martes, 16 de enero de 2018

The Democrat Trumpworld fears most

In recent weeks, the president has been handicapping the prospective 2020 field and finding potential challengers wanting.

"He's always asking people, ‘Who do you think is going to run against me?’” said a Republican who heard President Donald Trump's assessment of the 2020 election.
In early December, as President Donald Trump’s approval rating reached a new low of 32 percent, the commander in chief was rating the 2020 Democratic field from behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — who had recently bested Trump in a poll that tested the two septuagenarians in a head-to-head matchup — wasn’t a serious threat and would be easy to beat, Trump told a Republican with close ties to the White House who was in the room.

It wasn’t the lefty politics of the self-described socialist that Trump thought were a losing proposition. Instead, according to the person in the room, Trump was hung up on Sanders’ age, arguing that Sanders, now 76, wouldn’t have the energy to run another national campaign.

Sanders wasn’t the only potential presidential candidate who Trump, 71, brushed off as a non-threat. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the woman he has nicknamed “Pocahontas,” would be “easy to beat,” he said. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker probably wouldn’t end up running, Trump mused. When someone in the room brought up California Sen. Kamala Harris, the president seemed not to have her on his radar yet.

Handicapping potential 2020 challengers — however premature the exercise is — has become a favorite pastime for the competitive president, who still regularly rehashes his shock win in the 2016 race.

“He’s always asking people, ‘Who do you think is going to run against me?’” said the Republican who heard the president’s assessment in December.

Despite a bumpy first year and historically low approval ratings, this Trump ally said: “I don’t think he sees anyone, right now, being a serious competitor.”

But the people close to Trump are alert to potential challenges — though no consensus view seems to have emerged about who Trump needs to be most concerned about. More than half a dozen interviews with former White House officials, people affiliated with outside Trump-supporting groups and staffers at the Republican National Committee revealed divergent theories of who would pose the greatest challenge to Trump, and who is seen as a cakewalk candidate.

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has feuded with Trump on Twitter after calling for his resignation because of sexual harassment and assault allegations, doesn’t make these people nervous. Former Vice President Joe Biden, however, is seen as someone who could cut into Trump's base.

One former White House official outlined a theory of the case that has gained some traction: Trump’s policies will continue to be popular all the way through his reelection campaign, but his approval rating will never crack 45 percent — creating an opening for Biden, or someone like him, to recapture the loyalty of white Rust Belt Democrats who helped elect Trump in 2016.

“What we can’t let voters do is think they can get the same policies with someone they like better, like Joe Biden — someone who would fight for them but who doesn’t have the crass edge,” said the former White House staffer. “I hope CNN has Kirsten Gillibrand on every minute of every day. Love it. Bring it. She's easy to destroy. If you're the president, or the RNC, you're more worried about someone who looks like Biden — someone who has more mainstream appeal, who blue-collar workers could identity with.”

A competing worst-case scenario theory advanced by another top Republican strategist is that the strongest Trump opponent would be a "thoughtful, centrist minority" with grass-roots organizing skills, like Booker, whom Trump has dismissed.

“Oprah would be a problem: She’d be their best,” the strategist said. "She’s ubiquitous, she’s black, she has crossover appeal, and she probably clears a lot of the field out.”

Then there’s the question of another potential non-Winfrey wild card. Billionaire Mark Cuban, a second former White House official noted, “gets under Trump’s skin like no one else — he knows how to needle this guy. He could get people around him to train him, and he’s naturally got charisma.”

The public line from the White House is that the team is focused on creating a winning strategy for the midterm elections in 2018. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not respond to multiple requests for comment about the 2020 presidential race.

But the majority view out of Trumpworld is that the best-case scenario would be a progressive Democratic nominee like Sanders or Warren.

Last week, the Republican National Committee blasted out a report about Sanders’ wife, Jane, titled “Jane in Jail?” highlighting news that a grand jury is hearing sworn testimony around allegations that she committed bank fraud while serving as president of the now-defunct Burlington College.

“If the Democrats think a socialist or a liberal professor from Massachusetts are a path to victory, we’re happy to help them highlight that, because we don’t think that is in tune with the vast majority of Americans,” said an RNC spokeswoman.

Sens. Bernie Sanders (second from left), Kamala Harris (second from right) and Kirsten Gillibrand (right) are all considered to be potential challengers to Donald Trump in 2020. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democrats disagree that running far to Trump’s left poses a risk. “I don’t think there is going to be any penalty for a Democrat who runs on a very bold, progressive agenda,” said Brian Fallon, who served as Hillary Clinton’s press secretary in 2016. “The public is pretty firmly against the tax plan, the health care law is popular, increasing the minimum wage is popular. There is passion and energy on the side of the progressive wing of the party, and there's no cost from the general public standpoint in terms of any of those ideas and policies being unpopular.”

Democrats expect Trump to run a reelection campaign that stokes cultural divides and plays up controversies like the kneeling protests against police brutality led by black NFL players. “To the extent that Trump sees Warren as a candidate he’d like to run against,” added Fallon, “it’s probably because he thinks taunting her as Pocahontas appeals to a swath of white voters who like to engage in misogyny and racism.”

