Thursday, July 27, 2017

Shower Thoughts And Twitter Bans

Why President Trump Is Wrong To Block Chrissy Teigen (Or Anyone Else, For That Matter)

I, like many individuals in the Millennial age bracket, do a lot of thinking in the shower. So-called shower thoughts are altogether profound and yet very simple in reasoning. They produce an “aha!” moment in your head as you have them, and then oftentimes, hours later, you end up saying to yourself, “Well, yeah, that’s so obvious now that I think about it.”

(Don’t even try explaining them to your significant other.)

My most recent shower thought involved President Donald Trump. I’ll get to it in a minute, but it involves his habit of blocking people from his Twitter account, which I’d like to explain a little bit more first. The latest (famous) victim is supermodel Chrissy Teigen, who has provided years of commentary to Trump’s tweets, yet was only blocked this past weekend for such a ridiculous reason.

Teigen wasn’t blocked for her pointing out a hypocrisy made by the president, or for noting a flaw in Trump’s policy positions. She wasn’t even blocked for threatening the safety of the president. She was blocked for sharing these five simple words:

“lol no one likes you.”
Chrissy Teigen has the right to free speech, of course, and her post about how a majority of Americans disapprove of the president’s time in office thus far (at least, that’s how I analyzed it) isn’t wrong. But it did earn her the ire, apparently, of President Trump.

The question is, does Trump have a right to block Teigen, or any other citizen for that matter? Free speech does require us to understand there are consequences to what we say, but should one of those consequences end up being restricted access to the president’s opinions?

We may soon find out. A group of citizens is suing the president for similarly being blocked on social media by him. Although they do not have the same clout as Chrissy Teigen, they do consider this blockage by the president a violation of their rights, namely their access to information disseminated by the him.

While there isn’t an enumerated right to access the president’s Twitter feed (an unforeseen circumstance by the founders, to be sure), they may have a point: the right to know what your government is up to is one that may fall under a penumbra of rights that do exist in the Constitution, and may possibly be connected to the Freedom of Information Act.

But one may argue, “aren’t some of these users engaging in harassment or bullying?” That’s hard to say, but it may not matter. Which brings me back to the “shower thought” that I alluded to earlier, which goes like this:

“The president is not my great aunt, and neither should treat me the same way as the other does.”

I’ll try to explain. When family members or friends on social media get annoyed with your commentary, and they feel the need to respond, you are certainly within your rights to block those individuals from seeing your posts. They may whine and bemoan your decision, but nothing other than your own choice to change your mind can alter what has happened.

But there’s something different about the president doing that — he’s the most public of all public figures, after all, and his words (be they spoken or thumb-typed) deserve the scrutiny of everyone who lives in this country. While your great aunt may not need to know every public utterance you make, what the president has to say in public does matter a great deal to millions of Americans.

Admittedly, my shower thought is a bit lengthy, but I think you get the point: there may be circumstances that do warrant a “presidential ghosting” on social media — perhaps when harassment goes beyond words and into the realm of leveling threats against the POTUShim — but those instances should require tangible proof that they’re necessary for the protection of the president, his family or other members of his administration. It shouldn’t need to be said out loud, but social media blocking by the president shouldn’t come about as a result of a minor annoyance, disagreement or grudge that the commander-in-chief holds against you.

Every citizen deserves access to the official communications of the president, which the White House has deemed Trump’s tweets fit under that category. Even citizens who are annoyingly hounding the president should still have access to what he has to say. And the president, even if he’s feeling a bit grouchy that day, doesn’t have the right to limit your access to official government records.

The advent of social media (which is still a relatively young invention) brings about new thoughts and theories about what is permissible or not for private and public spheres alike. But on this issue, the ability to access the official word of the White House should not be restrained, whether it’s through traditional print media or through the president’s social media postings. No matter how short his temper is, Donald Trump doesn’t have the right to block you from seeing his public postings.

Friday, June 30, 2017

GUEST POST >> Trump’s Plan for Consumers: Death by a Thousand Cuts

Are Consumers Being Trumped by Policy?

The following is a guest post authored by Lindsey Pasieka, a Consumer Rights Investigator with If you are interested in doing a guest post with Political Heat, please click the Contact link above. 

