Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Yup. It didn’t take long for mainstream political journalists to misread the new poll on Rubio/Bush/Walker vs. Clinton.

Clinton is currently running ahead of all her likely Republican opponents, according to RealClearPolitics, but not by much: 4.2 points ahead of Marco Rubio; 5.2 points over Jeb Bush; and 6.8 points over Scott Walker.

These are not impressive numbers for a candidate with universal name recognition against candidates who are much less widely known.

Can Hillary Clinton Be a Woman of the People?, Thomas B. Edsall, New York Times, today

Might the reason that Rubio, Bush and Walker poll as well as they do be precisely that they—and the policies they espouse—are not widely known?

Just askin’.

Edsall’s comment is the second one along those lines that I read this morning.  And counting, I’m sure.

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We Believe ? ? ?

Almost one year old (July 18, 2014) this speech by Senator Elizabeth Warren. We Believe:

– “We believe that Wall Street needs stronger rules and tougher enforcement, and we’re willing to fight for it.”

– “We believe in science, and that means that we have a responsibility to protect this Earth.”

– “We believe that the Internet shouldn’t be rigged to benefit big corporations, and that means real net neutrality.”

– “We believe that no one should work full-time and still live in poverty, and that means raising the minimum wage.”

– “We believe that fast-food workers deserve a livable wage, and that means that when they take to the picket line, we are proud to fight alongside them.”

– “We believe that students are entitled to get an education without being crushed by debt.”

– “We believe that after a lifetime of work, people are entitled to retire with dignity, and that means protecting Social Security, Medicare, and pensions.”

– “We believe—I can’t believe I have to say this in 2014—we believe in equal pay for equal work.”

– “We believe that equal means equal, and that’s true in marriage, it’s true in the workplace, it’s true in all of America.”

– “We believe that immigration has made this country strong and vibrant, and that means reform.”

– “And we believe that corporations are not people, that women have a right to their bodies. We will overturn Hobby Lobby and we will fight for it. We will fight for it!”

Reference: Elizabeth Warren’s 11 Commandments of Progressivism

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When Did Chris Cillizza Stop Beating His Wife?

I titled this post of mine yesterday, “I’m so, so tired of political journalists (including some who I think are generally excellent) misconstruing certain types of poll results.  And of pollsters not asking the obvious direct question they need to ask.”  The post dealt specifically with a blog entry by Greg Sargent yesterday morning in which he interpreted the answer to poll question asking what the issue the respondent considered most important (for next year’s national elections) as proof positive that the public doesn’t care about the effect of huge amounts of money by very wealthy donors in determining the policy proposals of the candidates and the actual policies instituted or supported by elected officeholders.

Almost no respondent listed huge amounts of money by tiny numbers of people funding campaigns as the issue that they were most concerned about, but as Sargent’s post itself indicated, answers to several other questions—questions that addressed that issue specifically—made very clear that a huge portion of the public considers it a critically important issue, because they do recognize the clear, direct impact of it on candidates’ stated policy views and on actual government policy.

I opened my post yesterday with a two-paragraph excerpt from Sargent’s post:

If ever there were a cycle that seemed poised for a serious argument over what to do — if anything — about the torrents of money sloshing through our politics, you’d think it would be this one. We’re seeing a parade of billionaire sugar daddies looking to sponsor individual GOP candidates. A profusion of clever tactics such as turning over campaign operations to a friendly Super PAC, and running a full-blown presidential campaign while pretending you haven’t declared. Outside groups on both sides pledging enormous expenditures. Relentless media attention to foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation. And so on.

Yet despite all this, the chances of turning campaign finance into a major or compelling issue appear remote: A new poll today finds that fewer than one percent of Americans see it as the most important issue facing the country.

I then asked whether this might be because most poll respondents think they’re being asked directly about the issues that they want politicians and officeholders to address, rather than, y’know, the reasons why politicians and officeholders aren’t dealing effectively—or at all—with those problems and often make policy that worsens those problems.  Although the question was rhetorical (okay, sarcastic), I answered it, saying that it turns out that the answer is yes, and referencing the answers to the poll questions that specifically addressed the issue.

