Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Blogger Candidate Forum: Who Has The Compelling Vision?

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Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller

Hello Everyone:
It is a cool semi-overcast early Wednesday summer afternoon and time for Blogger Candidate Forum.

Yesterday, the House of Representatives announced that it subpoenaed former Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who will comply, testify before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees on July 17.  Never one to miss an opportunity to tweet, Mr. Donald Trump fired off a blast accusing Mr. Mueller of a crime, without any evidence, of deleting certain text messages exchanged between former Special Counsel Office investigators Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.  Of course he added the usual no collusion, no obstruction, total exoneration.  Expect the Democrats to focus on Mr. Trump's efforts to obstruct the two-year investigation into Russian inference in the 2016 election and the Republicans will use the opportunity to demonstrate the SCO's investigation was politically driven.  Either way, it should be good.
Medicare and Social Security
Robert Mueller

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The candidates participating in the first Democratic debates
Which way America?  This is the overarching question going into the first round Democratic  presidential candidate debates.  On one side of the spectrum are the candidates who view Mr. Trump as an anomaly and want to work within the political system to fix the conditions that brought about his election.  On the other side of spectrum are the pitch fork candidates who perceive the president as a symptom of what is wrong with political system and want to overhaul it.  In between are the candidates who offer a vision that is part-pitch fork and part-within the system.  Democratic and prospective Democratic voters are curious to hear how the candidates would deal with the five issues they care about the most: Health care, the economy, social security, women' issues, and security.

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One of Senator Bernie Sanders' (D-VT) main platform planks during his 2016 campaign was "Medicare for All" (; June 25, 2019; date accessed June 26, 2019).  This plank has become part of the 2020 platform, as candidates embrace policies that address the cost of health care from a single-payer system to fixing the Affordable Care Act.  Health care was a winner during the 2018 Midterm Election and look for it to be front and center during the debates.

Looking at the candidates who will take the stage tonight and tomorrow: Supporters of candidates Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA) ranked health care as their number concern while supporters of author and perennial candidate Marianne Williamson rank health care as the least of their concerns. (Ibid)

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Booming economy
A good economy is a boost for an incumbent president but in the 2020 race, voters are looking for equitable stake.  The candidates have unveiled their policy proposals for increasing the minimum wage, raise taxes on the wealthy, and confront the changing employment landscape.

A more equitable economy was a top-ranked concern of supporters of lower polling candidates: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Rep. Swalwell, and businessman Andrew Yang (D-NY). (Ibid)

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Protecting Medicare and Social Security are the chief concern of older voters.  For VPOTUS's supporters, this issue ranks number one. (Ibid)

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Gender equality
The past 2-1/2 years have put reproductive rights and equal pay into sharp focus.  The recent rash of restrictive abortion bills ratified by state legislatures created a sense of urgency around the subject of public funding for abortion and whether the next president should make support of Roe v. Wade a litmus test for future Supreme Court nominees.  Candidate Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has made reproductive rights a center pole of her campaign platform.  Supporters of Ms. Williamson, Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) have expressed deep concern for reproductive rights and equal pay (Ibid).

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 Finally, national security is a top priority with voters.  Shall we be honest for a moment?  This administration' embrace of authoritarian regimes and foreign policy by tweet has given voters and foreign policy experts cause for serious concern.  Foreign policy is one of many areas where stability is a mandatory requirement.  One example, most Democrats would like to reduce the number of troops currently stationed in the Middle East and they have rejected the Trump administration's characterization of undocumented immigration as a national security issue.  Instead of treating it as security, Democrats prefer to address the root causes that force migrants to make the long arduous journey to the American southern border.  Recent entry former Rep John Delaney's (D-MD) supporters rate national security as their top issue.

The two part Democratic presidential candidate debate is a first look at which candidate will have the most compelling vision for the United States.  It will also give viewers a chance to hear what they have to say about the top five issues: National security, healthcare, the economy, gender equality, medicare and social security.  Will the return to stability be the more compelling story or will it be the pitch fork approach?  It is a long way to Election Day November 3, 2020 and a lot can happen.  Yours Truly will be here for you. 


Monday, June 24, 2019

Do Big Cities Still Hold Opportunities?

Hello Everyone:

It is a very lovely Monday afternoon and a fresh week on the blog.  A big congratulations to Team USA as they continue to roll through the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup Tournament with a win over Team Spain.  Next up is the host country Team France on Friday.  Should be a great game.  Until then,   let us talk about why workers without university degrees are leaving the big cities.

