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.”

Americans Are Drinking Less Soda

Margot Sanger-Katz: “Over the last 20 years, sales of full-calorie soda in the United States have plummeted by more than 25 percent. Soda consumption, which rocketed from the 1960s through 1990s, is now experiencing a serious and sustained decline.”

“The drop in soda consumption represents the single largest change in the American diet in the last decade and is responsible for a substantial reduction in the number of daily calories consumed by the average American child. From 2004 to 2012, children consumed 79 fewer sugar-sweetened beverage calories a day, according to a large government survey, representing a 4 percent cut in calories over all. As total calorie intake has declined, obesity rates among school-age children appear to have leveled off.”

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“In explaining the disdain for sodas … industry executives have noted that consumers these days seem more interested in healthier or natural products. They are also frank about other attitude changes that are a threat to their businesses.”

“The changing patterns of soda drinking appear to come thanks, in part, to a loud campaign to eradicate sodas. School cafeterias and vending machines no longer contain regular sodas. Many workplaces and government offices have similarly prohibited their sale.”

The U.S. Is Much More Violent Than Other Countries

Slate: “The U.S. really is far more violent than other advanced countries, and you need only to glance at the above chart to see it. The chart, created by Kieran Healy, a professor of sociology at Duke University and republished here with permission, shows the rate at which people die by assault in the U.S. and how that rate has changed over time in orange. In blue, it shows the rates of 23 other wealthy countries. The good news is that the U.S.’s rate has steadily declined since 1980. The bad news is that we’re still about three times as violent as any other country in the dataset.”

How Wealthy Donors Get What They Want

Paul Krugman asks why every Republican candidate is obsessed with cutting taxes for the wealthy.

“True, you can find self-proclaimed economic experts claiming to find overall evidence that low tax rates spur economic growth, but such experts invariably turn out to be on the payroll of right-wing pressure groups …  Independent studies of the correlation between tax rates and economic growth, for example by the Congressional Research Service, consistently find no relationship at all.”

“Still, tax cuts are politically popular, right? Actually, no, at least when it comes to tax cuts for the wealthy. According to Gallup, only 13 percent of Americans believe that upper-income individuals pay too much in taxes, while 61 percent believe that they pay too little. Even among self-identified Republicans, those who say that the rich should pay more outnumber those who say they should pay less by two to one.”

“It’s straightforward and quite stark: Republicans support big tax cuts for the wealthy because that’s what wealthy donors want. No doubt most of those donors have managed to convince themselves that what’s good for them is good for America. But at root it’s about rich people supporting politicians who will make them richer. Everything else is just rationalization.”