I’ve Got the Immigration Blues

Dennis Sanders

Dennis is the pastor of a small Protestant congregation outside St. Paul, MN and also a part-time communications consultant. A native of Michigan, you can check out his writings over on Medium and subscribe to his Substack newsletter on religion and politics called Polite Company.  Dennis lives in Minneapolis with his husband Daniel.

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186 Responses

  1. Burt Likko says:

    Absent from either the Douthat or Wehner quotes: any more of a question about what kind of immigration reform would be good public policy. Douthat waves away as irrelevant the policy consideration of American business wanting access to this labor pool, and the ideological consideration of libertarianism. Yes, yes, those are fine reasons why a Republican might be attracted to immigration reform, but are the electoral tactics of such a maneuver calculated to yield a net gain in votes? This is the sole lens through which the political question should be viewed.

    I noticed something similar with respect to Republicans writing on same-sex-marriage in the time between New York’s legislative adoption of it and the Windsor decision: “hey, guys, this issue is turning in to a loser for us, so let’s stop making it a centerpiece of our PR strategy.” Not “hey, guys, look at the states that have this, they’re doing just fine, this is harmless.” Whether same-sex-marriage is good public policy or not wasn’t a consideration at all.

    Until and unless the GOP finds an interest in public policy and governance again, it’s going to look more and more like the strategists from the Romney campaign at a loss to explain why the voters aren’t acting like it’s 1988 still.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Burt Likko says:

      I agree in the abstract, though this debate is a special one. Each side of the party firmly believes that the other side of the party’s preferences on this issue are dooming or are going to doom the party. So it adds an emphasis on political viability within the discussion.

      It’s honestly my experiences that those voices for and against immigration are thus primarily for non-electoral reasons. Optimism and pessimism of the electoral consequences come after that. (I speak of voices here, not of politicians. Politicians, of course, are much more interested in electoral consequences.)Report

    • NewDealer in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Eric Canton did the same thing this weekend when he told the GOP that 90 percent of Americans are not business owners and have no desire to be business owners or entrupenurial and the GOP should find a way to speak to said 90 percent who only want decent wages and job security.

      I am probably making it sound more like a back-handed compliment than intended but I am largely one of those 90 percent who might have to start my own business because of various things in the economy. We shall see.

      This is an issue that I fear both parties are not super-good at though because people who want to start their own business seem to suffer from myopia and think they are universal.Report

      • Kim in reply to NewDealer says:

        Eric Cantor hasn’t read a scrap of fucking research on entrepreneurism in America, has he?
        My numbers may be soddin’ old, and they may be a bit inflated because I don’t have the research in front of me, but something like 60% of corporate drones are “considering starting their own business in the next 5 years”

        Lot higher than other countries.Report

  2. Will Truman says:

    I am largely going to stay out of this conversation because it dovetails with one I am working on. The only thing I will say is this: Neither side is being very clear about what their preferences will actually mean. Support for or opposition to immigration reform will not, in and of itself, save or doom the party in either case. What both sides* need to do a better job about is talking about where the votes for a viable electoral future are going to come from. For opponents of immigration reform, how you’re going to get 70% of the national white vote because that would have to include a lot of voters they are blithely dismissing now. For supporters of immigration reform, how you’re going to actually win these voters because signing on to immigration reform will not, in and of itself, do it.

    * – As always when talking about two sides of a conversation, I don’t have the assumption that they are equally right and equally wrong and I have some pretty strong biases here (the status of my affiliation with the party – or lack thereof – depends very much on how the broader debate here shakes out). An upshot of this conversation is that since we’re only talking about Republicans, I may actually be able to talk about “both sides” without needing to pretend that one side is nigh-perfect to avoid hearing about “false equivalence.”Report

    • Patrick in reply to Will Truman says:

      What both sides* need to do a better job about is talking about where the votes for a viable electoral future are going to come from.

      More broadly, the GOP needs to go through its plank and address alignment. Here’s the 12 things we currently stand for. These 12 things are broadly acceptable to… whom? How many of them are there?

      If we make it 14 things, or 10 things, do we add people or lose people? Why? What does it mean to add those 2 things or take those 2 things away?

      The California GOP platform:

      Agriculture—The Republican Party supports the most efficient means of water usage among the state’s farmers and ranchers. The party advocates for the development of desalination plants and recycled water.

      Crime and justice—The government’s job is to protect the welfare of the people and create fair and just laws in society. The party advocates victim’s rights because the victim is just as important as the offender in a crime. Overcrowding is a major issue that should be solved by the creation of both private and public prisons. The Republican Party supports the use of capital punishment for heinous crimes.

      Economy—”We believe people make better decisions than government. Free enterprise should be the guiding force, not government regulation.” Republicans call for a cut on unnecessary spending in order to create government infrastructure that will boost the economy.

      Education—All legal children have the right to a first-class education. Parents and local school boards should be the regulators of the education system. Safety is the number one priority of the children in the classroom setting. The party also contends that quality educators should be rewarded with incentives.

      Family values—Marriage should be between one man and one woman. Additionally, the two-parent family is the ideal situation to raise children. Homosexuality or an “alternative” lifestyle should not be required to be taught by educators. The party is also against same-sex partner benefits as well as having custody of children.

      Immigration—The party contends that the state of California is rich in the history of immigration and welcomes all legal immigrants. English should be mandatory in the workplace and all immigrants should be required to learn the language. Illegal aliens should be deported if they engage in criminal activity.

      Right to life—The party supports laws that protect the life of an unborn child. Also, the Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade should be reversed. Physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia are not supported by the party.

      Right to Keep and Bear Arms—The party believes that the disarmament of citizens is the first step towards tyranny. They believe California’s gun control laws are too strict. They call for citizens to be able to own guns for law-abiding purpose. They also believe in letting California citizens with clean backgrounds carry concealed firearms. Also, they want to abolish the waiting period for guns and instead require an instant background check.

      Taxes and government spending—The party is against the high taxes in the state and believes the government spends too much. California residents should not bear the burden of paying high taxes and the government should prioritize its spending. Welfare should be taken away from those who can work but refuse to do so. Reasonable work requirements should be set in place in order to regulate welfare recipients. Illegal immigrants shall not receive any assistance from the state.Report

      • DRS in reply to Patrick says:

        That’s a good election platform – from the 1980’s. The world has changed since then.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Patrick says:

        If we make it 14 things, or 10 things, do we add people or lose people? Why? What does it mean to add those 2 things or take those 2 things away?

        Maybe. I don’t have much hope for even that minimal level of pragmatics insinuating its way into GOP decisionmaking. Personally, I’d like to think the GOP could muster the metaphorical cajones to actually lead their constituency on these issues by presenting arguments and evidence supporting politically favorable as well as pragmatically defensible policies. Unfortunately, I don’t think my desire will compel conservatives to include those types of considerations into their decision calculus in any meaningful way.

        Immigration, therefore, strikes me as a tricky one for conservatives since the policies favored by lots of conservatives (wall building, deportation, etc) are of a piece with gerrymandering and vote-suppression legislation: they’re all intended to keep the white guys running the show. That’s reactionaryism at it’s finest. How malleable are the views of those folks? To what degree are they driving the bus?Report

      • Ian in reply to Patrick says:

        “The party is also against same-sex partner benefits as well as having custody of children”

        This is the problem. Consider the hypothetical- 2 divorced parents. One turns out to be LGBT after the marriage. Other parent ends up dead due to some unfortunate incident.

        Shouldn’t the other biological parent get the child? Or is breaking up a family to get the children away from the ‘evil gays’ more important than ‘family’.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Will Truman says:

      There is much of me that is expecting a Republican Schism that will result in all sorts of realignment. There’s a whole lot of domestic issues that just aren’t compatible between, say, the Social Conservative Blue Collar Union Types, the White Collar Business Owners/Managers types, and the whole “Let’s Keep Manufacturing F-22s!” types might do a little bit of help to bridge the gap between them, but that doesn’t strike me as sustainable.

      I keep hearing mumbles of things from Democrats that strike me as being hints that Federalism might be acceptable (e.g., deep resentments at red states for taking in more tax dollars than putting out) but the mumbles don’t seem to be of the attitude “keep state money in the state” as much as “those states should have different attitudes toward us” and I don’t know what is likely to be the first thing to change when something, inevitably, changes.

      But the current balance doesn’t strike me as sustainable. There’s going to be a reshuffling.Report

      • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Jaybird says:

        I don’t mind giving money to Red States. I just wouldn’t also mind it if people in Mississippi and Wyoming stopped acting like they were rugged individualists, doing it all without the encroaching eye of the federal government, when in reality, most of the Southern US would be Greece writ large if not for the kindness and taxes of the metropolitian areas of the West, Northeast, and Texas.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        When I imagine that attitude in an individual who, on net, pays taxes toward an individual who, on net, receives benefits, I’m imagining someone unpleasant.

        Am I thinking about it incorrectly?Report

      • Troublesome Frog in reply to Jaybird says:

        I know a lot of next tax payers (including myself) who happily vote for programs that transfer money from us to net benefit consumers if they seem to make sense. I’m not really happy with the subset of them who defraud the system or with the subset of them who noisily crap all over other net recipients. But on the whole, not much negative to say.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Jaybird says:

        I don’t mind giving money to Red States.

        When you say you’re “giving money to Red States,” do you mean that you, personally, are paying more than your fair share in taxes, and that the surplus is going to Red States?Report

      • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Jaybird says:

        Well, personally, I paid taxes last year. More impersonally, I live in a city that disproportionately helps not only the red rural areas of the country, but the red rural areas of my own state.

        Which again, I’m fine with. Making sure places like Eastern Washington or most of the state of Mississippi aren’t total hellholes is a perfectly respectable goal. But, it’d be nice if the politicians and right-wing base of those state and regions realized that without liberal elitists in Seattle, New York, and San Francisco, along with some oil rich areas of Texas, they’d make Greece look like Iceland in their stability.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:


        I’m right with you on wishing those folks would stop pretending they’re self-reliant, rather than actually being net recipients. But I do take issue with the claim that those regions would be “hell holes” without those net receipts. There you step from a fair claim about self-deception to your own self-deception. Granted, they might be hellholes to a city slicker who needs a latte shop on every corner, but not necessarily hellholes to those who live out there.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        I’m sure that many people in the Red States play taxes too. The question is whether they take in more than they pay out.

        I mean, do we have any handy stereotypes about folks in Red States who pay more than they take in sneering at people in Blue States (with bad attitudes, surely) who take in more than they pay out?Report

      • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

        Personally, I prefer being a force multiplier to simple arithmetic increases in taxes paid.
        So, yes, and no.Report

      • Creon Critic in reply to Jaybird says:

        But I do take issue with the claim that those regions would be “hell holes” without those net receipts.

        I would choose a different word than “hellhole”, but I think @jesse-ewiak ‘s analysis is correct. Looking at the Social Science Research Council’s American Human Development Index reports*, quite a few net recipient states underperform the national HDI average. With current federal transfers these regions are underperforming. It stands to reason that without these transfers, these states would perform even more poorly. And that’s assessing states’ relative performance beyond handy amenities like the availability of on-trend beverages, and focusing on things that a broad spectrum of people want: educational attainment, life expectancy, positive health outcomes, median earnings, freedom from child poverty, etc.

        * Here, http://www.measureofamerica.org/measure_of_america2013-2014/Report

      • zic in reply to Jaybird says:

        A comment in which zic defends right states. Who’d a thunk.

        Subscribing to the whole red-states are net receivers of tax dollars, blue states net payers troubles me, its simply another way of buying into the whole moocher arguments, and a relatively worthless measure of the benefits of participating in our civil life, including commerce.

        A simple for instance would be transportation systems. The very nature of rural places suggests that there are few citizens to support the highway infrastructure; on a per-capita basis, they will take more money from the system then they put into the system. But we all benefit when food makes it to our grocery store shelves, when we have wood to build our houses, when we have wool and cotton clothing to wear.

        I don’t think the analysis works very well when just applied to tax dollars paid per person. It’s way more complicated.Report

      • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

        I well remember what Edwards showed, driving down South Carolina way.
        I’ve been to West Virginia, and I know what their taxes are (high enough that I don’t
        ever feel bad for giving them a bit of help. They pay their share.).

        No, this isn’t everywhere, not by a long shot. But a lot of the places with actual people
        in them would be hurting pretty bad without TVA, without government subsidies in general.Report

      • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

        the correct solution to “gosh, we have a lot of federal highways that aren’t used” is to put in rails and use our waterways, which are a hell of a lot cheaper to maintain. (well, if you aren’t talking about dirt roads. I figure those might be cheaper, even when you spray ’em to keep the dust down.).Report

      • zic in reply to Jaybird says:

        @kim, I did not in any way suggest the highways weren’t used; I suggested that they were used to help get the land-dependent products produced in rural areas to market; that the highways were a net benefit to all of us, not just to the rural residents of the areas near them. That the bread and milk you buy are, in fact, subsidized by those highways.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Jaybird says:

        Virtually everybody “paid taxes” last year. High school kids with minimum-wage after school jobs pay taxes. Welfare recipients pay taxes when they buy things. “Paying taxes” and being a net tax donor are two different things entirely.

