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Daily Archives: December 18th, 2019


 

Sibile MarcellusReporter
December 18, 2019, 8:22 AM CST
0:59 4:30
The nation wasted the major economic recovery, according to a new report by Harvard Business School on U.S. competitiveness.
“We had this wonderful recovery. It could have given us the chance to take some significant resources and devote them to some of our well-known challenges, like infrastructure or health care…none of that happened. Instead, we squandered a major economic recovery and didn’t use it to make things better,” said Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter, a co-author of the study.
The business community’s role in politics has made a significant contribution to Washington’s dysfunction, according to HBS’s report. The majority of the business leaders surveyed said businesses’ overall engagement worsened the political system by advancing policies that benefited special interests.
The report lays out the different ways in which businesses engage in politics today. The $6 billion spent annually on lobbying is just one facet; others include spending on elections and ballot initiatives, efforts to influence employees’ votes and donations, and adding former government officials to companies’ payrolls.
(The report surveyed thousands of business leaders, including 5,713 Harvard Business School alumni and 1,006 members of the general public).
‘Perverting everything’
The overwhelming majority of business leaders surveyed in the report said lobbying primarily advanced company interests, sometimes at the expense of the public interest. More than half (56%) of the general public agreed. Only 26% of the general public view corporate lobbying as a means of advancing public policy, according to HBS.

US Capitol dome illuminated, Washington, DC, graphic element on gray
“Lobbying has been hugely expanding and growing over time and it’s just perverting everything about legislation,” Porter said. “If you want your M&A deal approved, you do lobbying. You get to the people in the legislature that are involved in [the Federal Trade Commission] or connected with the various groups and you can get regulations modified. You can get deals passed.”
Businesses that lobby make sure to play both sides. “It’s one great lobbying fest going on and the [political] parties are just playing it for everything they can. They have a lot of clout, a lot of money pouring into their ranks,” Porter said.
The report highlights the opioid crisis as an example. “You know why the opioid crisis happened in America? Because the political system and lobbying by the opioid production industry – they spent so much money that they defeated various ballot initiatives and they were able to overturn a lot of the regulatory ideas to control the prescriptions of opioids,” Porter said.
‘Distorting the Democratic process’
Corporations spent an estimated $2.8 billion on federal elections in 2018, according to OpenSecrets; 71% of business leaders surveyed in the report believe the overall business community’s election spending distorted the democratic process, while 60% of the public agreed, according to HBS.
Tellingly, when asked about their own companies’ behaviors, HBS alums painted a rosier picture. “Alumni felt that what their own companies were doing was just fine, but they felt that what business as a whole was doing was bad for America,” said Harvard Business School professor Jan Rivkin, a co-author of the report.
Of the HBS alumni who were asked about business overall (not their company) 60% said companies shouldn’t have corporate political action committees (organizations that raise money privately to influence elections). A majority of alums also stated that business as a whole should not use corporate PACs as a way to solicit employee contributions to candidates the company supports.
But this is not an uncommon practice. Porter said the survey suggests many companies “actually go to their employees and try to persuade them to vote for the candidate the company wants and to give money.”

U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks to mark six months since the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, in the White House East Room in Washington, U.S., June 29, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
“Employees are getting dragged into this game,” he said, adding: “We don’t see that as democratic principles. We think that’s not democracy where your employer is telling you how to vote and telling you where to give money.”
Narrative on how well U.S. economy is performing ‘not exactly right’
Businesses were among the largest beneficiaries of President Trump’s signature tax cut passed in 2017, but there’s little evidence that those savings trickled down to a broader swath of workers. While unemployment is at a record low and stocks are at record highs, wealth inequality persists. In fact, 65% of HBS alumni ages 18-44 said the U.S. should use the tax system to undertake more redistribution toward lower-income individuals.
“There’s lots of areas where the narrative isn’t exactly right,” Porter said. “For example, we have a lot of people employed, but there’s a lot of data that shows that the people employed are often not getting a living wage, or they’re not being paid for their qualifications. A lot of college graduates in jobs that don’t really compensate them for what they know.”
Porter said the real unemployment rate is closer to 10%.
“On the state of the economy, I think there’s a certain tendency now to tell a good story,” he said. “But if you look underneath the hood at some of the things that really matter to our society, we’re not doing as well as is sometimes alleged.”

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George T. Conway III, Steve Schmidt, John Weaver and Rick Wilson The New York Times, 23hrs ago
Patriotism and the survival of our nation in the face of the crimes, corruption and corrosive nature of Donald Trump are a higher calling than mere politics. As Americans, we must stem the damage he and his followers are doing to the rule of law, the Constitution and the American character.

