September 3, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 PM


This is what smart conservatives want to do to fight poverty Dylan Matthews, Aug 25, 2015, Vox)

Oren Cass ran domestic policy for Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign -- and has a serious, developed proposal to help the working poor.

Cass, now a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, on Tuesday published a plan to replace the Earned Income Tax Credit -- the big tax break the federal government uses to support the working poor -- with a wage subsidy. That would, according to him, help childless workers who are currently left out of the safety net, discourage work less than traditional social programs, and provide low-income families with more regular financial support. It's the best response conservatives have produced yet to Fight for $15 and other left-wing movements to boost pay for working people. [...]

Cass's big idea is to replace the Earned Income Tax Credit -- the big tax break the federal government uses to support the working poor -- with a wage subsidy. The difference between the two ideas is subtle, but important. The EITC is paid in a lump sum as part of tax refunds every spring; it's calculated as a function of a household's total earnings throughout the previous year, and is primarily geared toward families with children, offering little to childless workers. Wage subsidies would be paid to individual workers, not to households, and through their regular paychecks as opposed to one big check every year; and, because the subsidy is administered on the individual level, it'd offer just as much to childless workers as to workers with families.

Here's how it would work. The government would set a target hourly wage; this could either be the same everywhere, or vary locally based on state and local labor market conditions. One option Cass floats would be to set the target wage at 60 percent of the median wage in an area. So if the average worker in a region is making $20 an hour ($40,000 a year if working full-time), then the target wage would be $12. The government would then commit to paying half the difference between an employee's market wage and the target wage. For example, imagine the target wage is $12, and an employer is paying a worker $8 an hour -- $2 is half the difference, so the government would add $2 an hour to the employee's paycheck. Once an employee is making the target wage, government support ceases, which keeps costs under control. [...]

"The real distinction between the EITC and the wage subsidy is that the EITC phases out as your income increases, and the wage subsidy phases out as your wage rate increases," Cass tells me. 

...if it just means they pay it instead of the feds?

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 PM


What Are Evangelicals Afraid of Losing?: President Trump's appeal to fear ignores that Christians seek first the Kingdom, not political favors. (MICHAEL HORTON| AUGUST 31, 2018, Christianity Today)

[T]he church does not preach the gospel at the pleasure of any administration or decline to preach it at another administration's displeasure. We preach at Christ's pleasure. And we don't make his policies but communicate them. It's not when we're fed to lions that we lose everything; it's when we preach another gospel. "What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?" (Matt. 16:26).

And yet, swinging from triumphalism to seething despair, many pastors are conveying to the wider, watching public a faith in political power that stands in sharp opposition to everything we say we believe in. To many of our neighbors, the court chaplains appear more like jesters.

Something tremendous is at stake here: whether evangelical Christians place their faith more in Caesar and his kingdom than in Christ and his reign. On that one, we do have everything to lose--this November and every other election cycle. When we seek special political favors for the church, we communicate to the masses that Christ's kingdom is just another demographic in the US electorate.

Posted by orrinj at 6:15 PM


Hank Mobley, the greatest sax player you never heard: The forgotten genius of Blue Note was a prince among players, but he died a pauper (Andrew L. Shea, September 3, 2018, The Spectator)

Hank Mobley was born in Depression-era rural Georgia but raised in Elizabeth, New Jersey. In 1946, aged 16, he picked up a saxophone and taught himself theory and harmony from books that his grandmother bought for him. By 19 he was playing in local R&B bands, and he soon began working with jazz greats such as Gordon and Lester Young, who visited nearby Newark for gigs. Through playing in Newark, he met the pioneering bebop drummer Max Roach, with whom he played intermittently for two years, and Dizzy Gillespie, who also hired Mobley to play in his band.

In 1954, Mobley joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, a new five-piece that included Blakey on drums, Horace Silver on piano, Kenny Dorham on trumpet, and Doug Watkins on bass. The group, led nominally in its early years by Silver and Blakey, is widely held to have founded the new genre, 'hard bop', a response to both the cushy pleasantness of West Coast jazz and the introverted intellectualism of New York bebop. The name 'Messengers', with its evangelical overtones, hints at the inflections of gospel and blues that would give hard bop its audience-friendly flavour. No more beatnik berets and professorial pipes -- with hard bop, swing was most definitely the thing.

