California Stands Apart From Trump’s America


The NewCo Daily: Today’s Top Stories

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California is both the most populous state and, today, the most Democratic state. As Donald Trump ascends to the White House, California — with its liberal traditions, its rainbow-coalition politics, its environmental sensibilities, and its technology dominance — feels like a realm set apart from the rest of the U.S.

The “idea that California is a singular place, a nation-state unto itself, has never felt truer than it does now,” writes Andy Kroll in The California Sunday Magazine — not least because Its $2.5 trillion GDP makes it the sixth largest economy in the world.

How will California find its way through the Trump wilderness? Will its role be to lead a resistance, or to forge new paths forward out of today’s partisan mire?

The state can spend the next four years taking the Trump administration to court, just as conservative leaders in states like Texas challenged the Obama agenda. Or it can make California a laboratory for demonstrating the many ways government can actually work on behalf of citizens in areas like healthcare, education, and civil rights. It just might end up pursuing both these approaches: It’s got resources, energy, and ideas to spare.

Numbers to Watch the New President By

How will we know if President Trump is succeeding? Here’s a list of ten metrics we can apply to his economic performance, courtesy of Bloomberg.

There are some stats that just aren’t going to cooperate with the new president no matter how much he tweets: manufacturing payrolls aren’t likely to jump. The trade deficit isn’t about to disappear. Nor is the federal budget deficit.

Other figures may prove more amenable to the Trump agenda: Business spending is likely to grow, along with take-home pay. Economic growth may modestly improve, though that’s unlikely to make a big dent in the poverty statistics. We could see a jump in small-business launches. Don’t expect that to translate into a boost in the creation of new full-time jobs, though; part-time work is what the U.S. economy increasingly seems geared to create.

Of course, if the government isn’t happy with the numbers, it can always massage them, rewrite them, or make them go away. That’s what Congress is doing to enable a massive fire sale of federal lands: It has set the value of this communal legacy at nil, so any transfer of land won’t show up as a cost or a loss in the federal account books (The Guardian). If the Trump administration doesn’t like the data the economy produces, it can always just shut down the counting.

Uber Settles With the Feds

Uber will pay $20 million to settle charges brought by the Federal Trade Commission that it misled drivers about how much money they were likely to make (Recode). In New York, for instance, Uber said its median driver income was $90,000; in San Francisco, $74,000. According to the FTC, less than 10 percent of Uber’s drivers earned that much.

The FTC also said Uber made inflated claims for its vehicle financing terms, which turned out to be less generous than consumers could get on their own. In the settlement, the company neither contested the charges nor admitted to them. Cash from the fine will eventually make its way back to affected Uber drivers.

Chalk one up for the little guy? Maybe — but don’t expect to see too many more headlines like this for a while. The FTC currently has two Democratic members, who supported the Uber case, and one Republican, who opposed it. The Republican takes over today and is likely to get reinforcements soon — there are now two vacant seats.

A Power Up For the Human Ear

Real-time, instant translation by machine is one of those science-fictional capabilities we always assume belongs to the distant future. Doppler Labs has it working today (Quartz). Although its prototype currently demands a suitcase-worth of hardware, the startup dreams of someday putting this ability into a pair of earpieces.

Doppler’s first product, the Here One wireless earbuds, which is supposed to ship next month, won’t translate between languages. It does promise to apply machine-learning smarts to sculpt the soundscape users encounter as they go about their lives, cutting out unwanted noise and amplifying what they want to hear. (Think hearing augmentation rather than hearing aid.)

As the rise of voice computing moves sound to the center of the human-digital interface, what and how we hear will only grow more important. We’re all going to need new interfaces that work with the sounds in the physical environment rather than just blocking them out. “Putting computers in your ears” could be just the thing.

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