Monday, January 31, 2022
The charts above are from the CBS News / YouGov Poll -- done between January 12th and 14th of a nationwide sample of 2,094 adults, with a 2.5 point margin of error.
The Equal Rights Amendment (giving women rights equal to those of men) has finally been ratified by the appropriate number of states. That should make it officially the 28th Amendment to the United States Constitution. But sadly, now there is a dispute over how long it took for enough states to ratify it -- and some say that means it is not valid.
Here is just a small part of how Jesse Wegman describes the controversy in The New York Times:
Even if you are a political junkie, there’s a good chance you didn’t realize that the United States Constitution grew 58 words longer this week.
Those words, which begin, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex,” are the text of the Equal Rights Amendment. Section 3 of the amendment states that it takes effect two years after its ratification, which happened on Jan. 27, 2020, when Virginia became the 38th state to sign on. By its own terms, then, the 28th Amendment went into force on Thursday. American women are, at long last, equal to men in the eyes of the law. Hallelujah.
Or maybe not.
New printings of the Constitution will not include a 28th Amendment. The Supreme Court will not treat it as part of the nation’s fundamental law. There will be no command from on high that women and men must be treated the same. And yet on Thursday, President Biden called on Congress “to act immediately to pass a resolution recognizing” that the E.R.A. has been properly ratified and is part of the Constitution. What’s going on?
The argument that the E.R.A. is now the law of the land is straightforward and compelling. Under the explicit terms of Article V of the Constitution, an amendment “shall be valid to all intents and purposes” when two-thirds of both houses of Congress approve it, followed by three-quarters of the states. The E.R.A. easily passed Congress in the early 1970s, and it has been ratified by 38 states, or just over three-quarters of 50.
“The Constitution is clear: You need to do two things. We did it,” Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York, a longtime E.R.A. proponent, told me. Indeed, no amendment that has cleared Article V’s two high bars has ever been excluded from the Constitution — until now.
The technical reason for this is that the archivist of the United States, David Ferriero, has declined to certify the Equal Rights Amendment, despite a federal law requiring him to do so whenever an amendment has satisfied “the provisions of the Constitution.”
His refusal is based on a 2020 memo by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which provides legal advice to the executive branch. The memo contended that the E.R.A. is no longer valid because it failed to meet the seven-year deadline that Congress initially set and then, when the ratification effort fell three states short, extended until 1982. (The last three states — Nevada, Illinois and Virginia — all ratified after 2016, spurred by the election of Donald Trump.) The O.L.C. memo also noted that five states that approved the amendment later tried to back out by rescinding their ratifications. As a result of the missed deadline, the memo said, the E.R.A. “has expired and is no longer pending before the states.” If its supporters want it ratified, they need to start over.
The supporters’ retort: The Constitution says not a word about either deadlines or rescissions. It says two-thirds of Congress and three-quarters of the states, nothing more. In a 2012 letter to Ms. Maloney, Mr. Ferriero appeared to agree with this interpretation. As soon as at least 38 states have ratified an amendment, he wrote, the National Archives publishes the amendment along with his certification “and it becomes part of the Constitution without further action by the Congress.” He also said he did not consider any of the rescissions to be valid.
But following the 2020 Justice Department memo, Mr. Ferriero balked, triggering our current constitutional conundrum. Complicating matters further, the O.L.C. on Wednesday issued a new memo that called into question the reasoning of the 2020 memo and stated that “whether the E.R.A. is part of the Constitution will be resolved not by an O.L.C. opinion but by the courts and Congress.”
The E.R.A. has thus become the Schrödinger’s Cat of amendments — simultaneously part of and not part of the Constitution.
There is much more, and it's well worth reading.
Sunday, January 30, 2022
The charts above are from the Associated Press / NORC Poll -- done between December 2nd and 7th of a nationwide sample of 1,089 adults, with a 4.1 point margin of error.
It shows the difference in issues considered important by Democrats, Independents, and Republicans.
Since 1980, income for the richest Americans has grown by nearly 400%. Meanwhile, worker salaries have barely kept up with inflation, and some workers have fallen behind in buying power. This dilemma must be solved. One solution would be higher wages. Another would be for businesses should give employees a share of profits.
Here is part of what Robert Reich has to say about profit-sharing:
In light of the news this week that the economy has been growing at a record rate (and corporate profits are also hitting record highs, the stock market notwithstanding), several of you have asked me specifically what can be done to spread the benefits of economic growth. . . .
One idea is an old one that was tried with great success but is now all but forgotten. It’s called profit-sharing. It emerged from the tumultuous period when America shifted from farm to factory. In 1916, Sears, Roebuck and Co., then one of America’s largest corporations with over 30,000 employees, announced that it was embarking on a major experiment — profit-sharing. The firm gave workers shares of stock, making them part owners.
Shortly thereafter, the Bureau of Labor Statistics issued a report on profit-sharing, suggesting it as a way to reduce the “frequent and often violent disputes” between employers and workers. Profit-sharing gave workers an incentive to be more productive since the success of the company meant higher profits would be shared. It also reduced the need for layoffs during recessions because payroll costs dropped as profits did.
