How to Read Tonight’s Results From Pennsylvania – by David Leonhardt – NYT

“Good morning, and welcome to Election Day — at least in one congressional district, in southwestern Pennsylvania, which is holding a special election that feels like a referendum on President Trump.

The 18th district is a mix of coal country and Pittsburgh suburbs, and it leans strongly Republican. Both Trump in 2016 and Mitt Romney in 2012 won it by almost 20 percentage points. Yet the Democrat nonetheless has a real shot to win.

Why? Trump’s unpopularity is the main reason. But the strength of the Democratic candidate — Conor Lamb, a 33-year-old former Marine and prosecutor — also matters. He has run to the political middle on cultural issues (like guns and abortion) and to the left on economic ones (like trade).

I’m not endorsing all of his stances, but I think he has the right approach for a Democrat in Trump country.”


The Left Is Energized. Now It Needs to Vote. – David Leonhardt – NYT

“The Trump presidency has brought a political awakening for American progressives. It began even before he took office, with the organizing for the Women’s March. Then came the citizen activists who protested at airports and later helped save health insurance for millions of people. Now high school students are trying to transform the gun debate.

In a new article in the journal Democracy, two academic researchers tell the story of the energized progressive movement. The leaders are most often suburban women alarmed by President Trump’s assaults on decency and the rule of law. The movement is more bottom-up than top-down, more face-to-face than virtual, more Middle American than coastal. It does not always identify itself with the Democratic Party, even if it supports almost exclusively Democrats.

The movement is “pervasively pragmatic,” write the researchers, Lara Putnam of the University of Pittsburgh and Theda Skocpol of Harvard. It spans “the broad ideological range from center to left” and (despite media coverage to the contrary, they argue) spends little time on Bernie-versus-Hillary fights. Above all, it is trying to elect progressives, including to oft-ignored local offices — and it’s now focused on the 2018 midterms.

That’s smart. Elections are precisely what progressives should be emphasizing. Protests can have an effect, as happened with Obamacare repeal and is happening on guns. But major progress on almost every issue — climate change, immigration, middle-class living standards and gun deaths — depends on electing people who want to make progress. Trump and the current leaders of Congress plainly do not.

Political movements have two main ways to win elections: persuasion and turnout. On persuasion, I think progressives’ best hope is an economic message that focuses the white working class on the working-class part of its identity, rather than the white part. But today I want to concentrate on turnout, because it has an even greater potential to change American politics.”

An Article of Impeachment Against Donald J. Trump – by David Leonhardt – NYT

There are good reasons to be wary of impeachment talk. Congressional Republicans show zero interest, and they’re the ones in charge. Democrats, for their part, need to focus on retaking Congress, and railing about impeachment probably won’t help them win votes.But let’s set aside realpolitik for a few minutes and ask a different question: Is serious consideration of impeachment fair? I think the answer is yes. The evidence is now quite strong that Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice. Many legal scholars believe a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime. So the proper remedy for a president credibly accused of obstructing justice is impeachment.The first article of impeachment against Richard Nixon argued that he had “prevented, obstructed and impeded the administration of justice.” One of the two impeachment articles that the House passed against Bill Clinton used that identical phrase. In both cases, the article then laid out the evidence with a numbered list. Nixon’s version had nine items. Clinton’s had seven. Each list was meant to show that the president had intentionally tried to subvert a federal investigation.Given last week’s news — that Trump has already tried to fire Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating the Trump campaign — it’s time to put together the same sort of list for Trump. Of course, this list is based only on publicly available information. Mueller, no doubt, knows more.

Deep Breath: The Democrats Did Just Fine – David Leonhardt – NYT

“A lot of progressives are angry or disappointed this morning. They’re upset that “spineless” Democrats in Congress didn’t take a stand — by keeping the federal government closed until Republicans agreed to protect the young immigrants known as Dreamers.

