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“Every Candidate Should Have A Plan”: Structural Racism Needs To Be A Presidential Campaign Issue

This year, as with every other year, nearly every presidential candidate is white, with the only exceptions being long shots in the mushrooming Republican field. Most candidates are making at least rhetorical efforts to present themselves as allies in the increasingly amplified struggle for black liberation. Hillary Clinton has spoken forcefully of a universal voter registration plan, and her husband told the NAACP this week that the 1994 crime law he signed in his first term as president “made the problem worse,” jailing too many for too long. Rand Paul, an advocate of prison sentencing reform, has embraced Martin Luther King, Jr.’s frame of “two Americas.” Last month, Ben Carson, the only black candidate, published an op-ed after the Charleston church murders, writing, “Not everything is about race in this country. But when it is about race, then it just is.” On July 2, Rick Perry made a speech that is as close to an apology to black voters for ignoring them as a Republican may deliver this entire election season.

Republicans aren’t stopping there. They announced a “Committed to Community” initiative earlier this week, a partnership with black broadcasting giant Radio One to make a direct appeal to African American voters, who turned out at a higher percentage than white voters in 2012. They may very well be doing this out of the goodness of their hearts, but you’ll forgive me if I have my doubts that they suddenly realize, after generations of the “Southern Strategy,” that black voters matter.

I suspect it isn’t the party’s sudden rediscovery of a conscience that’s behind this. I think it’s this past year. Friday marks one year since NYPD police officer Daniel Pantaleo killed Eric Garner on a Staten Island sidewalk. The death of the 43-year-old father of six from a supposedly prohibited chokehold was captured on oft-played video, and his pleading— “I can’t breathe!” over and over, until he suffocated—became a mantra that energized a movement. #BlackLivesMatter dates back to the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2012, but Garner’s death last July began a year in which Americans unaware of how fragile and frightening living a black life can be could no longer ignore reality. And it set a template for how we would come to digest all of the violence and injustices done in silent service of structural racism, which continues to survive as the deaths mount.

Sandra Bland took a road trip to Texas last week to take a job, and instead became a hashtag. It happened over the course of a weekend. This is a process we’re terribly familiar with: A black person finds her or himself in an encounter with police that proves injurious, harassing, or, all too often, fatal—and if we’re lucky, someone has a camera on it. It has become formulaic.

A bystander took video of the 28-year-old Chicago native’s Friday arrest for allegedly not signaling before making a lane change. Bland, who reportedly had just landed a new job as a college outreach officer at her alma mater, is heard questioning their rough treatment, which went unreported by the arresting officers. “You just slammed my head into the ground,” she tells an officer. “Do you not even care about that? I can’t even hear!”

Police found Bland dead in her jail cell on Monday morning, allegedly suffocated by a garbage bag. There are a lot of practical reasons to question the law enforcement narrative on this, but a year of seeing what we’ve seen is more than enough to make anyone suspicious not only of what the cops say, but about whether any of them will ever suffer any consequences for it.

We’ve become familiar with this pattern because abuse and death resonates, first across social media and then ricocheting through traditional media with an urgency that can feel discombobulating to those unaccustomed to seeing black lives mattering to people who aren’t living them. Increased media attention means people remember names. Before they would have forgotten them or not even bothered to learn. Justice is sought where shoulders once simply shrugged. Media organizations like the Guardian and the Washington Post count those killed by police, doing the job a government should.

We haven’t gotten the candidate statements on Bland’s case yet, but they’ll come. The remarks will be taciturn and consoling, and will call vaguely for change. But we need to demand more from each and every presidential candidate, and they will need to offer more than rhetoric. The violence has not slowed. The inequity has not lessened. It’s just lain bare with each new death, with every numbing video. We’ll never end racism and racial discrimination. But we can make policies to end the ways racism infects the very structure of American life. Those policies need to be on the platform of every presidential candidate.

