I’d never heard of Michael Schaus, who is a conservative financial writer and the writer of a minimum wage piece that’s actually not all that crazy when you…just kidding, it’s awful. I’d just as soon prefer to skip all the obvious rage-bait that he includes in his column in an obvious attempt to keep people distracted from his main arguments (for a taste: “The economically challenged protestors of market driven wages are asking the profit-driven businesses to increase that wage to $15 per hour. Heck. Why stop there? Let’s kick it up to 25, or 40 dollars per hour.” Because…nobody’s asking for that?). Schaus’s entire article is really just speen directed at the poors. Just take this point:
Which brings us to the often repeated (in this column anyway) difference between careers and jobs. The Current Walmart CEO started his career as a part time (minimum wage) employee… But notice that he wasn’t satisfied with remaining in that position. Upward mobility, and ambition, does far more to increase the living standards of any given employee than petitions, protests, and government mandates.
The jobs at the center of the minimum wage discussion are jobs that are not designed for the average American worker to make into a career. Flipping a burger is a job for a part time teenage worker. It can even be a stepping stone for someone who fell into hard times, and is actively looking to increase their skill set (in hopes of obtaining more gainful employment). It is even a great job for someone who is looking for some supplemental income while they job hunt for better prospects.
This is something you occasionally hear from Republicans. Sure, the minimum wage sucks, but that’s what teenage burger-flippers are supposed to earn. It’s only for entry-level jobs, they say. Better workers will move up the ranks! Of course, not every single sales associate at Walmart is going to become the CEO. Most are going to either leave the company or remain roughly in the same job. And, obviously, having educational credentials and connections become increasingly more vital every step of the way. Schaus’s argument would be entirely valid if there were a huge number of CEO positions just there for the taking, with the only qualification being hard work. Unfortunately, there simply aren’t very many at all. So the question is, what do the average checkers of the world deserve? Schaus’s answer to that seems to be minimum wage salary, underinsurance and poverty.
Now, of course, I predict that Schaus would strongly object to this interpretation of his argument. It might seem uncharitable to describe it that way. But that is the basic argument here. His column isn’t a solution, or even an insight, so much as stale lecturing that’s not even going (or meant) to be heard by the subjects. The fact is that working a very hard job at very long hours for minimum wage is not something I’ve experienced personally, but I can easily imagine that it must suck, and historically the best way of making it suck less has been by working to form a union. Also, Schaus like many conservatives believes in the Upward Mobility Faerie, which assumes that hard work/some intrinsic quality of America/some extrinsic force liberated by an American commitment to “freedom” (as pertains to employment laws) is all we need, certainly not organized labor. Unfortuantely, upward mobility is used here as a catchphrase rather than as a social science concept that has actually been calculated and mapped out, and the US in particular has been found wanting. Which is another reason why the associate-to-CEO path is rarer these days than it once was.
Essentially, the Michael Schaus argument is that, since your fast food clerk or Walmart checker is not a CEO, they have not passed his test and essentially deserve desperate poverty. It’s about time we started calling this sort of thing out.
This TNR piece proves it:
It wasn’t just Reagan. Moral Majority leader Jerry Fallwell called Tutu a “phony” who didn’t speak for South Africans blacks. He even urged Americans to support the Pretoria government. North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms filibustered the sanctions bill. Strom Thurmond and Phil Gramm likewise opposed it. And future vice-president Dick Cheney called Mandela a terrorist, saying in 2000 that he didn’t regret his position. Pat Buchanan called Mandela a “train-bomber.” The Heritage Foundation said America should stop calling for Mandela’s release from prison. Pat Robertson, Grover Norquist, future Tea Party leaders, and current Republican Senators—all were on the books supporting the Apartheid government. When 35 House Republicans broke with the Reagan administration, the National Review called them “uppity,” and Human Events called them a “lynch mob.”
That last bit in particular is charming. The right, sad to say, still manages to regularly work violent rhetoric about race into topics both humdrum and climactic, and wonders why virtually everyone who isn’t a white person sees them as having unacceptable baggage on race. Every couple of days some conservative pundit or other makes some gratuitous offhand comment about rape (most recently El Rushbo), and the right wonders why women are an ever-elusive voter target. Even putting aside the overall presentation and content of your policies, peppering your communication with references to things that have incredibly negative connotations for specific groups of people is going to put you at a bit of a disadvantage in reaching out to them, and shows just how ingrained certain kinds of attitudes are, how hard to change. I mean, they said all this stuff over twenty years ago and none of it sounds much different than their rhetoric now.
