Trump as the financial crisis

Loved this extended analogy from Lee Drutman in Vox last week:

In 2008-’09, a major financial meltdown shook the economy and caused a significant recession. This crisis came as a surprise. No models predicted it. Initially, the only people who picked up on the warning signs were dismissed as crazy. But looking back, it should have been clear all along…

One benefit of such a comparison is that thinking in this way allows us to see Trump’s rise as the result of the incentives and structure of the existing political system, in the same way that we came to think about the financial crisis as the result of the incentives and structures of the financial system. This has consequences for the reform conversations that this crisis will hopefully bring about.

A second benefit of this comparison is that the analogy to toxic assets seems particularly useful. The anger turned violence that has emerged in the 2016 campaign is similar to the toxic assets that came out of the financial crisis. And to push the analogy further, those who think Trump can be simply marginalized by responsible Republican leaders are deluding themselves, somewhat like investors who argued that the collapse of Bear Stearns in May 2008 could be safely contained and we could then move back to endlessly increase housing prices.

While some might prefer to wish away the toxic elements of our politics that are emerging, this would be unwise. We need to find a way to rescue them.

A system full of perverse incentives

One reason the financial crisis was so bad was that the financial system was full of perverse incentives. For example, mortgage brokers and investment banks got rich by making and securitizing loans that should never have been made. But because they got rich doing so, they financed and securitized riskier and riskier loans, until the system was so flooded with junk that it of course collapsed.

 In a similar way, it seems that Republicans received short-term electoral rewards for poisoning our political system with increasingly hateful and nihilistic rhetoric. As Vox’sEzra Klein wrote: “Republicans have worked for years to radicalize their base against Obama, to persuade them that something truly different and terrifying is going on, and in that project they have enjoyed a catastrophic success.”

In 2009, Republicans faced a choice. They could have looked at the disastrous second term of George W. Bush’s presidency as the logical end of the Reagan coalition and seen the Democrats’ sweeping 2008 victory as heralding a new political order, and then worked constructively to pass a climate bill and a health care bill and end an era of increasingly bitter partisanship. Instead, Republicans decided that the problem was that they had not been conservative enough. Their congressional leaders opted for pure obstructionism. And their messaging rediscovered regions of negativity and hatred that had been ignored in America for decades.

The benefit was clear: As long as they directed fire at a common enemy, they could continue to maintain the fiction that their coalition was unified, papering over the growing contradictions and disappointments. Republicans could continue to placate their wealthy donors with fiscally conservative policies because they could misdirect blame onto Washington Democrats and their big-government agenda for any stagnating wages.

Sure, they were playing with fire. But like the investment bankers who kept shoveling toxic assets into the system even as the thin logic that had once rationalized them vanished, all the incentives pushed toward maintaining the existing fiction.

What investment banker would have benefited in 2007 from telling clients that all these securitized mortgages were really junk and it was time to stop investing in them? Everybody had an incentive to perpetuate the status quo just a little longer, deluding themselves that it could go on and on.

Similarly, what Republican politician would have turned his back on the fight, accepting minority status for the price of peace? All the incentives pushed to maintaining the existing fights. And especially when the Republican strategy worked in 2010, the rewards became clear…

Donald Trump represents the consequence of a political system in which the contradictions have been expanding for probably two decades now: a system in which economically struggling and less well-educated voters have been marginalized, in which both parties (but especially Republicans) have sided with their donor classes against their voters, and in which both parties (again, especially Republicans) have attempted to paper over their internal contradictions by spewing negative partisanship into the system. More than ever, voters support their party not because they like their party but because they absolutely hate the other party.

Trump is helping Obama is helping Hillary

I’m just going to borrow in full this post from Ezra:

Political scientist Alan Abramowitz emailed over an interesting insight about the effect the presidential race is having on Barack Obama’s numbers — and what that might mean in November:

All the noise being made by the presidential campaign, especially by the Republican campaign, has taken attention away from what may turn out to be more significant for the general election — Barack Obama’s rising approval rating.

