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.”

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

David Leonhardt
By David Leonhardt
Opinion Columnist

Jan. 13, 2019, 959 c

Credit
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.”

Opinion | Trump the Vulnerable – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

By David Leonhardt
Opinion Columnist, Jan. 6, 2019, 211
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President Trump walking to speak to reporters as he returned to the White House from Camp David on Sunday.CreditCreditSarah Silbiger/The New York Time

“Now that a new Congress has taken office, the vote count from the 2018 midterms is all but final. It shows that Democrats won the national popular vote in the House races by almost nine percentage points. That margin is smashing — larger, by comparison, than in any presidential race since Ronald Reagan’s 1984 re-election landslide.

The size of the victory has gone somewhat overlooked, because election-night story lines still have an outsize influence on people’s perceptions. On election night, more than a dozen House races were still uncertain, and Democrats were suffering disappointing losses in several (mostly red-state) Senate and governor races.

But the final story of the 2018 midterms should be clear: They were a giant warning sign to the Republican Party, also known as the Party of Trump.

Without a significant improvement in Trump’s standing, he would be a big underdog in 2020. Remember, presidential elections have higher turnout than midterms, and the larger electorate helps Democrats. At least 10 million more people — and maybe many more — are likely to vote in the next presidential election than voted in the 2018 midterms. Those extra votes, many from younger or nonwhite Americans, would make Trump’s re-election all the more difficult.”

Opinion | The People vs. Donald J. Trump – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

By David Leonhardt
Opinion Columnist, Jan. 5, 2019, 2433 comments
Credit
Mike McQuade, photograph by Damon Winter/The New York Times

“The presidential oath of office contains 35 words and one core promise: to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Since virtually the moment Donald J. Trump took that oath two years ago, he has been violating it.

He has repeatedly put his own interests above those of the country. He has used the presidency to promote his businesses. He has accepted financial gifts from foreign countries. He has lied to the American people about his relationship with a hostile foreign government. He has tolerated cabinet officials who use their position to enrich themselves.

To shield himself from accountability for all of this — and for his unscrupulous presidential campaign — he has set out to undermine the American system of checks and balances. He has called for the prosecution of his political enemies and the protection of his allies. He has attempted to obstruct justice. He has tried to shake the public’s confidence in one democratic institution after another, including the press, federal law enforcement and the federal judiciary.

The unrelenting chaos that Trump creates can sometimes obscure the big picture. But the big picture is simple: The United States has never had a president as demonstrably unfit for the office as Trump. And it’s becoming clear that 2019 is likely to be dominated by a single question: What are we going to do about it?”

“, , , , ,Consider the following descriptions of Trump: “terribly unfit;” “erratic;” “reckless;” “impetuous;” “unstable;” “a pathological liar;” “dangerous to a democracy;” a concern to “anyone who cares about our nation.” Every one of these descriptions comes from a Republican member of Congress or of Trump’s own administration.

They know. They know he is unfit for office. They do not need to be persuaded of the truth. They need to be persuaded to act on it.

Democrats won’t persuade them by impeaching Trump. Doing so would probably rally the president’s supporters. It would shift the focus from Trump’s behavior toward a group of Democratic leaders whom Republicans are never going to like. A smarter approach is a series of sober-minded hearings to highlight Trump’s misconduct. Democrats should focus on easily understandable issues most likely to bother Trump’s supporters, like corruption.

If this approach works at all — or if Mueller’s findings shift opinion, or if a separate problem arises, like the economy — Trump’s Republican allies will find themselves in a very difficult spot. At his current approval rating of about 40 percent, Republicans were thumped in the midterms. Were his rating to fall further, a significant number of congressional Republicans would be facing long re-election odds in 2020.”

Opinion | The Corporate Donors Behind a Republican Power Grab – by David Leonhardt – The New York Times

“Walgreens portrays itself as the friendly neighborhood drugstore. It gives flu shots to children, helps communities after storms, donates to charity — and makes feel-good advertisements trumpeting its various good deeds.

But Walgreens also has a tougher side, one you won’t see in those ads. To protect a tax break, the company has allied itself with Wisconsin’s brutally partisan Republican Party. That party is now in the midst of a power grab, stripping authority from Wisconsin’s governor and attorney general solely because Republicans lost those offices last month. The power grab comes after years of extreme gerrymandering, which lets Republicans dominate the legislature despite Wisconsin being a closely divided state.

Wisconsin’s Republicans really are trying to undo democracy. When I asked Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt — the political scientists who wrote the recent book “How Democracies Die” — about the situation, they agreed that the Wisconsin power grab was the sort of move their book describes. If it continues, it can lead to the breakdown of a political system.”

Opinion | The Midwest’s Sore Losers -By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

By David Leonhardt
Opinion Columnist, Dec. 4, 2018

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Opponents of a Republican-submitted measure to undermine Wisconsin’s incoming Democratic governor protested outside the state capitol in Madison, Wis., on Monday.CreditCreditJohn Hart/Wisconsin State Journal, via Associated Press

“The Republican Party continues to show an alarming disrespect for democracy. It’s evident right now in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Missouri, and I’ll get to the details in a moment.

But I first want to emphasize that I’m not talking about normal right-versus-left policy disagreements here. I happen to disagree with the Republican Party’s position on tax policy, for example. But there is nothing inherently anti-democratic about its position. The same goes for much of the rest of the Republican agenda: restricting abortion, passing pro-gun laws, reducing immigration, cutting health care programs and so on.

What’s happening in those four states right now is different. It is an anti-democratic power grab. It is qualitatively different from the usual lawmaking that occurs during so-called lame-duck sessions, just after an election.”

