Who to vote for in the primary: In which the grumpies disagree even though they agree

#1:  All three candidates are perfectly acceptable.

#2:  Given the choice I’ll vote Sanders; if it’s only Clinton on the ticket I will happily vote for her and think it’s a good choice!

#1: I’m voting for Clinton, but I’m totally fine with Sanders. In a different world, I’d be more for Sanders, but in this world, I’m for Clinton.  I tend to vote for the pragmatic candidate–I knew underneath Obama’s idealism beat a heart of pure pragmatism (he won me over with his specific wooing of the economist vote). I think Clinton has a better shot of getting ‘er done.  Everyone I’ve met who has worked with/for her says she’s a great boss and extremely competent and has a big public service motivation (not ambition like SNL wants you to think) and thinks she’s the best person for the job *and she’s right to think that.*  (They also say she’s unexciting and kind of a bureaucrat, but I’m totally fine with that.)  She was wonderful at that Benghazi hearing.

#2: I have differences of opinion with Clinton. However, if it’s Clinton vs. Republicans, I am Clinton all the way! My differences with her are much less than my differences with anyone else (except Sanders). My issues with Clinton are small in the grand scheme of things.

#1: What are your differences of opinion? I am curious if I also have them or if I agree with her.

#2: I think she wants to be more involved in the middle east and more explodey than I want.

#1: oh, I have no idea about foreign policy

#2: also more drones spying on other leaders

#1: yeah, all of that is out of my wheelhouse

#2: in the grand scheme of things, foreign policy isn’t the most important to me.

#1: I know enough about that stuff to not have an opinion! it’s like, who the hell knows what is the right thing to do

#2: i would rather cut military spending and fund education and healthcare. But I’m some sort of commie or something.

#1: in the perfect world, I would agree with that

#2: there is too darn much military spending, but it’s our own fault

#1: I do think we need to do a better job getting other countries to pay for foreign interventions.

#2: I see how we can’t vanish it all overnight, that would be ridiculous

#1: it still sits with me wrong

#2: YES

#1: they’re really hard questions and I’m glad I don’t study them

#2: I think she may be also more drill-for-oil than I agree with, but I’d have to check

#1: mainly I want people to stop dying and for women and minorities to have human rights and so on

#2: YES

#1: anybody who wants to drill baby drill right now is STUPID– the low cost of oil is destabilizing

#2: reproductive rights! healthcare! social justice!

#1: I wish the democratic debates were better publicized.  They actually talk about issues and sound professional and stuff.  Debbie Wassaman is doing a terrible terrible job.

#2: https://www.isidewith.com/ is a good way to figure out who you side with. They don’t have complete info for anyone on every single question, but you can break it down by the areas that are most important to you. I agree with Bernie on almost all things, but lots and lots of them are less-important things. I agree with Clinton on a few large, important things but disagree with her on some less-important things. SO…. enh?  “Less-important” meaning TO ME of course.

#1: wow, these questions have gotten crazier since I last took the test– some of the republican candidates really are batexcrement evil crazy–it says I’m 95% bernie, 92% hillary, 78% O’Malley… then Chris Christie and John Kasiach and Jeb Bush. Apparently I’m “Left-Wing Authoritarian”

“Your political beliefs would be considered strongly Left-Wing and moderately Authoritarian on an ideological scale, meaning you tend to stand up and protect those who are oppressed or taken advantage of and believe the government should do the same.” Down with oppression!

I’m still voting for Hillary. Assuming I can get my voter registration reinstated (the post office sent my registration check card back to the voter office, even though they delivered DH’s). (Why yes, the Voter Rights Act did affect my state and its absence is being noticed.)

So yeah– the primary season has started!  Vote for your favorite democrat.  Even if you live in a red state.  Especially if you live in a red state!  There’s something wonderful about discovering you’re not the only democrat in your town.  If you’re not a democrat then, um, vote for Kasich?

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Ask the grumpies: political polarization

Cloud asks:

Are we or are we not living in an age of unusual political polarization?

So there’s two ask the grumpies questions left in our queue of unanswered ask the grumpies and they’re both hard.  The other one is on the minimum wage and I actually know the answer to it (because it’s standard labor economics) but it’s gonna take a while to answer well because it’s a complex issue.  (All to get to the bottom line of “economists still disagree on this one.”)

