States With High State Taxes Are Vulnerable to Migration

Gallup: “Residents living in states with the highest aggregated state tax burden are the most likely to report they would like to leave their state if they had the opportunity.”

Percentage of Residents Who Would Like to Leave Their State, by State Tax Burden, 2015

“Nearly half (46%) of Connecticut and New Jersey residents say they would like to leave their state if they had the opportunity. At 13%, Montana has the smallest percentage of residents reporting they would like to leave the state.”

States Whose Residents Are Least Likely, and Most Likely, to Want to Leave, 2015

“States in the first, second and third quintiles have similar percentages of residents reporting they would like to leave their state; however, this percentage increases for residents living in states composing the fourth and fifth quintiles. These data suggest that even moderate reductions in the tax burden in these states could alleviate residents’ desire to leave the state.”

Is Charles Koch Feeling the Bern?

Charles Koch contends that he and Bernie Sanders agree on the fact that “the political and economic system is often rigged to help the privileged few at the expense of everyone else, particularly the least advantaged.”

“Democrats and Republicans have too often favored policies and regulations that pick winners and losers. This helps perpetuate a cycle of control, dependency, cronyism and poverty in the United States. These are complicated issues, but it’s not enough to say that government alone is to blame. Large portions of the business community have actively pushed for these policies.”

“That’s why Koch Industries opposes all forms of corporate welfare — even those that benefit us.”

“The United States’ next president must be willing to rethink decades of misguided policies enacted by both parties that are creating a permanent underclass.”

“I applaud the senator for giving a voice to many Americans struggling to get ahead in a system too often stacked in favor of the haves, but I disagree with his desire to expand the federal government’s control over people’s lives. This is what built so many barriers to opportunity in the first place.”

“It is results, not intentions, that matter. History has proven that a bigger, more controlling, more complex and costlier federal government leaves the disadvantaged less likely to improve their lives.”

Spike in Methane Eliminates Climate ‘Benefit’ of Fracked Gas

The Guardian: “There was a huge global spike in one of the most potent greenhouse gases driving climate change over the last decade, and the U.S. may be the biggest culprit, according a new Harvard University study.”

“The United States alone could be responsible for between 30-60% of the global growth in human-caused atmospheric methane emissions since 2002 because of a 30% spike in methane emissions across the country, the study says.”

“The research shows that emissions increased the most in the middle of the country, but the authors said there is too little data to identify specific sources. However, the increase occurred at the same time as America’s shale oil and gas boom, which has been associated with large amounts of methane leaking from oil and gas wells and pipelines nationwide.”

“With the US responsible for as much as 60% of global methane emissions growth, it’s critical that the country reduce natural gas use as quickly as possible, said Robert Howarth, a Cornell University ecologist and methane researcher.”

“’There is simply no way to do that by reducing carbon dioxide emissions alone because of lags in the climate system,’ he said. ‘Even with major carbon dioxide emission reductions starting now, the planet would reach 1.5C in 12 years and 2C in 35 years. But the planet responds much more rapidly to methane, so a reduction in methane emissions now would slow the rate of global warming immediately.’”

When a 4-4 Supreme Court is a Good Thing

Five Thirty Eight: “We can’t know for sure which lower-court decisions would have been reversed on 5-to-4 votes at the Supreme Court this term. But we can guess, using two sources of Supreme Court prediction: the {Marshall}+ algorithm and the wisdom of the crowd competing in everyone’s favorite Supreme Court/fantasy sports mashup, FantasySCOTUS:”

Voting rights: Wittman v. Personhuballah

“This case originated from a redistricting ruling in Virginia. A lower court held that race played too strong a role when the state legislature redrew the boundaries of a Virginia congressional district. The court said the district, Virginia’s Third, was gerrymandered because the legislature packed black voters into its boundaries in a way that diluted their vote in other districts. Republicans appealed that ruling to the high court. Scalia was seen by FantasySCOTUS as very likely to vote to overturn the lower court’s ruling.”

Unions: Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

“This is a case involving the ability of public-sector unions to collect the equivalent of dues from workers who choose not to join the union. The unions say that if they lose that ability, they will not be able to effectively bargain with government employers, but the justices — and particularly Scalia — seemed unsympathetic to that position during oral arguments in January. Scalia’s death may allow these unions, with a combined membership of more than 9 million public workers, to avoid a loss, at least for the time being.”

Welfare for the Wealthy

John Sides of The Washington Post interviews Syracuse University political scientist Chris Faricy on his newly published book “Welfare for the Wealthy.”

Faricy cites a few examples of how tax expenditures disproportionately benefit the wealthy: “One example is the collection of tax subsidies for private pensions. In 2015, the average household in the top 1 percent received pensions subsidies worth over $13,000 while the average benefit for a middle-class family was only $1,000. The main reason for this discrepancy is the progressive federal income tax structure.”

