Kevin Drum

Finally! It's Tax Fantasyland Season Again!

| Tue May 19, 2015 11:29 AM EDT

One of the more entertaining aspects of the 2012 presidential race was keeping track of the ever-expanding array of fanciful tax plans from Republicans. Even after Herman Cain announced his absurd 9-9-9 plan, other plans that would cut taxes even more kept coming down the pike. No candidate was willing to give up the mantle of biggest tax cutter.

But that wasn't the truly entertaining part. The entertainment came from the fact that the candidates were all willing to describe in almost loving detail what they'd cut: capital gains vs. regular income; different tax brackets; precise rates that millionaires would have to pay; and so forth. But when anyone asked which tax deductions and tax credits they'd kill in order to make their plans revenue neutral, they'd blush like schoolchildren and insist that only Congress could make that call. So brave!

Josh Barro reports today that even with only a few candidates yet in the race, Republicans are already tying themselves in knots over taxes:

There are a few ways the 2016 Republican candidates can avoid the Romney middle-class tax trap. They can break with party tradition and abandon the position that there should be significant tax-rate cuts for top earners. They can forthrightly defend the idea that people with low and middle incomes should pay more. They can abandon the promise of revenue neutrality — so a tax cut for the rich does not need to be offset by tax increases elsewhere. They can be as vague as possible.

So far, apparently, the scorecard looks like this:

  • Carson, Cruz and Paul are calling for flat taxes but are taking the classic position that they'll talk about ways to stay revenue neutral sometime.....in the future. Like maybe the 14th of never.
  • Christie has a slightly modified version of the classic. He won't talk about how he'll stay revenue neutral either, but he's also claiming that he might just let the deficit take some of the hit, which would mean fewer hot-button deductions to eliminate that could wreck his candidacy.
  • Rubio, the boy genius of the Everglades, goes even further, taking what I'll call the Sam Brownback position: screw the deficit, he says. He's just going to lower taxes and leave it at that. After that we're in God's hands.
  • Finally, Jeb Bush has taken the most unusual position of all: he's not even talking about taxes. He's generally in favor of lowering taxes, but that's as much as he's willing to say.

That's only six candidates, and there are many more to come—and we can expect plenty of tax fantasyland from all of them, I think. I mean, can you imagine what Lindsey Graham or Carly Fiorina are going to come up with? The mind reels. With the exception of the poor shmoes at the Tax Policy Center, who have to pretend to take this stuff seriously while they trudge through their analysis of each and every farfetched plan, it should be plenty of fun for the rest of us. Which candidate will come up with the most ridiculous, most pandering plan of all? Your guess is as good as mine.

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Obamacare Is Making It Easier to Be a Young Working Parent

| Tue May 19, 2015 6:20 AM EDT

With Kevin Drum continuing to focus on getting better, we've invited some of the remarkable writers and thinkers who have traded links and ideas with him from Blogosphere 1.0 to this day to contribute posts and keep the conversation going. Today we're honored to present a post from economist Dean Baker.

The main point of the Affordable Care Act was to extend health insurance coverage to the uninsured. While this is a tremendously important goal, a benefit that is almost equally important was to provide a guarantee of coverage to those already insured if they lose or leave their job. This matters hugely because roughly 2 million people lose their job every month due to firing or layoffs. As a result of the ACA most of these workers can now count on being able to get affordable coverage even after losing their job.

The ACA also means that people who may previously have felt trapped at a job because of their need for insurance now can leave their job without the risk that they or their family would go uninsured. This could give many pre-Medicare age workers the option to retire early. It could give workers with young children or other care-giving responsibilities the opportunity to work part-time. It could give workers the opportunity to start a business. Or, it could just give workers the opportunity to leave a job they hate.

While it is still too early to reach conclusive assessments of the labor market impact of the ACA, the evidence to date looks promising. Republican opponents of Obamacare have often complained that the program would turn the country into a "part-time nation." It turns out that there is something to their story, but probably not what they intended. The number of people who are working part-time for economic reasons, meaning they would work full-time if a full-time position was available, has fallen by almost 16 percent from the start of 2013 to the start of 2015. This is part of the general improvement in the labor market over this period.

The number of people working part-time involuntarily is still well above pre-recession levels, but it has been going in the right direction.

