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BeyondGeography's Journal
BeyondGeography's Journal
August 8, 2019

Walmart employees stage a walkout to protest gun sales

About 40 employees at Walmart’s e-commerce office in San Bruno, Calif., walked out Wednesday for a moment of silence.

SAN BRUNO, Calif. — Roughly 40 white-collar Walmart employees here walked out Wednesday afternoon to protest the retailer’s gun policies after deadly shootings at two company stores.

Workers at Walmart’s e-commerce offices in Portland, Ore., and Brooklyn were also taking action to urge the world’s largest retailer to stop selling guns and discontinue donations to politicians who receive funding from the National Rifle Association. Walmart sells guns in about half of its 4,750 U.S. stores, making it one of the nation’s largest retailers of firearms and ammunition.

...In San Bruno, about 40 employees stood outside Walmart’s building there for 15 minutes in a circle. They hung their heads in silence briefly and then asked anyone to speak out. Only a handful did so.

Operations manager Tom Misner, 46, was one of them. He said Walmart can and should do something about the rash of gun violence. In an interview he said he is a believer in the Second Amendment, but “I don’t understand how that has included weapons of mass destruction” like assault rifles. He said Walmart should use its influence to lobby Congress for better gun control laws. “Congress will not do anything,” he said.

Marshall said some employees worried they might face consequences if they participated in the walkout. “People are really afraid for their jobs,” he said. “Walmart has a reputation for silencing dissent.” Hargrove earlier declined to say whether employees would be penalized for taking part in the walkout. “There has been no discipline, and we’re not going to speculate on that further."

More at https://www.google.com/amp/s/beta.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/08/07/walmart-employees-staging-walkout-protest-gun-sales/%3foutputType=amp
August 7, 2019

From Iowa: A look at Elizabeth Warren's brain trust in action

Where does Elizabeth Warren come up with all of these plans? I’ll tell you where she got her new one, aimed at rural communities and agriculture: rural Iowans from every corner of the state.

I know because I observed a member of the brain trust in action. John Russell is an ex-farmer employed by the Warren campaign to drive his black Chevy Colorado all over Iowa. His team calls him “Roaddog.” Though based in Mason City, he crashes on couches with generous supporters most every day of the week.

Three times a month, Russell goes to a new town on his “Rural Listening Tour,” the most recent of which I attended with twenty Iowans in the dining room of Keosaqua’s historic Hotel Manning. After a spiel about Warren’s proposals to repair structural deficiencies in America’s economy and democracy—with emphasis on the campaign’s intention to enforce antitrust in the farm sector—Russell said, “I’m feeding your ideas directly up to HQ, so whatever you tell me has the potential to influence this campaign.”

With that, the floor opened. For ninety minutes we discussed struggling rural hospitals, the merits and drawbacks of Senator Warren’s plan to cancel student loan debt, the ethanol mandate, USDA conservation programs, and consolidation in the meatpacking industry. In the room were two doctors and two farmers. There was consensus as well as discord. Often when grappling with rural America’s intractable problems and uncertain future, one’s eyes would fall to the floor, eyebrows raised, head shaking side to side.

It’s no surprise that this style of policy development leads to bold, creative, and powerful ideas. Having spent five years studying the history and policy of American agriculture, I can say that Warren’s latest, published this morning, is no exception: the specificity of her plan for “a new farm economy” makes it singular among the primary hopefuls. Its boldness and originality advances the progressive farm policy conversation writ large.

More at https://www.bleedingheartland.com/2019/08/07/a-look-at-elizabeth-warrens-brain-trust-in-action/
August 5, 2019

Elizabeth Warren: Trump should not 'wink and nod and smile' about white supremacy

ashington(CNN) Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren on Sunday said President Donald Trump should not "wink and nod and smile" about white supremacy in the wake of two mass shootings in the US in the span of 13 hours -- one massacre that involved a white supremacist suspect.

"White supremacy is a domestic terrorism threat in the same way that foreign terrorism threatens our people," the Massachusetts Democrat told CNN's Don Lemon on "CNN Tonight." "And it is the responsibility of the President of the United States to help fight back against that. Not to wink and nod and smile at it and let it get stronger in this country."

...Reacting to Trump's remarks Sunday, Warren said "Donald Trump has created plenty of space for hate. He is a racist. He has made one racist remark after another. He has put in place racist policies. And we've seen the consequences of it."

Hate crimes are up around this country," Warren added. "And people who are hateful feel like they are now empowered. They are protected. They celebrate this President."

More at https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.cnn.com/cnn/2019/08/04/politics/elizabeth-warren-white-supremacy-trump-el-paso-texas/index.html
August 3, 2019

Housing affordability crisis spreads to the Midwest and other lower-cost areas

Low mortgage rates and thriving employment should be the recipe for a strong housing market. Instead, they’re deepening America’s affordability crisis. What began on the coasts, in areas such as New York and San Francisco, is now radiating into the nation’s heartland and to cities such as Las Vegas and Charleston, S.C. Entry-level buyers are scrambling to purchase homes that are in short supply, sending values soaring.

Expectations that the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates this week will do little to change the sober reality: For many, prices have risen much faster than incomes, pushing homeownership out of reach for a new generation of hopeful buyers. That’s cooling the market, with the 2019 spring season shaping up as the slowest for sales in five years, according to CoreLogic Inc.

...Dean Rusch, a 29-year-old chemical-plant worker, has been trying to buy a starter home for less than $200,000 in Louisville, Ky., since April. On three occasions, houses he planned to tour were snapped up before he could get there. He was outbid on another. He finally had an above-asking offer accepted Sunday on a house listed for about $199,000, but only after his agent locked the door during a showing, keeping another buyer out. For much of his hunt, it was slim pickings.

