July 16, 2012 Leave a comment
This could use some good editing (just because the web allows you to make longer ads, doesn’t mean you should), but I do love this ad against NC Gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory:
Politics, parenting, science, education, and pretty much anything I find interesting
July 16, 2012 1 Comment
Had lunch with a friend today who mentioned how pleased he was to see Democrats acting like Republicans in this campaign (e.g., the attacks on Bain). I think this bit of political hostage-taking from Congressional Dems would seem to fit in with that overall theme and makes great strategic sense. I was going to write up a nice post on the matter, but since Noam Scheiber’s already done the hard work…
So it’s good to see that, this time around, Democrats have understood quite well how many cards they hold and are determined to play them ruthlessly. According to The Washington Post, Patty Murray, the fourth-ranking Democrat in the Senate, is giving a speech today in which she makes this crystal clear:
“If we can’t get a good deal, a balanced deal that calls on the wealthy to pay their fair share, then I will absolutely continue this debate into 2013,” Murray plans to say, according to excerpts of the speech provided to The Washington Post.
If the tax cuts from the George W. Bush era expire and taxes go up for everyone, the debate will be reset, Murray is expected to say. “Every proposal will be a tax-cut proposal,” according to the excerpts, and Republicans would no longer be “boxed in” by their pledge not to raise taxes.
“If middle-class families start seeing more money coming out of their paychecks next year, are Republicans really going to stand up and fight for new tax cuts for the rich? Are they going to continue opposing the Democrats’ middle-class tax cut once the slate has been wiped clean? I think they know this would be an untenable political position.”
That’s exactly right. As it stands, Democrats are arguing that only the wealthiest two-percent of income-earners should see their taxes rise in January, while Republicans are arguing that no one should see their taxes rise in January. The Democratic position may be marginally more popular at a time when people understand that someone’s taxes will have to rise in order to shrink the outsize deficit. But not much more, since the “tax-raiser” accusation has some potency even if you only want to raise taxes on the rich.
But if all the Bush tax cuts expire in January, then the Democratic position will be that everyone but the rich gets a tax cut, and the Republican position will be that everyone including the rich deserves a tax cut. Or, as the Democratic ads will put it, that we should block a tax cut for 98 percent of the country until the rich get their tax cut, too. That, as Murrary says, is a completely indefensible place to be. And if you know your opponent’s position will become completely indefensible in six months, you have no reason to bargain today, unless he offers the mother of all sweetheart deals. Good for the Democrats for holding the line on this, at least so far.
Indeed. So, I have two big questions. 1) Can the Democrats really hold the line on this? I’m dubious, but I sure as hell hope so. 2) If this were to happen, would the political-media dynamic really play out as Scheiber (and Murray) suggest). Seems like it should, but given that Republicans know this I wonder about the possibility that they could successfully change the media frame. Though it seems like that ought to be an awfully uphill struggle.
July 16, 2012 2 Comments
The fact that Romney is apparently totally unwilling to release his tax returns from the Bain years surely tells us that there’s huge political liability hiding in those returns. I think John Cassidy’s take is spot-on:
With even prominent Republicans saying that his current stance is unsustainable, the obvious question to ask is: Why is the Mittster being so obstinate? He surely isn’t standing on principle, for what principle would that be? The notion that very rich men running for President shouldn’t have to disclose as much information about their personal finances as less wealthy candidates? The principal that if your father also ran for President, and released twelve years of tax returns, then you can release just two and claim the family average is a respectable seven years?
No. It’s only fair to assume that Mitt is doing what he always does: acting on the basis of a careful cost-benefit analysis. Will’s comments on this were spot on: “The cost of not releasing the returns are clear,” he said. “Therefore, [Romney] must have calculated that there are higher costs in releasing them.” But what information could the earlier tax returns contain that would be so damaging if it were brought out into the open? Obviously, we are entering the realm of speculation, but Romney has invited it. Here are four possibilities:
You can click through to the possibilities if you are curious. I suspect that it’s a combination of all of them. But especially off-shore accounts– I think that Swiss bank account, Cayman Island, etc., stuff is the most politically damaging.
