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.”

How Can the U.S. Prevent the Next Economic Crisis?

Wall Street Journal: “As the U.S. economic expansion ages and clouds gather overseas, policy makers worry about recession. Their concern isn’t that a downturn is imminent but whether they will have firepower to fight back when one does arrive.”

“With the U.S. expansion entering its seventh year, policy makers are planning how to respond to the next downturn, which history shows is inevitable. The current expansion is now 16 months longer than the average since World War II, and none has lasted longer than a decade.”

“The next downturn could further expand Fed bondholdings, but with the central bank’s balance sheet already exceeding $4 trillion, there are limits to how much more the Fed can buy.”

“Many economists believe relief from the next downturn will have to come from fiscal policy makers not the Fed, a daunting prospect given the philosophical divide between the two parties.”

Beware the Growing Global Glut

Paul Krugman asks “why does the world economy keep stumbling?”

“What we’re seeing is what happens when too much money is chasing too few investment opportunities,” or as Ben Bernanke argued more than a decade ago, “that a ballooning U.S. trade deficit was the result, not of domestic factors, but of a ‘global saving glut.'”

“What’s causing this global glut? Probably a mix of factors. Population growth is slowing worldwide, and for all the hype about the latest technology, it doesn’t seem to be creating either surging productivity or a lot of demand for business investment. The ideology of austerity, which has led to unprecedented weakness in government spending, has added to the problem. And low inflation around the world, which means low interest rates even when economies are booming, has reduced the room to cut rates when economies slump.”

There’s “a sort of emotional prejudice against the very notion of global glut. Politicians and technocrats alike want to view themselves as serious people making hard choices — choices like cutting popular programs and raising interest rates. They don’t like being told that we’re in a world where seemingly tough-minded policies will actually make things worse. But we are, and they will.”

Could Trumpism Destroy the Republican Party?

Nate Cohn and others: “A review of public polling, extensive interviews with a host of his supporters in two states and a new private survey that tracks voting records all point to the conclusion that Mr. Trump has built a broad, demographically and ideologically diverse coalition, constructed around personality, not substance, that bridges demographic and political divides. In doing so, he has effectively insulated himself from the consequences of startling statements that might instantly doom rival candidates.”

“The breadth of Mr. Trump’s coalition … suggests he has the potential to outdo the flash-in-the-pan candidacies that roiled the last few Republican nominating contests. And it hints at the problem facing his competitors and the growing pressure on them to confront him.”

“Trumpism, the data and interviews suggest, is an attitude, not an ideology.”

Molly Ball: “Trump’s candidacy has blasted open the GOP’s longstanding fault lines at a time when the party hoped for unity. His gleeful, attention-hogging boorishness—and the large crowds that have cheered it—cements a popular image of the party as standing for reactionary anger rather than constructive policies. As Democrats jeer that Trump has merely laid bare the true soul of the GOP, some Republicans wonder, with considerable anguish, whether they’re right.”

Repealing Obamacare Would be a ‘Spectacular Upheaval’

Paul Waldman argues that the health care plans proposed by the GOP candidates “all share one feature, the thing that tells you that they aren’t even remotely serious about this issue: they will take as their starting point that the entire Affordable Care Act should be repealed.”

“It shows that they’re completely unwilling to grapple with both the health care system as it exists today, and how incredibly disruptive the wholesale changes they’re proposing would be. Walker’s plan even says, ‘unlike the disruption caused by ObamaCare, my plan would allow for a smooth, easy transition into a better health care system.’ This is the health care equivalent of thinking the Iraq War would be a cakewalk.

“The reality is that repealing the ACA now that it has been implemented would mean a complete and utter transformation of American health care … You can’t pretend that unwinding them all would be anything resembling a ‘smooth, easy transition.’”

“That doesn’t mean that repeal is impossible, just that it would be a spectacular upheaval, one that I promise you Republicans have no genuine appetite for.”

The Most Common Job Held by Immigrants in Each State

Matthew Yglesias: Andy Kiersz at Business Insider crunched the numbers from the American Community Survey and the Minnesota Population Center to develop a map showing the most commonly held job by immigrants in every state in the union.

“But the most socially and economically significant trend is probably the large number of states that are full of immigrant health aides, nurses, or personal care aides. Given the aging of the population, there is going to be increasing demand for these kinds of services.”

States Continue to Report Declines in Their Uninsured Rates

Baltimore Sun: “A new survey shows that Ohio’s uninsured rates for children and adults have each dropped by about half since 2012. According to the 2015 Ohio Medicaid Assessment Survey, the state’s uninsured rate for adults fell to 8.7 percent in 2015, while the rate of uninsured children was 2 percent.”

Kaiser Health News: “The number of uninsured California adults under the age of 65 dropped by more than 15 percent between 2013 and 2014 because of the Affordable Care Act, including California’s Medi-Cal expansion, according to data released Tuesday.”

“’We’re seeing the biggest drop in the uninsured population in a generation,’ said David Dexter, communications coordinator for the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, an advocacy group.”

Is an Increase in Renewables Worth the Price?

Christopher Flavelle in Bloomberg asks: “Is it even possible for the U.S. to increase so quickly the share of power it gets from renewables … by the end of the next decade? If so, what will it cost? And who would pay? ”

“One way to answer the first question is asking whether there’s precedent for so rapid a shift. The answer is yes, but with caveats — and those caveats suggest that the pace of change Clinton proposes could come at significant cost.”

“In 2014, six states got more than 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources other than hydro power … But there’s a catch: Much of the new renewable capacity was in states with landscapes ideally suited to large wind farms, built to export clean power to other states.”


Who bears the costs? “Most states still have regulated electricity markets, where utility companies recover the expense of building and upgrading plants by adding those costs to customers’ monthly energy bills.”

“The debate over renewables, as with climate change more broadly, needs to move past whether policy has to change (it does) and toward how much we’re willing to pay for it — and who gets the tab. Leaving that discussion for later, or pretending it doesn’t need to happen, is the wrong way to turn promises into something real.”