Mobley embodied the budding hard bop scene. Leaving the Messengers in 1956, he embarked on a remarkably prolific recording and composing career, and became a solid fixture of Blue Note's sessions. Even in his earliest recordings, Mobley seems to have already come upon a sound that was all his own -- bluesy but not clichéd, soulful but smart, and with little of the caustic bark with which Rollins and Coltrane muscled out their improvisations. In the liner notes of the 1961 album Workout, critic Leonard Feather named Hank Mobley 'the middleweight champion of the tenor saxophone'. The praise might seem backhanded, but Feather intended the 'middleweight' designation to describe the tonal balance of Mobley's sound -- not too brazen, not too 'cool' -- than the quality of Mobley's imagination. As Mobley himself described it, 'My sound is not a big sound, not a small sound, just a round sound.' [...]

In 1961, Miles Davis, struggling to find a replacement for John Coltrane, hired Mobley for his quintet. The career break was Mobley's shot at immortality, but Miles was dissatisfied with the addition: 'playing with Hank just wasn't fun for me; he didn't stimulate my imagination'. This bullet to the heart, and from the 'Prince of Darkness' himself, has popularised a negative perception of Mobley's aesthetic as conservative, cautious, boring, and completely incompatible with the progressive aesthetic movements of the 1960s.

To be sure, unlike Trane and Miles, Hank was uninterested in forging the sorts of conceptual paths that the Sixties required of the artist interested in remaining 'relevant'. While Coltrane pursued his meditative metaphysics and Miles went fusion-electric, Mobley largely stuck to his hard bop guns. Now, however, Mobley's 'stubbornness' sounds like a virtue, and central to the sustained quality of his recordings. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:36 PM


Trump Criticized Jeff Sessions For Going After Two "Popular" Republican Congressmen Accused Of Corruption (Tasneem Nashrulla, 9/03/18, BuzzFeed News)

President Trump criticized his attorney general Jeff Sessions for indicting two Republican congressmen -- who were early supporters of Trump -- at the cost of the GOP potentially losing "two easy wins" in the upcoming mid-term elections.

Referring to the two recent federal indictments of Republican congressmen, Rep. Duncan Hunter and Rep. Chris Collins, Trump tweeted, "Two long running, Obama era, investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department. Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff...."

Posted by orrinj at 3:04 PM


Orrin Judd has brought the Brothers Judd picks pool back for the 2018 football season and wants to make sure you're a part of the action. You can get back into the competition now!

Posted by orrinj at 12:51 PM


The Toll of Putin's Wars (ANDERS ÅSLUND, 9/03/18, Project Syndicate)

From 2008 to 2016, Russia increased its military expenditures from 3.3% of GDP - which roughly corresponds to the current US level - to 5.3%, according to the authoritative Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

According to the Russian government's own fiscal statistics - which remain surprisingly open - its civilian expenditures in occupied Crimea come to around $2 billion per year. And while there are no public data on its presence in Eastern Ukraine, it is safe to assume that the costs there are roughly the same, in which case Russia is spending $4 billion per year - 0.3% of GDP - on these two operations alone.

Yet, beyond military expenditures, Russia is also incurring the costs of lost trade and investment, as well as escalating sanctions, which are more than enough to condemn the country to stagnation for as long as its wars last. In July 2014, the United States and the European Union imposed sanctions on Russia's finance, oil and gas, and defense technologies sectors, in response to its military aggression in Ukraine's Donbas region. So far, these measures have been effective. In global finance, the dollar is king. And because every dollar passes through US banks, dollar transactions are ultimately subject to the US Department of the Treasury's jurisdiction. Through financial sanctions, the US can thus starve Russia of foreign investment.

In August 2015, the International Monetary Fund estimated that Western sanctions would immediately reduce Russia's real (inflation-adjusted) GDP by 1-1.5%. In the medium term, however, the IMF concluded that sanctions "could lead to a cumulative output loss...of up to 9% of GDP, as lower capital accumulation and technological transfers weaken already declining productivity growth."

Luring them into Syria was the real masterstroke.

