Washington (CNN)Our weekly roundup of the news, notes and chatter about the prospects for the next Democratic presidential race, from Eric Bradner, Greg Krieg and Caroline Kenny:
Washington (CNN)Our weekly roundup of the news, notes and chatter about the prospects for the next Democratic presidential race, from Eric Bradner, Greg Krieg and Caroline Kenny:
Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump slammed reports questioning his mental stability in a series of tweets Saturday morning, writing he’s a “very stable genius” after the publication of an expos about his first year as President put the White House into damage-control mode.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is rescinding an Obama-era policy that helped states legalize recreational marijuana, throwing a wet blanket on the fledgling industry during what could have been a celebratory week.
The Justice Department will reverse the so-called Cole and Ogden memos that set out guardrails for federal prosecution of cannabis and allowed legalized marijuana to flourish in states across the U.S., according to two senior agency officials. U.S. attorneys in states where pot is legal will now be able prosecute cases where they see fit, according to the officials, who requested anonymity discussing internal policy.
Shares of pot companies plunged as news of the policy change surfaced, though many began to rebound after investors weighed the potential impact.
The change comes at a high point for the weed industry. California, the biggest U.S. state and sixth-largest economy in the world, launched its legal marketplace on Jan. 1. Sales in California alone are expected to reach $3.7 billion in 2018, according to estimates from BDS Analytics.
Seven other states and the District of Columbia have also legalized cannabis for adult use. Twenty-one additional states have voted to allow the plant to be used for medicinal purposes. The market is expected to skyrocket from $6 billion in 2016 to $50 billion by 2026, according to Cowen & Co.
Sessions, a Republican from Alabama, has long been opposed to marijuana, equating it with heroin. But this is the first action he’s taken that deviates significantly from the Obama administration. Many in the industry said the news is unsurprising but disappointing.
“While dismantling the industry will prove impossible, the move by Sessions will sow more seeds of uncertainty in an industry that already has its fair share of risks and unknowns,” said Chris Walsh, vice president of Marijuana Business Daily. “Businesses could be in for a bumpy ride amid this uncertainty, and we certainly could see some types of regional crackdowns or delays in upcoming medical or recreational cannabis markets.”
The Bloomberg Intelligence Global Cannabis Competitive Peers Index dropped as much as 24 percent after the Associated Press first reported the Justice Department plan. Most companies in that group are small. Still, there are a few big names that could be hit by the changing policy.
Constellation Brands Inc., which sells Corona beer and Svedka vodka in the U.S., got involved in the cannabis industry in October when it acquired a minority investment in Canopy Growth, a Canadian marijuana company. Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. has also made its way into the Green Rush. It fell as much as 5.7 percent after the news, the biggest intraday drop since May.
A tightening of enforcement also would be felt in Canada, where the cannabis industry has blossomed. Ontario’s Canopy Growth fell as much as 19 percent to C$29.06 in Toronto, while Aphria Inc. plunged as much as 23 percent to C$16.59. ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF, the first pure-play pot ETF to be listed in the U.S., dropped as much as 9.7 percent, the biggest intraday decline since May.
Sessions’s policy may cause investors to think twice before putting their money into the Green Rush, according to Adrian Sedlin, founder of Canndescent, a marijuana cultivation and branded-flower company.
“Fear, uncertainty and doubt will rip through our industry like a California wildfire because of this,” he said. “Whatever happens longterm, this will retard and limit capital flows into the industry for the foreseeable future.”
The move is likely to sow confusion among consumers and state officials, and may spark a backlash if state-approved retailers are prosecuted. Sixty-four percent of the U.S. population now wants to make pot legal, according to a Gallup poll released in October.
But it’s too late to stop the industry from growing, said Laura Bianchi, a partner and director of cannabis, business and corporate transactions and estate planning at Rose Law Group in Scottsdale, Arizona.
“To undo this industry would be like closing Pandora’s box once it’s been opened,” she said. “It would be a Herculean effort that would undermine another Republican cornerstone, which is the importance of states’ rights.”
Senator Cory Gardner, a Republican from Colorado, where marijuana is legal, said in a tweet that Sessions’s move contradicts what he told the senator before his confirmation.
