Political Animal


April 19, 2014 3:52 PM An idea whose time has come: jail time for wage theft

Catherine Rampell’s new economics and business blog at the Washington Post, Rampage, is excellent (and boy was the New York Times stupid to let her get away). Take, for instance, her latest column, which is about wage theft. The human-interest reporting is very good:

Take Ashley Cathey, 25, a six-year McDonald’s employee who participated in a national one-day strike last December. A couple of months later, she got a 25-cent raise, to $8 an hour from $7.75. But something about her next paycheck looked fishy: Her pay seemed short given her raise and new, longer hours. She usually works overnight, and in recent months her shifts have frequently stretched to 12 or 14 hours because her Memphis restaurant has been short-staffed. (Perhaps because its wages are still too low to retain enough employees.)
She asked a friend who is a manager to print out her time sheet and noticed that someone had clocked her out for breaks she never took. Other co-workers spotted hours shaved from their time sheets, too. When employees brought this to the attention of a more senior boss, they were told the wrongly subtracted hours would appear in their next paychecks. Meanwhile, the helpful manager who had printed out the time sheets was reprimanded for sharing official time records with workers and told that he’d be fired if he did it again, Cathey said. Now Cathey keeps a personal record of the hours she clocks in and out.
“I never paid attention before,” she told me in a phone interview. She suspects that someone has been doctoring her hours for years, but she doesn’t want to endanger her manager friend’s job by asking for help obtaining proof. Even without proof she is convinced: “They’re hiding something, obviously,” she said.

Even better is Rampell’s putting this story in a systemic context — multiple McDonald’s and Domino’s stores have recently settled wage theft cases with the New York state attorney general, and there are multi-state class action suits against McDonald’s afoot — and her bold policy prescription to crack down on wage theft, which is jail time against the perpetrators. Rampell argues that the wage thieves often get away with their crimes, for a variety of reasons.

For one thing, as she notes, the crime often goes undetected. Also, as she doesn’t point out, but I will, the victims are often among the most vulnerable and least powerful workers in our economy: low-wage workers and undocumented immigrants. In addition, we’ve defunded our government’s administrative capacity to regulate, so which makes it difficult to investigate wage theft complaints even when they’re reported. Finally, says Rampell:

The consequences for wage theft are rare, small and not particularly deterring. Even when government investigators pursue these complaints, for example, criminal charges are rarely filed.
Harsher penalties, including prison time, should be on the table more often when willful wrongdoing is proved. Thieves caught stealing thousands of dollars from someone’s home can go to jail; the same should be true for thieves caught stealing thousands of dollars from someone’s paycheck.

Though some people might argue that hard time for the wage thieves is a harsh penalty, I’m not one of them. We call this practice “theft” because that is what it is. Just as anti-choicers who refer to abortion as “murder” should either embrace the logic of their own argument and support prison time for women who undergo abortions, or abandon the use of the “murder” label altogether when applied to abortion, the opponents of wage theft should stand firmly in favor of prison sentences for those convicted of this sleazy, bottom-feeding crime. Low-wage workers have a world of problems; a society that lets the theft of their hard-earned dollars go lightly punished, or not punished at all, should not be one of them.

April 19, 2014 12:21 PM Did someone say patrimonial capitalism? The White House hosts a meeting of teenage billionaire “philanthropists”

Thomas Piketty, call your office!

Today’s New York Times — in the Fashion and Style section, but of course! — reports on a White House meeting of “100 young philanthropists and heirs to billionaire family fortunes.” Some of the people quoted in the article are as young as 19, and they are from family names you’ll recognize: Marriott, Pritzker, Rockefeller, etc.

The whole article is creepy beyond belief. Let me count a few of the ways:

1. A Democratic White House is hosting this plutocrats’ party? Really?

2. While the article does emphasize the youth of the “philanthropist” attendees, in a way that seems to demonstrate skepticism, it does not examine the truth value of their do-gooding claims. For example, this is briefly mentioned, but goes unanalyzed:

One topic that seemed to generate intense interest among the wealthy heirs was impact investing, which refers to a socially conscious form of investing that seeks to generate both a social benefit and a meaningful financial return.

