GOP Candidate Jeff Johnson and the Middle Class

Jeff Johnson

Jeff Johnson

Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson had a “oops” moment when he stumbled over a question that most beauty pageant contestants could handle with ease.  Johnson is campaigning on a pledge to work for the middle class, but when asked how he would define middle class he answered “I have no clue.”

Some people have come to his defense arguing that what “middle class” means is different from person to person depending on one’s situation.

That isn’t much of a defense, especially for someone who pretends to champion the middle class.  Inherent in that campaign promise should be some idea of what he supports.  Not having a clue raises a number of questions, not least of them is whether or not he really has any ideas at all.

Johnson’s Tea Party beliefs — anti-union, anti-government, anti-minimum wage, among others — are not positions that benefit the middle class.  For that matter they really are not strong positions for anyone, regardless of class.  Those are his beliefs.  In a campaign when Minnesota is on the right track, abandoning the good work that is helping Minnesota will be a tough sell.  Whatever Jeff Johnson might decide defines the middle class, his ideas a wrong in any case.

A Tea Party Republican is not what Minnesota needs.


Supreme Court Upholds Texas Strict Voter ID Law

United States Supreme CourtIt requires a very poor parsing of the Second Amendment, but let’s pretend that the Second Amendment does indeed guarantee an individual right to own guns.  Doesn’t the Constitution also guarantee individuals the right to vote?  The Voter’s Right Act was meant to remove any questions, but apparently questions remain.

In the case of guns, Republicans mostly argue against any regulation of gun ownership, including laws requiring ID to purchase firearms.  This opposition is part of the party’s political platform.  Republicans view this as an attack on the right to own fire arms.

They seem to have no problem whatsoever when we similarly attack the right to vote.  In this case, voting is treated more like a privilege than a right.  The reason for the GOP attack on voting rights is unclear, but it seems to be justified by the ruse of fraud.

There is no fraud, at least non in any meaningful sense, statistically or otherwise.  It is a clear and present non-issue.

The matter of guns, on the other hand…well a quick scan of this weekend’s news shows a number of gun crimes and death.  It happens every hour in this country, 24/7 without stop.  Here there is a clear and very present danger to the rights of people to enjoy their security, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness.  Where’s the outrage?

Apparently outrage and stupidity are incompatible.

Clearly what this country needs once and for all is a simple constitution amendment guaranteeing the right to vote for all.  (Don’t hold your breath.)

But let’s go back to the disgrace that is our Supreme Court.  To say that the institution is a partisan mess is being kind.  Several justices get away with their crimes because voters are too ignorant to understand the partisan abuse these justice inflict upon the laws and rights of the American public.  These are not justices, these are partisan pawns at best, ruthless hacks at worse.  (I judge hacks.  These men know what they are doing.)

Our rights are being robbed by the very men appointed to protect them.  They have names:  Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and chief cheat Roberts with too-often Kennedy joining to endorse the bastardized court.  Kennedy is a weak coward.  The others disgrace their oath.

Pay attention to the partisan hypocrisy.  If you have any sense of true justice and constitution rights, you’ll keep these corrupt people out of power.  And it all starts with stopping the Republican Party.

Scott Walker Wants to Govern Minnesota Too!

Scott Walker

Scott Walker…or is it Jeff Johnson?

Republican candidate for Minnesota Governor, Jeff Johnson, famously announced that he plans to “go all Scott Walker on Minnesota.”  Not only does that sound rather thuggish — a poor choice of words, perhaps? — but it isn’t at all inspiring.

Is Jeff Johnson merely a puppet or does he have ideas of his own?

Being patient and nice when dealing with empty men like this is no easy task.  These people ask you to trust them to manage your state.  Their ideas matter.

One is tempted to use an apt word like “idiot” and move on.  But out of respect for the office of the governor and for a sense of political decorum, I won’t call Johnson an idiot, as much as that description might fit.  I simply won’t.

Voters, on the other hand, if you support a candidate like Johnson, what are you thinking?  Politics being what they are today tend to attract the crazy fringe, especially the tea-drunk conservative right, to public campaigns.  These interests do not align with your interests and perhaps there is no better proof than Jeff Johnson modeling on Scott Walker.

Continue reading

Microsoft Satya Nadella Explains Achievement in the United States

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, is catching heat for telling women they should not ask for raises, but trust Karma.  Let me explain why that makes sense and why Nadella is a fool for saying so.