If you look at a typical presidential campaign site under a heading like “Issues,” you’ll see that there isn’t a bullet point that lists a candidate’s plans to attack the complicated issue of structural racism with specific steps. This should change. And in this, candidates can take a lesson from President Obama.

His administration, even as it nears its end, recently offered an example of how a politician can chalk up wins against structural racism. Two weeks ago, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro announced that previously unenforced Fair Housing Act rules would now become requirements. As the Los Angeles Times reported, HUD will now require towns and cities to study patterns of segregation and how they are linked to access to jobs, high-quality schools, and public transportation—then submit specific goals for improving fair access to these resources. This is a policy, not a speech.

It is not an empty appeal to voters. It is not telling them, as Perry did, that the poor, brutalized, and marginalized amongst us are that way because they had faulty political leadership. That is avoidance, perpetrated by people who would have us mistake political courage for actual courage.

Structural racism needs to be a campaign issue. It needs to be something every 2016 candidate is asked about on the trail, in debates, in town halls, and hell, even at the local ice cream shop. Even if they can’t offer firm plans this summer, someone running to be the de facto leader of her or his party should at lease seize the opportunity to shape the Democratic or Republican agenda on this issue.

If ending structural racism is a priority for either party, there is no need to dance around the issue. Because right now, the most a lot of families can hope for their loved ones is that they manage to navigate a country that clearly doesn’t care much for their bodies or their lives. If they can’t, the only kind of justice they’ll see is financial. (On Monday, Garner’s family reached a settlement with New York City for $5.9 million.)

A year after Eric Garner’s death and mere days after Sandra Bland’s, our presidential candidates cannot deny America’s racial realities. If you’re running for president, you can no longer plead ignorance. You’ll have to confront it.

 

By: Jamil Smith, Senior Editor, The New Republic, July 17, 2015

July 19, 2015 Posted by | Criminal Justice System, Election 2016, Racism | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Liberals And Wages”: Public Policy Can Do A Lot To Help Workers Without Bringing Down The Wrath Of The Invisible Hand

Hillary Clinton gave her first big economic speech on Monday, and progressives were by and large gratified. For Mrs. Clinton’s core message was that the federal government can and should use its influence to push for higher wages.

Conservatives, however — at least those who could stop chanting “Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi!” long enough to pay attention — seemed bemused. They believe that Ronald Reagan proved that government is the problem, not the solution. So wasn’t Mrs. Clinton just reviving defunct “paleoliberalism”? And don’t we know that government intervention in markets produces terrible side effects?

No, she wasn’t, and no, we don’t. In fact, Mrs. Clinton’s speech reflected major changes, deeply grounded in evidence, in our understanding of what determines wages. And a key implication of that new understanding is that public policy can do a lot to help workers without bringing down the wrath of the invisible hand.

Many economists used to think of the labor market as being pretty much like the market for anything else, with the prices of different kinds of labor — that is, wage rates — fully determined by supply and demand. So if wages for many workers have stagnated or declined, it must be because demand for their services is falling.

In particular, the conventional wisdom attributed rising inequality to technological change, which was raising the demand for highly educated workers while devaluing blue-collar work. And there was nothing much policy could do to change the trend, other than aiding low-wage workers via subsidies like the earned-income tax credit.

You still see commentators who haven’t kept up invoking this story as if it were obviously true. But the case for “skill-biased technological change” as the main driver of wage stagnation has largely fallen apart. Most notably, high levels of education have offered no guarantee of rising incomes — for example, wages of recent college graduates, adjusted for inflation, have been flat for 15 years.

Meanwhile, our understanding of wage determination has been transformed by an intellectual revolution — that’s not too strong a word — brought on by a series of remarkable studies of what happens when governments change the minimum wage.

