Both states and localities can curtail job piracy

Does anybody like job piracy? By that we mean tax breaks and subsidies to a few corporations for the supposed purpose of enticing them to move jobs from another jurisdiction.

As Good Jobs First points out, these subsidies are “wasteful because the costs are high and the benefits are low: a tiny number of companies get huge subsidies but the net impact of interstate job relocations is microscopic. It is [also] incredibly unfair to [all the other local] employers….”

We can curtail job piracy. All it takes is some political will and the Job Piracy Cease Fire Act, which is a binding offer from any state or locality saying, in effect, our jurisdiction won’t steal jobs from yours if you promise the same back to us.

Such a policy is completely practical. Take Kansas and Missouri for example.

Over the past few years, a group of 17 prominent Kansas City area business executives have argued that the states of Kansas and Missouri should stop stealing jobs from one another. The business leaders said, in part:

At a time of severe fiscal constraint, the effect to the states is that one state loses tax revenue, while the other forgives it. The states are being pitted against each other and the only real winner is the business who is “incentive shopping” to reduce costs. The losers are the taxpayers who must provide services to those who are not paying for them.

In 2014, the Missouri legislature enacted a law offering a job piracy cease fire to the state of Kansas. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback initially responded that he wasn’t interested. But just recently, Brownback changed his mind and released a public directive to his commerce secretary to put steps in place to end the Kansas-Missouri “Border War.”  Brownback wrote: “I have determined to stop providing incentives to businesses that move back and forth across the border merely to access economic development incentives.” 

These Kansas City companies are not the only ones interested in reducing the use of economic development incentives, as proven by the results of a national survey of small business organizations published by Good Jobs First. Forty-one leaders of small business organizations representing 24,000 member businesses in 25 states were surveyed and 92 percent believe that state economic development incentives are biased towards big businesses. Furthermore, in addition to believing their state’s incentive policies are unfair, 72 percent do not believe these policies are actually effective in promoting economic growth.

Another report by Good Jobs First discusses the more general problems of interstate job fraud that is perpetuated through the unfair distribution of economic development subsidies to recruit businesses. The report notes that these policies are “incredibly unfair to in-state employers, who are forced to pay higher taxes or suffer lower-quality public services (or some of both) when newly arriving companies are excused from paying their fair share of taxes.” This fraud is also perpetuated by public officials who claim to be bringing “new jobs” to the state when, in fact, these jobs already existed, a practice Good Jobs First calls a “shell game.” The report exposed this kind of shell game taking place in multiple states across the country including Kansas, Missouri, Texas, New Jersey, New York, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, Illinois, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Forty states already refuse subsidies for intrastate relocations of existing jobs. It shouldn’t be hard to expand this common sense policy and instead focus on creating real new jobs that grow local economies.


(PLI’s Hannah Miller and Janessa Sambola contributed to this blog.)

How to find logical fallacies in opponents’ arguments

Since Aristotle in the 4th century B.C., educated people learned the rules of rhetoric and how to identify opponents’ fallacies. Although Americans don’t often learn the intricacies of rhetoric today, political organizations and individuals routinely employ fallacious arguments.

Let us consider just a few of the many informal logical fallacies—the most common debaters’ tricks that sound convincing but are based on a flaw in logic.

(1) Red Herring Fallacy

Also known as: misdirection, smokescreen, clouding the issue, beside the point, and the Chewbacca defense.

A Red Herring argument is one that changes the subject, distracting the audience from the real issue to focus on something else where the speaker feels more comfortable and confident.

EXAMPLE: It may be true that the minimum wage should be adjusted, but the real solution is to eliminate burdensome government regulations so businesses can grow and are able to pay their employees higher salaries.

Your response should be: It's not an either-or question. Right now we’re debating specific legislation before the legislature/council to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour. I’m saying it provides hard-working families with income to spend on their basic needs. Let’s focus on that.

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Second Amendment mess demonstrates why we need an honest Supreme Court

On March 21, the United States Supreme Court issued an embarrassing ruling. The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts had decided that stun guns are not protected by the Second Amendment; after all, they are not firearms and the framers of the Constitution could not possibly have imagined such weapons when the Bill of Rights was adopted.

The Supreme Court said, in effect, that Massachusetts’ highest court didn’t understand the SCOTUS’ 2008 ruling on the Second Amendment, District of Columbia v. Heller. The Court’s unanimous unsigned 2-page order directed the Massachusetts court to re-explain why stun guns can be banned.

How is it possible that the Massachusetts court—a distinguished group of lawyers—couldn’t understand Heller? Because the 5-4 majority opinion, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, makes no sense. It is a 64-page mess. It certainly seems as if Scalia was trying to cause as much damage as possible, writing a decision so confusing that it would justify endless lawsuits against existing gun laws. As Dennis Henigan, one of the preeminent attorneys in the field, explained, Heller was “a prototypical misuse of judicial power to advance an ideological agenda.”



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The anti-government theme is getting nowhere in 2016

Are Americans really anti-government? Based on the progress of the 2016 campaign, it doesn't seem like it. Neither Donald Trump nor Ted Cruz are succeeding because of anti-government attacks.

Look at Trump’s successful message. He stands for bigoted authoritarianism. He wants to use government, forcefully, against the groups of people he hates. Trump wants the government to build a gigantic wall between the U.S. and Mexico, deport 12 million residents, torture people suspected of terrorism and kill their wives and children. At the same time he wants the government to give him, and the rest of the ultra-rich, larger tax breaks.

