How Republicans Could Get Behind Climate Change

Jeremy Deaton, writing in Think Progress, examines whether political convergence on climate change is possible.

“’A lot of the narrative [put forward by environmentalists] plays out as one of costs, punishment and constraints,’ said Lynn Scarlett, former Deputy Secretary of the Interior under George W. Bush … ‘When you get to solutions that sort of transcend what has become kind of a symbolic umbrella, you start to see common ground.’”

“The social science largely supports this. If conservatives and liberals differ on climate change, it’s because they disagree about the role of government in the market.”

“There are, however, a limited number of policies that find support on both sides of the aisle. Conservatives may balk at what they see as federally-imposed limits on industry, like the Clean Power Plan, but they believe in the promise of American innovation. So even while climate change remains contentious, clean energy does not.”

“Scarlett believes lawmakers should prioritize renewable energy. Invest in research and development. Modernize the electric grid.”

“If there is hope for a grand climate bargain, Scarlett believes it will be found in tax reform. Republicans have long aimed to lower the corporate income tax. Scarlett says conservatives and libertarians may welcome a revenue-neutral carbon tax if the proceeds are used to offset a reduction in the corporate tax rate.”

The impact of a carbon fee.

More Money Equals Less Work, Unless You’re an American

Christopher Ingraham: “The American work ethic can basically be boiled down to one well-worn phrase: “Work hard, play hard.” But new research from a pair of Stanford University economists suggests we are failing, miserably, at the latter half of that maxim.”

“As countries get wealthier, their annual hours worked per capita tend to decrease, at least in the sample examined here by economists Charles Jones and Peter Klenow. They measure GDP in fractions of U.S. GDP, because they’re most interested in how other countries stack up to the United States in terms of economic well-being. For instance, Russia’s GDP per capita is less than half of that in the United States, so it lands halfway down the chart’s X axis.”

“We didn’t trade our productivity gains for more time, we traded them instead for more stuff.”

“The Stanford economists make the latest contribution to the genre with their measure that “combines data on consumption, leisure, inequality, and mortality.” They find that when you throw these other qualities into the mix, the economic well-being gap between the United States and other wealthy countries shrinks — but it doesn’t disappear completely.”

The Democratic Race: ‘Dishonest’ Vs. ‘Socialist’

Gallup: “Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have multifaceted images among the American public. But the most common responses Americans give when asked to say what comes to mind when they think of each are “dishonest” and “dislike her” for Clinton, and “socialist” and “old” for Sanders. On the positive side, a fair number of Americans view Clinton as capable and experienced, and Sanders as a fresh face and honest.”

Top Unaided Reactions to "Hillary Clinton," February 2016

EPA Reports an Increase in U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The Hill: “American greenhouse gas emissions increased by less than 1 percent in 2014, according to new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data released this week.”

“In the draft version of the EPA’s annual greenhouse gas report, the agency said emissions in the U.S. increased by 0.9 percent between 2013 and 2014 after a 2.2 percent increase the previous year.”

“The EPA blamed the increase on higher fossil fuel consumption in the energy and transportation sectors.”

“In all, the U.S. accounted for 6,873 million metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent in 2014. That figure is still about 7.5 percent less than emissions in 2005, the baseline used for Obama administration greenhouse gas reduction goals.”

Life Expectancy Gap Between Rich and Poor is Growing

Daily Kos: another study, this time from the Brookings Institution, has confirmed that there’s something going on with life expectancies, and it’s increasingly related to inequality.​​

“Looking at the extreme ends of the income spectrum, economists at the Brookings Institution found that for men born in 1920, there was a six-year difference in life expectancy between the top 10 percent of earners and the bottom 10 percent. For men born in 1950, that difference had more than doubled, to 14 years. For women, the gap grew to 13 years, from 4.7 years.”
Brookings.jpg

“Limited access to health care doesn’t account for many of the nation’s premature deaths. More than anything, the gap, again, seems to be behavioral, starting with smoking.”

“Two other factors are the rise in deaths related to drug overdoses (including prescription drugs), and the rise in obesity. However, obesity may not be the main driver of the income disparity, if only because obesity is something that’s increasing on all sides of the income divide: In 2010, the number had risen to the point where 37 percent of adults at the lower end of the income ladder were obese, compared with 31 percent at the higher end.”

Cruz on Military Spending is Big Government

Daily Kos: Sen. Ted Cruz has “talked about giving our nation’s bloated war budget a big boost if he becomes president. As if spending more than the next 14 countries combined isn’t enough.”

“His proposal to increase the Pentagon’s budget … to 4.1 percent of gross domestic product during his first two years in office would raise the 2017 fiscal year budget to $738 billion, a 26 percent increase from what President Obama has proposed. That compares with the peak war budget of $699 billion in 2011.”

“Cruz doesn’t want to raise taxes to accomplish this—golly, no. Rather, he wants to pay for it by dumping the Internal Revenue Service and four Cabinet-level departments: Education, Housing and Urban Development, Energy, and Commerce.”

