Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 31, 2014

October 31, 2014

Are You a ‘Partyist?’

Jonathan Chait confesses that he’s a “Partyist.”

“How would you feel if your child married a supporter of the opposing party? I’ll admit it: I wouldn’t like it very much.”

“Cass Sunstein and David Brooks seem to believe it does. Indeed, in keeping with our culture’s addiction to grievance, they have taken up a new term to express their disapproval of my preferences: ‘partyism.’ This new term of art transforms the act of judging a person’s political beliefs into a kind of prejudice, and therefore to render it disreputable. ‘The destructive power of partyism,’ laments Sunstein, ‘is extending well beyond politics into people’s behavior in daily life.’ Brooks goes even further. ‘To judge human beings on political labels is to deny and ignore what is most important about them,’ he argues. ‘It is to profoundly devalue them. That is the core sin of prejudice, whether it is racism or partyism.’”

Chait concludes: “I know Republicans, and some of them are lovely human beings. That doesn’t mean I want one of them to move in next door and marry my daughter.”

“It’s okay to judge people’s political values. It’s not like the sports team you root for or even (exactly) like a religion, where you are mostly born into your loyalty. Politics expresses moral values.”

Posted at 10:26 a.m.
Social Issues

Today is an Important Day for Obamacare

Jonathan Cohn: “The success of Obamacare may hinge more on what the justices of the Supreme Court decide when they meet in private on Friday morning.”

“It’s their regularly scheduled conference … Among the cases they will consider this time is King v. Burwell. If they make a decision one way or another, to take the case or to reject it, they will announce it either Monday or the following Monday.”

“That may explain the timing of an op-ed that appeared in the Washington Post on Thursday. The article made a now-familiar argumentthat Congress never intended to deprive some people of subsidies, just because they lived in states where officials didn’t want to run marketplaces. But the article was noteworthy for who wrote it. The byline had five members of the U.S Congressand not just any old members. They were the chairman of the five committees, two in the Senate and three in the House, that actually wrote the bill. Particularly when it comes to complex legislation like the Affordable Care Act, plenty of lawmakers don’t have a sophisticated understanding of what they are considering. But the chairmen and ranking members of the key committees certainly do.”

Cohn concurs: “The issue shouldn’t really be in doubt anymore. Pretty much everybody who worked directly on writing the legislation has said the same thing: They understood the law to be providing tax credits to people in every state, full stop.”

Posted at 10:18 a.m.
Health, Judiciary

A Confusing Patchwork of Policies on Ebola

New York Times: “As more doctors and nurses return from Ebola-stricken countries in West Africa, public anxiety has soared about the potential for contagion — even though only one person in the United States has died from the virus, and several have recovered or returned from West Africa and never shown symptoms.”

“In response, governors of both parties are struggling to define public health policies on the virus, leaving a confusing patchwork of rules regarding monitoring, restricting and quarantining health care workers who have treated Ebola patients, whether domestically or abroad.”

“Over the past week, both liberal and conservative governors have imposed measures that went beyond what the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and many medical experts have said are necessary to prevent the spread of the disease. Some of the toughest policies have been imposed by governors in tight races — such as Connecticut, where a Democratic incumbent was fighting a tough challenge, and Georgia and Florida, where Republicans were.”

“The military, too, was trying to explain its Ebola policy, announced Monday, which is significantly tougher than the C.D.C.’s guidelines.”

“’We did factor in science,’ General Dempsey told reporters. ‘Physics is the science we factored in.’”

Posted at 7:29 a.m.

Majority Don’t Want Stricter Gun Laws

Gallup: “Less than half of Americans, 47%, say they favor stricter laws covering the sale of firearms, similar to views found last year. But this percentage is significantly below the 58% recorded in 2012 after the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, spurred a nationwide debate about the possibility of more stringent gun control laws. Thirty-eight percent of Americans say these laws should be kept as they are now, and 14% say they should be made less strict.”

