“Really Dumb Politics”: The Stupidest Thing GOP Leaders Have Done Lately? Threaten To Take Away Middle Class Overtime Pay
Talk about a political tin ear! Wednesday, House Republican Leader Paul Ryan and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell threatened to take away middle class overtime pay.
Speaking as a Progressive Democrat my response is simple: go ahead — make our day. Talk about bad politics.
Here is the backstory. On Wednesday, the administration announced its final rule revising the threshold used to define who is automatically required to be paid time and a half for overtime when they work more than 40 hours per week.
The Wage and Hour Act that was passed in 1938 requires overtime be paid to almost all hourly workers. But there are exceptions for professional, managerial and executive personnel.
To prevent employers from declaring that people who do ordinary jobs are professional, managerial or executive personnel, the law required the Labor Department to set a pay threshold. If a worker makes less than that threshold, he or she cannot be categorized as a professional, manager or executive, no matter what his or her “duties.”
Three decades ago, when the wage threshold was set, 62 percent of all workers made less than that threshold and qualified for automatic overtime, no matter their job classification.
But the threshold has not been materially increased for 30 years. As a result, only 8 percent of all employees now qualify for automatic overtime. And, not surprisingly, many companies have driven a Mack truck right through the “professional, executive and managerial” loophole. As a result many employees, like some who spend most of their days making sandwiches at Subway, are classified as “managers” and required to work 50- or 60-hour weeks with no overtime pay. In fact, they are often put on fixed — if tiny — “salaries” so they get no pay for overtime at all.
The disappearance of overtime protections is precisely one of the rules of the economic game that has been rigged by the CEO class to assure that virtually all of the new income growth in America has gone to the top one percent.
So Wednesday, Labor Secretary Tom Perez, Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Sherrod Brown went to Columbus, Ohio to announce that the threshold would be raised from $23,000 — where it has been stuck for years — to $47,500.
This is a huge victory for the middle class and all ordinary workers, and it is likely to benefit more than 12 million American families. It will once again make certain that workers are actually paid for their overtime.
But to hear the Republicans, this was a gigantic Obama overreach that will stifle job growth and hurt small businesses. This is the same thing they say whenever we increase the minimum wage or take other steps to make certain that ordinary people get to keep a bigger share of economic growth that they themselves create. But Republican predictions of doom never turn out to be true.
Of course the reason it never turns out to be true is that economic growth — and with it, job growth — is actually fueled by putting more money into consumer pockets rather than in the offshore accounts of corporate CEOs.
But putting the economics of the case aside — for the GOP this is really dumb politics. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or political guru to tell you that trying to take away the overtime pay of ordinary voters will not make them happy — no matter how happy it makes the GOP’s corporate givers.
If there is one thing that this election season has made crystal clear: ordinary voters are plenty unhappy about the fact that their incomes have flatlined at the same time CEO salaries and bonuses have soared. It makes no sense to them that per capita Gross Domestic Product has shot up 48 percent over the last 30 years and yet their incomes have stagnated. And they are figuring out who is to blame — the .01 percent that rigged the rules of the economic game so they could keep virtually all of that gain for themselves.
But Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have convinced their rank and file that they are better off being dragged around by their noses by corporate bigwigs who give them money than they are by paying attention to the needs of ordinary voters.
Newsflash: want to know why the GOP rank and file has turned on the GOP elite? It’s because they have time and time again failed to deliver for the white working class men who they have used as cannon fodder in their quest to give more tax breaks for the rich.
So now this brilliant GOP leadership has threatened to use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to pass resolutions overturning the new overtime rule — and in effect take away people’s overtime pay. But when they do, President Obama will veto their resolution, and there is no way Democrats will give the GOP the votes to override his veto of this very popular new regulation.
Instead, Democrats plan to have a field day reminding voters that their GOP representative voted to take away their overtime pay.
Sometimes, as the famous organizer Saul Alinski once said: you can count on your enemy. This time, the Republican’s blind allegiance to corporate orthodoxy and rightwing ideology will lead them into a bloody political ambush. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving crew.
