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“Definitive Proof Of Failure Of Supply-Side Economics”: Kansas’ Experiment In Right-Wing Economics Is Still Failing Miserably

Every few weeks I feel it’s important to return to the ongoing disaster in Sam Brownback’s Kansas. It doesn’t get nearly as much play as it should in the media, which is unfortunate because Kansas’ experience is definitive proof of the failure of supply-side, Laffer-curve-based economic theory.

Under the leadership of Brownback and one of the most conservative legislatures in America, Kansas dramatically slashed the tax rates of Kansas’ wealthy and its corporations. According to ideology, the cuts should have jumpstarted Kansas’ economy and led to rapid growth that created jobs and helped the tax cuts pay for themselves. Of course, nothing of the sort happened.

The effect was disastrous, a slow-rolling series of budget shortfalls followed by cuts to essential services like education and roads, which only slowed the economy further. A series of punitive and regressive sin taxes on tobacco and other goods were instituted to make up for the cuts to the tax rates of the wealthy, which of course only further undermined consumer spending.

Officials in Kansas have tried to blame the problems on a slow national economy, but that is hogwash. Say what you will about the unequal distribution in gains from national economic growth, there is no doubt that the national economy is performing well by traditional metrics. It is not doing so in Kansas. Moreover, Kansas’ neighboring states are doing far better than it is.

It’s not local economic variations. Kansas’ troubles really are directly the fault of its tax cuts. They didn’t boost the economy–they slowed it down.

And now Kansans are paying the price. Even more cuts are coming, including devastating cuts to road maintenance through thefts from its already plundered Department of Transportation. These cuts to transportation (totaling over $2 billion in a small state!) are leading to deferred maintenance that will, of course, be incredibly expensive to deal with at a time when borrowing costs will likely be far higher than they are now.

This is on top of the damage Brownback is already doing to the state’s K-12 and university education systems, causing good teachers and professors to flee to more hospitable states. It’s a complete disaster.

The nation’s eyes should be trained on Kansas. This is what happens when you put Republicans in charge with the freedom to pursue their economic ideology. It’s not just a moral train wreck in terms of inequality and shared prosperity. It doesn’t even work to keep the lights on and make the trains run on time. Conservative economic orthodoxy is completely dysfunctional for running governments and society because it’s built on assumptions that aren’t true: rich people don’t create jobs, cutting their taxes doesn’t stimulate growth, cutting government services doesn’t “free up” capital to be spent on private sector growth, etc. What actually happens is that the rich simply hoard more money, corporations build up savings in their balance sheets, government cuts damage public confidence and infrastructure, and regular people don’t have as much money to spend, which dries up the consumer confidence and spending that is the real driver of job and economic growth.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 3, 2016

July 5, 2016 Posted by | Kansas, Sam Brownback, Supply Side Economics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Power Of Sisterhood”: Trump, Clinton Could Post Record Numbers With Opposite Corners Of White America

The stereotypical Donald Trump voter is a non-college-educated white man. Hillary Clinton’s base of support is much more diverse, but in terms of general election swing voters, her stereotypical voter is probably a professional white woman. Stereotypes are always over-generalizations and are sometimes misleading. But depending on how the general election develops, the impressive strength of the major-party candidates among downscale white men and upscale white women could prove to be the key match-up.

Veteran journalist Ron Brownstein looked at the internals of some recent general election polls and found that adding gender to education levels among white voters produced a shocking gap between the two candidates.

In early polling, the class inversion between Clinton and Trump is scaling unprecedented heights. In the national CBS/NYT poll, Trump led Clinton by 27 percentage points among non-college-educated white men, while she led him by 17 points among college-educated white women, according to figures provided by CBS. The ABC/Washington Post survey recorded an even greater contrast: it gave Trump a staggering 62-point advantage among non-college-educated white men and Clinton a 24-point lead among college-educated white women. State surveys reinforce the pattern. In the Pennsylvania Quinnipiac survey, Trump led among non-college-educated white men by 43 points, but trailed by 23 among college-educated white women. In Quinnipiac’s latest Ohio survey, Clinton’s vote among college-educated white women was 20 points higher than her showing among blue-collar white men.

