Franklin County Democrats

The official site of the Democratic Party of Franklin County, Missouri

Browsing Posts published in February, 2017

Let’s go back a few days for this editorial from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on how Mr. Blow-it-Up Governor Greitens almost melted down in an editorial meeting when asked about certain issues. The Gov. has also gone out of his way to avoid a free exchange with all forms of media. Is he hiding something? Find out in Governor Eric Greitens cannot or will not answer questions…

For a former Navy SEAL commander, Greitens oddly seems to be running from something. Or he believes he’s above accountability. Some reporters say they have been rebuffed or ignored even when they sought him out for favorable stories.Wimpy

During his campaign for governor, Greitens was interviewed by the Post-Dispatch editorial board. Asked about his support for controversial stop-and-frisk policies for police officers, he grabbed his forehead and said the questions were “making my head hurt.” Inquiries about campaign finance reform and looming state budget problems? He dismissed such questions as topics voters didn’t care about.

The result of this cartoonish interplay is that Greitens leaves far too many questions unanswered. We’ll keep a running list, and reporters should begin listing their own in their stories.

For starters:

• Who gave you a nearly $2 million campaign donation in a way that shields their identity?

• Why keep donor identities secret?

• How much money did you receive for your inaugural celebration and who gave it to you?

• Can we see your tax returns?

• Why won’t you talk to the news media?

Our western neighbor has been the leading example of right-wing state level economics. This has been complete with promises of job growth, limits on worker and consumer rights, tax cuts for the richest Kansans, and promises of freedom – lots of freedom. Well as the song says “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.” Losing is what all this right-wing economics is doing to Kansans.

Mother Jones has the story with Why Kansas” Fiscal Implosion Is Bad News For Trump…

But instead of the miracle growth that Brownback promised, the tax cuts have left a widening crater in the state budget. State economic growth has lagged behind the national pace, and job growth has stagnated. Lawmakers have been left scrambling each year to pass unpleasant spending cuts when tax revenue comes in below expected levels, leading to contentious fights in the legislature and state courts over reduced public school funding. When the state legislature convened last month, it faced a $320 million budget shortfall that needed to be closed before the end of the current fiscal year in June—and a projected additional $500 million shortfall for the next fiscal year.Brownback Kansas

After more moderate Republicans joined the GOP-dominated legislature following last November’s election, the party has appeared more willing to concede defeat and ditch Brownback’s tax experiment. Last week, the state House and Senate passed a bill that would generate more than $1 billion by eradicating most of Brownback’s reforms. It would raise personal income tax rates (though still not as high as the pre-Brownback rates) and end the loophole that has allowed 330,000 business owners—including subsidiaries of Wichita-based Koch Industries—to avoid paying income taxes.

The fate of that bill is still in doubt. Brownback vetoed the measure on Wednesday morning, after explaining, “I am vetoing it because the legislature failed to fulfill my request that they find savings and efficiencies before asking the people of Kansas for more taxes.” But the House quickly fought back, voting 85-40 to override the veto. But late Wednesday afternoon, the Senate fell three votes short of the the two-thirds majority necessary to pass the law without Brownback’s approval, leaving the fate of the state’s tax system uncertain.

So what’s all of this got to do with Trump? Brownback’s failures could complicate national tax-reform efforts, which have been high on the Trump administration’s agenda. “Lowering the overall tax burden on American business is big league,” Trump told airline executives earlier this month. “That’s coming along very well. We’re way ahead of schedule, I believe. And we’re going to announce something I would say over the next two or three weeks that will be phenomenal in terms of tax.”

Like many of Trump’s policy plans, his tax agenda remains largely a mystery. But the proposal he outlined during the presidential campaign shared many features with Brownback’s experiment.

The era of Republican donor Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary begins with some studies that bring her outlook into question. The New York Times lays it out in Dismal Voucher Results Surprise Researchers as DeVos Era Begins…

The first results came in late 2015. Researchers examined an Indiana voucher program that had quickly grown to serve tens of thousands of students under Mike Pence, then the state’s governor. “In mathematics,” they found, “voucher students who transfer to private schools experienced significant losses in achievement.” They also saw no improvement in reading.School vouchers

The next results came a few months later, in February, when researchers published a major study of Louisiana’s voucher program. Students in the program were predominantly black and from low-income families, and they came from public schools that had received poor ratings from the state department of education, based on test scores. For private schools receiving more applicants than they could enroll, the law required that they admit students via lottery, which allowed the researchers to compare lottery winners with those who stayed in public school.

They found large negative results in both reading and math. Public elementary school students who started at the 50th percentile in math and then used a voucher to transfer to a private school dropped to the 26th percentile in a single year. Results were somewhat better in the second year, but were still well below the starting point.

Bowling Green Massacre

Greitens rtw

The Trump Truth-0-Meter has leg coverings all over the country smoking like a tobacco executive. Can anyone figure fact from fiction? How do we know?

The Progressive offers this book review of Deciding What’s True, The Rise of Political Fact-Checking in American Journalism.

