have unprotected sex with Donald Trump? Did Trump say he would get you on The Apprentice?' Clifford answered 'yes' to all three, according to the report." Her attorney:
"Long before Mr. Trump announced his candidacy for the presidency, Ms. Clifford [Stormy] passed a lie detector test confirming her relationship with Mr. Trump," Avenatti said. "Where are his test results claiming otherwise? Where are Mr. Cohen’s test results claiming otherwise? When this is over, the American people will know the truth about the relationship and the cover-up."
Meanwhile, the NY Times reported yesterday that "A former Playboy model who claimed she had an affair with Donald Trump sued to be released from a 2016 legal agreement requiring her silence, becoming the second woman this month to challenge Trump allies’ efforts during the presidential campaign to bury stories about extramarital relationships... The model, Karen McDougal, is suing the company that owns the National Enquirer, American Media Inc., which paid her $150,000 and whose chief executive is a friend of Mr. Trump’s."

As much as I believe all this stuff-- and more and worse-- I think it's just gossip that ultimately no one really cares about when it comes to the one thing that's important: defeating Trump and his enablers at the polls-- in November and in 2020. Richard Cohen doesn't agree. He opined in the Washington Post yesterday that Stormy Daniels-- not Robert Mueller-- might spell Trump’s doom. He compared Trump and Stormy to Harry in Hemingway's The Snows of Kilimanjaro-- Harry is Trump and Stormy is the little scratch that he didn't treat, turned gangrenous and killed him. "The saga of the adult-film star and the juvenile president," he wrote, "has become a rollicking affair. Each step of the way, Daniels has out-Trumped Trump. She is as shameless as he, a publicity hound who adheres to the secular American religion that, to be famous, even for nothing much, is to be rich. By and large, that’s not true, but then there is Kim Kardashian to prove otherwise... [Stormy] appears everywhere. She makes statements, vows, rebuttals and allegations and is scheduled to appear this Sunday on 60 Minutes. Trump must be shaking his head in admiration. He supposedly used to call in gossip items about himself to New York reporters, employing a false name and false voice. He even exulted in publicity about his extramarital affair with Marla Maples, who was overheard by the New York Post alleging it was the 'best sex I’ve ever had.'"
In pre-Trump days, it might have been possible to destroy Daniels by calling her a slut or whatever. But Trump himself is a slut. He is a liar and a moral harlot who revels in irresponsibility and bad-boy behavior. He has no moral edge over his accuser. We have all been instructed by Trump himself to disregard schoolhouse virtues of honesty, dignity and rectitude. Trump himself travels light.

It was the little thing that killed Harry on safari. It was the unattended cut, the disabled truck, the tardy rescue plane. As he died, he dreamed of Kilimanjaro, “unbelievably white in the sun” but the hyena that had been stalking him made “a strange, human, almost crying sound,” and he knew what the hyena already knew. It is what Trump is learning.
Goal ThermometerI still don't see that changing many votes. Evangelicals? Not a chance! The Christian right is al about the right and not about anything remotely Christian. If Jesus came back and denounced Trump, they'd take Trump's side and string up Jesus. The kind of people who care about this stuff, already hate Trump or, at least, want to see a Congress in place that will put checks on him. And fortunately, that cohort of the population is already a majority-- 50% who say they want to see Democrats running Congress to 40% who say they want to see Republicans running the show. This week Lake Research released a poll of voters in 30 targeted swing districts that finds that progressive Democrats have a tremendous opportunity in the 2018 election to win these districts, and they can run and win on progressive policies. Lake found found that in these districts, mostly held by Republican incumbents, voters enthusiastically support progressive policies and progressive messaging works, both to persuade swing voters and to mobilize the base.
Across these congressional districts, Democrats currently lead by +11 points on the generic ballot for Congress, with Democrats receiving 46% of the vote, Republicans receiving 35%, and 17% undecided. There is a clear enthusiasm gap, with 38% of voters strongly supporting the Democratic candidate but only 27% of voters saying the same for the Republican candidate.