In the comments thread this morning, reader Dale Coberly commented that “polls tell the p.r. firms how well they are doing” and that “you can’t win by ‘taking the money out of politics’ or rewriting the poll questions.”   I responded:

Dale, the very last thing I’m trying to suggest is that candidates or parties should try to win by rewriting poll questions.  The polls at issue were the general news media polls, taken by polling organizations not affiliated with a candidate or party.

What I’m suggesting—strongly and clearly, I thought—is that journalists should really, really stop conflating answers to one question with answers to question that wasn’t even asked. They’re playing a distorting semantics game, in this instance by treating the word “issue” as having a much broader meaning than, I’m sure, most people interpret that word to mean in a generic poll question about what they think is the most important issue.

If the poll asked a question specifically about how important the respondent thinks it is to try to significantly curb the ability of the very wealthy, whether individuals or corporations, to fund particular campaigns, or even if q question asked the respondent to list in order of importance several categories of issues, and provide the categories, and include among the categories the influence large donors in controlling what positions politicians take as candidates and as elected officials, then great!   But it’s ridiculous to read the question at issue in Sargent’s post and interpret the answers to it as anything but stated preferences about the things mist people actually thing the question is asking about.

After I posted that comment, I clicked on the Washington Post website and it’s The Fix blog and, skimming the post titles saw one from yesterday by Chris Cillizza titled “Can we please stop acting like campaign finance is a major voting issue?

I don’t know when Cillizza stopped beating his wife, but his post is ridiculous.  He begins:

There are two seemingly contradictory data points in a new New York Times-CBS national poll.

1. 84 percent of people — 80 percent of Republicans and 90 percent of Democrats — believe money has too much influence in American politics.

2. Less than 1 percent of people said money in politics or campaign fundraising was the most important issue facing the country.

Seemingly contradictory?  I dunno.  I mean … maybe.  If you think the public thinks of the profound perversion of this country’s democracy as just another issue.  Cillizza continues:

How can the public hold both notions in their heads simultaneously? It’s actually not that complicated — and helps to explain why we need to stop acting like campaign finance reform is a major issue in actual campaigns.

Okay, well, he’s right that it’s not that complicated, but that’s because, as I’ve said,  the two notions are not contradictory at all.  Unless, that is, you believe that the respondents thought the first question included consideration of the second rather than just being a question directly about such issues as the economy, immigration, college affordability, foreign policy, healthcare insurance.  Rather than also indirectly about, well, all of those issued scrambled together.

But he doesn’t, of course, and makes that really clear, writing:

What point No. 2 shows, however, is that the public’s broad dislike for the amount of money flowing through the political system is more a theoretical distaste than a practical one. As in, when prompted to offer judgment on how much money is in politics, people agree it’s too much.  But, left unprompted, they make quite clear that campaign finance reform is not even close to a top-of-the-mind issue.

Think of it like this: If someone asked you whether you should eat better, almost all of us would say yes.  Too many hamburgers, too much pizza, too many frappuccinos. (Or maybe that’s just me.) But, when you go out to lunch or find yourself at the grocery story, how many of us actually make good on our stated intent to eat better? If you’re anything like me, the answer is a whole heck of a lot fewer people than say that they should be eating better.

There’s a huge difference between prompted intent and unprompted action.

There is indeed a huge difference between prompted intent and unprompted action. There’s also a huge difference between journalists who don’t actually understand what that difference is, and what it actually means. Mainly, apparently, because these journalists don’t understand the semantics of being asked generically by a pollster about “issues.”

This is serious stuff, folks.  And I suggest that the Washington Post poll people about what they think pollsters are referring to when then ask generically about issues that concern them.  And then ask specifically a set of questions about this issue, which most people recognize as a blanket issue encompassing a slew of specific policy issues and problems.  Most people.  But not most political journalists, apparently, at least not the ones whose comments I’ve read.  Think of it like this.

—-

UPDATE: Reader Carol and I just had the following exchange in the comments thread to this post:

Carol

June 3, 2015 2:36 pm

There is more to it than that. The public correctly perceives the role of money in politics as a huge problem. The public also correctly perceives this as not the most important issue facing the public today. There is no cognitive dissonance here. The most important issue for most people is having a job, or enough money to not be frightened of the future. In the general psychology courses I took, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs would suggest survival trumps all other issues. Once you are fed and secure, you have the time and energy to break out the tumbrils.

