Why Are Democrats Helping Trump Dismantle Dodd-Frank? – The New York Times

“This week, the Senate begins debate on the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, known as the Crapo bill for its primary sponsor, Mike Crapo, a Republican senator from Idaho. The bill would roll back or eliminate parts of the Dodd-Frank Act.

The Crapo bill is unusual in today’s hyperpartisan environment: It has over 10 Democratic co-sponsors, many from swing or red states and up for re-election this year — like Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Jon Tester of Montana and Claire McCaskill of Missouri — making its passage possible.

Why would some Democrats provide support for a rollback of Dodd-Frank? Proponents argue that this bill provides much needed relief for community banks and credit unions, which, these proponents claim, face enormous difficulties. They also say that it doesn’t endanger financial reforms aimed against the largest and most dangerous players.

But that view is mistaken: This bill goes far beyond the health of community banks and credit unions. It removes protections for 25 of the top 38 banks; weakens regulations on the biggest players and encourages them to manipulate regulations for their benefit; and saps consumer protections.”


The Teachers Revolt in West Virginia – by Michelle Goldberg – NYT

“Two years ago, The Washington Post ran a long piece about West Virginia called, “How the birthplace of the American labor movement just turned on its unions.” It described how, following the Republican takeover of the Legislature in 2014, the state passed a so-called right-to-work law prohibiting mandatory union dues. Such laws have badly undermined unions in other states, and for people who care about organized labor, it was a bitter irony to see one enacted in a place once famed for its militant labor movement. The state also repealed a law mandating that workers on public construction projects are paid prevailing industry rates.

Labor in West Virginia seemed beaten down.That’s one reason the statewide teachers’ strike in West Virginia, which on Monday entered its eighth day, is so thrilling. Strikes by teachers are unlawful in the state, and their unions lack collective bargaining rights. Nevertheless, in a revival of West Virginia’s long-dormant tradition of bold labor activism, teachers and some other school employees in all of the state’s 55 counties are refusing to return to work until lawmakers give them a 5 percent raise, and commit to addressing their rapidly rising health insurance premiums.”

David Lindsay Jr.

Hamden, CT 

This report flunks, like all the others I’ve heard on this subject. No one will say what the salaries of these teachers are, where they start, where they end. What is the average total package. Facts and numbers matter, and it grieves me that the best this lousy op-ed can do, is cite a massive paper.

In Reply to the top comment, I added:

David Lindsay Jr.

Hamden, CT 

Lack of numbers in the piece is very disappointing. Here is what I found. “Teacher Salaries in West Virginia by Education As teachers further their educations and gain experience in the field, they receive pay increases that reflect their dedication and hard work. Salaries vary between school districts, but the following are some examples of the salaries you can expect in West Virginia: Experience Bachelor’s Master’s At 3 years $30,871 $33,399

At 6 years $ 32,670 $35,199

At 9 years $34,226 $36,754

At 12 years $35,783 $38,311 Source: West Virginia Department of Education

DL: It’s too bad this piece didn’t include such numbers. They are lower than expected.

Next important question, what are the median salary levels state-wide for West Virginina. Facts matter.

Can This Judge Solve the Opioid Crisis? – News by Jan Hoffman – NYT

“CLEVELAND — Here are a few choice mutterings from the scrum of lawyers outside Courtroom 18B, about the federal judge who summoned them to a closed-door conference on hundreds of opioid lawsuits:“Grandstander.”

“Pollyanna.” “Over his head.”

And the chorus: “This is not how we do things!”

Judge Dan Aaron Polster of the Northern District of Ohio has perhaps the most daunting legal challenge in the country: resolving more than 400 federal lawsuits brought by cities, counties and Native American tribes against central figures in the national opioid tragedy, including makers of the prescription painkillers, companies that distribute them, and pharmacy chains that sell them. And he has made it clear that he will not be doing business as usual.

During the first hearing in the case, in early January, the judge informed lawyers that he intended to dispense with legal norms like discovery and would not preside over years of “unraveling complicated conspiracy theories.” Then he ordered them to prepare for settlement discussions immediately.Not a settlement that would be “just moving money around,” he added, but one that would provide meaningful solutions to a national crisis — by the end of this year.”

