Will’s lament

Poor George Will— a pseudo-intellectual stuck in a political party that now tolerates no intellectuals, pseudo or otherwise.   In his latest column he laments conservative opposition to the American Community Survey (ACS) a treasure trove of information in the census:

These Enlightenment figures — rational, empirical, inquisitive — believed in the possibility of evidence-based improvements. And they mandated the “enumeration” of the population every 10 years. James Madison soon proposed expanding the census beyond mere enumeration to recording Americans’ occupations. And compliance with the survey was compulsory…

Information improves the efficiency of markets — and of governments, too. There are systemic reasons why democratic governments frequently behave foolishly: Politicians’ constant incentive is to confer current benefits on targeted beneficiaries and to defer costs (by running deficits). Hence there are weak incentives to formulate government policies with the quaint characteristic of measurably ameliorating broad social problems. The ACS cannot cure systemic problems, but abolishing it would require government to be unnecessarily ignorant…

Clearly, conservatives should favor the nation applying to itself the injunction “Know thyself.” Besides, if conservatives do not think information about society — the more the merrier — strengthens their case, why are they conservatives?

Seriously?  Has Will not been paying attention that past decade or so?  “Rational, empirical, inquisitive”?!  Can you honestly apply any of these words to how the contemporary Republican Party approaches public policy.  If only.  Why are they conservative?  Ummm, because they hate Obama, know he’s a socialist, and he’s going to ruin the country by giving away all their hard-earned tax dollars to people that don’t look like them.  That was easy.

And, on a side not, this paragraph of Will’s really killed me:

In the absence of data, politicians pluck factoids from the ether, as Barack Obama did in this year’s State of the Union address: “Every dollar we invest in high-quality early childhood education can save more than seven dollars later on, by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime.” Such facially implausible and utterly unsubstantiated claims flourish when there is indifference to information.

Good God– could Will at least familiarize himself with google?!  This figure only comes from the research of Nobel laureate economist, James Heckman.  Not exactly out of thin air.

Immigration and the post-policy Republican party

It’s been a while, but David Brooks again shows why he’s every liberals favorite conservative with a must-read column on immigration reform.  He throws a couple gratuitous potshots at the left just to assure everyone he’s still conservative, but this column could easily have been written by a liberal.  That’s because, sadly, there are distressingly few conservatives who actually care about good policy, and Brooks is one of them:

After all, the Senate bill fulfills the four biggest conservative objectives. Conservatives say they want economic growth. The Senate immigration bill is the biggest pro-growth item on the agenda today. Based on estimates from the Congressional Budget Office, the Senate bill would increase the gross domestic product by 3.3 percent by 2023 and by 5.4 percent by 2033. A separate study by the American Action Forum found that it would increase per capita income by $1,700 after 10 years.

Conservatives say they want to bring down debt. According to government estimates, the Senate bill would reduce federal deficits by up to $850 billion over the next 20 years. The Senate bill reduces the 75-year Social Security fund shortfall by half-a-trillion dollars.

Conservatives say they want to reduce illegal immigration. The Senate bill spends huge amounts of money to secure the border. According to the C.B.O., the bill would reduce illegal immigration by somewhere between 33 percent to 50 percent. True, it would not totally eliminate illegal immigration, but it would do a lot better than current law, which reduces illegal immigration by 0 percent.

These are all gigantic benefits. They are like Himalayan peaks compared with the foothill-size complaints conservatives are lodging.

You catch that, a nice succinct summary, on multiple grounds, on multiple grounds, but oh-so-sadly, the modern Republican party keeps proving time and time again that they just don’t care about good policy.

I also enjoyed Yglesias‘ riff on this column:

Like Paul Ryan, Brooks sees that when you take the ethnic and political elements out [emphasis mine], this is pretty standard conservative public policy. It increases the marginal product of capital, encouraging private investment and higher productivity. It’s particularly odd, it seems to me, that so many of the members of congress who are hostile to this bill are generally proponents of low tariffs and free trade agreements. The arguments aren’t exactly parallel, but I would say that all the considerations in favor of free trade are also in favor of freer immigration—while immigration carries additional benefits.

Well, there you go.  That “when” is a pretty big conditional statement when we’re talking about the contemporary Republican party.

Also liked this take on Republican complaints from Ed Kilgore:

Anyone following the immigration reform debate closely is aware that opponents of the Senate-passed bill (including Senators like Rand Paul) have increasingly focused on the argument that “hard triggers” for achieving enforcement benchmarks prior to legalization, or congressionally defined and enforced “soft triggers,” are necessary because the Obama administration can’t be trusted to enforce the law.

What hasn’t much been discussed is the fact that when it comes to border enforcement, the Obama administration has actually been very, very hawkish, precisely because it was considered necessary to make it possible for Republicans to support comprehensive reform.  [emphasis in original] …

But there’s a very different lesson for the White House in this story: taking actions thought to be popular with conservatives in order to create good will among congressional Republicans is rarely a good idea. They’ll either ignore the evidence or come up with some other reason to oppose the hated Obama.

And, of course, Republicans are basically insisting on 100% border security.  That’s about as realistic as insisting that we have 100% pollution control before we allow any manufacturing.


What makes for Tea Party support

So, I am running plenty of models on parenthood and the 2012 election, but I am finding it much more fun to use support for the Tea Party as a dependent variable and see what sorts of interesting things I can find.  The NES has a really nice set of questions that results in a single 7-point item ranking support for the Tea party from strong support to strong opposition.  So, what determines a respondent’s placement on this?  Well, as you would expect, party identification and ideology are hugely influential.  Likewise, being more religious and being a biblical literalist increase Tea Party support (and, to be clear, this is above and beyond the effect of being a conservative Republican).

My favorite items, though, were ones about race.  I created an index (labeled “BlackFeel” below) of two items that asked how often one felt “sympathy” or “admiration” for Blacks (reverse coded).  There’s also an item that asks how much influence Blacks have in politics.  Surprise, surprise, the fewer positive emotions towards Blacks (controlling for race, mind you), the more support for the Tea Party.  The more one things Blacks have a lot of influence in politics, the more support for the Tea Party.  And, here’s a fun one: the more being a white person forms a part of one’s personal identity (“whiteid”) the more support for the Tea Party.  No, race has nothing to do with the Tea Party.

And, just for fun, because I was playing with them.  Gun owners also love the Tea Party.  And lastly, “wordtotal” is the score on a vocabulary test that is not too bad a proxy for IQ.  That’s right– better vocabulary, less Tea Party support.


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