Anti-poverty programs work

Republicans continually want to cut programs that help the poor saying they don’t work. here’s a counterargument:

In each case, Weber and Wu found that the effect of each program has been materially underestimated by traditional measurements. That’s because the earlier estimates are based on Census Bureau surveys that underreport benefits from these programs. As a result, the authors say, the effects of food stamps and TANF are underestimated by one-third to one-half, and the impact of Social Security is underestimated by as much as 44%. Their research covered 2008-13, the period of the Great Recession.

Meyer and Wu find that Social Security alone has reduced poverty among the elderly by 75%; the other programs do more for non-elderly households, though at lower rates.

The official measurement indicated that the poverty rate fell by a scant 4.4 percentage points from 1960 to 2010, ending at 15.1%. Adjusting for flaws in the measurement however, Meyer and Sullivan determined that the percentage of Americans living in poverty had fallen by more than 26 percentage points, to about 4.5%.

The people who are poor are much better off because of these programs, this won’t matter to Republicans but maybe it will to others.

Mulvaney admits he’s looking for bribes

Well, this is amazing and yet expected:

“We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress,” Mr. Mulvaney, a former Republican lawmaker from South Carolina, told 1,300 bankers and lending industry officials at an American Bankers Association conference in Washington. “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.”

At the top of the hierarchy, he added, were his constituents. “If you came from back home and sat in my lobby, I talked to you without exception, regardless of the financial contributions,” said Mr. Mulvaney, who received nearly $63,000 from payday lenders for his congressional campaigns.

Since then, he has frozen all new investigations and slowed down existing inquiries by requiring employees to produce detailed justifications. He also sharply restricted the bureau’s access to bank data, arguing that its investigations created online security risks. And he has scaled back efforts to go after payday lenders, auto lenders and other financial services companies accused of preying on the vulnerable.

All of those make sense. After all, banks, payday lenders, auto lenders and other financial service companies very probably gave him a lot more money than the people they preyed on. I would also be interested to know who he considers his constituents now–I would guess it’s banks, payday lenders, auto lenders and other financial service companies.

Trump’s other Katrina

Not long ago, I posted about how badly things are going in Puerto Rico. It seems the Trump administration didn’t do much better in Houston in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey:

Nearly half a billion gallons of industrial wastewater mixed with storm water surged out of just one chemical plant in Baytown, east of Houston on the upper shores of Galveston Bay.

Benzene, vinyl chloride, butadiene and other known human carcinogens were among the dozens of tons of industrial toxins released into surrounding neighborhoods and waterways following Harvey’s torrential rains.

In all, reporters catalogued more than 100 Harvey-related toxic releases — on land, in water and in the air. Most were never publicized, and in the case of two of the biggest ones, the extent or potential toxicity of the releases was initially understated.

and in some ways, the response was worse than after Katrina:

The amount of post-Harvey government testing contrasts sharply with what happened after two other major Gulf Coast hurricanes. After Hurricane Ike hit Texas in 2008, state regulators collected 85 sediment samples to measure the contamination; more than a dozen violations were identified and cleanups were carried out, according to a state review.

In Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters ravaged New Orleans in 2005, the EPA and Louisiana officials examined about 1,800 soil samples over 10 months, EPA records showed.

“Now the response is completely different,” said Scott Frickel, an environmental sociologist formerly at Tulane University in New Orleans.

Frickel, now at Brown University, called the Harvey response “unconscionable” given Houston’s exponentially larger industrial footprint.

The state of Texas didn’t want to be trumped (sorry) by the federal government lack of action, so:

As Harvey bore down on Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott’s administration decreed that storm-related pollution would be forgiven as “acts of God.” Days later, he suspended many environmental regulations.

What, you think the state of Texas cares about its citizens?

The rich hate unions. Do you wonder why?

Corporations and the rich spend millions of dollars to try to get rid of unions:

In the summer of 2016, government workers in Illinois received a mailing that offered them tips on how to leave their union. By paying a so-called fair-share fee instead of standard union dues, the mailing said, they would no longer be bound by union rules and could not be punished for refusing to strike.

“To put it simply,” the document concluded, “becoming a fair-share payer means you will have more freedom.”

The mailing, sent by a group called the Illinois Policy Institute, may have seemed like disinterested advice. In fact, it was one prong of a broader campaign against public-sector unions, backed by some of the biggest donors on the right. It is an effort that will reach its apex on Monday, when the Supreme Court hears a case that could cripple public-sector unions by allowing the workers they represent to avoid paying fees.

Despite the fact that this hurts Democrats:

A recent paper by Mr. Hertel-Fernandez and two colleagues may foretell what Democrats can expect if Mr. Uihlein and his fellow philanthropists succeed. It found that the Democratic share of the presidential vote dropped by an average of 3.5 percentage points after the passage of so-called right-to-work laws allowing employees to avoid paying union fees. That is larger than Democrats’ margin of defeat in several states that could have reversed their last three presidential losses.

Democrats don’t seem to think that’s a big deal.

And if you think ‘liberal’ papers like the Boston Globe support unions look at the first paragraph of an article about Charter Schools trying to form a union:

Throughout Massachusetts, independently run charter schools have operated without unionized teachers, an intentional move that operators say gives them the flexibility to hire or dismiss teachers of their choosing and allows them to make other changes quickly without negotiating.

But that will likely end at two Boston charter schools.

This is not an opinion piece, it’s straight news. Notice the assumption that it’s the leaders who know what’s necessary, teachers will just obstruct that given the chance.

