What Ga. and Pa. teach us is that middle-of-the-road wins elections for Democrats in swing states

Matt Yglesias has a good column up about lessons learned from the 2022 midterms and one of his chief arguments is a familiar one for anybody who follows him: Democrats are not going to win elections in conservative or conservative-leaning states by magically mobilizing some unseen progressive base that sits elections out.

Democrats are going to win in states with lots of conservative voters when Democrats are willing to very intentionally go after the votes of moderate Republican voters. And he starts by looking at Stacey Abrams’ blowout loss in Georgia — despite having an enviable get-out-the-vote machine — and how her loss can be explained in light of the fact that Warnock won (again) by appealing to middle-of-the-road voters who voted for Kemp but switched over to vote for Warnock:

I don’t think Abrams’ loss reflects poorly on her — I don’t see how any Democrat using any set of tactics could have beaten Brian Kemp in this midterm. It looked early in the cycle like a MAGA primary challenger might beat Kemp, in which case Abrams would have had a fighting chance and we could critique her choices.

But the fact that she lost badly is relevant context for Warnock’s win: he scored the plurality in the original election and won the runoff because a lot of Kemp voters voted for him. And if you look at how the down-ballot races went in Georgia, it’s clear that these aren’t just Brian Kemp superfans or people who have some huge problem with Stacy Abrams. The whole GOP ticket won, and the party controls both houses of the state legislature. As in all elections, a majority of Warnock’s voters were hardcore Democrats and a majority of Republicans voted for Herschel Walker, but the reason Warnock won is that a sliver of people who are otherwise party-line GOP voters backed him.

[Washington Post columnist] Perry Bacon, Jr. looked at these results and concluded that “Stacey Abrams didn’t win. But her ideas did.”

He then lists a bunch of Abrams-associated ideas that really were vindicated by the race, and it’s absolutely true that she was right to say in the wake of 2016 that Democrats had better odds of growing in Georgia than of winning back Ohio and Iowa. But I think it’s also indisputably true that along with the ideas Bacon attributes to her, Abrams is associated with the idea that Democrats could organize their way to victory. And that’s just not what happened.

There’s also not some huge mystery as to how Warnock’s campaign persuaded crossover voters. Especially in the runoff, his allies made direct appeals to Kemp voters urging them to vote for Warnock.

And obviously this worked in large part because Walker had a lot of serious flaws as a candidate. But Warnock’s campaign manager, Quentin Fulks, describes their deliberate efforts to court these voters.

“There could have been other campaign operatives or another campaign that could have said, ‘OK, Herschel Walker has all this baggage, so we’re just going to run to the left and just try to turn out as many of our voters and just let Republicans eat their own,” he told Bloomberg’s Sahil Kapur. “We didn’t do that.”

This idea of deliberately courting crossover voters is so banal that it hardly seems worth analyzing. But it really did go out of style in the wake of liberals’ shock and horror at the idea that anyone would vote for Donald Trump. Normally, when you lose an election, the first order of business is to figure out how to convince some of the people who voted for the other guy to change their minds next time. But lots of progressives found Trump so appalling that the idea of trying to do outreach to his voters was beyond the pale. Even though Hillary Clinton’s infamous analysis put only half of them in the basket of deplorables, there was very little interest in even trying to reach the other half. But there just isn’t some other way of doing politics.

I agree with much of what Yglesias says in this piece.

I am as blue as blue can be, and I think the life I lived mostly in Boston has inoculated me against even the idea of trying to appeal to any Republican voters. Especially in the Trump era.

But Georgia, Pennsylvania and other states are proving that fielding middle-of-the-road candidates, not offering up far left candidates who might magically get more liberal voters to the polls, is the way to win in statewide races in places where Democrats otherwise get creamed at the polls.