Hanging over the entire 2020 handicapping exercise, however, is a big question mark about the president's own plans. “There is no environment in which a Republican thinks Trump is going to be impeached,” explained the top Republican strategist. “But there’s a high degree of speculation that he doesn’t run — he doesn’t appear to be having fun, he’s old and angry. If he’s able to create his own fiction for why he’s leaving, why would he do this twice?”

That means that Democrats aren't the only politicians making travel plans, fundraising moves and taking public stances based on 2020 — Republicans are positioning themselves for a potential primary of their own. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s expected run for a Senate seat in Utah, for instance, is seen by people close to Trump as a way for the failed 2012 Republican presidential nominee to keep his own options open for 2020.

“If Romney runs," said a former Trump adviser, Roger Stone, "he’s not doing it to be a freshman senator.”

Some Trump advisers soberly indicated it’s far too early to have any real sense of what the 2020 landscape will look like — and that it doesn't matter, anyway. “I have no favorite Democratic candidate,” said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, an outside adviser to Trump. “If the economy is good, Trump wins easily. If the economy is bad, he has a tough time. Our side should focus on substance and then plan to beat whoever stumbles out of their process.”

Put Globalization to Work for Democracies


Credit Andrew Holder

A Chinese student once described his country’s globalization strategy to me. China, he said, opened a window to the world economy, but placed a screen on it. The country got the fresh air it needed — nearly 700 million people have been lifted from extreme poverty since the early 1980s — but kept mosquitoes out.

China benefited from the flourishing of trade and investment across national borders. For many, this was the magic of globalization.

But it’s not the whole story. Look closely at the economies that converged with richer counterparts — Japan, South Korea, China — and you see that each engaged globally in a selective, strategic manner. China pushed exports, but it also placed barriers on imports to protect employment in state enterprises and required foreign investors to transfer know-how to domestic companies.

Other countries that relied on globalization as their growth engine but failed to put in place a domestic strategy became disillusioned. For example, few countries tried as hard as Mexico to integrate with the world economy, through Nafta and liberal trade and financial policies. Yet the country’s economic growth in recent decades has been sluggish, even by the modest standards of Latin America.

The bigger worry today is that unmanaged globalization is undermining democracy. Democratic politics remain tethered to nation-states, while institutions that make the rules for global markets are either weak or seem too distant, especially to middle- and lower-class voters. Continue reading the main story

Globalization has deepened the economic and cultural divisions between those who can take advantage of the global economy and those who don’t have the resources and skills to do so. Nativist politicians like Donald J. Trump have channeled the resulting discontent as hostility to outsiders: Mexican or Polish immigrants, Chinese exporters, minorities.

We need to rescue globalization not just from populists, but also from its cheerleaders. Globalization evangelists have done great damage to their cause not just by underplaying the real fears and concerns on which the Trumps of this world thrive, but by overlooking the benefits of a more moderate form of globalization.

We must reassess the balance between national autonomy and economic globalization. Simply put, we have pushed economic globalization too far — toward an impractical version that we might call “hyperglobalization.”

The transition to hyperglobalization is associated with two events in particular: the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s decision in 1989 to remove all restrictions on cross-border financial flows, and the establishment in 1995, after almost a decade of negotiations, of the World Trade Organization, with wide-ranging implications for domestic health and safety rules, subsidies and industrial policies.

The new model of globalization stood priorities on their head, effectively putting democracy to work for the global economy, instead of the other way around. The elimination of barriers to trade and finance became an end in itself, rather than a means toward more fundamental economic and social goals. Societies were asked to subject domestic economies to the whims of global financial markets; sign investment treaties that created special rights for foreign companies; and reduce corporate and top income taxes to attract footloose corporations.

Some simple principles would reorient us in the right direction. First, there is no single way to prosperity. Countries make their own choices about the institutions that suit them best. Some, like Britain, may tolerate, say, greater inequality and financial instability in return for higher growth and more financial innovation. They will opt for lower taxes on capital and more freewheeling financial systems. Others, like Continental European nations, will go for greater equity and financial conservatism. International firms will complain that differences in rules and regulations raise the costs of doing business across borders, but their claims must be traded off against the benefits of diversity.

Second, countries have the right to protect their institutional arrangements and safeguard the integrity of their regulations. Financial regulations or labor protections can be circumvented and undermined by moving operations to foreign countries with considerably lower standards. Countries should be able to prevent such “regulatory arbitrage” by placing restrictions on cross-border transactions — just as they can keep out toys or agricultural products that do not meet domestic health standards.

For example, imports from countries that are gross violators of labor rights, such as Pakistan or Vietnam, may face restrictions when those imports demonstrably threaten to damage labor standards at home. Otherwise, national institutional diversity would be meaningless. Emphasizing the primacy of norms and social bargains embedded in our domestic regulations would ensure that global commerce was not used to override them. It would also shield us from misguided protectionism in the great majority of cases where trade poses no danger.

Third, the purpose of international economic negotiations should be to increase domestic policy autonomy, while being mindful of the possible harm to trade partners. The world’s trade regime is driven by a mercantilist logic: You lower your barriers in return for my lowering mine. But lack of openness is no longer the binding constraint on the world economy; lack of democratic legitimacy is.

It is time to embrace a different logic, emphasizing the value of policy autonomy. Poor and rich countries alike need greater space for pursuing their objectives. The former need to restructure their economies and promote new industries, and the latter must address domestic concerns over inequality and distributive justice. Both objectives require placing some sand in the cogs of globalization. For example, developing nations may be allowed to subsidize some industries in return for rich nations being allowed to use tariffs against countries “dumping” goods produced under substandard labor or environmental standards.

