Quick hits (part I)

1) Why didn’t Clinton’s campaign do things differently?  Because they thought they were winning:

Sure, in hindsight, Clinton and her team should have guarded themselves from that outcome. They should have had a good response to attacks that Clinton was an elite outsider taking money from Goldman Sachs. They should have done more in Michigan and Wisconsin — especially in light of establishing field offices in reach states like Arizona and Texas. And looking back, even with their already 200-person-strong staff in Michigan, and millions of dollars spent in advertising, if they could go back and do more for those 10,000 votes that went to Trump instead, of course they would, a senior Clinton campaign aide tells me. (Although Iowa looked simply impossible to win.)

But then again, it didn’t look like they needed to.

You don’t need to answer for your weaknesses if they don’t seem to be hurting you

There was every indication that a Clinton victory was near certain. Early voting turnout — although not an indicator of Election Day results — was confirming polling that had Clinton consistently in the lead.

On ground game, Clinton was ahead. She had a bigger, more organized staff. According to an exit poll of early voters, Clinton’s campaign contacted twice as many American voters as Trump’s did.

Clinton’s campaign strategy was tested; Clinton would never be the agent of change Trump could claim to be (she has had a career in Washington after all), but she could easily proclaim Trump’s case for change too risky. And polls suggested that it was a line of attack that was working.

But as my colleague Jeff Stein explained, the polls “badly underestimated” the strength of the Republican coalition — lowballing both the number of white voters without a college education who would turn out at the polls on Election Day and the number of anti-Trump Republicans who ended up supporting the GOP nominees.

“So it was a very different electorate than we expected,” Matt Grossmann, a political scientist at Michigan State University, told Stein. “And Republican-leaning women and conservatives who hadn’t made up their minds almost all ended up voting for Trump.”

2) A handy flowchart for dealing with holiday greetings.

3) I’d read a little about Milo Yiannopoulos before, but never all that much.  That said, I found this Bloomberg profile to be absolutely fascinating of what it is like to be a truly horrible human being.

4) James Surowiecki on how private prisons will benefit from Trump.  Oh, and, yes, they are horrible:

When you consider that the government still spends money monitoring private prisons, and that it’s stuck running the parts of the system that private companies thought were money losers, the case that private prisons save money looks shaky.

Even if they did, the ethical cost would be too high. Imprisoning people is one of the weightiest things that government does, yet outsourcing imprisonment means that treatment of inmates is shaped by bottom-line considerations. This has led to understaffing, inadequate mental-health care, and, in some cases, inadequate meals. Worse, private prisons have an obvious incentive to keep people inside as long as possible. Last year, Anita Mukherjee, an assistant professor of actuarial science at the University of Wisconsin, studied Mississippi’s prison system, and found that people in private prisons received many more “prison conduct violations” than those in government-run ones. This made it harder for them to get parole, and, on average, they served two to three more months of prison time.

The perversities of profit-driven prison policy don’t end there. The need for inmates leads companies, in effect, to lobby state and federal governments to maintain the current system of mass incarceration. Government-run prisons aren’t blameless here—prison-guard unions lobby for longer sentences and tougher laws—but the private companies know how to throw their weight around, and they benefit from strong local support, as they are often in rural towns without many other sources of jobs or tax revenue.

5) A look at the future demographic diversity of America with lots of cool charts.

6) Yglesias with the case for nomalizing Trump:

But several students of authoritarian populist movements abroad have a different message. To beat Trump, what his opponents need to do is practice ordinary humdrum politics. Populists in office thrive on a circus-like atmosphere that casts the populist leader as persecuted by media and political elites who are obsessed with his uncouth behavior while he is busy doing the people’s work. To beat Trump, progressives will need to do as much as they can to get American politics out of reality show mode.