The ways that a Warnock win in Ga. will help Democrats

I’ve followed politics my entire life and had no idea that, in a U.S. Senate split 50-50, committees (including Judiciary) are also split 50-50, but if the Dems are up by one, that all changes:

Under President Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell was venerated — or denounced — for his efficient and cutthroat approach to ramming through Mr. Trump’s Supreme Court picks and confirming federal judges.

In four years, Mr. McConnell’s Senate majority confirmed three right-wing justices and 234 new judges overall, many of them youthful conservatives rubber-stamped by the Federalist Society. These Trump appointees can serve for the rest of their lives; it is plausible that some of them will still be remaking federal law 30 or 40 years from now. Most of these judges are avowed originalists, fiercely opposed to the “living Constitution” school that dominates liberal jurisprudence and allowed for all sorts of social progress that is now being turned back. The overturning of Roe v. Wade is the exemplar.

Since Democrats retook the Senate majority in 2021, Mr. Biden has undertaken his own successful counteroffensive, in tandem with Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader. Mr. Schumer’s Senate has actually confirmed federal judges at a faster rate than Mr. McConnell’s at the time of the first midterm election. So far, over 85 judges appointed by Mr. Biden have been confirmed, including a new Supreme Court justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson. The judges, overall, are traditional liberals, many of them younger and nonwhite. Mr. Biden and Mr. Schumer were willing to elevate judges who were former public defenders, an unlikely prospect in the law-and-order 20th century.

If Mr. Warnock wins, the Senate can move more rapidly and seek judges who are perhaps more progressive in their worldviews — the sort who could hit a snag if someone like Joe Manchin, the centrist from West Virginia, or Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona is the deciding vote.

Democrats must evenly split committee members in the 50-50 Senate, giving Republicans the power to delay votes on judges. A 51-49 majority would be much more dominant: Committees like the judiciary would be stacked with Democrats, greatly speeding up the confirmation process. There are about 75 vacancies on U.S. District Courts and nine at the appellate level. That number is bound to grow as more judges retire in the next two years.

The more you know!

The Fetterman family in hoodies and shorts at his victory party in PA is giving Republicans the vapors

It’s an amusing thing that the rich people of the Republican Party — the talking heads and columnists and Fox analysts and Claremont think-tankers — are getting all snobby about the Fetterman family showing up in hoodies and shorts on-stage at his PA victory party Tuesday night after he knocked off medical charlatan Mehmet Oz.

I mean, the Trumpiest base of the GOP is primarily people with broken down cars and washing machines in the front yards of their double-wides, and the GOP’s millionaire spokespeople are approaching fainting spells over some gym shorts.

Election 2022: Good either triumphed over evil, or evil was not able to kick good’s ass the way evil (and I) thought it was going to do

Honestly, who the heck knows whom to believe when it comes to polling these days?

Republican poll subjects have lied so much to pollsters in recent elections that (it appears anyway) that even the Democratic side has started lying to pollsters. So with everyone lying to pollsters, how can we trust any of them?

But the GOP-affiliated polls were way out of sync from reality it turns out. Whether that was by design to try to depress Democratic turnout (or increase GOP turnout) … well, the GOP pollsters aren’t admitting to anything. But it’s clear that the Democrats beat expectations around what happens in mid-terms to the party holding the White House during economic turmoil.

Now the questions begin, starting with Michael Tomasky in The New Republic, whose piece today lives under the hed/subhed, “Hey, Liberal Media, Here’s What You Got Really Wrong About the Midterms: Abortion mattered. Latinos did not desert the Democrats. Neither did independents. Why does the mainstream media fall for right-wing narratives every time?”

First of all, let’s stipulate that expectation of a red wave this election was entirely warranted. I was prepared for the worst myself. Recent history and Joe Biden’s bad approval numbers suggested a big Republican night.

It didn’t come close to happening. So: why?

My answer: because the mainstream media, the so-called “liberal” media, goes out of its way during every campaign to emphasize news of Dems in disarray. Twenty polls show the Dobbs decision matters to voters. But look, here comes one outlier that shows Dobbs not registering! That’s news! Let’s play up that one!

