Americans Don’t Need to Work More. They Already Are.

Matt Breunig: “Jeb Bush has made it clear that growth is going to be a big part of his campaign … We should take a step back and ask ourselves what exactly we mean by growth, and why we think it’s important.”

Breunig shows that “if we divide total hours worked by total population, the US has actually increased work hours on a per-person basis since 1970.”

“Over this period, US hours worked per capita increased by 52 hours, or 7%. For comparison, Finland’s hours worked per capita decreased by 225 hours, or 23%.”

“The main reason for the difference [in work hours] is that Nordic workers simply cut their hours by a much greater magnitude than US workers.”

“In an ideal world, discussions of ideal work levels would be detached from discussions of unemployment, growth, and distribution. But in our narrow political frame, all of these things are mushed together, and tend towards the view that we must have more work hours to solve all the other stuff. This, of course, isn’t true. You can reduce overall work hours (through longer vacations and more paid leave) while reducing unemployment, increasing GDP/hour, and even boosting the incomes of the poor and working classes (despite reducing work hours) by increasing transfer incomes. Yet, because of market income fetishism and simplistic discussions of GDP growth, we don’t seem to have the political imagination to even consider such a program.”

McConnell: Republicans Will Roll Back Obamacare

The Hill: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday said he does not have a timeline for using reconciliation to repeal ObamaCare, but indicated that Republicans would look to roll back as much of the law as they can.”

“’I don’t have a time to give you, but we’re certainly going to consider using budget reconciliation for repealing as much of ObamaCare as is reconcilable,’ McConnell told reporters. ‘There’re certain rules that have to be applied to what is reconcilable and that’s an active consideration, as you can imagine.’”

“The Republican budget sets a deadline of July 24, just 10 days away, for the relevant committees to come up with a reconciliation plan. But even after that deadline, the Senate could still use reconciliation until the end of the congressional session in 2016.”

Power Plant Emissions Decline Even as Economy Improves

The Hill: “Carbon dioxide emissions from America’s power plants are declining even as the economy is improving, a new report out Tuesday said.”

“Emissions fell by 12 percent from 2008 to 2013, according to a report from sustainability group Ceres. Carbon emissions are still significantly higher than they have been historically, but they are trending downward around the United States, and those reductions came even as the economy grew after the recession.”


“The findings are important because of the correlation between carbon emissions and the health of the economy: the two have traditionally grown together. But according to Ceres, power plan carbon emissions have been flat for about two years.”

“Though the report shows overall emissions are declining, Ceres said progress toward lower-emission energy is uneven geographically and across power producers, something that necessitates the Clean Power Plan.”

The Green Energy Revolution is Here

Paul Krugman: “There’s another major Obama initiative that is the subject of similar delusions: the promotion of green energy. Everyone on the right knows that the stimulus-linked efforts to promote solar and wind were a bust — Solyndra! Solyndra! Benghazi! — and in general they still seem to regard renewables as hippie-dippy stuff that will never go anywhere.”

“So it comes as something of a shock when you look at the actual data, and discover that solar and wind energy consumption has tripled under Obama.”

“Only a combination of rigid preconceptions and sheer ignorance can explain the way right-wingers still go around sniggering about Obama’s green-energy promotion. Far from being a bust, that policy was at least a contributing factor to an energy revolution.”

The Politics of Obamacare Still Favors Democrats

Josh Kraushaar: “Understanding the politics of the president’s health care law has never been complicated. It was barely passed through Congress despite huge Democratic majorities in 2009, became the driving force behind the GOP’s takeover of the House in 2010, and again was the leading issue Republicans campaigned on to retake the Senate in 2014. Nearly 15,000 advertisements aired about Obamacare in the last week of last year’s midterms, and 94 percent of the messaging was negative. One week later, Republicans won nine Senate seats and netted their largest House majority since the 1920s. For Republicans, it has been the political gift that keeps on giving.”

“Yet even though public opinion remains unfavorable towards the law, Democrats remain in denial about its political standing.”

Jonathan Chait: “Kraushaar has lovingly tended the flickering flame of health-care repeal for years. In 2013, he predicted that barring ‘an unlikely fourth quarter comeback,’ Congressional Democrats would soon join with Republicans to repeal the law over a presidential veto.”

“Of course, Republicans have been urging other Republicans to come up with a common-sense, patient-centric health-care plan since the health-care debate began six years ago. They have remained stuck in the same unsolvable problem: Their actual health-care policy ideas are either all less popular than the specific policies in Obamacare, unworkable, or both.”

Will Mergers Scuttle Benefits of Health Care Reform?

