Friday Talking Points [417] -- Turkey Leftovers

So, has everyone had their fill of turkey leftovers? Well, taking a quick look at Donald Trump's cabinet choices should suffice anyone who still craves some leftover turkeys, if you know what we mean.

The most amusing headline we've seen so far came from Trump's consideration of David Petraeus for secretary of State: "Hillary Clinton wasn't charged with mishandling classified information. Trump might appoint someone convicted of it." Heh.

Trump's big photo op this week was at a Carrier plant in Indianapolis, where he announced he had only saved half the jobs which had been planned to move to Mexico. A thousand Carrier workers will still soon be out of a job, but Trump played it as a total victory. He only had to get Mike Pence to give up $7,000,000 in tax breaks from Indiana (Pence had refused the same deal earlier, a detail that also got lost in all the breathless reporting). Which, as Bernie Sanders quickly pointed out, is going to encourage all sorts of companies to threaten to move their workforce unless the government gives them some fat corporate welfare as well. Hey, Carrier got $7,000 per job, maybe we can hold out for $10,000 each!

The truly interesting thing was how this all happened. Trump was watching NBC news, and saw a Carrier worker interviewed who said he fully expected all the jobs to be saved, because Trump had promised to save them. In Trump's own words:

And they had a gentleman, worker, great guy, handsome guy, he was on, and it was like he didn't even know they were leaving. He said something to the effect, "No, we're not leaving, because Donald Trump promised us that we're not leaving," and I never thought I made that promise. Not with Carrier. I made it for everybody else. I didn't make it really for Carrier.

And I said, "What’s he saying?" And he was such a believer, and he was such a great guy. He said, "I've been with Donald Trump from the beginning, and he made the statement that Carrier's not going anywhere, they're not leaving." And I'm saying to myself, "Man."

And then they played my statement, and I said, "Carrier will never leave." But that was a euphemism. I was talking about Carrier like all other companies from here on in. Because they made the decision a year and a half ago.

But he believed that that was -- and I could understand it. I actually said -- I didn't make it -- when they played that, I said, "I did make it, but I didn't mean it quite that way."

This is pretty astonishing, because Trump was admitting that he really didn't expect his own followers to believe the things he told them, but it's also instructive for the future. Trump loves getting all his information from television news shows -- by his own admission. So shaming Trump into taking action should be pretty easy. Just interview someone who believed a Trump campaign promise, then play a clip of Trump actually making the promise out on the campaign trail. That's all it should take to hold his feet to the fire, on pretty much any issue. Run a storyline of "Trump supporter disappointed in unkept promise," and Trump'll get right on it! Sadly, this level of manipulation of Trump seems to work, so all news media should take special note, for the future. That's if they can tear themselves away from Trump's Twitter feed long enough to do so, of course.

Trump is back out on the campaign trail again, for his "victory tour." Because, after all, that's so much more fun that making cabinet choices (even when you have the power to make Mitt Romney roll over, sit up, and beg for a treat). Which means the whole The Apprentice -- Secretary Of State Edition show Trump has been hosting will continue for at least another week or so, it seems.

Republicans in Congress are realizing that they're going to actually be expected to do some stuff, although whether that will happen or not is still to be seen. Lindsey Graham actually wants to pass a bill to keep President Obama's DACA program going (which allows the DREAMers to continue to have temporary legal status), but he seems a wee bit overconfident that he'll convince his own party to vote for such a thing. Not to mention whether Trump would sign it -- which seems rather far-fetched to us, but maybe we're just being gloomy. It'd be great if it did pass, but we're not exactly holding our breaths.

Nancy Pelosi won another term as House Minority Leader, but we're going to address that down in the awards section. Barack Obama gave an exit interview to Rolling Stone that is worth reading, although he had some rather disappointing things to say about marijuana legalization (which we addressed in detail earlier this week, if anyone's interested).

Senator Ron Wyden is pushing Obama hard to publicly release -- or at least preserve the existence of -- the full 7,000-page report on torture. A much shorter version of the complete report was made public earlier, but Wyden correctly fears that the Republicans will succeed in their efforts to literally shove the whole document down an Orwellian memory hole -- which Trump might just go along with. If Obama acts before he leaves, then the document will be properly preserved, even if an unredacted copy never gets publicly released, so Wyden deserves kudos for pushing the issue.

Let's see, what else? The contest for who will chair the Democratic National Committee is going to get more attention, but probably not until after the New Year. We recently read one article that had an absolutely brilliant idea on this front. Democrats need someone to reconnect the party with working-class, blue-collar values? Well, there's an obvious choice, who will be out of a job soon anyway. How does "DNC Chair Joe Biden" sound? We have to say that sounds pretty good, to us. Biden speaks that language fluently, and he'd be able to refocus the party on some core issues they've been largely ignoring, that's for sure.