        My point is that the individual level is the appropriate level of analysis here. You don’t get to take credit for “giving money to red states” just because other people who happen to live in the same state or city as you pay more than their fair share in taxes. Nor are net tax donors in red states, many of whom pay much more than you or I, to blame for the resources people who happen to live close to them consume.

        Keep in mind that many of the net tax receipients in red states are Democrats—that in general income correlates with being a Republican, and receiving means-tested welfare correlates with being a Democrat. Which is not to say that there aren’t Republicans on welfare (Medicare, especially—the benefits aren’t means-tested, but they payments are), but the general rule is not that tax money flows from Democrats to Republicans and therefore Republicans are hypocrites.Report

      • zic in reply to Jaybird says:


        that in general income correlates with being a Republican, and receiving means-tested welfare correlates with being a Democrat.

        Ok, I totally get that this is the fox-news stereotype.

        But you can’t say trash like this without some actual data to back it up. Because I don’t believe that this is necessarily the case. Living where I do, there are a lot more Republicans collecting disability then there are Democrats (this is anecdotal). And the very fact that seniors collect Medicare and tend to vote Republican will totally skew your numbers, as well. Please note that I left out Social Security since those same seniors have already paid into the system.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Jaybird says:

        In 2012, voting for Romney was positively correlated with income.

        I don’t want to get caught in the spam trap, so no more links, but if you search for “2012 exit polls” (no quotes), the first result should be the NY Times’ exit polls, which show that voting for Representatives went the same way. Let me see if I can dig up something from the GSS.Report

      • kenB in reply to Jaybird says:

        But you can’t say trash like this without some actual data to back it up

        I don’t see why you’d call it “trash” — isn’t it conventional wisdom that the Republicans are the party of the well-to-do?Report

      • zic in reply to Jaybird says:

        No, it was correlated with being well-to-do in Red States. Red state voting trends are a subset of national voting trends.

        Well-do-do and college educated men in other parts of the nation tend to vote democratic. Women tend to vote democratic, and since they also tend to earn less, the income numbers skew.

        Why do conservatives seem to forget this?Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Jaybird says:


        I absolutely agree, and if I gave the indication that I thought there’d be no difference in the absence of transfers, then I should have been clearer.

        I just think that the difference between “underperforms the national HDI average” and “hellhole” is not simply semantic, and I wanted to point out that the rhetoric was not really a thoughtful analysis.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Jaybird says:

        First, let me say that @troublesome-frog ‘s comment is quite reasonable. If you’re a recipient of welfare (reasonably defined) then you should think twice before talking about other such beneficiaries as being freeloaders, leaches, or whatever. It doesn’t mean that you can’t because not all such programs are the same – if you’re a “beneficiary” because you have a job with the FDA then you are working for your money, even if it shows up on some chart that you are a beneficiary – but you should at least be aware of the obvious counterarguments and be ready to clarify.

        On the rest? Oh, good grief. Living in a place where there are more beneficiaries than recipients in the aggregate doesn’t entitle someone to the sort of moral authority that Jesse is asserting here.

        When I lived in the PNW, we made a reasonably good income and we were probably donors in the general sense for most of that time. Depending on how you calculate it, I guess. Then we moved inland to a state that was a beneficiary state. Our income doubled. Our taxes skyrocketed. Yet it was then when we lost a right to any sense of pride, dignity, or accomplishment. The long hours and education my wide endured, the countless sacrifices I made in my career (including leaving behind the PNW)? Pshaw. We lived in a red state. A twenty-year old barrista in San Francisco puts a map on her Facebook timeline to show that I’m the real moocher.

        Some liberals seem to love the 53%/47% dynamic, so long as they have a map showing that they and people they like – by virtue of their geography – are in the 53% and the people they don’t like are in the 47%. If they want to talk about the makers and the takers, well I didn’t like it when Romney did it and I don’t like it when they did it, but it’s self-serving foolishness to think that stops and state lines or county ones. The passive-aggressive support of transfers and disdain that the recipients won’t learn their place is exceptionally obnoxious. It’s not exactly the generosity that they think it is.Report

      • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

        How many Schedule K’s do you fill out?
        Have I made my point on “how much taxes you pay”?

        Because, honey, I’m pretty sure most folks don’t
        know how much taxes their investments are busy
        paying… (well, except for real estate. ya get that
        in bill form).Report

      • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

        There are real moochers in this world. WV ain’t one of them.
        Some folk seem real fond of stupid reductionist arguments.

        Actual Moocher States — like South Carolina, to name an
        eggregious example, not only don’t charge their locals much,
        they also nurse off the government teat.

        Cut them off, and they really do become hellholes
        (in part because the people there aren’t good at
        assessing how much they’d need to pay to
        maintain all the infrastructure — a systemic
        bias against taxing. I figure you can guess
        the other part.)Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Jaybird says:

        I took a look at some General Social Survey data. I don’t know how to link my results, but I’ll summarize them for you, and there’s enough information here to reproduce the results if you know how to use the tool. There were 601 people between the ages of 30 and 50 who were asked the following two questions:

        1. “Have you personally ever received income from Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), General Assistance, Supplemental Security Income, or Food Stamps?” (GETAID)

        2. “Generally speaking, do you usually think of yourself as a Republican, Democrat, Independent, or what?” (PARTYID)

        Of those, 36% of strong Democrats, 21% of not-strong Democrats, 9% of not-strong Republicans and 14% of strong Republicans said yes. Independents (this was actually broken out into three groups) ranged from 24-30%.

        Unfortunately, the data set’s small, but the correlation is very strongly significant (p < .0001)

        There was another question: "Did you ever–because of sickness, unemployment, or any other reason–receive anything like welfare, unemployment insurance, or other aid from government agencies?" (GOVAID)

        This one has more data (N=4,443), but it's also more open to interpretation by the respondents, so whether it's a better indicator is unclear. For party identifications between strong Democrat and independent, 40-44% said yes. 32% of Republican-leaning independents and not-strong Republicans said yes, and 26% of strong Republicans said yes.

        I tried both again without the age filter, and the results were pretty much the same, except that with the first question there was a stronger and more monotonic downward trend from independents to strong Republicans, with 23% of independents, 17% of Republican-leaning independents, 11% of not-strong Republicans, and 8% of strong Republicans saying yes. The spike in "yes" responses for strong Republicans with the age filter was probably noise—there were only about 40 strong Republicans in that sample.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Jaybird says:

        From zic’s second link:

        The Bush-supporting states have more lower-income people, and as a result there is a negative correlation between average state income and state support for Bush, even amid the positive slope for each state. The poor people in red (Republican-leaning) states tend to be Democrats; the rich people in blue (Democrat-leaning) states tend to be Republicans. Income matters, but so does geography. Individual income is a positive predictor, and state average income is a negative predictor, of Republican presidential vote support.

        Which seems to support the common perceptions. Rich states vote D, rich people vote R. The data is from 2000 to 2004 but Democrats had a surge in wealthy support in 2008, though that diminished by 2012 and the Republicans once again won the highest polled income bracket.

        If anything, this seems to support Brandon’s contention. Though it’s more complicated than that. At the end of the day, both parties have a lot of donors and both parties have a lot of recipients (the elderly Republican vote being an example). I don’t see what is to gained by digging too far into the weeds, and it becomes particularly problematic if/when we do so to decide with an eye towards discrediting points of view from large swaths of the population.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Jaybird says:

        Zic: You don’t get to talk down to me. Aside from being rude, it’s the wrong direction.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Jaybird says:

        To be clear, I did not say that high income causes people to vote for Republicans, or that being on welfare causes people to vote for Democrats. I merely observed the well-documented correlation, which could have any number of possible explanations. It’s entirely plausible that it’s mostly or even entirely an artifact of race and sex (women, blacks, and Hispanics make less money and tend to vote for Democrats). None of which is relevant to my actual point, which is that state-level analysis of the flow of tax dollars is very different from what we see at the individual level.Report

      • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

        I’d say she has the right to make fun of you for not doing your homework.
        After all, she’s a journalist — she got paid to do research, and to get her facts straight.

        When you take a relatively weak correlation, and throw out the stronger ones that
        provide explanatory factors, you do deserve to be made fun of.

        I make fun of everyone who assumes, because of a mostly self-selected data set (called America), that IQ varies by race. No, there’s an obvious hidden variable called “which class emigrated”?Report

      • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

        I just want you on record saying you don’t pay Schedule K for all your stocks, and therefore have no clue how much taxes you actually pay on your investments.

        Am I right, or am I wrong?Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Jaybird says:

        Kim, Zic’s own data shows that wealthy people – those who pay the most taxes – skew Republican and the more money they make the more Republican they skew. Which is what Brandon was saying. I’m scratching my head a little at what that chart and article were supposed to demonstrate.Report

      • j r in reply to Jaybird says:

        Subscribing to the whole red-states are net receivers of tax dollars, blue states net payers troubles me, its simply another way of buying into the whole moocher arguments, and a relatively worthless measure of the benefits of participating in our civil life, including commerce.

        Zic is right. The whole makers vs. takers/blue states vs. red states way of looking at things is spurious at best.

        How does anyone know if they are a net tax payer? Show me the methodology for figuring that out. It would require adding up the benefits of all sorts of public services for which there is no widely-accepted accounting standard. And even if you don’t use a public service, you derive a benefit from the fact that it is there in case you need it.

        In other words, citizenship is a bundle and it’s almost impossible to figure out the a la carte costs.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Jaybird says:

        Rich states vote D, rich people vote R.

        Rich states tend to be much more urbanized, where the needs for and benefits of government action are more obvious. Lots of people crowded together simply need more rules.Report

      • zic in reply to Jaybird says:

        This whole discussion is also bogged down with conflating party ID (which party a poll respondent identifies with) and actual voting trends — which party has the most votes cast for them in elections.

        These are not the same thing. If party ID actually drove voting trends, red states with higher poverty levels would be churning out ballots checked “D” at much higher rates.Report

      • Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

        Tax dollars to and fro seems like a pretty poor proxy for one’s relative givings and takings in society. That is, if all we’re looking at is whether one makes enough to not need individual benefits from the government in order to make ends meet, as a measure of whether one is a “giver” or a “taker” in society, we’re leaving out a whole lot of information that might be relevant to such a determination. I imagine this is as true of states as it is of individuals.Report

      • zic in reply to Jaybird says:


        You don’t get to talk down to me. Aside from being rude, it’s the wrong direction.

        Suggesting that you’ve said something foolish =/= talking down to you. If I was rude, I apologize for being rude and offending your tender sensibilities. I still challenge the stereotypes you’re holding out as fact and think they are not all that informative; a way of talking past the topic using conventional platitudes instead of actually examining the topic.

        I don’t get to talk down to you? Is there some rule that puts you above me? I get that you may well think you’re better for some reason. Made a lot of money in business? Guess what, you’re not alone. You’re male, and I’m female? Is there some other axis of difference that suggests I don’t get to talk down to you? Intelligence? Body of original works? Success in marriage? Are you in an airplane or living high up in the mountains? Maybe you’re taller? What is this metric of what I do and don’t get to do, and who determines it?

        You’re very amusing when you get in a dander.Report

      • Troublesome Frog in reply to Jaybird says:


        I don’t see why you’d call it “trash” — isn’t it conventional wisdom that the Republicans are the party of the well-to-do?

        There’s a lot of space between “totally broke forever” and “well to do” and the line between them is fairly steeply curved. Benefits are nonlinear, and a graph of benefits received vs income is likely to have a lot of local maxima. So the fact that Republicans are highly represented in a very small percentage of the population (that also pays a large portion of the taxes) could mean a lot, or it could mean very little.

        And that’s just a snapshot in time. Integrating all of those results over a full lifecycle and things get even weirder. Plenty of people who are comfortable and older now are indignant about paying taxes for benefits that they themselves had no moral qualms about using when they were younger and in lower income brackets. They got subsidized college educations at public universities that their parents’ taxes built and paid for, but they can’t for the life of them understand why the young people today are bitching about tuition. Just get a paper route like they did!

        And as @j-r said, citizenship is not an a la carte menu. It’s hard to figure out the value of the pieces we use because they’re bundled and because we all value them differently. Is the road more valuable to me than it is to my lower income neighbors? Possibly, if you consider the road to be an input into our paychecks.Report

      • Troublesome Frog in reply to Jaybird says:

        It’s also worth noting that being a net tax payer in a place that receives net funding from other states is still a pretty big win. Seeing, say, the bottom fall out of Medicaid or food stamps in your state means you’ll either be paying more in taxes, standing by and watching a whole lot of people get needy and… rambunctious, or putting a lot more cash into that church collection plate (which we all know will more make up the difference as soon as those federal dollars dry up).

        Even though I pay in more than I get out, it would be great for me to see more federal funds pouring into CA. Worst case is that we waste 100% of it. Anything less than 100% waste is some dollars that aren’t coming out of my pocket to get the same set of services.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Jaybird says:

        TF, or they move. Which we often don’t want them to because we need people out there to support military bases that are better situated away from cities, national parks, and so on. Ultimately, though, we work and pay taxes in the system that we have, and the system that we have says that people in Montana should have X, Y, and Z because we’re going to take care of that at the federal level and therefore people live in Montana that wouldn’t if it didn’t have X, Y, and Z. That’s not a moral obligation or debt to the government incurred by Montanans, I don’t think.