Trump genuinely does pose threats to the integrity of American institutions and political norms. But he does so largely because his nascent administration is sustained by support from the institutional Republican Party and its standard business and interest group supporters. Alongside the wacky tweets and personal feuds, Trump is pursuing a policy agenda whose implications are overwhelmingly favorable to rich people and business owners. His opponents need to talk about this policy agenda, and they need to develop their own alternative agenda and make the case that it will better serve the needs of average people. And to do that, they need to get out of the habit of being reflexively baited into tweet-based arguments that happen on the terrain of Trump’s choosing and serve to endlessly reinscribe the narrative of a champion of the working class surrounded by media vipers.

7) Political science research on race and Donald Trump’s priming of race-based politics.

8) The older generation of evangelical “leaders” have shown their true colors with their embrace of Trump.  I like this call for a return to what Jesus had to say (given the emphasis on helping the poor, oppressed, imprisoned, etc., I suspect it will fall on largely deaf ears among Republican evangelicals):

The words of Jesus — which are printed in red in many Bibles — could not be more relevant today. Despite the terrible things done in the name of Jesus, a Christianity that stays true to his words has survived for 2,000 years. Maybe this is a moment in our history for evangelicals to repent and be “born again” again as Red Letter Christians.

9) Pretty impressive tweetstorm on why Trump won– but please write a blog post or article already!

10) Jamelle Bouie on 1980’s Jesse Jackson as offering a roadmap for the Democrats’ future.

11) I’m with Drum on the over-use of “white supremacy” (you’ll not be surprised given my favoring of “racial resentment”):

I was listening in on a listserv conversation the other day, and someone asked how and when it became fashionable to use the term “white supremacy” as a substitute for ordinary racism. Good question. I don’t know the answer, but my guess is that it started with Ta-Nehisi Coates, who began using it frequently a little while ago. Anyone have a better idea?

For what it’s worth, this is a terrible fad. With the exception of actual neo-Nazis and a few others, there isn’t anyone in America who’s trying to promote the idea that whites are inherently superior to blacks or Latinos. Conversely, there are loads of Americans who display signs of overt racism—or unconscious bias or racial insensitivity or resentment over loss of status—in varying degrees.

This isn’t just pedantic. It matters. It’s bad enough that liberals toss around charges of racism with more abandon than we should, but it’s far worse if we start calling every sign of racial animus—big or small, accidental or deliberate—white supremacy. I can hardly imagine a better way of proving to the non-liberal community that we’re all a bunch of out-of-touch nutbars who are going to label everyone and everything we don’t like as racist.

Petty theft is not the same as robbing a bank. A lewd comment is not the same as rape. A possible lack of sensitivity is not a sign of latent support for apartheid. Bernie Sanders is not a white male supremacist.

Likewise, using a faddish term is not a sign of wokeness, no matter who started it. Let’s keep calling out real racism whenever we need to, but let’s save “white supremacy” for the people and institutions that really deserve it.1

12) A FB friend who I think is exactly the type of person that gives liberals a bad name posted this attacking Drum, and other white men like me:

Here’s what the world needs less of right now: “liberal” white dudes deriding the marginalized for having the audacity to fight for equal rights.

In the past week alone, I’ve rolled my eyes at Mark Lilla, who wrote “The End Of Identity Liberalism” for The New York Times; Kevin Drum, who wrote “Let’s Be Careful With the ‘White Supremacy’ Label” for Mother Jones; and Cal Newport, who wrote “Quit Social Media. Your Career May Depend on It,” also for The New York Times.

That the conservative movement has embraced an anti-diversity party line is nothing new (though the egregiousness of its current stance is startling). That many Democrats have decided to embrace this platform as well, in an apparent effort to expand their power, is deeply troubling.

Indeed, the parallels between the conservative and liberal movements right now are chilling: On both sides, white men are controlling the narrative. And on both sides, these narratives are relying on the scapegoating of minority groups, and the repudiation of a fight for civil rights (because, to be clear, “identity politics” is code for civil rights).

Well, damnit, Minda Honey got me.  I guess I’ll come out and just admit I hate Black, gay people, etc., and think they should stop fighting for their rights.  This isn’t a straw man argument, it’s more like a whole straw village. Every white male liberal embraces feminism, anti-racism, gay rights, etc.  Yet somehow thinking this should not encompass the totality of liberal politics makes me no better than Trump.  Ugh.

