Conservative hatred for government and shrinking Americans

Okay, we’re not actually shrinking, but we are in a relative sense.  The tallest of the world’s people are know in the Western and Northern European nations that have the strongest committment to a robust and active government which creates the conditions for healthy, and thereby tall lives.  I’d been meaning to write a post on the new Hacker and Pierson book (it’s had several “quick hits” link from me), but this Max Ehrenfreud Wonkblog interview that uses the hook of height, really grabbed me:

For most of the history of the United States, Americans were the tallest people in the world. Recently, though, northern Europeans became the world’s tallest people. The Scandinavians have a reputation for stature, but it turns out it is the the Dutch who are the tallest — eight inches taller, on average, than they were two centuries ago.

Hacker and Pierson argue the shift occurred because, these days, active government has made Europeans healthier than we are. In particular, according to the authors, they have healthier childhoods, because their governments offer more material help to pregnant women and infants than does the U.S. government… [emphases mine]

The fact that we have gone from being the tallest to among the smallest dovetails with all the other evidence in the book. While we’re continuing to improve in areas — like education, life expectancy and the rest — we’re improving much more slowly than in the past, and we’re improving much more slowly than other rich democracies are today…

The argument we make is about the changing economy and the way that it in turn shapes business on the one hand, and the changing party system in the United States. The Republican Party — the party that’s always been closest to business — gets away from support for the mixed economy, partly in response to this shift in business, and partly in response to the changing electoral and political incentives it sees.

We used to have a system in which people were willing to talk about government, and government projects, that showed up in peoples lives in a positive way. That in turn increased the sense of civic engagement on the part of Americans and also their trust in government. Today, we have much more of a vicious cycle in which Republicans have not just attacked government rhetorically — just destroying our capacity to effectively collect taxes, particularly from the richest Americans. In attacking government both rhetorically and structurally they’ve also been able to gain politically. It’s created this retreat from visible uses of government that are positive in people’s lives. It’s contributed to the sense of rising distrust.

It’s been not just Republicans who have made this possible. Democrats have accommodated it and in some cases pushed it along, chasing some of the same business interests and responding to some of the same negative attacks on government as Republicans. That, I think, is a pretty straightforward argument about how two fundamental shifts in our economic world and our political world came together.

So, if you are under six-feet (or 5’7″ for women) and bitter, blame the Republican Party.  Well, sort of, actually.

Photo of the day

So many amazing photos in this historical In Focus gallery of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake:

The destroyed San Francisco City Hall and dome at McAllister Street and Van Ness Avenue.

National Archives

Going backwards in the South

Okay, not all of it, but certainly in North Carolina.  Truly amazing that we have so rapidly joined the realms of the pariah/embarrassment states of Alabama and Mississippi.  Seriously, what intelligent person could want that… and yet our state legislature.  Hmmm.  Nice Timothy Egan column on the matter:

Now, the bad. Following North Carolina’s lead, another state, Mississippi, passed a law allowing people and institutions to deny services to gay people. With this measure, Mississippi, already one of the poorest states in the nation, ensures that good job providers will stay away.

Indeed, PayPal dropped plans to bring 400 jobs to North Carolina after politicians gave people a green light to discriminate. And a host of corporate leaders signed a letter on Wednesday explaining why Mississippi and North Carolina would be shunned. “Such laws are bad for employees,” the representatives of companies ranging from Whole Foods to General Electric wrote, “and bad for business.”

Next door, in Alabama, the embattled Republican governor signed a bill earlier this year preventing cities from raising the minimum wage. This after Birmingham dared to dream of a day when its lowest-paid workers could make $10 an hour.

Nearly all the states with the highest percentage of minimum wage workers — full-time jobholders making $290 a week, before taxes — are in the South. These are also the same states that refuse to expand Medicaid to allow the working poor to get health care. And it’s in the same cradle of the old Confederacy where discriminatory bills are rising. Don’t blame the cities; from Birmingham to Charlotte, people are trying to open doors to higher wages and tolerance of gays, only to be rebuffed at the state level.

Essentially, this Republican-controlled block has decided that it’s better to be poor, sick and bigoted than prosperous, healthy and open-minded. And its defense is precisely that: The region is too economically distressed and socially backward to accept progress, so why change? Discrimination, as they see it, is just another term for religious freedom. [emphasis mine]

Oversimplified?  Sure.  Completely on point?  Sadly, yes.

More bad news for Republicans’ November prospects

From Gallup:


Of course, the vast majority of partisans will come around to whomever their nominee is, but almost surely there are significantly fewer Republicans who will than Democrats (assuming Trump or Cruz, of course, which I think we should).

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