A Statement of Intent

If you aren’t Black and the past couple weeks haven’t made you think, at least a bit, about what your responsibilities as a human and an American citizen are, then I’d question what will. I’m at least as guilty as millions of others of keeping my thoughts to myself. In my writing, in my interactions with others whose opinions or stances I couldn’t be sure of. I wasn’t willing to take any risk. Didn’t want to offend, potentially lose business opportunities. Didn’t want to chance having someone ignore some data or evidence they could accept because they got distracted by my tone or opinions.

That ends now. It doesn’t mean you’ll find my writing unrecognizable. I’m not sure if or when I’ll participate in a physical protest. But I’m also not going to pretend I didn’t donate small sums to BLM and Stacy Abrams’ voting rights organization this week. Or that after doing so, I didn’t immediately think, “um, this was nice, but especially given my finances, this isn’t going to be enough of an action plan.” I don’t know what all the appropriate next steps are, and while I hope I’ll continue to take next steps for the rest of my existence, I’m also typing and posting this because I don’t trust myself and need the accountability. Continue reading “A Statement of Intent”

Bye Bye Bernie

He had to leave. There was zero justification for sticking around. We won’t see the Wisconsin results until 4/13, but Joe Biden won. Again. And this was a good 2016 Bernie Sanders state. If you’re mad he’s gone, don’t blame Rona. Yes, his media bandwidth shrunk. But he was set to lose just about everywhere. The postponed primaries would have driven him out if this didn’t. Perhaps the actual exit would have waited until he lost several northeastern primaries originally scheduled for 4/28. Either way, Bernie wasn’t making it to the convention this time.

If you’re virtually or completely mathematically eliminated, but are winning more than a few states here or there, you can remain. That’s how Bernie lingered in 2016, and how Hillary Clinton completed the course of primaries and caucuses in 2008. Super delegates had made it clear each would lose, but why drop out when you are winning about half the time. Bernie went on a long streak in 2016 after the math was against him. I’m too lazy to check, but it was something like 11 out of 12 contests. Hillary, the 2008 Edition, won some big states like Pennsylvania and Ohio after she was doomed.

When they’re competitive, candidates stick around to build leverage, either for when the party comes together to fight the fall campaign, or for future presidential runs. I’m fairly confident Bernie isn’t riding again in 2024. And losing by 20+ points over and over and over again does not build leverage, or a justification to push the nominee in your ideological direction. So he left. This gives us a couple questions. Continue reading “Bye Bye Bernie”

The End of Small Business in America?

Since colonial times, the United States has heavily relied on small business. An independent/family farmer is a small business. Unlike most of the world where the majority of land was held by an aristocracy and most laborers were in their employ or at their command, small, independent landholdings were a huge part of America from the beginning*

Over the past hundred and fifty years, most small independent farms have gone away or been purchased by corporate agribusiness. But as that was happening and millions of Americans were moving to cities, we became a nation of shopkeepers. Sure, millions of others became factory workers, but again millions and millions of Americans were able to have the independence of their own storefront, small manufacturing enterprise, or other entity.

This too began changing. And it wasn’t last week. A hundred years ago, small retailers already worried about the encroachment of regional and national chain stores. Some states even passed legislation to slow their advance. Over the past fifty years, behemoths like Walmart and Amazon have driven small retailers galore out of business. Even if Rona hadn’t visited us, small business was in retreat. For the past decade or so, the rate of new business starts has run below the established level. That counts all new businesses, including tech startups with a very different focus than a traditional small business. If you pull those out, the drop is more pronounced. Continue reading “The End of Small Business in America?”

Employment Apocalypse Now

If you’re reading this, you’ve seen the numbers. Ten million new unemployment filings in a two week period. That moves the national unemployment rate from the mid-3s to about 10%. Bad enough, and historically unprecedented in this short a time. But we’re only part way there. Expect another 8 to 10 million filings in the next two weeks. Many recently unemployed people are still trying to file. States like Florida are just beginning to take the steps others did weeks ago.

Within two weeks, the unemployment rate will reach 17 to 18%. That’s the worst number since 1938. We’ll have gone from about as good as the unemployment number can be (in the 3s) to the post-World War II “hey, there’s a real problem here” number of 10%, to the nobody currently in the job market was alive then 17-18%. Within the realm of historical precedent, there’s only one remaining leap. To approximately 25%, a number seen during the depths of the Great Depression in 1932-33, and (if we trust the ancient data estimates) in the aftermath of the Panic of 1893.

That may take no more than a month. Airlines and chain restaurants, among others, still have more people to lay off. The SBA program for small business payroll assistance is a useful program. Many businesses qualify. It’s set up in a way that will truly help. Except Congress didn’t appropriate enough to help all of the qualifying businesses. Yesterday, Bank of America became the first major institution to launch their portal. It crashed repeatedly. And even so, 6% of the available funds are now already applied for. One day. One institution. One overwhelmed web portal. Continue reading “Employment Apocalypse Now”

A Tale of Four Shortages

We all want to know when things are getting back to normal. Or failing at that, a new acceptable reality. I strongly believe there are four, and only four measures that truly matter. It’s not the amount of cases, or increase/decrease. Nor is it the death rate, or amount of total deaths. That’s not to minimize these things. A death is a huge deal. Even more so if you know the person who passed. I’ve read many obituaries of COVID-19 victims, and it’s hard not to feel a real sense of loss.