“Fifty-four percent of federal discretionary spending now flows to the military. But that’s only so when a narrow view is taken regarding what comprises military spending. The overall Veterans Affairs budget including benefits and health care adds another 7 percent in discretionary spending. There is also national security spending for international FBI activities, Selective Service, the National Defense Stockpile, and other miscellaneous defense-related activities that add another 4 percent. An additional 5 percent goes to Homeland Security functions that are not part of the Department of Defense or Department of Energy. So federal discretionary spending that actually goes for national security purposes is 70 percent.”

What Does the Post-Obama Black Electorate Look Like?

Theodore Johnson, writing in The Atlantic, argues that ‘The nation is witnessing the emergence of a post-Obama black electorate. It is a constituency that has grown impatient with elected officials’ generational promises that their programs will eventually pull blacks from the doldrums of society into a fairer America where opportunity is accessible and hard work is rewarded equally. To combat institutional lethargy, this wave of young people is employing a variety of tactics—from protest to pop culture—to influence the political agenda. They are the offspring of six decades of activism, growing voting power, and increased intra-racial class diversity.”

“If recent trends are sufficient indication, the post-Obama black electorate will probably be characterized by three things: stratified voter participation, increased reliance on alternative methods of political pressure, and initial signs of growing partisan and political diversity.”

“Older blacks are more likely to rely on the vote to bring about policy change, whereas young voters place less confidence in electoral strategies. In the short-term, this may translate to an overall drop in black voter participation rates. But decreased voter turnout should not be mistaken for disinterest.”

“The post-Obama bloc employs a different strategy to bring about change—one rooted in creativity and energy. It is because of them that Black Lives Matter exists.”

 

Who Gets Jeb’s Votes?

Philip Bump: “With Jeb Bush now out of the race and Ben Carson out of the race in the eyes of literally every person paying attention to the presidential race, save Ben Carson (if he’s even paying attention), it’s worth wondering where their supporters might go. The thinking is that all those Bush supporters will go to a Rubio or Kasich, for example, but is that true?”

“It’s hard to say. The problem is that supporters of Bush and Carson are so few that polling on where they’ll go next is necessarily a tiny sample size. In a recent USA Today/Suffolk University poll, only 20 people said they planned to back Bush and only 13 signed up for Carson. That’s the problem, right? They have little support, so they have to drop out.”

“Here’s where those 33 people would go. This is not representative! But it reinforces that the idea that all of the vote will go to opponents of Trump is flawed.”

A “race that narrows to just Trump vs. Rubio or just Trump vs. Ted Cruz is a race that Trump probably loses. But that requires Kasich and Carson and Rubio or Cruz getting out. March 15 is the Ohio primary and the Florida primary, which both Kasich and Rubio will want to hang around for — making it even less likely that Trump will suddenly start trailing a consolidated centrist candidate.”

States With High State Taxes Are Vulnerable to Migration

Gallup: “Residents living in states with the highest aggregated state tax burden are the most likely to report they would like to leave their state if they had the opportunity.”

Percentage of Residents Who Would Like to Leave Their State, by State Tax Burden, 2015

“Nearly half (46%) of Connecticut and New Jersey residents say they would like to leave their state if they had the opportunity. At 13%, Montana has the smallest percentage of residents reporting they would like to leave the state.”

States Whose Residents Are Least Likely, and Most Likely, to Want to Leave, 2015

“States in the first, second and third quintiles have similar percentages of residents reporting they would like to leave their state; however, this percentage increases for residents living in states composing the fourth and fifth quintiles. These data suggest that even moderate reductions in the tax burden in these states could alleviate residents’ desire to leave the state.”

Is Charles Koch Feeling the Bern?

Charles Koch contends that he and Bernie Sanders agree on the fact that “the political and economic system is often rigged to help the privileged few at the expense of everyone else, particularly the least advantaged.”

“Democrats and Republicans have too often favored policies and regulations that pick winners and losers. This helps perpetuate a cycle of control, dependency, cronyism and poverty in the United States. These are complicated issues, but it’s not enough to say that government alone is to blame. Large portions of the business community have actively pushed for these policies.”

“That’s why Koch Industries opposes all forms of corporate welfare — even those that benefit us.”

“The United States’ next president must be willing to rethink decades of misguided policies enacted by both parties that are creating a permanent underclass.”

“I applaud the senator for giving a voice to many Americans struggling to get ahead in a system too often stacked in favor of the haves, but I disagree with his desire to expand the federal government’s control over people’s lives. This is what built so many barriers to opportunity in the first place.”

“It is results, not intentions, that matter. History has proven that a bigger, more controlling, more complex and costlier federal government leaves the disadvantaged less likely to improve their lives.”

Spike in Methane Eliminates Climate ‘Benefit’ of Fracked Gas

The Guardian: “There was a huge global spike in one of the most potent greenhouse gases driving climate change over the last decade, and the U.S. may be the biggest culprit, according a new Harvard University study.”

