Friday, April 1, 2016

Last Call For Less Money, More Problems

While it's great that America added 215K new jobs last month, and that we've had a record six years of private sector job growth under President Obama, we've still got a lot of inequality problems especially when it comes to affordable housing and living wages.

Low-income Americans are experiencing a staggering price hike in housing costs — a change that makes it sometimes impossible to afford basic necessities. 
A new Pew Charitable Trusts analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in 2013, low-income Americans spent a median of $6,897 on housing. In 2014, that rose to $9,178 — the biggest jump in housing spending for the 19-year period of data that Pew studied. 
The cost of other necessities, like transportation and food, also rose, albeit not as dramatically. 2014 was the first year that Pew studied in which median spending on these three categories was higher than the median income for those in the lower third of income groups.

The chart makes it pretty stark:

Median housing, food, and transportation expenditures across lower, middle, and higher income level groups from 1996 to 2014.

As you can see, in 2014 for the lowest third of Americans, median income dropped below the cost of rent, food, and transportation combined.

Rent for low-income Americans has never been higher because the supply of affordable housing has cratered with the return of the high-end housing market, and Americans are going back to work, but for less pay.  Millennials can't afford starter homes, and Gen X'ers got wiped out in the Great Recession.  They're barely holding on.  Finally, look at how many states are cutting low-income housing programs across the board.

So yeah, the housing market in most places is still completely broken and will remain that way for some time.

Race To The Bottom Of Bigotry

I've already talked about how North Carolina's bigot bill passed in a 12-hour emergency session of the state's General Assembly and was signed into law by GOP Gov. Pat McCrory, and how LGBTQ groups are already taking the new law to court.  But as bad as the NC GOP's law is stripping local equality protections, Mississippi is about to pass an even worse law.

The Republican-dominated Mississippi Senate voted 31-17 on Wednesday night for a religious freedom bill that critics believe is the the most sweeping anti-LGBT legislation in the United States, allowing denial of products and services in a wide range of venues.
Immediately after the vote, a Democrat proposed a motion to reconsider — thereby requiring another vote later this week, which many consider a procedural formality, but could buy critics time to build opposition. 
The bill already passed the House 80-39 in February. However, the Senate’s version was amended slightly, and the House must concur before the legislation can go to the governor. 
Republicans, who hold a majority in both chambers, have argued the bill fixes problems created for people of faith by the Supreme Court’s 2015 marriage equality ruling. 
“It gives protection to those in the state who cannot in a good conscience provide services for a same-sex marriage,” Sen. Jennifer Branning said in an address to her colleagues. 
“I don’t think this bill is discriminatory,” she continued, saying the bill instead protects the rights of Christians from government retribution if they oppose same-sex couples getting married “It takes no rights away from anyone.” 
But Democrats fiercely contend the bill is overly broad, specifically targeting LGBT people for discrimination in numerous settings, thereby inviting backlash that other states, including North Carolina, have faced for passing laws targeting LGBT people.
“This is probably the worst religious freedom bill to date,” Ben Needham, director of Project One America, an LGBT advocacy project in the Deep South run by the Human Rights Campaign, told BuzzFeed News. 
Critics widely argue the bill would explicitly allow the denial of services, goods, wedding products, medical treatment, housing, and employment to LGBT people. 
Specifically, House Bill 1523 would protect individuals, religious organizations, and certain businesses who take actions due to their religious objections to same-sex marriage. It would also protect those who object to transgender people. The bill says they could not face government retribution if they were acting based on “sincerely held” religious beliefs
Further, it covers those who decline for reasons of faith to provide counseling services, foster care, and adoption services — even, apparently, those receiving government funding. Clerks who issue marriage licenses could also recuse themselves.

Again, as bad as NC's law is, removing specific protections at the local level for a statewide law that offers no protections at all for equality, Mississippi takes that and makes active discrimination state law enshrined and bring the power of the state to protect those who actively discriminate against people based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

It's what both Indiana and Georgia tried to do.  We'll see how far Mississippi gets with it.

Historical Details And All That Jazz

Yesterday I referenced Larry Sabato's political prognostications showing that a Clinton-Trump matchup would be a relatively easy win for the Democrats.  Sabato's analysis does have some important caveats that need to be addressed, however.

Every now and then, one of the major parties goes off the track and forfeits an election, as in 1964 and 1972. This time, it is possible that the Republicans are the new Whigs, headed for a crackup, an oft-made comparison that historian Michael Holt recently examined in the Crystal Ball
However, it’s just as possible, maybe probable, that the party would repair itself by 2020. Four years after the Goldwater debacle, the Republicans elected a president. Four years after the McGovern disaster, the Democrats elected a president. Odds are, there will be no need for a bugler playing taps for the GOP this time either. Somehow, though, Republicans will have to find ways to heal the deep rifts in their party, while becoming more mainstream and accommodating to this century’s American electorate. It will take far more than another “autopsy report” like the one in 2013 to accomplish this.

I think that view is strengthened incredibly by a 2018 midterm election that I expect will go just as badly for the Democrats as 2010 and 2014 did. Whatever gains the Dems make in 2016, say, six or seven Senate seats and 20 or so House seats will almost certainly be given right back and then some in 2018.

In the Senate, Democrats Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Joe Manchin (WV), Jon Tester (MT), Bill Nelson (FL), Joe Donnelly (IN), Sherrod Brown (OH), Tim Kaine (VA) and Tammy Baldwin (WI) would all have tough races, and that's before any retirements factor in.

The House, without Trump weighing them down, would probably end up back where it is now, with Republicans having close to or at the largest margin since the Hoover era, if not more.  You thought Dems mailed it in and gave up on Obama in midterms, wait until 2018 and Clinton.

The counter to that is the GOP will somehow have to get their crap together in time to make a run at 2018, and I'm not 100% sure they'll be ready to go by then.  The damage from Trump may be too deep to repair in two years.

But that's just back of the napkin stuff at this point.  A lot could happen, and will, before the 2016 and 2018 elections that will change everything.


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