Saturday, April 30, 2016
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Monday, April 25, 2016
America has a huge part-time workforce problem.
And it's Worry Number One for Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. She has talked about part-timers at each of her last three press conferences, at nearly every speech in the last six months and at both of her past two testimonies to Congress.
Yellen's worries stem from the fact that the part-time U.S. workforce is at "very high levels."
Excluding the Great Recession, the 6 million Americans who work part-time but want full-time jobs today are at the highest level in about 30 years or so. The number has come down since its peak during the recession but some experts believe America now has a "new normal" -- a permanently high number of part-timers.
Experts call these jobs "hidden unemployment" because these people are capable of working more hours than they can get.
It's a tough situation. About 25% of part-time workers lives in poverty, according to a study by Rebecca Glauber, a professor at the University of New Hampshire. Only 5% of full-timers live in poverty.
Many part-timers are paid less per hour than full-time workers with the same responsibility and job. They're more likely to lose their jobs than full-time workers and they often have no health benefits or paid time off, according to Chris Tilly, a UCLA economics professor.
"The practice of offering part-timers a much-reduced benefit package is close to universal." says Tilly.
Monica Valerio is a good example. She would do anything for a full-time job.
Valerio was laid off from her job at Stanford University's human resources department in 2009 after working there for 20 years. Since then, she's worked a part-time job at a nutritional supplements company in the Bay Area. She has no health benefits or paid time off.
Now, at age 60, she fears she'll never get another full-time job and will have to sell her home to avoid bankruptcy.
"I really thought this part-time job would be temporary," says Valerio, who lives in Alameda, Calif. "It's getting harder and harder to make ends meet as the years go on."
Valerio says she makes $18,000 a year at her current job. At Stanford, she made $63,000. Despite constantly searching and applying for full-time jobs, she feels employers turn her away because of her age.
"People like me are dinosaurs in the job market," she says.
The U.S. job market looks very healthy overall: the unemployment rate is 5% and American businesses have been on a hiring spree the past two years. But the sore spot in the economy remains part-time workers.
The number of "involuntary" part-time workers reached a high of 9.2 million in September 2010. But in the last three decades the involuntary part-time workforce averaged about 4.8 million -- a lot lower than the levels today.
"It's a big part of what's wrong," says Robert Brusca, an economist at FAO Economics, a consulting firm.
Part-time workers are central to the debate around the job skills gap in America and paltry wage growth in recent years, which is a major reason why Americans don't feel great about the economy.
Beyond job skills, some experts point to the Affordable Care Act -- or Obamacare -- as a reason why part-time work remains high.
At the start of 2015, a key provision in the law stated that employers of large businesses had to offer health care coverage for employees who work 30 hours or more per week.
To avoid that law, several companies like Walmart (WMT), Target (TGT), Trader Joe's, Home Depot (HD) lowered the number of hours that employees worked to avoid paying health care. Some ended health care coverage for part-timers in 2013 and 2014. Thousands of workers were impacted.
With the rise of the gig economy, where people have part time jobs such as driving for Uber, some experts say the United States will have a permanently higher number of part-timers. However, it's unclear if Uber drivers, who epitomize the gig economy, are working part-time voluntarily or because they can't find other jobs they are qualified for.
Valerio too is considering becoming an Uber driver to pick up some extra income while she seeks a full-time job.
"I don't see a future in what I'm doing now," she said.
Sunday, April 24, 2016
White Man or Black Woman? Senate Race Tears at Maryland Democrats
BALTIMORE — On Capitol Hill, Representative Chris Van Hollen is, literally and figuratively, a Democratic fair-haired boy. An American son of diplomats born while his parents served in Pakistan, he has used his fund-raising savvy, policy smarts and easy manner to position himself, party elders assumed, as a potential Democratic speaker of the House.
Instead, Mr. Van Hollen, now running for the Senate in his home state of Maryland, is fighting for his survival in an identity politics primary that raises an explosive question: Should a white man, or a black woman, inherit the seat held for 30 years by Barbara A. Mikulski, the longest-serving female senator in American history?
The contest between two members of Congress — the low-key Mr. Van Hollen, who trumpets his legislative résumé, and Representative Donna Edwards, a onetime community activist and African-American single mother — has exposed deep fissures among Democrats as it traverses thorny issues of gender, race and class.
It has especially split women. Emily’s List, the political action committee that works to elect Democratic women, has spent more than $2.5 million on television ads for Ms. Edwards, drawing a backlash from female supporters of Mr. Van Hollen, who say he is “more effective” than Ms. Edwards and every bit her equal in championing women’s rights. On Wednesday, more than 1,000 “staunch Democrats and feminists” from Maryland published an open letter saying just that.
To Ms. Edwards, who worked as an activist to pass the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, the effectiveness argument is “insulting.” Shaking hands and snapping selfies outside an early voting center here Tuesday night, she offered a succinct rationale for her candidacy: “The Senate is 100 members — 20 women. There’s nobody in the Senate like me.”
As to the uproar over the push by Emily’s List, Ms. Edwards said she was mystified: “I’m a pro-choice Democratic woman, and Mr. Van Hollen is not.”
Mr. Van Hollen, who helped muscle President Obama’s health care legislation and other high-priority bills through Congress as the right-hand man to the House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, the former speaker, cannot exactly argue with that. He is a 57-year-old white man in a party that has a core coalition consisting of minorities, single women and young people. He has countered with a blitz of endorsements from 100 prominent African-American women in Maryland and from a string of female elected officials.
Analysts say black women will decide the race. Perhaps nowhere is the fight for their votes as fierce as here in Baltimore, a majority black city that is about to choose its next mayor. Next week — one day after Tuesday’s Maryland primary — the city will mark the one-year anniversary of the unrest over the death of Freddie Gray. The memory of the 25-year-old black man, who died of injuries he sustained while in police custody, hovers over both races.
So as Ms. Edwards was greeting voters Tuesday night, Mr. Van Hollen was at a restaurant across town, mingling with an enthusiastic, and racially mixed, group of supporters over a dinner of chicken and mashed potatoes. Older black women cooed over him. His host, a Baltimore County councilwoman, Cathy Bevins, who is white, said she had just sent Emily’s List “a nasty little email, telling them, ‘Take me off your list.’ ”
The congressman, doing his best to avoid race and gender questions, reminded the crowd that he has Baltimore ties (his father grew up here) and of his attention to constituent service. He stiffened slightly when asked if the Senate needs a black woman’s voice.
Those who endorsed him, he said, can speak for themselves: “They want somebody with a track record of delivering real results.”
There has not been a black woman in the Senate since Carol Moseley Braun, the nation’s first and only black female senator, left in 1999. In California, Emily’s List is also backing Kamala Harris, who is black and Asian-American, for a Senate seat this year. Here in Maryland, a Monmouth University poll released on Thursday showed Mr. Van Hollen pulling ahead in what has been a tight race with voters, especially women, and starkly divided along racial lines.
