Indecisive GOP Voters Helped Cruz and Rubio

Philip Bump and Scott Clement: “Fully 45 percent of Republican caucus-goers report making their final decision in the week before the caucuses, and the entrance poll shows Rubio performed strongly with. Nearly 3 in 10 of final-week deciders supported Rubio; he garnered about as much support among those deciding in January, but only about 1 in 10 of those who decided earlier than that backed Rubio.”

“Equally stark was Trump’s weakness among late-deciding voters. Just 14 percent of Republicans who decided in the final week supported Trump, compared with 23 percent of those who decided earlier in January and 40 percent who made their decision in December or earlier.”

Democrats Split on Experience and Trust

Philip Bump and Scott Clement: “Two Democratic parties showed up to vote in Iowa on Monday night, and with nearly all of the delegates tallied, the result is essentially a tie.”

“Asked to evaluate the most important factor driving their support, Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa split dramatically on what they were looking for in a candidate. Among those looking for someone to beat the Republican nominee in November, about three-quarters backed Hillary Clinton. An even higher percentage of those looking for a nominee with the ‘right experience’ preferred Clinton to Bernie Sanders. Together, those groups accounted for roughly half of all Democratic voters.”

“Sanders, though, was strongly preferred by those looking for someone that cares about people like them, getting support from 3 out of 4 voters citing that quality. Among voters looking for an honest candidate, Sanders did even better, earning the support of about 4 in 5 Democrats prioritizing that trait.”

Why do the Iowa Caucuses Matter?

Vox: “Why do the quirky Iowa caucuses have this tremendous impact on the race, anyway?”

“Iowa became super important because we — the media, party insiders, activists, the candidates themselves, and even voters to an extent — gradually decided to make it so important. These key players think the caucus results reveal a great deal about which candidates can win elections elsewhere, and the contest for Iowa isn’t really a contest for delegates — it’s a contest to look good in their eyes.”

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“Like it or not, the Iowa results appear to be hugely important in determining who the major parties’ presidential nominees will be — particularly when considered alongside the impact of fellow early state New Hampshire. ‘It’s not remotely a national primary. These national polls mean nothing. The nation isn’t voting’ …Instead, it’s Iowans who get the first say.”

“Like you and I, the political world is obsessed with the question of who can actually win in each presidential nomination race. And a large part of that world has come to believe that the caucus outcomes help shed some important light on that question.”

“It’s pretty weird: Essentially, the Iowa caucuses are important because the media, the candidates, and the political world more broadly all treat their results as greatly important in determining who can win.”

Which State Ranks Highest in Job Creation?

Gallup: “Minnesota led the 50 states on Gallup’s Job Creation Index with an average score in 2015 of +38, based on workers’ reports of hiring activity at their place of employment. Georgia and Utah were next at +36. North Dakota, which had been the top overall state each of the last six years, remains in the top 10.”

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“Alaska had the lowest Job Creation Index score in 2015 at +12, with 31% of working Alaskans saying their employer was hiring workers and 19% saying it was letting workers go. West Virginia was next at +18, followed by Wyoming at +20. Connecticut ranked in the bottom 10 again — the only state to finish in the bottom 10 each of the eight years of Gallup’s trend.”

“The weaker performance in energy-producing states presents an interesting economic challenge, as low gas prices benefit consumers, but at the same time, they are not good for energy companies or the Americans who work for them. That also underscores the vulnerability of state and local economies reliant on a specific industry. When that industry struggles, the local economy will as well. A diversified economy is the way to avoid booms and busts, although diversification may be a goal easier aspired to than achieved in reality.”

 

No Improvement in Doomsday Clock

Eco Watch: “With ‘utter dismay,’ the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced Tuesday that the symbolic Doomsday Clock will hold at three minutes to midnight—at the ‘brink’ of man-made apocalypse—because world leaders have failed to take the necessary steps to protect citizens from the grave threats of nuclear war and runaway climate change.”

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“The decision not to move the hands of the Doomsday Clock ‘is not good news,’ it continues, ‘but an expression of dismay that world leaders continue to fail to focus their efforts and the world’s attention on reducing the extreme danger posed by nuclear weapons and climate change. When we call these dangers existential, that is exactly what we mean: They threaten the very existence of civilization and therefore should be the first order of business for leaders who care about their constituents and their countries.’”

