California’s Investment in Energy Efficiency Yields Large Benefits

Clean Technica: “Over the last 40 years, the state of California has been investing in energy efficiency initiatives, to the tune of about $1 billion per year, and these efforts have saved its residents some $90 billion in utility costs, created ‘hundreds of thousands’ of energy efficiency jobs, and by the end of the decade will have avoided the pollution equivalent of 41 power plants, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).”

ca-energy-efficiency-info

“According to the updated report, Californians have household electric bills that are some $20 less per month than the national average, which can be attributed to energy saving programs, building codes, and higher standards for appliances. The per capita electricity use in California has also remained flat, according to NRDC, when compared to the increases in other parts of the country (which are up about 50% since the 1970s) thanks to these initiatives, and the state’s energy efficiency commitments have ‘reduced the overall electricity needed to serve customers by nearly one-fifth.’”

Americans on the Move

Christopher Ingraham and Emily Badger: “In any given year, about 8.5 million people move from one metropolitan area to another within the United States — from the Washington, D.C., region up to New York, or from New York to Philadelphia and farther away. These major moves — distinct from the kind you make across town, or even from the city to the suburbs — make up a relatively small share of all migration. Only about one in five movers today decamps for another metro area entirely.”

“In the table below, based on new five-year American Community Survey data from the Census Bureau, we’ve plotted annual migration totals among the 10 largest metropolitan areas in the United States … Surprisingly, 22,000 New Yorkers head to Miami, an unusually large migration for two metros 1,300 miles apart.”

“You can get a sense in this table of how regional proximity plays a big role in metro migration trends. More than 13,000 people head from Dallas to Houston each year, with a similar amount moving in the opposite direction. But the two Texas cities don’t see much in the way of migration to and from the other major metro areas in the chart, and they stand apart for sending particularly few people to New York.”

The Difficulty with Passing Gun Control Laws

Danny Hayes in The Washington Post: Will the recent shooting in Virgina be “the incident that leads to reforms that gun control advocates have for years pushed for? … Recent history says we should be doubtful. Not only do numerous political interests make it difficult to enact gun control legislation, but without major efforts by politicians themselves, the gun debate is likely to fade quickly from public view.”

“That’s because of what’s known as the ‘issue attention cycle.’ Mass shootings often generate significant media coverage immediately after they occur. But as time goes by, journalists move on to other stories, leading the public to grow less concerned with gun control. This is what happened in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012. As the graph below shows, news coverage of gun control in the nation’s newspapers surged in the shooting’s aftermath, but declined quickly through 2013.”

Does Gun Ownership Correlate With Murder Rates?

Vox: “The United States owns way, way more guns per capita than the rest of the world. And the best research on gun violence suggests that’s probably contributing to our homicide problem — such as the horrific shooting in Virginia Wednesday morning.”

“Here’s a map of firearm ownership around the world, using 2012 data compiled by The Guardian. The United States has nearly twice as many guns per 100 people as the next closest, Yemen — 88.8 guns per 100 as opposed to 54.8 in Yemen:”

Gun_ownership_map

“The American firearm homicide rate is about 20 times the average among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries (excluding Mexico).”

“Harvard researchers Daniel Hemenway and Matthew Miller examined 26 developed countries, and checked whether gun ownership correlated with murder rates. They found that ‘a highly significant positive correlation between total homicide rates and both proxies for gun availability.’ They also didn’t find much evidence that a higher rate of gun murders led to lower rates of other kinds of murder (i.e., stabbings).”

“A recent, highly sophisticated study found that, once you control for general crime rates and other confounding factors, ‘each 1 percentage point increase in proportion of household gun ownership’ translated to a 0.9 percent increase in homicides.”

Which Cities Are the Most Plagued by Traffic Gridlock?

Texas A&M Transportation Institute: “Just as the U.S. economy has regained nearly all of the 9 million jobs lost during the downturn, a new report produced by INRIX and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) shows that traffic congestion has returned to pre-recession levels.”

“According to the 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard, travel delays due to traffic congestion caused drivers to waste more than 3 billion gallons of fuel and kept travelers stuck in their cars for nearly 7 billion extra hours – 42 hours per rush-hour commuter. The total nationwide price tag: $160 billion, or $960 per commuter.”

“Washington, D.C. tops the list of gridlock-plagued cities, with 82 hours of delay per commuter, followed by Los Angeles (80 hours), San Francisco (78 hours), New York (74 hours), and San Jose (67 hours).”

“Cities of all sizes are experiencing the challenges seen before the start of the recession – increased traffic congestion resulting from growing urban populations and lower fuel prices are outpacing the nation’s ability to build infrastructure.”

Trump Exposes the Real Motivations of the GOP

Paul Krugman, reflecting on Trump’s popularity, asks: “What happened to conservative principles?”

“Actually, nothing — because those alleged principles were never real. Conservative religiosity, conservative faith in markets, were never about living a godly life or letting the invisible hand promote entrepreneurship.”

“It’s really about who’s boss, and making sure that the man in charge stays boss. Trump is admired for putting women and workers in their place, and it doesn’t matter if he covets his neighbor’s wife or demands trade wars.”

“The point is that Trump isn’t a diversion, he’s a revelation, bringing the real motivations of the movement out into the open.”

Is Obamacare Still a Campaign Issue?

Drew Altman: “Campaign rhetoric may give the impression that the ACA is a threshold issue for Republican voters, but polling indicates that it is just one of many issues GOP voters care about.”