"Trump, they found, "is deeply unpopular in these districts, with just 36% of voters rating him as doing an excellent or good job, compared with 64% of voters who give him a just fair or poor rating. The Democratic Party also holds a number of advantages over the Republican Party, leading by +21 points on 'reducing the influence of corporations and special interests in Washington,' +15 points on 'building a better future for our children,' and by +11 points on 'better for working families' and 'on your side.' One note of warning for Democrats is that they trail the Republican Party by -10 points on which party is 'better on jobs and the economy.' Voters in these districts are clear that they want a bold economic vision as opposed to a more incremental approach. When asked, 52% of voters said they prefer 'a bold and comprehensive agenda to rewrite the rules of the economy,' compared with the 36% of voters who would choose to 'make our economy work for everyone by building on the success of the past.' In particular, progressive surge voters favor the bold vision 61% to 28% and independent voters favor the bold vision 52% to 40%."
Progressive policies enjoy strong support among voters in these districts. The most intensely popular policies focus on prescription drugs, health care, infrastructure, protecting Social Security and Medicare, and cracking down on Wall Street, and these policies were popular with both swing voters and surge voters. Prescription drugs are so popular that they are seen as a core value across all demographics, with even 66% of Republicans strongly in support of allowing Medicare to negotiate prices like the VA.

...These policies not only motivate the progressive base, but make voters more likely to support Democrats. A majority of voters (52%) said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate talking about the progressive policies we mentioned, while only 26% would be less likely.

After progressive policies and messages, we see not only gains for Democratic candidates but a drop in support for Republican candidates. On our final ballot, Democrats receive a near-majority of the vote (49%) and support for Republican candidate dips to 31%, widening the Democratic lead to +18 points, with 19% undecided. This shift includes expanding the margin with white non-college voters from +5 points to +9 points from the initial (43% Democrat, 38% Republican) to the final (45% Democrat, 36% Republican) ballot.

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Dan Lipinski-- A Marked Man


Tuesday night, with 483 of 500 precincts counted (97%) Marie Newman refused to concede to reactionary Blue Dog Dan Lipinski (who also refrained from declaring victory). By bedtime, the score was 45,615 (50.9%) to 44,016 (49.1%). Newman said she "would like Mr. Lipinski to have a very painful evening" and that the contest was too close to call. The weight of the Chicago Machine plus the DC Democrats led by Pelosi, Hoyer and the DCCC were all behind Lipinski, although he has rarely voted for the agenda items they claim motive them. He is virulently anti-Choice, anti-LGBTQ, anti-healthcare, anti-immigrant. In fact, he has tended to vote with the GOP on most crucial matters that have come before Congress. The DCCC always favors conservatives over progressives. It's in their DNA. Lipinski led in the Chicago ("Bungalow Belt") parts of the district and Newman led in the suburbs.

As of the February 28 reporting deadline, Lipinski has spent $815,764 to Newman's $694,014, but he was sitting on a massive $1,364,307 alt the time, which looks like it was deployed over the last three weeks in a barrage of deceptive and viciously negative ads. The dark money Republican anti-choice operation, Susan B. Anthony List, spent $117,360 on Lipinsky's behalf. And the so-called United for Progress SuperPAC spent $875,654 smearing Newman and $101,072 trying to bolster Lipinski's decidedly anti-progressive image. United for Progress was financed by a 10 right wing multimillionaires:
Chris Stadler (NJ)-$250,000
Jerry Reinsdorf (IL)- $200,000
Howard Marks (NY)- $125,000
Michael Sonnenfeldt (NY)- $125,000
Carl Ferenbach (MA)- $125,000
Craig Duchossois (IL)- $100,000
Jim Frank (IL)- $100,000
Mitch Hart (TX)- $50,000
Robert Judelson (UT)- $50,000
Michael Robinson (NY)- $50,000
Before the votes were all counted, Ryan Grim wrote a piece for The Intercept, trying to explain the meaning of the hottest Democratic primary contest in the country, calling it "a bellwether of the future of the Democratic Party... The race was indeed a signal of which direction the party is headed."
The questions about the future of the party gained new momentum after Conor Lamb’s upset victory in a special election in a deeply conservative western Pennsylvania district last week, with centrist Democrats arguing that his win showed that the true path was through moderation. They cited Lamb’s embrace of gun culture, his personal (but not political) opposition to abortion, and his unwillingness to back single-payer health care. But the lesson only goes so far: even though Lamb ran in a far more conservative district than Lipinski, he ran a far more progressive campaign-- and still won.

So a more precise question might be: Is there still room in a solidly Democratic district for a Blue Dog who opposes abortion rights, LGBT rights, immigrant rights, a $15 an hour minimum wage, and voted against Obamacare?

And the answer, at least in Illinois’ 3rd District, is probably. For now.

The race also answered a different question, one perhaps more relevant to the future of the party: Can the progressive wing of the party mount a powerful enough challenge to entrenched, well-funded incumbents that it can threaten the status quo?

The answer to that question, clearly, is yes. Lipinski may have held on, but he got the kind of political scare that no incumbent wants. Newman, taking the stage at her election-night party at Marz Taproom in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood, declined to concede the race, but said that whatever happens, voters had shocked Lipinski into a more progressive place. “No matter what happens tomorrow, we have moved him on immigration, we have moved him on healthcare. I scared the crap out of him on 12 vs. 15,”-- a reference to their debate over the minimum wage-- “there’s many things we can move him on more, so let’s be clear. The fight is not over. It’s not done.”

