Jobs, jobs, jobs

Neil Irwin with a nice Upshot post today on the jobs numbers.  This is truly very good economic news (a shame to see the NYT considered it far less worthy on their homepage than the latest Republican shenanigans).  Irwin:

The American labor force rose by a whopping 555,000 people in February. Over the last three months, that number totals 1.52 million, the highest it has been in 16 years. In other words, this winter a lot more people have been either working or actively looking for work.

That’s good. The proportion of Americans in the labor force plummeted during the 2008 recession and its aftermath. That was partly because of demographic forces, such as baby boomers retiring. It was also caused by millions of Americans who saw little opportunity and became disengaged from the workplace — their incomes suffering, their skills atrophying and the nation’s economic potential diminishing in the process.

But there is evidence that in the last few months that trend has started to reverse. The proportion of the adult population in the labor force and the proportion of the population with a job are both up half a percentage point since September. For the first time in years it’s fair to say that they are decisively pointed in the right direction…

What seems to be happening is the pool of “shadow workers” who have been employable but not looking for work has kept a lid on wage increases. We’ve been able to keep up strong job growth without strong wage gains because there remain so many people who are not working and not looking for a job, but who are available to take one when the opportunity presents itself…

For now, the thing to do is celebrate the 1.5 million Americans who are in the labor force who weren’t in November — and to look for evidence of how many more people like them are out there, ready to work, as they increasingly have the opportunity.

Would have been nice to see some growth in wages, but still, good stuff.  Imagine how Republicans would be crowing if this were the economy under Romney.

Is Trump really so different?

Loved today’s Krugman column.  Sure, Trump is tapping directly into authoritarianism and white ethnocentrism and being transparent in a way about it Republican elites usually are not, but Trump is not some entirely new creature, but very much an extension of today’s Republican Party.  Krugman (I’ll admit, I knew where Krugman was going with this intro):

So Republicans are going to nominate a candidate who talks complete nonsense on domestic policy; who believes that foreign policy can be conducted via bullying and belligerence; who cynically exploits racial and ethnic hatred for political gain.

But that was always going to happen, however the primary season turned out. The only news is that the candidate in question is probably going to be Donald Trump. Establishment Republicans denounce Mr. Trump as a fraud, which he is. But is he more fraudulent than the establishment trying to stop him? Not really.

Actually, when you look at the people making those denunciations, you have to wonder: Can they really be that lacking in self-awareness?

Donald Trump is a “con artist,” says Marco Rubio — who has promised to enact giant tax cuts, undertake a huge military buildup and balance the budget without any cuts in benefits to Americans over 55.

“There can be no evasion and no games,” thunders Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House — whose much-hyped budgets are completely reliant on “mystery meat,” that is, it claims trillions of dollars in revenue can be collected by closing unspecified tax loopholes and trillions more saved through unspecified spending cuts.

Mr. Ryan also declares that the “party of Lincoln” must “reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry.” Has he ever heard of Nixon’s “Southern strategy”; of Ronald Reagan’s invocations of welfare queens and “strapping young bucks” using food stamps; of Willie Horton?

Put it this way: There’s a reason whites in the Deep South vote something like 90 percent Republican, and it’s not their philosophical attachment to libertarian principles…

Equally important, the Trump phenomenon threatens the con the G.O.P. establishment has been playing on its own base. I’m talking about the bait and switch in which white voters are induced to hate big government by dog whistles about Those People, but actual policies are all about rewarding the donor class.

What Donald Trump has done is tell the base that it doesn’t have to accept the whole package. He promises to make America white again — surely everyone knows that’s the real slogan, right? — while simultaneously promising to protect Social Security and Medicare, and hinting at (though not actually proposing) higher taxes on the rich. Outraged establishment Republicans splutter that he’s not a real conservative, but neither, it turns out, are many of their own voters.

Yep.  In a more sane world, we’d talk less about Donald Trump’s hands (okay, cannot resist that myself) and whether or not he disavows the KKK, but the absolute absurdity of all the Republicans’ tax plans.  Which, Drum nicely provides in chart form today:


Yep. If this is what they have to offer, they are indeed, all con artists.

Self-indulgent photo of the day

I went to one of the most entertaining basketball games I’ve ever been to this week.  Mind you, I went to Duke, but this week’s playoff game at Cary High School (where my oldest son attends), was about as good an atmosphere for a game as I’ve been at.  Cary came from down 16 points in the 4th quarter to win in overtime.  Anyway, I looked through the on-line photos of the game, and there’s your’s truly in the standing room only behind the baseline.

Kyle Gensler (15) of Cary High School. Cary High School hosts New Hanover High School for Semi Final playoff basketball on Tuesday March 1, 2016, in Cary N.C. After a lack luster first half Cary fights back to tie the game and force OT. Cary finishes strong and takes the victory in overtime by a score of 58 to 49. (Chris Baird / HighSchoolOT.Com).

North Carolina Voter ID reality

Shared by a friend on FB.  This is great (in an infuriating way), I’m just pasting the whole damn thing:

Ok, Facebook, I’ve got a story for you.

