In the News Now

Grand Old Party for a Brand New Generation

There was a lot of internet chatter about the above “GOP for a New Generation” report today.  Out of curiosity I decided to read it.  It was really interesting and while it doesn’t have much to do with our recent discussion of whether the Republican Party has moved right or not, I think it’s indicative of where they could use some improvement.

I happen to be the mother of young voters just outside of this under 30 age group, and because I’ve enjoyed watching their political views form so much, I thought this was a great study.

To be clear, in addition to the parts I’ve excerpted, they also polled economic matters, the size of government (interesting results there), the environment, and also discussed the use of social media and other sources of political news.

The following report assesses the findings from a variety of studies on young voters, including a new March 2013 survey conducted for the College Republican National Committee (CRNC), and makes recommendations about how Republicans can begin this work today.

We believe that Republicans can win young voters but that it will require a significantly different approach than has been used in recent elections.

Health Care

Health care remains a second-tier issue behind the economy and the national debt. In the August 2012 XG survey, only 8% of young voters said it was their top issue, and just 27% named “lowering health care costs and improving care” as one of their top two or three priorities in the March 2013 CRNC survey.

Nonetheless, the issue is at the top of the second tier in both surveys and came up frequently in our focus group research. In the August XG survey, young voters handed Democrats a heavy advantage on the issue, preferring their handling of health care to Republicans by a 63-37 margin. Some 41% thought things overall would be better as a result of Obama’s health care reform plan (versus to 32% who said things would be worse).

Many of the young people in our focus groups noted that they thought everyone in America should have access to health coverage. In the Spring 2012Harvard Institute of Politics survey of young voters, 44% said that “basic health insurance is a right for all people, and if someone has no means of paying for it, the government should provide it”; 23% disagreed.

Admittedly, there were concerns about the cost and quality of health care under the ACA but in general the young people gave Obama credit for trying.

Immigration

While immigration wasn’t a major issue it appeared it might be an issue that could turn a voter against a conservative candidate who they agreed with on taxes or other economic issues but disagreed with on immigration reform.

The position taken most frequently by young voters was that “illegal immigrants should have a path to earn citizenship,” chosen by35% of respondents. Closely behind this were the 30% who preferred the “enforcement first” strategy of securing the border and enforcing existing immigration laws. Some 19% chose “illegal immigrants should be deported or put in jail for breaking the law,” while another 17% took the position that “illegal immigrants should have a path to legal status but not citizenship.”On the issue of laws that “would allow illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to gain legal resident status if they join the military or go to college,” three out of four (75.3%) young adults agreed in an October 2012 poll conducted by CIRCLE. And young voters for the most part knew how the candidates in the election stood on that issue; in that same survey, 63% of respondents said that Barack Obama was the candidate who supported “allowing many illegal or undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children to remain in the country,” while only 3% said that was Mitt Romney’s position.

Abortion

This really surprised me; I knew it was pretty close but not quite this close.  In this case I wish Dems would alter their position a little to make room for a more tolerant culture of life position, but I repeat myself.

The results debunk the conventional wisdom on the issue and establish that not all “social issues” are viewed the same. Indeed, only 16% of young voters preferred that abortion be legal in all cases, while 32% said abortion should be legal “up to a certain point.” Combined, that comprises 48% who take a position leaning toward legality. On the other side, 37% felt abortion should be illegal with exceptions, and 14% thought abortion should always be illegal, making a combined 51% who lean toward prohibiting abortion. On this issue, there is small gender divide, with men in the survey actually tending to lean more pro-choice than women.

Where the Republican Party runs into trouble with young voters on the abortion issue is not necessarily in being pro-life. On the contrary, the Democratic Party’s position of pushing for abortion to be legal in all cases and at all times, including some recent laws around how to handle medical care for babies born alive during abortion procedures, is what is outside the norm of where young voters stand. Unfortunately for the GOP, the Republican Party has been painted – both by Democrats and by unhelpful voices in our own ranks – as holding the most extreme anti-abortion position (that it should be prohibited in all cases). Furthermore, the issue of protecting life has been conflated with issues around the definition of rape, funding for Planned Parenthood, and even contraception.

In the words of one pro-life respondent, “The Planned Parenthood thing for me is not so much about abortion; it’s about counseling before you can get to that point, and I feel that that’s a big part of what they do, is contraception counseling and about being safe.”