“I am prepared to take all steps necessary, including holding DOJ nominees, until the Attorney General lives up to the commitment he made to me,” Gardner said.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, said Sessions’s actions are an affront to medical patients who need to use the plant as medicine.
“Parents should be able to give their sick kids the medicine they need without having to fear that they will be prosecuted,” she said in a statement. “This is about public health, and it’s about reforming our broken criminal justice system that throws too many minorities in prison for completely nonviolent offenses.”
Still, the federal policy change may not actually hurt business much at all. Entrepreneurs starting marijuana businesses have already been working under risky circumstances. The plant has remained federally illegal, meaning most large companies — including banks — have shied away. Instead, the business has relied on state regulators, many of whom previously said they would defend the industry through any federal crackdown.
“We’re not overly concerned that a change in DOJ policy around cannabis will be meaningfully disruptive to legal adult use cannabis states, given the vocal support offered by these state-level AG’s,” said Vivien Azer, a Cowen & Co. analyst who covers the industry.
(CNN)The biggest tell to date of Joe Biden’s 2020 plans came this week, when he apologized to Anita Hill.
Behind the noise of Brexit negotiations, the talk in the European Union this year has been that there’s potentially a bigger problem in the east. And the prospect of another rupture looks to be increasing.
Poland’s de facto leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, hand-picked his second prime minister in two years, opting last week for western-educated Finance Minister Mateusz Morawiecki as he seeks to boost the economy after revamping the judicial system. He is another Kaczynski acolyte who has backed the increasingly authoritarian Law & Justice party’s push to seize more control of the courts, a plan condemned by the European Parliament and European Commission.
The mood in Brussels is that EU institutions can no longer stand by and watch a country that’s the biggest net recipient of European aid thumb its nose without paying some sort of price. Few people are discussing Poland following Britain out of the bloc, but a protracted conflict is getting more likely.
Concerns about the shift in Poland triggered calls to limit access to EU funds for countries disrespecting the democratic rule of law. At a ministerial meeting on Nov. 15 in Brussels, the issue was raised during a discussion about the 2021-2028 budget by countries including Germany, France and the Nordic states, according to two EU officials with knowledge of the matter.
Poland’s refusal to take in mainly Muslim refugees was referred last week to the European Court of Justice along with Hungary and the Czech Republic.
“There is a growing feeling in Brussels that solidarity cannot be a one-way street, and that it becomes difficult to justify the 10 billion-euro per year net transfers for a country that is increasingly at odds with the bloc’s values,” said Bruno Dethomas, a senior policy adviser at GPLUS consultancy in Brussels and a former EU ambassador to Poland. “It is high time the EU reacted, or it risks losing its soul.”
Poles are accustomed to their government stirring up nationalist fervor with blistering attacks on the EU while welcoming the policies of U.S. President Donald Trump. It’s railed against taking in Muslim refugees, claimed the country has been enslaved and snapped at criticism of its power grab this year.
But even by Kaczynski’s standards, his speech on Nov. 10 to mark Independence Day pulled no punches. It’s up to Poles to show “the sick Europe of today the path back to health, to fundamental values, to true freedom and to the strengthening of our civilization based on Christianity,” he said.
The risk for the EU is that a country that was so key to its post-Cold War political and economic integration shifts closer to becoming a rogue member under Kaczynski, 68, a critic of Poland’s deal to enter the bloc in 2004. A breakdown would undermine the European project in arguably a more symbolic way than traditionally lukewarm Britain’s pending departure.
The cost of Kaczynski’s stance has — so far — largely been counted in lost influence within the 28-nation bloc, which lacks the unanimity needed to up the ante and strip the Polish government of its voting rights at EU summits.
There’s been no hit to the 229 billion euros ($270 billion) in aid granted to Poland through 2022 and used for everything from new airports to sewage pipes.
The narrative has changed, though. French President Emmanuel Macron said last month that Poland could pay a price if it continues to defy the EU on justice. The Dutch coalition government agreement, signed in October, specifies “subsidies should be reduced for member states that do not fulfill their obligations.”