        I’m totally down with the argument that more government should occur at the state level and so more of California’s money stays in California. I’m more down with that than most Californians are. Which then makes the resentment some Californians have towards Idaho all the more aggravating. They’re the ones that generally support the policies that help Idaho. Then get mad at Idaho’s ingratitude.

        Also, this leaves aside that Montana and Idaho are not uniform in their donor/beneficiary status. I actually read an article talking about Montana a while back and the different counties. A lot of people live in places that soak up relatively few tax dollars. Some people live in places that soak up extraordinary amounts of tax dollars. So a lot of them live in places that may not be so dependent on federal funds. I’d assume that the same is true of Idaho. (I’m leaving Wyoming out of it because they’re a special case. Inclusion of Wyoming on the “beneficiary” side is actually quite problematic.)Report

      • Mark Thompson in reply to Jaybird says:

        @will-truman This topic has inspired me to write a substantive post for the first time in months, hopefully. But briefly, I think the issue of net donor versus net beneficiary states can be a useful and valuable tool in political arguments – at least as long as it is used properly.

        First, it’s useful as a legitimate counter to conservatives’ arguments about how Red States are magnificent wonders of fiscal responsibility while Blue States are the epitome of the evils of profligate spending. This is usually how the issue is raised, and I think it’s effective. It strongly suggests that Blue State budget problems – and Red State budget success – are a function of Blue States having to do things themselves that the federal government does in Red States. While incomes on average tend to be higher in densely populated Blue States, so are costs of living, yet residents of Blue States and Red States pay the same federal income tax rates and, from my limited research, receive federal welfare/transfer payments at the same rates and at the same income levels. This means that Blue States need to significantly supplement federal welfare programs out of a proportionally smaller pot to achieve the same level of benefits as Red State welfare recipients obtain. Additionally, I’d wager that federal transportation benefits disproportionately help Red States for the simple reason that Red States are geographically larger but generally have less population, meaning they have far more miles of federally funded highway per capita. There are two things that Red States get funding for that Blue States need less of, but those kind of prove the rule: National Parks, which are a relatively insignificant line on the federal budget (only about $2 billion) and military bases (which provide oodles of federally funded jobs).

        The other way in which the donor/beneficiary state distinction is useful, but which I don’t see deployed often, is in demonstrating how Red State policies are particularly callous towards the poor. Why? Because poverty in the southern and southwestern Red States is ridiculously high compared to the rest of the country even as what little the poor in those states have is primarily a result of federal tax payments by people in Blue States. In other words, it shows Red State governments in the south and southwest essentially saying that 15-25% of their neighbors and constitutents should be regarded as wards of the federal government and are not in any way, shape or form, worthy of the state’s attention (except, of course, insofar as they bother the other 75-85%).Report

      • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

        of interest:

        For the second part of all that:
        Some Southern States are trying the best they can — they have relatively high tax rates, etc. Others are not. It’s not plausible to look at simply federal tax dollars. State tax rates count an awful lot. And there is high variance in the south.Report

      • Creon Critic in reply to Jaybird says:

        States are a useful unit of analysis because states are (co-)sovereigns; they have wide latitude in implementing policies in certain domains. It is entirely within reason to criticize some states as having beggar thy neighbor policies and free riding on the inputs of other states (even if you don’t agree the specific policies I identify fit in these categories). Those criticisms aren’t reducible to a makers/takers, 53%/47% argument.

        Beggar thy neighbor policies like lax regulatory standards or enforcement regimes (e.g. environmental, health, safety) and the poor treatment of labor (especially when done to woo businesses away from other states). Free riding through underinvestment in intra-state social infrastructure (e.g. schools, healthcare), particularly where the underprovision is only (partly) counterbalanced by federal government expenditures. That underprovision often coupled with relatively regressive state-level tax regimes, especially light touch upper income and corporate taxation. That light touch taxing is another beggar thy neighbor policy.

        Overall, the beggar thy neighbor and free riding policies injure the nation’s well-being. The national capacity for better regulatory standards and progressive taxation is undermined by the conduct of certain states. That’s certainly worth pointing out, and it doesn’t affirm the Romney 53%/47% nonsense – we can compare sovereigns’ policies in a way that we can’t compare individuals.Report

      • j r in reply to Jaybird says:


        Hmmm…. Your definitions of what constitutes a “beggar-thy-neighbor” policy or free-riding seems suspiciously crafted to privilege one set of policies over the other. If you’re going to try to rig the game like that in advance, why even bother playing?

        Also, can people stop using free-riding as some sort of all-purpose political slight against people who don’t place the same value on public goods as you do. The term has an actual meaning. When someone doesn’t pay for the bus, because they don’t actually want to get on the bus, they are not free riders.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Jaybird says:


        It strongly suggests that Blue State budget problems – and Red State budget success – are a function of Blue States having to do things themselves that the federal government does in Red States.

        I’d need some examples of this. My experience in red states and blue states are that the blue states tend to have more services. It’s easier to provide said services to a more concentrated population, and blue states have more money with which to spend on these services.

        It is true that Idaho, for example, would be more economically strained if it had to take care more of its own responsibilities (if we shifted things to the states). However, it’s more generally my impression that this is because (a) Idaho has less money generally than California and (b) Idaho has a more difficult population to serve (they’re more spread out).

        The Idaho-specific expenditures tend to be – which you sort of allude to – things that are either best done in Idaho (we don’t want the Idaho National Laboratories in New Jersey, I don’t think), something that could be done elsewhere but is done in Idaho for pork/political reasons, something really Idaho-specific (we can’t move maintenance of the national parks elsewhere), or PILTs from the national parks. Move over to Wyoming, and a lot of their federal money is actually generated within the state (Mineral Lease Act, which by itself accounts for Wyoming’s donor/beneficiary status if you remove or consider it).

        The Idaho non-specific stuff is where a lot of the spending comes from. But it’s not, as far as I know, generally things that aren’t done in New Jersey. It’s just that they cost more to perform in Idaho, and Idaho doesn’t send as much to Washington because it has less to send.

        Which is where a lot of this comes from. Per-capita, Idaho actually receives about as much from the federal government as California does. The difference is that the latter sends more money. Montana receives a lot more, but even if they didn’t they would still be a beneficiary state due to a lesser tax base. With Wyoming, as I said, it comes down to the NMLA and if you take that out of the equation, they’re actually a beneficiary state.

        And a lot of the expenditure are welfare and social security (lowercase-s’s) programs. Having retired people move to less expensive parts of the country is win-win, though it shows up on a map that says otherwise. Spending money on kids being raised in Montana who will later move to Washington and then retire back to Montana may well be a triple-win, though it makes Montana look bad and Washington look good when you’re looking at the maps (federal government spends money when they’re in Montana, takes money when they’re in Washington, spends money when they’re in Montana). Or maybe that is to be considered a problem, in which case it should be addressed rather than moaned about.

        I should also add here that some federal policies actually benefit states that do spend more. California gets more per-capita for Medicaid than does Texas in part because when Texas declines to spend money on Medicaid they are turning down federal funds by doing so. Obviously the nominal amount of this is swamped by other factors, but I need to see some cases of the inverse.

        So I’d need some good examples of things that New Jersey has to pay for that Idaho and Montana don’t, rather than helping out both in equal amounts where such may not be appropriate. Unless what we’re talking about is undue welfare payment then going into the state coffers and then the federal government is third-hand paying for it, which is a place where it gets kind of dicey but if the endgame of all of this is “We need to end farm subsidies” I would be inclined to agree as would a surprising number of people from rural states who aren’t getting them and resent those who are). But in actual cases of the federal government picking up the checks for roads because the state governments refuse to, I think it would be good to revisit those policies, if that’s the goal. But that’s not typically perceived as the problem as liberals are often very supportive of those expenditures.

        The same applies to the tax system. The differentials occur in large part due to support from the states adversely affected by it. While it’s true that the coastal states have in-one-hand-out-the-other with higher wages and costs of living, there is a straightforward solution to that which most New Jerseyans (and Californians) don’t really support: a flat tax.

        Which is how it turns out for a lot of this. There are complaints followed by very little in the way of support for policies that would mitigate these differences. Every now and again I hear proposals to peg the income taxes to cost-of-living, though that’s logistically difficult and opens up questions of “Why should spending extra money to live in New Jersey be tax-deductible while spending money on a new car isn’t?”

        Now, there are various other factors to consider. New Jersey is expensive and wealthy and a lot of that wealth goes into paying for the expensiveness of it. That, to me, is part-and-parcel of having a graduated income tax. People in New Jersey make a lot of money (in the aggregate) and stay in New Jersey, and that does raise questions about whether such a decision should be considered “tax-deductible” to an extent or not. That may be logistically difficult, but it brings us back to very specific questions of policy, which are fair game, rather than the chest-thumping I often see, or broad proclamations that if Louisiana only had New Jersey’s labor laws and government it would be a beneficiary state like New Jersey (a view which I disagree with, very strongly).

        All of which is to say, that as a matter of policy I consider it interesting. In trying to explain why it’s the big wealthy states that seem to have the budgetary problems, it at least sets the table for a discussion. But the passive-aggressive “I support the policies, but use it to express my disdain for its recipients” I actually have little patience for.Report

      • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

        spectacularly poor example. All motorists are free riding on the bus folks. So, if you don’t want to get on the bus, you still may want the bus on the road.

        You may never intend to get on an airplane, but if you buy Lancaster Butter and Milk, you’re freeriding too.

        Maybe, maybe, if you never intend to go to a sports stadium, you aren’t freeriding for not wanting to pay for it.Report

      • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

        There are some good and bad arguments regarding blue vs red states. But there is also a point where those arguments run into the ground. States are good, but still limited, way of looking at things. Many people move between states and in some areas people live in one state and work in another. The economy doesn’t just exist in one state and natural resources certainly don’t.

        The states are intertwined in many ways. At some point each state benefits from the others all around it. Every state benefits from a national air transport system and highways. We might say one state pays more than others for highways, but we all benefit. Also those highways have enabled the mobility we all benefit and profit from. If i have a point, its that people overuse the state arguments, we are a country and our profits, economies,etc are connected.Report

      • Mark Thompson in reply to Jaybird says:

        @kim – The numbers I’ve been able to find do not back up the assertion that a significant chunk of southern/southwestern Red States have high tax rates. Specifically, see here: http://taxfoundation.org/article/state-and-local-tax-burdens-all-states-one-year-1977-2010

        Tennessee, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, and South Carolina are all in the bottom 10 for average state/local tax burden, with Arizona hanging out at 11th, and Mississippi and Oklahoma at 14th and 15th. The only southern or southwestern Red States outside of the bottom 20 are North Carolina (which is becoming purple) and Arkansas. If you count them as southern, Kentucky and West Virginia are roughly at the national median. Virginia is also outside the top 20, but three of Virginia’s last four governors have been Democrats and it was in Obama’s column in both 2008 and 2012, so it doesn’t count as a Red State under any circumstances.

        Notably, Tennessee, Texas, Louisiana, and Alabama are all amongst the 10 most unequal states in the country, as is Mississippi: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_Gini_coefficientReport

      • Murali in reply to Jaybird says:


        You may never intend to get on an airplane, but if you buy Lancaster Butter and Milk, you’re freeriding too.

        No you’re not free riding unless retailers are forced to sell local milk at the same price as imported milk and maybe not even then. Fact of the matter is, when you buy the milk, you already pay for the cost to transport it over. You’re not free riding on anything at least so long as all externalities have already been priced in.

        On red states free riding off blue state’s regulations, we could also take it the other way around with blue state regulations contributing to an overall over-regulated system while trying to garner a good reputation for themselves. If you want a foreigner’s perspective on America, the one biggest complaint that I and many of my acquaintances have when we go to America or interact directly with American companies is that even in the private sector, there is a lot of bureaucracy, red tape and inefficiency. I don’t know which states have businesses which are like that, but I’m betting that it would be those in blue states as those will have a higher regulatory burden to meet. If anyone is shitting on America’s reputation (at least vis a vis business*) it is the blue states.

        *On other issues like racism that may changeReport

      • Will Truman in reply to Jaybird says:

        @mark-thompson With regard to the argument that it demonstrates the cold-heartedness of the red states, to some degree that’s a matter of perspective. It’s often, though, a matter of not having the money to spare. For the same reasons that the federal government has to spend more per-capita on roads in Montana than New Jersey, the states do as well. That’s a budget problem. Montana doesn’t have quite the wealthy class to draw on, so tax raises tend to have to be more broad. Raising the sales tax by a percentage point hurts more in some states than in other states.

        Idaho and Washington collect very similar overall state and local tax percentages. The result, though, is that Washington ends up with a lot more money to work with. So if you spend time in Pullman-Moscow, you notice pretty immediately the ways in which Washington is better off. For Idaho to be able to provide what Washington does, it would need to have higher rates to do the same things due to geography and (mostly) the lack of a wealthy Seattle. (As an aside, in that particular area, the Idaho side of the border is a blue-purple county, and the Washington side a red-purple one.)

