We Need an Income Floor, Not Necessarily a Ceiling

One of the enjoyable things going on right now in politics is an actual debate about taxes. You have Michael Bloomberg and Howard Schultz saying wealth taxes are bad for the economy. You have AOC saying we should tax “the $10,000,000th dollar at 70%,” or something. And you have Elizabeth Warren calling for a wealth tax, on savings, of the top 0.01%. This is a healthy, robust debate, one we need. We’re running $1 trillion debts, our nation is crumbling of neglect at home, and our tax code is a total mess, thanks to everyone from Ronald Reagan to Paul Ryan.

I think we’re having the wrong debate though. I’m not saying we shouldn’t debate millionaires and billionaires, and their tax bills, but I think that debate should take a backseat to how we tax our poor and middle class. The discussion we need to be having is how to create more tax free money at the bottom of the income bracket, essentially “shifting” the loopholes to the working class people.

Nobody should pay taxes on their first $30,000 of income. Literally nobody. Make all of that money tax free, because that’s literally what you need to survive. The first $30,000 pays for your food, your housing, your clothing, and your health care (in fact, I’m probably underestimating it). This money shouldn’t be taxable. If I’m really being honest, people making below $30,000 should be guaranteed a tax return that gets them to $30,000, essentially creating universal guaranteed income (UGI) for all Americans. I’d up this number to something like $45,000 for couples and $60,000 for families of four. For those that call this crazy and fiscally irresponsible, I remind you that we would save much more when we don’t need as much money in welfare programs.

I would apply this principle on taxes besides income too. The payroll tax would start at $30,000, and would certainly not be capped at $132,900 (as it is now), if capped at all. Corporations and businesses would be incentivized in the tax code to be good corporate citizens, including paying a living wage, allowing unionization, giving paid vacation and medical leave, and offering health insurance and retirement to workers. If you start applying the principle of a robust income “floor,” or safety net, you start solving a lot of the failure in our economy. By the same token, companies paying below a living wage and not taking care of their workers should pay more. Essentially if we’re paying the UGI I described above to someone who has a job, their deadbeat employer should be paying taxes that make up the difference.

I’m not sure how I feel, to be honest, about wealth and windfall tax plans. I don’t oppose them. I’m also not sure I love them. What I am more bothered by is the existence of the working poor in America, not as much the super rich. We need to take better care of Americans living in poverty and even middle class conditions, and we should draw up a tax code that makes that happen.

All the Things No One Will Say on Howard Schultz

If you watch too much cable news, you might think “Centrist Independent” Howard Schultz is likely to be our next President. He’s been on every channel, he has top tier surrogates like Steve Schmidt talking for him, Donald Trump is attacking him on Twitter, and Democratic talking heads are angry that someone would dare run as an independent and call them too liberal. It’s all more than a bit dishonest. Howard Schultz, despite all of his money, is not likely to do much better than Teddy Roosevelt (1912), Strom Thurmond and Henry Wallace (1948), George Wallace (1968), John Anderson (1980), Ross Perot (1992&1996), Ralph Nader (2000), or Gary Johnson and Jill Stein (2016) did in their losing third party candidacies. Roosevelt and Perot were plenty rich, but couldn’t buy votes. The one thing both of them can share with Nader and Stein though is that many people blame them for the outcome.

I’ve said I don’t think Schultz should do this, despite agreeing with some of the points he’s making. Donald Trump tweeting attacks at him was incredibly validating. It’s not that I’m sure Schultz would hurt one party more than the other, it’s the mere possibility that he could possibly help Trump. Donald Trump is attacking Schultz because a third party candidate could lower the threshold he needs to reach to win in the key states, and Trump needs that with his low poll numbers. Donald Trump’s 46% in 2016 was very low for a Presidential candidate, and his approval has never been that high again. Trump may need to be able to win with 42% or lower in 2020. He’s tweeting that he hates Schultz, but privately he loves him.