 

Beverly Mann

June 3, 2015 3:17 pm

Wow, Carol. You really think that fewer than 1% of the respondents see the connections between issues directly related to having a job, or enough money to not be frightened of the future? Most of the respondents said they understood perfectly this connection.

Wage issues (including the minimum wage, and including the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively); banking regulations (including the ones could have prevented the collapse of the economy in 2009-10, had they been in force—the collapse of the economy that cost millions of people their jobs, their life savings, their homes); healthcare insurance; interest on college loans; etc., etc. etc, etc.? Only fewer than 1% of that poll’s respondents think those issues have no tie-in to, say, who’s funding whose election campaign and may or may not fund that elected official’s next one?

Really? Really???

You’re right, Carol, that there’s no cognitive dissonance regarding the respondents’ responses. Which is the point of this post–or is supposed to be. The problem is one of semantics and these political journalists’ failure to realize that most people would understand that poll question about the most important issue to be using the word “issue” in a specific, narrow sense that doesn’t include the relationship between public policy and who’s buying the policy.

I had thought this isn’t rocket science, but maybe I was wrong.  Apologies for the snideness, but ….

Updated 6/3 at 3:40 p.m. 

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I’m so, so tired of political journalists (including some who I think are generally excellent) misconstruing certain types of poll results. And of pollsters not asking the obvious direct question they need to ask. [Addendum added.]

If ever there were a cycle that seemed poised for a serious argument over what to do — if anything — about the torrents of money sloshing through our politics, you’d think it would be this one. We’re seeing a parade of billionaire sugar daddies looking to sponsor individual GOP candidates. A profusion of clever tactics such as turning over campaign operations to a friendly Super PAC, and running a full-blown presidential campaign while pretending you haven’t declared. Outside groups on both sides pledging enormous expenditures. Relentless media attention to foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation. And so on.

Yet despite all this, the chances of turning campaign finance into a major or compelling issue appear remote: A new poll today finds that fewer than one percent of Americans see it as the most important issue facing the country.

Morning Plum: Americans don’t care too much about big money in politics, Greg Sargent, this morning

Aaaaargh.  Might this be because most poll respondents think they’re being asked directly about the issues that they want politicians and officeholders to address, rather than, y’know, the reasons why politicians and officeholders aren’t dealing effectively—or at all—with those problems and often make policy that worsens those problems?

It turns out that the answer is, yes.  And in the paragraphs following the above-quoted ones, Sargent himself, by discussing the poll questions and results in more detail, makes that very, very clear. Sargent continues:

To be sure, the new New York Times/CBS News poll does find that Americans across party lines think money exerts too much influence over the political process. Eighty-four percent of Americans, including 80 percent of Republicans, believe this. Crucially, the poll shows that majorities of Americans believe this gives the rich more influence over the process, and that they believe public officials reward big donors:

“Two thirds think wealthy Americans have a better chance than others of influencing the election process, while just 31 percent say all Americans have an equal chance to do so….Americans see a frequent quid pro quo when it comes to contributing to an election campaign and receiving benefits once a candidate is in office. Fifty-five percent of Americans think politicians enact policies to benefit their financial contributors most of the time, while another 30 percent think this happens sometimes. Just 13 percent think this only happens rarely or never.”

And then:

And get this: 54 percent do not believe political donations should be protected as free speech, and 78 percent support limits on contributions to groups unaffiliated with a candidate. Yet here’s the bad news for campaign finance reformers:

“Very few Americans prioritize campaign finance over other domestic issues when asked to name the most important problem facing the country today. Americans’ top issue priority continues to be the economy and jobs; health care and immigration follow. Less than one percent volunteer campaign fundraising as the most important issue facing the country.”

And then as an afterthought, he adds:

In fairness, the poll reached this conclusion through an open-ended question that asked people to name the single top issue, so who knows how much this means. But even some reform-minded Democrats have lamented the difficulty of turning campaign finance it into a motivating issue.

