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“He’ll Magically Make Us All Filthy Rich”: Donald Trump Is Selling American Workers A Scam

Some of our wisest political observers informed us that Brexit would be great news for Donald Trump, because it shows (somehow) that there may be more support here than expected for his nationalist message of restoring American greatness through restrictionist immigration policies and turning the clock back on globalization.

So it’s a bit surprising to see that a new Bloomberg/Morning Consult poll shows that Brexit will not influence the votes of a majority of Americans, and if anything, may benefit Hillary Clinton marginally more than Trump:

A majority of U.S. voters — 57 percent — say they don’t expect the U.K. verdict will influence their vote in the presidential election. For the roughly quarter who say it will, almost half say it will make them more likely to support Democrat Hillary Clinton, while 35 percent say Republican Donald Trump.

This is only one poll, so don’t place too much stock in it, but I wanted to highlight it to make a broader point: There is simply no reason to assume that the debate over globalization, which Trump joined with a big speech on trade yesterday, will automatically play in the Donald’s favor. Indeed, Trump is running a massive scam on American workers on many fronts, and the contrast between his positions and those of Hillary Clinton on trade and other economic matters may prove more important in the end than his blustery rhetoric.

Neil Irwin has a good piece this morning on Trump’s big trade speech, in which he pledged to rip up our trade deals with his large and powerful hands and to bring manufacturing roaring back. As Irwin notes, Trump is right to highlight the very real possibility that trade deals have badly harmed American workers, and that elites have in many respects let those workers down. (Bernie Sanders, too, is rightly calling on Democrats to fully reckon with this phenomenon.) But as Irwin also notes, Trump is selling American workers a highly simplistic, anachronistic tale that doesn’t level with them about the likelihood of reversing trends in globalization and automation that are partly responsible for workers’ current plight.

I would add an important point: Clinton is offering these workers substantially more than Trump is. Clinton has also pledged to renegotiate trade deals and to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Whether or not you see that as opportunistic, Clinton has also outlined detailed plans for programs that would try to use tax credits and federal spending to make American workers and businesses more competitive in the global economy. I am not aware of any detailed plans from Trump to do this. Trump’s message is that through his manly prowess, he will kick the asses of other countries and parasitic illegal immigrants and make us all insanely rich again, not that he sees a specific, programmatic role for the federal government in boosting wages, promoting domestic manufacturing, and helping displaced workers.

While it’s true that Trump has promised to spend on infrastructure at home, Trump’s tax plan — which confers an enormous windfall on the rich — would result in a nearly $10 trillion decline in revenues over the next decade. In practice this likely means that, unlike Clinton, he would not try to get Congress to spend substantially on helping American workers. While Clinton has vowed to invest money in helping displaced coal miners, and to invest in clean energy, Trump vaguely promises to put all those coal miners back to work again, which isn’t going to happen. Meanwhile, Clinton supports raising the federal minimum wage to at least $12 per hour. But while Trump has vaguely said workers need higher wages, he has come out for eliminating the federal minimum. Again, all he’s really saying is that he’ll magically make us all so filthy rich that we won’t have to worry ourselves with difficult policy choices. The vow that mass deportations will make the American workforce great again is also a straight-up scam.

The choice is not necessarily between Trumpian turn-back-the-clock proctectionism and throw-workers-to-the-wolves free trade. Clinton is offering up detailed plans for spending and tax credits and economic regulations that would help workers amid large economic trends she believes can’t be reversed. There is no reason to presume that Trump’s simplistic tale will carry the day politically.

 

By: Greg Sargent, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, June 29, 2016

June 30, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Workers | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Move From Unemployment Insurance To Income Insurance”: Why The Sharing Economy Is Harming Workers And What Must Be Done

In this holiday season it’s especially appropriate to acknowledge how many Americans don’t have steady work.

The so-called “share economy” includes independent contractors, temporary workers, the self-employed, part-timers, freelancers, and free agents. Most file 1099s rather than W2s, for tax purposes.

It’s estimated that in five years over 40 percent of the American labor force will be in such uncertain work; in a decade, most of us.

Already two-thirds of American workers are living paycheck to paycheck.

This trend shifts all economic risks onto workers. A downturn in demand, or sudden change in consumer needs, or a personal injury or sickness, can make it impossible to pay the bills.

It eliminates labor protections such as the minimum wage, worker safety, family and medical leave, and overtime.