Obama’s weekly approval rating in the Gallup tracking poll (I ignore the daily fluctuations which are largely meaningless) has risen to its highest level in many months — 53 percent approval vs. 44 percent disapproval for the past week.

This is potentially very significant for the November election because much research, including my own, has found that the president’s approval rating is a key predictor of the election results even when the president is not on the ballot. Thus a very unpopular George W. Bush probably doomed John McCain to defeat in 2008 no matter what happened during the campaign that year. A 53-44 approval-disapproval balance would give Democrats a good shot at keeping the White House even if they were not running against a badly divided Republican Party led by perhaps the most unpopular nominee in decades.

So why has Obama’s approval rating been rising recently? Several factors may be involved including an improving economy but one of the most important [may] well be the GOP presidential campaign. The more voters see of the leading GOP candidates, the better Obama looks. Along these lines, it is probably not a coincidence that there has been an especially large jump in Obama’s approval rating among women which now stands at 58 percent.

For context, Obama’s approval rating at this point in the 2012 cycle was 47 percent, and George W. Bush’s approval rating in 2008 was 28 percent.

Yep.  The media can, at times, pay way too much attention to presidential approval.  But in a presidential election year to see the steady rise in Obama’s approval (and okay, we don’t know that the Republican craziness is responsible for Obama’s increase, but it sure ain’t hurting) really is a big story that almost as much as anything bodes well for Hillary in November.

College admissions reality

From reading the news, you’d think all college admissions was about how damn tough and competetive it is to get into college these days.  Yes, it is absolutely absurdly difficult and competitive to get into the nation’s most elite (notice, I didn’t say best) universities, but that is not the reality for the vast majority of college students.  Ben Casselman with a great corrective at 538:

Here’s how the national media usually depicts the admissions process: High school seniors spend months visiting colleges; writing essays; wrangling letters of recommendation; and practicing, taking and retaking an alphabet soup of ACTs, SATs and AP exams. Then the really hard part: months of nervously waiting to find out if they are among the lucky few (fewer every year, we’re told!) with the right blend of academic achievement,extracurricular involvement and an odds-defying personal story to gain admission to their favored university.

Here’s the reality: Most students never have to write a college entrance essay, pad a résumé or sweet-talk a potential letter-writer. Nor are most, as The Atlantic put it Monday, “obsessively checking their mailboxes” awaiting acceptance decisions. (Never mind that for most schools, those decisions now arrive online.) According to data from the Department of Education,1more than three-quarters of U.S. undergraduates2 attend colleges that accept at least half their applicants; just 4 percent attend schools that accept 25 percent or less, and hardly any — well under 1 percent — attend schools like Harvard and Yale that accept less than 10 percent.

Yeah, I went to Duke and it was great (especially the basketball), but I’ve spent enough time at high-quality public universities that there is no way I would ever encourage my kids to put themselves through the stress and extreme workload seemingly required to end up at an elite college.

And Casselman makes a nice argument that it really does matter that journalists are focusing on the wrong things:

That myopia has real consequences for education policy. Based on media accounts, it would be easy to think that the biggest issues on U.S. campuses today are the spread of “trigger warnings,” the rise of “hookup culture” and the spiraling cost of amenity-filled dorms and rec centers. Meanwhile, issues that matter to a far larger share of students get short shrift.

The media’s focus on elite schools draws attention away from state cuts to higher-education funding, for example. Private colleges, which feature disproportionately in media accounts, aren’t affected by state budget cuts; top-tier public universities, which have outside resources such as alumni donations, research grants and patent revenue, are much less dependent on public dollars than less selective schools.

Or consider the breathless coverage of the college application game that few students ever play: For most students, or at least most high school graduates, getting into college isn’t nearly as big a challenge as getting out. Barely half of first-time, full-time bachelor’s degree students graduate within six years; for part-time or community college students, that share is even lower. But it took years for what is known in education jargon as “college completion” to break into mainstream education coverage, perhaps because at selective schools, the vast majority of students graduate on time or close to it.

