I’ve just come back from a weekend in Vermont — and here’s how I understand it: Modestly off people — “real Vermonters,” as some people say — are voting for McCain and Palin. Comfortably off people, such as those who own ski chalets, are voting for Obama and Biden. And the following has been frequently noted about the city of my residence, New York: The rich are voting Democratic. And those who work for them — driving cars, cleaning rooms, and so on — are voting Republican.
Yet, when I was growing up, the Republican party was always called the party of the rich, and it still suffers from that label. Over and over, that which I was taught is contradicted by the evidence of my lived experience.
That may what “the evidence of [Nordlinger's] lived experience” says, but it would be strongly at odds with the historical pattern. Here’s Andrew Gelman’s map of voting patterns among the top third of the income distribution in 2004:
As you can see, John Kerry did win the votes of most rich people in California, New York, and Maryland. These states happen to be where most influential media people live, and this often gives influential media personalities a misleading impression of the voting behavior of rich people overall. But rich Vermonters, like rich Alabamans and rich Oregonians and rich Texans voted for George W. Bush. Which, if you know what you’re talking about, isn’t surprising — rich people vote Republican.
By contrast, this is the equivalent map for people in the bottom third of the income distribution:
Here you see overwhelming support for Democrats, including in Vermont. Those are the facts. Presumably the McCain-Obama map will look somewhat different, but it would be bizarre for the pattern to reverse itself as Nordlinger seems to be anticipating.
Both presidential candidates, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) have called for a mandatory cap on carbon emissions in the United States. Coal-fired power plants, which produce about 49 percent of U.S. electricity, account for 83 percent of power-sector emissions. Because of the global warming footprint, the cheapness of coal-fired electricity is illusory. Under a cap-and-trade system, the cost of those emissions — now a market externality — would have a dollar cost. In a January 2008 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Obama used blunt language to describe how a cap and trade system would change the future of the power sector:
That will create a market in which whatever technologies are out there that are being presented, whatever power plants are being built, they would have to meet the rigors of that market and the ratcheted-down caps that are imposed every year. So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted. That will also generate billions of dollars that we can invest in solar, wind, biodiesel, and other alternative energy approaches.
We’re going to build new plants that generate energy, my friends, we’re going to build them. We’ve got to. There’s an increased demand for it. And it seems to me, it’s going to be coal, which I believe will increase greenhouse gas emissions dramatically, or it’s going to be nuclear, or it’s going to be clean coal technology.
In the San Francisco Chronicle interview , Obama similarly stated that the future of power involves coal:
But this notion of no coal, I think, is an illusion. Because the fact of the matter is, is that right now we are getting a lot of our energy from coal. And China is building a coal-powered plant once a week. So what we have to do then is figure out how can we use coal without emitting greenhouse gases and carbon. And how can we sequester that carbon and capture it. If we can’t, then we’re gonna still be working on alternatives.
Under either candidate’s cap and trade program, constructing new coal plants that do not employ “clean coal technology” — that is, carbon capture and sequestration technology — would raise costs “dramatically.” Independent analysts have found that new coal plants would “create significant financial risks for shareholders and ratepayers” because of the likely cost of their greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, energy providers will have a financial incentive to pursue alternative energy and energy efficiency. McCain explained the market signal of a cap and trade program in his May 12 speech on climate change:
And the same approach that brought a decline in sulfur dioxide emissions can have an equally dramatic and permanent effect on carbon emissions. Instantly, automakers, coal companies, power plants, and every other enterprise in America would have an incentive to reduce carbon emissions, because when they go under those limits they can sell the balance of permitted emissions for cash. As never before, the market would reward any person or company that seeks to invent, improve, or acquire alternatives to carbon-based energy. . . A cap-and-trade policy will send a signal that will be heard and welcomed all across the American economy. Those who want clean coal technology, more wind and solar, nuclear power, biomass and bio-fuels will have their opportunity through a new market that rewards those and other innovations in clean energy.
McCain emphasized who the winners under a carbon cap-and-trade system are: “clean coal technology, more wind and solar, nuclear power, biomass and bio-fuels.” The market “incentive,” “reward,” or “signal” is a euphemism that the winners will make money because the losers will pay more. And the losers, above all, are traditional coal plants — no matter who is elected president.
So it was a bit surprising when Mr. McCain offered praise of President Bush on Sunday, reprising a line he has hardly used, if he has used it at all, since the Republican primary battles ended. It came as Mr. McCain praised Tom Ridge, the former Pennsylvania governor and Homeland Security secretary, who had introduced him.
“I think that Tom Ridge — and President Bush — deserve some credit for the fact there’s not been another attack on the United States of America since 9/11,’’ he said.
Things being what they are, a single-payer health care plan couldn’t possibly be enacted into law by congress. Consequently, I think it’s perfectly reasonable for a progressive presidential candidate to avoid proposing such a plan in order to out something feasible on the table. That said, most progressive-minded policy experts actually think a single-payer system would be equitable and effective. Policy experts like Judy Feder, professor of public policy at Georgetown University.
In addition to being a professor, Feder is the Democratic Party’s nominee in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District. And in addition to putting forward a non-single-payer health care plan, the Obama campaign once released an ad touting his plan as falling between two equally pernicious extremes. The incumbent, in the VA-10, Frank Wolf, has an ad in heavy rotation that mentions neither his party affiliation nor Feder’s, but instead touts him as a “problem solving centrist” while deriding Feder’s health plan as “extreme” — with the quote attributed to none other than Barack Obama.
