Our Disgusting, but not Unprecedented, Closed Doors

If you read me regularly, you probably know how I feel about AOC- I am not a fan. I think she is ignorant to much of reality, not serious about legislating, craves attention, and generally over the top in her rhetoric. I don’t hate her, I think it’s at least admirable that she is all of these bad things in defense of “the little people.” I just think she is a better packaged version of her awful mentor, Bernie Sanders.

So in our warped reality that we live in, of course I agreed with AOC’s characterization of the government as running “concentration camps” for migrants being picked up at our border. We are keeping people who’s only “crime” was seeking asylum in our country (their human right) in detention centers on the site of our infamous former Japanese internment camps from World War II. I may not be a fan of AOC, but objectively I don’t see how you can say she’s wrong. This administration is setting up internment camps, running ICE raids around the country, banning Muslims from traveling in and out of our country, and closing off ports of entry for asylum seekers. At the same time we’re cutting foreign aid to poor countries in our hemisphere, ignoring our responsibilities to treaty partners, and ignoring human rights abuses in places like Syria. The United States is not just failing to speak with moral clarity, we’re making sure to do the opposite.

I’ve heard people say they don’t recognize our country anymore. They must not study history much. My great-grandparents came to Ellis Island from present day Slovakia in 1922 and 1923. Literally months after my great-grandmother and her eldest daughter arrived in America, the Immigration Act of 1924 was passed, closing Ellis Island and other ports of entry, setting quotas based on nationality and race, and providing funding for targeted enforcement. Asian immigration was largely banned. Italians, Jews, Greeks, Poles, and Slavs were largely banned because the quotas were set based on a 30 year prior census- 1890- for the purpose of keeping America white. The law existed unchanged until 1952, and wasn’t fully replaced until 1965.

Let’s also not pretend we haven’t been brutal to “outsiders” before. African-Americans obviously faced slavery and Jim Crow, not to mention systemic racial oppression since. The “Trail of Tears” treatment of Native Americans is a dark chapter in our country’s history. Of course, the Japanese internment camps I mentioned above were terrible. We turned away Jewish asylum seekers during World War II and it’s run-up as well. What’s going on at our Southern border isn’t exactly “new.”

I don’t like AOC or people who spend all their time “blaming America”- I think this country is far more great than it isn’t. We’ve done some amazing things as a nation and countless nations around the world hold us up as an example. Let’s not lie about our past, or present, in the interest of defending bad behavior. Xenophobia regularly pops up throughout our history, usually with ugly consequences. Ripping children away from their mothers and putting them in concentration camps is not out of character.

Our government is currently arguing in court that children in detention do not need soap, toothbrushes, beds, and blankets. We’re detaining people seeking asylum in our country for the sake of protecting children. We’re putting detention sites on the former site of Japanese internment camps, an ugly moment in our past. While I find AOC to be annoying and generally a net-negative in our government, I don’t think she’s the person we should be yelling at right now.

Trust Running It Back?

In a week, the Sixers will face a major challenge to their championship hopes: free agency. Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris will be heavily pursued free agents. J.J. Redick will have plenty of opportunities to go elsewhere. Mike Scott and James Ennis will have opportunities to go elsewhere as well. Even Boban Marjanovic could be gone.

The good news for the Sixers is that they don’t come into free agency totally lacking a roster. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are returning All-Stars. First round picks from the last two drafts Zhaire Smith and Matisse Thybulle will be rotational pieces that should provide vast improvements at perimeter defense. Jonah Bolden logged significant minutes in the front court last year and showed flashes. Marial Shayok and Shake Milton could find a home at the end of the bench filling out this roster. That’s not a bad place to start from. Thybulle and Shayok still need to sign contracts, and Milton is heading into the second year of a two-way contract, but the Sixers currently have about $40 million of cap space allocated towards the $109 million cap, and the $132 million luxury tax cap.

The Sixers essentially have three options heading into free agency. The first is the most popular- re-sign their players and run it back. This option requires the Sixers to likely have to offer the five year, $189 million maximum to Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, a hit of about $38 million a year, each. They would likely have to pay J.J. Redick about $12 million to bring him back next season. Scott and Ennis would likely cost the Sixers between $8-12 million (call it $10 million) to run it back too. The team would likely still need to bring in a center/power forward option to back up Joel Embiid, and probably still wants a point guard option off the bench, and possibly another shooter. Adding up just the costs to keep these players, the Sixers would spend $100 million. They would be over the cap, and over the luxury tax too. This would severely limit the size of their exemption usage, and their ability to add anyone in the season. The Sixers absolutely would be a taxpayer under this plan, and probably would be for the foreseeable future, given Ben Simmons looming extension. It’s an option to do this, but it’s one that gives the Sixers minimal flexibility.