More than two decades ago the economists David Card and Alan Krueger realized that when an individual state raises its minimum wage rate, it in effect performs an experiment on the labor market. Better still, it’s an experiment that offers a natural control group: neighboring states that don’t raise their minimum wages. Mr. Card and Mr. Krueger applied their insight by looking at what happened to the fast-food sector — which is where the effects of the minimum wage should be most pronounced — after New Jersey hiked its minimum wage but Pennsylvania did not.

Until the Card-Krueger study, most economists, myself included, assumed that raising the minimum wage would have a clear negative effect on employment. But they found, if anything, a positive effect. Their result has since been confirmed using data from many episodes. There’s just no evidence that raising the minimum wage costs jobs, at least when the starting point is as low as it is in modern America.

How can this be? There are several answers, but the most important is probably that the market for labor isn’t like the market for, say, wheat, because workers are people. And because they’re people, there are important benefits, even to the employer, from paying them more: better morale, lower turnover, increased productivity. These benefits largely offset the direct effect of higher labor costs, so that raising the minimum wage needn’t cost jobs after all.

The direct takeaway from this intellectual revolution is, of course, that we should raise minimum wages. But there are broader implications, too: Once you take what we’ve learned from minimum-wage studies seriously, you realize that they’re not relevant just to the lowest-paid workers.

For employers always face a trade-off between low-wage and higher-wage strategies — between, say, the traditional Walmart model of paying as little as possible and accepting high turnover and low morale, and the Costco model of higher pay and benefits leading to a more stable work force. And there’s every reason to believe that public policy can, in a variety of ways — including making it easier for workers to organize — encourage more firms to choose the good-wage strategy.

So there was a lot more behind Hillary’s speech than I suspect most commentators realized. And for those trying to play gotcha by pointing out that some of what she said differed from ideas that prevailed when her husband was president, well, many liberals have changed their views in response to new evidence. It’s an interesting experience; conservatives should try it some time.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, July 17, 2015

July 19, 2015 Posted by | Economic Policy, Hillary Clinton, Minimum Wage | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Rand 2015 Runs From Rand 2007 On Iran”: Changed His Tune To Match The Rest Of The Republican Field

In 2007, Rand Paul gave his first interview to Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist radio host and founder of Infowars.com.

Paul was helping his father, then-Congressman Ron Paul, campaign for the Republican presidential nomination and, Jones said, the entirety of his audience helped to make up the elder Paul’s base of fervent supporters.

Jones was struck by the younger Paul’s similarity to his father. “You know, talking to you, you sound so much like your dad,” Jones said. “This is great! We have, like, a Ron Paul clone!”

When Jones noted that the elder Paul was the only anti-war candidate, Rand replied, “I tell people in speeches, I say you know, we’re against the Iraq war, we have been since the beginning, but we’re also against the Iran war—you know, the one that hasn’t started yet. You know, the thing is I think people want to paint my father into some corner, but if you look at it, intellectually, look at the evidence that Iran is not a threat.”

As evidence of this, he said, you needn’t look further than the fact that “Iran cannot even refine their own gasoline.”

And further, Paul said, “even our own intelligence community consensus opinion now is that they’re not a threat. My dad says, they don’t have an air force! They don’t have a navy! You know, it’s ridiculous to think that they’re a threat to our national security. It’s not even that viable to say they’re a threat to Israel. Most people say Israel has 100 nuclear weapons.”

Eight years later, Paul’s beliefs are very different.

In response to the agreement reached Tuesday between Iran, the United States, the UK, France, China, Russia and Germany to diminish Iran’s nuclear program, Paul, now the junior Senator from Kentucky and candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, released a statement outlining his opposition.

“The proposed agreement with Iran is unacceptable for the following reasons:

1) sanctions relief precedes evidence of compliance

2) Iran is left with significant nuclear capacity

3) it lifts the ban on selling advanced weapons to Iran

I will, therefore, vote against the agreement. While I continue to believe negotiations are preferable to war, I would prefer to keep the interim agreement in place instead of accepting a bad deal.”