“Public demand for stricter gun sale laws is returning to levels seen throughout the past decade. After seeing a spike in support for stricter laws following the Newtown school shooting in 2012, the call for more stringent laws has settled to near-record lows. The percentage of Americans who say that handguns should not be banned is at a near-record high as well. This suggests that while shootings may still occur with disturbing regularity in the U.S., there is a disconnect between those events and support for making gun laws stricter.”

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Posted at 7:15 a.m.
Gun Control

October 30, 2014

Narrow Edge in Partisanship Is Bad Election Sign for Democrats

Gallup: “Americans’ party preferences during the third quarter of a midterm election year give a good indication of which party will perform better in that year’s election. Democrats’ narrow two-percentage-point advantage in party affiliation this year — 45% to 43% — shares a greater similarity with strong Republican midterm years, such as 1994, 2002 and 2010, than with the advantage held in better Democratic years like 1998 and 2006.”

“Democrats typically hold an advantage in party affiliation among the national adult population … But since Republicans and Republican leaners typically vote at higher rates than Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, the voting electorate will usually be much less Democratic than the larger adult population. Thus, if Democrats start out with only a slim advantage among all adults, the voting electorate may very well end up being more Republican than Democratic.”

“Democrats have big challenges in convincing voters to support their party in this year’s midterm congressional elections … In addition to that, the Democrats face some structural disadvantages, including their typically lower voter turnout than Republicans, but also a congressional seat map that appears tilted in Republicans’ favor.”

“With little seeming to be in their favor, the real drama in the 2014 midterms is likely not to be if Nov. 4 will be a difficult day for Democrats, but just how difficult it will be.”

5l ajdwmnkgup et5kecjw Narrow Edge in Partisanship Is Bad Election Sign for Democrats

Have the Fed’s Stimulus Efforts Been Sufficient?

Justin Wolfers notes that the Fed’s decision to end quantitative easing does not mean an end to its stimulus efforts.

“Rather, it is no longer going to keep shifting the monetary dial to yet another more stimulative notch at each meeting. The level of monetary accommodation will remain at a historical high, even if it is no longer expanding.”

“Of course, the fact that the degree of monetary stimulus the economy is receiving is historically high does not mean that it is sufficient … It is a sad indictment of our macroeconomic policy makers — both fiscal and monetary — that it has taken this long to fashion an adequate response.”

Neil Irwin adds that QE, while helping the economy recover, has had many side effects, including making “lots of people on Wall Street very wealthy.”

“Many assets — almost all the major types of assets on earth, in fact — are at the high end of their historical valuations … In other words, there is a risk that, aided by Q.E., financial markets have come back a bit too far, too fast, especially when compared with fundamentals like the amount of money companies are making.”

“The Q.E.-driven recovery has been solid and consistent — but has not been able to push the economy toward a sharp rebound.”

GDP Growth of 3.5% Beats Expectations

Business Insider: “GDP growth was much stronger than expected in Q3 … GDP grew at a 3.5% pace. While this was down from 4.6% in Q2, it was well ahead of the 3.0% expected by economists.”

Wall Street Journal: “The report showed broad-based gains across the economy despite a drop in inventories. Trade boosted growth as imports fell, while government spending, which has been a drag on growth over the past three years, turned up during the quarter. Consumer spending and business investment held steady, though housing continues to underwhelm.”

“The growth follows an uneven first half of the year. The economy expanded at a 4.6% annual pace in the second quarter after it contracted at a 2.1% pace during the first quarter.”

“But the economic expansion, officially entering its sixth year, has felt unsatisfying to a broad swath of Americans because wages are barely rising ahead of inflation following a painful recession that saw the value of homes—for many Americans, their largest source of wealth—fall sharply and unemployment rise suddenly.”

Posted at 9:16 a.m.

Child Poverty in the U.S. Ranks Near the Bottom of Wealthy Nations

Christopher Ingraham: “The United States ranks near the bottom of the pack of wealthy nations on a measure of child poverty, according to a new report from UNICEF. Nearly one third of U.S. children live in households with an income below 60 percent of the national median income in 2008 – about $31,000 annually.”

