Friday, May 20, 2016

5 Things on a Friday: the Election is Everywhere

I’m still trying to keep it apolitical this week, but that’s turned out to be harder than I expected.  Election coverage is everywhere, and most of it’s so breathlessly scandalous that it simply screams for attention.
Which is pointless, of course.  
Everyone in America has already made up his or her mind.  Moreover, the vast majority of the so-called news these days is little more than clickbait for the already enraged.  I’m personally experiencing some heavy election fatigue, and it’s not even summer.  But I hate it, it’s making me crazy, and it’s absolutely self-reinforcing.  No one is open to new ideas, and at this point, that’s fine.  I no longer care.  
I just want to let it all go.  
Letting go is impossible, unfortunately.  The most interesting story of the week by far came out of the Trump camp, and though I’ve tried to cover it in a just-the-facts sort of way, this blog would have no point without my personal opinions.  Besides, it was fascinating.  Beyond that, I could very easily tie every story in this thing into the election in one way or another, most in ways that are overtly obvious.  Every piece here is directly impacted by our national choice-at-hand.

1. New poll finds 9 in 10 Native Americans aren’t offended by Redskins name (Washington Post)

If a tiny fraction of people find something offensive,
does that mean that it is or it isn't?
Snyder has vowed never to change the moniker and has used the 12-year-old Annenberg poll to defend his position. Activists, however, dismiss the billionaire’s insistence that the name is intended to honor Native Americans. They argue that he must act if even a small minority of Indians are insulted by the term — a dictionary-defined slur. They have also maintained that opinions have evolved as his unyielding stance has been subjected to a barrage of condemnation by critics ranging from “South Park” to the United Church of Christ.

But for more than a decade, no one has measured what the country’s 5.4 million Native Americans think about the controversy. Their responses to The Post poll were unambiguous: Few objected to the name, and some voiced admiration…

[M]any… embrace native imagery in sports because it offers them some measure of attention in a society where they are seldom represented. Just 8 percent of those canvassed say such depictions bother them.

The question at hand, then, is whether or not the views of the 8% who are offended are more important than the 92% who either don’t care or who are in some way pleased that at least some semblance of their cultural heritage is retained in the nation’s popular culture at large.  I suspect that this issue will act as something of a litmus test for certain kinds of values voters, but in general, I think that I’d personally like to see what ticket sales and the open market have to say before I embrace any more shrill name calling on either side of this particular topic.

Is 8% enough of a plurality to force social change?  
It’s an interesting question at the heart of much twenty-first century hand-wringing.

2. America's Mistake Over Chinese Steel: Imposing Tariffs Makes Americans Poorer (Forbes)

The allegation is that the Chinese taxpayer is subsidizing that Chinese production and export of steel. That means, by definition, that the Chinese taxpayer is coughing up taxes to make the American consumer better off. This might not be a good deal for the Chinese taxpayer, but it looks good from the point of view of the American consumer. Why wouldn’t we like other taxpayers making us richer?
I picked this article, and this quote in particular, because it lays out the case for free trade pretty clearly.  I believe in free trade in almost all circumstances, and in general, this is why.
After a certain point, though, it can get to be a little like what happens to small towns in America after Walmart arrives.  Sure, they drive prices lower, and people like that.  But then they drive every other business out of town, and suddenly Walmart is the only place where you can buy anything.  After that, prices may even start to rise again.  
This is why nations protect industries, though choosing which industries can get a little tricky.

3. CBS fall schedule revealed: MacGyver on Friday nights (Entertainment Weekly)

CBS has revealed its fall schedule (below). 
Here are some of the biggest moves: A reboot of 1980s action-hour drama MacGyver, starring Lucas Till and George Eads, will be on Friday nights.

I’m pretty sure I can survive on a steady stream of MacGyver and college football in perpetuity.

4. Millions More Americans Are About to Be Eligible for Overtime Pay (Slate)

[S]alaried employees earning less than $47,476 annually will automatically receive overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours in a week, double the current $23,660 ceiling. Administration officials estimate that more than 4 million workers will be impacted by the change, which will increase their pay by an estimated $12 billion over the next decade.
We’ve seen corporate profits rise for more than a decade without rises in wages, and lots of folks have wondered why.  Well, it’s been about that long since we’ve had overtime reform.  As a matter of basic reality, workers have been doing more—often much more—for the same basic wages for over a decade.  We’ve seen hiring but mostly for crappy jobs, and no growth in pay corresponding to the overall growth of the economy or corporate profits.
This has become a serious problem.
The overtime rule is therefore a win-win.  Either employers pay their folks for the hours they work, or they hire more folks to keep their people working regular hours.  Then the labor market tightens, and pay goes up as a result of overall labor market supply-and-demand.  In either case, no one should be doing unpaid for-profit work.  Unpaid for-profit work is exploitation by definition.
As an employer, you can either pay per project, or you can pay per hour.  Either way, it’s wrong to ask people to work when they don’t see the benefits of their own labor.  The excuse, “You’re lucky to have a job!” is just that—an excuse.  No one is “lucky” to be doing off-the-books work for someone who’s earning a profit on their unpaid time.  
For-profit businesses don’t get to ask for charity from their employees.

5. Donald Trump’s Emerging Higher-Ed Platform (Inside Higher Ed)

[C]olleges should… share the risk associated with student loans…  [T]he risk needs to be substantial enough to change the way colleges decide whether to admit students, and which programs they offer…
[C]olleges should not be admitting students that they aren't confident can graduate in a reasonable time frame and find jobs. That means a shift in who is involved in deciding on student loans, with less emphasis on parent contributions and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and more of "a partnership" between the student, the bank and the college.
A college should factor that in when deciding on a student's loan eligibility, and the requirement that colleges share the risk would be a powerful incentive to do so…
There may be colleges that decide they are comfortable backing loans for students who study the liberal arts. A prestigious college could legitimately decide that anyone it graduates -- regardless of major -- will do well in life, and so go ahead with approving the borrowing. "If you go to Harvard, you can major in anything you want, and once you get in the door, you'll be OK…  But not all colleges are in the same system.”
I know I said last week that we weren’t going to do any more politics, and I’m trying not to.  Like I said in the opening, though, this is such an interesting, out-of-the-box solution that I find myself fascinated.
Frankly, I like this idea.  I think it makes sense.  
Colleges should factor in prospective students’ abilities to repay their loans.  This exactly what happens with every other kind of loan, and I cannot think of a good reason why it shouldn’t also apply to educational loans.  For that matter, student loans should have the same rules as other kinds of loan in the face of bankruptcy.  The system we have now is ruining an entire generation’s ability to participate in the American Dream!  They’ve taken on so much debt that they’ll never be free of it.  That has massive second-order effects which may well be damning in the not-too-distant future.
In the past, I’ve advocated service-for-tuition.  I still believe in that, though I don't think there are enough opportunities out there for those willing to contribute.  Overhauling student borrowing is therefore a necessary idea, and it will impact a much larger swath of the American populace.
That’s all I’ve got, folks.  Have a good weekend.

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