The most recent political poll shows U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., with a double-digit lead over U.S. Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont., in the contest to replace former U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont. The two are likely to win their respective party primaries on June 3 and then face off in the Nov. 4 general election.
Daines was up 14 percentage points over Walsh (51 percent to 37 percent) in the latest statewide phone survey of 750 likely Montana voters done on March 17 and 18. No doubt both candidates’ campaigns have done extensive polling since then, but those numbers aren’t typically released to the public unless they show a major advantage.
The national political handicappers say that Walsh, just appointed to the U.S. Senate seat in February, hasn’t had time to benefit much from incumbency nor to establish a statewide candidate profile. Meanwhile, Daines, already in office for more than a year, has managed to pull in significant contributions and get his name out there via media coverage for sponsoring legislation.
As for the U.S. House race to replace Daines, likely Democratic nominee John Lewis is hitting the hustings hard and pulling in significant donations. The Republicans have a crowded field of five candidates running in their primary.
According to a recent Gallup Poll, residents of Big Sky Country and Alaska have the most pride in where they live, with 77 percent of the poll respondents opining that their state was the best, or one of the best, places to reside.
Folks living in Rhode Island and Illinois were on the other end of the poll spectrum, with just 18 percent and 19 percent, respectively, boasting about their states.
Following Montana and Alaska at the top of the list, the proudest folks reside in the following states (in descending order): Utah, Wyoming, Texas, Hawaii, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Colorado, Vermont, Oregon and Minnesota.
The poll was conducted between June and December of last year, and at least 600 residents of each state were queried on their views about the standard of living, trust in government, and amount of state taxes, among other issues.
Seattle plans to raise that city’s minimum wage to $15 per hour over the next three to seven years, depending on the size of the business. Large Seattle firms (defined as having 500 employees or more) would have to achieve the $15 wage level before medium-size or small businesses would.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray pulled together an Income Inequality Committee to examine the issue from the perspectives of business and labor and reportedly told the group that, if they didn’t come to a consensus about the issue, he would institute a more liberal plan.
About three weeks ago, the group was at an impasse because some businesses wanted credit for tips and health-care benefits, while labor groups thought that only salary should be counted. A breakthrough finally came with the phase-in plan giving firms more time to get to $15 per hour and an agreement not to subtract benefits from workers’ salaries.
More than a few political observers (me included) had predicted policy changes to come when U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., took over chairmanship of the Senate Finance Committee after former Sen. Baucus resigned to become the U.S. ambassador to China.
Now we know that Wyden will take a different tack on trade policy by focusing more on the downside of potential trade deals than the glowing prognostications we usually hear. In a recent appearance before the Finance Committee, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, typically a cheerleader for all things trade, heard this from the new chairman:
“The extraordinary economic changes of the last generation demonstrate how important it is that future trade policies are reformed to reflect the times,” Wyden said in his opening statement. He has singled out the proposed Asian Trans Pacific Partnership for scrutiny and has advocated more transparent and open trade policy procedures from the Obama administration.
The government’s April report on U.S. jobs and the economy looked good on the surface, with unemployment down to 6.3 percent and the number of newly created jobs up by about 288,000, but there is a lot more to it than that.
First off, the unemployment rate is down because some people have given up looking for work and/or have retired and fewer have started looking for work after graduation or other life changes. When people aren’t looking for a job for whatever reason, the government doesn’t count them as being unemployed. Only 58.09 percent of all working-age people in this country actually have a job.
Also, the average weekly paycheck in April was $838.70, the same as it was the month before, and the economy can’t start to improve until wages improve. Estimates are that 70 percent of our total economic activity comes from consumer spending, and most people won’t spend more unless they make more, especially now.
Quote of the week
“While money is used to finance speech, money is not speech. Speech is only one of the activities that are financed by campaign contributions and expenditures. Those financial activities should not receive precisely the same constitutional protections as speech itself. After all, campaign funds were used to finance the Watergate burglary, actions that clearly were not protected by the First Amendment.”
– Former Supreme Court Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, in testimony on April 30 before the U.S. Senate Rules Committee.