Daily Archives: 01 Sep 2015

What Voters Care About Ain’t Aligned With GOP

Jonathan ChaitEvery time I have to go out of town, caring for Frankly Curious becomes a hectic mess. I really like having real people with real money wanting my attention, but I do miss being totally in charge of my time. So you will forgive me if I make this one really short. But I found the most amazing table over on a Jonathan Chait article, Donald Trump Is Going to Lose Because He Is Crazy. But don’t worry, this is not a post about Trump. In fact, I have to admit that I’m getting really tired of other bloggers of my persuasion and popularity focusing so much on him.

This table shows where the American people are on two issues: immigration and Social Security (SS). It shows what I’ve long maintained: Democratic and Republican voters are all pretty liberal when it comes to the economy. But let’s look at the table, which I have recreated because the one that Chait provides is almost unreadable.

Increase SS Maintain SS Decrease SS
Large Immigration Decrease 13.0% 8.1% 1.4%
Small Immigration Decrease 11.0% 8.0% 1.0%
Maintain Immigration 20.0% 20.0% 2.4%
Small Immigration Increase 4.4% 4.7% 0.8%
Large Immigration Increase 2.1% 1.8% 0.6%

So what the people want is for immigration to stay where it is or to be decreased — in many cases by a lot. This is the opposite of what the elites want. They want a lot more immigration. In general, that’s good for the economy. But it is also good (at least in the short term) for keeping wages down. And then on Social Security, we have a majority that wants to see it raised. Only 6.2% want to see Social Security cut, yet every Republican presidential candidate other than Trump wants to cut it (generally by raising the retirement age).

Here is Chait’s overview of what’s going on, which I think is exactly right:

Both parties contain ranges of opinions within them. And both are run by elites who have more socially liberal and economically conservative views than their own voters. (There are plenty of anti-abortion, anti-immigration, anti-same-sex-marriage Democrats not represented by their leaders.) But the tension between base and elite runs deeper in the Republican Party. Conservative leaders tend to care very little about conservative social policy, or even disagree with it altogether. Conservatives care a great deal about cutting the top tax rate, deregulating the financial industry, and, ideally, reducing spending on social insurance — proposals that have virtually no authentic following among the rank and file.

My question is why the voters don’t wake up. I understand why Democrats don’t: what are they going to do? The Democrats offer the best deal. But if the Republican voters would abandon their party, we could have a real choice on the economic issues that everyone cares the most about. But instead, we have every major Republican contender (sans Trump, of course) — from Jeb Bush to Scott Walker to Ben Carson — calling for cuts in Social Security. They are all united against immigration, but decreasing it doesn’t even get a majority. Social Security is the big issue and the Republican establishment hates it.

Don’t Cry for the McDonald’s Franchisee

Jeff SprossShould McDonald’s franchise owners view themselves as natural allies with the workers against the corporate mothership, rather than labor’s adversaries?

Arturs Kalnins — a professor at Cornell University who specializes in franchises and small businesses — doesn’t think you could take things that far. “In general, McDonald’s franchisees are doing very well for themselves,” he said, pointing out that after all labor and operating costs are accounted for, including all the franchise fees, owners are still netting around $100,000 per individual store annually. (McDonald’s US franchisees took in an estimated $1.6 billion in profits in 2012, which works out to well over $110,000 per restaurant.) Most franchise owners are also managers, which means they get paid a manager’s salary out of general operating costs as well. Throw in the fact that many franchise owners boast multiple restaurants, and you can be looking at an annual income of $1 million or more, Kalnins said.

Kalnins continued that he “wouldn’t doubt” franchise owners feel they’re on thin ice, financially. “But I don’t think that’s an objective reality. These are very comfortable, well-to-do people.”

By all accounts, McDonald’s has cracked down on its franchisees in recent years. It controls most of the prices on the menu, and between that and its hefty operating demands, it’s squeezing franchisees so that the way to make the business model successful is to pay the workers less. Dissatisfaction amongst McDonald’s franchise owners is reportedly at an all-time high, so they clearly feel they’re under fire.