Just how present that threat was became clear about two hours after the polls closed, as vote totals showed Newman, who’d been trailing by 2 to 3 points all night, surging ahead. At the Marz Taproom, volunteers and staffers hugged each other, with one screaming, “I can’t believe this is happening!”

Newman’s slight lead lasted only a few minutes, before Lipinski crawled back on top for the rest of the night.

If Newman decides to run in 2020, she’d be the favorite in the race. This cycle, an actual neo-Nazi ran unopposed in the GOP primary in the 3rd District. Because the state has an open-primary system, Republican voters in the district could have chosen to vote in the Democratic primary and back Lipinski. (The irony of a Bernie Sanders-backed candidate losing thanks to crossover votes in an open primary was not lost on Twitter.)

Sophia Olazaba, a field manager for the Newman campaign, said she doesn’t doubt that some Republican voters crossed over. “Even when we were canvassing, a lot of homes have had both Jeanne Ives and Dan Lipinski signs, so those people could have crossed over,” she said, referring to the GOP gubernatorial candidate whose entire campaign was premised on her opposition to legal abortion.

Another volunteer, Sabrina Ithal, also from the 3rd district, mentioned that the open primary format could have actually worked in their favor: “I converted quite a few Republicans who voted Democrat for the first time in 30-40 years today.”

The Susan B. Anthony List, a group that opposes legal abortion, made re-electing Lipinski a major priority, dumping big money into the race and working the ground to get out the anti-abortion vote on his behalf.

Volunteers at the party said that a key challenge in the campaign was familiarizing voters with Lipinski’s voting record-- a task they eventually got done. “Our main opponent wasn’t Dan Lipinski, it was the fact that Dan Lipinski’s record had been hidden so long,” said Travis Ballie, an associate field coordinator for NARAL. Knocking on doors in the 3rd District, Ballie said he ran into two groups of people. “The first were the folks who were well aware of his record and had been waiting for someone to challenge him for years. The second were the folks who frankly did not know.”

Ithal echoed this: “People were shocked. Who sits around saying, ‘Gee, I wonder how Lipinski votes on every issue.”

Bill Lipinski, Dan’s father, an old-school machine pol, was elected to Congress in 1982 and retired after the 2004 primary, replacing his name with son’s, so that he waltzed into Congress with no competition. Anyone born in the district after the early 1960s has only known a Lipinski on on the congressional ballot, which makes his margin of victory in Chicago understandable. In 2011, as Democrats redrew state boundaries, Lipinski made his own district more conservative, to fit his politics. But his new constituents were less familiar with him, and he was still stuck with some of the more liberal suburbs, which went for Newman on Tuesday.

...Despite Lipinski’s hostile record on reproductive freedom-- he regularly spoke at the March For Life in Washington-- EMILY’s List and Planned Parenthood initially stayed out, while organized labor either endorsed Lipinski or stayed neutral.

It wasn’t that the groups wanted Lipinski to win, but, according to sources close to the situation, that they expected him to win no matter what they did, so they didn’t want to antagonize him and burn capital-- neither political nor financial.

But as Newman’s campaign gathered momentum, there began to be signs that Lipinski could truly lose. He agreed to a debate of sorts, appearing with Newman in front of the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board in January and, for the first time since he began speaking, he skipped the March For Life, despite having been billed as a 2018 speaker.

In front of the Sun-Times, Lipinski rejected a key union priority; “Union-Backed Democratic Congressman Rejects $15 Minimum Wage,” we wrote at the time. That was enough for the Service Employees International Union, known as the SEIU, to pull the trigger and endorse Newman. The Illinois Federation of Teachers joined in, breaking Lipinski’s labor wall that had held since his ascension to Congress in 2004.

That domino brought in EMILY’s List and Planned Parenthood into the race by early February, and from there it was a sprint to the March 20 primary.

Often, with endorsements, the groups make an announcement, wish the candidate the best, and move on to the next race. If they’re feeling particularly charitable, they might help organize a fundraiser.

The progressive groups backing Newman, however, got serious. NARAL organized the groups into a coalition called Citizens For A Better Illinois that raised and spent more than $1.6 million to go after Lipinski, evening out her cash disadvantage. To counter it, Chicago-area mega-donors pumped close to a million dollars into the race to bolster Lipinski. They used the group No Labels, which backs pro-corporate centrists in both parties, as a front.

