Janitors vs. Janitors

When the NC legislature had to find money for the teacher raise this year, apparently they decided to take the money where they could, from with in the overall education budget.   The result is pretty perverse.  WRAL’s Laura Leslie reports:

— Legislative leaders have talked a lot this summer about the raises they gave to public school teachers and most state employees, but they don’t have as much to say about the raises for educational support staff in the state budget.

The $21.1 billion budget, which Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law last week, included raises averaging 5.5 percent, plus longevity pay, for teachers and $1,000 and an extra week of vacation for other state workers. But more than 59,200 non-certified school employees – teaching assistants, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians and administrative staff – received only a $500 raise.

“That’s not equitable. It just doesn’t make sense,” said Chris Bridges, who has worked 21 years in the Wake County Public School System Transportation Office.

Bridges noted that, if he did his job at a state agency instead of a school district, his raise would have been double what he will see in the coming year – and he would have gotten more time off.

“We all work for the public, and we should all get the same thing,” he said. “What you do for one, you do for all, because we’re all in the same boat. I still got to pay my mortgage. I still got to pay the light bill.”

Non-certified school workers are some of the lowest-paid public-sector workers in North Carolina. They haven’t had a real raise since 2008, and Bridges said $500 barely qualifies as one now.

Got that?  Work as a secretary for the state Department of Energy, get $1000 and 5 vacation days.  Work as a secretary for a school, get $500.  Not to mention the total inadequacy of these raises when there’s been almost nothing since 2008.  State employees (including me) have seen a huge decrease in real, inflation adjusted pay.  And why can’t we do better now that the economy is improving?  That’s easy, that money was allocated in last year’s budget to the state’s most well-off residents via hefty tax cuts.

Of course, the perpetrators of this are not so happy about it being made public.  On FB, Leslie also wrote:

Getting blasted on Twitter by the Lockies, Americans for Prosperity and Tillis’s staff for tonight’s story. Must have hit a nerve.

and

I gave House leaders two days and Senate leaders one day to find someone to put in front of a camera to defend the decision. Not one taker. That tells you something.

Indeed it does.

When is 7% not 7% (NC teacher salary edition)

The Republicans in NC have gotten hammered for the past year over the fact that they have let average teacher salary in NC fall to near the very bottom of the nation.  Regardless of what they really think about teachers and public education, to continue this is simply untenable in an election year.  So, recently they approved a raise for teachers.  The headline is a 7% raise for teachers.  I suspect they are counting on that to be the one fact remembered by most voters.  But it is, of course, much more complicated than that.  The N&O Editorial on the matter was excellent:

But that Republican claim comes with serious caveats. For one, the percentage is reached by folding funds used for longevity pay – a year-end bonus for veteran teachers based on time of service – into the overall raise package. If a teacher gets a 7 percent raise but loses a 3.2 percent longevity payment, it’s not a 7 percent raise. And teachers lose longevity pay for good, while all other state employees retain the benefit.

Finally, most of the boost goes to the newest and lowest-paid teachers while veteran teachers gain little, and the pay scale tops out at $50,000 – $3,000 less than the current schedule…

Beyond the smoke and mirrors aspects, there’s also a serious issue about how the pay increase will be sustained. The $282 million cost of the raise is supported in part by extra money from the lottery and one-time sources – reserve funds and federal grants. With the GOP’s excessive tax cuts projected to cost the state $700 million this year and a total of $5.3 billion over five years – $800 million more than originally projected – it’s not assured the state will be able to afford the raise next year, let alone increase it to lift North Carolina salaries from embarrassing to attractive…

This is a budget drawn up by panicked legislators on the eve of midterm elections. That’s reflected in the rush to do something for teachers by cutting of health and welfare benefits for poor people who don’t have much of a voice in elections. The budget reduces subsidized child care for the poor and cuts Medicaid payments to hospitals.

And Rob Christensen:

This is Politics 101. Legislatures often scramble to provide wage hikes during election years, no matter which party is in control. GOP lawmakers are proud of what House Speaker Thom Tillis called their “conservative revolution.” But while some laws are likely to play well politically – Voter ID for example – the polls suggest North Carolina’s drop to 46th in the country in teacher pay is not something you want to put in your campaign brochure.

