Majority Support Obama’s Clean Power Plan

Eco Watch: According to a recent study by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, “a majority of the public in 23 out of the 26 states filing suits actually support setting strict limits on coal-fired power plants. Across all 26 suing states, 61 percent of the public supports the policy, ranging from 73 percent public support in New Jersey to 43 percent in Wyoming and West Virginia. Across all 26 suing states, only 38 percent of the public on average opposes the policy.”

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“America’s history of controversy over climate change and the legal and political challenges to the Clean Power Plan might suggest that the nation is divided over regulating carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants. Our research finds the opposite: a large majority of Americans overall support the approach. Our models find that a majority of Americans in almost every state support setting strict emission limits on coal-fired power plants.”

What Happened to Liberal Policies in Last Night’s Elections?

Quartz: “Americans around the country went to the polls on Tuesday night (Nov. 3) to vote in local and state elections that would decide everything from state governors and town mayors to measures to limit Airbnb rentals in their hometowns [and] so-called “liberal” issues appeared to have been crushed in some of the most-watched elections across the country.”

  • In Texas, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance that guaranteed equal rights to gay, lesbian, and transgender people … was struck down, with 61% of voters opposing and 39% in favor, with 95% of votes reported.
  • Ohio’s marijuana legalization amendment that would have made recreational, non-criminal use legal was rejected by about 65% of voters.
  • Portland, Maine’s proposal to set minimum wage at $15 per hour, twice the state minimum, was rejected by nearly 58% of voters.
  • In San Francisco, voters struck down a proposal that would have trimmed the number of days a home owner or renter could rent their property through Airbnb.
  • In the closely watched Kentucky state governor’s race, businessman Matt Bevin became just the second Republican to govern the state in four decades. Bevin ran on a platform to repeal Medicaid expansion that would leave hundreds of thousands uninsured, and on his support for a county clerk who refused to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Could an Upset in Kentucky Herald a Rollback for Obamacare?

Modern Healthcare: “Kentucky’s status as a one of the few Southern states to embrace the coverage expansions of the Affordable Care Act was thrown into question Tuesday with the election of Republican Matt Bevin to succeed Democrat Steve Beshear.”

“The Obama administration has hailed Kentucky’s success at extending health benefits to more residents under the Affordable Care Act. The number of uninsured in the state dropped from 20% in 2013 to about 9% this year.”

Matt Ford in The Atlantic: “The impact on health care in the Bluegrass State would be significant if both programs are reversed. About 400,000 Kentuckians qualified under the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, according to the Huffington Post, and another 100,000 received health insurance through KYnect.”

“Kentucky would be the first state to reverse the expansion after its acceptance. Bevin’s success (or failure) could herald the next wave of political battles to be fought over the implementation of President Obama’s signature domestic legislative achievement.”

Modern Healthcare: “Bevin may face some opposition, however, if he moves to eliminated the programs. In a recent poll, fewer than a quarter of respondents were in favor rolling back the healthcare programs and more than half were opposed.”

Who Do Republicans Trust Most on the Economy? Trump.

Gillian White in The Atlantic: According to a recent poll from Reuters/Ipsos, 59 percent of Republicans surveyed said that they trusted Trump to manage the economy. He was the leader by a wide margin. The runner up was Ben Carson, with only 36 percent of respondents saying they’d trust the economy in his hands.

“The results … indicate that Trump’s strategy is working, at least on some level. So far, that strategy has mostly included touting his success as a businessman and negotiator as evidence of his fluency with finances. In order to ‘make America great again,’ Trump’s economic plan recommends streamlining tax brackets, from seven to four, with the top tax rate cut to 25 percent.”

“Like him or not, it seems that Trump’s appeal isn’t waning among the Republican base. The recent poll also showed Trump as tied with Carson for the candidate respondents most trusted to be commander in chief, and ahead of Carson when it came to overall support. It’s also worth noting that often a strong showing on subject-specific poll questions, like those about the economy, are closely aligned with candidates who are polling well overall.”

Despite Rise in Premiums, Obamacare Enrollees Plan to Keep Coverage

Morning Consult: “Premiums are slated to rise steeply next year for health plans across the board.  Yet almost half of voters who have health coverage under Obamacare say they will keep their current plan through 2016, according to a new Morning Consult online poll.”

