Friday Talking Points -- How About A Little Economic Good News?

[ Posted Friday, December 3rd, 2021 – 17:29 UTC ]

Democrats, as a whole, are pretty bad about messaging. Every so often a brilliant orator breaks this mold (Bill Clinton, Barack Obama) by displaying an ease of communicating with average Americans on a relatable level while still clearly getting their point across. But for the most part, Democratic politicians struggle to master what should be a basic political artform. This problem shows up in an acute way when the subject is the economy. Democrats perpetually shy away from touting economic gains because they fear sounding "out of touch" with the people out there who are still struggling. Republicans, on the other hand, never worry about this at all -- they tout their own successes as a never-before-seen golden age of economic bliss, no matter what is actually going on around kitchen tables across the country. The GOP hammers home this "things are great!" message so effectively that a lot of people start thinking positively about the future even if their own circumstances haven't changed (or have actually gotten worse). Democrats never tap into this inherent optimism because they're always worried that someone somewhere is going to react negatively to hearing some positive news.

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A Longshot To Save Nationwide Abortion Rights

[ Posted Thursday, December 2nd, 2021 – 16:59 UTC ]

The Supreme Court has put America on notice. Once again, it is about to roll back a basic constitutional right for a major part of the country's population. They did so previously on voting rights when they gutted the Voting Rights Act, and they're about to do so again on the right to an abortion. The clock is now ticking on Roe v. Wade, and time will run out whenever they issue their opinion on the Mississippi case before them, which is expected to happen next June (at the end of their yearly term).

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A Post-Roe America

[ Posted Wednesday, December 1st, 2021 – 16:25 UTC ]

Today the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case involving a new law in Mississippi which bans abortions after the first 15 weeks of pregnancy (more technically: 15 weeks from the woman's last menstrual cycle). This law was enacted as a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case which legalized abortion in this country. And after the arguments were heard the only real question most observers had was whether the court will overturn Roe outright, or just gut it so completely that it will become all but meaningless (as they did earlier to the Voting Rights Act). Either way, it seems we need to start contemplating what a post-Roe country will look like.

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Toto, I Have A Feeling We're Not In Kansas Anymore

[ Posted Tuesday, November 30th, 2021 – 16:37 UTC ]

Nope -- we're definitely not in Kansas anymore. We're not even where we're supposed to be, which is Pennsylvania. We may be in New Jersey; it's not immediately clear (which brings up a rather ironic twist on "There's no place like home," I suppose, since we're not really sure where his home actually is right now...). But today the following news appeared from some fantastical locale or another:

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Schumer Should Up The Pressure On Manchin And Sinema

[ Posted Monday, November 29th, 2021 – 16:28 UTC ]

December is going to be one of those rare months when Congress actually has to get some things done. These days, nothing big happens in Congress without either a hard deadline or an overwhelming sense of political urgency to get something done fast. Both of these will hopefully be in play next month, on different pieces of legislation. And Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer could do one big thing to increase the urgency on one particular bill.

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Economic News To Be Thankful For

[ Posted Wednesday, November 24th, 2021 – 17:21 UTC ]

Good economic news keeps right on happening, even if this message isn't really reaching the public in a big way. The mainstream media, of course, bears a lot of responsibility for this, as they love to focus on anything going wrong rather than any good news, so stories about inflation (the price of gas, specifically) and supply-chain problems flood the airwaves while the steadily-improving unemployment situation gets maybe a one-day mention when new figures come out. But at heart, it is the Democratic Party's failure for not shifting the public conversation to positive news about the economy.

Today, new weekly unemployment numbers were released and America just had its best week in over 50 years. Let that sink in for a moment. Fewer people filed for unemployment last week than any other week since 1969. The last time we had such a good week, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison were all still alive. That is some spectacularly good economic news, because not only does it signify that we are now over the Delta wave of economic pandemic effects but that the economy is roaring back far stronger and faster than it did after the Great Recession. The overall (monthly) national unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent last month as well.

President Joe Biden has seen more jobs created in the American economy than any other president during his first 10 months in office. So many jobs have been created on Biden's watch that there is now a shortage of workers to fill them. This shifts a lot more power to the job-seekers and away from the employers. This shows up in the record number of people who are quitting jobs in the past two months as well, since most of them are quitting to accept better jobs. Wages have been going up, as employers are forced to react to this shift. This is all very good news for employees.

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Holiday Wave Or Wavelet?

[ Posted Tuesday, November 23rd, 2021 – 18:01 UTC ]

Are we at the start of a new fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, or is it perhaps just a little bump in the road -- a wavelet instead of a wave? At this point it is impossible to tell, as the data seems to be at an inflection point and could go either way. Add to that the upcoming holiday season, and it's really anyone's guess where we'll be in January.