Most CEOs are who they are out of chance.  Talent and perseverance have something to do with what they achieved, but only so much.  Reaching the top is mostly about timing and luck.  They are at the door when it opens…over and over again.  Nothing more special than that.

Of course he is sexist in calling out only women on this fact about corporate achievement in America — real workers struggle at the expense of the lucky — but maybe Satya Nadella, unlike so many other CEOs who have little more than shit for brains, has inadvertently exposed an important fact about corporate success in America.  It isn’t what you do or ask for that matters, it is karma.

Nadella’s mistake, of course, is saying anything at all.  His comment proves he is a fool.  He doesn’t understand his own faith and fortune.  But in that, at least, there is something honest.


Jeff Johnson Thinks Minnesota Doesn’t Need a Gasoline Tax Because…

In last night’s debate with Governor Mark Dayton and Hannah Nicollet in Moorhead, Minnesota, Jeff Johnson ridiculed Dayton for tackling our transportation problem head on.  Dayton supports an increase in the gasoline tax, a tax that, in real terms, has changed very little over the years.  Johnson said it was “nuts” to think we had to raise taxes again to “have enough money to fill potholes.”

Really?   If we don’t raise taxes, where is the money coming from?  Ask Johnson…Exactly where would he find the money to make up a $6.5 billion shortfall in transportation funding?

It is this magical thinking on the part of the GOP — one that does not understand that repairs, maintenance, and expansion of roads and services costs money — that gets us in trouble when Republicans steer the state’s fiscal agenda.

No one disagrees that our roads are in terrible shape and quickly getting worse.  This is the result of decades of underfunding our transportation system.  Underfunding, not over taxing, is the problem.  Poor roads and congested highways hurt commerce and add costs to daily activities.  If we really want to capitalize on our economic opportunities, we need to invest in the infrastructure that will support that activity.

Dayton gets it.  Johnson — and Hannah Nicollet, too — don’t get it.

(NB…In 1975 a gallon of gas cost 59 cents and  the tax was 9 cents a gallon.  That’s a 15% tax on the cost per gallon.  In 2014, the average cost per gallon as been around $3.39 and the tax is 28 cents a gallon.   That is an 8% tax on a gallon of gas, a little less than half of what it was in 1975.)

Wealth and Income Inequality is a Political Choice in the United States

This is not the solution.

This is not the solution.

The American economy is creating trillions of dollars in new wealth and yet for most Americans that wealth means nothing.  They enjoy little if any of it.  But someone might tell you that those people did not create the wealth.  We are so confused by the rhetoric of the so-called “job creators” that we seem to think that the people who own and finance business create wealth.  This is a myth that has been exposed as a greedy and dangerous lie for decades.  Unfortunately, many of us still embrace it.

Economies, not people, create jobs.  Middle- and lower-income individuals and families are a key part of a job-creating economy.  If demand does not exist in the economy, not even the most economically naive “job creator” will build a widget factory to sell things people don’t want or cannot buy.

Things like tax breaks and other incentives only work if that break will give a meaningful advantage in an otherwise equally competitive market.  However in the best of cases, incentives are offered as an act of desperation or in response to economic extortion.  In worst case — and more typically — these breaks are given as a matter of ideological preference, regardless of how misguided.

While the lion’s share of this poor policy comes from the poor leadership and policies of America’s Republican party, a wing of the well-to-do Democratic elite (sometimes mistakenly called center-left Democrats) push for these asset hoarding policies.  These are dangerously destructive political decisions that are causing deep and extended damage to our economy and our social order.

Continue reading

What Else Does Mike McFadden Know Nothing About? Student Debt.

Mike McFadden

Mike McFadden

Today on WCCO Chad Hartman asked Mike McFadden about student loan debt.  Good question from Hartman.  We don’t hear enough about this national problem and its effects on the economy.  A great question for a political candidate to tackle as well.  Unfortunately, McFadden wasn’t up to the task.  In a long, rambling non-answer, McFadden demonstrated that he has no meaningful solution.

What was McFadden’s solution?  Better jobs and a lower federal deficit, of course;  knee-jerk precursors to a familiar GOP talking points.  Reduce the federal deficit and free up job creators and the problem, regardless of what it is, will be solved.

Let’s start with the federal deficit.