I fully understand their anxiety on behalf of those immigrants, the Dreamers. The future of the Dreamers remains unclear. But it’s worth taking a minute to understand the very large assumption that unhappy progressives are making. When you examine that assumption — and recent congressional history — I think you end up seeing that Democrats made a smart move to reopen the government. Unfortunately, their choice wasn’t, as the critics claim, between protecting or abandoning the Dreamers.The critics’ big assumption is that the Republicans would have eventually folded if the government had remained shut down.”

The Democrats Are Right — and Should Settle – by David Leonhardt – NYT

“So far during Trump’s time in office, principled policy and savvy politics have generally aligned for Democrats. They stymied Republican attempts to take health insurance from millions of people. Democrats tried to block a huge, permanent tax cut for the wealthy that came with small, disappearing tax cuts for everyone else. Democrats have opposed Trump’s efforts to let big corporations operate without much oversight. In each case, it has been both good policy and good politics.The shutdown is different, and more complicated. It’s more complicated because it has turned into a mini-culture war over immigration.”

David Lindsay Jr. Comment to the
Thank you David Leonhardt! He wrote:”A culture war over immigration replays the racialized debate that dominated the 2016 presidential campaign. As much as it saddens me to say it, the evidence is pretty clear that a racialized debate helps Trump. It’s the kind of debate that will make it harder for Democrats to retake the Senate and House this year.

Multiple studies have found that the political views of white Americans drift to the right when they are reminded that the country’s population is slowly becoming less white. And many of these voters are winnable for Democrats. A good number, remember, voted for Barack Obama. They may have some racist views — many people do — but they’re neither deplorable nor irredeemable human beings. Steve Bannon, the guru of white nationalism, understood this dynamic, once saying, “The Democrats, the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em.” ”
None of the NYT comments so far are nearly as articulate as this column. If you want to understand why many of us think this move by Democrats to shut down the government over DACA are are virtuous but short-sighted, I recommend you reread this op-ed. It explains why the Democrats are on the wrong topic again, if they want to win elections.

David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth-century Vietnam,” and blogs at The and

The Mystery of the Crime Decline – David Leonhardt – NYT – Stop and Frisk Failed.

Stop and Frisk failed.

“As you probably know by now, I’m a fan of journalistic self-criticism, and Smith has engaged in some of it this week. His piece for National Review is called simply, “We Were Wrong About Stop-and-Frisk.” He notes that crime has continued to decline under de Blasio. “To compare today’s crime rate to even that of ten years ago is to observe a breathtaking decline,” Smith adds.”

7 Wishes for 2018 – by David Leonhardt – NYT

“Well, at least it’s not 2017 anymore.

I expect that future historians will look back on it as one of the darker non-war years in the country’s history — a year when the president lied constantly, America’s global influence suffered and Congress used its mighty powers to enrich the rich. Yet the long view of American history still offers reason for optimism. We usually figure out how to emerge from our darker periods.In the hope that 2018 represents at least the start of a turning point, I offer seven New Year’s wishes:Republicans stand up for the rule of law. The country’s most urgent problem is the possibility that the president will impede an investigation into illegal behavior by his aides and possibly himself.

President Trump clearly wants to do so. His allies are defaming Robert Mueller even though Mueller is a longtime Republican, a successful F.B.I. director and a decorated Marine who’s now pursuing matters of national interest, such as: Does a hostile foreign power have influence over American officials? And did the president use illegal tactics in his campaign?Republicans in Congress can make sure that the country gets answers. They can refuse to tolerate any disruption of Mueller’s investigation, including the firing of him or his boss, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. If Trump tries to go there, his fellow Republicans can tell him that his presidency would effectively be over. Privately and publicly, they should be saying so now.”

Yes, and here is a top commeent I endorsed:
ChristineMcM is a trusted commenter Massachusetts 13 hours ago
It’s still 2017 by my clock, here in MA at 10:25. I hope the next 1.5 hours pass as slowly as 2017 seemed to.

David Leonhardt, I like your list of wishes for 2018, particularly your first priority: that the Mueller investigation proceed unimpeded. Never before has democracy seemed under such a dark cloud, not even during Watergate when the nation wasn’t as polarized, and most recognized right from wrong.