A new Field Poll finds California Gov. Jerry Brown’s (D) public approval rating “has surged to a new high, and he is the overwhelming early favorite to win re-election next year.”
Key finding: 58% approve of the job Brown is doing, up seven points from July.
Brown leads his closest Republican challengers, former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado (R) and Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R), by more than 40 points.
Link here. Imagine a governor trying to get a second term by emphasizing economic growth, having popular accomplishments and exercising good management! So old-fashioned, don’t you know that passing fifteen million abortion bills and killing off funding of services is where it’s at now, Moonbeam?
Also, I have to say this, how pathetic is the field of opponents? Maldonado–a lousy candidate who’s been ripping through money as though he’s going to have a lot of it, and spending mostly on consultants–barely beats white supremacist Tim Donnelly, and the other Republican in the field is the former head of TARP. In its own way, though, those three tell the tale of the modern Republican Party: wuss, asshole, and grifter. The GOP’s new three-legged stool.
Up to this point, the discussion on Chris Christie’s ability to become the Republican presidential nominee in 2016 has focused around questions of tactics and strategy. I’ve found this conversation boring because you can on-the-other-hand it to infinity. Sure, he comes from the Northeast, which is not a region that produces many Republican presidents these days. Then again, Mitt Romney was the last nominee. His record is problematic in the attempt toward getting the nomination, but not in any way that has kept a Republican from getting a presidential nomination before. And Christie has shown a great talent at creating political narratives about himself, coming up with useful ones and summarily discarding ones that no longer serve him. Remember when the guy was considered a Tea Party hero? Romney, by contrast, was a terrible narrative-weaver. His 2008 campaign theme was basically, “Hey, I used to be a businessman!” and his 2012 theme was the same, except with “And isn’t Obama just the worst!” added in. This probably accounts for the lack of conservative enthusiasm for him during the primaries, among other things. Christie having this skill could be meaningful, though Christie is hardly going to be able to control the narrative if he runs in 2016: FOX News and the conservative media will. As I said, you can go back and forth without getting anywhere.
What’s more interesting is looking at the math. Seriously! Let’s go through this. There’s a concept that election junkies like to use, they say that “So and so is from the wrong part of the district.” What this means is that the candidate is from a part of a district that has few voters and thus has a small base, or is from part of the district that is dissimilar from the rest of it (think of a politician representing a heavily Obama precinct running for Governor of Alabama). This concept finds some applicability in presidential elections–notice how we haven’t had very many Idahoans or people from the Dakotas occupying the Oval Office recently?–and certainly in the Republican nominating contest. If you recall, Hillary Clinton won many of the big, blue states while Obama managed to lock up enough superdelegates and red-state caucuses to more than make up the difference. In the Democratic nominating process this is a strategy that could work. In the Republican equivalent it cannot, because the system is deliberately weighted to give the most Republican areas of the country the most influence. Utilizing this table of 2012 Republican National Convention Delegates paints the picture. Each state gets a proportional amount of delegates, but there are bonuses for the state having gone red in the past election, and whether the governor, representatives and state legislators tilt Republican. So essentially winning every delegate in New York, the #3 state in the nation populationwise, and one that Christie would most likely win in in a GOP nominating contest, has about as much impact as winning Kentucky and Louisiana, which combined have a bit more than 1/3 of NY’s population. Given that Christie is dominant with Northeast Republicans but tepid everywhere else, cleaning up in the Obama-won Northeastern states alone would not even get him all that close to the nomination. By my calculations (and I am ignoring penalties imposed by the RNC for states that scheduled their primaries outside of when they were allowed, though it’s worth noting that one of those penalized states was New Hampshire, a must-win Christie state), if Chris Christie wins every single delegate in the Northeast–and this in and of itself would be a herculean task since that number also includes superdelegates–Chris Christie would have 442 delegates, which would give him about a third of what he needs to have in order to clinch the nomination. That’s it. And this is already very much the best case scenario for Christie in the Northeast. If he were to lose a primary or two–perhaps Pennsylvania might succumb to Rick Santorum’s irresistible charms–then his task would be incredibly harder. And there are other reasons to think that Christie would have a tougher time than Romney did. For one thing, Maine and New Hampshire both had legislature flips in 2012, and the Republican governors of Maine and Pennsylvania are among the most vulnerable for re-election and it’s likely that neither one is around come 2016. All these things will cut back on the bonus delegates those states get and make Christie’s job that much harder, and it’s hard already.