The Polish Parliament, meanwhile, is finalizing legislation to revamp the Supreme Court and Judicial Council, a powerful body that chooses which judges get promoted. Passage of the bills constitutes the removal of the “last fuses” on Poland’s democracy, according to Adam Bodnar, the country’s commissioner for human rights.
Even some Law & Justice lawmakers have questioned the legality of the court changes. “I will vote in line with my party,” Krystyna Pawlowicz told a parliamentary committee. “But this measure is a glaring contradiction to the constitution.”
Law & Justice has built on its popularity since winning an unprecedented parliamentary majority two years ago with promises of standing up for ordinary Poles. An ongoing EU investigation into the government’s behavior has played into the party’s them-against-us rhetoric.
Some Polish politicians have been privately telling their EU partners that if bashing the Law & Justice government doesn’t stop, Poles will turn against the EU and nationalist forces will be emboldened, according to three people with knowledge of the discussions.
On Independence Day after Kaczynski spoke the day before, the traditional march in Warsaw became a demonstration for far-right groups claiming that “Europe will be white.” The government condemned the racists, though also blamed the media of focusing on some “fringe incidents.”
Historically, Kaczynski has been cool toward the EU. He backed accession in the run-up to a referendum in 2003, when 78 percent of Poles supported membership. He warned at the time entry on the conditions that Poland had negotiated was a “threat to fundamental values including independence and democracy.”
A reduction in funds that Poland receives from the EU would help shift public opinion against the bloc, said Marcin Matczak, a law professor at Warsaw University.
“Hostility towards the EU is part of Law & Justice’s DNA, and if it was up to the party, Poland would leave the bloc,” said Matczak. “But Kaczynski knows he can’t do that because Poles are benefiting from EU membership. Hence, the party slowly builds a negative attitude towards EU — while declaring that Poland has no intention of leaving.”
The $1.4 trillion item on President Donald Trump’s wish list — a package of tax cuts for businesses and individuals that he has said he wants to sign before year’s end — is headed into the legislative equivalent of a Black Friday scrum next week.
Senate Republican leaders plan a make-or-break floor vote on their bill as soon as Thursday — a dramatic moment that will come only after a marathon debate that could go all night. Democrats are expected to try to delay or derail the measure, and the GOP must hold together at least 50 votes from its thin, 52-vote majority in order to prevail.
Their chances improved this week when Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said she’ll support repealing the “individual mandate” imposed by Obamacare — a provision that Senate tax writers are counting on to help finance the tax cuts. Murkowski had earlier signaled some reservations about the provision; and her support was widely viewed as a positive sign for the tax bill’s chances.
Trump is scheduled to address Senate Republicans at their weekly luncheon Tuesday afternoon on taxes and the legislative agenda for the rest of the year, according to a statement from Senator John Barrasso, chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee.
The White House previously announced that the president would talk with Republican and Democratic congressional leaders at the White House the same day about an agreement on spending to keep the government open after funding expires on Dec. 8. David Popp, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, both said that meeting is still on the schedule.
If the tax bill clears the Senate — a step that’s by no means guaranteed — lawmakers in both chambers would have to hammer out a compromise between their differing bills, a process that presents potential pitfalls of its own. For now, though, much of the Senate’s attention will focus on its legislation’s price tag.
Three GOP senators — Bob Corker of Tennessee, Jeff Flake of Arizona and James Lankford of Oklahoma — have cited concerns about how the measure would affect federal deficits. Independent studies of the legislation have found that — contrary to its backers’ arguments — its tax cuts won’t stimulate enough growth to pay for themselves. Both the Senate bill, and one that cleared the House earlier this month, would reduce federal revenue over a decade by roughly $1.4 trillion, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.
On Wednesday, a report from the Penn Wharton Budget Model at the University of Pennsylvania said the bill would reduce federal revenue in each year from 2028 to 2033. That finding would mean it doesn’t comply with a key budget rule that Senate Republican leaders want to use to pass their bill with a simple majority over Democrats’ objections.
