Tapped: The Prospect Group Blog

Trickle Upper: Portland Cracks Down on Excessive CEO Pay

In 2017, Portland, Oregon, will become the first city to impose a surtax on companies with CEOs who make more than 100 times their workers’ median pay—an idea that was floated by Prospect executive editor Harold Meyerson two years ago.

“If congressional liberals want to diminish economic inequality, they should also promote legislation that would link corporate tax rates to the ratio between CEO pay and the firm’s median pay,” Meyerson wrote in 2014. “They [CEOs and their boards] would … have a self-interest in raising their workers’ wages.”

The Portland rule, which Councilmember and City Commissioner Steve Novick told Meyerson was inspired by Meyerson’s writing, requires companies to pay an additional 10 percent in taxes if their CEO pay is 100 times their median worker’s pay, and an additional 25 percent if the ratio is more than 250 to 1. Novick told Meyerson that there were 540 such corporations doing business in Portland—five of which are based there.

A similar bill was proposed in California in 2014, but died on the state Senate floor. The 2010 Dodd-Frank financial-reform law required the Securities and Exchange Commission to publish U.S. corporations’ CEO-to-worker pay ratios.

“When I first read about the idea of applying a higher tax rate to companies with extreme ratios of CEO pay to typical worker pay, I thought it was a fascinating idea,” Novick told The New York Times after the measure passed on December 7. In The Guardian, economist Branko Milanovic was also quoted praising the idea, saying “it seems [to be] the first tax that targets inequality as such. … It treats inequality as having a negative externality like taxing carbon emissions.” 

Democrats Misunderstood Racial and Class Divisions but Cannot Reject Inclusiveness Now

As we wrestle with the consequences of a Trump presidency, Democrats, especially progressives, risk whitewashing the American electorate. In a blind rush to appeal to the voters the Democrats lost, we risk not comprehending and embracing the experiences of the millions of people we won. It was not Hillary Clinton’s message of inclusiveness that cost us the White House, but a major miscalculation of the depth of America’s racial and class divide.

This white identity crisis, tied to a newly ascendant white supremacy, is a psychic struggle that is as old as this country. Our insistence on downplaying this struggle fuels our misunderstanding of the politics of race and racism. For the past 240 years, we have assumed that white men are at the center of the American experience—and as a result, we treat everyone else as a deviation from this “norm.”

Yet ignoring our differences won’t grow the Democratic Party contrary to what Columbia University political scientist Mark Lilla suggested in his recent New York Times piece, “The End of Identity Liberalism.” Instead it is imperative that we, as Democrats, examine whites’ fears of no longer being the default “majority” and their assumptions of what it means to be a minority.

Does minority status for whites mean their voices no longer matter? My nine-year-old daughter has never been asked to reflect on her identity as a white person, nor on her identity as a girl in our society—as Lilla claims is common even among preschoolers. Yet, many people of color, LGBTQ people, and people with disabilities live their lives as “the other” and get treated poorly at times as a result. The reverse won’t necessarily be true when we become a “majority-minority” country, but based on the current treatment of Americans who are not straight white males, that is the fear.

Seizing the mantle of white male identity politics, Trump won by stoking those fears and by blaming immigrants, Muslims, African Americans, and women for the struggles and alienation of white men. Given this message, it is not surprising that Hillary Clinton was the one whose rallies resembled America today, attracting men and women of different races and ethnicities, people who indeed believe their commonalities are more important than their differences.

Republicans, not Democrats, have convinced white Americans that they are now a disadvantaged group. Since the passage of the Civil Rights Act, Republican Party leaders have been on a mission to convince white people that the government overwhelmingly benefits people of color. They have relied on subtle feints, and then, more overt appeals to racism to unravel the New Deal coalition and its programs—even though most of the beneficiaries are white.

As my Demos colleagues, President Heather McGhee and Senior Fellow Ian Haney Lopez, pointed out in "How Populists Like Bernie Sanders Should Talk About Racism":

Conservatives have been working hard to convince white people for decades that addressing racism is itself anti-white discrimination. For 50 years, conservatives have hammered the message that liberalism is excessively sympathetic to people of color, claiming that major institutions—from the Democratic Party to the federal government, from universities to unions—care more about people of color than about white people. In this context, when [Senator Bernie] Sanders repeats the refrain that Black Lives Matter, many white people hear him as kowtowing to a powerful special interest, or even engaging in a form of racial betrayal.

