Anti-Justice for the Rich Thief

Winona Ryder - Rich ThiefThe quote I ran today got me thinking of a hypothetical. Most adults who steal don’t do it for the thrill of it. They do it out of desperation. But for the rich thief (I mean it in the traditional sense), the motives, at least from society’s standpoint, are more vile — thrill seeking and other petty desires. Surely the desperation of the poor should make society more understanding of the the act. It should result in help more than punishment.

If a poor person simply can’t find a job, perhaps we should find them a job. If they have a drug problem, we should help with that. But instead, we are inclined to do the opposite: give them a criminal record so it’s even harder for them to find a job. Make their lives even worse so that drugs are the only widely available relief for their pain. Things are quite different for the rich thief.

An Actual Rich Thief

Let as consider something concrete: Winona Ryder’s 2001 shoplifting arrest. Now I’m sympathetic to her. Hell, I’m sympathetic to everyone. Humans have not create a social structure for themselves that provides a great deal of meaning. And there’s no doubt prosecutors went after Ryder more intensely than they would have if she had just been simply rich and not also a very big star. But even still, she didn’t get much in terms of punishment.

Remember: she went to trial. Under most circumstances, that would mean a very harsh sentence if she lost. And she did lose. According Wikipedia, she was convicted of grand theft, shoplifting, and vandalism — all felonies in her case, I believe. She was given three years probation, 480 hours of community service, and $10,000 in fines and restitution. After completing her community service, her felonies were reduced to misdemeanors.

Now obviously, if a poor person were given this judgment, it would have been really hard. According to Bankrate, she has a net worth of $18 million. So charging her $10,000 would be like if I left a courtroom and the judge asked if I had a quarter I could spare. Similarly, assuming Ryder got supervised probation, she would have no problem paying the monthly fee. And she wouldn’t have to work during that time.

Rich Thief Poor Thief

But my point is not that the punish she got would be far harder for a poor person to manage. My point is that a poor person would have gotten a far harsher sentence. So some poor junkie would have ended up with jail (if not prison) time and three years on probation. It’s very likely that their inability to pay their fines, restitution, and probation fees would have led them back into jail (if not prison).

It makes a lot more sense that a poor person would be a thief. We should really throw the book at the rich thief. But we don’t. And it isn’t just an issue of stealing. It’s true of every law there is to break.

I remember many years ago a very wealthy guy got his license revoked. This was after years of extremely dangerous driving. I think he had been arrested something like a dozen times. So he couldn’t drive. Oh well. As he left the court, a reporter asked him about it and he noted that he would just have his chauffeur drive him around until he got his license back. Note in this case that again, a poor person would doubtless have gotten a worse punishment. But even as it was, the sentence would have had a much greater effect on a poor person’s life.

It’s Still All About Economics

I’m not blaming judges for this. The system we have is part of a larger system. Just as it seems right that a poor person should have to pay the same for a speeding ticket as a rich person, we think that a poor person should have to pay the same in taxes when buying a car as a rich person. We have a screwy idea of what justice is. And it just so happens that this screwy idea makes the lives of the powerful easier.

How about that?

Government Fines Are Unjust

Payday Loans and Government FinesBeing poor in the United States generally involves having a portion of your limited funds slowly siphoned away through a multitude of surcharges and processing fees. It’s expensive to be without money; it means you’ve got to pay for every medical visit, pay to cash your checks, and frankly, pay to pay your overwhelming debts. It means that a good chunk of your wages will end up in the hands of the payday lender and the landlord. …

One of the most insidious fine regimes comes from the government itself in the form of fines in criminal court, where monetary penalties are frequently used as punishment for common misdemeanors and ordinance violations. Courts have been criticized for increasingly imposing fines indiscriminately, in ways that turn judges into debt collectors and jails into debtors’ prisons. The Department of Justice found that fines and fees in certain courts were exacted in such a way as to force “individuals to confront escalating debt; face repeated, unnecessary incarceration for nonpayment despite posing no danger to the community; lose their jobs; and become trapped in cycles of poverty that can be nearly impossible to escape.” A new report from PolicyLink confirms that “Wide swaths of low-income communities’ resources are being stripped away due to their inability to overcome the daunting financial burdens placed on them by state and local governments.” There are countless stories of people being threatened with jail time for failing to pay fines for “offenses” like un-mowed lawns or cracked driveways.

Critics have targeted these fines because of the consequences they are having on poor communities. But it’s also important to note something further. The imposition of flat-rate fines and fees does not just have deleterious social consequences, but also fundamentally undermines the legitimacy of the criminal legal system. It cannot be justified — even in theory.