I for one would like to hear more about this. Without knowing more, I’m extremely dubious. It sounds like another variation of those “public-private partnerships” we hear so much about, that so frequently end up doing little more than enriching private actors, creating bad jobs, and robbing taxpayers blind.

3. There is of course the Piketty angle, which has to do with the rise of patrimonial capitalism, or capitalism dominated by inherited wealth. These kids are the nouveau American version of ancien regime European aristocracy. As the Times reports, this class of young plutocrats is about to inherit a virtually unprecedented amount of loot:

Policy experts and donors recognize that there’s no better time than now to empower young philanthropists. Professionals in the field, citing an Accenture report from 2012, estimate that more than $30 trillion in wealth will pass from baby boomers to younger generations by around 2050. At the same time, the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy (no relation to this reporter) and the nonprofit consulting group 21/64 have concluded in a recent study on philanthropic giving that heirs are becoming involved in family foundations at an earlier age — specifically in their 20s and 30s — and imprinting them with the social values of their generation.

4. Finally, this section of the piece, by reporter Jamie Johnson, is beauty itself. Oh the irony!

(Disclosure: Although the event was closed to the media, I was invited by the founders of Nexus, Jonah Wittkamper and Rachel Cohen Gerrol, to report on the conference as a member of the family that started the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical company.)

Atrios recently wrote, “If only it could be revealed that the New York Times Style section has actually been fiction penned by Andy Kaufman for the past several decades [!]” If only!

UPDATE: Digby and Harold Pollack have more, and both are extremely astute as usual. Digby really gets to the heart of it, I think:

It’s very nice that many of these young idealistic aristocrats want to do good deeds. But this is really nothing more than good old fashioned noblesse oblige which basically leaves the betterment of man to the whims of rich people. One of the big improvements democracy was supposed to bring was that the people themselves decided how to organize society rather than depending on the kindness of aristocrats. Even great philanthropists of the gilded age like Andrew Carnegie believed in a huge confiscatory tax of great estates in order that the government of the people might make the decisions rather than the heirs of great fortunes.
But we’re going the wrong way again. So if you have a good idea or want to help people or just need a job —- figure out which of the wealthy young scions of the new aristocracy might be amenable to your needs and figure out a way to kiss their asses in exactly the way they like them kissed. That’s the major skill we’re all going to need in our so-called “meritocracy”.
April 19, 2014 10:19 AM Morning music, The Cosmopolitans, “(How to Keep Your) Husband Happy”

There’s no doubt about it: with the Democrats’ decision to run on women’s issues and the gender pay gap this election is making Republicans very, very nervous. So far, they’ve have two basic responses to Democrats: one is to flat-out lie about the GOP’s record on women, pretending that it’s pro-equality. But the reality is anything but, as Talking Points Memo’s Lauren Rankin argues here. As Rankin demonstrates, that the last time the Republican Party supported women’s rights in any significant numbers, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, earth shoes, and fondues were all the rage.

Besides lying, the GOP’s other strategy where women’s rights are concerned has been to double down on the old school gender essentialism, hard. Perhaps the most notable example of the latter strategy is that they’ve rolled the 89-year old Phyllis Schlafly out of mothballs to argue, essentially, that if you girls start making more money, you’ll never catch a man. “The pay gap between men and women is not all bad because it helps to promote and sustain marriages,” she claims.

Given the Republicans’ unabashed nostalgia for the gender apartheid of the 1950s, I thought it would be a great time to post an unsung punk/new wave feminist classic: “(How to Keep Your) Husband Happy” by The Cosmopolitans. Am I the only person who knows about this song? I’ve mentioned it to other knowledgeable punk/post-punk/alternative rock fans, and none of them had ever heard of it. Be that as it may, The Cosmopolitans were a female-fronted, New York City-based band active between 1979 and 1982. Like The dBs, who played on some of their records (and who are another great band from that era), they were originally from North Carolina. This is their best-known song, and it is a demented delight: think feminist B-52s. Apparently, the lyrics are based on an exercise record from the late 1950s that actually existed, and that was owned by the mother of the band’s frontwoman, Jamie K. Sims.

