It’s incredibly difficult to climb the income ladder in the South

If you’re poor and raising kids in the South, you owe it to your children to move elsewhere as soon as possible. David Leonhardt, for The New York Times:

Especially intriguing is the fact that children who moved at a young age from a low-mobility area to a high-mobility area did almost as well as those who spent their entire childhoods in a higher-mobility area. But children who moved as teenagers did less well.

Income ladder

Why Nate Silver should stick to politics and sports

Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum, on why Nate Silver should stick to his strong points of politics (which is almost purely data driven) and sports (which he has a lot of expertise in):

But weather, economics, and education? I’m skeptical that you can just parachute into those fields and add a lot of value. They’re far more complex, are already heavily populated with sophisticated statistical modeling, and generally require some serious subject matter expertise in addition to raw number-crunching skill.

It’s possible that I’m just overreacting to a brief throwaway mention in the Politico piece. If all Silver is trying to do is improve on mainstream news reporting of number-heavy topics, that shouldn’t be too hard. Still, I’d hate to see the basic 538 model get naively overextended into anything that has lots of numbers attached to it. It’s one thing when bloggers (like me) throw up simple wonk-lite analyses of complex topics. After all, no one really takes us seriously as experts. But the 538 brand is all about expertise. It’s inherent in everything that appears there. I hope Silver is careful about what he takes on as he extends his brand.

Why Republicans don’t brag about their alternative to Obamacare

Unlike Obamacare, what Republicans want really would change health care as we know it:

Republicans have wisely decided to attack Obamacare without committing themselves to an alternative because the alternative would be easy to attack. Ponnuru, for instance, suggests changing the tax code and stripping regulations to create “a market in which almost everyone would be able to purchase relatively cheap, renewable insurance policies that protected them from the risk of catastrophic health expenses.” Telling tens of millions of Americans they’ll lose their insurance that covers basic medical expenses and get bare-bones policies with thousands of dollars in deductibles is not a winning play.

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%.

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.

We don’t have any evidence that data mining has saved lives

Where’s the evidence that data mining saves lives?:

To date, there have been practically no examples of a terrorist plot being pre-emptively thwarted by data mining these huge electronic caches. (Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has said that the metadatabase has helped thwart a terrorist attack “in the last few years,” but the details have not been disclosed.)

When I was writing my book, “The Watchers,” about the rise of these big surveillance systems, I met analyst after analyst who said that data mining tends to produce big, unwieldy masses of potential bad actors and threats, but rarely does it produce a solid lead on a terrorist plot.

Those leads tend to come from more pedestrian investigative techniques, such as interviews and interrogations of detainees, or follow-ups on lists of phone numbers or e-mail addresses found in terrorists’ laptops. That shoe-leather detective work is how the United States has tracked down so many terrorists. In fact, it’s exactly how we found Osama bin Laden.

While I’m certainly against the government having such extensive access to private communications, I do believe that this is one of those cases where there probably are examples of this technology stopping terrorism – but they won’t tell us because that might tell the terrorists what not to do.

But if anyone would know that a terrorist plot was foiled, wouldn’t it be the people that were organizing it to begin with? This seems like a case where the government might as well be open. The terrorists are already going to adapt their tactics to avoid repeating the actions that have gotten them caught. The American people might as well be told why their privacy being taken away is worth it.

The government needs to spend money in an economic crisis

Austerity Principles, or How to Save an Economy in Crisis:

Automatic stabilizers work. In the U.S., when it comes to fiscal policy in times of economic crisis, there isn’t much disagreement between the political parties. But if a separate debate over the proper size of government is allowed to intrude (as it has), the result is gridlock.

Policy makers should instead agree in advance to a system of automatic stabilizers that kick in during recessions. These include unemployment insurance extensions and relaxed eligibility standards for food stamps when the jobless rate exceeds, say, 6 percent. By the same token, lawmakers could agree to spend, say, 20 percent more on public works programs when unemployment increases. Automatic stabilizers offset about 20 percent of an economic shock after two years, according to research by Federal Reserve economists. The effect is even bigger in Europe, where automatic stabilizers are more prevalent.