But cases and deaths are outcomes, not causes. And even if those numbers improve dramatically, we can’t be sure there won’t be a resurgence of doom in the fall/winter. By most estimates, a reliable, tested vaccine is 12 to 18 months away. Should things in America, Western Europe, and other currently afflicted regions return mostly to normal over the summer, we’ll still have a strong sense of unease. Unless we solve three shortages. Fixing these will then cure the fourth.

Masks/other PPEs

Ventilators

Tests

Toilet Paper

Fixing the mask (and when I refer to mask, I really mean all of the commonly used Personal Protective Equipment pieces) shortage is both really easy and really hard. Ramping up is far easier than we’re making it look. There’s a good argument that part of the problem is how many ways more could get manufactured. There’s a whole industrial base that’s otherwise shut down or immobilized right now. There’s 3D printing. There’s the thousands of people who are already crafting masks at home. Continue reading “A Tale of Four Shortages”

So Now What?

I’m back. And while I’m grateful to have (for now) avoided being a COVID-19 victim, writing about the next step in the Democratic primary seems pretty darn inane right now. Somehow, just one month ago, the virus was a semi-threatening thing on the horizon, Bernie Sanders was the Democratic front-runner, and most of us left our homes every day without thinking much of it. We had a long decade in March.

But what now? There’s so much we don’t know. When will most Americans (or Italians, or Britons, or Indians, etc., etc. ) be able to move about freely? How many will suffer and die before we get a handle on this damn virus? Will the economy recover soon, or is total financial doom just around the corner. If anyone claims to know the answers to these items, you can start ignoring them. They might have a reasonable suspicion, but it’s impossible to know for sure.

Any political implications need to wait. Yes, what’s happening will clearly effect the results in November. But there are a million scenarios. Some where Trump is routed, some where he wins. The remainder of the Democratic primary is in a state of suspension. Theoretically, Bernie can’t catch Joe. And it wouldn’t seem like the Republic is ready for a political revolution on top of the current upheaval.

You may not have seen this, but there’s a charge of sexual assault from 1993 that Biden will need to deal with at some point. Sure, that would make the score Trump many accusers, Biden one, but it’s still not a positive development for Joe. And he doesn’t have the nomination won just yet. No, I’m not betting on this to shake up the race. It’s still a thing that will resurface eventually. And we know Trump won’t let his own rap sheet get in the way of attacking his opponent on this.

Speaking of the president, he’s already re-framing the debate in a way he does best. From saying only a few people would get the Rona, he’s on to making it a victory if he can prevent 200,000 plus Americans from perishing. From bragging about record Dow results and fifty year unemployment lows, you can bet he’ll call any amount of recovery before November a Trump-induced miracle. His approval numbers are up. At the very top of his established range. And then some.

It could be a “rally around the flag” moment. Bush the Elder and the Younger each saw 90% approval ratings, during Iraq War 1.0 and the immediate 9/11 aftermath respectively. Jimmy Carter actually saw his numbers rocket up after the embassy hostages were taken in Iran. The ongoing crisis wouldn’t become a liability for him until months later.

However, it also shows it’s possible for Trump to get about half of the country to say he’s ok. Given he’s got a built-in Electoral College advantage, any world where he can get almost half of the voting public on board is one where he’s getting sworn back in next January. It’s also, short of Bush the Younger–Katrina Edition, about the worst any president has done in polling during an immediate crisis. He trails the numbers posted by his international peers.

As you can see, it’s possible to make a case for anything. A good case. We know Rona has changed America, and impacted much of the world at a minimum. How we’re changed, what’s temporary, what’s permanent, what will evolve, yeah, not so easy. Starting tomorrow, we’ll start looking at possibilities. These aren’t predictions. They’re maybes. I’ll try to keep a balance between “hey, this really sucks, but there are all sorts of tremendous silver linings,” “we were screwed before, now it’s worse,” and “eh, regardless of what happens, we’re sorta stuck in the same place anyway.”

One does wonder what would have happened if Rona had visited us a few weeks sooner. Would Michael Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, or Amy Klobuchar seemed more suited to the moment than Biden (I think so, but who knows?) What would a social distancing debate with 7 contestants have looked like? Are there any camera angles wide enough? Or would they have jousted via Zoom? Oh well, no going back.

Time to look forward. And now, we will.

To Linger, or Not to Linger?

Bernie Sanders is done. Cooked. Flambeed. Fricasseed. Idaho was his fifth best 2016 state. Yesterday he lost it. Washington was #6. If he manages a narrow escape, it’s only because many ballots were mailed in before his non-Biden opponents dropped out. He almost won Missouri last time. This time, he lost every county. As he did in Michigan, a state where he won 73 of 83 counties in 2016. I can go on, but you get the point. A candidate who lost by an average of 10 points nationwide in 2016 is performing worse in 2020.