The Democrats don’t deserve a badge of honor here either. Hillary Clinton got 48% in 2016, Barack Obama got 51% and 53% in his two victories. If you genuinely believe that Howard Schultz is likely to play spoiler, you probably believe Schultz is going to knock the Democrats below Hillary’s number. That means you think the 2020 nominee will be less capable than Clinton, run a worse campaign than Clinton, AND that their message will resonate with less voters than Hillary’s did, let alone President Obama’s. If you believe Howard Schultz is going to pick off moderate Democrats, you’re basically proving Schultz’s point that the Democratic Party is too liberal. Given how important this election is, if you realize this now, wouldn’t it be more productive to do something about it than go on TV and complain about this guy? Perhaps there is more doubt in the DC crowd than they let on.

Then there’s Schultz, Steve Schmidt, Bill Burton, and everyone else associated with this campaign- they’re all too smart to believe what they’re saying. They know that the 40% of the public that call themselves independent aren’t all centrists. I actually don’t believe these guys are trying to play spoiler, I think they all genuinely dislike Trump. I think they made a self-interest decision that could endanger the election. They decided that a rich, white, moderate businessman that thinks AOC is a bit nutty isn’t going to win the Democratic primary voters over, because they’re simply more liberal. So they’re going to skip the primary and just run in the general election. They see votes to grab from all sides. There are some centrist independents. There are “Never Trumpers” in the GOP. There’s even the chunk of Trump voters that fall between his hardcore base of 33% and his 46% 2016 performance. They also see a moderate wing of Democrats who are increasingly isolated in their own party, people who are terrified of Trump, but find the party’s left to be ridiculous. How many of the low-affinity partisans can they grab from both sides? They’ve probably determined enough to compete. If it’s not enough to win though, there’s a better than decent shot they would spoil it for one side or the other. They either are in denial of that, or more likely know that saying so would hurt their case.

I find some of what Schultz is saying to be refreshing, but I find almost all of what everyone is saying on his candidacy to be dishonest, including himself. In normal times, I’d be very willing to debate if the Democratic Party is a responsible political party, but when Donald Trump is siding with Neo-Nazis and the Kremlin I think we have to focus on the real problem at hand. The coverage he’s getting needs to focus on the low likelihood that he can win, what his real pathway is, and the very real possibility that he ends up throwing the election one way or the other.

The Phillies, Bryce and Manny, and Reality

The Phillies were last really good in 2011. Since then they’ve won 81 games in 2012, 80 games in 2018, and lost north of 88 games every year in-between. Yes, they got a giant TV deal from Comcast in there, but they’ve seen their once full stadium empty out. They’ve lost the airwaves of talk radio to the Eagles entirely, partially because of who listens, but also because the product fell off. Philadelphia is still one of the better cities for MLB, with passionate fans that make them good money, but it’s not 2009 anymore either. The World Series heroes are gone, the ballpark is turning 16, and at least two other teams in the city are currently getting the attention as real contenders.

All of that could change though, as we saw yesterday. The internet rumors of Bryce Harper’s impending signature on a Phillies contract sent the club trending on Twitter, getting the talk radio talk, and skyrocketing in Vegas as a World Series contender. Was it all just people guessing? Maybe. It did show the Phillies something though- the road back to baseball heavyweight, the evil empire of the NL East.

The Bryce Harper and Manny Machado saga has dragged on too long, and I say this as someone who understands why both sides are fine with it. Yes, Bryce and Manny are making life-changing financial and personal decisions, and yes the Phillies are making a huge investment. I think we’ve reached the point though where both sides know where the other is at. The Phillies know what these players want- and I think it’s time to start offering it closer to them. It’s not often that 26 year olds with multiple All-Star Games or even an MVP are reaching free agency ahead of their prime. It’s not often you can get a player going into their prime that is this good.

I’d argue for going a step further and not just signing one, but even both. Some are making the argument that the Phillies need to keep some money around for a pursuit of Mike Trout in two years. I love the idea of signing Trout, the best player in baseball. Mike Trout is already over a year older though. He will not be a free agent for two years yet. He will cost even more money, for less of his prime years. Ironically, the best way to pay for Trout may be signing at least one of Harper and Machado, and filling the seats every night. Even the Phillies will need the revenue.

Philadelphia is a top five media market and nearly top five metropolitan market, with a multi-billionaire managing partner. Their credibility as one of the “big boys” in MLB is at stake though. The Phillies should go get their superstar(s) now, to start basking in the rewards. Start selling the tickets and jerseys, rake in the cash. Big market teams do big market things, and with the opportunity in front of them, the Phillies should do big market things.