We cannot fully understand the progress that still needs to be made without fully appreciating how deeply embedded racism, sexism, and homophobia is in our country’s political systems. To pivot to a conversation about our nation’s economy—which both Democratic and Republican leaders aim to do—we must recognize that our identities are often the very reason why class divisions grow by the day.

In these volatile times, we should not try to sell the idea that whiteness is equal to or the same as being an American—and Democrats cannot afford to buy that vision as they find a new path forward. 

Fact-Checking Fact-Checkers on Privatizing Vets’ Health Care

In the debate over the future of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), no concept has attracted more controversy than “privatization.” Since wholesale privatization of the VHA is deeply unpopular among veterans and their advocacy organizations, groups like the Koch brothers-funded Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) argue that they do not support “privatization” of the VHA. As the CVA’s “Fixing Veterans Health Care” report, published earlier this year explains, the group just wants to give veterans “the same degree of choice that is available to other Americans,” with the federal government paying the tab.

Last week, The Washington Post entered the fray. Writing for the paper’s “Fact Checker” column, reporter Michelle Ye Hee Lee gave Senator Jon Tester of Montana and Representative Mark Takano of California, both Democrats, three out of a possible four Pinocchios (signifying “significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions”) for suggesting that the CVA and Trump transition team members support VHA privatization. According to Lee, the CVA’s position does not constitute privatization because, the “CVA has not proposed a wholesale transfer of VHA’s services over to the private sector—which is what ‘privatization’ usually describes.”   

Lee’s interpretation flies in the face of volumes of academic and policy research on the privatization movement that went mainstream in the 1980s, notably in the United States and Britain. As the Prospect’s Paul Starr wrote in a 1988 essay, privatization is “any shift of activities or functions from the state to the private sector; any shift of production of goods and services from public to private; including the wholesale of transfer of services from the public to the private sector or what Starr calls “privatization by attrition,” as furnishing costlier private-sector services lead to an underfunding of public ones.

Ironically, as Starr and other critics point out, the privatization movement decreases accountability and oversight of services currently delivered by the private sector by directing attention to poor government performance while deflecting attention from similar flaws in the private sector.

Privatization can erode public support for the belief that government plays a positive role in handling social needs. So CVA officials are keen to promote a counter-narrative: The VHA is broken. The group relies on stories from veterans who have had negative experiences at the VHA to support its claims. (One female veteran recently told me she’d sent in a story about her positive VHA experiences and never received any acknowledgment.) CVA allies like Florida’s Republican Representative Jeff Miller, the House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman and one of President-elect Donald Trump’s candidates for Veteran Affairs secretary, have also attacked agency employees and targeted the unions that represent them.  

The CVA claims it wants to preserve the VHA, but its proposal would shift government funds to private-sector providers, depriving VHA doctors and other staff of the ability to maintain a high level of clinical and research expertise by treating the specific service-related problems of a large numbers of patients. Such a move would also drain resources for supporting current workers and recruiting new ones.

Moreover, the CVA promotes private-sector care even though such care would be more expensive. Like many proponents of privatization, the group supports shifting costs to veterans through out-of-pocket payments and mechanisms like interest-bearing health savings accounts. The CVA proposal would also limit eligibility for care in the private sector or in what remains of the VHA, to veterans with service-related conditions—a change that would hit low-income and indigent veterans the hardest.

CVA officials continue to claim that these moves do not constitute privatization. Some staff members like Darin Selnick, who was a member of the VA Commission on Care (and is now a member of Trump’s VA transition team), have supported eliminating the VHA as a care provider. Selnick was a coauthor of the Strawman Document that outlined a vision of a privatized VHA. In his dissent from the Commission’s final report, Selnick also proposed emulating military insurance programs like TRICARE, which would ultimately turn the VHA into just another insurer. So who really deserves the Pinocchios: two Democratic members of Congress, the CVA, or The Washington Post?

Twitter Campaign Targets Companies Advertising on Breitbart

Progressives upset about the West Wing’s increasingly racist and xenophobic tilt may have found an unexpected ally: corporate America.