Not only is the GOP concerned about losing swing seats in November, but Tillis continues to trail Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan.

Hence, the GOP has suddenly recalled that it was Texas Gov. George W. Bush’s pro education record that helped get him elected to the White House in 2000.

Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger announced last week that the legislature was going “to provide (the) largest teacher pay raise in North Carolina.”

That seems to be a stretch…

[plenty of evidence that's just a flat out lie]

While the decline in teacher pay began under the Democrats, it should be noted that the Republican minority was not calling for higher wages or higher taxes to pay for raises. In fact, quite the opposite. The GOP minority was calling for repeal of the temporary tax hike the Democrats put on to prevent deeper cuts or layoffs.

When the Republicans took control, the economy was picking up. But their priority was not raising teacher salaries – it was cutting income taxes, corporate taxes and inheritance taxes for those with estates of more than $5 million (the only estate taxes still on the books)…

In the last decade, no state had a greater decline in teacher salaries than North Carolina. Tar Heel teachers received no wage increase for three years and a 1.2 percent increase last year…

The Republican legislature was right to raise teacher salaries, which they project should raise North Carolina teacher salaries from 46th in the nation to 32nd.

But the tax cuts will make it difficult for North Carolina to sustain competitive teacher salaries beyond the election year.

James D. Hogan shows (nice chart at the link) just how bad a deal this is when you take inflation into account:

Read that again: if we were simply comparing the proposed 2014-15 salary schedule to the 2008-09 salary schedule, the average teacher would see a pay increase of $270.  [emphasis in original]

Further more, these are raw numbers. What that comparison fails to take into account is the simple cost of inflation over the last 6 years. If the 2008-09 salary schedule had been kept in place and updated each year to account for inflation, the average teacher would earn $4,212 more than the 2014-15 proposed budget would pay them.

Meanwhile, an excellent WUNC story/documentary putting this all wonderfully into the larger context.

The Republicans have a simple message: we raised NC Teacher salaries 7%.  The Democrats’ message is much more complicated… No you didn’t; a lot of teachers get screwed; the raises are not sustainable, etc.   It will be interesting to see how this therefore plays out in the election.  Presumably, the Democrats will have a simpler message along the lines of, most teachers they you actually screwed them, and they would know.  But we’ll see.

And, lastly, not a bad infographic to summarize all this:

Quick hits (part I)

1) Al Qaeda has taken to funding its activities by kidnapping Westerners and holding them for ransom rather than just killing them.  It’s quite lucrative.  The US and British governments do not pay ransom.  That does actually seem to lead to less kidnappings, but if you are kidnapped– not pretty.  Excellent NYT story and excellent Fresh Air interview.

2) The idea that the NFL comes down so heavily on marijuana use is just absurd and stupid.  Some good questions from the recent case of Josh Gordon:

But once you look at the details of the case, the questions get bigger than whether a wide receiver smoked weed. For instance: Why does this sport need to test people using a standard along the same lines as the U.S. military’s? Why is Josh Gordon treated like a paroled criminal for his entire career after testing positive twice? Do they really test him 10 times a month? Does it make sense to treat marijuana users the same way we treat PED users? Is there anyone at the NFL who saw the positive test and thought it might be too inconclusive to publicly ban a star player for an entire year? Does it make sense for the NFL to be testing players for marijuana at all? What does the league gain from prosecuting people like this?

3) Speaking of the devil weed, USA today tries to make it look much scarier than heroin.  As you know, it’s not.  Great example of how to lie with statistics.  Good catch in Vox.

4) Fish are way smarter than we give them credit for and they certainly feel pain.  Surely some of the beliefs to the contrary help us deal with the barbaric ways in which we treat ocean creatures.

5) The economics of surfing are good for Africa.  Time for a surfin’ safari, DJC and JCD.

6) My friend Leah Friedman used to write for the N&O.  Budget cuts cost her her job, but now she’s kicking butt as an organizer.  And offering helpful tips.

7) Nice editorial from the Charlotte Observer on all the craziness the Republicans in Raleigh brought us this term.