“This is the state that Harriet Tubman ran away from twice and Frederick Douglass ran away from at least once, and we’ve never had a black woman elected statewide,” said Benjamin Jealous, the former president and chief executive of the N.A.A.C.P., who supports Ms. Edwards, though he insisted it was for policy reasons, not her race.
Maryland, a heavily Democratic state, is no stranger to rough primary campaigns, especially when there is a rare open seat. Ms. Mikulski, a gruff former social worker from East Baltimore, ran one herself 30 years ago. Then a congresswoman, she reached the Senate by beating a seasoned colleague, Michael D. Barnes, and a sitting governor, Harry Hughes, with the help of a new group: Emily’s List.
Ms. Mikulski, known on Capitol Hill as the “dean of Senate women,” is staying out of the fight over who should carry on her legacy; she calls herself “studiously neutral.” That has not stopped some of her admirers — high-powered Van Hollen backers like Jamie S. Gorelick, a former deputy attorney general — from accusing Emily’s List of wasting its money by going after a rising Democratic star with a good record on women’s rights.
“I used to give money to Emily’s List,” Ms. Gorelick said. “I never will again.”
Stephanie Schriock, the president of Emily’s List, said the group was “doing what we have always done”: leveling the playing field for women who run against better-funded men. “We have an opportunity here to change the face of power in the Senate just as we did in 1986,” she said.
In some ways, Mr. Van Hollen and Ms. Edwards are mirror images of one another. Both are 57 years old. Both are lawyers. Both represent affluent districts in the suburbs of Washington — his largely white, hers largely black. The race is being fought around the margins, over slight differences in policy, dueling endorsements and sharp contrasts in personal style.
On the campaign trail, there have been nasty ads, insults and slights, filtered through the delicate prism of gender and race. When the Maryland Senate president, Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., who is white, called Mr. Van Hollen “a leader who has been born to the job” (a reference, an aide said, to his years in the Maryland legislature and childhood growing up overseas), it sounded to the congresswoman like talk from the old-boy’s network.
“Maybe the first generation to go to college, whose parents lived the American dream,” Ms. Edwards said, referring to herself, “maybe that person is appropriate for the job.” Still, Ms. Edwards has been disappointed that only four of 46 members of the Congressional Black Caucus have publicly endorsed her, though aides say 18 have donated to her campaign.
With Mr. Van Hollen expected to win his district, and Ms. Edwards expected to win hers, Baltimore is a central battleground. Earlier this month, the congressman, in blue blazer and open-collar shirt, was in a poor neighborhood, walking through a fruit and vegetable market trailed by a coterie of black women — members of a health care workers union that supports him.
Rena Kenely, 59, a volunteer at a community center that helps the poor, had stopped in for coffee that day. She said that she had never met Mr. Van Hollen, but that she knew of him and liked his policies on education.
“People think we vote by color, but we don’t,” Ms. Kenely said.
Yet as Ms. Edwards was shaking hands outside the early voting center, it was clear that for some African-American women, it is an agonizing choice. Sharon Green Middleton, a member of the Baltimore City Council, was there. She knows Ms. Mikulski well, likes and respects Mr. Van Hollen, and is “struggling, but leaning” toward Ms. Edwards.
“This is 2016,” Ms. Middleton finally said. “African-American women need a voice.”
Saturday, April 23, 2016
Former Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott endorsed Del. Kathy Szeliga's bid for Maryland's open Senate seat on Friday -- and used a letter to Republicans to argue Maryland could be a pickup opportunity for the GOP this fall.
Lott, a former Mississippi senator who is now a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center, urged GOP donors to remember Republican Ed Gillespie's near miss against incumbent Sen. Mark R. Warner in Virginia in 2014 -- and said the party regretted not doing more for his campaign.
Lott's point was that the party should not repeat that mistake in Maryland.
"Help never came and Ed lost the race by a measly .08 percent" Lott wrote. "We see some of these same similarities in the Maryland race. Maryland is historically thought of as a blue state, but we are here to tell you the tide is changing in Maryland."
Szeliga, of Baltimore County, is running in a crowded field for the GOP nomination that includes Baltimore attorney Chrys Kefalas, former Pentagon official Richard J. Douglas and 11 other candidates. Polls have indicated Szeliga has a lead in the race, but have also shown that the vast majority of likely GOP voters have not chosen a candidate.
The primary is Tuesday.
It's not yet clear whether the tide is actually turning in Maryland. Democrats still enjoy a better than two-to-one registration advantage in the state. Seven of Maryland's eight members of the House and its two current senators are Democrats. Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, won in 2014 -- but that was a year that featured remarkably low turn out.
Republican candidates like Szeliga are banking on Hogan's victory in Maryland as being something more than an aberration.
"The Democrats are about to nominate a Washington career politician in a year when the voters are disgusted with the failures of Washington career politicians," Szeliga spokeswoman Leslie Shedd said in a statement -- offering a preview of the general election message the campaign is all but certain to pitch.
"When you add that to the fact that Maryland continues to trend Republican, it's clear the state is one of the few pickup opportunities for Republicans," she said.
British democracy has survived all sorts of things: the unraveling of the British Empire, independence movements in Ireland and Scotland, Prime Minister’s Questions. But never before has it confronted Boaty McBoatface.
The boat, which is really a ship, acquired new significance this week, when a British official suggested he wouldn’t respect the results of an online government poll in which more than 124,000 people voted to christen the country’s new $300-million research vessel “Boaty McBoatface.” The name received three times more votes than the runner-up entry. The people of the Internet had spoken emphatically, and they’d spoken like a five-year-old.
Alas, Science Minister Jo Johnson was not amused. “The new royal research ship will be sailing into the world’s iciest waters to address global challenges that affect the lives of hundreds of millions of people, including global warming, the melting of polar ice, and rising sea levels,” he reminded Boaty McBoatfacites. “That’s why we want a name that lasts longer than a social-media news cycle and reflects the serious nature of the science it will be doing.” (As my colleague David Graham has noted, it’s a bit rich to hear such sober talk from a government that has in the past named ships Buttercup and Cockchafer.)
Maybe this outcome shouldn’t be so surprising. The Natural Environment Research Council, which oversaw the competition, had informed participants that final authority to name the ship was vested in its chief executive, not the people. The NERC had expressed a preference for an “inspirational,” environmental science-y choice. Your “Shackleton.” Your “Endeavour.” And so on.
But the government’s position also seems like a cruel bait-and-switch—a case of elites eagerly leaning in to hear what the people have to say, and then leaping back in horror. Wasn’t it just yesterday that Johnson was asking, in announcing the contest, “Can you imagine one of the world’s biggest research labs travelling to the Antarctic with your suggested name proudly emblazoned on the side?” Did he not mean it when he said that “this campaign will give everyone across the UK the opportunity to feel part of this exciting project and the untold discoveries it will unearth”?
What happened to disapproving of what you name your boat, but defending to the death your right to name it? Is democracy a lie?
