“Free Trade” Agreements Broadly Disadvantage American Workers, Because Markets!

Today, the Seattle City Council will vote on a resolution expressing concern about the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement currently being negotiated, and the Seattle Times editorial board thinks that’s just plain silly:

The council’s ordinance sends a head-scratching message about the importance of trade. No American city, arguably, is more dependent on the import-export business than Seattle. The Port of Seattle is an engine of family-wage jobs. Overall, 30 percent of Washington’s exports — nearly $27 billion worth — went to countries participating in the TPP. Stronger U.S. trade ties with those 11 other countries would undoubtedly add to the total, especially in Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam and New Zealand.

Uh-huh. So, here’s the thing about “free trade” as defined by agreements like the TPP: it isn’t free. Sure, goods are free to cross borders, and financial capital is free to cross borders. And since goods-plus-capital equals jobs, the TPP frees more jobs to cross international borders.

But you know what’s not free to cross borders? Labor. And since jobs are mobile and labor isn’t, free trade agreements like TPP and NAFTA and all the rest end up distorting the economy in a way that advantages capital and disadvantages labor. I’m not making shit up here. The same neoclassical economic theories that argue for free trade will tell you that if capital is free but labor mobility remains constrained, then the labor market can never reach a state of natural equilibrium. Capital can (and will) arbitrage the price difference between various labor markets, artificially suppressing wages for all.*

Good for profits, not so good for workers.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we can’t have free trade. We could open our borders to all comers, and vice versa, allowing labor to move to where the good jobs are. We could actually allow the entire market to be free. But that’s not likely to happen. Or, we could all openly acknowledge that trade agreements disadvantage labor, and insist that they come with policies designed to ameliorate the harm and redistribute the profits more broadly. You know, if we actually gave a shit about workers.

But let’s not pretend that, on their own, free trade agreements are good for American workers. Because apart from those workers directly employed in import-export (and let’s be honest, mostly import), they’re not.

* Not to be construed as an actual endorsement of neoclassical economic theory.

HA Bible Study: Leviticus 25:44-46

Leviticus 25:44-46
Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.


Twitter Is Burning Up Over Nick Hanauer’s Exhortation to LGBT People to Flee Indiana and Move to Seattle

My boss Nick Hanauer is lighting up Twitter again, this time with a “quick” 19-tweet rant explaining the economic stupidity of Indiana’s new law permitting businesses to discriminate against gays. Except, the rant is not so quick, so I’ve reformatted it below for your reading pleasure:

  1. A quick rant on the almost surreal stupidity of Indiana governor Mike Pence and his bill to legalize discrimination against LGBT people.
  2. What’s really important to underscore is how totally clueless people in places like Indiana are about 21st century economies.
  3. Growth in technological economies is all about innovation. The more innovation, the faster living standards improve.
  4. But innovation is a combinatorial and cooperative process. Innovation happens when old things are combined in new and novel ways.
  5. Innovation is an evolutionary process, and diversity is at the core of that process. It’s not how hard you try…..
  6. It’s how many different ways you try that define success. Economic dynamism isn’t driven by sameness, but by differences.
  7. Diversity does not hinder economic growth in technological economies. It super-charges it. Including more people is the key to growth.
  8. This is why inclusive, diverse cities like SF, Seattle, New York, and Boston kick the shit out of exclusionary places like Indiana.
  9. LGBT people are different. They are uncommonly creative, and innovative. Thus, they lead in many creative endeavors and industries.
  10. That is why LGBT folks are packed into the most innovative and successful companies.
  11. And why states like Indiana are increasingly becoming economic backwaters. Sad, forgotten places that smart people flee from.
  12. Obviously, people who are different flee, but also, all of the smart people who know that differences are key, flee as well
  13. Leaving behind a homogenized, narrow, and increasingly prejudiced population, who elect the same kind of leaders.
  14. Who enact laws that chase more smart diverse people away, that creates a brain drain death spiral.
  15. That in turn, consigns the economy to a backwater, or at a minimum, a low wage competitor to Bangladesh.
  16. All of which is a terrible waste of real estate and capital improvements. But something that may in fact, be unavoidable and inevitable.
  17. So, to all of you creative, innovative, different people in Indiana: The world faces tremendous challenges.
  18. They will only be solved by people like you. Come to places like Seattle that will embrace you, and leverage your talents.
  19. We need you. The world needs you. Indiana apparently, does not.

Many business leaders, particularly those in the tech industry, are expressing outrage over Indiana’s new anti-LGBT law, and an incipient boycott is already underway. For example, Salesforce.com CEO Mark Benioff has canceled all company events in the state, and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced today that he is barring city employees from using city money to travel to Indiana on business. But Nick’s invitation to LGBT Indianans to “come to places like Seattle that will embrace you and leverage your talents” suggests a much more lasting and effective economic sanction.

