Video of the day

One of my failures as a blogger (I guess there’s one or two) is that I don’t write enough about the scourge on our democracy that is ALEC.  Here’s partial penance.  A must watch:

Poor kids should move to North Dakota

Fascinating must-read article today by Dave Leonhardt on the geography of social mobility.  In short, it is much harder for kids to grow up and escape poverty in some parts of the country (predominantly the South) than in others (i.e., North Dakota is great):

So, what’s going on ?

“Where you grow up matters,” said Nathaniel Hendren, a Harvard economist and one of the study’s authors. “There is tremendous variation across the U.S. in the extent to which kids can rise out of poverty.”

That variation does not stem simply from the fact that some areas have higher average incomes: upward mobility rates, Mr. Hendren added, often differ sharply in areas where average income is similar, like Atlanta and Seattle…

Income mobility was also higher in areas with more two-parent households, better elementary schools and high schools, and more civic engagement, including membership in religious and community groups.

Regions with larger black populations had lower upward-mobility rates. But the researchers’ analysis suggested that this was not primarily because of their race. Both white and black residents of Atlanta have low upward mobility, for instance.

Race may not be “primary” but it is awfully hard to look at this map and not conclude that race just has to be part of what’s going on.  Sure, maybe not directly, but race most likely has affected the historical patterns of residential integration and school quality that do seem to play a role.

Kevin Drum takes the map as an opportunity to pile on the South (a recent theme here):

There are several regions that are above and below average, but the obvious outlier is the deep South. This is yet another reminder of a lesson from politics: never look solely at nationwide data. Politically, this means that the South votes fundamentally differently from everyone else. Working class whites, for example, aren’t actually a big problem for Democrats. Only southern working class whites are a big problem. When it comes to mobility, apparently the same thing is true. If you look solely at nationwide trends, you’ll miss the fact that one particular region is way, way different than the others. Poor kids don’t exactly have a great chance in life no matter where they live, but in the South, they have almost no chance at all. If you take a look at the policy preferences of southern governors and legislatures, that’s apparently exactly the way they like it.

I gotta say, I was also quite disappointed that Raleigh– though not the bottom of the barrel– fared pretty poorly.  You should definitely head over to the NYT site where there’s an interactive graphic where you can look at lots of different metro areas.

Oh, and almost forgot, geography really doesn’t make that much difference for those who are doing okay economically.  My kids will be just fine (alright, I do worry about David)– Raleigh or not.

Just what it is about Congressional Republicans and immigration?

So, for the time being, reasonable immigration reform is bottled up in the House by the crazy wing of the Republican caucus.  But the thing is, even among hard-core, i.e., Tea Party conservatives, outside the halls of Congress, there’s high levels of support for immigration reform.  It’s quite exasperating.  Here’s Tomasky:

This, my friend Greg Sargent, is in my view the answer to the question you pose. Sargent writes up a new poll showing that 60 percent of Republicans support either the Senate bill as is or the Senate bill with toughter border security. Sargent writes:

It’s been widely accepted at face value that House Republicans can’t support comprehensive immigration reform because they will face a massive backlash from their voters and even will face primaries and all but certain political destruction. (Buzzfeed’s John Stanton has been one of the view to challenge this conventional wisdom.) But is it even true? The above poll suggests a solid majority of Republicans want action on reform, even including citizenship under certain conditions. and that only a minority of Republicans support reform without citizenship or no action at all.

The idea that Republican voters won’t stand for anything approaching comprehensive immigration reform is shaping the entire immigration debate. Can’t some crack polling guru type get to the bottom of whether it’s even true or not?

But see, both things are true. Not all rank-and-file Republicans are nutso extremists. In fact it may well be the case that most aren’t. But they have no voice, and the guys’n’gals on the Hill listen to and fear only the nutos extremists. Whether Boehner ever permits a vote will depend ultimately on him deciding that he’s just fed up with that and is going to change it.

But here’s what’s really frustrating, even Tea Party supporters are plurality in favor of allowing a path to citizenship.  Here’s the 2012 NES data for Republicans (and leaners) only:



As you can see, about 45% of Tea Party supporters favor this (as opposed to 32% opposed) and that it’s actually about the same as among non-Tea Party supporters.  Yet, it’s a minority of a minority that is somehow driving this policy question.  There probably are some districts in American where a Republican can lose in a primary by voting for comprehensive immigration reform, but the balance of the evidence seems to suggest that it is not a rational fear of right-wing nutsos (though that doesn’t rule out an irrational fear), but perhaps simply being a right-wing nutso that is holding up sensible policy reform.