–Oren Nimni
Fines and Fees Are Inherently Unjust

So Many Changes on Psychotronic Review

Psychotronic Review - Running Multiple WebsitesJust yesterday, I wrote A Much Darker Take on Barton Fink. Now that was an article that I really could have put on Psychotronic Review. But it seemed like it went more here because it is more of an art film than a psychotronic film. Just the same, it would have worked — especially when you consider just how wide-open the definition of of the term is. And who knows: I may end up transferring it over there at some point. As it is, the new website is not going without love. Let me tell you what I did just over the weekend.

Omega Doom

The main thing is that I created a page for the film Omega Doom and wrote an article for it, The Post-Apocalyptic Yojimbo. Omega Doom is quite an interesting film starring Rutger Hauer.

I’m almost to the point of saying that anything that Hauer stars in must be psychotronic. He has had an uncanny tendency to pick odd films. He really has the stature to have starred in more traditional films, but instead, he’s spent most of his career starring in what most people would call trash. It’s probably a matter more than he’d rather star in second tier films than to have a second tier role in a first tier film. But it’s nice to think that he’s just really into unusual material.

Omega Doom is hardly a great film, but I think you’ll be interested in checking it out after reading my article. There is much to like about it. And if you know Yojimbo, well… There’s been a cowboy version and a gangster version. So why not a robot version?

Other Changes to Psychotronic Review

As a result of this, I moved a couple of articles from Frankly Curious to Psychotronic Review. Whenever I do this, I end up making some changes. In many cases, I make really big changes. One where I didn’t make much of a change was in my new page on Turbo Kid. It is based on an article I wrote pretty recently, Gory Post-Apocalyptic Nostalgia.

The main thing I did in adding the film to the site was putting together the credits for the film. I’m sure I knew this before, but it’s still remarkable: Turbo Kid was written and directed by three guys. I wonder how that was all done. The truth is that the film is fairly standard. You wouldn’t get the idea that it was such a group effort. It makes me want to get the DVD just to see if there’s any information about how they worked together. I suspect there wasn’t much to it: just three friends who decided to make a film.

How I Rate a Film

I also managed to publish my third blog post for Psychotronic Review: How I Rate a Film: Yojimbo Edition. Now that’s an old article — one I wrote almost exactly five years ago. But it’s also one that I changed a lot. It’s interesting, however, to see that my thinking on film rating hasn’t changed that much. But the article did end up about twice as long as it was.

More to Do

There’s still lots more to do. The problem is that nothing is easy. It isn’t just a matter of moving material over. I always do at least some rewriting. And then links and images have to be dealt with. And then there is the whole issue of making sure that the articles here (and for the older articles, the ones still on the Nucleus site) get redirected correctly to Psychotronic Review. Also involved in this is getting rid of them on Frankly Curious.

The reason for this last part is that this is a blog. So even though an article might get redirected, it will still show up in the blog roll. And in searches. For example, if I hadn’t removed the article on Turbo Kid and you searched for “turbo kid,” it would have displayed here. Now that’s not a problem for you, the reader. But Google would see that as duplicate content and penalize me. I’m not exactly sure how that works, but it does mean that people would be less likely to find my Turbo Kid page through Google.

I’ve Made Website Management Harder

It’s amazing. There’s so much to do running a website. It’s no wonder that so many blogs are done so poorly. Of course, some of this is my own damned fault. It would have been smart to just start my blogging career using by far the most popular blogging software — or even something close. Instead, I started with something almost no one used that was literally discontinued. (Some users of it started their own replacement project, but who knows how long that will continue on.)

Also, I could have started a more focused blog. Frankly Curious has almost 500 articles on film. That works out to somewhat more than one film article per week for seven and a half years. That alone represents a fairly successful personal blog. But I’m too interested in too many things. So I get myself into this trouble. That’s part of what Psychotronic Review is all about: me trying to do something structured. And really, at this point, it would be so much easier to spend all my free time working on that.

I Just Need Four Websites!

But I know I would come back here. Because I’m not a single-issue person. But I do think that film and politics is it. Oh, and grammar/writing. Maybe I will do that. I’ve got my film writing on Psychotronic Review. And I’m thinking of moving my political writing to Frankly Furious. I could put all my grammar writing on Frankly Curious Media. (Something needs to be done about it. It’s been in maintenance mode for over a year.) And then my random thoughts would go here.

And with the remaining hour per day, I could sleep!

