Trump trade war claims more victims: GOP candidates

Voters casting ballots in November 2018 in Carmel, Indiana. While the GOP incumbent, Rep. Susan Brooks, won reelection that day, she is choosing to retire rather than face voters again next year.

Donald Trump’s trade war with China is piling up a quite a list of people who have lost jobs, livelihoods, and sometimes their homes: farmers, autoworkers, and factory employees. Now you can add Republican politicians to the list.

An academic paper from Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business aims to answer the question, Did Trump’s Trade War Impact the 2018 Election? The authors of the paper, all economists and two of whom are Dartmouth faculty, conclude: No fewer than five Republican House candidates in competitive districts lost races in 2018 specifically because of Trump’s imposition of tariffs and how those tariffs affected the voters in those districts. Even worse for Republicans, concern over health care may have cost the GOP eight House seats. As one of study’s authors told NPR:

“It was all pain and no gain,” said Emily Blanchard, an economist at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business. “And we were sort of surprised by this.”

Blanchard and her fellow researchers found that the hit to Republicans was strongest in the most competitive districts, where opposition to the trade war rivaled health care as a politically powerful issue.

“If you’re in a close district, this is a little note to wake up and smell the coffee and maybe be worried about some of these pocketbook issues,” Blanchard said.

The study’s authors spell out their ideas in the paper’s abstract:

We find that Republican candidates lost support in the 2018 congressional election in counties more exposed to trade retaliation, but saw no commensurate electoral gains from US tariff protection. The electoral losses were driven by retaliatory tariffs on agricultural products, and were only partially mitigated by the US agricultural subsidies announced in summer 2018. Republicans also fared worse in counties that had seen recent gains in health insurance coverage, affirming the importance of health care as an election issue.

Imagine that. Trump screws over some of his base voters by starting a trade war with China. He imposes tariffs on $50 billion in imports from China. China retaliates by imposing their own tariffs of $50 billion on U.S. imports, agricultural products such as soybeans, and those farmers lose — likely permanently — nearly all of their biggest market. The retaliatory tariffs on both sides have only gone up from there. Meanwhile, farm bankruptcies are up 24 percent this year over 2018, and the total farm debt for 2019 is expected to hit a record high of $416 billion, with net farm income projected to be down 29 percent.

Trump still has much support in farm country. Before the midterm elections, an October 2018 poll showed that he was still supported by 62 percent of farmers. Yet by August 2019, Trump’s approval rating was nine points underwater in Iowa.

Farmers tend to vote Republican, and most still will. But for some, it could be the case that personal economics trumps party loyalty.

Even though farmers received $28 billion in agricultural subsidies over the last two years (more than twice the amount of the 2009 auto bailout of Detroit’s Big 3 automakers), the subsidy payments (SOCIALISM!) didn’t match the amount of income lost. Agriculture Dept. officials now say that a third round of agriculture subsidies is inevitable, no doubt to keep courting the farm vote.

As an Illinois farmer told Bloomberg Businessweek in September at a farm show attended by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue:

“The aid package that has come in is a relief, and it softens the landing, but it’s not a solution, it’s a Band-Aid,” says Stan Born, a farmer who attended the event. When asked if the payments make him whole, Born, who grows 500 acres of soybeans near Decatur, responds, “Of course not.” He’d rather have free trade, he says.

They’d rather sell their crops. At least some of those voters decided in 2018 that they didn’t want to vote for Republicans because of Trump’s trade war, and it was enough to tip those races to Democrats.

The swing districts in the Dartmouth study were identified as congressional districts where Trump won between 40 and 60 percent of the vote in 2016. The researchers used two constructs: the “tariff shock,” defined as a county’s average per-worker exposure to the increase in U.S. tariffs on imports, and the “retaliatory tariff shock,” defined as the corresponding per-worker exposure to the retaliatory tariffs against U.S. exports.

Quantitatively, our regression estimates suggest that the trade war can account for roughly one-tenth of the observed nation-wide decline in Republican House candidates’ vote share between 2016 and 2018. In comparison, the role of health care policy accounts for about one-fifth of the decline in Republican support at the national level. Focusing on politically competitive counties, the estimated effect of retaliatory tariffs is substantially stronger and quantitatively commensurate to that of health care, with each force large enough to account for one-quarter of the decline in Republican support in these counties. The trade war and health care thus appear to have hurt Republican candidates where swing voters matter most.

Every time Trump faces a bad news cycle (lately, that’s most days), he tries to change the subject by promising that his team “almost” has a new trade deal with China. The trouble is, he’s been making these claims ever since he started the trade war, and that trade deal is no closer than it was when he and Chinese President Xi Jinping shared their beautiful chocolate cake at Mar-a-Lago in April 2017, or when the first tariffs were announced in January 2018.

Trump recently gave a speech to the Economic Club in New York, and once again he claimed the two sides were “close,” but he had no deal to announce. As the NPR story put it:

“A significant phase-one deal with China could happen — could happen soon,” he said. “But we will only accept a deal if it’s good for the United States and our workers and our great companies.”

Every time Trump offers such a trade tease, the markets react positively. Then, when the bubble bursts when no such deal surfaces, the markets sink again.

The Dartmouth study showed a loss of only five seats because of the trade war and eight over health care, but a loss is a loss, and losses add up to winning or losing control of both Houses of Congress — and the White House. Today’s Democratic candidates, whether running for a House seat, a Senate seat, the presidency, or any state office, would be smart to campaign on Trump’s trade war and health care and not write off voters whom they consider beyond reach. As the Bloomberg Businessweek story points out:

Any waning of rural America’s enthusiasm for Trump could doom the reelection of a president who eked out his 2016 victory with a combined margin of fewer than 80,000 votes in three traditionally Democratic-leaning states.

Because if just enough of those voters change their minds, that could mean a victory for Democrats next November.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Nov. 17, 2019.

A new president will rejoin the Paris climate pact, but that’s not nearly enough

Before it was adopted, demonstrators demanded passage of the climate accord.

As promised, climate denier Donald Trump has made it official — on the first day he legally could, his administration declared that it wanted out of the landmark climate agreement adopted nearly four years ago.

After campaigning that climate change was a “hoax,” Trump announced in June 2017 that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, spewing nonsense about how the pact would hurt U.S. businesses and cost taxpayers too much money, charges that have been widely debunked. Luckily for us and for the rest of the world, the actual withdrawal can’t go into effect until the day after the 2020 election, and every single Democratic presidential hopeful has promised to rejoin the agreement as soon as he or she is inaugurated. Many of those Democratic candidates have climate action plans that would go much further in lowering greenhouse gas emissions than the original U.S. pledge, which was to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 26 percent of its 2005 levels by 2025.