Republicans shouldn’t care if the U.S. spends more this year and less next year so long as the permanent size of the government remains the same.

Maybe there wasn’t disagreement between Democrats and the Republicans of yesteryear, but the Tea Party Republicans from 2010 and 2012 would beg to differ. These are the people who would rather jeopardize the health of children than provide the poor with assistance.

If any good has come out of the last 5 years, it’s that there will be a solid case for  stimulus and stabilizers the next time we have a severe recession.

The reason behind government bloat: crony capitalism

John Daly, “Big versus small government is not a real issue”:

The underlying problem of government bloat is crony capitalism.  Special interests – like AARP and the military industrial complex — rule.

The smartest thing that the special interests and the military-industrial complex ever did was associating people who talk about special interests and the military-industrial with left-wing loonies. They are the biggest single problem within our political system, yet they are essentially impossible to get rid of because of their money and influence.

Campaign for Oil and Gas Extraction Tax Begins Signature Gathering in California

A proposed ballot initiative that would enact a tax on oil and gas extracted from California will be granted summary and title by the Office of the Attorney General today.

Californians for Responsible Economic Development, the group behind the measure, now has 150 days to collect 505,000 signatures if they wish to qualify it for the 2014 ballot.

In order to collect the signatures the campaign is taking a two-pronged approach, using both grassroots organizing and meeting with donors to raise money for paid signature gathering.

In the three months leading up to official summary and title, 109 volunteers from across California have signed up to help gather signatures in addition to the organizations supporting the bill. “As people learn about the benefits of CMED – decreased tuition, renewed cities and parks and job creation fueled by green energy – they are eager to sign on and help,” explains Jack Tibbetts, author and lead-proponent of the campaign.

The California Modernization and Economic Development Act (CMED) places a 9.5% tax on the oil and gas that’s extracted from California, and would bring in over $2 billion of new revenue to the state.

$1.2 billion would be allocated in four equal parts towards K-12, California Community Colleges, California State University and the University of California.

Another $400 million would be used to provide businesses with subsidies for switching to cleaner, cheaper forms of energy. The remaining $300 million will be allocated to county governments for infrastructure repair, public works projects, and funding public services.

The bill has already attracted the attention and support from a wide variety of interest groups and individuals, and touts a growing list of endorsements on their website ( In February, former US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich endorsed CMED stating. Using a tax on oil extracted from under California to help finance the education of Californians should be a no-brainer. It will only improve our schools. The real question is why California hasn’t done this long before now.”

Dr. Daniel Kammen, Nobel Prize recipient and co-author of Prop 87 (a similar measure on the 2006 ballot), wholeheartedly endorsed the proposal: “Placing a small surcharge on petroleum and gas that is extracted from California can only benefit our state. It would spur innovation on the producer side to reduce costs and bring in funds that are critically needed to green the economy, re-invest in education, and renew cities and parks. The California Modernization and Economic Development Act is the best way moving forward to ensure that all of these priorities are met.”

Last week, the California Modernization and Economic Act gained the support of State Senator Noreen Evans, who is currently sponsoring her own version of an extraction tax in the Senate, SB 241, to fund education and parks in California. She had this to say about the proposed ballot initiative: “The California Modernization and Economic Development Act closes a glaring corporate tax loophole in California that has benefited big oil for far too long. I absolutely support efforts that will allow California to collect on these vast and irreplaceable natural resource revenues that should fund one of the most important core services of government-education. It’s past time California ends the oil industry’s free ride and finally sets a solid revenue stream towards funding government’s education obligations.”

“Going forward, the CMED campaign will be working closely with the Senator’s office to ensure that an oil severance tax is enacted” said Tibbetts. “The campaign to qualify the California Modernization and Economic Development Act wholeheartedly supports Senate Bill 241 and we are encouraged by the efforts being made by Senator Evans. California is in critical need of netting additional revenue for education and other important services that will promote job growth and advance our people and our economy. However, just as oil companies have the right to extract and profit from our resources, California has the right to some compensation for the mineral wealth removed. Should the Senate fail to vote and pass SB 241, our campaign will work with public officials, donors, interest groups and students to produce an extraction tax for the 2014 ballot.”