February 5, 2014

New data on inequality and economic mobility. And what I think it may mean.

I've long been skeptical of liberal arguments that inequality in America is out of control and needs to be addressed as the or a top economic concern facing the current generation of policymakers.

My position has largely been that economic immobility, to the extent that it exists, is a greater concern.

Ultimately, pervasive, long-term economic immobility speaks to a problem with regard to fulfillment of the American Dream. The general idea behind America is that here, anyone who is hardworking (and especially anyone who is hardworking and talented) can make it, irrespective of the economic status into which they were born. Lose that and you lose a lot of our national character and much of what makes, and has historically, made this nation great.

To which I find that liberals typically reply something along the lines of, "yes, we agree, but we have no mobility here anymore, either, because the inequality problem is so out of control." Inequality leads to immobility, in many of their minds. And in the minds of those who don't see it quite that way, I find there is generally at least a belief that inequality correlates directly with immobility, across the board.

I have long suspected that in fact, the extent of inequality in many parts of America does not correspond with or indicate equivalent immobility problems. I don't spend hours a day analyzing studies about this stuff (I have a day job, and it doesn't involve extensive economic policy analysis on a par with, say, what you'd find in a policy job at Brookings or CATO), but anecdotal evidence suggests that this is not so, at least in many major cities and metropolitan areas, as does other evidence upon which I stumble from time to time. Like this, from Crain's NY:...

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November 25, 2013

Jamestown Associates, the NRSC, the SCF, and blacklisting

Awhile back, the NYT's Jonathan Martin wrote a story about the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC's) decision not to contract with Republican direct mail/ad firm Jamestown Associates for future work, in view of the firm's existing relationship with the Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF)-- the group that has had a habit of supporting strongly conservative candidates branding themselves as anti-establishment in important Senate races. The piece generated a lot of chatter among conservative campaign folks and commentator types, so it's little surprise that the news that other committees may also be dumping Jamestown is doing the same. Generally, this type of maneuver is being described as "blacklisting," and there's a lot of argumentation back and forth about whether it's fair, whether it's right, etc., etc.

I keep getting asked about this, as a consultant who has worked for both deeply conservative and "anti-establishment" candidates as well as rather moderate, rather establishment candidates, so I figured I might as well take a few minutes and put pen to paper here and share some thoughts.

My first thought is this, which seems not to be being seized on much by a lot of the folks writing on this topic: Although in the case of the NRSC, we know that the committee expressed explicit discomfort with working with SCF on the basis of the fact that SCF often appears to be "against the NRSC" on spec, there's another really good reason why if I were running a committee, I'd be concerned about contracting folks who were simultaneously working for outside groups, superPACs, etc., etc.: Legalities and firewall problems....

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November 19, 2013

Liz Cheney, Mary Cheney and family loyalty

Matt Lewis has an interesting post up about the Liz Cheney-Mary Cheney feud over Liz Cheney's stance on legal recognition of same-sex marriages. Obviously, Liz's remarks have garnered a lot of attention over the last 48 hours (I've opined on them from several different standpoints during that time), but Matt dives into the aspect of the controversy that is perhaps the hardest to discuss because it concerns the emotional, as opposed to the philosophical or the practical, and takes a perspective with which I think a lot of people will both empathize and find tremendous discomfort: That Mary Cheney probably should have shut her trap, maintained some loyalty to her sister, and waited for Liz to "evolve" if she ever made it to the Senate.

Let's stipulate two things from the get-go here.

First, almost certainly Liz Cheney is fibbing about her stance on same-sex marriage, given comments she has made previously and the impression she and folks close to her have obviously allowed to persist not merely out in the public, but frankly in private, amongst close family members. She is almost certainly doing it for political purposes. It is exceedingly unlikely to do anything for her, politically, because a) same-sex marriage is not a particularly motivating issue in the way that say abortion or Obamacare or guns or even taxes are in Republican primaries and b) pretty much no one believes her stance is what she said it was, on Sunday....

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