8) South Korea gets good results from its students on international comparison tests, but absolutely crushes their souls to get there.  It’s horrible.  Nice piece in the NYT magazine (my best player on the Blasters is here because his MD/PhD parents left Korea to give their sons the decent childhood that they were denied).

9) Making choices is tough.

10) The NYT is finally calling all the post 9/11 torture conducted by the US government, “torture.”  Bout time, to say the least.

11) Love this Vox video on the movement of the US population as visualized through the changing population center of the US.

12) This Foot Locker ad is pretty awesome.  (and clearly shows evidence of benign violation).

It’s good to be a conservative Republican until your rural hospital closes

I read a front-section story in the N&O yesterday about a small-town NC politician who walked all the way to DC to protest losing his town’s hospital.  I either didn’t read closely enough or it wasn’t in there, but apparently he’s also quite the conservative Republican.  He earned himself a column from Dana Milbank, though:

A week after Gibbs’s death [a 48 year-old heart attack victim who survived about an hour but the closest hospital was more than an hour away], O’Neal began a 15-day, 273-mile walk to Washington to draw attention to the outrage in Belhaven, which he blames on the combination of an “immoral” hospital operator and the failure of Republican leaders in his state to accept the new Medicaid funding the hospital needed to stay afloat…

What makes the mayor’s journey all the more compelling is he’s a white Southerner and a Republican officeholder who has conservative views on abortion, taxes, guns — “you name it,” he told me. But ideology and party loyalty have limits. “I’m a pretty conservative guy, but this is a matter of people dying,” he said.

Republicans nationwide have abandoned any consideration of offering an alternative to the Affordable Care Act, figuring that their complaints about President Obama’s selective implementation of the law, and lingering unease about the legislation itself, will be enough to motivate conservative voters in November. But as O’Neal points out, this political calculation has a moral flaw.

“If the  governor and the legislature don’t want to accept Medicaid expansion, they need to come up with another program to assure that rural hospitals don’t close,” the 45-year-old mayor said. Otherwise, he continued, “they’re allowing people to die to prove a point. That is wrong, and I’m not going to be a party to that.”

O’Neal is no fan of Obamacare, but during his journey, he sent a letter to Obama asking for a meeting. “I am a conservative Republican and I understand some of the suspicions political leaders in my party have,” he wrote. “But those concerns do not trump the need to maintain health services in struggling communities. Rural citizens dying should not be soldiers of the South’s defiance to the new health care law.”

Cognitive dissonance much?  Give me  a break.  You know what you call propping up economically unsustainable hospitals in rural areas just so people don’t die?  Socialism!!  Oh, it’s great to be a conservative Republican when it’s all those “other” people getting welfare, food stamps, etc.,  but when your white, rural community loses its economically un-viable hospital, well, damnit, the government better fix it!  Also, you know what you call the Medicaid expansion?  Obamacare.  And lastly, it’s not fair at all to single out NC Republicans for refusing the Medicaid expansion.  Republicans have similarly placed ideology above human life and health in 23 other states as well.  Can’t have those damn free-loaders getting medical care other than showing up near death in the ER, can we?

Shameful!

Puppy mills are just plain evil.  They exploit and abuse dogs for profit.  They simply should not exist.  Yes, you should be able to raise dogs and sell them, but certainly not abuse them in the process.  And when you consider the number of times puppy mills end up being raided and closed down and dozens of dogs put into the system they create serious externalities.  Thus, it only makes sense that they be properly regulated.  Even the Republicans in the NC House see this.  The NC Senate?  Not so much.  From WRAL:

— A proposal to regulate large commercial dog breeders appears to be dead for the year, doomed once again by opposition from state Senate leaders.

The House passed legislation in 2013 that would require large breeding operations, or “puppy mills,” to meet basic standards of animal welfare, sanitation and humane treatment. The Senate refused to take up the proposal.

Large commercial breeders that sell puppies to the public are not regulated by the state. There are no inspections or licensing requirements.