A Bold, New World View, Part 11- Regionalism Still Matters

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 2 here.

Read Part 3 here.

Read Part 4 here.

Read Part 5 here.

Read Part 6 here.

Read Part 7 here.

Read Part 8 here.

Read Part 9 here.

Read Part 10 here.

Who is the Democratic base? This has been the central debate between Hillary and Bernie supporters since 2016. Hillary supporters largely argued that women and African-Americans, and most specifically African-American women, as well as Latinos, made up the “base” of the Democratic Party. Bernie supporters argued that the base were the most feverish ideological leftists in the party. I think Hillary supporters were wrong only in being overly general. I think Bernie supporters are just wrong. The Hillary “base” is slightly too small, unequally distributed, and ignores regionalism. The Bernie coalition is just not a majority, and probably never will be.

I don’t believe either political party has what amounts to a national base. Different political issues animate different regions of the country, and the demographics change dramatically. Even within regions there can be dramatic shifts from places like North Philadelphia to suburban Willow Grove, just minutes into the suburbs. Democrats can’t “nationalize” the question of their base. To be fair, Republicans can’t either, even though their demographic of voter is mostly the same everywhere.

Hillary’s defined base worked well enough to win the nomination, largely because it worked in the South. Hillary had a lot of success in 2008 in the west by winning the Latino base there. Hillary walloped President Obama in the Rust Belt states because she won the “labor/working class” demographic, the same people she lost badly to both Bernie and Trump in 2016. Every region of the country has it’s own “base Democratic” voting block. There are overlapping issues of economic fairness and access to opportunity, but the animating issues change. Labor issues are huge in Wisconsin, but voting rights are huge in Georgia. I can’t imagine a Democratic nominee opposed to either one, but the fight at this point seems to be over which set of issues get to be center stage.

What about the Republican Party though? Right-wing populism dominates in Appalachia and the South, energy issues in Texas and much of the Plains and Southwest, while tax cuts in the North. Rather than fighting over whether the tax cuts for their Northeast donors should take precedence over union busting in Wisconsin, or a border wall for Arizona and Kentucky, they just say all of the above. If their Wyoming Congresswoman wants to talk guns and energy exploration while their Massachusetts Governor talks tax cuts, they’re fine. A national nominee from the GOP will be expected to cut taxes, appoint conservatives to the judiciary, spend on the military, protect gun rights, and be tough on immigration- even though these positions make no sense together at times.

Regionalism also does a lot to explain elected official behavior too. Bernie Sanders famously was less tough on gun manufacturers than Hillary fans wanted. Cory Booker is more pharma friendly than many Midwestern members of Congress, but many of them are friendly towards agribusiness in a way he doesn’t have to be. Members of Congress represent the people who elect them, in fact all elected officials do. For that reason, almost no one has a 100% partisanship score in Congress. It would be nice to be ideologically pure, but most American voters aren’t ideological.

It is a fun, but almost always overlooked fact that the United States has no national election. Even Presidential elections are really 50 individual state elections (plus DC), where you have to win the electoral college, not the popular vote. Inevitably, the concerns of your district or state will occasionally trump the ideological concerns of your party. If you want to stay in office very long, you’d be best to hear that warning.

Math Still Needs to Matter in Government

The moment that Bernie Sanders went from “harmless old man” to a problem for me happened in New York. It wasn’t primary day though. It was when he bombed the New York Daily News Editorial staff interview. It’s not a matter of his ideas, but rather that he really had no idea how he would do any of it. There was no substance in his plans. Just catchphrases. Bernie was pretty much exposing himself as unprepared to be President.

I’m not sure Democrats are in a better place with the left as we approach the three year mark. Last week I engaged with a Twitter follower who supported Bernie and loves AOC and noted the lack of a funding plan for many of their big ideas. Their response was chilling to me- that we need to stop holding political leaders to the standard of paying for their ideas, because “that leads to conservative outcomes.” In other words, will away the inconveniences of governing.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Tulsi Gabbard, and Ro Khanna voted against the House Rules package crafted by Nancy Pelosi on January 3rd, and their stated reason was opposition to a rule called “Pay Go,” a provision that requires you to find the revenue, through taxes, spending cuts, or spending shifts, to finance any new plans. The rule came about in her first tenure as Speaker, after George W. Bush has cut taxes, fought two wars, passed Medicare Part D, and done No Child Left Behind with no funding mechanism- all as debt. The United States was running trillion dollar debts in those days, as we are now, after the Trump-Ryan 2017 tax cut debacle.

