Pennsylvania Senate nominee’s lesson for Dems: A clear brand and coherent message wins every time

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman [Pennsylvania Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller]

You’d be hard-pressed to find a Pennsylvania Democrat who didn’t think that Lt. Gov. John Fetterman wasn’t going to come out at the right end of Tuesday’s nationally watched primary for U.S. Senate.

And even if he did lead in the polls heading into election night, the comprehensiveness of Fetterman’s win — he carried all 67 counties, and beat second-place U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb by a little more than 32 percentage points — was no less eyebrow-raising.

There’s been no shortage of speculation in the days since Fetterman’s win on whether the Allegheny pol represents the future of the Democratic Party.

Unsurprisingly, a decent part of the analysis has focused on Fetterman’s personal style, which, as I’ve previously written, has devolved into a kind of intellectual shorthand: He’s tall, wears shorts no matter the weather, just like your stubborn 8-year-old, has a bunch of tattoos, is gruff, and isn’t your garden-variety politician.

All of that is true.

His look is certainly unconventional. And, as The Atlantic’s David A. Graham noted on Wednesday morning, he has a distinct vibe and a connection with voters that has served him admirably during a campaign where control of the U.S. Senate, and with it, whatever’s left of President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda, is absolutely on the line.

But, as unorthodox as Fetterman appears on surface, if you roll up the sleeves on one of his Carhartt work-shirts, and look beneath the tattoos, you also get a deeply conventional Democratic politician, with an old-fashioned work ethic, whose rise has as much to do with the stewardship of his brand as it does the message he’s selling. Read more

Economic Policy Institute analysis: Overturning Roe v. Wade would be an economic catastrophe for millions of women

[This post was originally published by the Economic Policy Institute. Click here to read the original.]

A leaked draft of a majority opinion authored by Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito strongly suggests that the Court will rule to overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the two landmark cases that have upheld the right to an abortion nationwide for the last half century. If the final ruling largely follows what is sketched out in the leaked draft, abortion services will be drastically curtailed, if not outright banned, in over half the country.

Abortion is often framed as a “culture-war” issue, distinct from material “bread and butter” economic issues. In reality, abortion rights and economic progress are deeply interconnected, and the imminent loss of abortion rights means the loss of economic security, independence, and mobility for millions of women. The fall of Roe will be an additional economic blow, as women in the 26 states likely to ban abortion already face an economic landscape of lower wages, worker power, and access to health care.

Women’s economic lives, livelihoods, and mobility are at the heart of the reasoning to overrule Roe.

In the draft majority opinion, Justice Alito dismissed the argument in Casey that women had organized their lives, relationships, and careers with the availability of abortions services, writing “that form of reliance depends on an empirical question that is hard for anyone—and in particular, for a court—to assess, namely the effect of the abortion right on society and in particular on the lives of women.” In fact, this empirical question has been definitively assessed and answered. A rich and rigorous social science literature has examined both the detrimental effect of a denied abortion on women’s lives, as well as the individual and societal economic benefits of abortion legalization, as detailed in the thorough amicus brief filed in Dobbs on behalf of over 100 economists.

Some of the economic consequences of being denied an abortion include a higher chance of being in poverty even four years after; a lower likelihood of being employed full time; and an increase in unpaid debts and financial distress lasting years. Laws that restrict abortion providers, so-called “TRAP” laws (targeted regulation of abortion providers), have led to women in those states being less likely to move into higher-paying occupations.

On the flip side, environments in which abortion is legal and accessible have lower rates of teen first births and marriages. Abortion legalization has also been associated with reduced maternal mortality for Black women. The ability to delay having a child has been found to translate to significantly increased wages and labor earnings, especially among Black women, as well as increased likelihood of educational attainment. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen concluded that “eliminating the rights of women to make decisions about when and whether to have children would have very damaging effects on the economy and would set women back decades.”

The draft opinion of this overtly partisan Supreme Court ignores the rigorous data and empirical studies demonstrating the significant economic consequences of this decision. In doing so, it lays bare the cruel and misogynistic politics that motivate it. Justice Alito’s dismissal of claims that forcing women to bear an unwanted pregnancy imposes a heavy burden is shockingly glib, as he simply asserts “that federal and state laws ban discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, that leave for pregnancy and childbirth are now guaranteed by law in many cases, that the costs of medical care associated with pregnancy are covered by insurance or government assistance….”

Every statement in this casual litany is wildly misleading. Women are still routinely fired for being pregnant, close to 9 in 10 workers lacked paid leave in 2020, the costs of maternity care with insurance have risen sharply and constitute a serious economic burden for even middle-income families. And many of the states certain or likely to ban abortion after the fall of Roe have not expanded Medicaid, leaving women without insurance facing much steeper costs—particularly in the immediate post-partum period. And, of course, our failed health care system often imposes the ultimate cost of all on pregnant women: The U.S. rate of maternal mortality, especially for Black women, ranks last among similarly wealthy countries. In short, the potential costs of bearing a child are high indeed, and it is women who should decide if and when they wish to shoulder them.

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Now, maybe Cawthorn can get the help he needs

Rep. Madison Cawthorn is a troubled young man who needs help.

His supporters? That’s another matter

Western North Carolina Congressman Madison Cawthorn lost his bid for re-election yesterday. The first-term representative who enjoyed the strong support of former President Donald Trump, was narrowly defeated in the Republican primary in the state’s 11th Congressional District by State Senator Chuck Edwards. Edwards prevailed by just over 1,300 votes out of the 88,000-or-so that were spread among eight candidates.

