Rachel Siegel, Andrew Van Dam, and Laura Reiley of The Washington Post report on the largest rise in consumer prices in 30 years.
The growth in October prices reported Wednesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) was driven by soaring energy prices and ongoing supply chain backlogs, such as those in the used-car market. Gasoline prices are up 49.6 percent from a year earlier, and higher energy costs are pushing up the prices of just about every other good, economists say, pinching an already strained supply chain.
A surge that began in narrow sectors now appears to be spreading throughout the economy, with the BLS noting “broad-based” higher prices propelled by not just energy and used cars, but also by shelter, food and new vehicles. Prices for medical care, household furnishing and operations, and recreation all increased in October.
Overall prices rose 0.9 percent from September to October, tying June for the biggest one-month increase since the Great Recession. Only a few categories saw prices fall last month, including airfare and alcohol.
The data underscores how inflation has emerged as a controversial political and economic issue during the pandemic era. For years, inflation remained tamely below the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent annual target and off politicians’ radar. But the clash of supply chain backlogs, labor shortages, and ongoing uncertainty amid a public health crisis has turned inflation into a crucial test for policymakers and economists — and it’s unclear when that will change.
Stephen Collinson of CNN reports on yet more political storm clouds over the horizon for President Joe Biden because of inflation.
The White House has sometimes been slow to respond to flashing red political warnings -- for instance, over immigration. But there were clear signs of a shift in tone on Wednesday after officials spent months insisting that higher prices were merely a transitory byproduct of the pandemic. Biden first issued a statement saying he would work to bring prices down. Then in a trip to the Port of Baltimore to tout his newly passed bipartisan infrastructure bill, the President went out of the way to show he cared and understood the issue.
"Everything from a gallon of gas to a loaf of bread costs more, and it's worrisome," Biden said. "Many people remain unsettled about the economy and we all know why. They see higher prices, they go to the store or go online, they can't find what they always want and when they want it."
Referring to one of the big economic problems slowing the economy -- a clogged up supply chain -- the President did a good job in his speech explaining why a closed factory in Malaysia could make life more expensive in the US. But the political task ahead of him requires a relentless daily focus and repeated strong messaging that has not so far been a strength of the Biden White House.
Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post writes about the paradoxical nature of a speech Liz Cheney gave at a First Amendment Award ceremony at Saint Anselm College’s institute of Politics in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Given how few other elected Republicans are willing to take on the GOP, no one should be stingy in praising someone who displays the moral courage needed from her party. It is no easy thing to risk one’s career and the support of one’s “tribe” for principle.
Nevertheless, her remarks were flawed in two key respects. For starters, Cheney does such a good job of portraying Republicans as utterly unfit to hold power that one wonders why she wants voters to put them back in the House majority. “We need a Republican Party that is led by people who remember that the peaceful transfer of power is sacred,” she said. “We need Republican leaders who remember that fidelity to the Constitution, fidelity to the rule of law — those are the most conservative of conservative principles.”
Given that such a party does not presently exist and that those seeking to keep their seats have failed to live up to their constitutional obligation, dare we give them the reins of power? It’s a contradiction at the heart of her decision to remain a loyal Republican.
Peter Dreier writes for TalkingPointsMemo on the possible national implications of the results of municipal races across the country.
President Joe Biden’s declining approval rating — influenced in part by the Democrats’ inability to pass his popular legislative package because of opposition from Senators Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) — has been pegged by pundits as a clear factor in the race for governor in Virginia, where Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin prevailed in a state that went for Biden last year with 54 percent of the vote.
The national political climate also shaped municipal races across the country. Two issues — crime and housing — galvanized voters, but in opposite directions. Centrist Democrats typically ran on law-and-order rhetoric and attacked their opponents as proponents of “defund the police,” an unpopular idea among every income and racial group. Calls to reign in police abuses and reform the biased criminal justice system captured wider appeal. Progressives made headway on housing issues, as most cities have faced fast-rising rents and widespread evictions, symptoms of out-of-control gentrification and the hardships facing renters during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But Abdallah Fayyad of The Boston Globe wonders why we should pay much attention at all to the “national implications” of municipal elections.
Though there’s an apparent appeal for observers to cherry-pick elections to demonstrate what ought to succeed electorally, the reality is that there’s only so much someone can learn from Wu’s win. After all, Wu, like Adams, won in an off-year municipal election and with low voter turnout — hardly the kind of election that can give anyone a sense of what’s possible in the broader electorate.
That’s why pundits and party insiders should stop trying to nationalize a winning strategy for Democrats. What worked for Adams in New York would not have worked for Wu in Boston. (And it didn’t for her opponent, Annissa Essaibi George.)