“With 32.2 percent of children living below this line, the U.S. ranks 36th out of the 41 wealthy countries included in the UNICEF report. By contrast, only 5.3 percent of Norwegian kids currently meet this definition of poverty.”

“More alarmingly, the share of U.S. children living in poverty has actually increased by 2 percentage points since 2008. ”

 Child Poverty in the U.S. Ranks Near the Bottom of Wealthy Nations

Louisiana Tells Ebola Researchers to Stay Away

Bloomberg reports that “Louisiana has a message for many of the scientists and medical experts studying Ebola and aiding efforts to fight the deadly virus in West Africa — stay away.”

“The state sent a letter to members of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, which is holding its annual conference in New Orleans next week. If they’ve recently been to any of the West African countries where the virus has infected more than 13,000 people, they shouldn’t attend the meeting.”

“’We do hope that you will consider a future visit to New Orleans, when we can welcome you appropriately,’ said Kathy Klieber, Louisiana’s Secretary of Health & Hospitals and Kevin Davis, director of the Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness, in the Oct. 28 letter.

“The letter disinvites any registrants who’ve cared for people with Ebola in the last three weeks. ‘In Louisiana, we love to welcome visitors, but we must balance that hospitality with the protection of Louisiana residents and other visitors,’ the state officials said.”

“We see no utility in you traveling to New Orleans to simply be confined to your room,” the officials said in the letter.”

Posted at 7:35 a.m.

Overwhelming Support for Quarantine

Politico: “Americans overwhelmingly support quarantine for travelers arriving from West Africa, a new CBS News poll shows.”

“Eighty percent of those surveyed believe travelers from West Africa should be quarantined upon arrival to the U.S. until it is certain they don’t have Ebola, including 27 percent who don’t believe they should be allowed to enter the country until the epidemic in West Africa is over.”

“Only 17 percent of Americans said U.S. citizens should be allowed to enter from West Africa if they aren’t showing symptoms, and 14 percent said the same for foreign visitors.”

Posted at 7:30 a.m.

October 29, 2014

The Myth of America’s Home Ownership Dream

Eduardo Porter: “Is it time to temper the American dream of homeownership?”

“If you want to curb the power of Wall Street and reduce the risk that the financial system will bring the rest of the economy tumbling down again, there may be no other choice.”

Screen Shot 2014 10 29 at 12.24.45 PM The Myth of Americas Home Ownership Dream

“Tightening mortgage rules would no doubt make it more difficult to buy and sell homes. It would lead to more renters and fewer homeowners.”

Former FDIC head, Sheila Bair: “There is this religion about homeownership being the primary path to wealth accumulation — notwithstanding the bad experience we’ve had with it.”

“In an uncertain economy with so little job security, it makes less sense for policy to encourage workers to lock themselves into mortgages.”

Professor John Vickers “cited another paradox. ‘Ironically, the macroeconomic damage done by the crisis shows how important a well-functioning banking sector is,’ he said.”

“The question is whether our banking sector is well functioning.”

Posted at 12:25 p.m.

A Connection Between Strict Parenting and Inequality?

Washington Post: “Strict parents — the sort who practice an authoritarian form of parenting that restricts children’s choices — are more common in countries with high inequality, according to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The study used the World Value Survey to measure whether parents in different countries care more about qualities desired by stricter parents, like “hard work” and “obedience,” or qualities desired more by passive parents, like  ‘imagination’ and ‘independence.'”

“Countries like Sweden and Norway, for instance, which have relatively low levels of inequality, had a much larger percentage of respondents who valued imagination and independence when raising children.”

“Countries like the United States and China, where inequality is much higher, were much more likely to care about hard work and obedience. Notice in the chart below that the higher the Gini coefficient[(which measures inequality)], the higher the response rate tends to be for hard work.”

“One reason that parenting habits appear to be linked to inequality might be the relative presence of opportunity.”

 A Connection Between Strict Parenting and Inequality?


