Archive for February, 2019

America’s “Exhausted Majority”…

February 28, 2019

Can they muscle up to pull us together?
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A lot of punditry these days about American Tribalism … categorizing people by common interests …  usually with a demographic slant (i.e. race. gender, and location – urban, rural; coastal or Heartland).

Those “tribes” are usually characterized as warring factions with little in common.

The result: sharp differences and apparently intractable political polarization.

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An organization called More in Common did some research that takes a different cut at the situation.

Their study – America’s Hidden Tribes – identified seven distinct groups of Americans. These are our Hidden Tribes of America: distinguished not by who they are or what they look like, but what they believe. (Below – at end of this post – are descriptions of the groups)

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The study reached three fundamental conclusions…

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It’s official: my tax refund is bigger this year…

February 27, 2019

But, to my dismay, my taxes increased
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These days, all the publicity is about people who are getting smaller tax refunds this year … clear evidence, they say, that Trump lied about cutting middle class taxes.

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Not really.

People seem to easily confuse “refunds” with “taxes paid”.

Of course, the relevant measure is “taxes paid” … and, most middle-classers are paying less in taxes.

But, behavioral economics and psychology kick in … and, people wrongly focus on their refunds.

If I did that, I’d be feeling great today

Last year, I had to write a check to the government.  Ouch.  This year, I’m getting a statistically insignificant refund.

Good news, right?

Nope … because my taxes went up.

My income stayed about the same … so the increase was due to the tax law changes.

When I drilled down on the causes & effects, I got a few surprises….

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Why the Senate won’t rescind Trump’s emergency declaration….

February 26, 2019

Yesterday, we argued the case for Trump prevailing legally.

Again today, let’s set aside aside the question of “should he do it?” … and focus on “can he do it?”.

Specifically, will Trump survive a Congressional move to Undeclare his national emergency?

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OK, Pelosi is going to push through a resolution to “undeclare: Trump’s national emergency.

Dems will vote in lockstep, and the bill will will be passed over to the Senate.

Dems are ecstatic that a handful of GOP Senators are hinting may jump party lines and that enough my vote aye on the undeclaration.

Not so fast, grasshoppers.

There are a couple of reasons why I don’t expect the Senate to pass the Undeclaration Resolution…

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Will Trump’s national emergency gambit survive legal challenges?

February 25, 2019

Loosely written laws and established precedents are on his side.
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For a moment, let’s set aside aside the question of “should he do it?” … and focus on “can he do it?”.

There’s a great legal analysis in the right-leaning Federalist that concludes

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You can (and should) read the whole  article. It weaves legal specifics with tight logic.

Here are my key takeaways…

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12 Rules for Life

February 22, 2019

Today, let’s take an inspiration break from the  socio-political messes in DC, Virginia and Chicago…

Megan McArdle is a Bloomberg columnist who usually writes on the intersection of economics and politics.

On her 45th b-day, she penned her retrospective ‘12 Rules for Life’

A couple of her rules really resonated with me, starting with:

1. Be kind. Mean is easy; kind is hard. Making yourself feel bigger by making someone else feel small takes so little skill that 12-year-olds can do it.

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Here are the rest of my favorites, a link to the complete list, and a reason for the picture (#11) …

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Maybe there is a political middle…

February 21, 2019

In the old days it was called the “silent majority”
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yesterday, we reprised a post: America’s political polarization in 3 charts …

That analysis ended in 2014 … showing a double-humped distribution that had been separating over the past decade or so.

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New data is now available, so let’s advance the picture to 2017

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Source: WaPo analysis of Pew data

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The humps have spread further apart … indicating sharper polarization.

The peaks are higher … especially the one on the left,

Also, note the vanishing middle (the dark blue on the graphic).

Now, let’s drill down another level…

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America’s political polarization in 3 charts …

February 20, 2019

The hardening political divide in Washington remindsme of an interesting analysis that NBC’s Chuck Todd did a couple of years ago.

So, let’s flashback:

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It’s no secret that American politics has become increasingly – and maybe, irreversibly – polarized.

Of course, Obama lays blame on Trump and his band of ignorant deplorables.

Let’s look at some inconvenient facts from Todd’s analysis…

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As Meet the Press host Chuck Todd puts it:

Polarization is no longer just polluting the system — it’s paralyzing it.

The deepening divide between the right and the left has largely hollowed out the center of American politics.

Gone are the politicians who once occupied the large “middle” and the voters who once gravitated to them.

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The Pew Research Center has tracked party identity and ideology for decades.

One way they do it is by scoring the Republicans and Democrats on a 10-item scale of political values.

