Archive

April 10th, 2016

Detouring the Trump and Clinton steamrollers

    The Wisconsin primaries in both parties put holds on the expectations of presidential frontrunners Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump -- especially the latter, whose bubble has been significantly deflated.

    Trump's supposedly inevitable Republican nomination plunged into a ditch in the Badger State with his 13-point loss to Sen. Ted Cruz. Yet it hardly signaled a joyous embrace of the Texas conservative extremist by the party establishment.

    What it did demonstrate was the wisdom of 2012 party nominee Mitt Romney in counseling fellow Republicans to join an anybody-but-Trump strategy, which got a huge boost from the celebrity tycoon's own loose and errant tongue.

    Trump's comment about punishing women for having abortions illegally, along with his smears of Cruz's wife, Heidi, and his campaign manager's arrest on a charge of battery against a female reporter, made him about as popular among the female persuasion as Jack the Ripper.

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Cruz and Sanders raise campaign stakes in Wisconsin

    Wisconsin gave a boost to the Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz insurgencies Tuesday, protracting the Democratic presidential race and lessening already shaky odds that Donald Trump can win the Republican nomination before this summer's convention in Cleveland.

    Sanders, the Vermont Democrat, handily defeated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a state where both made big efforts, though she still remains a strong favorite to win the nomination. Cruz scored a must-win over Trump, with Ohio Gov. John Kasich coming in a distant third. The results add to a sense among some Republican leaders that the Trump quest may have stalled.

    Cruz only mildly chipped away at the front runner's commanding delegate lead. Still, Trump's defeat will compound Republican discomfort with his candidacy,which has been fueled by his recent rants about foreign policy and offensive comments about women. No major presidential candidate in modern history has had the astronomical unfavorable ratings among voters that Trump suffers.

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Clinton Can Only Be Defeated At Ballot Box, Not By Bogus 'Scandals'

    Fearless prediction: No legalistic deus ex machina will descend to save the nation from the dread specter of President Hillary Rodham Clinton. No cigar-smoking duck like the one on the old Groucho Marx program, no Kenneth Starr-style "independent" prosecutor, no criminal indictment over her "damn emails," no how, no way.

    Ain't gonna happen.

    Voters who can't bear the thought of the former first lady, U.S. senator, and secretary of state taking the oath of office in January 2017 are going to have to do it the old-fashioned way: defeat her at the polls.

    Those impassioned Trump supporters holding "Hillary for Prison" signs are sure to be disappointed. Again. Played for suckers by a scandal-mongering news media that declared open season on Clinton 25 years ago. And haven't laid a glove on her yet.

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A Sweet Tax

    As Americans prepare to meet this year’s April 18 deadline to file our taxes, there’s talk of taxes across the Pond, too.

    Great Britain just passed a tax on sugary drinks. Unlike similar measures in Mexico and Berkeley, California, the British version may lead to soda manufacturers actually reducing the sugar in their products.

    I feel ambivalent about soda taxes. While soda contributes nothing to nutrition and plenty to diabetes, soda taxes fall hardest on the poor.

    Part of me says that if a small tax can really cut soda consumption, then it’s worth it.

    For instance, in Mexico — the nation with the highest rate of soda consumption in the world — a 10 percent tax on sugar-sweetened beverages led to a 12 percent drop in soda sales in its first year.

    But I’d prefer finding other strategies, like removing vending machines from schools or ending junk food marketing to kids. What if sodas were no longer included with Happy Meals?

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A less embarrassing loser?

    We now know how big the Republican Party's Donald Trump problem is: so big that some in the GOP have convinced themselves the solution is Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

    Yes, the erstwhile government- shutter-downer trails Hillary Clinton by only 3.1 percentage points in the RealClearPolitics average, as opposed to Trump's 10.8-point deficit.

    But be skeptical: Those polls probably exaggerate Cruz's electability, which may diminish further if he gets the nomination, and the general electorate focuses on his ideology, even if his opponent is the unloved Clinton.

    A lackluster economy and irritation at poor government performance dominate voters' concerns, just as Cruz says; whether Americans think Cruz's purist brand of conservatism represents the best way to deal with them is another question entirely.

