mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Trade, Labor, And Politics”: Whatever They May Say, Politicians Who Espouse Rigid Free-Market Ideology Are Not On Your Side

There are a lot of things about the 2016 election that nobody saw coming, and one of them is that international trade policy is likely to be a major issue in the presidential campaign. What’s more, the positions of the parties will be the reverse of what you might have expected: Republicans, who claim to stand for free markets, are likely to nominate a crude protectionist, leaving Democrats, with their skepticism about untrammeled markets, as the de facto defenders of relatively open trade.

But this isn’t as peculiar a development as it seems. Rhetorical claims aside, Republicans have long tended in practice to be more protectionist than Democrats. And there’s a reason for that difference. It’s true that globalization puts downward pressure on the wages of many workers — but progressives can offer a variety of responses to that pressure, whereas on the right, protectionism is all they’ve got.

When I say that Republicans have been more protectionist than Democrats, I’m not talking about the distant past, about the high-tariff policies of the Gilded Age; I’m talking about modern Republican presidents, like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Reagan, after all, imposed an import quota on automobiles that ended up costing consumers billions of dollars. And Mr. Bush imposed tariffs on steel that were in clear violation of international agreements, only to back down after the European Union threatened to impose retaliatory sanctions.

Actually, the latter episode should be an object lesson for anyone talking tough about trade. The Bush administration suffered from a bad case of superpower delusion, a belief that America could dictate events throughout the world. The falseness of that belief was most spectacularly demonstrated by the debacle in Iraq. But the reckoning came even sooner on trade, an area where other players, Europe in particular, have just as much power as we do.

Nor is the threat of retaliation the only factor that should deter any hard protectionist turn. There’s also the collateral damage such a turn would inflict on poor countries. It’s probably bad politics to talk right now about what a trade war would do to, say, Bangladesh. But any responsible future president would have to think hard about such matters.

Then again, we might be talking about President Trump.

But back to the broader issue of how to help workers pressured by the global economy.

Serious economic analysis has never supported the Panglossian view of trade as win-win for everyone that is popular in elite circles: growing trade can indeed hurt many people, and for the past few decades globalization has probably been, on net, a depressing force for the majority of U.S. workers.

But protectionism isn’t the only way to fight that downward pressure. In fact, many of the bad things we associate with globalization in America were political choices, not necessary consequences — and they didn’t happen in other advanced countries, even though those countries faced the same global forces we did.

Consider, for example, the case of Denmark, which Bernie Sanders famously held up as a role model. As a member of the European Union, Denmark is subject to the same global trade agreements as we are — and while it doesn’t have a free-trade agreement with Mexico, there are plenty of low-wage workers in eastern and southern Europe. Yet Denmark has much lower inequality than we do. Why?

Part of the answer is that workers in Denmark, two-thirds of whom are unionized, still have a lot of bargaining power. If U.S. corporations were able to use the threat of imports to smash unions, it was only because our political environment supported union-busting. Even Canada, right next door, has seen nothing like the union collapse that took place here.

And the rest of the answer is that Denmark (and, to a lesser extent, Canada) has a much stronger social safety net than we do. In America, we’re constantly told that global competition means that we can’t even afford even the safety net we have; strange to say, other rich countries don’t seem to have that problem.

What all this means, as I said, is that the Democratic nominee won’t have to engage in saber-rattling over trade. She (yes, it’s still overwhelmingly likely to be Hillary Clinton) will, rightly, express skepticism about future trade deals, but she will be able to address the problems of working families without engaging in irresponsible trash talk about the world trade system. The Republican nominee won’t.

And there’s a lesson here that goes beyond this election. If you’re generally a supporter of open world markets — which you should be, mainly because market access is so important to poor countries — you need to know that whatever they may say, politicians who espouse rigid free-market ideology are not on your side.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist,  The New York Times, March 28, 2016

March 28, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, International Trade Agreements, Protectionism | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Remarkable Success”: Barack Obama Is Looking Better And Better

President Barack Obama waves as arrives in Bariloche, Argentina, on March 24.

Imagine the pain your average Republican must feel when he opens his morning paper. His party is not just riven by internal dissent, but looks like it will nominate a spectacularly unpopular candidate to be its standard-bearer in 2016, with a campaign that gets more farcical every day, bringing ignominy upon a party that has suffered so much already. And now, to add insult to injury, the president he loathes with such fervor is looking … rather popular with the American public.

Barack Obama’s approval ratings are now above 50 percent in daily Gallup tracking, and have been for weeks. He’s risen higher in public esteem than he’s been in three years. Every poll taken in the last month and a half shows him with a positive approval rating.