Ignore for the moment the fact that a lower deficit isn’t necessarily a cure for our economy.  That concept is too complicated for the narrow right to grasp.  Right or wrong, the idea of reducing the deficit while reducing the burden of student debt sound like good ideas.  Right?  The problem here is how McFadden seems to frame the deficit-based solution.  He was asked about student debt and he said we have to reduce the deficit.  Therefore the two are tied together in McFadden’s solution.  Reduce the deficit and then we’ll talk student debt.

It is fair to draw that conclusion, right?  Or what does one have to do with the other?  He certainly would not say let’s reduce student debt so greater economic growth can help reduce our deficit, would he?  No, most certainly not (McFadden is a Republican), although that is a legitimate argument.

It is important to note that when measured in terms of GDP, the deficit today is less than half of what it was in 2008.  Nonetheless Republicans consistently block efforts to restructure student loan debt.  Therefore McFadden’s solution — if he is serious — is out of step with the established GOP, which would be refreshing if true.  It is hard to see even a moderate Republican tackling debt relief if we were to somehow reduce our deficit.

Student Loan Debt BubbleFirst off, what is “reduce”?  McFadden wouldn’t know.  And what cost — yes, cost — would be needed to “reduce” the deficit.  The cure might be worst than the disease.  And these quid pro quo solutions at best delay the solution.  Usually, if the promised solutions is delivered at all, it is compromised.  Decades of cuts have done little to alleviate the problems of the middle class.

In the end, student loan debt has nothing to do with the federal deficit.  Tying the two together as a “solution” is ridiculous.  However chances are good that McFadden doesn’t fully understand this.  Thus far he has given us no reason to think he is strong on policy.

Let’s move on to the other part of McFadden’s answer that evaded the student loan debt question.  That answer was better jobs.  Of course!  For Republican, there is no problem that cannot be fixed by jobs.

Students want better jobs, McFadden argues.  Ok, fine.  Who doesn’t?  He reminds us that wages are flat and, yes, this is true.  (It would be refreshing if a Republican took this seriously.)  One presumes, therefore, that McFadden thinks students leaving college should be finding more higher paying jobs.  Or maybe graduates should just get paid more.  It’s unclear.  And it is unclear how the jobs-loan nexus exists in McFadden’s mind.

Maybe he tackles the problem from the cost side.  College is more expensive and that leads to students taking out more loans.  Therefore the solution is higher paying jobs so they can pay off those loans.

student-loan-Finance-FoxMcFadden complains that the cost of education is increasing, but that sounded more like an attack on higher education than a statement of fact.  Nonetheless it is true that the costs of higher education continue to increase, but a good part of that cost is directly due to cuts to aid to higher education.  Higher education has never been cheap.  Until recently it has largely been a non-profit pursuit with high opportunity costs and risks.  The economics of public higher education were supported by substantial public support.  We invested in higher education because the benefits contributed to a stronger, more dynamic and innovated society and economy.  In recent decades, however, we have chosen to invest less and less.  That adds to student costs.

But if better jobs are the answer the rising costs of higher education, however that might happen, it begs the question:  How would Mike McFadden generate those better jobs?

McFadden says he knows how to create jobs.  Maybe he does at the corporate level.  I don’t know.  But the nation is not a corporation and the two have different priorities and finances.  If there is one strong argument against business credentials being sufficient for public office, that’s it.  Government is not business.

For example McFadden’s says students and parents need to know the value of education before getting started.   Specifically schools need to tell them what the education will cost and what kind of job market graduates will find when they finish school.  That’s fine, but what someone does when he or she is 25 often is world’s apart from what that person is doing when he or she is 50.  Careers develop long after a student leaves school.

In any case, all of these “answers” evade the direct question:  What would you do about student loan debt?  McFadden acknowledged that student loan debt tops $1.2 trillion in the United States now.  None of his “solutions” address this.  The problem is just one for current students, it is one for former students of all ages.  An increasing percentage of student loan debt is held by Americans in their retirement years.  It is a huge problem with enormous implications for our economy today and in the future.  It is a national burden as much as it is a personal one.  McFadden fails to address this problem directly and it is not clear how is so-called solution will correct it.

Republicans have had decades to address the problems of rising education costs and the loans that trended with those costs, but Republicans did nothing.  It is true, both Democrats and Republicans eased requirements for loans and increased loan limits.  In some situations Democrats joined Republicans is cutting public funding for higher education.  However in recent history, Republicans stand adamant about a dangerous mix of funding cuts and blocking loan forbearance and reform.

Mike McFadden gave us no reason to think he would be any different.  He had a chance to answer this question and he dodged it.