Trump: No Strategy, No Beliefs, No Principles

Sarah Jones - Trump: No PrinciplesDonald Trump has no strategy, no beliefs, and no principles.The president’s surprise decision to bomb Syria, after months of declaring far and wide that he would do no such thing, is causing some whiplash. What could have motivated this abrupt change? …

Trump has no political experience, no record of serious thought on foreign policy. He was for the Iraq invasion before he was against it. He has pledged to decimate ISIS while affecting an isolationist bent. This suggests that he is little more than a narcissistic con man. He lies more often than he tells the truth, and his lies typically serve one purpose: they are meant to make him look good. It is more likely that Trump did what his generals told him to do because he wants to be the sort of person who is respected by generals. It is likely he started caring about dead Syrians because the press suggested that only a monster wouldn’t. He did not bomb Syria because, in the battle between isolationism and interventionism being waged in his soul, the weight of his office tipped the field toward the latter. He’s a simple, vulgar person who makes decisions for simple, vulgar reasons.

To suggest otherwise gives Trump credit he hasn’t earned. There is no strategy. There is no grand plan. There is no moral, ethical, or philosophical calculation. There’s only Trump, and how he feels from one moment to the next.

–Sarah Jones
Donald Trump Has No Strategy, No Beliefs, and No Principles

A Much Darker Take on Barton Fink

Barton FinkWhen I first saw Barton Fink in the early 1990s, I was blown away. There were a couple of reasons for this. The most obvious was the pointless symbolism. For example, the ending seems to weird people out. Barton (John Turturro) is sitting on a beach, looking at the real-life image of a young woman that has been hanging on the wall above his typewriter throughout the film. Should anyone think it is intended to mean anything, Barton asks her, “You’re very beautiful; are you in pictures?” And she replies, “Don’t be silly!” It’s probably the funniest joke the Coen Brothers have ever come up with. She’s not in pictures; she’s right there!

There’s much more of that in the film. But the other thing I liked in the film was that Barton is such an unlikable character. Now, that’s probably not true in an absolute sense. But he’s rather too much like me, without my good points. For example, “I do listen!” The first time I saw the film it was cathartic when Charlie (John Goodman) tells Barton that he messed with his life because Barton doesn’t listen. I’d spent the movie up to that point being so annoyed that Barton was always cutting Charlie off. Sure, Charlie has stories he could tell, but Barton isn’t interested in hearing any of them.

A New Look

I’ve watched Barton Fink a number of times over the years, but it’s been a while since I have. Every time I thought about watching it, I was put off at the thought of spending two hours with this unpleasant character. But I put it on last night, for reasons I can’t fully explain. And I was really struck with one scene. It’s after Barton has finally managed to write his wrestling picture. And it’s the best thing he’s ever done. So he goes out to a dance hall to celebrate.

The place is filled mostly with military men and he gets into a confrontation and starts ranting, “This is my uniform! This is how I serve the common man!” And a guy in the Navy decks him. But this act of violence sets off the tension in the room (it is the eve of World War II, after all). And as Barton lays on the floor, a brawl breaks out between the Navy men and the Army men. These are the common men that Barton is writing for.

It was the first time that I really saw Barton in a positive light. He’s still pretentious — still lost in his own world. He’s still utterly uninterested in the world as it is. Clearly, he should have stayed in New York writing plays for the common man that only the rich come to see. His trip to Hollywood is a trip to the real world. And that world is made explicitly hell as Charlie, with a shot gun, marches down the hallway, which is aflame, killing two cops and shouting, “Look upon me! I’ll show you the life of the mind!”

Developing a Feeling for Barton Fink

I have to admit to feeling a bit like Barton. Hollywood is made up of two kinds of people. There are the military men who seem well summed up by the Elvis Costello line, “If it moves then you fuck it, if it doesn’t then you stab it.” There is also Charlie, a serial killer, but one who seems to see murder as an act of mercy. He also explicitly says that he wishes someone would do the same favor for him. These are the common men that the
“pictures” are created for.

The other kind of people in Hollywood are those who work in the “dream machine.” They are probably best represented by Ben Geisler (Tony Shalhoub), the producer of the wrestling picture that Barton is writing. He might as well be producing lawn fertilizer as films. But you see his life perfectly encapsulated at lunch where he drinks whisky and a big glass of milk. Despite his ranting and appearance of power, Geisler is a man who could use some of Charlie’s mercy.

Barton Fink is more naive than anything. In fact, he’s a little exasperating. The one person in the whole film that it is easy to identify with is Audrey Taylor (Judy Davis). I love when she is trying to help Barton with his script. She says, “Barton, look, it’s really just a formula, you don’t have to type your soul into it.” And that’s about it. What’s exasperating is that I know that there are things I write for myself and there are things I write for money. And the fact that Barton doesn’t understand or accept that makes him more relatable. I was like that too — in my teens.