Option two is to look outside, and there’s reason to think the Sixers could do this. Players such as Al Horford, Danny Green, Julius Randle, Patrick Beverley, Malcolm Brogdon, Dewayne Dedmon, Kyle O’Quinn, and even Kawhi Leonard have been linked to the team. Obviously Leonard would require a maximum deal, while rumors peg Horford’s cost at around $28 million per year, for four years. The rest of these players would come in at lesser prices, and fulfill different needs. Green could provide a replacement, or at least another option to Redick, depending on cap space. Randle, like Horford, provides another big man to help soften the load on Embiid, while providing starter minutes. Dedmon and O’Quinn would be true back-ups at the four and five. Brogdon and Beverley would help fill out the back court nicely.

Option three is what appears most likely- a combination of the two. It probably starts with re-signing one of their two free agent stars, continues with either bringing back Redick or bringing in Green, and concludes with bringing in a power forward like Horford who can double as Embiid’s playoff back-up. The savings from not super maxing two players are what the Sixers use to fill out some depth on their bench, including a passable point guard, a center to get through the regular season, and hopefully another shooter. This pathway probably also puts the Sixers in the tax, but perhaps not for five years, and perhaps with a deeper roster.

While it’s worth worrying about, I don’t believe the Sixers will strike out altogether. They are simply too close to a championship, in a decent financial situation, and can offer their two stars more money than anyone else. While last Summer’s pursuit of LeBron has probably soured this front office on chasing Kawhi, I can definitely see the Sixers bringing in the pieces they need. With that said, they probably need four to six rotational pieces they could trust in big games, which is a lot. While running it back may be popular, it just might not be feasible under the circumstances.

The Five Big Things- 5. Taming the Military Industrial Complex

It would be fair to say that Dwight Eisenhower both did more for the U.S. Army than anyone in the 20th Century, and that the Army did more for him too. The last five star General, Eisenhower defeated the Nazis in Europe. The fame of that victory catapulted him to the White House as our 34th President. No one would dare call Eisenhower an anti-war dove. That’s what makes it all the more remarkable that Eisenhower used his 1961 farewell address to warn about the dangers of the military industrial complex. He could not have been more spot on.

Few people really know what they’re talking about when they bloviate about the Pentagon Budget. You hear crazy statements about how we could “cut the Pentagon” and pay for new spending programs at home that cost trillions of dollars. The truth? The 2020 Budget request asks for $718.3 billion for the Department of Defense. The entire national security budget request is for $750 billion. The other side of that coin though? The U.S. is spending more in 2019 than Germany, The United Kingdom, France, Russia, India, Saudi Arabia, and China combined on defense, and is asking for more next year.

The United States could drop nuclear bombs on virtually any country in the world that would put them out of existence. The U.S. Navy has no actual rival in the sea, nor does the Air Force through the air. American military capability is second to none, and would be so if it were substantially smaller than it is now. Is it necessary? Is this a good use of resources?

Let’s start by understanding the Defense Budget. Very little of it gets spent on salary, benefits, or housing for members. The share of it dedicated to bases and upkeep is also not high. Most of the money is dedicated to weapons contracts. The U.S. spends money on bombs, planes, aircraft carriers, and other weapons, mostly. Some of it is absolute waste, and Generals testify to such annually, but it stays in the budget every year because hawks in Congress want to keep producing it in their districts, and contractors want the payday. Among the non-waste weaponry, we’re often buying way more than we actually need. A reasonable group of ten educated members of the public could probably find $100 billion in cuts without harming our readiness to defend the country. A trained panel could do more.

Even that only partially explains our addiction to military spending though. As of 2017, the cost of the War in Afghanistan was roughly $2.4 trillion, all on borrowed money. As of 2013, the Iraq War has directly cost $1.7 trillion, with another $490 billion in costs owed to veterans of the war. These costs will continue to climb in coming decades as interest costs grow and veterans accumulate costs. In other words, the U.S. is probably approaching $5 trillion in costs for the two wars that came out of 9/11. Would that pay for “Medicare-for-All?” No. But by comparison, the Interior Department’s 2019 Budget was $11.7 billion, and one of the reasons co derivatives cite for selling off protected lands (Interior is in charge of that) is costs. You could protect all the land you want, end homelessness for Veterans, fix the Flint water crisis, repair all the deficient bridges, and do a lot of stuff with $5 trillion. Instead we’re paying interest on that money to invade foreign countries and occupy them for going on two decades.