In your next to last wish, towards the tail end of “creeping” authoritarianism, you cast a personal call for higher voter turnout.

The figures you cite are appalling–“It was only 42 percent in the last midterm, in 2014, compared with more than 60 percent in recent presidential elections…..groups with the potential to increase their political say are 18- to 24-year olds (17 percent citizen turnout in 2014); Asian-Americans (27 percent); and Latinos (also 27 percent).”

To preserve the world’s oldest continuous democracy, we must do better, if only to provide a good example to the next generation.

But hand in hand with higher voter rates is education–informed voters not only make more informed choices, but also better citizens.

Because without a shared understanding of our past, as well as a consensus regarding our obligations and rights as citizens, how can we preserve our freedoms from hostile forces right here at home?

FlagReply 192 Recommended

Related to the 7th point, hoping we all manage to escape and stay centered, last night for New Year’s Eve I went to White Plains NY to an English Country dance which was marvelous. Like the Morris and Sword Team I started and still dance with in New Haven, The Country Dancers of Westchester seem like a group in danger of extinction, if they do not figure out how to attract new and younger participants.

A Tax Plan to Turbocharge Inequality- in 3 Charts – by David Leonhardt – NYT

“The Republican tax bill is an audacious attempt to accelerate the economic trends of the last half-century.If you’re a fan of these trends — rapidly rising inequality and stagnant middle-class incomes — you should love the bill. If you’re not a fan, you can at least take comfort in knowing that you’re in the majority of Americans, as polls consistently show.

Over the last few decades, the rich have not only enjoyed the largest pre-tax raises, by far. They have also received big tax cuts. The middle class and poor, meanwhile, have suffered from slow-growing incomes — and from overall tax rates that are higher today than in the mid-1960s.The first part of that story is widely known. The rich have gotten richer, for a whole variety of reasons.”

DL: Great piece. It looks like this tax plan will help progressive environmentalist and their friends on the left, to take over congress in the next, or next couple of elections.

And exellent comments, such as:

Ron Cohen

is a trusted commenter Waltham, MA 17 hours ago

Contempt for the poor and middle class starts with Republican donors, the very rich. Why do the rich care so much? After all the tax cuts are modest relative to their immense wealth. Is it really about money? Or is it something deeper, more visceral, a need to dominate and impoverish everyone else?

The great English historian, R.H. Tawney, in his magisterial work, “Religion and the Rise of Capitalism” (1926), tells us that by the mid 1600’s, most English Puritans saw in poverty “not a misfortune to be pitied and relieved, but a moral failing to be condemned, and in riches, not an object of suspicion … but the blessing which rewards the triumph of energy and will.”

This ideal of individual morality, derived from Calvin, has been with us ever since. But it has surfaced with renewed zeal in our time, with men like the Koch bothers, Robert Mercer, Art Pope and Sheldon Adelson determined to spend whatever it takes to replace democracy as we know it—a leveling force—with a fascistic, plutocratic model of government.

For these billionaires, however, religion is not the motivator. Rather, it’s how they see themselves, their self image, that drives their lust for power, their need to dominate. They are the “makers,” deserving, while the rest of us are “takers,” undeserving and cadging off their efforts. Identity politics isn’t just for Democrats anymore.

For a penetrating interpretation, see George Monbiot’s short but defining piece in The Guardian:

Ed Schwab

Alexandria, VA 13 hours ago

One way to deal with the problems of Social Security and the high payroll taxes is by recycling taxes that many Social Security recipients pay on their benefits. AS you may know, many social security beneficiaries pay no taxes on their benefits. However, there are many like me who pay quite a bit. My wife and I pay about $7,000 a year.

SS benefits are taxed only when recipients receive more in retirement income from other sources than they receive in SS benefits. Taxes are paid under a complex formula from 0% to 80% depending on how SS income compares to other retirement income. My pension income is about 20 times my SS benefit. That means I and my wife pay income taxes on 80% (the max percentage) on our SS benefits.