It’s true that it’s difficult for Democrats to deliver a coherent message at the national level when the party is so ideologically diverse that someone as conservative as Joe Manchin caucuses alongside democratic socialists. And so it may be tempting to believe that less disagreement within the party and its candidates — specifically by avoiding bold positions on the more polarizing issues like policing — might win over voters in the middle. But that’s not how democracy works. Progressives like US Representatives Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota all won reelection in landslides last year, and they ought to keep fighting loudly for the voters who sent them to Congress, no matter how moderate some conservative Democrats think the overall electorate is. Indeed, when only one of the two major parties is at least trying to respect the rules of democracy, it’s especially important for that party to embrace its ideological diversity rather than suppress it.
The next two stories deal with the issue of elected officials working second jobs. First, Heather Stewart of the Guardian reports on BoJo the Clown’s speech in Glasgow saying that while it’s okay for MP’s to work second jobs and that some MP’s have always done so, that MP’s also need to “follow the rules.”
Amid a flurry of claims about MPs’ lucrative second jobs and whether they create conflicts of interest, Johnson said in many cases the public believed this outside work “has actually strengthened our democracy”. He said for a hundred years MPs had also worked as “doctors or lawyers or soldiers or firefighters”.
But Johnson stressed that if such second jobs were to continue, “it is crucial that MPs follow the rules” by devoting themselves primarily to their constituents and avoiding “paid advocacy”.
“Anybody who breaks the rules, who engages in paid advocacy in the House of Commons, should be punished,” he said.
Parliament’s standards committee found Paterson had committed an “egregious” breach of the rules by repeatedly lobbying the government on behalf of two companies paying him more than £100,000 a year.
I mean, what else can you say after the House of Commons damn near revolted because The Clown tried to change the rules regarding the political lobbying scandal of MP Owen Paterson? The scandal resulted in Paterson’s resignation.
On this side of the pond, there’s an almost identical issue in Philadelphia that’s at the center of the bribery and corruption trial of Councilmember Bobby Henon. The Editorial Board of The Philadelphia Inquirer has long held a policy that no member of the Philadelphia City Council should hold employment outside their public service jobs.
The charges against Henon center on outside employment with a local union in addition to his job on Council. Taken together, his and other high-profile cases make clear that in order to ensure public accountability and to prevent any potential conflicts of interest, it is essential that City Council prohibit its members from holding second jobs.
While it isn’t illegal for City Council members to have more than one employer, that doesn’t make it ethical, a position this board has long held. Three other Council members currently hold outside jobs: Councilmember Derek Green is “of counsel” at the politically influential Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel law firm, which describes him as a practicing attorney. Councilmember Brian O’Neill is a retired counsel with Fox Rothschild, another well-connected law firm. Councilmember Allan Domb has been a well-known businessman in the city for decades. In addition, Council members David Oh and Isaiah Thomas both have ownership stakes in local small businesses.
Henon’s situation is somewhat distinct, as the main responsibilities of his role with the city’s powerful electricians union seems to have primarily involved lobbying on its behalf with his fellow Council members and in other quarters of city government. This is odd, given that on past disclosure forms, Henon lists his position with the union as simply “electrician.”
The question on the floor: should any elected official hold any type of second jobs, given the opportunities for ethical abuse and/or corruption inherent?
(FTR, it’s difficult for me to look at some of the salaries of city councilmembers in that chart at The Philadelphia Inquirer link and not, at the very least, see the need for some to hold a second job in some municipalities.)
Don Calloway pens an op-ed for The Washington Post on the importance of the protests taking place at Howard University.
These protests are significant because HBCUs produce a lion’s share of Black leadership and therefore a substantial presence within American leadership at large. In 2000, Andrew Gillum led Florida A&M University students in a massive march on the Florida Capitol to protest then-Gov. Jeb Bush’s higher education budget cuts. In 2001, as a student leader at Alabama A&M University, I myself led discussions around campus transport and facility quality. In 1992, Stacey Abrams led her Spelman College sisters in a protest on the steps of the Georgia Capitol in which they burned the state flag. In 1969, Samuel L. Jackson was expelled from Morehouse College for locking the board of trustees, including Martin Luther King Sr., in a building for two days — holding them physically hostage — in a battle over student views that the curriculum was too conservative.
Not only did each of the above protests materially succeed at the time, but also those who participated have taken the spirit of organized protest for a righteous cause into our professional lives.
Regardless of the issue, protest provides HBCU students the opportunity to organize disparate groups around a common cause and to execute in service of that cause. The protests have all the elements of both classical and modern issue campaigns, including messaging, oratory, polling, constituent mobilizing, presenting before governing authority and consensus-building. These elements foster specialized skills that alumni take into courtrooms, boardrooms and civic organizations after graduation.
Paul Egan of the Detroit Free Press reports on a federal judge approving a $626.25 million settlement for Flint residents due to the water crisis.
A major selling point of the settlement is its focus on those most impacted by the lead poisoning: those who were children at the time and whose development could be most adversely affected by the toxin. Nearly 80% of the payments would go to those who were under 18 at the time of the crisis.