Yes indeed.  Sure, trigger warnings and campus PC are interesting, but what we really need to talk about is how states, like North Carolina, are turning their back on public higher education.  Oh, and stop sweating your teenager so they can try and be among that 1%.  Lots of people have accomplished lots of awesomeness with some pretty modest colleges on their resume.


OMG how I love Dahlia Lithwick’s latest on how Obama should respond to Republican intransigence on the Merrick Garland nomination.  Sheer brilliance:

When it comes to the Supreme Court, Democrats have long been in a severely disadvantaged posture with respect to Republicans in terms of the “Intensity Gap.” This simply means that for decades now, Republicans have organized their electoral politics around the composition of the high court—they have voted about it, fundraised over it, and managed to persuade their electorate that this is a vital issue in both presidential elections and Senate contests…

Now one problem with the Intensity Gap is that Democrats continue to be mainly just confused and confounded by the GOP intransigence that has led to this chaotic state of affairs on the high court. Never before have we encountered a simple refusal to have meetings with a nominee, much less a refusal to have hearings or an up or down vote…

Another problem for Democrats is that in addition to the Intensity Gap, the party also suffers from what I will call the current Insanity Gap. This second gap involves one party’s willingness to throw away any sense of pride, integrity, or even long-term strategic thinking in favor of acting like toddlers having a tantrum next to a Snickers bar in the checkout line. [emphasis mine] That they continue to do so despite the Democrats’ refusal to join in is in some ways impressive, even if it makes for a complete lack of meaningful dialogue. The logic behind the GOP position here is that the public either has grown to expect daily tantrums from their Republican representatives, or that maybe the tantrum will eventually become effective by the time November rolls along.

I have myself been flabbergasted by the sheer weightiness of the Insanity Gap, and my own inability to make “but this is so very stupid” into a compelling argument to overcome it. Perhaps, then, the only real alternative to GOP derangement on the question of holding hearings for Garland is to unspool a little corresponding derangement on the left…

Judge Garland has been nominated by President Obama. Senate Republicans refuse to give him a hearing. After a suitable period of time—lets say by the end of September of 2016—Judge Garland should simply suit up and take the vacant seat at the court. This would entail walking into the Supreme Court on the first Monday in October, donning an extra black robe, seating himself at the bench, sipping from the mighty silver milkshake cup before him, and looking like he belongs there, in themanner of George Costanza.

Really, what could the other justices do? They aren’t going to have the marshals tackle him. He is, after all, the chief judge of the second most important court in the land, respected across the ideological spectrum. And in the absence of a Senate hearing on his nomination, one certainly might infer that the Senate has by now consented to his presence there. (If you’re the law review type, here is a very plausible argument that this is actually the case.) But more urgently, this is the kind of action—OK, “stunt”—that would draw attention to the fact that just because GOP senators want to pretend that Obama’s Supreme Court nominee is invisible, doesn’t mean that he has to play along. By my playbook, Garland could show up for work in a black robe every day in October, participate in oral arguments with a handful of incisive questions in November, and even start to write a few modest opinions in December, demonstrating how real his nomination is. By January, nobody will even remember that he never got a hearing!

How awesome would that be.  Garland wouldn’t do this, of course, but it would be the greatest.

Photo of the day

I was on Bradly Wilson’s Public Administration dissertation committee.  I recall it being pretty good, but what I really love about him are his amazing photography skills.  I’ve been vicariously enjoying his recent trip to Cuba, so wanted to share one of his photos here.


Fisherman at the harbor in Havana, Cuba. Photo by Bradley Wilson

Democracy in America

What if I told you last week that there was an election where those members of the majority party in the land voted easily as there was a polling place for every 2500 persons whereas those in a minority group that supported the minority party in that land waited 3+ hours as there was only one polling site per 100,000.  You’d scoff at whatever third-world backwater ran their elections like this.  Welcome to Arizona.  From the NYT:

PHOENIX — Cynthia Perez, a lawyer, stopped by a polling site on her way to work here on Tuesday, thinking she could vote early and get on with her day. She changed her mind when she found a line so long she could not see the end of it.

