A little economics

Well, it’s been pretty heavy on social issues lately, let’s change it up.

First, more domestic drilling is not going to have a significant on gas prices.  Really.  Planet Money:

No matter how much oil the U.S. produces domestically, we’ll still face huge swings in the price of gasoline. That’s because there’s a single, global price for oil.

This chart from a new CBO report shows gas prices over time in Canada, Japan and the U.S.

Gas prices in Japan, Canada and the U.S.

Canada produces all of its own oil; Japan imports all of its oil; and the U.S. produces some and imports some. Yet all three countries show the same wide swings in gas prices. (Absolute price differences are driven by different levels of taxes and fees in the different countries.)

Of course, more U.S. drilling could increase the global supply of oil, lowering the global price a bit for everyone. But more likely, according to the report, is that other oil producers would respond by cutting their own oil production, “diminishing or eliminating the effect” of increased U.S. production.

Second, enough already about how taxing small business is crushing for “job creators.”  Yglesias:

Does increasing the marginal income tax rate on high income Americans create a crushing burden on small businesses? The Obama administration, evidently possessed of a high degree of confidence in the fundamental wonkiness of the American people, included this in the latest Treasury Department chartpack to try to convince us that it doesn’t.

This issue is, I think, actually better explained by words than with charts. Lots of people, especially rich people, have some “small business income.” But if you examine only the small businesses that actually have employees it turns out that people in the top two tax brackets report just $113 billion in small business income deriving from businesses with employees. That’s out of $1.2 trillion in total income of people in the top two tax brackets. In other words, only a tiny share of the revenue raised by higher taxes on the top two brackets constitutes taxation of income derived from operating real businesses that people work at.

Republicans want lower taxes on rich people.  Fine (okay, not really so fine), but just be honest about it and don’t make up stuff about how this ruins things for “job creation.”

Infographic of the day

Mike (from Raleigh, not to be confused with Mike from Chapel Hill or Mike from Canada… hmmm, too many Mike’s) sent me a link to this very cool graphic from the Guardian that shows you rights of gay couples by state.

Just eyeballing it here, you can see the fairly dramatic regional disparities.  Click through here, and you can see the actual details for each state when you mouse over.  Its an amazingly efficient way to display a ton of interesting data.

Photo of the day

JDW sent me a link to these pretty amazing photos of Kowloon in Hong Kong.  I’m sure he was expecting to see one turn up here.  And since I hate to disappoint… First, the background:

Once thought to be the most densely populated place on Earth, with 50,000 people crammed into only a few blocks, these fascinating pictures give a rare insight into the lives of those who lived Kowloon Walled City.

Taken by Canadian photographer Greg Girard in collaboration with Ian Lamboth the pair spent five years familiarising themselves with the notorious Chinese city before it was demolished in 1992.

The city was a phenomenon with 33,000 families and businesses living in more than 300 interconnected high-rise buildings, all constructed without contributions from a single architect.

And, the photo:

Kowloon Walled City was notorious for drugs and crime but many of its 50,000 residents lived their lives peacefully until it was demolished in the early 90s

Kowloon Walled City was notorious for drugs and crime but many of its 50,000 residents lived their lives peacefully until it was demolished in the early 90s

Gay Marriage and the generation gap

Instead of grading papers, I’ve been spending the past hour noodling around with General Social Survey data on gay marriage.  In no surprise at all, younger voters are much more supportive of gay marriage.  I was trying to look to see the impact of young plus college-educated (or at least, in college), but there’s just not enough N from recent years.  That said, the data are pretty clear that those that did not even complete high school are outliers in being substantially lower in support for gay marriage among the young.

Anyway, I was looking at this because a number of recent interviews asked me about the views of my students.  Honestly, I have not heard a single student this semester come out strongly opposed to gay marriage.  It’s certainly not from any pressure from me– I really think that to the degree these attitudes exist (at least among the Political Science majors I see), it has reached the “Spiral of Silence” point where people may be socially afraid to express them.  Now, that’s a shame.  I really like open dialogue on major issues, but as far as gay rights goes, it suggests to me that among the exact sort of people who will be future political leaders and activists that being “anti-gay” is almost akin to being racist.  Now, college-educated persons are far from a random sample of the young population, but they are representative of the people who will really be driving the policy debate in coming decades.

I was also struck by the number of students of the “I’m Republican, but this (i.e., the Constitutional Amendment on marriage and civil unions) is stupid.”  The Republican party is already struggling quite a bit with younger voters.  I cannot help but wonder if this doesn’t have implications for future partisan alignment.   Sure, the Republicans don’t need those unreliable younger voters so much now, but partisanship is sticky and these younger voters are going to turn into reliable middle-aged and older voters and the gay marriage issue would seem to push at least some of them more towards the Democratic party.

Where you vote affects how you vote

I voted at North Cary Baptist Church on Tuesday.  I had lunch with a friend who talked about voting at my actual church, St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Apex, NC.  Got me to thinking it would be great to do a study to see if/how polling places affected how people voted on the gay marriage amendment.  Chances are quite good that they actually did.  Now, not enough to account for a 60-40 margin mind you, but it is fair to assume that the use of churches as polling places inflated the pro amendment vote to some small degree.

There’s actually been two really interesting studies that look at the impact of polling place on vote.  The first looked at the impact of voting in schools:

Analysis of a recent general election demonstrates that people who were assigned to vote in schools were more likely to support a school funding initiative. This effect persisted even when controlling for voters’ political views, demographics, and unobservable characteristics of individuals living near schools. A follow-up experiment using random assignment suggests that priming underlies these effects, and that they can occur outside of conscious awareness. These findings underscore the subtle power of situational context to shape important real-world decisions.

In a similar vein, a fairly recent Political Psychology article found that churches have an impact:

 In two elections, people voting in churches were more likely to support a conservative candidate and a ban on same-sex marriage, but not the restriction of eminent domain. A field experiment found that people completing questionnaires in a chapel awarded less money (relative to people in a secular building) to insurance claimants seeking compensation for abortion pills, but not to worker’s compensation claimants. A laboratory experiment found that people subliminally exposed to ecclesiastical images awarded less money (relative to people exposed to control images) to abortion pill claimants, but not to worker’s compensation claimants. Exposure to ecclesiastical images affected only Christians; non-Christians’ awards were unaffected by the prime. These findings show that polling locations can exert a powerful and precise influence on political attitudes and decision making.

Truth is, schools and churches are good convenient places to hold elections.  But there is an impact that we perhaps ought to think about.  Also, just another great example of how people are influenced by things outside their conscious awareness all the time.  I’m guessing not 1 in 100 would admit to voting in a church had any impact on their vote.

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