13) Turns out there may be great therapeutic properties from “magic mushrooms.”  Good God it is so past time we get past our ignorance-based fear of all illegal drugs and get benefits where we can.  And the evidence for psychedelic drugs just keeps growing.

14) How well do American kids do in math?  Not so bad.

15) Justin Wolfers with one of the best pieces I’ve read on Trump and Carrier:

But the Carrier case also illustrates a larger point about how the economy works. In Mr. Trump’s telling, the economy is a fixed set of jobs getting shifted around a global chess board. Mexico’s loss is our gain and vice versa.

But you should think of the economy as being in a state of constant churn. The economist Joseph Schumpeter used the now-famous phrase “creative destruction” to describe this process by which new firms push out the old. The result can be cruel, but an extraordinarily fluid labor market, many economists argue, is the secret of American dynamism.

Think of the American economy as a 10-level parking structure or garage, where each car represents an active firm, and the seats in the car are the jobs available. A well-managed business like this is usually pretty full. But it’s also in a state of constant flux, with new cars entering as some people arrive, and previously parked cars leaving as others head home. Every hour, around a tenth of the cars leave the lot, just as a tenth of existing business establishments close each year and leave the labor market.

The deal at Carrier is akin to Mr. Trump’s intercepting a driver on his way to his car, and trying to persuade him to stay parked a little longer — perhaps by pointing to the enticing Christmas specials at the nearby stores.

It’s an approach that no parking business bothers trying.

Rather, the long-term strategy of such businesses is to try to attract a larger clientele by offering a more convenient experience. They understand that there are many more potential customers outside than inside the garage. In this analogy, the government’s best hope for creating jobs is to create a positive business climate.

Mr. Trump is focusing his resources on existing firms — the cars already parked there — rather than on the millions of potential entrepreneurs who might open the next generation of businesses.

Mr. Trump has also suggested that in the future he might use an alternative strategy: using sticks rather than carrots to keep jobs parked within the United States. But this also seems problematic — after all, would you choose to park in a location where parking attendants harass you when it’s time to leave?

The economics of parking contain a big lesson for the Trump administration: A parking garage stays full, and an economy stays healthy, only if it’s constantly refreshed.

16) Yglesias on how we need to take Trump both literally and seriously.  As I will not tire of saying until January 20– President-elect Trump = Candidate Trump.

17) Sarah Kliff on why American prescription drug prices are so high.  As I’ve been telling my classes for years– because we subsidize the whole rest of the world on drug development.

18) Drum on how Obamacare’s requirement that persons with pre-existing conditions be guaranteed coverage and at the same rates as everybody else makes it very hard for Republicans to truly eliminate key aspects of the legislation.  That is, unless Republicans entirely ditch the filibuster.

19) Way back this summer I read Robert Frank’s Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of the Meritocracy.  Short version: conservatives are sure they actually deserved/earned all their success and good fortune; liberals know better.  Of course, I was already well aware of that.  What I didn’t know about was Frank’s idea for a progressive consumption tax.  This Slate piece nicely lays out the logic for how it would reduce income inequality through it’s understanding of human psychology (it’s not about being rich in an absolute sense so much, as being richer than your neighbor)  It’s pretty cool:

If top marginal income tax rates are set too high, they discourage productive economic activity. In the limit, a top marginal income tax rate of 100 percent would mean that taxpayers would gain nothing from working harder or investing more. In contrast, a higher top marginal rate on consumption would actually encourage savings and investment. A top marginal consumption tax rate of 100 percent, for example, would simply mean that if a wealthy family spent an extra dollar, it would also owe an additional dollar of tax.