At the Paris COP21 meeting in late 2015, 195 countries promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit global temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels while trying to further limit that increase to 1.5 degrees. The agreement, which formally went into effect in November 2016, is a roadmap of actions that each country promised to take to fight global warming. A few more countries were late signers—even Syria, meaning that virtually every country in the world signed on. Until now.

Only one — the United States — has now announced its intention to renege on the deal. So in addition to trying to undo all of the Obama-era climate protections, Trump has found another way to isolate the U.S. and damage the environment at the same time.

The Paris Climate Agreement was never going to stop or reverse global warming on its own. As soon as the agreement was announced, environmental leaders complained that it didn’t go nearly far enough. As founder Bill McKibben wrote in a 2015 opinion piece in The New York Times: “We need to build the movement even bigger in the coming years, so that the Paris agreement turns into a floor and not a ceiling for action.” But the fact that all countries signed on for the first time was more than symbolic — it was a new beginning and a point on which countries could build.

So what should be the next step, once the U.S. rejoins the climate agreement? Whatever it is, it won’t be enough without drastic action, and it will take more than one simple step.

A pact that was aspirational and nonbinding was bound to produce disappointments. Progress on climate action has been too slow, and countries aren’t meeting the goals set at the meeting.

A piece in The American Prospect points out that no G7 country is on track to meet its promised actions.

The U.S. will not be the only country letting down the planet. Among the world’s largest and most advanced economies, not a single country will achieve the mission of the Paris Agreement to prevent more than 1.5 degrees of warming by the end of the century.

In other words, if you want to know why young people around the world have taken to the streets by the millions, desperate for a commensurate response to the climate emergency, it’s because only one government in the world (Morocco) has properly stepped up to this point.

So industrialized countries are falling short. Here in the U.S., 24 governors, mostly Democrats, are telling the world that they still want to uphold the pact.

The governors, representing more than half the U.S. population (not hard, when two of the states they govern are California and New York), are part of the U.S. Climate Alliance. The alliance originally had 12 members and is now up to nearly half the states and Puerto Rico, now that there are more Democratic governors. Just one more example of why elections have consequences: With its unified Democratic executive and legislative branches, Virginia is now poised to start passing more aggressive climate legislation, such as boosting renewable energy.

A statement from the Climate Alliance criticizing Trump’s action outlined some of the steps those states already are taking:

Since launching the Climate Alliance, our states have adopted or strengthened 29 greenhouse gas reduction targets and ramped up zero-carbon power generation, with 19 states now enacting or pursuing goals for 100 percent carbon-free or clean power by 2030 or later. We are reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and saving residents money by transitioning to low- and zero-emissions vehicles, transportation systems, buildings, and appliances. We also are growing a clean energy economy and creating high quality jobs, enhancing our natural and working lands, and strengthening community resilience.

All of these actions, on a state and federal level, cost money. When Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the pact, thus not fulfilling the promises made by President Obama to help other countries financially to meet their goals, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg volunteered to foot the bill. He has pledged to cover $15 million of those costs.

Some countries are showing how to achieve measured successes. Their progress isn’t perfect, and many more drastic actions are needed to avoid the catastrophic effects of climate inaction. And for all these advances, these countries still have policies that produce serious environmental problems. Here are a few examples, according to a report from Phys.Org.

India. India, with its population of 1.4 billion people, has been one of the world’s main polluters and is third in greenhouse gas emissions. Yet mainly by embracing solar energy, it is on track to fulfill its pledge to the Paris climate accord.

In 2010, the country established the National Solar Mission, which set out to add 20 gigawatts of solar capacity by 2022. The country surpassed that goal back in 2018 and is now set to exceed its Paris pledge to supply 40% of the nation’s energy needs with non-fossil-fuel power by 2030. …

Plummeting prices for solar panels have greased the wheels, as has the low cost of labor in India. The government also helped by auctioning off contracts, creating competition among developers. These factors have combined to make India’s solar power the cheapest in the world.

India has more work to do, experts say. Most of its electricity still comes from coal-fired plants, and the country continues to commission new ones, albeit fewer than it planned a few years ago, before the solar explosion. But observers say it is a model for incentivizing the rapid spread of renewables.

Norway. Besides its commitment to lowering emissions by 40 percent, Norway has undertaken an aggressive effort to clean up its transportation sector.

As of 2017, electric cars and plug-in hybrids accounted for half of the new cars sold in the country. And in March of this year, electric cars alone made up almost 60% of new car sales. By 2025, the government wants that number to be 100%. …

The government provides generous incentives for electric vehicles, such as waiving some of its famously high taxes and providing owners with plenty of perks, like electric-only parking lots in cities. Norway has also invested in vehicle charging infrastructure and supplies most of its electricity with clean hydropower.

Yet Norway’s biggest export is the oil it produces from its offshore pumps in the North Sea, with an average production of 2 million barrels per day. It’s one reason that environmental groups such as Greenpeace are suing to try to stop the country from drilling for Arctic oil. So far, the environmentalists haven’t gotten too far.

Switzerland. Switzerland is one of the few countries to adopt a carbon tax or levy, as the Swiss call it, first imposed in 2008. As of 2018, it charged $96 per ton of carbon dioxide.

Most of the carbon tax revenue — which totals $300 million — is returned to citizens, including as subsidies to workers in industries that are negatively affected by climate policies. About a third goes to improving the efficiency of buildings and to R&D for clean technologies. …

Switzerland has other tools in its toolbox, including a trading scheme that allows polluters to pay others to cut their greenhouse gas emissions if they can do so less expensively. The country also boasts an enviable public transportation network.

Swiss officials admit that the carbon taxes alone haven’t driven emissions down to where they need to be: The Swiss are not on track to meet their Paris pledge to reduce emissions to achieve a 50 percent emissions reduction by 2030.

Other countries have success stories, too. Next year, Italy will become the first country to require children to study climate change and sustainable development. “I want to make the Italian education system the first education system that puts the environment and society at the core of everything we learn in school,” Education Minister Lorenzo Fioramonti told Reuters.

The Paris Climate Agreement requires countries around the world to keep making future commitments and report on how they are meeting their pledges. Let’s hope pressure from climate activists such as Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg will convince the world’s officials to take their roles a lot more seriously.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Nov. 10, 2019.

How bad are the GOP’s election chances in 2020?

When Republicans are forced to resort to frat-boy, panty-raid antics to distract from impeachment, you know they’re in trouble.

Political prognosticators have been sounding the 2020 doom-and-gloom alarm for the Grandstanding Obsequious Party for a while now. And although any speculation at this point is just that — speculation — there is evidence that Republicans might face trouble up and down the ballot.