The value of credible fact-checking outlets, even if they are not infallible, is greatly magnified by the advent of fake news. When a sizable share of the population believes things that are demonstrably untrue, that presents an existential crisis in American democracy. fake news

It is time for an intervention, conducted by citizens armed with truthful information and schooled in how to make discerning judgments about the news they consume, before they pass it on.

The widespread disregard for what is verifiable shocks even the purveyors of fake news. The number-one fake news story of 2016, attracting more than two million Facebook shares, was a report on a fake news site (using the name ABC News) that President Obama had banned the Pledge of Allegiance in schools nationwide. In a post-election interview with The Washington Post, the site’s proprietor, Paul Horner, lamented the gullibility of those who have helped make him rich.

“Honestly, people are definitely dumber,” Horner said. “They just keep passing stuff around. Nobody fact-checks anything anymore. I mean, that’s how Trump got elected. He just said whatever he wanted, and people believed everything, and when the things he said turned out not to be true, people didn’t care because they’d already accepted it. It’s real scary.”

The powers that be want to remain the powers that be. A favorite tactic is to concoct a semi-plausible theory to distract folks from the real problem. If the real problem isn’t addressed there will be no real solution. In the focus of this post the real solution is to increase the power of workers, the problem is stagnant wages. The distraction is the ongoing “robot scare” being spread by lots of folks that have never even seen the inside of a factory.

With some clever charts the Economic Policy Institute demonstrates that robots and automation are not the primary threats to jobs and wages but are much more useful as a distraction from the real solution in Robots, or automation, are not the problem: Too little worker power is…

The fear of job-stealing robots has been recently stoked in the media and pundits frequently refer to automation as a key driver of long-term middle-class wage stagnation. But are robots actually transforming the labor market at an unprecedented pace? Nope—in fact, the opposite is true. First, it’s important to note that technology and automation have consistently transformed the way work gets done. So, technology itself is not a problem. Robots and automation allow us to increase efficiency by making more things for less money. When goods and services are cheaper, consumers can afford to buy more robot-made stuff, or have money left over to spend on other things. When consumers spend their leftover cash on additional goods and services, it creates jobs. These new jobs help compensate for the jobs lost to automation.EPI CHART, ROBOTS NOT PROBLEM

But are robots now eroding jobs and replacing human labor at a faster pace that the economy can’t absorb? Again, no. Perhaps surprisingly to some, the data on investments and productivity do not reveal worrisome footprints of accelerated robot activity: in fact, in recent years the growth of labor productivity, capital investment and, particularly, investment in information equipment and software has strongly decelerated in the 2000s. There is no basis for believing that robots or automation are having an unusual transformative effect on the labor market.

The first chart below shows that productivity and capital investment did indeed accelerate during the late 1990s tech boom. But productivity and capital investments were much slower in the recovery from 2002–2007, and decelerated further in the period since the Great Recession.

Automotive News has the scoop on How The Chevy Cruze Diesel Gets 52 Miles Per Gallon…

Unlike the cramped, stripped-down ’90s-era cars that got 50 mpg or close to it, the Cruze diesel sedan is smooth, quiet, comfortable and fully equipped with safety features and electronic gear.Cruze Diesel

“Certainly having a number that started with 5 was enticing, but we didn’t sacrifice the rest of the car to get that,” Weddle says. He added there was no pressure from upper management to hit 50 mpg.

“It was really about producing a great car with fuel economy that we thought would excite our expected diesel customer base,” he said.

AutoPacific analyst Dave Sullivan calls the 52-mpg highway fuel economy rating for the Cruze diesel impressive. He notes engineers struggle for every 10th of a mile fuel economy gain and that the new Cruze diesel not only beats the old model by 6 mpg, but it bests the highway rating of the 2015 Cruze Eco, a gasoline-powered model built for high fuel economy, by a full 10 mpg.

“Other cars need two powertrains to hit anything in the 50 mpg range — I’m talking about hybrids,” says Sullivan. “Now you can get hybridlike fuel economy without the stigma of being seen in an oddly styled hybrid.”

Missouri State Representatives Lauren Arthur and Jon Carpenter team up for this initial podcast they titled “Podgressive.” These two are from the KC area but address issues on the state and federal level in addition to a quick exchange about the proposed building of a new airport in KC.podcast

Particularly interesting is a discussion of their colleagues behavior. This may come as a shock but many elected officials are not particularly well informed or concerned with issues that are not their primary interest. A few such examples are in this podcast, enjoy!

Michael Schuman of Bloomberg News looks at our relationship with another nation that has a great wall in How To Win a Trade War With China…

The bottom line is that the U.S. has to see its economy the way China envisions its own. China is unlike any other country participating in the U.S.-led global economy: It intends to benefit from the openness and security offered by that system without being obligated to abide by its norms. Developing certainGreat Wall industries is perceived as core to China’s national security, not something to be left to the whims of shareholders and stock markets. If the U.S. is to win this new economic war, its leaders have to start thinking more about what is and what isn’t good for long-term national interests in dealing with China. Trump may have realized the need for this shift in the relationship. But he’s fighting the war with the wrong strategies.

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