I’ve watched a lot of elections in my life, and I’ve seen this happen time after time after time. The liberal media, I guess wanting to demonstrate its collective independence, decides that “news” equals “looks bad for Democrats.” There were hundreds, maybe thousands of headlines over these last four weeks screaming that everything was moving toward Republicans.

Maybe most notorious of all was a New York Times poll in late October that crowed about a massive shift among independents to Republicans, based on a sample size of a small subgroup of respondents. Did any editors at the Times say, “Hey, folks, let’s hold on a second here?” Maybe, but in the end, the paper bannered the bad news for Democrats across its front page, and the huge play ensured that this alleged substantial shift became conventional wisdom.

This goes back to structural ethics problems between liberal and conservative journalists.

Real journalists at real newspapers — many of them at least tending toward progressive in temperament and outlook — bend over backwards to try to not seem or actually be biased.

This means very often giving even the most obviously false right-wing talking points a fair airing. This is the basis of “both sides-ism.”

I don’t think many mainstream journalists are secretly conservative, nor do I think they like to create chaos just to make their jobs more interesting. They are trained to just report the facts, even if the “facts” are obvious GOP lies, unless they have direct proof that something is a lie. That’s a pretty high bar to meet when deciding whether to report GOP talking points, especially if you have a story that is complex and expected under deadline at newspapers and TV stations where reporters are expected to do more with less these days.

Conservative journalists at Fox, the New York Post, and elsewhere are not under the same constraints. Not even close. They can be as one-sided and outright anti-Democrat as they want to be. Their readers/viewers don’t care about balance. In fact, their readership/viewership expects them to be one-sided.

Where this all gets messy during elections is that GOP-affiliated pollsters insist they are not GOP-affiliated, and their methodologies are sound. The fact that this is a lie often only becomes apparent after an election. By that time, it’s too late.

In any case, I’m glad those GOP pollsters were mostly wrong, and the Dems performed far better than most of us ever hoped they would.

And, hey: Lauren Boebert AND Mehmet Oz appear to have lost. Those are worth a great deal on their own, especially since GOP pollsters had them both winning handily.

Colorado’s Lauren Boebert appears to have lost her seat in Congress.

Progressive stalwart Rep. Katie Porter is in the fight of her life after redistricting

As with many progressives, I have developed a great admiration for Congressperson Katie Porter (D-CA). But her district was already a swing district, and now her district was redrawn to the point that her re-election looks to be on shakier ground than before.

PORTER HAS BECOME A DEMOCRATIC MEDIA SENSATION over the past few years, beloved for her takedowns of corporate CEOs in hearings and her general no-bullshit attitude. What’s more, she did it as a frontliner, Washington’s name for House Democrats in swing seats whose electoral outcomes typically determine which party controls the chamber. Where frontliners often aim for the most inoffensive, bland position possible on any issue, pandering either to an imagined fussy median voter or to the donor class, Porter’s more unyielding stances are what she believes gives her broad buy-in with a divided electorate.

After redistricting, about 70 percent of voters in California’s 47th Congressional District will see Porter’s name on the ballot for the first time.

“I didn’t run as a typical politician,” she said. “And I think I’ve delivered on not being a typical politician.”

This fall, Porter faces Scott Baugh, a state assemblyman in the 1990s and the former chair of the Orange County Republican Party. The fact that Baugh paid fines for multiple state campaign finance violations while in the legislature, and became a lobbyist for the county after his terms in the assembly, plays into Porter’s narrative about taking on special interests.

“I think there’s a pretty clear contrast between someone who is one of the dozen members of Congress who doesn’t take lobbyist money, and someone who’s been a professional lobbyist,” she said. “I ran on good governance, and on standing up to special-interest money, and he has been involved in projects that corrupt our political system.”

Porter’s popularity has given her an insurmountable fundraising lead, with an incredible $19.8 million in cash on hand as of the end of June. Baugh had about $1.1 million in the bank at that point. The Congressional Leadership Fund, the leading House Republican PAC, has spent a nominal sum of about $800,000 on the race.