“Since the clock was first introduced in 1947, the hands have moved 22 times. As Rachel Bronson, executive director and publisher of the Bulletin, explained, the clock represents a ‘summary view of leading experts deeply engaged in the existential issues of our time.’”

Did the Fed Make a Big Mistake?

Matt O’Brien in The Washington Post: “Markets sure seem to think that the Federal Reserve has made a big mistake.”

“It hasn’t just been stocks selling off 10 percent to start the year. It has also been bonds saying that they don’t think the Fed will come close to hitting its target of 2 percent annual inflation anytime in the next 10 years. Markets, in other words, have done everything short of holding a boom box outside of Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s window to beg her not to raise interest rates any more after the Fed hiked them in December for the first time in nearly a decade. And it just might work. After all, there’s no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole or an inflation hawk in a stock market crash, especially when prices were barely rising to begin with.”

“The fact, then, that the S&P 500 seems to be saying that the recovery is falling apart should make even the most committed inflation-fighter wonder whether there is actually anything to fight.”

“So will the economy fall into recession? On the one hand, it’s hard to see how the economy could be heading that way when it’s been adding an average of 284,000 jobs the last three months … On the other hand, though, things still seem fragile enough that it wouldn’t take a lot of bad news to turn our slow-and-steady recovery into none at all.”

Ylan Q. Mui: “Central banking is a long game. The Fed’s decisions take months — even years — to influence the economy. That’s why officials insist that they do not react to every hiccup in the markets. In a speech about a week ago, New York Fed President William C. Dudley said his outlook for the economy ‘has not changed much’ despite the volatility on Wall Street. Though some data have been weaker than anticipated, the job market has been stronger, he said.”

What Matters More to Voters? Policy or Politics?

Drew Altman: “Have you noticed that Republican presidential candidates have spent far less time debating differences between their proposals? One reason: Republicans care less about detailed policy plans than do Democrats.”

“As the chart above shows, 61% of registered Democrats say candidates’ detailed policy plans–on health care or other topics–matter to their vote, and 35% say a candidate’s general values and approach to government matters more. For Republicans it’s the reverse: 51% care most about a candidate’s general values and approach to government, and 45% prioritize their policy plans.”

“When both parties have nominees and the campaign moves into the general election, the candidates will face greater pressure to produce policy plans on major issues … Overall, 55% of registered voters say that it matters more to them if a candidate has a detailed plan to address issues they care about than a candidate’s general values and approach to government, vs. 40% saying they care more about general candidate characteristics than policy plans.”

Massive Methane Leaks Could Happen Anywhere

Inside Climate News: “Earlier this week, the massive methane leak spewing from an underground natural gas storage facility in California’s Aliso Canyon passed a symbolic milestone: its duration exceeded BP’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.”

“Now, a growing number of environmentalists, engineers and industry watchdogs say the disaster on the outskirts of Los Angeles could happen elsewhere. There are  more than 400 underground natural gas storage sites spread across 31 states, and, like Aliso Canyon, decades-old equipment is deteriorating at many of them.”

“There is little federal oversight for the storage of trillions of cubic feet of potentially explosive fuel that is also a potent greenhouse gas. More than 100 facilities like Aliso Canyon that are owned and operated by local utility companies are subject to a patchwork of state regulations, which vary significantly from state to state.”

There are more than 400 natural gas storage sites like Aliso Canyon across the country

Tax Rates Under Bernie

Vox: The chart, by Vox’s Javier Zarracina, shows Dylan Matthew’s estimates of how Bernie Sanders would change marginal tax rates on wages, both from payroll taxes and from income taxes.

Note that the Y axis does not increase linearly

“Most taxpayers would see a single-digit increase in their marginal tax rate. People with taxable income below $250,000 would see an 8.8 percentage point increase.”

“But the very rich would see eye-popping increases in marginal rates: from 36.8 percent to 62 percent for people with taxable income between $250,000 and $413,350. The big change here is applying the Social Security payroll tax, which adds another 12.4 points.”

“Even more dramatic are Sanders’s proposed increases to capital gains taxes … Bernie would hike the top rate to 64.2 percent and the rate for many making upper six figures to 49.2 percent.”

Lead Poisoning Is Still a National Issue

Vox: “The problem of lead exposure among children is not a local Flint story … The data that is available shows that lead exposure is a pervasive issue in the United States. In some places outside of Flint, more than half of children test positive for lead poisoning.”

