Thursday, January 31, 2019

Caution Blows

As it has been repeated the economy is doing great.  At least that is the impression. Odd then that the Reserve is holding back increasing interest rates to avoid an economic slowdown.  Meanwhile Amazon is oddly on the defense in New York for its HQ2 and despite all the blowback I doubt that they will abandon the project which also explains why they chose a secondary location and of course the third "Center for Operations Excellence" here in Nashville. They have already started a job hunting event scheduled at the Ryman where undoubtedly the rude and the awakening will occur for what now again is a vague starting date of 2020 or 2021.  This has Foxconn written all over it.  Same with Alliance Bernstein as they say many things but again the time frame is vague and of course numbers even more so.  Odd as they are a financial services firm so you think that would be their strong suit.  I did laugh as only 70 employees elected to relocate here.  Smart decision on the ones who chose not.  But they can't move to Des Moines it doesn't look good either.

Then we have locally the Nissan headquarters having a buyout of employees to cut workforce numbers of which they are vague on but maybe they need the cash for the legal expenses of their former CEO.  And they are doing so with a plant in Mississippi,  which I bet now they wish they had voted in a union that would have enabled them some recourse. They could go work for the wunderkid, Elon Musk at Tesla, but then again maybe not.  Then we have the shutdown of the Electrolux plant in Memphis which again is a sign of the times regarding trade wars and the like.   And the energy sector is taking a hit with PG&E filing the big B. Then we have the local newspaper laying off staff, the Lifeway organization doing the same and across the country more newspapers or  news sites also RIFFing staff. 

And there are speculations that the market is slowing and in turn a recession is on the horizon. Remember the Titanic saw an iceberg in the horizon too and then whoops!

Then lets add the slowdown to the real estate market which has led to some banks going back in time to 2008 lending decisions that included avoiding income verification.   The confusing messaging about buying versus renting continues to be debated as the reality is incomes are not rising commensurate with the actual costs to buy or rent homes regardless.  That said the market for homes could rebound if the fed follow through without raising rates but again this is an odd time when I hear idiots on TV spouting about buying million dollar properties as potential exotic Airbnb's and rehabbing them to become destinations that can earn the owner thousands a year.  Yes I also heard that from a Lyft driver so whatever.  Can people not do math anymore?  Oh wait I work in public schools and today I am in a "magnet" school and the Teacher is a Physics teacher coming from the private sector where he made a decent living and because he was tired of corporate politics went into education. I love these noble stories as they are full of bullshit as there are few professions less political then education so I know there is a back story there that I care little about.  He also believes that a high school graduate from a Nashville Public High School would be hired by Amazon at 60K a year so then when I told him about the hiring event he was shocked as he new NOTHING about Amazon's "Operation for Excellence" headquarters being located here.  Glad to know you are on top of things as this is the only thing they talk about here.   I am amazed at the level of ignorance and again this is a Teacher so it again explains all I need to know about that here.

Then we have had massive walk outs and strikes regarding Education and much of it has to do with wages but also largely funding or more importantly the lack thereof that has led to classrooms busting at their seams and buildings that are in need of upgrades, better curriculum and simple basic needs as Counselors and Nurses.   Yes this is America where our Education is the core to our Democracy and yet it may explain our failure on that as well.  This too explains why student loan debt is truly one of the biggest drains on our economy as it literally disables young people from buying homes, cars and establishing credit as they have this stranglehold on their neck that they have little incentive to engage and involve themselves with social issues such as voting and being informed as a citizen.

Add to this the global slowdown in China and Brexit which will lead to further European economic issues also added to the surge of right wing crazies across the globe.  Maybe Howard Shultz could throw his hat in the ring in Argentina?

Perhaps my suspicion and doubt about the economy come from living in Nashville where their histrionics are to levels I have never seen before given what I see and hear on a daily basis in the schools I feel it just doesn't add up.   Then there is the daily news and adventures of our President, from this threats to his ignorance, it wonders if he has a clue, even one to face some sort of facts or truths.  Then the shutdown, followed by horrific bone chilling weather which also contributes to further malaise I keep thinking I live in a parallel universe.  Again when sitting with a Teacher who should be aware of employers and those jobs and skills commensurate with what he teaches clearly unaware of this I cannot help but think I may be utterly wrong but again it is hard to know truth in a place where truth is a cobweb swept under a rug.  The south is living up to its stereotype every day and anyone educated, remotely sophisticated would have to feel the same.  All three of us.