It is true that the employer sanction part of the ACA has not taken effect (which required that employers with more than 50 workers provide insurance or pay a penalty, but it is not clear this would make a difference. Under the original wording of the law (Obama subsequently suspended this provision), employers would have expected that the sanctions would apply for the first six months of 2013. We found no evidence of shifting to more part-time work during this period compared to the first six months of 2012.

But there is a story on increased voluntary part-time employment. This is up by 5.7 percent in the first four months of 2015 compared to 2013. This corresponds to more than 1 million people who have chosen to work part-time. We did some analysis of who these people were and found that it was overwhelmingly a story of young parents working part-time.

Back in the old days we might have thought this was an outcome that family-values conservatives would have welcomed.

There was little change or an actual decline in the percentage of workers over the age of 35 who were working part-time voluntarily. There was a modest increase in the percentage of workers under age 35, without children, working part-time voluntarily. There was a 10.2 percent increase in the share of workers under the age of 35, with one to two kids, working part-time. For young workers with three of more kids the increase was 15.4 percent.

Based on these findings it appears that Obamacare has allowed many young parents the opportunity to work at part-time jobs so that they could spend more time with their kids. Back in the old days we might have thought this was an outcome that family-values conservatives would have welcomed.

As far as other labor market effects of Obamacare, there has been a modest uptick in self-employment, but it would require more analysis to give the ACA credit. Similarly, older workers are accounting for a smaller share of employment growth, perhaps due to the fact that they no longer to need to get health care through their jobs. These areas will require further study to make any conclusive judgments, but based on the data we have seen to date, it seems pretty clear that Obamacare is allowing many young parents to have more time with their kids. And that is a good story that needs to be told.

It's Experiment Week

| Mon May 18, 2015 12:49 PM EDT

As you all know, I'm recovering nicely from my chemotherapy. That is to say, technically I'm recovering nicely. All my numbers are in a good range and are continuing to improve, and there's every reason to think that will continue.

However, I still feel crappy. Heavy fatigue and nausea rule my day. But I'm thinking that I might—might!—be feeling ever so slightly better on that front. Just a smidgen. Plus I'm so bored I could scream. So I'm going to test my energy level this week by writing two blog posts a day. It's unlikely that any of them will include heavy analysis. They'll be more in the mold of this morning's post, "Marco Rubio is a Moron," which was not exactly a strain on my gray matter or powers of concentration. But it was kinda fun.

Anyway that's the plan. And just to add to the difficulty factor, it turns out my neighbors are beginning a 3-month home gutting and remodel. That should be nice and noisy, especially since we share a common wall with them. So here's my tentative daily schedule:

  • Eat breakfast
  • Rest
  • Write blog post.
  • Rest.
  • Take a walk around the block.
  • Rest.
  • Write blog post.
  • Rest.
  • Take a shower.
  • Rest.
  • Eat lunch.
  • Rest.
  • Take another walk around the block.
  • Rest.

And....that will probably do it. We'll see.

Marco Rubio Is a Moron

| Mon May 18, 2015 11:51 AM EDT

Here's the latest from Florida wunderkind Marco Rubio:

Marco Rubio Struggles With Question on Iraq War

Under a barrage of questions from Chris Wallace of Fox News, Mr. Rubio repeatedly said “it was not a mistake” for President George W. Bush to order the invasion based on the intelligence he had at the time. But Mr. Rubio grew defensive as Mr. Wallace pressed him to say flatly whether he now believed the war was a mistake. Mr. Rubio chose instead to criticize the questions themselves, saying that in “the real world” presidents have to make decisions based on evidence presented to them at the time.

“It’s not a mistake — I still say it was not a mistake because the president was presented with intelligence that said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, it was governed by a man who had committed atrocities in the past with weapons of mass destruction,” Mr. Rubio said on “Fox News Sunday.”

A moment later, as Mr. Wallace tried to pin him down on his view, Mr. Rubio began to reply, “Based on what we know now, I think everyone agrees — ” but Mr. Wallace cut him off before he finished the thought.

“So was it a mistake now?” Mr. Wallace asked.

“I don’t understand the question you’re asking,” Mr. Rubio said.

The truth is that I don't care about Rubio's actual position on the Iraq War. The guy's trying to run on a platform of more-hawkish-than-thou, and that's pretty much all I need to know. Most of the time he sounds like a ten-year-old trying to sound tough in front of the older kids.

But I'm seriously beginning to wonder if he has a 3-digit IQ. After Jeb Bush's weeklong debacle trying to answer this question, every Republican candidate ought to have their own answer figured out. And not just figured out: by now their answers ought to be poll-tested, cut down into nice little sound bites, and so smoothly delivered you'd never even know this was a tricky issue in the first place.