The line was just as big when she came back midafternoon — and bigger three hours later, after she had finally cast her ballot.

“To me,” said Ms. Perez, 31, “this is not what democracy is about.”

Days later, angry and baffled voters are still trying to make sense of how democracy is working in Maricopa County, the state’s most populous, where officials cut the number of polling places by 70 percent to save money — to 60 from 200 in the last presidential election. That translated to a single polling place for every 108,000 residents in Phoenix, a majority-minority city that had exceptional turnout in Tuesday’s Democratic and Republican primaries…

But beyond the electoral breakdown here, many observers saw Arizona as a flashing neon sign pointing toward potential problems nationally at a time that 16 states will have new voting restrictions in place for the first time in a presidential election. The presidential election will be the first since the Supreme Court dismantled a crucial section of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, freeing nine states, including Arizona and parts of seven others, to change their election laws without advance federal approval…

On March 9, Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, signed a law that made it a felony to collect ballots for others in Arizona and bring them to the polls.

“It’s worrisome what the states are doing without these protections,” said Allegra Chapman, director of voting and elections for Common Cause, a watchdog group.

Arizona has a long history of discrimination against minorities, preventing American Indians from voting for much of its history because they were considered “wards of the nation,” imposing English literacy tests on prospective voters and printing English-only election materials even as the state’s Spanish-speaking population grew.

You know what should be a felony?  This egregious level of voter suppression.  I sure would not have waited in line to vote for 3+ hours as would surely be the case with many, many others with small children at home or many, many a job.  Seriously, I think it should be a literal crime to behave as these Arizona election officials have.  I’d so rather have them in prison than one more meth or heroin user.  This type of game-playing with the right to vote is absolutely inimical to a properly functioning democracy.  It really makes me run out of words with how much it offends me.

 Oh, and you know who else is grossly at fault?  The conservatives on the Supreme Court.  Quite seriously, so.  Here’s EJ Dionne:

A major culprit would be the U.S. Supreme Court, and specifically the conservative majority that gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013. [emphasis mine]

The facts of what happened in Arizona’s presidential primary are gradually penetrating the nation’s consciousness. In a move rationalized as an attempt to save money, officials of Maricopa County, the state’s most populous, cut the number of polling places by 70 percent, from 200 in the last presidential election to 60 this time around.

Maricopa includes Phoenix, the state’s largest city, which happens to have a non-white majority and is a Democratic island in an otherwise Republican county.

What did the cutbacks mean? As the Arizona Republic reported, the county’s move left one polling place for every 21,000 voters — compared with one polling place for every 2,500 voters in the rest of the state…

A Democrat, [Phoenix mayor Greg] Stanton asked himself the obvious question: “Am I suggesting this was the intent of the people who run elections in Maricopa County?” His answer: “In voting rights terms, it doesn’t matter.” What matters, he said, is whether changes in practice “had a disparate impact on minority communities,” which they clearly did.

And there’s the rub. Before the Supreme Court undermined Voting Rights Act enforcement, radical changes in voting practices such as Maricopa’s drastic cut in the number of polling places would have been required to be cleared with the Justice Department because Arizona was one of the states the law covered. This time, county officials could blunder — let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that there was no discriminatory intent — without any supervision.

Meanwhile John Roberts just tells us to stop paying attention to race and all problems of race will vanish.  And race issues aside, it is truly, deeply, appalling that this sort of thing can happen at all in what should be a democracy.  Honestly, I’m just disgusted.