And look at Ted Cruz. He likes to say he's against government but he's winning primaries by riding a wave of white evangelicalism. These voters support him because Cruz wants to (or they think he wants to) use government to outlaw same-sex marriage, discriminate against LGBT citizens, suppress mosques and Muslim beliefs, teach creationism and other fundamentalist Christian religious ideas in public schools, abolish abortion, limit birth control, and require abstinence-only sex education.

Among voters there’s anger aplenty, but it’s not much directed against government. Why?

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Dear Justice Kennedy

As you know, on March 2 the Supreme Court heard arguments on Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, a case that considers the constitutionality of a Texas anti-abortion law (HB 2).

I write because you are obviously the swing vote. I am familiar with your record and know you love our Constitution. But Justice Kennedy, this is not an average case. It is the result of a constitutional crisis and your ruling will determine whether or not that crisis is resolved. Will states be obliged to obey a fairly clear Supreme Court standard or will they continue to brazenly ignore the Court and the Constitution—and get away with it?

When you wrote the last major Supreme Court decision on abortion, Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U.S. 124 (2007), you laid out specific constitutional principles, quoting from Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey505 U.S. 833 (1992):

Before viability, a State “may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy.” It also may not impose upon this right an undue burden, which exists if a regulation’s “purpose or effect is to place a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.” On the other hand, “[r]egulations which do no more than create a structural mechanism by which the State, or the parent or guardian of a minor, may express profound respect for the life of the unborn are permitted, if they are not a substantial obstacle to the woman’s exercise of the right to choose.” (Citations deleted.)

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Winning the Battle between Conservative and Progressive Principles

Most Americans are progressive on most issues. By margins of at least two to one, our fellow citizens: believe corporations and upper-income people are paying too little in federal taxes; oppose repealing the federal estate tax; support the idea that the federal Medicare program should negotiate prescription drug prices directly with pharmaceutical companies; want federal action to address global warming; would require auto manufacturers to make cars more energy efficient; favor licensing and registration of handguns; think labor unions are necessary to protect workers; and do not want the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.

That’s the good news. Here’s the bad. Most Americans also support traditional conservative principles—limited government, lower taxes, free markets, and personal responsibility. So right wingers can and do win public debates by asserting that their policies fit these popular principles.

Let me restate that a different way. A large group of Americans simultaneously favor both progressive policy and an idealized (or cartoonish) conservative philosophy. As a result, on any given issue, they may side with or against progressives depending on how a political question is framed.

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How to talk about abortion rights—and why

The majority of Americans side with abortion rights supporters or opponents depending on the way the question is asked. For example, perhaps the simplest and most important question is this one:

“In general, do you agree or disagree with the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that established a woman’s right to an abortion?”
            63% Agree
            30% Disagree
Quinnipiac University Poll, February 2013

If that’s the focus of the debate, Americans overwhelmingly support abortion rights. But unfortunately, that’s almost never the debate in which we are engaged. We are nearly always talking about a particular anti-abortion state law or bill. And that measure was usually designed to capture persuadable voters and put our side on the defensive.

Here’s why that works. Only about 25 percent of Americans absolutely support abortion rights and only about 15 percent absolutely oppose abortion. Below are four different ways to ask the question:

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New Abortion Rights Strategy in States and Localities

The battle over abortion rights legislation is being fought almost entirely at the state level, with skirmishes in localities. This will most likely continue to be true for years to come.

The anti-abortion forces understand this dynamic, have focused their resources on state legislation, and over the past five years have enacted more than 300 new abortion restrictions in the states.

How can the abortion rights movement reverse the trend? By introducing and fighting for our own proactive state and local legislation. (Spoiler alert: that legislation is right here.)

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California cracked down on fraudulent Crisis Pregnancy Centers, shouldn’t your jurisdiction?

Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) are facilities that purport to offer women comprehensive and unbiased reproductive health care information and services, but their mission is to say whatever it takes to prevent women from obtaining abortions.

“CPCs are generally staffed by volunteers committed to [their interpretation of] Christian beliefs but who lack medical training,” explains an article in the Cardozo Law Review. Nevertheless, CPC staff and volunteers, sometimes dressed like doctors and nurses, counsel and serve women as if they were medical professionals.

There are about 2,500 Crisis Pregnancy Centers across the United States, and in some parts of the country, CPCs outnumber legitimate abortion clinics by far. For example, while 95 percent of Minnesota counties do not have an abortion provider, there are over 90 CPCs in the state; crisis pregnancy centers outnumber abortion providers by almost 15 to 1. In North Carolina, CPCs outnumber abortion providers by 4 to 1. Many CPCs are intentionally located near actual abortion providers, display misleading signage, and use false advertising to deceive women about their mission.

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Can we talk about Assault Weapons?

We all know that some guns should be banned or severely restricted. Machine guns, sawed-off shotguns, silencers, grenades, and many other types of extremely dangerous weapons were essentially banned by the commonsense National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934, a law that was, obviously, upheld by the United States Supreme Court.

Recently, mass murderers in San Bernardino killed 14 and wounded 21 with AR-15 assault rifles, which are versions of the U.S. military’s M-16 infantry weapon. It is the same gun that was used to slaughter 20 children and 6 faculty members at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

The question today is whether these modern assault weapons should be banned or severely restricted, just as other firearms have been restricted for the past 80 years. Let us compare how dangerous the AR-15 is compared to the guns banned by the National Firearms Act.

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