A simple agenda?

Here’s Drum’s proposal for a simple, post-card size agenda for Democrats:

Works for me.  And here’s the thing, both Drum and I are center-left, policy wonk types, but other than quibbles with “real borders” (judging by the comments to Drum), this seems like something pretty much everybody across the liberal spectrum can endorse.  And, yeah, the devil is totally in the details on all this.  But that never stopped Republicans from proposing things.


How the corporate tax cuts are great for average Americans

Kidding, of course.  Here’s the key chart and the Vox article about it:

It’s not that corporations don’t have more money — it’s that they have no particular reason to give that money to workers.

The Republican tax bill has been a major windfall for corporations and the wealthy.

According to estimates from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the top fifth of earners get 70 percent of the bill’s benefits, and the top 1 percent get 34 percent. The new tax treatment for “pass-through” entities — companies organized as sole proprietorships, partnerships, LLCs, or S corporations — will mean an estimated $17 billion in tax savings for millionaires in 2018. American corporations are showering their shareholders with stock buybacks, thanks in part to their tax savings, and have returned nearly $700 billion to investors this year.

When the tax bill was passed, a number of corporations announced bonuses and investments. Some of those were recycled news, and regardless, while a $1,000 one-time payout is a nice boost, it is not a sustained benefit to workers in the same way a wage increase is.

Some Republicans have even admitted that the tax cuts aren’t the boost to workers they promised. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) this spring said there is “no evidence whatsoever that money’s been massively poured back into the American worker.” President Donald Trump has already started talking about a new tax bill that would reduce the corporate tax rate even more and make temporary tax cuts for families and individuals permanent.

Of course, these basic facts were widely predicted before the tax cuts were passed.  But Republicans never were actually concerned about helping the wages of ordinary Americans.  They just wanted the rich to get richer.  And they succeeded.

Diversity and partisanship

Nice analysis from Brookings’ William Galston:

A Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) survey released earlier this week found that while 64 percent of Americans regard increasing demographic diversity as mostly positive, there are deep partisan divisions: Democrats believe that it’s mostly positive by an overwhelming margin of 85 to 13 percent, as do Independents by 59 to 34 percent, but 50 percent of Republicans regard it as mostly negative, compared to only 43 percent who favor it.

A closer look at the data reveals the sources of this cleavage. There are no gender differences, and age differences are much smaller than expected, with 57 percent of Americans 65 and older taking a positive view of rising diversity. Racial and ethnic differences are significant but not dispositive: 78 percent of both African-Americans as Hispanics see diversity as a plus, but so do 56 percent of white Americans. Much the same holds for regional differences: although 72 percent of respondents from the West and Northeast approve of increasing diversity, so do 60 percent of Midwesterners and 57 percent of Southerners.

The key drivers of partisan division are educational and religious differences among white Americans. Sixty-nine percent of whites with a BA or more have a mostly positive view of demographic diversity, compared to just 50 percent of whites without college degrees.  [emphases mine] As for religion, 52 percent of white Catholics and 56 percent of white mainline Protestants think rising diversity is mostly positive. By contrast, just 42 percent of white evangelical Protestants favor these changes, while 52 percent think they’re mostly negative. Two-thirds of whites without college degrees supported Republicans in the 2016 elections, as did eight in 10 white evangelicals.

The bottom line: the core of the Republican base is deeply uncomfortable with the central demographic trend of our time, which public policy is powerless to resist. Even if the U.S. slammed shut the doors of immigration, differences in birth rates between native-born citizens and newer arrivals would ensure the steady erosion of the population’s white majority, albeit at a slower pace.

Go ahead Democrats, “abolish ICE” and provide “Medicare for all”

Really liked this piece in Vox from Dylan Matthews that summarizes a lot of Political Science on how little issues actually seem to matter in elections.  The conclusion is the Democrats need not be so tepid and don’t need to fear more bold policy pronouncements:

An unspoken assumption of most political punditry is that the political positions taken by, and the policies supported and enacted by, politicians play a significant, perhaps decisive role in determining the outcomes of elections.

