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during the 6 years of recovery and so the extraordinary stimulus represented by 0 percent interest rates should be withdrawn.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.”

renewables1

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.”

Stricter Gun Laws Mean Lower Suicide Rates

New York Times: “A new study has found that four gun laws are significantly associated with lower rates of firearm suicide … The study is in The American Journal of Public Health.”

“After controlling for population density, race and ethnicity, education, poverty and age, they found that each of the four laws was associated with a lower rate of suicide by gun as well as a lower overall rate of suicide.”

“In 11 states with waiting periods, the longer the waiting period, the lower the gun suicide rate. Compared with states without the laws, background checks were associated with a 53 percent lower gun suicide rate, gun locks with a 68 percent lower rate, and restrictions on open carrying a 42 percent lower rate.”

How Trump Fills a Policy Void

Lee Drutman in Vox argues that “put simply: While most elite-funded and elite-supported Republicans want to increase immigration and decrease Social Security, a significant number of voters (across both parties) want precisely the opposite.”

“By my count of National Election Studies (NES) data, 24 percent of the US population holds this position (increase Social Security, decrease immigration). If we add in the folks who want to maintain (not cut) Social Security and decrease immigration, we are now at 40 percent of the total electorate, which I’ll call ‘populist.’ No wonder folks are flocking to Trump — and to Bernie Sanders, who holds similar positions, though with more emphasis on the expanding Social Security part and less aggression on immigration.”

Social security and immigration

Paul Krugman: “As pundits are discovering to their horror, there’s probably more to the Trump phenomenon than mere celebrity. The fact is that the central planks of modern conservatism — slashing taxes on the rich and benefits for the public at large — are deeply unpopular. Republicans have won elections only by wrapping these policies in other stuff; it’s about cutting benefits for welfare queens and ‘strapping young bucks’ (that’s a Reaganism, in case you’re wondering) buying T-bone steaks with food stamps. And this in turn means that there is a sort of empty box in U.S. politics waiting to be filled.”

Are Independents Really Independent?

Philip Bump notes that “despite the growth in the number of people who identify as independent — the vast majority still lean toward one party or the other.”

“Not all of those ‘independent’ voters are …. ‘pure independents.’ Most align with either the Democrats or the Republicans. When you isolate those groups, you can see that the number of independent-independents has remained fairly steady.”

“The implication of this? The persuadable middle in 2012 was much smaller than one might assume. And in future elections — say, next year’s — leaning independents are likely to vote like the partisans they lean toward.”