But no. Rubio sounded like this question came as a total surprise. Seriously, Marco? This guy does not sound like he's ready for prime time.

No, the GOP Has Not Lost Its Lust for War

| Mon May 18, 2015 6:15 AM EDT
Sen. Marco Rubio favors the Liam Neeson "Taken" strategy: "We will look for you, we will find you, and we will kill you."

It seems like only yesterday that the conventional wisdom was that the Republican Party was on the cusp of a major shift in philosophy: The libertarians had made huge inroads into the party and the rank and file was very, very taken with their agenda—most especially their isolationist foreign policy. The fact that there are exactly two senators who might be called true libertarians, Rand Paul and Mike Lee, and no more than a handful in the House, did not strike political observers as evidence that Republican voters might not be quite as enthusiastic in this regard as they believed.

For a piece entitled "Has the Libertarian Moment Finally Arrived?" in the New York Times magazine last August, journalist Robert Draper spent some time with a few "libertarian hipsters." He was apparently smitten with their hot takes on various issues, and how they were changing the face of Republicanism as we know it. Of course, there's nothing new about libertarians and conservatives walking hand in hand on issues of taxation, regulation, and small government, which orbit the essential organizing principle of both movements. Where libertarians and Republicans disagree most is on social issues like abortion, marriage equality, and drug legalization. (The libertarian-ish GOPers have found a nice rhetorical dodge by falling back on the old confederate line that the "states should decide," which seems to get them off the hook with the Christian Right, who are happy to wage 50 smaller battles until they simply wear everyone down or the Rapture arrives, whichever comes first.)

This was now a return to "the real" GOP philosophy, as if the last 70 years of American imperialism never happened.

But what Draper and many other beltway wags insisted had changed among the GOP faithful was a new isolationism which was bringing the rank and file into the libertarian fold. They characterized this as a return to "the real" Republican philosophy, as if the last 70 years of American imperialism never happened. Evidently, the ideological north star of the GOP remains Robert Taft, despite the fact that 95 percent of the party faithful have never heard of him. After quoting Texas Gov. Rick Perry saying that we should cut costs by closing prisons, Draper asserted:

The appetite for foreign intervention is at low ebb, with calls by Republicans to rein in federal profligacy now increasingly extending to the once-sacrosanct military budget. And deep concern over government surveillance looms as one of the few bipartisan sentiments in Washington…

The bipartisan "concern" over government surveillance is unfortunately overstated. Polling shows that it ebbs and flows depending on which party is doing it. And regardless of the sentiment, the default solution is to fiddle at the edges, legalize the worst of it, and call it "reform."

And while it is correct to say that Republicans loathe what they perceive as "federal profligacy," there is little real evidence that they think reigning in the military budget is the proper way to cut spending. Politico quizzed a group of activists and "thought leaders" in Iowa and new Hampshire recently on the subject who said that federal debt was their primary concern and suggested that cutting the defense budget had to be on the table. But polling tells a different story. The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza noted this in the latest NBC-WSJ survey:

Republicans say that national security/terrorism is the single most important issue facing the country.

More than a quarter of Republicans (27 percent) chose that option, putting it ahead of "deficit and government spending" (24 percent) and, somewhat remarkably, "job creation and economic growth" (21 percent), which has long dominated as the top priority for voters of all partisan stripes.

Beyond those top line numbers, there are two other telling nuggets in the data.

The first is that Republican voters are twice as concerned as Democrats about national security and terrorism. In the NBC-WSJ survey, just 13 percent of Democrats named national security as the most pressing issue for the government; job creation and economic growth was far and away the biggest concern among Democrats (37 percent), with health care (17 percent) and climate change (15 percent) ranking ahead of national security and terrorism.

The second is that national security is a rapidly rising concern for Republicans. In NBC-WSJ poll data from March 2012, just eight percent of Republicans named it as the most important issue for the government to address.

The GOP has carefully laid the groundwork for a full-scale assault on Hillary Clinton on this front with their Benghazi crusade.

Cillizza reported that a "savvy Republican operative" explained that this threefold increase in concern can be attributed to the rise of ISIS and the movie American Sniper arousing the militarist urge in the GOP base. That may be true, but let's just say it was never exactly deeply buried. In the aftermath of the latest disaster of nationalist bloodlust, they kept a low profile just long enough for the rest of the country to get past the trauma of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. But it didn't take ISIS or a Clint Eastwood movie for the right's patriotic fervor to return; it is one of the ties that binds the coalition together, and it's never dormant for long.