Still, Porter has never won more than 53.5 percent of the vote in her two House victories, and Republicans are loaded for bear against her. First, they highlighted a discounted home she purchased in University Hills, on the UC Irvine campus, as part of a program the university uses to attract professors who would otherwise be priced out of a city where the median home price exceeds $1 million. Because she is currently on leave from the school, some have questioned whether Porter should still be eligible for that discount, or whether under the rules of the arrangement she should have to pay off the mortgage entirely.

Fingers crossed her substantial war chest gives her the advantage she needs in November. (See her campaign web site here.)

Meanwhile, the video below is from her greatest hits of holding the rich and powerful to account in ways most elected officials can only dream about.

Is Biden the best president for unions ever?

As this very good article on Wonkette by Erik Loomis (nee Lawyers, Guns and Money) notes, the answer to that question looks likely to be yes. But it’s also too early to tell:

As the nation faced a rail strike last week, the Biden administration sprang into action. It had many reasons to do so. First, a rail strike could break already stressed supply chains. The economic impact might lead to much higher prices at a moment when the media desperately wants to report on inflation in a way that compares Joe Biden to Jimmy Carter, which for a certain generation of reporter and Beltway hack is what a Democrat always is. Second, a rail strike could make the administration look weak, flailing in the face of a few workers holding the nation’s economy hostage. That they have legitimate complaints would likely disappear in media coverage of the strike, which would again just blame it on the White House.

But Biden also engaged with this labor situation because he really believes in labor unions. Biden’s political career has shifted significantly over the years. He’s always been a middle-of-the-party kind of guy. When the party has moved right, he’s moved right, and now that the party has moved back to the left, he’s moved left too. That’s fine, I guess; it’s a politician for you.

However, Biden does have deep-seated values and they include the value of a labor union. Despite governing over a deeply divided nation and, on issues like unions, no small amount of division within his party, Biden has used a significant amount of political capital supporting unions. This is remarkable. No other president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has ever used that much capital in supporting organized labor. Moreover, the only reason FDR could do this is because he had enormous majorities in both the House and Senate that allowed for legislation to get through the usual alliance of Republicans and Dixiecrats that would forestall anything to help working Americans. Biden doesn’t have that, and yet he is doing whatever he can to help unions.

There is absolutely incontrovertible proof in verifiable statistics that in states and cities where unions are strong, wages and benefits far surpass those of states that are actively anti-union. Not only that, but even non-union people benefit from unions because even non-union wages and benefits average out higher in heavily unionized areas because non-union companies have to offer better deals to the employees to keep up.

Election challenge for 2022 and 2024: try to figure out why polls were so wrong and how to correct for it

There is one nightmare that must make Democratic election operatives wake up in cold sweats: much of the presidential polling was wrong in 2016 and again in 2020. Some of the biggest polls overstated Democratic support in both elections.

How and why this happened — and how to adjust for it in polling — is still somewhat of a mystery.

The New York Times debuts a newsletter today called The Tilt by Nate Cohn. (Sign up here.) Cohn examines in the inaugural edition of the newsletter these vexing questions.

Ahead of the last presidential election, we created a website tracking the latest polls — internally, we called it a “polling diary.” Despite a tough polling cycle, one feature proved to be particularly helpful: a table showing what would happen if the 2020 polls were as “wrong” as they were in 2016, when pollsters systematically underestimated Donald J. Trump’s strength against Hillary Clinton.

The table proved eerily prescient. Here’s what it looked like on Election Day in 2020, plus a new column with the final result. As you can see, the final results were a lot like the poll estimates “with 2016-like poll error.”

We created this poll error table for a reason: Early in the 2020 cycle, we noticed that Joe Biden seemed to be outperforming Mrs. Clinton in the same places where the polls overestimated her four years earlier. That pattern didn’t necessarily mean the polls would be wrong — it could have just reflected Mr. Biden’s promised strength among white working-class voters, for instance — but it was a warning sign.