Posted by orrinj at 4:23 AM


Sweden's Economy Is Getting a Lift From Migrants (Hussam Al-Homsi, 8/21/18, Bloomberg)

Lost amid the political rhetoric is the story of the bounce that people such as Al-Homsi have delivered to the $540 billion economy. Sweden's rapid intake of huge numbers of refugees and migrants, about 600,000 in total over the past five years, has produced some of the highest growth rates in Europe and will also help it address the challenges of an otherwise aging population.

"These refugees and immigrants came at precisely the right time," says Lars Christensen, an economist and founder of Markets & Money Advisory, a consulting firm. "I'm worried about the lack of incentives [to work] in the Swedish welfare state, but I'm not worried about the 250,000 refugees that have arrived."

Gross domestic product increased more than 3 percent in the first two quarters of the year, which is considerably faster than the euro zone's roughly 2 percent growth. In recent years, Sweden has granted thousands of work permits to information technology developers, berry pickers, and cooks. Foreign-born workers accounted for all the job growth in the industrial sector last year and for 90 percent of the new jobs in the welfare sector, in particular health care and elderly care.

Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson on Aug. 16 said the new arrivals are now getting jobs twice as fast as immigrants who arrived late in the last decade. Immigrants in Sweden have a labor force participation rate of about 82 percent, some 4 percentage points higher than the EU average.

Posted by orrinj at 4:21 AM


Tariffs start to take a toll on Long Island businesses: With trade tensions resulting in rising costs, layoffs may be next, and uncertainty may keep a lid on plans for growth. (James T. Madore,  August 30, 2018, Newsday)

A swath of Long Island's economy, both businesses and consumers, are feeling the effects of heightened trade tensions between the United States and other countries.

"A lot of companies are putting on hold their plans to do business overseas or scrapping them altogether," said Savio S. Chan, an international trade consultant with an office in Great Neck. "There is great uncertainty about how to respond to the tariffs."

Since January, President Donald Trump increased tariffs about a half-dozen times, most notably on steel and aluminum from overseas in March and on two groups of Chinese products -- together valued at $50 billion -- on July 6 and Aug. 23. The metals tariffs were met with retaliatory taxes by Europe, Canada, Turkey and others. China responded to the tariffs on its goods by boosting taxes on $50 billion of U.S. products.

At Sea Eagle Boats Inc. owners Cecil and John Hoge said their cost of producing inflatable plastic kayaks, fishing boats and motorboats in China will jump by more than $1 million per year under a U.S. tariff set to go into effect in a couple of weeks. The company's annual sales total about $10 million.

"The tariff will be devastating," John Hoge said during a tour of his office and warehouse south of Port Jefferson harbor, where he tests new boat designs. "We'll have to raise our prices by 25 percent because there is no alternative source of supply. Nobody makes these boats in America."

He said 50-year-old Sea Eagle has always had its inflatable boats built overseas, first in Europe and now in Asia. It sells about 18,000 per year via the internet, mail-order catalogs and telephone. The boats are priced between $300 and $3,850.

Tariff-fueled price hikes "will mean fewer sales and less work," Hoge said, referring to the company's 18 employees. "We will be forced to lay people off because of this government-created disaster."

Posted by orrinj at 4:12 AM


Life After NAFTA (Veronique de Rugy, August 30, 2018 , Creators)

NAFTA had a positive impact on the U.S. economy. Writing about the risk of withdrawing from the 1994 agreement in The Wall Street Journal a few months ago, Matthew Slaughter, dean of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, wrote, "In a new report canvassing dozens of academic and policy studies, I find that the U.S. gross domestic product is now 0.2 percent to 0.3 percent larger than it would be without Nafta, a yearly boost of about $50 billion."

And while NATFA did boost Canadian and Mexican imports into our country, it also boosted U.S exports and increased foreign investments on our shores.

You see, when U.S. consumers buy imports from other countries, they send dollars abroad. However, these dollars always come back to us because foreign holders use them to purchase U.S. exports or invest here (for example, Toyota builds a factory in Ohio, or Canadians buy U.S. government bonds). In other words, more imports result in more exports, faster economic growth and lower interest rates paid on our gigantic government debt. This reality explains why the Business Roundtable predicts that a withdrawal from NAFTA would, in the initial post-exit years, shrink the U.S. economy by $120 billion and reduce American exports by more than 2 percent.