Having a strong military is important and useful to being a global power, but it’s easy to question the judgment of how America has used it’s hard earned treasure since Eisenhower. While we argue about Medicare and Social Security’s solvencies, or fail to act on lowering prescription drug costs, or don’t protect our natural lands, or don’t fund our public schools, we’re spending more money than is needed to do those things on unnecessary military might and invasions. This is exactly what Eisenhower warned us of- an addiction to the war machine.

The argument is not on whether we should cut our military budget to the bone, but really whether we’re spending the people’s money right. While we can’t afford to do things our public need, we somehow have money to waste on war. Ending this addiction can solve many other problems and improve life for the people. It’s a necessary step to making life better in America.

Read big thing 4 here.

Read big thing 3 here.

Read big thing 2 here.

Read big thing 1 here.

The Five Big Things- 4. The Tax Code

The thing I admired most about President George H.W. Bush the most was one of the biggest things that contributed to his political undoing- his decision to go back on his “no new taxes” pledge in the 1988 Election. It killed him with the political right wing and shot his political credibility with the broader electorate, but it was the absolute right decision for the country. The deficits the country faced at that moment were not a good thing, paying “debt service fees” are largely a waste of government resources that could be used for other purposes. His tax increases, coupled with Bill Clinton’s 1993 Budget, were the government’s contribution to the roaring 90’s.

The purpose of taxes is to fund the government. When conservatives cut taxes, they do so to disable the government from doing the things it does. They also do so to shift the tax burden off of capital (rich people) and on to labor (working people). It is the purest form of class warfare. The idea is that taxing capital harms the economy by stifling investment by rich people, so they stop it.

America needs to shift it’s priorities on who to tax, and entirely change the paradigm. Instead of not taxing capital as conservatives want, it’s time to not tax wages that are essential to living. No one should pay a dime of income taxes who isn’t earning enough to pay their basic necessities, like food, housing, health care, clothing, and even some needs that may not be essential to life, but are advantageous to success. The lowest tax bracket should begin at a living wage. Meanwhile the United States needs to stop giving loopholes that are basically for the rich. Taxing passive income at lower rates, huge loopholes for major charity giving, and taxing $500k a year salaries at the same rate as $10 million a year salaries. Considering bringing back Eisenhower’s top tax bracket on income beyond a certain threshold will also encourage corporations to spread the fruits of their profits broader and wider.

Secondly, America needs to tax for the revenue it needs to fund it’s priorities. One can argue there is government waste (there certainly is at the Pentagon), but that is a budget and priorities question- which can be solved at the ballot box. Rather than using the tax code as a social experiment, or as though it alone can move the economy, it’s time to view the tax code as it is- the way we fund the government. Capping the payroll tax at roughly $130k a year when that can’t adequately fund Medicare and Social Security shouldn’t be an option. I wouldn’t suggest that we have to balance the budget every year, or entirely through tax increases, but collecting a trillion dollars less than we spend every year is unrealistic. We know that tax increases are unpopular, so tying them to fixing large deficits is a good way to incentivize Congress figuring out their priorities and how to pay for them.

The third major principle I have for reforming our tax code is taxing generational wealth and passive income at a higher level, rather than pretending it’s been somehow earned. Taxing capital gains at a lower rate than income is simply denying reality- capital gains earnings are just income. Eliminating and/or weakening the estate tax pretends that inheritance is somehow earned, or more worthy of protection. Rich people already are born with major advantages and access in our economy, creating taxes that let them shield more money from taxation is really unnecessary.

My fourth and final principle for tax reform is reversing the Trump-Ryan tax cut plan’s move towards not allowing taxpayers to write off state and local taxes. To be clear here, eliminating this write-off has nothing to do with stimulating the economy or helping working folks. The idea is to cause suffering in “blue states” like New Jersey and New York, forcing their state governments to cut back on the services they offer, and to instead operate like “red states” in the South. Since wealthier people often pay a higher state tax on things like real estate, the goal here again is to cut the tax burden of capital. States should offer more services and take care of more people, that makes more sense, so the Trump-Ryan changes to write-offs for state and local taxes makes absolutely zero sense, policy wise. It should be reversed.

These are just some of my ideas, but the clear thing here is that our tax code needs to be fixed. The disadvantaged already operate with one hand behind their back in our economy, having a tax code that tilts the playing field more against the working class is idiotic. Having a tax code that makes it harder to pay for spending that helps the working class is stupid. Our current tax system incentivizes a broken status quo. Progressive tax reform is the most important thing to do, if you want the government to do anything at all.

Read big thing 3 here.

Read big thing 2 here.

Read big thing 1 here.

