Montana Gov. Bullock eyes public financing for 2020 run

From today’s AP News Online:

Steve Bullock will apply to be the first — and perhaps only — Democrat in the presidential primary who accepts public financing for his campaign, a potentially risky move that could give his struggling fundraising a boost but would also require the Montana governor to abide by a cap on the amount of money he can spend.

Top presidential contenders for years fueled their campaigns using the public financing system, which was established to reduce the influence of big donors in the wake of the Watergate scandal. But that’s waned ever since George W. Bush rejected the assistance in 2000. And the trend has become even more pronounced following a series of court rulings and regulatory changes that allowed even more cash to course through elections.

Bullock, who filed legal challenges to reverse those rulings when he was Montana’s attorney general, says his turn to public financing demonstrates that he is “walking the walk” at a time when rejecting big money in politics has become an animating issue for party activists. He will submit his application to the Federal Election Commission after the close of the third fundraising quarter, which ends Monday.

“As the only candidate for President who is choosing to participate in the public finance process, Governor Bullock is leading with his values and defending our shared belief that our democracy should never be for sale to the highest bidder,” campaign manager Jennifer Ridder says in a memo provided to The Associated Press that outlines his rationale.

Yet Bullock’s decision comes as he has trailed far behind the leading fundraisers in the race. While he is touting it as a demonstration of his commitment to campaign finance reform, he also has little to lose in doing so and would have to see a dramatic increase in fundraising to hit an estimated $60 million spending cap triggered by his acceptance of the money.

Read the complete article here.

Growth Without Jobs

From yesterday’s NYT editorial:

In a statement last Wednesday — just hours after the government reported headline-grabbing economic growth of 4 percent in the second quarter —the Federal Reserve said it would continue to stimulate the economy because, despite overall growth, the labor market remained weak. In a speech the same day in Kansas City, Mo., President Obama echoed the Fed. “I’m glad that G.D.P. is growing, and I’m glad that corporate profits are high, and I’m glad that the stock market is booming,” he said, (which it was before profit-taking at week’s end dented its performance). “But what I really want to see is a guy working 9 to 5, and then working some overtime.”

Those cautionary views were validated on Friday, when the employment report for July showed slower job growth, flat earnings, stagnant hours and stubbornly high long-term unemployment. The challenge now, as always, is to translate official concern over the job market into change for the better.

The economy added 209,000 jobs last month, a decent enough figure in and of itself, but a slow start to the third quarter compared with the average monthly gain of 277,000 last quarter. Worse, July’s relatively slow pace of growth may not be sustainable. Many of last month’s job gains were in automobile manufacturing, which could reflect a statistical blip from shorter-than-usual factory shutdowns in July rather than new positions added.

Moreover, the upswing in the auto industry is tied to a surge in high-cost auto loans to uncreditworthy borrowers, an unstable foundation for future growth. In addition, the sectors that generally add the most jobs each month all slowed in July from their pace in June, including bars and restaurants, retail, health care and temporary services. As for the president’s vision of a 40-hour week plus overtime — well, if only. For the fifth straight month, the average workweek for most of the labor force was stuck at 33.7 hours. Factory overtime, once a mainstay in the lives of working-class Americans, dropped in July for the second straight month. Average hourly wages have, at best, kept pace with inflation over the past year. Pay is languishing, but working longer hours is not an option.

In its statement, the Fed said it was basically a tossup whether the economy would speed up or slow down. Faster growth, however, generally requires a healthy real estate market and that requires a healthy job market, especially for younger workers.

But in July, the jobless rate for workers ages 25 to 34 was 6.6 percent, compared with 6.2 percent over all. Among young people who are working, many are in low-wage or part-time jobs, or jobs that otherwise do not make use of their education or experience. So it is not surprising that the sale of new homes plummeted recently at the fastest pace in nearly a year. Sales of existing homes have risen, a positive sign but a questionable trend given the still-ailing job market.

The most likely scenario is for the economy to continue to muddle along at an overall annual pace of 2 percent to 2.5 percent. The Fed has affirmed its commitment to keep interest rates low until the labor market recovers, but the real test of its resolve will come if and when inflation meets or exceeds its preferred annual rate of 2 percent. In a sluggish economy with significant employment slack, continued stimulus policy would be called for even if inflation exceeded the target, but whether the Fed will oblige is unknown.

As for Mr. Obama, he seems to understand that with a Republican-dominated House and Republican senators keen on winning a majority in the Senate, he is on his own to push for change. He can and should continue to issue executive orders to improve pay and working conditionsfor the federal contract work force. He should work with the Labor Department on upcoming rules to re-establish a broad right to time-and-a-half for overtime. And he should continue to rally public support for Democratic legislation to raise the minimum wage and to combat the growing use of unpredictable part-time scheduling.

None of that is enough to counter significantly the forces responsible for job growth that is too weak, wages that are too low and workweeks that are too short. For that, a functional political climate is needed, one in which leaders find compromise solutions to the nation’s problems. Without that, the Fed’s modest prediction that the economy has an even chance of getting better may in fact be too optimistic.

From “gridlock” to “disaster politics”

The word “gridlock” is commonly used to describe politics as usual in Washington. It signals not only an inability to compromise, but also an inability to govern. Democrats and Republicans alike are equally to blame for this gridlock, and sometimes this is good and sometimes this is bad. Sometimes it is good when an opposition party stands in the way of bad legislation or policy demanded by the majority party, and sometimes it is bad when a majority party cannot get good legislation passed because the opposition is intransigent. The accumulative effect of this mixed process is political turnover. When a majority party either supports bad ideas or cannot come up with any good ones, the electorate votes a majority party out of office and allows the opposition party to govern.

Given enough party rancor and time, gridlock has become the norm of governance here. Although American politics is clearly at this point, we are not the only democratic nation, by any means, to experience deep divisions leading to almost complete lack of governance. Belgium, Italy, Japan, Greece, Spain and many other countries have also experienced, are experiencing, the same climate of politics everywhere. Fear, uncertainty, worn out ideas, lack of civility and tolerance, and other generally shameful behaviors. Anthony Weiner’s of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your shame!

Today, the U.S. government faces a possible shut down, while the agency in charge of its emergency preparedness (for both natural disasters and terrorism) faces possible insolvency because political gridlock has become a tool for forcing political turnovers. The issue is not complicated. Although U.S. debt is unsustainable and must be dealt with over the long term, this important goal is not achieved in the short term by the opposition party cutting federal spending to areas such as FEMA. Indeed, this is the only play we are seeing from the Republican Party, who’s apparent strategy for bold-thinking governance, is to enforce a debt limit by bleeding the government dry. The mantra to “cut spending!” and “don’t raise taxes!” literally does not make sense because it spells “disaster politics” in capital letters.

Cutting spending that is vital to the upkeep of a well-run government, and essential to protect the security and property interests of its citizens, while forbidding tax reform is a platform that moves America beyond gridlock and into some weird new dimension. The new dimension that is quickly becoming apparent is that lots of people out there, whether knowingly or not, want America to fail. They clearly want a government to fail, and right-wing conspiracies about Obama’s citizenship notwithstanding, this puts them in the position of wanting us all to fail. This is the message of the opposition party, and it is asking America to be put back in charge of gigantic mess that it primarily, though by no means exclusively, created.

The time for gridlock is over. If America wants to avoid disaster politics, it would do well to steer clear of an opposition party who wants government to fail. ::KPS::