In essence, that rule holds that any bill approved via that fast-track process can’t add to the deficit outside a 10-year budget window. The JCT has already found that the Senate bill would generate a surplus in its 10th year because it has set several tax breaks for businesses and individuals to expire.
But JCT hasn’t yet weighed in publicly on the revenue effects in subsequent years. Senate GOP leaders have expressed confidence that their proposal will satisfy the rule ultimately.
Another potential stumbling block stems from the fact that Congress is trying to act on complex tax legislation under a tight, self-imposed timeline in order to deliver on promises from Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan and McConnell.
For example, Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin has said he can’t support the current Senate bill because it would give corporations a tax advantage — a large rate cut to 20 percent from 35 percent — that other, closely held businesses wouldn’t get.
His concern centers on the Senate’s plan for large partnerships, limited liability companies, sole proprietorships and other so-called “pass-through” businesses. Under current law, these businesses simply pass their earnings to their owners, who pay income taxes at their individual rates — currently, as high as 39.6 percent, depending on how much they earn.
The Senate bill would provide pass-through owners with a 17.4 percent deduction for income — but in combination with other provisions, that would result in an effective top tax rate for business income that’s more than 10 percentage points higher than the proposed corporate tax rate.
The House bill would use an entirely different approach, setting a top tax rate of 25 percent for pass-through business income, but then limiting how much of a business’s earnings could qualify for that rate.
Reconciling those differences — and addressing Johnson’s concern — may be a complicated process. “That’s part of the equation that could change the most over the next few weeks,” Isaac Boltansky, senior vice president and policy analyst at Compass Point Research and Trading LLC, told Bloomberg Tax. “No one is planning around it yet. There is uncertainty across the board.”
Meanwhile, the Obamacare issue looms in the background — threatening at least one GOP senator’s vote. Susan Collins of Maine said earlier this week that tax bill “needs work,” and “I think there will be changes.”
The 2010 Affordable Care Act — popularly known as Obamacare — contained a provision requiring individuals to buy health insurance or pay a federal penalty. Removing that penalty in 2019, as the Senate tax bill proposes to do, would generate an estimated $318 billion in savings by 2027, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The savings would stem from about 13 million Americans dropping their coverage, eliminating the need for federal subsidies to help them afford it.
Because many of the newly uninsured would be younger, healthier people, insurance premiums would rise 10 percent in most years, the nonpartisan fiscal scorekeeper found.
Senate Republicans narrowly approved the most sweeping rewrite of the U.S. tax code in three decades, slashing the corporate tax rate and providing temporary tax-rate cuts for most Americans.
The 51-49 vote — achieved just before 2 a.m. Saturday in Washington and only after closed-door deal-making with dissident senators — brings the GOP close to delivering a much-needed policy win for their party and President Donald Trump.
After the vote, Trump said on Twitter that he looks forward to signing a final bill before Christmas. Vice President Mike Pence tweeted that a pre-Christmas tax cut would be a “Middle-Class Miracle!”
Before it goes to Trump, lawmakers will have to resolve differences between the Senate bill and one the House passed last month, a process that could begin Monday. Although both versions share common top-line elements, negotiations on individual provisions inserted to win votes, particularly in the Senate, may be protracted and difficult. The final product will end up being a central issue in the 2018 elections that will determine control of Congress.
“We’re going to take this message to the American people a year from now,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said after the vote.
Speaking in New York on Saturday, Trump also predicted the tax package would be a winner for Republicans in the 2018 midterm elections. “We got no Democrat help and I think that’s going to hurt them in the election,” Trump said at a fundraising event.
Both the House and Senate measures would cut the corporate tax rate to 20 percent from 35 percent — though the Senate version would set that lower rate in 2019, a year later than the House bill would. Also, the Senate bill, unlike the House version, would provide only temporary tax relief to individuals, ending tax cuts for them in 2026. Both bills are expected to add more than $1.4 trillion to the federal deficit over 10 years, before accounting for any economic growth.
Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, who had cited concerns over the bill’s effects on federal deficits, was the only Republican dissenter. McConnell rejected revenue scores that suggested the bill’s tax cuts would add to the deficit. He predicted it would be a “revenue producer” by stimulating economic growth. Congress’s official tax scorekeeper this week said otherwise.