This is the premise of basically every piece of commentary about, for example, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s surprise victory in the Democratic primary for New York’s 14th District…

Each of these arguments has specific problems. But all of them share one big issue: They dramatically overestimate how much the actual issue positioning of candidates matters for how people vote. [emphases mine]

What I want to propose is a null hypothesis for political punditry: Outside of truly extreme proposals, there’s basically no plausible position a politician or political party can endorse or enact that will have a meaningful impact on their likelihood of retaking political power. The US has for decades had a stable system where liberal and conservative policy coalitions (which have sorted out under the Democratic and Republican parties, respectively) semi-regularly alternate in power, with long periods of divided rule and gridlock in the middle. Dramatic shifts in the ideological makeup of both parties during that same period did not upset that alternation of power. It continued apace.

The upshot of this phenomenon is that parties should be a little less nervous about sticking to their guns and arguing for what they believe, whether or not it polls well. Call it, if you like, the “do what you want” theory of politics…

But as a baseline position, I think assuming a null effect is a more reasonable guess than assuming that voter preferences are heavily influenced by candidates’ issue statements. We just have too much evidence that this isn’t how voters really make their decisions.

Instead, we see evidence that Democrats and Republicans exchange power at regular intervals, in spite of massive changes in the beliefs of those parties’ elected representatives. Maybe it’s time to argue that parties should adopt positions by arguing for those positions on the merits, not because they’re electorally useful or mandatory…

“Most people have strong feelings on few if any of the issues the government needs to address and would much prefer to spend their time in nonpolitical pursuits,” University of Nebraska political scientists John Hibbing and Elizabeth Theiss-Morse write in their book Stealth Democracy: Americans’ Beliefs About How Government Should Work. “The people as a whole tend to be quite indifferent to policies and therefore are not eager to hold government accountable for the policies it produces.”

There’s tons of research reaffirming this finding. The University of Michigan’s Donald Kinder and Louisiana State’s Nathan Kalmoe show in their book Neither Liberal nor Conservative: Ideological Innocence in the American Publicthat most Americans don’t really have stable ideologies in a way that matters. This isn’t an original insight of theirs; they view themselves as replicating the work of Philip Converse, who laid out a similar argument in 1964.

American voters aren’t down-the-line liberals or conservatives the way the people they elect are. Astonishingly, what a respondent said their ideology was — liberal, conservative, moderate, etc. — had “little influence over opinion on immigration, affirmative action, capital punishment, gun control, Social Security, health insurance, the deficit, foreign aid, tax reform, and the war on terrorism.” Ideology seemed to matter on LGBTQ rights and abortion, but even that went away after they controlled for religion…

“Numerous studies have demonstrated that most residents of democratic countries have little interest in politics and do not follow news of public affairs beyond browsing the headlines,” Vanderbilt’s Larry Bartels and Princeton’s Christopher Achen conclude in their 2016 book Democracy for Realists. “They do not know the details of even salient policy debates, they do not have a firm understanding of what the political parties stand for, and they often vote for parties whose long-standing issue positions are at odds with their own.”

Good stuff (as almost always) from Matthews, but I was a little disappointed that he did not include what strikes me as the best evidence for the fact that Democrats should just be more bold– Republicans have continued to have widespread electoral success despite embracing all sorts of unpopular policies.  Paul Waldman addresses this in a recent column about pundit advice (especially from James Comey) for Democrats to move towards the center:

While that may seem perfectly logical if you’re a political junkie, in the real world it seldom works. The reason is that most voters don’t think in ideological terms. They aren’t maintaining a running tally of positions candidates have taken, then assigning each candidate a score (plus 1 for her positions on abortion and health care, minus one for her position on NAFTA), then seeing which candidate’s total comes closest to the ideological score they’ve assigned themselves. That’s just not how voters make decisions.

Nobody understands this better than Republicans. After all, it’s the reason they can keep winning elections despite the fact that most of the things they want to do are absurdly unpopular. Tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, stopping any increase in the minimum wage, taking away protections for people with preexisting conditions, opposing even universal background checks for gun purchases? These are not popular ideas. Yet Republicans don’t spend a lot of time worrying about whether they’re moving too far to the right, because they find ways, like stoking culture war issues and playing on racial resentment, that push them over the finish line.

Personally, I’m for reforming ICE and for universal health care (not necessarily Medicare) for all (because, damnit, policy details matter).  But, politically, Democrats may as well go for it.

