Sher Watts Spooner

Inequality in the Trump economy just keeps getting worse

Every month when the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its monthly jobs report, Donald Trump and Republicans crow about the economy and the low unemployment rate. And every month, too many Americans wonder when they’re going to start feeling the effects of that “great economy.”

As a story from HuffPost put it:

The counties with the biggest jumps in poverty ranged across the political and demographic spectrum: from 97% white and solidly Republican-voting Carter County in Kentucky to black-majority, Democratic Bullock County in Alabama.

Most of the biggest increases were in areas both rural and Southern. Those areas generally had residents who lacked job training and skills and industries that suffered downturns.

Those industries included the coal industry in many of those poverty-stricken areas. Coal output has decreased by 27% in the last five years, and 50 coal power plants have closed across the country since Trump became president. That’s good news for the environment, but bad news for those counting on coal mining for a paycheck. It’s also a betrayal of one of Trump’s main promises in coal country.

But the unemployment rate is only 3.5%. That’s got to be great, right? Actually, considering the kinds of jobs available—and the fact that wage growth is fairly stagnant—not so much. And this isn’t a recent phenomenon.

The U.S. Private Sector Job Quality Index, or JQI, is a new economic indicator developed by academic economists that measures desirable higher-wage/higher-hour jobs versus lower-wage/lower-hour jobs. Job quality is defined as the weekly dollar-income a job generates for an employee. A paper defining the system and explaining why the detailed indicator is a more accurate reading of the economy is available at this link.

The paper’s conclusion reiterates the fact that U.S. manufacturing jobs have “declined dramatically in the last three decades,” and replacement jobs are poorer-paying, service-sector jobs with no guarantee of job stability or even a full work week. There also has been a “massive loss of market share, revenue, and jobs to foreign manufacturers.”

An important question surrounding the decline of manufacturing is whether those leaving manufacturing are transitioning into better or worse jobs. …

With other countries targeting what they see as high-value industries, the US is not just in danger of, but actually has been, forced into greater reliance on low-value, low-growth industries, offering lower-wage, lower-hours jobs. The success of superstar companies like Google or Apple or Pfizer should not blind us to the fact that today Leisure & Hospitality is our largest sector with 14.7 million non-management employees. It’s a sector that pays  such workers $16.58 an hour and the average worker works just  25.8 hours a week — resulting in average weekly income of $428. ...

When all that a country has left is the domestic manufacture of processed foodstuffs, you end up with a lot of unhealthy and unwealthy workers who are in dire shortage of security, much less dignity. A republic that offers no better than this cannot long endure.

“When U.S. unemployment is at a 50-year low, why do so many people have trouble finding work with decent pay and adequate predictable hours?” asks a story from Forbes on the JQI. Answer: Few non-specialized good jobs are available.

Tens of millions of working-aged Americans are still not formally employed and have no apparent interest in sending out a resume. If the job market is so hot, why are so many people sitting on the sidelines? One frequently cited explanation is the growing proportion of older generation workers. Now we have another more important element. Workers don’t re-enter the workforce because many of the jobs themselves are rotten. …

Many looked to the category of jobs known as Professional and Technical Services as a path for the economy to “move to higher ground.” Professional and Technical Services were supposed to offer high pay, growth in employee numbers, and an opportunity to increase productivity. In fact, the JQI does report that employment is up 41% in this sector and the average weekly pay for non-managerial workers of $1,575 exceeds the pay of many other industries. But that’s not enough to rescue what the economy lost in manufacturing.

To recap:

  • Many of the jobs available are poorer, with stagnant wages and little job stability or full employment guarantees.
  • The tax bills of many big companies ended up being even smaller than what was anticipated in the GOP tax scam law. This has caused a ballooning federal deficit that could reach $1 trillion in 2020.
  • Trump’s trade war with China led to a loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs and higher prices. No matter what he claims about a new agreement, it’s not a done deal, and it’s only “Phase One” of a partial deal with few specifics released.
  • After Trump’s tariffs against China, China retaliated with tariffs that were devastating to U.S. farmers. Despite $28 billion in farm subsidies in the last two years (many of which went to large agriculture suppliers, some foreign-owned), farm bankruptcies surged, especially in the Midwest.
  • The record $14 trillion in debt that Americans owe is spread across mortgages, auto loans, credit cards, student loans, and other forms of debt. By themselves, student loans make up $1.5 trillion of the debt total. And medical costs are still growing faster than income—medical costs have gone up 33% since 2009.

It doesn’t matter if the stock market had its best annual gain in six years. When only those at the top are benefiting from those stock market gains—not every worker has a 401(k) or fat IRA account—then there’s no trickle down from a bloated stock market. Although 20 states and 26 cities and counties are raising the minimum wage in 2020, the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour hasn’t gone up since 2009.

This is a message that all Democratic candidates should be repeating over and over, whether they’re running for president, the House, the Senate, or a state office: The Trump economy isn’t helping most Americans.

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These are the Republican losers we won't miss in 2020

Over the last year, we’ve said goodbye to many Republicans who are no longer in office or are on their way out. There are way too many Republican losers to mention. So let’s take a look at just a handful of those in the 2019 edition of the GOP Hall of Shame.

Chris Collins. Collins was the first House member to support Donald Trump’s campaign in the 2016 election and became an unofficial spokesman for Trump in the House. In September 2019, the upstate New York congressman, along with his son and the father of the son’s then-fiancée, pleaded guilty to insider trading charges that were related to Collins’ investment in Innate Immunotherapeutics, an Australian biotech firm. Collins pleaded guilty to two of eight charges against him—conspiracy to commit securities fraud and lying to the FBI. He faces a sentencing hearing in January 2020.

Collins was charged in August 2018 with securities fraud, wire fraud, and making false statements to FBI agents. He was the largest investor and a member of the board of the Australian firm, and he touted the company’s stock to many in Congress, regularly bragging about how many millionaires he had made. When a drug trial failed, he warned his son, Cameron, and Stephen Zarsky, the prospective father-in-law, and they dumped their stock in Innate Immunotherapeutics. They avoided hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses.

In 2018, Collins won his race by one percentage point. Even though the 27th Congressional District is traditionally Republican, the taint may carry over to the next election.

Duncan Hunter. What is there to say about Duncan Hunter, the congressman who used campaign funds to pay for family vacations, trysts with mistresses, and flight expenses for a pet rabbit named EggBurt? In December, Hunter pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges of misusing more than $200,000 in campaign funds.

The San Diego-area congressman and his wife, Margaret, originally were indicted in August 2018, and both pleaded not guilty. But Hunter blamed all of the campaign snafus on his wife, who at one point had been his campaign manager. No doubt angered at the reports by prosecutors of campaign funds used on Hunter’s affairs with lobbyists and campaign staffers, Margaret Hunter pleaded guilty to conspiring with her husband to "knowingly and willingly" convert campaign funds for personal use. She also agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in the case against Hunter.

You’ve got to enjoy the detail in Margaret Hunter’s 22-page plea agreement from this CNN story:

In the document, Margaret Hunter admits that she repeatedly conspired with her husband between 2009 and 2016 to use campaign funds to cover routine expenses like groceries, as well as couples outings with their friends to the track at Del Mar and other restaurants, lavish family gatherings at the Hotel Del Coronado, a $14,263 Italian vacation that the family could not have otherwise paid for, and a family trip to Minnesota in which they spent $250 in campaign funds on air transport for the family bunny, EggBurt. (Much of that spending was repaid to the campaign account by Duncan Hunter after the charges were revealed in the press).

Both Hunters await sentencing.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin. If ever a lawmaker deserved to be thrown out on his sorry behind, it’s Bevin. He narrowly lost reelection in November to Democrat Andy Beshear. And there was much rejoicing.

Bevin’s election in 2015 was really due to his strong opposition to marriage equality, specifically his support for Kim Davis, the infamous homophobic county clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky. Davis, you might recall, become a conservative folk hero for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Back when she was in the spotlight, Davis had already been married four times to three different men. Her personal life might be her own, but it’s hypocritical to claim moral superiority over marriage equality when you’re discarding husbands left and right and the father of your twins is your third husband, the twins were conceived while you were still married to your first husband, and the twins are claimed by your second one (got all that?). Luckily, Davis was voted out of office in 2018, so we’re a year late in wishing her a not-so-fond farewell. But the state of Kentucky is left with $224,000 in legal fees over lawsuits filed by couples hurt by her refusal to grant them marriage licenses.

But back to Bevin. In April 2018, Bevin vetoed the entire state budget and tax overhaul plan with complaints about increases in education funding, increases that had been passed by Republican lawmakers. The Kentucky Legislature overrode his veto to make sure those increases, which were won with massive efforts and backing from Kentucky teachers, stayed in place. With that veto, Bevin won the instant enmity of the state’s teachers, and their support for Beshear was one of the big reasons for the Democrat’s victory.

Bevin’s worst move, however, was issuing a slew of pardons right before he left office. Those pardoned included convicted rapists, murderers, and drug offenders. There were 428 pardons and commutations in all. The Louisville Courier-Journal has a complete list (available to subscribers) of all the miscreants to whom Bevin gave his get-out-of-jail-free cards, including one whose family raised more than $20,000 for Bevin to retire a 2015 campaign debt. “The beneficiaries include one offender convicted of raping a child, another who hired a hit man to kill his business partner, and a third who killed his parents,” according to a story at NPR. Now the FBI is investigating those pardons.