I love Sargent’s blog and read it religiously most weekdays.  But he, like so many other political journalists, conflates what are two separate categories of issues and draw the wrong conclusion.  And it’s a vicious circle: With the single exception of Elizabeth Warren and now Bernie Sanders, politicians whom the news media pay attention to never, ever, ever directly tie in a particular public policy—mainly, legislation or the lack of it—to actual actions (huge campaign donations, superPac funding, lobbying, and the proverbial revolving door, with industry lobbyists or representatives of, say, the Koch brothers, writing legislation and blocking legislation.  Only Elizabeth Warren actually does that and gets some genuine, meaningful media attention for it.

Obviously, neither Warren nor Sanders is cowed by the results of the incessant polls that ask the right question regarding the usual-suspect issues that poll respondents think is what they’re being asked about—the economy; immigration; foreign policy; healthcare.  Neither Warren nor Sanders confuses the answer to that question with an answer to a question about whether the respondent thinks there is a tie-in between the things they think of as an “issue” as meant in a poll question, and whether the respondent thinks a key reason for the existing problem and the government’s failure to adequately address it, and instead exacerbates it, is that public policy is controlled by the very few, very wealthy people who pay for campaigns in this era.

Sargent links to the CBS online article about the poll, which also says that “[m]ost who think changes are needed are not optimistic that such changes will be forthcoming: 58 percent are pessimistic that changes will actually be made.”

Well … yes.  Exactly.  And Warren and, now, Sanders may well succeed in ending the tautology.  They understand that actual specific information showing direct tie-ins with specific policies or lack of policy would feed upon itself and show that, yes, in fact changes can be made.  But only with a truly new breed of elected officials.

—-

ADDENDUM: Politico’s top article today is titled “Did Elizabeth Warren go too far this time?” But it’s subtitled “The Massachusetts senator’s attack on Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Jo White causes backlash on Wall Street.”  The article, which is lengthy, discusses a 13-page letter Warren sent this morning to SEC Chairwoman Mary Jo White, absolutely ripping White for … well, you should read the article, all the way to the end.

By the end of the article, you’ll wonder why somewhere in the middle of it, it says that Warren’s influence seems to be on the wane and that the letter probably will hasten the waning.  The article has two co-authors, and the headline would not have been written by either of them. So that might be why the article is part details and background, and part what Wall Street and the White House want as the media’s take on the letter’s contents and fallout. I did a double-take when I read this sentence: “The backlash against Warren was the latest indication that populist firebrand’s efforts to push for tougher financial regulation may be losing some momentum.

The backlash against Warren is from Wall Street, the SEC, Mary Jo White’s office, and the CEOs and lobbyists who want the TPP treaty ratified and are selling it as a trade agreement even though, mostly, it’s not.  Warren (and others) object not to the actual trade provisions but to parts of it that do not concern trade as such.  And the SEC rules under Dodd-Frank that Warren angrily says the SEC keeps delaying concern transparency of corporations concerning the CEO’s pay as compared to that of the company’s ordinary employees, and concern disclosure of the identities of the tax-exempt organizations that receive corporate donations, and the amounts of the donations.

The public backlash against this has begun, the Politico article says.  Just call JPMorgan’s corporate offices and lobbying firms.  They’ll tell ya!

As for Wall Street’s public relations offering on it, the part of it that the article discusses with specificity sounds to me ridiculous:

“I don’t understand Sen. Warren’s criticism of White for recusing herself where there is a conflict of interest,” said Wayne Abernathy, a top lobbyist for the American Bankers Association, referring to Warren’s criticism that White isn’t involved in SEC actions when her husband’s law firm represents the companies involved. “Is it that she would prefer that the chairman go forward and participate in enforcement cases despite the conflict of interest?”

No, actually, it’s that because her husband is a partner in one of the premier New York law firms that represent the biggest financial institutions against the SEC and Justice Department during investigations and in civil and criminal litigation. And that her recusal means that the SEC is routinely deadlocked about whether to bring charges in such cases because the remaining SEC commissioners are equally divided between Republicans and Democrats.  How convenient.