The metaphor is gruesome, I know. But today, so is the outlook for consumers in America. With the AHCA vote put on hold once again (because not everyone thinks it is okay to strip 22 million Americans of their healthcare) our nation sits on the fence between defending and decimating consumer protections.

Donald Trump, however, has already made his stance clear. He stands to the side with Big Business, Big Pharma and Big Losses for the public.

Already, President Trump has shown his disregard for the average American in his FY18 budget, which presents cuts to some of our most important health and safety agencies. For example, the FDA’s budget stands to be cut by $854 million, a deficit that would be covered by increased user fees placed on the shoulders of drug manufacturers.

Perhaps this is a burden easily taken on by Pfizer and similar household names. However, the hiked fees could trample smaller, innovative companies seeking to bring new solutions to the world of medications, stifling their product offerings and thereby preserving the profit margin of current industry moguls.

Trump has often talked about reducing regulations that he considers “overkill” in both drug and agriculture. What you might not know is that those reductions include a $228 million cut in farm programs that, in addition to maintaining a high standard for food quality, offer assistance to smaller farms and organic farmers making their way into the market. If that isn’t enough, reports that "Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in May rescinded rules in the School Lunch Program that required the use of whole grains and fat-free, white-only milk and a second round of sodium reductions."

In plain terms, the Trump administration is stamping out opportunities for eco-friendly, health-focused producers while blatantly allowing schools to provide less healthful options to our kids every day.

Of course, it’s not enough to put a pillow over the face of market innovators — the GOP has attacked consumers directly as well. With their oxymoronic Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act, the administration has made it much more difficult for consumers to seek justice when Big Business or Big Pharma missteps. To create a class, citizens must now prove they have the same “type and scope of injury.”

So if plaintiff #1 was exposed to talcum powder by her mother using baby powder on her as an infant, and plaintiff #2 used the powder to help reduce chafing while training for a 5K, and both have now been diagnosed with ovarian cancer caused by the talcum powder, they cannot band together to seek reparations. Even if both women had the same “type and scope of injury,” ovarian cancer can lie dormant for years. Since litigators have recently proposed changing the statutes of limitation for these cases from 10 to 3 years, these women would be unable to fight for justice if their diagnosis came too late.

As of today, Donald Trump’s administration isn’t quite sure where it lands on health care just yet. But they continue to be complacent in supporting Big Business and Big Pharma over the small businesses that truly make America great. They care more about profits in the food industry than promoting health standards, despite a raging obesity epidemic and the climate benefits of innovative, organic farming practices.

And when they’re done picking the bones of federal agencies, they have no problem targeting consumer rights directly. So death by a thousand cuts may sound ugly, messy, or painful. But there’s one thing the threat isn’t: fake.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Why you should ignore Scott Walker’s rosy economic outlook

Underemployment remains a problem in Wisconsin — and that’s why jobs numbers matter

Scott Walker is making much ado about the unemployment rate in Wisconsin. And at first glance, it does look pretty great. Here’s his latest radio address spot, courtesy of the Capital Times’s Jessie Opoien:
A 3.1 percent unemployment rate, again, sounds great. But there’s important things to remember here...first, that the unemployment numbers count people as employed even if they’re working part time.

There isn’t a reliable measure of part time workers that we can look at. So, it’s important to look at the underemployment rate also when we look at how much things have improved.

That rate, also known as the U-6 rate, is actually hovering around 7.7 to 8.0 percent, meaning that nearly 4 to 5 percent of the workforce that Walker is touting as employed isn’t getting as much work as they wish they could (full time). In total, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that nearly 100,000 individuals were involuntary part time workers in the state of Wisconsin.

This leads into the next point. In order to fix that problem of underemployment, there has to be new jobs created in the state, and frequently. This is true with any economy: a certain percentage of people, at any given time, want to be able to change career paths or just get a different job with a new employer. So, new jobs have to be created to keep up.

That’s not possible when new jobs aren’t being created. And with less than 12,000 jobs being created for all of 2016, it’s clear that Wisconsin isn’t keeping up with the demand for fluidity in the job marketplace.

It’s no wonder that millennials are seeking work elsewhere, as I pointed out earlier this month. Job opportunities are low, wages are dropping, and what job opportunities do exist are on many occasions part time jobs.

Scott Walker should be proud of the 3.1 percent unemployment rate. But that rate is hardly indicative of the overall economic picture. Voters should remind him of where the state really stands when 2018 rolls around.