Moreover, no one should be surprised to see national security returning to the top of the agenda as Republicans set their sites on the first woman Democratic nominee for president. After all, they have spent many decades portraying the men of the Democratic Party as little better than schoolgirls on this front. You can be sure they will not forsake the tactic in the face of an actual woman candidate. Indeed, they've carefully laid the groundwork for a full-scale assault on Hillary Clinton's capabilities in this department with their Benghazi crusade. And as Heather Hurlburt pointed out recently in the American Prospect, there is good reason for Dems to be concerned here:

The majority of voters express equal confidence in men and women as leaders, but when national security is the issue, confidence in women's leadership declines. In a Pew poll in January, 37 percent of the respondents said that men do better than women in dealing with national security, while 56 percent said gender makes no difference. That was an improvement from decades past, but sobering when compared to the 73 percent who say gender is irrelevant to leadership on economic issues.

Yet, aside from the fact that the GOP base has been hawkish on national security for at least 70 years, and that their best opportunity to defeat the (presumed) first woman presidential candidate may lie in deep voter anxieties about a woman's ability to execute the role of commander in chief, we are to believe that Republicans are going to run in 2016 on an isolationist platform. If that's the case, the GOP presidential candidates didn't get the memo. As Karen Tumulty reported recently in the Washington Post:

As recently as two years ago, it appeared that the 2016 presidential contest was likely to become a monumental debate within the Republican Party over national security and foreign policy.

But not anymore. Although national security is Topic A for the growing field of candidates for the GOP nomination, it is becoming harder to discern any differences among them.

The contenders are a hawkish group—at least in their sound bites. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has been the most skeptical of military intervention and government surveillance, but even he has proposed increasing defense spending and staged an event during his announcement tour in front of an aircraft carrier in South Carolina.

That's right, even Rand Paul is proposing to increase defense spending. And the rest of them are sounding more like cartoon movie heroes than presidential candidates on the stump (perhaps lending some support to that American Sniper theory). Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who just released his very muscular national security manifesto, the "Rubio Doctrine," probably wins the award for most hawkish speech thus far, thanks to this bit during a recent meeting of GOP candidates in South Carolina:

On our strategy on global jihadists and terrorists, I refer them to the movie Taken. Have you seen the movie Taken? Liam Neeson. He had a line, and this is what our strategy should be: "We will look for you, we will find you, and we will kill you."

The crowd went wild. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker went in a different direction by first sharing his innermost thoughts:

National security is something you hear about. Safety is something you feel.

But lest he be construed as some kind of touchy feely, wimpy Wisconsin cheese-eater, he then brought the house down with a red-meat cri de coeur:

I want a leader who is willing to take the fight to them before they take the fight to us.

The crowd came to its feet and cheered.

Frankly, I feel a little bit sorry for poor old Rick Perry who, back in October, delivered what may be the most aggressive warhawk speech of the cycle so far—before anyone was paying attention. He spoke in London, where there's no shortage of national security anxiety these days:

What all of these various hate groups have in common is a disdain for, and a wish to destroy, our Western way of life.

And someone needs to tell them that the meeting has already been held. It was decided, democratically, long ago—and by the way through great and heroic sacrifice—that our societies will be governed by Western values and Western laws.

Among those values are openness and tolerance. But to every extremist, it has to be made clear: We will not allow you to exploit our tolerance, so that you can import your intolerance. We will not let you destroy our peace with your violent ideas. If you expect to live among us, and yet plan against us, to receive the protections and comforts of a free society, while showing none of its virtues or graces, then you can have our answer now: No, not on our watch!

You will live by exactly the standards that the rest of us live by. And if that comes as jarring news, then welcome to civilization.

(Prime Minister David Cameron seems to have taken notes: He was reportedly set to say pretty much the same thing in his Queen's speech, while adding some meat to the bone by proposing various kinds of government censorship and suppression of activity.)

It's obvious that the GOP is not making the big switch to isolationism any time soon. So what are all those libertarian Republicans going to do? Are they willing to suck it up and sign on to the GOP's imperial project, once again selling out their most deeply held views about America's place in the world for a couple of cheap tax breaks? It's not as if they have to. There is one candidate in the race who has a long record of antiwar positions and is fully onboard with shrinking the military industrial complex until it only needs a bathtub in which to float. He has no interest in worrying about American "prestige" around the world or spending any blood and treasure on behalf of commercial interests.