It’s important to remember two key things about Pelosi’s “Pay Go” rule.

  1. She can lift it for major legislative priorities, and she pledged to do so. While “Pay Go” applies day-to-day, it is not a hard and fast rule. It is there to institute discipline on the average, but the Speaker can instruct the House Rules Committee to lift it on priority legislation, such as Medicare for All, if she chooses. She has pledged, as I said above, to do so when major priorities come up.
  2. We are projected to pay $364 billion in FY 2019 on debt services (interest). That’s what we’re paying just to finance our debt- not fix a single program. You could dramatically expand Medicaid or improve ACA subsidies with that, if you weren’t paying it to rich people for buying our debt. You could finance a major green jobs bill, an infrastructure bill, or any number of other major bills. We quite literally spending half the Pentagon budget to sell bonds to finance our debt. This is clearly a waste, to any sane person.

The fiscal behavior of Republicans, post Bush 41 raising taxes to deal with deficits, has been atrocious. They only worry about costs when money is being spent to help poor and middle class people, and otherwise are willing to bankrupt the country. The idea behind Pelosi’s rules package was simply to not be Paul Ryan– not block a national health care bill.

But back to the argument made at me on Twitter- screw paying for the things we want, just pass them. I get the moral equivalency argument, why should Democrats limit themselves when trying to do good things, Republicans just do the bad stuff they want. The difference though is that Democrats are the party that believes in using the government to solve problems, so they have a responsibility to make it work right. Running up more debt because math is hard is setting up the government for financial issues later. The price of debt (interest on bonds) is pretty much directly tied to the price buyers are willing to pay at auction, which is based on their confidence in the investment. It’s worth being responsible, if only to check that.

The real problem I have with the lefties that argue debt doesn’t matter, and we shouldn’t have to fully fund “good” programs is that they’re just lazy- there are actual questions to some of these questions, which people sometimes even get close to proposing. In AOC’s defense (I don’t do that often), proposing a 70% tax on income over $10 million, which she loosely suggested to fund her “Green New Deal” is popular, not overly radical, and has historical precedence. Elizabeth Warren’s suggestion for a windfall tax on wealth may be plausible. You could expand Medicare and Social Security massively if you raised the ceiling on payroll taxes to apply to 90% of earnings, as Ronald Reagan did in the 1990’s- and the majority of earners wouldn’t even pay a dime more. While you can’t realistically cut the Pentagon the way some on the left propose, a 10% cut of waste spending on weapons we don’t even use could finance a nationwide free community college and trade school program that would greatly alter the landscape on college tuition costs. There are actual ways to do their plans, and you don’t even have to be brilliant to figure them out. They’re just lazy, or willfully ignorant.

My guess is that some of these lefties know this, but still want to live in fiscal fantasy land for one reason- politics. Selling tax increases is hard. A national health care plan and climate change plan was incredibly popular in 2007 and 2008, but by 2010 it was contributing to Democrats losing the House. The devil is always in the details. Unless you don’t do the details, and just say we don’t have to pay for it. Then you can live in ignorant bliss forever, and propose any crazy idea you want, without consequence.

Why You Should Support Millionaire Athletes

The rookie minimum salary in Major League Baseball is a shade over $500,000. For the first three years of a baseball player’s major league career, they don’t really have any negotiating rights at all on their salary, and can’t shop their services to any other team in the league. After that, they are eligible for binding arbitration with the team for three or four more years, before they can reach free agency. While MLB contracts are fully guaranteed in most cases, that doesn’t mean most players will ever get to negotiate one. The average career span is 5.6 years, while it takes six to seven years to reach free agency. While we think of the huge contracts for ballplayers, when we think salary, the average salary is only about $4 million a year. One in five position players make it only one year. A large chunk of ballplayers neither play 5.6 years or make $4 million. MLB made $10.3 billion in 2018. Player salaries seem to be taking up about 50% of league’s profit. Of course, an increasing amount of that money is going towards signing young players abroad, and it also depends on if you count revenue from MLB Advanced Media and the MLB Network. If you do, players may be getting a 43% share of revenues. On the contrary, players are getting closer to 55% if you count minor league pay, benefits, and playoff bonuses.