Abraham Lincoln’s vision of a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” may be rousing, but it’s not realistic. The soul-searching, the cries of tyranny, are already underway in the British press, albeit with a healthy dollop of mock outrage mixed in. (After all, the country has a very real, very high-stakes vote on whether to stay in the European Union coming up in June.) Johnson should “accept the will of the electorate and bow to the name Boaty McBoatface,” The Times declares. “Present the people with an idol, then smash it before their eyes,” muses Stuart Heritage at The Guardian. “Soon they will learn that resistance is futile, and the state’s power is absolute.” Anticipating the government’s resistance to Boaty McBoatface back in March, the journalist Ross Clark observed, “Our leaders, of course, love democracy—until it comes up with an answer different to the one they were expecting.”
But is the Boaty McBoatface Affair really a perversion of democracy? What if it’s actually a manifestation of how democracy tends to work in practice?
In their new book Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government, the political scientists Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels gather an array of recent social-science research to challenge what they call the “folk theory” of democracy—the popular conception that “what the majority wants becomes government policy.” Abraham Lincoln’s vision of a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” may be rousing, they write, but it’s not realistic. Most voters have neither the time nor inclination to pay close attention to politics. They support parties and candidates based not on specific policy issues or coherent ideological reasoning, but rather on their social identities, partisan loyalties, and immediate circumstances—things like their race or religious affiliations, the political party they’ve backed since childhood, and the state of the economy at the time of the election.
Since voters aren’t fixated on policy, elected representatives and other top government officials—the rare members of society who are seriously and consistently liberal, conservative, or otherwise ideological—are left “mostly free to pursue their own notions of the public good or to respond to party and interest group pressures” in formulating policies.
To illustrate their point, Achen and Bartels offer a harsh assessment of democracy by the political theorist John Dunn. Romantic perceptions of the democratic process, Dunn asserts, amount to an “illusion”:To be ruled is both necessary and inherently discomfiting (as well as dangerous). For our rulers to be accountable to us softens its intrinsic humiliations, probably sets some hazy limits to the harms that they will voluntarily choose to do to us collectively, and thus diminishes some of the dangers to which their rule may expose us. To suggest that we can ever hope to have the power to make them act just as we would wish them to suggests that it is really we, not they, who are ruling. This is an illusion, and probably a somewhat malign illusion: either a self-deception, or an instance of being deceived by others, or very probably both.Achen and Bartels also cite data comparing the voting record of each member of the U.S. Congress to the policy preferences of voters in their congressional districts. The data indicates that Republican and Democratic lawmakers whose constituents have similar policy preferences actually vote in quite different ways.
“The key point is that representatives’ voting behavior was not strongly constrained by their constituents’ views,” Achen and Bartels write. “Elections do not force successful candidates to reflect the policy preferences of the median voter.” The authors claim there’s no hard evidence to suggest that these dynamics would vary in countries with political systems of proportional representation and more parties than in the U.S.
In other words: By voting, you can play some role in electing your member of Congress. But you have far less control over which policies that member supports once in office, let alone which policies the government as a whole pursues. Similarly, you can cast a ballot for Boaty McBoatface and help shoot the name to the top of an online poll. But you’re pretty powerless when it comes to what the science minister does with that information.
Perhaps, deep down, Boaty McBoatface supporters know all this. Writing about the episode in The Guardian, Nell Frizzell speculated that the British public had responded to the contest the way it had precisely because people suspected that NERC’s outreach, however well-intentioned, was insincere. “[T]here is an age-old desire to thumb our nose at pomposity,” she argued. “Nothing makes my lips twitch for a knob joke or silly name like a group of middle-aged professionals trying to be inspiring, profound or historic. Like blowing a raspberry in the dramatic pause of a Shakespearean soliloquy, this is how we, the little guys, kick back against the sombre, the sober and the austere.”
And just as you might expect, the big, sober guy has now returned the kick. Science, Jo Johnson says, is far too Serious for the likes of Boaty McBoatface. The government appreciates the people’s suggestion, but now it’s time for the professionals to take over.
"Indeed, the process has been so widely commented upon that one writer postulated a common life cycle for all of the attempts to develop regulatory policies:from the New York PostThe life cycle is launched by an outcry so widespread and demanding that it generates enough political force to bring about establishment of a regulatory agency to insure the equitable, just, and rational distribution of the advantages among all holders of interest in the commons. This phase is followed by the symbolic reassurance of the offended as the agency goes into operation, developing a period of political quiescence among the great majority of those who hold a general but unorganized interest in the commons. Once this political quiescence has developed, the highly organized and specifically interested groups who wish to make incursions into the commons bring sufficient pressure to bear through other political processes to convert the agency to the protection and furthering of their interests. In the last phase even staffing of the regulating agency is accomplished by drawing the agency administrators from the ranks of the regulated...
As much as 90% of medical knowledge has been gauged to be substantially or completely wrong. We spend about $95 billion annually on medical research in the US, but average life span here has barely increased since 1978 — and most of the improvement was due to the drop in smoking rates. The picture of expert trustworthiness is no better or even worse in most other fields. One examination of published economics findings concluded that the wrongness rate is essentially 100%. In that light, is it surprising that we weren’t as well-protected as we thought from investment and banking system disasters?
Why all the wrong? Usually because of a hunger for easy answers that you can’t get from chaotic, complicated systems. But that doesn’t stop Oprah — who must feed a daily show — or even scientists, whose careers are tied to making a splash in prestigious research journals.
These journals want the same sorts of exciting, useful findings that we all appreciate. And what do you know? Scientists manage to get these exciting findings, even when they’re wrong or exaggerated. It’s not as hard as you might think to get a desired but wrong result in a scientific study, thanks to how tricky it is to gather good data and properly analyze it, leaving plenty of room for ambiguity and error, honest or otherwise. If you badly want to prove an experimental drug works, you can choose your patients very carefully, and find excuses for tossing out the data that looks bad. If you want to prove that dietary fat is good for you, or that fat is bad for you, you can just keep poring over different patient data until you find a connection that by luck seems to support your theory — which is why studies constantly seem to come to different findings on the same questions.
You might expect that other, more rigorous scientists would catch these sorts of shenanigans, but they often don’t, and in fact the vast majority of published research isn’t even verified. And even when bad research is outed, hardly anyone notices — we’ve all long since moved on to the next exciting finding.
Not that there isn’t some minority of expert advice that’s good, and even critically important. Most people just don’t know how to pick it out from the constant stream of flawed and conflicting findings — the housing market is recovering, the housing market is getting worse, video games deaden children’s brains, video games boost rapid thinking.
That’s why much of the public has simply stopped listening to experts, and sometimes with potentially catastrophic results, as when parents don’t get their children recommended vaccines and treatments, or believe they can eat whatever they want, or invest their savings in whatever stocks seem exciting.
