Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way to Screw the American People


Donald Trump, the GOP, and his wealthy backers had a real problem. On December 1st, an Obama administration rule that would expand by multiple millions of people the number of those who were eligible to receive overtime pay up to those who earn $47,500 a year was set to start:

In 2014, President Obama directed the Secretary of Labor to update the overtime regulations to reflect the original intent of the Fair Labor Standards Act, and to simplify and modernize the rules so they’re easier for workers and businesses to understand and apply. The department has issued a final rule that will put more money in the pockets of middle class workers – or give them more free time.

The final rule will:

– Raise the salary threshold indicating eligibility from $455/week to $913 ($47,476 per year), ensuring protections to 4.2 million workers.

– Automatically update the salary threshold every three years, based on wage growth over time, increasing predictability.

– Strengthen overtime protections for salaried workers already entitled to overtime.

– Provide greater clarity for workers and employers.

The final rule will become effective on December 1, 2016, giving employers more than six months to prepare. The final rule does not make any changes to the duties test for executive, administrative and professional employees.

The Republicans did not want this to go into effect, because if it did, they would find it difficult to repeal on 20 January, because even the American people are not dumb enough to notice their overtime being cut just two months after they started to receive it.

Fortunately for the Republicans, this just happened:

A Texas judge blocked President Obama’s bid to expand overtime pay protections to millions of Americans on Tuesday, thwarting a key presidential priority just days before it was set to take effect.

The Labor Department rule would have doubled the salary level at which hourly workers must be paid extra for overtime pay, from $23,660 to $47,476. Siding with business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Texas District Judge Amos L. Mazzant III halted it.

The rule, finalized in May, represented the first such change in more than a decade and was hailed at the time as the most consequential action the Obama administration could take for middle-class workers without congressional involvement.

And with that, a significant payraise to millions of voters, economically anxious and otherwise, was strangled in the crib, and no fingerprints were left behind. Come January 20, Trump, Paul Ryan, and the coterie of wealthy industrialists and banksters who run this nation will quietly rescind the rule change, and no one will even know it ever existed.

America, fuck yeah!

Blue eyes holding back the tears

Serious Republicans are having a sad about Trump, and the only prescription is more Paul Ryan.

I don’t think Ryan’s chiseled pecs have quite the same effect on reg’lar Applebee’s going Americans as they do on David Brooks, but I fear that if Ol’ Blue Eyes gets the nomination, the force of the collective Beltway orgasm will tear the fabric of the space-time continuum.

Can you imagine what the propaganda would be like from July to November?

Blue in green

Paul Ryan fan fiction has become incredibly popular among national political reporters. But money talks and puff “journalism” walks:

If you don’t care even slightly about how Paul Ryan’s policy ideas will impact poor people then I really recommend that you read McKay Coppin’s new long Buzzfeed feature article about Paul Ryan’s newfound interest in poverty issues. Reporting? Check. Color? Check. Political context? Check. Great writing? Check. This piece has it all. Except for even a teeny tiny shred of insight into how Paul Ryan’s policy ideas will impact poor people. The article’s subhead says that Ryan is “trying to challenge the notion that his party is out of touch with poor people the old-fashioned way: by talking to some.” Perhaps one reason is that the more newfangled way of showing in touchness with the economically struggling — by advancing a policy agenda that would help them in concrete ways — is wildly out of step with Ryan’s basic ideology.


For example, what does Ryan’s budget mean for the poor? Well it turns out that the majority of his budget cuts come from programs that benefit poor people. He wants to reduce spending on poor people’s Medicaid benefits. And on their nutrition assistance. And on their college tuition assistance. And on their access to subsidized private health insurance. Ryan does cut some programs that aren’t aimed at helping low-income Americans, but mostly he cuts programs for the poor.

A specter is haunting the United States — the specter of oligarchy

There has been a lot of discussion of Thomas Piketty’s new book Capital in the 21st Century, which argues that:

  • The ratio of wealth to income is rising in all developed countries.
  • Absent extraordinary interventions, we should expect that trend to continue.
  • If it continues, the future will look like the 19th century, where economic elites have predominantly inherited their wealth rather than working for it.
  • The best solution would be a globally coordinated effort to tax wealth.

The United States is now an outlier among western countries in terms of income inequality and you can bet your car elevator that the rich are going to be able buy off much of our government, especially with the current SCOTUS in place:

Wealthy people will be even better poised to influence the 2014 and 2016 elections than they were to influence the 2010 and 2012 elections. Now, wealthy people are not a single voting bloc, but most wealthy people would like to continue being wealthy. And so you see bipartisan movement towards policies that protect their wealth, most recently with the Democratic legislature in Maryland voting to eliminate the state’s estate tax.

Over time, a political system that gives the wealthy more power is a political system that is going to do more to protect the interests of the wealthy. It’s the Doom Loop of Oligarchy, and we’re seeing it daily.

Of course you know who else who thought that capitalism would go into a death spiral. And now writers as different as The Wire’s David Simon and National Review’s Jimmy P are wondering if that bearded Satanist was right after all, or at least many people will soon believe that he was.

I like capitalism (though I don’t like money or people bragging about how much they make or how cheaply then live), but if I wanted to hasten its demise, I’d be cheering Paul Ryan on. Maybe the neocons never really stopped being Trotskyites.