        Which isn’t to say that some red states haven’t more or less expressly said “screw the poor” in every way they can. As @kim points out, it varies from state to state. But I think it’s easy to overestimate how much latitude these poor states have.

        It becomes easier still to argue that the stature differences are actually attributable to the policy differences. That if Idaho had policies more like Washington, it would have a tax base more like Washington’s. I don’t think that’s very true. At some point, it becomes like an engineer telling a clerk “You should have gone to college and gotten an engineering degree like I did.”

        It’s actually not all that easy for these states to maintain balanced budgets, despite receiving more from the feds than they pull in. Where I last lived, you had 2 days a week to get your driver’s license. You had to drive on a lot more icy roads a lot more often. Rural roads tended to be less well-kept. Guard rails, even when real dangers were present, were rare. If the spit hit the fan, it’s not easy for California to raise taxes because they’re paying so much in federal taxes. But it’s hard for Idaho because the money just isn’t there. Montana’s overall tax collection is higher than California’s. North Dakota’s are higher than Connecticut’s. Yes, they have to pay less federal taxes and have lower costs-of-living, but that brings us back to the lack of a really wealthy class to draw taxes from.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Jaybird says:

        Huh. Mark’s links from the Tax Foundation differ from my own calculations from the Tax Policy Center. I can’t seem to bring up the link, so I will defer to his numbers.Report

      • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

        Also worth noting is the extent of “what you get” for the federal tax dollars.
        Some places get tons of pork, others don’t.
        But it’s not like rural states get streets paved in gold, or anything.Report

      • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

        that milk and butter run is government subsidized.Report

      • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

        your facts trump my anecdotes. Thank you!Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Jaybird says:

        To be fair, I do think we could spare to spend less on highway maintenance in a lot of open space. Before I left Arapaho, they were re-paving highway that I thought was perfectly fine for its use before the repavement. But before and after, there were still four Interstate lanes to drive on. And even if we let things go a little longer in between touchups, they’re still going to be more frequent due to inclement weather.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Jaybird says:

        On an interesting note, according to the Gelmen report that Zic cited (as well as my own investigation) there is actually no real correlation between Gini coefficient and red vs blue. The difference seems to be the unequal-poor states tend red and unequal-rich states tend blue. I think there are some really interesting reasons behind this, though not necessarily the reasons that people will go to first.Report

      • Mark Thompson in reply to Jaybird says:

        @will-truman There’s a reason I tried to confine the second half of my argument to southern and southwestern Red States – I don’t think the issue applies as well to the Midwestern and Mountain West Red States, which tend to have significantly less problems with poverty than the south and southwest.

        I apologize if I wasn’t clear on this, but there surely are plenty of bad ways that the issue can be deployed. My point was more that when the argument is deployed merely as a response to Red State braggadocio or Red State refusals to provide assistance to Blue States (*cough*Sandy*cough*), it’s a perfectly legitimate point. In most circumstances, it’s appropriately deployed as a defensive rather than offensive argument, but it’s a legitimate point nonetheless. I’m not sure what additional government services you’re saying that Blue States tend to provide that Red States don’t, but I’m not sure those services are a significant portion of Blue State budgets, precisely because they can be administered on the cheap. However, there’s a fair number of examples of where Red States get significantly more benefits from the feds than Blue States once you factor in cost of living: for instance, New Jersey and Texas receive the same amount of federal funding per pupil for education, but winds up having to spend about double what Texas spends per pupil even as it’s sending more per capita to Washington. Similarly, Texas spends less than half what NJ spends per capita on welfare payments, but receives almost exactly the same amount per capita as NJ. Again, this is despite the fact that NJ is paying more to the feds per capita even as it has a higher cost of living. Right there, you’ve pretty much got your two biggest state/local government expenses. The point is that NJ residents’ effective tax rate (ie, after adjusting for cost of living) is far higher than Texas residents (about 40% higher from what I can tell), while their effective federal benefit rate is about 40% lower than Texas residents. That’s a huge swing.

        The second half of my argument admittedly attempts to provide a specific justification for an offensive use of the claim. But it’s a highly specific argument that doesn’t apply to Mountain West or Midwestern Red States. I think it’s a valid argument, if perhaps a harsh one.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Jaybird says:

        @mark-thompson Lemme make a couple statements right off the bat:

        First, as far as the objections to Sandy go, you’re quite right that New Jersey’s status as a beneficiary state – and the complaints of those coming from states that are not – are pertinent. Sometimes pointing that out is not only pertinent, but prompted by what the other guy is saying. Hell, there are times when I’ve brought it up.

        That, however, isn’t where I generally see it. I more frequently see it on blogs where there aren’t actually very many red staters or conservatives to bring it up. I see it brought up here and on OTB. I see it brought up pre-emptively and unprompted. I also see it used as far too big a bat for what is being discussed, though that’s much more subjective.

        This part doesn’t apply as much to you specifically or maybe not at all if you have more concrete proposals, but among the really annoying things about it to me is that it is brought up as a bat to begin with and not as an actual conversational component or, more importantly, part of a suggestion of what should be done about it. At least when conservatives complain about the people living on the dole, they have a policy suite they propose to remediate that. We can then debate the pros and cons, the morality, and the economics of the proposals.

        But when it comes to this, the very people are complaining are generally speaking the proponents of the policy suite that cause it. They don’t want to cut back on federal education funding, or welfare. They get angry at conservative governors who refuse money. The anger itself is not unreasonable, but it’s hard to square with even passive-aggressive resentment over interstate transfers. If your policy preferences support poor people, they’re going to support poor states. PPACA is going to benefit poor states far more than wealthy ones, if and when they take the Medicaid money like its proponents want them to.

        So in absence of a proposal, and it so often lacks a proposal, what here is the point? Well, it’s to establish superiority. You may make a distinction between Louisiana and Idaho, but comparatively few do. Now, maybe blue states are superior to red states, generally speaking. They have better priorities. They are more supportive of a woman’s right to choose. They’re nicer to gay folks. Take your pick.

        Doing so, however, because the red states are poor takes us down a road that in almost any other context the speaker doesn’t really want us to go down. Is Louisiana poor because it’s morally inferior? Would more progressive economic policies make it more successful? That’s not actually a remarkably easy case to make. The midwest used to have a really strong economic populist streak, but it didn’t turn them into Minnesota. People looking at the poor, low-tax red states and thinking that they should raise their taxes are asking them to give up one of the few competitive advantages these states have (cost of operations are low due to lower taxes and a lower cost-of-living). Maybe it’s the right thing to do, but it’s not as simple or straightforward as some suggest. It actually reminds me a bit of Orion County, Tennessee, and how you very successfully convinced me that the obvious solution – come on, people, just start a local fire department already – wasn’t nearly as obvious and simple as I had thought.

        I’d argue that the liberalism is a function of a state’s success far more than the other way around. Colorado and California becoming more liberal as they economically grow. Or more likely, economic success and liberalism are both correlated with another factor (namely, economic centers – cities). It’s a really interesting phenomenon, but not one that lends itself to easy “blue states good, red states bad” sort of way. Not one that can be easily divorced from the notion that economic success is earned and a lack of success is unearned, and it’s hard to apply that argument to one set of comparisons (state) and then get mad when someone argues it with another (people).

        Now, virtually everything I have said here represents problems for the other side as well. If an when I start actually coming across more people making that argument, I will often pull out the beneficiary-donor map myself if someone hasn’t already beaten me to it.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Jaybird says:

        @mark-thompson and all,

        Related to this, with regard to the two-state comparison, I decided to look at Federal Aid to States for Fiscal Year 2009. This doesn’t include all expenditures, but those that go to the states and local governments. It covers about 550bn in all. It excludes Medicare and Social Security, but includes Medicaid, food stamps, hot lunches, education, and all that jazz. It does not include military spending, though does include PILTs for the military bases as well as veterans benefits and national guard stuff.

        I may have made a rounding error, so if a number looks off by some factor of ten, it may well be. But if I made the mistake for one of the four states I reviewed, I made the mistake for all of them. The numbers are estimates (the numbers from the report divided by the official 2010 census) so if two numbers are at all close they should be considered a tie. Even if the numbers are slightly off, the order of the overall numbers (Texas, then New Jersey, then California, then Louisiana) are accurate and represented directly in the report.

        I don’t present these numbers with a particular agenda. I do think that Texas comes out of this looking pretty good on the spending side, especially compared to California and its similar demographics. Louisiana, unsurprisingly, comes out looking pretty bad. Obviously, this is spending and not tax receipts. So less is spent in Texas on these projects, even though California has a more impressive tax-to-spend ratio in general (and New Jersey a better one still). Obviously, nothing in here particularly accounts for cost-of-living. Which some would argue it should and I have mixed feelings about.


        For total spending, it was $1624 for California, $1413 for Texas, $1535 for New Jersey, and $2534 for Louisiana.

        Looking at total HHS expenditures9, per-capita spending in Texas is $800 while in New Jersey it’s $890. That doesn’t account for the cost-of-living differential, of course, and I go back and forth on whether or not I think it should. Texas has a substantial underclass, though, so it’s actually kind of curious that it’s less. I would be inclined to attribute this to matching funds, which NJ puts more into than Texas. It’s almost a thousand dollars a head in California and $1360 in Louisiana.

        Looking at HUD, it’s $67 in Texas, 167 in California, and 186 in New Jersey, and 237 in Louisiana. The Department of Agriculture data isn’t remarkably interesting, so I want to focus in particular on food and nutrition since that includes childhood lunches and food stamps. Here New Jersey gets comparatively little at about $60 a head, while Texas and California gets roughly a dollar (the latter a bit less than the former) and Louisiana tops at almost $120.

        Homeland Security heavily favors Louisiana at $436 and to a lesser extent Texas at $89 compared to $40 for California and $36 for New Jersey. As one might expect, with the Department of the Interior, New Jersey and Louisiana get little but Texas gets a fair amount and California gets more. New Jersey gets 780 from the DoJ, while Texas gets $1030, Louisiana 1190, and California 1640. Department of Transportation gives California 120, Texas 140, New Jersey 180, and Louisiana 240.

        Texas does well with the Department of Treasury, getting 52c compared to under 15c for everybody else (8c for NJ, the lowest). This reflects very badly on Texas, though not for the reason one might think. This is apparently all about asset forfeiture money. Good for New Jersey, really shocked about Louisiana not being higher.

        Here was a surprise: Veterans Affairs. Texas gets $1.12, New Jersey gets $2.27, Louisiana gets $3.80, and California gets $1.37. A surprise because Texas is the only state of the four over-represented in the military.

        Department of Energy was relatively stable with California getting $1.03, Texas $1.12, Louisiana $1.13, and New Jersey getting a bit more at $1.13. This one is a bit of a surprise because it includes NASA.

        From the EPA, California gets $6.38, Texas gets $9.80, Louisiana gets $11, and New Jersey gets $11.70.

        In Education, Louisiana gets a shockingly low $14. They get less in absolute numbers than any other state, including Wyoming and Rhode Island. WTH? New Jersey gets $126 while Texas gets $143 and California gets $153. Factor in special programs like ESL and that actually makes sense. Except Louisiana, which makes no sense at all.

        The Department of Commerce gives Texas and New Jersey both about 80c, California about a dollar, and Louisiana about $10. Can they use that for education instead?

        The “Department of Defense” includes twenty cents for Texas, seventy-eight for California, $2.72 for New Jersey, and Louisiana being a real outlier at $25. I put “Department of Defense” in quotes because this seems to be limited to ACoE and National Guard stuff.Report

      • Mark Thompson in reply to Jaybird says:

        @will-truman All fair points. It’s entirely possible I’ve not paid close enough attention to how the argument is deployed in practice. And I completely agree that few people make that distinction between Louisiana and Idaho – to be honest, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the issue deployed in the way I was proposing with that second part of the argument.

        I also agree that it’s never as simple as “hey, raise taxes and you’ll solve your state’s problems.” That said, I think that combined with the inequality and poverty statistics, it’s one important data point supporting the notion that Republicans in the south and southwest are utterly disinterested in serving their poorest (and, it can’t be ignored, disproportionately minority) neighbors.Report

      • Troublesome Frog in reply to Jaybird says:

        @will-truman: I’m the type of guy who has the St. Louis Fed’s FRED app on his smart phone, and I really liked your post. I hope you take that as a compliment.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Jaybird says:

        @troublesome-frog Hey, I’m the sort of guy who keeps this data on his computer for just this sort of occasion. So compliment received!Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Jaybird says:

        @zic Oh, FFS. You don’t get to talk down to me because you’re wrong. I said that being Republican is positively correlated with income and negatively correlated with receiving means-tested welfare. You dismissed this as the “fox-news stereotype” (I’ve never watched Fox News) and “trash.” I provided the data you asked for. You then linked two pieces supporting my claim and said that they would help me to stop being “foolish.”