Is NC’s new anti-anti-discrimination law unconstitutional

NYT Magazine’s Emily Bazelon weighs in:

The bills are also a reminder of what the Supreme Court calls animus: the mix of bias, dislike and fear that can overtake communities. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest said Charlotte’s ordinance “would have given pedophiles, sex offenders and perverts free rein to watch women, boys and girls undress and use the bathroom,” cruel characterizations that have no relationship to being transgender. The court has been clear for years that animus is not a constitutionally permissible basis for legislation. [emphases mine] It’s actually the 20th anniversary of the court’s recognition of that principle, in another case in which a state tried to undo local efforts to protect L.G.B.T. people from discrimination. In the 1996 case Romer v. Evans, the court ruled that Colorado could not amend its state Constitution to block cities and counties from passing ordinances that throw up a legal shield on the basis of sexual orientation.

In other words, Colorado wanted to stop local anti-discrimination efforts much like the one in Charlotte that North Carolina just stopped. “We probably haven’t seen something as sweeping as the Colorado amendment until now,” says Sarah Preston, acting executive director of the North Carolina office of the A.C.L.U.

Our Lieutenant Governor is a real piece of work.  Nice to see him and his facile foolishness get called out in the NYT.  We’ll have to wait and see what the courts decide, but the Constitutional case against this law seems fairly strong and clear.  The political case even more so.

Today’s GOP

Never been a particular fan of the novels of Richard North Patterson, but damn, can he sure right a hell of an essay on the problems with today’s Republican Party.  Lots and lots of good stuff.  My favorite parts from his “open letter to my Republican friends”:

But to compare the two parties at this time in our history is to indulge in false equivalency. For rationalizing the GOP’s pathology by responding with a partisan tit-for-tat is not adequate to the circumstances. The sins you perceive in Democrats are the usual ones — misguided policies, ill chosen means for dubious ends, and the normal complement of rhetorical dishonesty and political squalor. However mistaken you may find Clinton and Sanders on the issues, their debate is addressed to the world as it exists and therefore open to a sensible critique. The squalor to which the GOP has sunk, an alternate reality rooted in anger and mendacity, transcends mere differences in policy, threatening the country with profound, perhaps irreparable, damage…

Economically, they are not natural allies of the party of business or its wealthy donors, who tend to focus on tax cuts and free-market principles irrelevant to the base. So in exchange for pursuing its economic agenda, the party offered evangelicals a faith-based vision of America: barring abortion, banning gay marriage, and giving government preferences to fundamentalist religious institutions. Why should business people care, the reasoning went, when we can rally these voters with promises which, however illusory, cost us nothing?

But as “promise keepers,” the party failed its fundamentalist flock. Abortion remains legal; gay marriage became a right; the constitution prevents government from enshrining religious preferences as law. So there was nothing to stop evangelicals from noticing that their own lives were often harder and less secure.

Ditto other members of the middle and working classes. The real causes of their woes are globalization, the Great Recession, the housing crisis, and an information society which marginalizes blue-collar jobs. But the GOP never addressed these complex forces with any kind of candor — let alone proposed solutions like job retraining and educational access for their kids.

Barren of ideas for helping its base voters, it resorted to blame-shifting and scapegoating — of government, Obama, illegal immigrants, Muslims and other minorities. Instead of looking forward, the party indulged a primal nostalgia for simpler times, an imaginary white folks’ paradise which can never be resurrected…

Not unreasonably, the base came to believe that our governmental and financial institutions — including the Republican Party — were controlled by an elite that was indifferent to their plight. And so demagogues like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz became the agents of their frustration and despair. Like the sorcerer’s apprentice, the party lost control…

I’m not urging you to become Democrats. I’m not even trying to win an argument. I simply want our political arguments to make sense in the world of reality, the better to move our country forward with the goodwill and considered judgment required by these challenging times.

So what I profoundly hope is that, collectively, you will abandon the Republican Party until it becomes worthy of the country we love in common. Because, in the end, a big chunk of our common future may depend on you.

