An Uneven Housing Policy for America’s Poor

Gillian White in The Atlantic: “When you look at the nationwide statistics, it’s clear that voucher recipients are able to live in areas of less-concentrated poverty, and that they live in less-segregated neighborhoods than poor families who have no choice but to live in shelters, transitional housing, or traditional public-housing units. (Vouchers are a rent subsidy that people can use to live in privately owned housing.)”

But “finding better neighborhoods with landlords who will accept vouchers can be nearly impossible in some areas.”

Elizabeth Kneebone, a fellow at Brookings has found “that voucher holders in the 100 largest metro areas lived in neighborhoods where the poverty rate was an average of 10 percentage points higher and the minority population share was 21 percentage points higher than the average for all neighborhoods in the largest metros.”

Difference Between Regional Poverty Rate and Voucher-Holder Poverty Rate

“Part of the issue is that vouchers, made specifically to allow families to move away from highly concentrated areas of poverty and into areas of greater racial and economic integration, often wind up not being all that portable because of discriminatory housing practices, landlords who refuse to accept vouchers, or difficulty identifying and moving to neighborhoods with more economic promise.”

A Closer Look at Walker and Rubio Obamacare Alternatives

Margot Sanger-Katz sums up Walker’s proposal: “Obamacare gives federal money to poor people to help them get health insurance. Scott Walker, Wisconsin’s governor, has a replacement plan. It would give federal money to old people instead.”

“The Republican plans differ substantially from Obamacare in their vision of how the money should be doled out, and what it should be used to buy. The Walker and Rubio proposals call for a much less regulated insurance market, where the federal government exercises little oversight over the products in the market.”

“Their plans are also much less concerned about ensuring health care access for the poor. In addition to rolling back Obamacare, both would also reduce future federal spending on state-administered Medicaid programs.”

“Wealthier people, on the other hand, could fare better under [Walker’s] plan, as long as they’re healthy. They would get more federal money to buy insurance plans, and they would have the choice of buying cheaper, less comprehensive plans than those offered under Obamacare rules.”

“Both plans, however, would strip away Obamacare’s myriad health insurance regulations … States would have the authority to impose insurance rules, so some markets might have more restrictions. But the plan would also allow people to buy insurance sold in any state, meaning all Americans would have access to the least regulated products.”

The Obamacare ‘Repeal and Replace’ Predicament Persists

National Journal: “Republican presidential candidates are starting to get to the ‘replace’ part of their pledges to repeal and replace Obamacare. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida rolled out plans Tuesday. But with specific policy proposals comes real scrutiny and the risk that Americans won’t like what they see.”

“There wasn’t much in Walker or Rubio’s proposals that hasn’t floated around conservative wonk circles for years, but the value is that they have a plan at all. Walker readily pointed that out.”

Jonathan Chait: Rubio and Walker’s “fundamental dilemma is that Obamacare provides a popular benefit to millions of voters. Appealing to the conservative base demands they eliminate the program that provides this benefit. Appealing to the general election requires them to promise something to compensate the victims of repeal. How will they fund that something? This is the basic problem that for decades has prevented Republicans from offering a health-care plan. Rubio and Walker show that they still have no answer.”

The Key to Financial Success? Be a Man.

Washington Post: m\”Men still out-earn women at every education level, and it may have something to do with the careers that women and men choose.”

“The charts below, created by self-described data tinkerer Randy Olson, illustrate how gender, major and earnings are related. Olson analyzed data on college majors and median earnings after graduation for those under 28.”

“Median yearly earnings are shown on the vertical axis: Majors that appear toward the top of the chart tend to earn more, and those toward the bottom earn less. The gender makeup of the major is on the horizontal axis, with majors that are male dominated on the left and female-dominated majors on the right.”

“One theory that Olson entertains is that male-dominated majors tend to be focused on quantitative skills, which are in general highly valued. Engineering is both male dominated and highly valued and paid by businesses.”