His name is Bernie Sanders in case anyone is wondering. He's even an Independent, one of the very few in the US Congress. Unfortunately, it's highly unlikely that any libertarians will join his campaign. Which is also quite telling. When it comes to making a choice between voting against war and voting for tax breaks for millionaires, tax breaks for millionaires wins every time. Their priorities have always been clear—and the leaders of the Republican Party know they'll never have to change a thing to buy their loyalty.

Friday Cat Blogging - May 15 2015

| Fri May 15, 2015 3:46 PM EDT

With Kevin continuing to concentrate on his (ever improving!) health, over the past week we've hosted guest blog posts from all-stars like Ruy Teixeira, Aaron Carroll, and Ana Marie Cox. But now that it's Friday, it's time for the humans to step aside for a real star.

It's time to welcome Phelps.

Phelps linked up with MoJo senior editor Michael Mechanic around the time of the 2008 Beijing summer Olympics. While he's not as much of a swimmer as his namesake, one of his favorite spots in his Oakland home is a perch near in the sink, where he can swat his paws through water. Mike reports that Phelps loves spending time nearby while he plays music ("maybe because my fiddling sounds like a cat") and outside, where this "neighborhood tough guy" can face down cats, birds, and dogs.

From his front porch, Mike was witness to one such interaction when a dog got the best of Phelps and chased him up a tree. The incident spurred Mike to compose a little ditty ("Dog Treed a Cat"). Another tabby-inspired tune is "Phelps's Favorite."

And today, Phelps, you're my favorite.

 

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Bonus Friday Cat Blogging - 15 May 2015

| Fri May 15, 2015 1:00 PM EDT

It's been a traumatic week for Hilbert. He and Hopper were upstairs chasing each other around when he made the fateful decision to climb onto the bathroom counter and then leap to the top of the shower door. Why? Who knows. But he did it, and immediately discovered that the shower door railing is only about an inch wide. So he tumbled into the bathtub, and was then faced with an even bigger problem: my sister keeps the shower doors closed when they're not in use.

A good deal of piteous meowing ensued until Karen investigated and found poor Hilbert trapped in the bathtub. She let him out—after taking a picture, of course—and reports that he spent the rest of the evening cuddled on her lap recovering from the indignity of it all.

Karen now leaves the door open and says that the bathtub has quickly become the final resting place for a succession of cat toys. This is probably Hopper's doing. Either that or Hilbert got over his trauma mighty fast.

Weird Tales and Trade Treaties

| Fri May 15, 2015 11:59 AM EDT

Watching the political fight over the TPP trade treaty has been kind of interesting. FWIW, two things strike me as a little odd:

  • Historically, it's been Republicans who bitch and moan about how treaties are invasions of American sovereignty. And of course they are. If you sign a treaty with another country, there has to be some kind of neutral mediator that can decide if the treaty has been breached, and this is ipso facto an infringement of sovereignty for both countries. Democrats usually laugh this off, since it's an obvious feature of any treaty (would you sign a treaty with Pakistan where Pakistan unilaterally gets to resolve all disputes?). This time, however, the worm has turned and it's Democrats who are loudly objecting to something called the Investor-State Dispute Settlement, which sets up a special tribunal to adjudicate disputes brought by corporations against rules that they think violate the TPP. Republicans don't care much.

    I don't have any big point to make here. It's just kind of interesting to see the two sides switch.
     
  • I'm a little puzzled about why Republicans are so gung-ho to get TPP passed in the first place. Sure, they're generally in favor of trade treaties, but it's not exactly one of their hot button issues. And yet, they seem to be going out of their way to help President Obama get it passed. Given their recent track record, I'd expect them to yawn and tell Obama he's on his own to whip the votes he needs. Is there some deeper strategy here that I'm not getting? Do they truly think this is going to rip the Democratic Party to shreds with months of vicious infighting? Or what?

Anyway, it looks to me like TPP is going to pass. These things nearly always do after a bit of grandstanding followed by some face-saving compromises. It might be close, but it will pass.

Lunatic Conspiracy Theories Aren't What They Used to Be

| Thu May 14, 2015 2:35 PM EDT

As you may recall, a couple of weeks ago there was a minor hoorah over a military training exercise called Jade Helm, scheduled to take place this summer in various states in the southwest. A few lunatics in Texas got wind of this, along with a map or two, and decided that Jade Helm was really just a pretense for President Obama to take over Texas.