No doubt Nick is right that discriminatory laws like this result in a “brain drain” by driving talented workers out of state. But if the tech industry in Seattle, San Francisco, New York and elsewhere were to actively recruit LGBT workers and other Indianans who value diversity, that economic death spiral would quickly accelerate. And that would be an appropriately high price to pay for Indiana’s government sanctioned bigotry.

Friday Night Multimedia Extravaganza!

Ann Telnaes: Making executions easier.

SlateTV: The times we made animals into bombs.

Political fashion chat.

How teachers are funding gun companies against their will.

Young Turks: Why are Republican Governors so pro-prison rape?

See the earth change over the past 200 million years.

The 2016 Clown Parade:

Sen. Nelson slams alleged ban on climate change speech.

Sam Sacks: ALEC is too toxic for BP.

John Oliver: John Oliver hits Netanyahu’s ‘Michael Jackson-level’ walking back on two-state solution.

Sam Seder: Media darling John McCain says media favors “wacko birds”.

Mental Floss: Misconceptions about the bible.

Maddow: The kids are alright.

Young Turks: Sean Hannity gets out-hannitied in his “War on Spring Break”.

The Duck Dynasty Child Rape–Murder Fantasy…for a Prayer Breakfast:

SlateTV: Can animals be altruists?

Why every new Macbook uses a different goddamn charger.

Jon plugs his ears and pretends climate change doesn’t exist.

If anti-vaccine parents rode the Magic School Bus:

Some Congresscritters read mean tweets.

Young Turks: Traitor Republican Senators used Israeli spies against their own country.

Jon and Kristen: Pay equality for women.

ObamaCare at Five:

Go Green and save the earth…if you have time.

Mental Floss: 16 shampoo facts.

Michael Brooks: John McCain throws a tantrum accusing Obama of throwing a tantrum.

Jon Jon catches FAUX News “jerking itself off”.

White House: West Wing Week.

Pap: SCOTUS gets one correct for voting rights

Indiana—The Crossroads of American Homophobia:

WaPo with some Congressional dos and don’ts.

President Obama: Take our daughters and sons to work day.

Aasif Mandvi mocks the media in brutal RTCA dinner speech.

David Pakman: CA AG goes to court to keep ‘Shoot the Gays’ initiative off the ballot.

Mitt Romney and Jimmy Fallon face off on the Tonight Show.

Sen. Reid Announces His Retirement:

Mental Floss: Fourteen ways technology has improved our lives.

Jon: The daily show fixes the VA’s “crow problem”

Young Turks: Germanwings Flight 9525 right-wing conspiracy theories.

Last week’s Friday Night Multimedia Extravaganza can be found here.


Reading this post by lefty Hoosier Melissa McEwan who has been working against the reprehensible you can discriminate against gay people for Jesus law in Indiana, I can’t help think of how different the attitude was here when there are problems. We can work here, but let’s just write off a whole state?

It strikes me as, ahem, interesting that some of the Seattle people I saw on Twitter yesterday with the #BoycottIndiana hashtag weren’t saying boycott Seattle when it came out that we had the worst of the largest 50 metro ares’ gender pay disparity. When that happened, we got to work. We organized. We pressured city and county government to work toward fixing that shit. We had commissions that you can debate how much they did, but it isn’t nothing. We had conversations, and many women shared their stories. But with Indiana, it’s just jump right to why don’t you move and to boycott.

And don’t get me wrong, there are times when a boycott of a state can be effective. The one that came to mind to me was a boycott of South Carolina probably helped get them to stop flying the Confederate flag. But the difference is that local people in South Carolina took the lead. If local Hoosier orgs start telling me they don’t want me to spend money on or in Indiana, I’ll take a serious look. But whatever happens has to come first and foremost from Indiana.

Open Thread 3.27.2015.AD…

- McMorris-Rogers wanting horror stories about Obamacare would have been a better political story if there were more actual horror stories about the ACA.

Take Your Burning Rage from Yesterday’s Traffic Mess and Fire It Toward Olympia

You’d like to believe Brockington’s story was going to be different. You’d like to believe that the recognition bestowed upon him from his school as homecoming king, an affirmation of his identity, meant they cared. You’d like to believe this would only bolster Brockington’s sense of self and provide the resolve needed to face the cruel aftermath of the public eye. We need to believe those things so we never have to actually lend our support.

– Some Christians opposed slavery. Some supported it. A lot were neutral. If you want to take credit for the ones who opposed it, you should also consider why the rest also made slavery possible for so long.

– If you’re going to call your article A modest proposal to restore local control of $40 million from No Child Left Behind waiver (Seattle Times link) the only proper body of the article should include eating children from under-performing schools.

Also, an Epidemic of Stupid

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence apparently believes a little bit of H.I.V. is okay.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence apparently believes a little bit of H.I.V. is okay.

