Monday, January 9, 2012

The Republi-CON 'Classless Merit-Based Society' Myth

UPDATE: "Americans are much more likely than citizens of other nations to believe that they live in a meritocracy. But this self-image is a fantasy: as a report in The Times last week pointed out, America actually stands out as the advanced country in which it matters most who your parents were, the country in which those born on one of society’s lower rungs have the least chance of climbing to the top or even to the middle.

And if you ask why America is more class-bound in practice than the rest of the Western world, a large part of the reason is that our government falls down on the job of creating equal opportunity. . .

So where is the evidence that Mr. Romney or his party actually believes in equal opportunity? Judging by their actions, they seem to prefer a society in which your station in life is largely determined by that of your parents — and in which the children of the very rich get to inherit their estates tax-free. Teddy Roosevelt would not have approved."

Read The New York Times, America’s Unlevel Field.

Republi-CON assertions to the contrary, "Europe’s social democracies now fit the description of 'merit-based opportunity societies' much more than ours does.

The best way to measure a nation’s merit-based status is to look at its intergenerational economic mobility: Do children move up and down the economic ladder based on their own abilities, or does their economic standing simply replicate their parents’? Sadly, as the American middle class has thinned out over recent decades, the idea of America as the land of opportunity has become a farce. As a paper by Julia Isaacs of the Brookings Institution has shown, sons’ earnings approximate those of their fathers about three times more frequently in the United States than they do in Denmark, Norway and Finland, and about 11 / 2 times more frequently than they do in Germany. The European social democracies — where taxes, entitlements and the rate of unionization greatly exceed America’s — are demonstrably more merit-based than the United States."

Read the Washington Post, No longer the land of opportunity.

As a result of the study, "researchers have reached a conclusion that turns conventional wisdom on its head: Americans enjoy less economic mobility than their peers in Canada and much of Western Europe. . .

Despite frequent references to the United States as a classless society, about 62 percent of Americans (male and female) raised in the top fifth of incomes stay in the top two-fifths, according to research by the Economic Mobility Project of the Pew Charitable Trusts. Similarly, 65 percent born in the bottom fifth stay in the bottom two-fifths. . .

While liberals often complain that the United States has unusually large income gaps, many conservatives have argued that the system is fair because mobility is especially high, too: everyone can climb the ladder. Now the evidence suggests that America is not only less equal, but also less mobile."

Read The New York Times, Harder for Americans to Rise From Lower Rungs.

Obama in 2012?

UPDATE III: And what might help Obama's re-election chances? "Why Hillary Clinton is the answer. Seriously." Read The New York Times, Just the Ticket.

UPDATE II: "'IT'S the economy, stupid' may not be either party’s official slogan in this year’s presidential campaign. But it might as well be.

Will Barack Obama win re-election? Well, that depends mainly on the economy.

If the economy surges, he’s likely to win. If it lurches into a recession, he will quite probably lose. And if it simply muddles along at a sluggish pace, more or less as it has been doing for months now, the election could easily be a photo finish.

Those are the latest projections of Ray C. Fair, the Yale economics professor who has been studying the economy’s effect on American elections for decades.

His current calculations, which he shared with me last week, show President Obama with 50.17 percent of the vote, giving him a margin so small that it falls within the 2.5 percent 'standard error' of the equations. . .

These calculations suggest the quandary faced by the opposition party. New measures that stimulate the economy could decide a close election. But if the Republicans are obviously obstructionist, they could take some blame for a weak economy. The equations may not capture this kind of political calculus."

Read The New York Times, Through an Economic Lens, an Election Too Close to Call.

UPDATE: Does this model "overestimates the effect of candidate ideology on election outcomes"? Read the Washington Post, Candidate ideology probably only accounts for 1-2 percent in elections.

For a "killer calculus of the president’s re-election chances," read The New York Times, Is Obama Toast? Handicapping the 2012 Election, which uses a three-factor model "approval ratings in the year before the election, G.D.P. growth during the election year itself and the ideology score of the opposition candidate" to come up with a forecast of next year’s election.

The article uses the book, 'The Party Decides,' by the political scientist Marty Cohen and his colleagues "estimated the ideological positioning of past opposition-party nominees based on a combination of objective indicators like Congressional voting records and surveys of presidential historians . . . [and translated the estimate] to a scale that runs from 0 for an extremely moderate nominee to 100 for an extremely liberal or conservative one, with 50 representing the average."

The article then "estimated extremism scores for this year’s Republican candidates by combining data from the three principal objective methods that are used to estimate ideology, one based on Congressional voting, one based on fund-raising contributions and the other based on voters’ assessments of the candidates’ ideology in polls . . . [and] placed the Republicans onto the scale based on how their figures compared with past candidates. Here’s how they stacked up:

Jon Huntsman 40
Mitt Romney 49
Herman Cain 60
Gary Johnson 63
Rick Santorum 64
Rick Perry 67
Newt Gingrich 68
Michele Bachmann 83
Ron Paul 96"

The article includes an interactive graph, What Are the Chances for Republicans?, that shows the "likelihood of each candidate winning the popular vote based on 2012 G.D.P. growth, President Obama’s current approval rating and the ideology of the candidate."