And while I am excited about all the diverse and interesting candidates throwing their hats into the Presidential circus ring I still worry about the GWAM - great white American male.  This cohort of odd center right rich fucks seem to generate more attention than deserved and part of me thinks that when I hear the endless focus on being binary, having white privilege and failing to endlessly face the truth about racism I wonder who these people are talking to?  Each other?  Most likely as that blowback to all this bullshit you read from again, largely white males who for some reason seem to need to apologize and prove they are worthy is what I suspect is behind many normal healthy men to go off the deep end and embrace MAGA as some inherent need to tell these idiots to STFU.

I know I have nothing to apologize for and I also know that I can do nothing.  Perhaps that is why I no longer get involved or engaged. One watching of The View is enough to remind me that regardless of where one sits on the political fence no one fucking actually cares and if that is your only conversation you are one boring fuck.

Speaking of fucks,  will these men go away mad or just go away... let's hope cause if they don't any caution to the idea that Democrats are leaning left and liberal instead of centric and "progressive" (code word for libertarian) then we are all fucked without even dinner.

Is There Room in 2020 for a Centrist Democrat? Maybe One or Two

By Alexander Burns
The New York Times
Jan. 30, 2019

Howard Schultz, the former Starbucks chief executive contemplating an independent run for president, stated it as a plain matter of fact: For someone with his views — a distinctly white-collar blend of conservative fiscal instincts and liberal social values — there is no suitable political party.

That would come as news to the eight or nine Democrats who may seek their party’s presidential nomination on versions of that very platform.

They call themselves moderates and problem-solvers, consensus-builders and pragmatists. Monochrome and male, they do not embody social change and few hold out the promise of making history. Among them are former mayors, like Michael R. Bloomberg of New York and Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans; current and former governors, including John Hickenlooper of Colorado and Terry McAuliffe of Virginia; Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado; and a smattering of House members. Atop the pack is a former vice president: Joseph R. Biden Jr.

If they run, these Democrats would test whether there is a large audience of primary voters open to promises of incremental change and political compromise, or whether the ascendant liberal wing is now fully dominant, defining the party’s agenda around transformational goals like enacting single-payer health care and breaking up big banks.

In most cases, these Democrats are framing their moderate instincts in terms of political process — stressing their willingness to cooperate with Republicans — or fiscal and economic concerns, including sensitivity to private business and government debt. They largely agree with more liberal Democrats on issues like guns, abortion and gay rights, which once divided the party.

Mr. Bloomberg offered an uncommonly tart rendition of this cohort’s worldview in New Hampshire on Tuesday, warning that a “Medicare for all” health care policy would “bankrupt” the country. He also dismissed a proposal by Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, to impose an annual wealth tax on enormous personal fortunes, as “probably unconstitutional.” Ms. Warren engaged the fight, branding Mr. Bloomberg on Twitter as a billionaire who wants to “keep a rigged system in place.”

If Mr. Bloomberg’s views grate on many Democrats, allies see it as a distinctive trait in a diffuse primary. Howard Wolfson, an adviser to the former mayor, said the current Democratic field seemed to invite a competitor closer to the center.

“We believe that there is a clear and sufficiently wide lane for a pragmatic candidate, and that the progressive lane is really crowded,” Mr. Wolfson said. “The pragmatic lane is relatively free.”

Polls suggest that somewhere between a third and half of Democratic voters see themselves as moderates, though the label is vague enough to cast doubt on the group’s cohesion.

That bloc, these candidates and their advisers acknowledge, could lose influence if a herd of self-styled pragmatists end up stampeding into the Democratic contest, atomizing the center even as progressive competitors carve up the left. It is also highly uncertain that Democrats, who celebrated the election of many women and candidates of color in 2018, would turn quickly in 2020 to nominating a white man with narrower governing ambitions.

In the early primary states, much of the action so far has focused on proudly liberal, potentially history-making candidates, including Ms. Warren and Senators Kamala Harris of California and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.

But former Gov. John Lynch of New Hampshire, a centrist Democrat, said he saw a clear opening for a candidacy pitched at the middle, one that is attentive to matters like climate change but also sensitive to deficits and debt. Mr. Lynch named Mr. Biden and Mr. Bloomberg as the two most compelling possibilities.