I suppose desperate times call for desperate measures:

An outbreak of H.I.V. in a rural Indiana county prompted the state’s governor on Thursday to declare a public health emergency as officials worked to stop the spread of the virus that causes AIDS.

The 80 cases in Scott County, in the state’s southeast, were attributed to intravenous drug use. … Governor Pence, a Republican, said that he had long opposed needle exchanges, but that after meeting with federal advisers, he decided to allow a short-term program in Scott County.

So, Pence was opposed to needle exchanges because, whatever. But now that he’s been convinced that needle exchanges can help stem transmission of H.I.V., he’s allowing just a temporary program in one county, because, why? Needle exchanges are okay to help contain an epidemic, but not to prevent one?

Yet another example of conservative values getting in the way of good public policy.

Senate Republicans Get Even Republican-ier With Votes Against Family Leave and for More War

"I'm so Republican I voted against Americans on multiple occasions today!"

“I’m so Republican I voted against Americans on multiple occasions today!”

So right now the Senate is in the middle of budget amendment voting, which is a super-strange marathon of stultifying C-SPAN boredom and wacko political theater. But the thing about these amendment votes that they help define the political aims of senators. They tell us who these politicians are.

The good news is that our own Senator Patty Murray proposed a paid family leave amendment. David Weigel at Bloomberg says:

Titled the Deficit-Neutral Reserve Fund for Legislation to Allow Americans to Earn Paid Sick Time, Murray’s amendment would devote funds “relating to efforts to improve workplace benefits and reduce health care costs, which may include measures to allow Americans to earn paid sick time to address their own health needs and the health needs of their families, and to promote equal employment opportunities.”

Sounds totally reasonable, doesn’t it? And in fact, the amendment enjoyed a solid base of support, from every Democrat and a kinda-astonishing 16 Republicans. The only people to vote against it were hardline Republicans from red states and every Republican in the Senate who’s considering a run for president: Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul.

I guess the vote from Senator Paul kind of makes sense, because he’s known for his hardline libertarian values: cut government spending, promote small government, that sort of thing. Except according to Alexander Bolton at The Hill, Paul proposed an amendment that would add $76 billion to the already-staggering proposed military budget of $620 billion. In fact, Bolton says, “Paul wants to increase defense spending over the next two years by $190 billion.”

Rand Paul: World’s Worst Libertarian™? Or just a craven politician desperate for those blood-thirsty Republican primary votes? Are any of Ron Paul’s ReLOVEutionaries still fooled by Rand Paul? Do they think he’s playing at being a hawk?

I guess Paul believes he can claim he’s still for small government because his amendment guts a bunch of small government programs to pay for the biggest government program of them all. As Bolton writes, “Paul would offset the cost of the funding increase by cutting foreign aid, science and technology funding, natural resources and environment funding and education, training, employment and social services funding.”

Science and technology are frequent Republican targets, but that foreign aid cut is the most baffling of them all. Paul believes that cutting aid to our allies and increasing money for defense demonstrates a meaningful understanding of foreign policy. The sad thing is, he’s probably won some new fans and allies with his irresponsible voting today.

Open Thread 3/25

- Despite all its faults, I still dig the Bell Street Park. (PS, even if you don’t care about Bell Street Park specifically, go say hi to Erica)

– Oh man, how come my place of work doesn’t have a bike shop?

If Birth Control Induces Abortions, Then So Does Voting for Ted Cruz

– I for one am so so very sad that spending a shit ton of money opposing a minimum wage increase means you can’t be elected in one of the most lefty cities in the country.

– The things that go into making clothing for Americans makes me want to go around naked all day.

Here is the appropriate reaction to #BlackBrunch visiting your brunch location: Listen. Then, continue your brunch, or whatever.

Drinking Liberally — Seattle

DLBottleThe Seattle Chapter of Drinking Liberally meets tonight. Please join us for the start of spring and, with an announcement by Sen. Ted Cruz, the start of what will likely be the most entertaining presidential election season ever.

We meet every Tuesday evening at the Roanoke Park Place Tavern, 2409 10th Ave E, Seattle. Our starting time is 8:00 pm, but some folks stop by earlier for dinner.

Can’t make it to Seattle tonight? Check out one of the other DL meetings happening this week. Tonight the Tri-Cities chapter also meets. On Wednesday, the Bellingham, Burien, and Spokane chapters meet. The Woodinville and Kentchapters meet on Thursday.

There are 189 chapters of Living Liberally, including eighteen in Washington state, four in Oregon and two in Idaho. Chances are excellent there’s a chapter meeting somewhere near you.