David Lindsay: I recommend the whole article above. This judge is amazing. He is using Organization Development theory and techniques, to bring the parties together, to share important information, and to work on collective problem solving. It’s brilliant, and he might get the parties in 400 federal lawsuites to work together.

Fights Worth Having – by Brett Stephens – NYT

“For my money, the best op-ed published in The Times this week was Mona Charen’s Feb. 25 barn-burner, “I’m Glad I Got Booed at CPAC.” Charen is a movement conservative who worked for Nancy and Ronald Reagan and is a longtime contributor to National Review. One of her books is titled “Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help.” A Bernie Sanders progressive she is not.

But Charen is also a NeverTrumper who chose to speak her mind during a panel discussion on the #MeToo movement at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference. Asked by the moderator to discuss feminist hypocrisy, Charen reframed the question.

“I’m disappointed in people on our side,” she replied. “For being hypocrites about sexual harassers and abusers of women who are in our party. Who are sitting in the White House. Who brag about their extramarital affairs. Who brag about mistreating women. And because he happens to have an ‘R’ after his name, we look the other way, we don’t complain.” “

The Supreme Court’s Power Play Against Labor – by Linda Greenhouse – NYT

“Here’s a possible solution to the most commented-upon mystery growing out of the Supreme Court’s argument this week in a case of crucial importance to the future of public employee unions: Why did the normally loquacious Justice Neil M. Gorsuch stay silent? Could the junior justice have caught something from Justice Clarence Thomas, who famously went a decade without asking a single question? Was Justice Gorsuch overcome by the knowledge that with his eight colleagues tied four to four — as revealed by the vote two terms ago in a nearly identical case that was argued but not yet decided by the time of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death — he holds the fate of organized labor in his hands?

No, nothing as tantalizing as that. I think the answer is probably a good deal more pedestrian. The lawyer representing the labor union, David C. Frederick, is Justice Gorsuch’s former law partner. When President Trump nominated Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court a year ago, Mr. Frederick published an opinion essay in The Washington Post under the headline: “There Is No Principled Reason to Vote Against Gorsuch.” Identifying himself as “a longtime supporter of Democratic candidates and progressive causes,” Mr. Frederick called Judge Gorsuch “a longtime friend” and described him as “brilliant, diligent, open-minded and thoughtful.” So why would Justice Gorsuch beat up on his old friend when Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Anthony M. Kennedy were doing an enthusiastic job of it?”

“The challengers, supported by the Trump administration, maintain that this longstanding distinction between chargeable and nonchargeable expenses is unsupportable because everything a public employee union does is inherently political. Thus, they argue, it violates the First Amendment for the objectors to have to support the union in any way, and therefore the precedent, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, must be overruled.

In support of this argument, Justices Alito and Kennedy were obsessively focused on unions as political actors that could, in Justice Alito’s words, “push a city to the brink and perhaps over the brink into bankruptcy.” Their goal was to show that public employee unions are political to their very core.

“Do you think that this case affects the political influence of the unions?” Justice Kennedy asked Mr. Frederick. When the lawyer began his answer with a No, Justice Kennedy went on, with evident sarcasm:

“So you’ve — I can try to find a union newsletter which says don’t worry about the Supreme Court, our political influence will be exactly the same as it was before, if this case comes out against us?”

“That’s not a chargeable expense, Justice Kennedy,” Mr. Frederick began. “We’re talking about —” “

David Lindsay Jr.

Hamden, CT 

Unions and Collective Bargaining power. This is a difficult subject. In Hamden and the State of CT, we have a too much power in the public employee unions, or, for complex reasons, they negotiated for overly generous, and unsustainable pension and work benefits, that now endanger the economies of the state and local governments. Meanwhile, we have workers at places like Walmart, Subway, and home nursing aides, who are so poorly paid, that they remain in poverty after working full time. How will this extreme haircut affect these two problems? On the one hand, we have unionized public service labor that is overpowerful, and needs a haircut, and poorly paid service workers in the private sector, who desperately need more collective bargaining power, and better wages and benefits. The benefit of this right wing hair cut it that it might bring some support to Hamden and Connecticut against the unsustainable benefits agreed to in the last 40 years or so. Will this haircut throw out many babies with the bathwater? Or will it curb the the excesses of big labor, while allowing for a new growth in unionization in the private sector where collective bargaining is so desperately needed. The answer probably lies in the practices of counties like Germany, and the Scandinavian countries, where the social net is stronger, which allows for more risk taking. David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion,” and blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNews.wordpress.com

Corporate America Is Suppressing Wages for Many Workers – By ALAN B. KRUEGER and ERIC POSNER – NYT

“Even after eight years of economic recovery and steady private-sector job growth, wages for most Americans have hardly budged. It is tempting to think that wage stagnation is intractable, a result of long-term trends, like automation and globalization, that government is powerless to do anything about.In fact, a growing body of evidence pins much of the blame on a specific culprit, one for which proven legal weapons already exist.