The fourth wave -- the Delta wave -- crested right as September began. At the high point, the daily new case average was about 160,000 per day. That's bad, but it wasn't as bad as the third wave, which hit last winter (and was exacerbated by all the holiday travel and get-togethers). The third wave was the worst point of the entire pandemic, topping 250,000 new cases per day in early January of this year. But since January, the vaccine has helped make it much harder for the virus (even the Delta variant) to spread.

We are almost at 60 percent of all Americans fully vaccinated. Right before the vaccine was approved for children ages 5 to 11, over 70 percent of adults had been fully vaccinated and over 80 percent had gotten at least their first shot. That is a monumental difference from last winter, obviously.

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Can We Just Stop Talking About 2024? Please?

[ Posted Monday, November 22nd, 2021 – 17:45 UTC ]

As we head into Thanksgiving week of 2021, it seems a lot of political chatter has already begun to focus on the presidential race of 2024. Yes, you heard that right -- three years in advance of the election, speculation is running wild on both sides of the aisle. To which I say: "Can we please just stop? I mean, seriously... isn't there anything else to talk about? Please?"

I'm not even going to link to anyone else's articles here today, because that would just be feeding the monster with mouse clicks. But there are plenty of them out there, if anyone feels the need to start weighing everyone's chances three years early.

On the left, the contest has been framed as a head-to-head showdown between Vice President Kamala Harris and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Joe Biden, everyone assumed, would be too old and decide to take himself out of the running.

This is ridiculous on any number of levels. President Biden countered all this rampant speculation with his own leak -- that he was still fully committed to running for re-election. Biden is trying to clear the field, at least for now. Both Harris and Buttigieg demur when asked, responding with some version of: "Who could even possibly be thinking that?" But such wide-eyed "Who, me?" statements are simply not believable, since both of them have indeed likely been weighing their own chances each and every morning when they look in the mirror (and see a future president looking back at them).

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Friday Talking Points -- Build Back Better Moves To Senate

[ Posted Friday, November 19th, 2021 – 16:51 UTC ]

A lot actually happened in the political world this week, but the two things that will be remembered most of all were a pair of bookend Biden agenda advancements. The week started off with a bill-signing ceremony -- with Republicans in attendance, even -- as President Joe Biden signed the bipartisan infrastructure bill into law.

Which seems a good place to insert a sad note, since like many Americans, we first learned about the process which culminates with a bill becoming a law in the immortal Schoolhouse Rock video "I'm Just A Bill." But while this piece of Americana will indeed live forever, the man who wrote the song passed away this week. So Requiescat In Pace Dave Frishberg, and thanks for the memories!

This week, Biden's bipartisan infrastructure bill made it triumphantly to the end of the "I'm Just A Bill" process and is now law. This was a monumental achievement for the president, because it is the second leg of his "three-legged stool" of an economic agenda. The first passed soon after he took office: the pandemic-relief "American Rescue Plan Act." The second was the infrastructure bill Biden signed into law Monday. And the third is the Build Back Better bill that was just passed this morning by House Democrats. Not a single Republican voted for it -- a fact which Democrats should absolutely hammer them over in next year's midterm campaigns.

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Back To The SALT Mines

[ Posted Thursday, November 18th, 2021 – 16:34 UTC ]

We begin today with a mélange of metaphors (or, to be honest, clichés): Democrats are about to shoot themselves in the foot once again. What they really need to do (quickly!) is to go back to the SALT mines and dig up a better solution than the one currently in the House's version of the Build Back Better bill.

Allow me to explain. In case you haven't heard the term before, "SALT" stands for: "State And Local Taxes." Before the Trump tax cuts, people who itemized their deductions on their income taxes (filed Schedule A with their 1040, in other words) used to be able to write off (from their federal taxable income) all the state and local taxes they paid, for things like state income taxes and local property taxes. It was slightly limited (you couldn't easily write off sales taxes, for instance), but essentially anyone who bought a house -- in any state where houses are expensive and property taxes are substantial -- used Schedule A and wrote all those taxes off their federal taxable income each year.

Trump's tax cut changed this, by severely limiting the total amount of state and local taxes to only $10,000. This actually hit a lot of wealthy people hard (with higher federal income taxes) but it was an incredibly devious political move for Republicans because almost all the places in the entire country with both very high real estate prices and high property taxes are located in blue states. Taxpayers in California, New York, and New Jersey (and a handful of other states) all felt this pinch the hardest.

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