In recent days, the Kellogg Comany became the latest of several corporations to pull its ads from Breitbart News Network, a far-right news site that has served as a platform for white nationalists. The site’s former CEO is senior Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon.

Kellogg routinely “takes steps to ensure our ads do not appear on sides that aren’t aligned with our values as a company,” a Kellogg spokeswoman told Bloomberg.

Score one more for “Sleeping Giants,” an improbable grassroots Twitter campaign whose organizers hide their identities behind the anonymous account @slpng_giants.

The point is to get companies to blacklist their online ads from Breitbart. So far, in addition to Kellogg, the companies pulling ads include Warby Parker, Nest, Allstate, and ModCloth. Contacted via Twitter, a @splng_giants organizer who declined to be named said the campaign’s goal is to ensure companies know what they are funding when they advertise at Breitbart.

“We believe in free speech, that should be made absolutely clear,” the organizer wrote via Twitter, “But we also believe in transparency. And companies need to be aware of who they are seen with and where they are seen.”

The “Sleeping Giants” effort is one of several grassroots campaigns that have set out to pressure or shame corporations via such social media platforms as Facebook and Twitter, often successfully. As early as 2011, a @DumpDTrump Twitter campaign to punish Trump for his racist remarks against President Obama led Pepsi and other companies to pull advertising from The Apprentice.

“Ultimately, you have to ask, what is it that a company cares about,” says Asher Huey, a Washington, D.C.-based digital strategist who helped lead the @DumpDTrump effort. “Ultimately, it's reputation and the bottom line. If those two things are in jeopardy, then it's in their best interest to react.”

Alesa Mackool a digital consultant who has worked on campaigns targeting major banks and corporations, agrees: “We've seen huge companies like Google, GE, and Expedia leave ALEC, the right-wing model legislation mill, after being challenged.”

The view is similar from the corporate side. “Most companies want to do the right thing by the public and by their customers,” says Brandon Friedman, CEO of the McPherson Square Group, a “digital-first” public relations firm with Fortune 500 clients. “Most C-suite folks are extraordinarily sensitive to what’s being said about them, despite what you might see or hear publicly.”

The Trump administration could be uniquely vulnerable to such pressure campaigns. With business interests in at least 20 countries, including hotels and resorts used for meetings and conferences, the Trump Organization also generates significant revenue through licensing the Trump name to other corporations, which could themselves be subject to public pressure.

Trump family members serving as the president-elect’s close advisers are similarly vulnerable. Ivanka Trump’s lines of jewelry and apparel have already been targeted by a #GrabYourWallet consumer boycott campaign (@slpng_giants cites #GrabYourWallet as a model.) Ivanka Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner, owns a media company dependent on advertising, as well as real-estate interests whose tenants, including REI and New York University, could come under public pressure.

Activist and NBA Hall-of-Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is already calling for public pressure boycotts of Trump and his funders.

But such boycotts may or may not be effective against Trump, says Beth Becker, of Becker Digital Strategies, who has advised several organizations on successful public pressure campaigns. “A company has to care about what the public thinks of them,” Becker notes. But with Trump, public criticism just seems to make him want to double down.

Nevertheless, MoveOn.org’s Washington Director Ben Wickler says Trump-focused pressure campaigns have strategic merit. If consumer boycotts distract Trump from his disastrous policies, for example, progressives will cheer. When Macy’s dropped Trump’s clothing line in 2015 under pressure from MoveOn and other groups, Wickler notes, Trump squandered time attacking Macy’s instead of discussing campaign issues.

“If he wants to enact his horrible agenda, he has to focus and line up votes in Congress,” Wickler says. “Trump’s obsession with his net worth and brand creates a target-rich environment to get him to pull his eyes off the ball.”

Education Reform Democrats on Donald Trump

November 17: Shavar Jeffries, president of Democrats for Education Reform, issued the following statement: (bolded emphasis mine)

It is, generally speaking, an honor for any person of any political persuasion to be asked by the president of the United States to consider a Cabinet-level appointment, but in the case of President-elect Trump, DFER encourages no Democrat to accept an appointment to serve as Secretary of Education in this new administration. In so doing, that individual would become an agent for an agenda that both contradicts progressive values and threatens grave harm to our nation’s most vulnerable kids.