Profit-sharing proved a huge success. Other companies that joined the profit-sharing movement included Procter & Gamble, Pillsbury, Kodak, and U.S. Steel.
By the 1950s, Sears workers had accumulated enough stock that they owned a quarter of the company. And by 1968, the typical Sears salesperson could retire with a nest egg worth well over $1 million (in today’s dollars).
There was a downside. When profits went down, workers’ paychecks would shrink. And if a company went bankrupt, workers would lose all their investments in it.
The best profit-sharing plans have been in the form of cash bonuses that employees can invest however they wish, on top of predictable wages. At Lincoln Electric, for instance, which has had profit-sharing since 1934, employees receive a profit-sharing cash bonus worth, on average, 40 percent of their annual base earnings.
But profit-sharing with employees has all but disappeared in large corporations, which since the start of the 1980s — and the advent of corporate “raiders” (now private-equity managers) — have focused on maximizing shareholder returns. Sears phased out its profit-sharing plan in the 1970s (and filed for bankruptcy protection in 2018).
Yet profit-sharing with top executives has soared — as big Wall Street banks, hedge funds, private-equity funds, and high-tech companies have doled out huge amounts of stock and stock options to their MVPs.
The result? Share prices have gone into the stratosphere while wages have barely risen. Researchers have found that increases in share prices before the late 1980s could be accounted for by overall economic growth. Since then, a large portion of the dramatic increases in share prices have come out of what used to go into wages. . . .
America’s trend toward higher profits, higher share prices, mounting executive pay, but near stagnant wages is unsustainable, economically and politically. How to encourage profit sharing? Corporate taxes should be lower on corporations that share profits with all their workers, and higher on those that don't.
Sharing profits with all workers is a logical and necessary step to making the system work for the many, not the few.
Saturday, January 29, 2022
These charts reflect the results of a new Marquette University Law School Poll -- done between January 10th and 21st of a nationwide sample of 1,000 adults, with a 4 point margin of error.
How is the economy doing? If you just looked at the polls, you might think it's not doing well, because many people think President Biden is not doing well on economic matters. But that is simply not true. The truth is that the economy is doing great. The GDP for 2021 was the highest since 1984 (and far higher than at any time during Trump's tenure). And 6.4 million jobs were created in 2021 -- a record (and again, far higher than any year under Trump).
Here's how Steve Benen describes it at MSNBC.com:
As a presidential candidate in 2016, Donald Trump made bold predictions about the kind of economic growth the United States would see if he were elected. Americans would celebrate, the Republican said, as annual GDP growth reached 4 percent for the first time in decades.
It was among the most jarring of Trump's broken promises. Even before the pandemic, GDP growth in Trump's first three years failed to reach 3 percent.
But as it turns out, the U.S. economy was able to reach growth rates unseen in a generation, but it happened under President Joe Biden. The Associated Press reported this morning:
The nation's gross domestic product — its total output of goods and services — expanded 5.7% in 2021. It was the strongest calendar-year growth since a 7.2% surge in 1984 after a previous recession. The economy ended the year by growing at an unexpectedly brisk 6.9% annual pace from October through December, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.
Not only is this the strongest annual growth in 37 years, it's also the second strongest since 1966.
By any fair measure, this is excellent news that exceeded expectations. In fact, a year ago, none of the major forecasters were projecting growth this strong in the United States. Domestic growth even outpaced China's economic growth in 2021 for the first time in decades.
All of this, of course, comes on the heels of related news that the economy also created 6.4 million jobs in Biden's first year in the White House — roughly in line with the number of jobs created over the first three years of Trump's presidency combined.
The economy is obviously doing very well. So, why doesn't the general public know that?
The answer is that our economic system is not equal in its distribution of the wealth created by a good economy. When the economy is bad, everyone suffers. But when the economy is doing good, the rich and corporations are benefitted while most Americans are not.
This is because of the "trickle-down" economics that was instituted by the Republicans in the 1980's. They sold the country on the notion that when the rich and corporations do well, everyone does well -- because the rich and corporations will trickle that added wealth down to ordinary Americans.
The problem is that this simply doesn't work. Instead of anything trickling down, the bank accounts of the rich and corporations just grew fatter.
This does not have to be this way, and it didn't used to be. Prior to 1980, workers got a share of increased productivity. Now they don't -- making the rich much richer, and increasing the wealth and income gap between the rich and everyone else.
This must be changed. A good start would be to increase the minimum wage, strengthen unions (and make it easier to create and join them), and make sure the rich and corporations pay their fair share of taxes. But Republicans won't allow any of that to happen. They must be voted out of power to create a fairer economy.
They will whine that this is socialist income redistribution. But remember, income is always being redistributed in a capitalist economy. It's just that the current economic rules (instituted by the Republicans) have the money being redistributed from most Americans to the rich. That is backward.
In our economy, money naturally flows upward -- it does not trickle-down. And when the working and middle classes do well, everyone benefits (including the rich).
It is time to institute a fairer economic system, and the fist step toward doing that is to vote the Republicans out of power.