And the same is true of ‘liberal’ universities such as Tufts or Harvard. The graduate students at Harvard have been trying to form a union for a few years now, but have been stymied by Harvard. And they just decided on their next President, Lawrence Bacow, who vehemently worked against unions while at Tufts–against grad students:

Following a 2000 decision by the National Labor Relations Board to recognize graduate students as statutory employees, in 2002, graduate students at Tufts unsuccessfully attempted to unionize in conjunction with the United Automobile Workers.

“I believe it would be a mistake for graduate students to unionize,” Bacow wrote at the time. “The relationship between faculty member to graduate student is not one of employer to employee.”

They did not succeed until after he left. And he also worked against a union for administrative, technical, and clerical employees.

The Boston Globe has written several stories about Bacow, such as this one but none of them think this is important.

Unions are in almost as much danger as going extinct as right whales.

Trump administration admits it cares more about Payday lenders than people

I assume the next step will be to rename the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau:

The Trump administration has stripped enforcement powers from the leaders of a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau unit responsible for pursuing discrimination cases, part of a broader effort to reshape an agency it criticized as acting too aggressively.

In 2013, it led the CFPB case that resulted in Ally Financial, one of the nation’s largest automobile lenders, paying $98 million to settle charges that it systematically allowed minorities to be charged more for car loans than whites. Ally was accused of discriminating by charging 235,000 minority borrowers higher rates. On average, black, Hispanic and Asian American customers paid between $200 and just over $300 more for auto loans than whites who were equally creditworthy, federal officials charged.

By the way, conservatives think that was a bad result.

In another sign of the CFPB’s light touch under the Trump administration, the agency has recently taken several steps to dial back pressure on payday lenders — one of the chief targets of the CFPB during the Obama administration. Mulvaney has called for a review of wide-ranging rules finalized by the CFPB last year targeting the billions of dollars in fees collected by payday lenders. The agency also called off a four-year investigation into World Acceptance, a South Carolina-based lender that targets subprime borrowers, and dropped a lawsuit against a group of four online payday lenders associated with an American Indian tribe.

Payday lenders are among the worst of the worst:

Without explanation, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has dropped a lawsuit in Kansas it had filed a year ago against four payday lending companies.

The agency had alleged in its lawsuit that the four companies charged interest rates of 440 percent to 950 percent, beyond what several states allow for consumer loans.

Mulvaney definitely wants to change the name:

‘‘We are government employees,’’ he wrote. ‘‘We don’t just work for the government, we work for the people: those who use credit cards and those who provide them.’’

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau works for those who provide credit cards?

Trump supports businesses over workers

Since a law was passed by the Obama administration, the Trump administration is trying to get rid of it (via here):

The proposal rescinds a 2011 rule that asserted tips are the property of workers who earn them. That revision of the Fair Labor Standards Act covered scenarios in which restaurants and other employers supplemented tipped workers’ earnings by paying at least the full minimum wage.
Since the rule’s release in December, worker advocacy groups and Obama administration officials have vehemently opposed it. They point to language that permits companies to keep gratuities for themselves, provided they pay workers at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and don’t apply a tip credit that allows them to pay as little as $2.13 per hour, depending on the state.

What is the Trump argument?

The department has previously defended criticism of the proposal by saying the move would lead to higher pay for some low-wage workers who don’t traditionally earn tips, such as dishwashers. The DOL has also argued that managers would be dissuaded from stealing tips, out of fear of employee turnover and decreased morale. The department further noted that it included in the proposal a qualitative analysis, which doesn’t include dollar figures.

The department decided to study this and found:

Senior department political officials—faced with a government analysis showing that workers could lose billions of dollars in tips as a result of the proposal—ordered staff to revise the data methodology to lessen the expected impact, several of the sources said. Although later calculations showed progressively reduced tip losses, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta and his team are said to have still been uncomfortable with including the data in the proposal. The officials disagreed with assumptions in the analysis that employers would retain their employees’ gratuities, rather than redistribute the money to other hourly workers. They wound up receiving approval from the White House to publish a proposal Dec. 5 that removed the economic transfer data altogether, the sources said.

There’s your typical PC action by the Trump administration: they don’t like what something says so they pretend it doesn’t exist. After all Donald Trump says he helps workers so anything that says otherwise must be wrong. Trump cares much more about the perception than the reality, so down the memory hole goes the report.

This might be a reason to vote for Democrats

There have been many articles over the past year wondering how Democrats can get the working class to vote for them. It’s a puzzle:

They thought they were the lucky ones — truck drivers and warehouse workers who counted themselves among the dwindling number of Americans still guaranteed a private pension.

But that promise of a monthly check, once considered ironclad, is now in doubt for more than a million retirees and older workers nationwide, including tens of thousands in Massachusetts and neighboring states. Their underfunded pension plans are creeping toward insolvency, putting benefits they earned over the course of a career at risk of being cut or even eliminated.

A bill to shore up floundering multiemployer plans through federally guaranteed bonds — filed in November by Representative Richard Neal, a Springfield Democrat, and Senator Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat — is being pushed by congressional Democrats and is likely to be part of the wrangling over permanent funding of the federal government.

“It’s a bailout,” said Andy Roth, vice president at the Club for Growth, a group favoring free-market policies and limited government. “Whether it’s a loan or a loan guarantee, you’re putting pressure on the taxpayers to deliver.” Roth said lawmakers should recognize “pensions are an archaic device that should be heading with the dinosaurs into extinction” and not stick taxpayers with the bill.

I wonder how many of those workers voted for Trump?

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