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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Deaths of Despair

From Brookings:
In 2015, Princeton Professors Anne Case and Angus Deaton made global headlines after documenting a shocking rise in the proportion of white non-Hispanic Americans dying in middle age. 
This year, as part of the Spring 2017 edition of the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Professors Case and Deaton are following up on that research to further investigate the rise and its causes, examining midlife mortality rates of white non-Hispanics in the U.S. by geography, education, birth cohort, and more. You can read the full paper here 
Dividing the country into 1,000-plus regions, the authors find that the rate of “deaths of despair” (deaths by drugs, alcohol, and suicide) in midlife for white non-Hispanics rose in nearly every part of the country and at every level of urbanization—from deep rural areas to large central cities—hitting men and women similarly. 
In 2000, the epidemic was centered in the southwest. By the mid-2000s it had spread to Appalachia, Florida, and the west coast. Today, it’s country-wide.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Trump: English Patient

Amber Phillips writes at The Washington Post:
For those looking to fulfill their worldview of a Trump White House so eager for affirmation they'll overlook where it came from, it was almost too perfect.
The White House's new email newsletter, “Your 1600 Daily,” is a round up of videos, tweets and moments from the president's week all carefully curated to give off a sense of goodwill and personality from the White House. And this makes sense: Politicians want to engage their constituents beyond speeches and news conferences, and a digital newsletter is a very #2017 way to do it.
But in Friday's newsletter, things went terribly wrong for the White House. In the “News Reports” section, they shared two articles — one of Trump praising an Irish “fight” at a White House ceremony.
And the other, this Washington Post piece written by Alexandra Petri: “Trump's budget makes perfect sense and will fix America, and I will tell you why.
It takes about two seconds to click on Petri's article and realize she is — umm — not seriously championing Trump's budget. As Petri, who writes a humor blog for The Post, puts it, her story was “composed almost entirely of onomatopoeic noises (PEW PEW! GRRRRRRRR!) typed out in all caps.”
Remarkable? Yes. But this isn't the first time the Trump White House has made a colossal/colossally embarrassing mistake. Its press office isn't two months old, and it already has a history of some very sloppy/funny errors. 
Phillips mentions several errors:

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Worried About Race

Gallup reports:
Forty-two percent of Americans say they personally worry a "great deal" about race relations in the United States, up seven percentage points from 2016 and a record high in Gallup's 17-year trend. This is the third straight year worries about this issue have increased by a significant margin.
Jonathan Zimmerman writes at The New York Daily News:
By now, you've surely heard about Iowa Congressman Steve King's racist tweet last weekend. "We can't restore our civilization with someone else's babies," King wrote, in support of a right-wing politician in the Netherlands who has proposed limiting Muslim immigration and shutting down mosques.
The Internet lit up with angry replies to King, including a few from his own party. "What exactly do you mean?" tweeted Florida GOP congressman Carlos Curbelo, who is of Cuban descent. "Do I qualify as 'somebody else's baby?’ "
But here's what almost no Republican was saying: Donald Trump has made remarks that are just as racist as Steve King's. But Trump is President, of course, so he generally gets a free pass from his cowardly compatriots in the GOP.
Start with Trump's relentless questioning of whether Barack Obama was born in the United States. Trump latched onto this racist lie in 2011 and maintained it until last September, when he invented yet another lie: the whole thing was Hillary Clinton's fault.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Illegitimate Trump

That Trump is undeniably the nation's 45th president doesn't sit easily with young Americans like Anderson who are the nation's increasingly diverse electorate of the future, according to a new poll. A majority of young adults — 57 percent — see Trump's presidency as illegitimate, including about three-quarters of blacks and large majorities of Latinos and Asians, the GenForward poll found.

GenForward is a poll of adults age 18 to 30 conducted by the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago with The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. 
A slim majority of young whites in the poll, 53 percent, consider Trump a legitimate president, but even among that group 55 percent disapprove of the job he's doing, according to the survey.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Religious Breakdown

