Mafia Rule

I am not a big fan of Barack Obama’s trade deals. I don’t know a great deal about KORUS specifically, but I know it fits the overall shape of his trade policy, and I have a different view of trade.

But for Trump to lean on the South Koreans now, in the middle of this nuclear crisis, is disgusting. This is the act of a man with no scruples, and no class. This is a mob shakedown.


Today’s Hilarious Attempt to Disappear Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders (I-VT) reintroduced his $15 minimum wage bill in the Senate today. The Raise the Wage Act of 2017 would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024, gradually eliminate the tipped minimum wage, and index it thereafter to inflation – meaning, the wage automatically goes up every year without a Congressional vote. Bernie is the act’s sponsor, and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), who had previously sponsored a $12 minimum wage bill, is original co-sponsor. The $15 minimum wage was a central plank in Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign. His opponent, Secretary Clinton, campaigned on an increase to $12 an hour. An impressive 21 Democrats have signed on as additional co-sponsors, including not only Murray but Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, compared to just five last year.

Here is how some leading media outlets report the story:

Pretty straightforward. Now, here is how Daily Kos front pager Laura Clawson reported the story:

That’s a perfectly good headline. I mean, there is the technicality that Sanders is an independent, but functionally, he’s a Democrat. This is a Senate Democratic bill, as Clawson’s story explains:

Congressional Democrats have unveiled their strongest minimum wage plan yet. And while Republicans will block this, it’s important to get the word out: this is what we’d be moving toward if Democrats were making the laws.

…(insert block quote from Think Progress story here)…
Seven years is slow, but otherwise, this plan checks some important boxes—in particular, raising the tipped minimum wage and setting it so that the minimum wage rises automatically rather than requiring a fight each and every time it’s raised. If Democrats had done that the last time they raised the minimum wage, it wouldn’t still be stuck at $7.25 an hour nearly eight years after its last increase, years during which it’s lost nearly 10 percent of its purchasing power. The Raise the Wage Act would also ensure that people with disabilities are paid the full minimum wage.

Every single time you talk about lawmakers backing a $15 minimum wage, you have to remember that it’s low-wage workers who pushed $15 into the realm of possibility, organizing around a number nearly $5 higher than the high end of Democratic proposals at the time. Their organizing has changed the discussion—and in two states and several large cities, it’s helped change the law.

Notice what’s missing? OK, let’s take a look at the portion of the Think Progress story Clawson quoted:

Their legislation, dubbed the Raise the Wage Act, would gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, increasing it from its current level of $7.25 an hour to $9.20 an hour once it’s passed and then adding about a dollar a year for seven years until it gets to $15. It would rise automatically after that as the country’s median wages rose.

The bill would eventually do away with the separate tipped minimum wage, which currently allows those who earn tips as part of their compensation to be paid as little as $2.13 an hour by their employers. It would increase that rate to $3.15 and then gradually raise it so it would eventually reach $15 an hour.


Think of any story you have ever read about a bill’s introduction in Congress.  Every single one of them will include, at a minimum, the name of the sponsor. Where are the names in the Daily Kos piece? The entire report about the introduction of the bill is devoid of a name. This would not receive a passing grade in an undergraduate journalism course. Take these two paragraphs in the Think Progress piece, which appear immediately before the bit Clawson quotes read:

Just two years ago, that was not the party line. In 2015, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Robert Scott (D-VA) put forward a bill to raise the wage to $12 an hour. It was Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Democratic Reps. Keith Ellison (MN) and Raúl Grijalva (AZ) who introduced a $15 minimum wage a few months later. While Sanders backed a $15 wage in his bid for the party’s presidential nomination, his rival and eventual nominee Hillary Clinton supported a $12 wage.

Now all of those members of Congress have come together to support a $15 wage.

Hey, look, names! From Daily Kos, we get the not-quite-right “Democrats.” We get “Their,” referring to Democrats. Even though the sponsor, once again, was Bernie Sanders, (I-VT). They doesn’t just fail to mention the sponsor’s name; the description they provide is written in a way to camouflage him. I’m surprised she didn’t include a photo from the announcement ceremony with a big black blob over Sanders, like the Soviets used to do who were photographed with Stalin by later fell from grace.

