GOP Economics - Jobs and Government Spending

August 31, 2012
Posted by Jay Livingston

A post inspired by the speeches at the Republican convention last night.

America is the greatest country on earth. State and local government budget reductions have meant the layoff of more than 700,000 people who used to work in the public sector. You didn’t hear much about that at the convention.

I love America.  Of course, we already have too much government, and public sector jobs  – teachers, cops, firefighters, and many others – those are government jobs, so we’re better off without them.

God loves America.  The idea that government spending affects employment is one of those discredited Keynsian ideas that just gets in the way of tax cuts. 

I really, really, really love America. I thought I had finally understood the conservative economic idea that government spending does not create jobs and that cutting government spending in a recession does not eliminate jobs or delay job creation.

I believe in America. But then Mitt Romney said this to me last night.  “His trillion-dollar cuts to our military will eliminate hundreds of thousands of jobs.”*

“His” referred to the President of the United States, who apparently does not think that America is the greatest country on earth, does not believe in America, and does not love America.

Oh, and did I forget to mention - America is the greatest country in the world.

* UPDATE, Sept. 10:  I’ve just learned that years ago, Barney Frank coined a term for people who, like Romney, claim that government spending weakens the economy, except for military spending, which creates jobs: “weaponized Keynesians.”  As Rep. Frank put it, they believe
that the government does not create jobs when it funds the building of bridges or important research or retrains workers, but when it builds airplanes that are never going to be used in combat, that is of course economic salvation.

An Old Stand-by

August 30, 2012
Posted by Jay Livingston

In yesterday’s post about Ann Romney’s speech, I left out something important.  I had remembered a 1978 sociology article, but there was something else in the speech, something familiar that I couldn’t quite bring to the surface.  Then I read Amanda Marcotte’s Slate article, “Ann Romney Acknowledges, Embraces Sexism.”  Says Marcotte, Ann Romney
offered up a . . . list of the very injustices feminists have worked, with some success, to eliminate. . . .There Ann Romney was, acknowledging that even conservative women know it to be true: Women work harder for less pay and less respect. She described sexism in fairly blunt terms.
But while Mrs. Romney aptly described the sexist inequality,
she framed it not as a problem to be fixed but a trial that women have to endure. . . . Instead of demanding equality, she encouraged her female audience instead to take their payment in martyrdom.
Then I remembered.  Not a 1978 article but a 1968 hit song. 

Yes, just as Mrs. Romney says, sometimes it’s hard to be a woman. 

I blogged this song several years ago , making essentially the same point that Marcotte is making.  On the surface, the woman is offering support for the status quo.  But the text is actually a critique of the system.  (My post, including the full lyric, is here,)

The contradiction is clearer if we imagine a Saudi version
Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman,
Sharing your man with three co-wives,
And knowin’ that you ladies
Get lashed if you drive the Mercedes
And wearin’ clothes that only show your eyes.
Stand by your man, . . .
When I’ve mentioned “Stand by Your Man” to students, I get only blank stares.  But it might be big this week at the False Consciousness karaoke bar in Tampa. 

Ordinary People

August 29, 2012
Posted by Jay Livingston

Ann Romney’s speech last night – the Andy Borowitz headline had it about right
Romney Hailed as Regular Guy by Woman with Horse in Olympics 
Mrs. Romney has taken on the task of persuading people that, regardless of F. Scott Fitzgerald, the rich really are just like you and me.

The speech reminded me of “Jackie!” the article by Carol Lopate that first appeared  in 1978,* when magazines were running Jackie O cover stories about every two or three minutes.  Newsweeklies like Time and Newsweek, middle-class magazines like The Ladies’ Home Journal, and fan mags like Photoplay – each had a Jackie whose concerns resembled those of their audience.  The middle-class Jackie was an active mom who took her children to school, looked for a new job and new relationships.

(Apologies for the camera angle. This is what I could find on e-bay.

The working-class Jackie was more passive; she coped with trouble – heartbreak, illness, overpowering emotions, and other things she could not control.

Ann Romney’s speech used the same strategy to deliver the same message:  Pay no attention to the wealth. I’m just like you. 

So she emphasized ascribed roles common to all women.
We're the mothers, we're the wives, we're the grandmothers, we're the big sisters, we're the little sisters, we're the daughters.
From her opening line, she played up women’s socio-emotional roles:
I want to talk to you from my heart about our hearts.
 and on through the  “you know” section.
You know what those late night phone calls with an elderly parent are like . . . You know the fastest route to the local emergency room.
“You know” here is a way of saying “We know – we women.”  Ann knows that you know these things because good middle-class Ladies’ Home Journal mom/daughter/sister that she is, she’s been there too. She’s just like you. 

There’s also a Photoplay aspect to the Ann Romney that spoke last night.  She tells us she  was powerless over love. It overwhelmed reason.
There were many reasons to delay marriage, and you know? We just didn't care.
She even takes the powerless, fatalistic view that women have no control over their own fertility,
Then our first son came along.
as though the stork had delivered a surprise package.