Brownstein argues that each candidate is reaching or in some cases exceeding the all-time records for their party in these demographics — which means the gap could be larger than ever, too. What makes the trade-off potentially acceptable to Democrats is that college-educated white women are a growing part of the electorate while non-college-educated white men have been steadily declining for decades. What gives Republicans some hope is the theory that blue-collar white men, who are usually somewhat marginal voters, will turn out at record levels for Trump. Sean Trende, the primary author of the “missing white voters” hypothesis explaining a big part of Mitt Romney’s 2012 loss, thinks Trump is a good fit for these voters despite his weaknesses elsewhere in the electorate.

To be very clear: even though these two opposite corners of the white vote are significant, in the end a vote is a vote and there are many dynamics that could matter more. Most notably, if Hillary Clinton can reassemble the “Obama coalition” of young and minority voters with the same percentages and turnout numbers as the president did in 2012 or (even more) 2008, she has a big margin for error among all categories of older white voters. And within the universe of white voters, racial polarization could give Trump a higher share of college-educated voters than currently appears likely, while Democrats have high hopes of doing very well among non-college-educated white women by hammering away at the mogul on both economic and gender issues.

In the end, Democrats have won the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections and have a coalition that is growing while that of the GOP is shrinking. They also have a nominee who, for all her problems, raises far fewer worries among both swing and base voters than does the Republican.  Trump’s carefree attitude about who he offends could be more problematic in a general than in a primary election, and his disdain for the technological tools necessary to carefully target voters could prove to be a strategic handicap.

If the election does come down to a contest between women and men of any race or level of educational achievement, a Clinton victory would be not only historic, but a demonstration of the power of sisterhood against an opponent who’s a cartoon-character representation of The Man.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, May 30, 2016

May 31, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, General Election 2016, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Does Bernie Sanders Really Have Working-Class Support?”: Premise Sanders Is The Tribune Of The Working Class Is Full Of Holes

The idea that he’s fighting for an oppressed and dispossessed working class is central to Bernie Sanders’s identity as an old-school New Dealer closely aligned throughout his career with the labor movement and prone to diagnosing all the country’s problems as a product of economic inequality. Class struggle is also central to his critique of the Democratic Party as an institution that has traded its New Deal heritage of working-class solidarity — especially by promoting trade agreements and financial liberalization — for a mess of Wall Street pottage.

Indeed, some political observers have suggested that Sanders and Donald Trump represent parallel wings of a working-class uprising against political and economic elites. And Trump himself is fond of arguing that, if Bernie is denied the Democratic presidential nomination, his working-class supporters might drift over into the Trump column.

This all represents a nice, dramatic “narrative.” But the premise that Sanders is the tribune of the working class is full of very large holes.

One problem is the punditocracy’s habit of conflating “working class” with “white working class.” No one believes Sanders is sweeping the African-American or Latino working class, which matters quite a bit because those are the elements of the working class that are tangibly part of the Democratic electoral base.

But even within the “white working class,” Sanders’s support levels have been exaggerated by a failure to look at some crosscutting variables, as explained at Vox by Jeff Stein:

Because young voters also tend to have lower incomes, the massive age gap between Sanders and Clinton has sometimes looked to observers like a gap in economic class, according to political scientists Matt Grossmann and Alan Abramowitz.

But the most salient divide in the primary is not between rich and poor. It’s between young and old — and between white and black.

I’d interject here that an income-based definition of “working class” has always been problematic because earnings vary so much with age; a young college grad destined for the upper class may temporarily make less than a seasoned union member engaged in manual labor. It’s one reason most analysts use an educational definition for working class as people who do not have a college education (there’s a whole separate argument about how to classify people with “some” as opposed to no college, but let’s not go down that rabbit hole). But even an educational standard is problematic to some extent because college students don’t have a degree any more than their proletarian cousins.

As Stein shows, however, by any definition, class quickly fades as a factor in likelihood to feel the Bern as opposed to age:

If Sanders’s “white working-class” voters aren’t just college students, you’d also expect him to be doing better among downscale middle-aged white voters than rich ones.