Foundational education reform principles—from raising standards and strengthening accountability, to expanding public-school choice, to furthering innovations in teacher preparation and support, and advancing resource equity—all find their roots in a progressive commitment to ensuring that all children, particularly our most vulnerable, have access to schools that enable them to fulfill their potential.

This progressive commitment to equitable education policy also goes hand-in-hand with intersectional issues that affect our kids. While effective school policies are vitally important, so too are the environmental conditions affecting children and families. A child who is homeless; a child without access to food or health care; a child whose parent cannot find steady work; a child whose dad is locked up for years on low-level drug offenses—each of these situations dramatically compromise the life chances of our children.

The policies and rhetoric of President-elect Trump run contrary to the most fundamental values of what it means to be a progressive committed to educating our kids and strengthening our families and communities. He proposes to eliminate accountability standards, cut Title I funding, and to gut support for vital social services that maximize our students’ ability to reach their potential. And, most pernicious, Trump gives both tacit and express endorsement to a dangerous set of racial, ethnic, religious, and gender stereotypes that assault the basic dignity of our children, causing incalculable harm not only to their sense of self, but also to their sense of belonging as accepted members of school communities and neighborhoods.

For these reasons, no Democrat should accept appointment as Secretary of Education, unless and until President-elect Trump disavows his prior statements and commits to educating the whole child and supporting the communities and families they depend on.

November 22: Shavar Jeffries expounds on DFER’s statement in a Washington Post op-ed. Excerpts highlighted below:

Based on the positions he has taken, President-elect Trump’s administration will undoubtedly etch away at the progress we’ve made towards creating a more equitable public education system under President Obama—and irreparably damage our children’s futures.

Some have concluded that Trump’s stated support for increasing funding to the federal Charter School Program, an important priority for progressive reformers, ought to suggest reconsideration. High-quality public charter schools change lives throughout the country, and we applaud proposals to increase appropriations to that program. But as much as we enthusiastically support resources to grow and expand any high-performing public school, including public charters, that by itself in no way counterbalances the grave, generational challenge Trump’s retrograde policies and rhetoric present to America’s schoolchildren, particularly our most vulnerable low-income urban and rural children.

We wish that our president-elect represented the broad mainstream of leaders from both parties who have championed a vision of progressive education reform and a commitment to basic social policies that are currently working for kids and communities across the nation. But the stated policies and rhetoric of the president-elect run contrary to our most fundamental values. Until Trump expresses a willingness to educate the whole child and invest in the communities that nurture our children, no Democrat should accept appointment as secretary of education. In doing so, that person would become an instrument of an agenda that both contradicts progressive commitments to educational equity, and also threatens grave harm to our nation’s most vulnerable kids.

November 23: Shavar Jeffries issues an FAQ to “flesh out their reasoning” on what DFER’s official statement, and his Washington Post op-ed meant. Highlights excerpted below:

Q: Why did DFER issue the statement? 

We’re not saying that Democrats should not, when possible, work with President-elect Trump on education issues, but rather that no Democrat should work for him as secretary of education.

We believe it is critical to the long-term sustainability of the work we care about to make a clear distinction between the progressive education reforms that we support, and the agenda put forward by President-elect Trump.

Q: Wouldn’t a Democratic secretary be in a position to get Trump to change those positions? 

Perhaps anything is possible, but the president-elect has made his positions and discriminatory values clear over the last 18 months. Furthermore, the appointments Trump has made to his administration so far—including white nationalist Steve Bannon as a senior advisor and Senator Jeff Sessions as attorney general, whose views on race are so problematic that the Senate previously failed to confirm him for a judgeship, do not show signs of moderation.

Much more likely is that the appointment to secretary of a Democrat who is identified with our issue would do irreparable damage to our movement’s credibility with the progressive leaders and voters we hope to engage, and could be seen as giving implicit support to an agenda that attacks the very communities we aim to serve. 

Q: Does this mean you would rather someone incompetent be in this position?

That’s a false choice. There are many competent Republicans who would be a good fit for a Trump administration. Our goal, as Democrats who support education reform, is to work within our party to build support for reform policies. For the reasons stated above, we do not believe a Democrat should accept the appointment. 

Q: Does this mean you won’t work with the Trump administration?

As noted earlier, we draw a distinction between working with and working for Trump. Where appropriate, we will work with the administration to pursue policies that expand opportunity for kids, and we will vocally oppose rhetoric or policies that undermine those opportunities.  