Opinion | American Capitalism Isn’t Working. – by David Leonhardt – The New York Times

“The October 1944 edition of Fortune magazine carried an article by a corporate executive that makes for amazing reading today. It was written by William B. Benton — a co-founder of the Benton & Bowles ad agency — and an editor’s note explained that Benton was speaking not just for himself but on behalf of a major corporate lobbying group. The article then laid out a vision for American prosperity after World War II.

At the time, almost nobody took postwar prosperity for granted. The world had just endured 15 years of depression and war. Many Americans were worried that the end of wartime production, combined with the return of job-seeking soldiers, would plunge the economy into a new slump.

“Today victory is our purpose,” Benton wrote. “Tomorrow our goal will be jobs, peacetime production, high living standards and opportunity.” That goal, he wrote, depended on American businesses accepting “necessary and appropriate government regulation,” as well as labor unions. It depended on companies not earning their profits “at the expense of the welfare of the community.” It depended on rising wages.”

. . . . . .

“Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts senator, is now rolling out a platform for her almost-certain presidential campaign, and it includes an answer to this question. It is a fascinating one, because it differs from the usual Democratic agenda of progressive taxes and bigger social programs (which Warren also supports). Her idea is the most intriguing policy idea to come out of the early 2020 campaign.

Warren wants an economy in which companies again invest in their workers and communities. Yet she doesn’t believe it can happen organically, as it did in the 1940s, because financial markets will punish well-meaning executives who stop trying to maximize short-term profits. “They can’t go back,” she told me recently. “You have to do it with a rule.”

She has proposed a bill in the Senate — and Ben Ray Luján, a top House Democrat, will soon offer it there — that would require corporate boards to take into account the interests of customers, employees and communities. To make sure that happens, 40 percent of a company’s board seats would be elected by employees. Germany uses a version of this “shared-governance” model, mostly successfully. Even in today’s hypercompetitive economy, German corporations earn nice profits with a philosophy that looks more like William Benton’s than Gordon Gekko’s.”

David Lindsay:  Yes, and  thank you. Here are the top two comments, that I endorse:

Ed M
Michigan

If I had to choose one word to describe what we’ve lost in our decades-old slide into an Ayn Rand fantasy world, it would be “balance.” It seems as if today’s leaders believe that by rewarding the top with unfathomable riches, the rising tide will lift all boats. Sadly, what we see is an increasing share of the population drowning. The ruling class has unilaterally broken the social contract that served us so well and replaced it with a system where everything is for profit and everything is for sale – people, morality, the environment – everything. Have we no sense of shame left?

Socrates commented 11 hours ago

Socrates
Downtown Verona. NJ

From: REWARDING OR HOARDING ? An Examination of Pay Ratios Revealed by Dodd-Frank…by the staff of Representative Keith Ellison Auto-parts maker Aptiv CEO-worker pay ratio: 2,526 to 1 Temp agency Manpower CEO-worker 2,483 to 1 Amusement Park Six Flags CEO-worker 1,920 to 1 Del Monte Produce CEO-worker 1,465 to 1 Apparel maker VF CEO-worker 1,353 to 1 Marathon Petroleum CEO-worker 935 to 1 The industry with the highest average ratio CEO to worker pay is the consumer discretionary industry with a ratio of 977 to 1 – this category includes companies that sell clothing and food such as McDonalds, Gap, and Kohl’s. The company with the smallest ratio in the database is Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, with a ratio of 2:1. The company with the largest ratio is Mattel Toys, with a ratio of 4,987:1 Also, some companies exclude third-party contractors, which suggests that the true level of inequality between CEO pay and median worker pay is even higher. https://ellison.house.gov/sites/ellison.house.gov/files/Rewarding%20Or%20Hoarding%20Full%20Report.pdf In the 1970s, the top 1% of families earned less than 10% of the total national income earned by all workers Today, the top 1% share is greater than 20%. Despite increases in worker productivity over the course of the last four decades, the top 1% have taken whatever they could get away with, which was the destruction of the working class and the middle class. Vulture capitalism is turning America into a feudal society.

Opinion | The Monopolization of America – by David Leonhardt – The New York Times

“The new corporate behemoths have been very good for their executives and largest shareholders — and bad for almost everyone else. Sooner or later, the companies tend to raise prices. They hold down wages, because where else are workers going to go? They use their resources to sway government policy. Many of our economic ills — like income stagnation and a decline in entrepreneurship — stem partly from corporate gigantism.

So what are we going to do about it? It’s time for another political movement, one that borrows from the Boston Tea Partiers, Jefferson, T.R. and the other defenders of the economic little guy.”

Opinion | Let the People Vote – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

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Voters waiting in a long line to vote in the 2018 midterm general election, outside a polling station located at Robious Middle School in Midlothian, Virginia. CreditMichael Reynolds/EPA, via Shutterstock

By David Leonhardt
Opinion Columnist, Nov. 11, 2018, 197
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Voters waiting in a long line to vote in the 2018 midterm general election, outside a polling station located at Robious Middle School in Midlothian, Virginia. CreditMichael Reynolds/EPA, via Shutterstock

“The United States finally has the pro-democracy movement that it needs.

Last week, ballot initiatives to improve the functioning of democracy fared very well. In Florida — a state divided nearly equally between right and left — more than 64 percent of voters approved restoring the franchise to 1.4 million people with felony convictions. In Colorado, Michigan and Missouri, measures to reduce gerrymandering passed. In Maryland, Michigan and Nevada, measures to simplify voter registration passed. “In red states as well as blue states,” Chiraag Bains of the think tank Demos says, “voters overwhelmingly sent the message: We’re taking our democracy back.” “