But this turned out not to be true: Low-income white people in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s did not break for Sanders. There was little difference in support by income among older voters, with higher-income older white voters actually more likely to support Sanders, according to Grossmann’s Michigan data.

“My main concern is that the image of Bernie-supporting older poor people who’ve lost their factory jobs to trade is not supported,” Grossmann says. “I’m least supportive of the idea that there’s a population of white, older workers who lost their jobs and are now supporting Sanders. There’s very little evidence of that.”

Similarly, Abramowitz ran a multivariate analysis to help figure out this question. Abramowitz looked at a large survey data set and asked: What forms of identity actually predict support for Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton?

“It was age, and beyond that nothing mattered. Maybe ideology mattered a little bit,” he said. Income was not a factor.

Now, maybe none of this matters and Sanders’s youth appeal indicates he’s winning the fight for the future of the party even if his claim to represent decades of working-class grievances against capitalism isn’t so clear. But at a minimum, a proper understanding of Bernie’s base should reduce fears that his following is transferable to Trump. To put it more sharply, the idea that the actual working-class voters Sanders claims to represent view Clinton as the devil isn’t borne out by the numbers. According to Andrew Levison, who’s conducted the most intensive analysis I’ve seen of the appeal of various candidates to the white working class, Sanders isn’t running that far ahead of Clinton in this demographic to begin with. And of course, if you add in the black and brown working class, any Sanders advantage disappears entirely.

Having said all this, there’s nothing wrong with a candidate’s appeal being based on age rather than class; best I can tell, no candidate has ever run up the kind of numbers among young voters in a competitive presidential nominating contest that Sanders is regularly achieving this year. It’s an impressive accomplishment with obviously large implications for the future Democratic Party. But it’s not a tale of workers rising together to shake off their chains.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, May 20, 2016

May 23, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, White Working Class, Working Class | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Enthusiastic Embrace Of Ignorance”: It’s Not Cool To Not Know What You’re Talking About

President Obama delivered a powerful commencement address at Rutgers University over the weekend, taking some time to celebrate knowledge and intellectual pursuits. “Facts, evidence, reason, logic, an understanding of science – these are good things,” the president said, implicitly reminding those who may have forgotten. “These are qualities you want in people making policy.”

He added, “Class of 2016, let me be as clear as I can be. In politics, and in life, ignorance is not a virtue. It’s not cool to not know what you’re talking about. That’s not ‘keeping it real,’ or ‘telling it like it is.’ That’s not challenging ‘political correctness.’ That’s just not knowing what you’re talking about.”

Donald Trump heard this and apparently took it personally. The presumptive Republican nominee responded last night with arguably the most important tweet of the 2016 presidential campaign to date:

“ ‘In politics, and in life, ignorance is not a virtue.’ This is a primary reason that President Obama is the worst president in U.S. history!”

I assumed someone would eventually tell the GOP candidate why this was unintentionally hilarious, prompting him to take it down, but as of this morning, Trump’s message remains online.

In case it’s not blisteringly obvious, candidates for national office generally don’t argue publicly that ignorance is a virtue. But Donald Trump is a different kind of candidate, offering an enthusiastic, albeit unconventional, embrace of ignorance.

Don’t vote for Trump despite his obliviousness, support him because of it. The Know-Nothing Party may have faded into obscurity 150 years ago, but it’s apparently making a comeback with a new standard bearer.

There’s been a strain of anti-intellectualism in Republican politics for far too long, and it comes up far too often. House Speaker Paul Ryan last month dismissed the role of “experts” in policy debates; former President George W. Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker have publicly mocked those who earn post-graduate degrees; Jeb Bush last year complained about Democrats using too many “big-syllable words.”

As a rule, prominent GOP voices prefer to exploit conservative skepticism about intellectual elites to advance their own agenda or ambitions. They don’t celebrate stupidity just for the sake of doing so; anti-intellectualism is generally seen as a tool to guide voters who don’t know better.

Trump, however, has come to embody an alarming attitude: ignorance is a virtue. If the president believes otherwise, it must be seen as proof of his awfulness. The Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee intends to lead a movement of those who revel in their lack of knowledge.

