Quick hits (part II)

1) Jeannie Suk Gersen on what DeVos’ new Title IX proposals on campus sexual violence get right (a lot) and wrong (a lot).

2) Good stuff from Matt Glassman (easily one of the smartest people I follow in twitter) in the NYT:

Donald Trump has a Congress problem. He can’t get Republicans to promote his policies. And when he forces the issue — as with his border wall — he can’t win their support.

But most Americans don’t know that. After all, Republican legislators voted with the president well over 90 percent of the time during the 115th Congress. Record numbers of appellate judges were confirmed, and the president signed major tax legislation. Many observers have concluded that Mr. Trump dominates the Republican Party, and his loyal base holds congressional Republicans tautly in line.

But discerning legislative influence is more difficult than it appears. Throughout the first two years of the Trump presidency, Republican leaders in Congress skillfully used a variety of tactics to minimize the president’s influence and maximize their own control over public policy.

Critically, congressional Republicans have adopted strategies that make the public — and more important, his conservative base — think Mr. Trump is in command. To casual followers of political news, the visible evidence from congressional votes and news releases suggests a powerful president leading a loyal congressional party. In reality, Republican legislators have hidden their influence, purposefully disguising a weak president with little clout on Capitol Hill while also preserving party unity.

3) Loved this Edsall piece, “The ‘Rotten Equilibrium’ of Republican Politics”

s trend creates a significant dilemma for Trump and the Republican Party. Candidates on the right do best during hard times and in recent elections, they have gained the most politically in regions experiencing the sharpest downturn. Electorally speaking, in other words, Republicans profit from economic stagnation and decline… [emphasis mine]

The results here and in England reinforce the conclusion that the worse things get, the better the right does.

As a rule, as economic conditions improve and voters begin to feel more secure, they become more generous and more liberal. In the United States, this means that voters move to the left; in Britain, it means voters are stronger in their support for staying in the European Union…

This has put the Republican Party in a painful position, according to Wilkinson:

It’s going to get worse for the G.O.P. as the urgency of the economic problems grows. But they just don’t understand that pushing the same button over and over isn’t going to have the same effect. And this is so in part because they don’t really want to see the seriousness of economic divergence, because they have no idea what to do about it that is remotely consistent with Zombie Reagan social policy dogma.

Brink Lindsey, vice president for policy, replied to my queries from a somewhat different angle: “You don’t need conscious intent to produce dysfunction to explain Republican governance failures.”

In Lindsey’s view,

it starts in ideological self-delusion — that government is simply incapable of performing well, so starving it of funds is always a good idea and trying to make it work better is a waste of time. The problem starts there, as I said, but it doesn’t end there, as these attitudes can very easily merge into cynical, lazy indifference to public administration and onward to outright venality and corruption. And, of course, this ideological stance turns out to be incredibly convenient for rich donors looking for any excuse to keep their taxes down.

4) Jill Lepore on the past, present, and future of journalism is terrific.  Read it! (My future students will)

5) I have never made the dreaded “reply all” by accident mistake, but here’s some advice if you do.  Actually, what I love is using the Gmail “mute” feature on my colleagues who (purposely) excessively “reply all.”

6) We need to talk more about the racial wealth gap in America and Cory Booker’s “baby bonds” are a great way to think about addressing it.

7) Oh, let’s mix things up and mention a conservative column that argues that liberal policy plans are over-reliant on taxing the rich to achieve their goals.

The “just tax the rich” rhetoric remains empty because the numbers simply do not add up. Wealthy families and corporations are not a bottomless ATM available to finance a socialist utopia.

In fact, America’s federal tax code is already the most progressive in the OECD, even adjusting for income inequality. The Congressional Budget Office reports that the top-earning 20 percent of taxpayers earn 53 percent of the income, yet pay 69 percent of all federal taxes, including 88 percent of all income taxes. The bottom 40 percent of earners earn 14 percent of the income while collectively paying no income tax, and less than 5 percent of all federal taxes. Tax code regressivity is not the problem.