Ok, I just threw a lot at you, so what does it mean? If players got 55% of that $10.3 billion, they got roughly $5.67 billion. Those poor owners got $4.63 billion then by comparison, before their MLB Advance Media money and their two-thirds cut of MLB Network. By my rough math, that’s another $2.9 billion, going by Scott Boras projections of the market. So owners are bringing home about $7.53 billion, in rough math. That’s about $1.9 billion more than the players. But who’s counting?

Of course, all of this misses a key point- there are roughly 1,200 players on 40 man rosters at any given time, and about 7,500 to 8,000 active, MLB affiliated players at a time, splitting up their $5.67 billion. Again, the average major leaguer is making $4 million a year- there are 30 owners/ownership groups splitting up $7.52 billion, making a cool $250 million (roughly), every year. Yes, they’re making the entirety of the “original” Texas A-Rod contract, annually, on the average for each club. Every four years, they’re pulling a billion in revenue. Most owners and majority partners are already billionaires or damn close. The average team is valued at $1.3 billion. That means an owner can get access to a lot more capital because owning a team. In other words, it’s nice to be a ballplayer, but it’s great town a team.

Most people don’t get that difference though- they view both players and owners as “rich.” $4 million a year average salary, over 5.6 years (absolutely no one hits both of these averages together) is $24.4 million, pre-tax, and that seems like a lot, to them. It might seem small next to $250 million a year for an average club share of the revenue, but what’s the difference in these two numbers, really? Well, I’ll leave that Twitter to explain.

A team’s average share of one year’s MLB revenue is over ten times as much as the average career’s worth of money at the current average salary. Just consider that. In two years, a team would make more on average revenue than the projected Bryce Harper contracts. The gap between the two sides is that dramatic. The capital is exponentially more valuable than the labor in baseball. In baseball, let alone the NFL. This is the sport that is supposedly better to it’s players than football. In fact, you would find similar results in the NBA, NHL, and NFL if you did the math I did above.

In other words, don’t defend the owners when MLB players complain about the slow free agency this year, or allege collusion among the teams to keep salaries down. “The product,” as the NFL refers to it’s players, is producing record profits in the billions, across all sports, but is splitting about half the money up among the whole league. I get it, it’s tempting to complain when you see a really average bench piece in the NBA get a three year, $40 million deal, but don’t- that’s what a relatively fair market says they deserve. They’re producing billions in economic activity for the league and cities they play in. Meanwhile the owners are getting their cities and states to finance their stadiums. While making huge profits.

Just a thought.

On Howard Schultz

I’m a Howard Schultz fan, I think what he did with Starbucks was amazing. I think he’s absolutely qualified, as much as anyone really is, to be President. I agreed with parts of what he had to say on 60 Minutes last night. If he runs for President as an independent though, I don’t believe he can win, and I’d be voting for the Democratic nominee.

Howard Schultz target audience is me- people who don’t like AOC, Bernie Sanders, and other leftists popping up in the party right now. I agree with him that they haven’t thought through how to finance Medicare for All, debt free college, and other “big” ideas they have. I might disagree with him on whether or not we should still do a major health care plan (the national debt doesn’t negate the need), and I think Schultz is too cozy to policies that favor the wealthy on a number of issues, but he’s basically not a far cry off from the positions of many more moderate Democrats, or even for that matter liberals in the mold of Hillary Clinton. He’d be 10,000% better than Donald Trump.

There are ethical and tactical problems with what Schultz is proposing though. Let’s start with the obvious tactical one though- independent candidates and third party candidates can’t win. The best performance in modern memory was Ross Perot’s 19% in 1992, which netted him exactly zero electoral votes. He was the last independent or third party candidate to get into a debate with the two major nominees. What is more likely to happen is a repeat of 2000 and 2016- where the third party candidates get more votes in the decisive states than the popular vote winner loses those states by, and essentially contributes to electing a President who got less votes. This seems even more likely in 2020, where the Democrats could be nominating someone more progressive, another woman, possibly an LGBT person, a Latino, or an African-American. People who would otherwise vote against Donald Trump would see Schultz as a viable alternative to whatever makes them uncomfortable about the Democratic nominee. This is particularly true when he’s telling them he’ll be a uniter from the middle, which makes the 10% of the country that are actually swing-voters feel good about themselves.