Fourth, global governance should focus on enhancing democracy, not globalization. Global governance cannot overcome major problems like inequality, social exclusion or low growth, but it can help by devising norms that improve domestic policy making, like requirements on transparency, public deliberation, broad representation, accountability and use of scientific or economic evidence in domestic proceedings. To some extent, the World Trade Organization already advocates these disciplines. They deserve greater priority over trade liberalization and regulatory harmonization.

And finally, nondemocratic countries like Russia, China and Saudi Arabia — where the rule of law is routinely flouted and civil liberties are not protected — should not be able to count on the same rights and privileges in the international system as democracies can. When a nation is not democratic, we can no longer presume that its institutional arrangements reflect the preferences of its citizens. Therefore it lacks a prima facie argument for shielding its market rules from international scrutiny. It would be appropriate for democracies to consider less permissive rules for them — for example, by requiring a higher burden of proof from non-democracies when they file a trade complaint against democracies.

When I present these ideas to globalization advocates, they say the consequence would be a dangerous slide toward protectionism. But today the risks on the other side are greater, namely that the social strains of hyperglobalization will drive a populist backlash that undermines both globalization and democracy. Basing globalization on defensible democratic principles is its best defense.

Globalization, within limits, has been good economics. Globalization, within limits, can be good for our democracies, too.

Dani Rodrik, a professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, is the author of “Economic Rules: The Rights and Wrongs of the Dismal Science” and “The Globalization Paradox: Democracy and the Future of the World Economy.”

lunes, 15 de enero de 2018

Norway a crash course in social democracy

By Ann Jones

Citizens of Oslo celebrate Syttende Mai (May Seventeenth), Norway's national day commemorating the adoption of its Constitution. (Ann Jones)

Some years ago, I faced up to the futility of reporting truths about America’s disastrous wars, and so I left Afghanistan for another mountainous country far away. It was the polar opposite of Afghanistan: a peaceful, prosperous land where nearly everybody seemed to enjoy a good life, on the job and in the family.

It’s true that they didn’t work much–not by American standards, anyway. In the United States, full-time salaried workers supposedly laboring 40 hours a week actually average 49, with almost 20 percent clocking more than 60. These people, on the other hand, worked only about 37 hours a week, when they weren’t away on long paid vacations. At the end of the workday, about four in the afternoon (perhaps three during the summer), they had time to enjoy a hike in the forest, a swim with the kids, or a beer with friends—which helps explain why, unlike so many Americans, they are pleased with their jobs.

Often I was invited to go along. I found it refreshing to hike and ski in a country with no land mines, and to hang out in cafés unlikely to be bombed. Gradually, my war-zone jitters subsided and I settled into the slow, calm, pleasantly uneventful stream of life there.

Four years on, thinking I should settle down, I returned to the United States. It felt quite a lot like stepping back into that other violent, impoverished world, where anxiety runs high and people are quarrelsome. I had, in fact, come back to the flip side of Afghanistan and Iraq: to what America’s wars have done to America. Where I live now, in the homeland, there are not enough shelters for the homeless. Most people are either overworked or hurting for jobs; the housing is overpriced, the hospitals crowded and understaffed, the schools largely segregated and not so good. Opioid or heroin overdose is a popular form of death, and men in the street threaten women wearing hijabs. Did the American soldiers I covered in Afghanistan know they were fighting for this?


One night I tuned in to the Democrats’ presidential debate to see if they had any plans to restore the America I used to know. To my amazement, I heard the name of my peaceful mountain hideaway: Norway. Bernie Sanders was denouncing America’s crooked version of “casino capitalism” that floats the already-rich ever higher and flushes the working class. He said that we ought to “look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway, and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people.”

He believes, he added, in “a society where all people do well. Not just a handful of billionaires.” That certainly sounds like Norway. For ages, they’ve worked at producing things for the use of everyone—not the profit of a few—so I was all ears, waiting for Sanders to spell it out for Americans.

But Hillary Clinton quickly countered, “We are not Denmark.” Smiling, she said, “I love Denmark,” and then delivered a patriotic punch line: “We are the United States of America.” (Well, there’s no denying that.) She also praised capitalism and “all the small businesses that were started because we have the opportunity and the freedom in our country for people to do that and to make a good living for themselves and their families.” She didn’t seem to know that Danes, Swedes, and Norwegians do that too, and with much higher rates of success.

The truth is that almost a quarter of American start-ups are not founded on brilliant new ideas, but on the desperation of men or women who can’t get a decent job. The majority of all American enterprises are solo ventures having zero payrolls, employing no one but the entrepreneur, and often quickly wasting away. Sanders said that he was all for small business too, but that meant nothing “if all of the new income and wealth is going to the top 1 percent.” (As George Carlin said, “The reason they call it the American Dream is because you have to be asleep to believe it.”)

In that debate, no more was heard of Denmark, Sweden, or Norway. The audience was left in the dark. Later, in a speech at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, Sanders tried to clarify his identity as a democratic socialist. He said he’s not the kind of socialist (with a capital S) who favors state ownership of the means of production. The Norwegian government, on the other hand, owns the means of producing lots of public assets and is the major stockholder in many a vital private enterprise.