I don’t mind paying that amount, but I object to where it goes. It goes into the general fund just like other taxes. It seems to me that the better way would be to recycle it into social security. There are millions of us who pay taxes on our social security. The problems of the fund would be relieved a lot if our taxes went back to social security rather than into the general fund. When my wife and I pay back almost 20% of what we get to the government, it seems like that money should go to replenish the SS fund.

NYT Pick


Upstate New York 5 hours ago

This tax bill for the rich is so appalling. Not only have payroll taxes not been addressed, but also every person will lose the personal exemption of $4,100 for themselves and for every member in their household.

It doesn’t matter that the standard deduction has doubled to $24,000 because if you are a family of three, you lose $12,300 in person exemptions. Therefore, doubling the standard deduction is a wash. But, if you’re a family of four or more, chances are very good you will pay more in taxes.

Why hasn’t the media explained to the public this MAJOR lose of the personal exemption of $4,100 per person? This vital fact has been ignored. Most middle class people will gain nothing. In fact, most of us will pay more. And every additional dollar we pay will go in the pockets of the 1%.

This tax bill is so shameful and such a sham.


Time to Talk Impeachment – by David Leonhardt – NYT

“A few weeks ago, I read a short new book by the legal scholar Cass Sunstein titled, simply, “Impeachment.” The book doesn’t mention President Trump once. Sunstein started writing it, he told me, partly because he was alarmed by what he considered reckless talk of impeachment during Trump’s first weeks on the job, before he had started doing much.

Sunstein’s goal was to lay out a legal and historical framework for thinking about impeachment, independent of any specific president. I’ve been thinking about the topic a lot since finishing the book, and I want to recommend both Sunstein’s book and a Vox piece published this morning by Ezra Klein.

To be clear, I think it would be a mistake for Democrats to put much energy into impeachment right now, because it’s not going to happen: Republicans control Congress and show no interest.But I also think it would be a mistake for Americans — regardless of party — to be in denial about the governing crisis our country is facing. Let’s admit it: Trump is behaving in ways that call for serious talk of impeachment. If you read Sunstein’s careful history of impeachment — of when the founders believed it was appropriate and necessary — I expect you will come to the same conclusion.”

When the Rich Said No to Getting Richer – by David Leonhardt – NYT

“A half-century ago, a top automobile executive named George Romney — yes, Mitt’s father — turned down several big annual bonuses. He did so, he told his company’s board, because he believed that no executive should make more than $225,000 a year (which translates into almost $2 million today).

He worried that “the temptations of success” could distract people from more important matters, as he said to a biographer, T. George Harris. This belief seems to have stemmed from both Romney’s Mormon faith and a culture of financial restraint that was once commonplace in this country.Romney didn’t try to make every dollar he could, or anywhere close to it. The same was true among many of his corporate peers. In the early 1960s, the typical chief executive at a large American company made only 20 times as much as the average worker, rather than the current 271-to-1 ratio. Today, some C.E.O.s make $2 million in a single month.”

Excellent op-ed. Thank you David Leonhardt. Here is a popular comment I endorse.


Portland Oregon 5 hours ago

When a nation refuses to invest in itself it rots. The American society of engineers gives our overall infrastructure a D rating. The corps of engineers says our infrastructure is close to failing. We’ve been at war for nearly two decades and our national deficit for 2018 is estimated at $440 billion dollars. Income inequality is the at the highest level since the 70’s and our students owe an average of $1.4 in student loans. We’re not the land of opportunity any longer.

At some point we’re going to need to raise taxes to invest in our country. Otherwise our best and brightest are going to start looking abroad for opportunities.

If you look at the happiest countries they have strong social safety policies and have invested in infrastructure and education. Denmark’s top individual tax rate is 60.4%, Sweden’s is 56.4% and Norway’s is 39%. These countries have government sponsored college education, paid parental leave, universal daycare, and universal healthcare. They only tax businesses at 25%.

Cutting taxes, especially for the wealthy considering how nicely they did after the recession is irresponsible. Hopefully our politicians will choose responsiblity and fairness but I doubt it.