By: Robert J. Creamer, The Blog, The Huffington Post, May 20, 2016
“The Real Welfare Cheats”: The Big Problem Of Welfare Dependency In America Now Involves Entitled Corporations
We often hear how damaging welfare dependency is, stifling initiative and corroding the human soul. So I worry about the way we coddle executives in their suites.
A study to be released Thursday says that for each dollar America’s 50 biggest companies paid in federal taxes between 2008 and 2014, they received $27 back in federal loans, loan guarantees and bailouts.
Goodness! What will that do to their character? Won’t that sap their initiative?
The study was compiled by Oxfam and it comes on top of a mountain of evidence from international agencies and economic journals underscoring the degree to which major companies have rigged the tax code.
O.K., O.K., I know you see the words “tax code” and your eyes desperately scan for something else to read! Anything about a sex scandal?
But hold on: The tax system is rigged against us precisely because taxation is the Least Sexy Topic on Earth. So we doze, and our pockets get picked.
John Oliver has a point when he says, “If you want to do something evil, put it inside something boring.” The beneficiaries of tax distortions are counting on you to fall asleep, but this is a topic as important as it is dry.
It’s because the issues seem arcane that corporate lobbyists get away with murder. The Oxfam report says that each $1 the biggest companies spent on lobbying was associated with $130 in tax breaks and more than $4,000 in federal loans, loan guarantees and bailouts.
And why would a humanitarian nonprofit like Oxfam spend its time poring over offshore accounts and tax dodges? “The global economic system is becoming increasingly rigged” in ways that exacerbate inequality, laments Ray Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America.
One academic study found that tax dodging by major corporations costs the U.S. Treasury up to $111 billion a year. By my math, less than one-fifth of that annually would be more than enough to pay the additional costs of full-day prekindergarten for all 4-year-olds in America ($15 billion), prevent lead poisoning in tens of thousands of children ($2 billion), provide books and parent coaching for at-risk kids across the country ($1 billion) and end family homelessness ($2 billion).
The Panama Papers should be a wake-up call, shining a light on dysfunctional tax codes around the world — but much of the problem has been staring us in the face. Among the 500 corporations in the S.&P. 500-stock index, 27 were both profitable in 2015 and paid no net income tax globally, according to an analysis by USA Today.
Those poor companies! Think how the character of those C.E.O.s must be corroding! And imagine the plunging morale as board members realize that they are “takers” not “makers.”
American companies game the system in many ways, including shifting profits to overseas tax havens. In 2012, American companies reported more profit in low-tax Bermuda than in Japan, China, Germany and France combined, even though their employees in Bermuda account for less than one-tenth of 1 percent of their worldwide totals.
Over all, the share of corporate taxation in federal revenue has declined since 1952 from 32 percent to 11 percent. In that same period, the portion coming from payroll taxes, which hit the working poor, has climbed.
Look, the period of the Oxfam study included the auto and banking bailouts, which were good for America (and the loans were repaid); it’s also true that the official 35 percent corporate tax rate in the U.S. is too high, encouraging dodging strategies. But we have created perverse incentives: C.E.O.s have a responsibility to shareholders to make money, and tax dodging accomplishes that. This isn’t individual crookedness but an entire political/economic system that induces companies to rip off fellow citizens quite legally.
It’s now widely recognized that corporations have manipulated the tax code. The U.S. Treasury, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and professional economic journals are all trying to respond to issues of tax evasion.
Bravo to the Obama administration for cracking down on corporations that try to move abroad to get out of taxes. Congress should now pass the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act, and it should stop slashing the I.R.S. budget (by 17 percent in real terms over the last six years).
When congressional Republicans like Ted Cruz denounce the I.R.S., they empower corporate tax cheats. Because of I.R.S. cuts, the amount of time revenue agents spend auditing large companies has fallen by 34 percent since 2010. A Syracuse University analysis finds that the lost revenue from the decline in corporate audits may be as much as $15 billion a year — enough to make full-day pre-K universal.