...The housing recovery that began in 2012 has been unequal from the start. About 6 million Americans lost homes in last decade’s crash and needed time to rebuild their credit. Private equity firms such as Blackstone Group Inc. swept in to buy foreclosed properties at deep discounts and rented them back to many of those displaced former homeowners.

Now those people are back in the market, along with the bulging population of millennials eager for their first crack at homeownership. But many of the properties they want have already been picked over. Builders have focused on wealthier buyers willing to pay higher prices, and now some areas have too many expensive homes and too few homes where they’re needed.

More at https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2019-07-30/housing-affordability-crisis-spreads-to-midwest
August 3, 2019

Families go deep into debt to stay in the middle class

The American middle class is falling deeper into debt to maintain a middle-class lifestyle. Cars, college, houses and medical care have become steadily more costly, but incomes have been largely stagnant for two decades, despite a recent uptick. Filling the gap between earning and spending is an explosion of finance into nearly every corner of the consumer economy.

Consumer debt, not counting mortgages, has climbed to $4 trillion—higher than it has ever been even after adjusting for inflation. Mortgage debt slid after the financial crisis a decade ago but is rebounding.

...Auto debt is up nearly 40% adjusting for inflation in the last decade to $1.3 trillion. And the average loan for new cars is up an inflation-adjusted 11% in a decade, to $32,187, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from credit-reporting firm Experian. Unsecured personal loans are back in vogue, the result of competition between technology-savvy lenders and big banks for borrowers and loan volume.

The debt surge is partly by design, a byproduct of low borrowing costs the Federal Reserve engineered after the financial crisis to get the economy moving. It has reshaped both borrowers and lenders. Consumers increasingly need it, companies increasingly can’t sell their goods without it, and the economy, which counts on consumer spending for more than two-thirds of GDP, would struggle without a plentiful supply of credit.

...Median household income in the U.S. was $61,372 at the end of 2017, according to the Census Bureau. When inflation is taken into account, that is just above the 1999 level. Over a longer stretch—the three decades through 2017—incomes are up 14% in inflation-adjusted terms. Average housing prices, however, swelled 290% over those three decades in inflation-adjusted terms, according to an analysis by Adam Levitin, a Georgetown Law professor who studies bankruptcy, financial regulation and consumer finance. Average tuition at public four-year colleges went up 311%, adjusted for inflation, by his calculation. And average per capita personal health-care expenditures rose about 51% in real terms over a slightly shorter period, 1990 to 2017.

“The costs of staying in the middle class are going up,” Mr. Levitin said.

More at https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/markets/families-go-deep-into-debt-to-stay-in-the-middle-class/ar-AAFbEHE

August 3, 2019

Axelrod: Elizabeth Warren is running a brilliant campaign

(CNN) Here are my reflections on a stormy and revealing week in the Democratic presidential race.

The first is that Elizabeth Warren is running a strategically brilliant campaign.

More than any other candidate, she has a clear, unambiguous message that is thoroughly integrated with her biography. That is essential to a successful campaign. Her unsparing critique of corporate excess and her expansive -- and expensive -- agenda for change mirror those of the reigning left champion, Bernie Sanders, in places. But where Sanders sometimes seems like a parody of himself -- or of Larry David's parody of Sanders -- Warren seems fresher, deeper and more precise in her execution...

Can Biden get into gear?

Biden cleared the bar in his half of the debates — but not by much...Yet for those who fear that Biden, who is 76 and sometimes seems older, may not be up to this, his showing was only mildly reassuring. Biden stumbled in places, misstated numbers, struggled at times to pull up facts and and even fumbled his own text message in the close...

A question for Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris is the most confounding candidate in the Democratic field. On the one hand, she is smart, charismatic and appealing. Her takedown of Biden in their first debate encounter vaulted her into the top tier and heightened interest in her among soft supporters of other candidates and voters yet to decide.

What she needs to close the loop with many of them is a clear, discernible message. Why is she in this race?

More at https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.cnn.com/cnn/2019/08/02/opinions/elizabeth-warren-campaign-axelrod/index.html
August 2, 2019

Democrats should stop freaking out

The Democratic Party is gripped by fear. Not everyone in it, but enough of the party to make that emotion familiar to anyone who has been around for, oh, the last 30 years or so. The party is forever worried that it’s screwing everything up, that some discussion or debate or argument it is having will inevitably lead to disaster come the next election.

The latest iteration of this perennial dread comes after Democrats had some passionate disagreements in this week’s round of debates, which featured some candidates taking exception to certain policy decisions made during the Obama administration.

The result has been an eruption of hand-wringing, accompanied and encouraged by confident predictions from Republicans that the 2020 general election will be shaped by what just happened.

So everyone needs to settle down. We want these people to argue with each other. And no matter who your favorite candidate is, if they earn the nomination they’ll be made stronger, not weaker, by fighting their way through this process. It should be as difficult as possible.

...Obama allies were livid after the second night of debate this week, in some cases seeming to say that the former president should be treated with the same kind of unconditional worship that Republicans treat Ronald Reagan. The only problem was that none of the candidates “attacked” Obama; what they did in a few cases was discuss policies that even he would probably admit didn’t work out how he wanted.

...the campaign is a test, and a particularly brutal one. But nothing the Democrats deal with from one another will be as harsh as what they’ll face next fall. If you bristle at your candidate being criticized by other Democrats, just wait until he or she is being deluged by Trump’s lies, innuendo, and race baiting — not to mention a media that could very well pull another “But her emails!” on the Democratic nominee, bludgeoning him or her with some trivial issue that has been transformed into a megascandal.

More at https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/08/02/democrats-stop-freaking-out/?utm_term=.a51fab20aeab

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