But they are not being used.The culprit is “monopsony power.” This term is used by economists to refer to the ability of an employer to suppress wages below the efficient or perfectly competitive level of compensation. In the more familiar case of monopoly, a large seller — like a cable company — is able to demand high prices for poor service because consumers have no other choice. It turns out that many corporations possess bargaining power over their workers, not just over their consumers. Their workers accept low wages and substandard working conditions because few alternative job opportunities exist for them or because switching jobs is costly. In other words, in the labor market, effectively a small number of employers are competing for their labor.Monopsony power is frequently created through noncompete clauses and no-poaching agreements and is aimed at the most vulnerable workers.

Employers like Jimmy John’s have discovered that they can control and intimidate workers by putting terms in their contracts that limit their ability to find new jobs even after they leave their old one. Jimmy John’s discontinued this practice in response to public outcry and litigation, but noncompete clauses remain ubiquitous.In a new study for the Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project, we report survey results in which we find that one in five workers with a high school education or less are subject to a noncompete. A quarter of all workers are covered by a noncompete agreement with their current employer or a past one.”

How $225000 Can Help Secure a Pollution Loophole at Trump’s E.P.A. – The New York Times

“CROSSVILLE, Tenn. — The gravel parking lot at the Fitzgerald family’s truck dealership here in central Tennessee was packed last week with shiny new Peterbilt and Freightliner trucks, as well as a steady stream of buyers from across the country.But there is something unusual about the big rigs sold by the Fitzgeralds: They are equipped with rebuilt diesel engines that do not need to comply with rules on modern emissions controls. That makes them cheaper to operate, but means that they spew 40 to 55 times the air pollution of other new trucks, according to federal estimates, including toxins blamed for asthma, lung cancer and a range of other ailments.

The special treatment for the Fitzgerald trucks is made possible by a loophole in federal law that the Obama administration tried to close, and the Trump administration is now championing. The trucks, originally intended as a way to reuse a relatively new engine and other parts after an accident, became attractive for their ability to evade modern emissions standards and other regulations.The survival of this loophole is a story of money, politics and suspected academic misconduct, according to interviews and government and private documents, and has been facilitated by Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, who has staked out positions in environmental fights that benefit the Trump administration’s corporate backers.”

Source: How $225,000 Can Help Secure a Pollution Loophole at Trump’s E.P.A. – The New York Times

I Was a Marine. I Don’t Want a Gun in My Classroom. – The New York Times

“Here is something I didn’t think about: I did not think about arming myself to protect my students. President Trump on Thursday specified that he wants only certain teachers — “highly adept people, people that understand weaponry” — to be armed. I will immodestly state that among professors in the United States, I am almost certainly one of the best shooters. But I would never bring a weapon into a classroom. The presence of a firearm is always an invitation to violence. Weapons have no place in a learning environment.

Last month, the State Legislature in West Virginia, where my university is located, introduced the Campus Self-Defense Act. This would prohibit colleges and universities from designating their campuses as gun-free zones. If this act becomes law, I will resign my professorship. I will not work in an environment where professors and students pack heat.When I was a young Marine, I had to learn how to use many weapons. It was part of my mission to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.” My mission these days is to write books and teach literature and creative writing. It’s a noble calling, too. But no one should be asked to put his life on the line for it.”

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.”

America Is the Gun – by Charles Blow – NYT

“There are things that we could do right now that could lessen the lethality of the guns currently available and we could ban some guns — neither of which is likely to happen.

I’m convinced that we must think big and systemically. We must treat gun violence in this country as a public health crisis, because it is

First, we must repeal the N.R.A.-backed Dickey Amendment, named for the man who sponsored it, former Representative Jay Dickey, an Arkansas Republican. It reads: “None of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” “