Relatedly, Roger Cohen has a terrific column today in the New York Times.  But you have to read to the end to get the relation.

Added 6/2 at 8:58 p.m.

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Jeb Bush discovers a hypothetical he’s willing to address—and assures us that he, unlike Obama, would have ensured a second Great Depression. Jeb for President!

Questioned by a voter inside a sports bar about whether there is “space” between himself and his older brother on any issues, Bush offered a clear critique.

“Are there differences? Yeah, I mean, sure,” Bush said. “I think that in Washington during my brother’s time, Republicans spent too much money. I think he could have used the veto power — he didn’t have line-item veto power, but he could have brought budget discipline to Washington, D.C. That seems kind of quaint right now given the fact that after he left, budget deficits and spending just like lit up astronomically. But having constraints on spending across the board during his time would have been a good thing.”

—  Jeb Bush: George W. spent too much money, Eli Stokols, Politico, yesterday

Okay, so Bush has now found a hypothetical that he wants to discuss.  Two hypotheticals, actually: (1) what his fiscal policies would have been between Jan. 2001 and Jan. 2009; and (2) what his fiscal policies would have been between Jan. 2009 and, oh—at what point did the federal budget deficit decline dramatically?  2013? And … what is the deficit now, as compared with the Bush years?  And what role did the Bush tax cuts play in that?

But really, since these are to separate hypotheticals, we—well, the people who actually can ask and maybe get an answer (i.e., the news media; Hillary Clinton)—should ask two sets of questions.

First, we (they) should ask what spending, specifically, Jeb Bush would not have authorized during his brother’s presidency that his brother authorized.  The military spending for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?  The massive spending on increased security after 9/11?  The Medicare Part D prescription-drug law?  The frantic stopgap finance-industry bailout that George Bush’s Treasury secretary, Henry Paulson, put together in the fall of 2008 in order to try to fend off a near-complete collapse of the banking system?

Or maybe the initial part of the auto-industry bailout, without which George Bush said the unemployment rate would have jumped to about 20%?

So, would Jeb Bush—knowing then what we know now, about the near-collapse of the banking system, and of the economy, late in his brother’s presidency, and the fact that the Iraq war went on and on and on—have supported his brother’s two massive tax cuts, mostly for the wealthy, during his first term?

Just askin’.  Although I’d bet that’s a hypothetical that he’d take even longer to answer than the five days it took him to answer the infamous Iraq one.  Maybe even as long as 18 months.

Then, of course, there’s that second hypothetical that Bush answered yesterday—the one in which he said the budget deficits at the end of his brother’s term seem “kind of quaint right now given the fact that after he left, budget deficits and spending just like lit up astronomically,” indicating that he (Jeb) thinks Obama, in the face of the collapsing economy and banking system, should have … what, exactly?

Cut funding for unemployment compensation, or capped it at its 2007 level?  Refused to allow extensions of it?  Cut funding for food stamp access, or capped it at its 2007 level?

Ended the financial industry bailout begun under his brother?

Let Detroit go bankrupt?  (That wasn’t such a winning tack for Mitt Romney.  But, I mean, ya never know. …)

Ah. Maybe he means the stimulus bill, which provided funding for job training and college for hundreds of thousands of people, especially in states hardest hit by the collapse of the economy.  States like Michigan, Ohio, Nevada, Florida.  And the direct spending from that bill, on infrastructure projects and such.  Y’know, the stuff that virtually all mainstream economists now say helped keep the unemployment rate from reaching Great Depression levels and helped start the recovery.

It’s not surprising, I suppose, that the political media played up Bush’s comments yesterday–at least in headlines and soundbites if not in the actual reportage itself by reporters who wrote full articles about the comments (see, e.g. the quote at the opening of this post, and the title given the article)–as Bush Brother v. Bush Brother.  Because of course it’s the family saga, not the specifics of the policies, that matter, right?*

And some mainstream political reporters, including a couple of them from Politico, where (unrelatedly) the above quotes were originally published, couldn’t analyze their way out of a paper bag.  And Clinton herself pretty clearly has settled on a campaign of mindless clichés, Republican soundbites about federal regulation, and cutesy gimmicks.  Does she really not understand that most small business red tape has nothing at all to do with federal regulations? Or does she just think that most people don’t know the difference between private-bank business-loan operations and federal regulation, and between state and local business regulations—a.k.a., red tape—and federal regulations?  And that no one will ask her what regulations, exactly, she thinks are holding back small-business owners and aspiring small-business owners?