The GOP majority in the Virginia Legislature. How sweet was it on election night 2019 when we all realized that the great Commonwealth of Virginia would now be in Democratic hands? Virginia Republicans quickly realized that their old approaches to campaigning—calling their opponents “socialists” and worse—weren’t working anymore, with the state’s suburbs turning reliably blue. No Republican has won a statewide race in Virginia since 2009.

Besides Democratic strength in the suburbs, hard work by volunteers for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America turned gun violence into a top issue in the election. I’ll let Virginia residents weigh in on which Republicans they most enjoyed seeing kicked out of office.

Members of the Trump gang in prison. How many Trumpsters are currently behind bars, have served a sentence, or are heading to the slammer sometime soon? It’s hard to keep track. There are currently six people affiliated with either the 2016 Trump campaign, the Trump businesses, or the Trump administration who have been convicted of or have pleaded guilty to crimes as a result of the Mueller investigation. A story from Forbes had the rundown:

  • Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer, was sentenced in December 2018 to three years in prison for lying to Congress, campaign finance violations, and tax evasion. He received an additional two months of prison time for lying to Congress about a Moscow Trump Tower deal.
  • Roger Stone, the longtime GOP operative who has a tattoo of Richard Nixon on his back, was found guilty of lying to Congress and witness tampering in relation to his work on President Trump’s 2016 campaign. He will be sentenced in February 2020.
  • George Papadopoulos, a former Trump foreign policy advisor, was sentenced in September 2018 to 14 days in prison (with a year of supervised release) after pleading guilty to lying to FBI agents about his contacts with Russian intermediaries during the 2016 campaign. The sleazebag filed in October to run for Democrat Katie Hill’s vacant California congressional seat.
  • Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, was found guilty by a Virginia court of tax and bank fraud in August 2018, and in November 2018 voided his plea deal (by lying to investigators) in separate federal charges brought by Mueller. He’s currently serving a combined 4 1/2 years in prison in both cases.
  • Rick Gates, a former deputy to Manafort during the Trump campaign, pleaded guilty in February 2018 to charges of conspiracy against the United States and making false statements. He was sentenced in December to 45 days in prison (which he can serve on weekends) and three years’ probation.
  • Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI. His long-delayed sentencing has been yet again postponed until Jan. 28, 2020, after a federal judge rejected his claims of innocence and his attacks on the FBI.

Members of the Trump gang who aren’t in prison—yet. So many to indict, so little time, and so much GOP resistance.

Trump’s good buddy and personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani faces possible prosecution for acting as an unregistered foreign agent, but that’s just the beginning. He’s also being investigated by the U.S. attorney’s office in New York (which he once headed) for possible campaign finance violations as part of an active investigation into his financial dealings. From a Fortune story:

“I would not be surprised if he gets indicted,” said Mimi Rocah, a former federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. “It’s clear Giuliani is up to his ears in shady stuff and there’s tons of smoke.”

Two Giuliani associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, are already charged with illegally funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to U.S. officials and a political action committee that backed Trump.

Will former Energy Secretary Rick Perry face any legal problems after two of his political supporters secured a potentially lucrative oil and gas exploration deal? Or just general derision from thinking people everywhere?

And what about possible legal jeopardy for Donald Trump Jr., Eric, Ivanka, and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, all of whom face ethical charges of their own over the millions they’ve made since their father has been in office?

By this time next year, we hope to be saying goodbye to many other Republicans. In the Senate, there’s a good chance we might see the end of the political careers of Sens. Cory Gardner of Colorado, Martha McSally of Arizona, and (fingers crossed) Susan Collins of Maine. With any luck, we might see exits from Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Joni Ernst of Iowa. Especially sweet, even if less likely, would be losses by head Trump butt-kisser Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and the turtle-weasel Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

But the sweetest loss of all a year from now? One Donald J. Trump.

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Devin Nunes may regret trying to silence his critics

U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Laughing Stock) has filed yet another frivolous lawsuit in his series of frivolous lawsuits.

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Manufacturing slump undercuts Trump claims of economic strength

Of all the ridiculous arguments Donald Trump makes for his reelection, perhaps none is repeated more often than his claim that the U.S. economy is “the greatest economy in the history of our country.”

A Bloomberg opinion piece points out that Trump’s trade policies are hurting both the farming and the manufacturing sectors. A 2016 manufacturing recession may have contributed to Trump’s slim win in those three states that Democrats were counting on as a “blue wall.”

Manufacturing is still a major source of employment in those states—think steel and automobiles—and there have been layoffs as manufacturing has weakened. Even though Trump ran in 2016 promising to revive the country’s manufacturing sector, that promise sounds more hollow as time goes on.

Manufacturing employment growth in Wisconsin and Michigan has already fallen below the 2015 rate. Pennsylvania is dangerously close. At best, this makes it difficult for Trump to claim that his policies have led to a revival. At worst, it suggests that his policies have backfired.

Trump could conceivably turn the situation around, but at this point it’s hard to see how. Even if he announced an official end to the trade war tomorrow, it would be months before farmers and businesses could be confident that he was serious. After that, there would be yet more delays before equipment orders rebounded, and still more before a rise in manufacturing employment.

The 2016 manufacturing recession likely convinced some Trump voters that he would be an economic savior and save their jobs. “Now Trump has to campaign against a similarly weak backdrop,” The Washington Post says.

Manufacturing accounts for about one-tenth of the U.S. economy, making it less of a barometer of what’s ahead of the U.S. economy than it once was. But most analysts agree that what’s happening to manufacturing is evidence Trump’s tariffs are doing real harm to the U.S. economy and is a warning sign for what could happen to other industries, especially as the tariffs expand by the end of the year onto nearly all Chinese products.

“We have now tariffed our way into a manufacturing recession in the U.S. and globally. What’s the strategy now? It better be more than the Chinese buying more soybeans,” said Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group, in an email.

Many factors affect a manufacturing recession, of course, including the global economy. In addition to concerns about trade wars with China, indicators in Europe also are pointing in the wrong direction. A joint forecast from several of Germany’s leading economic institutes sharply downgrades predictions for that country’s economy. Add to that the uncertainty about what will happen to the economies of European countries when the United Kingdom leaves the European Union—whether it’s a no-deal Brexit or not—and the economic future looks even bleaker.

But Trump’s tariffs have screwed U.S. manufacturers more than anything else. While the tariffs initially helped the steel industry, that bump was short-lived, and now some steel plants are closing.

story from Markets Insider explains how this slowdown is Trump’s doing:

While US manufacturing has faced separate challenges, including a broader slowdown abroad, economists said a drop in demand for new orders showed how the sector has been directly affected by trade policy.

"The continued decline in new export orders suggests that the trade war is an important source of the ongoing slowdown in the manufacturing sector," said Torsten Slok, the chief economist at Deutsche Bank Securities.

By effectively taxing American importers, tariffs on Chinese products have disrupted global supply chains and threatened to upend trading relationships that have been built over a span of decades. Domestic jobs have been put increasingly at risk as heightened costs and uncertainty weigh on the outlook.

Trump continues to spout nonsense on how the manufacturing slump should somehow be blamed on the Federal Reserve, because … I don’t know, something to do with interest rates?

Three out of four economists surveyed by the National Association of Business Economics are predicting a recession by 2021, if not sooner, perhaps even before the 2020 election. When you add the record number of bankruptcies filed by Midwest farmers, the higher prices U.S. consumers will pay for goods because of Trump’s new round of tariffs, and a prediction from Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue that small dairy farms might not survive, remember to take Trump’s words on how great the economy is doing with mountains of salt.

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It's not just farmers: Here's how tariffs are hurting US consumers

It’s not just the nation’s farmers who are feeling the negative effects of the tariffs that Donald Trump has imposed on imports from China. The resulting trade war between the two countries cut off one of farmers’ biggest customers. There already have been a record number of bankruptcies for Midwest farmers. Soybean futures have hit the lowest price levels in a decade. Commodity prices for pork and cotton also are spiraling down. But more than just farmers are feeling the pain.

  • Air conditioners
  • Appliances including refrigerators
  • Auto parts
  • Batteries
  • Bicycles
  • Clothing
  • Cosmetics
  • Crafts
  • Electronics
  • Food including produce, seafood, beans, nuts, etc.
  • Furniture including cribs and outdoor furniture
  • Handbags
  • Home improvement items including carpeting and flooring
  • Luggage
  • Mattresses and bedding
  • Personal care products
  • Sporting goods
  • Toilet paper
  • Tools and hardware
  • TVs
  • Vacuum cleaners

You can call them what you want: the Trump tariffs, the Trump trade war, or, as Democratic presidential candidate and California Sen. Kamala Harris, calls them, the Trump trade taxes. But whatever you call them, the long-range effect will not be good for U.S. consumers or the U.S. economy.