Photo of the day

Loved this Wired gallery of cool mirror images:

Gallery Image

Eric Oglander

The case for Trump in November

Well, actually it’s not a very good one.  Last week I wrote that based on current best evidence, there’s every reason to see Trump as a huge underdog in November.  Just because best evidence was wrong about the primaries, does not mean we throw out the principle of looking to the best evidence.  And some recent posts do just that and take on the myth that Trump will win by dominance with working-class white voters.

First, Jamelle Bouie:

Because Trump isn’t a doctrinaire conservative—because he appeals on emotion and not policy—the theory is that he can win white working-class Democrats and other disaffected voters in the Democratic coalition. Trump, incidentally, agrees. “I have a chance of winning New York. You know, you look at these politicians [and] they always talk about the six states—you’ve got to win this one, that one. You have to win Ohio, you have to win Florida,” he said last month. ”I can change the game because I really have a chance of New York, I’m going to win Virginia. I’m going to win Michigan, as an example.”

But there’s a big problem with this theory, which also underlies a cottage industry of fan fiction about the presidential election: There’s no evidence. At this stage of the election, there is nothing that points to any Democratic support or enthusiasm for Trump. Instead, it’s just the opposite. Trump is deeply unpopular with Democratic voters. Even white ones.[emphases mine]

According to the Reuters tracking poll, which follows responses over time to measure changes in support or opinion, more than 73 percent of whites who voted for President Obama in the last presidential election hold a negative opinion of Trump, versus 27 percent who hold a favorable opinion. It’s difficult to do a direct comparison, but this is in line with Mitt Romney’s standing among white self-identified liberals in the September before the 2012 election. Better is an apples-to-apples comparison between Trump and his nearest rival, Ted Cruz. Whites who voted for Obama like Cruz—a doctrinaire conservative ideologue—about as much as they like Trump, 28 percent favorable to 72 percent unfavorable…

Trump, in other words, is about as liked among working-class Democratic whites as the least-popular Republican politician [Cruz] left in the field…

None of this should be shocking. Missing in the discussion of working-class whites and the Democratic Party is the degree to which Democrats have already lost much of the white working class. Just 36 percent of whites without college degrees voted for Obama in 2012, when he won the election by a 4-point margin in the popular vote, picking up 26 states (and the District of Columbia) and 330 electoral college votes…

The basic truth is that Donald Trump is one of the most unpopular figures in national politics. He’s disliked (or despised) by a large majority of Americans. This isn’t because the public doesn’t know him. With nearly $2 billion in free coverage from news networks—dwarfing Hillary Clinton’s $746 million—the public knows him well. And they don’t like what they see. Far from scrambling political alliances in his favor, Trump may be the key to further gains for Democrats, from solidifying an advantage with Hispanics to making inroads with college-educated whites.

And Peter Beinart:

When pundits claim Donald Trump can win the presidency, they often evoke a fabled political species: “Reagan Democrats.” “Are Reagan Democrats becoming Trump Democrats?” wondered CNN commentator Jeffrey Lord last fall in The American Spectator. “I think there’s a lot of Reagan Democrats waiting to vote for him,” declared MSNBC’s Chris Matthews in January…

So when people talk about “Reagan Democrats” today, they don’t mean Democrats who actually voted for Reagan. They mean the people who resemble them demographically: Northern blue-collar whites. But blue-collar whites don’t enjoy the same political significance they did in the 1980s. In the 1988 presidential election, they constituted more than half the voters. This fall, they’ll constitute roughly one-third

Since then, however, American politics has witnessed a massive ideological “sorting.” The kind of conservative blue-collar whites who would once have been “Reagan Democrats” are now mostly Republicans…

To mobilize large numbers of “Trump Democrats,” Trump would have to change all this. But there’s little evidence that he can. A March Washington Post poll found that in a hypothetical matchup with Trump, Hillary Clinton wins Democrats 86 to 9 percent. That means, right now, that Trump does indeed gain a few more Democratic defections than Romney did. The problem is that Trump is only winning Republicans 75 to 14 percent. In other words, more Republicans are planning to vote for Hillary than Democrats are planning to vote for Trump, which helps explain why Clinton is leading in almost all the head-to-head polls…