Friday, January 28, 2022
It shows that Krysten Sinema could not win a Democratic primary if it was held now. She trails her most likely opponent, Ruben Gallego, by a whopping 58 points.
She's not up for re-election until 2024, so she has some time to rehabilitate her image. But if she continues down the path she's currently on (valuing the filibuster over voting rights), she's going to be a one term senator.
The Labor Department released its weekly unemployment statistics on Thursday. It showed that about 260,000 workers filed for unemployment benefits in the week ending on January 22nd. That's about 30,000 less than filed in the previous week.
Here is the official statement from the Labor Department:
In the week ending January 22, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 260,000, a decrease of 30,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 4,000 from 286,000 to 290,000. The 4-week moving average was 247,000, an increase of 15,000 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 1,000 from 231,000 to 232,000.
Some people, even some Democrats, are saying that President Biden should move to the "Center". But the center is just the status quo. We need more than that.
The following is the opinion of former Labor Secretary Robert Reich on this question:
I just heard Joe Manchin say Biden should move to the “center.” Political consultant Mark Penn wrote in the New York Times that “Biden should follow the lead of Bill Clinton, and move to the center.”
Duh. Who wants to be on the fringe? Political careers are imperiled by labels like “left-winger” (or “right-winger”). The public feels safer with a president who proclaims total commitment to the middle. FDR always sought to position himself as a centrist. So did Nixon (remember the “silent majority?”). Barry Goldwater’s “extremism in defense of liberty” helped cost him the White House.
But this is just positioning. Visionary leaders of America have always understood that the “center” is a fictitious place lying somewhere south of thoughtless adherence to the status quo.
The center? The base? The swing? The suburbs? Pollsters and political consultants like Mark Penn reap fortunes out of such amorphous bullshit. The words substitute for thought. Tactics emerge from thin air.
There’s a simpler way: Look at who’s losing ground in the economy. They’re the ones who are up for grabs. Lead them by giving them the means to do better — and a reason to vote for you.
Thursday, January 27, 2022
The charts above are from the new Monmouth University Poll -- done between January 20th and 24th of a national sample of 794 adults, with a 3.5 point margin of error.
The poll shows that President Biden's job approval has gone down in the last year, but it is still about 20 points higher than that of Congress. And his programs are still very popular -- the Infrastructure Bill and the Build Back Better Bill.
From the YouGov Poll
The following is part of a thought-provoking article by Maia Szalavitz in The New York Times:
By decriminalizing personal-use drug possession, Oregon has become the first state to acknowledge that it is impossible to treat addiction as a disease and a crime simultaneously. This kind of model is urgently needed in the United States, where street fentanyl is the leading cause of death among people ages 18 to 45, and where sending people to jail for using drugs has failed to prevent the worst addiction and overdose crisis in American history.
Criminalization supercharges addiction stigma, and stigma is one of the biggest obstacles to recovery. Stigma is such a major roadblock that most organizations working to combat addictionhave large initiatives focused on addressing it. “I think the biggest killer out there is stigma,” former U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams once said in a speech about opioid addiction. “Stigma keeps people in the shadows. Stigma keeps people from coming forward and asking for help.”
Try as experts might to destigmatize addiction through conferences and calls for the use of more respectful language, stigma and a criminalization approach to drugs cannot be divorced. One of the fundamental goals of making drug possession into a crime is, after all, to deter this behavior by shaming and punishing lawbreakers.
To reduce stigma and improve the addiction crisis, drug policy must be liberated from the idea that without criminal penalties, no one would ever quit drugs. Because far from spurring recovery, arrest, incarceration and having a criminal record can exacerbate drug problems. . . .
over 80 percent of jails and prisons do not allow the use of methadone and buprenorphine, the only medications proved to reduce the death rate from opioid use disorder. Research shows that experiences like being denied medication while locked up deter people from seeking further help. Studies also find that drug incarceration increases the risk of overdose, suicide and disease. States with more drug arrests also do not have less drug use.
Such data has led Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of the federal government’s National Institute on Drug Abuse, which funds most of the world’s addiction research, to advocate decriminalization to improve drug policy. This is the first time I’ve heard such unequivocal support from that agency.
“The research is unequivocal that putting someone who is addicted into prison or jail actually exacerbates their condition and puts them at much greater risk for relapse,” she said. . . .
It is too early to evaluate the effectiveness of Oregon’s approach. The new law went into effect last February, and about 90 percent of the funding for recovery services will reach providers only in the next few months. But in 2021 drug possession arrests dropped by about 75 percent compared with the number in 2019. . . .
Portugal, which is a model for Oregon’s changes, decriminalized drug possession in 2001 and expanded treatment. Heroin addiction rates, H.I.V. infections and overdose deaths declined there, while youth drug use rates stayed the same as in comparable countries with no policy change. American politicians would be singing hosannas if U.S. crime and drug use rates ever fell to the low levelsnow seen in Portugal.
As a result, Massachusetts and Vermont now have decriminalization bills under consideration, and activists are working toward a California initiative in 2024.
Supporters of these efforts know that if America wants to solve the overdose crisis, it must start treating addiction as the medical disorder that it is. The first step is to follow Oregon’s lead and stop treating it as a crime.