One of the traditional barometers for a party’s chances in the next election is to add up how many incumbent senators and representatives are calling it quits. Right now, those numbers stand at four incumbent GOP senators — Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Pat Roberts of Kansas, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, and Mike Enzi of Wyoming — and 18 incumbent GOP representatives bailing out on the chance for another term. Especially in the House of Representatives, being in the minority isn’t much fun. The GOP retirees include six in Texas alone and two of the already minuscule number of 13 GOP women in the House, Susan Brooks of Indiana and Martha Roby of Alabama.

On the Democratic side, the numbers are much smaller: five House Democrats, including California Rep. Katie Hill, who resigned, and one Democratic senator—Tom Udall of New Mexico—are leaving.

One of the planned GOP retirees, 12-term incumbent John Shimkus of Illinois briefly toyed with the idea of reconsidering his decision. The announced retirement of Greg Walden of Oregon would give Shimkus a chance at the top spot on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “I liken it to a triple-A ballplayer who gets the chance to get called up,” he told Roll Call.

Here’s the trouble for Shimkus, though, which is why he gave up the back-and-forth idea of sticking around. When he thought he was retiring, he was perfectly happy to disown Donald Trump, condemning Trump’s Syria strategy and telling his chief of staff in Washington to “Pull my name off the ‘I support Donald Trump’ list,” as he told an St. Louis-area radio station. Now that he might be back in the race, he’s forced to reboard the Trump train.

In almost the same breath, Shimkus began to walk back some of his recent comments criticizing President Donald Trump, stressing that, while he might have a “policy difference or two” with the president, there are many more issues on which their views align.

The about-face demonstrates the difficulty Republicans in solid red districts have had voicing opposition to Trump. Shimkus’ district, Illinois’ 15th, voted for Trump by 46 points in 2016.

And there’s the problem for Republicans running for reelection: They’ve got a 239-pound (HA!) orange albatross around their necks.

The headlines are chock full of bad predictions for Republicans, up and down the ticket, and Donald Trump is to blame.

From Paul Waldman of The Washington Post: How a small number of GOP defections could doom Trump in 2020. The opinion piece describes possible cracks in the GOP Senate wall. Seven Republicans, including three retirees and two incumbents facing tough reelection fights, refused to sign on to the inane impeachment-is-illegitimate resolution from South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, Trump’s ass-kisser-in-chief. (Graham’s likely Democratic opponent, Jamie Harrison, is raising enough money so that 2020 might be a real race for the incumbent.)

Here’s why even a few defections matter.

You don’t need a large number of Republicans to oppose Trump to have a profound impact on the 2020 election. All you need is some kind of critical mass, enough to signal to moderate Republican voters that you can still be a Republican and vote for a Democrat in 2020, or vote third party, or not vote at all.

Even if the Senate refuses to remove Trump from office after he’s impeached, any GOP votes to get rid of the Orange Menace would generate “Republicans Divided!” headlines, Walden argues.

The result would be a good-sized collection of Republican candidates opposing Trump all over the country — enough to signal Republicans everywhere that defection from this president is not treason against their party.

And that would almost guarantee Trump’s defeat.

Yeah, that’s wishful thinking. But those predictions are growing.

From Politico: Why Republicans should be worried about their chances of retaking the House. This argument is all about money, and how Democratic incumbents have a lot of it.

Thirty-three of the 44 most vulnerable House Democrats have stashed an impressive $1 million or more in the bank well before the election year even begins. …

“Last cycle, there were a lot of people talking about this massive Democratic online fundraising as if it was somewhat of an aberration,” said Cam Savage, a veteran GOP operative. “I think it’s the new normal.” …

Democrats have undoubtedly amassed a head start in a battle that will be waged in suburban districts that lie in the most expensive media markets in the country.

The story goes on to argue that Republicans are counting on an impeachment backlash. Good luck with that strategy. Here’s the difference in online fundraising for the two parties:

Republicans have been working quickly to launch WinRed, their online donor portal, which raised $30 million last quarter. But operatives admit it could take years or even cycles before it can match ActBlue, which funneled $297 million to Democratic candidates in the third quarter.

From Axios: The GOP’s nightmare scenario. More and more Republicans are afraid of losing the whole trifecta, so goes the logic. The signs show up in polling, fundraising, and dismal approval ratings for Trump. The six Texas retirements are even being described as a “Texodus.”

A growing number of Republicans are privately warning of increasing fears of a total wipeout in 2020: House, Senate, and White House. …

Scott Reed, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce senior political strategist, tells me that third-quarter fundraising reports showing three Republican senators being out-raised by Democratic challengers (in Arizona, Iowa, and Maine) “are a three-alarm fire.” …

“We have to spend early because the climate stinks,” Reed said. “All these incumbent senators have terrible job approvals and terrible favorables.”

From Chris Cillizza of CNN: Here’s how you know Republicans don’t think they are winning back the House in 2020. I know, I know, it’s Chris Cillizza, but he has a good point about Greg Walden’s retirement in Oregon.

There is NO way — short of some sort of medical diagnosis — that if Walden truly believed Republicans were taking back the House in a year, he’d be voluntarily walking away from the chance at being a hugely powerful chairman for the following two years. No way. Just not how Washington works. …

While the economy is perceived as strong and Republicans need a relatively small number of seats to get back the majority (18-seat net gain), Trump’s weak job approval rating and wild unpredictability have combined to create a national political dynamic that appears to favor Democrats.

We’ve still got a year until the 2020 election, and after 2016, we should take any electoral predictions with Mount Everest-size mountains of salt. Republicans in many states are still trying to put up voter suppression roadblocks such as closing polling places in predominantly Democratic districts, trying new gerrymandering strategies, shortening early voting days, and removing voters from voting rolls.

Still, FiveThirtyEight’s generic congressional ballot tracker has consistently given Democrats about a six-point advantage. Trump’s approval ratings have been underwater forever, and in current match-ups, he loses to several Democratic contenders. If the 2018 midterm election results are any indication, there are an awful lot of Democratic voters itching to cast their ballots for Team Blue.

But voters in both parties are showing high levels of enthusiasm about 2020. There is an equal level of enthusiasm in voters itching to vote for and against Trump. Races will be close, and many races seen as cut and dry could turn into nail-biters.

So the usual caveats are more important than ever: Register new voters. Make sure your friends, coworkers, and relatives vote. Help out campaigns by donating and volunteering. Knock on doors, write postcards, and make phone calls. And VOTE.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Nov. 3, 2019.