“Nine counties nationwide told the CDC that 10 percent or more of their lead poisoning tests came back positive. Four of them are in Louisiana, two in Alabama, and the rest scattered across West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, and Oklahoma.”

“These are places that have told the federal government they actually have higher rates of lead poisoning than Flint, where officials say the number hovers around 4 percent. But these aren’t places we talk about that much.”

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“The map above uses CDC data to show lead poisoning rates across the country. The reason so many of the counties are light gray is that most counties simply don’t report this information — nor are they required to.”

The GOP is the Party of the Past

Ronald Brownstein in The Atlantic: “The cul­tur­al and demo­graph­ic gulf between the Re­pub­lic­an and Demo­crat­ic elect­or­al co­ali­tions can now be meas­ured not just in space, but in time.”

“Today, the two parties rep­res­ent not only dif­fer­ent sec­tions of the coun­try, but also, in ef­fect, dif­fer­ent edi­tions of the coun­try. Along many key meas­ures, the Re­pub­lic­an co­ali­tion mir­rors what all of Amer­ic­an so­ci­ety looked like dec­ades ago. Across those same meas­ures, the Demo­crat­ic co­ali­tion rep­res­ents what Amer­ica might be­come in dec­ades ahead. The parties’ ever-es­cal­at­ing con­flict rep­res­ents not only an ideo­lo­gic­al and par­tis­an stale­mate. It also en­cap­su­lates our col­lect­ive fail­ure to find com­mon cause between what Amer­ica has been, and what it is be­com­ing.”

Re­pub­lic­ans rep­res­ent a co­ali­tion of res­tor­a­tion centered on the groups most un­settled by the changes (primar­ily older, non­col­lege, rur­al, and reli­giously de­vout whites). Demo­crats mo­bil­ize a co­ali­tion of trans­form­a­tion that re­volves around the heav­ily urb­an­ized groups (mil­len­ni­als, people of col­or, and col­lege-edu­cated, single, and sec­u­lar whites, es­pe­cially wo­men) most comfortable with these trends.”

“The lar­ger truth is that this cul­tur­al par­ti­tion has frus­trated both parties, by denying either a broad enough reach to es­tab­lish a dom­in­ant, much less dur­able, polit­ic­al ad­vant­age.”

Average Obamacare Premium Increase is Under 10%

The Hill: “The average ObamaCare premium rose to $408 per month for 2016 plans, about a 9 percent increase from this time last year, according to a new report from the Department of Health and Human Services.”

“However, 83 percent of ObamaCare enrollees pay far less than $408 because they get tax credits under the healthcare law. The average tax credit for 2016 is $294, meaning that the average share of the premiums that enrollees have to pay is $113. That is up $8 from the $105 people paid on average last year.”

“As Republicans highlighted, premium increases for certain plans in some states were far higher, as much as 40 percent. But the report released Thursday shows that on average premium increases were less than that, and tax credits helped reduce the burden even more.”

“The administration touted the tax credits as showing that plans are affordable, as the Jan. 31 deadline to sign up for 2016 coverage nears. Officials also emphasize that people can save money by actively shopping around for the best plan.”

Millionaires Move to ‘Mayberry’

Wall Street Journal: “The real-life “Mayberry” is adding millionaires at the fastest pace in the country. As Andy Griffith’s birthplace, Mount Airy, N.C., claims to be the inspiration for the town featured in the 1960s television classic “The Andy Griffith Show”—but folks there have more than just southern charm in common the late actor. They’re also increasingly millionaires.”

“The Mount Airy metro area’s population of millionaire households grew by 332, or almost 30%, between June 2014 and June 2015, the quickest rate in the country, according to a report Phoenix Marketing International released Tuesday.”

“Just 3.8% of households have a million dollars or more in assets, below the national average of 5.4%. But its impressive growth of high-net-worth families likely reflects that well-off retirees are moving there in search of quintessential small-town life, said Randy Collins, Chamber of Commerce president.”

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“Among states, North Dakota recorded the fastest growth in millionaires in June 2015 from a year earlier, increasing more than 10%. The growth reflects rising wealth tied to the oil industry, which has slowed sharply in the past six months. “

“Maryland had the highest concentration of millionaires among states, accounting for 7.7% of households. Connecticut, New Jersey and Hawaii followed. Mississippi had the smallest concentration of millionaires and is the only state where less than 4% of households have $1 million or more in assets.”