Bingo

Gay Marriage

Perhaps no topic has gotten more attention with regards to the youth vote than the issue of gay marriage. And on this issue, the conventional wisdom is right: young people are unlikely to view homosexuality as morally wrong, and they lean toward legal recognition of same-sex relationships. Only 21% of young voters in the Spring 2012 Harvard Institute of Politics survey felt that religious values should play a more important role in government, and only 25% felt homosexual relationships were wrong. Young people nowadays are more likely than ever to know someone who is openly gay or lesbian, and that factor is correlated with attitudes supporting same-sex marriage.

Surveys have consistently shown that gay marriage is not as important an issue as jobs and the economy to young voters. Yet it was unmistakable in the focus groups that gay marriage was a reason many of these young voters disliked the GOP.

The conclusion of the report discusses five areas where they think the GOP can improve their chances to win over a larger percentage of the youth vote and they explain their methodology and whatnot.

I’m still working on an immigration post, just thought this was interesting and current considering all the references I read about it today on both sides of the political divide.

Taxing the Job Creators

Or, I suppose I could title it “Crafting Tax Policy Around Creating Economic Growth”, but that seems a little presumptuous, give it’s just a small mish-mash of half-formed musings.

Michael Arrington Spreads The Wealth

Michael Arrington believes in “trickle up” theory. “Wealth rises,” he says. “In the form of smoke, from the $100 bills I use to light my cigars!”

It occurs to me that the job creators are those that start and run small to mid-size businesses, mostly. If that’s the issue, why isn’t there more discussion of tax cuts or advantageous changes in tax policy for small businesses? Small businesses in the process of expanding or hiring are always strapped for cash, and tax bills (both federal and local) obligate hard decisions as regards to capital expenditures and labor expansion. Almost always, money that goes to pay the tax man, if kept, would go towards expanding the business or employing more people.

Wealthy individuals with high incomes are less likely to act as job creators, so it seems less likely, to me, that increased taxation on the wealthy would be a significant drag on the economy. They may invest their cash, but it’s unclear how much that investment does in terms of funding new hiring or innovation in new businesses, versus providing already solvent companies with a solid market capitalization, from which they produce pleasing dividends.

They may hire cooks and maids and gardeners, but it seems such hires are likely very low impact on the economy, and perhaps not the first things to go when a wealthy fellow pays an additional 3%-5% in taxes. Finally, it has been demonstrated that taxes on luxury items radically curtail the purchase of luxury goods, so it could be speculated that additional taxes on the wealthy would negatively impact those companies that produce luxury items. This is a negative, as those employed producing luxury items are better employed in such production than unemployed, but it seems to me that the overall impact on the economy is probably insignificant.

Thus, if the interest is in growing the economy through tax policy, a compromise position that raises taxes on the individual income of those making $250k+ per year, while offering significant tax advantages to small businesses making under $1 million per year, or offering a permanent per-employee tax break that allows small companies that employee a large number of people to pay virtually no federal taxes, would be a better way to stimulate economic growth.

Myself, I don’t care for the rhetoric of class envy. Complaining that the rich “didn’t build it themselves”, or that the wealthy aren’t “doing their fair share” has no resonance with me. I have no moral objection to the rich getting richer, and getting to keep more of their money. The top 2% pay half of all taxes, and that’s a lot. Those folks, as super-rich as they are, are doing their part. Even if Warren Buffet pays less as a percentage rate than his secretary.

However, it seems that we will need to raise revenue in addition to cutting spending (which seems, at best, a pipe dream, and I suspect we will eventually follow the Greek model), and there are probably worse places to raise revenue than increasing taxes on the wealthy, either in terms of income taxes or increases in capital gains taxes over a certain amount (and excluding the sale of primary residences), or even a minor wealth tax for folks who have assets in their name over some arbitrary sum. It seems to me raising taxes on the middle class, or on small businesses, would be more likely to put a drag on the economy.

The reverse of that last sentiment also seems to be true to me: that tax cuts on small businesses, and the middle class, would be more likely to spur economic growth. Although many factors, of course, contribute to economic growth, and tax policy doesn’t make or break the economy, one way or the other, in a vacuum. Until top marginal rates start approach 90%, but then, of course, you suffer another problem as regards revenue: compliance.

It just seems to me that most of the arguments seem to be about abstract things. That is: “The rich can afford it!” – “The rich already pay 80% of all taxes!” – “People with seven homes don’t need another tax break!” – “It’s their money! They earned it!”- “Rich people are greedy and only want more money!” – “You’re just jealous! And a taker! And lazy! What ever happened to self-reliance?” Etc. There doesn’t seem to be much objective discussion of what is meant by taxing the “job creators”, who creates the most jobs (small businesses, or sole proprietorships?), which tax cuts on which groups increases money flowing into the economy, or even who benefits and how much when the economy prospers.