That's about it for this week, except to note the signs of the year-end holidays fast approaching. That's right -- Festivus poles are appearing once again! And this year's "airing of the grievances" should be epic, that's for sure.


This one is rather odd, because we're awarding the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week to someone who just lost an election.

Not a popular election, mind you, but rather the election for leadership of the House Democratic caucus. Nancy Pelosi won the election with a comfortable margin (she got just over two-thirds of the votes, as she predicted earlier), and will continue as House Minority Leader. But what that also means is that the brash challenger, Representative Tim Ryan, got 63 votes to Pelosi's 134. That's the largest amount of anyone who has challenged Pelosi for the leadership, and it signals one-third of the House Democrats were willing to support someone with no experience in leadership rather than the tried-and-true Pelosi.

Nancy Pelosi is 76 years old. Her second-in-command is also a septuagenarian. The average age of the House Democratic leadership is 72. Even that is about to change, though, since Xavier Becerra -- who, at 58, had been the youngest member of the leadership -- is soon going to resign his House seat (since Jerry Brown just named him to replace California's attorney general, who is leaving to replace Barbara Boxer in the Senate). Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, by contrast, isn't even 50 yet.

Democrats have got to rebuild their "bench." And they're going to need some younger blood to do it. Now, rumors are circulating that Tim Ryan was only making a bid for the leadership position to raise his political image because he's thinking of running for governor of his own state, Ohio. But no matter the reason, he made a pretty strong case that Democrats need to start paying a lot more attention to districts like his, where blue-collar voters used to reliably vote Democratic. He also pushed a strong economic message as opposed to telling all the disparate parts of the Democratic coalition what they want to hear on all the social hot-button issues.

The fact that Ryan got so much support for these stances -- which Democrats truly should be listening to -- shows there is a lot of discontent with staying with the same leaders who went from controlling the House and winning a 60-vote supermajority in the Senate (albeit very briefly), to their current sad state of affairs, in the minority in both houses.

Now, to be clear, we have nothing personal against Pelosi. She does a fine job of speaking up for Democratic issues and making the case for progressive legislation. Ideologically, we have no beef with her, to put this another way.

But, having said that, we're still pretty impressed with Tim Ryan's losing bid for Pelosi's leadership position. Whether he stays in the House or whether he runs for statewide office in Ohio, we'd bet this isn't the last we'll be hearing from Ryan. For getting 1-in-3 House Democrats to back him, we have to say Ryan is the clear choice for Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week -- even though he lost.

[Congratulate Representative Tim Ryan on his House contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]


Millions of workers across America were disappointed this week, because they won't be getting the overtime pay they were promised. This week was when a new overtime rule was set to take effect, but it has now been temporarily blocked by a federal judge. This doesn't leave much time for the Obama administration to fight back, and who knows what Donald Trump will do when he takes office?

All of this is why Barack Obama has to be awarded this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week. Here's a hint why -- Obama got a previous MDDOTW way back in FTP [348], because he had been dragging his feet on the issue for so long.

I first wrote about the issue, in detail, in the first week of January of 2015. At the time, Obama was promising the new policy would be unveiled in "weeks, not months," which optimistically led me to speculate whether it'd be unveiled during that month's State Of The Union speech.

Turns out, this was premature. Obama got his MDDOTW award at the end of May. We did award Obama the MIDOTW a month later, after he wrote his own blog post for Huffington Post which called for raising the overtime threshold from $23,600 to instead cover "all salaried workers making up to about $50,400 next year." Turns out even that was premature, as the rule wasn't officially rolled out by the Labor Department until May of 2016 -- where it got whittled down to $47,476 per year.

So, to review, Obama promises new overtime rule is imminent at the beginning of January, 2015. He does nothing for six months, and then finally gets the process underway. But the Labor Department doesn't actually roll out the rule for almost another full year. That's a lot of wasted time.

In other words, if Obama had acted swiftly and decisively, as he himself initially promised to, the lawsuit would have likely already been resolved, one way or the other. Running out of time now was entirely predictable, which is why we spent so many months strongly urging Obama to act fast -- to no avail.

So while nothing Obama actually did this week earns him the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week, his earlier inaction came home to roost this week, as tens of millions of workers will not see any change in their paycheck this week. Changing the rule meant employers had a clear choice: stop working their so-called "managers" 60 or 70 hours a week with no overtime pay as compensation, or hire more people so such insane workweeks wouldn't be necessary anymore. Workers would either have gotten more money, or more free time. Now, they will have to wait and see what Donald Trump will do for them. Perhaps he'll fight for the rule, perhaps he won't.