For years, poll numbers have consistently shown that North Carolina voters favor state regulation of dog breeding operations. But the American Kennel Club, hunting groups and agricultural interests have worked diligently against the idea. They argue that requiring kennel inspections violates breeders’ property rights and say setting standards for companion animals could trigger similar requirements for livestock breeding operations.

This opposition is just stupid.  And shame, shame on the supposed dog lovers at the AKC.  As for the agricultural interests, the bill is about dogs!  Yes, the mis-treatment of pigs and other livestock in NC is deplorable, but that’s not what this bill is about.  It’s not some small step from regulating dog breeding to regulating hog farms.  It would be nice if it was, but clearly not in the actual world we live in.  And so frustrating that people pretend otherwise.

And you know what is really shameful about this whole sorry thing, the admitted reason that the Senate leaders will not allow a vote on the legislation:

Advocates for regulation calling Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger’s office say they’re being told “the puppy mill language was pulled due to unethical behavior on the part of its supporters.”

The reference to “unethical behavior” stems from an incident in January when regulation supporters met with Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, a veterinarian who opposes the House legislation.

Rabon’s comments in that meeting were laced with obscenities, calling House leaders a profane term and accusing McCrory and his wife of improperly lobbying for the 2013 bill. He also told them the legislation wouldn’t be considered in 2014.

The supporters recorded the meeting and released it to the media, embarrassing Rabon and Senate leaders.

The woman who recorded the meeting said the audio recorder was in plain sight at all times, but Senate leaders accused her and others of “secretly” recording the meeting and attempting to “extort” lawmakers by releasing it.

Got that?  A horrible person (and I happily stand behind that characterization based on this information) was publicly shown to be horrible and the Senate leadership cannot abide by it.  The solution is to make dogs suffer.  That’ll show those animal lovers!  Record us acting like complete jerks and the dogs get hurt!  This is just so breathtakingly immature and stupid.  And these are the people running my state!  Ugh.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Very nice Vox animated short explaining the political uniqueness of North Korea.  Some really interesting historical perspective I was totally unaware of.

2) Eminent health care expert Victor Fuchs on why the US spends so much more on health care than other nations.

3) New York Times on why Americans are not so great at math.

4) It’s really just pathetic and amusing to see conservatives try and explain politics with regards to race by pretending that today’s Democratic party is of a piece with the virulently racist Democratic Party of the pre-Civil Rights era South.  Nice takedown from Jamelle Bouie.

5) Speaking of race, I’m feeling pretty confident these pre-school boys would not have been suspended so much if they were white (and so is their mom).

6) Say what you will about Texas justice (and I’ll say a lot), but give them credit for doing a lot more than many other states to remedy their history of gross injustice.  Here’s an interesting case of a man who was exonerated via DNA and didn’t even know about it until after the fact (he had already finished his prison sentence).

7) Nice essay from national security reporter extraordinaire, Tom Ricks, on why he has found himself moving leftward in recent years.

8) Really interesting analysis of “kidspeak.”  Let’s just say “like” means so much more than you may realize.

9) I talked to the NYT reporter who wrote this story for a good 30 minutes, but not even a single quote.  That said, it was a really interesting conversation and hopefully it will lead to some NYT quotes in the future.  Oh, and it’s a good story on NC politics.

10) This is wild.  Apparently we harvest the blood of horseshoe crabs to create a basic and widely-used test for the presence of bacteria.

11) Really enjoyed this Amy Davidson comment on Republicans and immigration policy:

It is one thing for Republicans to decide that they will not be the party of immigration reform, but it is another to decide that they will be the anti-immigration party. If they do, they will define themselves in opposition to America’s future and, incidentally, to its past—one built by newcomers like the gold prospector from Canada who, in 1876, sailed on a ship around South America and staked a claim that became the town of Oracle. In the short term, there may be benefits, in the form of an energized base, but enjoying them requires a distinct lack of shame. If Adam Kwasman was abashed by his Y.M.C.A. mixup, many of his allies don’t think that chasing down a busload of kids was a mistake at all. No children had been brought to Oracle since then, and that was enough for some to call the episode a victory. For the Republican Party as a whole, it might be better described as a dangerous temptation.