        I’m okay with arrogance or cluelessness alone, but combinations of the two, such as you’ve displayed here, really get under my skin.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Jaybird says:

        @mark-thompson The other way in which the donor/beneficiary state distinction is useful, but which I don’t see deployed often, is in demonstrating how Red State policies are particularly callous towards the poor. Why? Because poverty in the southern and southwestern Red States is ridiculously high compared to the rest of the country

        Do you see the contradiction here between objecting to welfare payments not being adjusted for cost of living in different states and criticizing low cost-of-living states for having high poverty rates, when the poverty line is not adjusted for cost of living?Report

      • Roger in reply to Jaybird says:

        Had to laugh when I read that “beggar thy neighbor” is now defined as having lower regulation, bureaucracy and taxes than those on the far, far left want. Good rhetorical trick. Now you don’t need to argue whether regulation or taxes make sense, you just accuse whomever disagrees with the maximum recommended level being free-riding dirt bags.


        On a more constructive side, I would suggest that those in red states don’t just get and pay taxes. They also get mandates, regulations and such, many of which are potentially harmful to economic prosperity and ill-suited to their demographics (you know, the demographics of being rural, dirt bagging free riders)

        There is no objective way to assess whether they on net benefit or are harmed in total without massive assumptions on their values and goals.Report

      • Mark Thompson in reply to Jaybird says:

        @brandon-berg Thing is that even when you adjust for cost of living, poverty in those particular states is remarkably problematic – poverty rates in those states are still significantly worse than the median, and look even worse when you factor in the high inequality in those states, which means that the poor in those states aren’t just below the poverty line, they’re disproportionately far below it.Report

      • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

        I agree, that’s totally ridiculous.
        I’ll define beggar thy neighbor thusly:
        When one shirks one’s own share of the burden (as defined by low State taxes) and takes a disproportionate amount of other’s burden (as defined by Federal taxes).

        I don’t mind giving to a place that is already “taxed enough already” (like, um, WV, where the folks are poor, but still pay reasonably high taxes. )Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Jaybird says:

        @mark-thompson Here’s a list of states’ poverty rates using the supplemental poverty measure. I haven’t run a correlation or anything, but I see a lot of red states near the top (low poverty rates) and a lot of blue states near the bottom. California and DC have the highest rates, followed by three red states, and then two blue states.

        Honestly, it looks an awful lot more to me like a list of states ranked by black + Hispanic population than a list of states ranked by redness or blueness. While the reasons for high rates of poverty among the black and Hispanic populations aren’t entirely clear, the fact that they persist in the bluest of blue states makes it hard to blame on red-state policies.Report

      • Mark Thompson in reply to Jaybird says:

        @brandon-berg You seem to have missed the part of my analysis where I explicitly limited the point to southern and southwestern Red States. I was very clear that the analysis doesn’t apply to the Midwest and Mountain West.Report

      • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

        something’s just gotta be wrong with that math! It’s got PA in the top Ten.
        I come from an exceptionally mediocre state.Report

      • Ian in reply to Jaybird says:

        “(e.g., deep resentments at red states for taking in more tax dollars than putting out) ”

        Most of us in the D column aren’t so tribal based as to want someone in a red state to be denied SNAP benefits or Medicare because of the way they vote.Report

      • Creon Critic in reply to Jaybird says:

        j r, @kim, @roger
        Race to the bottom if you prefer. I’d contend that beggar thy neighbor and race to the bottom are connected to one another, that the individual state leading policy downwards pursue a beggar thy neighbor strategy. But if “race to the bottom” makes the point more clearly then I’ll use that instead. Also, I specifically noted that one need not agree with the policies I identified as (formerly beggar thy neighbor now) race to the bottom to view the phenomenon as problematic.

        those on the far, far left want…

        If you think I’m on the far, far left, then you haven’t met anyone on the far, far left. State seizure of the means of production tends to be involved.

        And I reject the “free-riding dirt bags” labeling you append to the states I argue are pursuing these race to the bottom policies. As @mark-thompson is outlining in this thread, callous indifference to the well being of the low income or low wealth segments of their populace is an apt description. These states set the floor so low they stifle opportunity (see for example, the measureofamerica link above or http://opportunityindex.org/).Report

      • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

        without a “race to the bottom,” there are basically no jobs in WV period. WV has higher inherent shipping costs, and in general the cost of keeping things running there is higher than other places.

        I’m not sure if you think that’s a bad idea or not… (but WV, while being in the race to the bottom, is definitely not mooching).

        (and yes, using race to the bottom is Much Clearer!)Report

      • Roger in reply to Jaybird says:


        My point is that you are engaging in either a logical dead end or a rhetorical sleight of hand. Possibly both.

        You assume that the goals and tradeoffs of the master plan are correct, then define away all other possible paths as going toward “the bottom.”

        If you, for example, assume the proper course is $25 an hour wages, then the freedom of any employer in any neighboring jurisdiction to offer a job at less than this is a threat to the plan. But you are assuming all people in all jurisdictions agree with your definition of which path leads to the bottom.

        Have you ever contemplated that:
        A) some people disagree with your plan, or
        B) that nobody knows the best course and it needs to be discovered via experimentation and competition, or
        C) your plan leads somewhere contrary to your goals (see Hayek and knowledge problem)?

        No of course you haven’t.

        I do realize that there are tragedy of the commons and prisoner dilemma issues and such which require concerted action. But these still require a system to arrive at a consensus of which direction is up and which is down (aka the bottom or the tragedy).

        Interesting topic….Report

  3. Kazzy says:


    I can see why you’d argue with some of the specifics of Douthat’s piece, but this quote stood out to me:
    “So with them, as with most Americans, the problem for Republicans in 2008 and 2012 was much bigger than the immigration issue: it was a platform designed for the challenges of 1980, and rhetoric that seemed to write off half the country as layabouts and moochers. And any solution for the party, in 2016 and beyond, would have to offer much more than the same old Reagan-era script with an amnesty stapled at the bottom.”

    It actually strikes me as one of the more thoughtful and honest analyses of recent Republican struggles. Do you disagree with that part?Report

    • Lyle in reply to Kazzy says:

      Of course Regan did the first amnesty.Report

    • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Kazzy says:


      I thought that, too.Report

    • Dennis Sanders in reply to Kazzy says:

      I would agree with him that a lot of the GOP’s policy is an 80s retread. That said, the talk about immigration is about a current problem: how to deal with the 12 million who are here without papers. I don’t think that is a replay of the 80s, it’s dealing with a present issue that should have been handled a long time ago.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Dennis Sanders says:

        If I’m understanding things correctly (and I may not be… I am very much an outsider when it comes to Republican circles), there is a belief on the right that if they go pro-amnesty, they’ll woo Latinos who will then see the wondrousness that is 1980’s conservatism and immediately become Rs.

        And you and Douthat (and presumably others) think that immigration is indeed a very real and pressing issue that Republicans need to play a part in addressing but that alone will not necessarily turn the tide with regards to people of color and the Republican party?

        Am I understanding that properly? Thanks.Report

  4. Damon says:

    I’m a big fan for immigration reform but frankly, I’m dubious. Our current system is a mess but the ONLY calculus will be political. That’s not what’s going to fix this turd.Report

  5. NewDealer says:

    You are probably right in the long-term and might be right for Presidential races right now but in the short to immediate future being an all-white or largely white party will not doom the GOP and might help them.

    70 percent of Republicans or more identify with the word conservative. The number of Democratic Party supporters who identify as conservative is next to nill but there is still a near even split between those who call themselves liberal/progressive and those who call themselves moderate. Short: Conservatives control the GOP base much more than liberals control the Democratic base. This is not changing any time in the near future.

    The way Congress is divided gives the GOP advantages in many ways. States have been getting and been growing more polarized and getting more blue or more red. 2014 might be a disaster for the Democratic Party because it is a midterm year and those tend to have more older voters who are whiter and more conservative. Democratic candidates are up for reelection in states that have grown much more socially conservative like Arkansas and Montana or were possible flukes for the Democratic Party like North Carolina in 2008. Historical data, shows that the incumbent’s party tends to lose big in the midterm election during their second term.

    Now the GOP can always nominate more people like Aiken and O’Donnell and turn this into their election to lose. I am not putting that possibility away but white conservative voters overwhelmingly control the GOP and these voters have shown a tendency to punish anyone who supports immigration reform.Report

    • Patrick in reply to NewDealer says:

      2014 might be a disaster for the Democratic Party because it is a midterm year and those tend to have more older voters who are whiter and more conservative.

      That’s a short-term loss. Indeed, I could see the GOP taking more House seats and possibly even getting close to taking 50+ in the Senate, but they’re not going to get 60 and they’re not going to replace the President in the midterm.

      And if they do take the Senate, they’re going to have two years of really irritating everyone who is moderate, because they can’t appeal to moderates any more.

      That does not bode well for the popularity of the GOP in 2016.Report

      • Morat20 in reply to Patrick says:

        That’s sort of the problem the GOP leadership faces. They keep losing Presidential year elections, but doing well in the off-year (much whiter, much older) elections.

        Which means that they go BACK into the Presidential year with a base saying “We lost four years ago because we were TOO moderate, because our off-year crop was less moderate and look how well they did!”.

        Which does not work well. Democrats were lucky — last two times they faced this kind of problem, the party leadership was able to flatly squash such complaints from the base. And even then, you could throw them red meat from time to time without fear.

        Now, in the age of the internet? You can’t. Toss red meat to the base, find video of it on The Daily Show a day later. See it in campaign ads against you 12 hours after that. And act moderate for a moderate audience? Oh god no, your own supporters will be calling for your head and shifting their primary vote or calling you a RINO and costing you turnout.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to Patrick says:

        It also depends on how state legislatures do.

        The GOP is rather good at drawing congressional districts that screw the Democratic Party and then being snide when liberals cry foul. We had a guy here who used to do that until he got bored.

        Virginia seems much more safe for the Democratic Party than it ever was but it seems to me that even if the nation is becoming less white, the non-white vote is still concentrating in urban areas and there are plenty of sparsely populated rural red states to give the GOP some structural advantages that can last a while. There is a debate about how long it will take for Texas to turn purple or become more viable for the Democratic Party. We aren’t even dealing with states like West Virginia, Arkansas, South and North Dakota, etc. which are becoming more and more GOP friendly.
        North Carolina is also maybe more purple but I will want to see Kay Hagan win reelection.

        We shall see about Arkansas, Louisana, Montana, and Alaska. Alaska was never really friendly towards the Democratic Party and 2008 might have been a fluke.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Patrick says:

        And if they do take the Senate, they’re going to have two years of really irritating everyone who is moderate, because they can’t appeal to moderates any more.

        I was gonna give the above a +1-exclamation point, but then I remembered how well a gaffe-ridden, incoherent, intellectually insulting, shoot-yerself-in-the-other-foot-while-yer-at-it Romney campaign did. McCain tambien.

        Either they can appeal to moderates, or there are so few moderates out there we might as well forget about em, or moderates are now the right-flank of the Dem party, or moderates don’t vote, or…?Report

      • greginak in reply to Patrick says:

        2016 was always going to a tougher year for the R’s since they will be in the postion of defending many more seats then the D’s. The 2016 election will be the year when the 2010 class of R’s will have to defend their seats and it will be a presidential election year which are better for D’s. The R’s will pick up seats in the senate certainly in 14 but have a limited window and could very easily lose far more then they gain in 16 then they will in 14.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Patrick says:

        “The GOP is rather good at drawing congressional districts that screw the Democratic Party and then being snide when liberals cry foul. We had a guy here who used to do that until he got bored.”

        And the Democrats are rather good a drawing congressional districts that screw over the Republican Party and members of the Congressional Black Caucus.Report

      • morat20 in reply to Patrick says:

        The GOP is rather good at drawing congressional districts that screw the Democratic Party and then being snide when liberals cry foul. We had a guy here who used to do that until he got bored.

        I’m pretty sure that particular hand is about played out. First, no widespread redrawing until after the next census. Second, the GOP controlled the bulk of the purple states during the last redistricting and gerrymandered them to within an inch of their life. Then in at least one state, went ahead and did it again (Texas) just to make sure.

        I’m pretty sure you can’t GET more gerrymandered than what we’ve got, and in any case you can’t gerrymander control — you can make districts “safer” (more immune to swings) or you can make more you’ve got a shot at (at the risk of losing them to even a mild swing election) but you can’t do both.

        The GOP is losing voting share — which means even gerrymandering means the choice is between “Fewer and fewer, but solid districts all but immune to removal” or “kinda the same amount, but more and more fragile to even tiny shifts in the electorate or national mood”.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Patrick says:

        Then in at least one state, went ahead and did it again (Texas) just to make sure.

        A point of clarification: District lines were drawn twice in Texas in the aughts, but only once by gerrymandering Republicans. The mid-census redrafting of the lines was to redraw the lines that were drawn by judges (based on the lines from the 90’s, which were drawn by and favored Democrats).Report

      • Patrick in reply to Patrick says:

        I just want to second Morat’s comment. Also Kolohe’s.

        We’re about as gerrymandered as we can get, right now, on both sides. To the extent that your statewide-citizenry’s broad political viewpoint is aligned with the districts, this turns out to have some regrettable consequences, but not that much.

        The GOP might not hold some districts as strongly as they do, and the Dems might not hold some districts as strongly as they do, but when it comes right down to it most of that burns down at the local level.

        If you want the Presidency, you have to be able to make inroads in the cities. And the GOP is making outroads.Report

      • morat20 in reply to Patrick says:

        Um, that’s one way of putting it.