But then you have to ask: under fire compared to whom? The average American worker, or other small business owners pulling down $100,000-plus a year?

—Jeff Spross
How McDonald’s Puts the Squeeze on Both Franchise Owners and Workers

All GOP Candidates Are Jokes So Why Not Trump?

Chris ChristiePaul Krugman wrote a really good article yesterday, A Heckuva Job. That’s a reference to George W Bush’s Katrina, which is, of course, Katrina. But Krugman is making a larger point. He’s saying that all these nationally known Republican who have been said to be so great never were. In the case of Bush, the mainstream media allowed him to present himself as a strong and capable leader. Katrina ended that. But the fact was that he was never a strong and capable leader. He was just an idiot who the power elite let be president because they knew that he would cut important regulations and lower their taxes.

I’ve been talking about this for a long time. It really annoys me when people talk about the “deep bench” that the Republicans have for president. This is contrasted with the Democratic bench that is supposedly just Hillary Clinton. The Democratic side of this argument has always been nonsense. First, of course, there is Bernie Sanders who is an exceptional retail politician. The only question I have about him is the label of “socialist,” and I am thinking more and more that it no longer matters. But then there are Lincoln Chafee, Martin O’Malley, and Jim Webb — all of whom are at least as good and qualified as any of the Republican contenders. They just aren’t as well known, and who cares about that? It’s only due to the fact that the mainstream media will make a superstar out of any Republican who doesn’t sound completely insane.

What’s more, there are dozens of major Democratic candidates who would be running if Hillary Clinton weren’t running. The Democratic Party always has a deep bench because the Democratic Party takes politics and governing seriously. The Republican Party thinks that politics and (especially) governing are a joke — jobs that anyone can do. And that’s the point. The mainstream media has made all these Republican fools into major figures so now it can say, “Look at all the major Republican figures that are running for president!”

Over two years ago, I wrote, Josh Barro Phenomenon. In it, I attacked Barro for justifying Chris Christie’s killing of the New Jersey to New York City ARC tunnel. My point was that Barro was just performing apologetics: he was going to justify what Christie wanted to do regardless. Barro got very angry and wrote that it was the stupidest thing he had read that day. But my point was that politicians can always find a reason to justify what they want to do for other (publicly unpalatable) reasons. Well, now we know that Christie’s decision was a total catastrophe. What does Barro have to say now? Nothing as far as I can find.

The point is that Christie was a great conservative hero for doing something that was clearly wrong. But he was “tough” and he “saving money” and Josh Barro and lots of other reporters were there to cheer him on. What Christie was really doing was killing a much needed public infrastructure project so that he could paper over the hole in his state budget and not raise taxes. But at the time, Josh Barro was there to push the Christie propaganda that it was all about cost-effectiveness.

Krugman’s primary point is that no one in the Republican establishment should complain that many base voters prefer Donald Trump. And that’s exactly right. As I say all the time, where Trump’s policies deviate substantially from the Republican Party, they are better. Trump can’t be called a fool in the context of the Republican presidential nomination, because they are all fools.

Conservative Jerks Don’t Want Fair Society Because They’d Do Much Worse

Obama Toilet

Last weekend, I was at a birthday party for an in-law of an in-law. I’ve been at them many times before. They have a great place and they put on great parties. And I am invited, largely because I make some dynamite side dishes. It is basically on a farm and it has its own bar. I bring my own beer, however, because they never have what I consider acceptable beer. The image above is from the bathroom of this private bar. I don’t present it because it is unusual. It is quite common, and I mean that in many ways.

The thing is, the people who own the place are quire comfortable. Both husband and wife have good, high paying jobs, even though I don’t think either of them have college degrees. I assume together, they bring home about a quarter million a year. They both work in professions that are highly regulated by the government. I mean that not in the “they just can’t get ahead” sense. I mean it in the “these are professions that are highly lucrative because of government interference” sense. They both have expensive hobbies, which they not only have no trouble affording, but they aren’t so exhausted from their jobs as to be unable to do them.