This one is out of my wheelhouse, so I’m going to punt it.

My colleagues say yes and they point to gerrymandering and that easy filibuster rule.

Bogart actually brought up two blog posts in the comments when this was asked saying:

If you are talking about Congress, here are two blog posts by scholars who are widely published on this issue: http://voteview.com/blog/?p=726 , http://voteview.com/blog/?p=953 . The short answer is yes, and that most of the recent ideological motion has been a rightward move by Republicans. If you’re talking about the electorate, I’ll need to pull up different information and my sense is the story is somewhat murkier. Gerrymandering is clearly an issue (but nothing new), and it seems we (individuals) are self-sorting in ways that involve ideological clustering more than we used to, but I’d have to dig out sources.

To which I replied:

My sense is that every time the census districts are redrawn, gerrymandering is bad. But the essence of gerrymandering is such that it only takes a little bit to tip districts over on average (the way that gerrymandering works is you’re trying to get the biggest partisan bang for the buck, so there’s a lot of fragile districts), so as time goes on the effects of gerrymandering diminish until the next redistricting.

There’s also a lot of talk lately about how republicans are doing a good job of taking over state legislatures and state governments, which can have national effects through things like redistricting or setting educational curricula.

To which she responded:

I’d have to look this up to confirm/quantify, but my sense is that a noticeable Republican takeover of state legislatures and governorships coincided with the recent round of redistricting, leading to gerrymandering more obvious to many of us because it benefits those “other” guys. The development of majority minority districts has arguably also exacerbated this, as drawing district lines to concentrate African-American voters obviously concentrates a large and probably the most predictably Democratic constituency in one place and, by extension, makes it unavailable to others.

On the other hand, prior to the 1960s many Southern states (at least) simply didn’t redistrict (much), giving a pronouncedly amplified voice to rural (white) voters at the expense of urban (black) voters. So how bad things are is partly a function of what you’re comparing them to, as ever.

Finally, if we’re talking *historically* in terms of political polarization, say, pre-Carter, or pre-Roosevelt, or pre-Hoover… that I can’t say.  We’re certainly less polarized than we were in say, the 1860s.  (In that we’re not having a civil war.)

Are any of our readers (in addition to Bogart) more knowledgeable on this subject than the grumpies?  Chime in in the comments!

A much requested picture about the future of the economy

This picture is actually a little bit out of date– the situation is worse now.  But the idea is still the same.  The black line is revenues, the red area Social Security spending, the green area Medicare/Medicaid spending and the blue area is all other spending (including military).

I saw a talk recently by the trustees of Social Security (one Republican, one Democrat… newly filled posts that had been vacant for two fricking years because the Republicans keep blocking appointments).  If we don’t do something, then when the SS trust fund empties in a few years, either we’ll have to cut benefits by 23% across the board, including to people currently receiving benefits, or we will have to raise taxes across the board by 16% (my colleague tells me this is equivalent to 1.6 ppt).  And that’s just the red area.  Check out the green area of Medicare/Medicaid.  Sorry Huffington Post columns… we do kind of have to cut that down.  Let’s try to do it responsibly.

Can we just cut spending?  NO.

Can we just raise taxes?  NO.

A combination of both, phased in as the economy recovers (but NOT until the economy recovers and unemployment is back down!) will put us back on track.

Write to your congresspeople, especially if they’re tea partiers.  Tell them that government has GOT to compromise.  That spending cuts aren’t enough and they’ll put us in a double dip recession.  That Republicans and Democrats need to come together and vote for something like the gang of six plan, (or, in my ideal world, a more liberal version of it).  We need long-term stability for our country.  We need short-term stimulus for our nation.

There’s a range of viable solutions that gets smaller and smaller as time goes on.  We had a lot more options for solving these problems back in 2000 than we do now.  If we keep waiting, that range of options will continue to get smaller and cuts or tax increases (or inflation) will have to be larger.

I’m not tagging this deliberately controversial because well, I have a PhD in this stuff and it really isn’t controversial among anybody who moves in economics or policy circles, no matter their party affiliation.  Just among politicians and folks who watch or read too much partisan media (Krugman also representing partisan media– although he must know better).  The people who really know economics or government or history know what needs to be done.   I wish we were better at getting the message out to everybody else.  I hope this graph, that has convinced so many policy makers, convinces a few other folks too.