The pro-Newman coalition spent, according to its own tabulations, $350,000 on mail, $600,000 on cable ads, $280,000 on broadcast TV, $275,000 on digital advertising and $130,000 on a Latino voter turnout program. It’s the kind of campaign that can-- and almost did-- win. The question going forward will be how scalable it is nationally.

Hogue, echoing what the campaign volunteers said, told The Intercept that the challenge in knocking off an incumbent is in penetrating the consciousness of a community, letting them know who their congressperson really is, and who the challenger is. “What we always knew is that if voters knew his record, they were going to move,” she said. “The voters in this district had no idea how out of step he was, and we experienced a lot of anger from them when they found out…In a district that’s been changing more and more to resemble the rest of America, when they heard about Marie, it was not a tough sell.”

Outside progressives groups don’t need to offer that kind of support in every district to have an impact, though. The NRA and AIPAC, two of the most feared organizations in Washington, after all, built their power not by electing lots of candidates, but by beating just a few-- loudly.

Lipinski may have escaped that fate for now, but he’s a marked man. “I’d work again tomorrow” if Neman makes another run at Lipinski, said Patti Ernst, a Newman volunteer. “And that’s how everyone in this room is.”
Yep... a marked man, just like crooked Maryland conservative Al Wynn was after he initially fended off a challenge by progressive reformer Donna Edwards-- who came back to drive him out of Congress two years later. Wynn had also been bolstered by corrupted establishment Democrats with long past-use-by-expiration-dates Steny Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi, the two who helped keep Lipinski from being defeated yesterday. Today Wynn is one of K Street's most corrupt  and sleaziest lobbyists. After 2020 Lipinski will probably be joining him there.

Goal ThermometerAnd by the way, there's a far more dangerous-- and far more corrupt-- conservative Democrat with a primary coming up: sleazy New Dem Joe Crowley, who is very similar to Lipinski in several ways, especially how he managed to first get into office without a real election. He's more dangerous because he is the Pelosi-Hoyer handpicked candidate to be the next Democratic leader (and speaker) and because he is completely-- lock, stock and barrel-- owned by Wall Street. He is the conduit for bankster bribery into the Democratic House caucus. Since he first "ran" for Congress in 1998 he's taken Financial Sector bribes to the tune of $6,889,801, more than any Democrat currently serving in the House. Last cycle his bankster haul was $1,090,923, more than any Democrat currently serving in Congress. And so far this year he's already taken $726,037. Compare that to slimy little Lipinski, who took $48,150 from the banksters last cycle and just $55,801 this year. If you supported Marie Newman this year, please learn more about Alexandria Ocasio, Crowley's opponent in NY-14 (parts of Queens and the Bronx). And if you want to contribute to her campaign, you can do it by clicking on the Blue America thermometer on the right.

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Will The Bernie/Elizabeth Warren 2020 Campaign Include Job Guarantee? It Sure Appears So


Monday evening, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren took their probable 2020 campaign out for a test run, calling their 90-minute TV show the Economic Inequality Town Hall, or more formally, "Inequality in America: The Rise of Oligarchy and Collapse of the Middle Class." You can watch the whole thing above. Last night 1.7 million people did. And Bernie's goal was clearly towards shaping and promulgating a national progressive narrative that very few in Congress are communicating effectively, Elizabeth Warren, Ro Khanna, Barbara Lee and Pramila Jayapal being four of the pitifully few exceptions. Warren-- rumored to be Bernie's pick to run on a 2020 presidential ticket with him-- was a co-host, as were Michael Moore and New School economist Darrick Hamilton. They interviewed three guests: Catherine Coleman Flowers, a founder of the anti-poverty Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise Community Development Corp., Cindy Estrada, a vice president of the United Auto Workers and University of Oregon political scientist Gordon Lafer, who helped explain how corporate special interests have helped turn our democracy further towards plutocracy.

