Opinion | Republicans for Redistribution – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

David Leonhardt

By David Leonhardt

Opinion Columnist

CreditL.E. Baskow/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images


“”On economic policy, Democrats are unified and Republicans are divided.”

That’s one of the summary points from a fascinating new poll by the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group, a political science research group.

The poll shows that Democrats hold consistent views on economic policy across income groups. Both affluent and lower-income Democrats, for example, overwhelmingly favor a higher minimum wage, higher taxes on the rich and paid family leave.

Republicans are different. High-income Republicans tend to oppose these progressive economic policies. But most lower-income Republicans support them.

“About 19 percent of Republicans held economic policy positions closer to the average Democrat than the average Republican, placing them on the ‘economic left,’” write Lee Drutman, Vanessa Williamson and Felicia Wong, in their summary of the poll.”

The Problem With Putting a Price on the End of the World – by David Leonhardt – The New York Times

“But the downsides of performance standards are often exaggerated. Most Americans are surely happy to pay a small amount more for their homes, for instance, if their children no longer have to ingest lead paint. And the initial skepticism about California’s plan appears to have been misplaced. Critics predicted that the state wouldn’t be able to meet its goal without hurting its economy. They were wrong: The state met its goal four years early, by 2016. The costs to consumers were modest and hard to notice. John Podesta told me he considered California’s approach a model for future federal action.

The key political advantage is that performance standards focus voters on the end goal, rather than on the technocratic mechanism for achieving it. Carbon pricing puts attention on the mechanism, be it a dreaded tax or a byzantine cap-and-trade system. Mechanisms don’t inspire people. Mechanisms are easy to caricature as big-government bureaucracy. Think about the debate over Obamacare: When the focus was on mechanisms — insurance mandates, insurance exchanges and the like — the law was not popular. When the focus shifted to basic principles — Do sick people deserve health insurance? — the law became much more so.”

Opinion | Elizabeth Warren Actually Wants to Fix Capitalism – by David  Leonhardt – The New York Times

David Leonhardt endorses the big ideas of Elizabeth Warren.

“. . . So far, only one candidate among the 2020 contenders has an agenda with this level of ambition: Elizabeth Warren. Her platform aims to reform American capitalism so that it once again works well for most American families. The recent tradition in Democratic politics has been different. It has been largely to accept that big companies are going to get bigger and do everything they can to hold down workers’ pay. The government will then try to improve things through income taxes and benefit programs.

Warren is trying to treat not just the symptoms but the underlying disease. She has proposed a universal child-care and pre-K program that echoes the universal high school movement of the early 20th century. She favors not only a tougher approach to future mergers, as many Democrats do, but also a breakup of Facebook and other tech companies that have come to resemble monopolies. She wants to require corporations to include worker representatives on their boards — to end the era of “shareholder-value maximization,” in which companies care almost exclusively about the interests of their shareholders, often at the expense of their workers, their communities and their country.

Warren was also the first high-profile politician to call for an annual wealth tax, on fortunes greater than $50 million. This tax is the logical extension of research by the economist Thomas Piketty and others, which has shown how extreme wealth perpetuates itself. Historically, such concentration has often led to the decline of powerful societies. Warren, unlike some Democrats, comfortably explains that she is not socialist. She is a capitalist and, like Franklin D. Roosevelt, is trying to save American capitalism from its own excesses.”

David Lindsay: Here is the top comment chich I endorse, by a woman I admire.


“But whatever my — or your — specific objections, Warren is identifying the right problems and offering a coherent vision for a post-Obama Democratic agenda.” Thank you for pointing all this out, David Leonhardt. Elizabeth Warren is corporations’ worst nightmare, which definitely tells us something. I’ve long thought she was extremely smart and articulate. She has the skill every good professor should have, which is to translate the complex into the readily understandable, the gross outlines of complexity that allows listeners (or students) get the concept before fleshing out the details. She’s also personable, extremely quick-wittted, and always ready with a good analogy that helps the memory of the complex concepts. When Warren says, “the system is rigged against the little guy,” she’s right. Donald Trump said the same thing, but never backed it up with policy. And then of course, as president, he never backed it up, period. I love Warren. Any candidate big corporations and scammers of all kinds love to hate is my kind of president.

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Opinion | Well Played- Madam Speaker – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

The Democrats are getting the balance between investigatory zeal and caution just right so far.