The rest of us often trust experts blindly, because we’re programmed to do so practically from birth. Call it the “Wizard of Oz” effect: first with our parents, then our teachers, and then on to the authoritative voices in our textbooks and on TV news, we’re brought up to believe there are always people whose knowledge and judgment should be taken over our own. Experiments suggest that our brains’ decision-making capabilities get put on hold when we’re presented with what we think is expert advice, regardless of how bad the advice is.
Fortunately, just being aware of the extent to which even gold-plated expert advice tends to go wrong is a big first step towards being able to filter out the worst of it. So you’re already better off than you were a minute ago.
Trust me — I’m an expert on this subject.
Friday, April 22, 2016
Thursday, April 21, 2016
From the office of Rep. Andy Harris:Congressman Andy Harris (MD-01) released the following statement in response to the Maryland State Education Association’s call on the Worcester County school system to cancel Donald Trump’s rally at Stephen Decatur High School:
“The Maryland teachers’ union should be ashamed of their undemocratic and hypocritical protesting of Donald Trump’s event in Worcester County. Their protest is a national embarrassment to Marylanders. Stephen Decatur High School is a publicly owned forum and the hardworking taxpayers on the Eastern Shore deserve to hear from the leading Republican candidate for president, as well as any other candidate running for president. The very people who are supposed to be teaching our youth about our constitutionally protected First Amendment right to free speech are obstructing it. The Maryland teachers’ union is the real bully here, and I believe they should apologize to Mr. Trump, as well as the hardworking people of the Eastern Shore, who deserve to participate fully in the election process. I applaud the Worcester County school system for agreeing to host this historic event.”
from a man who's qualifications for even having an opinion are...???
Now you've been properly instructed as to who you should vote for...
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
The threat of Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas deploying double-agent delegates to win a contested Republican convention this summer has Donald Trump supporters in Maryland suspiciously eyeing the state’s delegate list and finding potential traitors on the ballot.Evidently the campaigns have no ability to screen the delegates who are supposed to represent them at the convnetion... Really? This has GOT to be an "intentional" oversight so as to allow the State Republican party to stack the delegate deck. Every candidate is supposed to be allowed to approve/disprove of the delegates selected to represent them at the national convention.
A top suspect is Joeylynn Hough, a Trump delegate who is the wife of state Sen. Michael Hough.
Mr. Hough is a Cruz delegate and serves as chairman of the Cruz campaign in Maryland.
“I’m suspicious of her,” said conservative activist Sue Payne, a Trump supporter who lives in Washington’s Maryland suburbs. “I and others are very suspicious about who is representing Trump. He’s being ill-served by this group in Maryland.”
Concerns have spread across the country that the Cruz campaign is gaming the rules and recruiting double-agent delegates who are bound to the front-running Mr. Trump but loyal to Mr. Cruz and ready to switch allegiance if the nomination in July goes to multiple ballots.
The strategy was bolstered by the #NeverTrump effort as the Republican Party establishment threw support behind Mr. Cruz as their last hope to stop the billionaire businessman from securing the nomination before Cleveland.
The fear is acute in Maryland, whose voters go to the polls Tuesday. The state’s Republicans are in the unusual position this year of casting primary votes that could matter.
Maryland’s small size and late primary typically render it inconsequential in picking the party’s presidential nominee. But this year, every state and every delegate matters, with the hunt still hot for the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination.
Mr. Trump is expected to win the majority of Maryland’s 38 delegates. He leads with 41 percent, followed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich at 26 percent and Mr. Cruz at 24 percent in the Real Clear Politics average of recent polls in the state.
Maryland is one of five Northeastern states, also including Pennsylvania and Connecticut, that Mr. Trump is expected to sweep next week.
Maryland awards 24 delegates by congressional district. A list of delegates appears on the ballot next to the names of the candidates they endorse, but the delegates are bound to the winner of the district regardless of the endorsement.
Another 11 at-large delegates will be selected at the party’s state convention in May. These delegates are bound to the statewide winner, as are the three Republican National Committee members from Maryland who will be sent as delegates to the convention in Cleveland.
All of Maryland’s delegates are bound for the first two ballots at the convention but then are free to vote for whomever they want.
Some Trump supporters in Maryland blamed any potential delegate subterfuge on the disorganization of the campaign at the state level, echoing a recurring criticism of the campaign’s ground game since the first contest in Iowa.
“People in this state are disorganized,” said Ed Hunter, a tea party activist and Trump volunteer on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. “When I looked at the delegate sheet on the sample ballot, I saw only three Trump delegates, although he is the front-runner. And there were tons of Kasich people.”
Joe Cluster, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, said he was certain that 90 percent of Mr. Trump’s delegates on the ballot were true Trump supporters. But he said it is up to the Trump campaign to position loyalists among the 11 at-large delegates selected by the central committee.
“It’s an insider’s game when it comes to electing people to go to the national convention,” Mr. Cluster said. “If he isn’t coming and taking an active role in our state convention and pushing a team and saying, ‘Hey, these are the people I want you to elect,’ then there is a distinct possibility that people are going to get elected that may not be loyal to him.”
Mr. Trump has moved aggressively to fine-tune the campaign’s delegate strategy, including hiring veteran Republican operatives to manage the process.
Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks said it is up to the Republican voters in Maryland to select the delegates.
Mrs. Hough fiercely defended her allegiance to Mr. Trump, and state Republican Party officials backed her up.
“I understand their concerns, but she’s the one putting all the yard signs out. She’s the one doing everything. She’s a rabid Trump supporter,” said Mr. Cluster.
Yet Trump supporters see subtle clues of deception, including Mr. and Mrs. Hough providing different mailing addresses for the State Board of Elections’ list of delegates.
They provide the same street address but give different cities in Maryland’s Frederick County. Mr. Hough uses Brunswick; Mrs. Hough uses Knoxville.
“Those are conspiracy theories at this point,” said Mrs. Hough. “We live in the same house. We share the same children. We may not share the same views, but whether it’s Brunswick or Knoxville, it’s the same place.”
The ZIP code corresponds with Knoxville.
Mrs. Hough said she and her husband routinely use different cities when giving their address. She also blamed the U.S. Postal Service and the State Board of Elections for the mix-up on the delegate list.
“I am a loyal Trump supporter, and I am a strong, independent, smart woman with a mind of my own,” said Mrs. Hough. “It really doesn’t matter what people think. He is not going to convince me to get on Cruz’s side, and I’m not going to convince my husband to get on Trump’s side. We have mutual respect for one another, and that is really the end of it.”
She vowed to stay loyal to Mr. Trump even if the convention goes beyond two ballots, which under Maryland Republican Party rules is when she would become an unbound delegate.
“I will support Donald Trump until Donald Trump releases me as his delegate,” said Mrs. Hough.
Joe Collins Jr., a state Republican Party Central Committee member from Baltimore who helped vet Mr. Trump’s delegates, vouched for Mrs. Hough.
“I understand why it comes up, but I can assure you it’s not true,” he said. “All our delegates have been hand-selected for who they are, what they believe in and who they are with. We went through them with a fine-tooth comb.”