The Economic Case for Immigration

At my new job, I’ve been reading a lot about economics. Along with a bunch of articles and white papers, I’m working my way through Beinhocker’s (very readable) The Origin9781422121030 of Wealth, and after that I’ll finally tackle Piketty’s Capital, which I have only up ’til now experienced through the lens that is Charles Mudede’s genius.

Learning about economics, it turns out, is great fun. Most of the modern texts are entertaining as hell, the concepts are fairly easy to grasp, and economics influences and is influenced by everything on the planet, so it gives you a new framework with which to perceive the world.

Maybe the most surprising fact about this deep dive is that the stuff I’m learning delivers a positive message. Unlike the vicious world presented by Ayn Rand and her legions of acolytes, the economics I’ve been reading about is inclusive: if businesses pay their workers more money, for example, the workers will spend more money, thus growing the economy for everyone. If you don’t just focus your growth on a tiny portion of the economy—like, oh, the 1 percent, for example—the money circulates outward and upward and downward. If everyone does better, it’s better for everyone. See? Positive!

Today, the New York Times published a piece by Adam Davidson titled “Debunking the Myth of the Job-Stealing Immigrant.” It looks at immigration from an economic perspective, and it’s packed with good news: Davidson writes, “the economic benefits of immigration may be the most ­settled fact in economics.” But what about the conservative notion that immigrants are taking our jobs?

The chief logical mistake we make is something called the Lump of Labor Fallacy: the erroneous notion that there is only so much work to be done and that no one can get a job without taking one from someone else.

What’s the problem with this fallacy? Well, it’s, uh, false:

Immigrants don’t just increase the supply of labor, though; they simultaneously increase demand for it, using the wages they earn to rent apartments, eat food, get haircuts, buy cellphones. That means there are more jobs building apartments, selling food, giving haircuts and dispatching the trucks that move those phones.

The more people in the workforce, the bigger the workforce needs to be. So not only is the Republican fear-mongering against immigrants racist and hateful—it’s economically unsound, too. Go read the whole story.

Ted Cruz Is Running for President of the Teabaggers

As you’ve undoubtedly heard, Ted Cruz has announced his bid to become the Rick Santorum of the 2016 Republican presidential campaign. As 538’s Harry Enten wrote this morning, Cruz is not a serious presidential candidate. He doesn’t have access to money, his platform is way too conservative for the American public, and he has a serious lying problem.

Us do what American voters no want us do!Just watch the speech he gave to announce his candidacy at the top of this post. Cruz framed his announcement like a Bizarro World version of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” in which he proposed his vision for America: no gay marriage, no Affordable Care Act, a foreign policy so aggressive that it would leave the entire Middle East a charred cinder within two weeks of his inauguration. He’s a Teabagger Homunculus, a staggering wad of conservative rage. Only two groups of people take Cruz seriously: the shrinking elderly army of right-wing ragebabies who made up the Tea Party, and the media.

So we’ll see a lot of Cruz for the next year or so, because he and his followers say crazy stuff and the media loves to report crazy stuff, but he’ll be gone by spring of 2016. He’ll probably beat Santorum. He might even do well in the small pockets of the country that reward apocalyptic rhetoric, like Iowa and South Carolina. But he’ll soon disappear from the stage, leaving an uncountable array of think pieces in his wake.

On some level, Cruz has to understand he’s unelectable. So why is he running? It’s not as though Santorum or Gingrich managed to parlay their once-a-frontrunner statuses into positions of leadership in the party. Perhaps Cruz plans on running for governor of Texas someday? Does he think his position as King of the Teabaggers is at risk, somehow? The scariest option is that Cruz is a True Believer, someone who entertains the frightening prospect that the majority of America is just as xenophobic and hateful as him. It isn’t, of course, but what does it say about us that this man is an actual United States Senator? Maybe Ted Cruz’ nightmare fantasy world isn’t as far from reality as we’d like to believe.

The Truth No Match for Local Lies on “Death Tax”

Good on Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat for expressing outrage over the way our conservative media transforms right-wing lies into conventional wisdom, “Local facts no match for national fiction on $15 minimum-wage issue“:

Now that the conservative media’s bogus story about the minimum wage killing off Seattle restaurants has been thoroughly debunked, it’s tempting to say the truth won out. That this time, anyway, facts trumped misinformation.

I don’t think so.

But too bad he didn’t express similar outrage when it was his own paper doubling-down on its own thoroughly debunked “death tax” lies—lies that, absent the outrage from respectable journalists like Westneat, are now being read unchallenged into the congressional record.

To be clear, it was great to see Bethany truth needle the $15 lies in the pages of the Seattle Times. But when it comes to fabricating facts to fit their policy agenda, the paper’s editorial board remains as deserving of ridicule and outrage as Rush Limbaugh and Fox News. So until it retracts its bogus McBride “family farm” editorial, the paper as an institution really has no moral authority to lambast the national conservative media for playing the same game it plays locally.