Now, I’ve always been fine with calling Bernie a Democrat, since he is member of the Democratic Senate Caucus, votes for the Democratic candidate for chamber leader, endorses Democrats in every election, and otherwise is functionally part of the Democratic side. His Independent label never struck me as any more important than the name of the Minnesota “Democratic” state party being the Democrat-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party. It’s just a name, resulting form local history; in practice, they’re Democrats. But that’s not what Laura Clawson and the Daily Kos staff have been insisting on for the past year and a half. Daily Kos is one of the nation’s leading proponents of the “He’s Not! Even! A Democrat!” denunciation of Bernie Sanders. Except, apparently, this time. Now, a Sanders-sponsored bill is a bill unveiled by “Congressional Democrats.”

But don’t think Clawson is just generally stubborn about giving credit where it is due. She makes sure to admonish us that “every single time” we talk about lawmakers – unnamed lawmakers – backing a minimum wage bill, we forget about the lawmakers who proposed and wrote the legislation in Congress, or who popularized it by, say, making it a prominent issue in a presidential campaign. We should focus instead on the low-wage workers of the Fight for Fifteen movement. Suffice it to say, she has never, ever written a legislative story in this manner before. But, hey, isn’t that nice that she’s recently developed this appreciation for the role of street activists in the legislative process? No wonder she could only pay attention to the boring ol’ Senate long enough to remember that “Democrats” supported this bill – she’s just too gosh darn impressed with the Fight for Fifteen people! Yeah, that’s it.

Thank you, Democrat Patty Murray, sponsor of the previous $12 minimum wage bill, for coming over to Sanders’ position. Thank you, Fight for Fifteen activists, who began the movement that went on to reach the Congress and the mainstream political discussion. And, oh yeah, thank you, Democrat(?) Bernie Sanders, for sponsoring this bill, for carrying the torch for the $15 minimum when the party establishment was vacillating between weakness and hostility, and for dragging so many of your Democratic colleagues into the light over the past year.

I swear, the hostility towards Bernie Sanders is just pathological with these people.

Today in Hilarious Attempts to Make Bernie Sanders Go Away

Bernie Sanders is last year’s news, just like Hillary Clinton.

I can appreciate the point that relitigating last year’s Democratic primary is not useful for resisting Donald Trump right now. However, Senator Sanders is not Jim Webb or Lincoln Chaffee or Hillary Clinton; his relevance did not end with the 2016 election.

Sanders is the most important and popular figure on the left in 2017. He is filling venues right now on a nationwide tour that features the Chair of the Democratic Party as his opening act. He is heavily engaged, in an official leadership position within the party, in organizing and conducting the resistance to Trump. He is the most popular politician in America – a position he achieved while in the midst of an active partisan primary, continued to hold while serving as a Hillary Clinton surrogate during a heated general election, and grew even further through the past five months of active, high-visibility engagement in national politics during the Age of Trump. Far from being irrelevant since last fall, his importance and popularity have only grown. He is not old news, but today’s news, as one can tell by…reading the news.

It is a testimony to the uselessness of the outgoing Democratic establishment that they are still trying to bury Sanders, and a credit to figures like Tom Perez and Chuck Schumer, that they have recognized his importance to the Democratic Party in this political moment.

Sorry, folks. Bernie Sanders isn’t going anywhere.

Stand With Maxine Waters

diary at Daily Kos makes the case for Representative Maxine Waters of California as the Democratic standard bearer. It’s a good case; she is a tough, smart, fearless advocate who has not spent her 30 years in Congress going along to get along, but has been a fighter for progressive politics even in the most hostile environments, and even when it meant going up against her own party.

There is one aspect of the diary that could have been stronger, however. The diarist includes a lengthy bullet list of admirable actions and votes by Waters, introducing it with, “Where does she stand on the full spectrum of progressive issues? See for yourself.”

