Governor vs. Senator

If you’ve been following The Civic Center on Twitter, you may have seen my tweets about Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s (D) potential candidacy for the 2016 Presidential Election. I’ve sent these tweets in response to MSNBC’s coverage of 2016, which has been narrowly focused on Hillary Clinton although she has not stated an intention to run for the Democratic Party nomination.

In my tweets about 2016, I intended not only to remind people of other potential candidates for President but also to explain the advantages of nominating a state governor–in 140 or fewer characters. Without that limitation, I can now expound my arguments here.

First of all, state governors have the advantage of being able to boast about getting things done: reducing crime, creating jobs, improving infrastructure, improving schools, reforming the justice system, and working effectively with a legislature. Governors also can run as outsiders who are not corrupted by Washington politics. Finally, gubernatorial experience prepares a candidate for the Presidency better than legislative, diplomatic, or cabinet experience does.

Looking at the last 40 years, recent electoral history has favored state governors: four of the last six Presidents were or had been governors, and three of those four won re-election. Former governors were in office for seven of the last ten four-year Presidential terms, 28 of the last 40 years.*

These governors won election by defeating incumbent Presidents, former Vice Presidents, and U.S. Senators. In fact, before then-Senator Barack Obama was elected President in 2008, 44 years had passed since the last time a former or sitting Senator was elected President. Senators who lost during that time span include McGovern, Dole, Kerry, and McCain.

This historic favorability toward state governors should be taken into consideration by Democrats when nominating a candidate for President. They should also note that the Republicans’ strongest Presidential campaigns in the last 40 years were led by sitting or former governors: Ronald Reagan, G.W. Bush, and Mitt Romney.

Furthermore, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush or current New Jersey Governor Chris Christie may choose to run for the Republican nomination, and they are thought to be more electable than the other Republicans who may be potential candidates.+ The Libertarians ran former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson in 2012, and having a candidate who had held a statewide office would be their best option in 2016. Under these circumstances, the Democratic nominee could face one or two opponents with gubernatorial experience.

By nominating a former or sitting state governor for President, preferably one who has a successful record, the Democrats could neutralize the advantages that their opponents would have if they were to nominate candidates with gubernatorial experience. These advantages include executive-branch experience, accomplishments that matter to voters, and historic trends.

* Beginning with Carter and ending with Obama’s current term
+ The bridge scandal could ruin Christie’s prospects for President.

More on hiring abuses

I have recently encountered actual job-application documents and websites that illustrate some of the hiring abuses that I denounced in this recent post.

After submitting an online application for a job at Texas A&M Univ. Agrilife Research, I was warned that

an “investigative consumer report” concerning my “character, . . ., general reputation, personal characteristics, police record, . . ., mode of living, and/or credit and indebtedness may be obtained in connection with your application for and/or continued employment . . .”

This threat to my privacy seeks information that is irrelevant to my ability to do the job and produce results for the employer.

Midland College of Midland, Texas, criminalizes job applicants and forces them to pay for the experience out of their own pockets! The last page of their application form (PDF) states that applicants . . .

. . . “will be required to submit a full and complete set of [their] fingerprints for analysis through the Texas Department of Public Safety AFIS (Automated Fingerprint Identification System)” . . . and to “make an appointment with L1 Enrollment Services, submit a full and complete set of [their] fingerprints, request a copy be sent to the agency listed below, and pay a fee of $24.95 to the fingerprinting services company, L1 Enrollment Services.”

Essentially, anyone who wants to work at Midland College must pay a fee in order for their application to be considered.

The job application website of another public institution in Texas requires applicants to enter their Social Security and driver’s license numbers, potentially exposing confidential data for hackers and data thieves to steal. A recent cyber-attack on the University of Maryland, which exposed over 309,000 records of personal information, illustrates the vulnerability of campus information systems. Social Security numbers should be requested only for completing an IRS W-4 from, and driver’s licenses only for positions that require driving.

Update on Higher Education

Last September, I posted a letter that I sent to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan about President Obama’s proposals for higher education. About two months later, I received a reply not from Duncan himself but from Ms. Lynn Mahaffie, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Planning, and Innovation in the Office of Postsecondary Education. Her letter briefly describes initiatives to reform student financial aid, which I believe will be helpful but irrelevant to the root problem of limiting the student’s burden of the cost of college. Regarding costs, the letter says that the administration

“shares your desire to make college more affordable” and acknowledges that “you are correct in assering that states . . . must do more to keep higher education costs within reach of low-income and middle-class families.”

However, the reply letter offers no effective alternative to my proposal for making college affordable. Ironically, cost-cutting measures by colleges and universities are characterized as “innovative” although they “force students and families to shoulder the burden through higher tuition.” The rest of the letter only reiterates the administration’s talking points rather than addressing my criticisms of its proposals.

Obama’s higher education plan, like the Affordable Care Act and the meager minimum-wage proposal, is an expression of the President’s timidity in addressing economic stagnation.

Who’s really targeting your privacy?

On the TV show “Jeopardy” recently, host Alex Trebek asked contestant Mark Lowenthal of the Intelligence and Security Academy a question about NSA surveillance during the break on the show when the host briefly chats with the contestants. Prof. Lowenthal replied by saying that he is more concerned about non-governmental collection of our personal information. This concern was expressed also by Prof. William Nolte of the Univ. of Maryland Cybersecurity Center during a forum (video) broadcast on C-SPAN earlier this month.