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Seattle, Washington skyline
Big cities offer myriads of exciting opportunities, especially for workers with university educations.  Cities, like Seattle, Washington, are centers for cutting edge technology and progress.  You would think that there is something for everyone but the big cities are losing people to other parts of the United States because there just is not something for everyone.

In April, the Census Bureau confirmed this dynamic.  Eduardo Porter and Guilbert Gates write, "For the first time in at least a decade, 4,868 more people left King County, Wash--Amazon's home--than arrived from elsewhere in the country" (; May 21, 2019; date accessed June 18, 2019).  The numbers tell the tale.

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Net migration versus county population in 2017 (millions)
Amazon's hometown was not the only place that lost people to domestic migration.  Santa Clara County, the epicenter of Silicon Valley lost 24,645 to domestic migration for ninth year in the wall.  This trend is not confined to technology hubs.

In 2018, eight out of the ten largest metropolitan areas, including those near New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Miami saw people move to other places.  This is an increase from seven in 2016, five in 2013 and four in 2010 (Ibid).  To give you some sense of how serious the situation is, "Migration out of the New York area has gotten so intense that its total population shrank in 2018 for the second year in a row" (Ibid).

The chart on the left (viewed more fully at; May 21, 2019) show that in 2017, more people left 30 out of the 44 largest counties (measured in millions) and moving to smaller counties (also measured in million).  For example, in 2017, Los Angeles County saw its population drop by over a million people while Clark County, Nevada experienced a population increase of nearly 2 million people (Ibid).  The increasing flow of people out of the largest counties highlights just how uneven the distribution of opportunities have become,

Silicon Valley cities--i.e. Mountain View, San Jose, and Palo Alto to give a few examples--may offer great opportunities for people with professional degrees looking for work in the tech companies.  The reporters write, "The median family in that county [Santa Clara, California] makes $122, 700 a year,  In King County it us $105, 512, way above the national median of $76,000" (Ibid).  That is fantastic if you are an engineer or programmer but what if you are a janitor?  Or, for that matter, anyone without a university degree? Let us consider the janitor for a moment.

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How does a move to Silicon Valley affect worker's pay
In the sixties, a janitor from the Deep South--i.e. Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina, and Mississippi-- could double his income, after housing costs, even after accounting for housing costs.  However, over the last fifty years, our hypothetical janitor's earnings has grown more slowly in Santa Clara and King County (south of Santa Clara) than in the Deep South.  This fact disrupts the prosperity distribution around the United States.  Let us compare the affect on the janitor's pay to the affect on a lawyer's pay.

Eduardo Porter and Guilbert Gates write, "Today it makes a lot of sense for a lawyer to move to Silicon Valley from the South.  The additional pay will more than compensate for the higher cost of housing" (Ibid).  However, if a janitor moves, say from Mississippi to Palo Alto, could expect to see a household, after housing costs, drop by more than half (Ibid).

The disparity of economic opportunity for workers on either side of the university spectrum is not a new trend.  However, it is only now being understood in terms of how it has reconfigured the reasons for internal migration: Moving for a better work opportunity is not what it used to be.

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Random high school diploma

Forty or fifty years ago, a high school diploma could mean a good job in the city than in a small town.  Not only did workers at the bottom of the wage scale--i.e. janitors or cashiers at convenience stores--make more money but were able to take advantage of office jobs that required little or no formal university education and paid middle class wages.

Emily Badger and Quoctrung Bui recently observed their article, "What if Cities Are No Longer the Land of Opportunity for Low-Skilled Workers?" (Ibid; Jan. 11, 2019), cited the work of M.I.T. economist David Autor (Ibid), the big cities are no longer a magnet for workers without a four-year degree.  They will earn no more in New York or the Bay Area than they would in small town Deep South.

The clerical jobs that once attracted high school educated workers are mostly gone, replaced by computer software or outsourced.  Additionally, the wage bump that janitors and cashiers experienced in the big cities have by-and-large disappeared.  Further, those who had middle-income jobs have experienced a decrease in wages and are competing for jobs at the bottom of the wage scale.