That warning sign is flashing again: Democratic Senate candidates are outrunning expectations in the same places where the polls overestimated Mr. Biden in 2020 and Mrs. Clinton in 2016.

Cohn goes on to note:

The pattern of Democratic strength isn’t the only sign that the polls might still be off in similar ways. Since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision on abortion, some pollsters have said they’re seeing the familiar signs of nonresponse bias — when people who don’t respond to a poll are meaningfully different from those who participate — creeping back into their surveys.

Brian Stryker, a partner at Impact Research (Mr. Biden is a client), told me that his polling firm was getting “a ton of Democratic responses” in recent surveys, especially in “the familiar places” where the polls have erred in recent cycles.

None of this means the polls are destined to be as wrong as they were in 2020. Some of the polling challenges in 2020 might have since subsided, such as the greater likelihood that liberals were at home (and thus more likely to take polls) during the pandemic. And historically, it has been hard to anticipate polling error simply by looking at the error from the previous cycle. For example, the polls in 2018 weren’t so bad.

Some pollsters are making efforts to deal with the challenge. Mr. Stryker said his firm was “restricting the number of Democratic primary voters, early voters and other super-engaged Democrats” in their surveys. The New York Times/Siena College polls take similar steps.

My biggest fear is that the overstating of Democratic support will depress turnout among progressive voters. These polling mistakes only prove that, no matter how much you think Democrats are ahead, all of us need to get out and vote every time.

Source: New York Times.

Judge strikes down massive gift Democrats in NJ gave to gaming industry

The sneaky sneaksters — Democrats, all of them — who tried to slip special tax treatment for New Jersey casinos into law, were rebuked this week by a state judge who said the law was passed improperly and likely violated the state constitution.

A Superior Court judge in New Jersey has struck down a state law granting Atlantic City’s casinos tens of millions of dollars in tax breaks, saying that the measure was passed on dubious grounds and violated the state Constitution.

The ruling, handed down Monday, deals a blow to Gov. Phil Murphy and the state’s legislative leaders, who fast-tracked the legislation through the Legislature last year. It is also a rebuke to the gaming industry, which had argued the bill was needed because it was struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

At issue in the court case were changes to a local taxing program known as PILOT, or payment in lieu of property taxes. Since 2016, instead of paying property taxes, each casino has paid a share of an industrywide assessment that was distributed to Atlantic City, its school district and the county to fund various operations. The number was calculated based on the prior year’s total gaming revenue. But last year, the industry pressed for and won a key legislative change to that formula, excluding online gaming — a fast-growing sector of its business — from the program. The alteration reduced the gaming companies’ total PILOT liability this year by $55 million — revenue cuts that disproportionately impacted Atlantic City, one of the state’s most distressed cities.

A conservative nonprofit group called Liberty and Prosperity 1776 challenged the constitutionality of the law, saying the state’s founding document bars preferential tax treatment. The state countered that the new law was exempt from that prohibition because it served a “permissible public purpose.” On Monday, Atlantic County Assignment Judge Michael Blee sided with the nonprofit, potentially increasing casinos’ tax bills and sending tens of millions of additional dollars into local coffers.

I haven’t looked yet, but I’ll bet that these state leaders — again, mostly Democrats — have profited handsomely in some way from the gaming industry.

New Jersey has a Democratic trifecta. Both houses of the legislature and the governor’s office are all controlled by Democrats.

Which goes to show you, that no matter how bad the Republicans are — and they are mostly much worse than Democrats in every way — there will always also be Democrats willing to sell out voters to large, well-funded corporations.

Start paying attention!

If I lived in NJ and my Democratic legislators voted for this, I’d have a hard time voting for them again in the next Democratic primary.