You might say that it’s no great achievement to be above 50 percent. After all, didn’t Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan leave office with ratings around 65 percent? Indeed they did. But even Clinton’s presidency occurred in a different era, when party polarization was not as firm as it is now. These days—and in all likelihood for some time to come—if a president can stay at 50 percent, he should be counted a remarkable success.

That polarization runs through everything Americans think, know, and learn about the president. There’s always been a large gap between how members of the president’s party view him and how members of the other party view him, but if you look over the history for which we have polling data (going back to Eisenhower in the 1950s), you see what has changed over time. With just a couple of exceptions, those in the president’s party usually give him around 80 percent approval, give or take a bit. For instance, Ronald Reagan averaged 83 percent among Republicans and George H.W. Bush averaged 82 percent, while Bill Clinton averaged 80 percent among Democrats.

It’s in the opinions of the other party that there has been a transformation. Presidents used to routinely get 30 or 40 percent approval from the other party; it would only dip down into the 20s when things were going really badly. But George W. Bush’s presidency and then Barack Obama’s have been characterized by levels of disapproval from the other side we haven’t seen since the depth of the Watergate scandal. This is one of the signal characteristics of public opinion in our time: negative partisanship, in which Americans define their political identity not by their affection for their own party, but by their hatred for the other guys.

In fact, Obama is the first president since polls existed to have never gone above 25 percent approval from the other side, not even in the honeymoon glow of the first days of his presidency. He could defeat ISIS, make America secure and prosperous, save a baby from a burning building, then cure cancer and invent a pill that would let you eat all the ice cream you want without gaining any weight, and no more than a handful of Republicans would ever say they think he’s doing a good job.

Which means that if his ratings have gone up, it’s because he’s doing better among everyone who isn’t a Republican. Why is that? There are multiple reasons, but one factor that always plays a key part in presidential approval is the strength of the economy, though presidents get both more credit and more blame for it than they deserve. And today, even if income growth is lagging much more than we’d like, unemployment is under 5 percent and there have been 72 consecutive months of job growth, the longest streak on record. There are plenty of things wrong with the American economy, but the most visible thing to many people (apart from gas prices, which are near historic lows) is whether you can find a job if you need one, and today you can.

And then there’s the biggest political story of the year, the Republican presidential nomination campaign. Put simply, it’s been an utter catastrophe for Republicans—and a marked contrast with the guy they’re all vying to replace. Where Obama is calm and reasonable, the Republican candidates are shrill and panicky. Where he’s thoughtful and informed, they’re impulsive and ignorant. Republicans are constantly trying to argue that Obama is frivolous—he played a round of golf while something important was happening somewhere!—but you won’t catch him arguing with his opponents about the size of their hands or attacking their spouses. You can disagree with Obama on matters of substance, but he’s nothing like the clowns Republicans are deciding between.

So juxtaposed with the freak show of the Republican primaries, Obama looks better all the time. And ironically, of all the Republicans who ran for president this year, only one almost never singled out Obama for heaps of abuse: Donald Trump. Trump says that our leaders are idiots, but he includes all kind of people in that criticism. He barely talks about Obama, unlike the candidates he has vanquished, who regularly asserted not just that Obama is a terrible president but that he has intentionally tried to destroy America, a bit of talk-radio lunacy many of them incorporated into their rhetoric back when it seemed like you could win the nomination by being the one who says he hates the president more than anyone else.

Yet none of the Republicans make for a clearer contrast with Obama than Trump, the buffoonish vulgarian who wouldn’t know class if it hit him in the head with a gold-plated hammer. And while the Republicans talk endlessly about what a cesspool of misery and despair America is, Obama looks to be chugging toward the end of his presidency with most Americans thinking he’s done a pretty good job.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, March 28, 2016

March 28, 2016 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, President Obama, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Calendar Is Unforgiving”: Following Bernie Sanders’ Latest Landslides, What’s Next?

A couple of weeks ago, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, laid out his short-term expectations for the Democratic presidential race, which now appears rather prescient. As Mook saw it, Bernie Sanders would win the next five caucus states with relative ease – Idaho, Utah, Alaska, Hawaii, and the state of Washington – while coming within striking distance in Arizona.

After Clinton’s bigger-than-expected win in Arizona, one of Mook’s predictions looked a little off, but the rest of the assessment was quite sound. Last week, Sanders cruised to easy wins in Idaho and Utah, and over the weekend, the independent senator did it again.

Bernie Sanders swept all three Democratic caucuses on Saturday, with decisive victories over front-runner Hillary Clinton in Washington state, Alaska and Hawaii, according to NBC News analysis.

Speaking to a rapturous crowd in Madison, Wisconsin, after his victory in Alaska, Sanders declared his campaign was making “significant inroads” into Clinton’s big delegate lead.

Sanders was supposed to do well in Saturday’s caucuses, but let’s be clear: he did extremely well, winning by margins ranging from 40 to 70 points. As for “significant inroads,” the final numbers are still coming together, but it looks like Sanders will end up with a net gain of 60 to 70 pledged delegates.