12) There does seem to be a place for “broken windows” policing.  But it seems clear that place is not always and everywhere.  Circumstances matter– who would’ve guessed.  Nice NYT editorial:

Mr. Bratton is a pioneer of broken windows policing and Mr. de Blasio is a stout defender. The tactic was embraced in the crime-plagued New York of 20 years ago. But while violence has ebbed, siege-based tactics have not. The Times reported on Friday that the Police Department made 394,539 arrests last year, near historical highs.

The mayor and the commissioner should acknowledge the heavy price paid for heavy enforcement. Broken windows and its variants — “zero-tolerance,” “quality-of-life,” “stop-and-frisk” practices — have pointlessly burdened thousands of young people, most of them black and Hispanic, with criminal records. These policies have filled courts to bursting with first-time, minor offenders whose cases are often thrown out, though not before their lives are severely disrupted and their reputations blemished. They have caused thousands to lose their jobs, to be suspended from school, to be barred from housing or the military. They have ensnared immigrants who end up, through a federal fingerprinting program, being deported and losing everything.

13) And lastly, the NYT is beginning a series on how we need to end our prohibition on marijuana.  Let me reiterate– I’ve never smoked dope, never will, and will strongly discourage my kids, but our current policy is an utter failure on so many levels and needs to be changed.  Here’s the first of the NYT series on state-by-state policy.

Surprise: lower tax rates lead to lower tax revenues

Surprise, surprise.  After that substantial tax cuts (overwhelmingly benefiting NC”s wealthiest citizens) the super-charged economic growth the Republicans predicted has not materialized (yes, unemployment has improved, just like it has done pretty much everywhere).  The result, NC is coming in well-short in projected revenues (hey, I could have projected this).  Who will pay the price?  Teachers, those wanting a better education for their kids, the elderly and disabled, etc.  But hey, richer North Carolinians can now trade in their Lexus for a Mercedes.  Hooray!  From WRAL:

— New figures from legislative analysts confirm the 2013 cut to individual income tax rates is costing the state far more than originally projected.

Last year, Republican leaders authored a plan to cut income taxes from a three-tiered marginal system of 6 percent, 7 percent and 7.75 percent to a flat rate of 5.8 percent for 2014 tax year.

According to a memo Thursday from legislative analyst Brian Slivka and chief economist Barry Boardman, the updated cost of the tax cut is $690 million for the current tax year.

That’s $205 million, or 43 percent, higher than the original projection of  $475 million.

The cost for the 2015 tax year is also projected to be $200 million higher than original estimates – $890 million rather than $690 million…

Republican leaders said last summer that lowering taxes would cause the economy to grow, helping more people find work and bringing in more revenue. They expressed confidence that the cost to the state would be actually be lower than initial projections.

But in the memo, Boardman and Slivka explain that North Carolina wages have not grown as quickly as projected last year.

And how’s this for some cogent economic context:

It’s not yet clear what effect, if any, the revision will have on the current budget negotiations.

However, to put the revision in context, the cost of a 7 percent average teacher pay increase, according to the House’s latest offer, is about $265 million.

The cost of a 6 percent average teacher raise, according to an earlier House offer, is about $178 million, while the cost of funding all current teaching assistants for 2015 is about $450 million.

The cost of the Senate’s earlier proposed cuts to the Department of Health and Human Services, including cutting Medicaid eligibility for thousands of blind, disabled, and elderly patients, is about $228 million.

But, gee, who could have predicted this?  Oh, I don’t know, maybe anybody who has actually paid any attention to evidence on tax rates and economic policy in recent years.  Of course, now the Republicans get want they really want– lower taxes for rich people and the ability to throw up their hands and say there just isn’t enough money for teachers, the poor, elderly, disabled, etc.  And this surely can’t be good for higher education, either.

How we think about poor people

Great post from Thomas Mills.  I think a huge difference between Republicans and Democrats really comes down to our basic conception of what it means to be poor.  Obviously, it is a combination of individual choice and societal circumstance, but Republicans put far more emphasis on the former, the Democrats on the latter.  Personally, I would say Democrats allow for individual choice to play a role more than Republicans allow for societal context, but that’s an empirical question to be settled.  Anyway…

Back in the early 1990s, I went to work as a human resource director for an aluminum die cast company. The company had moved to rural North Carolina from the Midwest because of low wages, low taxes and no unions…

On dispute after dispute, I found myself siding with employees rather than management. 

