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.”

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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.” “

Opinion | Do Not Double-Major – by David Leonhardt – NYT

“When I visit a college campus and ask the students what they’re studying, the response often starts with: “I’m double-majoring in … ” And then my heart sinks just a little bit.

I understand why many students are tempted to double-major. They have more than one academic interest. When I was in college, I briefly thought about double-majoring in my two favorite subjects, math and history. (Instead, I spent much of my time at the college newspaper and barely completed one major — applied math.)

But the reality is that many students who double-major aren’t doing it out of intellectual curiosity. The number of double majors has soared in recent years mostly because students see it as a way to add one more credential to their résumé. What’s even better than one major? Two majors!

 

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

Except that it’s not. Most students would learn more by creatively mastering a single major — and leaving themselves time to take classes in multiple other fields. “Double majoring,” as Jacqueline Sanchez, a Wellesley College student, wrote in a recent op-ed for her campus paper, “ultimately prevents students from exploring many different disciplines.” “

David Lindsay: I strongly agree. I love the motto of a consulting company whose name is not so memorable:  Work hard, play hard.

To that I will add, find what gives you joy, and do some of that. Since the world is often sad and crazy, learn to laugh with humility, when you are not punishing yourself for your imperfections.

Opinion | The Democrats and the Caravan – by David Leonhardt – NYT

By David Leonhardt,  Opinion Columnist,  Oct. 23, 2018

“When white working-class voters focus on the white part of their identity, the Republican Party benefits. When they focus on the working-class part, the Democratic Party benefits.That’s a simple rule of thumb that explains much of contemporary American politics — including Republicans’ new focus on the caravan of Central American migrants moving north through Mexico. President Trump and other top Republicans cynically understand that they are helped by images showing large groups of immigrants hoping to enter the United States without documentation.How should the Democrats respond? I think they’re doing it wrong so far.”

David Lindsay:

Thank you David Leonhardt. I was about to write something in line with your thinking. I said Sunday night in effect, I have a horrible feeling the Caravan is a blessing from heaven for the Republicans and Trump. He is harvestsing it for optimum bounce, while the Democrats silence is going to cripple them with far more people than just Trump’s base which will be galvanized.
Image: A caravan of migrants traveled through Guatemala en route to the United States on Wednesday.CreditCreditOrlando Estrada/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

 

NYTIMES.COM
The party is trying to ignore the caravan of migrants. That’s a naïve mistake.

Opinion | The Growing Crisis of Democracy – by David Leonhardt – NYT

“First, the United States has never gone through a prolonged period of minority democratic rule — that is, when a minority of enfranchised citizens held power over a majority for years on end. We’re not there yet. But as Klein notes, we have started down that path.

Second, the party now empowered by a minority of voters — the Republicans — is not merely playing by the rules. It is trying to change those rules to maintain power. It is preventing some citizens (usually those with dark skin) from voting, and it is changing campaign-finance laws.
That second point leads directly into a third: The rules governing our country have frequently changed over the last 230 or so years. The number of states has more than tripled. Women, African-Americans and 18-year-olds, among others, have gained the right to vote. In all, the constitution has been amended 27 times.

There is nothing extreme about responding to the Republican Party’s current efforts to restrict democracy with an ambitious effort to revitalize democracy. That effort could include: a federal law protecting voting rights; states laws that go even further to encourage voting; other laws to stop ludicrous gerrymandering; statehood for Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.; and much more. And I’d hope that many parts of the agenda would win support from voters of all stripes — Democratic, Republican and independent.

In the past, I’ve argued that the country’s two biggest challenges are climate change and the stagnation of living standards for most people. I now think that democracy protection and revitalization belong on that list.”

Opinion | Amazon’s Surrender Is Inspiring – by David Leonhardt – NYT

“There are two ways to fight the long stagnation in living standards for most Americans. The first is probably the more obvious and the one I spend more time writing about: through government policy.The government can raise the minimum wage. It can increase the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is effectively a wage subsidy. It can cut taxes on the middle class. It can spend more money on education, child care and health care. All of these are good ideas.But they’re not the only way to lift living standards. For much of the past century, another approach has been even more important: As the economy grew, American companies paid workers their fair share of the growth.”

Opinion | The Urgent Question of Trump and Money Laundering – by David Leonhardt – NYT

“The latest reason to be suspicious is Trump’s attacks on a formerly obscure Justice Department official named Bruce Ohr. Trump has repeatedly criticized Ohr and called for him to be fired. Ohr’s sin is that he appears to have been marginally involved in inquiries into Trump’s Russian links. But Ohr fits a larger pattern. In his highly respected three-decade career in law enforcement, he has specialized in going after Russian organized crime.

It just so happens that most of the once-obscure bureaucrats whom Trump has tried to discredit also are experts in some combination of Russia, organized crime and money laundering.

It’s true of Andrew McCabe (the former deputy F.B.I. director whose firing Trump successfully lobbied for), Andrew Weissmann (the only official working for Robert Mueller whom Trump singles out publicly) and others. They are all Trump bogeymen — and all among “the Kremlin’s biggest adversaries in the U.S. government,” as Natasha Bertrand wrote in The Atlantic. Trump, she explained, seems to be trying to rid the government of experts in Russian organized crime.”