The upshot is that Christie would not only have to absolutely dominate the Northeast, but he’ll have to win a lot of other states as well. But which ones? As mentioned before, he’s tepid everywhere outside the Northeast. The Midwest would seem to be an absolutely inhospitable region for his style of politics and rhetoric, given its tradition of “nice” politicians and (to me anyway) staid political culture. It’s impossible to see him winning over much of the South, especially if Ted Cruz–that perfect embodiment of rejectionist extremism–runs as is likely. His record would be a special liability there. The Interior West seems like ripe territory for Rand Paul, and as for the West Coast…well, it’s hard to imagine Republican regulars being satisfied by a candidate replicating a Democrat’s general election map, but even if he were to win all the legacy U.S. territorial possessions and the West Coast states he’d still only be around 2/3 there (819 to be exact, and I’m including Nevada). And a special note on the West Coast states, it’s important to remember that the Republican parts of those states tend to be extremely conservative indeed, and in California he’d have to bet on the Republican suburbs in OC and Southern California to beat the beet-red inland counties. Decades’ worth of Republican moderates pinned their hopes on that bet going the right way–going back to Nelson Rockefeller, if not before–and have often been disappointed. Probably even less of a chance of that now given that the state has trended strongly Democratic, and many of those moderate suburbs are much less red now. So it’s a dicey proposition. But there’s no way to see this working where Christie doesn’t dominate the West Coast. There’s not likely to be a strong candidate with a base in the region, and given the likelihood of a huge field of competitive candidates and the presence of at least some population of moderate suburbanites on the West Coast, he’d be a fool not to center his strategy around them. Meanwhile, there are 869 delegates along the Sunbelt, and Ted Cruz would be in a fine position to win the lion’s share of those without exhausting all his opportunities.
So, essentially, Christie would have to put up a perfect record in the Northeast, or near enough to it, he’d have to dominate a region that isn’t very passionate about him, and he’d have to pick off a substantial number of red states from other candidates who have a stronger base in them than he does. Additionally, since many Republican primaries shifted from winner-take-all to a proportional system in 2012, it’s entirely possible that Christie could win all the primaries he needs to win and still be far off from where he needs to be. Obviously, anything can change in politics, but Christie is already a well-known public figure and a known quantity, and has probably already peaked in terms of getting favorable media for himself. In other words, this might well be as good as it gets for him. If Chris Christie finds himself in a new job come 2017, that job is much more likely to be U.S. Attorney General (or, even more likely, something like Transportation Secretary) than President of the United States.
Another fantastic Honest Trailer:
It is a really bizarre kids’ movie in retrospect. It doesn’t impart any kind of desirable social values to children, or model any kind of desirable behavior. I do remember my mother telling me after watching it that I definitely should not try to behave like Kevin and should just call the police and run to a neighbor’s house if anyone tried to break into the house, which is sensible advice. Booby-trapping your house in ways that could just as easily destroy it–and yourself–is not so sensible. It’s pretty much the opposite of what a kids’ movie ought to be, and yet it’s not really subversive. It’s not like, say, Rebel Without A Cause, which sets out to show that following the rules and going with the flow can be an unsatisfying, immoral outcome. Home Alone is just kind of a dumb movie. Though subsequent sequels make it look smart if only by comparison…
Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Bob Corker (R-TN) … argue that the nuclear agreement reached last month between the P5+1 and Iran … allows the Islamic Republic to enrich uranium to low levels, which they claim violates past U.N. resolutions that say Iran is not allowed to enrich. Corker … criticiz[ed] the Obama administration for “allowing [Iran to] do the things that the world community through the U.N. Security Council has already said they cannot do.”
However, no U.N. resolution has said that Iran is not allowed to enrich uranium, only that it temporarily “suspend” its uranium enrichment program while negotiations take place.