I can easily imagine some of the Mad Men ladies listening to the original recording and earnestly attempting to follow the tips, can’t you? (Well, in the early seasons, anyway).

Though the song is over 30 years old, I fear the irony might still be lost on some. The rest of us can enjoy it in the spirit in which it was intended.

April 18, 2014 4:30 PM Day’s End and Weekend Watch

As indicated, I’m wrapping up early today in observance of Good Friday.

* As we speak, ambitious reporters and oppo researchers are probably pouring over the major document dump executed by the Clinton Library earlier this afternoon.

* State Department extends its review of Keystone XL Pipeline again, which means final administration decision may well not happen until after midterms.

* Greg Sargent acutely observes that failure of Obamacare to collapse may make it easier for Democrats to de-nationalize midterm contests in red states.

* At Ten Miles Square, Henry Farrell offers a meditation on becoming an American citizen.

* At College Guide, Daniel Luzer considers the plight of a sociologist specializing in zombie-related research who cannot seem to find a stable academic job.

And in non-political news:

* U.S. Air Force reports its drone pilots are suffering from poor morale. Not sure I really want to know why.

OK, that’s it for the day and week. Kathleen Geier will be in tomorrow for Weekend Blogging. I wish all of you who are celebrating Easter or Passover a spiritual weekend, and if not, then a good rest. Let’s close with my favorite piece of Good Friday music—or maybe any music—“O Sacred Head, Sore Wounded,” with music from Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, as performed by the choir of King’s College, Cambridge.


April 18, 2014 4:08 PM Another Cycle That Breaks the Mold?

Speaking of “Goldwaterism”…Ross Douthat published a column yesterday expressing the fear that the “unprecedented unsettleness” of the early 2016 Republican “invisible primary” might produce a “nearly unprecedented, not-since-Goldwater outcome” in the presidential nominating contest.

What Douthat was doubting was the “usual pattern” taken by the GOP:

[This is] the path that every post-1970s Republican primary campaign has ultimately taken, in which a candidate who seems reasonably electable, performs well with “moderate conservative” primary voters (to use Henry Olsen’s helpful typology) and wins the blessing of the party’s donor class, successfully fends off a more right-wing challenger, and sometimes a more moderate challenger as well.

But as Jonathan Bernstein notes, there’s no obvious frontrunner for 2016 (“no former nominee, no former or sitting vice president, no acknowledged longtime leader, no close runner-up from a previous cycle”). And the putative Establishment candidates—Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio—all have unusually large handicaps (though perhaps no larger than the 2012 nominee’s “Obamneycare” problem, which he overcame).

Douthat doesn’t buy into the mystical notion that the “Establishment” has iron control of the nominating process; he acknowledges the narrow escapes made by Romney and especially McCain in the last two cycles, which might have gone in another direction. And Bernstein is always careful to define “the party” in ways that include ideological groups and other organized factions—not just shadowy Beltway elites—as important decision-makers.

In my own opinion, what separates “the party” from random rank-and-file voters is most likely a superior interest in electability. But even then, the principle of “high risk, high reward” can well come into play, with entirely rational people deciding it’s worth trading some degree of electability for the ideological payoff of a less-electable-but-not-hopless candidate. And let’s don’t forget a decent number of great-big-grownups in the Republican Party buy into “move right and win” theories whereby a more ideologically consistent candidate can not only “energize the base” but can offer a clearer appeal to swing voters (this is, for example, a big part of Scott Walker’s rap about why he is politically successful).