All the Things Democratic Campaigns are Getting Wrong

It was Friday. I wanted some intel on a Presidential campaign I’m interested in working for. I got in touch with an organizer in Iowa to ask about her day. Her response? She’s in the office, calling through a volunteer list. Just as the other days. The scene this young lady described to me was not unusual, it was in fact very similar to what friends on other campaigns I’ve talked to have described. This makes it no less disturbing to me.

The Democratic campaigns for President have not yet, on the whole, made it clear they understand the mistakes of the Clinton campaign in 2016. This is not an alarm that I think they’re hopeless, or that Trump is a lock to win, it’s simply an observation of weakness that I’m making from more experience than some of the folks put in position to screw this up (thus far).

What are some of the failures I’m seeing? What should be different? I’ve compiled a small list of the things that stand out:

  1. The DNC and the campaigns are joining forces to ruin the future of digital organizing. An organizer in Iowa said to me “with all the young people online, we need to meet them there.” She’s right, but that’s not what we’re doing with digital organizing. We’re using digital as an ATM. Why? Because someone at the DNC decided grassroots donors would be a good metric for access to the first debate. Why? I guess because Bernie did it well in 2016- as though Bernie 2016 was the ideal campaign. Turning digital organizing entirely into an arm of the finance department makes zero sense when you look toward a future where actual organizing online will be an essential part of campaigns, but I guess burning a major potential future tool on an unsustainable model now is cool to someone.
  2. Organizers should organize, not just phone bank. The HFA organizing model had one main goal- produce enormous numbers. It did that. What it didn’t do was produce neighborhood organizing teams, or persuade swing voters in any of the decisive swing states. It was built off the idea that the election was purely a turnout battle, that there weren’t really any undecided people to persuade, so the most important thing to do was hit huge numbers, assuming that would cause higher turnout. The entire premise of the program was wrong. Clinton somehow won the popular vote by three million votes, but fell short in the six closest states by under a half million votes. As dumb as I thought the program was for a general election, it’s even dumber for trying to win an Iowa Caucus. Caucuses are all about personal relationships, getting quality captains, and the overall quality of your organizing work- not raw quantity. Unless you’re going to have paid staff at every caucus site in the state, it’s absolutely crucial that you build the best, most motivated, most strategic grassroots leadership teams in each caucus site, so that they know what to do on caucus night and have a plan to get it done. Organizers need to spend their daytime hours out, meeting with the people who may potentially be their caucus captains out there leading the charge. Build the relationships. Build the plan. Train them. You don’t do that phone banking.
  3. Bernie’s policies are not what helped him in 2016. Bernie Sanders didn’t get over 40% of the vote in 2016 because people loved his policy on Medicare-for-All or free college. A huge chunk of his votes came from people who didn’t want to vote for Hillary. Some of them were more moderate voters who have since peeled off to Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, and others. Some were more ideological lefties that now are dividing between Bernie and Elizabeth Warren. Even so, a majority of Democratic primary voters ultimately voted for Hillary. Why so many candidates thought it was smart to chase him on policy issues is beyond me. Why they’ve all chosen to accept his paradigm, of eschewing major Democratic donors and pledging to take “no PAC or lobbyist money,” is beyond me (note- unions and liberal aligning organizations have PACs and lobbyists too). Much of Bernie’s support was built off of personal feelings toward Hillary, not specific policy issues. Trying to replicate that in a race with different people is idiotic.
  4. Make your damn candidates accessible. One of the reasons Hillary never got the benefit of the doubt in her campaigns was that the press didn’t like her. One of the main reasons they didn’t like her was that she never was overly accessible, and when she did talk she was often safe. People aren’t that ideological, and they aren’t policy experts. They do like authenticity, some real answers, and to hear from their leaders. And the press are junkies for access, and will treat candidates differently who give them their fix. Give interviews. Have your candidates tweet. Do all the social media. Try to make them fun.
  5. People want something positive. The percentage of the population with whom shitting on Donald Trump is a motivator is fairly baked in. Hillary got 48% running ads about what a bad man Trump is, and that wasn’t enough, as appalling as that is. If you’re going to win in 2020, it’s going to take something more. Speaking to the base, trashing Trump, and praying for demographics to win the election for you aren’t going to work. Put forth a bigger vision, speak to more people, and give people some hope again. Bill Clinton gave them hope. Barack Obama gave them hope. Hell, even Donald Trump in his crude way asked “what the hell do you have to lose?” If you want to win the election, go with something positive and hopeful.

That’s my two cents at least.

The Five Big Things- 3. Tribalism and Nationalism

Race is not real. That’s not my opinion, that’s scientific fact. Genetics tell us that the real difference between white and black people is nothing. We created race. We created different religions. We created class. We created nations. And now those things separate us. There’s nothing inherent about our differences. We simply abide by them.