I have no idea what’s going to happen in that district. But in the event that Obama and Wolf both win, I hope someone in the Obama political operation will take some time to consider whether the gains they made in the polls by trashing a perfectly good progressive health care plan were really worth the cost of helping to sink a promising progressive challenger. Ultimately, to create big change in America takes not only an inspiring movement, but also progressive members of congress willing to vote for change. Maybe Problem Solving Centrist Frank Wolf — more conservative than thirty other incumbent Republicans and all 235 incumbent Democrats — will be that vote for change. But I have my doubts.
UPDATE: Apologies for the confusion here, but it should be said that beyond all this, Feder is of course not running on a single-payer platform. She’s looking for realistic ways to make health care better and her proposals are centered around expanding access to private sector health insurance and improving its quality and affordability.
I continue to be quite perplexed by a few things that are surely related: Where is Bill Ayers? Where is the Reverend Jeremiah Wright? They seem to have fallen off the face of the Earth. Why? How?
No two figures relating to Barack Obama have been talked about as much as Ayers and Wright. That being the case, why aren’t these two figures talking? Why is no one talking to them, or demanding to talk to them?
Have Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright been silenced? If so, who has silenced them, and how?
I see two plausible options here. One is that Barack Obama, as the first step in his campaign to perpetrate a second holocaust or turn us into the U.S.S.A. has sent Wright and Ayers into some kind of gulag. The other is that Wright and Ayers, like the overwhelming majority of the world’s population, don’t want to see four more years of conservative rule in the United States of America and have therefore decided not to act as useful idiots for the Republican Party. You be the judge.
New York Times article takes a look at New Yorkers trying to make a difference in the campaign. Not by voting, of course, since New Yorkers’ votes don’t count. And not by talking to neighbors and coworkers about the election. Or by calling other people in their community. After all, New Yorkers’ votes don’t count! Instead, they’re phone banking to swing states hundreds of miles away.
And good for them.
And of course it’s not just New York. Washington, DC contains a lot of hard-core Obama fans who want to help the campaign and we’re lucky enough to live right next door to a swing state, so for weeks now there’ve been weekend caravans taking Districters across the Virginia border to do canvassing in the Old Dominion. And it’s all a great American tradition — I remember taking College Democrats buses from Cambridge, MA up to New Hampshire because, of course, our votes didn’t count in Massachusetts. It’s all in good fun, but we could live in a country where everyone’s votes counted, and would-be activists could do their GOTV and persuasion activities wherever it was most convenient for them, rather than in special states. It would be fairer, it would be healthier for democracy, and it would be easier for everyone.
Obama leads in 18 out of the 19 states with the largest recent declines in home prices, whereas McCain leads in 13 out of the 14 states with the largest recent increases in home prices.
Marc Ambinder says “this statistic explains the election.” Obviously that was a bit tongue-in-cheek, but I actually think this statistic is pretty useless. For example, the data shows a large decline in home prices in California and also a sizable Obama lead but we hardly need to look to this data point in order to explain why a Democrat would be doing well in California. You need to look at the minority of states where presidential elections are actually close.
Here you find Nevada and Florida as states that John Kerry lost but where Obama has the lead and where you’ve also seen large declines in home values. But home prices are up in Iowa and Indiana, both states where Obama is doing much better than Kerry did.
The economic situation definitely has an impact on voting behavior, but this particular statistic doesn’t seem to explain very much. It might be interesting, however, to bore down into, say, the Florida data and see if Obama’s increases over Kerry’s performance are disproportionately coming from the parts of the state where the price declines are largest.
No one disputes that the economic troubles of Iceland are largely the country’s fault. But there may be more to the story, at least in the view of Icelandic government, its citizens and even some outsiders. As grave as their situation already was, they say, Britain — their old friend, NATO ally and trading partner — made it immeasurably worse.
I actually sort of would dispute that the economic troubles of Iceland are largely the country’s fault. Being small is hard. Think of a small city who’s largest employer is a factory that makes airplane parts. Most people in the city don’t work at the factory. You’ve got kids and retirees and stay-at-home spouses. You’ve got some teachers, cops, firemen, librarians, postal workers, and bureaucrats. You’ve got banks and shops and restaurants and guys in the building trades. But the largest employer is the factory. And if the airplane industry suffers a severe downturn and needs to lay off workers and cancel shifts and bonuses, then that’ll be substantially less revenue for the stores and restaurants. People will have less cash on hand to pay for home repairs, and more time to try and do it themselves. So the shops and restaurants start cutting back on employment and hours. So their employees need to scale back their spending. And tax revenues go down, meaning less money for the public employees. All of which means even less revenue for the town’s stores. And down and down things will go until orders go up at the factory. Did the town government make some serious policy error? Well, probably they could have done something better, but fundamentally it’s in the nature of small places to be buffeted by trends that are too big for the city to control.
And the residents of our city can fairly easily try to find work elsewhere in the region and just accept a longer commute. Or they might move away. Or other firms might see costs declining in the city and decide to locate there.
Iceland is a small city of about 300,000 and though the country is open to trade, the nature of things is that it’s much more closed off from the outside world than an American town is from the rest of the country. A country like that isnisn’t big enough to have a balanced economy. They’ve got a fish-exporting industry, and then economies of scale dictate that if they manage to get successful in some sector of the global economy, that sector will come to dominate the country’s economy. For Iceland, it wasn’t a factory making airplane parts — it was banks. Run into a global banking slowdown, and the country is screwed. But it’s not clear what they could have done to stop this. Iceland’s banks were very big relative to Iceland but Iceland was far too small to alter the course of the global financial system.
For whatever reason, nobody’s supposed to say this, but I have to agree with Kevin Drum that implementing a National ID Card system would help solve a lot of problems at what looks to me to be an extremely low cost in civil liberties. It’s absolutely nutty that the country’s chosen to embrace all sorts of serious curtailments of said liberties, often for little-to-know gain in security, while still eschewing a relatively simple measure that could be genuinely useful in a variety of contexts.