The House and Senate bills also align on the contentious issue of individual deductions for state and local taxes: They’d eliminate all but a deduction for property taxes, which would be capped at $10,000.
But they differ on the home mortgage-interest deduction; the House bill would restrict that break to loans of $500,000 or less with regard to new purchases of homes. The Senate legislation would leave the current $1 million cap in place.
They also differ — narrowly — on the tax rates they’d apply to multinational companies’ accumulated offshore earnings. The House bill would tax those profits at 14 percent for earnings held as cash and 7 percent for less-liquid assets. The revised Senate bill contains a lengthy section that has no direct mention of the rates, but a person familiar with the Senate plan said they’d be 14.5 percent for cash and 7.5 percent for less-liquid assets.
Senate Republican leaders muscled the sweeping legislation through the chamber less than two weeks after releasing the bill draft. Many GOP lawmakers, including Corker and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have expressed concerns that the party has little to show so far before next year’s congressional elections, after the collapse of an Obamacare repeal earlier this year and no action on issues ranging from immigration to infrastructure.
Trump expressed gratitude to McConnell and Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch for steering the measure through the Senate.
“We are one step closer to delivering MASSIVE tax cuts for working families across America,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Republicans were able to bring the legislation to a vote using Senate rules that allowed them to approve it with a simple majority, therefore without any Democratic support. The GOP controls just 52 votes in the chamber, eight shy of what’s typically needed to move controversial measures that draw delaying tactics by opponents.
That narrow majority made it important for Senate leaders to try to hold every member’s vote; moderate Senator Susan Collins of Maine used that leverage to secure various concessions, including an agreement to enhance an individual deduction for large unreimbursed medical expenses through the end of next year. The House bill would eliminate that tax break.
Democrats decried the bill’s deficit impact and complained they were shut out of the process to help draft the measure. They cited research showing that the legislation primarily benefits the nation’s highest earners and business owners, and will bleed federal revenues in a way that hurts domestic programs.
“At a time of immense inequality, the Republican tax bill makes life easier on the well-off and eventually makes life more difficult on working Americans, exacerbating one of the most pressing problems we face as a nation — the yawning gap between the rich and everyone else,” said Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York during debate on the bill.
Schumer noted that a set of last-minute revisions to the bill changed it in ways that had yet to be analyzed by the Joint Committee on Taxation, Congress’s official scorekeeper for the effects of tax legislation. “Is this really how Republicans are going to rewrite the tax code? Scrawled like something on the back of a napkin?”
McConnell said the bill, the first text of which was introduced on Nov. 20, went “through the regular order.” He dismissed complaints like Schumer’s. “You complain about process when you’re losing,” McConnell said.
Attention now shifts to a House-Senate conference committee — a specially appointed, temporary panel that will be charged with hashing out the differences in the bills and preparing a final version for both chambers to consider. Party leaders will select a small group of lawmakers, likely from the House and Senate tax-writing panels in each chamber, who would then be approved by each chamber.
That work could start as early as Monday, with many high-stakes issues to be worked through. The deadline of Dec. 31 is an artificial one, though — aimed partly at securing a victory well in advance of the 2018 congressional elections. Republicans would have until the end of 2018 before they lose their ability to clear final passage in the Senate without a filibuster.
Both bills share some key central elements: They both almost double the standard deduction for individual taxpayers while eliminating personal exemptions. They both allow companies to fully and immediately deduct the cost of their spending on equipment for five years. But the Senate version would slowly step down the expensing provision after the five-year period — a feature that the House bill doesn’t provide for.
Yet there are many differences — ranging from the taxation of business income to the amount set for the child tax credit — and Senate negotiators may have the upper hand during talks. That’s because the wafer-thin two-vote majority in the Senate will make it harder to usher a final bill back through that chamber.
The House bill would consolidate the current seven individual tax brackets to four, leaving the top tax rate at 39.6 percent. The Senate bill would have seven brackets — with lower rates, and a top rate of 38.5 percent. Studies have shown that many of the tax bill’s benefits would go to the highest earners — and some middle-class taxpayers might actually pay more — a finding that could impact the House-Senate talks.
