Category Archives: politics

Blah Blah Blah

From here. This chart is the usual VoteView scatter plot with one more bit of data added.  For those who haven’t been following along each point is a member of congress, and the X axis shows how economically conservative the member is (e.g. how much they prefer legislation that servers large economic entities v.s. small ones); and the vertical economic axis is their preferences on civil rights issues, higher is (roughly) more socially liberal.  The red points are the Republicans and the Democrats are blue.  As you can see there are few, if any centrists, and the two parties are totally polarized.

The added datum is the “grade level.”  It’s based on a somewhat silly measurement tool that used on text to estimate the grade in school the reader would need to have achieved to read that text.  In this case the text is the member’s statements in the congressional record.

Honestly I don’t know that I’d draw any conclusions from this, but don’t let me stop you from that pleasure.

When the house places a bet

Apparently the key to Newt’s success in South Carolina was $5,000,000 donation from Sheldon Adelson.  Fortune says that Sheldon’s net worth is $21,500,000,000.  That    $5,000,000 was two hundredth of a percent (.02%) of his net worth.  I’m pretty well off, and if I multiple the price of my house times .02% I get an amount less than the a bill I paid for dinner the other evening.

Poor Sheldon is #16 on the Fortune list.  There are 112 million households in the US, so Sheldon’s worth is $191/household.  He made his money in the Casino business.

What percentage of the top .1% are going to decide to toss .02%, or even 1% of their net worth into this?

Labor Market Criminals

I want to quote this item from Talking Points Memo, because it is a nearly perfect example of how firms can structure their operations to avoid responsibility for actions that are criminal; in this case by pushing that criminality onto contractors.

TPM Reader  MM weighs in on  last night’s comments on Vince and Linda McMahon:

I don’t think you can forgive the McMahons for the steroid use and abuse of narcotic painkillers by its independent contractors simply by dismissing the performers as “unstable narcissists.” Even if you grant Mr. Hackett’s claim (and I do), you have to hold the McMahon’s responsible for the decisions they made in creating their product.If you look at the history of professional wrestling (by which I mean, look up some random clips on Youtube) you’ll find a high percentage of normal to athletic bodies in the sport right up through the ’80s where the comic-book muscleman era began, under the leadership of the McMahons.

The physical standard is now quite difficult or impossible to obtain without the use of steroids. If you don’t have the body, you don’t get the work. You’re an independent contractor, so if you don’t get the work, you don’t get paid. Once you get the work you have to convince the McMahons to invest in making you a star if you want to make much over the minimum. That means, for most of them, maintaining less than 4% bodyfat on a 260 pound frame, while on the road more than 250 days a year (covering your own travel and lodging expenses, every step of the way).Also, keep in mind that the guys you’re working with, and who you’re competing with for TV time, pay per view slots and house show bookings are all using steroids. How else do you keep up with them? This is why we’re finding out that everyone in the Tour de France is blood doping – the standard to compete is now so high that it’s physically impossible for anyone to do it clean.

The bottom line is, no matter how “out there” the performers are (and let’s face it, it’s not a typical way to make a living) the McMahons created a product that demands its performers use steroids and they work so hard a schedule in a tough physical job that painkiller use is normal. It doesn’t have to be this way.

The McMahons could have chosen to push a different, physical type of performer (the spectacle has been popular before without overblown bodies) and they could have chosen to be like every other form of sport, entertainment or circus and have an off-season so that its performers would have adequate time to rest, heal, and train naturally.

A huge majority of Republicans believe that a business bears no responsibility for the consequences of the choices it enables; even if it knows those consequences are horrific. This is what they mean when they talk about “choice.” They do not mean freedom, they mean that the absence of obvious and viscous coercion absolves the firm and it’s managers of any moral or ethical responsibility.

you can never say what you will never do

It makes me physically ill to think that the right wing and the idiot media managed to turn this eloquent beautiful speech into baseless acquisition of racism. It makes so angry that some moron in the Federal government decided to fire this wonderful woman. Shame!

This was not chance. This was a malicious act by those on the right. And everybody who went along with it is guilty of the crime. If you are not livid your not paying attention.

Consider this a warning. This is what we have to look forward to after the fall elections.

Thoughts on Health Reform

David Leonhardt’s piece this morning in the Times “In Health Card Bill, Obama Attacks Wealth Inequality” hits an exceptionally key point.  It’s written in a very balanced way.  I recommend it and I’m  surprised  that for those on the left this point hasn’t been more at the forefront of their thoughts and rhetoric over the last year.

The goal of trying to change course on the inequality problem is clearly one of the legs that this effort stands, and something Obama cares about.  It’s something lots of Democrats care about.  But there are other legs and it is important not to ignore them.  Let me enumerate a few.

The Democratic party is far more likely to look after the interests of small economic actors than the Republicans.  The data on that is overwhelming.  But wealth inequality isn’t the only reason why the party would support reform.  The risks and uncertainty caused by the old system fall almost entirely on the smaller economic actors.  Those of us (families and businesses) in the top quarter of the economy are almost blind to the  uncertainty  created by the current system, with the exception of the  occasional  catastrophe.

But yet old system was on the fast track to making American industry entirely unable to compete.  And hence even those who think that Government’s only function is to help large economic actors were largely in support of reform.

If you map out the left-right spectrum of the nation and the legislatures the reform we got falls at the center.  That was exactly what Obama signaled he would aspire to deliver; going all the way back to the earliest days of his campaign.  As a practical matter this bill is about exactly as far to the left as anybody should have hoped for.  The party on the left doesn’t get to pass a bill that is at the center of it’s party member’s opinions.  You only get to pass a bill that gets you the vote of that last necessary right most legislator.

I also think that there was a leg to this effort that has largely been miscomprehended.

There are dozen or more really awful problems facing the nation.  For example global warming, banking regulation, and the polarization that means the two parties have zero overlap in many of our legislative bodies.

It is my impression that Obama appreciates and has spent a vast amount of calories trying to address the polarization issue.  His offer to the Republicans of a seat at the table was genuine.  He didn’t need to to it and he spent a lot of time enabling their  shenanigans  by doing it.  He  shunned  the temptation to accept their continual taunting and respond in kind.  That strategy, it seems to me, wasn’t optimal for getting the best health care reform outcome.  But is continues to be the right approach if we are to back away from the extreme dangers implicit in the polarization.  Dangers I don’t think many observers have even begun to grasp.

Polarization in the state legislatures.

Maybe I don’t read the right blogs but I’m delighted to see  a blog post that actually looks at politics from the perspective of the  common space scores.  The chart below shows the distribution of the scores for various state legislatures (i’ve no idea what the order means):


This is a very instructive chart.  CA, UT, WI, FL, and WA have no common ground between the parties.  I’m surprised they let NJ, HI, NY, RI, and MA Republicans into the hall when national Republicans gather.

California is an object lesson in where we are headed if the nation doesn’t figure out how to back off from the polarization between the two parties.  I wonder, does a requirement for a super majority tends to help consensus when there is a large overlap and tends to create an incentive to polarize when the overlap weakens?

(HT:  Gelman)