The Obama administration’s close ties to the media

Media, administration deal with conflicts:

The list of prominent news people with close White House relations includes ABC News President Ben Sherwood, who is the brother of Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, a top national-security adviser to President Obama. His counterpart at CBS, news division president David Rhodes, is the brother of Benjamin Rhodes, a key foreign-policy specialist. CNN’s deputy Washington bureau chief, Virginia Moseley, is married to Tom Nides, who until earlier this year was deputy secretary of state under Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Further, White House press secretary Jay Carney’s wife is Claire Shipman, a veteran reporter for ABC. And NPR’s White House correspondent, Ari Shapiro, is married to a lawyer, Michael Gottlieb, who joined the White House counsel’s office in April.

That must lead to some interesting dinner table conversations.

There are 10 million fewer jobs than there should be

U.S. Is Still 10 Million Jobs Away From Normal:

To get a better idea of where the job market stands, consider a different question: What percentage of the civilian population aged 16 to 65 is employed, and how does that compare to the pre-crisis average? This measure covers everyone, including those who have given up on finding jobs and hence are not counted in the unemployment rate. It also attempts to correct for the effects of an aging population by focusing on one age range.

As of May, the 16-to-65 employment-to-population ratio stood at 67.5 percent. That’s up from 67.2 percent a year earlier, but still well below the average of 72.5 percent in the 10 years preceding the recession that began in January 2008.

In terms of jobs, as of May, the economy was 9.98 million short of the number needed to put the employment-to-population ratio back at its “normal” level of 72.5 percent. That’s better than a year ago, when the number was 10.50 million, but worse than in May 2009, when it stood at 8.93 million.

Think we can create 10 million jobs in the next five years? Keep dreaming. This is what a lost decade looks like.

The Representatives who voted against the Patriot Act, then got booted out of office

In light of the recent leaks regarding the NSA’s PRISM program and its seizure of Verizon phone records, this video at the Huffington Post has been making the rounds on Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit.

The video portrays then-Senator Russ Feingold predicting in 2001 the extent to which the PATRIOT Act would authorize the federal government to snoop into people’s private lives. Feingold later lost his seat in the Senate in his 2010 race against Tea Party-favorite Ron Johnson – who voted in favor of reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act in 2011. 

What makes the video so notable is that Feingold was the only Senator to vote against the act at the time (later reauthorizations received more resistance). This wasn’t the case in the House, where 66 Representatives voted ‘Nay’ in 2001.

Of these 66, the vast majority are still in office. A handful of that group have passed away or retired from public office, but most have stayed in office or gone on to become Senators or Governors for their respective states. Only eight have gone on to lose elections in the years since.

Georgia’s Cynthia McKinney was booted out of office twice. In 2002 she lost in the Democratic primaries after speaking in favor of Arab causes and claiming that President Bush had prior knowledge of the 9/11 terrorist attacks (her father making anti-Semitic remarks on television certainly didn’t do her any favors either). Despite being re-elected in 2004, McKinney lost in a 2006 primary election due to striking a Capitol Hill Police Officer earlier that year for stopping her and asking for identification.

Pro-Israel opposition also led to the defeat of Alabama’s Earl Hilliard in 2002. In 1997, Hilliard had made a trip to Libya and voted against a House resolution condemning Palestinian suicide bombing. Four years later, he voted against a bill increasing military support to Israel and criminalizing Palestinian politicians. These factors led to national Jewish organizations backing Hilliard’s opponent, Artur Davis, who took up the issue, stating: “My opponent, Earl Hilliard, has not been a strong supporter of Israel. I have been a very strong supporter of Israel, and if I am elected, Israel will have a friend.”

Two of the Representatives who voted against the PATRIOT Act and lost primaries against popular Democrats due to redistricting. Michigan’s Lynn Rivers found herself running against John Dingell, who had also been a ‘Nay’ on the surveillance law. Dingell won the primary with an overwhelming 64 percent of the vote. Ohio’s Dennis Kucinich was forced to run against incumbent Marcy Kaptur (who had voted in favor of the PATRIOT Act) in 2012 due to his district being eliminated after the 2010 election cycle and lost by a whopping 24 points.

West Virginia’s Alan Mollohan lost his 2010 primary due to his district moving to the right. His opponent, Mike Oliverio, was a conservative Democrat who ran on a platform of aiming to reduce the national debt, being pro-life, and opposing gay marriage. Oliverio won 56% of the vote in the primary and then went on to lose the general election to Republican David McKinley.

