Rich, white & in total control: The clearest evidence yet that our democracy is broken

Rich, white & in total control: The clearest evidence yet that our democracy is broken

Scott Walker (Credit: Reuters/David Becker)


GOP politicians like Scott Walker work hard to suppress the vote. New data gives us a good idea why

This week the Census Bureau released their data on voter turnout in the 2014 election, and the numbers are abysmal. In 2014, only 41.9 percent of the voting age citizen population turned out, the lowest number census has recorded since they began collecting data in 1978. But these broad numbers obscure an even more important reality: that the decline in turnout between the 2012 Presidential election and the 2014 midterm was strongest among low-income people (see chart) andpeople of color.

As it happens this is also the first election since the Supreme Court struck down a key provision in the Voting Rights Act and conservatives rushed to pass discriminatorylaws aimed at suppressing voter turnout. There is a large body of evidence suggesting that when voting is easier, more people vote, and that voter suppression laws disproportionately impact the poor and people of color. The turnout numbers from 2014 are dramatic: At the lowest income bracket, less than 1 in 4 citizens of voting age turned out, and only half were registered to vote, a drop of 48 percent from the presidential election. At the highest bracket the Census records data for ($150,000 and above), 80 percent were registered and 57 percent voted, a drop-off of 29 percent from the presidential election. However, another data source that surveysthe wealthiest 1 percent found that in 2008, 99 percent voted, suggesting bias at the very top might be even higher.

In a previous Demos explainer, I argued that lower class bias in voter turnout would lead to more economically progressive policies and benefit the poor. In an upcoming piece, I expand on that argument with new data. One thing I examine is how policies that reduce turnout among people of color effect policy. To do so I used the American National Election Studies 2012 survey to examine differences in public opinion between white voters and non-white nonvoters. I focus on four questions about fundamental disputes about the role of government: whether government should increase service, boost spending on the poor, guarantee jobs and reduce inequality. I examine net support, meaning I subtracted the percentage of people in support of the law from the percent in favor.

As the chart above shows, the preferences of white voters are dramatically different than non-white nonvoters. While on net white voters want government to decrease services (52 percent say cut services and 24 percent say more, with 24 percent saying keep them at the same), nonwhite nonvoters overwhelmingly favor expanding services (16.8 percent, 47.1 percent and 36 percent, respectively). While a modest majority of white voters want more spending on the poor (26 percent to 24 percent with 49 percent saying keep spending the same), support among non-white nonvoters is dramatic (57.2 percent, 7.9 percent and 35 percent respectively). All told, nonvoters of color have vastly different preferences about the size and scope of government than white voters.

The divergent preferences of nonvoters mean that boosting turnout would change government policy to be more beneficial to the poor. The implications of universal voter turnout would be dramatic, as a brief examination of the international, historical and state level data suggest. Examining data from 19 countries over 22 years, Peter Lindert writes, “A stronger voter turnout seems to have raised spending on every kind of social program.” A study of Latin American countries from 1970 and 2008 finds that increasing democracy boosted spending on education, health, social security and welfare. Economists Dennis Mueller and Thomas Stratmann estimatethat if voter turnout in increase from 40 percent to 80 percent, it would reduce the Gini Coefficient (which measures inequality on a scale from 0 to 1) by .04, which isequal to the entire effect of taxes and transfers in the United States. New studies examining differences in class bias (differences in turnout between the rich and poor) at the state level suggest that boosting turnout would reduce inequality by pushing policy in a more progressive direction.

Obviously, voter turnout can’t remedy all the gaps in participation in the American political system. As the chart below shows, the richest Americans engage with the political system far more across the board. But this only increases the importance for reducing the bias in voting, which is the simplest to remedy. One archaic barrier thatpolitical scientists agree reduces turnout is registration. By passing automatic voter registration, which places the responsibility for registering on governments, rather than individuals, we could easily boost turnout. Other reforms to make voting easier, such as making Election Day a holiday, non-partisan voter registration drives, and early voting periods, should also be implemented.

In addition, we must fervently fight voter suppression. As Naila Awan has noted, conservatives in North Carolina used the gutting of the VRA to ram through a bill to eliminate same day registration, early voting and pre-registration while also passing a strict voter ID law. In Wisconsin, Scott Walker has pushed for a voter ID laws thatwould disenfranchise as many as 300,000 eligible voters. Such bald attempts to suppress voting deserve to be universally condemned.