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A convention coup endangers Republican party

    There are three plausible outcomes awaiting the Republican Party at its July convention in Cleveland. Each scenario offers a unique, unhappy-family style of misery to its members.

 

    - Trump Wins

    This still seems to me, as of April 6, the most likely outcome. To date, Trump has acquired 743 delegates, Texas Sen. Cruz has won 517 delegates and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who appears to be playing a different sport on a distant field, has 143.

    The American system of elections is not immutable. It has changed considerably over the years. Sometimes the changes are huge -- as when constituents began directly electing their U.S. senators or when women gained the vote. Sometimes, they're relatively small, as when Nebraska changed its formula for apportioning the state's electoral votes.

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Why low-skilled immigrants are good for the working class

    Usually, when I talk about immigration, it's the high-skilled variety I'm referring to -- people with college degrees or professional skills. When most Americans think about immigrants, however, they focus on the manual laborers -- many of them without documentation -- who come to the U.S. from Latin America to build houses, landscape lawns or pick vegetables instead of starting the next Google.

    This kind of immigration is somewhat out of favor, since these folks compete with low-skilled locals for manual labor jobs. Even though the effect of the competition is small, it isn't zero, and in the current political climate everyone wants to do everything they can to protect the working class.

    But this opposition is probably misplaced. New research shows that low-skilled immigrants may do a lot more for the native-born working class than we thought.

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Sanders is losing the pillow fight with Clinton

    The 19th century had the Lincoln-Douglas debates. The 20th century brought Kennedy-Nixon. And now we have just experienced a forensic masterpiece to define our times: the Clinton-Sanders Debate Debate.

    This particular rhetorical showdown was not a back-and-forth about issues, appropriately enough, but an argument about whether to debate -- and when, and where. It began Jan. 30, when the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign challenged Hillary Clinton to debate him in Brooklyn on April 14.

    Clinton suggested the Democrats instead debate in Pennsylvania, on Long Island or in Upstate New York. Sanders accused Clinton of ducking.

    Clinton proposed a New York debate on the evening of April 4 -- but the Sanders campaign rejected the idea as "ludicrous" because the NCAA basketball championship would be later that night and Syracuse might be playing.

    Clinton proposed they debate on ABC's "Good Morning America" on April 15, but Sanders rejected that, too.

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April 9th

Older people are powering the on-demand economy

    Much ink and many pixels have been spilled over the past few years about the rise of the gig economy, sharing economy, on-demand economy, 1099 economy, freelancer economy or whatever you prefer to call it. Some of the claims about its growth have been overstated.

    But this data, from economists Lawrence F. Katz and Alan B. Krueger's new paper on "The Rise and Nature of Alternative Work Arrangements in the United States, 1995-2015," is for real. After barely changing between 1995 and 2005, the share of U.S. workers in alternative work arrangements jumped from 10.1 percent in 2005 to 15.8 percent in 2015. (This was first reported last month in the Wall Street Journal.)

    That's a pretty big leap. As Katz and Krueger write, "All of the net employment growth in the U.S. economy from 2005 to 2015 appears to have occurred in alternative work arrangements."

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Jury room racism is protected, but it shouldn't be

    Law and tradition say that a jury verdict shouldn't be overturned on the basis of something jurors say in their deliberations, no matter how ignorant or offensive.

    But what if there's strong evidence that the jury deliberations were racially biased? Does the defendant's right to a fair trial supersede the tradition of letting the verdict stand? The Supreme Court has agreed to hear this fascinating question in a sexual assault case where one juror, a former cop, told the others that Mexican men "do whatever they want" with women.

    Odds are that the court will decide that the sanctity of the jury room trumps racial fairness - but it's far from clear that would be the right result.

    Most traditions are invented. What's fascinating about the tradition of refusing to consider post-trial stories by jurors of their own misconduct is that we know exactly when it was invented, and by whom. The year was 1785 and the inventor was Lord Mansfield, generally considered the greatest common law judge in English legal history, who loved to make up efficient new rules.

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