Untangling our demographic differences would be attempting to ignore the totality of modern human history. Wars, genocides, slavery, and apartheid has been committed in the name of our differences. Laws ban marriages and even interactions across demographic lines. Mick Jagger once depicted Satan as taking part in the Holocaust, the “Hundred Years’ War,” and the Russian Leninist Revolution. One can believe he would gleefully take part in some of the most divisive events in human history.

Nationalism and tribalism in general have served as rationalizations for some of the worst events in our world history. Today, tribalism serves as the driving force behind political isolation and gridlock in Western democracies. The “demonization of other” serves as a convenient way to scapegoat those who are different, and use them to explain away failures in society- and to inflict vengeance for them.

People don’t generally want to warm up to “being together.” Here in the United States nearly every group has faced bigotry and blame for societal issues. Obviously African-Americans faced slavery, Jim Crow, and institutional racism. Native Americans had the Trail of Tears, not to mention their land stolen by European settlers. Catholics faced the Klan. Eastern Europeans were subjected to “red baiting” throughout the Cold War. Japanese Americans faced internment camps after Pearl Harbor. European Jews were often denied asylum and left to die in the Holocaust. Even the Irish and Italians faced bigotry when they first got here. Americans like to celebrate Ellis Island and it’s symbolism, but rarely speak of it being shut down after the racist Immigration Act of 1923. It is not a wonder that people fear for Latino immigrants amidst talk of building walls on our southern border and separating young children from their parents. The same can be said for Muslim Americans amidst a “Muslim Travel Ban.”

American, and increasingly western politics in general are more divided than ever. Simply giving a person’s race, gender, education level, and religion can allow a skilled American political operative to guess their voting tendencies with relative ease. Nationalist movements are rising in places like the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy. White nationalists are speaking out in the United States. These divisions are incentivizing gridlock, as political parties find their supporters are increasingly likely to not support compromise with other political parties, whom they regard as less American than they are.

Nationalistic fervor, especially ethno-nationalism, does not lead to good outcomes. Populist movements and their scapegoating tendency do not lead to responsible policy making. Political tribalism and division do not lead to stable democracies and general acceptance of democratic norms as we knew them. To be fair, we can draw a direct line all the way back to the 1960’s that directs us to this moment. Leaders who continue to embrace these forces are not leading us to a better and more just future, no matter their intentions. They’re leading us towards a no-holds barred fight that leaves us less interested in the nation’s best interest, and more interested in our “tribe’s” best interest at the expense of the others. History tells us that’s when things get ugly.

Read big thing 2 here.

Read big thing 1 here.

LABron Still Likely to LAFail

LeBron James is the best player of his era in the NBA, but let’s face the facts- he’s 35 this season, and time’s-a-tickin. He missed a huge chunk of the 2018-2019 season, and as a result he missed the playoffs for the first time since his rookie year. His contract with the Lakers, now approaching a year old, has just three seasons left to deliver a championship. He’s not going to get younger or healthier going forward, so the time is now.

The Lakers decision to gut out most of their younger assets and three first round picks, plus pick swaps to get Anthony Davis was absolutely the right move. Without a second star in place to make the Lakers a sure-fire playoff team, what even decent free agent was going to come there? The team looked like a mess. They now have a top three big man to team with one of the all-time greats, in a conference with no clear favorite moving forward. If the Lakers wanted a shot at first or second tier free agents, and contention, the deal was worth every piece, including the #4 pick.

With that said, the typical overhyped “Lake Show” BS is following AD. I heard once analyst refer to Davis as “the best player LeBron has ever played with,” arguable statement against Kyrie, and an idiotic statement when comparing AD with Wade. ESPN had analysts saying the Lakers have “two top six players,” as though you couldn’t name Durant, Kawhi, Giannis, Harden, Curry, and LeBron as all better than Davis before even getting an argument. Vegas lines suddenly made this undermanned Lakers team the favorite to win the championship next year. Still others declared Davis the “best big man in basketball,” as though Joel Embiid hasn’t consistently stolen his lunch money in head-to-head’s the last two seasons. Again, Anthony Davis is great, and worth it, but don’t talk crazy.

Then there’s the talk about what’s next for the Lakers. Getting Davis gives the Lakers a basketball case to be made to the biggest free agents on the market, sure. Financially though, things are going to be hard. Depending on the date of the Davis trade officially getting done, the Lakers will not have enough cap space available to sign a third star to a max contract. After this trade, they will have about $27 million available, and Davis will be owed a $4 million trade bonus, leaving them with $23 million and change left over. The Lakers have just five players on their roster, and just one guard. They could move a couple more players to ultimately help complete the financial side of the trade, but would still have less than $30 million of cap space, and need ten to twelve more players. They wouldn’t have the full $32.7 million max deal to offer Kawhi or Jimmy Butler, and their current teams can offer them around $38 million for each of five years. In other words, the Lakers are more likely to spread their cap space out to fill out a deeper roster, unless they can convince a Kemba or Kyrie to take dramatically less than market value.