Fed Poised to End Quantitative Easing Program

Wall Street Journal: “Federal Reserve officials meeting Tuesday and Wednesday are virtually certain to end their latest bond-buying program, but they won’t be retiring the policy for good.”

“Their recent comments show bond purchases are now an established part of the Fed’s policy tool kit that they could employ again in times of deep economic trouble.”

“Supporters of Quantitative Easing note the unemployment rate has dropped to 5.9% in September from above 8% when they launched the current and third round of bond purchases. The economy has grown for most of the past five years, though modestly and erratically. And while inflation has been running below the Fed’s 2% target for more than two years, it has risen a bit and stabilized in recent months.”

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“Yet opponents in academia, on Capitol Hill and even at the Fed cite a number of concerns. Many point to the weak economic growth of recent years and see little benefit to bond buying and many risks.”

“The new money the Fed created to buy bonds—more than $3 trillion through the three programs—could fuel excessive inflation when growth picks up or asset bubbles that could cause financial instability and potentially another crisis.”

Don’t Forget About Obamacare

Ezra Klein: “The Obamacare repeal effort is dead. But the Obamacare reform effort is just beginning.”

One example: “the ‘copper plans’ being proposed in the Expanded Consumer Choice Act, which is being pushed by seven moderate Senate Democrats: Mark Begich, Mark Warner, Heidi Heitkamp, Tim Kaine,  Mary Landrieu, Angus King, and Joe Manchin.”

“The bill has been around for a few months, but it’s gained more attention in recent weeks because Begich — one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the 2014 election — is using it as proof that he really does want to fix Obamacare, rather than just protect it.”

The “seven Democrats are joining major business lobbies and the insurers to push Obamacare in a direction Republicans might well like. A longtime conservative complaint with Obamacare is that prices are too high because the government is demanding insurers offer overly lavish insurance. This would make that insurance a bit less lavish.”

“But copper plans expose a political problem with that theory: the sparsest plans in Obamacare are really pretty sparse … Lurking behind this debate is whether copper plans would even matter.”

Posted at 7:25 a.m.

U.S. Home Ownership Plummets

The Atlantic: “The U.S. homeownership rate has fallen to a 19-year low

“Americans between 35 and 44 have had the sharpest drop in homeownership since the recession struck, far outpacing the national rate.”

“In the last 20 years, homeownership has fallen less for young people than for any other age group under 64. Today’s historically low homeownership rate isn’t the result of the cheapest generation abandoning the housing market. It’s their older cousins, Generation-X, who are really running for the exits.”

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Posted at 7:03 a.m.

October 28, 2014

Curbing Population Growth is Not an Environmental Solution

Washington Post: Ecologist Corey Bradshaw looked at the question of “whether trying to reduce the size of the global population would help stave off climate change, the loss of species, and other environmental concerns. The resulting research, just out in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and co-authored by the University of Adelaide’s Barry Brook, seriously challenges the idea that greens ought to be campaigning for population control.”

“On top of the serious ethical problems with trying to restrict the global population, the study also finds a purely practical one: It doesn’t even appear possible.”

 Curbing Population Growth is Not an Environmental Solution

Modeling a variety of different scenarios, the researchers found that “only very unrealistic and extreme scenarios — 6 billion people suddenly killed in a catastrophic war or pandemic; or a sudden, draconian and globally enforced one-child policy — dramatically changed the trajectory of population growth by 2100.”

“At present, we’re in a phase of population growth that is exponential … We may slow it down eventually, but there is no way to take away the current momentum.”

Working Capital Review: CEOs increasingly see sustainability as core to success.

Ebola Has Infected Rational Thought

The New York Times Editorial Board criticizes the “panic” stirred up by Governors Christie and Cuomo, stating that “there is absolutely no public health justification for mandatory quarantines.”

“It’s not surprising that they have started to adjust their earlier positions, which seemed politically motivated, as they have come under a barrage of criticism from public health experts for their dangerous overreaction.”