Today, Bonnie LaCroix and I went to get our NC driver’s licenses so we would have “acceptable” forms of ID for the NC Primary. We both still have valid out of state driver’s licenses, so, since the NC voter ID law went into effect this year, this was absolutely necessary if we wanted to vote at all.

We rode our bikes to South Durham where the DMV that issues IDs is (yup, only one location to get a driver’s license, photo ID, or voter ID). We made sure to bring the forms of ID we’d need, Birth Certificate, W2 (SS#), proof of address, and our valid driver’s licenses.

Before we get into the meat here, it’s important to note a few quick details.

#1) We don’t own a car. We’ve been car free for nearly 5 years as a couple. I haven’t had car insurance since I was 23 when I sold my last car, but we still drive occasionally when we rent a car for a long trip or when we fly somewhere and need a way to get around. As a result, we need our driver’s licenses.

#2) We registered to vote when we moved to Durham and reregistered when we moved into our current apartment last June to make sure we had everything up to date. That’s about 210 days ago. Here’s why this is important (it’s the last item on the list):

Into the DMV we went and, luckily, were the first in line to speak to the guy at the front desk. Bonnie spoke to him and when he asked, she showed him our documents and identification and told him that we were there to get our NC driver’s licenses. At that time, he asked us for proof of insurance. “We don’t have insurance. We don’t own a car,” Bonnie said. “Then you can’t get a driver’s license,” was his response.

We were both flummoxed. Apparently, in order to hold a NC driver’s license you must have car insurance, whether you own a car or not.

Bonnie asked if we could get voter IDs instead. “It’s illegal to have two IDs at the same time,” stated the gentleman behind the counter. “Could we just get a regular photo ID?” we asked. We were told that if we did that, we would have to go through all of the driving tests over again to get a NC driver’s license. “Ok…. So there’s no way for us to get a voter ID just so we can vote?” we pressed. We were told that we could get a voter ID, but we would have to give up our driver’s licenses or commit perjury when we sign the affidavit stating that we had no other valid forms of ID.

That last sentence is really important. Just in case you didn’t read the pdf link from earlier in this post, it lists the acceptable forms of ID that can be used when you vote in this state. What we didn’t know and what he didn’t know is that the affidavit you sign states that you have no “acceptable” form of ID for voting in the state of NC, which we did not. As stated in the “NC Voter ID Requirements” when listing “Acceptable Photo ID in 2016”:

“Out-of-state driver’s license or non-operator’s identification card (BUT only if the voter registers to vote in the county within 90 days of the election)”

Since we had registered about 210 days before, our licenses were not acceptable and, therefore, were invalid for the purpose of voting, making us eligible for voter IDs without having to give up our driver’s licenses.

However, the gentleman behind the counter didn’t know that and neither did we.

So what did we do? First, we left the DMV and started talking about what we could do. Bonnie started doing research on her phone and I walked into the Car Insurance agency next door to the DMV (coincidence? I think not). It would have cost $85 to start the insurance policy and $37 a month per person after that for non-owner car insurance (that’s $973 a year, including the $85 starting fee, for NOT owning a car).

We decided that wasn’t really an option. The only other choices that we appeared to have were to A) Give up our ability to drive legally in the United States so that we could vote or B) Perjure ourselves (according to the gentleman behind the counter) so we could vote.

Since neither option sounded very good, we decided to give up for the time being and come back later. We started to leave, but something made us decide to make one last try.

We went back into the DMV and I asked again about voter IDs. Same story, you can have one but you’d be perjuring yourself. Right on time, Bonnie found the “Acceptable Forms of Voter ID” document online via her smart phone and spotted the rule that covered us. I was able to show it to the gentleman behind the counter, at which time he suggested that I speak to his supervisor.

His supervisor informed us that if we wanted a voter ID, we could have one. So we got back in line, presented all of our identifying documents again (yes, they needed all the same documents for a voter ID that they needed for a driver’s license), got our number in line, and got our voter IDs (Legally, without perjuring ourselves).

I keep thinking about this. What if we hadn’t gone back in and tried again? What if the gentleman behind the counter had NOT suggested that we speak to his supervisor? What if someone else who wasn’t as insistent or persistent as I am had been in this situation? What if we hadn’t had a smart phone?

I keep thinking about the answers: Bonnie and I wouldn’t be able to vote right now. Bonnie and I would have left again and not be able to vote right now. Someone less insistent or persistent would not be able to vote right now. We wouldn’t have found that one critical piece of information that turned the tide and we would not be able to vote right now.

And… I just feel completely convinced now. There’s just no question in my mind anymore. This is how voter ID laws cause voter suppression.

Yep.  Mind you.  This was a determined, educated citizen.  Not a stretch at all to imagine many other persons just giving up in the face of this almost Orwellian situation.

And, a not all-too-different story from one of my out-of-state students attempting to get an ID to vote in NC.

Truly deplorable.  All so we can stop the infinitesimal rate of in-person voter fraud (and if you believe that’s why, I’ve got a bridge to sell you).

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