Also, Drum’s speculation sounds quite plausible to me:
Here’s my latest guess, though: there are probably multiple years in which Romney paid no taxes at all. This would very definitively be a Bad Thing, so he really doesn’t have any choice but to take the heat instead. A multi-gazillionaire paying no taxes would open up a can of worms way too big to survive.
Anyway, I’m thinking that the Obama campaign needs to find a way to keep this constantly in the news cycle. I loved how in 1992 the Clinton campaign sent volunteers to George HW Bush events in chicken suits every day until Bush agreed to debate Clinton. I think the Obama campaign needs some variation (more clever than I could ever come up with) on that. Something that speaks to the tax issue and is as pure media catnip as a man in a chicken suit at a presidential rally.
July 16, 2012 2 Comments
Really interesting story in the Times yesterday about the increasing class divide and marriage: some key stats:
Estimates vary widely, but scholars have said that changes in marriage patterns — as opposed to changes in individual earnings — may account for as much as 40 percent of the growth in certain measures of inequality. Long a nation of economic extremes, the United States is also becoming a society of family haves and family have-nots, with marriage and its rewards evermore confined to the fortunate classes.
“It is the privileged Americans who are marrying, and marrying helps them stay privileged,” said Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University.
About 41 percent of births in the United States occur outside marriage, up sharply from 17 percent three decades ago. But equally sharp are the educational divides, according to an analysis by Child Trends, a Washington research group. Less than 10 percent of the births to college-educated women occur outside marriage, while for women with high school degrees or less the figure is nearly 60 percent. [emphasis mine]
The accompanying chart is truly eye-opening:
Other than the fact that you are looking at ceiling effects on out-of-wedlock births among the least-educated Black women, there are essentially three parallel charts here. The increase among less-educated white women is truly astounding, and very much shows this to be ever more a class issue rather than a race issue.
Okay, easy for me to tell people to get married, I’m white and highly educate. I do think our society needs to do more to encourage reproduction inside of marriage, but presumably, a bad marriage is worse than no marriage at all. Are all the highly educated people just that much better marriage material? Kevin Drum had an interesting riff on this:
There’s not much question that raising kids alone is financially crippling, and possible damaging to children in other ways too. I don’t think anyone challenges that. The real question is: why are there fewer marriages among families outside the upper middle class? Why are there more divorces? Why are men apparently less willing to make commitments to their children? Or are they? Maybe nothing much has changed among men, but women are no longer as willing as they once were to put up with abusive behavior.
As with any question complicated enough to be interesting, I imagine there are lots of moving parts to this. But surely if you’re going to talk about this, one great big moving part is shown in the chart on the right: young, marriage-age men make a lot less money than they used to. Adjusted for inflation, men between the age of 25-34 have seen their median incomes plummet from $44,000 in 1973 to $32,000 today. And I imagine that if I dug up historical figures for the bottom third, instead of the median, things might look even worse.
Are men increasingly adrift? Less employable? Less desirable as husbands? It sure looks that way once you get out of the middle class.
Damn good questions. So, from a public policy perspective, what (if anything) can we do to increase the stock of marriage-worthy males?
July 16, 2012 18 Comments
Count on Nate Silver to bring the statistics to the Voter ID debate. Here’s the key bits:
Changes for other states are listed below; I exclude cases where changes in a voter ID law have been struck down by courts, or are pending approval by the Department of Justice. Note that, other than Pennsylvania, no swing states have passed major changes to voter ID laws [emphasis mine], although others like Wisconsin have sought to pass laws that have been struck down.…One last thing to consider: although I do think these laws will have some detrimental effect on Democratic turnout, it is unlikely to be as large as some Democrats fear or as some news media reports imply — and they can also serve as a rallying point for the party bases. So although the direct effects of these laws are likely negative for Democrats, it wouldn’t take that much in terms of increased base voter engagement — and increased voter conscientiousness about their registration status — to mitigate them.
July 16, 2012 3 Comments
I’m definitely a very happy person. I honestly attribute it to the luck of the genetic lottery more than anything (of course I have a great family and great friends, but we all know that’s just not enough for some people). Of course, given my belief in the arbitrariness and randomness of life, this suggests I should actually be less happy.