Meanwhile, no need to fret so much about welfare abuse in the inner city. The big problem of welfare dependency in America now involves entitled corporations. So let’s help those moochers in business suits pick themselves up and stop sponging off the government.
By: Nicholas Kristof, Op-Columnist, The New York Times, April 14, 2016
So I see from Twitter that some genius has gone on Zillow and found my house. I think this must’ve happened in response to something I said on the Stephanie Miller radio show on Wednesday, discussing my last column, about how some people can afford to cast votes around their hopes and dreams while others vote to protect rights and gains that the other side wants to take away from them.
I don’t recall my exact words, but they were something to the effect that that idiot Susan Sarandon’s life isn’t going to change one way or the other no matter who’s president, and for that matter, neither is mine, not that I’m rich, but I make a good living, so my life won’t change, yadda yadda, which I suppose is what put the wheel in spin. So now people who want to know such things know what I paid for my house, and yeah, it’s kind of a lot, this being suburban Washington, D.C., and I guess the point is supposed to be that I’m an out-of-touch elitist or something, just the kind of sellout you’d expect to support Hillary over Bernie.
So I have a nice house. So what? I earned it. I didn’t inherit much. Dad made a lot of money, but he lost a lot, too, always trying to outsmart the market. And he made a hell of a lot less than he could have. His funeral was like George Bailey’s funeral—I lost count of the number of grown men who came up to me crying, telling me about the mountains of legal work Dad had done for them over the years for free.
I mention my father because he’s the one who taught me that people like us don’t vote our self-interest. We’re going to be fine. So I listened to him. I don’t vote my self-interest. I vote the interests of people with houses that cost a quarter of what mine cost. If I wanted to vote according to my naked self-interest, I’d vote Republican. They’ll give me a nice tax cut. No thanks. Don’t want it.
So I vote for other people’s interests. The kinds of interests I wrote about the other day—economic welfare, of course, but voting rights, rights for immigrants, all the rest. The things the Republican Party wants to yank away from people. And you know what? I actually just think that Hillary Clinton will do a better job of defending those interests than Bernie Sanders will. Nobody makes me say that. Chelsea isn’t sending me secret messages. I just think it.
How can that possibly be? It is true that Clinton is too much an incrementalist and centrist for my tastes. She’s gotten a lot of things wrong—the Iraq vote, those speeches and all that lucre, way more money that any normal person needs to have. And yet, I also think two other things. She’s tough as steel; and she might turn out to be good at persuading the Republicans to deal.
Can anyone seriously doubt the first point? For a quarter-century, she’s been called everything you can call a person. They wanted to finish her. Put her in jail. Still do. And this wasn’t because she did anything wrong. Jill Abramson got it right this week: Clinton is fundamentally not corrupt. So it wasn’t that. Rather, it was because to the hard right, she was just too aggressive for a woman. But you can’t destroy a person for that, so you have to find something else.
But she’s endured all of it and stayed in the game. And no, it’s not because she’s power-mad, another well-worn right-wing (and seriously sexist) trope. She’s in it for mostly the right reasons—and because she doesn’t want to let the people trying to destroy her have her scalp, which is a damn good reason on its own.
As for my second point, we have her record as a senator to look back on. True, neither she nor Sanders did much in terms of legislation, but legislation is an overrated part of what a senator does. From what I’m told from senators I know, she’s a better kibbitzer, especially with Republicans. Remember—what do I mean, remember? You don’t even know this!—she went into the Senate with the then-Republican leader wishing her dead (kinda jokingly but kinda not) and harrumphing that in the event that she did survive, she would surely be put in her place. Within a year, many of them loved her.
Yeah, I know. To some of you, more evidence of her hackery. But maybe it’s just evidence that she’s a person whose word is good and who is someone to be taken seriously. So maybe she can sit down with Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan and horse-trade her way to a paid family leave bill. That one thing would make life dramatically better for millions.