On that last point, she may be right, since she has almost no direct contact with the press and no contact at all with everyday Americans who haven’t been prescreened as props.

So maybe Bernie Sanders or Martin O’Malley—or Elizabeth Warren—will question the specifics of Jeb Bush’s answers to those hypotheticals.  And the specifics of Clinton’s claim that federal regulations are hindering small business.  Like, which federal regulations, specifically?  And maybe, at least regarding Bush’s, a Dem SuperPAC that is not coordinating with Clinton and her silly campaign, will run web ads or TV ads eventually that do that.

And maybe Sanders, O’Malley, Warren, or a progressive Democratic SuperPAC will point out that the biggest hindrance to small business loan availability, by far, is not federal regulation, or even state or local regulation, but instead federal deregulation—of the banking system.  Specifically, the disastrous repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act.  And mention the incessant Republican push to repeal the Dodd-Frank bank-regulation law, and their fight against instituting the Volker Rule.

Clinton is right that “[t]oo many regulatory and licensing requirements are uneven and uncertain” and that “[i]t should not take longer to start a business in the U.S. than it does in Canada, Korea, or France.” But small-business regulation is mostly, and licensing is entirely, state and local, not federal.  So maybe she’ll get around to pointing that out and detailing what she, as president, would propose as a national fix.  In any event she should not further the Republican misrepresentation that small-business regulation and licensing is done by the federal government. With the exception of federal tax laws, including FICA tax laws, and environmental laws and worker-safety laws, “cutting the red tape that holds back small businesses and entrepreneurs” means tackling state and local, not federal, red tape.

As for my earlier dismay at Clinton’s senior policy adviser Jake Sullivan’s Fox News-ish claim that Democrats support obstacles for small businesses, and are against small businesses having easy access to loans—we don’t want them to compete with Walmart, see—I now get it.  Sadly. Blame imagined Democratic anti-small-business sentiment, and big federal gummint, rather than the deregulated banking industry, for the labyrinthine high-hurdle event that is the small-business loan situation now.

Clinton speaks of her father’s success in opening and running a very profitable small business. His business loans, though, weren’t from banks competing for profits with multinational hedge funds masquerading as JPMorgan Chase Bank, Citibank and Bank of America.

But, as for Jeb Bush, at least he’s honest.  He’s told us now that had he, instead of Obama, been president in the aftermath of his brother’s presidency, he’d have ensured a complete collapse of the economy.  Vote for Jeb!

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The Solid Information Factor

Angry Bears are, I’m sure, familiar with the 27 % crazification factor. . Although a joke, it does pop up rather often in opinion polls.

I think there might be another constant — I am tempted to call it the sanity factor or sanification factor. It is the fraction of the general public which accepts a uncontestable fact which contradicts general prejudice.

For example, what fraction of US adults correctly answered “decreased …” when asked

CBS News/New York Times Poll, Sep, 2010
So far, do you think the Obama administration has increased taxes for most Americans, decreased taxes for most Americans, or have they kept taxes the same for most Americans?

This is a statement about the Federal tax code and how it had changed between January 20 2009 and September 2010 . It is not contestable.

Another uncontestable fact is that CBO estimates of the cost of the Affordable care act have been reduced since it was signed into law. What fraction of US adults know this ?

The answer is 8% .

ARRA tax cuts (search for “taxes” between 8/15/2010 and 10/1/2010 )

ACA costs

While looking for the ARRA tax cut link I found

Respondents were asked their impression of what
“most economists who have studied it estimate”
about the economic impact of the stimulus. Only
8% thought that most economists estimate it has
saved or created several million jobs. Eighty-eight
percent thought that most economists estimated it
has only saved or created a few jobs (68%) or
even caused job losses (20%).

The problem we have is that, even if only 27% of us are crazy, only 8% of us are paying attention.