The Trump Jesus

Oh my, oh my.  I started reading this Washington Post article this morning about Southern Baptists in Alabama trying to reconcile their faith and their love of the amazingly God-less and amoral man that is Trump.  I stopped reading because it was long and, look, pro-life judges!  Later on, though, I discovered via twitter that I had missed the best part.  Damn, motivated is strong with partisanship, but it can be even stronger with religion.  Check this out from a “Sunday school teacher” (and the  best evidence yet to stop using that phrase as the marker of a decent person):

And there was Sheila Butler, who sat on the sixth pew on the right side, who said “we’re moving toward the annihilation of Christians.”

She was 67, a Sunday school teacher who said this was the only way to understand how Christians like her supported Trump.

“Obama was acting at the behest of the Islamic nation,” she began one afternoon when she was getting her nails done with her friend Linda. She was referring to allegations that President Barack Obama is a Muslim, not a Christian — allegations that are false. “He carried a Koran and it was not for literary purposes. If you look at it, the number of Christians is decreasing, the number of Muslims has grown. We allowed them to come in.”

“Obama woke a sleeping nation,” said Linda.

“He woke a sleeping Christian [emphases in original] nation,” Sheila corrected.

Linda nodded. It wasn’t just Muslims that posed a threat, she said, but all kinds of immigrants coming into the country.

“Unpapered people,” Sheila said, adding that she had seen them in the county emergency room and they got treated before her. “And then the Americans are not served.”

Love thy neighbor, she said, meant “love thy American neighbor.”

Welcome the stranger, she said, meant the “legal immigrant stranger.”

“The Bible says, ‘If you do this to the least of these, you do it to me,’ ” Sheila said, quoting Jesus. “But the least of these are Americans, not the ones crossing the border.”

To her, this was a moral threat far greater than any character flaw Trump might have, as was what she called “the racial divide,” which she believed was getting worse. The evidence was all the black people protesting about the police, and all the talk about the legacy of slavery, which Sheila never believed was as bad as people said it was. “Slaves were valued,” she said. “They got housing. They got fed. They got medical care.”

Good God.  It’s almost like an Onion parody of a Southern Christian.  Alas, that’s the reality.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Yes, “identity politics” is very much for white conservatives.

2) Krugman on the Republican Party’s war on the poor:

So what’s behind the G.O.P.’s war on the poor?

It’s not about incentives. The persistent claim on the right that America is filled with “takers” living off social programs when they should be working may be what conservatives want to believe, but it just isn’t true. Most nondisabled adults receiving aid work; most of those who don’t have good reasons for not working, such as health issues or the need to serve as caretakers for family members. Slashing benefits would push some of these people into the work force out of sheer desperation, but not many, and at a huge cost to their well-being.

And claims that excessively generous social programs are the cause of falling labor force participation can be easily refuted by looking at the international evidence. Europe’s welfare states — or, as conservatives always say, its “failing” welfare states — provide much more generous aid to low-income families than we do, and as a result have much less poverty. Yet adults in their prime working years are more likely to be employed in leading European nations than in the United States.

It’s also not about the money. At the state level, many Republican governors are still refusing to expand Medicaid even though it would cost them little and would bring money into their states’ economies. At the federal level, it would take draconian benefit cuts, imposing immense suffering, to save as much money as the G.O.P. casually gave away in last year’s tax cut.

What about the traditional answer that it’s really about race? Social programs have often been seen as helping Those People, not white Americans. And that’s still surely part of what’s going on.

But it can’t be the whole story, since Republicans are fanatical about cutting off aid to the less fortunate even in places like Maine that are overwhelmingly populated by non-Hispanic whites.

So what is the war on the poor about? As I see it, you need to make a distinction between what motivates the G.O.P. base and what motivates conservative politicians.

Many blue-collar whites still think that the poor are lazy and prefer to live off welfare. But as events in Maine show, such beliefs aren’t central to the war on the poor, which is mainly being driven by political elites.

And what motivates these elites is ideology. Their political identities, not to mention their careers, are wrapped up in the notion that more government is always bad. So they oppose programs that help the poor partly out of a general hostility toward “takers,” but also because they hate the idea of government helping anyone.

And if they get their way, society will stop helping tens of millions of Americans who desperately need that help.

3) Fewer Americans now view Mexico as a friend/ally.  If you guessed that Republicans are behind this, you’re right!  Gallup:

4) Lee Drutman is right about what the Democrats need as a 2018 slogan:

“Support Checks and Balances. Elect Democrats”

After all, you can turn on any news channel and witness the charade. Republicans in Congress are bending over backward and upside down and sideways to figure out how to excuse away the inexcusable — siding with a foreign enemy when all intelligence experts are screaming that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and plans to again in the 2018 election.