Asked how Paul’s position had shifted so dramatically since he was campaigning for his father, Doug Stafford, his senior campaign adviser, said, “Foreign policy should reflect events and events change. Senator Paul has always thought Iran getting a nuclear weapon was a bad idea and dangerous. But over the last eight years, as Iran has made progress in their nuclear enrichment program, it’s become more of a threat. Not allowing your opinions to reflect changing threats would be foolish.”

But it’s just frankly not true, as the Alex Jones interview demonstrates.

What is true is that the Iran deal places Paul in an impossible bind. Paul’s positions are usually so nuanced that they escape criticism of flip-flopping, but his shift on Iran is unusually clear—even if it was gradual.

Whether compromise is a wise strategy for Paul in the primary is uncertain. Paul is currently polling at 6.6 percent—behind Jeb Bush, Donald Trump, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee. Paul is not going to vault back into the top tier by siphoning off votes from more establishment candidates, whose supporters will never buy him as one of their own. And he won’t mobilize his libertarian base by taking them for granted.

In April, reporter David Weigel, outlined in detail Paul’s transformation for Bloomberg Politics. In 2011, while in the Senate, Paul was still vocally opposed to war, telling reporter Zaid Jilani he wanted to “influence” Iran instead. In 2012, while again campaigning for his father, he reiterated their anti-war position while clarifying that Ron Paul “doesn’t want Iran to have nuclear weapons…But should they get nuclear weapons, he thinks that there are some choices.” A few weeks later, Paul explained to CNN that when it came to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, “I did finally come down to the conclusion that doing something was better than doing nothing.”

By 2013, Paul was saying that “the most pressing issue of the day” was how to contend with Iran’s nuclear program, and said that although he still did not want war, if he were in the White House while a deal collapsed, “I would say all options are on the table, and that would include military.”

Back in March, Paul was faced with a choice: sign the open letter penned by his Senate colleague, Tom Cotton, which Cotton explicitly said was designed to halt negotiations, or be the only presidential contender in the Senate to not sign it, and risk losing support in the fallout.

Despite the fact that Paul had maintained—and continues to maintain—that he favors negotiations, he compromised and opted for the first choice, contorting himself uncomfortably in his effort to explain his decision and irking some of the longtime libertarian supporters he inherited from his father in the process.

He has pursued a similar strategy with the deal.

The Atlantic’s David Frum made what on its face felt like a reckless prediction on Tuesday: “The Rand Paul Candidacy for the Republican Nomination Is Over.” Frum’s case was that throughout the course of his short Senate career, Paul has been able to carve out space for himself within his party by mostly focusing on the issue of domestic surveillance, which comfortably placed him in opposition to the hawks he bemoans and to President Obama. The deal presented for Paul a no-win: Were he to support the deal, however, Frum argued, he would “find himself isolated with the old Ron Paul constituency,” but were he to oppose it, he would vanish amid a sea of similar voices in the primary field.

The best explanation for Paul’s new position may come from Paul himself.

In an interview with The Today Show’s Savannah Guthrie in April, the same day two attack ads were released tying him to Obama on the issue, Paul said, “2007 was a long time ago and events do change over long periods of time. We’re talking about a time when I wasn’t running for office, when I was helping someone else run for office.”

So when the facts change—be they the facts of the issue at hand or the facts of Paul’s personal political objectives—Paul changes his mind.

 

By: Olivia Nuzzi, The Daily Beast, July 15, 20116

July 19, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Iran Nuclear Agreement, Rand Paul | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Hundreds Of Thousands Of Bad People”: Fact-Checking Bill O’Reilly’s Dumb, Hateful Lies; Fox News Propaganda Breaks New Ground

When Bill O’Reilly got his start on Fox News, he was charmingly irreverent, a moderating factor on a right-leaning news network; and I liked him for it.  I was 14 years old, and would go on, in my teen years, to read one of O’Reilly’s early books, along with Christopher Hitchens’ “Letters to a Young Contrarian,” and eventually Dinesh D’Souza’s “Letters to a Young Conservative” and Friedrich Nietzsche’s “Beyond Good and Evil.”  I was hashing out a political identity into my 20s, and, as this awkward reading list suggests, it was complicated.  It’s perhaps a shame that today’s O’Reilly is not complicated.