“The 2010 healthcare reform law was supposed to promote competition among insurers, and for many policyholders it’s done just that. These days, though, the insurance industry is going through a wave of mergers that threatens to leave consumers with fewer choices,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

“There’s no single motivation behind the mergers, although they all reflect the changing economics of healthcare. In some, the buyers are seeking bigger stakes in privately run Medicaid and Medicare plans, whose ranks are burgeoning because the 2010 law extended Medicaid to more low-income Americans and because the baby boom generation has reached retirement age.”

“The Affordable Care Act encourages insurers to scale up in part by requiring 80% to 85% of the premiums they collect to be spent on patient care, limiting profit margins. As a consequence, the quickest way for some insurers to increase profits is to buy another insurer’s customers and spread costs over a wider base. Having a bigger share of the market also helps them negotiate lower rates with doctor groups and hospital chains; hospitals have been consolidating for the same reasons. This race to consolidate among providers and insurers has been developing for years, but the 2010 law kicked it into a higher gear by offering higher payments for better coordinated care.”

Do the Democrats Have the Demographic Edge?

Charlie Cook in the Atlantic: “Looking at the race through a historical lens, the odds would seem stacked against Hillary Clinton (assuming that she is the Democratic nominee). In the post-World War II era, only six times has one party held the presidency for two consecutive terms, and only once has that party kept the White House for a third.”

“But looking through a demographic lens, the modern GOP’s increasing reliance on a shrinking pool of older, white, and working-class voters—and its failure to attract nonwhite voters—would seem to present an enormous obstacle to the eventual Republican nominee.”

“The group with which the GOP does best—whites without college degrees—is the only one poised to shrink in 2016 … But if the electorate changes in line with census estimates, the slice of college-educated whites will grow by 1 point, to 37 percent of all voters, while the portion of whites without degrees will shrink 3 points, to just 33 percent of the total. In other words, the GOP doesn’t just have a growing problem with nonwhites; it has a shrinkage problem as well, as conservative white seniors are supplanted by college-educated millennials with different cultural attitudes.”

Are We Really a ‘Nation of Takers?’

Paul Krugman comments on the reasoning behind Jeb Bush’s observation that “people should work longer hours.”

“Partly it’s Bush trying to defend his foolish 4 percent growth claim; but it’s also, I’m almost certain, coming out of the ‘nation of takers’ dogma that completely dominates America’s right wing.”

So “where are these welfare programs people are supposedly living off? TANF is tiny; what’s left are EITC, food stamps, and unemployment benefits. Spending on food stamps and UI soared during the slump, but came down quickly; overall spending on ‘income security’ has shown no trend at all as a share of GDP, with all the supposed growth in means-tested programs coming from Medicaid:”

“But none of this will, of course, make any dent in the right-wing narrative: they just know that the rising number of bums on welfare is a problem, even though there basically isn’t any welfare and there are no more bums than there ever were.”

What’s the Best Way to Predict the Presidential Election?

Patrick Egan in the Washington Post argues that presidential approval ratings is a better predictor of election outcomes than polling data about party identification.

“The figure at below left displays the relationship between party identification in the electorate (or “macropartisanship,” as we political scientists like to call it) in the year before a presidential election year and the Election Day outcome. For each of the 16 presidential elections extending back to 1948, the Democratic presidential candidate’s share of the popular vote is plotted against the Democratic Party’s average affiliation advantage in the year before the election year.”

“The result? Party identification more than a year in advance of the election predicts nothing about how the election will ultimately turn out. (To be wonky about it, party identification insignificantly predicts the opposite of the final election outcome. A similar analysis, which I don’t show here, finds no relationship between change in party identification the year before an election and the election’s ultimate result.)”

“Compared to any other polling data regularly covered by the media right now, Obama’s approval rating is the only number that history demonstrates tells us something meaningful about which party may win next year’s presidential election.”

Americans’ Positive Views on Obamacare at a New High

Gallup: “Shortly after the Supreme Court in late June turned back a second legal challenge to the 2010 Affordable Care Act, Americans’ approval of the law rose to 47%, the highest level since 2012. Still, Americans are as likely to disapprove as to approve of the law.”

Do you generally approve or disapprove of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, signed into law by President Obama that restructured the U.S. healthcare system?

“Americans’ views of the ACA have improved in recent months, but because they were more negative about it previously, now they are merely divided in their assessments of it. The Supreme Court’s decision may have helped boost Americans’ views of the law, giving it further legitimacy.”

“Additionally, changes in Americans’ party affiliation since last fall could be a factor in the public’s more upbeat assessment of the ACA. Americans also view Obama more positively now than they did last fall, and given his close association with the law, more positive opinions of him may translate to more positive opinions about Obamacare.”