The Lakers made the right basketball move in cashing in their assets for a star right now. This move put them back in contention, and made them look relevant again. With all of that said, this trade did not make them next year’s favorite. It didn’t position them to bully the market this year. Though worth it, they paid a premium price for this player. And with all of that, time is ticking away on LeBron tying Shaq with that fourth ring. The odds are still more likely the Lakers don’t win the next championship, and time doesn’t slow down for LeBron in the future. The Lakers shot their shot, and shot it well, but don’t think for a second they’re the front-runners now.

The Five Big Things- 2. Climate Change and the Coming Natural Resource Wars

The global energy market is leading us towards doom- regardless of how you look at it. The scientific community nearly universally agrees that climate change is real, with only a small minority arguing it isn’t man-made. The energy industry’s best guesses suggest we’re heading towards a market meltdown that will eventually cripple world markets. By even the most charitable read of anti-environmentalists, major energy policy changes are needed in the short-term to avoid climate problems, market meltdowns, and even resource wars.

Climate scientists are sounding the alarm. We maybe have a decade to correct the problem to avoid catastrophe. We might all die in like 30 years, if you believe the worst. There’s a global mass extinction happening in our oceans. If you choose to believe the experts, big problems are coming. But who believes the smart people anyway, right?

Let’s operate in a little different reality. Let’s assume for a minute that our doom is not thirty years away, but 200 years away. Let’s assume them “crazy liberals” are being nuts and preaching doom too early. Let’s assume all that, and still get a sense for our oncoming environmental peril if we don’t make energy policy changes.

First, let’s understand the state of oil on our planet- the oil industry estimates about 75 years of oil reserves exist on Earth. That’s assuming current levels of consumption, which is unlikely as demand rises in China and India. So in short, supply is falling, and oil gets more expensive the further you have to go to get it. Demand is rising. In some time far less than 75 years, the economic incentive to drill will be undercut by rising costs that price most people out of the market. We’ll have an economic meltdown resulting from oil simply being too expensive for most people to use. Economic meltdowns cause suffering, and worse yet, wars. What do we actually think tensions between the U.S. and Iran right now are about?

Second, let’s understand that the effects of climate change are already wreaking havoc on our economy. Superstorms like Hurricane Katrina or Sandy cause unprecedented damage, both human and economic on our economy. Tornadoes are destroying towns left and right in the homeland this year. Droughts are causing food prices to be unstable. Most of our major economic hubs in America- like New York, Los Angeles, Miami, or Boston- will be harmed by rising sea levels, threatening future economic depression if we lose them. How can the insurance industry write policies to deal with killer storms and rising oceans? The economic mess we could see from these threats is incalculable. Even if climate change isn’t killing us, it won’t get better on it’s own.

If oil could set off resource wars, one can’t leave out water as doing the same. Water is the most precious resource on the planet, and already there are skirmishes and wars in sub-Saharan Africa over it. As droughts become more common place around the world from a lack of fresh water, how do you avoid wars over access and control? Much like oil, water becomes a finite resource, and power and control ride on who has it.

How about our food supply- what is the impact on our food? How will droughts hurt crops? How will extinctions change ecosystems where we hunt and fish? Will it kill species we feed on? Will it cause natural predators to no longer keep other species in check? Will all of this instability likely lead to wild price changes?

Economic instability, recessions, wars, and other factors like forest fires are all immediate things our current environmental path leads us towards. I’ve basically tried to avoid the real doom and gloom- the potential short-term death of our planet, something that will cost most of us our lives. There is no quick “Planet B” option. The fact is that the experts are warning of a catastrophic impact of inaction. We very well may be facing doom. We shouldn’t diminish that.

This is not a funny debate about “cow farts” and banning airplanes. Solar, nuclear, wind, and hydro power could be as viable of an option to fuel society as coal, oil, and natural gas, if all we’d do is reverse tax subsidies and regulations from favoring fossil fuels to renewables and clean energy sources. And why not a plan along the lines of a “green new deal?” Why not create the economic boom, and millions of new jobs in a new, clean, safer energy economy that moves us towards a better future? Take issue with AOC’s plan if you want (and I do), but is the concept bad? Are we better off moving towards an increasingly difficult, violent future than unleashing our innovators on a new pathway? It seems to me like a pathway to not only survival, but prosperity.

Read BIG Thing 1 here.