“In the Kaiser Family Foundation’s August tracking poll, 69% of Republican registered voters said they would consider a candidate’s views on the ACA as one of many factors determining their vote; just 12% said they would ‘only vote for a candidate who shares their views on the ACA.’ Eighteen percent said this issue would not be a factor in their vote. The findings suggest that Republican candidates are not likely to win many primary votes based solely on their ACA positions.”

“Separately, a challenge for those candidates offering replacement plans is that Republican voters are somewhat divided on what they would like Congress to do next about the ACA … There is no groundswell of support–at least not yet–among the Republican base for replacement plans. That could be because there is no consensus replacement idea around which to coalesce, or because voters are tiring of the debate, or for other reasons.”

“Overall … it’s not clear that any position will distinguish one candidate from the others in a crowded field.”

 

Republicans Support State Marijuana Laws

Christopher Ingraham: “By significant margins, Republican voters in the early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire say that states should be able to carry out their own marijuana laws without federal interference. Sixty-four percent of GOP voters in Iowa say that states should be able to carry out their own laws vs. only 21 percent who say that the federal government should arrest and prosecute people who are following state marijuana laws.”

“These numbers come from recent surveys conducted by Public Policy Polling and commissioned by reform group Marijuana Majority. They come as some GOP candidates, such as Gov. Chris Christie (N.J.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), have stepped up their anti-marijuana rhetoric in recent weeks.”

“Marijuana policy is not a make-or-break issue like jobs or the economy for most voters. But in a crowded primary field, it could mean the difference between, say, a seat at the main debate table and relegation to the sidelines.”

Trump Remains Deeply Unpopular with Hispanics

Gallup: “U.S. Hispanics are still getting to know most of the Republican contenders for president. At this point in the campaign, less than half have formed an opinion of any Republican candidate except Donald Trump and Jeb Bush. Partly because of this, Hispanics’ views of most GOP candidates range from mildly positive to mildly negative. The sole exception is Trump, whose favorable rating with Hispanics is deeply negative.”

Hispanics' Views of GOP Presidential Contenders, July-August 2015

German Lopez in Vox: “Hispanic voters are an increasingly important demographic for both political parties, since they’re expected to make up more and more of the electorate in the next few decades and are already a prominent force in several battleground states. Political opinion research group Latino Decisions has estimated, for instance, that a Republican presidential candidate will need more than 40 percent of the Hispanic vote to win the election.”

“It’s especially concerning for Republicans because Hispanic voters seem to really, really like Hillary Clinton. Gallup found that the Democratic frontrunner has a very strong 40 percent approval rating among Hispanic Americans.”

How America Dominates Defense Spending

Matthew Yglesias: “This map, found in Bank of America’s “Transforming World” atlas, dramatizes exactly how enormous our defense budget is in context:”

“Not only does the US defense budget equal about half the world’s total military spending, but a huge chunk of the rest of the total is spent by close American allies. Russia’s military spending, for example, is dwarfed by the combined commitments of the UK, France, and Germany. North Korea’s military spending looks like a tiny pimple sitting on the top of South Korea’s head.”

A Federal Housing Policy That Favors the Wealthy

Vox: Federal and state “tax deductions tend to be larger for rich people, who tend to have more expensive houses. And rich people are also in higher tax brackets, making every dollar deducted worth more. As a result, these tax breaks provide the biggest financial benefit to the wealthiest taxpayers. The Urban Institute’s John McGinty, Benjamin Chartoff, and Pamela Blumenthal have created a helpful chart showing just how big these tax breaks get.”

Housing tax breaks for rich people are larger than housing subsidies for poor people.

“The blue bars show the value of these tax breaks for different income brackets … As you can see, the tax breaks provided to the richest Americans, on a per-person basis, dwarf the value of housing subsidies provided to those with low incomes.”

“Most households in the middle of the income distribution are too wealthy to qualify for federal housing subsidies. At the same time, they tend to have relatively small houses and be in low tax brackets, so they don’t get much benefit from housing-related tax breaks.”

How Trump’s Attack on Immigration Hurts All Republicans

Patrick J. Egan in the Washington Post: “In one word, here’s why Donald Trump’s candidacy has gone from sideshow to serious problem for the Republican Party: immigration.”

“What’s gone largely unnoticed is that Republicans’ tough talk on immigration is at odds with a majority of Americans considered as a whole. Over the last decade, American public support for immigrants—and specifically, for allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain U.S. citizenship if they meet certain requirements—has been remarkably strong [and has never dipped below 50%.]”

“Trump and his rivals are appealing for the votes of a narrow—if fervent—slice of the G.O.P primary electorate. But in doing so, they are taking positions that are far out of step with the majority of Americans who will be voting in November 2016.”

Summers: Don’t Raise Interest Rates

Lawrence Summers argues that “a reasonable assessment of current conditions suggests that raising rates in the near future would be a serious error that would threaten all three of the Fed’s major objectives: price stability, full employment and financial stability.”

“The pressure to increase [rates] comes from a sense that the economy has normalized during the 6 years of recovery and so the extraordinary stimulus represented by 0 percent interest rates should be withdrawn. This has been a consistent theme for the Fed, with much talk of ‘headwinds’ that require low interest rates now but will abate in the not too distant future, allowing for normal growth and normal interest rates.”

“Whatever merit the theory of temporary headwinds had a few years ago, it is much less plausible as we approach the seventh anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers … Much more plausible than ‘temporary headwinds’ is ‘secular stagnation’ or the very similar idea that Ben Bernanke has put forward of a ‘savings glut.’”

“New conditions require new policies. There is much that should be done, like major steps to promote both public and private investment, to raise the level of real interest rates consistent with full employment. But until and unless these new policies are implemented, inflation sharply accelerates or euphoria in markets breaks out, there is no case for the Fed to adjust policy interest rates.”