And it ends employer-financed insurance – Social Security, workers’ compensation, unemployment benefits, and employer-provided health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

No wonder, according to polls, almost a quarter of American workers worry they won’t be earning enough in the future. That’s up from 15 percent a decade ago.

Such uncertainty can be hard on families, too. Children of parents working unpredictable schedules or outside standard daytime working hours are likely to have lower cognitive skills and more behavioral problems, according to new research.

What to do?

Courts are overflowing with lawsuits over whether companies have misclassified “employees” as “independent contractors,” resulting in a profusion of criteria and definitions.

We should aim instead for simplicity: Whoever pays more than half of someone’s income, or provides more than half their working hours should be responsible for all the labor protections and insurance an employee is entitled to.

In addition, to restore some certainty to people’s lives, we need to move away from unemployment insurance and toward income insurance.

Say, for example, your monthly income dips more than 50 percent below the average monthly income you’ve received from all the jobs you’ve taken over the preceding five years. With income insurance, you’d automatically receive half the difference for up to a year.

It’s possible to have a flexible economy and also provide workers some minimal level of security.

A decent society requires no less.

 

By: Robert Reich, The Robert Reich Blog, November 27, 2015

November 30, 2015 Posted by | Jobs, Shared Economy, Unemployment Benefits, Unemployment Insurance, Workers | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Obama Moves On Paid Sick Leave”: What Exactly Do Republicans Want To Do For Workers?

It’s Labor Day, but some of us are still working, like yours truly and the president:

President Obama rallied union workers here Monday, announcing a new executive order that will require federal contractors to offer employees up to seven paid sick days a year, a move that the White House said could benefit more than 300,000 workers.

Obama made the announcement during a Labor Day speech as he continues a year-long effort to pressure Congress to approve legislation that would provide similar benefits for millions of private-sector workers. The president highlighted a Massachusetts law, approved by voters in November, that provides employees with up to 40 hours of sick leave per year. That law went into effect in July.

My guess is that Republicans will just ignore this latest action, not because they aren’t opposed to it but because there’s little they have to gain by making a fuss about it. Because it’s limited to federal contractors, most of whom do quite well suckling at government’s teat, they aren’t going to hear a whole lot of complaining from employers about it. And mandating paid sick leave is spectacularly popular: in a recent CBS News/New York Times poll, 85 percent of those surveyed said they supported it, including 77 percent of Republicans.

Like other actions Obama has taken on labor rules, this is a limited version of a policy he’d like to see adopted nationally. Obama has advocated a national law mandating that workers get paid sick leave, and there is such a bill in Congress that Democrats have introduced, called the Healthy Families Act. But Republicans have no intention of allowing it to come to a vote. While there’s nothing much Obama can do about that, he is allowed to set rules for federal contractors, a power he has employed before. Because these are executive orders, a future Republican president could undo them, though there’s no guarantee he or she would; on one hand, the GOP is opposed to pretty much any expansion of worker rights, while on the other hand, they might decide rolling these rules back isn’t worth the bad publicity.

There are two basic questions at play here, one more philosophical and one more practical. The first is whether government has any role at all to play in setting the terms of the relationship between employers and employees. While few conservatives would say outright that the answer to that question is no, in practice they oppose almost every regulation of that relationship that exists. For instance, many conservatives don’t just oppose raising the minimum wage; they also say there should be no minimum wage at all, because the free market should set wage levels. If there’s an employer who wants to pay somebody a dollar an hour to do some job, and there’s someone willing to do it for that little, why should government get in their way?

You might think I’m caricaturing conservative views, but there is an entire movement in conservative legal circles seeking to return to a turn-of-the-century conception of government’s ability to regulate the workplace, one that prevailed before we had laws on things such as overtime, workplace safety and child labor (Brian Beutler recently profiled this movement).

The second question is, if we accept that government can set some work rules, what should they be? Even the most liberal advocate wouldn’t argue that any expansion of worker rights is necessarily a good idea; nobody’s suggesting that we set the minimum wage at $100 an hour or force all employers to wash their employees’ cars. But the kind of thing that’s on the table now, like paid sick leave, would only bring us in line with the rest of the industrialized world, where basic worker protections aren’t so controversial. As Democrats always mention, the United States is the only developed country with no legally mandated paid sick leave.