Quietly, incrementally, Biden has transformed U.S. industrial policy where all other Democratic administrations have failed

There was a time when the idea that the U.S. government could and would do things to encourage industrial growth in America — including protecting U.S. companies from the unfair advantages posed by foreign competition that could produce products cheaper because they didn’t have to adhere to American laws about labor, safety, and environmental protections — was widely accepted and non-controversial.

But then Ronald Reagan was elected and Wall Street was in ascendance. And Wall Street wanted companies to be able to move operations and job overseas because Wall Street doesn’t now, and never has, put American workers and the environment ahead of naked greed.

Reagan and his Wall Street cronies — the people who really called the shots in his administration — shifted the debate away from wages and safety and good jobs, and onto the notion that “big government” had no place in “picking winners and losers” in the U.S. economy.

This is where the Biden administration’s greatest achievements may go down in history, because they have managed, in the short course of just one presidential term, to shift the balance of power away from Wall Street in ways that other Democratic administrations post-Reagan have failed utterly.

Writer Robinson Meyer over at The Atlantic has a very good piece posted that looks at the big picture on these Biden victories, for which Biden is still receiving too little credit from a mainstream media that loves to repeat Republican talking points:

The idea is this: The era of passive, hands-off government is over. The laws embrace an approach to governing the economy that scholars call “industrial policy,” a catch-all name for a wide array of tools and tactics that all assume the government can help new domestic industries get started, grow, and reach massive scale. If “this country used to make things,” as the saying goes, and if it wants to make things again, then the government needs to help it. And if the country believes that certain industries bestow a strategic advantage, then it needs to protect them against foreign interference.

The approach is at the core of how the IRA seeks to resolve climate change. Democrats hope to create an economy where the government doesn’t just help Americans buy green technologies; it also helps nurture the industries that produce that technology.

This reflects a homecoming of sorts for the United States. From its founding to the 1970s, the country had an economic doctrine that was defined by its pragmatism and the willingness of its government to find new areas of growth. “Yes, there was an ‘invisible hand,’” Stephen Cohen and Brad DeLong write in their history of the topic, Concrete Economics. “But the invisible hand was repeatedly lifted at the elbow by the government, and placed in a new position from where it could go on to perform its magic.” That pragmatism faded in the 1980s, when industrial policy became scorned as one more instance of Big Government coming in to pick so-called winners and losers.

The IRA is not the only bill intent on bringing back industrial policy. The two other large bills passed by this Congress—the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law and the CHIPS and Science Act—make down payments on the future as well; both laws, notably, were passed by bipartisan majorities. They alone would be notable commitments to a different vision of the next decade. But it is in the IRA that these general commitments become specific, and therefore transformative.

Ever since the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure law, a massive achievement in itself, I have been amazed at what this administration has been able to accomplish. Yes, the change has been quiet and incremental, which means that much of it has escaped Beltway pundits who do not do well with quiet and incremental. Hell, the Inflation Reduction Act seemingly came out of nowhere because our pundit class was too busy writing Biden’s epitaph to realize that the very thing for which they most criticized Biden — have an alleged “lack of vision” — could not have been farther from the truth.

The future of a successful, vibrant America is an economy focused on American jobs in industries that might just save our dying planet. Biden is the first president to put us squarely on that path.

You can read the rest of the Atlantic article here.

Stock buyback tax in the Inflation Reduction Act is a game changer

One of the less-heralded but nonetheless important features of the Democrats’ just-passed Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) on its way for President Biden’s signature is the tax on stock buybacks.

As far back as 2014, even pro-business publications like the Harvard Business Review were sounding the alarm about the buybacks:

Five years after the official end of the Great Recession, corporate profits are high, and the stock market is booming. Yet most Americans are not sharing in the recovery. While the top 0.1% of income recipients—which include most of the highest-ranking corporate executives—reap almost all the income gains, good jobs keep disappearing, and new employment opportunities tend to be insecure and underpaid. Corporate profitability is not translating into widespread economic prosperity.