“It could be that society just doesn’t value ‘women’s work’ as much as ‘men’s work,’ due to lingering prejudice and discrimination. The difference could be in part due to different salary negotiation strategies used by men and women. Or it could be because men, who traditionally have been familial bread-winners, are more motivated to seek out jobs with higher incomes, while women prioritize other job attributes.”

The GOP Nightmare: Trump Makes Sense to Their Voters

Jonathan Chait: “When Donald Trump initially rocketed to the top of national Republican polls, it was fashionable to compare him to Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, and Newt Gingrich — a flamboyant media personality, briefly capturing the spotlight, but doomed to immolate. But Trump is not running a race like those other candidates, nor is he mimicking their results. Instead, he is following the pattern more like a candidate from an earlier cycle: Pat Buchanan.”

“Buchanan was anti-immigration, anti-free trade, isolationist on foreign policy, and a defender of cultural traditionalism. He deemphasized the anti-tax — and, especially, anti-social spending — themes preferred by his party’s elite … Trump appeals to a similar, though not identical, constituency … But Trump does have the same mix of cultural and economic nationalism.”

“Trump, like Buchanan, stands little chance of capturing his party’s nomination. But he is not going to go away, either. He appeals to an identifiable constituency that will stick with him even in the face of defeat or embarrassment. Trump has already endured numerous mortifying gaffes, by ordinary standards, and an apparently unsuccessful effort by Fox News to destroy his standing within the party during a highly visible televised debate. He will not run out of money. He can, and probably will, take his candidacy all the way to the end.”

Republicans’ Chief Concern: Trump’s Policies Speak to Their Base

Ezra Klein notes that while Republicans can content themselves that Donald Trump “isn’t really a Republican, and as the primary grinds on, Republican voters will figure that out,” there’s a more worrying interpretation: Trump is “willing to cater to the opinions of the Republican base in ways that the Republican establishment wouldn’t dare. And in doing so, he can exploit longstanding cleavages between the Republican Party and the voters it represents.”

“The broader issue here is that both parties are, at best, imperfect reflections of their bases … The gap between the rigid agendas followed by the party establishments and the more diverse opinions of loyal partisans leaves both parties vulnerable to a candidate like Trump who has the money, and the star power, to campaign on a platform that party elites would normally suppress.”

“And that’s what makes a candidate like Trump potentially dangerous. On immigration, Trump holds a hard-line position that the Republican Party establishment has tried to mute, and so far Republican voters are loving it. On Social Security and Medicare, Trump — who opposes cuts — is closer to Republican voters than the party establishment is. On free trade deals, Trump shares a skepticism held by about half of Republican voters, but that’s usually suppressed by the party’s powerful business wing.”

Minorities’ Wealth is Not Protected by a College Degree

New York Times: “A new report by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis “raises troubling questions about the ability of a college education to narrow the racial and ethnic wealth gap. ‘Higher education alone cannot level the playing field,’ the report concludes.”

“Economists emphasize that college-educated blacks and Hispanics overall earn significantly more and are in a better position to accumulate wealth than blacks and Hispanics who do not get degrees.”

“But while these college grads had more assets, they suffered disproportionately during periods of financial trouble.”

“From 1992 to 2013, the median net worth of blacks who finished college dropped nearly 56 percent (adjusted for inflation). By comparison, the median net worth of whites with college degrees rose about 86 percent over the same period, which included three recessions.”

“There is not a simple answer to explain why a college degree has failed to help safeguard the assets of many minority families. Persistent discrimination and the types of training and jobs minorities get have played a role. Another central factor is the heavy debt many blacks and Hispanics accumulate to achieve middle-class status.”

EPA to Propose Regulations to Cut Methane Emissions

New York Times: “The Obama administration is expected to propose as soon as Tuesday the first-ever federal regulation to cut emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming, by the nation’s oil and natural-gas industry, officials familiar with the plan said on Monday.”

“The proposed rule would call for the reduction of methane emissions by 40 to 45 percent over the next decade from 2012 levels, the officials said.”