 Peter Beinart writes at The Atlantic:
When pundits describe the Americans who sleep in on Sundays, they often conjure left-leaning hipsters. But religious attendance is down among Republicans, too. According to data assembled for me by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), the percentage of white Republicans with no religious affiliation has nearly tripled since 1990. This shift helped Trump win the GOP nomination. During the campaign, commentators had a hard time reconciling Trump’s apparent ignorance of Christianity and his history of pro-choice and pro-gay-rights statements with his support from evangelicals. But as Notre Dame’s Geoffrey Layman noted, “Trump does best among evangelicals with one key trait: They don’t really go to church.” A Pew Research Center poll last March found that Trump trailed Ted Cruz by 15 points among Republicans who attended religious services every week. But he led Cruz by a whopping 27 points among those who did not.
Why did these religiously unaffiliated Republicans embrace Trump’s bleak view of America more readily than their churchgoing peers? Has the absence of church made their lives worse? Or are people with troubled lives more likely to stop attending services in the first place? Establishing causation is difficult, but we know that culturally conservative white Americans who are disengaged from church experience less economic success and more family breakdown than those who remain connected, and they grow more pessimistic and resentful. Since the early 1970s, according to W. Bradford Wilcox, a sociologist at the University of Virginia, rates of religious attendance have fallen more than twice as much among whites without a college degree as among those who graduated college. And even within the white working class, those who don’t regularly attend church are more likely to suffer from divorce, addiction, and financial distress. As Wilcox explains, “Many conservative, Protestant white men who are only nominally attached to a church struggle in today’s world. They have traditional aspirations but often have difficulty holding down a job, getting and staying married, and otherwise forging real and abiding ties in their community. The culture and economy have shifted in ways that have marooned them with traditional aspirations unrealized in their real-world lives.”
The worse Americans fare in their own lives, the darker their view of the country. According to PRRI, white Republicans who seldom or never attend religious services are 19 points less likely than white Republicans who attend at least once a week to say that the American dream “still holds true.”

Monday, March 20, 2017

A Really Unpopular President

Erin Dooley reports at ABC:
President Trump's approval rating has fallen to 37 percent -- the lowest of his fledgling presidency, according to Gallup. His disapproval rating rose correspondingly, hitting 58 percent.
At this point in his first term, President Obama's approval rating was hovering in the low 60s, while President George W. Bush's was in the mid-50s. (Obama's approval rating would later sink to a low of 40 percent, while Bush bottomed out at 25 percent.)
In fact, Trump's current approval rating is lower than any other commander-in-chief at this point in his first term since Gallup started tracking the issue in 1945, the year Harry Truman took office.

Frank Newport writes at Gallup:
During Trump's time in office so far, encompassing a little less than two months, American Jews have given him a 31% job approval rating -- 11 percentage points below his overall average of 42% during the same period.
This below-average rating of the Republican president is not unexpected. The dominant predictor of how an American rates the president is partisan orientation, and Jews tilt heavily Democratic -- 64% identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party (Jan. 20-March 15 data), while 29% identify with or lean toward the Republican Party.
Trump's 31% approval rating among Jews thus reflects this underlying partisan tilt, given that overall 84% of Republicans approve of Trump, compared with 10% of Democrats.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Trump Needs to Take Public Administration 101

At the Los Angeles Times, Doyle McManus writes of Trump's "skinny budget" this week:
The proposal would shrink the budgets of the Coast Guard, which protects ports, and the Transportation Safety Administration, which protects air travel, to pay for the wall, which almost nobody thinks would do much to stop terrorists or drug smugglers. It would also make the State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency less able to do their jobs, but no more efficient.
“It’s about as precise as civil war battlefield surgery,” said Paul C. Light, a government management expert at New York University. “If there’s a wound, you just amputate the whole leg.”

Even Republicans in Congress said they didn’t like it much. One GOP senator said the State Department cuts were “dead on arrival,” suggesting that, even more than other presidents’ budgets, this one is likely to be remembered only as a wish list — an unrealistic opening bid from a man who considers himself a wily negotiator. Congress, not the president, makes the real decisions on budgets and spending, and all of the programs Trump wants to slash are sacred to somebody on Capitol Hill.
But Trump took a second big action last week, even before releasing his budget plan: He signed an executive order calling for a major reorganizing of the federal bureaucracy. He asked agencies and the public to suggest programs that could be eliminated, slimmed down or combined. And he gave Mulvaney one year to produce a comprehensive plan.
If that sounds vague, it’s because it is. “It was basically a punt,” Light said.
The first problem with Trump’s order, Light said, is that federal agencies are unlikely to come up with creative plans to reorganize or downsize themselves. “The agencies have very little capacity to analyze themselves,” he said.
That’s why earlier efforts at reorganization often started with a president assembling an outside commission (Ronald Reagan did that in 1981) or a White House task force (Bill Clinton, in 1993). Trump hasn’t done that. And there doesn’t seem to be anyone on his staff who’s a natural reinventor, even though the president has appointed plenty of people from the private sector. Mulvaney is a former congressman with a fearsome reputation as a budget cutter, but not as a reformer. “You’ve got a bunch of real estate developers, investment bankers and members of Congress,” Light said. “They may be very smart people, but they are all from very flat organizations” — unlike the very un-flat bureaucracy