I believed in the carpal tunnel syndrome that management denied existed. I thought the guy who got his hand permanently disfigured should continue to get workers’ compensation despite the company’s claim that he had received job training and now should be on his own. And when employees walked out after management insisted on leaving garage sized-doors open despite temperatures in the low 20s, I explained that they were not on a “wildcat strike,” as management contended, but that their mamas had taught them a long time ago to have enough sense to shut the door and come in from the cold. 

Needless to say, I didn’t last long. After six months, I quit. In my exit interview, my supervisor, who was gruff but basically a good guy, told me, “You’re just so naive. These people will get away with as much as they can while doing as little work as possible.”

And that, I believe, is a common Republican world view. They think the majority of poor people and working folks aren’t trying to get ahead in life; they are trying to get over on the system. [emphasis mine]…

Like my former bosses, Republicans are probably thinking “What a bunch of naive liberal bunk.” And that’s the difference in the Democrats who ran the state and the Republicans who control it now. 

Nobody ever considered Marc Basnight, Tony Rand or Jim Hunt anti-business. But those Democrats also weren’t anti-poor. They understood that poverty was often caused by circumstances beyond people’s control and they also believed that government had a role in alleviating the impact of hardship on families. Most importantly, though, they believed that children were victims of poverty, not causes of it, and that education and support, from early childhood through college, offered the children of poverty the chance to escape it. 

As long as we have leaders who see our poorest citizens as burdens and grifters, we’re doomed to make poverty harsher and ensure a permanent underclass. The free market may be the vehicle to create jobs, but it does little to soften the blow of poverty. To create the type of society I believe in, we need to do both. [emphasis mine]

Amen.

Southern Democrats’ dilemma

Nice piece from Bob Moser on the dilemma for current Southern Democratic senate candidates.  The long-standing playbook has been to position oneself very centrist to appeal to conservative Southern Democrats.  But changing demographics means the demographic base in the South is both more minority and more liberal.  So, what’s a Senate candidate to do?

 But Hagan’s tentative attitude [about Obamacare] has become a common theme across the South this year. As the region has become the Republican Party’s national fortress, Southern Democrats have won Senate seats by playing down their ties to their party.This year, six Democrats — three incumbents and three challengers — are waging competitive campaigns. The results in North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi could determine whether Obama faces a hostile Senate for his last two years in the White House. (Republicans need to pick up six seats to gain control, and only about 15 are competitive nationally.)

The question is whether Democrats in these states are better served by following the region’s five-decade-long drift toward the GOP — or by betting that the climate is finally changing in their favor…

It’s a sign of things to come in states like North Carolina, where large influxes of Latino immigrants and “relocated Yankees,” both black and white, are tilting the demographic balance toward the Democrats and inspiring a new progressive movement. But despite Obama’s own surprising Southern breakthroughs — after Al Gore and John Kerry lost the entire region, he won three large Southern states in 2008 and two in 2012, falling just short in North Carolina — the region’s blue future is still a long-term proposition. Candidates like Hagan are stuck between the past, when Southern Democrats’ recipe for victory involved courting white moderates and conservativesand a future in which they’ll be able to successfully campaign as full-throated, national-style Democrats. To win, Hagan and her compatriots must simultaneously woo independent-minded whites while persuading massive numbers of young voters and nonwhites, who lean left on both economic and social issues, to join them.

It’s an awkward proposition, to be sure. But the Democratic contenders have appeared hell-bent on making it look downright impossible…

“The old blue-dog model doesn’t work anymore,” says Ed Kilgore, a Georgia native and Democratic strategist who helped craft that model during his years with the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. “The people you’re appealing to aren’t going to vote for any Democrat anymore. You just don’t go right on every conceivable issue.” But that is exactly what his old friend [Georgia Senate candidate Michelle] Nunn — aside from her progressive stances on abortion rights and gay marriage, which she doesn’t like to talk about — is doing. Her platform consists of reducing corporate tax rates, entitlement “reform” (read: cuts) and debt reduction, supporting the Keystone pipeline, and cheering for military strikes in Syria. It’s not exactly catnip for the state’s emerging majority.

