Aug 29, 2019

Yang vs. Sanders beef and climate change news.

Yang vs. Sanders beef and climate change news.

The Democratic field is getting smaller.


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Today’s read: 8 minutes.

Climate change news, anti-Semitism in New York and the Yang vs. Sanders beef.

Dun. Dun. Dun.

Another one bites the dust. Kirsten Gillibrand, the New York Senator best known for her role in the #MeToo movement, is dropping out of the presidential race. Just 10 candidates qualified for the Sept. 12th debates: Joe  Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang. Notably absent are Tulsi Gabbard, Bill de Blasio and Marianne Williamson.

A former Clinton adviser immediately chimed in:

What D.C. is talking about.

The Trump administration is rolling back regulation of methane, a gas that climate scientists say is a major contributor to climate change. In a proposed rule from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Trump admin is trying to eliminate a regulation that requires oil and gas companies to install technology that spots and fixes “methane leaks from wells, pipelines or storage facilities,” according to The New York Times. Methane is the second most significant greenhouse gas, behind carbon. It stays in the atmosphere for shorter periods of time but traps heat at about 80 times the rate carbon does.

What Republicans are saying.

This will be a boon for the bottom line. Smaller oil and gas companies have long complained about the Obama-era rule, saying it’s too expensive to implement on all of their projects. High-ranking members of the Petroleum Association of America say repairing and inspecting older wells is too costly for them to handle. They also note that methane will still be indirectly regulated through a separate regulation on volatile organic compounds, which does reduce some methane emissions. Generally speaking, the new bosses at the EPA think that oil and gas companies should be free to voluntarily regulate methane, but they shouldn’t be forced to by the law. "Nothing stops (companies) from taking whatever voluntary measures they think is appropriate to deal with those concerns," Anne Idsal, the acting assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, told The Wall Street Journal. "Our job at the EPA is to regulate in a legally and scientifically responsible manner."

What Democrats are saying.

This is insanity. Not only is methane far more dangerous than carbon, but it’s so dangerous that oil and gas companies agree it should be regulated. Exxon wrote to the EPA urging them to maintain the Obama-era policies regulating methane. The chairwoman and president of BP America wrote an op-ed where she said regulating methane is the “right thing to do for the planet” and the natural gas industry. When big oil companies are saying a regulation is necessary even if it hurts their bottom line, you can pretty much guarantee that the regulation is important. It’s not clear why Trump is doing this yet, but lots of Democrats are jumping to the conclusion it’s either a) because of his obsession with undoing everything Obama did or b) because there is some oil and gas lobbying group behind this that hasn’t come to light yet.

My take.

It’s a scary time for the environment. My general rule is to trust the experts, and everyone from NASA to Trump’s own climate scientists have been warning that we are headed towards the point of no return on climate change. Methane emissions are a huge reason why. It’s not shocking Trump would make a move on this considering all of his promises to cut regulations, but it’s still surprising he’d do something big oil and gas companies flat out oppose. Part of what’s happening here, too, is that Trump seems hellbent on trying to save older forms of energy and the companies existing in those spaces. Solar and wind are getting cheaper and cheaper, and cutting regulations is a way to save some of the smaller gas, oil or coal companies that are struggling to survive. The rule will take about a year to go into effect and will surely be fought tooth and nail. There’s also hope oil and gas companies continue to self-regulate. But it is apparent the fox is guarding the hen house.

Your questions, answered.

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Q: Could you explain this whole Federal Jobs Guarantee vs Universal Basic Income fight that blew up today? I was under the impression that it was more a question of $15/hr minimum wage vs UBI...