In the segment where O’Reilly calls Salon a “hate site,” and his program ambushes a handful of San Francisco civil servants, I was struck more by the “talking points memo” working in conjunction with O’Reilly’s monologue than with the breach of decorum or even the comparison of Salon to white-supremacist outlet Stormfront.  The real danger of that O’Reilly segment isn’t so much the ambush tactics or the sensationalism as the sloppy thinking O’Reilly performs for his viewers, which gives the appearance of justifying that sensationalism.

For this reason I’ve decided to work through that O’Reilly segment, which Salon’s Scott Eric Kaufman has reported on, paying close attention to those moments when O’Reilly uses both rhetorical tricks and logical fallacies to convey a provocatively hateful message about undocumented immigrants, a message that, ironically, comes a lot closer to hate speech than the simple act of advocating on either a conservative or progressive media outlet like National Review Online or Salon.

O’Reilly kicks off the segment by addressing the “evil” of the coldblooded murder of Kate Steinle before airing a clip of an interview with Steinle’s parents, who speak of the “battle of evil and goodness.”  I mentioned Nietzsche’s “Beyond Good and Evil” above because it’s a powerful critique of Manichaeism, the belief in a dualistic moral struggle of good versus evil.  Manichaeism makes it easy to oversimplify conflicts and tragedies by defining actors as pure good and pure evil.  This is exactly what O’Reilly will go on to do in his “talking points.” He writes, “Every sane person knows that gunning down a 32-year old woman in the street is an act of pure evil.”  The memo goes on: “There are many Americans who will not act to prevent that kind of evil from taking place.”

Here we can see two important rhetorical moves designed to bring audiences to the conclusion that, despite the culpability of the evil man who murdered Steinle, we are to identify that murderous evil both with undocumented immigrants and with people who don’t agree with O’Reilly’s hard-line immigration views.  O’Reilly first sets up the scenario as though it’s as simple as good people versus evil people (as opposed to, for example, a more complicated policy nexus of immigration and gun control issues).  Then he swiftly aligns “the Americans who will not move to act to prevent that kind of evil from taking place” with the evil itself.  In these steps O’Reilly effectively conflates the evil of coldblooded murder with the evil of some Americans who will fail to act on some measure that O’Reilly will assign as a cure for that evil.

What, then, is that measure?  O’Reilly begins by blaming the media, which “does not oppose sanctuary cities,” “sanctuary city” being a term with no legal meaning that refers generally to cities that don’t spend city funds and resources to enforce certain federal immigration policies.  O’Reilly claims that the “sanctuary city policy” (it’s not a coherent policy at all) “is supported by people who believe that poor illegal immigrants should not be held accountable for violating immigration law,” “folks cloaking themselves in compassion, thinking they’re being humane to the poor who want better lives.”  Crucially, however, O’Reilly goes on to re-label these people “hundreds of thousands of bad people.”

Here we can see, again, O’Reilly invoking the Manichaean framework with which he started, only this time, the “evil” one isn’t simply the individual who murdered Kate Steinle, but the “hundreds of thousands” of undocumented immigrants, whom O’Reilly lumps together as “bad people.”  This is the point of O’Reilly’s slippage from the evil of murder to the evil of being an undocumented immigrant, to use a negative example of one to stand in for the whole.  O’Reilly completes the slippage by claiming that “it is insulting when pro-sanctuary city people equate poor immigrants with violent criminals,” going on to further conflate all undocumented immigrants with violent criminals with one phrase: he calls them “brutal undocumented people.”