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Fracking

I live in Michigan, a state which felt in its infinite Republican legislator wisdom it was important to remove all input from the cities, counties, and townships and leave the industry unfettered with any controlling influence. For those who are worried about capitalism and free enterprise if you own the land, there is such a thing called the 5th Amendment and a “Takings” which covers denial of an owner the legitimate use of their land. Michigan Zoning and Planning Commissions do take note of “Takings”.

Some might call this NIMBY on the part of locals; but, it is important to get their input as they end up with what is left over after the Fracking Companies leave their backyards with the residue, water contamination from spills and leakage, and how the contaminants are handled. Michigan has always moves slowly to correct the issues of big business and does not live up to its motto “Pure Michigan.”

Spoko at Hullabaloo took note of one particular Commission meeting:

As noted in the article, what I have seen at commission meetings as a Planner, and with the actions of the state to deny local input and decision making:

instead of attacking the oil and gas corporations for rigging the game or pressuring the governor to pack the Nebraska Oil & Gas Conservation Commission with oil men, he blames government. Yes, the procedural tricks to keep the hearings off the record, and not subject to popular control are ‘government,’ but it takes some smart lobbyists to get those laws passed in the first place.

Pay attention to how this good old boy Fracker makes his point with one of the Commissioners. “Would you drink the water? Oh, you can’t answer questions?” I wish we had some people like this at our meetings.

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Class Struggle In The USA

Noam Scheiber has a hard hitting article on the front page of www.nytimes.com “2016 Candidates and Wealthy Are Aligned on Inequality”

The content should be familiar to AngryBear readers. A majority of Americans are alarmed by high and increasing inequality and support government action to reduce inequality. However, none of the important 2016 candidates has expressed any willingness to raise taxes on the rich. The Republicans want to cut them and Clinton (and a spokesperson) dodge the question.

Rich individuals (who are willing to be interviewed) also express concern about inequality but generally oppose using higher taxes on the rich to fight it. Scheiber is very willing to bluntly state his guess (and everyone’s) that candidates are eager to please the rich, because they spend much of their time begging the rich for contributions.

No suprise to anyone who has been paying attention except for the fact that it is on the front page of www.nytimes.com and the article is printed in the business section not the opinion section. Do click the link — it is brief, to the point, solid, alarming and a must read.

I clicked one of the links and found weaker evidence than I expected for Scheiber’s view (which of course I share

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Good Reads on a Sunday while sipping your Coffee or Tea

“Two Cheers for Corruption” and Bill Black’s Response

Plunder has become a way of life for many elite Corporate CEOs, Bill Black argues in response to Deirdre McCloskey supposition:

But corruption can be efficient and just, too. It can be good for efficiency if, say, bribes are paid to get around bad laws (such as most of the building codes in American cities) or to smooth the course of sales by U.S. businesses to the Egyptian military. And the turkey at Christmas supplied by Tammany Hall justly helped the poor—if they voted right.

Bill Black reviews the reviewer Deirdre McCloskey’s Wall Street Journal supposition of corruption being beneficial to the economy overall as it short circuits the law and government agencies by promoting economic growth. It is only ethical behavior and ethics, which can change the corporate culture. Firing back, Bill Black cites Frédéric Bastiat;

When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”,

and takes apart McCloskey’s review potentially (Deirdre denies it) favoring corporate bribery, fraud, and extortion through deregulation removing laws governing corporate behavior, desupervision by government watch dogs, and de facto decriminalization of actions by corporations and management. Without which or the subversion of such creates the environment for a corrupt corporate culture. A good back and forth by Bill and Deirdre in this and other posts on Bill’s site and worthy of a Sunday morning coffee.

Would a Car Which Can Read Speed Limit Signs Go Over in Michigan?

The speed-limiting tech can be activated via the steering wheel and briefly overridden by pressing firmly on the accelerator. Ford suggests the facility will help drivers avoid fines and could reduce the number of accidents.

Hmmm, many drivers in Michigan have no problem doing 80+ MPH on 96, 23, and 696, etc. marked at 70 MPH. The state was going to increase the speed limit to 80 MPH because of the claim the majority of drivers do 80 MPH. I guess I creep along at 72 -75 MPH. This more an effort to increase road revenue from gasoline purchases as cars and light trucks are less efficient the faster they go.