Your Impeachment Unicorn is Stupid

There are two ways to view the impeachment debate- one is through a morality and justice lense, the other based on outcomes. If you think about the issue through the lense of justice, morality, and fairness, I basically agree with you that Donald Trump is a terrible guy. There are two main problems though- the first is what the actual charges would be, seeing as how the Mueller Report doesn’t specifically name charges like the Starr Report did against Bill Clinton (because the law has changed). The second problem is a problem of outcomes- absolutely nothing is going to happen to Donald Trump.

This is where the outcome based view on impeaching Trump comes in. Impeachment does not enjoy majority support nationally, in “red” states and districts, or with any group besides Democrats. It is not clear the votes are there, all 218 of them, to impeach Trump in the House. It is abundantly clear that the 67 votes to impeach Trump in the Senate don’t exist. Trump’s approval among Democrats and Independents is already at record lows, while his Republican approval is at a record high, so who is going to be moved by an impeachment that won’t result in a conviction? There’s a solid chance impeachment isn’t popular in the 40 districts Democrats picked up last year, since it’s not nationally. The politics are questionable at best, and likely to go south at worst for Democrats. The end result of the process is not in doubt though- Trump will not be impeached and convicted.

All of this leads to a very real question- what is the point of impeachment. Supporters believe the hearings will shed light on Trump’s crimes and turn more of the country against him, much like the House’s Watergate investigation did, leading to articles of impeachment clearing the Judiciary Committee in 1974, and Republican leaders on Capitol Hill telling Nixon they could no longer defend him from eventual removal. The question, of course, is why? Trump has historically low approval, and universal name identification. Somehow though, impeachment doesn’t achieve majority support now. It should at least beg the question, if the voters know and dislike Trump, why aren’t they for removal? What would change their minds? Children in cages? Him on tape talking about grabbing women “by the pussy?” Paying hush money to his mistresses? Praising foreign thugs and dictators? Criticizing our law enforcement and intelligence communities? Saying there are good people among Neo-Nazis? Thumbing his nose at Congressional investigators? Since none of that drove a majority to call for impeachment, what do you think will? Given that the public is partisanly divided on Trump now, why will a failed impeachment change minds?

Again though, that’s the question- what’s the point? Trump won’t be removed by impeachment, that’s clear. Beyond removal, there is no penalty to Trump. He loses no powers. He’s not thrown in jail. He doesn’t even get publicly rebuked like Charlie Rangel was when he was censored. The only penalty possible is political, and it’s not clear there’s much chance of that. Trump’s base knows who he is and doesn’t care. The rest of the voters have made up their minds on liking him or not. Most of the voters oppose impeachment. The idea that eventually acquitting him will galvanize opposition is grounded in the mistaken view that the press will cover the hearings as having “exposed” Trump, or that even most voters will even bother watching hearings when the final outcome is assured anyway. Outside of the Democratic base it’s likely more people will watch a Baltimore-Kansas City baseball game.

About his only chance of re-election in 2020 is the same as it was in 2016- people decide they hate Democrats more than him. He won a “lesser of two evils” election last time, and it’s his only hope again. His 46% election showing in 2016 would be a high water mark for his approval in office. What this shows us is that people will vote for Trump while disliking him. His approval is likely to be below his election number again next time. There’s not much further lower to drive his approval. Trump trails all of his main potential 2020 opponents now. Why risk changing that on something not broadly popular?

There’s some who argue there’s an alternative ending here. Perhaps the House could impeach, then hold their own trial- despite the constitution granting sole right to hear a trial to the Senate. Others say open an impeachment inquiry, but don’t put forward articles yet, which isn’t actually a thing (The House created a special investigation of Watergate that was not yet impeachment during Nixon’s saga). Still others argue that contempt proceedings against other figures right now could help build a case (I agree). To be clear though, the McConnell Senate would ultimately hear any attempt at impeachment and will acquit Trump of his crimes. There’s no alternative ending here. And again, unlike Nixon with Watergate or Hillary with Benghazi, Trump isn’t starting from 60%+ approval from which to fall.

Unless you can remove Donald Trump from office, impeachment has no teeth. There is no accountability in it. Let’s stop pretending here, the point is that impeachment makes you feel good. Impeachment makes you believe something happened. It let’s you yell at the TV like something was done about him. It doesn’t stop him from continuing as President. It doesn’t bother him. It doesn’t even make it less likely he gets re-elected. If anything, it gives him a plausible argument to the majority that oppose impeachment that the Democrats are even worse than him. But it makes you feel good.