So all in all, I think it’s safe to say this really could be a cycle that breaks the mold and offers general election voters the kind of “choice not an echo” that Barry Goldwater rightly said he represented. Partisan allegiances being what they are, even an extremist GOP nominee almost certainly won’t do as poorly as Goldwater did. But it remains to be seen how many Republican movers-and-shakers decide they’d better get behind one of the tarnished “somewhat conservative” candidates, or go for broke. Foreign policy and immigration aside, it’s not like they really disagree on much that matters.

April 18, 2014 2:54 PM “The Spirit of Goldwaterism”

For all the hagiography directed at Ronald Reagan, I’ve always thought the real idol for the newly radicalized conservative movement of the Obama Era was Barry Goldwater, the original “constitutional conservative.” Mike Gerson agrees, and it worries him:

The 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act is also the 50th anniversary of the presumptive Republican nominee for president, Barry Goldwater, voting against the Civil Rights Act.
Goldwater, his defenders effectively argue, was not a racist, only an ideologue. True enough. He had been a founding member of the Arizona NAACP. He helped integrate the Phoenix public schools. His problems with the Civil Rights Act were theoretical and libertarian — an objection to the extension of federal power over private enterprise.
But some political choices are symbolic and more than symbolic. Following Goldwater’s vote, a young Colin Powell went out to his car and affixed a Lyndon Johnson bumper sticker. “While not himself a racist,” concluded Martin Luther King Jr., “Mr. Goldwater articulates a philosophy which gives aid and comfort to the racists.” Jackie Robinson, after attending the GOP convention in 1964, helped launch Republicans for Johnson.
In the 1960 election, Richard Nixon had won 32 percent of the African American vote. Goldwater got 6 percent in 1964. No Republican presidential candidate since has broken 15 percent….
Announcing his candidacy, Goldwater had pledged: “I will not change my beliefs to win votes. I will offer a choice, not an echo.” The choice was generally libertarian and Jeffersonian (in its resistance to federal power). The echo consisted of Republicans who had accommodated federal power on the welfare state, civil rights and much else. The energy of Goldwater’s movement was directed against compromised members of the GOP — the RINOs of their time. According to Goldwater, President Dwight Eisenhower had embraced “the siren song of socialism.” Goldwaterites accused the Republican establishment of “me-tooism” and advocating a “dime store New Deal….”

Sound familiar? No question about it.

The political events of half a century ago have current echoes. The spirit of Goldwaterism is abroad among tea party activists. Their ideological ideal is often libertarian and Jeffersonian. A few — Rand Paul (R-Ky.) briefly during his Senate campaign; Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) at a recent town hall — balk at accepting the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act. More generally, they believe that the GOP’s political recovery must begin with the defeat of compromised GOP elites. Never mind that those elites, by any historical standard, are conservative….

But it gets worse:

The problem comes in viewing Goldwater as an example rather than as a warning. Conservatives sometimes describe his defeat as a necessary, preliminary step — a clarifying and purifying struggle — in the Reagan revolution. In fact, it was an electoral catastrophe that awarded Lyndon Johnson a powerful legislative majority, increased the liberal ambitions of the Great Society and caused massive distrust of the GOP among poor and ethnic voters. The party has never quite recovered. Ronald Reagan was, in part, elected president by undoing Goldwater’s impression of radicalism. And all of Reagan’s domestic achievements involved cleaning up just a small portion of the excesses that Goldwater’s epic loss enabled.

That’s exactly right, in both respects. The continuities between the Goldwater and Reagan campaigns—and especially the 1976 Reagan campaign that viewed itself as a purge of RINO Gerald Ford—are impossible to ignore, up to and including the signature “Viva/Ole” call and response of the shock troops in both. From within, Reagan’s ascent looked like a consummation of the 1964 crusade, not a correction. But had that impression been more general in the electorate, Reagan would likely not have won, even with all the advantages he had in 1980.

But the “spirit of Goldwaterism” is indeed alive in the activist “base” of the GOP. And 50 years after the original, it’s no more likely that “constitutional conservatism” is the basis for any real popular majority, and its advocates’ disdain for “popular majorities” supplies the final proof.