        A more accurate way of putting it would be this: In 2001, Democrats and Republicans deadlocked over new maps. Per State Law, when unable to draw new maps, a board of judges is established that does so. That’s in the Texas Constitution.

        In 2002, the Texas GOP won a massive way and redistricted mid-Census.

        Your..phrasing of the situation..draws to mind parallels of activist judges, instead of a Texas Constitutional method for handling deadlocks. There were no court cases forcing this new map, there was simply the Leg failing to agree on a new map and the LRB convening per the State Constitution.

        And then, as soon as they had the majority, the GOP coming in and redrawing them. I fail to see how that is ANY different — than if the Leg had passed the original map.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Patrick says:

        Well, no, my comment said that the lines were drawn only once by Republicans and then identified where the first set of lines came from. Which was judges. Not activist judges, but… judges. As opposed to Republican legislators, which was how I believed your comment would be read and why I offered the clarification.Report

      • morat20 in reply to Patrick says:

        Judges, without context, implies the court system. Which is exactly not the case.

        In the case of Texas, the Constitution itself spells out the method of handling a Legislature unable to produce a map — which isn’t even judges!

        The LRB is the Lt. Gov, the Speaker, the land commission, the comptroller, and the AG.

        In fact, having just now verified the members of the panel — if there was a judge on it, it was because he USED to be a judge. There’s no slot on the board for an active member of the judiciary.

        Which brings us back to the 2003 redistricting — it was done AFTER a map was passed in a duly constitutional fashion, and the map WASN’T drawn by Judges but by the LRB — which was headed by Rick Freaking Perry (he was Lt. Governor during the 2001 redistricting).Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to NewDealer says:

      States have been getting and been growing more polarized and getting more blue or more red.

      I have a somewhat different take on this point. I spent yesterday morning at a seminar on the urban/rural divide in Colorado. I think that within a given state the urban and rural areas are growing more polarized and getting more blue or more red (if possible). Pick a blue state, like Illinois, and look at the county-level red/blue maps: a handful of blue counties, a whole slew of red ones, but the population numbers make it a blue state. Look at Texas and see the same pattern: blue cores for Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and El Paso, with huge swaths of rural red.

      Yesterday Rand Paul said Texas could be a blue state in 10 years unless the GOP makes changes. The changes they need to make, though, aren’t to switch the Rio Grande valley that is heavily Hispanic and solidly blue today; they need to stem to growth of blue voters in the four or five core metro areas where the population is growing. Dennis has asked the question rather bluntly before: “Why does my party hate cities?” Given the trends, some of the states that have carved out safe Republican majorities in the state legislature are going to get a rude surprise in 2020, as continued urban growth relative to the rural areas make that task much more difficult.

      One of the more interesting exchanges at the seminar I attended was over Reynolds v. Sims. A rural advocate put it simply: “So long as Reynolds stands, Colorado’s rural areas will continue to grow increasingly irrelevant to any political discussion in the state.”Report

      • zic in reply to Michael Cain says:

        I agree, @michael-cain.

        @newdealer mentions gerrymandering above; something that is a problem when it creates districts that are crazy; but it’s a problem for the constituents, mostly, and the representative.

        Jonathan Bernstein has aggregated a lot of research on gerrymandering and the population difference that left Democratic candidates with a million more votes for house members but losing seats in the last presidential election. The consensus is that it’s not gerrymandering, it’s the lack of population in most non-urban districts, and the conservative majority in that rural population. There are fewer voters out there in the wilds, and more of those fewer voters are conservative then liberal.

        (That’s actually a challenge for Democrats, I think. If they want control of the house, Dems have to reach more rural voters.)

        Note: the link goes to Bernstein’s old blog, not his new digs at Bloomberg because that’s where most of the gerrymandering discussions are located.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Michael Cain says:

        Michael Cain,

        I’m amusingly boggled that conservatives would view Reynolds as the cause of a political problem rather than as further evidence that they’re fighting a rearguard action against a rising tide of liberalism which they can only stand athwart of yelling things like “reverse Reynolds and let justice reign!”

        But … they can justify restrictive voter-ID laws on a principle of justice too, apparently without any irony.Report

      • I think the rural vs urban divide minimizes the more important factor, which is suburbs. Republicans don’t need to worry about urban cores. They need to worry about suburbs (and small cities). They win states where they do well in suburbs, and lose in states where they do poorly.Report

      • @zic I was responding to Cain’s comment. I have actually been arguing for a while that the effect of Gerrymandering is overstated in the House differential and that the GOP has a natural advantage for the reasons that the article describes. Thanks for the link, though, as that will help me make my case going forward. 🙂Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Michael Cain says:

        This is a quote from the article:

        By no means does this imply that critics of gerrymandering are always wrong. In the states most frequently derided as overt Republican gerrymanders, our analysis shows that gerrymandering has indeed given the Republicans additional seats beyond the already pro-Republican average of our simulations. Most notable are North Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas and Michigan.

        Isn’t that what critics are complaining about? I mean, I’ve never heard a democrat or liberal say that without gerrymandering the Dems would control the House (I’m not saying those folks aren’t out there, of course).

        On the flip side, the article cites Dems as gerrymandering in parts of Chicago and in Maryland. Oh well, equivalence, I guess.

        Seems to me complaints about gerrymandering point in a different direction than outcomes.Report

      • zic in reply to Michael Cain says:

        @stillwater I think the crux is that without gerrymandering of any sort, despite the total votes for d’s/r’s nationally in house elections, Republicans would still control the house. Gerrymandering only matters at the margins.Report

      • I mean, I’ve never heard a democrat or liberal say that without gerrymandering the Dems would control the House

        I hear it pretty regularly. As an explanation for the continued Republican leadership of the House despite the Democrats receiving more votes, it’s the most frequent explanation I hear. Far less frequently do I hear about the Republican’s structural advantage.

        On the flip side, the article cites Dems as gerrymandering in parts of Chicago and in Maryland. Oh well, equivalence, I guess.

        Actually, it’s pretty relevant to the topic at hand. The Democratic gerrymandering, even if it’s not as bad as Republican gerrymandering, cuts into the number of seats that Republicans gain by gerrymandering and reducing its overall effect.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Michael Cain says:

        This is from a NYT article:

        Second, if we replace the eight partisan gerrymanders with the mock delegations from my simulations, this would lead to a seat count of 215 Democrats, 220 Republicans, give or take a few.

        Third, gerrymandering is a major form of disenfranchisement. In the seven states where Republicans redrew the districts, 16.7 million votes were cast for Republicans and 16.4 million votes were cast for Democrats. This elected 73 Republicans and 34 Democrats.

        Does the above support my argument or yours? Both? Neither?Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Michael Cain says:

        So we’re disagreeing about the degree to which people “people out there” emphasize gerrymandering but agreeing about the actual benefits accruing to Republicans from doing so?

        OK, I’m down with that.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to Michael Cain says:

        I don’t disagree but there are plenty of states without a substantial city or urban population that give the GOP an advantage. Or the cities are not large enough yet to act as making the Democratic Party competitive on a state wide level. At least for now. These are largely in the solid south, midwest, and mountain west.

        Basically: Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisanna, Montana, the Dakotas, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, West Virginia, Arkansas, Oklahoma, etc.

        Though these are things that stay the same for a long time and then change suddenly so it is always hard to predict.Report

      • Still: I have no problem with the view that gerrymandering is bad or that in the aggregate it benefits Republicans. I disagree with someone who title their articles something like “How Ridiculous Gerrymanders Saved the House Republican Majority” or say things like they kept the House “because Republicans have so gerrymandered congressional districts”. You’ve done neither of those things.Report

      • @stillwater
        I also find myself amused by the notion of rolling back 50+ years to before the cases that culminated in Reynolds, and saying “There’s nothing wrong if 700 people from San Miguel County get one vote in the legislature, and 700,000 people from El Paso County get one vote in the legislature.” As the Supreme Court said then, legislators represent people, not acres, not trees, not cows.Report

      • As the Supreme Court said then, legislators represent people, not acres, not trees, not cows.

        Except US senators! (Somebody had to say it. Might as well be the pro-Senate guy.)Report

      • @will-truman
        You’re right, of course, that the Republicans don’t have to win the urban core, just the suburbs. I cheerfully admit that my perspective on the matter is strongly influenced by where I’ve lived for the last 26 years, where most of the core city (Denver) is physically pretty much indistinguishable from the suburbs that surround it, other than perhaps by attitude. With that changing, as the inner-ring suburbs discover that (for example) more lane-miles isn’t the best answer to the transportation problem. The Colorado Republican Party, IMO at least, is moving steadily to a position that, to extend what I quoted from Dennis before “Not only do we hate cities, we’re not so sure about a bunch of the suburbs either.”

        The last redistricting was done with the each party controlling one chamber of the state legislature, unable to reach a compromise, so the decision got thrown into the Denver district court. We have three safe Republican seats, two safe Democratic seats, and two competitive suburban seats. The competitive seats are split; in the case of the one held by a Republican, he had to modify the hell out of a bunch of his positions in order to get narrowly re-elected. I’m willing to bet a small beer that he loses in 2014, despite all of the factors that would suggest otherwise (ie, midterm elections in the second term of a Democratic presidency).Report

      • It sounds like the ruralites in Colorado have done a pretty great job of alienating the suburbanites. That’s definitely a problem.Report

      • @will-truman
        And as the SCOTUS said at the time, the unique historical artifact of 13 sovereign states coming together, with the compromises that entailed, simply doesn’t apply to divisions within a state. One person, one vote, no dilution direct or indirect, except where the Constitution explicitly says otherwise :^)Report

      • @will-truman
        And I’m a pro-Senate guy too. Cause I live in a state where the Senate is the last thin line of protection against people in New Jersey and Florida from making land-use decisions that absolutely screw Colorado over. Even though the large majority of citizens of both of those fine states will never set foot here. Not that the line is all that effective. 1976 Land Policy and Management Act, in practice only affecting 12 western states, passed without a single ‘aye’ from any member from any of those states regardless of party or left/right political leaning.Report

      • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Michael Cain says:


        Not putting these two issues on the same plain, but the Civil Rights Act mainly had consequences among the South, and not one Southern Senator voted for it either. Guess what, we’re a nation and sometimes, that means decisions are going to be made by people who don’t live close to you about where you live.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Cain says:

        They win states where they do well in suburbs, and lose in states where they do poorly.

        And this is why, despite all the structural and historical reasons I acknowledge and have sympathy for to preserve it, ultimately, I want the Electoral College gone.Report

      • And this is why, despite all the structural and historical reasons I acknowledge and have sympathy for to preserve it, ultimately, I want the Electoral College gone.

        @michael-drew I don’t disagree with your conclusion, but don’t follow the logic connecting this and that. Could you elaborate?Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Michael Cain says:

        A rural advocate put it simply: “So long as Reynolds stands, Colorado’s rural areas will continue to grow increasingly irrelevant

        E.g., until we’re allowed to have rotten bouroughs, we’ll be irrelevant.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Cain says:


        The suburbs will always be politically influential, of course, but as I think you mean to point out, their influence is outsized in states that are carefully balanced between largely Democratic urban concentrations of voters and largely Republican rural voters. If presidential elections were popularly decided, urban/suburban/rural would shift to whatever the national balance is, and I believe this would have a smoothing effect on the numbers, with a few particular suburbs in a few particular states not having such influence. to me, so many aspects of our politics are heavily influenced by the desires of a certain set of comfortable suburbanites, that this could only have an improving and democratizing effect on them. That’s about as well as I can do.Report

      • I’m going to hold back a bit for my future post on the subject, but I did want to clarify something: It’s not just the swing states (or the states we generally consider swing states) where the suburbs provide the balance. When you look at solidly red Texas, a major factor in its red status is that Republicans carry the suburbs. The urban counties are little tiny islands of blue surrounded by red. Contrast this with Washington state, where not only are Seattle’s and Tacoma’s counties blue, but the entire MSA and CSA are both completely blue. In Illinois, not only is Chicago blue, but so are the surrounding counties. Democrats rule Salt Lake City, but the suburbs within Salt Lake County are so red that the county as a whole is red (along with, obviously, the state).

        That’s not the only thing that differentiates between red and blue of course. Iowa has numerous non-urban blue counties and that keeps it relatively blue. Idaho’s only rock-solid blue counties are Blaine (Hailey) and Latah (Moscow) but not Ada (Boise). Smaller cities also tend to be an x-factor. Even so, you might even be able to switch the likes of Texas and Illinois if you swapped their suburban votes even though both largely follow the urban-blue, rural-red design.

        None of this is in contradiction to what you’re saying, but I wanted to be clear on that point.Report

      • No one ever says, “Let’s let Colorado have a vote on water use policy in New Jersey, even if preserving the Pine Barrens means a quarter-million farmers are screwed for the next couple years. Let’s let Wyoming have a vote on what the severance tax rate should be on natural gas produced in Pennsylvania and New York. Let’s give California a vote on not putting in a wind farm because it kills some species of bird in Indiana — oh, yeah, Indiana wiped that species out a hundred years ago.”