One year after Tree of Life shooting, U.S. Jews fear rising anti-Semitism

A memorial outside the Pittsburgh synagogue honoring some of the victims.

One year ago, a white supremacist gunman shot and killed 11 worshipers in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in the deadliest single attack on Jewish Americans. The U.S. Jewish community is still feeling the effects of that tragedy in multiple ways, through both anxiety and actual attacks.

The Pittsburgh mass shooting occurred during Saturday morning Shabbat services at the synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood, where three congregations shared the same building. The shooter, Robert Bowers, had a history of posting anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant sentiments on extreme right-wing websites. Shortly before the attack, he posted on the right-wing website Gab, “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”

Bowers kept shooting for 20 minutes, armed with an AR-15 semiautomatic assault-style rifle and three semi-automatic pistols, all of which he used to shoot at worshipers at services in the basement and in an upstairs chapel. At one point in the shooting, according to police, Bowers shouted, “All Jews must die!” He wounded three police officers as they exchanged fire before he finally surrendered. In all, Bowers was charged with 63 federal crimes, including hate crimes, and 36 state crimes. He pleaded not guilty and is now asking for a plea deal in exchange for a life sentence.

On the six-month anniversary of the Tree of Life mass shooting, a white supremacist gunman opened fire at the Chabad of Poway synagogue in Poway, California, on the last day of Passover, killing one worshipper and wounding several others. That shooter, John T. Earnest, was armed with an AR-15 semiautomatic assault-style rife. After the attack, he called 911 and told the operator that “Jewish people are trying to destroy all white people.” Earnest was charged with murder, attempted murder, and hate crimes. He pleaded not guilty and faces trial.

Since the Pittsburgh attack, according to a report by the Anti-Defamation League, at least 12 white supremacists have been arrested for alleged roles in terrorist plots, attacks, or threats against the U.S. Jewish community. But that’s just the beginning.

According to the ADL report:

Since October 27, 2018, white supremacists have targeted Jewish institutions’ property on at least 50 occasions. From the Poway synagogue attack to a religious service interrupted by shouts of “Heil Hitler,” white supremacists have presented very real threats to Jews across the country. This includes 12 instances of vandalism using white supremacist symbols and 35 distributions of white supremacist propaganda, according to ADL Center on Extremism research. Four days after the Tree of Life attack, a synagogue in California was defaced with obscene anti-Semitic slurs. In November 2018, a New York synagogue was vandalized with the phrase “Jews Better Be Ready,” and references to Hitler.

White supremacists have also demonstrated outside AIPAC offices and Israeli consulates, and even disrupted a Holocaust remembrance event in Arkansas by waving swastika flags, holding anti-Semitic posters and shouting anti-Semitic slurs and phrases, including, “Six million more.”

The American Jewish Committee conducted a survey that examines how American Jews perceive anti-Semitism a year after the Tree of Life massacre. The survey showed that 84 percent of Jews think that anti-Semitism has risen in the last five years. Some details from the survey, according to a story in The Washington Post:

  • One in five American Jews said they had been the target of anti-Semitic remarks online in the past five years.
  • 23% said they had been targeted by anti-Semitic comments in person or through mail or phone.
  • 25% said they avoid certain places, events, or situations out of concern for their “safety or comfort as a Jew.”
  • One-third said they are affiliated with a Jewish institution that has been the target of vandalism, threats, or attacks.
  • 2% said they had been the victim of physical attacks because they are Jewish.

And one in three Jews avoids wearing clothing or jewelry, such as a yarmulke or Star of David necklace, that would identify them as Jewish and thus leave them vulnerable to attack, the study added.

“It’s been a rough year, and it’s been an eye-opening and awakening year,” said David Harris, CEO of the American Jewish Committee. “Perhaps there was a time when some Jewish institutions … felt somehow more or less insulated from [anti-Semitic attacks]. The fact that the attacks took place in Pittsburgh and Poway triggered a feeling that we’re all at risk everywhere, equally — it can happen anywhere.”

One area of the country where those fears have come true is in New York City. The city’s police department says that more than half of the hate crimes reported in New York so far in 2019 are anti-Semitic. According to a story on CNN:

The incidents reported are mostly acts of vandalism, with graffiti or swastikas being scrawled on places that include synagogues, according to New York City Chief of Detective Dermot Shea. …

As a whole, anti-Semitic hate crimes in New York City are up 63% this year as compared with last year, officials said.

But it’s not just New York City, and it’s not just acts of vandalism. Preliminary data from the report from the ADL Center on Extremism shows that a total of 780 anti-Semitic incidents were recorded in the first six months of 2019.

Social media also poses a way to spread anti-Semitism. The right-wing sites that are home to white supremacy serve as a breeding ground for more hate crimes. The Poway synagogue shooter said he was inspired by both the Pittsburgh attack and the mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, where a gunman killed 51 people in March.

It’s not just far-right websites that offer platforms for hate. Other ADL data show that 4.2 million anti-Semitic tweets were posted and retweeted on Twitter during a one-year period from 2017 to 2018.

Synagogues have been forced to take extra steps for safety. As The Washington Post story reported:

The Secure Community Network, which helps synagogues protect their buildings and members, said in a statement that it received about 500 requests for assistance from Jewish groups in the year before the Pittsburgh shooting. This year, it has received about 2,000 requests.

Most of the Tree of Life Synagogue victims were elderly. They went to their regular Saturday morning Shabbat service and had no idea it would be their last.

One regular worshipper was four minutes late — four minutes that saved his life. Judah Samet, a Hungarian-born 81-year-old and a longtime member of the synagogue, lived for 10 months in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp during World War II “and was just a stopped train ride away from Auschwitz,” according to a story in USA Today. When he realized what was happening, he stayed in his car, and he saw the shooter “with a large, black gun.”

The first thing that came to Samet’s mind after the shooting: his time at a concentration camp. “It never ends. That was my thought.”

No one should have to live through that kind of horror twice.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Oct. 27, 2019.

Manufacturing slump undercuts Trump claims of economic strength

The massive GM assembly plants in Lordstown, Ohio, shut down in March after 52 years, leaving thousands of autoworkers unemployed.

Of all the ridiculous arguments Donald Trump makes for his reelection, perhaps none is repeated more often than his claim that the U.S. economy is “the greatest economy in the history of our country.”

The claim is gibberish, of course, which is why the claim (or some variation thereof) continually rates three out of four Pinocchios from The Washington Post. And one of the reasons why the claim is wrong is that the nation’s manufacturing sector is on a downward spiral.

The Institute of Supply Management’s manufacturing index dropped to 47.8 in September, down from 49.1 the previous month, the lowest number in more than a decade. Any number above 50 indicates manufacturing expansion. A number below 50 indicates that manufacturing is in recession territory.