But upon examination, the list turns out to be somewhat thin on core progressive economic issues, such as trade, Wall Street regulation before the mortgage meltdown, union organizing, and minimum wage; as well as on foreign policy. So, I thought I’d take a look and see how she stacked up on a somewhat fuller full spectrum of progressive issues. And it turns out she’s awesome!

Maxine Waters:

  • Voted against NAFTA
  • Voted against Glass-Steagall repeal (Gramm-Leach-Blilley)
  • Led a the first Congressional delegation to visit Cuba, in 1999
  • Voted against CAFTA
  • Co-sponsored Single Payer Medicare for All bill
  • Voted against War in Iraq
  • Voted against the Financial Services Act of 1998 (I’d never actually heard of this bill before I started digging; I just know that the name “Financial Services Act of 1998” scares the fertilizer out of me.)
  • Co-sponsored the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007
  • Voted Yes on Withdrawing from WTO
  • Founded the Congressional Out of Iraq Caucus
  • Voted against Most Favored Nation Status for China
  • 100% lifetime rating from the AFL-CIO
  • Voted against the Bankruptcy Bill of 2005
  • Voted against Fast Track Authority
  • 0% lifetime rating from the right-wing Competitive Enterprise Institute

Representative Waters has developed a national following recently, emerging Bernie-like from decades of left-wing obscurity to become a prominent leader in the party in this era of the anti-Trump resistance. It is a role to which she is brilliantly suited. Maxine Waters is a fighter, and exactly the kind of strong economic progressive that supporters of Bernie Sanders should rally behind. I want to be in her fox hole, and a lot of people agree.

But it’s worth noting that this standing up as the principled resistance is nothing new to Waters. She was the resistance in the 1990s, when standing up for a pro-worker, single-payer, anti-“free trade,” anti-“financial modernization” platform was not nearly as welcome in the Democratic Party as it is in 2017. Maxine Waters is a principled progressive from way back. And she can do this.

I’m in.

We Are Winning This Thing

The Hill has an interesting piece today, Democrats Welcome Bernie Takeover. The thrust of the piece is that Democrats who were skeptical of welcoming Sanders into the party and were critical of him last year are coming around and recognizing the value he brings as the Democrats’ chief spokesman, despite the fact that HE’S NOT. EVEN. A DEMOCRAT.

This question of Sanders’ formal party registration is interesting. It is, indeed, very unusual for someone who is not a member of a party to be in that party’s leadership; but the political situation in this country is such that it makes perfect sense for the Democrats to put a bird on it.

Since the Clinton administration, two somewhat contradictory trends have redefined American politics. On the one had, registration for the two major parties has declined while independent/unenrolled/no party registrations have increased. Somewhat counter-intuitively, this formal detachment from the parties has been matched by growing partisan polarization in voting patterns. There are far fewer swing voters than there used to be, while there are far more voters who always vote for one party, or whose decision is between voting for that party or not voting at all. What that means is that we have a large body of voters who have an policy or ideological or cultural affinity with one party’s candidates and officials, but who do not feel a strong attachment to the party itself.

In a situation like that, it is manifestly in the interest of each party to encourage unaffiliated people who generally agree with them to operate within a broad coalition of partisans and independent leaners. The elevation of Sanders to a position of party leadership, the Sanders-Tom Perez unity tour, and other efforts that display Sanders fighting on the side of the Democrats, and the Democratic Party welcoming him as a core member of the team, demonstrate some important things to those Dem-leaning independents. They show that someone they greatly respect for his independence and distance from the party establishment is all-in with working closely with Democrats to oppose Trump and promote progressive politics, and that the party itself is seeking to make amends for the bad blood generated among Sanders supporters by the corrupt DWS chairmanship.

Bernie Sanders can lead millions of people into allying with the Democratic Party as voters and activists, especially among the growing segment of independent voters, but only if they let him. So far, signs are good that cooler heads are prevailing, and angry Clintonite dead-enders, like the former DNC official quoted at the end of the Hill article, are not succeeding in their efforts to serve as gatekeepers against Bernie Sanders his political revolution.