“The new rules on methane could create a tougher regulatory scheme on the nation’s fossil fuel production, particularly on the way that companies extract, move and store natural gas.”

Why Republicans Are Willing to Attack Social Security

Paul Krugman asks why Republican candidates continue to oppose Social Security, despite the program’s popularity among most Americans.

“What’s puzzling about the renewed Republican assault on Social Security is that it looks like bad politics as well as bad policy. Americans love Social Security, so why aren’t the candidates at least pretending to share that sentiment? The answer, I’d suggest, is that it’s all about the big money.”

“Wealthy individuals have long played a disproportionate role in politics, but we’ve never seen anything like what’s happening now: domination of campaign finance, especially on the Republican side, by a tiny group of immensely wealthy donors. Indeed, more than half the funds raised by Republican candidates through June came from just 130 families.”

“By a very wide margin, ordinary Americans want to see Social Security expanded. But by an even wider margin, Americans in the top 1 percent want to see it cut. And guess whose preferences are prevailing among Republican candidates … Nowadays, at least on the Republican side, the invisible primary has been reduced to a stark competition for the affections and, of course, the money of a few dozen plutocrats.”

Is Trump a Moderate?

Josh Barro argues that “when you strip away the bluster and the outrageous commentary that have defined his campaign to find his occasional, substantive statements about public policy, a surprising fact emerges: Mr. Trump is a moderate Republican.”

Trump: “When you’re dealing, and that’s what I am, I’m a dealer, you don’t go in with plans. You go in with a certain flexibility. And you sort of wheel and deal.”

Trump “notes that policy choices are circumstance-specific. For example, he’s not a priori opposed to single-payer health care … Mr. Trump’s policy flexibility extends even to the core Republican issue of taxes. He has not proposed a tantalizingly low top income tax rate, like Rand Paul’s 14.5 percent or Ben Carson’s 10 percent. In fact, his vague tax position almost exactly copies Jeb Bush’s.”

“The main way Mr. Trump stands out from the field on economic policy is leftward: While most Republicans favor free trade, Mr. Trump has called for much higher tariffs on imported goods to protect American industries from competition. He has also criticized his opponents for proposing cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.”

“Mr. Trump is offering an unusual combination of extreme language, moderate policy and rudeness, and so far it’s connecting with Republican voters.”

“The core idea of the Trump campaign … does not necessarily imply that government should be smaller. It implies that somebody smart, ideally Mr. Trump, should run the government.”

Hottest July on Record

Think Progress: “NASA reports this was the hottest July on record. So we are now in “bet the mortgage” territory that 2015 will be the hottest year in NASA’s 125-year temperature record.”

“In fact, 2015 is likely to crush the previous record — 2014 — probably by a wide margin, especially since one of the strongest El Niños in 50 years is adding to the strong underlying global warming trend.”

GISTEMP-July 2015

Utilities Fight Back in a War on Solar

Inside Climate News: “As more Americans go solar—and save money on their monthly utility bills—electricity providers are doubling down on ways to protect their revenue.”

“One of the utilities’ most widespread strategies is to impose extra charges on customers who are generating their own energy, and they have had varying degrees of success. At least 11 utilities in nine states have attempted this tactic; five have succeeded.

Where Utilities Charge Solar Customers Extra

“Power providers say these new rates are needed to ensure their customers using solar and other forms of so-called ‘distributed generation’ continue to pay for the basic costs associated with maintaining the grid.”

“Clean energy advocates fiercely object, calling these efforts ‘attacks on solar.’ They argue that the utilities don’t adequately account for solar users’ benefits to the grid: less electricity is lost during transportation across power lines; less money spent by utilities on infrastructure for transmission and distribution; credits the utilities can potentially use to reach renewable energy goals or tax credits.”

“Besides rate changes, other hurdles have also been placed in the path of progress for solar … Some states have rolled back solar tax incentives while others forbid customers from leasing solar panels from third-party providers. This ‘kitchen-sink approach’ is occurring in places where there’s already high solar penetration such as Arizona, as well as in places with few solar users such as Iowa.”