“The findings could be a worrying sign for the Obama administration, which is urging people who buy their insurance on state or federal exchanges to shop around for new plans to avoid premium increases. But the results could also be seen as a positive sign for Obamacare, generally. Half of enrollees are satisfied with their current plan and another one-third are comfortable enough with the online exchanges to look for cheaper coverage, as intended.”

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“There has also been a significant drop in the number of voters who plan to visit an Obamacare exchange website this enrollment season. The new poll found that only 24 percent of respondents said they plan to visit an exchange site within the next few months … In Nov. 2013, 65 percent of respondents said they planned to visit HealthCare.gov or a state online exchange during the first enrollment season.”

How Exxon Questions Science

Inside Climate News: “When ExxonMobil’s public relations department plucks a complex chart from the authoritative report by the world panel on climate science and starts chanting an uncertainty mantra, put your thinking cap on.”

“Apparently, it’s too easy to misunderstand—and just as easy to misrepresent—a rainbow-hued chart full of squiggly lines and obscure acronyms.”

“Exxon spokesman Ken Cohen either misunderstood or misrepresented his selected chart the other day as he pushed back against an InsideClimate News investigation into what Exxon’s own scientists knew about the emerging risks of climate change, and when they knew it.”

“Cohen made it sound like the chart’s wide range of climate outcomes was due to scientific uncertainty, when in fact much of the range is tied to social and economic unknowns. What path will the world choose to take? Will society decide on deep decarbonization, on half-measures, or on business as usual?”

“The graphs show this century’s rising global surface temperatures as simulated by climate models under different policy options.”

“Examine the chart for yourself. Especially if you are versed in the underlying science, you’ll see that it presents two kinds of uncertainties—those inherent in climate models, and those in the emission scenarios that are fed into the models.”

 

Where is There Room to Grow in America?

Jed Kolko in The Washington Post: “You might think the most room is out West … But that’s not quite the right way to look at the question. Most of us aren’t aiming to maximize the amount of land we own. We want some space, but space within commuting distance of jobs, stores and schools. Looking only among metropolitan areas, it turns out that the roomiest ones are not in the West. They’re in the South.”

“To see how much room there is, look at the density — measured in households per square mile, of the typical household’s neighborhood in each major metro area in the United States. In other words, in each metro, how crowded is the neighborhood where the typical household lives?

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“In general, metro areas with more people tend to have higher densities. But there are striking exceptions.”

“Atlanta, the ninth largest metro area by population, ranks only 132nd for density. The typical household in Atlanta lives in a neighborhood with just 931 households per square mile — or 1.5 households per acre. This is less than one-fourth the density of the typical household in Los Angeles or Chicago.”

“Other Southern cities have plenty of room, too. Among metro areas with populations of at least two million people, Charlotte, N.C., has the lowest density, followed by Atlanta. Among those with one to two million people, Birmingham, Ala., is the least dense, followed by Nashville and Raleigh, N.C.”

Is the Keystone XL Project in Jeopardy?

Brad Plumer in Vox: “The company trying to build the controversial Keystone XL pipeline has given up all hope that President Obama will approve the project — and wants a final decision delayed until after the 2016 election.”

“In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, the pipeline firm said it has just filed an application with Nebraska’s energy regulator over a new route, and that review process is expected to take 7 to 12 months. In the meantime, TransCanada wants the State Department to pause its own ongoing review.”

“One obvious possibility here is that TransCanada officials believed Obama was getting ready to kill the pipeline — so they’re making a last-ditch maneuver to postpone any any final decision until after the next election.”

“Obama could come out and say, nope, I’m rejecting this pipeline right here and now. Environmental groups like 350.org are currently urging him to do just that. A formal rejection would make life much more difficult for TransCanada. The company would either have to restart the difficult and costly application entirely from scratch — or, more likely, abandon the pipeline altogether.”

“Update: The White House said on Monday night that it still plans to make a final decision on Keystone XL before Obama leaves office.”

Montana Becomes 30th State to Expand Medicaid Under Obamacare

Talking Points Memo: Federal officials Monday approved Montana’s application to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, the AP reported.