The Dark Side of Art

Barton Fink is a lot like Sullivan’s Travels. In that film, Preston Sturges presents a director who is known for his comedies but wants to create serious and important films for “the common man.” Then some very bad things happen to him and he decides that he wants to continue to make comedies. The film ends with Sullivan saying, “There’s a lot to be said for making people laugh. Did you know that that’s all some people have?”

But Barton has been through a literal hell. His girlfriend has been murdered. So has his family. His career is over. There’s a good chance he’ll be convicted of murder. The film ends with him sitting on the beach with the head of his murdered girlfriend. And all he’s gained from the experience is confusion.

It’s very possible that’s the best you can hope for. Because the world is evil. And there’s no reason for that. Theologians have been trying to figure that out for centuries and have made no real progress. And artists who try to create something more than pure entertainment end up like W P Mayhew (John Mahoney), drinking the world away, or Barton, lost in a sweet picture he once saw.

Trump’s Campaign Against Susan Rice Is Dangerous

Brian Beutler - Trump's Campaign Against Susan Rice Is DangerousIn a narrow sense, none of Trump’s diversions will matter because ultimately the entire controversy will resolve on the same point: either the Trump campaign and Trump transition were up to no good, or they were not. If along the way it turns out Obama administration officials behaved improperly, it won’t have any bearing on that cardinal question.

The danger is that the administration will successfully poison the ultimate findings of FBI and congressional inquiries into election meddling. Those who treat this latest accusation as if it were grounded in good faith are abetting them in that goal.

White House aides with access to highly classified information, in concert with House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes, have spent two weeks telling reporters a new story: that Obama officials spied on Trump aides during the transition by unmasking their names in transcripts of legal foreign intelligence intercepts, and inappropriately disseminating that information throughout the government, for exclusively political purposes. The person at the center of this conspiracy, they now say, was Obama national security adviser Susan Rice. “The more we find out about this, the more we learn there was something there,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer claimed on Tuesday, without elaboration. …

With conservative media fully bought in to the unmasking story, traditional outlets have felt obliged to treat Susan Rice’s actions as presumptively suspicious, when intelligence experts say it was likely either routine, or, more damningly for Trump, of urgent national security relevance.

In absence of everything we know to be true — about the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, the ongoing counterintelligence investigation of Trump associates and Russian interference in the election, disgraced former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s post-hoc registration as a foreign agent — this would be an explosive allegation. In full context, it simply sounds like a national security adviser doing her job under extraordinary circumstances. …

We should all support a full accounting of what the Russian government did, what the Trump inner circle did, and how the US government responded. But Trump and his aides have been engaged in a well-documented campaign of deception since those fateful tweets on March 4. Placing the burden of proof on anyone other than them is an error we will all come to regret.

–Brian Beutler
Don’t Let Trump Get Away With His Latest Deception

A Website Versus a Blog: Psychotronic Review Edition

Psychotronic Review - Do You Have a VCR?! Of Course I Do!I just wrote the second blog post over at Psychotronic Review, Do You Have a VCR?! Of Course I Do! But this article isn’t about that. You should go over there and read the article, though. It’s weird to be creating a website from scratch, knowing that the content is really good, yet getting next to no traffic. But I know that will eventually change. The people who visit this site are mostly interested in politics.

But the whole thing has been interesting to me because Pyschotronic Review is a website and not a blog. Of course, it has a blog. But the vast majority of the content is outside of the blog. And that’s why, despite lots of work done on the site, this is just the second blog post. It’s fascinating because the management of Frankly Curious and Psychotronic Review are really quite different.

Frankly Curious is used exactly the way that WordPress was designed to be used. It has a handful of pages for things like the About Us page. And then it has thousands of blog posts. And as a result, when you come to the site, you come to the blog. The first thing you see is the most recent thing that I’ve published (even if it is written by someone else).

Psychotronic Review is a good example of why WordPress is so popular: you can do anything with it. It’s my hope to one day have enough people visiting the site that I can add a forum for it. Here’s an article that’s written by a writer who I work with a lot, 13 Ways to Add a Forum to WordPress With Minimal Fuss. Basically, it’s like everything else on WordPress: there’s a plugin for that.

