Panhandle Progressive

Regulating Hate Speech in Social Media

Recently, Facebook released an audit of its policies relating to hate speech and other troubling forms of speech. The audit blistered Facebook for being too slow and too tepid in its response. Facebook has traditionally been a proponent of “free expression” and its reluctance to regulate any kind of speech is laudable in many ways. But this is not a First Amendment issue. Facebook is a non-governmental actor not subject to the First Amendment. It can create whatever rules it wants for its platform. Facebook’s decisions on what speech to forbid or regulate are heavily influenced by the desires of its advertisers and other stakeholders – you and I. So what speech is permitted on Facebook is really the product of community self-regulation.

More Corporate Welfare In the Midst of a West Virginia Budget Crisis

Several committees met December 5, 2016, as part of the Interim Session of the West Virginia Legislature. The pall of a significant revenue shortfall hung over everything. Incoming Senate President Mitch Carmichael (R – Jackson, 04) has announced a goal for the upcoming session to make West Virginia’s tax structure “competitive” with surrounding states. In a statement reported in the State Journal on December 4, Carmichael said that cutting taxes on manufacturer’s equipment and inventory will be considered. This and other measures would serve the laudable goal of “creating an environment that the private sector can hire people and put them back to work.” But shouldn’t that first require some hard evidence that the property tax is actually causing coal companies to decline mining opportunities in West Virginia? Really, in a time of starkly reduced revenue for all the important things the West Virginia government does, why does our Legislature spend any time considering tax relief for coal companies?

Trump Voters Now Have Second Thoughts on Repealing Obamacare

The Kaiser Family Foundation has issued the results of a new poll concerning repeal of Obamacare. Anyone with a pulse knows that repeal has been made a rallying cry for Republicans in Congress, in fact their centerpiece in the ideological attack on the Obama administration. But it appears that Republican ideology has gotten out ahead of the desires of voters. These voters are not as much interested in ideology as they are in understandable, affordable and stable healthcare. Overall, 49 percent of the public think the next Congress should vote to repeal the law and 47 percent say they should not vote to repeal it. Of those who want to see Congress vote to repeal the law, a larger share say they want lawmakers to wait to vote on repeal until the details of a replacement plan have been announced (28 percent) than say Congress should vote to repeal the law immediately and work out the details of a replacement plan later (20 percent).

Hillbilly Elegy

Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance, has received a lot of attention recently. It is the story of a young man with Appalachian roots whose immediate family moved to Middletown, Ohio. The family was rife with domestic violence, divorce, drug abuse and stress. It was also full of love. Vance eventually succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of his “hillbilly” friends and family, graduating from Yale law school, landing a well-paying job, and having a loving stable marriage. At Ohio State, where Vance attended as an undergraduate, and at Yale he was the beneficiary of connections. Connections helped him get into an Ivy League law school; connections helped him get interviewed and hired by a prestigious law firm. He realized that using connections is how the upper middle class and very wealthy routinely succeed. He also realized that the lack of connections is a big reason why the poor and working class cannot flourish with the same regularity.

Why Excessive CEO Pay Matters to the Rest of Us

Corporate Chief Executive Officers have done very well for themselves during and after the Great Recession. By 2015 the ratio of CEO annual compensation to that of a typical worker had risen to 276 to 1, a much higher ratio than in other developed countries. CEO compensation has gradually taken up a larger and larger share of all corporate revenues. But shouldn’t a corporation be totally free to establish the compensation of its chief executive? Actually, no. The reason is that the rest of us pay for excessive CEO compensation – literally. Two recent studies reveal how successful CEOs at the largest U.S. corporations have been in skimming the compensation cream. CEOs were spectacularly successful because of their power to direct compensation to themselves within their corporations, not because they were correspondingly more productive, more talented or better educated than other workers.

Del. Michael Folk: No Friend of Education

Del. Michael Folk (R – Berkeley, 63) professes to be interested in promoting quality education in West Virginia, but he has an odd way of showing it. In February 2016, Del. Folk was the lead sponsor of two bills that would have abolished key components of the education system in West Virginia. One of these, HB 4611, would have abolished the West Virginia Council for Community and Technical College Education. HB 4611 would not have abolished the colleges themselves, but instead would have transferred to each of them the power and duties of the Council. Perhaps Del. Folk believed that this would eliminate an unnecessary level of bureaucracy and cost. But that appears to be incorrect.

National Inequality by the Numbers

Inequality of both income and wealth is a serious problem in West Virginia and the nation. This post will present some statistics about inequality in the United States that will worry anyone concerned about the future of our society. Income inequality is different than wealth inequality. Income includes earned income like wages and salaries, as well as passive income from interest on a savings account, dividends from stock, rent, and profits from selling something for more than you paid for it. In essence, income is what a taxpayer reports on her tax return each year. Income inequality is the unequal distribution of income in the population.