Economic Recovery is not as Rosy as it Seems

Lydia dePillis in The Washington Post examines whether the recent uptick in high-wage jobs indicates that the U.S. job market has made a full recovery.

“First of all, the economy is digging out of a big hole. This graph, from a 2014 paper by MIT economist David Autor, shows how in the period between 1999 and 2007 the share of low-wage occupations increased a lot, while middle and high-wage occupations were basically flat. Over the next five years represented by the green line, there was large growth in both low and high-wage occupations, while middle-wage occupations lost ground.”

A Dramatic Drop in New York’s Uninsured Rate

Associated Press: The New York Health Exchange says more than 2.8 million people have signed up for Medicaid and low-cost insurance through its 2016 open enrollment that ended Jan. 31.

According to state health officials, federal data show the number of uninsured New Yorkers has declined by nearly 850,000 since the exchange opened in 2013, dropping from 10 percent to 5 percent by last September.

The enrollment totals include 1,966,920 people in government-funded Medicaid

What Motivates Republican Voters?

Philip Bump asks what’s the “thing that’s turned Donald Trump from the never-gonna-happen outsider of last June into the how-can-he-be-stopped candidate of February? Nevada offers one hint: Anger.”

“Trump wasn’t supposed to win Hispanics, but he appears to have won them … Trump wasn’t supposed to win evangelicals in South Carolina or here, really, but he won them in both. In Nevada, he won 4 out of every 10 evangelical votes. He wasn’t supposed to win conservatives. Won ’em — even the ‘very conservative’ ones. Wasn’t supposed to win better educated voters. Won ’em.”

“This is an electorate that does not care about what it is supposed to do. Voters who decided later, those who took their time and considered the candidates, one would assume, went more heavily for Marco Rubio than Trump. It’s one of the few groups he lost. But the people who’ve been mad at politics for a long time and decided weeks ago who they were going to back? More than half backed Trump.”

 

Most Americans Want Senate to Act on SCOTUS Nominee

Pew: “In the high-stakes battle over replacing Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a majority of Americans (56%) say the Senate should hold hearings and vote on President Obama’s choice to fill the vacancy. About four-in-ten (38%) say the Senate should not hold hearings until the next president selects a court nominee.”

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“Two-thirds of Republicans (66%) – including 71% of conservative Republicans – say the Senate should not hold hearings on Scalia’s replacement until the next president selects a nominee. An even larger share of Democrats (79%) say the Senate should hold hearings and vote on whomever Obama nominates; among liberal Democrats, fully 85% express this view.”

Most Uninsured Escape Obamacare Penalty

The Hill: “Nearly three in four people who lacked health insurance last year were exempt from the penalty under ObamaCare, according to data from the tax-filing software TurboTax.”

“A total of 70 percent of people filed an exemption to ObamaCare’s individual mandate, about the same figure as last year, according to TurboTax.”

“The two most common exemptions were related to the cost of coverage. Many people without coverage said they couldn’t afford healthcare plans in their area or couldn’t afford plans through their workplace.”

“The other common exemptions were related to a recent eviction or the death of a family member.”

“The number of people seeking cost-related exemptions poses a challenge to the Obama administration, which has made affordability a central part of its strategy to reduce the uninsured.” If you’re interested in using TurboTax, check out this TurboTax promo code to save some money.

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.”
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“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.”