But Psychotronic Review isn’t that exotic (yet). Still, it’s kind of the opposite of Frankly Curious. While it has only 2 posts, it has 18 pages. And it only has that few because I haven’t given it the love that it deserves. Since there are a couple of hundred blog posts here that I want to turn into pages there, I could probably get the page total up to 100 if I worked at it this weekend.

Of course, given that posts here can become pages there, you may wonder what the difference is. Basically, I’m creating a kind of encyclopedia of film at Psychotronic Review. The idea is that one day, it will be the go-to place for odd films. Kind of like Wikipedia and IMDb, but for and by people who love these films. Also: reasonably well written. I love both IMDb and Wikipedia, but both are deadly dull to read.

Currently, we have only 12 film pages. But one of those page, The Roger Corman Poe Cycle, features eight films. And another, Night Gallery, features two, or five, depending on how you count.

In addition to the film section, there’s a section on heroes of psychotronic film — or more simply: people. That means the blog is left just with articles that don’t deal with the films or the people and companies who make them. Thus far, that’s left me with a discussion of Mystery Science Theater 3000′s mixed legacy in the history of psychotronic film. And this newest article, which is about how important it is to own a VCR. It’s sad that one needs one, but that’s life.

I’ve been thinking of moving all of my political writing to Frankly Furious. I bought the domain name a few weeks ago with the idea of doing that. Now that would be something of a technical nightmare. Not only would I have to transfer over 3,400 articles to the new site, I’d have to create 301 redirects for all of them on the WordPress site, and almost as many 301 redirects from the old Nucleus site. Yikes!

There’s a reason people pay me to do this kind of stuff for sites that actually make money.

Dean Baker on March 2017 Jobs Report

Dean Baker on March 2017 Jobs ReportThe unemployment rate fell to 4.5 percent in March, its lowest level since May of 2007. The employment-to-population ratio also edged up to 60.1 percent, a new high for the recovery, but still more than 3.0 percentage points below its pre-recession level.

However, the good news on the household survey was accompanied by weak job growth in the establishment survey. The economy added just 98,000 jobs in March. Job growth was also revised downward by 38,000 for the prior two months, bringing the three month average to 178,000. There also has been some shortening of the average workweek. The index of aggregate weekly hours is unchanged from its January level.

The strongest areas of job growth were restaurants (21,700), building support services (16,800), and health care (13,500). Mining also added 11,000 jobs, as did manufacturing. Retail was a big job loser in the month, shedding 29,700 jobs. This sector is likely to continue to show weakness as several major chains have announced plans to close a large number of stores.

Wage growth appears to be slowing slightly. While the year-over-year increase in the average hourly wage was 2.7 percent, wages have grown at just 2.4 percent comparing the average of the last three months to the prior three months. This should give pause to those concerned about the labor market being too strong. The fall in the length of the workweek, coupled with modest wage growth, indicates there is much room for further strengthening.

–Dean Baker
Unemployment Falls to 4.5 Percent In Spite of Weak Job Growth

Trump Is Just a Puppet of the Republican Party Elite

Trump Is Just a Puppet of the Republican Party EliteIn The Bad, the Worse, and the Ugly, Paul Krugman wrote, “How much difference has it made, really, that Donald Trump rather than a conventional Republican sits in the White House?” This is something that I’ve been talking about since well before Trump won the election, much less became — the words still come hard — President Trump.

The truth is that for all Trump’s notable failures — American Health Care Act (AHCA) and the courts striking down his racist immigration orders — he’s done a whole lot of harm to the nation that any other Republican would have done. But these things don’t get much attention. Sometimes they do when the irony is too delicious. For example, there’s his change of coal policy that won’t actually increase the number of coal jobs. Meanwhile, his proposed dismantling of Obamacare and his proposed budget do great harm (even to the point of causing many deaths) of those people waiting for the promised coal jobs.

Babies, Little Babies

And last night we had another great example of this. On Wednesday, Trump was outraged about the chemical attacks in Syria. He said, “When you kill innocent children, innocent babies — babies, little babies — with a chemical gas that is so lethal, people were shocked to hear what gas it was, that crosses many, many lines.”

So he launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Syria. But allowing those “babies, little babies” to get shelter here, oh no! That’s a bridge too far. According to The Telegraph, our bombing killed four children. But it isn’t known if they were “babies, little babies.”

But the question that Krugman raised stands: how is Trump different from any other Republican we would have elected? I’d say that he’s less competent and therefore slightly less dangerous on the domestic front. But he’s also impulsive, which makes him more dangerous internationally. But mostly, Trump is just an empty vessel that the Republican Party elite can fill up with whatever they want. Thus: Trump is, on a practical level, the very definition of a Republican Party elite.