April 18, 2014 2:06 PM Lunch Buffet

Today is Good Friday, a solemn holiday for many of us. So I will curtail blogging a bit this afternoon.

Here are some midday and week-ending news/views items:

* At Weekly Standard, Jeffrey Anderson posts about the 50,000th conservative piece that touts Obamacare’s unpopularity without noting that many who don’t like it want something more “socialistic.”

* Costa/Rucker WaPo item on Mitt Romney’s reemergence quotes one friend as suggesting that Mitt wants to be “the anti-Jim DeMint” within GOP. Well, they could use one, but let’s remember DeMint was a key Mitt endorser in 2008.

* Tea Party Express chair Amy Kremer leaves post to join Matt Bevin campaign in Kentucky. Bringing down the Great White Father Mitch McConnell does seem to be a Tea priority.

* Prospect’s Paul Waldman comments on the financial arrangements between conservative groups and radio talk show hosts.

* At the New Yorker, Jelani Cobb discusses the mixed legacy of desegregation.

And in non-political news:

* NASA lunar probe crashes into dark side of the moon—as planned.

As we break for lunch, here’s more T-Bone Walker, with “Goin’ to Chicago.”

April 18, 2014 1:31 PM 1896 and 1908

At Ten Miles Square today, Seth Masket notes that an important turning point in the direction of modern politics occurred in the presidential election of 1908, when Democratic candidate William Jennings Bryan and Republican candidate William Howard Taft both recorded speeches that were distributed to campaign operatives around the country, making it possible for voters to hear their voices remotely.

Bryan’s involvement in this innovation is especially interesting because in his first presidential race, in 1896, he became the first presidential candidate to fully abandon the “front-porch campaign” tradition and personally barnstorm the country. So in the course of his remarkable career he both created and obviated the style of frenetic personal campaigning that gave him such a devoted following for so very long—if not, in the end, the keys to the White House.

April 18, 2014 12:51 PM Is “Nana Factor” Big For HRC?

Per TPM’s Tom Kludt, on MNBC’s Morning Joe today, New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin thinks Chelsea Clinton’s pregnancy could be a “game-changer,” in a positive way, for her mother’s likely 2016 presidential campaign.

Sorkin didn’t much convince his fellow panelists.

Maybe he should have read and cited Haley Sweetland Edwards’ essay about the Nana Factor for HRC in the current issue of the Washington Monthly:

For years, she’s been hamstrung by schizophrenic reviews from those she needs to win over. On one hand, people seem to agree that she is by nearly all counts the logical, most electable candidate on the blue team. In nearly all polls over the last four years, Democratic voters have found her competent, strong, intelligent, and imminently electable. But on the other hand, when it comes down to measuring that slippery je ne sais quoi of a candidate’s likability, there’s something about the lady that makes many in the Democratic base just sort of squinch up their face. (You know the look: “It’s not that I don’t like her; it’s just that …”) To many liberals, the allegation is often that she’s too shrewdly ambitious, too obviously the product of the steely, well-oiled Clintonland political machine. (In the lead-up to the 2008 election, liberal editor Robert Kuttner worried that “everything she does seems calculating, poll-tested, and money-driven.”) To many moderates, she’s just plain dull.
Becoming a grandmother could help remedy both those problems. It could allow her, for example, to simply become more human at the podium. She could suddenly be in a position to crack jokes about tripping over baby toys, or tell a funny story about the little one waking up and crying all night, or barfing on her aide (babies are so great!). And this shift in persona won’t all be off the cuff. If Hillary becomes a grandmother, her speechwriters will also suddenly have a supply of rich personal material—anecdotes, observations, feelings—that they can use to connect the candidate to the policies she has long championed, from pre-K education to family leave to the plight of girls in the developing world. For moderates, this will help her seem less dull, and for liberals, it will help her cut through their suspicions that, as one cynical Democrat put it to me, she’s just “saying things to check off the box for the single-mother vote.”