I was dumbfounded. Norway, Denmark, and Sweden practice variations of a system that works much better than ours. Yet even the Democratic presidential candidates, who say they love or want to learn from those countries, don’t seem know how they actually work.

Proof that they do work is delivered every year in data-rich evaluations by the United Nations and other international bodies. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s annual report on international well-being, for example, measures 11 factors, ranging from material conditions such as affordable housing and employment to quality-of-life matters like education, health, life expectancy, voter participation, and overall citizen satisfaction. Year after year, all the Nordic countries cluster at the top, while the United States lags far behind. In addition, Norway has ranked first on the UN Development Program’s Human Development Index for 12 of the last 15 years, and it consistently tops international comparisons in such areas as democracy, civil and political rights, and freedom of expression and the press.

The Nordic model starts with a deep commitment to equality and democracy, because you can’t have one without the other.

What is it, though, that makes the Scandinavians so different? Since the Democrats can’t tell you and the Republicans wouldn’t want you to know, let me offer you a quick introduction. What Scandinavians call the Nordic model is a smart and simple system that starts with a deep commitment to equality and democracy. That’s two concepts combined in a single goal because, as far as they’re concerned, you can’t have one without the other.

Right there, they part company with capitalist America, now the most unequal of all the developed nations, and consequently a democracy no more. Political scientists say it has become an oligarchy, run at the expense of its citizenry by and for the superrich. Perhaps you’ve noticed that.

In the last century, Scandinavians, aiming for their egalitarian goal, refused to settle solely for any of the ideologies competing for power—not capitalism or fascism, not Marxist socialism or communism. Geographically stuck between powerful nations waging hot and cold wars for such doctrines, Scandinavians set out to find a middle path. That path was contested—by socialist-inspired workers on the one hand, and by capitalist owners and their elite cronies on the other—but in the end, it led to a mixed economy. Thanks largely to the solidarity and savvy of organized labor and the political parties it backed, the long struggle produced a system that makes capitalism more or less cooperative, and then redistributes equitably the wealth it helps to produce. Struggles like this took place around the world in the 20th century, but the Scandinavians alone managed to combine the best ideas of both camps while chucking out the worst.

In 1936, the popular US journalist Marquis Childs first described the result to Americans in the book Sweden: The Middle Way. Since then, all the Scandinavian countries, and their Nordic neighbors Finland and Iceland, have been improving upon that hybrid system. Today in Norway, negotiations between the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions and the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise determine the wages and working conditions of most capitalist enterprises, public and private, that create wealth, while high but fair progressive income taxes fund the state’s universal welfare system, benefiting everyone. In addition, those confederations work together to minimize the disparity between high-wage and lower-wage jobs. As a result, Norway ranks with Sweden, Denmark, and Finland as among the most income-equal countries in the world, and its standard of living tops the charts.

Nordic countries give their populations freedom from the market by using capitalism as a tool to benefit everyone.

So here’s the big difference: In Norway, capitalism serves the people. The government, elected by the people, sees to that. All eight of the parties that won parliamentary seats in the last national election—including the conservative Høyre party now leading the government—are committed to maintaining the welfare state. In the United States, however, neoliberal politics puts the foxes in charge of the henhouse, and capitalists have used the wealth generated by their enterprises (as well as financial and political manipulations) to capture the state and pluck the chickens.

They’ve done a masterful job of chewing up organized labor. Today, only 11 percent of American workers belong to a union. In Norway, that number is 52 percent; in Denmark, 67 percent; in Sweden, 70 percent. Thus, in the United States, oligarchs maximize their wealth and keep it, using the “democratically elected” government to shape policies and laws favorable to the interests of their foxy class. They bamboozle the people by insisting, as Hillary Clinton did at that debate, that all of us have the “freedom” to create a business in the “free” marketplace, which implies that being hard up is our own fault.

In the Nordic countries, on the other hand, democratically elected governments give their populations freedom from the market by using capitalism as a tool to benefit everyone. That liberates their people from the tyranny of the mighty profit motive that warps so many American lives, leaving them freer to follow their own dreams—to become poets or philosophers, bartenders or business owners, as they please.


Maybe our politicians don’t want to talk about the Nordic model because it shows so clearly that capitalism can be put to work for the many, not just the few.

Consider the Norwegian welfare state. It’s universal. In other words, aid to the sick or the elderly is not charity, grudgingly donated by elites to those in need. It is the right of every individual citizen. That includes every woman, whether or not she is somebody’s wife, and every child, no matter its parentage. Treating every person as a citizen frees each one from being legally possessed by another—a husband, for example, or a tyrannical father.

Which brings us to the heart of Scandinavian democracy: the equality of women and men. In the 1970s, Norwegian feminists marched into politics and picked up the pace of democratic change. Norway needed a larger labor force, and women were the answer. Housewives moved into paid work on equal footing with men, nearly doubling the tax base. That has, in fact, meant more to Norwegian prosperity than the coincidental discovery of North Atlantic oil reserves. The Ministry of Finance recently calculated that those additional working mothers add to Norway’s net national wealth a value equivalent to its “total petroleum wealth”—currently held in the world’s largest sovereign-wealth fund, worth over $873 billion. By 1981, women were sitting in parliament, in the prime minister’s chair, and in her cabinet.

