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Friday, March 23, 2018

Public Opinion on Interest Group Power

From the Kaiser Family Foundation:
As policymakers weigh strategies to address the high cost of prescription drugs, the latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll finds that a large majority of the public (72%) view pharmaceutical companies as having too much influence in Washington – more than say the same about the National Rifle Association (NRA).
Drug makers rank among the top tier of groups that Americans say have too much influence in Washington, along with large businesses (76%), Wall Street (69%), and health insurance companies (66%). All of these organizations rank higher than the NRA (52%), which has been at the center of the debate about school safety and gun laws following recent school shootings and subsequent protests.


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Metro v. Retro

Reid Wilson at The Hill:
Americans and immigrants from abroad are flocking to the nation’s metropolitan areas in droves, pursuing new jobs and economic opportunity. But at the same time, rural America is losing population at an alarming rate, raising fears that economies slow to recover from the recession have dark futures ahead.
Annual population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau released Thursday show 60 percent of American counties experienced natural population growth over the last year. In just over half the nation’s counties, more people migrated in than moved out.
But since the recession, the vast majority of American population growth has been concentrated in a very small number of counties — ones that are home to booming metropolises.

“By and large, the dynamics squarely favor large, dense, often coastal places,” said Mark Muro, a senior fellow and policy director at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “The digital nature of the economy now rewards dense, highly skilled pools of technical talent, even more than in the past.”

Since 2010, the 100 largest counties in America have added a total of 9.3 million new residents. All but six of those counties have experienced growth.
The six laggards are all cold-weather Rust Belt counties around cities like Detroit, Cleveland and St. Louis, where old-line manufacturing jobs primarily in the auto sector have vanished.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Quitting Fox

Lt. Col. Ralph Peters (ret.) on quitting Fox News:
On March 1st, I informed Fox that I would not renew my contract. The purpose of this message to all of you is twofold:
First, I must thank each of you for the cooperation and support you've shown me over the years. Those working off-camera, the bookers and producers, don't often get the recognition you deserve, but I want you to know that I have always appreciated the challenges you face and the skill with which you master them.
Second, I feel compelled to explain why I have to leave. Four decades ago, I took an oath as a newly commissioned officer. I swore to "support and defend the Constitution," and that oath did not expire when I took off my uniform. Today, I feel that Fox News is assaulting our constitutional order and the rule of law, while fostering corrosive and unjustified paranoia among viewers. Over my decade with Fox, I long was proud of the association. Now I am ashamed.
In my view, Fox has degenerated from providing a legitimate and much-needed outlet for conservative voices to a mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration. When prime-time hosts--who have never served our country in any capacity--dismiss facts and empirical reality to launch profoundly dishonest assaults on the FBI, the Justice Department, the courts, the intelligence community (in which I served) and, not least, a model public servant and genuine war hero such as Robert Mueller--all the while scaremongering with lurid warnings of "deep-state" machinations-- I cannot be part of the same organization, even at a remove. To me, Fox News is now wittingly harming our system of government for profit.
As a Russia analyst for many years, it also has appalled me that hosts who made their reputations as super-patriots and who, justifiably, savaged President Obama for his duplicitous folly with Putin, now advance Putin's agenda by making light of Russian penetration of our elections and the Trump campaign. Despite increasingly pathetic denials, it turns out that the "nothing-burger" has been covered with Russian dressing all along. And by the way: As an intelligence professional, I can tell you that the Steele dossier rings true--that's how the Russians do things.. The result is that we have an American president who is terrified of his counterpart in Moscow.
I do not apply the above criticisms in full to Fox Business, where numerous hosts retain a respect for facts and maintain a measure of integrity (nor is every host at Fox News a propaganda mouthpiece--some have shown courage). I have enjoyed and valued my relationship with Fox Business, and I will miss a number of hosts and staff members. You're the grown-ups.
Also, I deeply respect the hard-news reporters at Fox, who continue to do their best as talented professionals in a poisoned environment. These are some of the best men and women in the business..
So, to all of you: Thanks, and, as our president's favorite world leader would say, "Das vidanya."