Companies are blaming the slowdown on Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods, which have escalated into a full-blown trade war with China as that country retaliates with tariffs of its own. According to a story from The Washington Post:

Manufacturing fell into a technical recession in the first half of the year, and the latest ISM data indicates the situation appears to be getting worse.

Concerns are rising that the contraction in manufacturing could spill over into the rest of the U.S. economy.

Even worse than a technical number from the index, numbers for manufacturing employment, new orders, backlogs, and production all fell in the Institute of Supply Management report. Because of Trump’s tariffs, parts cost more, so companies are ordering fewer of them, which also affects suppliers. In some cases, manufacturers worried about the future are laying off employees. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the manufacturing unemployment rate went up six-tenths of a percentage point just since June, and the manufacturing sector lost 2,000 jobs in September. The official September numbers from BLS showed that U.S. employers added only 136,000 jobs.

And guess where manufacturing job numbers are bad? In Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, three states Trump won narrowly in 2016. Losses in those three states could very well tip the election to a Democratic challenger in 2020.

A Bloomberg opinion piece points out that Trump’s trade policies are hurting both the farming and manufacturing sectors. A 2016 manufacturing recession may have contributed to Trump’s slim win in those three states that Democrats were counting on as a “blue wall.”

Manufacturing is still a major employer in those states — think steel and automobiles — and there have been layoffs as manufacturing has weakened. Even though Trump ran in 2016 promising to revive the country’s manufacturing sector, that promise sounds more hollow as time goes on.

Manufacturing employment growth in Wisconsin and Michigan has already fallen below the 2015 rate. Pennsylvania is dangerously close. At best, this makes it difficult for Trump to claim that his policies have led to a revival. At worst, it suggests that his policies have backfired.

Trump could conceivably turn the situation around, but at this point it’s hard to see how. Even if he announced an official end to the trade war tomorrow, it would be months before farmers and businesses could be confident that he was serious. After that, there would be yet more delays before equipment orders rebounded, and still more before a rise in manufacturing employment.

The 2016 manufacturing recession likely convinced some Trump voters that he would be an economic savior and save their jobs. “Now Trump has to campaign against a similarly weak backdrop,” the Washington Post story says.

Manufacturing accounts for about one-tenth of the U.S. economy, making it less of a barometer of what’s ahead of the U.S. economy than it once was. But most analysts agree that what’s happening to manufacturing is evidence Trump’s tariffs are doing real harm to the U.S. economy and is a warning sign for what could happen to other industries, especially as the tariffs expand by the end of the year onto nearly all Chinese products.

“We have now tariffed our way into a manufacturing recession in the U.S. and globally. What’s the strategy now? It better be more than the Chinese buying more soybeans,” said Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group, in an email.

Many factors affect a manufacturing recession, of course, including the global economy. In addition to concerns about trade wars with China, indicators in Europe also are pointing in the wrong direction. A joint forecast from several of Germany’s leading economic institutes sharply downgrades predictions for that country’s economy. Add to that the uncertainty about what will happen to the economy of European countries when the United Kingdom leaves the European Union — whether it’s a no-deal Brexit or not — and the economic future looks even bleaker.

But Trump’s tariffs have screwed U.S. manufacturers more than anything else. While the tariffs initially helped the steel industry, that bump was short-lived, and now some steel plants are closing.

A story from Markets Insider explains how this slowdown is Trump’s doing:

While US manufacturing has faced separate challenges, including a broader slowdown abroad, economists said a drop in demand for new orders showed how the sector has been directly affected by trade policy.

“The continued decline in new export orders suggests that the trade war is an important source of the ongoing slowdown in the manufacturing sector,” said Torsten Slok, the chief economist at Deutsche Bank Securities.

By effectively taxing American importers, tariffs on Chinese products have disrupted global supply chains and threatened to upend trading relationships that have been built over a span of decades. Domestic jobs have been put increasingly at risk as heightened costs and uncertainty weigh on the outlook.

Trump continues to spout nonsense on how the manufacturing slump should somehow be blamed on the Federal Reserve, because … I don’t know, something to do with interest rates?

Three out of four economists surveyed by the National Association of Business Economics are predicting a recession by 2021, if not sooner, perhaps even before the 2020 election. When you add the record number of bankruptcies for Midwest farmers, the higher prices U.S. consumers will pay for goods because of Trump’s new round of tariffs, and a prediction from Agricultural Secretary Sonny Perdue that small dairy farms might not survive, remember to take Trump’s words on how great the economy is doing with mountains of salt.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Oct. 13, 2019.

Political murder is headed to the cradle of democracy

The ancient sites may be fragile, but they still have much to teach us. We’re off to Greece to see the wonders of the Parthenon, the Temple of Apollo, the site of the first Olympic Games, and more. Maybe the Oracle of Delphi will give us a hint on who’s going to win the 2020 election.

So you’ll see only a few new posts at this site. But I’ll try to update the Political murder of the day every day (unless we’re drinking too much ouzo or we’re out of Wi-Fi range), so check out who died on this day in history by clicking the link above.

If you missed some posts from the past, click on Complete list of posts. You can revisit past opinions on the still-relevant news of the day. We have several about impeachment, such as Trump impeachment is now all but certain. Gun violence and mass shootings are still rampant, so you have to wonder: How many voters are Republicans willing to lose over guns? With the 2020 election just over a year away, Republicans want more GOP women in office. Good luck with that. Of course, the media started its sexist coverage early. ‘Democrats must nominate a white guy in 2020.’ Oh, really? And here’s a look at why the media can’t seem to get enough of Trumpland: 6 reasons for media’s obsession with Trump voters. While we’re at it, here are Six rules for the media on how to cover the 2020 election.

Of course, it’s not all bad news. Swedish teenager and climate activist Greta Thunberg has inspired a worldwide climate action movement. #ClimateStrike: Thanks to Greta Thunberg, the kids are all right. But the reason for her urgency is well-founded: #ClimateChange report states the obvious: Time is running out.

Finally, don’t forget about reading both books in the political murder series. The Political Blogging Murder, a funny mystery set at a Netroots Nation-type of convention, and Off With His Talking Head, in which murder infiltrates the world of Sunday morning talk shows, are both available at this site for a mere $2.99. You can read the initial chapters of both books by clicking the Book excerpts link above. Or check out how to order the books in a variety of electronic formats by clicking the Books: How to order link above.

So, go ahead. Read. We’ll be back with a new post later in October.

Impeachment support grows in polls. How’s it playing back home?

Voters are more ready than Trump realizes.

