mykeystrokes.com

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

“From Deep Inside The Fold”: Donald Trump Isn’t A Republican Traitor; He’s Giving Primary Voters Exactly What They Want

As panic sets in among Republicans at the prospect of Donald Trump either winning the GOP nomination, dividing the right by bolting the party to run as an independent, or merely trashing the rest of the field without restraint for the next six months before imploding, a narrative is taking hold among conservatives that’s equal parts self-protective and self-pitying. Trump, in this telling, isn’t really a Republican at all. He’s some extra-partisan saboteur who’s looking to blow up the GOP for his own purposes.

It’s true that Trump’s issue matrix (very far right on immigration, more centrist or pragmatic on entitlements and taxes, hawkish on foreign policy while denouncing the Iraq debacle without hedging) is not one that’s typically embraced by Republican presidential contenders. Yet conservatives are being too easy on themselves when they treat Trump as some force of nature that came out of nowhere or an anti-Republican conspiracy hatched in cahoots with the Clintons.

Trump may not precisely endorse the constellation of policies favored by either the GOP establishment or its reformist wing. But he’s not an ideological apostate arbitrarily endorsing idiosyncratic positions with no plausible connection to the conservative movement. On the contrary, he’s pushing a program that amounts to a distinctively Republican heresy.

Let’s start with immigration. It’s easy for members of the Republican establishment to see Trump’s position as anathema on this issue because they tend to oppose immigration restrictions — because they’re cosmopolitan elites, because they think the party desperately needs Hispanic votes to remain competitive, and because they’re beholden to a donor class that overwhelmingly favors allowing low-wage workers into the country.

But a party is nothing without voters, and the GOP’s overwhelmingly white and disproportionately rural voters — the actual foot soldiers of the party — take a polar opposite view on the issue. It was their revolt that sank immigration reform after the 2012 election, and it’s their support that is buoying Trump’s campaign. The establishment might not like it, but the fact is that Trump is never more in line with Republican voters than when he rails against undocumented immigrants and their ”anchor babies.”

Trump is exploiting another tension between the GOP elite and the grassroots on issues of tax cuts and government spending on entitlements. The Republican establishment is relatively consistent in its hostility to big government, preferring to cut taxes along with spending, with the latter ideally accomplished by such reforms as partial privatization of Social Security and the transformation of Medicaid into a program that hands out block grants.

The Republican base is far less consistent. It wants to cut taxes, and it likes speeches that rail against government spending. But when it comes to making real-world spending cuts, GOP voters (who tend to be older than Democrats and therefore more dependent on government programs that aid the elderly) agree with the person who famously (and absurdly) declared, ”Keep your government hands off my Medicare!” The grassroots want a free lunch, in other words, which is one important reason why the federal budget deficit has soared under every Republican president since Ronald Reagan.

Add in a growing willingness on the right to see the rich pay more in taxes, and Trump’s seemingly off-sides positioning begins to make sense in Republican terms. Yes, the mix of support for tax cuts and hikes, spending cuts and entitlement protections that one finds in the GOP base is contradictory, even incoherent. But it’s where conservative voters are, and Trump is the one candidate promising to give them exactly what they want.

Then there’s Trump’s blustery approach to foreign policy and trade relations: ”Elect me,” he seems to be saying, ”and I’ll be the toughest negotiator you’ve ever seen. I’ll get my way by sheer force of indefatigable will.” But of course, the Republican toughness fetish set in a long time before Trump. Ever since the Sept. 11 attacks and George W. Bush’s cowboy swagger and “Dead or Alive” threats to Osama bin Laden, the GOP has been obsessed with projecting strength — and assuming that the U.S. is bound to get its way if only the president unapologetically drives the hardest bargain at every moment. Trump is merely proving to be marginally more convincing than his rivals on this score because he’s been cultivating an omniconfident image in the public eye for decades.

Finally, we have Trump’s campaign slogan: ”Make America Great Again!” Calling the country ”great” is as American as apple pie, of course, but it was given new force in the late 1990s by the second-generation neocons, who championed an ideology they called National Greatness Conservatism. By now, nothing could be more commonplace than for a Republican to praise America’s super-duper, better-than-everyone-else exceptionalism.