From this point, O’Reilly moves onto San Francisco city supervisors, holding them up as an example of the next link in a tenuously constructed chain of evil that begins with a murderer, who, by his undocumented status, becomes a stand-in for all undocumented immigrants, and ends with the civil servants of San Francisco and the broader left, presumably the kind of people who “will not move to act to prevent that kind of evil from taking place.” O’Reilly states unequivocally that Kate Steinle “is dead because of policies that endanger the public,” conflating once again the act of murder with the refusal to support O’Reilly’s specific vision of border security.  O’Reilly’s closing judgment is that “it’s a damn shame that all Americans cannot support a policy that would protect people like Kate Steinle … if you saw the heartbreaking interview with her parents last night, how could you not support tough measures against criminal illegal aliens?”

In all of this we should note three tactics of distortion.  First, by framing the entire issue of Steinle’s murder as a Manichaean problem of good versus evil, O’Reilly is able to pretend for his viewers that there can only be one problem (lax immigration law), which is itself a manifestation of evil.  Both gun control and wider issues of how to distribute limited city funds and resources (O’Reilly isn’t exactly a fan of higher taxes) are as significant factors in this tragedy as immigration law.

Second, O’Reilly’s entire argument relies on the fallacy of composition, which presumes that if something is true of a part of a whole, it must then be true of the whole.  This is why, because an undocumented immigrant is alleged to have committed a murder, O’Reilly goes on to call all undocumented immigrants things like “bad people,” “brutal undocumented people,” “violent criminals” and “criminal illegal aliens.”

Third, O’Reilly avails himself of the fallacy of false equivalence in two ways.  He equates the culpability for murder with the politically mainstream disagreement between San Francisco city officials and O’Reilly on immigration policy; and he equates sites like Salon and MediaMatters with the self-proclaimed white-supremacist outlet Stormfront, confusing yet again mainstream, partisan media outlets with neo-Nazis.  A simple test to reveal the fallaciousness of the comparison would be to ask yourself how long a site like Salon or MediaMatters would exist, drawing articles from prominent policymakers, politicians, artists, academics and journalists, if any of these sites regularly proclaimed white supremacy as its reason for being.

Though it’s a little laborious to go through talking points like O’Reilly’s in this manner, it’s important to reverse-engineer them from time to time to expose what lies at the heart of the machine.  In this case we find that the source of hatred isn’t a side of a mainstream political debate about immigration policy, but a desire to paint all undocumented immigrants as murderous villains, “bad people,” “brutal undocumented people” on the side of evil who threaten to put out the white light of America.

 

By: Aaron R. Hanlon, Salon, July 17, 2015

July 19, 2015 Posted by | Bill O'Reilly, Fox News, Immigrants | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“I’m Down With The Trends”: Jeb Bush Wants To Be The Uber Candidate. Here’s The Problem With That

Jeb Bush is desperate for you to know that he is the Uber candidate. The old, 20th century ways are not for him and his bold campaign for the future. He’s sharing a ride to the glorious tech-driven tomorrow.

But what does that actually mean? So far he hasn’t said, but he’s certainly getting the coverage he wants.

The front page of today’s New York Times features a photo of Bush in an Uber car, over a story about Republican candidates embracing the company. It summed up the purpose fairly well:

Republican candidates are embracing Uber not just as a paragon of their free-market ethos and distaste for entrenched, government-protected industries, but also as an electoral strategy for building bridges to traditionally Democratic cities, where the company has thrived. During his visit to the left-leaning city of San Francisco on Thursday, Mr. Bush was ferried around, fittingly, by an Uber driver, who deposited him at a campaign event in a black Toyota Camry. “Thanks for the ride!” Mr. Bush hollered as cameras snapped away.

So what exactly is Jeb trying to communicate about the kind of president he’d be? On the surface, it’s entirely substance-free. It’s just about attitude: I’m hip to what the kids are into, I’m down with the trends, I’m forward-thinking. In that spirit, Jeb took to LinkedIn and mobilized a phalanx of Silicon Valley clichés to proclaim that his economic ideas are super-futuristic.