Here are some of the other, less-reported victims of the Trump tariffs:

The steel industry. Trump loves to brag about how his tariffs of 25% on steel imports and 10% on aluminum imports were helping U.S. steel companies. Initially, steel production and profits rose, along with some steelworker salaries, although Trump’s claims about steel companies opening up new plants were (surprise!) false.

But the long-term effects have been the opposite. U.S. Steel is halting production at plants near Detroit and in Gary, Indiana. According to a Washington Post story:

Despite initially surging under the tariffs, steel prices have fallen dramatically amid weakening demand from key consumers, including the auto industry, energy industry and agricultural industry, said Phil Gibbs, a steel industry analyst at KeyBanc Capital Markets. …

Trump’s steel tariffs are costing U.S. consumers and businesses more than $900,000 a year for every job created, according to a report by the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a think tank that supports free market policies.

From Fortune:

Steel and aluminum tariffs have increased production costs for manufacturers, which translates into higher prices for consumers. The Peterson Institute for International Economics found that tariffs last year increased the price of steel products by nearly 9%, pushing up costs for steel users by $5.6 billion.

The outdoor recreation industry. A new analysis from the Outdoor Industry Association estimates that current and potential tariffs could cost the companies that distribute and sell outdoor clothing and recreational equipment an estimated extra $1.5 billion in costs per month. As reported by the Denver Post:

The new set of proposed tariffs would likely cover $61 billion in outdoor recreation goods, or just about everything the industry gets from China. If the administration slaps on tariffs of 25 percent, The Trade Partnership said the industry could end up paying $1.5 billion more a month, which companies would have to absorb, pass along to customers or both. ...

The goods imported by outdoor recreation companies on the last list of tariffs included hats, camp chairs, stoves, backpacks, kayaks, bicycles and bicycle parts. Outdoor shoes, apparel and helmets, which were dropped from the last round, are proposed for the next round of higher taxes.

The retail industry. The U.S. retail industry is having a hard enough time, with more than 6,000 stores closed already in 2019, topping 2018’s total. But since so much retail merchandise comes from China, retail chains could be forced to raise prices for consumers as well as to absorb costs. A CNN story gives details:

Retailers depend heavily on China in their supply chain. China accounted for about 41% of all apparel, 72% of all footwear, and 84% of all travel goods imported into the United States in 2017.

Retailers are warning about looming price hikes. According to a story from Yahoo Finance:

Executives of more than two dozen American companies have made it clear they will raise prices on consumer goods to protect their profit margins and stay competitive. Citi estimates that a 25% tariff would increase inflation by more than three times what the estimated effect of the current tariffs are.

Even high-end products could be affected. “The production of some items, like cashmere and silk garments, is virtually impossible to move out of China in part because of where the delicate materials come from,” reported The New York Times.

U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators are attempting to rekindle trade talks before the scheduled summit between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the upcoming G20 meeting in Japan. But officials from the two countries have worked on this issue for more than a year—and failed. According to Yahoo Finance:

If they fail to reach an agreement, there’s a good chance Trump will follow through on his threat to place additional 25% tariffs on $300 billion worth of Chinese goods.

Given the recent history of threats from Trump and retaliatory tariffs from China, and Trump’s seeming inability to follow through on his tough-guy trade talk, many are skeptical about a satisfactory outcome.

Time to open our wallets wider.

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Abortion bans are the latest offensive in long-running GOP war on women

The flood of new anti-abortion laws from GOP state lawmakers is aimed squarely at triggering a court fight to overturn Roe v. Wade, now that Donald Trump has appointed conservative, Federalist-Society-chosen justices to the U.S. Supreme Court and equally conservative judges to federal courts.

Here’s what happened to the availability of legal abortion in 2011, from a roundup by The Washington Post:

2011 marked a sea change for abortion rights. States passed 83 laws restricting access to abortion, nearly four times the 23 laws passed in 2010. A lot of that had to do with the 2010 elections, which ushered in a wave of Republican legislators and governors. This year, the number of states with fully anti-abortion governments — in which both the governor and the legislature oppose abortion rights — increased from 10 to 15.

That cleared the way for new restrictions. Five states banned all abortions after 20 weeks of gestation; until last year, only Nebraska had such a restriction. Seven now require an ultrasound, or the offer of one, prior to the procedure. Eight will no longer allow private insurance plans to cover the procedure.

The GOP attempts at restrictions didn’t begin or end in 2011. A 2013 report by the Guttmacher Institute summed up the bad news: “More State Abortion Restrictions Were Enacted in 2011–2013 Than in the Entire Previous Decade.”

This legislative onslaught has dramatically changed the landscape for women needing abortion. In 2000, the two states that were the most restrictive in the nation, Mississippi and Utah, had five of 10 major types of abortion restrictions in effect (see Appendix). By 2013, however, 22 states had five or more restrictions, and Louisiana had 10.

In 2000, 13 states had at least four types of major abortion restrictions and so were considered hostile to abortion rights (see Troubling Trend: More States Hostile to Abortion Rights as Middle Ground Shrinks); 27 states fell into this category by 2013. …

Four types of restrictions dominated the legislative scene during 2013: abortion bans, restrictions on abortion providers, limitations on the provision of medication abortion and restrictions on coverage of abortion in private health plans. Together, legislation in these four categories accounted for 56% of all restrictions enacted over the year.

The most recent Guttmacher report gives an overall list of restrictions that have only grown over the years, and breaks them down, state by state:

  • 42 states require an abortion to be performed by a licensed physician.
  • 19 states require an abortion to be performed in a hospital after a specified point in the pregnancy, and 19 states require the involvement of a second physician after a specified point.
  • 43 states prohibit abortions after a specified point in pregnancy.
  • 20 states have laws in effect that prohibit “partial-birth” abortion (an invented and non-medical term).
  • 16 states use their own funds to pay for all or most medically necessary abortions for Medicaid enrollees in the state; 33 states and the District of Columbia prohibit the use of state funds for abortions except for a few cases.
  • 11 states restrict coverage of abortion in private insurance plans.
  • 45 states allow individual health care providers to refuse to participate in an abortion.
  • 18 states mandate that women be given counseling before an abortion that includes information on at least one of the following: the purported link between abortion and breast cancer (five states), the ability of a fetus to feel pain (13 states) or long-term mental health consequences for the woman (eight states). Need we add that there is no scientific basis for any of these “facts”?
  • 37 states require some type of parental involvement in a minor’s decision to have an abortion.

The new abortion bans masquerading as “fetal heartbeat laws” in Alabama, Ohio, Georgia, and elsewhere are being challenged, but not only in court. After women grew skilled at holding public protests following Trump’s election (remember the millions of people at each Women’s March in 2017 and 2018), voters and candidates both see this new fight over abortion as an issue that could play a major role in the 2020 election. The Democratic women running for president aren’t being shy in their language. From a Huffington Post story:

“Access to safe, legal abortion is a constitutional RIGHT,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tweeted. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who’s made women’s rights the centerpiece of her flagging campaign, appeared at a pro-choice rally in Georgia. “As a party, we should be 100 percent pro-choice, and it should be non-negotiable,” she said in a Washington Post interview. Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) were similarly vocal.

While many of the many Democratic men running for president also issued statements, there was something different ― more personal, more passionate ― about the way the women responded. It felt unprecedented. Powerful. ...

The abortion battle feels like an inevitable next step in what’s been a growing war on women that escalated the day Donald Trump was elected and has only felt more palpable every day since ―  the marches, MeToo, the Kavanaugh hearings.

Since the onslaught of new laws, the Democratic hopefuls are stepping up their game. Warren and Gillibrand are proposing legislation to ensure abortion access, including getting rid of the Hyde Amendment, which disallows any public funds to pay for abortions. Kamala Harris raised more than $160,000 for abortion groups. Cory Booker is proposing an “Office of Reproductive Freedom” in the White House.

And a few states are stepping up to ensure abortion access. The Nevada Assembly, with its majority of women lawmakers, passed a bill to decriminalize abortion and remove some decades-old abortion requirements. A Vermont bill about to become law states that abortion is a "fundamental right" and protects the right to contraception, sterilization, and family planning. The Illinois Reproductive Health Act also lists abortion as a fundamental right and would require insurers to cover the procedure. It is still stuck in a subcommittee, but some legislators (mostly women) are working to move it forward.

Given the success of women candidates in 2018, when many didn’t shy away from talking about abortion and reproductive rights, there’s no reason to think that candidates won’t be vocal in their support, especially in Democratic primaries, when the vast majority of voters will be pro-choice anyway. The issue also is driving up the number of women candidates in states where such laws have been enacted.

It’s hard to believe that the right-wing base could grow even more excited about fighting abortion than they are now. Some legal experts doubt whether these laws would even make it to the Supreme Court. But whatever the eventual legal outcome, fighting for women’s reproductive health could drive Democratic voters, as well.

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Sorting policy from platitudes among Democratic 2020 candidates

With some 18 Democratic presidential candidates and counting, it’s hard to keep track of who stands for what: which candidates have developed policy expertise and proposals on which issues, and which ones sound good but still keep talking in generalities.