But our mission is to build more support among Democrats for reform—a critical agenda in light of the outsized power of the teachers’ union within the party—and to cultivate bipartisan support for reform by growing the number of Democrats who support pro-child policies. Over the next four years, we will work with the hundreds of Democrats we’ve supported and helped to elect at the federal, state, and local levels to support positive policies for kids and to oppose negative ones.

November 23: Shavar Jeffries, president of Democrats for Education Reform, issued the following statement: (bolded emphasis mine)

DFER congratulates Betsy DeVos on her appointment as secretary of education, and we applaud Mrs. DeVos’s commitment to growing the number of high-quality public charter schools.

However, DFER remains deeply concerned by much of the President-elect’s education agenda, which proposes to cut money from Title I and to eliminate the federal role on accountability. These moves would undermine progress made under the Obama administration to ensure all children have access to good schools. In addition, our children are threatened by many of the president-elect’s proposals, such as kicking 20 million families off of health care, deporting millions of Dreamers, and accelerating stop-and-frisk practices. We hope that Mrs. Devos will be a voice that opposes policies that would harm our children, both in the schoolhouse and the families and communities in which our children live.

Finally, regardless of one’s politics, Trump’s bigoted and offensive rhetoric has assaulted our racial, ethnic, and religious minorities, causing millions of American children to perceive that they are less than full members of our communities. We hope Mrs. DeVos will push the President-elect to disavow such rhetoric.

Note: It’s not clear how DFER defines a “commitment to growing the number of high-quality public charter schools.” The DeVos family spent thousands of dollars this past summer to nix the Detroit Education Commission, a legislative reform that would have provided increased oversight and accountability to the city’s drastically failing charter sector.

Sanders Supporters See Some Silver Lining in Trump Victory

A Washington, D.C., rally to celebrate the death of the Trans-Pacific Partnership turned into a shout-out to progressives the moment Bernie Sanders took the stage just outside the U.S. Capitol, where hundreds had converged Thursday to catch a glimpse of their hero.

“I’m not here to blame anybody, criticize anybody, but facts are facts,” the one-time presidential candidate said, detailing sobering election losses up and down the ballot. “It’s time for a new direction for the Democratic Party.”

Donald Trump’s surprise win brought unexpected energy to the rally. What would’ve likely been a giant victory lap for progressives had Clinton been victorious, ended up as a lively post-mortem instead. Sanders admitted he didn’t have the slightest doubt that Trump’s promise to take on the establishment was what got him so many votes. “One of the reasons that he [Trump] won is, in my view, a failure of the Democratic Party that must be rectified,” he said, as the crowd cheered and chanted, “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!”

That failure, according to Sanders, was neglecting working-class voters. Hillary Clinton lost the election in large part because of a drop in support in states that have substantial blue-collar populations, including Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Some wonder whether the Obama administration’s bullishness on the Trans-Pacific Partnership made things worse. “I’ve left the open the question whether or not the administration’s push for a lame-duck vote and getting people dispatched all over the country and all over the world, saying we were going to move on this,” said U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat. “You have to question whether or not that resulted in the loss of the Rust Belt states.”

Buzzards now circle above the trade deal, which isn’t dead yet, but will be soon after Donald Trump’s inauguration: He has promised to kill the TPP in his first 100 days. Trump isn’t exactly the hangman progressives expected, but the imminent death of the trade deal is one silver lining for opponents of the accord.

Another is the chance to reshape the Democratic National Committee. Larry Cohen, former president of the Communication Workers of America, says the political vacuum left by the election could be an opportunity for progressives to gain more influence in the Democratic Party. On Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer unveiled the party’s new leadership team, which included Bernie Sanders as the director of outreach. Progressives are eyeing leadership positions on the Democratic National Committee as well. “[Minnesota Representative] Keith Ellison is an amazing leader,” said Cohen. “He’ll know how to handle the job.”

Kim Kamens, a Sanders supporter who runs a custom wood and metal design, architectural, and technology manufacturing business with her husband in Philadelphia, is eager to see change at the DNC, which she calls an “antiquated fundraising machine.” Kamens has seen more and more full-time workers forced into temporary manufacturing jobs. “The working class was left out of the Democratic agenda,” Kamens said. “It feels like Democrats have lost touch with the American people.”