Some good and true to a point.  And if we really want single-payer health care, yes, we absolutely need to tax the middle class, too (and that’s so much better than all that money going to health insurers, etc.).  But, looking at the massive income inequality in our country, yeah, we should be taxing the rich more.

8) Speaking of which, as Drum points out, there has been a massive shift in the share of business income that actually goes to the workers:

Since 2000, labor’s share has declined by about a trillion dollars. If you’ve become jaded by numbers this huge and have no idea what they mean on a human scale, it’s simple: this works out to something in the ballpark of $7,000 per worker. If we could just get back to the level of 80s and 90s, we’d all be making about $7,000 more per year.

This is not a huge ask. It’s not like trying to bring back the postwar Golden Age. We’re talking about something that was common as recently as 20 years ago. Since then, the CEO class has decided to add a trillion dollars to its income by taking it away from its workers. This is something that Democratic presidential candidates ought to share when they’re out on the campaign trail.

9) Does democracy need truth?  I’d say yes.

10) Seth Masket gives an emphatic “no” to the question of whether Democrats need to nominate a white man to defeat Trump:

What the bulk of the research suggests is that partisanship and campaign fundamentals (the conditions of the economy, the popularity of the incumbent, conditions of war or peace, and so on) have far greater impact on the vote that any intrinsic demographic qualities of the candidates themselves.

11) NYT, “Young Voters Keep Moving to the Left on Social Issues, Republicans Included.”  And, no, they are not going to move back more conservative when they get older.  The world changes.

12) Nice Wired story on how a recent “cancer cure” story is awful journalism run amok

13) In honor of Booker’s presidential declaration, a thread from John Pfaff that reminds me why I first became a fan.  He’s about the only politician talking truly honestly on criminal justice reform.

14) Let’s keep with the twitter.  Really liked this thread on Northam.  I’ll put the tweets I especially liked here.

15) OMG did I hate being bored as a kid.  And I hate it as an adult (it’s just much easier for me to avoid now).  I do not think childhood boredom made me a better person.  Just a more whiny one ;-).

16) This is really good and really sad, “the promise and heartbreak of cancer genomics.”

17) An article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed asks, “Are You Assigning Too Much Reading? Or Just Too Much Boring Reading?”  Personally, I say, neither.

18) Jane Brody makes the case for portion control as the key to weight loss.  I don’t know if it’s the key, but it is important and I’ve found it very valuable.  I like not denying myself anything (including donuts, girl scout cookies, and pizza today), but knowing it’s okay because they were all limited quantities.

19) And here’s your must-read for the day.  Eric Levitz relies on some nice empirical political science to make the case that Democrats should be waging class war in 2020:

Piston’s research affirms a broader insight of contemporary political science: Most human beings view politics through the lens of group identity, not ideology. Ordinary voters do not develop an intellectual attachment to some abstract philosophy of government, and then join the party whose platform best represents their theory of the state. Rather, the average voter is born into a variety of social groups (a religion, a “race,” a class, etc.), and then joins whichever party appears to best represent her people.

This theoretical framework helps explain why voters in the ANES surveys were less likely to complain about the GOP’s indifference to “inequality,” than about the party’s undue deference to the rich: Inequality is an ideological abstraction, “the rich” is a widely resented social group. The “all politics is identity politics” framework also indicates that the typical swing voter isn’t an ideological moderate, but rather, an American whose various social group attachments pull him or her in conflicting directions — for example, a white male union member who sees his racial and gender identities affirmed by the GOP, but his workplace identity celebrated by the Democrats.

There’s little to no evidence that railing against “the billionaire class” hurts Democrats electorally by making them sound too “far left” (in fact, Piston’s book shows that progressive fiscal policies become more popular — which is to say “mainstream” — when pollsters emphasize that said policies would hurt the rich). Meanwhile, there is significant evidence that the deployment of populist, “us versus them” rhetoric increases the salience of class resentments in U.S. elections — and thus, increases the Democratic Party’s share of the vote.

Moderate Democrats have every right to insist on praising the “patriotism” of America’s plutocrats, and deriding the “nasty divisiveness” of their party populists. But when they do so, they are prioritizing their ideological purity over defeating Donald Trump.






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