Hamilton brought up one of the likely planks in Bernie's 2020 platform: Job Guarantee, something that several of the best cutting edge congressional candidates are already running on. Kaniela Ing, for example, has been working with Bernie's economic advisor, Stephanie Kelton, on how to make sure Job Guarantee serves the needs Hawaii's working families, where he serves in the state legislature and is now running for the open HI-01 congressional seat. A few weeks ago Kaniela told us that "America’s promise has always been clear-- work hard and your family will prosper. Today, too many hard-working Americans feel that our leaders have gone bad on that promise. I talk to folks who tell me everyday, they grind and sweat, but struggle to get by. Wages are stagnant, unemployment and underemployment are rising, the threats of automation and globalization are becoming real, all while costs are skyrocketing. But just take a walk outside and look around at all the work that needs to be done in America. There are bridges to be built, highways needing repair, kids to be taught, aging folks needing care, oceans to be cleaned, trees to be planted. But private markets fall short. For every job opening in America, four people are gunning for it. This pits worker against worker and creates a power imbalance between workers and their bosses. It’s too risky for a worker to stand up to wage theft, inhumane working conditions, or sexual harassment, when they know there’s nowhere else to go. Our elected representatives must stop pretending that everything is okay, and that the job market will some home fix itself. It’s time for real solutions that will actually help working families across America. It’s time for a new New deal. Since the start of my campaign, I’ve been leading with a universal job guarantee, and I ask other progressive candidates to join me. Let’s remind the establishment that the ability to work for a livable wage is a human right that should be afforded to all. In these uncertain times, progressives will lead with real solutions that offer hope to the many, and just the privileged few."

Ellen Lipton is the former state legislator and progressive Democrat running for the open seat in the suburbs north of Detroit. She's interested in Bernie's Jobs Guarantee ideas and tildes that "the federal government has been at the mercy of corporate-controlled lobbyists for long enough. How long are we going to allow them to offer the same tired economic policy of tax cuts for the phantom 'job-creators?' How about trying something that actually has a track record of working-- direct federal investment in people rather than profits. A guaranteed jobs program would put people to work on everything from infrastructure to IT, renewable energy to healthcare and social work-- the possibilities are endless."

Tim Canova, a South Florida reformer in a tight contest with status quo Democrat Debbie Wassermann Schultz has been a long time supporter of a federal jobs guarantee. "In the 1990s, at the National Jobs For All Coalition, we called for this approach,” he told me recently. “The need for a federal job guarantee has been even greater since the 2008 financial collapse and the trickle down recovery that has followed. New Deal public works programs helped build so much of the country’s infrastructure while providing hope and dignity to millions of people. Today there are millions of Americans, particularly among our youth, who are unemployed or underemployed in bad part time jobs. We need to provide them with opportunities in public jobs programs, building our crumbling infrastructure, in conservation projects, and in service to others. This is a big part of our agend."

Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, the Blue America-endorsed candidate running in the open Albquerque district, us also a big fan of Job Guarantee. This is what she told us this morning: "I believe that all human beings deserve to live in dignity, and that as part of that we build a government that ensures a well-paying job to each and every individual. Imagine if we guaranteed to all human beings a well-paying job with a livable wage that allows for healthcare, housing, transportation, food, and ultimately the dignity of work? What it would mean for our communities, poverty, racial and gender equality? Well, we've done parts of this before with the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the New Deal era. Imagine a program that achieves delivering well-paying work to all individuals, all while overhauling our nation's infrastructure and educational systems. It has the potential to breakdown the entrenched racial and gender-based inequality that exists in our labor force, and enshrines the ideal that all Americans who want a good job will have one. It assures that the dignity of a well-paying job is not just for a plurality of Americans, but for all who seek it. In an increasingly evolving economy, it's important that our government think creatively about the future of our labor force, and ensure that people's needs are put first in the changing labor economy."

Tuesday morning Kelton followed up with a note about Job Guarantee from the Sanders Institute, starting with a quote from Franklin Roosevelt: "“The test of our progress is not whether we add to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."
In 1933, President Roosevelt launched a series of public programs aimed at helping Americans recover from the Great Depression. The right to a job was his first policy item in his Second Bill of Rights.

Then in 1967, a group of core organizers of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom introduced the Freedom Budget for All Americans. This program was the blueprint for achieving Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s “I Have A Dream” speech, and also called for a national employment guarantee as a way to eradicate poverty within ten years.

In 2007, the Great Recession began and, despite the prevailing narrative of our economy being at full employment, we have still not recovered from it. There are still millions of people who are underemployed or discouraged from looking for work, and an estimated 43 million Americans still live in poverty.

It is time to take a fresh look at the policies and ideas that could help all of our people to recover, not just the very wealthy. It's time to seriously consider the country's need for a National Jobs Program.

I recently sat down with Dr. Jane O'Meara Sanders to talk about how a National Job Guarantee Program for the 21st century might work. Over the past year, I have been working with a team of economists to create a full report on the costs, benefits, and projections of such a program.

Our proposal, which will be released next month, will fulfill the goals outlined in FDR and MLK's visionary programs by employing an estimated 14-19 million people, and will almost completely pay for itself.

This is a bottom-up program, designed to shrink the existing levels of income and wealth inequality and guarantee a fundamental right to employment for anyone willing and able to work.

Government at its best can be used to increase the health of the individual and society itself. We can transform America with a federal job guarantee, caring for our people, our planet, and our communities.

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