In addition, we should increase the voices of average Americans through a robust public financing system. The donor class is 90 percent white and 70 percent male.  Awhopping 42 percent of campaign contributions come from a tiny portion of donors, the 0.01 percent. Rather than 25,000 hyper-wealthy Americans dictating policy, a public financing system could increase the representation of people of color and working class people as well as women, in the donor pool. Research on the New York City public financing program suggests that it boosted diversity in the donor pool. Creating fair districts should also be a priority, because it would make every vote matter, encouraging voter turnout. Voting matters. The best evidence for why it does is how damn hard oligarchs fight to make sure you can’t.

What This Cruel War Was Over

The Confederate Monument at Arlington National Cemetery | Wikimedia


(Originally Published 6-22-20150)

The meaning of the Confederate flag is best discerned in the words of those who bore it.

This afternoon, in announcing her support for removing the Confederate flag from the capitol grounds, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley asserted that killer Dylann Roof had “a sick and twisted view of the flag” which did not reflect “the people in our state who respect and in many ways revere it.” If the governor meant that very few of the flag’s supporters believe in mass murder, she is surely right. But on the question of whose view of the Confederate Flag is more twisted, she is almost certainly wrong.

Roof’s belief that black life had no purpose beyond subjugation is “sick and twisted” in the exact same manner as the beliefs of those who created the Confederate flag were “sick and twisted.” The Confederate flag is directly tied to the Confederate cause, and the Confederate cause was white supremacy. This claim is not the result of revisionism. It does not require reading between the lines. It is the plain meaning of the words of those who bore the Confederate flag across history. These words must never be forgotten. Over the next few months the word “heritage” will be repeatedly invoked. It would be derelict to not examine the exact contents of that heritage.

This examination should begin in South Carolina, the site of our present and past catastrophe. South Carolina was the first state to secede, two months after the election of Abraham Lincoln. It was in South Carolina that the Civil War began, when the Confederacy fired on Fort Sumter. The state’s casus belli was neither vague nor hard to comprehend:

…A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that “Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,” and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction. This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety.

In citing slavery, South Carolina was less an outlier than a leader, setting the tone for other states, including Mississippi:

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery—the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin…


As a separate republic, Louisiana remembers too well the whisperings of European diplomacy for the abolition of slavery in the times of an­nexation not to be apprehensive of bolder demonstrations from the same quarter and the North in this country. The people of the slave holding States are bound together by the same necessity and determination to preserve African slavery.


Upon the principles then announced by Mr. Lincoln and his leading friends, we are bound to expect his administration to be conducted. Hence it is, that in high places, among the Republi­can party, the election of Mr. Lincoln is hailed, not simply as it change of Administration, but as the inauguration of new princi­ples, and a new theory of Government, and even as the downfall of slavery. Therefore it is that the election of Mr. Lincoln cannot be regarded otherwise than a solemn declaration, on the part of a great majority of the Northern people, of hostility to the South, her property and her institutions—nothing less than an open declaration of war—for the triumph of this new theory of Government destroys the property of the South, lays waste her fields, and inaugurates all the horrors of a San Domingo servile insurrection, consigning her citizens to assassinations, and. her wives and daughters to pollution and violation, to gratify the lust of half-civilized Africans.


…in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding states….

None of this was new. In 1858, the eventual president of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis threatened secession should a Republican be elected to the presidency:

I say to you here as I have said to the Democracy of New York, if it should ever come to pass that the Constitution shall be perverted to the destruction of our rights so that we shall have the mere right as a feeble minority unprotected by the barrier of the Constitution to give an ineffectual negative vote in the Halls of Congress, we shall then bear to the federal government the relation our colonial fathers did to the British crown, and if we are worthy of our lineage we will in that event redeem our rights even if it be through the process of revolution.

It is difficult for modern Americans to understand such militant commitment to the bondage of others. But at $3.5 billion, the four million enslaved African Americans in the South represented the country’s greatest financial asset. And the dollar amount does not hint at the force of enslavement as a social institution. By the onset of the Civil War, Southern slaveholders believed that African slavery was one of the great organizing institutions in world history, superior to the “free society” of the North.