Okay, so no big changes this year, but Moser has an interesting prediction for the future:

What might happen if Democrats in the fast-evolving 21st-century South ran as honest-to-goodness, true-blue Democrats? Because the old Republican Lite habit dies hard — and because politicians of all stripes are timid by nature — we won’t find out this year. But it won’t be long. Perhaps in 2016, maybe in 2020, the mold will be broken: A new-style Southern Democrat will run in a state like Georgia or North Carolina or Texas and win with a full-throated progressive message. The demographics make it inevitable. And the result ultimately will be a whole new national political order. No longer will it be Southerners in Congress who are the stubborn impediments to progressive reform, as they’ve been for 150 years. And no longer will Republicans have a stranglehold on the region in presidential elections. The five largest Southern states — Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, Texas, and Florida — account for most of the region’s electoral votes. They’re also the states where conservative whites are losing their hegemony by the day. How will the GOP carry national elections without them?

By the next decade, if demographics are (and they usually are) destiny, it will be Southern Republicans who are dodging and ducking and triangulating, conjuring ways to hold on to their aging and shrinking white base while appropriating Democratic issues and rhetoric to woo the new progressive majority. If they need tactical advice, they can always hire Kay Hagan or Michelle Nunn as campaign consultants. Their species of Southern Democrat will be, by then, a fading relic of a strange, distant, and inexplicable past.

I’m not quite as convinced of this scenario as Moser.  For one, there’s the possibility that the white voters is these states– though a shrinking majority– move as heavily Republican as the white voters in the deep South.  But still, I’d rather be a Democrat in these states (at least NC, VA, and FL, maybe GA) in 2016 or 2020 than a Republican.  And as for the ambitious Democratic politicians, it will be interesting to see when an unabashed national/i.e., liberal, rather than a more conservative “Southern Democrat” breaks through to win major state-wide office.

The pope I don’t like

Pope Francis– awesome.  Art Pope– not so much.  Anyway, nice story about the latter in the Post recently.  I had a great conversation with the new NYT reporter on “the South” beat today (hopefully, that should result in my expertise in the NYT sometime in the future) and we discussed Pope, among many other things.  It is quite clear that this one man has a hugely disproporationate influence in NC politics.  That said, when one looks at the rather substantial intra-party squabble going on over the budget right now, it’s also clear that Pope is not quite the puppetmaster many of his detractors believe him to be.  Safe to say if he really was the all-powerful wizard behind the curtain, the Republican party would not be acting as it currently is (unless this is some super-smart devious plan to fool journalists and people like me).  Anyway, here’s some good stuff from the Post story:

There is no one in North Carolina, or likely in all of American politics, quite like Art Pope. He is not just a wealthy donor seeking to influence politics from the outside, nor just a government official shaping it from within. He is doing both at the same time — the culmination of a quarter-
century spent building a sphere of influence that has put him at the epicenter of North Carolina government and moved his state closer to the conservative vision he has long imagined.

“There are not many people as influential, because few people have invested the time and the money that he has on behalf of his state,” said Republican former governor James G. Martin, who tapped Pope, then 28, to be a lawyer in his administration in the 1980s.

From the outside, Pope’s family foundation has put more than $55 million into a robust network of conservative think tanks and advocacy groups, building a state version of what his friends Charles and David Koch have helped create on a national level.

They even have the whole thing in graphic form:

Art Pope’s influence on North Carolina

 

The Republicans’ women problem

The real problem for Republicans with women voters is that women are simply more liberal than men on most all the key role of government issues that define so much modern political debate.  And it has been this way since at least the 1980’s.  This is very well established ground within political science.  In fact, Laurel and I were actually just working on studying “just” the gender gap before we somewhat accidentally studies across the impact of children, which has shaped our research ever since.