Some of the most well-thought-out policies are coming from the women candidates. Even better, they’re endorsing each other’s proposals.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is quickly establishing herself (and has been described) as the queen of policy. When she speaks to voters, she offers a wide list of ideas, stressing government intervention into areas where private markets have failed. Those ideas include the federal government building affordable housingpaying for child care, enforcing antitrust laws, and breaking up big companies, including tech giants. The mainstream media might not be giving her much love, but she’s getting plenty of attention explaining those policies to Iowa voters.

One of her early proposals that remains popular with Democrats is to impose a wealth tax on those with fortunes worth more than $50 million. The tax on the “ultra-millionaires” is explained at Vox:

Warren’s proposal, of course, is for a progressive wealth tax in which the 2 percent rate does not apply to the first $50 million and the 3 percent rate only kicks in when you have more than $1 billion, so nobody would actually be taxed that much. The operation of the tax would, however, exert a dramatic gravitational pull on large fortunes and tend to pull them down to the tax thresholds.

That’s especially true because the mere existence of the wealth tax would, on the margin, encourage wealthy individuals to dissipate their fortunes on charitable giving and lavish consumption. If you try to horde wealth the government is going to tax it, so you might as well spend it.

California Sen. Kamala Harris wants to expand the earned income tax credit with her LIFT the Middle Class Act, and to give all American public school teachers a raise. She’s proposing that the federal government spend $315 billion to increase teacher salaries over 10 years. A story from Vox explains why it could be a popular winner:

Education is rarely a major issue during presidential campaigns. But Harris’s plan could tap into a wave of energy and enthusiasm from teachers strikes around the country in the past two years, most recently in Los Angeles and Denver but also in traditionally red states, such as West VirginiaOklahoma, and Arizona.

Those strikes have attracted public sympathy as well as solidarity from Harris and her fellow 2020 contenders. Two-thirds of Americans support teachers’ right to strike for better pay and benefits, according to a recent USA Today/Ipsos poll, and six in 10 believe teachers are not compensated fairly.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar has a plan on an issue that Trump conveniently forgets about every time there’s an “infrastructure week.” Her $1 trillion proposalwould go way beyond the roads and bridges usually discussed when candidates discuss infrastructure. Here’s an explanation from Vox on how it would work:

The central element in Klobuchar’s proposal is a $650 billion increase in federal spending on infrastructure programs.

She specifies rural broadband, municipal waterworks, energy efficiency retrofits, school construction, airports, seaports, inland waterways, and mass transit as all worthy of increased funding, along with — of course — highways and bridges.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has successfully pushed his Medicare for All legislation into the Democratic mainstream, and it has some of his Democratic rivals as co-sponsors. His latest version spells out what would be covered in a generous benefit package, even as it offers few specifics on how to pay for it. According to an explanation from Vox:

The biggest difference between this plan and the version Sanders introduced in 2017 is the addition of a long-term care benefit that would cover care for Americans with disability at home or in community settings. This benefit was also added into the House version of the Medicare-for-all bill earlier this year.

The plan is significantly more generous than the single-payer plans run by America’s peer countries. The Canadian health care system, for example, does not cover vision or dental care, prescription drugs, rehabilitative services, or home health services. Instead, two-thirds of Canadians take out private insurance policies to cover these benefits. ...

What’s more, the Sanders plan does not subject consumers to any out-of-pocket spending on health aside from prescriptions drugs. This means there would be no charge when you go to the doctor, no copayments when you visit the emergency room. All those services would be covered fully by the universal Medicare plan.

There’s no question that the approach is growing in popularity, even earning some cheers from the audience at Sanders’ Fox News town hall. The immediate economic downside is for insurance companies; the more talk about a single-payer system, the worse the stock prices are for those insurers.

Beto O’Rourke is taking some heat for not having enough policy ideas. A Politico piece with the headline, “The big idea? Beto doesn’t have one,” explains that he’s still in listening mode.

It’s not that O’Rourke doesn’t have positions. He does, and in the month since announcing his presidential campaign, he has expressed many of them with specificity. He has robust ideas about immigration, including a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants. He has lauded the "Green New Deal" and called for a new Voting Rights Act. He was an early champion of legalizing marijuana — and co-wrote a book about it. He wants universal pre-K education, and he has touted a bill by Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) to dramatically expand Medicare coverage while maintaining a role for private health insurance. …

But none of those positions is unique to O’Rourke. And with his relatively meager legislative record — and a belief that he can transcend ideological lanes within the Democratic Party — O'Rourke appears unclear about where he fits on the policy spectrum.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for “listening tours” to see what voters are saying. But if you’ve announced your candidacy for the most powerful office in the world, you should be a tad more sure of what you stand for.

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg is another candidate who is still finding his issue footing. He is beloved by the media and by the crowds that turn out to hear him, he’s got a killer biography and background, and he’s great on TV. He has, in the headline of a Los Angeles Times piece, “everything except policies on major issues.”

That’s not an accident. He says voters aren’t looking for policy papers. They care about values and character, and knowing that a candidate cares about their lives. ...

At a CNN town hall last month, voters asked his views on healthcare, unemployment, veterans’ benefits, climate change and whether technology companies like Facebook should be regulated.

His answers were a blend of generic Democratic positions and suggestions that more venturesome ideas should be considered.

Some candidates that might be considered long shots are carving out their own particular electoral niche, even if it depends mainly on “rebuilding the Blue Wall” with working-class voters in the Rust Belt, in the words of Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan.

For instance, one of the most recent entrants in the race, California Rep. Eric Swalwell, is making gun violence—an issue he has long worked against—central to his campaign. He held an early campaign town hall in Broward County, Florida, not far from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where 18 people died a year ago in a mass shooting. Besides passing common-sense gun legislation on universal background checks, a position held by a vast majority of Americans and backed by all candidates, Swalwell wants to ban assault-style weapons. He wants to make gun reform one of the “top-three issues” of the Democratic nominating contest.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, described by the League of Conservation Voters as the greenest governor in America, is making sure that candidates talk about climate change this presidential election, unlike in 2016, when the issue was all but ignored in every presidential debate. The need to address climate change has come up in audience questions in just about every town hall that CNN has sponsored for Democratic candidates. Inslee has gone so far as to call for a climate-change-only debate. His four-part plan, described on his campaign website, includes and builds on ideas from the Green New Deal, which he’s backing (as are other candidates).

Former Obama Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro has the most thorough plan on immigration policy. He basically offers the opposite of Trump’s policies and provides a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. He also backs investigating Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, and the Department of Justice’s role in family separation policies. As CNN explained:

Castro, as president, would increase refugee admissions, reunify families that have been separated at the border and allow deported veterans who served in the US military to return to the United States. …

Castro’s plan also reimagines enforcement along the border, including the reconstitution of Immigration and Customs Enforcement by “splitting the agency in half and re-assigning enforcement functions” within the agency.

There’s more, of course. New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand wants to solidify a woman’s right to choose and to close the racial wealth gap. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker wants to go further with an issue close to his heart, criminal justice reform, and issue “Baby Bonds” for newborns that will be worth thousands when those kids turn 18 to help pay for college.

How about this: Take the best ideas from the various candidates and put them into the Democratic platform—and then have that platform mean something for a change. I’ll take Jay Inslee on climate change, Eric Swalwell on gun violence, Julián Castro on decriminalizing immigration, Elizabeth Warren on going after the wealthy, Kamala Harris on paying teachers, Amy Klobuchar on infrastructure, Bernie Sanders on health care (Medicare for All, Medicare for America, improving the Affordable Care Act, or any combination thereof—it’s better to act than to fight about it). And let’s include Pete Buttigieg’s and Beto O’Rourke’s appeal to millennials. We’ll talk about Joe Biden if and when he gets into the race. And I’m sure you’ll forgive me for skipping over some other candidates, including former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel.

Is America ready for a president who carves out new territory? Who knows? Most likely, 99.9 percent of those reading this would have no problem with a president who is gay, Latinx, African American, a woman, an African-American woman, a democratic socialist, or one who follows any religion—or none at all. Is the rest of America?

Let the debates begin.

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Here are 6 rules the media should follow for the 2020 election

With the entrance of multiple Democrats into the 2020 presidential contest and with several others either waiting in the wings or still pondering, the nation’s political reporters have a chance to do a better job than they did in 2016.

Don’t let Trump continually set the agenda. Trump is a master at saying, doing, or tweeting something outrageous to distract everyone from the government shutdown, the seesawing stock market, the effects of his tariffs, and the Robert Mueller investigation. He might have looked like a buffoon for serving cold fast food to the Clemson Tigers championship football team, but the whole time he was being trolled or Photoshopped on Twitter, coverage of the shutdown got moved to a back burner.

Frank Bruni offered his take in a New York Times column, wondering if the media would once again be Trump’s “accomplice.”

That’s a specific question but also an overarching one — about the degree to which we’ll let him set the terms of the 2020 presidential campaign, about our appetite for antics versus substance, and about whether we’ll repeat the mistakes that we made in 2016 and continued to make during the first stages of his presidency. There were plenty.

Trump tortures us. Deliberately, yes, but I’m referring to the ways in which he keeps yanking our gaze his way. I mean the tough choices that he, more than his predecessors in the White House, forces us to make. ...