Sunday, April 17, 2016
IMO, at least a Trump presidency can do little harm to worsen an already bad economic situation. But to abandon capitalism altogether for socialism practically guarantee's a complete global economic meltdown. Because lets face the truth, eventually, you run out of other people's money with which to do all your real and imagined "social goods". Primum non nocere.
Saturday, April 16, 2016
Primary Candidates for U.S. House of Representatives Representing Maryland's 1st Congressional District
- Joe Werner
- Andy Harris - Incumbent
- Sean M. Jackson
- Mike Smigiel - Former state rep.
1st Congressional District Candidates - 3rd Party
Lines stretched out of Baltimore's early voting stations Thursday as a record number of early voters went to the polls.I suspect that the only chance Hillary has of winning the Maryland Democratic Primary is because African-Americans in Baltimore will be showing up to vote in the Mayor's race... As of 4/16/16, ~2.5% of Maryland's registered voter's have already voted.... but remember, you can do SAME DAY VOTER REGISTRATION this year. Just bring your Maryland Diver's license or other authorized ID to the polls!
As of 8:30 p.m., about 5,000 people had cast ballots in Baltimore — more than four times the number of the first day of early voting in 2011. State officials reported about 37,000 early voters — three times as many as the last presidential race.
"It looks like it's going to be our best year of early-voting ever," said Nikki Baines Charlson, deputy administrator at the State Board of Elections. "The trend has been that early voting is increasing each election."
From West to East Baltimore, thousands of voters headed to the polls to vote ahead of the primary election day. Many said they were motivated by the hotly contested mayor's race in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 10-to-1.
City Councilman Robert Curran attempted to cast a ballot at The League for People with Disabilities on E. Coldspring Lane but found the lines much too long. In Baltimore, races for mayor and City Council are now at the same time as the presidential races — a change intended to increase turnout.
"I walked in and there were 100 people in line," he said. "I've never seen turnout like this to early voting. It's all been about the mayor's race. The only time I remember lines like this was in 2008 when Obama won."
This year, early voting in Baltimore and across the state has a new importance: While registration has closed for the April 26 primary election, people can register and vote on the same day during early voting.
Early voting runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. until April 21. There are 67 early-voting locations around the state, including six in Baltimore and nine in Baltimore County. To register to vote during early voting, residents must bring a document proving their address.
Marylanders' votes matter this year in the national primaries of both parties, which will choose between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side and Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich on the Republican side. There are also competitive races for U.S. Senate, between Democrats Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen, and for many City Council seats. Candidates for Maryland's eight seats in the U.S. House of Representatives also are on the ballot.
Baltimore's leading mayoral candidates — state Sen. Catherine E. Pugh, former Mayor Sheila Dixon, lawyer Elizabeth Embry, businessman David L. Warnock and City Councilman Carl Stokes, all Democrats — pushed voters to the polls Thursday.
The Pugh campaign hired a bus to pick up supporters around the city and drive them to the polls.
At the Westside Skill Center on Edmondson Avenue, Pugh and supporter Del. Jill P. Carter greeted cheering voters in the afternoon as they got off her bus and headed to the polls.
"I think it's awesome that these many people have taken this much interest across the city," Pugh said. "Everywhere I've gone the lines have been out the door. I don't think people thought that people would take this much interest in the race."
Hours earlier at the same station, Dixon and her supporters worked the crowd, hugging residents and helping them out of cars.
"I love you, Ms. Dixon!" said West Baltimore resident Helena Stewart, who voted for Dixon. "You bring tears to my eyes! Everybody makes mistakes and everybody deserves a second chance."
Even as record numbers of early voters cast ballots, some were raising concerns about an error made by the Baltimore Board of Elections. Baltimore election officials said Thursday they had mistakenly sent letters to 34 ex-offenders saying they might not be able to vote because of their convictions.
Under a state law that took effect in March, people with felony convictions can register to vote as soon as they are released from prison. But shortly after the law took effect, 34 people were "inadvertently processed based on an old procedure," city elections director Armstead B. C. Jones Sr. said in a statement. He said election officials are contacting those people to inform them of the error.
Previously, felons could not vote until they completed probation or parole.
"All of these voters are all eligible to cast a ballot in Maryland's 2016 Presidential Primary election," Jones said.
About 1,200 people cast ballots during the first day of early-voting during the 2011 Baltimore mayor's race won by Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. About 13,500 people statewide voted on the first-day of early voting in the last presidential primary in 2012.
Friday, April 15, 2016
Angela Merkel, has been criticised by members of her cabinet after acceding to a request from Ankara to prosecute a comedian who read out an offensive poem about the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The German chancellor insisted her government’s decision did not amount to a verdict on whether Jan Böhmermann was guilty or not, but should be understood as a reaffirmation of the judiciary’s independence.
“In a constitutional democracy, weighing up personal rights against freedom of the press and freedom of expression is not a matter for governments, but for public prosecutors and courts,” Merkel said in a press conference on Friday.
The chancellor expressed “grave concerns” about the prosecution of individual journalists in Turkey, as well as growing limitations to the right to protest, but emphasised Germany’s close diplomatic ties with the country.
Merkel was left with the final decision on whether Germany’s state prosecutor should start proceedings against Böhmermann after Erdoğan requested the comedian be prosecuted.
Under an obscure section of Germany’s criminal code, prosecution for insults against organs or representatives of foreign states requires both a notification from the offended party and an authorisation from the government.
Merkel and other ministers confirmed reports that there had been disagreements on how to handle the Böhmermann affair between ministers within her coalition government.
The foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said Social Democrat ministers, including himself and the justice minister Heiko Maas, had been overruled by Merkel in allowing the prosecution to proceed. “It is our view that the prosecution should not have been authorised,” Steinmeier said. “Freedom of the press, freedom of expression and artistic freedom are the highest goods requiring protection in our constitution.”
“I consider this to be the wrong decision,” said Thomas Oppermann, leader of the Social Democratic party’s parliamentary faction. “Prosecuting satire on the basis of a lèse-majesté law is not appropriate to the modern age.”
The little-used paragraph of the German legal code that had allowed the Turkish president to request the prosecution is likely to be scrapped in the aftermath of the affair. Merkel said on Friday that she considered the law unnecessary, and that legal steps would be taken towards deleting it from the penal code within the next two years.
Under section 103 of the criminal code, insults against organs or representatives of foreign states are punishable with up to three years in prison, or three months to five years if a court judges the insult to be slanderous.
Several opposition parties, including the Greens and Alternative für Deutschland, had called for the law to be scrapped in the wake of the scandal.
The poem was read in a short clip on a late-night programme screened on the German state broadcaster ZDF at the end of last month. Böhmermann sat in front of a Turkish flag beneath a small, framed portrait of Erdoğan, reading out a poem that accused the Turkish president of, among other things, “repressing minorities, kicking Kurds and slapping Christians”.
The scene was broadcast shortly after it emerged that Turkey had demanded the deletion of a satirical song from a German comedy show, extra3, and Böhmermann’s poem was deliberately framed as a test of the boundaries of satire.