“I’d like to see somebody come in and make the case for electing a more moderate candidate,” Mr. Lynch said, “and I believe that if the Democrats want to beat President Trump, their best bet is electing somebody in the middle.”

Mr. Lynch cautioned that the chances for an avowed moderate would fade if too many people compete for the label: “If there are a couple of moderates, then they are going to take share away from each other.”

The road to the Democratic nomination would likely be fraught for any moderate, especially one who would not break a historic barrier by virtue of identity, as Barack Obama did in 2008. To some Democrats, a more centrist message might too closely echo Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful 2016 campaign, which left many in the party determined to focus on mobilizing the left over pursuing the middle. And the most vocal Democratic factions have shown little interest so far in settling for something other than a liberal champion, on issues from taxation and business regulation to criminal justice and gender equality.

Ms. Warren has emerged as something of an intellectual pacesetter for liberal Democrats on economic issues, including her proposal to tax the wealth of households with assets greater than $50 million at a rate of two or three percent per year. And on Monday Ms. Harris, whose signature proposal has been a more conventional middle-class tax cut, called in a CNN interview for the elimination of private health insurance as part of a shift toward a “Medicare for all” single-payer health care.

Several other liberals of differing stripes are likely to join the race soon, including Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Cory Booker of New Jersey; others are considering it seriously, like Senators Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Jeff Merkley of Oregon.

Polls of Democratic voters offer mixed signals about how liberal they want their nominee to be. There is no question the party has moved leftward: the Gallup Poll found this month that for the first time in decades, a majority of Democrats describe themselves as liberal, while just 34 percent now call themselves moderate. And taxing the rich is broadly popular, with a sizable majority of Americans believing wealthy people and corporations pay too little to the government.

“People have grown more liberal and more willing to call themselves liberal,” said Lydia Saad, a senior editor at Gallup, cautioning that ideology did not necessarily predict voting behavior: “The public is very fungible in terms of who they will accept as a leader, based on things that seem to go beyond ideology.”

Arkadi Gerney, a Democratic strategist who runs the Hub Project, a liberal advocacy group that has focused heavily on taxes, said that intensive issue polling had consistently found powerful support for raising taxes on the wealthy, not just among Democrats but also among working-class white voters in Mr. Trump’s base.

“The thing that was consistently the most popular in those experiments was: raise taxes on the rich,” Mr. Gerney said. “It is tapping into anger that a lot of people have.”

Yet there are also signs of hesitation among some Democrats about shifting left. A January study by the Pew Research Center found that 53 percent of Democrats want the party to become more moderate, compared with 40 percent who want it to grow more liberal. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that while single-payer health care is hugely popular among Democrats, half of the party’s voters want House Democrats to prioritize improving the Affordable Care Act over passing Medicare for All legislation.

Mr. Biden and Mr. Bloomberg, both 76, have defended their relatively centrist approach in recent weeks, calling it the best way to win and govern. Mr. Biden described working with Republicans as a first principle at a Washington event last week; without that spirit, he said, “I don’t know how you get anything done.” And Mr. Bloomberg swatted at the left more bluntly in New Hampshire.

Either man could seek to monopolize the party’s moderate constituencies: Mr. Biden through his stature as a two-term vice president, Mr. Bloomberg by spending his multibillion-dollar fortune. Both have already faced criticism for having supported aggressive policing and crime policies; Mr. Biden has expressed some regret for his record, while Mr. Bloomberg has defended his.

If Mr. Biden and Mr. Bloomberg do not run, there could be no well-known candidate positioned near the center. That could create space for a lower-profile moderate to emerge, or perhaps vindicate Mr. Schultz’s assessment that there is scant popular demand in the Democratic Party for a 1990s-style economic program of spending restraint and deference toward the private sector.

Two wild-card Democrats who could run toward the middle, strategists say, are Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Beto O’Rourke, the former Texas Senate candidate. Both are widely liked by liberals but have shown a preference for conciliation and compromise. It is unclear how they would present themselves, ideologically, if they run.

Matt Bennett, vice president of the centrist Democratic group Third Way, said that for any moderate to catch fire in 2020, it would require more than offering toned-down versions of liberal candidates’ policies and “eat your peas” lectures about government debt.

“They’re going to have to be aspirational, optimistic, future-oriented,” Mr. Bennett said. “Like Bill Clinton, like Barack Obama.”

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