Our success or failure will affect our stature at a time of rickety public trust in us. It will raise or lower the temperature of civic discourse, which is perilously hot. Above all, it will have an impact on who takes the oath of office in January 2021. Democracies don’t just get the leaders they deserve. They get the leaders who make it through whatever obstacle course — and thrive in whatever atmosphere — their media has created.

Don’t cover Trump tweets like the Second Coming. The media asked themselves a serious question at the start of Trump’s term, namely: How should they cover his tweets? Since he wasn’t bothering with news conferences and most interviews were on friendly Fox News turf, many a newscast leads with whatever spewed from his fingers in 280 characters or less.

In hindsight, the endless parroting was the wrong decision. It’s likely that many of his millions of Twitter followers are Russian bots (61 percent by some estimates), but a large number of them are in the media. Even when reporters don’t lead a story with a Trump tweet, they’ll often retweet whatever Trump said, often with a caustic comment. Guess what—he still gets his message out.

Connie Schultz


In 2018, I sat in on several focus groups with Ohio Trump voters. Total number who said they were on Twitter: Zero. I think of this every time I see another round of Trump tantrum tweets. If we didn't cover them, how much of his base would see them? I think about that, too.

1,779 people are talking about this

Stick to the substantive, not the superficial. Endless stories about who’s up and who’s down (while eventually necessary) rely more about name recognition than anything else. A story on how Democrats are polling in January 2019 when no votes will be cast for a year is easy to write but meaningless.

Katrina vanden Heuvel pointed out the media’s “malpractice” in a Washington Postcolumn and warned against a repeat:

As the 2020 presidential race gets underway, many journalists and pundits are already reverting to the personality-driven, horse-race-style coverage that plagued the 2016 campaign. During her first campaign stop in Iowa, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) talked passionately about taking on corporate power and tackling inequality in front of overflow crowds. In the corporate media, however, much of the coverage of Warren’s campaign rollout focused on her decision to take a DNA test and on implicitly sexist questions about her “likability.” …

Mainstream media coverage is frequently motivated by an insatiable desire for conflict — in war zones, on the campaign trail and in the nation’s capital. Too often, however, that coverage fails to inform people about conflicting ideas or alternatives to endless war, discredited economic policies and a downsized politics of excluded possibilities. As the new House majority rolls out its agenda and more presidential candidates enter the fray, outlets should reevaluate how they cover politics and policy. We can’t afford more media malpractice that degrades our democracy and drowns out real debate.

Don’t treat Trump like he’ll last forever. He won’t, even though sometimes it feels that way. While he certainly dominates news coverage and will always try to shout the loudest, he’s only as effective as his ratings.

Ted Koppel, a longtime veteran of Nightline at ABC News who now contributes to CBS News’ Sunday Morning, wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that Trump won’t “go quietly.” Koppel described Trump’s media mastery as “a multipurpose device, one he used adroitly in tandem with the endlessly adaptable political vehicle provided by social media during the election campaign and now during his presidency.”

Is there any reason to believe that what worked for Trump before he was elected and while in the White House won’t be equally effective after he leaves office? …

It is all but inevitable that whoever succeeds Trump in the White House will be perceived by 30 to 40 percent of the voting public as illegitimate — and that the former president will enthusiastically encourage them in this perception. Whatever his failings, Trump is a brilliant self-promoter and provocateur. He showed no embarrassment, either as candidate or president, about using his high visibility to benefit his business interests. Untethered from any political responsibility whatsoever, he can be expected to capitalize fully on his new status as political martyr and leader of a new “resistance” that will make today’s look supine.

I’m not so sure about that. As many of today’s rising political stars (think Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Beto O’Rourke) are showing, they can master social media as well as Trump, thank you very much. And they offer a fresher and more relatable image for younger voters. Plus, they’re more fun, and they’re not jerks.

Keep horse-race stories to a minimum, and make sure to offer perspective. Look, we all click on regularly to check out poll numbers; otherwise, our political junkie credentials would be revoked. Every news organization runs polls now, just to keep up. (This is true even as there are reports of bribery to rig polls and Trump manipulating poll coverage.) Horse-race numbers end up dominating news coverage throughout primary season, during the political conventions, and as Election Day approaches.

Politico ran a piece in defense of horse-race journalism, calling it “awesome.”

Horseracism might be scary if the campaign press corps produced nothing but who’s up/who’s down stories. But that’s never been the case. American newspapers overflow with detailed stories about the issues and the candidates’ positions.

“Overflow”? Since when?

At the end of the 2008 campaign, Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell sorted Post political coverage over the previous year and found 1,295 horse-race stories compared with 594 stories about the issues.

Those numbers are pretty lopsided; I rest my case. Still, Politico makes some important points. Voters want to back a winner and don’t want to waste campaign contributions on a losing candidate.

It’s not antidemocratic for journalists to measure support by checking polls, campaign donations, audience size and endorsements. In fact, such signaling makes democracy possible. Especially in the opening days of a candidacy, a politician must alert potential supporters of his existing supporters. Not many voters will join a bandwagon that doesn’t have followers or wheels.

Horse-race coverage also helps clarify the voters’ minds when candidates converge on the issues, as happens regularly in the Democratic presidential derbies. If there’s little difference between the views of the candidate you favor and the leader’s, horse-race coverage helps optimize your vote by steering you toward the politician most likely to implement your views. Pundits aren’t the only ones who worry about a candidate’s electability.

Finally, the most important piece of advice:

Lay off the both-siderism. Of all the things that make reading or watching political coverage maddening, it is the false equivalency of reporting on one candidate’s shortcomings and then feeling the need to “balance” the story with something damning about the other candidate. Probably no one suffered the effects of this more than Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Here’s just one example: The Clinton Foundation gets a four-star rating from Charity Navigator and has spent millions fighting AIDS in Africa, and no one in the Clinton family draws a salary for foundation work. The Trump Foundation gave money to a political candidate, used funds to pay Trump legal bills, and is being closed down. Yet you would have had to dig for such differences in 2016, when the media were all too eager to quote some Republican calling the Clinton Foundation corrupt.

Washington Monthly offered some perspective:

We’ve also seen that some people in the media are finally recognizing that the polarization we’re experiencing in politics these days is asymmetrical, with Republicans doing things to deepen, rather than heal the divide. And yet, the kind of both-siderism that gave us Donald Trump in the first place continues to find a home in too many places. …

The reason [NBC’s Chuck] Todd and [Cook Political Report’s Amy] Walter don’t accuse Democrats of bad behavior in the current process is because there hasn’t been any on display. That isn’t a partisan assessment, it is a fact. Accurate reporting would confirm the facts rather than go in search of a way to claim that both sides do it. Todd and Walter engaged in a distortion that gives Republicans a pass for what they are doing, which makes reporters like them complicit.

Welcome to the 2020 race. As Bette Davis said in All About Eve: “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

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How the human costs of the Trump shutdown will affect all of us

Make no mistake: Donald Trump’s decision to throw temper tantrums and keep the government shut down until he gets his $5.7 billion border wall is hurting people. And the shutdown is going to hurt a lot more people before it’s over.

As the shutdown continues, it will get worse. “By the White House’s own estimate—which is lower than some outside forecasts—this shutdown will likely reduce quarterly U.S. GDP by 0.1 percent every two weeks that it continues,” the analysis estimated.

Since first-quarter GDP is projected to be roughly $5 trillion, Trump’s shutdown will cost the U.S. economy $5 billion in lost output every two weeks it continues based on the administration’s own impact estimate. That’s $2.5 billion per week, $357 million per day, or $15 million per hour.

An estimate reported in Politico was lower—$1.2 billion a week. But that could be enough to have ripple effects throughout the economy, such as lowering the country’s credit rating and causing an overall economic slowdown.

It’s tough enough for families of government workers. But those withheld funds also mean businesses where those workers would usually spend money are hurting, too. No federal workers buying lunch at a local deli. No families going out to dinner. No trips to the movies. No purchases at local stores and malls. Whole communities feel the effects.

We know that Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., are closed. We’ve all seen photos of garbage piling up on the National Mall and at national parks, even as groups of Muslim youths are volunteering to take care of that trash. Seven people have died at national parks since the shutdown began, as there is little supervision for visitors. Some parks, like Joshua Tree National Park in California, have closed their gates rather than risk more human injury and damage to the parks themselves.

But when it comes to public safety, the effect of the Trump shutdown soon could be much more widespread.

Here are just a few of the ways the shutdown is causing inconveniences and creating dangers for the U.S. population:

Food safety. The Food and Drug Administration oversees about 80 percent of the nation’s food supply. With workers furloughed, the FDA “has suspended all routine inspections of domestic food-processing facilities,” according to a story in theWashington Post. The FDA typically conducts about 160 inspections a week, and a third of those are done at high-risk facilities.

Although FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb was planning to bring back some workers to inspect facilities that handle higher-risk foods such as cheese, seafood, and vegetables, there’s no way the number of those workers could be enough to meet the need. As the Post reported:

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit advocacy group, described the inspection reductions as unacceptable.

“That puts our food supply at risk,” said Sarah Sorscher, deputy director of regulatory affairs at the group. “Regular inspections, which help stop foodborne illness before people get sick, are vital.”

Foodborne illnesses are a major problem in the United States, sickening 48 million people each year and killing 3,000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates.