Trump’s only modest innovation is to add the word ”again,” which grows out of the discontent with Barack Obama that’s laced through every speech Ted Cruz has ever given. Turn on right-wing talk radio any day of the year and you’ll hear hosts railing against American decline, which (as Charles Krauthammer put it during Obama’s first term) is a deliberate ”choice” that the current president is actively, even enthusiastically, pursuing. The amazing thing is that no one else thought to grab (and trademark) this GOP cliché for a campaign slogan before now.

Donald Trump might scramble the pieces of the Republican coalition and emphasize different policies than the party’s leadership would prefer, but he’s not a traitor to the GOP. He’s a heretic — one whose heterodoxy comes from deep inside the Republican fold.

 

By: Damon Linker, The Week, September 1, 2015

September 3, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Base | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Dr. Evil” Turns Out To Be “Dr. Silly”: A Self-Serving Huckster Who Grubs For Corporate Dollars By Offering To Do Their Dirty PR Work

Big Oil, labor exploiters, industrial food factories, frackers, and other corporate profiteers have been paying a lot of money to a man who celebrates himself as “Dr. Evil” — the scourge of all progressive groups!

But Rick Berman is not a doctor, not evil, and not a scourge. While he is a wholly unprincipled little man, he’s just a self-serving huckster who grubs for corporate dollars by offering to do their dirty PR work. His specialty is taking secret funding from major corporations to publicly slime environmentalists, low-wage workers, and anyone else perceived by his corporate clients as enemies.

Berman’s modus operandi is not exactly sophisticated. Taking money from the likes of Philip Morris, Monsanto, and Tyson Foods, he sets up tax-exempt front groups (with nondescript names like Center for Consumer Freedom, Employment Policies Institute, and Environmental Policy Alliance), posing them as independent research and academic outfits. Each one is an empty shell, run by his small staff of political hacks out of his Washington, D.C., office, and, using the names of the front groups, Berman and Co. buy full-page newspaper ads and write opinion pieces filled with made-up facts and manufactured horror stories for clueless media outlets that amount to raw hatchet attacks on whatever progressive groups or public policies the corporate funders want to kill.

His mad-dog style is hardly worrisome to those targeted, for rather than drawing converts to the corporate funder’s cause, it merely rallies the usual anti-labor, anti-enviro, anti-“fill in the blank” crowd. But it still appeals to brand-name corporate clients, for Berman promises to spew their message into the media without having any of the nastiness stick to them. “We run all this stuff through nonprofit organizations that are insulated from having to disclose donors,” he assured energy executives last year. “There is total anonymity,” he bragged. “People don’t know who supports us.”

And can you even imagine a political PR campaign against environmentalists that was so negative, so ridiculously slanted and downright dirty, that it actually repulsed executives of some of America’s biggest fracking corporations?

Wow — it’s got to take a big wad of ugly to gag a fracker! But in the gross world of political rancor, few cough up hairballs as foul as those produced by Berman. Last year, he was in Colorado Springs, speaking at a meeting of Big Oil frackers about his down-and-dirty plan to smear and ridicule the grassroots enviros who’ve dared to oppose the fracking of Colorado’s land, water, people, and communities. Dubbing the campaign “Big Green Radicals,” the Berman team revealed that their PR firm had dug into the personal lives of Sierra Club board members, looking for tidbits to embarrass them. Gut it up, Berman cried out to the executives, “You can either win ugly or lose pretty.” The Little Generalissimo then urged them to pony up some $3 million for his assault, saying they should “think of this as an endless war,” adding pointedly, “and you have to budget for it.”

Unfortunately for the sleaze peddler, one appalled energy executive recorded his crude pitch and leaked it to the media. “That you have to play dirty to win,” the executive explained, “just left a bad taste in my mouth.” Even Anadarko, an aggressive fracking corporation with 13,000 fracked wells in the Rockies, publicly rejected Berman’s political play, telling the New York Times: “It does not align with our values.”

Berman likes to be called “Dr. Evil,” but he’s so coarse, strident, bombastic, and clownish that he’s become known as “Dr. Silly.” And oops, not only is this huckster an ineffectual fake, but big holes in his curtain of anonymity are now revealing some of the corporations hiding behind it and his big funders want no part of that. To take a peek, go to www.BermanExposed.org.

 

By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, April 22, 2014

April 23, 2015 Posted by | Corporations, PR Campaigns | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Minimum-Wage Increases; The Justice Of Redistribution”: To Not Be Victims, Workers Must Be Compensated For Value Of Their Work

As we enter the new year, 3 million low-wage workers in 21 states will gain a small increase in their wages, thanks to increases in state minimum wages. People you know will see a wage increase — your neighbor, your teenage kid, the person who serves you coffee and donuts.