American feminists also marched for such goals in the 1970s, but the big boys, busy with their own White House intrigues, initiated a war on women that set the country back and still rages today in brutal attacks on women’s basic civil rights, healthcare, and reproductive freedom. In 1971, thanks to the hard work of organized feminists, Congress passed the bipartisan Comprehensive Child Development Bill to establish a multibillion-dollar national daycare system for the children of working parents. In 1972, President Richard Nixon vetoed it, and that was that. In 1972, Congress also passed a bill (first proposed in 1923) to amend the Constitution to grant equal rights of citizenship to women. Ratified by only 35 states—three short of the required 38—that Equal Rights Amendment was declared dead in 1982, leaving American women in legal limbo. In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, obliterating six decades of US social-welfare policy “as we know it,” ending federal cash payments to the nation’s poor, and consigning millions of female heads of household and their children to poverty, where many still dwell 20 years later. Today, even privileged women, torn between their underpaid work and their kids, are overwhelmed.

Things happened very differently in Norway. There, feminists and sociologists pushed hard against the biggest obstacle still standing in the path to full democracy: the nuclear family. In the 1950s, the world-famous American sociologist Talcott Parsons had pronounced that arrangement—with the hubby at work and the little wife at home—the ideal setup in which to socialize children. But in the 1970s, the Norwegian state began to deconstruct that undemocratic ideal by taking upon itself the traditional, unpaid household duties of women. Caring for children, the elderly, the sick, and the disabled became the basic responsibilities of the universal welfare state, freeing women in the workforce to enjoy both their jobs and their families.

Paradoxically, setting women free made family life more genuine. Many in Norway say it has made both men and women more themselves and more alike: more understanding and happier. It also helped kids slip from the shadow of helicopter parents. In Norway, both mother and father in turn take paid parental leave from work during the child’s first year or longer. At age 1, however, children start attending a neighborhood barnehage(kindergarten) for schooling spent largely outdoors. By the time kids enter free primary school at age 6, they are remarkably self-sufficient, confident, and good-natured. They know their way around town, and if caught in a snowstorm in the forest, how to build a fire and find the makings of a meal. (One kindergarten teacher explained, “We teach them early to use an ax so they understand it’s a tool, not a weapon.”)

To Americans, the notion of a school “taking away” your child to make her an ax wielder is monstrous. Yet though it’s hard to measure, it’s likely that Scandinavian children actually spend more quality time with their non-work-obsessed parents than does a typical middle-class American child being driven by a stressed-out mother from music lessons to karate. For all these reasons and more, the international organization Save the Children cites Norway as the best country on earth in which to raise kids, while the United States finishes far down the list, in 33rd place.


This little summary just scratches the surface of Scandinavia, so I urge curious readers to Google away. But be forewarned: You’ll find much criticism of all the Nordic-model countries. Worse, neoliberal pundits, especially the Brits, are always beating up on the Scandinavians, predicting the imminent demise of their social democracies. Self-styled experts still in thrall to Margaret Thatcher tell Norwegians they must liberalize their economy and privatize everything short of the royal palace. Mostly, the Norwegian government does the opposite—or nothing at all—and social democracy keeps on ticking.

It’s not perfect, of course. It has always been a carefully considered work in progress. Governance by consensus takes time and effort. You might think of it as slow democracy. Even so, it’s light-years ahead of us.

domingo, 14 de enero de 2018

New York City vs. Big Oil

Flanked by Nation contributors Naomi Klein and Bill McKibben, Bill de Blasio announced that New York City would divest from and sue fossil-fuel companies.

By Mark HertsgaardTwitter

Mayor Bill de Blasio announces NYC's plan to divest from fossil fuels

The odds that the oil industry will have to pay billions of dollars in legal damages soared today when New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio announced a one-two punch that positions the city at the front of the global fight against climate change. The city is suing five of the industry’s biggest companies—ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, Chevron, and Conoco Phillips—both for past climate-change damages and for the city’s ongoing investments in climate resilience, said de Blasio, who estimated the total costs at well above $20 billion. The city’s pension funds will also divest all of their holdings in oil and gas companies, estimated at $5.5 billion, de Blasio told a press conference at the Manhattan Youth Downtown Community Center in Tribeca, where flooding from Hurricane Sandy in 2012 put 20 feet of saltwater in the sub-basement, knocking the center out of commission for months.

“This city is acting, and we want other cities and states to act,” said the mayor of one of the world’s leading financial centers. “People watch what New York does. We are going to lead the fight against climate change as if our lives depended on it. Because they do.”

De Blasio explicitly linked New York’s actions to the plethora of lawsuits against the tobacco industry that led in 1997 to the largest corporate legal settlement in US history: a $246 billion pay-out to all 50 states to fund medical care and smoking-prevention programs. “Those lawsuits were crucial to changing the public perception of tobacco and the industry behind it, and that change helped drive new policy,” de Blasio said. “If we no longer assume that fossil fuels are innocent, if we no longer assume we have to keep investing in them, that changes the conversation.”