        At least no one has said, “Take one for the team,” or I’d have to get violent. I’ve got several hundred tons of plutonium-contaminated soil here that we can’t get a straight answer out of the feds, or permission to have an independent assessment of the degree of contamination. I’m still waiting for Delaware to come get their share.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Cain says:


        Good point. That’s essentially the same as just saying that their importance is even broader than I suggested – in a state-by-state system, they swing states with varying compositions of a rural Rs & urban Ds. Of course, that’s because a lot of people live there, so they should have influence. But I think the state-by-state system enhances it considerably.Report

      • Kim in reply to Michael Cain says:

        Counternote to your excellent point: Centre County in PA.
        College towns go democratic in a big way, and can put “rural” areas into big population centers that go blue.Report

      • Rod in reply to Michael Cain says:

        The research on the magnitude of the gerrymandering effect are interesting but it leaves out an important element IMO. The kind of Republican (or Democrat!) that gets elected from a district with a 20% margin is going to be a different animal that what comes out of a district with a 5% margin.

        My thinking is that the natural advantage gives us a Republican House. Gerrymandering hands it over to the Tea Party loons.Report

      • Roger in reply to Michael Cain says:

        “The kind of Republican (or Democrat!) that gets elected from a district with a 20% margin is going to be a different animal that what comes out of a district with a 5% margin.”

        This gets to the real point. Gerrymandering leads to a different type of candidate and it increases the role of the political parties in determining who our candidates (and thus representatives) are.

        Serious thorn in the side of representative democracy.Report

  6. zic says:

    The answer is that most people think Republicans are racist and scared of anyone that isn’t white. Being involved in party politics over the years, I know that most Republicans are not bigots.

    I just don’t know what to think of this. I’m sure that there are many, many Republicans who are not bigots, as individuals. But they, as a group, have shown a preference for bigoted policies. Remember when McCain stopped the woman in a rally who was repeating the refrain of Obama the Kenyan Socialist Muslim? How unusual it was? As a liberal, I’ve been subjected to years and years of bigoted language from Republican politicians, language that says I am not a real person with a right to participate in the conversation, I am not a True American™.

    I think the problem is both simpler (and more difficult to solve) then anyone bothers suggesting. First, you may not be a bigot, but if you embrace and support bigoted policies, you are an active accomplice to bigotry; and you cannot brush the charge off so easily as saying, “Well, it’s not me, it’s my party.”

    If it’s your party, and you recognize the wrong but don’t challenge it, don’t work to reform the party, I don’t think you can distance yourself from the wrong so easily. You are embracing something else at the expense of those wronged, and it is every bit as much a part of you as the thing you’re embracing.

    I don’t see a lot of the GOP voices working to help educate the members of the party on what their dog whistles mean, on why perceiving 47% of the population as takers instead of as citizens matters. Instead, I see a lot effort put into crafting new dog whistle language to replace the old language when it’s revealed for the bigotry it is. Ever more subtle ways to say the same old us-against-them so as to hide the bigotry.

    The proof is in the changed policy, and I believe conservative policy does not have to be bigoted. It’s not in restricting voting rights, family-planning rights, or which groups get to be engaged in the conversation.Report

    • Morat20 in reply to zic says:

      It may be simpler to say: Most Republicans aren’t bigots, but most bigots are Republican.

      Or simply to say: The GOP needs the bigoted vote.

      I suspect most of their leaders would be happy to shed those voters, if only they could afford to.Report

      • zic in reply to Morat20 says:

        Maybe, @morat20 , but that need of those bigots turns into policies and language that reinforce the bigotry. That’s my point; if you embrace the bigotry, you are aiding and abetting the bigotry; and so are, in fact, part of the problem of bigotry. A bigot, off on their own in the wild expressing free speech isn’t much of a problem. A coven of bigots shaping policy is.

        That’s very much the debate here; does the GOP need the bigots or the minority-voters more? And much credit to @dennis for suggesting that the answer shouldn’t just be a calculation of voters gained by an actual long-term policy.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Morat20 says:

        What would happen if the GOP really became the party of small government and abandoned the policies that attract bigots and which are based on large government (e.g., opposing gay marriage)? How many voters would they lose? How many would they gain?Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Morat20 says:

        It may be simpler to say: Most Republicans aren’t bigots, but most bigots are Republican.

        If you look only at the rhetoric, that’s a defensible conclusion to draw, it seems to me. If you look at policy I think things get a little dicier since Republicans are caught in a pickle between policies that often disproportionately harm non-whites (and in particular, non-white straight males) justified by principles that are “color blind”. So you have to go to the outcomes certain policies produce to see where the bigotry might reside, and that opens up the door for pure politics, including the accusation that liberals are the real racists.Report

        • Patrick in reply to Stillwater says:

          Basically, I see the GOP general rank-and-file thinking that they don’t need to change anything. They don’t see anything wrong with their current platform.

          Many of them still don’t see the last election as anything understandable. So getting a good return in the midterms will have them thinking, “See! There *isn’t* anything wrong with the message, or the mission!”

          Those folks will be very upset if the people they elect don’t then *stick* with the message and the mission. Which is a recipe for disaster in 2016.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Morat20 says:

        What would happen if the GOP really became the party of small government and abandoned the policies that attract bigots

        I don’t have a powerful enough imagination. It’s like asking “what would happen if 2+2=5…”Report

      • zic in reply to Morat20 says:

        @kazzy and @stillwater

        I’ve been wondering what ‘small government’ means to Republicans. I used to think it meant small in size/services — a la Norquist, small enough to drown in a bathtub.

        Sometimes, I think it’s only a measure of tax revenue; the more taxes I pay, the bigger government, the fewer I pay, the smaller government.

        Somedays, it’s how people perceive government intruding on their lives; a long wait at the DMV or overly-complicated tax form will increase ones ire at the big government; while the inverse of a smooth journey on federal highways is rarely appreciated as a government benefit.

        There are many ways to measure the size of government, and I don’t think that any of them is particularly meaningful or gets at measures of competency.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Morat20 says:

        Ala Cleek’s Law, I interpret conservative use of the phrase “smaller government” to mean “eliminating or opposing anything Democrats like”.

        More charitably, it’s a meaningless political platitude.

        Even more charitably, it’s party-specific platitude covering policies favored by the GOP irrespective embiggening or ensmallening. But that just brings us back to Cleek’s Law.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Morat20 says:

        If I were to define the GOP in the terms the GOP uses to define itself, I’d probably say something like: the party of smaller government, individual responsibility, traditional values and states rights. (Those attributes are all included in the concept of rugged individualism, of course, and are embodied by anyone who wears their own bootstraps.)

        If I try to square any two of those things on just about any reasonable definition of what they might mean, I immediately come into mind-bending puzzles that can only be reconciled by listing instances of the policies which fall under them.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Morat20 says:

        It may be simpler to say: Most Republicans aren’t bigots, but most bigots are Republican.

        I think I would put it a different and less inflammatory way:

        There are non-bigotted reasons that someone would be against public policy options such as affirmative action. (e.g.: maybe you’re a person who once supported it, but believes the time has come when it is no longer necessary.) But if you have a party that supports enough policies that are perceived to be against the interests of minorities, two things will always happen:

        1. Minorities will not support your party, and

        2. Those who truly are bigots will choose to be associated with you.

        The percentages of [1] may be huge, and the percentages of [2] might actually be quite low, but those two groups will push off one another over time, exasperating the problem, and eventually turning off non-minority voters who don’t want to be associated with [2] regardless of the party platform.

        I think Dennis’s point about how the Dems finally won over blacks (and then, really, all of the rest of the minority votes) is really, really important. Because I don’t see how the GOP gets out of this particular electoral tailspin without making similarly bold moves.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Morat20 says:

        Tod, your analysis might be correct – it’s broad and incomplete enough that there really isn’t anything to disagree with – but it’s practically begging – pleading! – for a followup question: what motivates people to endorse policies that alienate non-whites and attract bigots if that outcome is fully recognized?Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Morat20 says:


        I imagine a political party that took the following stances would be of considerable interest to me:
        A) disentangling government and marriage and allowing adult couples to enter in legally binding contracts with regards to their relationship as they see fit
        B) legalizing “soft drugs” and taking a rehabilitative approach to hard drug users with an eye towards minimizing the contact between non-violent members of the populace and the criminal justice system
        C) reforming the tax code in such a way that deductions and/or loopholes aimed at promoting “desired behavior” were eliminated
        D) disentangling health insurance from employment

        I guess that might just be a libertarian party, come to think of it.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Morat20 says:

        I’ve got the moderation blues.

        I’ll try again:

        Tod, your analysis might be correct – it’s broad and incomplete enough that there really isn’t anything to disagree with – but it’s practically begging – pleading! – for a followup question: what motivates people to endorse policies that alienate non-whites and attract bigots if that outcome is fully recognized?Report

      • Murali in reply to Morat20 says:


        It is fully plausible that the general public is systematically misinformed about the effects of policies. As I’ve mentioned before, the social sciences do not present us with neat plausible theories. Theories are often complex and counterintuitive. The downside to this is that public deliberation among the masses makes people more likely to have false beliefs. This is because they have little incentive* to get an accurate estimate of what the actual consequences of particular policies may be. So, both racists and non-racists may mistakenly think that some policies will have a detrimental effect on minorities when those policies in fact are beneficial to them or at least harmless to them.

        *because having correct beliefs has many positive externalities. The marginal benefit of getting things right is close to 0 while the marginal cost increases the more complex an issue is. You get a classic case of market failure in the marketplace of ideas.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Morat20 says:


        Tod’s scenario was that the GOP proposes policies they fully well know will be viewed negatively by minorities and favorably by bigots. I’m asking about the motivations of people who continue to propose and support those policies under the premise that they know the consequences of what they’re advocating. Hence, the specific question I asked.Report

      • Murali in reply to Morat20 says:

        So, if you have a bunch of smart guys at the brookings, heritage and even cato institute tell you that X is really a good policy, but we know that the public will mistakenly think it bad for minorities, it would be enormously evil to support the policy which the public thinks is good for minorities but which is actually bad just for the sake of electoral victory right?Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Morat20 says:

        Well, you’re answering the question I asked Tod. The reason conservatives continue to support the policies is presumably because they believe there’s good evidence and argument in their favor, evidence and argument that presumably could persuade minorities to accept them and shed the bigot-baggage by smacking them in the head with some knowledge.

        I guess all that’s left is to match the above description up against reality and see how accurate it is. Hmmm. I don’t think it’s very accurate Murali.

        Last time we talked about a Heritage Plan on this site, we learned that the GOP and conservatives view it as The Worst Thing Since Stalin.Report

      • Murali in reply to Morat20 says:

        I forgot for the moment that I was talking about the GOP instead of some other idealised hypothetical non-dysfunctional centre-right partyReport

      • Stillwater in reply to Morat20 says:

        Well, uh … yeah. That’s an important fact to remember.

        But along those lines, a) even Heritage now thinks the Heritage Plan is The Worst Thing Since Stalin; b) honest question: Is there a non-dysfunctional conservative group in the US?; and c) I know what you were driving at about the tension between good policy and politics.Report

      • Murali in reply to Morat20 says:

        honest question: Is there a non-dysfunctional conservative group in the US?

        I don’t think so. There are non-dysfunctional libertarian groups like the Cato institute. But then again, I’m not a conservative (though I do end up voting for them* in Singapore) so I may be biased

        *Only because as it stands they are the least bad of my choicesReport

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Morat20 says:

        “honest question: Is there a non-dysfunctional conservative group in the US?”

        Oh, a bunch. Most trade associations, for example, are both staunch conservative groups and huge donors to swing-y state campaigns, and most of those groups are both incredibly efficient and scary good at messaging to people outside their group. There are lots of others, as well. They’re just not the ones looking to get airtime on Fox.Report

  7. Tod Kelly says:

    There is an additional problem I don’t see people discussing: donors.

    On the whole, are the people who the GOP and its congressional candidates have become financially dependent upon more or less willing to write checks for something like immigration reform, regardless of potential effects? If they begin backing policies that aggressively reach out to those same minority groups they have alienated (either intentionally or unintentionally), will those same check-writers continue to reward them financially the way they do now?

    Because the way I see it, the problem with the GOP right now is its shrinking voter base; its ability to fundraise amongst its ever-shrinking base is still really strong. And so I wonder about the degree to which they will bleed revenue if they attempt to increase the size and scope of their base.

    I honestly don’t know the answer to this question, but at a party level I suspect it’s at least part of what drives the GOP’s reluctance begin signaling that it wants to grow its ranks with non-whilte voters.Report

    • trumwill in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      As far as immigration reform goes I think the check-writers want it. I think the bigger money concern is the reaching out to middle class voters they will have to do if they don’t make inroads with minorities (and maybe even if they do).Report

  8. Lyle says:

    I guess I see a lot of the republican base having a lot of future shock. They have seen the future and they don’t like it. On immigration in particular. As an example when I grew up in the 1960s there were very few Mexican Restaurants around Detroit. (In fact the first Mexican food I had was when I got to Pasadena, Ca in 1972). Since then they have become ubiquitous around the country. The issue of future shock has occurred many times in the past in the US history, in the 1920s it was against immigrants because they were Roman Catholic, in fact if you look at the 1920s KKK it was big in Indiana which at the time did not have a lot of blacks, and the KKK was against Catholics and Jews. Or go back to the 19th century when no Irish need apply, and the same anti Roman Catholicism of the American party in the 1850s (Also known as the Anti-Catholic Know Nothing party).
    It seems that when the country changes during ones adulthood in ways one does not like some believe that you need to get the demographics back to bring back the good old days.Report

  9. DRS says:

    A suggestion: the Citizens United decision is biting the Republican Party in the ass with large incisors – hard.