I’m not saying they are bad people, because they aren’t — at all. And they are good neighbors. They are the kind of people who help out their friends and neighbors. But they are representative of what I think of as the last gasp of the American middle class. They are the very last generation who have been able to live the American dream without being enormously lucky or skilled. And every time I go to one of their parties, I see a bunch of people who are just the same. Each and every one of them is convinced that they did, in fact, build that.

So sure: piss on Obama. Of course, why not piss on Bush when he was in office? I went to parties at their place when Bush was in office, but I didn’t see any George W Bush urinal targets at that time. No, it’s just the Democrats who have to be peed on, even though it is overwhelmingly the Republicans who are responsible for making the world enormously worse for people just like them who showed the bad judgement of being born just ten years later. But the sticker didn’t make me angry — just sad. What foolish people.

Before seeing this splendid example of urinal art, I overheard two in-laws discussing Donald Trump. They agreed that they liked Trump, because he was telling it like it is. I said nothing. I wanted to say, “I think Trump is the best Republican candidate out there.” That’s what I actually think. I like the fact that Trump wants to protect Social Security and Medicare. And I like that he is skeptical of trade deals. But I knew these guys weren’t talking about that. In fact, I knew these guys didn’t have a clue as to what Trump thinks about these matters.

It became all the more clear when they started badmouthing Mexicans. That was really interesting, because we were on this little farm. My in-law isn’t a farmer. He grows grapes, but it is more accurate to say that he has other people grow grapes for him. And that very morning, there had been a crew of Mexicans picking the grapes — getting poorly paid for it, no doubt. But these two guys talking get paid really well and don’t work that hard. But they were sharing their contempt for how hard these Mexicans worked who made perhaps one-fifth as much with no benefits whatsoever.

Conservatives love to talk about future generations and what we need to do for them. But these two conservatives don’t give a damn about future generations. They don’t even have a clue how well they have it. They can pass off the fact that younger people are struggling as the result of them not working hard enough. But I knew all of these people when they were young, and if anything they even bigger slackers and drug users.

They are right to want to urinate on pictures of Barack Obama. Despite all of his deficiencies, Obama really does want a more fair society. And in a more fair society, these jerks would be doing far worse.

Morning Music: Bobby Goldsboro

Honey - Bobby GoldsboroMy mother was very sentimental. I doubtless get it from her. And there is probably no better example of this is Bobby Goldsboro’s recording of “Honey.” The song was written by Bobby Russell (who also wrote another hit, “Little Green Apples”). There is much to admire in the composition. The use of a tree to show the passage of time is really compelling. It does tend to infantilize the title character, but it does render her with much more depth than most songs — then or now.

When I listen to it now, I’m struck by the third verse (or second half of the second verse). He comes home in the middle of the day and finds her crying needlessly. I think there are two ways to take that. First, it could be that she has learned that she is dying and doesn’t tell him. Or it could be that she suffers from depression and that she eventually took her own life. Regardless, that part of the song makes it far more interesting.

It flips things. Because suddenly, it is the singer who is silly — who doesn’t see reality. He saw her “young and heart; kind of dumb and kind of smart” because that’s all that he was capable of seeing. She was much more. But I doubt very much that my mother would have approved of that take on the song:

Anniversary Post: Le Voyage dans la Lune

Le Voyage dans la LuneOn this day in 1902, Le Voyage dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon) was first released. If I weren’t really pressed for time, I probably wouldn’t talk about it. I’m not a big fan of Georges Méliès. I certainly think he was a great and important filmmaker. But he was making films during that period where they were mostly just stage plays shot in a master. He was more interesting in terms of his art direction and, of course, his use of magic and “trick” effects.

My problem with the film is that it’s been over-exposed. It seems like one of the only silent films that pretty much any jerk can name. And it is, ultimately, not very interesting to watch. It would be another five years before film started to be interesting as an art form. But still, I’m sure it was spectacular for the audiences of 1902.