Virginia’s Rick Boucher also fell victim to an Appalachian district moving to the right in 2010. Unchallenged by another Democrat in the primaries, he went on to face competition from Republican Morgan Griffith. Griffith brought down Boucher by tying him to President Obama and Nancy Pelosi, running ads with claims like “Obama loves Rick Boucher.” Griffith won the seat with 51.3% of the vote.

Minnesota’s Jim Oberstar faced Tea Party newcomer Chip Cravaack in 2010. Cravaack attacked Oberstar for voting in favor of health care reform, earmarking funding for local infrastructure products, and for voting in favor of cap and trade legislation. Cravaack’s victory was extremely close – 48% to 47%.

California’s Pete Stark faced a rather peculiar situation last year’s election. Under California’s new “nonpartisan blanket” primary system, anyone – regardless of party affiliation – can participate in the primary. The two candidates with the most votes go on to the general election. For Stark, this meant running against fellow Democrat Eric Swalwell. Stark had a higher percentage of the vote in the primary but lost the general election 53% to 47%.

It turns out that immigration reform would be a huge boost for the economy

The Economic Effects of Granting Legal Status and Citizenship to Undocumented Immigrants:

Under the first scenario—in which undocumented immigrants are granted legal status and citizenship in 2013—U.S. gross domestic product, or GDP, would grow by an additional $1.4 trillion cumulatively over the 10 years between 2013 and 2022. What’s more, Americans would earn an additional $791 billion in personal income over the same time period—and the economy would create, on average, an additional 203,000 jobs per year. Within five years of the reform, unauthorized immigrants would be earning 25.1 percent more than they currently do and $659 billion more from 2013 to 2022. This means that they would also be contributing significantly more in federal, state, and local taxes. Over 10 years, that additional tax revenue would sum to $184 billion—$116 billion to the federal government and $68 billion to state and local governments.

Under the second scenario—in which undocumented immigrants are granted legal status in 2013 and citizenship five years thereafter—the 10-year cumulative increase in U.S. GDP would be $1.1 trillion, and the annual increases in the incomes of Americans would sum to $618 billion. On average over the 10 years, this immigration reform would create 159,000 jobs per year. Given the delay in acquiring citizenship relative to the first scenario, it would take 10 years instead of five for the incomes of the unauthorized to increase 25.1 percent. Over the 10-year period, they would earn $515 billion more and pay an additional $144 billion in taxes—$91 billion to the federal government and $53 billion to state and local governments.

Finally, under the third scenario—in which undocumented immigrants are granted legal status starting in 2013 but are not eligible for citizenship within 10 years—the cumulative gain in U.S. GDP between 2013 and 2022 would still be a significant—but comparatively more modest—$832 billion. The annual increases in the incomes of Americans would sum to $470 billion over the 10-year period, and the economy would add an average of 121,000 more jobs per year. The income of the unauthorized would be 15.1 percent higher within five years. Because of their increased earnings, undocumented immigrants would pay an additional $109 billion in taxes over the 10-year period—$69 billion to the federal government and $40 billion to state and local governments.

It’s like a stimulus package that reduces the deficit.

Cutting food stamps hurts child development

How Cuts to Food Stamps Threaten Children’s Health:

The consequences, say researchers like Chilton, can be predicted. Over the last decade or so, a large body of science has accumulated on food insecurity’s effects. “We have empirical evidence that SNAP prevents childhood hospitalizations and promotes childhood development,” said Chilton. “This is not advocacy. We know that SNAP cuts will be cutting into the bodies and brains of little kids.”

One long-term nationwide study of more than 20,000 children followed from kindergarten through third grade found that food insecurity predicted academic and social problems in school. The effects could theoretically have been correlation — kids from food-insecure families were, for some reason unrelated to food, more likely to have problems — but the relationship remained when statisticians accounted for other variables.

With that in mind, both the Senate and House bills that have to do with food stamps would cut funding for the program. 

Americans really don’t care about privacy

Majority Views NSA Phone Tracking as Acceptable Anti-terror Tactic:

A majority of Americans – 56% – say the National Security Agency’s (NSA) program tracking the telephone records of millions of Americans is an acceptable way for the government to investigate terrorism, though a substantial minority – 41% – say it is unacceptable. And while the public is more evenly divided over the government’s monitoring of email and other online activities to prevent possible terrorism, these views are largely unchanged since 2002, shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

[…]

Currently 62% say it is more important for the federal government to investigate possible terrorist threats, even if that intrudes on personal privacy. Just 34% say it is more important for the government not to intrude on personal privacy, even if that limits its ability to investigate possible terrorist threats.