Based on the latest Pew data (from 2014), here’s where we stand:

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What the chart means …

Democrats cluster to the left, Republicans cluster to the right.

There is less than 10% in each party leaning ideologically to the left (or right) of the other party’s median.

That’s where we are.

How did we get here?

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Sen. Amy Klobuchar: “I have grit!”

February 19, 2019

What is this “grit” that she’s talking about?
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Announcing her presidential candidacy (in a snow storm), Sen. Amy “Minnesota Nice” Klobuchar declared:

“I don’t have a political machine. I don’t come from money. But what I do have is this: I have grit,” 

I doubt that Klobuchar was intentionally trying to channel Donald Trump, but …

You may remember that In his first SOTU, President Trump gave a shout-out to “American grit.”:

Together, we can reclaim our building heritage.

We will build gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways, and waterways across our land.

And we will do it with American heart, American hands, and American grit.

So, what is this “grit” that they’re talking about?

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Trumps’s approval numbers on an uptick…

February 18, 2019

Last week, we posted Rasmussen poll results indicating that Trump’s approval got a bump after the SOTU.

See Trump approval up since SOTU…

Since Rasmussen leans right and doesn’t use classic interviewing techniques, it’s easy for some folks to dismiss the numbers.

But, Gallup is the gold standard of polling, right?

Well, the Rasmussen conclusion seems to be corroborated by Gallup.

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The most recent Gallup survey indicates that (1) Trump has more than bounced back from the shutdown dip, and (2) His approval – which is at a high water mark – is double that of Congress!

So, what’s going on?

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What you need to know about the border wall bruhaha…

February 15, 2019

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve put up a few posts addressing the border wall legislative mess.

To get you ready for weekend cocktail party debates on “the bill” and National Emergency, I’ve pulled together the posts into a sort of border wall primer.

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For openers, Dems like to say that Trump doesn’t have a plan … or that his defacto plan is “a concrete wall from sea to sea”.

Yes, the “build the wall” campaign rhetoric provides fodder for the sea-to-sea claimers, but Trumps plan (yes, there is one) has evolved to about 225 miles of steel slat barriers, strategically placed to slow the inbound flow across the borders and channel border crossers to bolstered “ports-of-entry.

See Cutting to the chase: What exactly is Trump demanding?

But, walls are ineffective and fundamentally immoral, right?

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Why Trump should feel ok about the border deal…

February 14, 2019

In technical terms. a binary switch got flipped.
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Pro-wall extremists are fretting that Trump got hosed since he only got $1.375 billion towards the border wall/

Not to worry, folks.

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The deal reminded me of an old story that provides some perspective…

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Maybe non-essential government employees should learn to code.

February 13, 2019

According to the WSJ, the partial government shutdown prompted government employees to test the job market

Evidence: job site Indeed.com reports that page views coming from government employees working for unfunded agencies surged during the partial government.

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ZipRecruiter and LinkedIn report similar surges in government employee activity.

But, the WSJ concludes that despite the booming economy “there’s no evidence that the job-searching led to an actual exodus from the federal government’s payrolls.”

Why is that?

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Trump’s next headache: ‘Unrecognized’ tax-cut benefits.

February 12, 2019

We warned about this  a year ago in the post

Will 143 million households notice that their taxes have been cut?

Regrettably, our prediction seems to be coming to fruition.

There have been a flurry articles citing tax preparers who are warning that,  tax refunds will be smaller this year … lower in average, with fewer people getting refunds.

Most recent IRS data support that claim: average refunds are down 8.4% from this time last year.

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That’s a big deal … and, will be a big headache for President Trump.

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Trump approval up since SOTU…

February 11, 2019

May put a new paint job on conference committee negotiations.
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First, a disclaimer of sorts.

Rasmussen skews right and its surveys are scoffed at by most traditional pollsters because they’re conducted without human contact … folks just answer questions via touch tone phone responses.

That said, I’ve found Rasmussen to be a good predictor on sensitive issues when people are reluctant to tell somebody what they think, but are willing to interact with an impersonal computer.

Bottom line:  Rasmussen says “Trump’s approval rating among likely voters has soared since the State of the Union and are at an all time high.”

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More specifically…

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West Virginia: Rebounding … and considering a name change.

February 11, 2019

According to the WSJ:

No state suffered more from the Obama regulatory assault than West Virginia as coal production and business investment plunged.

West Virginia’s revival started in early 2017 as coal and natural-gas production picked up.

Exports and the Trump Administration’s deregulation have lifted the industry.

Employment is up, wages are up … dependence on government programs is (e.g. food stamps, Medicaid) is down substantially,

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Now that West Virginia is back on it’s feet, there’s talk of a grassroots campaign for the state changing it’s name…

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WaPo: Majority of Virginia’s African-Americans say Northam should not resign.