We can see how the arrow of public opinion is moving in favor of the impeachment — and even the removal — of Donald Trump. At the same time, there are doom-and-gloom stories warning Democrats, especially those in swing congressional districts that flipped from red to blue in 2018, that impeaching Trump will be done at Democrats’ peril.

Except for some on the House Intelligence Committee, many of the nation’s lawmakers are home on congressional recess to take the pulse of their districts in town hall meetings. While they’re bound to hear a mix of opinions, many of those representatives say constituents who are weighing in so far are paying attention, and that they like what they’re hearing from Democrats.

Various polls show increased support across the board for the impeachment inquiry, impeachment itself, and removing Trump from office. That’s not a surprise when the details of the impeachment argument are clear and easy to understand: On a call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump asked Zelensky for a “favor” — to smear Joe Biden, his possible Democratic rival in the 2020 election.

Support still breaks down mostly along partisan lines, and the inquiry itself receives more backing than removal. But a CNN poll showed growing support from Republicans, independents, and younger voters. From a story about the CNN poll:

The shift has also come notably among younger Americans. Sixty percent of those under age 35 now say they support impeaching Trump and removing him from office, up from 43% who felt that way in May, while support for the move among older Americans has held about even (42% now vs. 40% in May). Previous CNN polling on impeachment has not found such a stark gap by age.

And that shift is concentrated on the GOP side. Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents under age 50, support for impeaching Trump and removing him from office has risen from 9% in May to 22% now, while views among older Republicans and Republican leaners have held about even with just 8% in favor of impeachment and removal from office.

But representatives are still hearing more from constituents about the bread-and-butter issues such as health care costs, jobs, prescription drug prices, and gun violence, just to name a few — the issues voters feel strongly about and the reasons those voters elected Democrats in the first place.

While lawmakers are still hearing from constituents, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made sure to tell Democrats before they left Washington that the tone of the discussion about impeachment is important. “Our tone must be prayerful, respectful, solemn, worthy of the Constitution,” she told Democratic lawmakers. From a New York Times story:

Party leaders sent the rank and file home on Friday with instructions and talking points cards aimed at emphasizing the gravity of the moment. They contained two central messages for lawmakers to deliver to constituents: Mr. Trump abused his office, and Democrats would follow the facts.

“We want to keep this simple,” said Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island, who heads the party’s messaging arm, clutching talking points cards headlined “No One Is Above the Law.” He added: “This is not complicated. This is misconduct that the president has admitted to.”

Included with the impeachment talking points were packets on Democrats’ next major piece of legislation, a prescription drugs pricing bill, a major concern to voters. The bill would let the secretary of Health and Human Services negotiate prices of 250 drugs and would penalize drug companies that don’t negotiate with HHS.

In other words, Democrats are reminding their constituents that they can walk and chew gum at the same time.

The more moderate Democrats from swing districts seem confident that the facts about impeachment will speak for themselves. According to a story from Reuters:

Representative Susan Wild was among a number of Democrats from highly competitive “swing” seats in the House of Representatives who changed her mind to back an impeachment probe against Trump. She expects to hear about it at a town hall meeting next week in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Wild says her district is about equally divided between Democrats and Republicans, including Trump voters. But she doesn’t appear worried.

“I don’t think I have to convince them. I think the facts will convince them,” Wild told Reuters on Friday. Her office email and phone calls have been running 11-to-one in favor of an impeachment inquiry, a “marked contrast to the kind of communications that we’ve gotten the last few months from our constituents,” she said.

If a swing-district Democrat is hearing from constituents that they’re in favor of an impeachment inquiry by an 11-1 ratio, the truth is winning out. Other lawmakers report similar feedback. From a New York Times story:

In some of the more affluent districts that Democrats flipped last year, the first-term lawmakers have received reassurance in recent days that they are making the right decision. [Harley] Rouda, [Mark] Levin and [Gil] Cisneros all said in separate interviews that the calls and emails that had come into their offices in the last week had been overwhelmingly in favor of pursuing impeachment.

And Representative Dean Phillips of Minnesota, who was the first freshman lawmaker to come out for the investigation last Monday, said that he received a number of calls from Republicans and independent voters who had pressed him to hold the president accountable.

If any House Democrats are at risk for voting to impeach Trump, don’t forget that Republicans also could face electoral peril. Republican House members in swing districts and vulnerable Senate Republican incumbents could face a backlash, no matter which way they vote. From a story in The Atlantic:

The upcoming debate could create risks for Republicans too, in the states and House districts trending away from Trump, such as the concentration of suburban seats in Texas that Democrats are targeting. If impeachment reaches the Senate, Republican incumbents such as Susan Collins of Maine, Martha McSally of Arizona, and Cory Gardner of Colorado may be unlikely to vote to convict the president — which will bind them to him more tightly in states where his position is equivocal at best.

The Atlantic story adds that, if electoral history from the 1998 and 2000 elections is any guide, after House Republicans voted to impeach President Bill Clinton, Democrats don’t have too much to worry about. Democrats gained only five House seats in the 1998 election while Republicans kept control of that chamber, and only six House incumbents were defeated in 2000. Interestingly, one of those who lost in 2000 was California Republican James Rogan, who helped manage the House’s impeachment case during the Senate trial. The Democrat who beat him? Adam Schiff.

Every day, Donald Trump seems to commit another impeachable offense. The stonewalling that members of the Trump administration are doing to deny House committees the ability to question State Department employees, for example, would just add to the obstruction of justice charges. Overuse of executive privilege as a reason not to answer questions and to block a current or former White House employee from testifying does the same. And Trump’s rants from the Oval Office and his diarrhea of tweets on the subject, including retweeting the call for a civil war, just add more fuel to the impeachment fire.

Nancy Pelosi took a measured road to an impeachment inquiry. It took a piece of evidence that was itself a smoking gun — the White House-released transcript of the call between Trump and Zelensky — for her to come into the light.

It seems that voters are now following her down that well-lit road.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Oct. 6, 2019.

Trump impeachment is now all but certain

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Donald Trump tried to look chummy at their U.N. joint appearance.

“I would like you to do us a favor though. … There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it…”

With those words from the White House’s superficial version of a transcript of Donald Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump left no doubt that he was asking the head of a foreign country for help in smearing a possible election opponent. Trump might as well have sent the articles of impeachment to the Senate himself.

Trump’s behavior — and actions by unidentified White House officials trying to hide that conduct — were the subject of the whistleblower complaint regarding Trump’s conversation with Zelensky and the aftermath. Unclassified material from that complaint was released to the public with few redactions. Testimony from the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, before the House Intelligence Committee also confirmed the basis of the complaint.