National Nurses United co-president Jean Ross agrees. “The message of incremental change is not going to work for working-class Americans,” she says. “We need to change the message, not tweak it.” The NNU endorsed Sanders early on in the primaries, but refused to endorse Hillary Clinton in the general, even after Sanders did. Ross has no regrets on not endorsing Clinton. “Our integrity is intact — Bernie’s our guy.”

Trump Falsely Claims Credit for Saving Jobs, and News Outlets Lap it Up

(Wikimedia Commons)

 

How does Donald Trump plan to save American jobs? Apparently, by claiming that he’s saved the ones that were never going anywhere in the first place.   

On Thursday night, the president-elect tweeted out that he had just received a call from his “friend” Bill Ford, the chairman of Ford Motor Co., who told him that Ford will be keeping the Lincoln car manufacturing plant in Kentucky—and not sending the operation to Mexico.

Trump, of course, then claimed that he had helped keep those jobs in the country.

That’s mighty impressive for a man who hasn’t even taken his seat in the Oval Office yet. Reuters, and many other news outlets, took his claim at face value. The Reuters headline declared: “Trump says Ford not moving U.S. plant to Mexico.”

One problem: It’s not true. The company operates two plants in Louisville, Kentucky—one that manufactures the Lincoln Navigator; another that makes the Lincoln MKC and the Ford Escape. But Ford never said it was moving those sport utility vehicle plants to Mexico to begin with.

After Trump’s tweets, the company released a statement saying that it had told the president-elect that they were no longer moving an MKC production shift from Kentucky to Mexico. However, the jobs at that Kentucky plant were never at risk, as The Washington Post reported, because plans were already afoot to increase production of the Ford Escape.

“Whatever happens in Louisville, it will not lose employment,” a union vice president of the United Auto Workers told The Detroit Free Press on November 9. “They cannot make enough Escapes.”

Never mind. Trump’s tweets, and the misleading news reports that ensued, have taking hold the internet, morphing into even more inaccurate news reports, and reassuring Trump’s rabid social-media followers that he is, indeed, the savior of the American manufacturing industry. No amount of fact-checking will change that.

Lost in all this, and of course unmentioned by Trump, is that Ford is still shifting its small-car production—of vehicles like the Focus—to Mexico. This despite Trump’s threats that he institute a 35 percent tariff on imports of vehicles made there.  

New Report Examines How Country’s Largest Banks Finance the Private Prison Industry

When Donald Trump won and private prison stocks surged, an unexpected cheer came from downtown Manhattan. It’s a great time to be in the jail business.

A new report by the progressive advocacy group In the Public Interest reveals the troubling ties between Wall Street and the private prison industry, including hundreds of millions of dollars in loans and revolving credit. Shares of the private prison industry’s two biggest companies, CoreCivic (formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America) and GEO Group, rocketed after Trump’s win. Bondholders on Wall Street, who raked in tens of millions in interest payments from CoreCivic and GEO Group in 2015, seem confident that Trump will make good on his campaign promises of mass incarceration and deportation.

Last year, the industry’s two biggest companies, CoreCivic (formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America) and GEO Group, reported $1.79 billion and $1.84 billion in revenue, respectively. Of the many Wall Street banks involved in financing the growth and expansion of private prisons, ITPI noted that six represent the majority of those investments: Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, BNP Paribas, SunTrust, U.S. Bancorp, and Wells Fargo.  

According to the report, the banks underwrote bonds for CoreCivic and GEO Group and helped finance them through a combination of term loans and hundred of millions of dollars in revolving credit. This financing allowed the companies to expand and gave the banks a sweet return on their initial investments.

GEO Group and CoreCivic have long since been reading the writing on the wall for private prisons. They figured the “tough on crime” mindset was on its way out and spent years expanding into “community services” like halfway homes and electronic monitoring devices, thanks to their Wall Street financing. To stem the growth of the private prison industry, ITPI wants to see shareholders and other clients of these banks like universities, municipalities, and states pressure bank officials to stop extending revolving credit, awarding term loans, and underwriting bonds to these private prison companies—if bank officials do not move to do so themselves.