That’s why we are announcing the Lincoln Project, an effort to highlight our country’s story and values, and its people’s sacrifices and obligations. This effort transcends partisanship and is dedicated to nothing less than preservation of the principles that so many have fought for, on battlefields far from home and within their own communities.
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This effort asks all Americans of all places, creeds and ways of life to join in the seminal task of our generation: restoring to this nation leadership and governance that respects the rule of law, recognizes the dignity of all people and defends the Constitution and American values at home and abroad.
Over these next 11 months, our efforts will be dedicated to defeating President Trump and Trumpism at the ballot box and to elect those patriots who will hold the line. We do not undertake this task lightly, nor from ideological preference. We have been, and remain, broadly conservative (or classically liberal) in our politics and outlooks. Our many policy differences with national Democrats remain, but our shared fidelity to the Constitution dictates a common effort.
The 2020 general election, by every indication, will be about persuasion, with turnout expected to be at record highs. Our efforts are aimed at persuading enough disaffected conservatives, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in swing states and districts to help ensure a victory in the Electoral College, and congressional majorities that don’t enable or abet Mr. Trump’s violations of the Constitution, even if that means Democratic control of the Senate and an expanded Democratic majority in the House.

© Samuel Corum for The New York Times
The American presidency transcends the individuals who occupy the Oval Office. Their personality becomes part of our national character. Their actions become our actions, for which we all share responsibility. Their willingness to act in accordance with the law and our tradition dictate how current and future leaders will act. Their commitment to order, civility and decency are reflected in American society.
Mr. Trump fails to meet the bar for this commitment. He has neither the moral compass nor the temperament to serve. His vision is limited to what immediately faces him — the problems and risks he chronically brings upon himself and for which others, from countless contractors and companies to the American people, ultimately bear the heaviest burden.
But this president’s actions are possible only with the craven acquiescence of congressional Republicans. They have done no less than abdicate their Article I responsibilities.
Indeed, national Republicans have done far worse than simply march along to Mr. Trump’s beat. Their defense of him is imbued with an ugliness, a meanness and a willingness to attack and slander those who have shed blood for our country, who have dedicated their lives and careers to its defense and its security, and whose job is to preserve the nation’s status as a beacon of hope.
Congressional Republicans have embraced and copied Mr. Trump’s cruelty and defended and even adopted his corruption. Mr. Trump and his enablers have abandoned conservatism and longstanding Republican principles and replaced it with Trumpism, an empty faith led by a bogus prophet. In a recent survey, a majority of Republican voters reported that they consider Mr. Trump a better president than Lincoln.
Mr. Trump and his fellow travelers daily undermine the proposition we as a people have a responsibility and an obligation to continually bend the arc of history toward justice. They mock our belief in America as something more meaningful than lines on a map.
Our peril far outstrips any past differences: It has arrived at our collective doorstep, and we believe there is no other choice. We sincerely hope, but are not optimistic, that some of those Republicans charged with sitting as jurors in a likely Senate impeachment trial will do likewise.
American men and women stand ready around the globe to defend us and our way of life. We must do right by them and ensure that the country for which they daily don their uniform deserves their protection and their sacrifice.
We are reminded of Dan Sickles, an incompetent 19th-century New York politician. On July 2, 1863, his blundering nearly ended the United States.
(Sickles’s greatest previous achievement had been fatally shooting his wife’s lover across the street from the White House and getting himself elected to Congress. Even his most fervent admirers could not have imagined that one day, far in the future, another incompetent New York politician, a president, would lay claim to that legacy by saying he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it.)
On that day in Pennsylvania, Sickles was a major general commanding the Union Army’s III Corps at the Battle of Gettysburg, and his incompetence wrought chaos and danger. The Confederate Army took advantage, and turned the Union line. Had the rebel soldiers broken through, the continent might have been divided: free and slave, democratic and authoritarian.
Another Union general, Winfield Scott Hancock, had only minutes to reinforce the line. America, the nation, the ideal, hung in the balance. Amid the fury of battle, he found the First Minnesota Volunteers.
They charged, and many of them fell, suffering a staggeringly high casualty rate. They held the line. They saved the Union. Four months later, Lincoln stood on that field of slaughter and said, “It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.”
We look to Lincoln as our guide and inspiration. He understood the necessity of not just saving the Union, but also of knitting the nation back together spiritually as well as politically. But those wounds can be bound up only once the threat has been defeated. So, too, will our country have to knit itself back together after the scourge of Trumpism has been overcome.
George T. Conway III is an attorney in New York. Steve Schmidt is a Republican political strategist who worked for President George W. Bush, Senator John McCain and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. John Weaver is a Republican strategist who worked for President George H.W. Bush, Senator John McCain and Gov. John Kasich. Rick Wilson is a Republican media consultant and author of “Everything Trump Touches Dies” and the forthcoming “Running Against the Devil: A Plot to Save America From Trump and Democrats From Themselves.”
The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.

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