The minimum-wage increase is a good thing because it increases income in a small way to the workers on the low rungs of our economy. A stagnant minimum wage redistributes income from workers to owners and managers and, ultimately, shareholders and customers. As the minimum wage has failed to keep up with inflation and productivity increases, our political economy has redistributed significant income from low-wage workers to owners over the past 40 years. One reason this happened is that workers have no leverage vis-à-vis corporations. They are price takers for their labor.

Minimum-wage increases reverse this redistribution so that workers win back a little bit of what they have lost. Minimum wages should be associated with value added instead of the powerlessness of workers to demand higher wages. But minimum-wage workers are not compensated for the value of their work for their employers. Raising the wage begins to remedy that undercompensation. If the wage goes too high, then employers will not hire workers, because their compensation exceeds the value of their work. But as we have seen, this is not the case with minimum-wage increases, which simply means that for the past decades workers have been paid less than the value of their work for employers.

How does increasing the minimum wage redistribute income? An increase in the wage results in a decrease in the payments to managers and profits for the establishment. That’s redistribution. We can argue that this might not happen because of productivity increases by the worker, but that merely means that the productivity increases (or a portion thereof) that might have gone to the employer instead go to the employee — hence redistribution from owners to workers. Redistribution also can occur between worker and customer. If a restaurant increases prices due to an increase in the minimum wage, in an attempt to avoid a decrease in profits, then the customers pay more. These customers have the disposable income to patronize restaurants. We can make the assumption that the customers have greater incomes than the people who wait on them. Thus, an increase is again redistributive, with the increase coming from increased prices paid by customers. Imagine: In Seattle an Amazon IT person goes out to lunch. (It feels like they all do.) Instead of paying $15 at the Skillet truck, they pay $17. They have lost $2, and the Skillet truck workers will have seen an increase in their wages. Redistribution to minimum-wage workers is good for them and pushes up the floor for the bottom half of all wages.

We too often equate increasing the minimum wage with living standards and poverty levels. This is dangerous for several reasons, including the fact that it sets a precedent for slicing and dicing the minimum wage: Do you have dependents? Do you pay for your own health insurance? How old are you? Are you paying for tuition yourself? All these are important questions, but taken to their logical conclusion, they move the minimum wage into welfare policy, so that an 18-year-old student could get paid less than a 25-year-old who is on her parents’ health insurance, and she might get paid less than a single mom with one kid, who could get paid less than a spouse in a household with three kids, etc. These are life situations best handled by social policy, social insurance and the appropriate provisions of public goods and services. But a focus on the minimum wage as welfare policy debases the fact that we should be raising the minimum wage because we should be insuring that workers are paid the value of their work. That is, such a focus disrespects workers as workers.

A lot of liberals don’t want to call increases in the minimum wage “redistributive.” It brings the reality of class conflict too close to the surface, apparently, and portrays workers as workers, not as victims. But in order for workers to not be victims, they must be compensated for the value of their work. That is not happening now, not in these United States. These state minimum-wage increases begin to reverse the damage, precisely because they are redistributive, from the owners of capital to the workers they employ. That is a good thing — and an excellent beginning for the new year!

 

By: John R. Burbank, Executive Director, Economic Opportunity Institute; The Blog, The Huffington Post, December 31, 2014

January 3, 2015 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Minimum Wage, Workers | , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Low Wage Jobs Endanger Nothing”: Wall Street’s 2013 Bonuses Were More Than All Workers Earned Making The Federal Minimum

Purveyors of Ferraris and high-end Swiss watches keep their fingers crossed toward the end of each calendar year, hoping that the big Wall Street banks will be generous with their annual cash bonuses.

New figures show that the bonus bonanza of 2013 didn’t disappoint. According to the New York State Comptroller’s office, Wall Street firms handed out $26.7 billion in bonuses to their 165,200 employees last year, up 15 percent over the previous year. That’s their third-largest haul on record.

That money will no doubt boost sales of luxury goods. Just imagine how much greater the economic benefit would be if that same amount of money had gone into the pockets of minimum-wage workers.

The $26.7 billion Wall Streeters pocketed in bonuses would cover the cost of more than doubling the paychecks for all of the 1,085,000 Americans who work full-time at the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

And boosting their pay in that way would give our economy much more bang for the buck. That’s because low-wage workers tend to spend nearly every dollar they make to meet their basic needs. The wealthy can afford to squirrel away a much greater share of their earnings.