Meanwhile, prison divestment campaigns around the country have dug in their heels. “We can’t rely on the federal government,” says Enlace deputy director Amanda Aguilar Shank, who helped organize Portland, Oregon’s Prison Divestment Campaign. “We need to have local elected officials stepping up with the community and taking protective measures. Portland could be the first city in the country to completely divest from banks like Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase

In the face of a likely resurgence of interest in the industry, prison divestment advocates are also turning their attention to local institutions. Last year, Columbia University became the first university in the country to divest from private prisons, selling all of its CoreCivic shares in response to a student activist campaign. A few months later, the University of California followed its lead. #ForgoWells is a budding coalition of divestment advocates who have condemned Wells Fargo’s “destructive and extractive” investments in for-profit prison companies. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a Trump voter or a Clinton voter,” says Jeff Ordower, who works with the #ForgoWells campaign “This is a bipartisan movement to hold the banks accountable for what they’re doing.”

Private prisons, which account for 6 percent of state and 16 percent prisoners in the country, have been lambasted by critics for their understaffing and poor medical care as well as their high rates of recidivism. Yet, the future of private prisons was at risk not too long ago. In August, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would begin phasing out the use of private prisons. However, this decision could be easily rolled back by the incoming Trump administration. In addition to deporting undocumented immigrants, Trump, who ran as a “tough on crime” candidate, has promised to reduce “surging crime, drugs and violence” and boost funding for police and federal law enforcement agencies. 

Will Trump Deliver for Veterans?

On the campaign trail, President-elect Donald Trump repeated one key promise: to “Make America Great Again” by increasing the country’s military might and supporting its 24 million military veterans. After all, he promised to raise money for veterans and said he donated a million dollars out of his own pocket to veterans’ charities.

But Trump showed his true colors long before Election Day. He finally wrote a personal check to one veteran’s group but only after four months when reporters shamed him into doing so. Trump dissed mentally ill veterans for being weak. Most famously, he called Senator John McCain, who was a Navy pilot during the Vietnam War, a “loser” after being shot down in combat, badly injured, captured, and then abused as a prisoner of war. Nevertheless, many veterans voted for Trump by a large margin.

That’s no great start for “veterans affairs.” But the mistreatment of vets could go from rhetorical to real. That’s because Trump favors some form of privatization of all Veterans Health Administration services, a long sought-after goal of congressional Republicans. His allies on Capitol Hill and his appointees plan to take aim at taxpayer-supported health-care coverage for veterans that actually works better than the federally-subsidized, private health insurance system that was expanded under the Affordable Care Act, which Trump has promised to repeal.

The federal government currently provides veterans with comprehensive and highly specialized care as needed; outside the VHA, the same services would be far more costly and much harder to find. The VHA Commission on Care estimated that treating veterans in the private sector would be almost four times as high—a whopping $450 billion.

However, to the right-wing ideologues already shaping VHA policy under Trump, private health care is the best kind of care there is. Any public program that threatens that framework by being cost-effective, widely accessible, and popular with its patients needs to be curtailed, they believe, regardless of the outcome for millions of veterans.

Trump promised to make outgoing Congressman Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican who chairs the House Veterans Affairs Committee, his secretary of veterans affairs. (Miller did not run for re-election.) He has been hostile to the VHA and will certainly favor some form of VHA privatization. Also leading the Trump charge in the wrong direction is Darin Selnick, a Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) senior advisor and executive director of its “Fixing Veterans Health Care” taskforce. The CVA is an inside-the-Beltway creation of the billionaire Koch brothers rather than a “veterans service organization” with hundreds of thousands of members like the Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, or Vietnam Veterans of America, which all support the VHA. CVA may not have pumped big money into the Trump campaign but now they see a golden opportunity to downsize government by installing paid hirelings like Selnick in Trump’s VA transition team or in the executive branch.

Sally Pipes, president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute, another conservative think tank funded in part by the Koch brothers, was one of Rudy Giuliani's top health-care advisers when he sought the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. She recently wrote a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed, which criticized the VHA as well as any other possible type of single-payer health care. She exaggerated and misrepresented recent problems at some VHA facilities, such as wait times, and accused the agency of “rationing care.” 

Selnick and Pipes are previews of coming attractions in the top administrative ranks of the VHA, when heads start to roll and Koch brothers-minded managers replace them. As Trump’s plans for the VHA unfold, veterans and veterans service organizations must go on the offensive against behind-the-scenes power plays to protect a invaluable, specialized program that cannot be outsourced without compromising the quality of care.