Earlier this week, I wrote about GOP Congresswoman Renee Ellmer’s inane comments about how pie charts are just too tough for women voters.   A number of nice blog posts, etc., on the issue around, but I particularly enjoyed Amy Davidson’s.  It also featured this excerpt from Ellmer’s that I had not previously noticed:

Ellmers’s comments reflect a certain Republican school of thought: women love the G.O.P; they just don’t realize it. (Their lack of self-awareness is such that, as a G.O.P. postmortem on the 2012 election noted, Obama’s margin with women was eleven per cent.) This, Ellmers said, is a matter of “tone”: “Women, by and large, agree with us on all of the issues. If you go through each issue, they agree. [emphasis mine]It’s how we are able to articulate ourselves—make sure that we’re getting the point across that we care, before we do anything else.”

This just could not be further from the truth!  Where is Ellmers getting this misinformation?  Fox news, I suppose.  Regardless, how can their be any hope of Republican legislators effectively addressing the needs of women citizens if they are so sadly misinformed about women (on average, of course) really think!  For a little context, here’s some charts from a Pew 2012 poll that looked at the gender gap on various key issues:

Yet, somehow Ellmers believes that women actually agree more with Republicans?!  Also noteworthy (and I hope I’ve mentioned this before), the gap is definitely not about abortion (as clearly seen in the last chart).

I also enjoyed Amanda Marcotte’s take, to a degree:

Women are likelier than men to make minimum wage or less.Women are more likely to fall into one of the eligibility categories for Medicaid.Women still make lower wages because of gender discrimination. Women like having contraception coverage and a social safety net. If anything, making the impact of policy easier to understand would drive even more women away from Republicans and toward Democrats.

But, alas, she’s got to go and ruin it by making it also about abortion when the data just don’t support that.

Regardless, insofar as Ellmers’ take is indicative of that of Republican politicians, don’t expect to see this pronounced gender gap narrowing much any time soon.

Quick hits (part I)

Lots this week.  More tomorrow. Here we go…

1) This security system tested at the World Cup seems pretty great.  Would love to see it in airports soon.

2) Krugman’s nice column on the failure of Obamacare to fail.

3) This NYT piece on the utter mis-handling of a rape and a college is truly a must-read.

4) Heck, not just marijuana, the case for decriminalizing all legal drugs.  This Vox piece presents a very even-handed analysis.

5) As if I could somehow ignore an article entitled “We are our Bacteria.”

6) NC Republicans have argued that cutting unemployment benefits has helped get more people working.  The evidence (and Dean Baker) suggest otherwise.

7) Former Obama Budget Director Peter Orzag with a nice column on political polarization.

8) I’ve actually said some nice things about Politico here.  Charles Pierce takes on an article that shows all that is wrong with them.  Remind me never to get on Pierce’s bad side.

9) Fascinating NYT column on just how hard it is to learn a foreign language as an older adult.  And how good it may be for your brain.

10) Sweden has totally embraced vouchers and school choice.  The result?  Declining student performance.

11) Loved this Mark Bittman column on the true cost of a hamburger.  If there’s one concept from public policy, I wish more people understood, it’s externalities.  And hamburgers are all about externalities.

12) I had the same thought as the person Sam McDougle upon seeing the trailer for Lucy.  As if humans only use 10% of their brain.  Sadly, aparently a lot of people still belief this total malarkey.

13) Apparently nitrous oxide, yes, laughing gas, is quite an effective anesthestic for child birth.  It is widely used in Europe, yet hardly in America.  In part, because of a turf battle between anestheloiogists and nurses.

14) Loved this Guardian column on Manuel Neuer’s goalkeeping, especially this part:

 On a football pitch you are looking to gain any advantage you can. Like the opposition, you only have access to 11 players so you must use these players as efficiently as possible. If one of them has no role other than babysitting the net, then you’re already at a disadvantage.

Football is a lot like chess. You have the same number of pieces as your opponent, you face-off on the same playing surface and you both have the same aim. The great chess players know they need to get the most out of each of their pieces to win. This gives rise to the maxim: “The King is a fighting piece – use it.” …

By using your goalkeeper not just to protect your own goals but to actually participate in defending, building attacks and keeping the ball, you are utilising your 11th man. If your opposition are not doing this, you immediately have a man advantage.

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