From a tactical standpoint, running third party is a dead end path. Who makes election laws? Usually partisan appointees or partisan legislators. Ballot access can be incredibly hard for independent candidates, even harder than for third party candidates, throwing into doubt his ability to even make the ballot. Once on the ballot he would face structural disadvantages. Voters are creatures of habit, and in some states, their habit is voting straight ticket- in Pennsylvania, for instance, Schultz would start tens of thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of votes behind both party nominees simply because it’s a habit for older voters. Then there’s exposure issues. Schultz would be running without the network of donors and staffers that major party nominees just have, making it that much harder, and personally expensive, to get out his message. He’d have a problem getting on the debate stage even, as a more partisan than not commission on Presidential debates would decide what threshold he would have to reach to get into each debate.

All of that is the tactical- what about the moral issues that strike against Schultz? Michael Bloomberg has reportedly decided to run as a Democrat in 2020, despite the fact he’s not a perfect ideological fit there. I hate to even cite him, but Donald Trump’s decision to run as a Republican in 2016 put him up against the ideological tilt of that party on a number of issues. Why is Howard Schultz under the impression that he should jump the line? Why does he think he should skip the primary? Why does he believe he should get on that debate stage without taking on the process in either party. He’s wealthy enough to easily finance a primary in either party- and there are people who would vote for him. There are the Steve Schmidt breed of #NeverTrump’ers in the GOP, which wouldn’t be enough to win, but could make a point. On the Democratic side, a well-funded moderate may just beat the excessive field of progressive candidates splitting up that vote. While everyone seems to think the left is resurgent in the Democratic Party, Bernie Sanders lost to Hillary Clinton by over 15%, even with all the misogyny and other issues she faced. Why does Howard think he should get a free pass to the general election, when no one else does?

Let’s also be realistic for a moment, the rosey picture Howard Schultz is painting of his America will not happen. Who will be his Congressional allies he works with to pass his agenda? The House Democratic leadership, under Speaker Pelosi? The Senate Republican leadership, under Leader McConnell? The Senate Dem Leader, Chuck Schumer? I mean really, who’s going to carry his legislative water in a two-party Congress? Who would politically benefit? What’s more likely is legislative chaos, where the divided Congress passes legislation in their house that they like, and dares him to take a position one way or the other. Rather than dead-middle ground pragmatism ruling Washington, a Schultz Presidency would probably induce incoherent policy that counteracts itself.

I say all of this as someone who actually likes Schultz politics more than I don’t. I think he’s smart, practical, and a big improvement on this President. There are voters like me in Iowa and New Hampshire. If Howard Schultz wants to run for President against Donald Trump, he should go meet them and run for the Democratic nomination. The folly in believing there are actually 40% of Americans who will end up voting for a third, dead in the middle option could have disastrous effects. It would most likely re-elect Trump. Schultz should run as a Democrat and convince us that he’s the best option to defeat Donald Trump. That is really what will matter.

Ya’ Don’t Say…

Donald Trump will be very beatable in 2020, but that doesn’t mean that he will lose. Democrats have had a lot of success at his expense so far, but 2018 was an election largely about Donald Trump. Republicans won similar elections about Barack Obama in 2010 and 2014, while Democrats had similar success in 2006, and Republicans also did in 1994. Like 2018, the midterms of 1994 and 2010 were first midterms for the sitting President- just two years after, both Presidents Clinton and Obama were re-elected. Once the Presidential election begins, it’s not enough to just oppose the incumbent President, it never works that way. Democrats will have to put something forward that is broadly acceptable to the majority of voters in the swing states. There are signs that the Democratic base doesn’t really want to go along with that.