I’m typically hesitant to invoke the “country over party” dichotomy because it’s usually meaningless (“country” typically means whatever I think is right). But in this case, it’s unusually apt. Republicans actually are being forced to choose between country and party. And party is winning…

In theory, this creates an opportunity for Democrats. That’s because checks and balances are really popular.

In a recent Democracy Fund Voter Study Group report I wrote with Larry Diamond and Joe Goldman, called “Testing the Limits Examining Public Support for Checks on Presidential Power,” we found: “Eighty-one percent of respondents say that ‘members of Congress should provide oversight of the president and executive branch, even if the president is in their same party.’” The remaining 19 percent say that “members of Congress should give the president freedom to make the decisions he feels are right for the country.”

In other words, Americans really, really like Congress as a check on presidential power.

Let me repeat that finding: 81 percent of Americans want Congress to check presidential power. Even wide majorities of Trump supporters agree.

5) It’s just one study, but certainly a knock in the “we’ve just got to let poor kids have vouchers for private schools” argument:

A new study from the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education finds that low-income children or children enrolled in urban schools do not benefit more from enrolling in private school between kindergarten and ninth grade.

“Despite the arguments in favor of the use of vouchers or other mechanisms to support enrollment in private schools, ostensibly as a way to help vulnerable children and families access a quality education, this study finds no evidence that private schools, exclusive of family background or income, are more effective for promoting student success,” said Robert C. Pianta, dean of the Curry School of Education and co-author of the study.

Directed by a steering committee and supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the study, called “Does Attendance in Private Schools Predict Student Outcomes at Age 15?” tracked a sample of American children from birth through age 15. This longitudinal study examined the extent to which enrollment in private schools between kindergarten and ninth grade was related to students’ academic, social, psychological and attainment outcomes at age 15. The study was co-authored by Arya Ansari, a post-doctoral research associate at the Curry School.

Children were followed from birth to 15 years with a common study protocol, including interview, home, school and neighborhood observations that occurred on a yearly basis.

Although children with a history of enrollment in private schools performed better overall, the advantages of private school education were not present for low-income students or those enrolled in urban schools.

6) Boys out-performing girls in math is far from uniform, but most prominent in rich, white, suburban school districts:

The gender achievement gap in math reflects a paradox of high-earning parents. They are more likely to say they hold egalitarian views about gender roles. But they are also more likely to act in traditional ways – father as breadwinner, mother as caregiver.

The gap was largest in school districts in which men earned a lot, had high levels of education, and were likely to work in business or science. Women in such districts earned significantly less. Children might absorb the message that sons should grow up to work in high-earning, math-based jobs.

High-income parents spend more time and money on their children, and invest in more stereotypical activities, researchers said, enrolling their daughters in ballet and their sons in engineering.

There is also a theory that high-earning families invest more in sons, because men in this socioeconomic group earn more than women, while low-earning families invest more in daughters, because working-class women have more job opportunities than men…

Although well-off districts encourage boys in math, they don’t seem to encourage girls in the same way. Researchers say it probably has to do with deeply ingrained stereotypes that boys are better at math.

Teachers often underestimate girls’ math abilities, according to research by Sarah Lubienski of Indiana University and Joseph Cimpian of New York University, who also found the gender gap in math was largest for students from high-income families. They found that as girls move through elementary school, they lose confidence in their math skills – more than they lose interest or achievement.

7) Chait on how the most ideologically pure conservatives are the Trumpiest:

Last fall, the Pew Research Center released one of its periodic typologies of the American electorate, identifying the demographic and ideological fissures both within and between the two parties. The two most conservative factions within the Republican Party were familiar types. The first, and largest, “Core Conservatives,” holds doctrinaire positions on everything. This group is “financially comfortable,” and “overwhelmingly supports smaller government, lower corporate tax rates and believes in the fairness of the nation’s economic system,” and also “express[es] a positive view of U.S. involvement in the global economy.” This is the conservatism of Paul Ryan.

Another group, “Country First Conservatives,” is “older and less educated than other Republican-leaning typology groups,” and has more populist and isolationist views. They are “highly critical of immigrants and deeply wary of U.S. global involvement,” and most likely to believe “if America is too open to people from all over the world, we risk losing our identity as a nation.”