Edwards received 33.4% of the vote and Cawthorn 31.9%. He will now face Buncombe County Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, who won the Democratic primary rather handily, in the November election. The district leans strongly Republican.

As for what’s next for Cawthorn — a 26-year-old right-wing firebrand who has drawn international attention for his outrageous/extremist views and an endless series of deeply embarrassing personal and legal problems — thing look less certain.

With a deep wellspring of far right support and access to the cash that often accompanies such popularity, it figures that Cawthorn may retain some prominence. One presumes that he will be an attraction at right-wing events and, perhaps, in some media circles for — at least for a while.

That said, it’s also hard to imagine that such a deeply confused, troubled, inexperienced, and shallow young person will be able to sustain a high-impact presence in the world of politics or media for an extended period. At some point, you have to think that even the people who’ve bought into his delusions and lies will come to realize just how utterly vacuous this poor fellow is and move on to another bright, shiny object.

All of which, one hopes, opens the door at some point soon for Cawthorn to seek out and receive the sustained mental health care and counseling he so obviously needs. The man has obviously been through a lot in his life and it’s had a very traumatic impact. Perhaps now he can address some of those demons.

As, however, for the roughly one-third of the 11th District GOP electorate that, despite Cawthorn’s myriad lies and inexcusable statements and actions, still voted for him, that looks like a longer-term project.

Donald Trump once infamously bragged that he could “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody” without alienating his supporters and Cawthorn clearly tapped into a similar brand of deeply crazy and oblivious loyalty.

One hopes that Cawthorn’s political demise will embolden Edwards and some of his powerful Republican backers (like Senator Tom Tillis) to push back against this delusional extremism that’s infected the party of Lincoln.

In an unprecedented economic recovery, why are we only talking about inflation?

Money by Tracy O. (CC BY-SA 2.0) CC BY-SA 2.0

The economic news is much better than most media coverage would have you believe 

The latest jobs report shows that the U.S. economy continues its rapid recovery from the pandemic crisis. Employers added 428,000 new jobs in April, continuing a now-year-long streak of similarly strong job growth. After surging to a post-World War II high of 14.7% in 2020, unemployment is now down to 3.6%, the lowest level in 50 years.

The employment data mirror other indicators of our strong recovery. Private consumption and business investment have almost completely returned to pre-2020 trends, and household income and wages — even controlling for inflation — are higher now than they were in 2019. Labor force participation, which had fallen from 63.4% to 60.2% in early 2020, has risen again to 62.2%.

The speed and scale of this recovery is without precedent in American history. By comparison, it took 14 years from the onset of the Great Depression for employment to return to 1929 levels. It took over eight years for unemployment to return to its pre-2008 level during the Great Recession, and real income and consumption have never fully recovered from the Global Financial Crisis and the Lost Decade that followed.

The Biden administration’s unprecedentedly aggressive fiscal policy has been central to this extraordinary recovery. The U.S. fiscal response via the American Rescue Plan was larger than that of any other rich democracy, and our recovery has been correspondingly stronger. This is excellent news: policymakers learned the right lessons from the Obama administration’s errors in 2009, when both the size and composition of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) were completely inadequate to the scale of the damage from the financial crisis.

And yet, news of this unprecedentedly rapid and successful recovery has been drowned out by the drumbeat of media coverage of inflation. A rough metric of this is the massive imbalance between news articles with inflation and unemployment in the headline. Since Joe Biden’s inauguration, this ratio has been 7 to 1, based on available LexisNexis data. In the last month – even as unemployment hit a 50-year low – the ratio has been 24 to 1. Read more

When will our ‘pro-life’ leaders do something about gun deaths?

A bystander looks on outside of Tops market on May 15, 2022 in Buffalo, New York, where a gunman opened fire at the store, killing ten people and wounding another three. Suspect Payton Gendron was taken into custody and charged with first degree murder. U.S. Attorney Merrick Garland released a statement, saying the US Department of Justice is investigating the shooting “as a hate crime and an act of racially-motivated violent extremism.” (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Aaron Salter Jr., 55, was on duty at the security job that supplemented his retirement income. Ruth Whitfield, 86, was buying groceries. Celestine Chaney, 65, stopped in for strawberries for the shortcake she and her sister were eager to enjoy.

But their plans went awry Saturday afternoon. Salter’s work shift ended sooner than he expected. Whitfield didn’t make it through her grocery list. And thoughts of strawberry shortcake evaporated in a flash for Chaney.

The three were slaughtered along with seven other people at a Tops supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y. Just like the 20 students, all 6 and 7 years old, and six employees who were massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012. Just like the 60 people who were gunned down at a music festival in Las Vegas in 2017.

Too few of our leaders seem to be giving much thought to how we are supposed to guard against tragedies like the one on Saturday and the relentless carnage guns are causing across our nation.

If only our government officials were as interested in these individuals as were the political leaders who have obsessed over University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas and her decision to compete for the Quakers or NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his decision to kneel during the national anthem.

Of course, it is easier for politicians to talk about transgender athletes and to look for ways to score cheap political points. It takes time, and it opens a politician up to potential criticism, to do the difficult work of finding ways to reduce gun violence.

It is more difficult to muster the political courage to explore possible changes in laws that now allow anyone to assemble enough weaponry, body armor and high-capacity ammo magazines to outfit an army platoon.

While politicians solemnly offer their thoughts and prayers, these officials prefer to talk about the sanctity of the Second Amendment’s “right to bear arms” than explain how unfettered access to weapons of war squares with the “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” promise our founding fathers laid out in the Declaration of Independence. Read more