Archive

October 22nd, 2016

Better housing policy could save us all money. Why are we ignoring it?

    The Washington Post asks policy experts: What strategies should the next president pursue to make housing more affordable?

    Housing for America's lowest-income families rarely ever makes the front page and has been noticeably absent from both candidates' stump speeches. Yet 81 percent of respondents in a recent MacArthur Foundation poll said housing affordability is a problem in America, and 63 percent said presidential candidates aren't paying enough attention to the issue.

    Housing is both a cost-saving safety net and a platform for individuals and families to improve their health, education and economic outcomes. When people cannot afford housing, it undermines families' ability to reach the next rung on the economic ladder and prevents older adults from aging safely and securely.

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As a black man, I've suffered microaggressions. I shouldn't talk about them.

    "Hunt isn't one of us."

    Rico, a black friend of mine, said those words about me behind my back. To him, I wasn't authentically black. I grew up in too nice of a neighborhood around too many white people. My family was picture perfect, and I'd never been involved in a street fight.

    Like many middle-class black children, I tried to defend my blackness. I related how my car was once vandalized with racial slurs and how I had to deal with ignorant comments from white peers almost every day. But to my disappointment, Rico - who had grown up in a lousy neighborhood in Detroit - laughed off my tales of suburban oppression. Looking back on it, I realize that in my adolescent quest for identity, I tried to inflate my minor irritations to part of the same story as Rico's loss of friends and family members to bullets, knives or addiction.

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Arsonist Donald Trump wants to torch our democracy. He will fail.

    Donald Trump once again escalated his "rigged election" rhetoric at a rally in Wisconsin last night, and many observers are now warning that if he keeps it up, the smooth functioning of our democracy could be undermined, not just by lack of voter confidence in the integrity of the outcome, but also by outright disruptions on election day.

    This is a bit like warning that an arsonist may end up succeeding in reducing his target to ashes.

    It is now becoming clear that the prospect of undermined public faith in the election's integrity, and even disruptions on election day, is not an unintended byproduct of Trump's snowballing claims of a rigged election. Rather, making these things happen is very likely the explicit goal of those claims.

    In Wisconsin, Trump again alluded to a plot to "rig the election at the polling booths":

    "People that have died 10 years ago are still voting. Illegal immigrants are voting," Trump said. "So many cities are corrupt, and voter fraud is very, very common."

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October 21st

How the Committee to Protect Journalists broke its own rule to protest Trump

    For decades, Sandra Mims Rowe was a rigorous newspaper editor who demanded deep reporting from the journalists she led. Her newsrooms in cities including Norfolk and Portland, Ore., won awards -- and respect - because she pushed for greater truths.

    So it's not surprising that Rowe would do the same when an idea surfaced at the Committee to Protect Journalists, where she has been board chairwoman for five years.

    The idea: CPJ should break its own tradition of never getting involved in politics -- in the United States or anywhere else. This admirable organization, with its global mission of keeping journalists from being jailed or killed, would make a strong statement against Donald Trump on First Amendment grounds.

    "What was the evidence that Trump was a threat to press freedom?" she wanted to know. The evidence, delivered in a staff memo, was overwhelming. It made the case that Trump not only despises journalists -- "scum," he calls them, and "corrupt" -- he has no understanding or respect for the role they play in our democracy. He has repeatedly stated that he wants to change the laws that allow journalists to do their jobs.

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Al Gore could show Republicans a thing or two about losing gracefully

    Any Republican leaders who are considering denouncing Donald Trump's insidious and dangerous claim that the election is rigged and need a final push might want to take counsel from an unlikely source: Al Gore. All they would have to do is read the first couple of paragraphs from his 2000 concession speech delivered not on election night, but more than a month later on Dec. 13, after the closest presidential election in our nation's history. His words are worth remembering today because he was under a lot of pressure not to deliver them.

    For those who have forgotten or never knew, the 2000 election was ultimately decided by the Supreme Court when it stopped the recount of votes in Florida, and, days later, essentially called the election for George W. Bush by saying that there wasn't enough time under law to resolve the differences in counting votes in Florida's contested counties, differences it found violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution. The final 5-4 decision came with an interesting caveat for a court that sets precedent. The decision, according to the majority, was limited to "present circumstances."

