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270 Electoral votes needed to win This date in 2012 2008
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Trump Expected to Name Fast-Food Executive to run the Labor Department

Yesterday, there were reports that president-elect Donald Trump is going to name Andrew Puzder, a major Republican donor, as secretary of labor. Puzder is CEO of the parent company of fast-food restaurants Hardee's and Carl's Jr. He has been a harsh critic of raising the minimum wage, claiming that it would kill jobs. He also opposes raising the threshold for defining who is a manager. Under current regulations, anyone earning $23,700 per year is considered a manager and is not eligible for time-and-a-half for working overtime. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez is trying to raise that to $47,500, but a judge has intervened in the process. Puzder is likely to drop the case and keep the old limit. Historically, the labor department defended the interests of working people and the commerce department defended the interests of businesses, but in Trump's cabinet, both departments would be run by people highly antagonistic to working people.

Puzder is not being universally cheered by all Republicans. The problem is that Puzder is relatively positive about immigrants. Dan Stein, president of the anti-immigrant Federation for American Immigration Reform, put it this way:

Puzder has served as an executive of a fast food conglomerate, an industry that has thrived on low-wage labor, illegal workers, and which has lobbied for greater access to foreign guest workers to maximize corporate profits.

The St. Louis Riverfront Times is reporting that in their divorce filing, Puzder's first wife, Lisa Henning, accused him of abusing her, including throwing her to the floor and trying to unplug the phone as she was calling the police. Puzder denied the allegations, saying that he merely grabbed her by the shoulders and pushed her back. The divorce filings also describe two other incidents. In the late 1970s, the neighbors called the police after a shouting match turned into a plate throwing fight. In 1985, Henning alleged that Puzder punched her while they were driving. Puzder acknowledged driving to the curb and described the incident as follows: "I think it had to do with the liquid refreshment we had with our dinner more than anything else." In a recent email, Henning walked back the claims, however. (V)

Why the Republican Health Care Plan is Likely to Fail

The replacement for the ACA is still under discussion, but the plans being developed by the soon-to-be Secretary of HHS, Tom Price, and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), have many elements in common. They also have elements in common with the plan actually implemented in Rhode Island. In an article for Politico, the author of the Rhode Island plan, the state's former health insurance commissioner Christopher Koller, explains the plan and why it failed. There was a high-risk pool with limited enrollment times (so people could not enroll when they got sick and leave when they got better), a spread of three-to-one on premiums between younger and older enrollees, subsidies for low-income people, health savings accounts, and a requirement for the insurance companies that they had to accept anyone who applied. There was no mandate to buy insurance. This is the core of the Price and Ryan plans, even if they differ on some of the details.

What happened? Young, healthy people didn't buy insurance and insurance companies were stuck with older, sicker customers. Consequently, most of them stopped offering insurance and simply left the state. Koller's conclusion is that voluntary insurance doesn't work, especially when people know that hospital emergency rooms are not permitted to turn away sick people and just have them die on the street. The Republican plans could deal with that by repealing the federal law requiring hospitals to provide free emergency care to people who can't afford it, but there would be a political cost to that. So, Koller's conclusion is that the plan the Republicans are likely to (eventually) install as the replacement to the ACA will ultimately fail. (V)

Democratic Megadonors May Run for Governor

Now that president-elect Donald Trump has shown that billionaires can run for public office and win, some of the Democrats' billionaire donors are thinking about running for office in 2018 in key states. In particular, environmental activist Tom Steyer is looking at a run in California, John Morgan is thinking about running in Florida, and J.B. Pritzker wants to take on Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) in Illinois.

While some Democrats like the idea of candidates in big states who can self-fund and match their Republican opponents dollar for dollar, others are worried that the voters will conclude that there is no difference between the parties. "Our billionaires are better than their billionaires" isn't a great theme for a campaign. None of the three is expected to formally announce any time soon. The main reason for announcing a candidacy early is to have time to raise funds. For candidates who don't plan on doing any fund raising, there is no need to make a formal announcement years before the election. (V)

Battle Looming over RNC Chairmanship

Now that RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has found a new job (as Trump's chief of staff), a successor is needed at the RNC. Technically, the 168-member RNC elects its own chair at the January meeting, but nearly all members follow the president's advice. A battle is now raging at Trump Tower over what that advice will be. Two of the leading candidates are Ronna Romney McDaniel, head of the Michigan GOP and niece of Mitt Romney, and Nick Ayers, an aide to vice president-elect Mike Pence. Reince Priebus favors McDaniel since she is already on the RNC and knows the ropes. Steve Bannon and megadonor Rebekah Mercer favor an outsider, such as Ayers or maybe Bush operative Mercedes Schlapp. In effect, it is a battle between the establishment and the populists. But as usual with Trump, other factors play a big role. Some insiders have reported that Trump seems to like McDaniel, and that is often the key to getting any appointment in the Trump administration. (V)