Romaine lettuce, anyone?

The safety net. Poor Americans count on government assistance for a variety of services, and those services are getting cut off. Whether it’s nutrition programs, housing subsidies, or low-interest housing loans through the government doesn’t matter; many are on hold.

Funding for food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is guaranteed only through February. The more entrenched Trump gets, the less likely it is that those relying on such aid will be guaranteed that benefit. And it’s a lot of people. Says a report by CBS News:

According to the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 42 million Americans received SNAP benefits in 2017. More than 68 percent of participants were in families with children, and more than 44 percent were in working families. …

Staffing for Food and Nutrition Services, which oversees the Child Nutrition Programs, SNAP, and WIC [Women, Infants, and Children], has been cut by 95 percent since the shutdown began.

Others are going hungry now. According to another story from the Washington Post:

Already, more than 2,500 grocers and other retailers are no longer accepting food stamps because their SNAP licenses were not renewed before the shutdown started Dec. 22, according to the Food Marketing Institute, an industry group.

Federal funding has also been shut off for cash welfare benefits, known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), for 3.4 million of the poorest Americans, the majority of whom are children.

It’s not just food; it’s also housing.

If the government does not fully reopen by Feb. 1, nearly 270,000 rural families who receive federal rent subsidies through the Agriculture Department would also be at risk of eviction because their landlords would no longer be paid, said Bob Rapoza, executive secretary of the National Rural Housing Coalition.

“These are the poorest rural people in the country,” Rapoza said. “They’re farmworkers, they’re senior citizens, they’re disabled.” …

And another 100,000 low-income tenants are already at risk because HUD did not have staff in place during the shutdown to renew at least 1,150 affordable housing contracts that expired in December.

That means apartment owners will not be paid and must now dip into their reserves to cover their mortgages — which they may not be able to do indefinitely.

Fear of flying. Employees of the Transportation Security Administration must show up for work, even when they don’t receive a paycheck. But many of those who screen travelers at the nation’s airports have been calling in sick. Some are threatening to resign all together—or already have done so. According to a story on Politico:

The American Federation of Government Employees, which represents a chunk of TSA employees, said screeners were becoming increasingly panicked as the partial shutdown drags on. …

"Every day, I'm getting calls from my members about their extreme hardships and need for a paycheck," Hydrick Thomas, president of AFGE's TSA Council, said. "Some of them have already quit and many are considering quitting the federal workforce because of this shutdown."

He added that a wave of resignations could create "a massive security risk for American travelers" since TSA cannot hire new screeners during a shutdown.

It’s one thing to be bothered by the inconvenience of long lines at airports when there aren’t enough TSA agents to process travelers. It’s a more serious safety concern when there are personnel shortages in air traffic control towers.

And TSA agents aren’t the only transportation employees on furlough: so are accident investigators who work for the National Transportation Safety Board. That means that the NTSB is having to postpone investigating serious crashes. According to Politico, the NTSB had to put off probes of 12 serious accidents. So far.

Those incidents include a tractor-trailer crash with a school bus that injured 15 people and a general aviation crash that killed four. In four other incidents, the shutdown prevented NTSB from gathering enough evidence to even decide whether it should launch an investigation or not.

Data not found. The loss of data collection might not cause any personal hardships now, but the lack of such data will hurt us all in the long run. Pew Research has a compilation of all the agencies that have stopped collecting and supplying data, “affecting everyone from investors and farmers to researchers and journalists.” Those include the Census Bureau, statistical offices in the Agriculture Department, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and more. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is up and running, but it might not have next month’s job numbers because part of its data collection is done with the Census Bureau.

The Center for American Progress did a breakdown of how the shutdown is affecting seven states—seven states where Republican senators face re-election in 2020. A few of those senators, such as Colorado’s Corey Gardner and Maine’s Susan Collins, have said publicly that they want to reopen the government without funding Trump’s vanity wall.

Another of those senators is Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who—so far, at least—shows no sign of budging and refuses to let senators vote on the House-passed bill to fund the government. You know—the same bill that passed on a voice vote in the Senate back in December.

“More than 6,000 federal government employees in Kentucky are furloughed or working without pay,” says a Center for American Progress report on the shutdown.

What do you say, Mitch? How much are you willing to screw over your constituents just to appease the big baby in the White House?

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Here's why Time's 'Person of the Year' should be the Democratic woman

Each December, Time magazine announces its Person of the Year. It’s the individual (or group) who, “for better or for worse,” as the magazine puts it, had the greatest influence on the events of the year. This year, it should be no contest. The greatest influence in America this year came from Democratic women.

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These are the gun safety proposals taking shape in the new Democratic House

Although Democrats won’t take over the majority in the House of Representatives until January, they’re already spelling out an ambitious agenda. Democratic leaders and incoming representatives have been giving details about some of the issues they hope to tackle, such as a broad ethics reform package, which would include campaign finance reform, voting rights, and ethics and accountability.

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The Racist Stain of Donald Trump's Presidency

Whatever happens to Donald Trump, however long it takes before he’s out of office, there’s one area where it will be hard to stop the spread of his poisonous politics: his stoking of racial hatred.

Over the last decade, extremists committed 387 murders in the United States, according to a report by the Anti-Defamation League. Of those, 71 percent were done by white supremacists and other right-wing extremists. Islamic extremists were responsible for only 26 percent.

When do hate crimes occur? There’s no shortage of bigoted remarks and bombastic insults at his campaign rallies, often rousing his supporters into shouts against whatever minority group he currently has in his cross hairs, whether that’s the media, immigrants, Muslims, or whatever his outrage du jour.

But often, says one study, hate crimes occur right after a bigoted Trump tweet.

An online paper published on the Social Science Research Network found a pattern of an increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes after particularly virulent anti-Muslim tweets. From the paper’s abstract:

We show that the rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes since Donald Trump's presidential campaign has been concentrated in counties with high Twitter usage. Consistent with a role for social media, Trump's Tweets on Islam-related topics are highly correlated with anti-Muslim hate crime after, but not before the start of his presidential campaign.

commentary on the study in Scientific American cautioned that the link between Trump tweets and anti-Muslim hate crimes is correlational and not necessarily causal. Still, the researchers “point out that their findings are consistent with the idea that Trump’s presidency has made it more socially acceptable for many people to express prejudicial or hateful views that they already possessed prior to his election.”

Making such prejudicial and hateful views “socially acceptable” is the crux of the problem. We all know that racism exists and always has existed. With Trump’s ascendancy, people with those racist views have ripped away the layer of social responsibility, giving them (in their own eyes) permission to express racism openly, with little fear of repercussion. The abundance of cell phone videos distributed on social media showing insults, harassment, arrests, attacks, and even some killings illustrates the fact that harassment toward people who are merely #LivingWhileBlack is an everyday occurrence.

Washington Post column by editorial page editor Fred Hiatt called Trump’s willingness to play up racial fears to his base “The wound that may long outlive Donald Trump.”

Though Trump and Fox News fearmonger Tucker Carlson will always be able to find inflammatory cases of young white women killed by sinister brown men, studies overwhelmingly show that immigrants, including illegal immigrants, commit crime at far lower rates than do native-born citizens. As the percentage of foreign-born increased in the United States from 7 percent to 13 percent between 1990 and 2013, violent crime rates fell 48 percent.

Politically, though, what matters is the first statistic — the increase in foreign-born. [...]

The always fraught challenge of incorporating this generation of immigrants — assimilating, learning from, being enriched by — will be that much harder and take that much longer. It will happen; most of those people are not going away, no matter how much Trump dreams of deportation, and the country’s adaptive genius will be stronger than the Trump poison.

But the poison will linger. And when history considers how the Mitch McConnells and Paul Ryans acquiesced to Trump’s many depredations, it will be their failure to stand up for respect and tolerance between one human being and another that will be judged most harshly.

The Southern Poverty Law Center agrees:

Since he stepped on the political stage, Donald Trump has electrified the radical right. Through his words and actions, he continues to deliver for what he clearly sees as his core constituency. As a consequence, we’ve seen a rise in hate crimes, street violence and large public actions organized by white supremacist groups that have been further emboldened by the president’s statements about “shithole countries” and his policies targeting refugees and immigrants of color.

Nothing will stop Trump from exploiting the racial and ethnic fear and hatred he has espoused for decades and brought out into the open when he descended that escalator in Trump Tower in June 2015, spouting nonsense about Mexico sending rapists and drug dealers to the U.S. Nothing will stop his base from cheering about a nonsensical wall that will never be built (and Mexico certainly will never pay for). Nothing will stop him from discarding the dog whistle and grabbing a bullhorn in his racist tweets and shouts.

Ultimately, that will be Donald Trump’s legacy: MARA—Make America Racist Again.

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Women's Equality Day Arrives As Record Number of Female Candidates Appear on Ballots in November Midterms

Today, August 26, is Women’s Equality Day. It’s the day in 1920 that the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was formally adopted, giving women the right to vote. It was finally fully ratified eight days earlier when Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the constitutional amendment, giving it the needed three-fourths of all states. August 26 is also the day designated by Congress in 1971 to commemorate American women getting their voting rights.