And I think it’s one more thing than Sanders would pass. As for my two criteria applied to him, let’s have a look. One, we don’t know if he’s tough. Yeah, he’s originally from Brooklyn. But Vermont isn’t exactly Cook County. And as for horse-trading, he doesn’t talk as if it interests him very much, but if you’re going to be a successful president, it has to.
It has to interest you because millions of people are counting on you to do something to help them. Not people like me. My needs from the state are few. I’m for the person who I think will do more for people whose needs from the state are great. On paper, I probably agree with Sanders as much as I do with Clinton. But politics isn’t about having one’s own views reflected back to one.
And a people’s revolution that can be blocked by a mere 41 senators, which the Republicans will never not have, is going to fail and disappoint.
By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, April 1, 2016
“Republicans Don’t Care What Works”: Speaking To The Heart Of What Has Gone Wrong With The Republican Party
What little attention the right wing media machine isn’t devoting to the sordid mudslinging between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump is focused on a statement President Obama made about practicalities and ideologies:
I guess to make a broader point, so often in the past there’s been a sharp division between left and right, between capitalist and communist or socialist. And especially in the Americas, that’s been a big debate, right? Oh, you know, you’re a capitalist Yankee dog, and oh, you know, you’re some crazy communist that’s going to take away everybody’s property. And I mean, those are interesting intellectual arguments, but I think for your generation, you should be practical and just choose from what works. You don’t have to worry about whether it neatly fits into socialist theory or capitalist theory — you should just decide what works.
This isn’t terribly surprising, of course, but it speaks to the heart of what has gone wrong with the Republican Party and conservatism itself. While the neoliberal and progressive wings of the Democratic Party are often at loggerheads, the arguments aren’t about pure ideology but about practicality. Clinton’s supporters see her as more electable, more able to work with Congress to implement policy, and more experienced with the policy nuances that will allow incremental progress to be made alongside a GOP Congress. Sanders’ supporters see the economic and political system as fundamentally broken, believe that a more aggressive approach to the bully pulpit and policy negotiation will be necessary to fix what’s wrong, and feel that more holistic and universal government approaches to problems will work better than means-tested half measures. But both sides are making practical arguments about what will actually work from an electoral and political standpoint.
Not so with Republicans. The GOP has devolved into a party that no longer cares about what works. The GOP is now divided between the Trumpists who (like Sanders’ supporters) believe that the system is broken and working against them while also (unlike Sanders’ supporters) raging against a complex multicultural and tolerant modernity, and the Cruzites who are wedded in an almost cult-like fashion to economically objectivist and Christian fundamentalist orthodoxy.
The result of the conservative movement’s failure to acknowledge policy realities can be seen most prominently in Kansas and Louisiana, where the red-state model of governance is failing catastrophically even as blue states like California are booming. In a functional political ecosystem that would be a cause for reckoning and introspection, but no acknowledgement of failure has been forthcoming from the GOP. Instead its candidates are doubling down on more of the same. For them, conservative orthodoxy cannot fail; it can only be failed.
In the days of the Cold War when capitalism and communism vied for supremacy, there was an understanding that one’s preferred system of governance had to actually deliver results or the people would revolt and make a change. The openness of democracies and market economies allowed them to soften the sharp edges and mitigate the flaws of capitalism with a healthy dose of compensatory socialism, while the closed systems of state communism led to brutal totalitarian outcomes. So capitalism won the war of ideas and appropriately so–but that doesn’t mean it’s a perfect system. Modern Republicans have totally lost sight of that fact. For them, markets don’t exist to serve people. Rather, people exist to serve markets.
The obvious human shortcomings of that belief system are what is allowing Trump to run a successful counterinsurgency within the GOP that tosses aside donors’ dearly held shibboleths about trade and taxation. Even David Brooks acknowledges that the GOP has to ideologically change course to account for capitalism’s failure to address rising inequality.
But for now, the leadership and media organs of the conservative movement remain obsessed with promoting ideology over practicality so much that a simple statement from the President that economies should simply pick solutions that work, somehow becomes a fundamental betrayal.
That lack of flexibility and cultish devotion to ideological purity (in addition to an intentional reliance on racial and cultural resentment) is what ruined the Republican Party in the first place. Now it’s paying the price.