If you went by Twitter activism, everyone on the left is for impeachment. In fact, they’re for it to the point that they passionately defended Rep. Tlaib for saying “we’re going to impeach the motherf*cker.” How does America feel about impeachment? In the latest Washington Post poll, 55% do not support impeachment, 40% do. Don’t mistake that as a public dying for letting Trump off the hook, the poll showed strong majorities for the Democratic House launching investigations into Trump on Russia, his businesses, and all of the other allegations against him. The poll showed 50% with just some or no confidence in the outcome of the Mueller probe, and 48% expecting Democrats to go too far in their investigations. In other words, the country is not yet convinced of impeachment or indictment for Trump, even though they don’t like him, and want investigations.

Within the Democratic base, there is definitely a taste for progressive change within the government and the country. Within the larger Democratic Party, there appears to be more of a taste for competency. The NBC News/Wall Street Journal pilling of Democrats found majorities of the party’s older voters and college educated, younger base wanted competence over shaking up the government. They found that the party’s younger, more diverse, less college educated base voters don’t feel the border is secure in that same poll. In other words, the broader Democratic Party has a lot more differences in opinion than the activist base does. They’re also not looking to remake society all that much either.

Then there is Joe Biden, the least popular man on Twitter. If you read Twitter activists, Joe Biden should retire. His past gaffes, his age, Anita Hill, being a white dude, and the Crime Bill are just the leaders among his sins, and he is hopeless to survive them in this primary. There is a reality though- and we saw it in the December Quinnipiac Polling. Biden has a 53/33 approval to disapproval rating. His rating with Democrats on the whole was 84%. African-Americans gave him a strong 73/12 split. Young people loved him, and old people. Latinos approved of him by large margins. Biden was even popular with white guys and non-college educated whites. I’ll tell you though, he would lose most Twitter polls.

This is not to say that Democrats should rule out impeachment, ignore real concerns among their base, or nominate Biden in 2020. It’s to say that Democrats should not get caught only listening to the echo chamber of their base. The country does not like Donald Trump, as is evidenced by his 40.5% approval, and his paltry 46% of the 2016 vote. Like 2016 though, Trump could over-perform his approval and squeak out an electoral college win if the Democrats speak all towards their base, and not towards the voters that will decide the election, or even their own broader party. In 2018, the Democratic Party did a great job of messaging towards the majority of voters, on issues like increasing wages and protecting Medicare. The real question is whether the post-landslide victory of 2018 version of the Democratic Party can listen to the voices of the whole country, or those that get a lot of coverage on TV?

A Bold, New World View, Part 10- How Our Politics Have Shaped the Future

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 2 here.

Read Part 3 here.

Read Part 4 here.

Read Part 5 here.

Read Part 6 here.

Read Part 7 here.

Read Part 8 here.

Read Part 9 here.

I think back to my earliest days as a voter, and the events that were shaping my politics at the time. I was 17 when the Supreme Court awarded George W. Bush the White House. I was 18 when 9/11 happened. Locally, I was 19 when Bethlehem Steel finally went under. I was about the same age when the Iraq War Resolution passed Congress. Enron was going under for corporate fraud. Then there was the ugly, bigoted 2003 and 2004 fight over marriage equality. It didn’t get better as I aged into my early-20’s. Hurricane Katrina, Abu Ghraib, the meltdown of the Iraq War, and finally, the economic collapse of 2008 all happened before I was 26. In the course of a decade, maybe my most formative decade, the American judiciary and our electoral system, foreign policy and the Pentagon, our whole government, institutional Christianity, and corporate America all were made to look foolish, incompetent, and evil. This was difficult to process, as it ran against so much that I grew up thinking, but process it I did, with millions of others my age. It should be no wonder millennials, and the “Gen-Z’ers” who followed, are more liberal than past generations.

It’s not just headlines though that have pushed “the kids” to the left. Looking at the results of those events, there has been a real world impact on us. Home ownership, marriage, even having kids has been a slower, more difficult process. Good luck finding a job with health care and a pension. Many 30-somethings that fought in Iraq and Afghanistan lost limbs or came home with PTSD. New Orleans may have permanently lost a huge chunk of it’s population. The opportunities that were a given for our less educated parents and grandparents aren’t there for us. Instead we have the gig economy, student loan debt, and a constant struggle to survive.