“The United States alone could be responsible for between 30-60% of the global growth in human-caused atmospheric methane emissions since 2002 because of a 30% spike in methane emissions across the country, the study says.”

“The research shows that emissions increased the most in the middle of the country, but the authors said there is too little data to identify specific sources. However, the increase occurred at the same time as America’s shale oil and gas boom, which has been associated with large amounts of methane leaking from oil and gas wells and pipelines nationwide.”

“With the US responsible for as much as 60% of global methane emissions growth, it’s critical that the country reduce natural gas use as quickly as possible, said Robert Howarth, a Cornell University ecologist and methane researcher.”

“’There is simply no way to do that by reducing carbon dioxide emissions alone because of lags in the climate system,’ he said. ‘Even with major carbon dioxide emission reductions starting now, the planet would reach 1.5C in 12 years and 2C in 35 years. But the planet responds much more rapidly to methane, so a reduction in methane emissions now would slow the rate of global warming immediately.’”

When a 4-4 Supreme Court is a Good Thing

Five Thirty Eight: “We can’t know for sure which lower-court decisions would have been reversed on 5-to-4 votes at the Supreme Court this term. But we can guess, using two sources of Supreme Court prediction: the {Marshall}+ algorithm and the wisdom of the crowd competing in everyone’s favorite Supreme Court/fantasy sports mashup, FantasySCOTUS:”

Voting rights: Wittman v. Personhuballah

“This case originated from a redistricting ruling in Virginia. A lower court held that race played too strong a role when the state legislature redrew the boundaries of a Virginia congressional district. The court said the district, Virginia’s Third, was gerrymandered because the legislature packed black voters into its boundaries in a way that diluted their vote in other districts. Republicans appealed that ruling to the high court. Scalia was seen by FantasySCOTUS as very likely to vote to overturn the lower court’s ruling.”

Unions: Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

“This is a case involving the ability of public-sector unions to collect the equivalent of dues from workers who choose not to join the union. The unions say that if they lose that ability, they will not be able to effectively bargain with government employers, but the justices — and particularly Scalia — seemed unsympathetic to that position during oral arguments in January. Scalia’s death may allow these unions, with a combined membership of more than 9 million public workers, to avoid a loss, at least for the time being.”

Welfare for the Wealthy

John Sides of The Washington Post interviews Syracuse University political scientist Chris Faricy on his newly published book “Welfare for the Wealthy.”

Faricy cites a few examples of how tax expenditures disproportionately benefit the wealthy: “One example is the collection of tax subsidies for private pensions. In 2015, the average household in the top 1 percent received pensions subsidies worth over $13,000 while the average benefit for a middle-class family was only $1,000. The main reason for this discrepancy is the progressive federal income tax structure.”

Faricy’s book shows the correlation between the growing polarization of the Democratic and Republican parties and the rise in private welfare spending like tax expenditures: “Political polarization relates to increased tax subsidies in three ways. First, polarization has increased the difficulty of passing new spending through the normal budget process and therefore privileges subsidies with fewer legislative veto points.”

“Second, as polarization has reduced the public trust in government, legislators have had to find a way to fund their policy priorities without being perceived as growing the government.”

“Finally, polarization has been asymmetric — with Republicans becoming more conservative than Democrats have become more liberal. Because of this, periods of divided government favor political compromises that use tax expenditures.”

“Most citizens, even educated ones, do not understand who primarily benefits from tax subsidies. The complexity of tax expenditures makes it easier to distribute federal money to unpopular groups such as the wealthy and corporations.”

Supreme Court’s Action on Obama’s Climate Plan: Opportunity or Disaster?

Michael Gerard, writing in Yale Environment 360 argues that the Supreme Court’s stay on Obama’s Clean Power Plan is “one of the most environmentally destructive actions the court has ever taken.”

“By acting as it did, the Supreme Court shut down the most important actions being taken by the United States to address the greatest environmental challenge ever faced … almost no one expected the Supreme Court to halt the preliminary planning work; after all, the first compliance period does not begin until 2022. The Clean Power Plan was the centerpiece of the U.S. pledges at the Paris climate conference last December, and there was immediate fear that the stay would give other countries an excuse to back off on fulfilling their own pledges.”

David Victor, however, argues that the Court’s action creates an opportunity: “Troubles with the Clean Power Plan will create an opportunity for the United States to demonstrate how countries can deal with the reality that in every nation it will be difficult to plan precisely the necessary deep reductions in warming pollution. It is in the United States’ acute national interest to show how the system established in Paris can bend and adjust, rather than break, in the face of challenges like the one presented last week by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

“In updating the world on what’s actually happening within the United States, the government can point to the many other policies that remain in place even if the Clean Power Plan gets stalled — such as the extension of tax incentives for renewable power, which was part of the budget deal reached between the Obama administration and Congress last December.”