American consumers enjoy many benefits from NAFTA-induced imports from Canada and Mexico. From low-priced clothing to lower-priced avocados, "American consumers have saved $10.5 billion a year from lower tariffs under Nafta," Slaughter writes, "with most of the benefits going to households with annual incomes below $70,000."

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


Ethnicity not a factor in Elizabeth Warren's rise in law (Annie Linskey, September 01, 2018, Boston Globe)

The 60-plus Harvard Law School professors who filed into an auditorium-style room on the first floor of Pound Hall on that February 1993 afternoon had a significant question to answer: Should they offer a job to Elizabeth Warren?

The atmosphere was a little fraught. Outside the hall, students held a silent vigil to demand the law school add more minorities and women to a faculty dominated by white men.

The discussion among Harvard professors inside that room is supposed to remain a secret, but it's still being dissected a quarter of a century later because the resulting vote set Warren on her way to becoming a national figure and a favored target for conservative critics, among them, notably and caustically, President Trump.

Was Warren on the agenda because, as her critics say, she had decided to self-identify as a Native American woman and Harvard saw a chance to diversify the law faculty? Did she have an unearned edge in a hugely competitive process? Or did she get there based on her own skill, hard work, and sacrifice?

The question, which has hung over Warren's public life, has an answer.

In the most exhaustive review undertaken of Elizabeth Warren's professional history, the Globe found clear evidence, in documents and interviews, that her claim to Native American ethnicity was never considered by the Harvard Law faculty, which voted resoundingly to hire her, or by those who hired her to four prior positions at other law schools. At every step of her remarkable rise in the legal profession, the people responsible for hiring her saw her as a white woman.

The Globe examined hundreds of documents, many of them never before available, and reached out to all 52 of the law professors who are still living and were eligible to be in that Pound Hall room at Harvard Law School. Some are Warren's allies. Others are not. Thirty-one agreed to talk to the Globe -- including the law professor who was, at the time, in charge of recruiting minority faculty. Most said they were unaware of her claims to Native American heritage and all but one of the 31 said those claims were not discussed as part of her hire. One professor told the Globe he is unsure whether her heritage came up, but is certain that, if it did, it had no bearing on his vote on Warren's appointment.

It's Donald's defense.  Yes, we tried but it didn't work! 

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Companies Say Trump Is Hurting Business by Limiting Legal Immigration (Nelson D. Schwartz and Steve Lohr, Sept. 2, 2018, NY Times)

The Trump administration is using the country's vast and nearly opaque immigration bureaucracy to constrict the flow of foreign workers into the United States by throwing up new roadblocks to limit legal arrivals.

The government is denying more work visas, asking applicants to provide additional information and delaying approvals more frequently than just a year earlier. Hospitals, hotels, technology companies and other businesses say they are now struggling to fill jobs with the foreign workers they need.

With foreign hires missing, the employees who remain are being forced to pick up the slack. Seasonal industries like hotels and landscaping are having to turn down customers or provide fewer services. Corporate executives worry about the long-term impact of losing talented engineers and programmers to countries like Canada that are laying out the welcome mat for skilled foreigners. [...]

In practice, businesses say the increased red tape has made it harder to secure employment-based visas. That has added to the difficulty of finding qualified workers with the unemployment rate falling to 3.9 percent.

A recent analysis of government data by the National Foundation for American Policy, a nonpartisan research group, found that the denial rate for H-1B visa petitions for skilled foreign workers had increased 41 percent in the last three months of the 2017 fiscal year, compared with the third quarter. Government requests for additional information for applications doubled in the fourth quarter, a few months after Mr. Trump issued his order.

Experts say a sustained reduction in immigration could dampen growth over time as more baby boomers retire, leaving big gaps in the job market.

That goes for high-skilled immigrants and low-skilled workers, said Francine D. Blau, an economist at Cornell. The latter will be vital in fields like elder care and child care, as well as construction and cleaning.

"A lot of our labor-force growth comes from immigrants and their children," Ms. Blau said. "Without them, we'd suffer the problems associated with countries with an aging population, like Japan."

The Business Roundtable, a group of corporate leaders, recently challenged the Trump administration over changes that it says threaten the livelihoods of thousands of skilled foreign workers, and economic growth and competitiveness.

It is clarifying though to see folks on the right ditch their opposition to taxes, bureaucracy and regulations in favor of racism.