However, there is a plan afoot to beam speed limits to your car’s computer thereby giving control of the speed to the car rather than the driver. I can see a whole new industry developing, computer chips which would not be impacted by state speed-limit-beams. “No one is going to impede my speed on the highway!”

The new “Ford technology will become available to the public this August, when it launches the second generation of its S-Max cars in Europe.” This represents just a start in new auto-technology. It will progress to being able to identify humans and bike riders as well as animals in the way and apply the brakes as well as other areas such as heart attacks.

Banks may Not Donate to the Dems?

Banks are having temper tantrums over Senator Elizabeth Warren declaring banks should be broken up as they are a threat to the economy . . . no surprise there! The most recent compromise with the budget removed the barrier to banks making riskier investments and having them tied directly to the main bank. Dodd-Frank originally forced banks to spin those investments off to a 3rd party company to whichthe banks had no financial liability. Pres. Obama signed the legislation as developed by Jamie Dimon and staff allowing those investments to be associated directly to the banks. Hence, Main Street is liable for bank gambling again.

Citigroup, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs (remember when Goldman Sachs was just an investment house?) and Bank of America recently had a meeting to discuss way in which to urge the Democrats to be kinder and gentler to TBTF. GS became a bank when it was poised to fall on its own sword from risky ventures and never went back as the Fed makes cheaper loans available to them now.

Senator Warren has openly stated Citigroup is one “banking-company” to be broken up under Dodd-Frank. She also blocked the appointment of banking friend Antonio Weiss which has angered bankers.

Suggested donation amounts by banks to political Senatorial candidates are said to be as low as $15,000.

Reducing the Prison Population . . . Duh!!!

In 1994, Newt Gingrich’s model legislation “Taking Back Our Streets Act” and Biden’s “Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act” put into play a doubling of the prison population of which almost half are non-violent which I wrote about here; One in 31 in 2010.

Today Gingrich writes:

There is an urgent need to address the astronomical growth in the prison population, with its huge costs in dollars and lost human potential,”

I would wonder if it is more the former than the later? An odd consortium made up on Repubs, Dems, the ACLU, and the Koch Brothers(?) besides Gingrich are looking into reducing the prison population by 50% and agreeing it needs to be reduced.

I would suspect it is more the rising cost to house a prisoner in state and federal prisons which is ~$30,000 and growing. I would also suspect the Koch Brothers (they have a concern about prisoners?) and the law and order crowd could give two hoots about “lost human potential.” Prisons are typically placed in out of the way places like Muskegon, Kingsley, and Iona Michigan and employ the locals as guards and in other occupations. Close a prison and you affect the local economy and that costs votes in traditional Rep districts. I also suspect this prison population is getting older and the government has to take care of them beyond yanking a tooth needing a new filling. Those interested in reducing the prison population are more concerned about the aging of the prison population, the need for healthcare, and the associated costs.

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Why didn’t Clinton set up two email addresses for herself, one for her personal emails, the other for her work emails, on @clintonemail.com? Just wondering.*

In many ways, [Clinton] did a good job at her press conference on Tuesday. The part of her speech talking about her daughter’s wedding and her mother’s funeral arrangements being off limits, that certainly resonated. She absolutely was right when she said, “No one wants their personal e-mails made public.”

Hillary Clinton Is Turning Into Richard Nixon and Bill Belichick, Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone, today

One thing that surprises me about analyses of Clinton’s press conference is the apparent consensus among pundits, including some liberal ones who are not supportive of her, that she was effective in gaining empathy for her desire to keep her personal emails from public view, so that no one wonders why, then, she (unlike most people who work for organizations) chose to commingle her personal and work emails not just on one server but in a single email account. She was, after all, absolutely right when she said, “No one wants their personal e-mails made public.” Ergo, ….

No dispute whatsoever: No one wants their personal e-mails made public.  Which is why (presumably) most people who work for organizations—private or government—take pains to separate their private correspondence from their work correspondence, by using their work email account mostly* for work-related correspondence, and their personal account entirely or almost entirely for personal emails.

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