The electoral fantasy that Trump can win the presidency by luring vast numbers of blue-collar whites who wouldn’t otherwise vote Republican is akin to the ideological fantasy that he can keep America prosperous and safe by banning Muslim immigration and getting Mexico to pay for a wall on the U.S. southern border. It’s a fantasy that he can roll back history to a time when whites enjoyed more control, both over nonwhites inside the United States and over those who wish to enter from outside. This throwback fantasy is appealing inside a Republican Party where white voters remain unquestionably dominant. But in the America of today, reality is very different.

Lastly, Seth Masket looks to November and says, hey, don’t judge too quick, this time is different.

I want to offer some caution on these forecasts [largely very good for Clinton]. I’m not saying they’re wrong—they’re the best available information we have right now. But our understanding of how this election unfolds is based to a great extent in how previous elections have gone, and there’s good reason to believe that this election will simply be different. Below are a number of things to consider when trying to predict what happens this fall:

But then when all is said and done, on balance the differences he mentions are more likely to hurt, rather than help, Trump.

Look, I’m not going to go out on a limb and say Trump cannot win.  I will confidently state, however, barring major change to the political climate as it currently exists, it is highly unlikely Trump will be able to win in November.

What we get wrong about lobbying

I’ve got this great Lee Drutman piece on what we get wrong about lobbying and corruption assigned for class tomorrow, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never mentioned it here.  It’s really good.  Here’s my favorite part:

Looking at lobbying in the aggregate, what jumps out is the stark imbalance in resources. Corporations blow everyone else out of the water. Business accounts for roughly 80 percent of all reported lobbying expenditures, about $2.6 billion dollars a year now…

Meanwhile, the types of organized interests who we might expect to provide a countervailing force to business — labor unions, groups representing diffuse public like consumers or taxpayers — spend $1 for every $34 businesses spend on lobbying, by my count.[emphases mine] Of the 100 organizations that spend the most on lobbying annually, consistently 95 represent business. In interviewing 60 corporate lobbyists for my book The Business of America is Lobbying, I asked them to identify the leading opposition on an issue on which they were currently working. Not a single lobbyist volunteered a union or a “public interest” group.

Even if we take the most benign view of lobbying as merely providing informationand legislative support, these data suggest that, on many issues, policymakers hear significantly more often from one side than another. While no single investment leads predictably to any outcome, quantity and quality matter: To hire more and more senior and connected people to be more places to make more and better arguments on your behalf with more detail and build more and more high-impact allies improves one’s chances. How much? It depends. But, on average, it’s not zero.

This growing imbalance has had two major effects on the political system.

First, it is increasingly difficult to challenge any existing policy that benefits politically active corporations…

Second, the sheer amount of lobbying has created a policymaking environment that now requires significant resources to get anything done. Which means that, with increasingly rare exceptions, the only possible policy changes on economic policy issues are those changes that at least some large corporations support.


Republicans versus science

A knee-jerk distrust of science is, unfortunately, among the other problems in American politics and society sown by the nihilism and know-nothingism of the modern day Republican Party.  Not surprisingly, if you keep telling your supporters that scientists are lying as part of a liberal conspiracy, your voters will not trust science.

This is starkly clear in the latest from Gallup that surveys on attitudes towards 2015 being the warmest year on record.  Now, not surprisingly, the solid majority of Republicans reject the idea that this is the result of climate change (brief complaint with Gallup– of course it is both climate change and natural variation).  Okay, to be expected.  But only the slimmest majority of Republicans, 52%, is even willing to admit that 2015 was the warmest year on record.  What the hell?  Should we poll them on the color of the sky?  The amount of rainfall in 2015?  The lowest recorded temperature?  These are just plain scientific measurements.  And even these are in doubt by far too many Republicans.  This is just sad.


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