No, not a post on the AFL-CIO.  Just felt a need to blog from the labor and delivery room at WakeMed Cary.  Been here since 6:30am.  Hopefully, within another hour or two, this will wrap up nicely with a bouncing baby girl.  As I frequently comment on gender issues here, I might as well mention that never is the gender difference in a marriage (even a very modern one) more apparent than childbirth.  Here I sit happily taking advantage of the Wifi at the hospital, while my wife sits suffering and miserable.  Not much I can do to help.  (Though, I did just grab the nurse).  More later.

Tax cut incoherence

I don’t get why I haven’t seen anybody make this point before, but count on Chait.  Basically, to argue that you cannot raise taxes in a recession is an implicit acceptance of Keynesian economics.  Of course, Keynesian economics also says you should spend to get out of the recession, but Republicans won’t go for that:

Basically, if you believe that recessions are bad times to raise taxes, then you should also believe they’re a bad time to cut spending. Alternatively, if you reject the Keynesian model, then you might think raising taxes is bad, but there’s no particular reason to think raising taxes during a recession is especially problematic.

The conservative rhetoric about raising taxing during a recession amounts to an ideologically incoherent pastiche of mutually exclusive theories. It literally makes no sense at all.

Time and time again, the evidence shows that Republicans’ primary ideological driver is less taxes for rich people.  Full stop.  That’s it.  Everything else is just window dressing on this politically unpalatable idea.


Inequality and the real world

Via Dan Ariely (author of the terrific Predictably Irrational) and friend, there’s an interesting Op-Ed in the LA Times about their latest research.  Apparently, most Americans dramatically underestimate the amount of inequality in our society:

According to an analysis this year by Edward Wolff of New York University, the top 20% of wealthy individuals own about 85% of the wealth, while the bottom 40% own very near 0%. Many in that bottom 40% not only have no assets, they have negative net wealth….

We recently asked a representative sample of more than 5,000 Americans (young and old, men and women, rich and poor, liberal and conservative) to answer two questions. They first were asked to estimate the current level of wealth inequality in the United States, and then they were asked about what they saw as an ideal level of wealth inequality.

In our survey, Americans drastically underestimated the current gap between the very rich and the poor. The typical respondent believed that the top 20% of Americans owned 60% of the wealth, and the bottom 40% owned 10%. They knew, in other words, that wealth in the United States was not distributed equally, but were unaware of just how unequal that distribution was.

When we asked respondents to tell us what their ideal distribution of wealth was, things got even more interesting: Americans wanted the top 20% to own just over 30% of the wealth, and the bottom 40% to own about 25%. They still wanted the rich to be richer than the poor, but they wanted the disparity to be much less extreme.

Like so much of the dysfunctional nature of American politics, I think a key fact is not what Americans don’t know, but rather what they think they know (hello, cutting waste, fraud, abuse and foreign aid to save the budget), but is simply wrong.  Presumably, if Americans realized the incredibly disproportionate (and growing) nature of American inequality, they’d be more open to Democrat’s efforts at redistribution, aka, “socialism.”

Gender and praise

I attended a live recording of one of my favorite podcasts– Slate’s sports’ podcast, “Hang Up and Listen”— at NC State last week.  Being in the area, they included special guest Anson Dorrance, the coach of the incredibly successful UNC Women’s soccer team.  I had not known to fascinating facts about Dorrance… First, he actually was offered the coaching job while still a law student.  Second, he coached the women and the men for about 10 years.

Apparently, he has all sorts of insights into how women and men are different.  What I (and the folks at the Slate Political Gabfest) found most interesting was the idea that women and men (at least team athletes) respond dramatically differently to praise.  Men, love to be praised in front of their teammates.  Doesn’t everybody?  Apparently, Dorrance’s female players do not like to be singled out for praise as this actually leads to resentment from teammates– and thus the player herself.  Dorrance saves strong praise for his players for my private situations.  I’m sure there’s got to  be some psychology research on this somewhere, but regardless, I do find it quite intriguing.

GOP and smart young people

Worth a full blog post, but with the baby coming soon, I know I’m just not going to get around to it (and I’ve been holding onto this one for a while).   So, I’ll just mention that this is a really interesting post over at Frum Forum that analyzes why the Republicans aren’t just losing young people, they are especially losing smart young people.  Here’s a bit:

To simplify: Republicans have gone from having a clear advantage among top students in the decade following the Eisenhower administration, to being competitive under the Nixon and Ford administrations, and from being an energetic minority during Reagan and Bush Sr. to being almost eradicated today.

So if we accept that the trend is drastic, that it is real and applies to most of the top universities – and I think that is reasonable – the next question is: How did this come about?…

Let me advance another hypothesis. Today’s top students are motivated less by enthusiasm for Democrats and much more by revulsion from Republicans. It’s not the students who have changed so much. It’s the Republicans.

And here is where Applebaum’s point gains its force.

Under Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon, Republicans championed science and knowledge. But over the past 30 years, national Republicans have formed an intensifying alliance with religious conservatives more skeptical of science and knowledge. I don’t know whether discarding evolution goes against common sense; but I’m pretty sure it goes against most Ivy League-educated senses.

Interesting food for thought.

Quote of the day

Yglesias on the START treaty:

Extra nukes over and beyond what’s needed to deter credibly don’t do anything for the country—they don’t add inches to our national penis or anything

I had not been following this that closely till now, but the Republican opposition to the START treat is absolutely nuts and shows just how profoundly unserious and nihilistic they have become as a political party.  I’ll leave the details to Yglesias:

But what’s the treaty? Well, it safely reduces the quantity of Russian nuclear weapons while preserving America’s ability to verify what’s happening with the remaining weapons. In exchange, the US will dismantle some weapons but still have more than enough to preserve our deterrent…

Meanwhile, foreigners will wonder wtf has happened with US foreign policy and would-be proliferators will find their efforts somewhat boosted by the collapsing credibility of the disarmament process. And all for what? A cheap political talking point on a fourth-tier issue? A bit of extra pork?

Maybe some day grown-ups will actually be in charge of the Republican party again.  For now, our whole nation is suffering through their kicking, flailing, middle-of-the-grocery-store-floor tantrum.

Chart of the Day (global warming denialism)

The ignorance and Know-Nothingism of the modern Republican party is truly astonishing.  Check this out via Pew:

Thanks to years worth of demagoguery, an absolute majority of Republicans (53%) now completely denying global warming!  And lets be clear here, nobody serious denies that the earth is warming.   There is at least a fake controversy as to whether humans are responsible or not (while there are some crank scientists reliably trotted out by Fox News to suggest humans are not responsible, you cannot find an actual climate scientist who believes this).  And damn, if that fake controversy isn’t effective as even Democrats are split pretty evenly on that issue.

It’s one thing to have concern for the environment be a low priority, but its almost as if Repubicans are becoming actively anti-environment, just because they know Democrats (and those damn foreigners) seem to care about the health of the planet that supports us all.  Check out these changes over the past four years:

And, I’ve already shown enough cool charts, but they’ve also got one which looks at the views of those Republicans who identify with the Tea Party.  You’ll be shocked, shocked to know that the Tea party Republicans having an even less tenuous connection to reality.   I had an interesting conversation the other night with some reporters and I sort of stuck up for the American people (not suggesting they’re smart, just not particularly dumber than in other countries).  Then again.  But, I don’t know how much you can blame “the people” when you have one of two major political parties and an entire right-wing media leading them over an anti-intellectual cliff.

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