As we all know, there is no past and no internet from which to draw forth hypocrisy:
Led by Republican opposition, the Senate on Tuesday rejected a United Nations treaty on the rights of the disabled that is modeled after the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act. With 38 Republicans casting “no” votes, the 61-38 vote fell five short of the two-thirds majority needed to ratify a treaty.
“I do not support the cumbersome regulations and potentially overzealous international organizations with anti-American biases that infringe upon American society,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla.
… which John Stewart deftly lampooned:
Jon Stewart hammered Senate Republicans for voting against a United Nations treaty that seeks to protect the rights of disabled people around the world. “What is wrong with you people?” Stewart said. “I guess it’s time for our new segment: ‘Please tell me this is rock bottom.’ How did this happen?”
“It’s official. Republicans hate the United Nations more than they like helping people in wheelchairs,” Stewart said.
I’ve been thinking recently about how, basically, the United States became something of a lawless country. Obviously I’m not naive and I realize that no system of justice will ever be perfect. There will never be a day where a homeless man accused of shoplifting will have equally good legal representation as a stockbroker accused of insider trading, for example. I don’t think we should give up on getting closer to that, but it’s not something I realistically expect to ever happen. We’ll never completely eradicate bias from the system because people have biases, and I’ve seen enough episodes of Star Trek to know that turning the whole process over to machines often presents its own set of problems. I accept all this.
However, what I don’t accept is a society where people commit crimes and not only get away with them–that is inevitable–so much as that political circumstances make the violation of certain laws impossible to enforce. It’s arguable that the large segment of the public that is politically apathetic has been turned off by the perception that powerful people are essentially above the law, and the more that increases, the closer we’re looking at a Weimar Germany-style civic meltdown where the citizens lose faith in the government to such an extent that radical personalities and changes start to be contemplated. Which is not to say that a Hitler figure lies in wait for us should that happen, though it is to say that it could make things quite a bit worse than they already are. Impossible to predict, but I’d just as soon not take the risk. The American left has most definitely not been lucky these past few decades.
Ultimately, I think this is a greater threat to democracy than anything the right-wing presents. It’s not entirely a separate threat. But let’s just think of a couple of recent-ish events in which friendly moderates decided that the nation needed to come together and heal:
- The Nixon resignation and subsequent pardon by Gerald Ford.
- Reagan, Iran-Contra, and the non-escalation on the part of Lee Hamilton.
- Bush, Gore, and the laughable quest to avoid a recount, in which virtually the entire establishment, many Democrats, and ultimately Gore himself talked about the need to heal, etc.
- Bush 43′s likely violations of the law. As Peggy Noonan famously said, we just need to keep on walking. Apparently Obama agreed.
- The culture of fraud that led to the 2008 economic collapse, after which Tim Geithner wanted to avoid doing anything that might hurt the banks.
Obviously, this is an incomplete list. And for a counterexample, you could include the Beltway-aided hounding/impeachment of Bill Clinton as a miscarriage of justice. The trend becomes very clear very quickly: Republicans who commit, shall we say, questionable activities cannot suffer the consequences because of a perceived threat to national well-being. Democrats who commit at best very nuanced violations of the law must suffer the consequences in the fullest, most public, most drastic and humiliating way imaginable, unless those violations are in the service of things Republicans like, such as bombing brown people, and afterward are not allowed to be angry about it lest they hamper the “healing”. It’s quite possible that the centrists who have excused all of these offenses with bromides about healing have a perfectly sound reason for doing so. Perhaps they think that, for example (and to be charitable to their motives), the prosecution of Bush Administration members for torture would lead to a violent response from the crazier members of the right wing. Which might or might not happen, it’s not an unreasonable fear. But to this end they’ve been entirely unsuccessful! It’s of course true things could get worse with the Tea Party, but certainly fear of such a destabilizing force is what might make centrists shy away from demanding that lawbreaking Republicans pay for their crimes, and in this case it happened without anything like that. People like to use appeasement analogies, this seems like a trend of actual appeasement (and moral cowardice) in every way. And if it’s just because of the professional centrists’ obeisance to power or because they simply couldn’t allow their charming dinner companions to face the music, well, that’s vastly worse and less defensible.
What do you think? Who should we be more afraid of? And what is to be done?
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