By most measures, Saturday was Sanders’ single best day of the entire presidential race: three lopsided landslides, which, when combined, gave the Vermonter his biggest net delegate gain of 2016.

That’s the good news for Sanders and his supporters. The bad news is, well, just about everything else.

The delegate math is so brutal for the senator that narrowing the gap in earnest remains incredibly daunting. Clinton’s recent victory in the Florida primary, for example, netted her about 70 delegates. Sanders’ wins on Saturday night were worth roughly as much.

Or put another way, Clinton appeared likely to win the Democratic nomination on March 15, when she led by about 215 pledged delegates, and as things stand, her advantage is even larger now, even including Sanders’ weekend wins. (Adding Democratic superdelegates to the equation makes Clinton’s advantage even larger.)

The argument from the Sanders campaign is that these results don’t happen in a vacuum: big wins get noticed, and this leads to improved fundraising, positive press, increased enthusiasm, and a sense of momentum as the race enters the next round of contests.

And while that may yet happen, the calendar is unforgiving. Sanders is excelling – winning by enormous margins, making sizable net delegate gains – in caucus states with low turnout among African-American and Latino voters. There are a few more of these contests remaining – Wyoming and North Dakota stand out – but there aren’t many, and the number of delegates at stake is quite modest.

Saturday’s caucuses were practically custom made for Sanders, and he took full advantage, winning by enormous margins. But what he needs is a calendar full of caucus states like these, and they don’t exist in a quantity that would make a real difference. The alternative is racking up big wins in competitive primaries, which could happen, but which recent history suggests is unlikely.

I’m not saying his nomination is impossible – it’s been an election cycle full of unexpected developments – but even after the weekend, the Democratic race doesn’t look much different than it did a couple of weeks ago. Sanders was a long shot before his latest round of caucus wins, and he’s still a long shot now.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 28, 2016

March 28, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Arizona’s Voting Rights Fire Bell”: The Disenfranchisement Of Thousands Of Its Citizens

It’s bad enough that an outrage was perpetrated last week against the voters of Maricopa County, Ariz. It would be far worse if we ignore the warning that the disenfranchisement of thousands of its citizens offers our nation. In November, one of the most contentious campaigns in our history could end in a catastrophe for our democracy.

A major culprit would be the U.S. Supreme Court, and specifically the conservative majority that gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013.

The facts of what happened in Arizona’s presidential primary are gradually penetrating the nation’s consciousness. In a move rationalized as an attempt to save money, officials of Maricopa County, the state’s most populous, cut the number of polling places by 70 percent, from 200 in the last presidential election to 60 this time around.

Maricopa includes Phoenix, the state’s largest city, which happens to have a non-white majority and is a Democratic island in an otherwise Republican county.

What did the cutbacks mean? As the Arizona Republic reported, the county’s move left one polling place for every 21,000 voters — compared with one polling place for every 2,500 voters in the rest of the state.

The results, entirely predictable, were endless lines akin to those that await the release of new iPhones. It’s an analogy worth thinking about, as there is no right to own an iPhone but there is a right to vote. Many people had to wait hours to cast a ballot, and some polling stations had to stay open long after the scheduled 7 p.m. closing time to accommodate those who had been waiting — and waiting. The Republic told the story of Aracely Calderon, a 56-year-old immigrant from Guatemala who waited five hours to cast her ballot. There were many voters like her.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, whose government does not control election management, is furious about what was visited upon his city’s residents. The day after the primary, he wrote U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch asking her to open a Justice Department investigation into the fiasco. It was not just that there weren’t enough polling places, Stanton charged. Their allocation also was “far more favorable in predominantly Anglo communities.” There were fewer voting locations in “parts of the county with higher minority populations.”

In a telephone interview, Stanton made the essential point. Long lines are bad for everyone. But they particularly hurt the least advantaged, who usually have less flexibility in their schedules than more affluent people do. It is often quite literally true that poor voters can’t afford to wait.

“If you’re a single mother with two kids, you’re not going to wait for hours, you’re going to leave that line,” Stanton said. As a result, Stanton said, “tens of thousands of people were deprived of the right to vote.”

A Democrat, Stanton asked himself the obvious question: “Am I suggesting this was the intent of the people who run elections in Maricopa County?” His answer: “In voting rights terms, it doesn’t matter.” What matters, he said, is whether changes in practice “had a disparate impact on minority communities,” which they clearly did.

And there’s the rub. Before the Supreme Court undermined Voting Rights Act enforcement, radical changes in voting practices such as Maricopa’s drastic cut in the number of polling places would have been required to be cleared with the Justice Department because Arizona was one of the states the law covered. This time, county officials could blunder — let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that there was no discriminatory intent — without any supervision.