Throughout his reading, the comedian is advised by another comedian impersonating a media lawyer, who tells him this poem is precisely the sort of thing that does not qualify as satire and is therefore illegal.
Defenders of Merkel’s decision argue that those who criticise Turkey’s president for interfering with the judiciary cannot complain about the German leader leaving the matter for her country’s public prosecutor to judge.
“Satire can get away with everything, but not everything qualifies as satire,” said Volker Kauder, the CDU’s parliamentary faction leader. “In a constitutional democracy, it is up to the courts to decide where the boundaries lie. That’s why the government has done the right thing.”
For Merkel’s critics, the affair exposes the extent to which the recently agreed refugee deal between Turkey and the EU has made the chancellor reliant on the whims of Turkey’s strongman leader. Merkel was one of the main drivers of the agreement, under which migrants arriving in Greece are now expected to be sent back to Turkey if they do not apply for asylum or their claim is rejected.
“Merkel is kowtowing to Turkey’s despot Erdoğan and sacrifices freedom of the German press,” said Sara Wagenknecht, a senior politician for the German Left party.
The chairman of the Turkish Community in Germany, Gökay Sofuoglu, also criticised the German government’s decision, saying: “I would have wished the chancellor had not allowed the trial to go ahead.” Erdoğan had also filed a personal lawsuit against Böhmermann, and Sofuoglu said Merkel should have waited for the outcome of that trial first.
A demonstration in front of the Turkish embassy in Berlin, scheduled for Friday afternoon, has been banned by Berlin police. Activists had announced that they were planning to read out Böhmermann’s poem in front of the embassy.
Böhmermann himself has not commented on the affair since the programme was aired last Thursday. Cologne authorities have confirmed that the comedian and his family are under police protection.
A few weeks ago, the German TV program “extra3” satirized Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in song, which prompted the Turkish government to call in the German ambassador to Ankara for a lecture, presumably, on its views regarding the limits of free speech.
Not long after, the comedian Jan Böhmermann, satirizing the ensuing debate over what is allowed in political humor, read a poem on his own show, “Neo Magazin Royale.” The poem, which he read in front of a Turkish flag, was about Mr. Erdogan and, among other things, what he might do with goats. It was a blunt provocation with an intelligent twist.
Thursday, April 14, 2016
In each year from 2006 to 2012, at least two-thirds of all active corporations had no federal income tax liability. Larger corporations were more likely to owe tax. Among large corporations (generally those with at least $10 million in assets) less than half—42.3 percent—paid no federal income tax in 2012. Of those large corporations whose financial statements reported a profit, 19.5 percent paid no federal income tax that year. Reasons why even profitable corporations may have paid no federal tax in a given year include the use of tax deductions for losses carried forward from prior years and tax incentives, such as depreciation allowances that are more generous in the federal tax code than those allowed for financial accounting purposes. Corporations that did have a federal corporate income tax liability for tax year 2012 owed $267.5 billion.Full GAO Report (here)
These reasons also explain why corporate effective tax rates (ETR) can differ substantially from statutory tax rates. ETRs attempt to measure taxes paid as a proportion of economic income, while statutory rates indicate the amount of tax liability (before any credits) relative to taxable income, which is defined by tax law and reflects tax benefits built into the law. The statutory tax rate on net corporate income ranges from 15 to 35 percent, depending on the amount of income earned. For tax years 2008 to 2012, profitable large U.S. corporations paid, on average, U.S. federal income taxes amounting to about 14 percent of the pretax net income that they reported in their financial statements (for those entities included in their tax returns).
When foreign and state and local income taxes are included, the average ETR across all of those years increases to just over 22 percent. GAO also computed ETRs that combine large profitable corporations and those large corporations with current year losses, which pay little if any actual tax. Over tax years 2008 to 2012, all large corporations—profitable and those that reported current year losses—paid 25.9 percent of their pretax net income in U.S. federal income taxes, and 40.1 percent when foreign and state and local taxes are included. Including corporations with losses results in a more comprehensive estimate, but makes the results difficult to interpret because ETR is not meaningful for a corporation in a year in which it has a net loss. GAO could not examine the variation in ETRs across corporations with the aggregated data available, although GAO's prior work suggests that ETRs are likely to vary considerably.
Why GAO Did This Study
Congress and the administration continue to express interest in reforming the U.S. corporate income tax and the rate at which U.S. corporations' income is taxed. Currently, the top statutory corporate income tax rate is 35 percent. GAO's 2013 report on corporate ETRs found that in tax year 2010, whether for all large corporate filers or only profitable ones, the average ETRs were significantly below the statutory rate.
To provide an update, GAO was asked to assess the extent to which U.S. corporations pay federal income tax and the percentage that had no federal income tax liability. In this report, GAO estimates (1) the percentage of all and large corporations that had no federal income tax liability and (2) average ETRs based on financial statement reporting and tax reporting. To conduct this work, GAO reviewed economic literature, analyzed IRS data for tax years 2006 to 2012 (the most recent data available), including the financial and tax information that large corporations report on Schedule M-3, and interviewed Internal Revenue Service (IRS) officials and subject matter experts.
...and from OxFam America
From 2008 – 2014 the 50 largest US companies collectively received $27 in federal loans, loan guarantees and bailouts for every $1 they paid in federal taxes.
From 2008 – 2014 these 50 companies spent approximately $2.6 billion on lobbying while receiving nearly $11.2 trillion in federal loans, loan guarantees and bailouts.
Even as these 50 companies earned nearly $4 trillion in profits globally from 2008 – 2014, they used offshore tax havens to lower their effective
overall tax rate to just 26.5%, well below the statutory rate of 35% and even below average levels paid in other developed countries. Only 5 of 50 companies paid the full 35% corporate tax rate.
These companies relied on an opaque and secretive network of more than 1600 disclosed subsidiaries in tax havens to stash about $1 trillion offshore. In addition to the 1600 known subsidiaries, the companies may have failed to disclose thousands of additional subsidiaries to the Securities and Exchange Commission because of weak reporting requirements.
Their lobbying appears to have offered an incredible return on investment. For every $1 spent on lobbying, these 50 companies collectively received $130 in tax breaks and more than $4,000 in federal loans, loan guarantees and bailouts.
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
Monday, April 11, 2016
A day after being trounced by Sen. Ted Cruz in Colorado, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump blasted the state party's process for selecting national delegates and called into question the results.Why Even Hold Elections?
"The people of Colorado had their vote taken away from them by the phony politicians. Biggest story in politics. This will not be allowed!" Trump posted on Twitter on Sunday evening.
Moments earlier, he posted a tweet that asked: "How is it possible that the people of the great State of Colorado never got to vote in the Republican Primary? Great anger — totally unfair!"
The Cruz campaign ran the table in Colorado, capturing all 34 delegates at a series of seven congressional district meetings this month and the state party convention Saturday in Colorado Springs.