Which of these two groups do you think registered higher support for Donald Trump? The Country First Conservatives, right? Well, no. Ninety-three percent of Core Conservatives approved of Trump’s job performance, as opposed to 84 percent of Country First Conservatives. The most ideologically pure conservatives are Trumpier than the nativist and isolationist ones.

The waning months of the Republican primary campaign in 2016 devolved into a contest between Trump and the purity of conservative doctrine. Ted Cruz, the last candidate standing against Trump, represented the latter, and enjoyed the vocal support of most of the organized conservative movement. Cruz called Trump a “fake conservative.” Rick Perry had termed him a “a cancer on conservatism.” Trump’s presidency has driven home the surprising reality that Trump is conservatism.

8) Ryan Cooper, “If democratic socialism is so bad, why is Norway so great?”

How does all that compare to the United States? Well, our economy is somewhat less wealthy, with per capita GDP of $59,500 — but to be fair, that is about the highest outside of oil-rich or tax haven countries. Socially, however, the picture is much worse: America ranks in the mid-teens for happiest countries, while its life expectancy is two years behind Norway, and actually fell in 2016 and 2017. America’s infant mortality rate is three times higher. Its murder rate is over 10 times higher, as is its incarceration rate.

Surely there are complicated factors here not accounted for by economic systems. But it’s impossible to believe that better social health has nothingto do with the Norwegian state using its economic control to provide everyone with generous health care, high wages, shorter working hours, and other such goodies, while the more private, capitalist U.S. system creates situations like this:

The fact is, when it comes to building a decent place to live, Norway is completely blowing America out of the water. So while conservatives have been pointedly ignoring the most obvious and relevant piece of evidence in their spittle-flecked tirades against socialism, Norwegians can and do point to the United States as an example of what happens when you let capitalism run wild — and with a great deal more justice.

In Florida, you can receive a death sentence for shoving someone

Seriously.  Good God these “stand your ground” laws are truly insane.  No, you should not strongly shove some stranger confronting your family in a parking lot, but, if you do, in Florida, that stranger apparently has the right to then shoot you to death.  And it’s all here on video.  I’ll even give the you the guy drawing his gun (this is America), but after he draws his gun, it is crystal clear the shover is no additional threat.  This is an execution.  And legal in Florida!

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri showed a video of a deadly July 19 shooting in Clearwater, Fla., and explained why Florida law protects the shooter. (Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office)

Britany Jacobs sat parked in the handicap spot, right in the middle of Michael Drejka’s pet peeve.

She had just finished up a nursing shift Thursday, and she and her boyfriend, Markeis McGlockton, had a car full of children, all under age 6. So she sent McGlockton and their 5-year-old into a Circle A in Clearwater, Fla., for snacks and drinks while she rested in the parked car — or at least tried to.

Also in the lot was Drejka, a regular at the Circle A who regularly took issue with able-bodied people parking in the reserved spot. He circled Jacob’s car, looking for a handicap decal and, finding none, proceeded to forcefully explain to her the finer points of Florida’s disabled parking regulations.

“He’s getting out like he’s a police officer or something, and he’s approaching me,” Jacobs told the Tampa Bay Times.

Jacobs said the conversation grew heated, drawing the attention of other store patrons, including McGlockton, who abandoned his snack run. He came out of the store, then quickly closed the distance between himself and the man confronting the mother of his children and shoved Drejka to the ground.

That action, and the seconds that followed it, have thrust the dispute over the handicap parking spot into the nationwide debate about “stand your ground” laws.

Now seated on the ground, Drejka reached into his pocket, pulled out a pistol and fired a single shot into McGlockton’s chest, an action shown clearly on surveillance video released by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.

McGlockton clutched his chest, staggered into the convenience store and collapsed. Later, his girlfriend ran into the store and applied pressure to the bullet wound in an unsuccessful attempt to stop the bleeding.

McGlockton, 28, died a short time later, leaving his family to bury him and the rest of Pinellas County to grapple with the legality of his killer’s actions.

On Friday, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announced that Drejka would not be arrested or charged with a crime, saying that his actions fell within the legal boundaries of Florida’s “stand your ground” law. Then, in an expansive 30-minute news conference, he tried to explain how the law connected to what was going through Drejka’s mind when he pulled the trigger.

This is insane!  The idea that because somebody shoves you– and may even come back for another shove– gives you the legal right to a lethal response is just nuts and America and its absolute worst.  Ugh.

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