Some history: The women’s rights and women’s suffrage movement started in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848, although the suffrage movement didn’t really take off until after the Civil War. A constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote was first introduced in 1878. Obviously, passing voting rights for women took a while.

Of course, there are some caveats about the 19th Amendment. While it gave all women the right to vote in 1920, that obviously applied only to white women. It would take decades to remove barriers to voting such as Jim Crow laws, poll taxes, and other impediments, and today’s voter suppression tactics and voter ID laws still seek to limit voting by minorities.

But back in 1920, some states were ahead of the game in giving women the right to vote: A full 15 states granted voting rights for women before passage of the 19th Amendment, mostly in the American West. Five areas gave women voting rights while they were still territories. Twelve states allowed women to vote in presidential contests (but only in presidential contests) before the 1920 election.

(All of these facts about when women gained the right to vote are courtesy of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, which should be a must-visit destination for anyone attending Netroots Nation in Philadelphia in July 2019. Just a quick plug.)

Much of the country’s attitude toward women voting changed during World War I, as women took on more important roles at home while some men were fighting overseas. This is from an editorial from Hearst Newspapers, written by Arthur Brisbane, a leading and influential newspaper editor and syndicated columnist in the early 20th century (his grandson, also named Arthur Brisbane, was public editor of The New York Times from 2010 through 2012).

The editorial, reprinted by ThoughtCo. in 2017, is undated but is thought to have run in 1917, during the time that women suffragists were actively working for voting rights, as they had been throughout the decade.

The woman who votes becomes an important factor in life, for a double reason. In the first place, when a woman votes the candidate must take care that his conduct and record meet with a good woman's approval, and this makes better men of the candidates.

In the second place, and far more important, is this reason:

When women shall vote, the political influence of the good men in the community will be greatly increased. There is no doubt whatever that women, in their voting, will be influenced by the men whom they know. But there is also no doubt that they will be influenced by the GOOD men whom they know.

Men can deceive each other much more easily than they can deceive women — the latter being providentially provided with the X-ray of intuitional perception.

The blustering politician, preaching what he does not practise, may hold forth on the street corner or in a saloon, and influence the votes of others as worthless as himself. But among women his home life will more than offset his political influence.

The bad husband may occasionally get the vote of a deluded or frightened wife, but he will surely lose the votes of the wives and daughters next door.

Voting by women will improve humanity, because IT WILL COMPEL MEN TO SEEK AND EARN THE APPROVAL OF WOMEN.

“Voting by women will improve humanity, because it will compel men to seek and earn the approval of women.” I like the thinking behind that. Of course, Arthur Brisbane never counted on a candidate like Donald Trump.

The National American Woman Suffrage Association published a list of 16 reasons “Why Women Should Vote,” which is housed in the Library of Congress. The exact date of publication is unknown, but it’s likely shortly after 1896. Perhaps the first reason on the list is the most important: “Because it is fair and right that those who must obey the laws should have a voice in making them, and that those who must pay taxes should have a vote as to the size of the tax and the way it shall be spent.”

The League of Women Voters, a group that evolved from the National American Woman Suffrage Association and was founded only months before the 19th Amendment was passed, reminds everyone that the best way to mark Women’s Equality Day is to register to vote. If you have any questions about your voter registration status, or if you need to register, find a polling place, or see a sample ballot, you can check online at the League’s affiliated website,

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Exactly How Deep Are the Ties Between Russia And Trump's Republican Party?

Recent events have driven home the point that Russian influence in American Republican politics is more prevalent than previously thought.

The examples are numerous—and very serious:

The U.S. State Department was quick to label the Russian claims against the Americans as absurd. Given the strong backlash by the diplomatic and intelligence community, Trump officials abandoned the idea, and the U.S. Senate voted 98-0 on a resolution condemning the proposal.

But the damage has been done. The Daily Beast compiled comments from several current and former U.S. diplomats, who were all horrified at the prospect of turning over a former ambassador to Putin, even quoting one current diplomat who chose to remain anonymous but said he was “at a fucking loss.” From the story:

David Wade, who was Secretary of State John Kerry’s chief of staff, said that the White House refusal to disavow Putin on McFaul crossed a line “from demoralizing to dangerous” for American diplomats.

“To even hint that there’s some element of credibility to Russian disruptions and distractions puts a bullseye on the back of any diplomat and invites authoritarian regimes to bully and threaten American public servants for the crime of doing their job. No administration should require a lesson or reminder in why this is reprehensible,” Wade said.

What Trump is willing to admit about Russian interference into the 2016 election is anyone’s guess on any given day, depending on whether he’s standing on a stage in Putin’s shadow or whether he’s half a world away, trying to sound tough with laughable damage control. Trump has made more conflicting claims on the charges of Russian cyberhacking than there are ingredients in borscht.

But there’s no question about what’s true—and that Trump knew it was trueThe New York Times reports that, two weeks before his inauguration in January 2017, Trump was shown detailed, highly-classified intelligence reports that Putin personally ordered cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns to sway the election. All along, Trump knew it wasn’t China or some 400-pound guy sitting on his bed.

The story of Maria Butina gets more bizarre with each new set of details. And it’s a tale that reaches further into the GOP, touching many GOP officials, many of whom had photos taken with Butina at NRA conventions, the National Prayer Breakfast, and other instances, which she posted on social media.

Butina faces two charges: conspiracy and acting as a covert agent for Russia’s FSB spy agency. According to a story in The Washington Post:

Butina is accused of trying to cultivate relationships with American politicians to establish “back channel” lines of communication and seeking to infiltrate U.S. political groups, including an unnamed “gun rights organization,” to advance Russia’s agenda. Descriptions in court papers match published reports about Butina’s interactions with the NRA. …

Butina was allegedly assisted in her efforts by a U.S. political operative who helped introduce her to influential political figures. That person was not charged and is not named in court papers, but the description matches that of Paul Erickson, a GOP consultant who sought to organize a meeting between then-candidate Donald Trump and Alexander Torshin, Butina’s Russian colleague and a former Russian senator, at a May 2016 NRA convention.

Butina is described as “a former furniture store owner from Siberia and gun-rights activist.” She questioned Trump during a 2015 town hall meeting (no coincidence, I’m sure) about his plans for Russia; met with Donald Trump Jr. at the 2016 NRA convention; and met with many Republican officials at the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. Deemed a flight risk, she is being held in custody before her trial.

And speaking of the NRA, the gun industry’s reported ties to Russia also are documented. According to a story from Newsweek

The National Rifle Association has accepted contributions from at least 23 Russia-linked donors since 2015, the gun rights group revealed in a letter addressed to Congress. The admission came after Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, prodded the NRA as part of an investigation into what political organizations may have been used by Russia to influence the 2016 election in favor of Donald Trump.

The money totaled $2,500, with most of it coming from subscriptions or membership dues, according to the letter, which was ... first reported on by NPR. About $525 of that money came from "two individuals who made contributions to the NRA," wrote John Frazer, the general counsel for the gun rights group. The 23 people "may include U.S. citizens living in Russia," the NRA said.

Sure, $2,500 sounds like chump change when you consider the fact that the NRA gave more than $30 million to the Trump campaign and other Republicans. But it goes deeper than that. According to reporting by NPR, Alexander Torshin, now deputy governor of the Russian Central Bank and someone who is currently barred from entering the U.S., has spent six years building relationships with multiple NRA officials and past presidents, trying to gain greater access to GOP politicians.

Top GOP officials know all this and don’t care. According to an analysis in The Nation:

Russiagate isn’t just the narrow story of a few corrupt officials. It isn’t even the story of a corrupt president. It’s the story of a corrupt political party, the one currently holding all the levers of power in Washington. After Trump groveled before Putin in Helsinki, many Republicans in Washington proclaimed their solemn concern, just as they did when the president expressed his sympathy for the white supremacists in Charlottesville last year. But all of them are fully aware that they are abetting a criminal conspiracy, and probably more than one. ...

[Special Counsel Robert] Mueller, who knows more than anyone in the media about the extent of the Russiagate scandal and never leaks, isn’t telling us that Trump colluded and obstructed justice—we already know that, because we literally saw Trump request on camera, in the summer of 2016, that Russia hack the Clinton campaign, just as we later saw him bluntly admit to the world that he fired James Comey to end the Russia investigation.

Instead, we are being told something much more frightening: that Russiagate doesn’t end with Trump and his inner circle, that some members of Congress may be implicated, and that the Republican leadership therefore has a personal stake in preventing anyone beyond [former Trump campaign Chair Paul] Manafort and a few other flunkies from being held accountable.

So Donnie, I hope you enjoy your friendship with Vlad, however one-sided it might be. This satire of a Facebook clip, made a few months after the 2016 election by the comedy filmmaker team of Evan and Adam Nix (the Nix Bros.), sums it up perfectly.

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Trump Has a Plan to Even Further Demonize Food Stamps

In an attempt to find new ways to make life worse for people receiving any government benefits, the Trump administration is seeking to lump together all government benefit programs into a renamed and reorganized Department of Health and Human Services. And you can be sure that the word “welfare” will be emphasized in any new organization.

Any change in federal departments would have to be passed by Congress, but Republicans seem all too willing to push through changes that trim benefits and add more conditions for recipients.