The Senate bill includes a repeal of Obamacare’s mandate that most Americans have health insurance or pay a penalty. The House bill does not.
Senators approved a 23 percent tax deduction — subject to certain limitations — on business income earned from partnerships, limited liabilities and other so-called pass-through businesses. The House version would create a 25 percent tax rate for such business income — with restrictions on which businesses could qualify. Small businesses would get extra relief under the House legislation as well.
The House bill would also eliminate the estate tax, while the Senate version would limit the tax to fewer multimillion-dollar estates, but leave it in place. And after 2025, the limits would lift.
Under current law, the estate tax applies a 40 percent levy to estates worth more than $5.49 million for individuals and $10.98 million for married couples. The Senate bill would temporarily double the exemption thresholds. The House bill would double the exemption thresholds, and then repeal the tax entirely in 2025.
Ending life-sapping excessive hours was a pioneering demand for the labour movement. For the sake of our health and the economy we need to revisit it
Imagine there was a single policy that would slash unemployment and underemployment, tackle health conditions ranging from mental distress to high blood pressure, increase productivity, help the environment, improve family lives, encourage men to do more household tasks, and make people happier. It sounds fantastical, but it exists, and its overdue: the introductionof a four-day week.
The liberation of workers from excessive work was one of the pioneering demands of the labour movement. From the ashes of the civil war, American trade unionism rallied behind an eight-hour day, a movement which ran with express speed from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from New England to California, as Karl Marx put it. In 1890 hundreds of thousands thronged into Hyde Park in a historic protest for the same demand. It is a cause that urgently needs reclaiming.
Many Britons work too much. Its notjust the 37.5 hours a week clocked up on average by full-time workers; itsthe unpaid overtime too. According to the TUC, workers put in 2.1bn unpaid hours last year thats an astonishing 33.6bn of free labour.
That overwork causes significant damage. Last year, 12.5m work days were lost because of work-related stress, depression or anxiety. The biggest single cause by a long way in some 44% of cases was workload. Stress can heighten the risk of all manner of health problems, from high blood pressure to strokes. Research even suggests that working long hours increases the risk of excessive drinking. And then theres the economic cost: over 5bn a year, according to the Health and Safety Executive. Nowonder the public health expert John Ashton is among those suggesting a four-day week could improve the nations health.
So the renewed call for a four-day week from Autonomy Institute is very welcome. We want to shift peoples perspectives, to better work and less work, says the thinktanks Will Stronge. Indeed, a deeply unhealthy distribution of work scars our society. While some are working too much, with damaging consequences for their health and family lives, there are 3.3 million or so underemployed workers who want more hours. A four-day week would force a redistribution of these hours, to the benefit of everyone. This will be even more important if automation in sectors such as manufacturing, administration and retail creates more poorly paid work and more underemployment.
A four-day working week could alsohelp tackle climate change: as the New Economics Foundation thinktank notes, countries with shorter working weeks are more likely to have a smaller carbon footprint. This is no economy-wrecking suggestion either. German and Dutch employees work less than we do but their economies are stronger than ours. It could boost productivity: the evidence suggests if you work fewerhours, you are more productive, hour for hour and less stress means less time off work. Indeed, a recent experiment with a six-hour working dayat a Swedish nursing home produced promising results: higher productivity and fewer sick days. If those productivity gains are passed on to staff, working fewer hours doesntnecessarily entail a pay cut.
Then theres the argument for gender equality. Despite the strides made by the womens movement, women still do 60% more unpaid household work on average than men. An extra day off workis not going to inevitably lead to men pulling their weight more at home. But, as Autonomy suggests, a four-day week could be unveiled as part of a driveto promote equal relationships between men and women. A national campaign could encourage men to use their new free time to equally balance household labour, which remains defined by sexist attitudes.
It is heartening to see the resurrectionof one of the great early causes of the labour movement. Germanys biggest union, IG Metall, is calling for a 28-hour week for shift workers and those with caring responsibilities.
That said, on its own the demand is not enough. Now that socialism is re-emerging as a political force that can no longer be ignored or ridiculed, the struggle for more time for leisure, family and relaxation should be linked to broader fights. Increased public ownership of the economy should be structured to create more worker self-management and control. If technology means a further reduction in secure work, a universal basic income a basic stipend paid to all citizens as a right may become ever more salient.
Sure, work can be a fulfilling activity for some. It strikes me, though, that few would disagree with the notion that we should spend more time with our families, watching our children grow, exercising, reading books, or just relaxing. So much of our lives is surrendered to subordinating ourselves to the needs and whims of others, turning human beings into cash cows rather than independent, well-roundedindividuals.
Our social model means economic growth all too often involves concentrating wealth produced by the many into the bank accounts of the few, without improving the lives of the majority. Growth should deliver not justshared prosperity and improved public services but a better balance between work, family and leisure.
Labour politicians now position themselves as the harbingers of a new society, not mere tinkerers with the existing order. That must surely mean building a new economy that lightens the freedom-sapping burden of work. Labour may win the opportunity to build a socialist Britain. If it does, it must be ambitious enough to liberate citizens from the excesses of work.
The first thing you’ll see when you walk into Eaton Workshop, a hotel opening in late spring 2018 in Washington, is a custom-commissioned video art installation by AJ Schnack, shown on a series of vintage-style television screens. All day long, it’ll broadcast a montage of footage from the presidential elections of 2012 and 2016 that’s built around one pointed question: How did our country get where it is today?
It’s not a subtle statement, and it’s not meant to be.
In Trump’s Washington, Eaton is planting a clear flag as a haven for Democrats. It’s the world’s first politically motivated hotel, the flagship for a global brand that’s built around social activism and community engagement. And it comes with a pedigree: As the daughter of Ka Shui Lo, the creator and executive chairman of Hong Kong-based Langham Hospitality Group Ltd., founder Katherine Lo knows a thing or two about luxury hotels and world-class service.
Lo firmly believes that hotels ought to be catalysts for good. In a world where we can be conscious consumers—of everything from clothing to food to baby products—she argues there’s a place for conscious hotels, too. This isn’t a revolutionary idea: Already, 1 Hotels has built a small collection of luxury properties entirely around the idea of sustainability, and Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts has made a significant, brand-wide commitment to bolster community programming for disadvantaged children in all of its destinations. It’s one of many five-star brands that have a conscious ethos but choose not to flaunt it.
Eaton Workshop is different. With a premise that’s built around liberal activism and civic engagement, the brand will weave a liberal philosophy into every aspect of the guest experience, some more obvious than others.
Among the subtler points is the significance of the company’s name: a nod to the high-end shopping mall of that name in Montreal that captured the fascination of Ka Shui Lo when he fled the Cultural Revolution in China. The mall, says Katherine, was a beacon of freedom to her father—and when she found an archival photo bearing its old motto, “Progress and better living,” the two Eatons became forever intertwined.
The Washington hotel—which has 209 rooms just north of the National Mall—will be the brand’s flagship, with a second location opening in Hong Kong in 2018 and new constructions set to rise in San Francisco and Seattle no sooner than 2019.
Among the Washington location’s programming signatures will be a sort of TED talk series driven by the liberal agenda, consisting of fireside chats and rooftop lectures that Lo hopes will be free, open to the public, and streamable as Eaton-branded podcasts. Then comes the art program, which—aside from the political statement piece at check-in—will include commissions from at least a half-dozen up-and-coming local artists and a street-facing exhibition window curated in partnership with local museums and institutions. A co-working space will prioritize memberships for progressive startups, activists, and artists, while a wellness program will offer “inner-health-focused treatments” such as Reiki and sound baths, rather than facials and massages. (Some of these features will roll out a few months after the hotel opens.)
Just as important, partners and staff will be brought on board, both for their skills in the food and beverage worlds and their activist track records. For instance, Lo saw the cocktail director of the famed Columbia Room, Derek Brown, as a perfect fit to be the hotel’s beverage director—not just because he’s won such awards as magazine’s Bartender of the Year but because he “cares deeply about social justice.” To wit, Brown actively champions policies that fight sexual harassment in the bartending industry and acts as chief spirit advisor for the National Archives.
Similarly, Lo says that the “amazing life story” of house chef Tim Ma “perfectly expresses our brand ethos.” The Chinese-American culinary up-and-comer was an engineer at the National Security Agency for years before discovering his true passion in food. At Eaton’s to-be-named restaurant, Ma is planning a menu with a heavy focus on vegetables from an on-site garden.
A guest who does nothing other than check in, sleep atop Eaton’s organic mattresses, and check out will still have a sense of the hotel’s mission, says Lo. “We plan to have new ideas in the minibar—an activist toolkit, for example, that includes sheets with information to help you call your congresspeople. And if we’d been open during this year’s Women’s March, I could have seen us putting poster boards and markers in the rooms!”
Political statements such as these will be tailored to each property. In Hong Kong, for instance, Lo says she’d like to replace Bibles in the nightstand drawers with copies of the United Nations Declaration for Human Rights.
Lo understands that Eaton Workshop isn’t for everyone. “Self-selection is definitely one of our strategies,” she says about branding and marketing materials that directly appeal to the “woke” crowd. “We wanted to emphasize that it’s a place for people who are thinking outside the box and want to effect a change in the world,” she says.
Though she repeatedly talks about fostering a culture of diversity and inclusion, Lo also tells Bloomberg that “the goal isn’t to bring together left and right.” Instead, she wants to create “a diversity of fields and backgrounds as well as gender and ethnicity.” In other words, her hotel should represent the antithesis of the Trump hotel that’s just a few blocks away, offering an intellectual playground to those who may feel marginalized by the current administration’s agenda.
This is partisan politics playing out on the city’s hotel scene; whether that will hurt or help Lo’s bottom line remains to be seen. But if the Trump Hotel is any indication, Lo may be poised for big success. According to the , the president’s hotel brought in $1.97 million in profits during the first four months of the year, despite business projections that had forecast a loss of $2.1 million.
Though her goal is to create a successful, scalable business, Eaton Workshop is not built to pad Lo’s pockets. On the contrary, she sees the entire enterprise as a means to a philanthropic end, and hopes to use the hotel profits to fund community arts initiatives in the brand’s respective destinations.
Each location will have a radio station, cinema, and music venue so local talent can produce or showcase work in a state-of-the-art space at low—or no—cost. In Washington, the building’s history as a printing venue has inspired Lo to create a writer’s residency, where investigative reporters can be hosted on site for several months while pursuing important stories.
Artists will be invited to create short films, podcasts, or other types of content under the emblem of Eaton’s in-house multimedia studio; the results will be available for guests to stream on personal devices, and each piece will feature a clear activist message and a call to action.
“We’re hoping that our hotel revenues will propel our creative projects,” says Lo, who likens the hotel to “a non-profit, but better.” Still, room rates won’t be extravagant; prices in Washington are likely to hover in the upper $200s. Thankfully, for members of both political parties—who are, no doubt, tired of dropping Benjamins for vodka drinks at the Trump International—the price of a martini should be less radical.
Tory whip writes to every vice-chancellor to ask for syllabus and any online material
Academics are accusing a Tory MP and government whip of McCarthyite behaviour, after he wrote to all universities asking them to declare what they are teaching their students about Brexit and to provide a list of teachers names.
Chris Heaton-Harris, Conservative MP for Daventry and a staunch Eurosceptic, wrote to vice-chancellors at the start of this month asking for the names of any professors involved in teaching European affairs with particular reference to Brexit. Neatly ignoring the long tradition of academic freedom that universities consider crucial to their success, his letter asks for a copy of each universitys syllabus and any online lectures on Brexit.
Prof David Green, vice-chancellor of Worcester University, felt a chill down his spine when he read the sinister request: This letter just asking for information appears so innocent but is really so, so dangerous, he says. Here is the first step to the thought police, the political censor and newspeak, naturally justified as the will of the British people, a phrase to be found on Mr Heaton-Harriss website. Green will be replying to the MP but not be providing the information requested.