Colorado GOP leaders canceled the party's presidential straw poll in August to avoid binding its delegates to a candidate who may not survive until the Republican National Convention in July.
Instead, Republicans selected national delegates through the caucus process, a move that put the election of national delegates in the hands of party insiders and activists — leaving roughly 90 percent of the more than 1 million Republican voters on the sidelines.
The decision sparked significant controversy at the time and removed Colorado from the Republican primary map in the early stages of the campaign. But Cruz supporters worked quietly behind the scenes to build an organization to get like-minded Republicans to the March 1 precinct caucuses and capitalized on the Trump campaign's failure to adapt to the system.
Trump's campaign didn't put a visible paid staffer on the ground in Colorado until last week, when it hired Patrick Davis, a Colorado Springs political consultant, to organize national delegate candidates at the 7th Congressional District convention in Arvada. By then, Cruz had won the first six delegates.
Even then, the energy behind Trump's campaign didn't materialize in support. He managed to win only seven alternate delegates.
The Trump campaign's list of preferred national delegates distributed at the state convention on Saturday was riddled with errors and misspellings that only further hurt its chances.
The problems with Trump's ballots — and the candidate's comments — raise questions about whether Colorado will figure prominently into a challenge at the national convention about the state's delegates.
Ahead of the state convention, a Trump campaign strategist said it made the strategic decision not to compete in Colorado because the caucus system favored party insiders.
Trump skipped the state party convention, where Cruz gave a rousing speech that galvanized his supporters.
In an interview at the event, Cruz said Trump was "scared" to attend because he "doesn't handle losing well."
Powered at first by volunteer organizers, the Cruz campaign began working to win delegates months ago and amplified the efforts in January when it brought U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, R-Windsor, on board as state chairman. The campaign also teamed with controversial conservative organizations, such as the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, Gun Owners of America and religious liberty groups, to rally support.
The Colorado Republican Party only exacerbated the fears of the Trump camp on Saturday when it tweeted after Cruz claimed victory at the convention: "We did it. #NeverTrump."
A second after the tweet, a state party spokesman came running into the press box at the convention and shouted "it wasn't us!"
The party quickly deleted the tweet and posted: "The last tweet was the result of unauthorized access to our account and in no way represents the opinion of the party. We are investigating."
The party's spokesman, Kyle Kohli, said Sunday evening the investigation is ongoing and the party is examining its IP login history.
The party declined to comment on Trump's tweets about the process.
Saturday, April 9, 2016
In this age of hyper-partisanship, it's great to see a Republican governor's administration work with his state's Democratic legislature to enact climate change legislation that will benefit citizens across their state....What does Hogan care if there are no jobs in his new "Windmill Economy for Maryland"? He'll be OUT of office in 2030.
That was the case this week in Maryland, where Republican Governor Larry Hogan signed into law the landmark Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act of 2016. Created with the help of Gov. Hogan's Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles, Democratic legislators, including Senator Paul Pinsky and Delegate Kumar Barve, and advocates such as the Sierra Club, the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, and the Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility, this legislation commits the Old Line State to one of the most ambitious, economy-wide greenhouse gas emission reduction targets in the nation: a 40 percent cut by 2030. This target, which was recommended unanimously by the state's bipartisan Climate Change Commission last fall, is in line with what scientists say we must achieve, and will help ensure that Maryland does its part to protect against climate change's worst effects.
This ambitious climate target offers a wealth of opportunities to Marylanders. And meeting it will not only help protect the state's kids (and kids everywhere) from dangerous climate change, but will create new jobs by the tens of thousands — 26,000 to 33,000 of them, according to Maryland's Department of the Environment (MDE) — while adding between $2.5 billion and $3.5 billion to the state's economy by 2020. Meeting the state's climate target can also save consumers big money on energy through investments in energy efficiency, and can improve the public's health by cutting dangerous air pollutants — sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and mercury, among others — that pour out of power plant smokestacks along with climate-warming carbon pollution.
To meet its new climate target, the state has great resources at its disposal. Energy efficiency is one of the most promising. Maryland is already among the country's 10 most energy efficient states, and can gain more by setting its sights even higher. For example, Massachusetts (another state with a Republican governor and Democratic legislature) is ranked the top energy efficient state in the nation by American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, and has had great success in pursuing increasing levels of savings — all while getting $3 worth of benefits for every dollar invested in the state's efficiency programs. Over the next three years, Massachusetts plans to get 2.93 percent in annual electricity savings, along with 1.24 percent in annual natural gas savings. Maryland can achieve similar levels of savings by maintaining and increasing its efficiency programs, especially for low-income residents. (Just last summer, the state got a head start on this by strengthened its EmPOWER MD energy efficiency portfolio; my colleague Deron Lovaas provides a great summary of that program here).
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is another vital tool in Maryland's climate toolbox that can continue to play a central role in cutting emissions statewide. Maryland already participates in this pioneering, nine-state collaboration that has helped cut power-sector carbon pollution by 35 percent since 2009. RGGI has added more than $340 million to Maryland's economy and created an impressive 3,845 job-years of work in the state. Now the RGGI states, Maryland included, are working to update the RGGI program to establish new region-wide limits on power plant carbon pollution for the period between 2020 and 2030. By advancing bold, new pollution reduction targets for RGGI, Maryland can leverage the program's highly successful market-based model to cut carbon pollution further, all while creating even more benefits for its residents. And it can do so in a way that can achieve the state's economy-wide climate target for 2030 — and similar commitments from other RGGI states.
Maryland also has many other tools at its disposal to meet its climate commitments. Renewable energy — wind and solar power — offer excellent carbon-cutting, cost-saving, and job-creating opportunities (which explains why an ambitious update to the state's renewable energy standard is currently making its way through the legislature). So do transportation policies such as those advanced by the multi-state Transportation Climate Initiative that support transit and can help Marylanders travel farther on a gallon of gas.
Under Governor Hogan's leadership, that of his Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles and the state's legislature, and with the help of our allies in environmental, health, social justice, and religious groups, Maryland's elected officials did what too many of the country's leaders are afraid to do these days: reach across the aisle and craft solutions that work for everyone. By signing this legislation, Governor Hogan is growing Maryland's economy and helping protect his state and the rest of us from climate change's worst impacts, all while championing the bipartisan governance that our country so desperately needs.
Thursday, April 7, 2016
A new Washington Post/University of Maryland poll shows Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton leading among Maryland voters, three weeks before the state's presidential primary.
Both candidates, their respective party's front-runners, are coming off losses Tuesday in the Wisconsin primary.
Trump has a 10-point lead over Ohio Gov. John Kasich, 41% to 31%, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is in third with 22%.
Clinton leads her rival Bernie Sanders, 55% to 40%, according to the poll. Her support in Maryland mirrors strengths in previous primary contests, leading Sanders among African-American voters, as well as those who identify as moderate and conservative Democrats.
A general election match-up against Trump also favors Clinton: She leads him by 35 points -- 63% to 28%.