For dithering for so many months instead of quickly acting with enough time to fight for the new policy in the courts, Barack Obama wins his second MDDOTW for dragging his feet. This should have been one of Obama's legacy items that would have helped out millions of workers. Now, if it even happens, those workers will remember it happened under the Trump administration. Delaying tactics have consequences, in other words.

[Contact President Barack Obama via his White House contact page, to let him know what you think of his (in-)actions.]


Volume 417 (12/2/16)

The last few weeks have seen a steady drip-drip-drip of news from the Trump transition team, as they trickle out high-ranking appointments and nominees. We're going to mostly ignore that this week (except for the hapless Mitt Romney), and instead make a few other random observations. Oh, and we should note that this really covers the last two weeks, as we skipped the day after Thanksgiving to watch football and eat leftovers. With no further ado, let's get on with it.


   Like night and day

Jared Bernstein should be credited for that particular phrase, and his recent article lays out a much more complete case.

"Historically, the economy has always done better under Democratic presidents, all the way back to the 1960s. Democrats have been used to cleaning up Republican messes for a long time, now. The difference between the economy President Obama inherited and what he'll hand off to Donald Trump is like night and day. When Obama took office, the economy was in free-fall, we were losing jobs at the rate of 800,000 per month, and the unemployment rate was headed to 10 percent. Eight years later, Obama has presided over the longest period of job expansion the country's ever seen, we're gaining hundreds of thousands of jobs per month, and the unemployment rate is at 4.6 percent -- the lowest it has been in nine years. So we'll see what Obama's record looks like after a few years of Trump. My guess is that there will be a lot of people missing Obama when he's gone."


   Yeah, right afterwards...

This should be the stock response of every Democrat, for the immediate future.

"You're asking me to give Donald Trump credit for saving 1,000 jobs at Carrier (while failing to save another 1,000 that will still be headed to Mexico, but nevermind...), at the reported cost of $7,000 in tax breaks per job? OK, I'm all prepared to give Trump that credit -- which I will do immediately after the Republican Party gives President Obama for saving the entire American automobile industry, with no help from them whatsoever. Just as soon as I hear that admission from the GOP, I'll be happy to give Trump credit for all 1,000 jobs he saved, how's that?"


   Because the sequester worked so well

Yet another Republican plan to explain why they cannot come up with an actual plan. Sigh.

"I see the Republicans are now talking about 'repeal and delay' for Obamacare. This means they'll repeal it right away, but not really, because they'll merely start a three-year clock ticking for the repeal. During this time, the supposed threat of dire consequences is supposed to magically mean that Republicans will finally get their act together -- after seven years of doing absolutely nothing, I might add -- on the whole 'replace' idea. They've had seven years to offer up a bill that replaces Obamacare, and they have not done so, but now they're going to put a three-year deadline on themselves which is supposed to solve the problem. I only have one question: how'd that work out the last time you tried it? Remember the 'sequester' -- the consequences of which were so dire it would force Republicans to agree on a budget? Yeah, that didn't work out so well, did it? The deadline came and went, and Republicans still couldn't get their act together. So you'll have to excuse me if I don't believe 'delay' is going to lead to anything more than 'never get it done' -- as it always seems to with the GOP."


   Problem solved!

This one's so obvious, we're surprised nobody else has proposed it.

"In the most recent polling, only 26 percent of Americans wanted to see Obamacare repealed -- which is down quite a bit among Republicans even since last month. Polling has previously shown that people generally like all the benefits of Obamacare, but are sharply divided on the name. Now we have a man about to enter the White House who has made a lot of money licensing his name to projects he otherwise has nothing to do with. So why don't we just let Republicans 'repeal' Obamacare by passing a bill that does nothing more than rename it 'Trumpcare'? They won't have to come up with a replacement, they can just replace the name and start supporting it. Maybe they could even sweeten the pot and add a provision where Trump gets a dollar every time a politician uses 'Trumpcare' in public! That'd be sure to get him on board, right? As he might say: 'Bingo, Obamacare is now Trumpcare. Problem solved!'"



This one is just too funny to pass up.

"Did you see Mitt Romney having dinner with Donald Trump the other day? Trump had a juicy steak, while Romney was served a big helping of crow."


   A mighty big list

Thanks to the Washington Post for doing the gruntwork on this one.

"If you want to keep track of how many of Donald Trump's campaign promises he's either kept or broken, the Washington Post has a handy reference guide of 282 campaign promises Trump made before he was elected. Print it out and use it as a scorecard!"


   No word yet...

This one was also too funny to resist.

"Hawai'i just built a fence that is five miles long, to protect endangered birds on Mauna Loa from feral cats. The cats -- many descended from cats who went AWOL from early explorers' ships -- have now been barred from the nesting grounds for the Hawai'ian petrel. No word yet on whether Donald Trump will be able to get the cats to pay for the fence, however...."


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