Reaganomics has always been (IMO) unfairly vilified by many on the left (don’t get me started on the constant mischaracterization of the Laffer Curve), when the fact is the fundamental precept of “trickle down” economics makes good sense: cutting taxes at every level puts more money into the economy, and that rising tide lifts all boats. It just lifts the richer boats higher, but if the alternative is that we all sink, I don’t think that’s such a bad deal.

At some level, the tide will have risen as much as it can: that is, if the wealthy pay an effective 18% rate on their income and their taxes are cut to an effective 10%, it has ceased to trickle down in a meaningful way (this is not an assertion, just a theoretical example, real numbers would likely be different, but I think the principle would prove true). There seems to be ample evidence for this, in that the richer are richer than ever, and their wealth has been increasing on a steady curve, with no demonstrable benefit to the overall economy. While I’m not sympathetic to complaints that 1% of Americans control 34.5% of America’s wealth, such wealth concentration indicates a solid increase, over the past few decades, of the fortunes of the very wealthy in this country. I.e., the wealthier are much richer, they have much more money with which to create jobs, and they just aren’t doing it. Not because they are bad people or are evil or greedy, it’s just that tax cuts for the rich don’t produce jobs or economic growth in any meaningful sense. At least, not past a certain level. And we are well past that level.

To repeat myself, it seems to me there is an obvious reason those tax cuts don’t produce jobs or significant economic growth. Those very wealthy individuals don’t have any additional businesses they wish to create, people they need to higher, or local investments they are wanting to make or expand with that additional money. At least, not to the degree that impacts the economy.

Yet, it seems to me there are areas where an increase in money would find it’s way into new paychecks and new capital investments: small businesses and, to a lesser extent, the middle class. These are the folks without a surplus of money, but with people they would hire, if they could, and equipment or appliances that need to be replaced, or businesses they would start, if only they had the money. Yet an excellent opportunity for one side or the other to argue for making the middle class tax cuts permanent, or introducing a new generous small business tax cut, has passed again and again, as the two sides take their largely inflexible position on the Bush tax cuts. It’s all about either increasing taxes on the rich to raise revenue, or preserving existing tax cuts so that the rich can stimulate the economy with the extra money (although there seems to be little evidence of this, and certainly no compelling reason to think that it’s the best stimulation tax policy can make possible).

Put in the bluntest terms, I think Republicans would do well to cave on the Bush tax cuts for those making over $250k+, and build a coalition around making middle class tax cuts permanent, and coming up with some fresh tax cuts for small businesses with more than 3 non-contract employees and less than $1 million (or $3 million, perhaps) in total revenues.

Just letting the Bush tax cuts lapse may increase revenues to the federal treasury, but it’s not going to grow the economy.

Things Republican Politicians Do That Drive Me Crazy

Steve Benen wrote this up today and I am at a total loss as to what the Senate Republicans think this is going to accomplish. Hiding reports doesn’t make the facts go away, and while I understand that you can probably find as many economists to disagree with the report as ones that agree with it, it seems to me that a better solution would be to publish a rebuttal.

In mid-September, the non-partisan Congressional Research Service published a detailed report, documenting the fact that reducing taxes on the wealthy does not, in fact, generate economic growth. Instead, the CRS found, the trickle-down model appears to be “associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top.”

[snip]

But in this case, the CRS presented Republicans with inconvenient truths. A spokesperson for Mitch McConnell said the officials at the research service “decided, on their own, to pull the study pending further review.” While that may be true, the question then becomes how much pressure the CRS officials were under to make this decision “on their own.”

And what is it that Republicans didn’t like about the CRS analysis? McConnell aides offered a series of complaints, including the report’s use of the phrase “Bush tax cuts.”

Apparently, in Republicans’ minds, to say “Bush tax cuts” is to use an inappropriate “tone.”

But putting all of that aside, we simply cannot have a functioning federal system in which neutral, independent offices are ignored, pressured, and/or censored when Republicans don’t like what they have to say. We’ve now seen this recently with the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Congressional Budget Office, and democratic norms dictate that GOP officials cut this out.

Here is the original report, republished by Senate Democrats on their web site.

Republican Presidential Nominee

Apparently Newt has had a resounding victory in the SC primary today. As of this post, Newt has a 15-pt lead over 2nd place Romney (who has a comfortable lead over 3rd place Santorum and 4th place Paul). See election results.

Any thoughts about what this portends for the R nomination?

Mayhem in Tampa?