- ZJ, Portland, OR

Tangle: Earlier this week, Sen. Bernie Sanders was asked about Andrew Yang’s idea to send every American $1,000 a month, which Yang calls a “freedom dividend” and is  referred to by others as Universal Basic Income (you can read Tangle’s breakdown of Yang here). Yang’s freedom dividend would be issued to every American, and those already on government funded programs like food stamps would have to choose   between the dividend or their current welfare program. Yang says Americans will need the dividend when technology, artificial intelligence and robots start taking millions of human jobs. Sanders responded by to a question about UBI by agreeing with Yang that technology and robots would have a profound impact on the economy and likely take many human jobs away. But, Sanders emphasized that "people want to work" and Americans have a desire to "be a productive member of society,” which he said was a "very deeply ingrained feeling that people have."

"We take a very different approach from Mr. Yang and that is I believe in a jobs guarantee," he said. "There are an enormous amount of work that has to be done all the way from child care to health care to education to rebuilding our infrastructure to combating climate change to dealing with our growing elderly population."

On Twitter, Yang responded to a clip of Sanders’ quote with this tweet:

To answer your question directly: Sanders does advocate for $15 an hour minimum wage, but he also says his White House will have a federal jobs guarantee. So in this case, the competing ideas between Yang and Sanders are the UBI ($1,000 a month) vs. a guaranteed job (the federal government ensuring anyone who wants a job gets one). As part of Sanders’ Green New Deal, the $16 trillion plan to fight climate change, he says there will be so many jobs he can “end unemployment.” Right now, about 6 million Americans are unemployed; Sanders says his Green New Deal will create 20 million jobs, including employment like manufacturing to build energy-efficient cars, sustainable agriculture jobs, retrofitting homes with solar panels and wind mills, and work in new power plants. There’s also engineering and research gigs that Sanders expect to be filled.

These unexpected shots over the bow between Sanders and Yang are compelling, as both share very similar outlooks on America and could conceivably have lots of crossover in support. It’s quite early for them to be gunning for each other on a debate like UBI vs. a jobs guarantee, but Yang has little to lose and Sanders is not the type to back down from political jousting. I’d keep an eye on this!

A good polling lesson.

Earlier this week, a Monmouth poll showed Joe Biden had slipped 13 points in the Democratic race. News outlets covered it extensively.

Then other reliable polls were released showing the race had largely stayed the same, with Biden still the front runner with ~30 percent of the vote. Monmouth then released a statement, conceding that it appeared their poll was an outlier. It was an interesting lesson in how polling works and how, occasionally, some polls go haywire.

Speaking of polling…

Some fun numbers from the Quinnipiac poll. Voters were asked if the election were held today, for whom would they vote (of the Dem candidates officially  running):

Black voters: Biden 46%, Sanders 10%, Warren 10%, Harris 7%

18-34-year-old voters: Sanders 31%, Warren 25%, Biden 10%, Yang 8%

White voters with a college degree: Biden 29%, Warren 25%, Harris 11%, Sanders 9%

White voters without a college degree: Biden 30%, Warren 20%, Sanders 19%, Harris 3%

A story that matters.

Anti-Semitism in New York City is running rampant. All across Brooklyn, and even in Manhattan, Jewish-presenting people (i.e. Jews wearing yarmulkes or in traditional orthodox clothing) are being attacked. Almost daily. Punched, spit on, cursed at, or even beaten with bricks in a public park. But nobody is really doing anything about it. Jewish leaders seem hopeless to stop the wave of violence, Mayor Bill de Blasio is galavanting the country on a doomed presidential run, and the NYPD is adrift. Even Jews ourselves, of the secular ilk, are unmoved by the violence against our Orthodox brethren we so often bump heads with. Things are at a boiling point. Jews I know in NYC are scared to wear a yarmulke. In New York City. It’s so bad that most religious Jews I know have their own personal tales of encountering anti-Semitic violence. You can read more about it in this evocative Tablet piece.

Have a nice day.

10,872 people in New York City  saw their marijuana convictions disappear yesterday. A new law in New York is expunging past crimes for low-level marijuana offenses as legalization spreads across the country. An additional 13,357 New Yorkers outside the city also saw their records cleared. It’s part of a new effort by the state to reduce criminalization of marijuana, which disproportionately impacts Hispanic and black communities and often prevents people from getting jobs. You can read more here.

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