Can the Court Woo Back Conservatives?

Paul Waldman in The Washington Post: “The Supreme Court’s new term begins … and it brings with it a paradox. On one hand, the Court is poised to deliver conservatives a string of sweeping, consequential victories on issues covering a wide swath of American life. On the other, conservatives are up in arms about how they’ve been betrayed by the Court, and particularly by Chief Justice John Roberts, despite the fact that Roberts has in all but a couple of cases been as reliable a conservative vote as they could have hoped for.”

“To be clear, Republicans are right to focus on the Supreme Court during the campaign, and Democrats ought to as well … There may be no single issue more consequential for America’s future in this election than what will happen to the Supreme Court in the next four or eight years. But Republicans aren’t just arguing that it’s important for them to elect a Republican so they can get friendly justices, they’re arguing that even Republican presidents and Republican-appointed justices can’t be trusted not to turn into judicial Benedict Arnolds.”

“If you’re someone like Ted Cruz, this idea fits in nicely with the rest of your message, at least during the primaries: the real enemy isn’t the Democrats, it’s the feckless and unreliable Republican establishment that has failed to deliver the conservative paradise we were promised.”

Unemployment Dips, But It’s Still a Shaky Job Market

Wall Street Journal: “The number of unemployed Americans dipped below eight million last month for the first time since 2008–but that figure doesn’t entirely reflect job growth.”

“Unemployment dropped to a new low the same month that 350,000 Americans exited the labor force, the Labor Department said Friday. The civilian labor force has shrunk three of the past four months since touching a record high in May.”

“One explanation for the trend is that Americans out of work for an extended period of time are giving up looking for jobs.”

“Why are workers leaving the labor force? It could be because relatively few unemployed are receiving jobless benefits. The number of Americans receiving ongoing unemployment benefits touched a 15-year low last month.”


A Closer Look at Who Doesn’t Pay Taxes

The Hill: “Mitt Romney’s 47 percent is now 45.3 percent.”

“The Tax Policy Center says that’s now the number of households who don’t pay any income taxes, an almost five percentage point increase over the 2013 estimate of 40.4 percent.”

“Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, took a political hit when he used a previous Tax Policy Center estimate to assert that the 47 percent who didn’t pay income taxes would support President Obama.”

“The Tax Policy Center, a joint venture of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution, says this year’s increase is largely due to more precise projections about who actually pays taxes.”

“In other words, as the Center’s Roberton Williams put it: ‘Those additional non-payers were there all the time — we just failed to count them.'”

Americans: Don’t Repeal Obamacare. Fix Our Soaring Medication Costs.

Wall Street Journal: “Attention has focused lately on new drugs with eye-popping prices and on a few whose price a new owner abruptly raised several-fold. But what many drug companies rely on for sales growth is a pattern of steady increases, year in and year out, on older medicines. Wholesale-price increases for the 30 drugs analyzed by the Journal averaged 76% over the five-year stretch from 2010 through 2014. That was more than eight times general inflation.”

“Pricing power helps some in the pharmaceutical industry to compensate for sluggish demand, new competition or weak product pipelines. ‘Pricing has covered up a multitude of other disappointments over the past 15 years’ in the sector.”

Americans have taken notice. In fact, according to The Hill, a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found “Americans have a greater concern for medication costs than they do about the Affordable Care Act.”

“The Kaiser poll indicates that, for the public, repealing ObamaCare is much less of a concern: 44 percent of respondents have a favorable view and 41 percent of respondents have a negative view. Only 28 percent of the respondents want outright repeal, but most likely they have real-world concerns with drug prices.”

The GOP’s Fossilized Energy Policy

Paul Krugman observes that “when it comes to energy policy, the G.O.P. has become fossilized. That is, it’s fossil fuels, and only fossil fuels, all the way.”

“Why has the right become so hostile to technologies that look more and more like the wave of the future?”

“Part of the answer is surely that promotion of renewable energy is linked in many people’s minds with attempts to limit climate change … Beyond that, you need to follow the money. We used to say that the G.O.P. was the party of Big Energy, but these days it would be more accurate to say that it’s the party of Old Energy. In the 2014 election cycle the oil and gas industry gave 87 percent of its political contributions to Republicans; for coal mining the figure was 96, that’s right, 96 percent. Meanwhile, alternative energy went 56 percent for Democrats.”

“And Old Energy is engaged in a systematic effort to blacken the image of renewable energy, one that closely resembles the way it has supported ‘experts’ willing to help create a cloud of doubt about climate science.”


Amber Phillips in The Washington Post: “It’s now safe to say the NRA is one of the most powerful lobbying organizations of all time. And according to the latest Pew Research poll, Republicans are overwhelming in favor of that.”