Sadly for me, this all happened while I was near the bottom of my chemotherapy regimen and I barely had enough energy to make an occasional run to the bathroom, let alone write blog posts about stuff like this. Today, however, the fine folks at PPP have given me a second bite at the apple. They polled a bunch of Republicans about Jade Helm, and then broke down the answers by which candidate they currently support. Here are the results:

Apparently a full third of the Republican base believes that President Obama plans to order the military to take over Texas. Booyah! And supporters of Ted Cruz and Rick Perry—who are probably mostly from Texas—believe this idiocy by 60-70 percent.

So what do we take from this? I think there are two main interpretations:

  • Fox and Rush and the rest of the conservative media have driven conservatives into such a frenzy that a third of them really, truly do believe that President Obama plans a military takeover of Texas.
  • Poll questions like this no longer have any real meaning. This is basically little more than a survey of mood affiliation that tests how much you hate and distrust President Obama. That is to say, a yes answer has little or nothing to with Jade Helm. It just means you really hate and distrust Obama.

I'm inclined to the second interpretation myself. It's all good fun, but no, I don't think that a third of Republicans really believe this nonsense. It's just their way of showing that they're members in good standing of the political faction that believes Obama is capable of anything in his power-mad struggle to turn the United States into a socialist hellhole. The rest is just fluff.

Asians Are Kicking Ass in Silicon Valley, So Why Are So Few in the Boardroom?

| Thu May 14, 2015 6:00 AM EDT
Asians are far less likely than whites to land tech leadership roles. Ascend

When people talk about the need for diversity in tech, they aren't usually talking about Asian Americans. Though they make up less than 6 percent of the overall workforce, Asians account for a whopping 17 percent of all tech-sector workers and a far higher percentage of engineers. (At Twitter, for instance, people of Asian descent hold 34 percent of the technical positions.) By focusing exclusively on the obvious need for more blacks, Latinos, and women in Silicon Valley, however, diversity advocates have missed a key point: Asian workers are far less likely than whites to end up in the leadership ranks.

White workers were 2.5 times more likely than Asian workers to end up in leadership roles, the study found.

According to a study that the nonprofit Ascend Foundation released last week, white workers are two and a half times more likely then their Asian counterparts to serve as executives at major tech companies. The study, which examined the workforce demographics at Google, HP, Intel, LinkedIn, and Yahoo, found that the "Asian effect" was nearly four times greater than gender as a glass-ceiling factor. (The authors also pointed to leadership gaps for blacks and Latinos, but dismissed those results as less statistically significant, given how few blacks and Latinos are employed by the industry overall.)

The finding for Asians is notable, among other reasons, for what it says about the case of Ellen Pao, whose unsuccessful sex discrimination case against her former employer, the VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, obsessed the technology press. Though the particulars of her case are unique, the study suggests that Pao, as an Asian American, was 40 percent as likely as a white woman and 28 percent as likely as a white man to land in a leadership role.

"Asians are generally stereotyped as being nonconfrontational or timid," says Pandora's Lisa Lee, "so they may be overlooked."

The "bamboo ceiling," as author Jane Hyun terms it, is hardly limited to technology, but its existence in a sector where Asians are thriving illustrates the intractability of the problem. Hyun blames the workers for the promotion gap, arguing that they need to take a page from Sheryl Sandberg and "lean in." But other observers, such as Lisa Lee, a senior diversity manager for Pandora, point to the need for companies to curb their preconceptions about who will make a good leader.

"Asians and Asian Americans are generally stereotyped as being nonconfrontational or timid," says Lee, the former publisher of Hyphen, a magazine about the Asian-American experience. "So they may be overlooked for leadership roles because they're not thought of as leadership material. This has nothing to do with their actual skills or abilities. Part of the solution is companies making a concerted effort to address bias in the promotion process to ensure it's more fair for everyone."

There may be additional factors at play. Mario Lugay, a program officer at the Kapor Center for Social Impact, which advocates for diversity in tech, makes the point that non-Asians are quick to lump Asians into one category, whereas Silicon Valley, for example, includes economically disadvantaged Southeast Asians and foreign-born workers from a variety of cultures. "My hope is that we strive to research and address the nuances of underrepresentation," says Lugay, who is Filipino. "That includes the diversity within the category of Asian, as well as Asian Americans."