“Fortunately, for the public, there are clearer heads at the federal level than there are in the statehouses of New York and New Jersey. On Monday, strict new federal monitoring rules, announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week, went into effect for travelers entering the United States from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The rules are designed to avoid the confusion of state-by-state policies, give health workers and other travelers a clearer idea of what to expect and reassure the public that somebody is in charge.”

Screen Shot 2014 10 28 at 7.57.55 AM Ebola Has Infected Rational Thought

Posted at 7:59 a.m.

Chris Christie Demands a “Tough” Policy for Ebola Caregivers

New York Times: “Shifting stances and a lack of clear standards from the governors of New York and New Jersey over their Ebola quarantine policy left critics and even some allies questioning on Monday whether the two men had fully worked through the details before they announced it.”

Governor Chris Christie’s justification for New Jersey’s mandatory 21-day quarantine for travelers who had direct contact with Ebola patients: It’s a “tough, common-sense policy.”

By contrast, a group of doctors, writing in the New England Journal of Medicine decried the policy as ineffective and dangerous: “The governors’ action is like driving a carpet tack with a sledgehammer: it gets the job done but overall is more destructive than beneficial.”

“Hundreds of years of experience show that to stop an epidemic of this type requires controlling it at its source.”

Roger Cohen sums it up best: “The healers are being humiliated and quarantined, punished for their generous humanity, while the humanoid big-data geeks get soda, steak and a condo in Nevada.”

Posted at 7:07 a.m.

Voter ID Laws: Poll Taxes in Sheep’s Clothing

Jonathan Chait: “Direct poll taxes have been illegal for 50 years, but the GOP has discovered a workaround. They have passed laws requiring photo identification, forcing prospective voters who lack them, who are disproportionately Democratic and nonwhite, to undergo the extra time and inconvenience of acquiring them.”

“The effect of all these policies is identical to a poll tax. (Indeed, a study found that the cost they impose is considerably greater than existing poll taxes at the time they were banned.) It imposes burdens of money and time upon prospective voters, which are more easily borne by the rich and middle-class, thereby weeding out less motivated voters.”

“It is precisely because the effect is so obvious that conservatives must labor so strenuously to deny it.”

“It is revealing that … conservative defenders of modern poll taxes [do] not defend the Republican Party’s fervor for reducing early and weekend voting. It is easier to defend voter identification laws independently as a necessary inconvenience to ward off the mostly theoretical problem of voter impersonation. Restrictions on early voting cannot be defended in these terms. And if you consider them together, it makes it all too obvious that both these things serve the identical purpose of raising the inconvenience of voting for a small chunk of Democratic voters.”

The Wealthiest Neighborhoods are the Most Liberal

Emily Badger: “The relationship between housing affordability and politics across the country is startlingly strong. Consider this chart, from an analysis today by Trulia’s chief economist, Jed Kolko:”

 The Wealthiest Neighborhoods are the Most Liberal

“Kolko looked at the 100 largest metros in the country (these include core cities and their suburbs), according to their vote margins in the 2012 presidential election. The results show that there is affordable housing in red and blue metros. But the most expensive metros are overwhelmingly blue, with just one exception: Orange County, Calif.”

“What this does mean is that the politics of housing are different — and the problems posed by its high costs are greater — in many blue places than red ones, whether we’re talking about housing affordability, access to homeownership or inequality.”

Posted at 6:27 a.m.
Economy, Social Issues

Price of U.S. Gas Drops to New Low

Fuel Fix: “The average price of regular gasoline at U.S. pumps slid to the lowest level in almost four years, dropping 18.18 cents in the two weeks ended Oct. 24 to $3.0759 a gallon, according to Lundberg Survey Inc.”

“Prices are 28.69 cents lower than a year ago, according to the survey, which is based on information obtained at about 2,500 filling stations by the Camarillo, California-based company.”

“The highest price for gasoline in the lower 48 states among the markets surveyed was in San Francisco, at $3.45 a gallon … The lowest price was in Memphis, Tennessee, where customers paid an average $2.73 a gallon. Regular gasoline averaged $3.33 a gallon on Long Island, New York, and $3.39 in Los Angeles.”

October 27, 2014

Which State is the Most Energy Efficient?