The reporters write, "And even as big-city wages flatlined for workers without requisite college degree, big-city housing prices soared ahead" (Ibid; May 21, 2019)

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Source: Federal Housing Finance Authority

Peter Ganong of the University of Chicago and Daniel Shoag of Harvard authored the paper, Why Has Regional Income Convergence in the U.S. Declined (; Jan. 2015; date accessed June 24, 2019), in which they suggest "that housing costs are a principal driver of the change in migration decisions: As the highly educated have flocked to superstar cities, they have pushed housing cities, they have pushed prices way beyond the reach of people earning less" (; May 21, 2019; date accessed June 24, 2019).

Increasing rents impacts everybody but housing costs sucks a greater share of the income of the poor.  Returning to our example of the janitor and lawyer for a moment, "In 1960, housing absorbed 17 percent of a janitor's household earnings in King County, compare with 9 percent of a lawyer's, according for Mr. Ganong.  By 2017, lawyers' households had to pay almost 15 percent of their incomes.  Janitors' households had to pay 38 percent" (Ibid).

Migration to affluent and low-income places

Migration to rich and poor places

In 1940, university educated and less-educated workers migrated from low-income areas to more affluent one, where wages were higher.  By 2016, domestic migration sharply declined.  However, while the university educated were still more likely to move to more affluent areas, the less-educated stopping moving to those areas because of the lack of opportunities.

The reporters surmise, "Given the changing geography of economic, the new pattern of migration starts making sense" (Ibid).  

During the mid-20th century, affluent urban clusters were magnets for people across the educational spectrum.  Moving to the big city for a good job was considered a sound decision for someone with some high school education as well as a university graduate.

Over time, that attraction ebbed even for highly educated workers.  Changes in the methodology used by the Census Bureau to record domestic migration--"in 1940 it asked people where they were five years ago; in 2016 it asked where they were the year before"(Ibid)--reduced the reported rates of migration.  Yet, migration for work has decreased significantly over the last few decades.  Eduardo Porter and Guilbert Gates writes, "In 2016, more people with bachelor's degree or more left the nation's richest metropolitan areas than arrived seeking opportunities there" (Ibid).  The reason was "the rent's too damn high" for them as well.  Increasing housing costs was also a deterrent.  For workers without a university or college education this was particularly true.  Cities like New York or Los Angeles were no simply no longer a viable option.

There is no one solution to make cities magnets of opportunity for the working class.  The jobs that offered a chance at upward mobility for individuals without a university degree no longer exist and will not return.  Hope exists in policy changes.  The reporters write, "Relaxing zoning regulations to make it easier to build could slow rising rents ensuring that the housing supply keeps up with demand" (Ibid).  Even that prospect looks bleak.

The recently shelved SB 50 in California would have forced cities to permit denser housing units closer to public and eliminated density limits in affluent neighborhoods closer to job centers and good schools.  The bill was opposed by local governments and homeowners who opposed higher density living requirement--as well as rising property values.

Eduardo Porter and Guilbert Gates predict that eventually the premium placed single-family homes will diminish in the United States' marquee cities but until then, it might be better for workers with a university degree to look elsewhere. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Blogger Candidate Forum: A Very Tall Order

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Trump rally
Amway Center Orlando, Florida

Hello Everyone:

It is a sunny Wednesday and time for Blogger Candidate Forum.  The field is set and the candidates are off to a rousing start.  The president officially kicked off his campaign yesterday, at a rousing rally at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida.  It was a much different campaign kick off than the previous kick off.  The big difference is Mr. Donald Trump is no longer the underdog candidate, he is the incumbent with a record.  The biggest thing he has going for himself right now is the economy.  Overall the economy is good, for now, and usually that mean a slam dunk re-election but is it?  Let us have a look at the road ahead for the president.

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Rally crowd June 18, 2019
Orlando, Florida

The president is the Las Vegas oddsmakers' favorite to win the 2020 election, despite his low-40s approval ratings (; June 16, 2019; date accessed June 19, 2019).  Wall Street also expects him to be re-elected (Ibid; June, 11, 2019) but the oddsmakers and Wall Street are not the only voters.  Mr. Trump has to again convince enough voters in all 50 states that he deserves a second term.  Convincing the average voter that he has earned a second term looks to be more daunting task.  How daunting is this task?