But many are unhappy that Flint adults are unlikely to get more than $1,000 individually, unless they can show specific injuries.
Former Flint Mayor Karen Weaver drew unfavorable comparisons between the Flint settlement, to be shared among about 50,000 residents who are predominantly people of color, and other recent settlements impacting mostly white communities. She pointed to: MSU's $500 million settlement with 332 women sexually abused by former sports doctor Larry Nassar; Penn State's $109 million settlement with about 40 men molested by former football coach Jerry Sandusky, and USC's $852 million settlement with about 710 women abused by a former campus gynecologist.
"I am here to tell you today that this is not justice for Flint," Weaver, who was mayor from 2015 to 2019, said at the July fairness hearing. "We will not settle for the crumbs that have been set before us."
Quin Zapoli, writing for the Michigan Daily, the student newspaper of The University of Michigan, says that if gerrymandering can’t outright be banned, then Democrats need to do some extreme gerrymanders in the states where they can do so.
Admittedly, gerrymandering in blue states is blatantly hypocritical, particularly while Democrats are decrying Republican gerrymandering efforts around the country. Continuing to abuse the redistricting process contradicts a critical part of the left’s voting rights agenda, too. Congressional Democrats have sponsored bills like H.R. 1, the For the People Act, which plainly bans gerrymandering. It would put all potential maps to an objective statistical test, striking any that give a party a statewide electoral advantage. The pared-down Freedom to Vote Act supported by the entirety of the Democratic caucus — even the stalwart centrists — contains similar measures to restrict gerrymandering. The Freedom to Vote Act has, unsurprisingly, stalled in the Senate. Democrats have offered to restrict gerrymandering through federal legislation, Republicans have refused to allow a vote, forcing Democrats to gerrymander or enter the 2022 midterms at a disadvantage.
Of course, banning gerrymandering need not be tied to any electoral reform. Gerrymandering is wildly unpopular: 93% of Americans see it as a problem in U.S. elections. If Democrats are serious about their desire to end gerrymandering and Republicans truly want to avoid increasingly gerrymandered blue states, a simple act of Congress should please both. But refusing to gerrymander in the few states they still can is a political stunt which, however noble, will only hamper Democrats’ ability to legislate in the remainder of Joe Biden’s presidency. If they are able to win enough seats they could pass H.R. 1 and ban partisan gerrymandering, something Congressional Republicans have not yet proposed. Yes, action in Illinois and New York represents escalated Democratic gerrymandering compared to ten years ago, but it is necessary to match Republican efforts across the country. Instead of moderate gerrymandering in dozens of states, Democrats’ only option is extreme gerrymandering in a few blue states. It is not needless partisanship as much as a necessary counterbalance.
I had no idea that polls had shown that gerrymanders was that unpopular and even if you limit yourself to the 67% saying that gerrymandering is a major problem, that still meets the definition of “wildly unpopular.”
Jeffrey Barg, The Grammarian, writes for The Philadelphia Inquirer and muses on the eventual fate of the word “meta.”
There’s a slightly newer word, meta, that is commonly mishandled, overused, and abused. It’s a stupid prefix-turned-standalone-word, rarely functioning on its own without an adverb (as in, “That’s so meta”). Now that Facebook has rebranded its parent company as Meta, could meta face the same fate as face book?
One can hope. But first, a look at history.
The Oxford English Dictionary pins the first citation of face book to 1974, in The Daily Princetonian. The end of the 20th century saw face books proliferate, but after the website Facebook arrived in 2004, it obliterated the lowercase face book. Today’s college first-years wouldn’t know what a physical face book is. The OED notes that lowercase face book’s usage is now among words that are “almost exclusively terms which are not part of normal discourse and would be unknown to most people.” A few of the most common (and most fabulous) words it puts in this category: absterge, ennead, scintillometer.
In other words, face book is dead. Long live Facebook.
Finally, Tom Palaima and Al Martinich write for USA Today, asking that on this Veterans Day, we all try to walk a mile in a veteran’s shoes.
This Veterans Day, we are not involved in a major war for the first time in two decades. We should give thanks. But we also should take care to internalize what veterans who live and work among us have gone through and continue to go through.
It’s unfortunate that we have not done what Iraq War veteran Phil Klay urged us to do seven years ago – to use our experiences of suffering to feel what service members have experienced.
All of us have suffered in our own lives. Our trauma may not be as deep or wide as those of veterans who have experienced the pain of soldiers and civilians harmed in war. But, as Klay emphasized, we can imagine and extrapolate from our own suffering to get a sense of what veterans endured.
If we take in what veterans are saying and how they say it, we can develop empathy through our common humanity. To deny that we can understand what they went through is to insulate ourselves from their suffering.
Everyone have a great day!