The walls aren’t tumbling down on Big Oil just yet, but they may be closing in. More and more big players in the world economy have distanced themselves from fossil fuels in recent months. In November, Norway’s central bank urged the Norwegian government to divest oil and gas stocks from the country’s $1 trillion sovereign wealth fund, the world’s largest. Universities, churches, philanthropies, and institutional investors that manage assets estimated at $6 trillion have divested from oil and gas, Clara Vondrich of the DivestInvest campaign told The Nation. The World Bank announced in December that it would no longer finance oil and gas exploration.

“This is one of a handful of the most important moments in the 30-year fight against climate change,” said Bill McKibben, the activist and Nation contributor, who joined de Blasio in addressing the press conference. “Today, the mightiest city on our planet takes on its richest, most powerful, and most irresponsible industry. Science and economics and morality are on the side of the city, and so eventually it will win. We hope it will win in time.”

“The bar for being a climate leader has just been dramatically raised,” author and Nation contributor Naomi Klein told the conference. Invoking the imperative of climate justice, she noted that “the costs of sea-level rise and ferocious and unprecedented weather events are being offloaded onto the public with taxpayers stiffed with the ever-ballooning costs,” leaving less money for social needs, while “the extravagant profits from destabilizing our planet’s life support system are systematically privatized…. It is a world upside-down, but today we take a major step in turning it right side up.”

New York City’s lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of New York federal court, makes the city by far the largest entity yet to sue oil and gas companies for climate damages. The lawsuit includes an exhibit of evidence—a letter sent on November 12, 1982, to Exxon’s management and personnel by M. B. Glaser, the company’s manager of environmental-affairs programs, which projects average global temperatures rising by as much as 3 degrees Celsius by the year 2100, a level climate scientists today say would be catastrophic.

San Francisco, Oakland, and seven other cities and counties in California have filed similar suits in state court. Exxon has fought back, filing counter-suits against the municipalities and the attorneys and public officials representing them. “We will not be intimidated,” John Beiers, the legal counsel to San Mateo County in California, said in response to Exxon’s counter-suit.

Such David versus Goliath bravery becomes easier now that an entity as rich and powerful as New York City has joined the fight. “We understand what climate change does, we’ve been victims of it,” Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, told the press conference. “I lost my house [on Staten Island during Hurricane Sandy], two of my neighbors died, and all of my neighbors lost their houses.” Addressing the oil companies, Mulgrew added, “We are going to hurt you in your pocketbook because your whole world and every decision you make is about your greed…. I understand [these companies]. If somebody sues, they say, ‘We’ll squash.’ Well, come on, people, try to squash us.”

The American Petroleum Institute, the oil and gas company’s trade association, did not respond to The Nation’s request for comment

Two Lessons of the Urban Crime Decline

Credit Richie Pope

Over the past few years, the discussion of crime and violence in the United States has focused on police brutality, mass incarceration and the sharp rise in violence in cities like Baltimore, St. Louis and Chicago. This is entirely appropriate: Any spike in violence should garner attention, and redressing the injustices of our criminal justice system is a matter of moral urgency.

But it is also worth reflecting on how much the level of violence has fallen in this country over the past 25 years and how widespread the benefits of that decline have been. From the 1970s through the early part of the 1990s, the murder rate in some cities in the United States rose to levels seen only in the most violent, war-torn nations of the developing world. In the years since, violent crime has decreased in almost every city, in many cases by more than 75 percent.

For well-off urbanites, the decline of crime is most visible in sanitized, closely guarded city spaces where tourists and others can now comfortably wander about. But far more consequential have been the changes in low-income, highly segregated urban communities. Indeed, my research has shown that the most disadvantaged people have gained the most from the reduction in violent crime.

Start with the lives saved. Though homicide is not a common cause of death for most of the United States population, for African-American men between the ages of 15 and 34 it is the leading cause, which means that any change in the homicide rate has a disproportionate impact on them. The sociologist Michael Friedson and I calculated what the life expectancy would be today for blacks and whites had the homicide rate never shifted from its level in 1991. We found that the national decline in the homicide rate since then has increased the life expectancy of black men by roughly nine months.

That figure may not seem like much, but it is exceedingly rare for any change in society to generate such a degree of change in life expectancy. For example, researchers have estimated that if the obesity epidemic in the United States was eliminated, life expectancy would increase by a similar amount. The drop in homicides is probably the most important development in the health of black men in the past several decades.

The decline in violence on city streets also occurred inside public schools, creating environments where students could learn without fear of being victimized. Analyzing statewide tests of academic achievement, I found that test scores have risen the most, and the gap in the average scores of black and white children has narrowed the most, in those areas where violence has fallen most sharply.

The drop in violent crime has led better-off families to move into poorer city neighborhoods, thus reducing the concentration of poverty in urban America. Though gentrification has become a problem in a few prominent places, in most cities there is no good evidence that poor families have been pushed out of their neighborhoods as violence has fallen. In fact, as research I conducted with the doctoral student Gerard Torrats-Espinosa shows, the crime decline has improved the prospects for upward mobility for the poorest American families.

The everyday lived experience of urban poverty has also been transformed. Analyzing rates of violent victimization over time, I found that the poorest Americans today are victimized at about the same rate as the richest Americans were at the start of the 1990s. That means that a poor, unemployed city resident walking the streets of an average city today has about the same chance of being robbed, beaten up, stabbed or shot as a well-off urbanite in 1993. Living in poverty used to mean living with the constant threat of violence. In most of the country, that is no longer true.