After closing my recent post with speculation about ideology, happiness, and just world beliefs, I’ve been thinking a lot about this issue. Of course, one of the very frustrating things about Brooks‘ Op-Ed is that he entirely ignores the correlation/causation issue. I.e., how much of the fact that conservatives are happier is the greater marriage rates and religiosity, rather than ideology, per se. It’s not like we don’t have basic statistical techniques to deal with this. As it happens, I’ve already been spending the last week plugging away with General Social Survey data (for parenthood research, of course), and it was quite easy enough to find the “happiness” measure and substitute it for my dependent variable. Results? The impact of being politically conservative remains statistically significant on happiness when you add in religiosity, marriage, and a fewer others, but it is much diminished in size of impact. And, of course, since I already had parenthood in there, I can report that even with a whole bunch of other controls, parents are less happy (wow– imagine how happy I’d be without kids ).
Since I was already playing with GSS I spent some time trying to find if there are any decent “just world” measures in the dataset. Not really. But it did eventually lead me back to the Jost article that Brooks so off-handedly disposes of. It’s good stuff. Makes a pretty compelling case that “rationalization of inequality” is related to happiness. That said, I also took a good look at the piece that Brooks suggests undermines the Jost case. Brooks:
So conservatives are ignorant, and ignorance is bliss, right? Not so fast, according to a study from the University of Florida psychologists Barry Schlenker and John Chambers and the University of Toronto psychologist Bonnie Le in the Journal of Research in Personality. These scholars note that liberals define fairness and an improved society in terms of greater economic equality. Liberals then condemn the happiness of conservatives, because conservatives are relatively untroubled by a problem that, it turns out, their political counterparts defined.
And, by the way, to simply determine the problem “inequality” as if it something only liberals choose to care about is quite dishonest. How about seeing the problem as the fact that lots of people are born into poverty and suffering and face a society with not near the social mobility conservatives think there is. Here’s the conclusion of the Chambers’ study:
Conservatives score higher than liberals on personality and attitude measures that are traditionally associated with positive adjustment and mental health, including personal agency, positive outlook, transcendent moral beliefs, and generalized beliefs in fairness. These constructs, in turn, can account for why conservatives are happier than liberals and have declined less in happiness in recent decades.
Here’s the thing: life is not fair! Look around. Just watch one of those commercials about the starving kids. They deserve that? Ask why I am able to spend my morning blogging about this in my comfortable home while some 8 year old somewhere is ending a 12-hour shift and hoping they’ll be enough food for him. Or on a more basic level that my kids have a home with two well-educated, caring parents, and many kids don’t have a home with a single caring parent. Or that wonderful (and healthy people) die at 40 from pancreatic cancer while some life-long mean-spirited smokers die at 80 of old age. Obviously, I could go on.
So, because I researched this way more than I should, here’s a little bit more so it doesn’t all go to waste:
Fist, Jonah Lehrer with a really nice explanation of how the Just World bias works. And this conclusion:
The moral of the Just World Hypothesis is that people have a powerful intuition that the world is just and that people get what they deserve. While I’m sure this instinct makes all sorts of social contracts possible, it also leads to one very troubling tendency: we often rationalize injustices away, so that we can maintain our naive belief in a just world. This, I believe, is what happens when we read about innocent people getting sent to Guantanamo, or the wrong immigrant getting waterboarded, or why it’s so easy to brush aside calls for prison reform. We might acknowledge the awfulness of the error, but then quip that he shouldn’t have been hanging around with the Taliban, or that the guy who got sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit was still a creep, or that the Madoff victims should have known their money manager was a fraud.
Second, a nice summary that relates to ideology:
Zick Rubin of Harvard University and Letitia Anne Peplau of UCLA have conducted surveys to examine the characteristics of people with strong beliefs in a just world. They found that people who have a strong tendency to believe in a just world also tend to be more religious, more authoritarian, more conservative, [emphasis mine] more likely to admire political leaders and existing social institutions, and more likely to have negative attitudes toward underprivileged groups. To a lesser but still significant degree, the believers in a just world tend to “feel less of a need to engage in activities to change society or to alleviate plight of social victims.”
So, even if we cannot make a 100% causal claim, we certainly do know that just world beliefs are significantly associated with A) being happier, B) less concern for poor or people suffering, C) political conservatism. And I would add D) just world beliefs are a cognitive bias. If you actually think the world is fair, you really need to open your eyes.