Trump and Bush and Rubio, Oh My!

This is exactly what we would have expected had we elected Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz. Far from draining the swamp, he’s installed a device to remove pure water and replace it with toxic material. He’s the best thing Paul Ryan could hope for, because when it comes to the things that Ryan cares about, Ryan might as well be president.

In the early days, the Republican establishment didn’t like Trump for two reasons. First, they thought he couldn’t win a general election. (They, like me, were thinking of America as a democracy; they weren’t thinking that Trump could get 3 million less votes and still become president.) But more than that, they were against him for the same reason I was somewhat positive toward him: his rhetoric indicated that he was an actual populist. Sure, he was a racist (that’s not a problem with Republican Party elite), but it sounded like he might be a fighter for the American worker.

Then, in late September of 2015, came his tax plan. That’s when the Republican Party elite knew he was no threat to them. His tax “reform” plan was even more regressive than the other Republican contenders’. Even though he said it was going to cost him a fortune, it turned out that it was going to make him a fortune. It was going to cut the taxes of the top 1% by twice as much as Jeb Bush’s plan was going to.

Trump Is a Puppet of the Republican Party Elite

But cutting taxes is probably the only issue that Trump has any opinions on. The rest is just whatever the Republicans say they are for. Think about the AHCA. Trump could have said that it didn’t meet the promises he had made to his voters. Indeed, it did the opposite. Instead of increasing the numbers covered and decreasing the cost, it decreased (drastically) the numbers covered and increased the cost. (In the long-term, it would have cut the cost of insurance because the people who actually needed it couldn’t afford it — but that’s not making insurance cheaper.) But he just went along with it, because Donald Trump is nothing by a puppet of the Republican Party elite.

Despite how horrible this is for the country and all the people who will die because Donald Trump is just another Republican, it’s funny. I know: a lot of Republicans voted for him just because he was the Republican candidate. And they are getting just what they wanted. But the roughly half of the people who voted for him because they thought he was something new, they got conned in the biggest way. Oh sure, they mostly voted for him because both he and they are bigots. But they aren’t getting anything special for that other than the warm feeling of knowing that the president is as vile as you.

Trump: Just Another Republican

This is why I get tired of the constant focus on Trump. If Marco Rubio were our president right now, very little would be different. In fact, things might be worse. The media would be less likely to call him out on his lies. And he might have been more effective. But overall, it’s a wash. Donald Trump is a disgusting and vile man. But as President of the United States? He’s just another Republican.

Economic Populism Is the Way Forward, But Trump Still Won Because of Racism

Mehdi Hasan - Economic Populism Is the Way Forward, But Trump Still Won Because of RacismIt isn’t only Republicans, it seems, who traffic in alternative facts. Since Donald Trump’s shock election victory, leading Democrats have worked hard to convince themselves, and the rest of us, that his triumph had less to do with racism and much more to do with economic anxiety — despite almost all of the available evidence suggesting otherwise.

Consider Bernie Sanders, de facto leader of the #Resistance. “Some people think that the people who voted for Trump are racists and sexists and homophobes and deplorable folks,” he said at a rally in Boston on Friday, alongside fellow progressive senator Elizabeth Warren. …

Look, I get it. It’s difficult to accept that millions of your fellow citizens harbor what political scientists have identified as “racial resentment.” The reluctance to acknowledge that bigotry, and tolerance of bigotry, is still so widespread in society is understandable. From an electoral perspective too, why would senior members of the Democratic leadership want to alienate millions of voters by dismissing them as racist bigots?

Facts, however, as a rather more illustrious predecessor of President Trump once remarked, “are stubborn things.” Interestingly, on the very same day that Sanders offered his evidence-free defense of Trump voters in Boston, the latest data from the American National Election Studies (ANES) was released.

Philip Klinkner, a political scientist at Hamilton College and an expert on race relations, has pored over this ANES data and tells me that “whether it’s good politics to say so or not, the evidence from the 2016 election is very clear that attitudes about blacks, immigrants, and Muslims were a key component of Trump’s appeal.” For example, he says, “in 2016 Trump did worse than Mitt Romney among voters with low and moderate levels of racial resentment, but much better among those with high levels of resentment.” …

Look, if you still believe that Trump’s appeal was rooted in economic, and not racial, anxiety, ask yourself the following questions: Why did a majority of Americans earning less than $50,000 a year vote for Clinton, not Trump, according to the exit polls? Why, in the key Rust Belt swing states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, did most voters who cited the economy as “the most important issue facing the country” opt for Hillary over the Donald? And why didn’t black or Latino working class voters flock to Trump with the same fervor as white working class voters? Or does their economic insecurity not count? …

If Democrats are going to have any chance of winning back the White House in 2020, they have to understand why they lost in 2016, and that understanding has to be based on facts and figures, however inconvenient or awkward. The Sanders/Warren/Moore wing of the party is right to focus on fair trade and income equality; the calls for higher wages and better regulation are morally and economically correct. What they are not, however, is some sort of silver bullet to solve the issue of racism.