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Race and Upward Mobility

The Equality of Opportunity Project summarizes a new paper by Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren:
In our most recent study, we analyze racial differences in economic opportunity using data on 20 million children and their parents. We show black children have much lower rates of upward mobility and higher rates of downward mobility than white children, leading to black-white income disparities that persist across generations. While Hispanic and black Americans presently have comparable incomes, the incomes of Hispanic Americans are increasing steadily across generations.

The black-white gap in upward mobility is driven entirely by differences in men’s, not women’s, outcomes. Black and white men have very different outcomes even if they grow up in two-parent families with comparable incomes, education, and wealth; live on the same city block; and attend the same school. Black-white gaps are smaller in low-poverty neighborhoods with lower levels of racial bias among whites and a larger fraction of black fathers at home. We conclude that reducing the black-white income gap will require efforts whose impacts cross neighborhood and class lines and increase upward mobility specifically for black men.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Income Distribution and Taxes in 2014

In 2014, household income was unevenly distributed: Households at the top of the income distribution received significantly more income than households at the bottom of the distribution. According to the Congressional Budget Office’s estimates:
  • Average income among households in the lowest quintile (or fifth) of the income distribution was about $19,000 (see Summary Figure 1). 
  • Average income among households in the highest quintile was about $281,000. 
Furthermore, within the highest quintile, income was highly skewed toward the very top of the distribution: Average income among households in the bottom half of the highest quintile (the 81st to 90th percentiles) was about $151,000; average income among the 1.2 million households in the top 1 percent of the distribution was about $1.8 million.

According to the agency’s estimates, average household income before transfers and taxes was almost 60 percent higher in 2014 than it was in 1979 in real (inflation adjusted) terms—an average growth rate of 1.3 percent per year. That growth, however, was not the same across the income spectrum. Income growth among households in the bottom 80 percent of the income distribution was less than half that overall growth rate—26 percent for households in the lowest quintile and 28 percent for households in the middle three quintiles. Meanwhile, among households in the highest quintile, average income in 2014 was 95 percent higher than it was in 1979. Because of those differences in cumulative growth rates, income inequality was greater in 2014 than it was in 1979 (see Summary Figure 2).

Average federal tax rates—which are calculated by dividing total federal taxes in an income group by total income before transfers and taxes in that income group—generally rise with income.29 In 2014, households in the bottom fifth of the income distribution paid about 2 percent of their income in federal taxes, households in the middle quintile paid 14 percent, and households in the highest quintile paid about 27 percent (see Figure 5). Average tax rates within the top quintile continued to increase as income rose: Households in the top 1 percent of the before-tax income distribution had an average federal tax rate of about 34 percent.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Constantly Online

From Pew:
As smartphones and other mobile devices have become more widespread, 26% of American adults now report that they go online “almost constantly,” up from 21% in 2015, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in January 2018.
Overall, 77% of Americans go online on a daily basis. That figure includes the 26% who go online almost constantly, as well as 43% who say they go online several times a day and 8% who go online about once a day. Some 11% go online several times a week or less often, while 11% of adults say they do not use the internet at all.
Adults with mobile connectivity are especially likely to be online a lot. Among mobile internet users – the 83% of Americans who use the internet at least occasionally using a smartphone, tablet or other mobile device – 89% go online daily and 31% go online almost constantly. Among Americans who go online but not via a mobile device, by comparison, 54% go online daily and just 5% say they go online almost constantly.

Younger adults are at the vanguard of the constantly connected: Roughly four-in-ten 18- to 29-year-olds (39%) now go online almost constantly and 49% go online multiple times per day. By comparison, just 8% of those 65 and older go online almost constantly and just 30% go online multiple times per day.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Jeff Flake Describes Deliberation

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) at the National Press Club:
That which is strategic must first be thought, then thought through, then a true leader has the confidence to have people more experienced than he, tell him why it might be a terrible idea. Subject area experts become involved, maybe an astute lawyer who can give advice on whether something you want to do adheres to the Constitution. White papers are drafted, staffing happens, key people are read in, policy is made.

The time it takes for a notion to tickle the cerebellum, send a signal to your fingers to pick up your phone and thumb-type a tweet is not a comparable process. We should know by now that there is no strategic brilliance to marvel at here. No, by now we know that this is chaos for its own sake, projected onto the world.