    There’s way too much money sloshing around in the American political cistern but in the “old” days at least there was the discipline of the one single candidacy to rally around, grudgingly or not. Maybe right-wing big donors didn’t really like Bob Dole or whoever, but he was the candidate and better than that other guy, so at the end of the day the cheques rolled out to the Republican Party.

    But now you’ve got Karl Rove hitting up big donors for donations to PACs that are producing their own advertising with no guarantee that it’s going to coincide even slightly with the Republican platform. And if you’re running for Congress and every dollar counts, can you really afford – literally – to compete successfully with that kind of message? No, you can’t. So you start sounding more radical so you match the message. And you hope that the big donors haven’t lost touch with reality completely.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to DRS says:

      More speech == Good.Report

      • DRS in reply to Jaybird says:

        And the missing-the-point award of the morning goes to Jaybird. Well done, Jaybird.Report

      • Murali in reply to Jaybird says:

        Not necessarily. Often, more political speech just means worse political speech (that is, speech that convinces the polity to support bad or unjust policies). This doesn’t mean we should necessarily restrict speech, but more speech == good is not something that is supported by the incentives.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        Well, at the time of Citizens United, I remember the weeping and gnashing of teeth over how the Republicans have an unfair advantage for every election henceforth because corporations were now people and this threatens the very foundations of free speech.

        And now we’re here discussing how badly Citizens United is biting Republicans in the butt.

        Funny how things work out.

        (Murali, as for “bad or unjust” policies, such things are in the eye of the beholder. We can easily see how, for example, a redistributivist policy could be seen by this person as good and enacting social justice and be seen by that person as bad and unjust. Without getting into whether this person is obviously right and how that person is obviously wrong, I’d prefer we just settle into the whole “more speech is better when it comes to hammering it out” because once we start putting limits down, a fence around, we’re likely going to be picking a winner despite ourselves. “But isn’t saying that we shouldn’t put limits down also picking a winner?” It’s not obvious to me that that’s the case. For example, how many are surprised that Citizens United is biting Republicans in the butt? At the very least, I imagine that those who thought that Republicans would benefit are being surprised. Insofar as the results are surprising, I think we can say that we’re not picking a winner.)Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

        Unintended consequences apply even to the Roberts Court. Good thing.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        TJ talked about this.

        I would rather be exposed to the inconveniencies attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.Report

      • Murali in reply to Jaybird says:


        Note how I’m not interested in curtailing speech. That more speech may be bad doesn’t mean we should pick winners and losers etc… But even if we shouldn’t curtail speech, we shouldn’t falsely convince ourselves that there are no downsides.

        To put it into your idiom, some things are just a matter of taste yes? But, when busybodies try to treat matters of taste as though they were matters of morality, they have lots of easy narratives to rely on. e.g. Think about the Children! Classic case is immigration. Anti immigration types say things like immigration will make us a less equal nation, immigrants will steal our jobs, immigrants just come to help themselves to the welfare state. Then there are other sorts of bullshit arguments like: if you’ve got the right to keep someone out of your house, you’ve got the right to keep him out of your country. You may think that the cure for bullshit narratives is just more talking to correct the bullshit. However since the bullshit is more intuitive it takes a lot more effort to get your head around the truth than to accept the bullshit. And since the marginal consequences of any one person getting it right (or wrong) are close to 0, more speech just means that more people will embrace bullshit.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        we shouldn’t falsely convince ourselves that there are no downsides.

        Please believe me that when I say “I would rather be exposed to the inconveniencies attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it”, that I am not saying that there are no inconveniencies to attending too much liberty.

        To run with immigration, I have no problem with saying “you can’t live in my house!”, the problem comes when you say “you can’t live in anybody else’s house either! Or rent an apartment! Or work for them!”

        The problem comes from someone telling not only someone else but a whole *HOST* of someone elses how to live in areas where it is Not Their Business… and a robust attitude towards liberty sprinkled about would seriously help mitigate that.

        Which is not to say that unrestrained immigration would not have any problems… but, again, I’d rather attend to the problems that come from too much, etc, etc, etc.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to DRS says:

      The reason that independent expenditures don’t coordinate with the candidates isn’t Citizens United, it’s campaign finance reform law. Most of the big money would rather be giving the money directly to their preferred candidate.Report

    • Patrick in reply to DRS says:

      I think we can say reasonably that we’ve hit “Peak Donor”, right about 2006 or so. Certainly by 2008. I’d hazard a guess that about 65% of what people are spending on elections right now is basically burned money.

      Money doesn’t buy you elections. It buys you a chance to get your name recognized. If you don’t have that, then you need gobs of money. If you do have that, then you don’t need gobs of money.

      (I’ll note: you still need money. But the amount of money that you need is probably somewhere in the realm of “nowhere near as much as people are spending on elections right now”)

      Opening the floodgates with CU turned out to result in skyrocketing expenditures for basically zero marginal returns.Report

      • Scott Fields in reply to Patrick says:

        Opening the floodgates with CU turned out to result in skyrocketing expenditures for basically zero marginal returns.

        I think the truthiness of this statement depends on how you define “returns.” If “returns” means federal elective office, then, sure, all the money flowing in with CU isn’t paying off that much. But, if “returns” means setting the terms of the debate, then CU is really delivering. When a 4.6% marginal tax increase, plus medical insurers endorsed healthcare reform, is equivalent to radical socialism for half the populace, you’ve won the argument before the politicians even get involved.Report

      • Patrick in reply to Patrick says:

        When a 4.6% marginal tax increase, plus medical insurers endorsed healthcare reform, is equivalent to radical socialism for half the populace, you’ve won the argument before the politicians even get involved.

        Half the population?

        I’m not so sure that half is a fair characterization. Mitt got 59.1 million votes, Obama got 62.6 million.

        According to this, you’ve got 25% of the electorate identifying as “Liberal” and of those 11% voted for Mitt. You’ve got 41% identifying as “Moderate” and of those 46% went to Mitt. Finally, you’ve got 35% identifying as “Conservative” and of those 82% went to Mitt.

        I’m willing to agree that the public outrage machine that is anchored by Fox News and fed raw meat by Drudge & Co. are all about radical socialism, but I don’t think this is really representative of “half” the country. Just crunching those results, even if all 82% of the self-identified “conservatives” were all red-meat-chewin’ commie-haters, that’s under 35 million, and I doubt all 82% of those self-identified conservatives are *all* freaked out about Benghazi.

        That’s not to say that there aren’t millions of people who are shouting crazy stuff really loudly, granted.Report

      • Scott Fields in reply to Patrick says:

        Fair enough. My point was lost to my hyperbole.

        Nevertheless, what you call “crazy stuff” is considered sane enough by enough people that the debate has shifted utterly.

        For example, Reagan era tax rates, let alone Eisenhower era ones, are considered inconceivable. As a consequence, a country that has achieved infrastructure projects like the Hoover Dam or the Interstate system in the past can’t possibly update our antiquated electrical grid and rail systems because we as a country are “too poor” to do something like that.

        Modest financial regulation that might slightly impede the FIRE sector from using the global economy as their personal casino is an affront to the 1% that just work harder than the rest of us.

        I’m not saying more infrastructure investment or tighter financial regulation are the right answer, but CU has greatly contributed to moving the Overton Window so far the debate itself is beyond reach.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Patrick says:

        As a consequence, a country that has achieved infrastructure projects like the Hoover Dam or the Interstate system in the past can’t possibly update our antiquated electrical grid and rail systems because we as a country are “too poor” to do something like that.

        I’ve always assumed that our inability to build something like the Hoover Dam or the Interstate system today has to do with the regulations and prerequisites and such things as “environmental impact statements”. Now, I suppose that we could say that, hey, it’s still that we’re “too poor” but we seem to have raised the price of doing such things to the point where, once, we’d have been willing to say “I’m going to make that tradeoff!” but now we’re saying “Yeah, I can’t afford that.”Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Patrick says:

        More than 100 people died building Hoover Dam. We’re no longer willing to accept that. And safety costs money.Report

      • greginak in reply to Patrick says:

        If you think the only reason we can’t build big projects is due to regs and enviro statements than that is pretty much the Fox news line. Certainly as Mike points out safety costs money and i’d even agree enviro protections cost money and have slowed things down. But its not like people are clamoring to build nukes while tossing giants sacks of cash and only those darn enviros are stopping it. There was even a big push for infrastructure projects a few years back if i remember and “we’re to poor” was the reason why R’s fought it. Not those hippies or darn workers not wanting to get all dead, it was we can’t afford to repair roads etc. There was also quite a bit of OMG big gov spending our money let the market build stuff if its needed.Report

      • Scott Fields in reply to Patrick says:

        As @greginak notes, there was a massive hue and cry of “DEFICITS” with an added bellow of “taxed enough already” when Obama had the temerity recently to suggest we invest enough in our infrastructure to bring our bridges into the 21st century. We have chasms to traverse before we could get the debate to the point where we could discuss the trade-offs between large public works and the environment or safety.

        That’s sort of my point. The donors funneling cash anonymously into Super-PACs have no interest in the commonwealth, so there will be no talking about it.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Patrick says:

        So, wait, do we agree that if the price were lower, it’d be more likely to happen?

        And since the price is as high as it is, people are spending their money on other stuff?Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Patrick says:

        But its not like people are clamoring to build nukes while tossing giants sacks of cash and only those darn enviros are stopping it.

        In googling, I found this page:


        As far as I can tell, the nut graf is this: However, the case for widespread nuclear plant construction was eroded due to abundant natural gas supplies, slow electricity demand growth in a weak US economy, lack of financing, and uncertainty following the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

        If it’s cheaper and more profitable to build a natural gas plant and you know you won’t have to worry about nuns chaining themselves to your flagpole, why wouldn’t you choose that over nuclear?Report

      • Kim in reply to Patrick says:

        price for building is essentially free:

  10. zic says:

    Huh. There’s a piece on the front page of the NYT, Chastened G.O.P. Tries to Foil Insurgents at Primary Level today.

    The Republican Party establishment, chastened by the realization that a string of unpredictable and unseasoned candidates cost them seats in Congress two elections in a row, is trying to head off potential political hazards wherever it can this year.

    In House and Senate races across the country, many of the traditional and influential centers of power within the party are taking sides in primaries, overwhelming challengers on the right with television ads and, in some cases, retaliating against those who are helping the insurgents.

    It lists candidates Richard H. Black in Virginia, Joe Miller from Alaska, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Stace Nelson of South Dakota, Bryan Smith of Idaho all as candidates outside the establishment who are too extreme, and receiving push back and being discouraged from running by the establishment machinery.

    Best quote in the story:

    “He’s [Mitch McConnell] essentially joined the I.R.S. in targeting conservative groups,” said Matt Hoskins, the executive director of the Senate Conservatives Fund. “It’s all meant to intimidate.”

    Which, of course, raises the question of the alleged targeting being every bit as fantastical as the IRS targeting conservative groups.

    I’m not convinced this is evidence of a party trying to be more inclusive so much as evidence trying to keep its crazy uncles from showing up at the family dinner so that the GOP have a better chance of winning. Seems to me that real evidence of change, the kind of change Dennis writes of, would need to extend beyond the ballot box and into the crazy that already sits at the table of the elected.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to zic says:

      There’s always the question of “how representative should our representatives be?”

      If the people who show up to man the phones, the people who you can count on to drive the van because they drove the van last time and the time before that, the people who show up each and every week… if those folks are pissed off?

      It doesn’t matter how much money you can raise.Report

      • DRS in reply to Jaybird says:

        Well, yes it does, actually. You can hire van drivers if you have enough money. So you don’t need to have a strong grass roots base like you needed in the old days.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Jaybird says:

        You may be able to buy van drivers, but you can’t buy organizational competence – i.e. having the people around that know where the van drivers should go and whom should they be driving around.

        And you still can’t literally pay people to show up at the polls.Report

      • DRS in reply to Jaybird says:

        Exactly. Which was Newt Gingrich’s primary campaign in 2012 in a nutshell. Enough money to hire people to run around getting signatures to qualify for a state primary and none of them had experience enough to really do the job well. And the media wave he rode was generated almost entirely by the money he was spending. This was not a good development for the Republican Party.

        Not to mention “When Romney Came To Town”, another use of political money that would in previous years gone to support legitimate candidates.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        I wander back to the contrast between Kerry and Dean in 2004, maybe the contrast between McCain and Palin in 2008 (where McCain was everyone’s third choice for nominee and Palin appealed to the grass roots like nobody’s business).

        I wonder if the Republicans will ever again capture the lightning in a bottle that was Reagan.Report

      • Patrick in reply to Jaybird says:

        It’s going to take another outside-politics personality, I think.Report