Archive

December 9th

Boosting wages for U.S. workers is really hard to do

    For most people, two things are paramount for their economic well-being -- jobs and wages. A lot of discussion goes into how to raise employment, but increasing wages turns out to be a much thornier problem. In countries such as the U.S., where unemployment is already relatively low, leaders like President-elect Donald Trump need to wrestle with this difficult challenge.

    Wages haven't risen strongly in the U.S. for quite some time. One of my favorite measures is real median weekly earnings per full-time employee. This number isn't distorted much by very high earners, inflation or changes in the number of hours worked. It has barely budged during the past three decades, rising just 3.5 percent. Changing that situation, without throwing large numbers of people out of work, is a priority.

    So what raises wages? If you ask most economists, they'll give you a simple answer: productivity. The more a worker produces, the more he or she should be able to charge in exchange for his or her services. For this reason, economists generally recommend education as the main tool for boosting wages.

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With cyberattacks rising, Trump needs to act

    When Donald Trump takes the oath of office on Jan. 20, he'll face an urgent and growing threat: America's vulnerability to cyberattack. Some progress has been made in fortifying the nation's digital defenses. But the U.S. is still alarmingly exposed as it leaps into the digital age. If the 45th president wants to make America great again, he needs to address this growing insecurity.

    Three areas -- energy, telecommunications and finance -- are especially vital and vulnerable. The government must commit itself to defending them. And it must recognize that the risks posed to all three are increasing as more and more parts of our lives are connected to the internet.

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Trump's coming witch hunt against political Islam

    On the day after Donald Trump won the election, one of his campaign's advisers and endorsers made a prediction. "You are going to see a purging," retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin told Frank Gaffney on his "Secure Freedom Radio" podcast. Boykin predicted that Trump as president would purge "people inside the government that are known to have connections to the Muslim Brotherhood and its front groups and its entities here in America."

    This kind of comment is expected from Boykin, one of the founders of the Army's elite Delta Force. When he served in Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon during George W. Bush's administration, he boasted that his God was mightier than the one worshiped by Muslim terrorists. Since retiring from the Army, Boykin has been a leader of a movement fighting against what it calls a civilization jihad, a network of Muslim ideologues trying to take over American society.

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December 8th

The insatiable Trump

    Q: What does Donald Trump want?

    A: More of everything.

    His recent tweet regurgitation against Green Party loser Jill Stein's pursuit of a voter recount in Wisconsin, a state that narrowly went to him, was a twofer. First he blasted the recount as an unwarranted challenge to his presidential election. Then he charged that fraud accounted for the two million more popular votes cast for Hillary Clinton than for him.

    Trump tweeted, "In addition to winning Electoral College in a landslide" -- his description of his 74-vote margin -- "I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally." He offered no evidence whatever for the allegation, which he had picked up from some ultra-conservative websites and embraced as his own.

    The recount sought by Stein, for which she says $5 million has been raised, presumably from Clinton and other anti-Trump diehards, could be extended to Michigan and Pennsylvania, two other states Trump won narrowly. But no fact-checkers have yet offered any substantiation of fraud or miscounting.

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On North Korea, Obama sings his nuclear swan song

    In what's likely to mark its final bout of nuclear diplomacy, the Obama administration secured unanimous passage Wednesday of a U.N. Security Council resolution meant to further choke North Korea's earnings in retaliation for developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

    The resolution targets coal, North Korea's most lucrative export, slashing the amount it can sell by 60 percent from last year's levels. This is a big deal for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un; he will now face a $700 million shortfall in revenue compared to last year. The sanctions target other sources of income for Kim Jong Un's pariah state, including exports of silver, copper, and nickel - together worth about $100 million a year to the regime - and restrict Pyongyang's ability to ship workers abroad to raise profits from their labor. The resolution also bars the import of luxury items, like rugs and bone china sets, that cost respectively more than $500 or $1,000.

    What the resolution doesn't do is inspire much optimism that Kim Jong Un will submit to multiple U.N. demands to destroy the regime's existing nuclear weapons and scrap its program to build more.