“The survey taken July 14-20 on gun rights found that just 13 percent of Republicans think the NRA has too much influence.”


“Gun rights … have magnetized Americans toward the political poles. So Republicans might be naturally lining up with the more conservative factions in their party on everything from gun rights to immigration.”

What Are the Implications of the Troubling Jobs Report ?

Neil Irwin: “The September jobs numbers are easily the worst of 2015 so far. They offer an unpleasant combination of a bad overall headline, bad details and bad timing, amid a volatile and unsettling time in global markets.”

“The weak numbers offer some vindication for those Federal Reserve officials who preferred to hold off on interest rate increases last month to ensure the economy was on sound footing before tightening the money supply. They also give reason to worry that those wild market swings in August were less random fluctuations and more an indication that something deeper is wrong with the global economy — not so much that the stock market drop in August caused weak September jobs numbers, but that there is an underlying economic fragility causing both.”

“The question now is whether it means anything — whether the United States economic expansion, which seemed set to roar into 2015, is slowing in some meaningful way. We don’t know that yet, and it would be a mistake to leap to that conclusion. But that possibility became quite a bit more plausible after the September numbers popped onto economists’ computer screens.”

America Has More Guns Than People

Christopher Ingraham: “A 2012 Congressional Research Service report published exactly one month before the Sandy Hook school shooting put the number of civilian firearms at 242 million in 1996, 259 million in 2000, and 310 million as of 2009.”

“If that 310 million number is correct, it means that the first year of Barack Obama’s presidency was an inflection point: It marked the first time that the number of firearms in circulation surpassed the total U.S. population.”

“Data on gun manufacturing from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives now goes through 2013. If we were to update the CRS numbers with the most recent data, we’d get a chart that looks something like this:”

“Regardless of the actual number of civilian firearms in circulation, there’s no ambiguity around one crucial fact: U.S. gun manufacturers have drastically increased their output during the Obama years. In 2009, according to the ATF, gunmakers produced 5.6 million guns. By 2013 their annual production had just about doubled, up to 10.9 million guns that year.”

The More Americans Know About Congress, the More They Hate it

Gallup: “Americans who are knowledgeable about Congress — based on a five-question quiz — have more negative views of the Republicans and Democrats in Congress compared with those who are less knowledgeable.”

Ratings of Republicans in Congress

“The fundamental finding is that Americans who know the most about how Congress operates are not only the most negative about Congress in general, but also about the Republicans and Democrats in Congress specifically. This reinforces the general conclusion that criticisms of Congress — and the partisan leaders in Congress — are based on a realistic assessment of what these entities are doing rather than a lack of awareness of or interest in what they are doing.”

Congress Dodges a Legislative Response to Mass Shootings

Aaron Blake in The Washington Post: “President Obama on Thursday night passionately implored gun-control supporters to ‘politicize’ the mass shooting in Oregon. But as we wrote this morning, it’s still very unlikely the latest tragedy will have much impact on what is a long-stalled gun debate. And in Congress, it’s clear that the impetus for action just hasn’t been there.”

“The below chart … shows that congressional mentions of mass shootings in the context of gun control and mental health issues peaked during the debate after the late-2012 massacre in Newtown, Conn., when the White House unsuccessfully pushed for increased background checks for gun purchases.”

“There was less chatter about these issues after the next major mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, and even less after the massacre at a black church in Charleston, S.C., earlier this year.”

How Much Will Obamacare Premiums Rise in 2016?

The Hill: “Premiums on ObamaCare plans in 14 major cities are set to increase by an average of 4.4 percent in 2016, according to a new analysis.”

“The analysis from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation looks at 14 cities where complete data on rates from all insurers on ObamaCare’s marketplaces is available, and will be updated as more states release data.”

“While the average increase is relatively modest, some cities are seeing much larger spikes. It is also clear that premiums are increasing more than they did last year, when premiums in these 14 cities on average actually fell by 1.3 percent.”

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How Do Americans Feel About Their Financial Situation? So-So.

Gallup: “Half of Americans, on average, so far this year say they are feeling better about their financial situation. This may not seem like a highly positive state of affairs, but it marks a modest improvement from two years ago, when an average of 43% said they were feeling better about their finances.”

Are you feeling better about your financial situation these days, or not?

“These questions reflect not just the reality of how much money people have, but also how they think about their financial situation. Even though Americans are slightly more positive than they were two years ago, they are clearly not greatly optimistic about their financial situation, with just about half saying they are feeling better about it. And while Americans like to feel they are monitoring their spending closely and attempting to control how much they spend, these attitudes have not changed dramatically since 2013.”