The Economy And The Parties

Talk about your provocative headlines! The New York Times opinion page recently ran a column titled: “The Economy Does Much Better Under Democrats. Why?”

The column began with an acknowledgement  of the limited control presidents exert over the economy. After all, presidents are at the mercy of numerous global and other realities, as the pandemic is currently illustrating.  Furthermore, economic performance is determined by literally millions of decisions made every day by businesses and consumers, many if not most of which have little relation to government policy.

So why is there an undeniably “stark pattern” showing that the economy has grown significantly faster under Democratic presidents than Republican ones?

It’s true about almost any major indicator: gross domestic product, employment, incomes, productivity, even stock prices. It’s true if you examine only the precise period when a president is in office, or instead assume that a president’s policies affect the economy only after a lag and don’t start his economic clock until months after he takes office. The gap “holds almost regardless of how you define success,” two economics professors at Princeton, Alan Blinder and Mark Watson, write. They describe it as “startlingly large.”

Since 1933, the economy has grown at an annual average rate of 4.6 percent under Democratic presidents and 2.4 percent under Republicans, according to a Times analysis. In more concrete terms: The average income of Americans would be more than double its current level if the economy had somehow grown at the Democratic rate for all of the past nine decades. If anything, that period (which is based on data availability) is too kind to Republicans, because it excludes the portion of the Great Depression that happened on Herbert Hoover’s watch.

If the disparate results are too clear and too large to dismiss, the reasons are far less obvious. (As the King in “The King and I” liked to say, “It’s a puzzlement.”)

The authors of the study considered and discarded several possibilities. They threw out  Congressional control, because the pattern held regardless of which party was running Congress;  deficit spending also couldn’t explain the gap, because–contrary to GOP rhetoric–during the past 40 years, Republican presidents have run up larger deficits than Democrats.

If Congressional partnerships and deficit spending couldn’t account for the differences, what might? The authors concluded that the difference could be explained by the willingness of Democrats–but not Republicans–to respect  that pesky thing we call evidence.

As they note, Democrats have been far more willing to consider the lessons of economic history–to see which policies have been shown to actually strengthen the economy, and to replicate those approaches. Republicans, on the other hand, have “clung to theories that they want to believe — like the supposedly magical power of tax cuts and deregulation.”

In other words, Democrats have been pragmatists; Republicans have been ideologues.

As the authors note, since 1980, Republican economic policy has boiled down to a single measure: large tax cuts, tilted heavily toward the rich. That may work in countries with very high tax rates, but the United States has had very low tax rates for decades.

It may be that Republicans actually believe in their own prescription, despite the repeated failure of tax cuts to provide the promised economic stimulus and/or job creation. Or it may be–as cynics suggest–that the parties are simply playing to their respective bases of support– responding to the interest groups that support and finance them.  Democratic-leaning groups (like labor unions and civil-rights organizations) favor policies aimed at achieving broad-based economic growth; Republicans are pandering to wealthier supporters (those we used to call “country club Republicans), who favor policies that will shift income in their direction.

It will be interesting to see whether Republican ideology shifts as the  GOP becomes increasingly the party of whites without wealth or a college education–and as significant numbers of those suburban “country club” Republicans desert a GOP that is firmly in thrall to bigots and crazy people.


  1. Sheila – Assuming your last paragraph wasn’t written in jest, let’s have LBJ explain why the Republicans have no need to change: “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”

  2. The two-sentence paragraph near the end, “that may work…” has a flaw. For the first half of the period discussed (since the Depression), the US had fairly high tax rates, yet the pattern existed even then. Whatever the reason for the pattern, the religious belief in tax cuts for the wealthy has to be a strong contender.

  3. Spot on once again, Ms. Kennedy. In light of this, my question to Democratic leadership is (one more time): Why are you so inept at using this data to justify and sell your policies to the middle of the electorate and to hammer your opponents into the ground? Why, in other words, did so many voters who can’t stand Trump vote for him anyway or stay home from the polls, rather than trust Democratic leadership with fiscal (taxing and spending) and economic policy? (Yes, I know many rational people who did this.) Could it be because their messaging sucks eggs and their messengers (NP, CS, AS, AOC, etc.) can’t connect authentically with center-Americans nor shake off the stink from all the garbage heaped on them by the Right ((let alone present themselves as likeable human beings on camera)? Get it together, Dems, and fast!

  4. Sounds like an interesting study, but “evidence” as a reason sounds like a stretch.

    When analyzing an option contract on an underlying stock, there is a rather sophisticated mathematical equation to evaluate what should happen to the stock price. Despite the advanced formula, there was always an X factor.