Check out the whole piece and judge for yourself.

April 18, 2014 12:10 PM Blaming the “Losers”

In an earlier post on conservative attitudes about race, I suggested that the real core of conservative antipathy towards those people might well be a more general disdain—rooted in self-righteousness about their own accomplishments—towards “losers” as being responsible for their own bad fortune.

There’s partial confirmation for this theory in some new research from HuffPost/YouGov exploring the subject. While the margins are not overwhelming, it does seem self-identifed Republicans are a lot more likely than other Americans to think wealth and poverty are the produce of individual moral qualities and choices rather than disparate opportunities or luck.

Asked if people are more likely to be poor because of “individual failings” or “fewer opportunities,” GOPers prefer the former explanation by a 48/23 margin (Democrats tilt towards the “fewer opportunities” explanation by a decisive 61/14 margin; and indies do so less decisively, by 41/33). Similarly, Republicans prefer a “poor work ethic” to “good jobs aren’t available” as a poverty explanation by 49/21. And they are even less sympathetic to the unemployed, with 58% saying “most could find jobs if they wanted to” as opposed to 30% believing “most are trying hard to find jobs but can’t.” Republican attitudes towards the long-term unemployed are almost identical.

Turning the equation around, 50% of Republicans (as opposed to 22% of Democrats and 28% of indies) say the wealthy are wealthy because they “worked harder,” with 30% attributing wealth to “more opportunities than other people.”

When respondents are broken down by ideology, self-identified conservatives are very slightly less inclined than self-identifed Republicans to blame the poor and unemployed for their plight and celebrate the virtues of the wealthy. It’s a shame the poll didn’t offer a crosstabs by party and ideology; I suspect self-identified “conservative Republicans” (and a fortiori “very conservative Republicans”) the heart of the GOP activist “base,” might tilt towards moralistic explanations of wealth and poverty by comfortable majorities. And if you added in racial/ethnic modifiers, or substitutes like “welfare recipients,” it could get pretty ugly, though I hasten to add I have no immediate proof for that educated hunch.

In any event, these numbers help explain a lot about Republican positioning and rhetoric on wealth and poverty, and probably why a GOP primary candidate in a conservative state like Georgia has no compunctions about running ads suggesting people are turning down plentiful jobs because they are lazy or dependent on “welfare.”

Because these attitudes are not widely shared outside the Republican electorate, Democratic candidate would be very wise to emphasize not only their commitment to help people who are poor and unemployed, but to express solidarity with them as presumptively virtuous people who are falsely suspected by friends of the wealthy of being “losers.” There’s no more powerful “populism” than one based on spurning the contempt of this economy’s true lucky duckies, the self-righteous “winners.”

April 18, 2014 11:20 AM The Downside of Being an Executive Outsider Candidate

In these days of great ideological peril for Republican candidates who cannot demonstrate an impeccable record of “true conservatism,” a fast track out of ideological hell is the “executive outsider” pose: said candidate has been so very busy creating jobs in the private sector that he/she has no record of relevant votes or positions, and for that very reason (along with the great personal wealth that enables the candidate to regale voters with his/her inspiring “story”), he/she will be independent of the RINO Republican Establishment that has sold out to liberal elites and lived the lie of bipartisanship etc. etc.

But as Mitt Romney and eMeg Whitman and Carly Fiorina and others have discovered, the downside of the “executive outsider” posture is that it leaves such candidates vulnerable to whatever deprivations voters or those like them have suffered at the hands of their companies. That’s particularly true of “turnaround” wizards who have fattened their companies’ bottom lines via layoffs or outsourcing or other “efficiency measures” that leave regular folks in the dust, or in the dustbin of history.

Georgia Republican Senate candidate David Perdue may be the latest to learn this lesson, thanks to a piece by MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin examining his record in the mid-1990s “turnaround” at Haggar, the Texas-based men’s clothing company.

