Archive for August 28th, 2014

by lizard

Montana Democrats are elated to see the Billings Gazette issue an editorial smack-down of Ryan Zinke’s brazenly stupid escape from the September 29th debate with Lewis. Zinke is clearly slime and, if elected, exemplifies how truly absurd our politics have become. Good on the Gazette for finally realizing what scum papers like theirs usually stenograph for (I doubt the editorial board’s indignation will last for long).

But much of the criticism from progressive blogs toward Zinke has been directed at the obvious signs of illegal coordination with his super PAC, Special Operations for America (SOFA).

All of that is very important and accurate criticism to toss at Zinke, but there’s a problem, and that problem is liberal dark money duplicity as reported in the Indy this week by Ketti Wilhelm and Dennis Swibold. Here’s an excerpt:

While Montana’s far right has never supported dark money disclosure, organizers of I-168 were surprised to hear objections from liberal groups that typically support disclosure. Peterson says he reached out directly to potential supporters on the left, but couldn’t get any bites.

“Everybody says, ‘Yeah, I don’t like dark money,’ but when it comes time to raise the money to get the signatures … people clam up,” he says.

Sandy Welch, a Republican and an organizer for the “Stop Dark Money” initiative, says her group sought support from across the political spectrum, yet managed to raise only about $20,000—a fraction of what it takes to bring an initiative to the ballot in such a large state.

“There are a lot of people who fund political activities who like dark money,” Welch says. “They don’t want it to go away.”

The organizers weren’t the only ones surprised at the initiative’s failure.

“Where were the organizations?” asks Anthony Johnstone, a professor of constitutional and election law at the University of Montana. “Where were the unions? Where was Common Cause? Where were the parties? Without that kind of support, you’re going to have a hard time qualifying an initiative, even on something so recently salient in Montana.”

These large pools of money will never see the light of day if this duplicity persists. You can’t bash the trough of cash then slink off to guzzle your share.

Money buys influence, plain and simple. The vast majority of people in American don’t factor in to the political equation anymore at all. They even reported on this phenomenon in the Washington Post:

Everyone thinks they know that money is important in American politics. But how important? The Supreme Court’s Gilded Age reasoning in McCutcheon v. FEC has inspired a flurry of commentary regarding the potential corrosive influence of campaign contributions; but that commentary largely ignores the broader question of how economic power shapes American politics and policy. For decades, most political scientists have sidestepped that question, because it has not seemed amenable to rigorous (meaning quantitative) scientific investigation. Qualitative studies of the political role of economic elites have mostly been relegated to the margins of the field. But now, political scientists are belatedly turning more systematic attention to the political impact of wealth, and their findings should reshape how we think about American democracy.

A forthcoming article in Perspectives on Politics by (my former colleague) Martin Gilens and (my sometime collaborator) Benjamin Page marks a notable step in that process. Drawing on the same extensive evidence employed by Gilens in his landmark book “Affluence and Influence,” Gilens and Page analyze 1,779 policy outcomes over a period of more than 20 years. They conclude that “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”

Concentrated wealth supersedes the ballot, so stop expecting the ballot to change the status quo.

by lizard

Matthew Yglesias has a piece at Vox today about The biggest thing that blue states are screwing up:

Robert Gebelhoff and David Leonhardt have a fascinating piece in the Upshot about what they call the growing Blue State Diaspora — the large net flow of Americans out of blue states and into red ones. The two key facts are that between 2000 and 2012, the blue-born population living in red states grew over 20 percent to 11.5 million while the red-born population living in blue states shrank to 7.3 million from 8.4 million.

Gebelhoff and Leonhardt mostly go on to discuss the implications of these flows for partisan politics, but I think what’s most important is the causes. Liberals, in particular, might want to do some reflecting about the fact that Americans are voting with their feet against blue states.

So, what significant factors are behind this diaspora? More from the link:

Conservatives, of course, tend to think they know the answer — Americans are fleeing the high taxes and malgovernment of blue America. The city of Detroit often comes up in this context, and it is certainly true that malgovernment (among other things) has made that city and several others into an increasingly undesirable place to live.

On the other hand, if Detroit were the typical blue American city then houses in the Mission and Park Slope would be cheaper than houses in the suburbs of Atlanta and Dallas. The truth is that while there are pockets of economic pain all around the country, in general Blue America seems like a pretty nice place where wages, incomes, health outcomes, and education levels are generally higher.

So why does everyone leave? Well precisely because houses in Blue America generally aren’t cheap like Detroit. They’re more often expensive like San Francisco. As Dylan Matthews wrote last week, coastal states are generally more expensive.

This doesn’t bode well for those who get defensive when Republicans talk about Liberal elitism. The claim appears to have some merit.

Missoula is a microcosm of this trend within Montana. Most of my friends from the college days had to move away because they couldn’t afford to stay here.

And then there’s the attempt to subsidize affordable housing. Sometimes those attempts are less than successful, like the Burns Street Commons, a project Missoula had to further subsidize with loan forgiveness back in 2012:

A proposal to forgive a city loan to the Burns Street Commons, an affordable housing complex, has not been fully vetted in the public eye and has the potential to give other similar projects a black eye, according to some other supporters of affordable housing.

The North Missoula Community Development Corp. built the Burns Street Commons – 17 units, community space and a grocery store – but the project is struggling with $1.14 million of debt.

To help, the city of Missoula earlier loaned the development corporation $400,000, and on Monday the Missoula City Council will consider forgiving $243,000 of that amount.

Councilman Bob Jaffe, who is recommending the loan forgiveness, said the homes never got enough public support in the first place. So the proposal only brings the subsidy to “within the normal range.”

And according to one resident and supporter of the land trust model, partial loan forgiveness is the best option for affordable home ownership for generations to come. Gabriel Furshong, a resident board member of the North Missoula Community Development Corp., said the benefit of keeping the land permanently in trust has been lost in the conversation.

Maybe it’s just me, but when I think of affordable housing, I think of trying to help the poorest in our community find housing that doesn’t exceed 30% of their income. But for the Burns Street Commons, affordable housing is a condo for $150,000 dollars.

I agree with Yglesias, housing is the biggest thing blue states (and blue cities) are screwing up. If liberals want to actually help the demographics they pander to and take for granted, they might want to reflect on this failure.

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