    We can measure risk and many other variables, but we cannot measure things like emotions or feelings – the unmeasurable were simply given an X.

    For instance, some of my remaining conservative friends have pointed out the pace of Executive Orders written by Biden already in his first few weeks. He’s on target to break FDR’s record. Like FDR, Biden has followed one of the worst POTUS’s ever.

    Biden responded when asked about all his EOs, “I’m not making new laws, I’m undoing bad policies.”

    Can you name a decent Republican POTUS since FDR?

    I did an internet search and the consensus was Eisenhower. Period.

    As for who funds the GOP vs DNC, let’s be real. Both are captured by the oligarchy and have been for a very long time. Einstein pointed out this FACT, FACT, FACT, FACT in 1949. Einstein confirmed what Marx predicted.

    Harry Truman (a Democrat) didn’t even invite the pacifist Jew, Albert Einstein, to the White House to discuss his fact-based analysis on the USA or the atomic bomb. “Them’s the facts!” 😉

    We do like facts…

  5. The bedrock of QOP ideology is “Capital Is King”, which is a specific way of saying “Wealth Is King”.  It’s the basis for our low individual tax rates, and even lower tax rates on corporations, dividends, capital gains, carried interest, and estates. And nothing could be more antithetical to the interests of whites w/o wealth or marketable skills. But, so far, most of these people have been willing to forego their economic and social interests in exchange for the opportunity to “own the libtards”, a catch-all phrase that generally reflects the extreme rejection of all things progressive, but especially as they relate to issues of race and gender. It worked VERY well for the Previous Occupant.

    Senator Romney just made news by announcing that he supports some kind of universal basic income for parents of children. This is not a new concept. It has been supported by libertarians and some conservative think tanks for decades. It is also embraced by some on the left such as Andrew Yang (Libertarianism is an odd duck. It has a right and left but defies the normal definitions of those labels. I generally consider myself to be a bleeding-heart libertarian and used to be a Blue Dog Democrat).

    If the popularity of the Covid pandemic stimulus payments are any indication, a version of UBI would be widely embraced by most Americans….as long as it does not exclude them to the advantage of “others”. That’s the central point of UBI – there is no complicated application process involved to obtain it. If you meet certain objective qualifications you just get it. As a result, there is no need for a bloated bureaucracy in Washington and 50 state capitals, and 3,000+ county seats to administer complex and arcane administrative processes. The individual is given the money and expected to make good choices for themselves and their families. And if they don’t?

    Indiana has pursued a variant of a UBI program it calls  “Indiana Choice Scholarships”, essentially a voucher issued by the state which parents of K-12 children can use to pay tuition to any school that agrees to admit their child for up to 90% of the per-student funding the state provides to the local public school district in which the child’s parents live. New legislation is pending in the General Assembly to make ICS’s available to more people and to make them more valuable to higher income-earners (as high as $145,000 annual income).

    The end goal is universal choice scholarships – every parent of a Hoosier child will get an education voucher for that child and will then spend the voucher in a marketplace of schools and non-school educational offerings. Traditional public school administrators, teacher unions and Democrats are dead-set against vouchers. But they are wildly popular among parents who use them. I could live with a universal voucher system but not one that tramples on transparency, equality and accountability. The current program is not a disaster waiting to happen – it’s a disaster happening before our eyes.

    So, progressives and traditional Dems had better keep a close eye on UBI as a policy agenda. If the QOP is given the upper hand in advancing it nationally it could have an enormously disruptive impact on the political landscape. This because it would give Republican’s a way out of their policy dead-end and fictional utopia and enable them to embrace both a more fair economic playing field and also remain tethered to the tenet that individual rights and choices always trump government authority and rules. 

    Sorry for the use of that unfortunate word. 

  6. If Republicans harp on “fiscal responsibility” and claim they want to cut the debt, why do they always end up enlarging the debt? Simple. “Fiscal responsibility” is code language for cutting social services, esp. welfare and Medicaid, and is integral to their racist appeal. They eagerly give immense amounts of welfare to the plutocrats in the war industries and couldn’t care less about real fiscal responsibility.

  7. As long as the plutocratic Republican establishment can keep convincing the “whites without wealth or a college education” that any policies that don’t further enrich the 1% (or that broaden access to education and health care, expand voting rights and equality under the law, or address climate change, etc.) are paving the road to socialist hell, they’ll keep electing Republicans. And they’ll keep waiting for The Great Trickle, like a cargo cult waiting for the return of John Frum.

    The last 2 Republican administrations have left smoking craters where the economy and country used to be. Why would we let any of them near public office ever again?