When Perdue arrived at Haggar Clothing Co. in 1994, the historic menswear company was struggling. Revenues were down, old reliable products like suits were in decline, and competitors like Levi’s were muscling in on their department store sales.
As senior vice president, Perdue was in charge of international operations at Haggar and later domestic operations as well. Under his watch, the company did what so many clothing manufacturers did at the time: closed down factory lines in America and outsourced production overseas where labor was cheap and regulations were less restrictive.

That meant cutting hundreds of jobs at South Texas facilities in Weslaco, Edinburg, and Brownsville and producing clothes in countries like Mexico, where the average manufacturing employee earned about $1.50 an hour in wages and benefits.

In SEC filings, Haggar reported employing 4,300 workers in America in 1996. That number dropped to just 2,600 in 1997 while the company maintained 1,700 workers overseas in both years. By 1998, 1,667 laid off Haggar employees had been certified for NAFTA retraining programs for workers who lost their jobs to outsourcing or foreign imports - the most of any company in Texas, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Perdue, who has vaulted himself into the lead in most recent polling of the GA GOP Senate race with heavy Romney-style advertising of his executive-outsider background, is naturally a mite defensive about Sarlin’s revelations:

In an interview, Perdue said he and his colleagues approached the factory closings with a “social conscience,” but determined the move abroad was in the best interest of the company.
“We very definitely looked at trying to maintain as much volume as we could [in America],” Perdue told msnbc. “The problem was if you looked at the cost sheet of a product made in Mexico versus a product made in South Texas … the Mexican product had an advantage…..”
According to Perdue, anti-outsourcing attacks against politicians often ignore the challenge that companies face balancing the interests of customers, employees, shareholders, and investors.
“To politicians who have never been in a free enterprise system this sounds really easy,” Perdue said. “It is anything but easy. It’s very messy.”

Indeed it is, but that’s cold comfort to the kind of white working class voters who compose a pretty significant chunk of the Georgia GOP primary electorate these days. It doesn’t help that Perdue drew some recent negative publicity for a January speech (taped by an unknown source who passed it along to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution) in which he mocked rival Karen Handel’s high school education and also boasted of being the only candidate who understood the global economy because he had lived overseas.

The big question is whether any of Perdue’s rivals have the money and motivation to make a major deal of the downside of his corporate experience, as Newt Gingrich did (with Sheldon Adelson’s money) in the nasty but effective “King of Bain” video aimed at Mitt Romney, which some observers think set the table for Democratic attacks on Romney in the general election. A new Insider Advantage poll shows the under-financed Handel moving up into third place in the Senate contest, presumably because of her exploitation of Perdue’s remarks about her educational background (with some help from a “Mama Grizzly” endorsement from Sarah Palin). Phil Gingrey is sitting on a sizable campaign treasury, and might be tempted to go after Perdue as well. Jack Kingston continues to advertise heavily and demagogically. And even if Perdue hangs on to finish first or second in the May 20 primary, there will be an extended runoff campaign that doesn’t conclude until August 5.

I strongly suspect this contest is about to enter an especially nasty phase, which is probably good news for Democrat Michelle Nunn, who is quietly raising money and watching from the sidelines.

April 18, 2014 10:28 AM Victims of the Electoral College

Perhaps in part due to conservative freak-outs like the one exhibited by Dick Morris, progressives are developing a new interest in the National Popular Vote Initiative, an interstate compact aimed at effectively abolishing the Electoral College via pledges to cast EVs for the popular vote winner.

Over at The Week, my former colleague Ryan Cooper takes a look at where additional support for a way around the Electoral College might be found, in states whose “clout” is most diminished.

He didn’t find exactly what he expected: Pennsylvania ranked as the “most screwed” state, and California wasn’t in the Top Ten. That’s mainly because the Golden State (like Florida and Texas) has a lot of residents who aren’t eligible to vote. So Pennsylvania has the highest ratio of eligible voters to electoral votes, and Ohio is second.