Critics will note that cities, in their efforts to reduce crime, have relied heavily on controversial tactics like aggressive policing and an expanded prison system. That is correct. But reducing violence does not have to rely entirely on the police and prison, nor has it: Nonprofit organizations, my research has found, have played a critical and underappreciated role.

To understand how cities have changed since the 1990s, I gathered data with Mr. Torrats-Espinosa and the doctoral student Delaram Takyar on city demographic characteristics, public and private security forces, business establishments and public institutions. As expected, we found that police forces expanded and the imprisonment rate skyrocketed, and that those changes probably contributed to the crime drop. But we also noticed that there was a huge increase in the number of nonprofit organizations developed specifically to build stronger communities or to confront violent crime.

To find out whether these types of organizations had an impact on crime rates, we looked for situations in which anti-violence nonprofits were formed not in response to a rise in violence but because new sources of funding became available to community groups and leaders. (In those situations, we can more confidently assess whether the newly formed organizations had a causal impact on the level of violence.) We found that in a typical city with 100,000 people, each additional nonprofit devoted to confronting violence led to a roughly 1 percent drop in the city’s murder rate. Considering that this segment of the nonprofit sector grew by about 25 organizations for every 100,000 residents in New York and elsewhere, community-based organizations appear to deserve more credit than they get for contributing to the fall of violence.

These findings suggest a new model for combating urban violence. While police departments remain crucial to keeping city streets safe, community organizations may have the greatest capacity to play a larger role in confronting violence. Working directly with law enforcement and residents, these organizations are central to the next stage in the effort to make our cities even safer.

viernes, 12 de enero de 2018

Key facts about the Latino vote in 2016

Significant growth in the number of Latino eligible voters has helped make the U.S. electorate more racially and ethnically diverse than ever this year. According to Pew Research Center projections, a record 27.3 million Latinos are eligible to cast ballots, representing 12% of all eligible voters.

Since 2012, the number of Hispanic eligible voters has increased by 4 million, accounting for 37% of the growth in all eligible voters during that span. The Hispanic share of eligible voters in several key battleground states has also gone up.

Latinos have favored the Democratic Party over the Republican Party in every presidential election since at least the 1980s, but their electoral impact has long been limited by low voter turnout and a population concentrated in non-battleground states. Despite large growth in the number of eligible Latino voters, it remains to be seen whether their turnout will set a record in November.

Here are key facts about the Latino vote in 2016.

1Millennials make up 44% of Latino eligible voters and are the main driver of growth in the Latino electorate. From 2012 to 2016, 3.2 million young U.S.-born Latinos came of age and turned 18, accounting for 80% of the increase in Latino eligible voters during this time.

2Among Latino registered voters who are “absolutely certain” they will vote, one-in-five will be voting for the first time, according to Pew Research Center’s National Survey of Latinos, published this month. Among Millennial voters, 36% say they will be casting a ballot for the first time, compared with 9% of non-Millennial voters ages 36 and older.

3There are only a handful of competitive states in this year’s presidential election where Latinos account for a significant share of the vote. Out of seven competitive states, Latinos have a significant presence in three: Arizona (22%), Florida (18%) and Nevada (17%). Latinos make up 5% or less of eligible voters in each of the remaining four: Georgia, Iowa, North Carolina and Ohio. At the same time, the impact of the Latino vote on the presidential race is lessened by the fact that more than half (52%) of all Latino eligible voters live in the non-battleground states of California, Texas and New York.

4Hispanic registered voters have grown more dissatisfied with the nation’s direction. In 2016, 57% of Hispanic voters say they are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country, up from 50% in 2012. Among them, those born in the U.S. are more dissatisfied than immigrants, 63% to 45%.

5A slightly lower share of Latino registered voters say they are sure they will vote this year compared with four years ago. This year, 69% of Latinos are “absolutely certain” they will vote in November, down from 77% in 2012. In past elections, the Latino voter turnout rate has lagged that of other groups. For example, in 2012 Latinos had a turnout rate of 48%, compared with 67% for blacks and 64% for whites.

6Latinos have long viewed the Democratic Party as having more concern for Latinos than the Republican Party, but their views of Democrats have fluctuated. In 2016, 54% of Latino registered voters say the Democratic Party has more concern for Latinos than the Republican Party, while 11% say the same of the GOP. Democrats have maintained this advantage since 2012, though the share of Latinos who say Democrats have more concern for Latinos has declined modestly since then, when 61% said this. About one-in-four Latino voters say there is no difference between the parties on this measure.

7Hillary Clinton has more enthusiastic support from older Latinos than from Millennial Latinos. Two-thirds (64%) of Millennial Latinos (ages 18 to 35) who back Clinton say their support is more a vote against Donald Trump than for Clinton. The reverse is true among older, non-Millennial Latino voters (ages 36 and older): 65% say their support of Clinton is more a vote for her than against Trump. Overall, more than half (55%) of Latino registered voters who back Clinton say their vote is more a vote for Clinton than against Trump.

8Three-quarters of Hispanic registered voters say they have discussed Trump’s comments about Hispanics or other groups with family, friends or coworkers. Those who have discussed Trump’s controversial comments on Hispanics, Mexican immigrants and other groups in the past year have given more thought to the election and are more certain they will vote.

