Posts from August 2012

Graph: The One Graph That Proves Gas Prices Didn’t Surge Because of Obama

Post by: Benjamin Landy , on August 29, 2012

Some amount of spin is to be expected during the campaign cycle, but the idea that President Obama is somehow responsible for the rising price of gasoline over the last three years really irks me—perhaps because this particular myth is so easily dispelled.

Republicans like to point out that the price of a gallon of regular gasoline was $1.85 the day Obama took office (the same price, coincidentally, as on the first day of George W. Bush's second term four years earlier). What they don't mention is that the price of gas rose steadily throughout Bush's presidency, peaking just five months before Obama's inauguration at around $4.11—a difference of over 120 percent. So what happened in September 2008 to send the price of gas plummeting?

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Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan Support Partial Privatization of Social Security

Blog Post by: Benjamin Landy , on August 28, 2012

Mitt Romney's selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate was unexpected for a number of reasons, not least because the Wisconsin representative is an outspoken advocate of Medicare privatization, a major "third rail" in American politics. It is therefore revealing that we now know Romney chose the Wisconsin Congressman over the objections of his advisers, who worried that Ryan's zealous opposition to such a popular program would make him a liability. (Indeed, the latest polling data from TCF Fellow Ruy Teixeira shows Americans overwhelmingly support preserving Medicare in its current form, even if it raises the deficit.) But in the latest of a dozen "etch-a-sketch" moments, Romney apparently decided a hard tack to the right would pay dividends with the Republican faithful.

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Social Insurance

The Snapshot: Public Says Keep Medicare the Way It Is!

Blog Post by: , on August 27, 2012

This past week, I reviewed polling data from 2011 showing how opposed the public was then to the conservative idea of cutting funding for the Medicare program and turning it into a fixed-amount voucher system that seniors would have to use to purchase private health insurance. I suggested the public was unlikely to be much friendlier to the idea this year.

This week we have new polling on the issue and, as expected, the public continues to support keeping Medicare as it is today. Let’s start with their general support for keeping Medicare (or Social Security) benefits as they are: By 51 percent to 33 percent in a new Pew poll, the public thinks this goal is more important than taking steps to reduce the budget deficit.

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Workers & Economic Inequality

Graph: A “Lost Decade” for the Middle Class?

Post by: Benjamin Landy , on August 24, 2012

Pew Research Center report

The last ten years has been a "lost decade" for the middle class, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center. Since 2000, median family income has fallen 5 percent, from $72,956 to $69,487. Median net worth dropper even farther, from a high of $152,950 before the financial crash to just $93,150 in 2010. All in all, the middle class ended the decade poorer, smaller and less optimistic than they were at the turn of the millennium. The destruction of middle-class wealth, in particular, erased nearly two decades of gains.

The Pew study, which surveyed 1,287 adults describing themselves as middle class, found that most Americans remain worse off than they were before the recession. More than half believe it will be at least another five years before their finances recover, and 85 percent said it was harder to maintain a middle-class standard of living today than it was ten years ago.

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Workers & Economic Inequality

Graph: How Not to Fix the Deficit

Post by: Benjamin Landy , on August 20, 2012

The selection of self-proclaimed budget guru Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney's running mate was supposed to signal the campaign's return to "serious issues," according to Republican strategists. And yet, when given the opportunity to list specific programs he and Ryan would eliminate to reach the $9.6 trillion in non-defense savings they have promised by 2022, Romney wasted no time targeting the lowest-hanging of partisan fruits.

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9 Ways Voting Is Suppressed in America

Blog Post by: , on August 16, 2012

Voter Suppression in America: What’s Old Is New Again by Election Reform Expert Tova Andrea Wang.

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Workers & Economic Inequality

Graph: Does Productivity Growth Still Benefit the American Worker?

Post by: Benjamin Landy , on August 14, 2012

Mitt Romney said something that caught my attention yesterday in an otherwise unremarkable interview with Bloomberg Businessweek. Asked whether the loss of 650,000 public sector jobs has been a positive development, Romney replied:

Well, clearly you don’t like to hear [about] anyone losing a job. At the same time, government is the least productive—the federal government is the least productive of our economic sectors. The most productive is the private sector. . . . And so moving responsibilities from the federal government to the states or to the private sector will increase productivity. And higher productivity means higher wages for the American worker. All right?

Well, no. Not really. Higher productivity hasn't meant higher wages for nearly forty years, when America's postwar "golden age" was ended suddenly by the OPEC oil crisis in 1973. After a quarter-century in which wages, productivity, and GDP all grew at the same 4 percent annual rate—increasing income equality and creating the middle class as we know it—the United States entered a decade of recession and high inflation in which productivity and real wage growth both collapsed.

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What a Romney-Ryan Budget Would Mean for Americans

Blog Post by: Andrew Fieldhouse , on August 13, 2012

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has selected House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as his running mate, further elevating tax and budget policy issues. Ryan is known for providing seemingly wonky budget plans over the last decade. Below, we highlight and summarize previous analyses of these plans. What stands out is that Ryan’s budget blueprints impose huge cuts to non-defense spending yet still fail to address long-run fiscal challenges in any serious way. Further, they clearly exacerbate many pressing economic challenges, like restoring full employment, rebuilding the middle class, and curbing health costs. Lastly, they are often simply incomplete or even dishonest, claiming to hold overall revenue levels constant while offering no tax increases to counterbalance very large tax cuts aimed at the highest-income households. Simply put, the Ryan budgets fail to correctly diagnose the most pressing economic problems facing the U.S. economy, and hence fail to propose real solutions. Here are themes everyone needs to know about the Romney-Ryan agenda for the federal budget, and a 10-point overview of Ryan’s budgets.

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Short Memories

Blog Post by: Richard C. Leone , on August 2, 2012

Looking back to the year 2000, it’s hard to believe that many analyses then, including those of the Office of Management and Budget, projected that by 2010 the federal debt would be completely paid off. But a funny thing happened on the way from the Clinton administration’s budgets with surpluses to the fix we find ourselves in today. Or maybe not so funny.

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