And just like on the minimum wage, where there’s little or no action at the federal level, states and cities are stepping in. As of now there are four states that mandate some form of paid sick leave — California, Massachusetts, Oregon and Connecticut — in addition to a number of big and small cities, including New York, Philadelphia, the District of Columbia and Seattle. As long as there’s no federal sick leave law, activists and liberal legislators will keep pushing for it in more and more places, and given its popularity, they’ll probably succeed more often than they’ll fail.

Most everything on the Democratic agenda for workplaces — a higher minimum wage, expanded overtime, paid sick leave — is extremely popular, which is one of the reasons Republicans would rather focus on something else. And they’re smart enough to know that if they don’t come out in thunderous opposition, the proposals will get a lot less media attention, which means they’re less likely to play a significant role in voters’ decision-making. But when the question “What exactly do you want to do for workers?” gets asked in the presidential campaign, as it surely will, at least the Democrats have an answer.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, September 7, 2015

September 7, 2015 Posted by | Labor Day, Paid Sick Leave, Workers | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“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

“Revealing A Truth He Didn’t Intend To Reveal”: Jeb Bush Wants You To Work More, Whether You Like It Or Not

Jeb Bush’s instantly controversial argument to the editorial board of the New Hampshire Union Leader—that “people need to work longer hours” if the U.S. economy is to attain perpetually high economic growth—has created a great deal of confusion, when the real implications of his view are clear and troubling.

Part of the confusion stems from the fact that it’s politically dumb to suggest, even unintentionally, that voters don’t work hard enough. Democrats and the political press are treating Bush’s statement as a gaffe, because his words can be plausibly construed to mean just that. The rest stems from the muddled context of his remarks, and his equally muddled attempt to clarify them. Both sets of comments betray a shaky grasp of basic economic terms. But the key difference between them is that in round one, Bush said people “need” to work more, whereas in round two he said people should be given “a chance” to work more. This is a real and crucial distinction—a true walkback, rather than some weaselly attempt to say the same thing using softer language. The problem is that there are plenty of reasons to suspect Bush was being more forthright in the first instance. It’s quite clear, when you examine Bush’s past statements and conservative orthodoxy more generally that Bush doesn’t merely want to use carrots to encourage work—he wants to use sticks as well.

Bush’s improbable goal is to make four percent annual economic growth normal rather than extraordinary. Both sets of comments speak to meeting that objective, and he reasons, quite sensibly, that it won’t happen unless people who aren’t currently working begin to work, and people who are currently working begin to work more.

The real controversy arises not from the bloodlessness of the words he chose, but from the tactics he would use to extract the necessary labor.

One way to increase hours worked is to eliminate laws and regulations that make it difficult for people to work as much as they’d like. If the government effectively penalizes employers for giving their workers more hours, or if workers face steep marginal tax penalties when they climb the income scale, then removing those obstacles would give people so inclined “a chance” to work more.

Another way to increase hours worked is to eliminate laws that give workers leverage over their employers. Supplement people’s incomes, and they have less incentive to work. Take away their benefits, and they’ll have little choice but to work more. They will “need” to.

The Affordable Care Act creates both kinds of work disincentives. Under the ACA, workers with subsidized insurance stand to lose hundreds and hundreds of dollars in premium subsidies when their incomes climb from 199 percent of the poverty line to 201 percent of the poverty line. But the ACA also creates a coverage guarantee, which means people no longer need to be so reliant on their employers for health insurance. This is a good thing. It will allow hundreds of thousands of people to leave jobs they don’t want to pursue other interests (startups, full-time parenting, retirement, leisure) without assuming the terrifying risk of medical bankruptcy. But conservatives, including Jeb Bush, think it’s terrible.

Bush doesn’t just support removing burdens that hinder people who want to work more. He supports steepening the costs and risks for people who don’t. If Bush can use economic policy as a cattle prod to hasten four percent growth, he will. When he said “people need to work longer hours” he meant our policies should leave people little choice but to do so. If Bush suffers politically for this, it will be because his words can be made to seem condescending. Workers don’t feel like they “need” to work more, and don’t like being told otherwise by a rich and powerful politician. That’s what political commentators are getting at when they call this a gaffe, but it was only a gaffe in that it revealed a truth he didn’t intend to reveal. The real reason his remarks are troubling isn’t that he meant to call workers lazy—he probably didn’t—but that he wants to make workers feel like working more is their only option.

 

By: Brian Beutler, Senior Editor, The New Republic, July 9, 2015

July 11, 2015 Posted by | Economic Growth, Jeb Bush, Workers | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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