By David Leonhardt
Opinion Columnist, March 5, 2019

“Nancy Pelosi is very good at her job.

By now, that doesn’t qualify as news, I realize. But the last few days have brought more evidence of Pelosi’s effectiveness as her party’s leader in the House.

The House Democratic caucus is investigating the many Trump scandals with just the right mix of zeal and caution. After Michael Cohen’s testimony last week, the Democrats yesterday released a list of people from whom they are seeking documents. The requests suggest that the Democrats will pursue every important way that President Trump may have broken the law and otherwise violated his oath of office.

[Listen to “The Argument” podcast every Thursday morning, with Ross Douthat, Michelle Goldberg and David Leonhardt.]

But House Democrats — or at least the party leaders and committee chairs who set policy, like Jerry Nadler of the Judiciary Committee — are making sure not to jump to a formal impeachment process at this point. It’s too early. It would be destined to fail in the Senate, given Trump’s strong support among Republicans. And the start of impeachment would shift attention away from Trump’s misdeeds and toward the process itself.

The smart move instead is to keep the focus on what Trump, his aides and his family have done. “Political investigations tend to be marathons rather than sprints, requiring the slow, meticulous accretion of evidential layers,” Michelle Cottle writes in The Times.”

Opinion | A Dose of Moderation Would Help Democrats – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

By David Leonhardt
Opinion Columnist,   March 3, 2019,  1216 c
“Image A number of Democratic presidential candidates are pushing for increasingly progressive ideas, like a Green New Deal. Are there risks in this move to the left?
Credit Pete Marovich for The New York Times

“The energy in the 2020 Democratic campaign has been coming from the left. Candidates are pushing Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, a wealth tax and other ideas that are more progressive than anything a recent Democratic nominee has favored.

Much of this shift — which has been focused on economic policy — is smart. Republicans may cry socialism, and affluent centrists may not love it. But the American public leans decidedly left on economics. A clear majority favors higher taxes on the rich, a higher minimum wage and expanded government health insurance. After four decades of slow-growing living standards, people want change.

And yet there are also risks in the Democrats’ move to the left — risks that the sillier criticisms of the party’s new progressivism sometimes obscure.

So far, the 2020 candidates have mostly been competing with one another to see who can come off as the most boldly and purely liberal. Bernie Sanders talks about completing his revolution. Kamala Harris has spoken about the joy that marijuana brings. Sanders, Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand have all talked about eliminating private health insurance. And so on.

Ideological purity doesn’t tend to play well in general elections, however. Every modern president has found ways to appeal to Americans’ fondness for consensus — even if that fondness is based partly on a naïve view of politics and even if the candidates’ appeals have sometimes been more stylistic than substantive.”

Opinion | How the Upper Middle Class Is Really Doing – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

By David Leonhardt
Opinion Columnist

Feb. 24, 2019, 871 c

Since 1980, the incomes of the very rich have grown

faster than the economy. The upper middle class

has kept pace with the economy, while the

middle class and poor have fallen behind.

“On one side are people who argue that the bourgeois professional class — essentially, households with incomes in the low-to-mid six figures but without major wealth — is not so different from the middle class and poor. All of these groups are grappling with slow-growing incomes, high medical costs, student debt and so on.

The only real winners in today’s economy are at the very top, according to this side of the debate. When Bernie Sanders talks about “the greed of billionaires” or Thomas Piketty writes about capital accumulation, they are making a version of this case.”

Opinion | New York Did Us All a Favor by Standing Up to Amazon – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

Image:  A protest against Amazon’s HQ2 at an Amazon store in Manhattan in November.   Credit   Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

By David Leonhardt
Opinion Columnist

Feb. 17, 2019, 1433
“Imagine that a bunch of children are sitting around a table when a seemingly beneficent adult walks into the room carrying a plate of cupcakes. The kids burst out in excitement — until they notice a problem: There are fewer cupcakes than children.

At this point, the adult announces some ground rules. To receive a cupcake, the children will have to compete with one another. The adult will accept cash or other objects of value. Praise for the adult’s kindness would also be welcome.

The kids immediately start saying nice things and digging into their pockets. But then one child has second thoughts. She quiets the room and tells the adult he’s being a bully. He is bigger, stronger and richer than the kids, she says. He shouldn’t make them grovel for cupcakes. The adult replies: “Fine. No cupcake for you.”