History will not be kind.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 17, 2016

May 18, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP, Republicans | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Trolling For Low-Wage Jobs”: Gov. Rick Scott; Florida’s Ambassador For Cheap Labor And Mediocrity

Florida Gov. Rick Scott went to California last week to steal some jobs.

Guess how that brilliant idea turned out.

Scott urged California businesses to pack up and move to Florida because the minimum wage in Florida is only $8.05 an hour.

That was actually the thrust of his selling point: Why are you paying your workers $10 an hour? Floridians will work dirt cheap!

Scott spent lots of taxpayer money to carry this dubious offer to the Golden State, where it went over like a lead balloon.

In a caustic retort, Gov. Jerry Brown wrote: “If you’re truly serious about Florida’s economic well-being, it’s time to stop the silly political stunts and start doing something about climate change — two words you won’t even let state officials say.”

A Los Angeles Times editorial called Scott’s California trip “especially offensive.” It said he “should be home in Florida … trying to create well-paying jobs, instead of trolling for low-wage ones that he can steal in California, undermining this state’s effort to pay a living wage to more of its low-skilled workers.”

The impetus for Scott’s trip was California’s decision to raises its minimum wage to $15 per hour over the next six years. Scott says the wage hike will cost the state 700,000 jobs, a figure he got from a conservative think tank that didn’t even use California jobs data.

Meanwhile, a study by the Labor Center at the University of California-Berkeley predicted no net job loss in Los Angeles as a result of the state’s phased-in pay increases.

In Florida, we’re used to Scott’s obsession with job numbers instead of quality jobs. It will be the centerpiece of his U.S. Senate run in 2018, by which time we might lead the nation in convenience-store openings.

Last week’s “trade mission” to California was Scott’s second. His first try came in March 2015, and since then California employers have added twice as many new jobs as Florida employers have.

So, that trip didn’t work out so great, either.

Unfortunately for Scott, California’s economy is booming right now.

Although the unemployment rate is higher than in Florida, there is no corporate exodus. Ironically, census figures from 2014 indicate that more Florida residents are moving to California than going the other direction.

Florida is an easier sell to multimillionaires looking to relocate in a state with no income tax. That’s undoubtedly one of the reasons that Scott himself moved to Florida in 2003.

However, Florida isn’t so alluring to firms looking for a skilled and educated labor force. That’s because the state still spends an embarrassingly paltry amount on its schools.

According to the National Education Association, the average salary of public teachers in Florida in 2013-2014 was $47,780. That’s 39th in the country, worse than even Alabama or Louisiana.

In California, the average teacher salary that year was $71,396.

Now, if you’re on the board of Apple or Microsoft, where do you think your employees with school-age children would rather live?

It’s bad enough that Scott flies around the country bragging about Florida’s pathetically low wages, but he’s using public money to run radio commercials in other states, beseeching companies to close up shop and move to Florida.

Which would basically screw all the working people on their payrolls.

The governor’s job-poaching junkets are, as the Los Angeles Times said, offensive. But his mission is futile, and his lack of sophistication is breathtaking.

Scott puts the “goober” in gubernatorial.

In March, he invited Yale University to leave its iconic Connecticut campus and resettle in Florida, to avoid state taxes on its endowment fund.

That would be Yale University, founded in 1701. A perfect fit for Boca Raton, right? Or maybe Yeehaw Junction?

Whether Scott was serious or not (he insisted he was), he came off looking like a dolt. They’re still laughing at him (and us) in New Haven.

Out of courtesy to his GOP colleagues, Scott focuses his job-stealing raids on states with Democratic governors. There’s nothing for them to be afraid of, no manic stampede of companies — or Ivy League universities — to the Sunshine State.

All we Floridians can do is apologize to the rest of the country for any past and future appearances by our weird ambassador for cheap labor and mediocrity.

Don’t take him seriously. We certainly don’t.

 

By: Carl Hiaasen, Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, May 10, 2016

May 13, 2016 Posted by | Jerry Brown, Minimum Wage, Rick Scott | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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