A new Florida, a state won by the president in 2016, poll released by Quinnipiac University shows the president trailing former Vice President Joe Biden by nine point, 50-41 percent (Ibid; June 18, 2019).  The president also trailed other presumed Democratic nominees Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.  The news from Michigan, also won by the president, is also woeful; it shows him trailing VPOTUS by 11 points.  The news is also bad in statewide polls in North Carolina and Texas which show VPOTUS ahead by 12 and four points, respectively (Ibid).

The president carried those states in 2016 with the message of the underdog candidate fighting for Americans cast aside by the politically correct "elite."  The good news for the Trump campaign is that he could carry those states again because there is still time to fine tune the message and four years ago, he was even more behind Hillary Clinton sixteen months ahead of the election.  The bad news is the data shows that Mr. Trump will have to dig himself out of the deep hole he dug after almost two-and-half years in office.  Americans have a better sense of who he is and what he is about--not in a good way.

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The president's job approval rating
  The biggest obstacle to the president's re-re-election is his personality.  If the president plans to make him the central issue of this election cycle, he will lose because he is not the most popular person in the race.  Check out the Quinnipiac University poll at the left.  ABC news' George Stephanopoulous asked the president in an interview that aired Sunday  (; June 16, 2019; date accessed June 19, 2019) what would he tell the undecided swing voter.  Typically, this is the kind of question that allows a candidate to get the talking points out of the way.  The president followed the script: Safety, security, great economy (; June 19, 2019).  Great start and he should have stopped right there.

Instead, he continued talking, bragging that he won 52 percent of the women' vote (not true)--it was the white women' vote--he actually won 41 percent of the female vote overall, according to the exit polls (Ibid).  Then went on about how the economy would help win the minority vote.  That was his pitch to the undecided voters.  He briefly returned to his talking points: a good economy, strong military, taking care of veterans.  Also a good moment to stop but no, the rest of the interview became an airing of grievances and splitting hairs with Mr. Stephanopoulous over what the Special Counsel's report did and not say: No collusion, no exoneration, total exoneration...

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The president with George Stephanopolous
 Jonah Goldberg writes, "...politically that's not the important part.  Impeachment is catnip to the mainstream media and Democrats.  Whether Trump was 'set up' by the deep state and their 'dirty' dossier is catnip to Republicans and right-wing media.  But it seems a fair bet that the swing voters Stephanopolous asked about aren't intoxicated by either topic" (Ibid).  This is the problem for the president.  If you talk to people who are confident that the president will win a second term, they say a good economy will keep them in the Trump fold.  Plausible but it ignores the 800-pound gorilla in the voting booth, the president's personality.

Elections are as much about personalities as they are about issues and a good economy does not always speak for itself.  Mr. Goldberg writes, "Normal presidents stay on message to deny the press the ability to talk about more interesting stuff" (Ibid).  The only issue the president reliably talks about is himself, barreling through the economy or conservative judges to get to the most important subject: Himself.  Thus, his lament that no president has been treated worse than him.  This is the problem if the overarching question in this election is him because he becomes the central question, the president will lose.

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Expected match ups
Leaked Trump campaign internal polling shows the president behind VPOTUS Joe Biden in several key states by wide margins.  Campaign manager Brad Parscale dismissed the polls as "irrelevant because it was 'ancient' data from last March, before he was 'exonerated' by the Mueller report" (Ibid).  Maybe, but the president's post-Mueller-report approval ratings still remain below 50 percent, the least variation of any president since World War II.  A lot of people have made up their minds about and most do not like this president.

The Trump campaign responded, saying "it had fresh data show solid support from 'informed voters'" (Ibid).  Mr. Parscale told ABC News that since March,

We have seen huge swings in the president's favor across the 17 states we have polled based on the policies now espoused by the Democrats (Ibid).

The operative words being "informed voters."  Jonah Goldberg reports, "According to The New York Times, the polls Parscale described were 'informed ballot' polls that describe Democrats in negative ways before asking about support for Trump" (Ibid).

Conventional wisdom among poll takers is "...if you're citing informed-ballots, you're losing" (Ibid).  Even at face value, the implication is that some voters could be swayed to vote for the president if they were convinced that they were voting on the issues, not on the president.  In order for that to happen, Mr. Trump would have to, essentially, stop acting like Mr. Trump and make the message about issues that voters genuinely care about other than him.  A very tall order but the good news for the Trump campaign is there is still enough time to correct the problem.  The question is will Trump be Trump or be the president?