Ways to lose to Trump: Call him poor

The 2016 presidential candidates and their spouses hang out at a wedding.

The 2016 presidential candidates and their spouses at a wedding in 2005.

Who says Hillary Clinton isn’t the best candidate to address wealth inequality? Racists and bros, mostly—the rest of us know better. Here’s the presumptive Democratic nominee telling the New York Times that she’s open to considering Mark Cuban or another successful businessperson as her vice president:

“Businesspeople, especially successful businesspeople, who are really successful — as opposed to pretend successful — I think, have a lot to offer,” said Mrs. Clinton, whose campaign has begun taunting Mr. Trump with a #PoorDonald hashtag on Twitter, suggesting that he is not nearly as wealthy as he claims. Mr. Trump has cited an audit by the Internal Revenue Service as his reason for keeping his tax returns private.

Clinton supporters on Twitter have begun circulating the claim that Donald Trump is not a multi-billionaire, as he says, and that his net worth is actually less than $100 million. That would put him below the Clintons’ estimated worth of $110 million, nearly all of which they made after Bill became president. Surely, voters will flock to Hillary once they start thinking of her as the richer candidate.

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Greg Gianforte: quiet on religion, still animated by ideas

Billionaire and maybe gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte—photo by Wolcott

Billionaire and maybe gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte—photo by Wolcott

Last time we checked in on Greg Gianforte, he had just cited the example of Noah, who was still working at age 600, to argue that “the concept of retirement is not biblical.” It was a pretty exciting quote, implying as it did that a man who had sold his own business for $1.5 billion A) regarded the Genesis story of Noah and the great flood as literally true, and B) wanted us to keep working until we died. The press had fun with it. It was kind of a shame, since this admittedly batty comment overshadowed Gianforte’s main policy idea, which was to encourage professionals who had left the state to “come home and bring their jobs with them” as telecommuters.

Montana has the second-lowest average wages of any state in the union. Unemployment is low, but pay is terrible. I was shocked, when I first arrived here for grad school, to find jobs for skilled carpenters advertising $8.50 an hour. Our per capita income is 38th, but that’s because of resource extraction, rental income, selling pieces of the ranch to Californians, et cetera. If you work for a living, Montana is a bad place to do it.

Gianforte’s focus on attracting high-paying jobs to the state therefore seems well-placed. Before he sold it to Oracle, the company he founded paid hundreds of employees around Bozeman an average wage of $92,000 a year. He is a tech guy, an engineer. He believes the problems in Montana’s employment system have solutions, and we can find them if we think carefully enough.

One cannot help but notice he has tweaked the system of his candidacy, as well. I sat down with Gianforte for about an hour last week, and he did not mention his religion until I asked about it. Even then, all he would say was that no one has the right to force their beliefs on anybody else. I found him likable and smart, and clearly excited by ideas—this time, classical economics instead of biblical creation. You can read all about our interview in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links.

Putnam predicts American “caste society”

Harvard academic Robert Putnam, who has come all this way with no one saying anything to him about his beard

Harvard academic Robert Putnam, looking crazy

Robert Putnam, author of the unfalsifiable big-think text Bowling Alone, told Maclean’s last week that “America is moving toward a caste society.” His next book is called Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, which sounds pretty exciting if you, like me, are obsessed with the question of whether life in America is easier or harder than it was 30 years ago. In this case, “easier” means “more fair.” I think we can agree that in the ideal America, the decisions an individual makes would be more important to the course of her life than the circumstances of her birth. Getting born to two married, upper-class parents is difficult to pull off, and we should probably offer a second chance to the kids who blow this crucial first choice.

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64% of Americans under 45 call Snowden a “whistleblower”

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who helped the government read your email and then betrayed us all by telling you

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who helped the government read your email and then betrayed us all by telling you about it

Here’s a fun quote from former UN ambassador John Bolton about why Edward Snowden is a traitor:

[Snowden] thinks he’s smarter and has a higher morality than the rest of us…that he can see clearer than the other 299,999,999 of us, and therefore he can do what he wants. I say that is the worst form of treason.

Guided by individual conscience? Singing the song of yourself? That’s not what America is about. America is about playing on the team. You’ll have plenty of time to worry about whether you participated in an immoral conspiracy in the moments before death. On an unrelated note, 64% of Americans under age 45 regard Snowden as a whistleblower, compared to only 50% aged 45 to 64 and 40% of those aged 65+. Totalizing theories after the jump.

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US income inequality reaches record high

Fast-food workers strike for higher wages next to history's most inspiring statue of Ronald McDonald.

Fast-food workers strike for higher wages next to history’s most inspiring statue of Ronald McDonald.

There was something I was supposed to remember today—something really important, possibly related to fundamental threats to our American way of life. What was it? I swore I’d never forget. Oh yeah—a decade of skyrocketing income inequality. According to tax data, the top-earning US households captured a larger share of the nation’s income than ever before, breaking a record set in 1927. If I remember correctly, the years after 1927 saw a rising tide that lifted all boats. I’m being sarcastic, of course. There was a worldwide depression, but that situation was different, because back then most of the high-end income came from the financial and real estate economies. Wait—I’m still doing it.

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