Key trends in social and digital news media

Digital news and social media continue to grow, with mobile devices rapidly becoming one of the most common ways for Americans to get news. As journalists and media practitioners gather for the annual Online News Association conference, here are 10 key findings from recent Pew Research Center reports about today’s digital news media landscape:

1The gap between television and online news consumption is narrowing. As of August 2017, 43% of Americans report often getting news online, a share just 7 percentage points lower than the 50% who often get news on television. The gap between the two news platforms was 19 points in early 2016, more than twice as large. The share of Americans who often get news from TV – whether from local TV news, nightly network TV news or cable news – has fallen, while the portion of Americans often getting news online – either from news websites/apps or social media – has grown.

2Use of mobile devices for news continues to grow. As of spring 2017, 45% of U.S. adults often get news on a mobile device, up from 36% in 2016 and 21% in 2013. The use of desktop or laptop computers for news remains steady, with 31% saying they often get news this way. In all, 85% of Americans ever get news on a mobile device, the same proportion who do so on a desktop computer. And, among those who get news both ways, mobile devices are increasingly preferred. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of U.S. adults who get news on both mobile and desktop prefer mobile, up from 56% in 2016.

3Older adults are driving the growth in mobile news use. More than eight-in-ten U.S. adults (85%) now get news on a mobile device, up from 72% in 2016. The recent surge has mainly come from growth among older Americans. Roughly two-thirds (67%) of those ages 65 and older now get news on a mobile device, a 24-percentage-point jump from 2016 and about three times the share in 2013. Mobile news use also grew among those ages 50 to 64, with about eight-in-ten (79%) now getting news on mobile, about double the share from 2013. Large increases in mobile news use also occurred among those in lower-income households.

4Two-thirds of Americans (67%) get at least some news on social media. This represents a modest increase from 62% in 2016, but similar to mobile, this growth was driven by substantial increases among older Americans. For the first time in Pew Research Center surveys, more than half (55%) of Americans ages 50 and older report getting news on social media sites, a 10-percentage-point jump from 2016. Three of the social media sites measured – Twitter, YouTube and Snapchat – grew their shares of users who get news on their site. Twitter saw the largest growth in 2017 (up 15 percentage points) and had the largest share of users to report getting news there (74%).

5Nonwhites and the less educated increasingly say they get news on social media. About three-quarters of nonwhites (74%) get news on social media sites, up from 64% in 2016. This means that nonwhites (including all racial and ethnic groups, except non-Hispanic white) are now more likely than whites (64%) to get news on social media. Social media news use also increased to 69% in 2017 among those with less than a bachelor’s degree, surpassing those with a college degree or higher (63%).

6Many Americans believe fabricated news is sowing confusion, and about a third (32%) say they often see made-up political news online. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults (64%) say fabricated news stories cause a great deal of confusion about the basic facts of current issues and events. About a third of U.S. adults (32%) say they often see made-up political news online, while 39% sometimes see such stories and 26% hardly ever or never do. About half (51%) say they often see political news online that is at least somewhat inaccurate – a higher proportion than those who say they see news that is almost completely made up (32%). About a quarter (23%) say they have ever shared made-up news stories themselves, with roughly equal shares saying they have done so either knowingly or unknowingly. A large majority (84%) of Americans say they are at least somewhat confident in their ability to recognize fabricated news.

7Americans have low trust in information from social media. Just 5% of web-using U.S. adults have a lot of trust in the information they get from social media, nearly identical to the 4% who said so in 2016. This level of trust is much lower than trust in national and local news organizations, and in information coming from friends and family. In fact, in a separate study focusing on science news about twice as many social media users distrust science posts on social media as trust them (52% compared with 26%, 21% of social media users do not see any science posts).

8Social media and direct visits to news organizations’ websites are the most common pathways to online news. When asked how they arrived at news content in their most recent web interaction, online news consumers were about equally likely to say they got news by going directly to a news website (36% of the times they got news, on average) as they were to say they got it through social media (35%). They were less likely to access news through emails, text messages or search engines.

While social media is a common pathway to news, when people follow news links, source recognition is lower for news accessed through these platforms than it is when the link comes from a news organization. When news links came directly from a news organization’s emails, texts or alerts, the individual could name a source for that link 78% of the time. That far outpaced source recall when a link came through social media (52% of such instances) or a friend’s email or text (50%).

9Online news that comes via emails and texts from friends or family is the type of news encounter most likely to result in a follow-up action. Among the five pathways studied, news instances spurred by emails and texts from friends or family elicited the most activity; nearly three-quarters (73%) of these instances were acted upon in some way. That outpaced social media and direct visits to a news organization’s website, where a follow-up action occurred in about half of news instances (53% and 47%, respectively). Overall, talking with someone offline, whether in person or over the phone, was the most common action taken with digital news.

10An analysis of nearly 2,700 different search terms associated with the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, shows that online searches can be a good proxy for the public’s interests, concerns or intentions. The data revealed that residents of Flint were searching for information about their water before the government recognized the contamination and before local and regional news media coverage intensified beyond a handful of stories related to the initial switch of the water supply. While news was the first type of information people searched for, questions about personal and public health implications soon came to the forefront. The politics of the water crisis – which involved the governor of Michigan, the city of Flint and several agencies – did not resonate as a local search topic until President Barack Obama reacted, when the story spread nationally.