That feature of the tax gives rise to what it would be no exaggeration to describe as fiscal alchemy. Consider, for example, how the tax would affect a wealthy family that had been planning a $2 million addition to its mansion. If it faced a marginal consumption tax rate of 100 percent, that addition would now cost $4 million—$2 million for the job itself, and another $2 million for the tax on it. Even the wealthy respond to price incentives. (That’s why they live in smaller houses in New York than in Seattle.) So the tax would be a powerful incentive for this family to scale back its plans. It could build an addition half as big, for example, without spending more than it originally planned.

The fiscal magic occurs because other wealthy families who’d also planned additions to their mansions would respond in a similar way. And since no one denies that, beyond some point, it’s relative, not absolute, mansion size that really matters, the smaller additions would serve just as well as if all had built larger ones.

Current possibility– zero.  But I love this idea and would love to see liberals champion it.

20) We know what works to treat opioid addiction-– substitution therapy.  How many more people will have to needlessly die from overdoses before we finally get some sane policy on the matter?  (Sadly, I expect the answer is hundreds of thousands).

21) Another good take on Trump and the Carrier jobs (and the utter stupidity of our policies regarding “economic incentives”)

Still, what happened in Indiana represents exactly the problem, not the solution, in America’s approach to corporate negotiation. There is literally another factory across town from Carrier waiting for the same kind of attention. It’s not good that the geography of large offices and factories is a function of public money doled out by cities, states and in Washington. It’s been a great boon to companies with the size and flexibility to uproot or locate their operations at will, or at least make a convincing threat they’ll do so. And a big loss for the rest of us.

In hundreds of cases, state and local governments have offered more in subsidy than the $65 million Carrier hoped to save in Mexico.

According to a review by Good Jobs First, a resource center for accountability in economic development, there have been more than 240 such deals, worth a collective $64 billion, in the last 35 years. Manufacturing facilities are the most common recipient. The average cost per job is $465,000.

In some cases, those handouts go to companies moving across county lines.

What makes all those deals possible, and what they have in common, is a regulatory framework that is highly favorable to companies relocating both between states and abroad, regardless of the subsidies they’ve received or the government contracts they depend on. Like Carrier, the average American corporation is trained to get treats for barking. And why not? It’s always worked. Donald Trump didn’t train corporate America. But he seems happy to keep feeding it.

22) In many ways, the GOP Congress is the only meaningful check on Trump’s malfeasance.  Alas, they seem to have no more interest in that whole checks and balances thing.  Chait.

23) A 538 piece says Trump “probably” cannot overturn Roe v. Wade.  That’s because the law professor interviewed doesn’t think John Roberts is a vote to overturn.  I do.  Or, lets put it this way, I can totally see Roberts not “overturning” Roe v. Wade, but writing an opinion that completely undermines while pretending not to do so.

24) I re-watched “Top Gun” over Thanksgiving (just before it disappeared from Netflix streaming).  Say what you will, but I love that movie.  Fighter jets are just awesome.  And I love the way Tony Scott uses light.  Of all the unreality in it, though, it really bugged me that the Top Gun commander, Mike “Viper” Metcalf (Tom Skerrit) was only a Commander (O5).  Seemed to me that for somebody as old as the character and somebody in charge of the base would surely be at least a Captain.  I messaged my former student, currently a Naval Officer, and he agreed that Viper should probably have been an Admiral.  Then I decided to go to the base website for the current Top Gun (no longer at Miramar).  The current commander is actually a Captain.  Yes, these are the things I spend my time on.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

3 Responses to Quick hits (part I)

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    #8 It’s heartening to see that there are different evangelicals emerging who embrace the words of Jesus and reject Ayn Rand and prefer the joy and complexities of life to the dour Puritan dichotomy.

  2. ohwilleke says:

    #8 My take (http://washparkprophet.blogspot.com/2016/12/the-red-letter-christian-pipe-dream.html) is that while Campolo’s sentiment is positive, his vision of a new movement of “Red Letter Christians” is just a quixotic pipe dream

  3. R. Jenrette says:

    #23 You mean like Roberts destroyed Obamacare by letting states opt out of setting up state exchanges and say no to expanding Medicaid? That’s the way he can void Roe V Wade?
    Sure he can.

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