When low-wage workers spend their money at the grocery store or on utility bills, this cash ripples through the economy. According to my new report, every extra dollar going into the pockets of low-wage workers adds about $1.21 to the national economy. Every extra dollar a high-income American makes, by contrast, only adds about 39 cents to the gross domestic product (GDP).

And these pennies add up.

If the $26.7 billion Wall Streeters pulled in on their bonuses last year had instead gone to minimum wage workers, our economy would be expected to grow by about $32.3 billion — more than triple the $10.4 billion boost expected from the Wall Street bonuses.

This immense GDP differential only speaks to one price we pay for Wall Street’s bonus reward culture. Huge bonuses, the 2008 financial industry meltdown made clear, create an incentive for high-risk behaviors that endanger the entire economy.

And yet, nearly four years after passage of the Dodd-Frank financial reform, regulators still haven’t implemented the modest provisions in that law to prohibit financial industry pay that encourages “inappropriate risk.” Time will tell whether last year’s Wall Street bonuses were based on high-risk gambles that will eventually blow up in our faces.

Low-wage jobs, on the other hand, endanger nothing. The people who harvest, prepare and serve our food, the folks who keep our hotels clean, and the workers who care for our elderly all provide crucial services. They deserve much higher rewards.

 

By: Sarah Anderson, Moyers and Company, Bill Moyers Blog, March 12, 2014; This post originally appeared at Other Words

March 13, 2014 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Executive Compensation | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A New Meaning Of Volunteerism”: Wisconsin Lawmaker Wants To Take Away Workers’ Weekends

Wisconsin state Sen. Glenn Grothman (R) is pushing to undo the state’s law that employers have to provide their employees with at least one day off a week, the Huffington Post reports.

The Huffington Post obtained an email Grothman sent to other state lawmakers on Friday in which he proposes legislation that “would allow an employee to voluntarily choose to work without one day of rest in seven.” State Rep. Mark Born (R) is sponsoring the legislation in the state Assembly.

Wisconsin is somewhat unique in having the law on its books. “Right now in Wisconsin, you’re not supposed to work seven days in a row, which is a little ridiculous because all sorts of people want to work seven days a week,” Grothman told The Huffington Post. But workers don’t have to get a day off every seven days, as they could work for up to 12 in a row “if the days of rest fall on the first and last days of the 2 week period,” according to the law. Grothman called the law “goofy” and called undoing it a matter of “freedom.”

While he argues that the law would ease workers’ ability to work overtime, it’s possible that employers would force their employees to work the extra time, making it less than voluntary. “It’s a very hard thing to know whether something is truly voluntary or not,” Vice President of the Economic Policy Institute Ross Eisenbrey told the Huffington Post. “If the employer puts pressure on people and lets them know they will be unhappy if workers exercise their right to have a day off, that might be enough so that no worker ever does anything but volunteer to work seven days a week.”

In fact, the power usually lies with employers and instances of them abusing labor laws are already on the rise. In 2009, two-thirds of low-income workers said they had experienced a wage law violation in the previous week alone. Wage theft, where an employer illegally withholds overtime pay or makes its employees work off the clock, robs low-wage workers of more money than is stolen from banks, gas stations and convenience stores combined. Actions filed in federal court alleging wage and hour violations increased by 400 percent between 2000 and 2011.

And the law doesn’t always come to workers’ rescue. In California, workers recovered less than half of what was taken from them from 2008 to 2011, and, worse, 83 percent of those who actually proved a case of wage theft still never got what they were owed.

American workers already put in more hours and are guaranteed less time off than most other developed peers. We work more than in any other industrialized countries. Unlike in the United States, it’s illegal in six of the 10 most competitive countries in the world to make workers put in more than 48 hours a week. The United States also lacks laws guaranteeing that workers can take time off if they or their family members are sick, will get vacation or holiday time off, or can take paid time off for the arrival of a new child. Many other developed and competitive countries, on the other hand, do guarantee these things.

Grothman would also go further and take away the national holiday for government workers on Martin Luther King, Jr., day. He was a sponsor of the country’s first preemption bill that blocked cities and local communities from enacting paid sick days legislation in Wisconsin.

 

By: Bryce Covert, Think Progress, January 5, 2014

January 7, 2014 Posted by | Wages, Wisconsin | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

%d bloggers like this: