Recent Posts

Dan Burns

Vouchers, DeVos, and unions

by Dan Burns on June 26, 2017 · 0 comments

school3Three items.

More than 34,000 students are enrolled in Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Program. That’s 3 percent of students statewide. In a recent investigation of the program, NPR found some private schools turning away children with disabilities and LGBTQ students, but it was impossible to say, at the time, whether those students who are using vouchers are any better off academically.
Researchers Mark Berends of the University of Notre Dame and R. Joseph Waddington of the University of Kentucky have spent years studying this question, and they’ve given NPR an early look at their findings…
When comparing these students’ achievement after the switch to their test scores the previous year, the researchers found:
Voucher students experienced “modest annual achievement losses” in math, especially in the first two years after leaving public school.
In English/language arts, voucher students showed no benefits.



trump13This is profoundly concerning.

Here’s the score so far: Trump has been suckered by China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. He has pissed off Mexico, Canada, Germany, France, Britain, Australia, and most of our other traditional allies. Nobody knows what his policy toward Israel is. Or his policy in Afghanistan. Or his policy in Syria. Or his trade policy toward anyone. Or whether he ever bothers talking with his Secretary of State.
Welcome to our new foreign policy, ladies and gentlemen. Isn’t it great that we finally have a firm leader at the helm once again?
(Mother Jones)


MN-03: Will Paulsen hang around?

by Dan Burns on June 22, 2017 · 0 comments

paulsenI certainly haven’t seen any indication that Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN) could be thinking of leaving Congress at the end of this term. But conventional wisdom is that 2018 will be his toughest electoral challenge (as will be the case with a lot of GOP incumbents), and he’s certainly paid his dues to the rich man to the point that he will have his pick of lucrative lobbying gigs whenever he wants them.
On the other hand, he doesn’t have to beg for money; Big Device in particular will see to it that his campaign has plenty. And if I’m not mistaken he has always easily outperformed GOP presidential candidates, in the district. It’s certainly possible that he has little to fear unless Democrats can score an A+ list candidate to run against him, and I don’t know who that would be.
Anyway, this new practice of his at least borders on the pitiful. At the very least.

Erik Paulsen regularly issues a video Correspondence Corner in which he responds to constituent questions.
It is a great ploy — Congressman Paulsen determines what question is to be answered … thus, providing him an opportunity to portray himself as effectively responding to issues that he wishes to address as if they are the most critical issues that voters want addressed…
Later in the session, the House approved Amendment 90 offered by Congressman Don Young (R-AK) to H.R. 5538 to prevent use of funds to implement the Refuge Comprehensive Conservation Plan, which recommended that Congress designate the Coastal Plain as wilderness. That vote was approved 237-191, Congressman Paulsen was one of twelve Republicans to vote NO. OK … that supports his stance but the Republican majority prevailed.
However, that amendment was just an amendment … would Congressman Paulsen retain that same opposition on the final vote ? No … while 15 Republicans voted NO on the bill, it was approved 231-196, with Congressman Paulsen voting YES.
Being able to cast a protest vote on amendments does little when you vote inline with Republican leadership orders on the final bill.
In summary, while Congressman Paulsen’s Correspondence Corner response to April of Edina may give some hope that he will reject Trump’s calls for more oil and gas drilling, his votes say that in the end, he will side with “the Boss” and his Big Oil donors.
(MN Political Roundtable)

There are more critiques of Rep. Paulsen’s “Correspondence Corner,” at the same blog.


trump22As has so often been noted, a lot of this would fall hardest on many who voted for him. It may be unlikely that, for example, big Social Security cuts will get through the Senate. But it’s far from impossible.

The administration’s promise not to cut taxes had thus been reduced to meaninglessness. It was a mere preference, or at least a putative preference. But Trump has deferred all agency to Congress, which is free to pass a bill opposite his stated position, and Trump would sign it. Congress is apparently a gigantic loophole in every Trump campaign stance. Trump has neither an affirmative role nor a negative role in shaping laws passed by Congress. Congress can write a law as it wishes, and Trump may sign it into law even if it violates his “principles.”
By that standard, Mnuchin’s concession on Social Security is significant indeed. He has acknowledged Congress has the “prerogative” to write and pass a bill cutting Social Security. His opposition is essentially technical.
This is not the only populist economic stance Trump has abandoned. In his speech announcing his candidacy, Trump said he would “save Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security without cuts.” He has already endorsed plans to cut hundreds of billions of dollars from Medicaid. (The fact that Trump supports ending the Medicaid expansion in Obamacare means that his promise not to cut Medicaid from levels that existed before Obamacare is also moot, his budget director recently explained.) The administration has proposed deep cuts to SSDI, explaining that the disability-insurance portion of Social Security doesn’t count. His plan for a trillion dollars in federal infrastructure spending became a plan to cut federal spending on infrastructure while spreading around some tax breaks for builders. His promise for generous universal health insurance has gone by the wayside. In almost every respect, Trump has conformed to orthodox right-wing domestic policy.
(New York Magazine)


You don’t – at least, I certainly don’t – see as much talk about the national debt as there was, say, back in the 1990’s. Perhaps even debt hawks among the sorriest dregs and rinsings of the contemporary human intellect – the conservative punditry – realize that the issue has lost its edge since it’s become clear that a huge federal debt doesn’t mean economic apocalypse.
But that’s not to suggest that a gi-normous national debt is a good thing. Especially if you consider what has really caused it. If you’re reading this you’re presumably enough into the issue to have seen graphs like the following plenty of times before.
Yeah, it started with Almighty Reagan’s tax cuts for the rich and military spending. And the fundamentals haven’t changed. The U.S. national debt is nothing more or less than the cost of 35+ years of aggrandizing the plutocrats and warmongers.
But the real cost of prioritizing that aggrandizement is even greater – indeed, far greater. It’s the cost of the lost potential inherent in a shrinking middle class, and a long-term underclass being screwed in almost every conceivable way. And so on; again, if you’ve read this far, having come to this blog, you know what I’m typing about. Fundamentally, we’re talking about constrained to virtually nonexistent access to substantial resources and opportunity for those not born to wealth, or otherwise granted ready access to it.


Processed with VSCO with e5 preset This past weekend:

Police cleared hundreds of demonstrators who were protesting the verdict in the Jeronimo Yanez trial from Interstate 94 early Saturday morning.
Police gave protesters numerous warnings that being on the interstate constituted an unlawful assembly and that arrests would be made if they did not clear the roadway. A KSTP reporter on scene said officers sprayed protesters with mace while attempting to control the crowd.

It’s interesting that it’s Hubbard News, of all outlets, that emphasized in its headline how minor any “violence” was. Anyway, early in the legislative session, namely January:

Representative Kathy Lohmer says the growing number of freeway protests are a threat to public safety, not only to police, but drivers and protesters too.
“You need to obey the laws of the freeway,” said Lohmer, a Republican from Stillwater. “They are there for a purpose. Freeways are not really public spaces, like parks and places like that. You need a license to drive on the freeway. You can’t walk on the freeway.”
Lohmer’s bill beefs up penalties for obstructing highways, including entrance and exit ramps. Right now, it’s a misdemeanor carrying fines up to $1,000 and 90 days in jail.
The bill would make it a gross misdemeanor, carrying fines up to $3,000 and a year in jail.

That didn’t make it into law, this time. It will, if Republicans take the trifecta in Minnesota in 2018. And said GOPers apparently honestly believe that it will help turn angry people who intend to get noticed into obedient little authoritarians. That is delusional.
Image: Twin Cities Daily Planet


Trump-Respects-WomenAnother con.

Small business owners had reasons to hope: since the campaign, rumors have swirled the president might support a federal paid leave program. Candidate Trump had endorsed a call by his daughter Ivanka, who paints herself as an empathetic business owner, mother of three, and tuned-in working woman, to enact paid family leave.
Earlier this year, progressive lawmakers in the Senate also introduced the Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act. Small business owners cheered this proposal, which lays out a framework for a strong national paid leave program that meets the needs of small business owners and workers alike.
Trump’s budget does include paid family leave, but as analysts unpack the proposal, it has become increasingly clear that his plan, unlike the FAMILY Act, doesn’t work for small businesses, their employees, or their communities.


trump18(In Part 1 I blogged about the Great American Stupid. In Part 2, about voting numbers and trends. In Part 3, about the foul antics of corporate media.)
Voter suppression is a despicable, unconscionable thing. Voting is a fundamental right in a democracy, so if it was up to me, leaders of the “voter ID” movement would face federal prosecution for denial of civil rights. But it’s not up to the likes of me. Bummer.
That being said, the actual, practical effect of voter suppression in elections so far is tough to figure. Wisconsin has been noted as a place in the last election where the result may have been swung because of it.

While states with no change to voter identification laws witnessed an average increased turnout of +1.3% from 2012 to 2016, Wisconsin’s turnout (where voter ID laws changed to strict) dropped by -3.3%. If turnout had instead increased by the national- no-change average, we estimate that over 200,000 more voters would have voted in Wisconsin in 2016. For context, Clinton lost to Trump in Wisconsin by only 20,000 votes.
(Priorities USA)


{ 1 comment }

MN-08: Some healthy DFL competition

by Dan Burns on June 12, 2017 · 0 comments

bwcaTwo DFL challenges to Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN) are being considered, by Sue Hakes and Leah Phifer.

Sue Hakes, who previously served as Cook County Commissioner and Mayor of Grand Marais, will test the field as Nolan considers his future.
“When I think about Minnesota’s Eighth District, I think people first,” Hakes said in a press release. “I want to fight the current administration’s budgetary goals which chip away at — or gut entirely — the very institutions that make rural life possible and the amenities that make rural America a desirable place to live”.
(Minnesota Brown)

So, as I watched politicians and pundits race to understand us after the 2016 election, I couldn’t help but laugh. If they really wanted to understand us, to help us, they would stop trying to fit us into neat little narratives. My family and friends are scattered from Isanti to International Falls. In MN CD08, we’re hard-working, opinionated, and unpredictable. If you want to understand us, I thought, start by acknowledging that no two towns, counties or people in this large district are the same. So when I began to think about my role in future of this district, I knew where I had to start.
On June 16th, 2017, I will be setting out on a 80 day listening tour, to take the pulse of our varied district. Let’s talk about what makes us so unique, what we have in common and where we can start to re-build the politics that govern us, but don’t define us. Please check out my event calendar or show me around your corner of our great district. Share your story, share your thoughts, share your recommendations for the best pasties and pastries in your town! Wherever you lie on the political spectrum, let’s talk about how we move our district into the future together.
(Around the 8th in 80 days)

Phifer’s website has nothing at this time about her policy positions. I couldn’t find Hakes’s press release online; here’s her Facebook page if you want to peruse that for indicators. I will certainly withhold judgment until I know a lot more about where these candidates’ heads are at on the issues of the day.
Except for sulfide mining, Rep. Nolan has been a strong progressive in Congress. I would need to see a very impressive candidate, starting with great, strong, downright relentless opposition to such mining in the district, to even think of voting for anyone else in a primary.


trump17Ripple effects, indeed.

The loss of coverage for adults in their 50s and early 60s could have ripple effects for Medicare, a possibility that has received little attention. If the AHCA results in a loss of health insurance for a meaningful number of people in their late 50s and early 60s, as CBO projects, there is good reason to believe that people who lose insurance will delay care, if they can, until they turn 65 and go on Medicare, and then use more services once on Medicare. This could cause Medicare to increase, and when Medicare spending rises, premiums and cost-sharing do too.
A 2007 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that looked at previously uninsured Medicare beneficiaries helps explain this dynamic. It showed a direct relationship between lack of insurance (pre-65) to higher service use and spending (post-65). Previously uninsured adults were more likely than those with insurance to report a decline in health, and a decline in health (pre-65) was associated with 23.4% more doctor visits and 37% more hospitalizations after age 65. Depending on the number of people who lose coverage and how long they remain uninsured, the impact for Medicare may initially be modest, but could compound with time.
In addition, the AHCA would repeal the Medicare payroll tax imposed on high earners, a change that would accelerate the insolvency of the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund and put the financing of future Medicare benefits at greater risk for current and future generations of older adults – another factor to consider as this debate moves forward.
(Kaiser Family Foundation)