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Thursday, February 22, 2018

"Nation of Immigrants"

Miriam Jordan at NYT:
The federal agency that issues green cards and grants citizenship to people from foreign countries has stopped characterizing the United States as “a nation of immigrants.”
The director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services informed employees in a letter on Thursday that its mission statement had been revised to “guide us in the years ahead.” Gone was the phrase that described the agency as securing “America’s promise as a nation of immigrants.”
The original mission statement said: “U.S.C.I.S. secures America’s promise as a nation of immigrants by providing accurate and useful information to our customers, granting immigration and citizenship benefits, promoting an awareness and understanding of citizenship, and ensuring the integrity of our immigration system.”
The new version says: “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administers the nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and promise by efficiently and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits while protecting Americans, securing the homeland and honoring our values.”

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Decline of Party Capacity in the House

In the last two decades, the House of Representatives has lost a great deal of institutional capacity. Sources of expertise and spaces for deliberation and policy formulation are all in decline. Most of these resources are nonpartisan or bipartisan—but Congress’ capacity does not exist entirely outside of its parties. The House parties have provided internal mechanisms that have served party goals by complementing rather than replacing a robust committee system and other sources of institutional strength, and they could do so again. There is no reason why strong political parties cannot coexist with a process of serious policy development and consensus building, a combination that would allow rank-and-file party members a greater investment in the party’s work.
The current House majority is highly centralized, governing from the top with little real involvement by the membership. This condition is what we would expect from a cohesive majority in a highly polarized House, but it is increasingly in tension with a caucus that is deeply divided over policy and strategic decisions. House majorities (and minorities, too) navigated this combination of strong partisanship and serious internal division more effectively when their organizations provided structure for member involvement.
The expanded party capacity of the 1970s and 1980s did not withstand the conditions of the 1990s and 2000s in the House, at least not in its inclusive, participatory form. Very high polarization fueled greater centralization, while close electoral competition inspired the parties to intensify their organizational focus on messaging. Whip organizations grew more homogenous and their processes more locked-down, and the parties used their policy committees primarily to shape public electoral messages. Increasing party centralization, the absence of party coordinating structures, and the decline of committees now leave the top majority party leadership developing vehicles for “legislating in the dark.” The House GOP has tried to build support for leadership direction through full conference meetings, but these do not appear to be a successful alternative to more organized, inclusive participation earlier in the process.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Skills Gap

Many workers will lose their jobs to automation or offshoring. Meanwhile, many jobs requiring technical skills will go unfilled.

Reid Wilson at The Hill:
About 108 million workers hold jobs that require moderate or high digital knowledge, according to a Brookings Institution report published in December, and jobs are increasingly likely to require higher levels of technical knowledge.
“There’s this broad need for more digital experience, whether it be a full-time high-end IT worker or to simply carry on in the rest of the economy,” said Mark Muro, director of policy at the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program and a co-author of the 2017 report.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the economy will need as many as 100,000 new information technology workers per year over the next decade. Right now, only about 60,000 of these workers enter the workforce each year.
Retiring baby boomers are exacerbating the problem.
The Pew Research Center estimates that as many as 10,000 Boomers reach retirement age every day, leaving behind jobs that require more technical knowledge.
Retirements and new growth mean 3.5 million new manufacturing jobs will need to be filled by 2025, said Carolyn Lee, executive director of The Manufacturing Institute at the National Association of Manufacturers. If present trends hold, as many as 2 million of those jobs are expected to go unfilled.
“We are definitely not producing enough workers to fill those jobs,” Lee said.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Data on Educational Attainment

Scott Jaschik at Inside Higher Ed:
New data from the Lumina Foundation show that in 2016, 46.9 percent of Americans aged 25 to 64 had a postsecondary degree or certificate. That is a 1.1 percentage point increase in a year and a 9 percentage point increase since 2008, but Lumina's report says that the rate of increase isn't large enough to meet a goal of 60 percent by 2025. Further, the Lumina data show significant gaps by race and ethnicity. The 2016 figures by race/ethnicity (for degrees only, excluding certificates) are:
  • Asian American: 61.7 percent
  • White: 46.4 percent
  • Black: 30 percent
  • Native American: 24 percent
  • Latino: 21.9 percent
State data show that Massachusetts ranks at the top (56.2%) and West Virginia at the bottom (34.7%)

Sunday, February 18, 2018


Mark J. Perry at AEI compares inflation rates for various good and services.  Textbooks and tuition, alas, are near the very top.

The chart above (thanks to Olivier Ballou) is an update of a chart we produced last year about this time, and shows the percent changes since January 1997 in the prices of selected consumer goods and services, along with the increase in average hourly earnings in this version (which have increased by 81.5% over the last 21 years vs. the 55.6% increase in the CPI).
See any patterns? Tradeables (with import competition like TVs) vs. non-tradeables (like childcare), manufactured goods (with import competition like clothing and cars) vs. services (medical, hospitals, education), competitive (software) vs. protected industries (healthcare), degree of government involvement/funding/regulation?
Here are some comments from Twitter about the chart, which I posted there a few days ago and which has been re-Tweeted more than 200 times.
Blue lines = prices subject to free market forces. Red lines = prices subject to regulatory capture by government. Food and drink is debatable either way. Conclusion: remind me why socialism is so great again.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

How Russia Attacks Our Democracy

 Peter Baker at NYT:
After more than a dozen Russians and three companies were indicted on Friday for interfering in the 2016 elections, President Trump’s first reaction was to claim personal vindication: “The Trump campaign did nothing wrong — no collusion!” he wrote on Twitter.
He voiced no concern that a foreign power had been trying for nearly four years to upend American democracy, much less resolve to stop it from continuing to do so this year.
The indictment secured by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, underscored the broader conclusion by the American government that Russia is engaged in a virtual war against the United States through 21st-century tools of disinformation and propaganda, a conclusion shared by the president’s own senior advisers and intelligence chiefs. But it is a war being fought on the American side without a commander in chief.
In 13 months in office, Mr. Trump has made little if any public effort to rally the nation to confront Moscow for its intrusion or to defend democratic institutions against continued disruption. His administration has at times called out Russia or taken action, and even Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, speaking in Germany on Saturday, called evidence of Russian meddling “incontrovertible.” But the administration has been left to respond without the president’s leadership.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Parties and Guns

Another mass shooting.

Pew Research on Parties and Guns:
There is a partisan divide in gun ownership: More than four-in-ten Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are gun owners (44%), compared with 20% of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic.
There is also a partisan divide on views of gun policy, and these differences remain even after controlling for gun ownership. For example, Republican gun owners are much more resistant than Democratic gun owners to creating a database to track gun sales and banning assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines. On the flip side, Republicans are also more open to proposals that would expand gun rights. A prime example: 82% of Republican gun owners favor expanding concealed carry laws to more places, compared with 41% of their Democratic counterparts.
Republican gun owners are about twice as likely as Democratic gun owners to say owning a gun is essential to their freedom (91% vs. 43%), and there are also behavioral differences between these two groups. For example, Republican handgun owners are more likely than their Democratic counterparts to say they carry their gun with them, even if only some of the time (63% vs. 45%). Fully 55% of Democrats who own a handgun say they never carry.