It almost should be no shock that there are young people who love Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other politicians like her on the left- they are promising something diametrically different. While her ideas aren’t totally fleshed our, who the hell cares? If the status quo appears to be an abject failure, and feels like an abject failure, then it is an abject failure. Given the political options young people see as available, they’re making the choice that seems to make sense to them.

What exactly are our political options in 2019 anyway? The Republican Party’s last act in control of both houses of Congress and the White House was to shut down the government to build a border wall to keep Latinos out. In other words, the Republican Party has given up on governing, and only really wishes to enhance corporate profit and appease elder bigotry. The Democratic Party has essentially split into two- on the one side are “establishment” Democrats that want to govern responsibly, on the other side are more leftist Democrats that want to oppose the status quo and Republicans at nearly all costs. It would stand to reason that if your current situation is awful, “responsibility” isn’t your main concern, right or not.

Of course, some of the upheaval of this moment has produced great things too. Our first African-American President, our first woman nominee for President, our first Muslim women in Congress, and our first Native Americans in Congress are all examples of barriers falling. The traditional paradigm of white men in public office is folding on the behalf of non-traditional candidates. Who can blame the young folks for voting for something new? Growing up in a world of corporate greed, religious bigotry, inept government, terrorism, and fraud will make you question the leaders you’ve had.

I do not join in the optimistic view many on the left have of the world that millennials and Gen-Z will create. I’m not a big believer in the diametric change that many of my fellow millennials do. I get why it’s happening though- our fathers and grandfathers showed us an inability to lead our society in a responsible, moral way. Telling those that bare the price to be responsible is a bitter pill to swallow. Our elders decision to elect Donald Trump May have made it completely unacceptable.

MLK Unplugged

Now that MLK Day is over, allow me to tell you a true story. There was once a man named Martin Luther King Jr. He was a civil rights leader, yes, leading non-violent protests, mostly across the South. He did give the “I Have A Dream” speech, and also suffered violence and imprisonment for his work. All of the stories, dare I even say propaganda you heard yesterday was true. It was all true.

I didn’t write about Martin Luther King Jr. on MLK Day because I didn’t want to compete with the great image put forward. I mean, the FBI, CIA, and NRA- all groups that were not friends to King in his time- even tweeted out messages remembering the late Dr. King yesterday. Donald Trump even took three minutes (!) out of his day to visit the King Memorial. I wouldn’t dare want to compete with that sanitized version of Dr. King.

So I’ll write about him today. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have been 90 this year, if it hadn’t been for a sniper assassinating him in Memphis, TN in 1968. I don’t much care in the end if King was killed by James Earl Ray or someone else, because it doesn’t change the story much. If King wasn’t killed on April 4th by Ray, he had enough other people trying. The FBI, the CIA, and probably more government agencies were spying on King, tracking his every move, treating him as an enemy of the state. Local officials in the towns he preached and marched in wanted to arrest or harm him. The Ku Klux Klan wanted to harm him. Other random lunatics wanted to take down Dr. King. Martin Luther King Jr., the lionized hero of today, was the most hated man in America at that time. Let that sink in. We’ve whitewashed our just how bad the opposition to King was.

You see, King wasn’t just a civil rights leader that made eloquent speeches. He was a union organizer. His final speech in Memphis was to striking sanitation workers, mostly African-American, that wanted a living wage. King considered himself a part of SEIU 1199, as he stood with them against drugstore discrimination, and their leader marched with him at Selma. King believed in the dignity of all working men, not an economy based on profits. Yes, he was a “threat” to the prevailing views of business.

The biggest offense of King though was speaking out against the Vietnam War. His anti-war rhetoric left him estranged from even many of the white liberals of the day who had supported Civil Rights legislation. Questioning American military action in Southeast Asia practically made King an enemy of the state. King was a radical. He was probably too radical to ever win elected office, but it’s important we remember that he wasn’t a politician. King was the person the politicians wanted to get rid of.

You’ll have to forgive me for not wanting to step on the likes of Donald Trump, the FBI, and the NRA in their celebrations of Martin Luther King Jr. yesterday. I just couldn’t believe Trump would want to celebrate the life of someone who believed in unions, ending Vietnam, the voting rights act, and ending Jim Crow. I figured I’d let him get back to crying for a wall to keep people from Latin America out first.