Faricy’s book shows the correlation between the growing polarization of the Democratic and Republican parties and the rise in private welfare spending like tax expenditures: “Political polarization relates to increased tax subsidies in three ways. First, polarization has increased the difficulty of passing new spending through the normal budget process and therefore privileges subsidies with fewer legislative veto points.”

“Second, as polarization has reduced the public trust in government, legislators have had to find a way to fund their policy priorities without being perceived as growing the government.”

“Finally, polarization has been asymmetric — with Republicans becoming more conservative than Democrats have become more liberal. Because of this, periods of divided government favor political compromises that use tax expenditures.”

“Most citizens, even educated ones, do not understand who primarily benefits from tax subsidies. The complexity of tax expenditures makes it easier to distribute federal money to unpopular groups such as the wealthy and corporations.”

Supreme Court’s Action on Obama’s Climate Plan: Opportunity or Disaster?

Michael Gerard, writing in Yale Environment 360 argues that the Supreme Court’s stay on Obama’s Clean Power Plan is “one of the most environmentally destructive actions the court has ever taken.”

“By acting as it did, the Supreme Court shut down the most important actions being taken by the United States to address the greatest environmental challenge ever faced … almost no one expected the Supreme Court to halt the preliminary planning work; after all, the first compliance period does not begin until 2022. The Clean Power Plan was the centerpiece of the U.S. pledges at the Paris climate conference last December, and there was immediate fear that the stay would give other countries an excuse to back off on fulfilling their own pledges.”

David Victor, however, argues that the Court’s action creates an opportunity: “Troubles with the Clean Power Plan will create an opportunity for the United States to demonstrate how countries can deal with the reality that in every nation it will be difficult to plan precisely the necessary deep reductions in warming pollution. It is in the United States’ acute national interest to show how the system established in Paris can bend and adjust, rather than break, in the face of challenges like the one presented last week by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

“In updating the world on what’s actually happening within the United States, the government can point to the many other policies that remain in place even if the Clean Power Plan gets stalled — such as the extension of tax incentives for renewable power, which was part of the budget deal reached between the Obama administration and Congress last December.”

Scalia: Controversial, Yet Unknown

Gallup: From the American public’s perspective, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia “was one of the high court’s controversial figures. In July of last year, popular perceptions of the conservative jurist were evenly divided, with 29% seeing him favorably and 27% unfavorably. Scalia, whom one prominent legal scholar named “the most influential justice of the last quarter-century,” was nonetheless unknown to nearly a third of Americans (32%) and generated no opinion from another 12% in 2015, Scalia’s 29th year on the nation’s top court.”

Trend: Favorability of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

“Interestingly, the modest erosion of Scalia’s popularity over the past 15 years came primarily not from increased Democratic hostility to the Republican-appointed judge but rather because of souring Republican views. In 2015, Scalia’s ‘net favorable’ rating — the difference between his favorable and unfavorable ratings — among Republicans was +6, down considerably from +36 in 2005. This drop — the largest among any of the three major political affiliations — may have been a bitter pill to swallow for one of the court’s most reliably conservative votes.”

z’Paralleling Scalia’s declining popularity among Republicans has been a striking increase in unfavorable views of him among conservatives. In 2005, 36% of conservatives viewed Scalia favorably, compared with 7% who had an unfavorable view. In 2015, Scalia’s favorable rating with conservatives held steady (34%), but his unfavorable rating surged to 26%. Somewhat unexpectedly, Scalia’s 2015 net favorable score among conservatives (+8) was about on par with his score among moderates (+6).”

 

How an Obama Nominee Could Win Senate Confirmation

Charles Cameron and John Kastellec in The Washington Post argue that an Obama Supreme Court nominee could win confirmation in the Senate.

Using the statistical model in that paper and the ideologies of current senators, we can estimate the support that a given nominee of any ideological persuasion would receive. We’ll assume a high quality nominee and intense interest group mobilization (similar to that in the nomination of Justice Clarence Thomas).

“The horizontal axis depicts the ideology of the nominee, moving from extremely liberal to moderate  to conservative. For every potential nominee, we estimate how each senator would vote, and then sum the total number of yes votes, which is depicted on the vertical axis.”

“The five names in black type depict the current median on the court (Kennedy) as well as the court’s four liberals. The short bars at the top of the figure show the ideological locations of every senator, with Democrats in blue and Republicans in red.”

“The model does identify a range of nominees who could thread the confirmation needle. In the graph, the justices in purple serve as reference points for nominees who (roughly speaking) lie between the 50-vote threshold and Kennedy.”

America’s Teachers Are Confused About Climate Change

City Lab: “Given the topic’s partisan grip in the U.S., with many conservatives unlikely to trust mainstream news outlets, early education has a huge role to play, too. That’s a problem, according to a new study in the journal Science, because many middle- and high-school teachers are confused about climate change themselves.”

