Sunday, October 19, 2014

LIVs are why PA can't have nice things

LIVs, or low-information-voters, are a colossal problem with our polity.  This trend seems set to continue in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race this fall.

The Times Herald (Norristown):
Many Pennsylvania voters who plan to vote for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Tom Wolf know little about him but are lining up behind the first-time candidate because of their disenchantment with Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, according to Associated Press interviews with voters across the state.
Most said they simply disliked Corbett, criticizing him as an enemy of public schools who lacks compassion. And some objected to his refusal to tax natural gas drilling and the suspicion that it is not being done in an environmentally friendly way. 

This is incredibly frustrating. State education funding under Corbett is at an all time high, and there is effectively a tax on gas drillers, the local impact fee. Wolf is actually running on a tax-and-spend platform, and is anti-gun. Wolf's income tax plan would probably require a constitutional amendment, and his gas severance tax will funnel money away from local communities and towards the black hole of education, but without any apparent plan to address the looming public employee pension crisis.

The gas tax-education funding nexus is especially problematic in that people will be voting to tax somebody other than themselves to the benefit of people who are to a large extent also not themselves. This is a recipe for public policy disaster as there is no obvious pain to the voter for excessive taxation and no obvious pain to the voter when those resources are squandered.

What does this say about supposedly “purple” Pennsylvania when we vote for Obama twice and are set to elect an Obama clone to statewide office even as Democrats stumble nationally?

How dumb are we?


Sunday, April 06, 2014

Taper Unemployment Benefits

Despite being technically out of recession for about five years, there's been increasing noise about extending emergency unemployment benefits. If we go down this route, either now, or as the next recession hits, I'd like to propose an experiment cobbled together from several social science observations.

We know that people on unemployment tend to find work soon after their benefits run out. Not always, but a statistically significant amount of the time. During the period of joblessness, the individual's skills atrophy. We also know that people respond to consistently applied negative feedback, even when that feedback is relatively minor.

 So when we eventually vote to extend emergency unemployment benefits, now or in a future cycle, I suggest a tapering of benefits rather than a sudden cessation. Reduce the payments a little bit each time. Make it budget neutral, so that the same amount of funds get paid out over a longer period of time.