The trouble with the “most screwed” analysis, of course, is that some states with a marginal underrepresentation in the Electoral College win big from the current system because they are closely contested states that get disproportionate attention thanks to the winner-take-all aspect of EV voting. There’s no way Ohioans are going to feel discriminated against just because voters in Wyoming have, theoretically, triple the EV clout. Pennsylvania is also (in 2012, at least) a battleground state, as are North Carolina and Florida, third and fourth on Ryan’s list of states shorted by the Electoral College. So it’s the underrepresented states that are safely red or blue, like New York, California, Illinois and Texas, that have the most powerful grievance against the status quo.

April 18, 2014 8:48 AM Daylight Video

For no particular reason, here’s T-Bone Walker performing “Don’t Throw Your Love On Me So Strong.”

April 17, 2014 6:20 PM Day’s End and Night Watch

My mother-in-law is sending me a big batch of political fliers from Georgia, so I expect to have some more fodder for Crazy Cracker posts directly.

Here are some remains of the day:

* Seems Haley Edwards’ WaMo essay on HRC as a grandmother was prescient: Chelsea Clinton announces she is expecting.

* David Axelrod hired as advisor by British Labour Party, which presumably means he’ll be battling Jim Messina (earlier hired by the Tories) in the upcoming UK elections.

* Riding in the same clown car: Trump makes donation to Ted Cruz’s leadership PAC.

* At Ten Miles Square, Martin Longman offers his own comments on George Will’s democracy-is-for-liberals column.

* At College Guide, Robert Kelchen looks critically at “last dollar scholarships” which fill financial gaps after federal aid sources exhausted, but often don’t provide enough help for truly needy students.

And in non-political news:

* 25 dead, 276 missing: latest sad numbers from South Korean ferry disaster.

That’s it for Thursday. Our acid rock tribute ends with the most unavoidable tune of them all (unless you don’t buy John Lennon’s claim that “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” was innocent): Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit,” as performed on the Smothers Brothers show in 1967 (I actually remember watching this at the time. Sigh):


April 17, 2014 5:32 PM The Koch For President Boom!

Since I posted earlier today about poll numbers being relatively reliable indicators of upcoming political events, I’m glad a poll has come along to display how important it is to disregard “junk polls” and also look at polling averages to get a sense of actual public opinion in any given state.

The poll in question is of Iowa, and was sponsored by the Washington Free Beacon (or as it is often known among progressives, the Free Bacon). It was clearly designed to show Democrat Bruce Braley as being in deep trouble after the brouhaha over his “Iowa farmer” remarks to a Texas trial lawyer group, and perhaps reflected impatience that other Iowa polls showed little or no impact on the race.

If there is a principle of accurate polling this sucker does not violate, it doesn’t occur to me at the moment. The sample leans heavily to the starboard side; 46% of the respondents self-identify as conservatives (plus another 4% as libertarians). Even in 2010, the ultimate skewed-to-the-right year, exit polls showed only 39% of Iowans self-identifying as conservatives. The questions about Braley’s remarks are wildly leading (“Do you agree or disagree that Braley’s statement about Grassley shows that he has a higher regard for lawyers in Texas than farmers in Iowa?”). He is tested only against a generic Republican, which suggests that maybe the numbers for Braley against the named Republicans who have been campaigning like rats in heat for months now aren’t sufficiently bad.

But my favorite part of the poll doesn’t even involve Braley. Gaze in awe:

Charles Koch [coke] is a successful businessman who has created tens of thousands of jobs and donated hundreds of millions of dollars to charity in his lifetime. He has dedicated his life to preserving the principles of economic freedom in this country….
Harry Reid is the Democratic leader in the United States Senate. He has recently come under scrutiny for making improper payments to family members and has accused families suffering under Obamacare of lying about their plight….
If the next election for President were held tomorrow would you vote for Harry Reid on the Democratic ticket or Charles Koch on the Libertarian/Republican ticket?

Shockingly, the job-creating philanthropist Koch beats the voter-hating corrupt nepotist Reid by a 42/30 margin.

This poll smells like overcooked bacon.

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