By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 26, 2016
Remember Paul Ryan? The speaker of the House used to be a media darling, lionized as the epitome of the Serious, Honest Conservative — never mind those of us who actually looked at the numbers in his budgets and concluded that he was a con man. These days, of course, he is overshadowed by the looming Trumpocalypse.
But while Donald Trump could win the White House — or lose so badly that even our rotten-borough system of congressional districts, which heavily favors the G.O.P., delivers the House to the Democrats — the odds are that come January, Hillary Clinton will be president, and Mr. Ryan still speaker. So I was interested to read what Mr. Ryan said in a recent interview with John Harwood. What has he learned from recent events?
And the answer is, nothing.
Like just about everyone in the Republican establishment, Mr. Ryan is in denial about the roots of Trumpism, about the extent to which the party deliberately cultivated anger and racial backlash, only to lose control of the monster it created. But what I found especially striking were his comments on tax policy. I know, boring — but indulge me here. There’s a larger moral.
You might think that Republican thought leaders would be engaged in some soul-searching about their party’s obsession with cutting taxes on the wealthy. Why do candidates who inveigh against the evils of budget deficits and federal debt feel obliged to propose huge high-end tax cuts — much bigger than those of George W. Bush — that would eliminate trillions in revenue?
And economics aside, why such a commitment to a policy that has never had much support even from the party’s own base, and appears even more politically suspect in the face of a populist uprising?
But here’s what Mr. Ryan said about all those tax cuts for the top 1 percent: “I do not like the idea of buying into these distributional tables. What you’re talking about is what we call static distribution. It’s a ridiculous notion.”
Aha. The income mobility zombie strikes again.
Ever since income inequality began its sharp rise in the 1980s, one favorite conservative excuse has been that it doesn’t mean anything, because economic positions change all the time. People who are rich this year might not be rich next year, so the gap between the rich and the rest doesn’t matter, right?
Well, it’s true that people move up and down the economic ladder, and apologists for inequality love to cite statistics showing that many people who are in the top 1 percent in any given year are out of that category the next year.
But a closer look at the data shows that there is less to this observation than it seems. These days, it takes an income of around $400,000 a year to put you in the top 1 percent, and most of the fluctuation in incomes we see involves people going from, say, $350,000 to $450,000 or vice versa. As one comprehensive survey put it, “The majority of economic mobility occurs over fairly small spans of the distribution.” Average incomes over multiple years are almost as unequally distributed as incomes in any given year, which means that tax cuts that mainly benefit the rich are indeed targeted at a small group of people, not the public at large.
And here’s the thing: This isn’t a new observation. As it happens, I personally took on the very same argument Mr. Ryan is making — and showed that it was wrong — almost 25 years ago. Yet the man widely considered the G.O.P.’s intellectual leader is still making the same old claims.
O.K., maybe I’m just indulging a pet peeve by focusing on this particular subject. Yet the persistence of the income mobility zombie, like the tax-cuts-mean-growth zombie (which should have been killed, once and for all, by the debacles in Kansas and Louisiana), is part of a pattern.
Appalled Republicans may rail against Donald Trump’s arrogant ignorance. But how different, really, are the party’s mainstream leaders? Their blinkered view of the world has the veneer of respectability, may go along with an appearance of thoughtfulness, but in reality it’s just as impervious to evidence — maybe even more so, because it has the power of groupthink behind it.
This is why you shouldn’t grieve over Marco Rubio’s epic political failure. Had Mr. Rubio succeeded, he would simply have encouraged his party to believe that all it needs is a cosmetic makeover — a fresher, younger face to sell the same old defunct orthodoxy. Oh, and a last-minute turn to someone like John Kasich would, in its own way, have similar implications.
What we’re getting instead is at least the possibility of a cleansing shock — of a period in the political wilderness that will finally force the Republican establishment to rethink its premises. That’s a good thing — or it would be, if it didn’t also come with the risk of President Trump.
By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, March 21, 2016