Photo of the day

Very cool Behold gallery of photos from the front lines of fracking:

Shale Gas drilling rig on dairy farm property

A shale gas-drilling rig on a dairy farmNina Berman/NOOR

If I could change one thing about my life…

I would lower taxes.  Or not.  Anyway, there was a fascinating story about an adult woman with Down’s Syndrome who is involved in a lawsuit against her mom and stepfather as to whether she can be legally independent or not, or rather needs a legal guardian.  Given that before long I will be the parent of a mentally disabled adult, I found this of particular interest (of course, I’d be ecstatic if Alex was independent enough to have a lawsuit against me).  Nothing in particular I wanted to quote, just wanted to encourage you to read it.

That is, except for one thing.  Interestingly this young woman is really into the Republican Party and working for them is one of her main volunteer activities.  My favorite quote of the whole story:

But the documents also describe a young woman who hugs and kisses people she doesn’t know well and who lacks the basic math skills needed to know how much change to expect when she makes a purchase. They describe a person who graduated from high school with a special-education certificate and aspires to be president of the United States.

“Given the chance to change anything about her life, ‘Margaret stated, ‘America, I would lower taxes,’ ” reads a psychological evaluation filed with the court.

Damn that low taxes theology is irresistible.

Republicans and white voters

For a couple weeks now, I’ve been reading lots of interesting blog posts about how Republicans have basically decided… screw trying to win over minority voters, we’ve just going to double down on the white people.  Really, among many Republican pundits, this is their new strategy.

The best of the pieces by far is from Nate Cohn.  He did great work back during the election on demographics and voting, but I haven’t linked to him much since (presumably in large part since TNR’s re-design has buried most of their content– boy could they learn from the Atlantic).   Anyway, Cohn has a great look at the incredibly shaky assumptions underlying this strategy.  Putting this in the context of immigration reform, Cohn writes:

But the GOP will have to compensate with gains elsewhere if it forfeits marginal but meaningful opportunities among Hispanics. Demographic changes are turning the Bush coalition—which combined white conservatives with a few targeted inroads among sympathetic groups—into a coffin. Every four years, the non-white share of eligible voters increases by 2 points, requiring Republicans to do a little better to compensate for demographic change. Plugging the 2004 results into 2016 demographics, for instance, would yield a Democratic victory. And to counter demographic changes by 2016, the GOP will need broader appeal than it’s had since 1984—a high burden. And that burden becomes even greater, even if only marginally, without inroads among Hispanics…

But Trende’s case is so appealing to conservatives because it implies that Republicans don’t need to make any compromises whatsoever to make additional gains among white voters.1 There is indeed room for the GOP to improve among white voters, but there’s no reason to think it won’t be painful, too. If Republicans don’t want to compromise on immigration reform, they will probably need to do something else to make up ground. It could be moderating on social issues or economics—or a little bit of both. Either way, the GOP will have to pick its poison.

Now, here’s the part I find most interesting and ties nicely into another recent post:

The case for GOP optimism rests on the hope that the party’s steady gains among white voters will continue. The national trend among white voters does look good for the GOP…

But the GOP’s gains among white voters aren’t national. They’re almost exclusively among southern and Appalachian voters. [emphasis mine] Outside of the South, there’s no clear trend. And Democrats might have even made gains among whites outside of the South, both absolutely and with respect to the national popular vote…

If these trends among white voters continue, it is not news good for Republicans. On balance, it would cement the Democratic edge in the Electoral College. Yes, there might be additional Republican gains in eastern Ohio, western Pennsylvania, or northern and central Florida, but these regions aren’t populous enough to decisively offset Democratic gains elsewhere in those states. In contrast, the GOP is losing more ground in New Hampshire, Iowa, Colorado, Virginia, North Carolina, Wisconsin, or even Ohio, where Democrats have made gains around Columbus and in the northwestern third of the state…

Yet conservatives take solace in the possibility that they could win with gains through whites, presumably on the assumption that the changes needed for gains among non-southern white voters will be less painful than embracing immigration reform. To the extent that this assumption is informed by the view that the GOP is making broad, steady gains among white voters, it is wrong. The GOP has a tough road ahead.

If current trends continue, the GOP can have 100% of Southern whites (or at least those outside of dynamic, educated places like Raleigh, NC and Austin, TX), but that does not win them national elections.  Of course, the fact that white voters in the South are seemingly increasingly divergent from white voters in the rest of the country is an interesting story in itself that definitely bears further investigation.

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