But the Protestant Ethic (hard work plus frugality) and love would conquer all.
We got married and moved into a basement apartment. We walked to class together, shared the housekeeping, and ate a lot of pasta and tuna fish. Our desk was a door propped up on sawhorses. Our dining room table was a fold-down ironing board in the kitchen. Those were very special days.
This struggling-students section of the speech is a bit disingenuous. In fact, the Romneys paid for the pasta by selling stock given to Mitt by his family – stock whose value at the time was $60,000, about $375,000 in today’s dollars. 

It seemed that Mrs. Romney did a credible job in this speech, though I’ve seen no data on how the public reacted.  Nor is it clear that the magazines will co-operate in the effort to sell the Romneys as “just plain folks.”  Even if they do, Mrs. Romney may have to wait.  The media did not work this metamorphosis of Jackie until years after she had left the White House.


* Also in Hearth and Home, edited by Gaye Tuchman, Arlene Kaplan Daniels, and James Benet.  I don’t have the book with me here down the shore, and I can’t find the essay on the Internet.  My recall of the content of the article may be severely flawed.

Where to Find the Racists

August 27, 2012
Posted by Jay Livingston
Cross-posted at Sociological Images

About two weeks ago, Chris Hayes said, “It is undeniably the case that racist Americans are almost entirely in one political coalition and not the other.”

The case, it turns out, is very deniable.  Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution  denied it with data from the 2002 and 2008 GSS.  He looked at three questions
  • Favor laws against interracial marriage
  • Would vote for a Black for president
  • Blacks should not be pushy
and concludes
It is undeniable that some Americans are racist but racists split about evenly across the parties.
(Tabarrok's post, with tables, is here.)

Hayes then tweeted a retraction.

End of story?

To begin with, the sample sizes Tabarrok uses are small.  In the 2002 GSS, only 87 respondents went on record against interracial marriage, and in 2008, only 80 said they wouldn’t vote for a Black for president.  (All the tables and graphs presented here and in Tabarrok’s post are based on Whites only.)

Only about 5% of the sample takes the racist response to these items.  But I would run the table differently.  Instead of asking what percent of each party is racist, I would ask where do those few racists go. 

The differences are small, but the edge goes to the Republicans.

Second, there is a difference between party identification and political ideology.  If you ask not about party but about political views, the differences become sharper.

The GSS has other questions that might stand as a proxy for racism.  For example
On the average (negroes/blacks/African-Americans) have worse jobs, income, and housing than white people. Do you think these differences are:
       Because most (negroes/blacks/African-Americans) just don't have the motivation or willpower to pull themselves up out of poverty?

Again, the differences are small, with White Republicans slightly more likely (50% vs. 45%) to say Blacks’ economic problems are caused by lack of motivation and will power.  And again, the differences are larger when the independent variable is political ideology rather than party identification.

In that same GSS question about the cause of Black economic troubles, another choice is
Do you think these differences are:
    Mainly due to discrimination?

The differences for both Party ID and Political views are clear.  White Democrats and liberals are much more likely to see discrimination as a major cause.

But is this racist?  Not necessarily.  It might well be part of a general view of the causes of human behavior, one that emphasizes personal factors (ability, motivation, etc.) and downplays structural forces the individual has little power over (discrimination).   Conservatives might use that same  explanation for unemployment and low income among Whites as well.  But I do not know of any GSS questions about the causes of White economic problems.  (Perhaps these exist, but I am not a GSS expert.)

We do know that racists (those who say they would not vote for a Black president) are more likely to take the conservative position on the “Willpower” explanation (76% vs. 50%) and on the Discrimination explanation (78% vs. 64%) compared with those who say yes, they would vote for a Black president.  But that does not mean that the other conservatives who agree with them and who deny that racial discrimination affects the lives of Black people are also racists. People can come to the same position from different places.  But people can also hide their racism behind seemingly non-racial issues.  In the 1960s ,70s, and 80s, many observers thought that the Republicans were using first school busing and then crime as a proxy for race, as Republican strategist Lee Atwater famously explained.  And some observers today (Tom Edsall, for example) argue that the Republicans are using welfare in the same way this time around.

Other bloggers have written about the questions Hayes raised – Tabarrok has links to three of these.  The most interesting I’ve come across is Will Wilkinson’s (here).  His original views apparently were individual-centered and much in line with Margaret Thatcher’s dictum that “there is no such thing as society.”  But that was “when I was a Rand-toting libertarian lad.”

He has now come to see that individuals, with their ideas and attitudes and “non-coercive” behavior, can add up to something greater than the sum of its parts, i.e, society.  But he got to this idea by walking down the left fork of the libertarian road – the road not to serfdom but to sociology.

Eventually I realised that actions that are individually non-coercive can add up to stable patterns of behaviour that are systematically or structurally coercive, depriving some individuals of their rightful liberty. In fact, rights-violating structures or patterns of behaviour are excellent examples of Hayekian spontaneous orders—of phenomena that are the product of human action, but not of human design.