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I interviewed the Ohio State attacker on the first day of school

    Abdul Razak Ali Artan was sitting alone at a red table outside Mendenhall Lab when I met him. It was a little before 6 p.m. on August 23, the first day of classes for the semester at Ohio State, and he was the first person I came across as I headed onto campus that evening.

    That he was alone was primarily why I approached. I was on assignment for the Lantern, looking for students for a new feature in the student newspaper called "Humans of Ohio State." Several paragraphs and a photo profiling members of the campus community, introducing readers to different perspectives. I wanted to find someone who had a moment to talk that day; Artan would be the first such profile.

    I found a thoughtful, engaged guy, a Muslim immigrant who wanted to spread understanding and awareness while expressing muted fears that U.S. society was becoming insular and fostering unfair stereotypes of his people. He was measured and intellectual, not angry or violent.

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How to weave a 21st-century safety net

    Modern American capitalism is not working for many Americans. That's why, no matter what your political leanings, fixing an economy that can no longer be counted on to create steady, well-paying jobs for all has to be our top priority.

    Whether you were heartened or heartbroken by the election results, millions of American voters have made one thing clear: There is a widespread belief that our once great institutions are unable, or at least unwilling, to work together to address today's economic challenges.

    Job creation has continued for 73 straight months. Wages are beginning to rise. Still, the populist tide we've seen all year is fueled by Americans who continue to white-knuckle it every day, believing they are just one or two paychecks away from disaster. Indeed, too many of them are.

    Democrats and Republicans in Washington largely have failed to respond adequately to the seismic shifts that have been occurring for some time across our economy, many of them triggered by increased automation and global, competitive pressures.

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Gifts With Meaning

    Sure, you can buy your uncle a necktie that he won’t wear, or your niece an Amazon certificate that she’ll forget to use. Or you can help remove shrapnel from an injured child in Syria, or assist students at risk of genocide in South Sudan.

    The major aid organizations have special catalogs this time of year: You can buy an alpaca for a family for $150 at Heifer International, help educate a girl for $75 at Save the Children or help extend a much-admired microsavings program for $25 at Care. But this year my annual holiday gift list is special. I’ve tied some items to the election of Donald Trump, and I’ve looked for organizations that you may not have heard of:

    — One battle over the coming four years will involve family planning, because of Republican efforts to defund Title X family planning programs and repeal Obamacare, which provides free birth control. So consider a donation to one of the most effective counterforces: the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, thenationalcampaign.org.

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Forget 'identity politics,' think 'coalition'

    Should political candidates appeal to particular racial, ethnic or gender groups? Or should they broaden their message to appeal to all groups?

    Such are the questions that presidential campaigns ask themselves in the circular firing squad of blame and finger-pointing that follow a big loss.

    Four years ago, the big word for Republicans after President Barack Obama's re-election was "diversity." After losing the popular vote in five of the previous six presidential elections, the Republican National Committee's "autopsy" report called for aggressive outreach to blacks, Hispanics, Asians and other growing nonwhite demographic groups that were not voting much for Republicans.

    Alas, that outreach approach evaporated with the Grand Old Party's nomination of Donald Trump. Result: The GOP now has lost the popular vote in six of the past seven elections -- and yet bagged enough electoral votes to win the White House this year.

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Finally, A Debate About Identity Politics

    Amid the climate of disbelief and fear among Democrats following Donald Trump's election, a fascinating debate has broken out about what's called "identity politics" on the left, "political correctness" by the right.

    And about damn time, I say. The kind of race- and gender-based moral bullying prevalent on many college campuses and in certain media outlets has been extremely damaging to the Democratic Party.

    My only fear is that the argument will be too polite. Sometimes, people just need to get smacked right between the eyes. Anyway, the whole thing was started by an essay in The New York Times by Columbia University historian Mark Lilla called "The End of Identity Liberalism."

    "In recent years," Lilla writes, "American liberalism has slipped into a kind of moral panic about racial, gender and sexual identity that has distorted liberalism's message and prevented it from becoming a unifying force capable of governing." Instead of the Democratic Party's core message of inclusion -- all for one, and one for all -- we're fed a seemingly endless list of grievances and a litany of blame.

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