If Joe Biden can get through Sunday’s debate with nothing worse than a minor stroke, he’ll win Arizona, Illinois, and Ohio next Tuesday, while decimating Bernie in Florida. Then on the 24th, Biden will prove more successful in Georgia than General Sherman. It’s questionable at this point whether Bernie can win any normal primary in any state where voters didn’t begin voting until March. Yes, he took North Dakota yesterday. A state that had 14 polling places. Total. Bernie’s 5 million most committed supporters are way more in to him than Biden’s top 5 million. If there were as many caucuses as four years ago, Sanders would still have nomination math against him, but would have several opportunities for victory.

So far, the only 2016 loss to 2020 win after South Carolina voted is California. Maine, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Idaho, Michigan, and probably Washington were wins that became defeats four years later. The remaining March contests are 2016 losses. Today, Sanders declared his intention to participate in the debate and see what happens on the 17th. At which point he’ll have another decision to make. Should next week go as expected, and should Bernie continue to linger, he’ll be making an unprecedented decision. Continue reading “To Linger, or Not to Linger?”

Heat Check: Who Lost Best?

We’re down to two. Plus Tulsi lol. A week ago, there were seven. A lot can happen in a few days. This seems like a good time to look back on the almost thirty candidates who are no longer with us and ask ourselves: Who Lost Best?

To answer, we need to think about what qualifies as a good defeat. I think there are two important measures.

First: Did the candidate improve their position. Are they a bigger deal because they did this? Do they have more opportunities in the political world, to cash in financially, or both? Are they better positioned for a cabinet job, another office, or to run in 2024 than if they’d sat this one out?

Second: Did they beat or fall short of expectations? Raise your hand if you thought Andrew Yang would start out-raising Kamala Harris and Beto O’Rourke.

Running for president is one of those things that you can only find out if someone can handle when they do it. No, it wasn’t self-evident that Pete Buttigieg was more ready than John Hickenlooper. You know someone is a good NFL quarterback when they play well as an NFL quarterback. A good classroom teacher is revealed when they’re good in front of a classroom. This is no different.

The Best Losers:

1. Andrew Yang

Quick. Name another person who nobody had ever heard of, had never held or even run for elective office, who both made a serious presidential run and left the race very well thought of. And then please tell me to close the gap in my knowledge. Your definition of serious might be different than mine, but the man raised $16 million from small donors in a single quarter. Yang qualified for all but one debate, and outpolled three quarters of the field. Continue reading “Heat Check: Who Lost Best?”

Super Tuesday Watch: Bernie vs. Bernie

Greetings, and happy Super Tuesday! As I type this, Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Minnesota, and Massachusetts are in Joe Biden’s column. Vermont, Colorado, and Utah are going to Bernie Sanders. Maine is separated by like three votes. Texas is showing a Sanders lead, but it’s still very much a toss-up. The biggest prize, California, just closed its polls (not counting the people who are still in line.) Bernie is a solid favorite there, though Biden might make it interesting.

We may not know everything. California won’t issue official results for days. But we know a lot. Enough to start taking a serious look at how 2020 Bernie stacks up against the 2016 version. Though the contours are a bit different, and we can’t be sure how long Elizabeth Warren or Mike Bloomberg, neither of whom are enjoying their evening, will stick around, this is mostly Bernie versus an establishment candidate. We’ve seen this show before. Is it likely to go any differently this time?

Three things are clearly different and three things are very similar. Let’s start with the new. On the bright side for Team Bern, his four years of effort in the Latino community, endorsement from AOC, and the absence of Hillary Clinton, who along with her husband, built deep ties over a quarter century, has brought the improvement he sought. I just saw a CNN exit poll that indicated Bernie led Biden 55/21 among Latino voters in California. That’s similar to his result in Nevada. Continue reading “Super Tuesday Watch: Bernie vs. Bernie”

Super Tuesday Update: CA, MA, MN, TX—Not So Fast

Yesterday, I innocently thought it was safe to start writing Super Tuesday previews. And posting them. First Pete Buttigieg said goodbye. Ok, update the first one, edit the second. Wait to do anything else. Then Amy Klobuchar exited. Both are endorsing Joe Biden tonight. Which means a good amount of what was said yesterday needs review.

Original MA, MN, VT Preview

Original CA, TX Preview

Let’s take a look:

California

My previous assumption was that Biden could not catch Bernie Sanders. There was a big polling gap, and even if Joe closed incredibly well, there were still too many early votes already in. While typing that, Buttigieg dropped out. But it still didn’t seem like enough. It did mean Biden would likely avoid an insurmountable delegate gap. With Klobuchar leaving, and both endorsing Biden, his odds improve further. Now we have yet another item to consider. A new survey from AtlasIntel has Bernie leading Biden 34-26.

On the surface, that squares with the idea that Biden won’t lose badly, but won’t catch up. And there’s another piece of bad news for him. Buttigieg was at 3% and Klobuchar 1%, so it’s not like picking up their voters would erase the whole deficit. The thing is, AtlasIntel has polled the last three states in the few days leading up to the vote. Here’s what happened if you compare the gap between Bernie/Biden: Continue reading “Super Tuesday Update: CA, MA, MN, TX—Not So Fast”