Politics aren’t about your feelings though. Politics are about the results to real people. For the children he’d put in cages, the trans military members he will discharge, those suffering from his cuts to government programs, and all the other people being impacted by Trump’s actions in office, it’s about removing him. This is not to say that those supporting impeachment are wrong as a matter of morals and justice, they’re not. It’s not to say that a functional democracy wouldn’t impeach him, it would. He absolutely deserves it. But the net impact of impeachment is just making you, the activist Democrat feel better- and that has no value. If conditions on the ground change, and the politics of impeachment move to where it clearly helps remove him in 2020, I’m 100% with you. For now though, I’m with Speaker Pelosi- fruitless impeachment is not worth the 40 most vulnerable members of the House taking an unpopular vote on something we can’t deliver anyway. There is no constitutional obligation to impeach (ask Spiro Agnew). There is no requirement. It’s a judgment call, and we ain’t there yet.

The Five Big Things- 1. Income Inequality and the Obsolete Worker

In the pro-growth capitalist market, the goal of large corporations is to make a larger profit than last year. To be clear, this is different than the small business, “mom and pop shop” viewpoint of just needing to make a profit at the end of the year. If you make a billion dollars this year, you better make more next year. This is how corporations kind of have to work. The only accountability is to the nameless, faceless shareholder, who needs their investments to grow in order to finance their lives, far and away from the company they own. Corporate behavior is not about morality, but about producing the increasing stock prices needed by retirement funds and state pension funds alike.

With this in mind, corporations have to minimize costs and maximize profits. One of the largest sources of cost is labor- and corporations have long tried to minimize what they pay for it. Corporate opposition to labor unions was largely about preventing workers bargaining together for a higher wage. Corporate support for everything from deregulation to illegal immigration has been about minimizing labor costs. Outsourcing, whether it be in our hemisphere or further abroad, has been about finding cheaper labor markets. Sweatshops and even slave labor are hardly a thing of the past, but a part of many of the products we use and wear. The move towards robotic labor is about cheaper production costs. In the aftermath of the 2008 market crash, many companies eliminated the former “middle manager,” because they realized they were a cost. Anything that minimizes labor expenses is good for the bottom line.

It is undeniable that the long-term impact of the 2008 economic collapse has been a significant devaluation of labor. Companies learned how to do more with less. People that used to have life sustaining jobs are now greeters at Walmart, and maybe an Uber driver, and probably holding a third job as well. Temps replaced full-time jobs. The worker now has to work much harder to make the wage they once made in the 40 hour week. Those with full-time employment have to be nearly full-time slaves to the company, at all hours of day.

Understanding this makes income inequality very easy to understand- between government deregulation and the devaluation of labor, more money is flowing to the top of companies, who also happen to be the highest paid individuals to begin with. The Eisenhower 90% tax rate is gone, replaced with Reaganism, which gave us the Trump tax cuts. In fact one of the main ideological underpinnings of Trump’s tax cuts was lowering the tax on passive income (stockholders) to raise them on workers (labor). This is the underlying ideology of conservative economics at this point- far more so than faux populism. Let the fruits of corporate success flow up, because capital is more important than labor.

The main flaw with this state of the economist’s mind is very straight forward though- what do we do with all the devalued workers? Part of the deal, the buy-in if you will, for workers in capitalism was that they could work and fulfill their needs and even aspirations with a job. If now we are in a race to the cheapest labor market, or to even eliminate labor costs, how do we fulfill the needs of the working class? Why send your child to college and borrow all that money if there is no upper middle-class job in existence for them after? Things such as overtime pay, minimum wage laws, and unions are the antithesis of unbridled capitalism, but government *used* to be the arbiter between the two, forcing some rules onto the corporations that wanted to avoid at all costs. This “neutral referee” role is all but dead in the post-Reagan world.

So back to the main question at hand- now what? Does the working class simply become serfs, as they have been in human times past? How do we take care of the needs of the masses if their labor no longer does so? To be clear, in times past, imbalances like this have caused revolution and war, as people don’t just sink into poverty lying down. As I see it, there are two options, and only two options, to avoid this fate:

  1. Large scale social welfare spending, which those on the right will call socialism. The state will have to drastically raise taxes on wealth to afford the costs of fulfilling the needs of the masses.
  2. An end to the de-regulated, “pro-growth economy” that is producing income inequality at staggering rates. In other words, the government sets stricter rules and the economic principles of “maximum efficiency” are undone in the interest of full employment and better wages.

The United States faced this choice in the Great Depression and FDR essentially mixed the two options, leaning more heavily towards a more-regulated capitalism. That’s my preference in 2019 as well. Either option still beats accepting an unacceptable status quo that that only can lead us towards the worst of human nature- a fight or flight response that leads to human suffering, or even death. The continuation towards a world of “working poor” has no positive outcome for society.