How far ahead should we look when planning economic policy?

A couple decades? 50 years? An entire century?

If job automation will be slow and relentless push, rather than a sudden tsunami-like wave, should we begin training people today for the jobs of tomorrow?

On one hand, it’d be more efficient to educate people once for a job they can work for a lifetime. Employing people now, in jobs doomed for extinction, can only mean periods of widespread unemployment later on. We can avoid repeatedly stretching our social fabric, creating tension and growing distance between the haves and have-nots — what we’re seeing today between the coastal elite and working-class families, struggling to stay afloat in Rust Belt cities and coal-mining counties. We recently elected a populist, malcontent president. We let the fabric rip.┬áCan our democracy handle another?

On the other, implementing a minimum wage or a universal basic income ahead of a wave not only far on the horizon, but speculative in size and strength and speed, might be overkill. There’s overwhelming evidence that raising the minimum wage slows down economic growth. It burdens the everyday consumer as prices skyrocket; purse strings tighten and hiring crawls to a snail’s pace. Should we be lifting our foot off the accelerator and slamming on the brakes when our ramp exit is still 10, 20 miles away? What if China is tailgating us and they ram into our bumper, causing a traffic jam for everyone riding behind us, putting a screeching halt on the global economy? Or worse, what if they pass us — along with everyone else?

 

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channeling “everything is copy”

Mindy is a recent hire. Larry is her boss — just a couple years older than she. On her second day on the job, Mindy loses a document that costs the office a pretty Benjamin and warrants an apologetic phone call to a new client.

***SCENE 1***

Mindy: I’m so sorry, but I can’t seem to find the papers. I’ve misplaced them.

Larry: That’s kinda fucked up.

Mindy: …

Larry: That’s kinda fucked up, isn’t it? That you lost the papers.

Mindy: Yeah, I’m so sorry. I must’ve given it back to the client instead of filing it. I have the client’s contact information if you want to give them a call.

Larry: Okay yeah, you’re definitely not getting this commission. You better make sure that doesn’t happen again.

Mindy: Of course not. It won’t. I’m sorry.

 

***SCENE 2***

Mindy: I’m so sorry, but I can’t seem to find the papers. I’ve misplaced them. I must’ve given it back to the client instead of filing it. I have their contact information if you want to give them a call.

Larry: Oh. Well okay, make sure that doesn’t happen again. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to subtract that commission from your paycheck if we don’t find the papers.

Mindy: That’s totally fine, I completely understand. Again, I’m so sorry.

Larry: It’s alright, it happens. Next time, reserve an entire shelf of your filing cabinet for these kinds of contracts. And file them as soon as they hit your desk.

Mindy: Will do! Thanks so much for understanding. Also, for the tip. It won’t happen again, I promise.

Larry: Glad to hear it.

 

***SCENE 3***

Mindy: I’m so sorry, but I can’t seem to find the papers. I’ve misplaced them.

Larry: Oh, don’t sweat it. It happens all the time.

lobby day: planting seeds in the statehouse

One day every summer, ordinary citizens overrun the basement of the statehouse. Stickers, buttons and t-shirts proclaim the issues they’re passionate about, the ideas worth meandering through Trenton’s streets for, parallel parking on a side street faraway, running out to re-feed the meter every two hours.

The state legislators, they’re here too. And they listen.

I’ve never been more excited about grassroots activism until today. Granted, I don’t know how it works inside the Big House on the Beltway, but it sure works in Trenton, in a powerful way.

The partisan divide in this country might be historically wide, but you couldn’t tell that based on the conversations I overheard between politicians and their constituents.

It was a give and take. People didn’t win all the battles, but they chipped away. If President Trump (who ran as a far-right candidate), can be persuaded to change his mind on climate change and the Paris Agreement, anything is possible with these politicians.

They planted seeds! Supporters of the Sierra Club warned one Republican assemblyman how dangerous it would be for firefighters to quell forest burns in the Pinelands, if a flammable gas pipeline ran through it. Another conservative assemblywoman thanked a rep from Clean Water Action for letting her know that a new bill on the table, one she initially thought was “harmless”, effectively weakened ethics laws to approve a pending pipeline.

What was amazing was, while yes, most groups had their full-time paid “lobbyists” or non-profit directors, leading the discussion, constituents spoke up. And the legislators listened. They debated. They changed each other’s minds. It was the most human, most democratic thing I’ve seen in a long time. It wasn’t just public comment, one side yelling at the other, the cold echo of microphones between them, a long formal line of people fidgeting to speak. It was informative, conversational and at times, a compassionate but fragile human compromise.

So this is how lobbying in a democracy is supposed to work. It’s for the public. It’s been for us this whole time.

in defense of lobby groups

Without lobbyists, politicians would be lost.

“At first glance, I didn’t think it was a big deal. But now that I’ve heard your points, I’m willing to give you my vote against that,” said Congressmen Holly Schepisi (R) on A4849, an assembly bill to weaken ethics laws so county commissioners could vote, even if they had conflict of interest. This bill is directly linked to pending approval for the South Jersey Gas pipeline.

This is where your money is going when you donate to Environment New Jersey. We go to the statehouse for you, to find your representatives and talk one-on-one, to make sure they don’t vote for leaky pipelines or pass laws that weaken the integrity of environmental decisions.

To be frank, there’s a lot on a politician’s plate. Yes, they have legislative digests prepared by their aides and unpaid college interns, and they even do their own research — Assemblywoman Schepisi mentioned that she spent fifteen minutes on the internet last night researching duckweed, trying to understand what local environmentalists were so worried about — but it’s hard to stay educated on so many issues when new laws are proposed left and right, and you’ve got your own political agenda to pursue for your constituents. For better or worse, things move fast in the New Jersey statehouse.

That’s where we come in. We persuade legislators to support the environmental issues that matter most, the ones in your backyard, the ones that big polluters try to push through right under your nose, and the ones that promise a cleaner and healthier future for every resident.

As the state with the most toxic superfund sites in the country, we have to care about these EPA budget cuts. We must stay vigilant against any laws, national or local, that strip away our right to defend the land we love, the place we call home. With your membership, we can keep up the good fight.

 

 

 

Trump’s “evolving” views on climate

Why did President Donald Trump go to the G-7 summit?

“He came here to learn. He came here to get smarter… he feels much more knowledgeable on the topic and learned how important it is for the United States to show leadership.” — National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, according to The Post.

Fine, but educate yourself before you decide to run for the single most powerful elected office in America.

Though I guess it’s true. The average climate denier probably doesn’t know much about the Paris Climate Agreement except that it’ll “kill trade and growth, no more jobs for hard working Americans #sad #bigfail.”

Could the Trump presidency be a macrocosm for what is happening in the microcosm of struggling towns across the country? Like votes for like and Trump has their eyes and ears. If they see him changing his mind on the topic, could they, too? President Trump is far from the “hero” this country deserves, but maybe he’s the one we need, to mend the bitter political fight on climate change in this country.

OR he could just be a big ig’nant fellow with a fake toupee and the petulance of a toddler, who only knows “green” as the grass on a sprawling golf course.