Speak in the Past Tense and Talk About the Weather

Here’s one place where the NRO literati and real Americans are out of touch:
No matter how good Putin looks with his shirt off, and no matter how many puppies he crushes with his bare fists, it don’t mean shit if the toilets in his country don’t flush. Victor Davis Hansen might be able to have a stroke session where he imagines being one of Putin’s inner circle, but even 27 percenters stockpiling ammo and hiding from death panels don’t want to make Vlad their Daddy.

(via OTB)

Strong Enough to Be His Man

Victor Davis Hansen channels his inner bottom:

Americans often talk grandly in melodramatic fashion of “speaking truth to power” — mostly on silly issues about which liberals talk tough to moderates, usually in the faculty lounge or at a Senate hearing, often before sharing cocktails afterward. Putin speaks power to truth — an unpredictable, unapologetic brute force of nature.

Again, what is Putin? He is a constant reminder to the postmodern Western mind that the human condition has not yet evolved beyond the fist. He is a bumper-sticker example of Aristotle’s dictum that it is easy to be moral in your sleep, given that verbiage without power is hardly moral or difficult. He is also a reminder about what is important in the most elemental sense. As we debate former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s remonstrances on oversized Cokes or Michelle Obama’s advocacy of celery sticks, Putin has dogs shot down to spruce up the Olympic grounds. We calibrate to the point of paralysis just how large a carbon footprint the Keystone Pipeline may or may not have; Putin ignores the Arctic tundra to enrich kleptomaniac Russian oligarchs and prop up his dysfunctional state.

Bare-chested Putin gallops his horses, poses with his tigers, and shoots his guns — what Obama dismisses as “tough-guy schtick.” Perhaps. But Putin is almost saying, “You have ten times the wealth and military power that I have, but I can neutralize you by my demonic personality alone.” Barack Obama, in his increasingly metrosexual golf get-ups and his prissy poses on the nation’s tony golf courses, wants to stay cool while playing a leisure sport. It reminds us of Stafford Cripps being played by Stalin during World War II. “Make no mistake about it” and “Let me be perfectly clear” lose every time. Obama’s subordinates violate the law by going after the communications of a Fox reporter’s parents; Putin himself threatens to cut off the testicles of a rude journalist.

I realize that the conservative press has been full of this kind of shit for years, but Sochi seems to be amping up the homoerotic odes. Has anyone found something better than this? Prove that you have evolved beyond the fist and use your fingers on your keys to suggest an even more bootlicking ode to Putin’s power.

(via Ed Kilgore)

It worked, mostly, and we should say so

I really liked this piece.

Jared Bernstein:

Let’s start with the safety net since it’s a fixture of advanced economies and serves the critical function of catching (or not) the most economically vulnerable when the market fails. What follows is a brief overview of a many-faceted topic, but there’s solid evidence that key parts of the safety net performed well — probably better than you thought.
Before I get to the evidence, a word about context. First, as suggested above, there’s another recession lurking out there somewhere, so let’s learn what worked and what didn’t.
Second, and this is particularly important in today’s political economy, too many policy makers devalue the safety net. In Representative Paul Ryan’s terminology, it’s a “hammock.” For Ronald Reagan, it was a feckless weapon in the “failed” war on poverty (though to his credit, he extended a wage subsidy for low-wage workers that has become a highly effective anti-poverty tool). For many of today’s conservatives, the increased use of a safety-net program is proof that there’s something wrong with the user, not the underlying economy.
But while people do abuse safety nets — and not just poor people (think bank bailouts and special tax treatment of multinational corporations) — I want to see receipt of unemployment insurance, the rolls of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), and so on go up in recessions. In fact, their failure to do so would be a sign that something’s very wrong, like an air bag that failed to deploy in a crash.
The figure below tracks three programs, two which responded quite elastically to the downturn, and one — Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or T.A.N.F. — which did not. (I’ll get to why unemployment insurance has gone down while SNAP remained elevated in a moment.)
There are two reasons that T.A.N.F. was so unresponsive. First, welfare reform in the mid-1990s significantly increased its work requirements, which worked well then, as the policy change interacted with historically strong demand for low-wage labor. Since then, and especially in the great recession, the low-wage job market has been much less welcoming.
Second, T.A.N.F. was “block granted,” meaning states receive a fixed amount that is largely insensitive to recessions (my colleague Liz Schott has noted some minor wrinkles) and inflation. Since the block grant began, the real value of T.A.N.F. funds is down 30 percent. Now, consider this: it is a fixture of conservative policy on poverty to apply this same block grant strategy to food stamps and Medicaid. The numbers and the chart above show this to be a recipe for inelastic response to recession, or, more plainly, a great way to cut some big holes in the safety net.
The official rate for children goes up over the recession, from 18 percent to 22 percent, but once you include the full force of safety-net (and Recovery Act) measures that kicked in, it holds steady at about 15 percent. Though child poverty rates even under the alternative measure are still too high, this figure provides strong evidence of the effectiveness of the American safety net in the worst recession since the Depression.
So let’s get this straight: the poor and their advocates were not the ones who tanked the economy. Nor should they be on the defensive when the safety net expands to offset some of the damage.

I watched the safety net work during the Great Recession right here where I live. We had people coming into this office who have never relied on assistance before telling us they needed help. For a while there I felt like I was delivering public service announcements: “go to Job and Family Services on the square and apply for food stamps. Today.” I cannot imagine how bad it would have gotten without a safety net, because it was the worst I’ve ever seen with a safety net.

So great to have someone look at what actually happened to us, instead of pondering the abstract theoretical musings of Mr. Paul Ryan and his merry band of pundits.