Think of all the people you know who have said “I’m alright with it, I have nothing to hide,” or “Are you really surprised that the NSA was doing this?”

That’s how most people think about their privacy nowadays.

Just as the USSR discredited communists, 1800s America discredited libertarians

Libertarianism’s Achilles’ heel:

The strongest political support for a broad anti-statist libertarianism now comes from the tea party. Yet tea party members, as the polls show, are older than the country as a whole. They say they want to shrink government in a big way but are uneasy about embracing this concept when reducing Social Security and Medicare comes up. Thus do the proposals to cut these programs being pushed by Republicans in Congress exempt the current generation of recipients. There’s no way Republicans are going to attack their own base.

But this inconsistency (or hypocrisy) contains a truth: We had something close to a small-government libertarian utopia in the late 19th century and we decided it didn’t work. We realized that many Americans would never be able to save enough for retirement and, later, that most of them would be unable to afford health insurance when they were old. Smaller government meant that too many people were poor and that monopolies were formed too easily.

The role of chance in economic success

The Political Transformation of David Frum:

Frum has come to embrace some quintessentially liberal ideas about the role of chance as opposed to virtue in economic fortune. “Success is not always a matter of luck,” he says. “But as I get older, even the ability to work hard is itself a product of luck. Being born with a certain set of mental attributes, brain chemistry. Every once in a while you encounter a little kid who’s not that likable. Their life is going to be so much worse because they’re not that likable. Did they ask to be not likable?”

It’s scary to think about the effect the “genetic lottery” has on the course of our lives. I was born with a properly-functioning brain into a family that nurtured my intellectual curiosity from a young age and had the economic resources to move to a better-than-average public school district in Florida to ensure that I received a decent education. Millions of people my age didn’t have that luck.

Rather than increasing focus on technology, states are removing computer requirements altogether

Tech industry gender gap: Closing it starts in the classroom:

Take Kansas, where the education establishment thought it already had computing covered through vocational courses in typing and Microsoft Office. When the state’s Board of Regents realized that most kids learn basic computer skills through other courses, it cut the “computer technology” requirement altogether, instead of updating it to include actual code. (What the board didn’t realize is that many high schools, realizing its students were literate with computers, used the requirement to develop courses involving computer science.) 

“Most people think that our kids are coming out of childhood with computer skills that are relevant and useful,” says Tabitha Hogan, who teaches in a district an hour south of Wichita, Kansas and leads the state’s Computer Science Teachers Association chapter. “That’s what’s hurting us. They might be savvy enough to do something quickly with their friends in social media, but not to really develop their own ideas.”

Introductory computer science courses should be mandatory in every high school in this country. Having a surface-level grasp on programming – even just knowing what can be realistically be done with code – is going to be just as important to workers in the future as knowing proper grammar and basic math is today. 

The fact that Kansas removed the technology requirement altogether is despicable and an embarrassment for everyone in the state.

The Republican Party needs more than rebranding: conservatism is the problem

Conservatism Is The Problem:

“Redistribution” is not a matter of first principles and anyone who tells you otherwise is mistaken. All fiscal policy is redistributive, in that it involves collecting taxes from someone and spending money on programs that benefit someone else. And the question of how progressive that redistribution ought to be depends on outside factors, such as the relative economic cost of various kinds of taxes and the level of pre-tax inequality.

Changes in economic conditions should change people’s preferences about the level of fiscal progressivity. For example, if returns to economic growth increasingly accrue to people at the top of the income distribution, we should become more favorable to progressive redistribution. If the economy becomes more fragile, with more risk of recessions that lead to years-long spells of high unemployment, that calls for a more robust and progressively-financed safety net. And if top income tax rates are well below the peak of the Laffer Curve, that creates more room for added progressivity.

As it happens, these are all conditions that have manifested over the last thirty years, and especially the last five — and they’re why I favor a more redistributive fiscal policy than I used to. Conservatives are wrong on this issue, and outside conditions have shifted over time in a way that has made them much more wrong than they used to be.

As Barro notes, the The Republican Party today is in a situation very similar to the British Labour Party back in the ’80s. Being too extreme made the socialists in the Labour Party ineffective both at winning elections and at enacting policies. If the GOP can become more moderate, it can again be an effective opposition party to the Democrats going forward.