In a post entitled “Disrupting Washington to Unleash Innovators,” he went on and on about how liberals just want to crush innovation with their dastardly regulations, while he…well, he actually didn’t say anything about what sorts of policies he would pursue as president, other than to proclaim, “I’ve got a different view on things, and a different approach. I don’t mind disrupting the established order.” Ooo, did he say “disrupting”? How disruptive!

The truth, though, is that the president of the United States has no power to influence municipal disputes over taxi regulations, so there is approximately nothing Jeb will do as president to affect the regulations that govern Uber and other ride-sharing companies. And if you don’t feel at least somewhat ambivalent about Uber in particular, you haven’t been paying attention.

On one hand, the company provides a service that people find invaluable, and the local taxi regulations it fights against are often ridiculous (side note: despite the conservative assumption that the government “closest to the people” is the best government, it’s often local governments that are most corrupt and have the most onerous and illogical regulation). On the other hand, Uber’s leadership is apparently a bunch of arrogant jerks whose business model is built around moving into a new market, blatantly breaking the laws that restrain their ability to operate, and then trying to build pressure to get the laws changed. (Catherine Rampell lays out some of these issues well in today’s paper.)

In any case, one thing the federal government does have power over — and thus something Jeb Bush would have the ability to affect if he becomes president — is labor standards, and that’s a genuine policy dispute worth exploring. If Jeb’s right and more and more people will be earning income from companies like Uber, how should they be treated? What standards will apply to them? How are these workers going to obtain the things we ordinarily associate with a job, like health insurance, retirement savings, or paid leave?

Bush hasn’t spoken to these issues yet, but I’m pretty sure I know what his position is: the market will work everything out, and government just has to get out of the way. But we already have evidence that in some ways this approach is screwing more and more people over. It may or may not be appropriate to consider someone driving for Uber part-time to be an employee of the company, but what about a case like FedEx, which for years classified thousands of its full-time drivers as “independent contractors,” meaning the company didn’t have to pay payroll taxes or overtime, and could evade all sorts of other labor regulations? The company suffered a series of losses in court over the issue, and just settled a lawsuit by drivers in California for $228 million. Does Bush think they were in the right, and other companies should be able to just reclassify workers whenever they want?

That’s an example of what the Obama administration is trying to address with a new guidance the Labor Department just released to employers. It says in effect that you can’t just take an ordinary employee who works only for you and has all the conditions of their work controlled by you, and say, “You’re now an independent contractor” and thereby evade all your responsibilities as an employer. This kind of mis-classification has spread to all sorts of industries, with millions of employees finding themselves with fewer benefits, lower incomes, and less protection than the law says they ought to have. Hillary Clinton has endorsed the administration’s effort to crack down on mis-classification, but as of yet the Republican candidates haven’t addressed it. It’s no mystery what they’ll say, though: this is just more government meddling in the market.

There’s a lot more we should hear from Clinton on this topic and how it relates to companies like Uber, particularly since she’s the one more inclined to have government respond to the ways our economy is changing. In her economic speech Monday, she mentioned it briefly, saying: “This on-demand, or so-called gig economy is creating exciting economies and unleashing innovation. But it is also raising hard questions about workplace protections and what a good job will look like in the future.” Which is perfectly true, but it doesn’t tell us what in particular she thinks government ought to do to protect workers as the economy transforms.

I’m sure she’ll have more to say on the subject, and perhaps in response Jeb Bush can explain why government has gone too far out of its way to ensure that workers get a fair shake. Or he might even surprise us and offer a program of smart, nimble regulations that would allow innovative new models of work to flourish while still protecting people from exploitation. But until he says otherwise, we have to assume that Bush’s answer to the question of what government should do to respond to economic changes that can make workers more vulnerable is: “Nothing.”

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, July 17, 2015

July 19, 2015 Posted by | Jeb Bush, Overtime Pay, Workers | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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