Maryland will hold its presidential primary on April 26th with Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
The poll surveyed 1,503 Maryland adults between March 30-April 3. Among the sample of 539 Democrats the margin of error is plus or minus 5.5 percentage points and among the sample of 283 Republicans the margin of error is plus or minus 7.5 percentage points.
Tuesday, April 5, 2016
Saturday, April 2, 2016
SOUTH MILWAUKEE - Maurice King worked for Joerns Healthcare, a medical furniture manufacturer, for nearly 43 years. Until suddenly one day, he didn’t.
Joerns shuttered its plant in Stevens Point, Wis., in 2012 after years of gradually outsourcing work to China. It cut loose 175 workers. Now the 62-year-old former local steelworkers union president works a 2-11 p.m. shift at a fan factory.
No more local fish fries on Friday nights with his wife, or his side job for 25 years as town chairman in Dewey, population 975. He hasn’t yet earned a week of vacation. As for retirement? That’s been pushed back.
“You had the job, you figured you were planning out how things were going to go,” King said. “Now you’ve got to back up and rethink.”
Establishment voices of economists, government and business officials argue that trade deals are critical in a global economy, and great for America. But critics such as organized labor call them “death warrants.”
And in blue collar communities in Wisconsin and across the industrial Midwest, that economic angst, coupled with some sense of betrayal, helps explain the roiling politics of 2016.
Wisconsin votes Tuesday. But soon after come other industrial states, including Pennsylvania. And all could be battlegrounds this fall in the general election.
And a lot will look like Milwaukee, once known as “the machine shop to the world,” now grappling with a new economy.
Wisconsin has lost more than more than 68,000 manufacturing jobs since the mid-1990s and the first of several controversial trade pacts with Mexico, China and others took hold.
Additionally, the U.S. Department of Labor has certified about 76,000 Wisconsin workers in various fields as having lost their jobs due to either imports or the work they do being shipped overseas.
Not all of the layoffs and plant closings can be attributed solely to free trade. Some are due, at least in part, to slowdowns in specific industries such as housing and mining.
That’s the case here in South Milwaukee, a community of more than 20,000 people whose economy is built around the sprawling Caterpillar plant, which builds huge steam shovels and other mining equipment. Its predecessor, Bucyrus International, built shovels that were used to dig the Panama Canal.
Now, Caterpillar has laid off about 600 of its 800-plus workers over the past two years because of a business slowdown.
“It’s had a pretty large impact,” said Brad Dorff, an assembler at Caterpillar and the local Steelworkers Union president. “Whether it’s small grocery stores, a hardware store down the street, local taverns; they used to get a lot of business from the people that live in this community who were making a good living, a good wage working here.”
Wisconsin’s heavy manufacturing sector, once one of the country’s strongest, has been taking a lot of punches in recent years. General Motors, General Electric, Chrysler, Joy Global Surface Mining and Manitowoc Cranes have all cut jobs or closed operations in recent years for a variety of reasons.
Hometown companies such as Kohler, the plumbing supply manufacturer; and Trek Bicycles have offshored jobs to India, China and Taiwan.
Meanwhile, Madison, the state capital, will lose 1,000 jobs over the next two years as the 100-year-old iconic Oscar Mayer meat processing plant shuts down. And just east on I-94 in Jefferson, Tyson Foods will cease operations at its pepperoni processing plant, cutting 400 jobs.
“Change is hard,” Jefferson Mayor Dale Oppermann said during a conversation in City Hall, just across the railroad tracks from the plant. “Something that unexpected like this is a challenge for people. A lot of the people I know haven’t filled out a job application for 30 years, much less done it online.”
The turmoil feeds into a debate over trade that’s playing out in the 2016 campaign.
“Politically, it’s an easy point to make: it isn’t totally untrue at all to say that globalization has hurt American workers,” said former Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat who served from 2003-2011, during a period of economic churn. “What you do about that is a lot harder to figure.”
Billionaire developer and leading Republican contender Donald Trump, and Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders have been the most outspoken about trade. Both lambaste trade deals.
But factory workers are dubious of anything a politician says.
“We’ve had promises from some of the presidential candidates,” said a skeptical Wynn Sandahl, a machinist at the South Milwaukee Caterpillar plant.
In Wisconsin, voters are about evenly split on whether free trade agreements have helped or hurt, according to a recent Marquette University Law School poll. In Michigan and Ohio, a majority of primary voters in both parties believed trade kills jobs in the U.S. rather than creates them.
That’s the feeling inside union halls and communities that lie in the shadow of shuttered factories. Trade deals like NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) spell only uncertainty and distress.
“We’ve watched a lot of our friends lose their jobs,” said Dorff, inside the local steelworkers union hall just blocks from the Caterpillar plant. “They have homes that now they can’t afford. They have families they have to support. They lost their insurance. Their kids have diabetes and they’re trying to get medication. It literally breaks your heart.”
The Business Roundtable, an association of corporate executives of major companies, say that international trade supports 1 in 5 Wisconsin jobs, and that cheaper manufacturing costs overseas lowers prices for consumers in this country.
“It is an economic fact of life that both businesses and their employees benefit when we sell more products overseas, and consumers enjoy a wider range of products at lower prices,” Jerry Jasinowski, former president of the National Association of Manufacturers, said in a recent statement.
But since NAFTA, which removed tariff barriers between the U.S. Canada and Mexico, went into effect in 1994, and Congress’ granting of permanent normal trade status to China in 2000, a key question has been how much have those decisions contributed to job losses at home.
Economists generally say that overall, trade creates more prosperity, and that displaced workers will find other work. But competition from China has meant the loss of 2.4 million jobs, according to a recent report by the National Bureau of Economic Research, a private nonprofit research group.
It pointed out that industries are often concentrated in certain parts of the country – the Midwest, for instance – and that local economies have not had the capacity to absorb those workers the Chinese competition has displaced.
Julie Granger, senior vice president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, said that in a global economy, the notion that “free trade encourages the loss of local jobs … is not always the most responsible way to look at it. If we are not engaged in the global economy, we will lose more jobs. There’s no going back. It’s the same story in Milwaukee as it in other cities: many of lowest skilled jobs simply were disappearing.”
So is organized labor, long the backbone of the working class, a force in Wisconsin politics and a persistent critic of the trade deals. From 2014-2015, union membership as a percentage of the Wisconsin workforce fell to 8.3 percent from nearly 12 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But organized labor has been under siege in Wisconsin for a while.
Take the General Motors plant in Janesville, Wis. GM wrung significant concessions out of the United Autoworkers to help keep the plant open. But the automaker closed it eventually anyway in 2009, putting 850 people out of work.
“Take it or leave it,” is how Roger Hinkle, once a Milwaukee factory worker, now an employment training specialist for the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO Labor, Education and Training Center, characterized management attitudes in an era when offshoring can be an alluring option.
“We can’t get wage increases. They took away our benefits. The overarching sense is these agreements are basically written and built for improving profitability for corporations. That’s that’s the interest that’s being served.”