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Paul Krugman: California proves the GOP's "extremist ideology ... is nonsense"

Paul Krugman | (Credit: Reuters/Chip East)


The New York Times columnist explains how California’s success puts conservative dogma to shame

In his latest column for the New York Times, award-winning economist and best-selling author Paul Krugman argues that California’s recent success — and Kansas’ ongoing failure — is yet more proof that conservative anti-tax dogma “is nonsense.”

After citing Justice Brandeis’ famous claim that America’s states are laboratories for democracy, Krugman turns to compare and contrast California and Kansas, noting that while the former state has seen economic growth and a successful implementation of Obamacare, the latter has had a stagnant economy and a ballooning deficit.

Not incidentally, these states decided to take opposite approaches to economic policy, with California embracing “a modestly liberal agenda of higher taxes, spending increases and a rise in the minimum wage” while Kansas “went all-in on supply-side economics, slashing taxes on the affluent” only to see paltry growth and a darkening fiscal picture.

“If tax increases are causing a major flight of jobs from California, you can’t see it in the job numbers,” Krugman writes. “Employment is up 3.6 percent in the past 18 months, compared with a national average of 2.8 percent; at this point, California’s share of national employment, which was hit hard by the bursting of the state’s enormous housing bubble, is back to pre-recession levels.”

Does Krugman expect the California example to change conservatives’ minds? Hardly. “Has there been any soul-searching among the prophets of California doom, asking why they were so wrong?” he asks. “Not that I’m aware of. Instead, I’ve been seeing many attempts to devalue the good news from California by pointing out that the state’s job growth still lags that of Texas, which is true, and claiming that this difference is driven by differential tax rates, which isn’t.”

Krugman then explains why Texas and California diverge — and how it’s not for the reasons right-wingers think:

For the big difference between the two states, aside from the size of the oil and gas sector, isn’t tax rates. it’s housing prices. Despite the bursting of the bubble, home values in California are still double the national average, while in Texas they’re 30 percent below that average. So a lot more people are moving to Texas even though wages and productivity are lower than they are in California.

And while some of this difference in housing prices reflects geography and population density — Houston is still spreading out, while Los Angeles, hemmed in by mountains, has reached its natural limits — it also reflects California’s highly restrictive land-use policies, mostly imposed by local governments rather than the state. As Harvard’s Edward Glaeser has pointed out, there is some truth to the claim that states like Texas are growing fast thanks to their anti-regulation attitude, “but the usual argument focuses on the wrong regulations.” And taxes aren’t important at all.

KRUGMAN: We Are On The Brink Of A Technology Revolution That Will Transform Our Economy

Paul Krugman, Laureate of the Sveriges Riksban...

As a quasi techie, this article caught my eye…

Business Insider

A life-changing technology revolution, which we thought it was decades away, is upon us, says economist Paul Krugman, author of “End This Depression Now!

“So far the information technology revolution doesn’t hold a candle to previous technology revolutions,” Krugman said in an interview with Business Insider editor-in-chief Henry Blodget.

“The really big revolutions were the ones that took place largely towards the end of the 19th century that actually powered growth for a long time after that.”

But now, with driverless cars becoming a reality, technology is closer to affecting our physical world — transportation, productivity and efficiency, among others.

Watch Krugman making the case against technology pessimists below.

Krugman: 9/11 made Bush, Giuliani become ‘fake heroes’

Paul Krugman, Laureate of the Sveriges Riksban...

Image via Wikipedia

I’d have to agree with Nobel prize winner in economics, Paul Krugman on his assessment…

The Raw Story

This story may not be going away for a long while.

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman lashed out at the commemoration of the 10 year anniversary of September 11th, labeling George W. Bush and Rudy Giuliani as “fake heroes.”

On his “Conscience of a Liberal” blog Sunday morning, the Princeton economics professor didn’t lack in showing any temerity in his comments that certainly will upset conservatives.

“What happened after 9/11 — and I think even people on the right know this, whether they admit it or not — was deeply shameful,” he wrote. “Fake heroes like Bernie Kerik, Rudy Giuliani, and, yes, George W. Bush raced to cash in on the horror. And then the attack was used to justify an unrelated war the neocons wanted to fight, for all the wrong reasons.”

Krugman, who normally allows comments, also wrote that he wasn’t going to allow comments under this post “for obvious reasons.”

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