The transcript — really notes about the conversation — doesn’t read like two human beings talking to each other, but it was obvious from the beginning that White House officials would put Trump’s words in the best possible light. Too bad for them that they’re still damning.

Except for GOP lawmakers, who insist that that there is no quid pro quo in the Trump-Zelensky conversation, and Trump himself, who reverted to his witch hunt claims during a rambling news conference, the consensus is that the contents of Trump-Zelensky phone call represent a disturbing, if not impeachable, offense. The rough transcript is devastating. How could Trump not know that? asked Washington Post columnist Max Boot.

On the call itself, Trump pivoted from Zelensky’s request for missiles to Trump’s request for an investigation of his political opponents.

Trump did no business on behalf of the United States on this call. He did not once mention any desire to root out corruption in Ukraine or achieve any other foreign policy objective. It was all campaign business — dragging a foreign head of state and his own attorney general into his desperate efforts to win reelection and remove any taint from his initial election.

The phone call was clearly an attempt to force Zelensky and his administration into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, with the help of Trump’s private lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and Attorney General William Barr. House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff equated the call to a classic Mafia-like shakedown. “Nice little country you’ve got there. Be a shame if anything happened to it…”

In the transcript, Zelensky shamelessly butters up Trump. You would expect a foreign leader to deliver compliments to an American president, and anyone paying attention over the last two years knows that Trump loves nothing more than to have his ego stroked. All reporting about this phone call listed eight times that Trump asked for Ukraine’s help in smearing Biden. This transcript, of a supposed 30-minute call, wouldn’t last half that time.

When Democratic lawmakers were finally able to read the actual whistleblower complaint, they agreed that the complaint’s contents were even more damning that the phone call transcript. Schiff said it showed evidence of serious wrongdoing from multiple officials in the administration. California Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier called the complaint nothing short of explosive. Besides the confirmation of the topics in the phone call itself, the complaint also explained how Trump officials hid the notes about the call on a server usually reserved for top security matters. This phone call doesn’t fall into that category.

And although Republicans at first dismissed the seriousness of the Trump-Zelensky phone call, at least some members of the GOP admitted that Trump could be in trouble. Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, while cautioning all involved to “slow down,” warned his GOP colleagues not to dismiss the complaint, saying, “Republicans ought not to be rushing to circle the wagons to say there’s no there there when there’s obviously lots that’s very troubling there.”

Lawyers representing the still-unnamed whistleblower say he or she wants to testify before Congress. (Let’s call the whistle-blower “Deep Pierogi,” in honor of the tasty dumplings native to Ukraine as well as Poland.) Acting DNI Maguire told the House Intelligence Committee that the whistleblower testimony will be allowed, although it has yet to be scheduled. Until that time, it’s important to remember the whistleblower’s opening statement from the complaint:

In the course of my official duties, I have received information from multiple U.S. Government officials that the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election. This interference includes, among other things, pressuring a foreign country to investigate one of the President’s main domestic political rivals.

House Democrats have now passed the majority number of 218 of those favoring impeachment or an impeachment inquiry. So it was obviously time for a flurry of news stories interviewing mostly Trump supporters on how impeachment could backfire (Democrats are “nervous,” Republicans are “dug in”). This sampling is from The New York Times:

In interviews with voters on Wednesday, there was no clear or surprising shift in sentiment on impeachment; some Republican voters pumped their fists with bring-it-on energy, and some Democrats pronounced themselves vindicated but also uncertain about whether the House — let alone the Republican-led Senate — would ultimately act against Mr. Trump.

Of course there isn’t going to be a sea change of attitudes, and certainly not in one day. It took months of televised hearings about Watergate before public opinion swung against Richard Nixon, finally forcing him to resign. That, and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling ordering the full release of the Nixon tapes.

But while Nixon felt at least a modicum of shame, Trump obviously doesn’t. He’ll never resign as long as his family is still making money off his office and he can use the institution of the presidency to feed his enormous ego.

There was no Fox News or right-wing hate radio in the 1970s, and no social media to spread right-wing conspiracy theories. There were enough Republicans in the 1970s who were finally willing to put country before party and say out loud that Nixon’s behavior was illegal and that he should be held accountable.

Today, not so much. Republican lawmakers are too afraid of Trump’s voting base and of possible Trump-loving primary challengers to stand up to him.

There are truckloads of reasons to impeach Donald Trump: obstruction of justice in the Robert Mueller Russia investigation, profiting off the presidency, infringement of the Constitution’s emoluments clause, stonewalling congressional investigations, blocking congressional subpoenas, and refusing to let anyone connected to the White House testify before Congress, just to name a few. His obvious approach to smear a 2020 opponent is only the latest.

How will all of this play out in the long run? So much depends on how it plays in the media, how Trump continues to play the victim card, and how members of both parties spin the information.

Trumpanistas will be dug in no matter what. Now, more than ever, it’s important to register new voters and make sure that voters can get to the polls. And vote.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Sept. 29, 2019.

Trump lost farm votes over his China trade war. Now climate change may cost him more.

Many U.S. farmers, like these Illinois soybean farmers, have seen markets collapse because of Trump policies.

Donald Trump is counting on the votes of the nation’s farmers to propel him to another electoral victory in 2020. But given all the ways they’re being hurt by his policies, he better think again.

Nearly 70 percent of the nation’s farmers cast votes for Trump in 2016. It’s likely that many from that group will do so a second time. But he has made enough of them angry that he shouldn’t count on all of those votes next November.

Between Trump’s trade war with China, in which tariffs have cut soybean sales to the lowest level since 2002, and Trump’s controversial policies of issuing biofuel exemptions to many oil refineries, causing the closure of some farm biodiesel producers, Trump’s support among farmers has dipped. According to a poll from Farm Journal, Trump has lost nearly 10 points in support from farmers since July — from a 53 percent strong approval rating to a 43 percent strong approval rating. Overall approval is even higher.

Those are still good numbers, but the more erosion there is in the Trump farm vote, the less likely it is that he can recapture some of the Midwest states that gave him an Electoral College win in 2016 (despite losing the popular vote by nearly 3 million). From a story on the Farm Journal poll:

According to Pro Farmer policy analyst Jim Wiesemeyer, President Trump realizes support in farm country is dwindling.

“Opinion polls are signaling some trouble for President Trump,” he says. “A ‘Fox News’ poll showed Trump slipping even among groups that have long been his supporters. Trump’s support is weakening in key areas, including non-college educated whites, rural voters and small-town voters.”