This is a bitcomplicated.  On a dare from a Republican friend, I went and read the Rules of the Republican Party, as adopted at the 2008 nominating convention, henceforth known as the Rulebook. (sorry, it’s a pdf)

I’ll start with the RepublicanParty’s Rule 16.  In part, it says that if a state selectsits delegates before the Party says it can, “the number of delegates to thenational convention from that state shall be reduced by fifty percent (50%)”  (Rulebook, page 25).

The next item relates to the “beforethe Party says it can” part.  Rule 15(b)of the above cited document states that only Iowa, New Hampshire, SouthCarolina and Nevada can hold delegate selecting events prior to the firstTuesday in March but not before February 1 (Rulebook, page 18).

But in 2010 the RNC revisedRule 15(b).  This was something of abiggie, as the GOP doesn’t normally change these rules in betweenconventions, per page iv of the Rulebook.  The revised rule furtherstipulates that if any state other than the excepted four held an earlyprimary/caucus, the state “shall provide for theallocation of delegates on a proportional basis.”

Well, so much for the rules.

As of this writing, Iowa, NewHampshire and South Carolina all moved their events into January, and otherstates—Florida, Michigan, Colorado, Maine and Arizona—are all holdingprimaries/caucuses prior to the first Tuesday in March.  So, in theory each should: (a) have thenumber of delegates going to the nominating convention halved; and (b) have toallocate delegates proportionally.

Except that won’t be thecase, either.

It turns out that the delegate-assigningevents in Iowa, Colorado and Maine are non-binding so they get to retain theirfull delegation numbers.  And Floridagets to keep its winner-takes-all-delegates status, although its delegate count has been halved.

Is any of this making senseyet?

OK, how about Rule 38?  “No delegate or alternate delegate shall be boundby any attempt of any state or Congressional district to impose the unit rule.”(Rulebook, page 37)  Translation: Winner-take-allmay not be after all.

Depending on how angry and howdivided the GOP is when the delegates head to the convention in Tampa, theRepublican Party’s rules, and the candidate(s) with supposedly the mostdelegates, could face some potentially fascinating challenges.

Or everyone could unite under the common goal of defeating Barack Obama.  And if that’s the case, the GOP shouldn’teven bother with many of these rules for 2016.  After all, Rule 42 states “Rules 25 through 42 shall be the temporary rules of the next national convention” (Rulebook, page 40), so they won’t be in force after this summer anyway.  


I haven’t read the Democratic Party’s Rulebook, largely because no one’s dared me to.  It may well be in the same shape.

GOP Politicians vs GOP Voters

One of the continuing disconnects for me–since about 2004 or so–is what I hear from my Republican relatives and what I hear from the national Republican party and politicians. It turns out that I’m not alone, and while Steve Benen and Greg Sargent have both posted on this before, now I’m an administrator and can write my own post about it! Plus, while we don’t always agree, I do have respect for the opinions–and how they’ve been formed–of the folks on the other side of the aisle from me who post on this blog. So I’d like you to try to help me understand why the GOP seems to not be listening to their voters.

Here is the post from Benen on Political Animal this morning, and this is the pdf of the CNN/ORC poll he’s talking about. Four out of the five components of the American Jobs Act that were broken out and asked about individually were supported by Republicans (note: my wording, not exactly how it was asked in the poll. Favor cutting the payroll tax 58% – 40% opposed, favor providing federal money to states to hire teachers and first responders 63% – 36% opposed, favor increasing federal money for some infrastructure projects 54% – 46% opposed, and favor increasing taxes paid by millionaires 56% – 43% opposed). So why then, when Mitch McConnell or Eric Cantor or John Boehner, for example, talk about their opposition to these components do they always start their sentence with “the American people oppose X, Y and Z”? Do they not read the polls? Do they not believe the polls? Do they not care what their constituents think? Do they not know about crosstabs and think that it’s just generic Americans saying these things and not their fellow party members (and if they think that, shouldn’t they wonder about why they’re in the minority when it comes to those opinions)?

To quote Benen:

I mention this in part to show just how mainstream the American Jobs Act is, but also to note the chasm between Republican voters and Republican policymakers. With 63% of the GOP’s rank-and-file supporting, for example, aid to states to protect teachers’ and first responders’ jobs, it’s tempting to think at least some GOP lawmakers in Washington would support the idea. But in reality, that’s just not the case — literally zero Republicans on Capitol Hill are willing to even allow a vote on a popular jobs idea, during a jobs crisis, that even their own party’s voters strongly support.


Why? Is it Greg’s dreaded Beltway Feedback Loop? And why do they keep saying “the American people oppose” when that’s demonstrably not true?
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