“‘This agreement will bring much needed access to health care coverage to more than 70,000 low-income Montanans,’ said Health and Human Service Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a statement. ‘The administration looks forward to working with other states to expand Medicaid by designing programs that meet state’s needs while providing needed services to residents and significant economic benefits to states.’”

A Startling Rise in Death Rates for Middle-Aged Whites

Wall Street Journal: “White, middle-aged Americans are dying at a rising rate, a new study shows, a startling reversal that suggests addiction and mental-health issues are setting back decades of gains in longevity.”

“Suicide, alcohol abuse, drug overdoses and chronic liver diseases largely drove the rise, which occurred between 1999 and 2013, according to the report published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Those causes of death offset declines in other major drivers of mortality in midlife, such as lung cancer, the study said.”

“No other rich country has seen a similar reversal, and the trend is at odds with falling death rates for black and Hispanic Americans in that age group over the same period.”

“The authors warned that by the time white people in this age group are eligible for Medicare they could be in worse health than the current elderly population. That means they could require more expensive care.”

Does the Economy Perform Better Under Republicans or Democrats?

Paul Krugman questions whether the economy has performed better under Republicans.

“The arithmetic on partisan differences is actually stunning. Last year the economists Alan Blinder and Mark Watson circulated a paper comparing economic performance under Democratic and Republican presidents since 1947. Under Democrats, the economy grew, on average, 4.35 percent per year; under Republicans, only 2.54 percent. Over the whole period, the economy was in recession for 49 quarters; Democrats held the White House during only eight of those quarters.”

But “there’s no indication that the Democratic advantage can be explained by better monetary and fiscal policies. Democrats seem, on average, to have had better luck than Republicans on oil prices and technological progress. Overall, however, the pattern remains mysterious. Certainly no Democratic candidate would be justified in promising dramatically higher growth if elected. And in fact, Democrats never do.”

“Republicans, however, always make such claims: Every candidate with a real chance of getting the G.O.P. nomination is claiming that his tax plan would produce a huge growth surge — a claim that has no basis in historical experience. Why?”

“Republicans need to promise economic miracles as a way to sell policies that overwhelmingly favor the donor class.”

Summers: Krugman Exaggerates My Views on Secular Stagnation

Lawrence Summers responds to Paul Krugman’s assertion that Summers has converged towards his point of view on secular stagnation.

“I certainly appreciate the gravity of the secular stagnation issue more than I did a few years ago … But I think Paul exaggerates the change in my views considerably.”

“First, I believe that structural issues are often important for demand and growth. I have often asserted that ‘business confidence is the cheapest form of stimulus.'”

“Second, I have never related well to Paul’s celebrated liquidity trap analysis. It has always seemed to me be a classic example of economists’ tendency to ‘assume a can opener.’ Paul studies an economy in liquidity trap that will, by deus ex machina, be lifted out at some point in the future. He makes the point that if you assume sufficiently inflationary policy after this point, you can drive ex ante real rates down enough to stimulate the economy even before the deus ex machina moment.”

“The essence of the secular stagnation and hysteresis ideas that I have been pushing is that there is no assurance that capitalist economies, when plunged into downturn, will, over any interval, revert to what had been normal. Understanding this phenomenon and responding to it seems the central challenge for macroeconomics in this era. Any analysis that assumes restoration of previous equilibrium is, from this perspective, missing the main issue.”

Texas Cities Lead in Green Power Government

Fuel Fix: “The EPA on Monday said the City of Dallas is now the largest local government user of green power in the nation, taking the top spot away from the City of Houston, which still ranks second above the District of Columbia, Montgomery County in Maryland, and the City of Austin — giving Texas municipal governments three of the top five spots nationally.”

“City facilities in Dallas recently switched from having half of their electricity backed by renewable energy credits. Now, 100 percent of the City of Dallas’ electricity comes from wind power through a contract Dallas-based TXU Energy. Much of the wind power comes from Chicago-based Invenergy, which has built several wind farms in Texas. TXU also works with the City of Dallas on energy efficiency projects, such as new lighting and lighting controls.”

“While Houston is known as the energy capital of the world for oil and gas, just more than half of the City of Houston’s electricity comes from green power sources — a mixture of solar and wind power through Houston-based Reliant Energy and on-site power generation.”

“Even when competing against public corporations, Dallas and Houston still count in the top 10 nationally for green power usage.”