The most recent example of a non-governmental breach of our privacy is the theft of customers’ credit card data from Target and other major retailers. Almost as bad is the breach of applicants’ privacy when an employer is hiring. When taking applications for an open position, employers seem to want to know everything about applicants except how well they can do the job. (I have written more about this issue in my previous post.) I suppose that the firm or agency that performed the pre-employment background check on Edward Snowden collected more information about him than the NSA collects during its routine surveillance of U.S. citizens.

Regardless of how we view Snowden’s action, we could probably agree that it re-ignited the conversation about NSA surveillance that began during the Bush administration. Because that administration attempted to quell dissent through targeted IRS audits and other means1, NSA surveillance seemed more threatening then than it does today. The Obama administration has not attempted to quell dissent, as far as I know.2

In my view, NSA surveillance is threatening mostly when it is done in an unconstitutional manner or coupled with violations of our civil liberties or with official campaigns against dissent. What the NSA wants to know about you, I believe, is less significant than what data thieves and corporations want.

1. Wolf, Naomi. The End of America Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 2007
2. To those who still believe that the IRS unfairly targeted Tea-Party groups, I suggest reading this previous post of mine.

Ten Years and Ten Months Overdue

I just sent a letter (PDF) to Representative Peter Gallego (D-TX23) and to Senator Robert Casey (D-PA), Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety, about hiring and employment abuses that have bothered me for a long time.

Some of the abuses that I address include the following.

  • Requiring employees to wear clothing or shoes of a particular color and pay for these items out of their own pockets
  • Deletion of overtime hours or refusal to pay overtime earnings
  • Hourly employees’ being forced to work on our national holidays
  • Lack of transparency in the workplace and in hiring
  • Incomplete job advertisements
  • Putting applicants’ confidential data at risk
  • Employers’ invasions of applicants’ privacy
  • Excessive use of background checks

I also urge the Congressman and the Senator to consider a $15 per hour minimum wage, as demanded by the striking fast-food and retail workers. President Obama’s proposal of $10.10 is 10 years and 10 months too late.

The best and worst of 2013

Last night I watched The Last Word Holiday Special, which featured host Lawrence O’Donnell and a panel of MSNBC regulars giving their best and worst of 2013. The participants included Alex Wagner, Joy Reid, Kristal Ball, Nia-Malika Henderson, Jonathan Capehart, Josh Barro, and Thomas Roberts, and some of them may have posted their choices on their Twitter sites.

This morning, I shared my choices on Twitter. You can share yours by going to The Last Word on Twitter or by commenting on this post.

To my handful of followers, and anyone else reading this blog, Happy New Year!

More banking reform, please?

I just mailed letters to Senator Tim Johnson (D), Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee*, and my representative, Peter Gallego (D-TX), calling for proportional banking fees and government-administered credit reporting. In my letter, specifically, I suggested that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau collect consumer credit data and provide free credit reports.

* Full name: U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs

The Real Wal-mart Ad

A new Wal-mart television ad attempts to paint a rosy picture of working conditions in the company, but none of the employees featured in the ad appear to be full-time, non-supervisory, hourly associates. According to the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), the median hourly wage at Wal-mart is about $8.80.

Anyone earning $8.80 per hour probably could not afford the gym membership that the logistics lady enjoys and likely would be on the receiving end of her charitable giving. And I’d bet that the coffee shop lady’s 401(k) retirement plan wouldn’t amount to much if she were paid $8.80 per hour. These apparently white-collar employees, along with the pharmacist lady, are more able to afford health insurance than the hourly employees are.

The playground lady works part-time at Wal-mart probably to supplement her income from a full-time job, from two other part-time jobs, or from a spouse. The well-dressed-lady in the ad claims that 400 Wal-mart employees are promoted everyday, but that number could be attributed to the company’s size or to turnover among managers. Based on what I’ve observed in my retail experience, employee advancement at Wal-mart is not extraordinary because promotion-from-within seems to be common in the industry.

In my experience, furthermore, I have worked with several managers who are women. However, both of the Wal-mart employees in the ad who identified themselves as managers are men, which doesn’t surprise me because of the recent class-action lawsuit claiming widespread discrimination against women in promotions.

By avoiding the most outrageous injustice at the company, the low wages of its full-time hourly associates, the Wal-mart television ad fails to improve the company’s reputation. For more information, visit the UFCW’s “Making Change” website, or see “The High Cost of Low Price”, a documentary film by Robert Greenwald.

October Surprise

I’ve been aiming to write at least one article per month, and October is coming to an end, so I’d better post something. A class that I am taking online this fall has kept me busy, but I’m working on a letter to my congressman and to the Senate banking committee to demand legislation that regulates banking fees and establishes a government-run system of compiling and reporting consumer credit data. I will post my letter after I mail it, so stay tuned.

By the way, next Monday will mark the second anniversary of this blog. Although my blog posts are infrequent, I have been quite active on Twitter.

Stop Industrializing Higher Education

Today, I mailed a critique of President Obama’s plan for reforming higher education and a counter-proposal to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. I am limiting the scope of my proposal to state and local public colleges and universities. The full article (PDF) explains my arguments in greater detail.

My plan rejects Obama’s proposed ratings system as unfair and unrealistic and replaces it with a simple formula that rates each state’s higher-education financing in terms of the portion that comes from tuition and fees. This rating, the student burden, would be used to determine whether all colleges and universities in a particular state are eligible for Federal grant money.

My plan recognizes that state governments are primarily responsible for financing their higher-education systems and thus holds states, not colleges and universities, accountable for maintaining affordability. By giving states a powerful incentive for limiting tuition and fees, my plan aims directly at the President’s principal objective–making college affordable.