February 11, 2019

Some interesting results from a weekend WaPo poll…

Overall, Virginians are split re: whether or not the blackface-revealed governor should resign.

Despite calls for his resignation from national Dems (Harris, Booker, Warren, etc.), a majority of Dems say he shouldn’t resign; a majority of Republicans and Independents say he should.

There was one head-scratcher in the poll results…

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Whites are evenly spilt on whether Northam should resign, but — Virginia’s African-Americans say that Northam should not  resign … by a margin of about 2 to 1.

What’s up with that?

Some hypotheses:

1) Blacks aren’t as offended by these long ago blackface transgressions as their visible spokespeople profess and are willing to forgive and forget

2) Support for Democratic policies and politicians outweighs any offense taken by these transgressions.

Regardless, expect Northam to be re-energized in his battle to hold on to power…

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DHS Expedites Border Wall Project in San Diego … say what?

February 9, 2019

MUST READ: Is this the trick that President Trump has up his sleeve? 
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In the last few days, Trump has seemed way too sanguine about the outcome of the conference committee trying to hash out a budget resolution … especially since the best case (from Trump’s perspective) is a token amount of money that is tightly specified so that it’s not to be used to construct a “wall”.

Trump also has signaled that he won’t force another government shutdown and won’t declare a national emergency … and, indicated that he might be able to operate under existing “executive authority“.

So, what’s he got up his sleeve?

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In a prior post, we posed a gut-check question for Pelosi (and anybody else) who says that walls are immoral and don’t work:

Should the border wall between San Diego and Tijuana be torn down?

Well, late Friday afternoon when the media was busy with the Bezos and Virginia fiascos,  the San Diego – Tijuana story took a strange twist.

The DHS issued a press release headlined “DHS Issues Waiver to Expedite Secondary Fence Replacement Project in San Diego“.

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click to view the press release on the DHS site

This may be a signal of what’s to come, so let’s drill down on it…

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Will Amazon ditch Virginia?

February 8, 2019

Jeff Bezos may dictate how Virginia’s political mess gets cleaned up
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Ask yourself a simple question:

If this front page had appeared a couple of months ago, would Bezos (Amazon) have picked Northern Virginia for HQ2?

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I’d bet the under on that one.

Which begs a couple of questions….

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Virginia Dems: “Hoisted by their own petards”

February 7, 2019

And, some predictions re: the likely outcome.
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First, a translation of the classic phrase…

Contrary to common misunderstanding, the phrase does not mean getting lifted by one’s underwear … wedgie and all.

Rather, a ”petard” was an ancient bomb-like device used to blow open walls or gates.

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So, to be “hoisted by one’s own petard” is to be injured by the device that you intended to use to injure others.

Got it?

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OK, so how have Virginia Democrats hoisted themselves by their own petards?

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“Madam Speaker, thank you for the 1-week delay.”

February 6, 2019

Twas a bad night for the haters, following a very bad week.
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Imagine if Pelosi had resisted the theatrical power-play of delaying the SOTU address.

If she had kept to the traditional schedule, Trump wouldn’t have had these current events mega-talking points…

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Trump should declare OPIOIDS a National Emergency…

February 5, 2019

… and, include border barriers as one of the supporting actions.
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First, the current lay of the land…

Pelosi is still declaring “I’ve been clear: No money for walls. Period”.

So, odds of the conference committee reporting out legislation that includes wall funding remain slim to none.

President Trump has threatened to declare the porousness of the southern border a National Emergency … under which he would have broad executive authority that would include funding and building people-crossing barriers in strategic locations.

Dems have already threatened to take a border-focused National Emergency Declaration to the uber-liberal 9th Circuit Court  where it would likely be enjoined.

The journey to the Supreme Court would take time … with slightly better than 50-50 odds of reinstatement

So, what should Trump do?

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FYI: “National Emergencies” are neither rare nor short-lived.

February 4, 2019

The odds seem to be increasing that President Trump will declare a National Emergency and use his executive authority to fund and build sections of crossing barriers (aka, “walls”) along the southern border.

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So, I got curious and did a little digging into National Emergencies.

Here are some highlights…

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Is Virginia going to jump the abortion shark?

February 1, 2019

OK, New York  passed legislation legalizing abortions right up to the point of delivery.

Pro-lifers grimaced; pro-choicers rejoiced.

Not to be outdone, Virginia started the ball rolling to reduce restrictions on late-term abortions.

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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a pediatric neurologist, explained the implications in a radio interview on WTOP.

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