Now let’s look ahead to Election Day this fall. Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice, notes in his important new book, “The Fight to Vote,” that Republicans have “moved with strategic ferocity” to pass a variety of laws around the country to make it harder for people to cast ballots. The Brennan Center reports that 16 states “will have new voting restrictions in place for the first time in a presidential election.”

Imagine voting debacles like Arizona’s happening all across the country. Consider what the news reports would be like on the night of Nov. 8, 2016. Are we not divided enough already? Can we risk holding an election whose outcome would be rendered illegitimate in the eyes of a very large number of Americans who might be robbed of their franchise?

This is not idle fantasy. Arizona has shown us what could happen. We have seven months to prevent what really could be an electoral cataclysm.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 27, 2016

March 28, 2016 Posted by | Arizona, Democracy, Discrimination, Voter Suppression | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Is Ted Cruz The New Republican Establishment?”: Pick Your Poison, The GOP Is Truly In Crisis

Ted Cruz isn’t exactly what you’d call a member of the Republican establishment. He says outlandish things. He doesn’t play nicely with others. He wears no cloak of gentility over his criticisms of opponents. “Nobody likes him,” former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole said of Cruz, the U.S. senator from Texas and presidential hopeful.

Yet the establishment’s arbiters are increasingly lining up behind Cruz. This morning’s news brought word of an endorsement by a pillar of the Republican establishment, former presidential hopeful Jeb Bush. “For the sake of our party and country, we must move to overcome the divisiveness and vulgarity Donald Trump has brought into the political arena,” Bush wrote in a statement issued on Wednesday morning.

It is well known in Washington circles that Cruz is not well liked by his Capitol Hill colleagues. His willingness to use Senate rules, in defiance of his party’s leaders, to bring the U.S. to the brink of default, along with his more general penchant for grandstanding, have soured his relations with many of his fellow Republicans. Then there was that time he called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar.

In January, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina described a choice between frontrunner Donald Trump and Cruz for the presidential nomination as a decision between “being shot or poisoned.” He added: “What does it really matter?”

Earlier this month, Graham apparently decided that it actually did matter, and endorsed Cruz, prompting the Newark Star-Ledger to headline an editorial, “Senator Prefers Poison to Gunshots.”

In Tuesday night’s Utah caucuses, which he won with 69 percent of the vote, Cruz enjoyed the support of former GOP standard-bearer Mitt Romney who, while not offering an outright endorsement, declared that he would vote for Cruz. (Trump won Arizona the same night, leaving him well ahead of Cruz in the delegate count.)

If Ted Cruz, who has turned on his own party’s leaders and cast President Barack Obama as something just short of a traitor, who has accused the Black Lives Matter movement of celebrating the murder of police officers, who has called for the “carpet-bombing” of Mosul regardless of the devastating number of civilian casualties it would entail—if this Ted Cruz is the Republican Party’s best hope for ending divisiveness within its ranks and the American population, then the GOP, as many have written, is truly in crisis. It’s almost as if Ohio Governor John Kasich, a far more establishment figure, weren’t in the race. What the establishment figures lining up behind Cruz seem to have deduced is that while Kasich matches up favorably for the party against Democratic opponents in polls predicting a general election outcome, they don’t think he can win the nomination, which will be decided by a conservative party base.

For all the talk among Republican and conservative elites about the threat posed to the country by Trump, it’s more likely that the concern is for their own control of the party. Cruz may not play nicely with party leaders, but he is still part of the party structure, relying on its donors and leaders to fuel his presidential campaign and to support his political career overall. Cruz’s victory speech in Texas would seem to speak to that. He offered little of the red meat he throws to Joe Average primary voter, and instead emphasized environmental deregulation and tax reduction—favorite issues of the Koch brothers and other well-heeled Republican donors.

Trump, on the other hand, not only has little interest in appealing to the Republican establishment with his mostly self-funded campaign; it’s in his interest to see the party weakened. Trump has his own brand—one bigger, I suspect he has calculated, than that of the GOP. His strategy is that of a cult of personality.

It seems as if Trump is figuring that the most the party has to offer him is ballot access as a major party nominee, and the free television airtime that comes with the convention. He has little investment in the policy positions adopted by the party through the influence of donors and advocacy groups. He’s not running on policy, as his many changes of heart and lack of conservative orthodoxy on various issues, ranging from Middle East diplomacy to his assessment of Planned Parenthood, have shown.

Should Trump win the Republican Party nomination, scores of party leaders will become previously important people. But if Cruz wins, he will owe much to the establishment figures who ultimately, if reluctantly, backed him. The pooh-bahs will accordingly pick their poison.

 

By: Adele M. Stan, The American Prospect, March 23, 2016

March 28, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: