* Since the announcement of the deal to obtain the release of former POW Bowe Bergdahl, Republicans have been withering in their criticism of the White House. But it turns out that lots of those Republicans were pushing the administration to do everything in its power to obtain Bergdahl’s release, as Amanda Terkel and Sam Stein report.
The best part: In February, John McCain made specific reference to an exchange for these five Taliban prisoners, and said: “I would be inclined to support such a thing depending on a lot of the details.”
Then there is Army SGT Bowe Bergdahl still held by the Islamic terrorist Haqqani network, probably in Pakistan, in the same place where Osama Bin Laden was hiding. This past POW/MIA national day of recognition, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel reiterated a pledge to secure the young Army NCO being held captive, but have there been any actions? Any time, attention, or even mention from the Commander-in-Chief? Nah, no camera highlights in it for him.
Missing from some of this analysis and punditry, though, is crucial context. Quite simply, coal country isn’t what it used to be. Employment in the coal industry has been in decline for so long in states such as Kentucky and West Virginia that the number of jobs directly at risk from any clampdown on coal is far smaller than the sweeping rhetoric about “coal country” would have one assume.
And if you want to see a chart showing the number of coal miners over time, I’ve got you covered here. In the 1920s, one out of every 150 Americans was a coal miner. Today it’s one out of every 3,600.
* The Seattle city council voted unanimously yesterday to raise its minimum wage to $15 per hour, the highest in the nation (phased in over a few years). The city will no doubt be quickly turned into a post-apocalyptic wasteland as everyone leaves their caffeine-soaked, high-quality-of-life home for the attractively low wages available in places where Republicans rule.
* Relatedly, Philip Bump has a useful guide to the decreasing value of the minimum wage in the states.
Conservatives are grasping for ideological truisms to fill a void of any detailed policy-level engagement.
For instance, they contend that such regulations are useless, because China will never address its emissions. Well today, China announced it will be capping its carbon emissions.
* Phillip Longman, who literally wrote the book on the Veterans Health Service, has a good piece explaining why the problems showed up in Phoenix: while the overall number of veterans is declining and wait times are short in many areas, lots of older vets have moved to the Sun Belt in recent years, overtaxing the VA facilities in those places.
* A new poll of the Pennsylvania governor’s race by Democratic firm PPP shows Democrat Tom Wolf with a staggering 25-point lead over incumbent Tom Corbett, whose approval rating stands at 27 percent.
* If you’re looking for up-to-the-minute results from today’s primaries in eight states, this page right here is the place to go.
* Get ready for the next big Fed Fight! A coalition of progressives blocked Larry Summers. Now David Dayen reports the same coalition may mobilize against Michael Barr, whom Obama is considering to an open Fed seat, and is viewed as having been too friendly to the big banks when he was a Treasury Department official. Another test of the growing clout of the Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party?
(Update: It turns out Barr took himself out of the running without a fight.)
* And cannabis clubs in San Jose are offering free pot to people who come in with an “I voted” sticker tomorrow, which is apparently not illegal under California law, but may be illegal under federal law. Note that there is no pot-related initiative on the ballot; they’re just doing it out of civic duty.