The allocation of corporate profits to stock buybacks deserves much of the blame. Consider the 449 companies in the S&P 500 index that were publicly listed from 2003 through 2012. During that period those companies used 54% of their earnings—a total of $2.4 trillion—to buy back their own stock, almost all through purchases on the open market. Dividends absorbed an additional 37% of their earnings. That left very little for investments in productive capabilities or higher incomes for employees.

The buyback wave has gotten so big, in fact, that even shareholders—the presumed beneficiaries of all this corporate largesse—are getting worried. “It concerns us that, in the wake of the financial crisis, many companies have shied away from investing in the future growth of their companies,” Laurence Fink, the chairman and CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, wrote in an open letter to corporate America in March. “Too many companies have cut capital expenditure and even increased debt to boost dividends and increase share buybacks.”

Why are such massive resources being devoted to stock repurchases? Corporate executives give several reasons, which I will discuss later. But none of them has close to the explanatory power of this simple truth: Stock-based instruments make up the majority of their pay, and in the short term buybacks drive up stock prices. In 2012 the 500 highest-paid executives named in proxy statements of U.S. public companies received, on average, $30.3 million each; 42% of their compensation came from stock options and 41% from stock awards. By increasing the demand for a company’s shares, open-market buybacks automatically lift its stock price, even if only temporarily, and can enable the company to hit quarterly earnings per share (EPS) targets.

As a result, the very people we rely on to make investments in the productive capabilities that will increase our shared prosperity are instead devoting most of their companies’ profits to uses that will increase their own prosperity—with unsurprising results.

So two of the key takeaways here are that corporate leaders could buy back company stocks, which has the dual purposes of shielding corporate profits from the IRS — “hey, we only had X amounts of profits this year because we used so much cash on stock buybacks.” All while simultaneously increasing their own pay because they are paid in stock and buybacks artificially increase their company’s stock price. (While actually doing nothing to make the company, its products, or its lower-level employees any better off.)

It’s gotten so much worse since that 2014 article was written

Fast forward to last week and the passage of the IRA.

As New Republic writer Timothy Noah explains:

Stock buybacks hit a record $882 billion last year, and they may reach $1 trillion this year. The biggest corporations spend the most on buybacks. Thus Apple lavished $91 billion over the previous four quarters, according to The Wall Street Journal; Alphabet (Google), $55 billion; Meta (Facebook), $53 billion; Microsoft, $33 billion; and Bank of America, $21 billion.

But even with corporate profits at record highs, earnings can no longer meet the voracious demand for buybacks. So a growing proportion of buybacks—one recent estimate put it as high as 56 percent— are now “leveraged buybacks” paid for with corporate debt. Corporations are going into hock so they can shower more cash on shareholders and their top executives.

The proposed excise tax on buybacks is only 1 percent, so its initial effect on this drunken binge will be minimal. Indeed, in the short term it will likely create an uptick in buybacks as some corporations accelerate buybacks to avoid the tax’s implementation in 2023. The initial proposal by Democratic Senators Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Ron Wyden of Oregon—Brown is the Banking Committee chairman, while Wyden leads the Finance Committee—was for a 2 percent tax on buybacks, which would have been better. Five or 10 percent would be better still.

In coming years, it can and probably will be increased. But the excise tax’s creation establishes a beachhead. In coming years, it can and probably will be increased. In the meantime, it isn’t a bad revenue-raiser. According to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, this itty-bitty 1 percent tax will raise $74 billion over the next decade. If the outlook for the stock market improves, it will raise more. And if the excise tax is increased in the coming years, it will raise even more than that. So please join me in welcoming this new provision to the tax code. Its debut is long overdue.

Another reason we have to back campaigns such as the 50+2 effort trying to increase the U.S. Senate majority from 50 to 52 so as to counter the influence of Democratic Sens. Manchin and Sinema, who both blocked Wall Steet reforms in the IRA that would be true game-changers for reigning in the excesses of corporate America — and slowing down climate change.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi celebrates by showing off the official final tally in the House for the successful passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, for which not a single Republican voted.