–Mehdi Hasan
Top Democrats Are Wrong: Trump Supporters Were More Motivated by Racism Than Economic Issues

People Not as Much in Favor of Single-Payer as Seems

Nazi Rally - People Not as Much in Favor of Single-Payer as SeemsI’ve been hearing a lot about single-payer healthcare and how popular it is with conservatives. It all started when the Republicans got to work trying to destroy Obamacare. The most recent showed up in Sarah Kliff’s article, I Ran a Focus Group With Trump Voters. Half Said They Support Single-Payer. So liberals want single-payer. And half of conservatives want single-payer. Why don’t we have single-payer?!

I’m so sick of this because it means absolutely nothing. Think about Obamacare itself. Recently, it’s become much more popular. According to Gallup, 55 percent of Americans are now in favor of it. Just last November (you know: when we had the election that made reality television star and racist authoritarian Donald J Trump our president), only 42 percent of Americans were in favor of Obamacare. I suspect that Obamacare has more or less stabilized and that people will generally be in favor of it in the future.

The Insanity of Obamacare Opposition

But for the last seven years, the American people have been very much against it. Of course, if you asked them about the things that were in it, they were for them. If you described Obamacare but didn’t name it, they were in favor of it. But they were against whatever the law named Obamacare was. And it wasn’t just some vague notion. They voted based upon their hatred of the law they hated when you called it Obamacare.

This is politics in the United States. It doesn’t make much sense. So Sarah Kliff can go door-to-door and talk to all 325 million Americans and find out that they are overwhelmingly in favor of single-payer healthcare. It still means nothing. And the reason is because it isn’t real. Sure, people have the capability to think about things and come to their own conclusions. But they rarely do. Instead, they find out what the tribe thinks and they go with that.

My Father’s Love of Single-Payer

This is very personal for me. And because it is personal, it is annoying. Not long after Obamacare was passed, my conservative father asked me why they had to pass such a complicated bill. “Why didn’t they just create something like they have in Canada?” Well, this first annoyed me because I knew he was complaining about the bill being complicated because someone (most likely Charles Krauthammer, because my father has a man-crush on him) had been complaining about the “20,000 pages” of the bill. (It wasn’t that long, but that’s a typical number I used to hear.

But even more annoying was that we got Obamacare because if they just created “something like they have in Canada,” people like my father would have been screaming that it was “Socialism!” and that America was on the edge of oblivion. If the Democrats had proposed “Medicare for all,” my father would have asked me why they didn’t do something moderate like Romney did in Massachusetts. Remember: the Heritage Foundation plan, which was the foundation for Obamacare, was created explicitly so that the Republicans could have something to offer as an alternative to the more liberal HillaryCare.

Republican Bait and Switch

The Republican Party is all about the bait and switch. Remember: it is the party of the rich. All it cares about is making the lives of the rich better. Everything else it does is just to get enough votes so that they can pass tax cuts and deregulation. If they could do that by being pro-choice, they would. They really don’t care about anything else. So when it comes to healthcare, all they are interested in is pretending to care. Whatever the Democrats propose will be wrong.

Think about it. If the Republicans had offered Obamacare to Clinton in 1993, he would have taken it. On the other hand, if the Democrats had said, “Hey, we really like your healthcare proposal, let’s pass it,” the Republicans would have suddenly found that it wasn’t good enough. Suddenly there would have been all kinds of problems with it that they hadn’t seen before.

We know this is the case because when the Democrats did just that 15 years later — when the problem of healthcare in America was much worse — the Republicans claimed it was “Socialism! Socialism, I tell you!” And this led to what was actually a very funny period of conservative healthcare wonks like Avik Roy running around the globe looking for a healthcare system that was more conservative than Obamacare. They were always claiming to have found one, but it always turned out that the other country’s system was more liberal. These conservative healthcare “wonks” were really just conservative healthcare propagandists who didn’t understand healthcare. But they did understand their jobs: to be against any healthcare idea that a Democrat ever had.