Democrats Are Urging Perez to Run for DNC Chair

The 447-member DNC is also slated to get a new head early next year. So far, Rep. Keith Ellison (R-MN) is the only major announced candidate. He has the support of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). However, some Democrats haven't forgotten anti-Semitic remarks Ellison made years ago and his association with Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam and don't think he is the right person to be the face of the Democratic Party. Hence there is a lot of pressure on Secretary of Labor Tom Perez to enter the race. The pressure includes President Obama and Vice President Biden, both of whom want him to be the new DNC chairman. Perez is almost as progressive as Ellison and has the advantage of being the son of immigrants. He also has run a large government bureaucracy. Some observers think that Perez would be the favorite if he jumps in with both feet. (V)

Donald Trump, Bully-in-Chief

The presidency comes with enormous powers of many types, both official and unofficial. Restraint is thus called for—or, at least, it has been for the last 228 years. Donald Trump, who continues to demonstrate a thin skin and a lack of impulse control, has been upending that tradition. That has been particularly evident this week, as he took aim at anyone whom he perceives to be an enemy. For example, the CEO of Boeing presumed to comment for an article critical of The Donald and his approach to China. Trump promptly responded by tweeting a misleading claim that Boeing was going to be fleecing the federal government to the tune of $4 billion for the next Air Force One. Boeing's stock took a temporary hit, and now they have announced they will be donating $1 million to Trump's inauguration. Similarly, United Steelworkers Local 1999 president Chuck Jones criticized Trump for saving less than 1,000 jobs at Carrier when the President-elect's original promise was that he would save 1,400. Trump fired back at Jones on Twitter, declaring that "Chuck Jones, who is President of United Steelworkers 1999, has done a terrible job representing workers. No wonder companies flee country!" Reportedly, Jones has been threatened from Trump supporters.

As former labor secretary Robert Reich observes in a CNN editorial entitled "Has Trump no decency?," this is not only an unprecedented use of presidential power, it is also a dangerous one. Yes, presidents all have their enemies, and yes, they all play the chess game of politics. But never has a president or president-elect presumed to engage so brazenly in this kind of score-settling. That is the stuff of third-world dictators and banana republics. And the problem is that there's no reason to think this behavior will abate. Trump promises to stay off of Twitter, and to behave more presidentially, and then it goes out the window two days later. The people who surround Trump—chosen, remember, primarily on the basis of loyalty—can't rein him in, and largely don't even try. And what he is doing is not illegal, at least not so far, so there won't be any judicial interventions. We can only hope that being inaugurated flips a "now it's for real" switch of some sort, but it's hard to be optimistic about that possibility. (Z)

Trump to Keep One of His Day Jobs

Donald Trump may be just weeks away from assuming the presidency, but that doesn't mean he's going to give up all of his side projects. On Thursday, we learned that one of the jobs he plans to keep is his executive producer role on the show he used to host, NBC's "The Apprentice."

It's another piece of shocking news from an administration that produces plenty of them. Does Trump really need the salary that badly? Does he really care that little about appearances, and what his decision says about his commitment to the presidency, and about how seriously he is trying to avoid conflicts of interest? Does this suggest, in some way, that maybe he doesn't plan to be president all that long, and that he doesn't want to disrupt his private life too much before he returns to it? These are questions that only he can answer.

In any case, as long as Trump is both POTUS and executive producer, it creates all sorts of headaches for NBC. First, they now have an obvious conflict-of-interest between their news division and their entertainment division. Further, given the sort of score-settling noted above, to what extent will the network be forced to play ball with the President? Can they cancel the show if the ratings tank? What if Trump demands that NBC double the fee it pays for the show? Or triple it, or multiply it by 10? Can NBCUniversal, with its $30 billion annual revenues, take the chance that the FEC and the SEC and half a dozen executive departments start scrutinizing the company with a microscope? Effectively, they would be forced to pay a bribe, but one that would be legal thanks to Trump's multiple hats. It's a brave new world for the American democracy. (Z)

Former Clinton Staffer Launches Anti-Trump Site

Donald Trump has, in his meteoric rise to the presidency, harnessed the power of the Internet in myriad ways. He appears to be ready to keep doing so even after he moves into the Oval Office. So, former Clinton campaign staffer Matt Ortega—who served as Clinton's digital director for communications—has decided to fight fire with fire, launching the anti-Trump website

The extension .af refers to the country of Afghanistan, but Ortega chose the domain name because it works out—in Internet parlance—to "Corrupt as F---". The plan is to catalog Trump's questionable actions and conflicts of Interest, accompanied by a timer that reveals how long it has been "since the latest instance of corruption by Donald Trump." Thanks to the "Celebrity Apprentice" story noted above, the timer was at four hours as of midnight EST Thursday. It is not clear if the timer is able to switch to "days" or "months," should it become necessary, or if Ortega thinks that "hours" will always be enough to get the job done. (Z)

Who Gets Write-in Votes?