Researchers “conducted what they call the ‘first nationally representative survey of science teachers focused on climate change’ … The researchers found that most teachers devoted only about an hour or two of class time to climate change … But the quality of that education was often as poor as the quantity: only 54 percent of teachers emphasized the consensus view among scientists that modern warming is the result of human activity and not likely due to natural causes.”

“Instead, a considerable share of teachers (roughly 31 percent) offered students the mixed message that current climate change is caused by both humans releasing greenhouse gases and natural shifts in temperature. The survey found that one in 10 teachers denied the human source of global warming in the classroom—only telling students that it’s the result of nature. Another 5 percent offered no causal explanation for climate change at all.”

“A key problem, according to the researchers, is that teachers themselves seem to be ‘unaware of the extent of scientific agreement.’”

 

Anti-Incumbent Mood is Strong

Gallup: Barely half of U.S. voters think their own member of Congress deserves re-election, and just 27% say most members deserve another turn. These findings are on par with voters’ attitudes in October 2014 and slightly improved from the historically weak levels seen in early 2014 but otherwise are among the weakest for incumbents since 1992.

160212Reelect_1

“The historically low levels of Americans saying that their own and most members deserve re-election reflect Congress’ dismal job rating, mostly registering at or below 20% in Gallup’s monthly polling for the past five years. If the anti-incumbent mood continues into the fall, Congress could see relatively high turnover, similar to 1992 and 2010 when fewer than 93% of incumbents were re-elected. On the other hand, incumbents did quite well in 2014 — with a 95% re-election rate in the House — in spite of historically low ‘deserves to be re-elected’ numbers. The turnover that did occur was all in the Republicans’ favor.”

“When anti-incumbency fervor coincides with a presidential year, the other possibility is that the losing party in the presidential race takes the brunt of the seat losses, which happened to Republicans in 2008. And while that’s not a guarantee, the heft of the Republicans’ current majority means the GOP has the most to lose from the public’s desire for change in Congress.”

How Trump’s Campaign Embodies the Real GOP

Eugene Robinson claims that Trump’s campaign “has done a tremendous service by forcing the GOP establishment to deal with truths it would prefer to ignore. Trump runs around letting cats out of bags, and they are not easily put back in.”

“Republicans love to talk tough about illegal immigration, for example, and use the issue to bludgeon Democrats. But when Trump takes the bombast to its logical conclusion — all right, then, let’s deport the 11 million undocumented — the establishment has to hem and haw about how all that partisan rhetoric wasn’t meant to be taken literally.”

“Likewise, Republicans love to suggest that Democrats are somehow soft in the fight against terrorism here and abroad … But when Trump called for temporarily banning all foreign Muslims from entering the country, other candidates who try their best to sound hawkish had to acknowledge that Islam itself isn’t really the problem.”

“Trump challenges his party’s economic orthodoxy as well. He calls himself a ‘free trader’ but opposes existing trade pacts as unfair; Republicans have historically championed free trade but are loath to examine what agreements such as NAFTA have really meant for working-class jobs. Trump promises to somehow reduce the $19 trillion national debt but wants to expand entitlements, not shrink them; many GOP voters, it turns out, feel the same way.”

The Economy Finally Takes Center Stage In the Primaries

Five Thirty Eight: “The presidential race is at last shifting to two states — Nevada and South Carolina — that are actually experiencing the economic turmoil that has often dominated the campaigns of both parties. The results there might provide a clearer window into which candidates are most successfully tapping into voters’ economic anxieties.”

“The first two nominating contests played out in states that are, as commentators have repeatedly noted, far whiter than the country as a whole. Less noticed has been that Iowa and New Hampshire are also extremes economically. Both are small, rural and — especially in the case of New Hampshire — relatively wealthy states with strong local economies. Both states have unemployment rates below 3.5 percent, significantly better than the national mark of 4.9 percent. Neither experienced the worst of the Great Recession, and both are among the most equal states in terms of household income.”

“The next two states on the primary calendar, by contrast, much more closely embody the economic issues that polls show are at the top of voters’ minds.”

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Would Scalia Approve of GOP’s Delay Tactics?

Ezekiel Emanuel in The Washington Post argues that “a true ‘originalist’ would reject the Republican position” of blocking a presidential supreme court nominee in “order to defer to the American people.”

“An originalist would begin by looking at what the Constitution says about choosing a Supreme Court justice. An originalist would note that the framers clearly wanted the court to be insulated from the people’s wishes. To put them above the clash of politics, the Constitution gave justices lifetime appointments, to which they were nominated, not elected. Furthermore, justices were nominated by a president who was elected by an Electoral College — not the American public — and confirmed by a Senate elected, at the framing, by state legislatures — again, not the public. Originalism clearly argues against deferring to public opinion on the composition of the Supreme Court.”

“The history of the founding generation itself also makes clear that the framers wanted the Supreme Court nomination and confirmation process not to depend upon the outcome of an election.”