Conservatives Like Single-Payer — Before the Propaganda Starts

“One of these days we are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.” –Ronald Reagan on the passage of Medicare

So sure: when single-payer healthcare was brought up in Kliff’s forcus group, “Half of the hands shot up.” But imagine things after Fox News spent a week shouting, “Socialism! Socialism, I tell you!” Imagine what would happen when hundreds of articles were published about all the people who come to America from Canada because they just can’t get the care they need. This is a favorite conservative talking point — and a myth. After just a week of that, none of those hands would have shot up.

What’s more, most of the people in the focus group would repeat the same talking points that they’d heard on Fox News and hate radio and their friends who listen to these garbage news sources.

Facts Don’t Matter in the US

I understand. In a reasonable nation where the mainstream press called out lies when they heard them instead of just claiming that opinions differ, we would not just live in a country that supporters single-payer healthcare; we would live in a country that had single-payer healthcare. But we don’t live in that country. That’s why we live in a country where the very existence of global warming is a matter for “debate.” The Republicans have played the media perfectly so now any crazy idea a Republican has must be treated with respect.

Eventually, I think we will get single-payer healthcare. It will probably happen gradually as the age requirement for Medicare is slowly lowered. This will happen because we have no choice. But it is pure fantasy that if we put single-payer healthcare up for a vote that it would win by a huge margin. The truth is that after all the conservative (And insurance industry!) propaganda, I’m not even sure it would pass at all. But I am sure that if it passed, it would pass by a small amount.

Authoritarians Do as They Are Told

To a large extent, people are Republicans because they are authoritarians. And that means that they follow directions. Roughly half of the people in the Republican Party really didn’t like Donald Trump on 8 November 2016. But they voted for him anyway — because he was the Republican candidate. And if single-payer came up for a vote, Republicans would vote against it because the party was against it.

So let’s not all of us liberals get lost in fantasy land where conservatives are in favor of single-payer healthcare. The people in Sarah Kliff’s focus group hadn’t been fed the propaganda that they will be fed (in abundance) if single-payer ever becomes a real possibility. If we’re going to get Medicare-for-all, it’s going to be a tough fight. It’s a worthwhile fight. And it’s a fight we can win. But it won’t be easy. The Republicans are not on our side. And if you think their freak-out over Obamacare was ridiculous, just wait until they get started on single-payer.

Republicans Will React as They Have Before

Remember that the following was said by a man who would today be considered a squish in the GOP:

If you don’t [write letters to Congress], this program [Medicare] I promise you, will pass just as surely as the sun will come up tomorrow and behind it will come other federal programs that will invade every area of freedom as we have known it in this country until one day as Normal Thomas said we will wake to find that we have socialism, and if you don’t do this and I don’t do this, one of these days we are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.

How many hands will Sarah Kliff get after the same thing is said about single-payer healthcare? Not only will there be none, even asking the question might start a riot.

Women Don’t Just Happen to Choose Lower Paying Jobs

Majority ReportOne of the things you hear morons say is that the reason why women make less money is because they make different choices that cause them to make less money. Now you are probably well aware that women make somewhere between 77 and 79 cents for every dollar a man makes when they work the same work schedules. And even smaller percentages for women of color.

Critics will say that the raw gap doesn’t show you. That’s just because there’s a bunch of choices that women make. If you take into account education, experience, race, industry, and occupation, the gap gets smaller. If women and men with similar characteristics are compared, women make just about 90 percent of what men make. And women do stay home with young children at higher rates than men. And so she writes, “If women want to earn equally, it should stand to reason that they should simply get more education, and add experience to their resumes, and choose high paying industries and jobs, and stick with their careers.”

But the idea that women choose lower paying work may put the horse behind the cart. Because every time women begin to dominate a profession, the pay goes down. And every time men end up dominating a position, the pay goes up. Women make less than men in every industry, even for work that’s remarkably similar. Low-wage jobs dominated by women pay just three-quarters of what low-wage jobs held by men. Housekeepers are mostly women, make 17 percent less than people who clean vehicles and equipment, mostly men. Cashiers make 10 percent less than parking lot attendants, mostly men. High-paid female jobs pay about two-thirds of what male-dominated jobs pay.

A study looking at a century of census data found that when the share of women in a particular occupation increases, the pay drops. When women took over in working parks and camps, wages fell 57 percentage points. Thirty-four points in designing. Twenty-one points in housekeeping. And 8 points in biology.

By contrast, computer programming used to be done mostly by women. When men took over, prestige rose along side pay. Employers simply value work less when it’s done by women.

–San Seder
The Majority Report


Seder is reading from a few different sources in this quote. I don’t know what they are. If you do, please list them in the comments.