[Listen to “The Argument” podcast every Thursday morning, with Ross Douthat, Michelle Goldberg and David Leonhardt.]

If she were your child, how would you feel: proud that she took a stand, or disappointed that she didn’t act in her own best interests? Cupcakes, after all, are pretty tasty.

Last week, New York became that disobedient child. The city damaged its own interests, or at least its short-term interests, for the sake of principle. Enough New Yorkers raised enough of a ruckus about the nearly $3 billion in tax breaks that the city and state were bestowing on Amazon that Amazon finally had enough. On Thursday, it announced that it would no longer be bringing 25,000 jobs to Queens. No cupcake for New York.

Yes, I know: Jobs are not cupcakes. Jobs help people build middle-class lives, which are in too short supply these days. So pretend that the adult in my story offered a Kindle instead of a cupcake. Or a college scholarship. It shouldn’t change your view of the girl’s rebellion.

Regardless, it’s a version of what social scientists call “the tragedy of the commons” — in which people hurt their long-term interests by acting in their short-term interests. The only solution to the tragedy of the commons is to change the rules.”

Opinion | Trump’s Nightmare Opponents – Amy Klobuchar and Sherrod Brown – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

By David Leonhardt
Opinion Columnist

Feb. 10, 2019, 1090

Senator Amy Klobuchar announced her presidential candidacy on Sunday in Minneapolis.CreditCreditStephen Maturen/Getty Images

A few weeks ago, the pollsters at Monmouth University asked Democrats across the country to choose between two different kinds of nominees. One was a candidate whom the voter agreed with on most issues but who might struggle to beat President Trump. The other was the reverse — a strong candidate with different views from those of the person being polled.

It was a rout. About 56 percent preferred the more electable candidate, compared with 33 percent who picked the more ideologically in-sync candidate. The gap was even larger among women and liberal Democrats. Patrick Murray, who runs the Monmouth poll, points out that this pattern isn’t normal. In previous campaigns, voters cared more about ideology than electability.

I think there are two main reasons for the switch. The first, of course, is the awfulness of the Trump presidency. But the less obvious reason is important too: The differences among most of the leading Democratic presidential candidates just aren’t very big right now.”

Opinion | The Real State of the Union, in Charts – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

David Lindsay: David Leonhardt is my new go to guy for American politics. Here is a perfect example.

By David Leonhardt
Opinion Columnist

Feb. 5, 2019, 174 c
“My fellow Americans, the state of our union is far weaker than it should be.

The economy’s growth isn’t benefiting most families very much. Life expectancy has been falling. The planet is warming. The rest of the world is less enamored of America than it has been in the past.

But I can offer you one major piece of good news: Our country’s urgent and growing problems have inspired more Americans to vote and to otherwise get involved in politics. And that sort of engagement is the best hope for restoring our country to its rightful strength.

Here, then, is the true state of the union, in charts:

The last few years — including 2018 — have brought some good economic news. Paychecks for most workers are rising faster than inflation. But the gains are still modest, and they don’t come close to erasing years in which pay gains trailed economic growth: (GDP has risen more than average wages. You must go to the NYT for the full chart.)

Inflation adjusted. Earnings are the median for full-time workers. G.D.P. rate for 2018 is prorated based on first three quarters.

Opinion | Run  Joe  Run – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

David Leonhardt
By David Leonhardt
Opinion Columnist

Jan. 13, 2019, 959 c

Ryan Pfluger for The New York Times

In the summer of 2016, it was becoming clear that Hillary Clinton was a weaker presidential candidate than many Democrats had expected. Some problems were of her own making (the Wall Street speeches), and some were overhyped by the media (emails!). But the bottom line was that she didn’t look like the ideal candidate for the political moment. She was an establishment insider in a populist time.

By that summer, however, it was too late for Democrats to do anything about it.

The candidates best positioned to beat Clinton, or at least sharpen her, had passed on the race, like Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden. Bernie Sanders ran a strong outsider campaign. But when a socialist from Vermont wins 43 percent of the primary vote, it tells you something about the front-runner.

The lesson here is that trying to identify the perfect nominee far in advance is a fool’s game. At the start of a presidential campaign, it’s hard to know who will shine and who will struggle. It is also hard to know what the national mood will be the following year — election year.”