Trump’s approval ratings have taken a hit across the country, and farm states are no different. For instance, according to the most recent numbers from Morning Consult, Trump’s approval rating in Iowa has dropped by 18 percentage points since he took office. Only 44 percent of voters there approve of Trump, while 53 percent disapprove. His approval rating in Wisconsin has dropped by 19 points, with a 42 percent positive/55 percent negative rating. In Michigan, which he won by the slimmest of margins, he’s taken a 21-point hit, with another 42 percent positive/55 percent negative rating.

It’s no secret that farmers are being screwed by Trump’s policies on trade — farm loan delinquencies and farm bankruptcies are at a six-year high. Now, you can add environmental policies to the list: A bipartisan group representing some 10,000 farmers and ranchers is now backing — of all things — the Green New Deal. Because they believe it’s ultimately the only way to save their farms and ranches.

A letter sent to Congress by a group called Regeneration International calls for adopting policies outlined in the Green New Deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the agricultural sector. The letter had more than 500 signatures from individual farmers and ranchers in at least half the states in the U.S. and from 50 farming and ranching groups that were just as widespread, representing even more in agriculture. The newly formed bipartisan coalition backing the proposal is based in Minnesota and called U.S. Farmers & Ranchers for a Green New Deal.

We support the GND’s call to “. . . secure for all people of the United States for generations to come: clean air and water; climate and community resiliency; healthy food; access to nature; and a sustainable environment.”

We support the GND’s call to “. . . work collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible, including—by supporting family farming; by investing in sustainable farming and land-use practices that increase soil health; and by building a more sustainable food system that ensures universal access to healthy food.”

We also support the GND’s overarching climate goals, including the goal to achieve net-zero emissions by 2030 – 2050. We believe these climate goals are achievable—but only if the GND includes policies that spur two large-scale transitions: the transition away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy alternatives, and the transition away from industrial agriculture toward family farm-based organic and regenerative farming and land-use practices that improve soil health and draw down and sequester carbon.

The overall number of farmers and ranchers in this coalition might be small. Obviously, not that many farmers practice organic farming, and there are plenty of farmers working in industrial agriculture. But lots of farmers have been hurt badly — sometimes to the point of bankruptcy — by industrial farming, which has driven many small, family-owned farms out of business. Droughts and river flooding, exacerbated by climate change, make it even worse for farmers.

This video by the co-chair of the group, an Indiana farmer, Sherri Dugger, explains the group’s purpose:

It would be wrong to dismiss this group and its outreach, however small, as being too far out of the agriculture mainstream. There are currently some 2 million farms across the U.S., a number that has shrunk greatly over the decades. But the number of organic farms is on the rise — there were 14,000 certified organic farms in 2016, the most recent number available from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, and that number has increased 56 percent since 2011.

Regenerative agriculture is defined as “farming and grazing practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity — resulting in both carbon drawdown and improving the water cycle.” This position paper gives more details.

The new coalition of farmers and ranchers, as described on the group’s website, “is committed to working with Congress to ensure that farmers and ranchers have a seat at the table when it comes to defining and finalizing the specific policies and programs that will form the basis for achieving the goals outlined in the Green New Deal Resolution.” Their livelihoods depend on that seat at the table.

The coalition has several goals:

  • Combat climate change by reducing emissions and drawing down and sequestering carbon.
  • Contribute to a clean environment and restore natural habitats.
  • Provide access to locally produced, contaminant-free, nutrient-dense food.
  • Help build and support resilient local and regional food systems and economies.
  • Provide safe working conditions and living wages for farm workers.

This list of aims describes all of the group’s policy goals. As the group’s letter to Congress points out:

As farmers and ranchers, our businesses and livelihoods are uniquely vulnerable to the impact of climate change, with its increasingly frequent and extreme droughts and flooding. …

Family farmers are essential to combating climate change. A GND can make family farming economically viable again through fair farm prices, parity, and supply management.

Several Democratic presidential candidates also are backing sustainable agriculture practices in policy proposals. From a story on Huffington Post:

Taking cues from those pushing for a Green New Deal, several Democratic presidential hopefuls have made farming practices central to their climate proposals. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) earmarked $410 billion in his Green New Deal proposal to help “farms of all sizes transition to ecologically regenerative agricultural practices.” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called for breaking up agriculture monopolies as part of her broad rural platform. South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg vowed to “support farmers” by “paying them to capture carbon.”

Trump is still going to capture plenty of farm votes in rural America. The question is: Will he have turned off enough farmers so that they either vote for a Democratic candidate — or just stay home? And will that drop in support make enough of a difference to deny him a second term?

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Sept. 22, 2019.

#ClimateStrike: Thanks to Greta Thunberg, the kids are all right

These students’ signs at the climate strike in Chicago say it all.

Among the millions of people worldwide who marched in the Global Climate Strike, the majority by far were students and young people.

College students. High school students. Grade school students. They carried homemade signs with strong messages to adults who are failing to do their jobs to save the planet for generations to come.

“I’m missing my lessons to teach you some” was a common sentiment, along with messages seen at past rallies, such as “There is no Planet B” or “I can’t believe I have to march for science.” Some carried messages so in tune with teens that some older adults didn’t even get the references.

The sentiment is clear to teens, if not to all adults.

Climate activists estimate that more than 4 million people took part in climate strikes worldwide, with more than 2,500 events scheduled in over 163 countries on all seven continents. Yes, there was even a climate strike in Antarctica.

As a story on Vox put it, It “may end up being the largest mass protest for action on global warming in history.”

What was the motivation of all these protestors? Yes, some might have used the strike as an excuse to miss school, but their presence was so much more than that. More important, what was their inspiration?

Much of it boils down to a 16-year-old Swedish climate activist who started her journey over a year ago with a one-person protest in front of the Swedish Parliament because lawmakers weren’t fulfilling their responsibilities to fight climate change. A year later, that one-person protest grew to 4 million, and it has governments the world over listening.

As John Pavlovitz wrote in his blog, Stuff That Needs To Be Said, We Are Greta Thunberg.

It’s likely that the rest of us will never be as motivated or as active as Greta. However much we believe in the dire need for individuals, companies, and governments to take serious action to fight global warming, it’s hard work. But it has to be done, and we all need to be a part of it. Polls suggest that climate change is now a top concern, along with fighting gun violence, for young voters.

As Pavlovitz concluded:

There are so many ways to move. Let your voice be heard. Take public transportation instead of driving whenever possible. Walk or ride a bike. Cut down on single-use plastic. Reduce, reuse, and recycle packaging — or refuse to accept it in the first place. Elect lawmakers with solid plans and outlines to to take climate action, such as the Green New Deal, even if not all of those ideas make it into law.

So, move. And VOTE.

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