Eco Watch: “How does your state stack up when it comes to energy efficiency? The nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has just issued its eighth annual State Energy Efficiency Scoreboard, which assesses states based on policies that encourage energy savings, efficiency investments and jobs in the clean energy sector. So you can look it up.”

“The winner for the third straight year is Massachusetts.”

“North Dakota was dead last for the second year at 51. Also lagging in energy efficiency are Indiana and Kansas (tied at 40), South Carolina and Nebraska (tied at 42), Louisiana and Missouri (tied at 44), West Virginia (46), Alaska and Mississippi (tied at 47), South Dakota (49) and Wyoming (50).”

EnergyEfficiencyMap Which State is the Most Energy Efficient?

The Prohibition on Marijuana Distorts the Truth

Acknowledging marijuana’s addictive potential, University of Washington professor, Roger Roffman, writing in the Washington Post, argues that “legalizing makes far more sense than prohibition.”

“For that reason I was one of the sponsors of Washington state’s Initiative 502, which was approved by 56 percent of the voters in 2012. In addition to mandating a tightly regulated market, this new law earmarks excise taxes to support public education about marijuana, proven prevention programs targeting teens, treatment services for youth who get in over their heads with pot, research on marijuana and a systematic evaluation of the law’s impact on public health and safety.”

“Under prohibition, illicit marijuana enterprises have flourished, leading to horrific violence among competitors and other steep fiscal and social costs, including egregious racial inequities in how enforcement has been carried out. We are paying another price by maintaining a criminal approach as well, and that is the large-scale distortion of the truth about pot. Those arguing against legalization often exaggerate marijuana’s risks, rarely acknowledging that most occasional users are not harmed, while proponents of legalization tend to give short shrift to the risks to health and safety.”

“Legalization needs to be accompanied by a substantial investment in marijuana education, prevention, treatment, research and policy evaluation. The Washington model deserves a close look by others heading down the same path.”

Fixing the Education System is This Generation’s Greatest Challenge

Nicholas Kristof: “The best escalator to opportunity in America is education. But a new study underscores that the escalator is broken.”

“We expect each generation to do better, but, currently, more young American men have less education (29 percent) than their parents than have more education (20 percent).”

“Russia now has the largest percentage of adults with a university education of any industrialized country — a position once held by the United States, although we’re plunging in that roster.”

“A basic element of the American dream is equal access to education as the lubricant of social and economic mobility. But the American dream seems to have emigrated because many countries do better than the United States in educational mobility,” according to a new study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

“We have constructed an education system, dependent on local property taxes, that provides great schools for the rich kids in the suburbs who need the least help, and broken, dangerous schools for inner-city children who desperately need a helping hand. Too often, America’s education system amplifies not opportunity but inequality.”

“Until the 1970s, we were pre-eminent in mass education, and Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz of Harvard University argue powerfully that this was the secret to America’s economic rise. Then we blew it … “

Posted at 10:33 a.m.

When Politicians Ignore Science and Cave to Public Hysteria

The Guardian: “Amid a barrage of criticism from aid organisations, medical experts and the mayor of New York, the governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, and his New York counterpart, Andrew Cuomo, have defended their plans, which provide for the mandatory 21-day quarantine of anyone returning from west Africa after direct contact with people suffering from Ebola.”

“But on Sunday evening Cuomo struck a less hardline tone, saying returning healthcare workers could be quarantined at home and receive twice-daily monitoring from medical professionals. The state will also compensate for any lost wages.”

“Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Disease, said quarantining health workers could have the unintended consequence of stopping US aid workers from tackling the disease at its source in West Africa.”

“Christie has so far defended his position, believing he has public opinion on his side.”

“New federal rules were also set to come into force Monday. Those plans and those prepared by New York have been thrown into disarray by the governors’ surprise moves.”

New York Times: “Aides to President Obama also asked other governors and mayors to follow a policy based on science, seeking to stem a steady movement toward more stringent measures in recent days at the state level.”


Posted at 8:14 a.m.

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