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Actually, Mr. Trump, Fed policy favors you

    As Donald Trump charges that the election is being rigged, let's consider one of his claims: that Janet Yellen and the Federal Reserve are keeping the economy artificially strong to benefit the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. While Trump is correct that the Federal Reserve system is subject to some political influence, the rest he gets mostly backward. If anything, Fed monetary policy has weakened the electoral prospects of the Democratic Party since the financial crisis.

    Economic research on "political business cycle theory" asks whether the central bank times its stimulatory actions to boost the reelection prospects of incumbents, typically by creating a pronounced upswing coming into November. It is well known, for instance, that in the early 1970s, President Richard Nixon pressured Fed Chairman Arthur Burns to goose up the money supply. But since then, it is less clear what general pattern holds, and in 2008, economic policymakers could not stop a crumbling economy from hurting the chances of John McCain, the presidential candidate of the incumbent Republican Party.

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Enough about the beast; let's talk about some beauty

    It comes with the ticking parcel that Republican voters left on our doorstep, but we’ve focused way too much lately on what a Twitter hashtag fest -- #TrumpDrSeuss -- has christened The Deplorax.

    He of the orange hair and a thousand calculated insults, many aimed at women. He of horrible boasts backed by deplorable acts.

    As many observed after the second presidential debate, it is a sad time for our nation. That is, unless we hear about something spectacularly uplifting, like what Michelle Obama said the other night.

    I’m not talking about her emotional denunciation of that well-parsed “boys on the bus” tape. That was magnificent.

    (As with her show-stopper at the Democratic National Convention, it seems that every time she has the microphone anymore she stops a nation in its tracks.)

    But I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about what she said to two beautiful groups of African school girls.

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Companies Avoiding Taxes

    Donald Trump has become the country’s most notorious tax shirker. And while his long avoidance of federal income taxes is extreme, it’s also part of a larger problem.

    The most affluent and powerful parts of our society have too easy a time legally avoiding taxes.

    Consider corporate taxes, which ultimately tend to be paid by the well-off, because they own the most stock. The official corporate rate is 35 percent, infamously higher than in any other advanced economy. Yet there are so many loopholes that companies often pay relatively little in tax.

    Many companies work hard to shroud how much they really pay, sprinkling various figures throughout their complex financial statements. But companies must report one number that provides a good glimpse. It’s called cash taxes paid — the combined amount that a company pays in federal, state, local and even foreign taxes.

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Who is more Catholic than whom?

    To hear the many howls of protest from conservatives, you'd think that a handful of emails released by WikiLeaks demonstrates that Hillary Clinton's campaign is a nest of anti-Catholics. Fortunately for her, the emails, which are 4 to 5 years old, tell a far more interesting tale about the struggles inside the Catholic Church in the period before the ascendancy of Pope Francis.

    All journalism relying on WikiLeaks should note our government has accused Russia of trying to influence the American election. Voters need to be wary of Vladimir Putin's apparent preference for Donald Trump.

     But given the storm the Catholic emails have provoked, readers might want to make up their own minds by consulting the full texts.

    In one 2012 exchange between John Podesta, the founding president of the Center for American Progress and now Clinton's campaign chairman, and Sandy Newman, president of a group called Voices for Progress, Newman expressed the anger of many liberals at the time that conservative Catholic bishops were making the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate central to a critique of President Obama.

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Trump is failing at basically everything right now. This poll proves it.

    Donald Trump has had a very tough three weeks on the campaign trail, from a bad first debate to the "Access Hollywood" video to the recent flood of allegations that he groped and made unwanted sexual advances toward several women.

    And yet Trump trails Hillary Clinton by just four points in the new Washington Post-ABC News poll -- a number that is pretty par for the course for the 2016 election.

    But the Post-ABC poll also makes this clear about what Trump is up to these days: He's doing almost everything wrong, and he's doing nothing to grow his support and actually put himself in a position to win.

    To wit:

    - 57 percent of likely voters say his response to the "Access Hollywood" video of him making lewd and sexually aggressive comments about women was insincere. Just 40 percent say it was sincere.

    - 52 percent say his comments on tape aren't the brand of "locker room talk" that he and his supporters have routinely claimed. Just 40 percent say they are.

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