In March 2017, Donald Trump issued an executive order directing OMB to overhaul the federal government, and the budget office’s report is predicted to recommend retooling many departments and agencies. The reorganization proposal on safety-net programs originally came from recommendations by the conservative group the Heritage Foundation. According to the Politico story:

Heritage recommended that all nutrition functions at USDA — including food stamps, nutrition education, and school meal programs that serve some 30 million children each day — be transferred to HHS.

“[T]he USDA has veered off of its mission by working extensively on issues unrelated to agriculture. This is mostly due to the nutrition programs,” Heritage wrote in last year’s report about reorganizing the government. “By moving this welfare function to HHS, the USDA will be better able to work on agricultural issues impacting all Americans.”

In other words, once you remove the food stamps, they can concentrate more on farm subsidies, because that’s what their voters like. Because in that way of thinking, agriculture—growing food—has nothing to do with nutrition, right?

House Republicans might have failed in their latest attempt at a farm bill, but only because of internal fights within the GOP over immigration. Even that failed bill included draconian work requirements for food stamp recipients and was opposed by Democrats. The bill would have required adults to spend 20 hours per week either working or participating in a state-run training program as a condition of receiving benefits, according to a story in The Washington Post:

Democrats argue that a million or more people would end up losing benefits, because most states do not have the capacity to set up the training programs required.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) described the legislation as “cruel” and argued that with the proposed changes to food stamps, “Republicans are taking food out of the mouths of families struggling to make ends meet.”

But cutting aid and adding work requirements is part of the plan. Those work requirements that likely would have taken about 1 million people off food stamps also would save about $20 billion over 10 years. That’s a drop in the bucket compared with the massive hole that the GOP tax cuts are digging in the federal budget, but House Speaker Paul Ryan has no qualms about taking away benefits from the poor.

The rationale behind those cuts is based on the usual misconception about exactly which Americans are on food stamps. Here are facts about food stamp recipients from a USDA website, using the most recent data available from fiscal year 2016 and published in January 2018. In that year, the program served some 44.2 million people, a slight decrease from previous years.

  • Nearly two-thirds of SNAP participants were children, elderly, or had disabilities.
  • One-third of all SNAP participants already have jobs, and over half of families with children on food stamps have jobs.
  • Eight out of 10 SNAP beneficiaries live in or near major cities, while 10 percent live in or near smaller cities and seven percent live in rural areas.
  • When food stamps are added to a family’s gross income, 10 percent of SNAP families move above the poverty line.
  • The average monthly benefit for SNAP households was $249.

That amount of money doesn’t go too far in paying for groceries. Instead, cuts would take food money away from the working poor or those unable to work.

Despite the stereotype of Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queen,” the biggest beneficiaries of government safety-net programs are working-class whites. A 2017 study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities showed that whites without a college degree were the largest group of people lifted out of poverty because of government programs. Here’s how The Washington Post described some of the study’s data:

Government assistance and tax credits lifted 6.2 million working-class whites out of poverty in 2014, more than any other racial or ethnic demographic. Half of all working-age adults without college degrees lifted out of poverty by safety-net programs are white; nearly a quarter are black and a fifth are Hispanic.

The result does not simply reflect the fact that there are more white people in the country. The percentage of otherwise poor whites lifted from poverty by government safety-net programs is higher, at 44 percent, compared to 35 percent of otherwise poor minorities, the study concluded.

The saving grace might be that such a massive overhaul of the federal government would have a hard time getting through Congress. If you think congressional Republicans can’t get anything done now, just imagine how ineffective they would be trying to restructure such large programs. The danger is that, just as they’re doing to the Affordable Care Act, they will take a simplistic approach and slash funding without developing the needed plans and details of making a new program work.

Too bad son-in-law Jared Kushner is too busy trying to create peace in the Middle East to handle this task, right? Actually, overhauling government bureaucracy was on Kushner’s original to-do list—just another job he didn’t get done.

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Media Need 12-Step Program for Donald Trump Addiction

It’s time for the media in this country to admit what the rest of us have known for more than a year: They are addicted to Donald Trump.

1. We admit we are powerless over our own decisions to run constant Trump coverage—that our news feeds have become unmanageable and our headlines have become nothing but clickbait. It’s not “breaking news” just because Donald Trump makes an announcement, even if it’s the outrage du jour. Why treat it that way daily, on top of a news web page or on the bottom of a TV screen?

2. We have come to believe that restoring good news judgment also could restore us and the nation to sanity. An interesting post from a former journalist and current journalism professor and blogger, Jeff Jarvis, takes journalists to task for this:

Imagine if even a fraction of the time we see wasted on cable news were devoted to educating the public about the issues and realities of immigration, refugees, criminal justice, the economy, infrastructure, education, health care costs, entitlement costs, security, the environment, taxes, jobs. … When was the last time you saw TV news do that? How much of any news organization’s work is devoted to doing this, to informing the electorate? Shouldn’t we ask before assigning every story and booking every TV discussion: How will this help the public better decide how to vote?

3. We have made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of honest journalism. From the Harvard study on how the media blew it and fed the beast:

[Journalists] are not in the business of sifting out candidates on the basis of their competency and platforms. They are in the business of finding good stories. Donald Trump was the mother lode. During the invisible primary, the press gave him what every candidate seeks — reams of coverage.

4. We have made a searching and fearless moral inventory of our shoddy reporting, and find it to be overwhelming. The Harvard study again:

Journalists seemed unmindful that they and not the electorate were Trump’s first audience. Trump exploited their lust for riveting stories. He didn’t have any other option. He had no constituency base and no claim to presidential credentials.

5. We will admit to ourselves, our viewers, and our readers the exact nature of our wrongs. We’re talkin’ to YOU, Associated Press. And The New York Times. And theWashington Post.

6. We are entirely ready to cover issues and not just horse-race polling. Members of the media know readers say they’re interested in candidates’ positions. But it’s so much easier just to keep reporting polls. Besides, the closer the race looks, the more relevant the publication or news channel—otherwise, why watch? Even more important: The closer the race, the more candidates need to advertise, and this has notbeen a profitable year for campaign ads on TV. According to industry figures, ad spending at this point in the presidential race is 60 percent lower than the comparable amount spent in 2012—$146 million this year compared with $373 million four years ago. And the Trump campaign is just now starting its general election ad buys.

7. We humbly ask the public to help remove all these defects of our news judgment. Again, from the Harvard study:

When critics have accused journalists of fueling the Trump bandwagon, members of the media have offered two denials. One is that they were in watchdog mode, that Trump’s coverage was largely negative, that the “bad news” outpaced the “good news.” The second rebuttal is that the media’s role in Trump’s ascent was the work of the cable networks—that cable was “all Trump, all the time” whereas the traditional press held back.

Neither of these claims is supported by the evidence. ... Across all the outlets, Trump’s coverage was roughly two-to-one favorable.

8. We will make a list of all readers and viewers we have harmed and become willing to make amends to them all. That’s basically the entire American public at this point.

9. We will make direct amends to such candidates who became victims of false equivalency wherever possible, even when to do so would injure our ratings.Wouldn’t it be nice if reporters, anchors, and columnists dropped the “both sides do it” nonsense? There’s plenty of evidence, from academic studies to real reporting, that the media’s attempts at “balance” is way off kilter. Jeff Jarvis again:

These faux scandals become tokens in journalists’ well-documented insistence on finding balance. Let’s spend one block of our show talking about how Donald Trump demonizes Mexicans and Muslims and — because we need something to “balance” that — let’s spend the next block repeating the same, year-old allegations about Hillary’s damned emails. The hunt for balance is especially cynical this year, as any attempt to give balanced coverage to an unbalanced candidate can only mislead.

10. We will continue to take personal inventory, and when we are wrong, promptly admit it, run corrections when we screw up, and delete inaccurate tweets. Man, is this needed. Corrections need to be displayed prominently, not buried in a one-paragraph posting on an inside page. If an online story is corrected, not only does that correction need to be made, but the readers also must be told that there was a correction from an earlier version.

11. We will seek through good reporting to improve our conscious contact with our readers and viewers. The same Jarvis post referenced above criticizes coverage of and engagement with all voter groups.  

Because of this election, we now know that the media has done a terrible job of reflecting the concerns and goals of underemployed, angry white men in the heartland. If media had done a better job of reporting — and then informing — their world views, would there have been an opening for them to be recruited by Trump and the forces of the so-called alt right?

Far more important than either of those examples, of course, is the experience of minorities in this country: African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims, too often women, and too many others who are unseen in media.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we will try to carry this message to other journalists, and to practice these principles in all our reporting. Jarvis one last time:

We must create a journalism that mirrors the many and diverse communities and concerns in societies and convenes these communities in dialog so they can foster empathy and understanding. We must create a journalism that educates the public about the issues that matter to each other (so we must start by asking them what matters, not assuming we know). We must create a journalism that does not reduce people to numbers and colors but instead invites them into a substantive, intelligent, fruitful, and civil discussion as individuals and members of communities, not a mass.

Think anyone in the media will follow this advice? Nah, me neither.

And what will become of the news business if and when Trump loses the election in November? CNN must be hoping for another missing plane.

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