Write-in votes are a major headache for poll workers, since they create paperwork and hassle while having no impact on elections (outside, perhaps, of very small elections). This being the case, most municipalities do not make a point of announcing write-in vote totals, since they would prefer that voters not be reminded of that option. The good people at decided to do some digging, however, and they have published some details about the 5,226 write-in votes cast in Texas' Bexar County (home to San Antonio). Here is what they discovered:

  • Far and away the most popular write-in candidates? Evan McMullin and Sen. Bernie Sanders, who got 1,882 and 1,006 votes, respectively. In third place was Texas native Sen. Ted Cruz (R), who tallied 206 votes.

  • Other Republican ex-candidates who got votes include Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jeb Bush, and Ben Carson, who combined for 406 votes. 2012 nominee Mitt Romney collected 59 votes, putting him two ahead of Jesus Christ's 57. Romney-Christ 2020? Someone should grab that URL quickly.

  • Speaking of people who are dead, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, and Theodore Roosevelt all got votes. Apparently, for some voters, a dead good president is better than a live bad one.

  • And as to individuals who never actually lived, Darth Vader and Mickey Mouse each collected a few votes.

  • Entertainers and sports figures were another popular option. Quite a few San Antonians voted for a ticket made up of local favorites Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan (San Antonio Spurs coach and former star player, respectively). Kanye West, Beyonce, George Strait, and Tupac Shakur (who also belongs in the "dead" category) got some support, as well.

  • Michelle Obama got as much support as "Giant Meteor," with two voters preferring the First Lady, and two preferring to end it all.

Anyhow, it seems fair to assume that, outside of the Spurs-related votes and the Ted Cruz support, this is a fairly representative look at the people whom writers-in are wasting their votes on across the country. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec08 Trump Names New Top Appointees
Dec08 Michigan Recount Stopped
Dec08 Ohio Abortion Bill Awaits Kasich's Signature
Dec08 Republicans Still Bitterly Divided about Repealing and Replacing the ACA
Dec08 The Debt Limit Fight Is Back
Dec08 Mayors Push Trump to Keep DACA
Dec08 Majority of Adults Confident Trump Will Put U.S. Interests above Personal Ones
Dec08 Trump Named Person of the Year
Dec07 Trump's Carrier Deal Is Wildly Popular
Dec07 Trump Takes Credit for $50 Billion Investment
Dec07 Trump May Have Sold All His Stocks in June
Dec07 CEOs Delighted With Trump
Dec07 McConnell Says Repealing ACA Will Be First Item on Senate's Agenda in 2017
Dec07 Americans Divided over ACA Repeal
Dec07 Pence Promises Donors that the Administration Will Grant Their Wishes
Dec07 Conway May Run Outside Group to Help Trump Get His Way
Dec07 Trump Is Trying to Mold the Republican Party in His Image
Dec07 Flynn Leaves Trump Team Red-faced
Dec06 Trump Picks Dr. Ben Carson to Be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Dec06 53 Organizations Urge Trump to Dump Flynn
Dec06 Trump's 35% Tariff on Products Made by American Companies Abroad is Dead on Arrival
Dec06 Electors Are Pushing for John Kasich
Dec06 Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner Are Moving to D.C.
Dec06 Trump Meets with Gore
Dec06 Michigan Recount Commences
Dec06 Democrats Try to Cajole Heitkamp and Manchin to Stay in the Senate
Dec06 Susan Collins Has Reservations about Repealing the ACA and Medicare
Dec06 Biden Hints at 2020 Run
Dec06 McCrory Concedes in North Carolina Gubernatorial Race
Dec05 Why Did Trump Win, Part VI
Dec05 Mook: Deplorables Was a Mistake
Dec05 Trump Trashes SNL, Again
Dec05 Trump Trashes China, Again
Dec05 Dakota Pipeline to be Rerouted...Probably
Dec05 Trump's Tax Headache
Dec05 How about None of the Above for Secretary of State?
Dec05 Renzi Rebuked, Will Resign
Dec04 China Lodges Formal Complaint
Dec04 David Petraeus to Audition for Secretary of State Today
Dec04 Sarah Palin Attacks Trump
Dec04 Job Destruction is Part of America's Secret Sauce
Dec04 Trump Inherits a B or B+ Economy
Dec04 No Recount in Pennsylvania...Maybe
Dec04 NeverTrumpers Throw in the Towel
Dec04 Could Italy Be Next?
Dec03 Ambassador Trump Steps in It Again
Dec03 Trump Allies Try to Stop Recounts
Dec03 Dean out of Race for DNC Chair
Dec03 Why Did Trump Win, Part I? It Was the Millennials
Dec03 Why Did Trump Win, Part II? He Didn't Get Much Attention in the Final Week