Correction: This post has been corrected to reflect that Sally Pipes is the current (not former) president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute, and does not hold a post on the Trump transition team nor does she advise them on VA or other health care issues.

 

From “Trumpkin” to “Trumpista,” Trump-Inspired Words Proliferate

Whether or not Donald Trump wins this election, his candidacy will have added several new words to the nation’s vocabulary.

From Trumpnik to Trumpista, Trumpian and Trumpism, words to describe Trump’s followers, ideology, and movement have popped up in print, on the air, and on the internet. There are trending Twitter hashtags such as #Trumpkin, which could alternately mean a Trump devotee or a Halloween pumpkin in the likeness of the orange-haired GOP nominee. There was also the #NeverTrump movement, and talk of the “Trump Effect.” Here is a brief glossary of the Trump-inspired words that have, for the moment at least, entered the political lexicon:

Trumpkin

The popularity of the term Trumpkin caused some consternation on the right, prompting The Wall Street Journal’s William McGurn to chide that it was “meant at once to describe and demean” Trump’s backers. Rhyming as it does with Munchkin, Trumpkin does evoke something small, possibly ridiculous, and not to be taken seriously. Munchkin, in turn, calls to mind the Wizard who created a fantastic but deceptive show in the Land of Oz, giving Trumpkin added resonance. Trumpkin also took on a second meaning last month, as jack-o’-lanterns carved to look like Trump became the rage, and some noted with glee that pumpkin pulp made the perfect hair.

Trumpnik

If Trumpkin ruffled feathers, Trumpnik struck some conservatives as even worse, evoking as it does a Communist apparatchik—an arguably fitting moniker for fans of a candidate who likes to flatter Russian President Vladimir Putin. In one Twitter exchange about the proper moniker for Trump followers, Commentary Editor John Podhoretz declared: “It’s TrumpKIN not TrumpNIK.”

Trumpist

Trumpist is the mainstream shorthand to describe the quintessential Trump follower, who by varying accounts is a non-college-educated white male, an unemployed factory worker, a reactionary with racist inclinations, or any American who’s angry, worried, and economically insecure. Thus The Economist wonders, “What might a Trumpist Republican Party look like?” And Ross Douthat, of The New York Times, warns that it’s not hard to imagine post-election “armed clashes between Trumpist militias and left-wing protesters.” Douthat also wins a wordsmithing prize for referencing, in the same story, the possibility that some Trump supporters will cheer a “Trumperdammerung” should he lose.

Trumpista

For those who don’t refer to Trump followers as Trumpers, Trumpniks, or Trumpkins, Trumpistas has emerged as an alternative. Trumpistas sound a bit revolutionary, like the Sandinistas who belong to Nicaragua’s democratic socialist party. When Kathleen Parker described the genteel shock that followed Trump’s crass comments at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation dinner last month, The Washington Post fittingly headlined her story: “Elites booed, Trumpistas cheered.”

Trumpian

Trumpian describes all things Trump, good or bad. When The St. Louis Post-Dispatch endorsed Democrat Tammy Duckworth over GOP incumbent Mark Kirk for U.S. Senate in Illinois, the paper referenced Kirk’s attempt to insult Duckworth’s Thai parentage as “a racist comment of Trumpian proportions.”

Trumpism

The movement spawned by Trump is best known as Trumpism, by some accounts an uprising of Americans who think the system is “rigged” against them. “Win or lose, the Trump effect will be felt long after the election,” Showtime President David Nevins recently told The Washington Post in an article titled: “Trumpism isn’t going away.”

Such Trump-inspired words’ staying power will hinge entirely on whether he wins or loses. A Trump win would no doubt enshrine these and many other Trump variants in the dictionary forever. A Trump loss would give them less cachet. One word that will stick around no matter what—a word that existed long before “the Donald” came along, and that may capture him best of all—is trumpery. On October 20, the word-lovers’ website Wordsmith circulated trumpery as its “Word of the Day” with the following definition:

trumpery
(TRUHM-puh-ree)
noun
1. Something showy but worthless.
2. Nonsense or rubbish.
3. Deceit; fraud; trickery.

Pages