  8. “So why is there an undeniably “stark pattern” showing that the economy has grown significantly faster under Democratic presidents than Republican ones?”

    When my father died in 1998 he left me an inheritance which allowed me to pay off my home and invest, using his Financial Adviser, in two mutual funds. Keep in mind this was during the Clinton administration, during the last 18 months my mutual funds had increased by $2,000. One of them I could not cash out for 7 years but it paid a nice monthly dividend as well as the earnings added to the principal. During the first 18 months of George W. they lost almost $6,000, the monthly dividend dropped rapidly then was gone and I was charged a fee from the principal monthly. I never recouped more than half of my losses plus the earned interest on my savings account dropped to less than 1% (actually pennies); has not returned to much more since. What was left of the mutual funds I put into small CDs, low interest but steady and no losses.

    In this Republican state, my Public Employee Retirement Fund (PERF) received it’s last COLA in 2009; Republicans here are shorting Republican and Democratic former employees retirement throughout the state including public employees, teachers, judges, police officers, firefighters, excise, gaming and conservation offices, prosecutors and legislators. And the Indiana Public Retirement System (INPRS) fights the legislature yearly to hang onto the retirement.

  9. I think Don Lemon described this current crop as ” Q-Trump-licans, LOL!

    And, it wouldn’t surprise me that this current Q designation is controlled by a foreign entity, because they recognize they can’t defeat their antagonist by force, so, as history describes, let them demolish themselves from the inside!

    Richardallen; I remember reading that quote years ago, way before Trump, on another blog based in California.

    I think we were discussing how certain politicians would bamboozle folks with so much false narrative, that they lose track of what’s really happening. Then, the con artist doesn’t have to rob the bank so to speak by coming to the front door, they just clean everything out through the back door. No one ever sees them coming.

    As ML says, the Q-OP definitely has an agenda, it’s power without representation! That’s fascist socialism all the way.

    Bob Menendez said is past October; “You have twisted and distorted every rule and broken every norm to get your way just because you currently have the power to do so. That doesn’t make it right! “You are poisoning the well of the Senate and flooding our nation with bad blood.”

    This has not been solved by the election of Joe Biden, because it’s not about the will of the people, it’s about Craven power! And, coming power struggle and clash is going to be nothing short of spectacular. And, there are no guarantees on the amount of blood that will be spilled, I have a hunch that is going to be much worse, way worse than the capital insurrection.

    Power lust; Noun
    A psychopathological condition characterized by delusional fantasies of wealth, power, or omnipotence
    autocracy, despotism, megalomania, overbearingness, totalitarianism, tyranny, conceit, self-importance, egotism, grandiosity, conceitedness, grandioseness, obsessionalism, folie de grandeur, delusion of grandeur, delusions of grandeur, folies de grandeur, so I’m sure you get the picture!

    This sort of thing has to be nipped in the bud, aborted at the start. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened and it’s been allowed to feed and grow! I think I mentioned before, Dr. Frankenstein built his monster for self glorification, to be a slave, and then, waited too long to pull the plug on his monster and it destroyed him and others.

    The Q-OP has embraced their own monster, whatever its origination, and they nurtured it for power lust! Now, it’s probably going to destroy not only them, but take many others with them.

    It never was, never has been, and never will be about bettering the lives of the working man under their purview. They’ve just unleashed a virus to dismantle a nation for the sake of wealth and power for the very few.

    And for those who love Aristotle, you can see this is embraced by the Q OP;

    “Where then there is such a difference as that between soul and body, or between men and animals (as in the case of those whose business is to use their body, and who can do nothing better), the lower sort are by nature slaves, and it is better for them as for all inferiors that they should be under the rule of a master. For he who can be, and therefore is, another’s and he who participates in rational principle enough to apprehend, but not to have, such a principle, is a slave by nature. Whereas the lower animals cannot even apprehend a principle; they obey their instincts. And indeed the use made of slaves and of tame animals is not very different; for both with their bodies minister to the needs of life. Nature would like to distinguish between the bodies of freemen and slaves, making the one strong for servile labor, the other upright, and although useless for such services, useful for political life in the arts both of war and peace. But the opposite often happens—that some have the souls and others have the bodies of free men. And doubtless if men differed from one another in the mere forms of their bodies as much as the statues of the gods do from men, all would acknowledge that the inferior class should be slaves of the superior. It is clear, then, that some men are by nature free, and others slaves, and that for these latter slavery is both expedient and right” 330 BCE!

  10. Jan Hise, I am not so sure the Dem messaging is completely flawed so much as the as the bigoted and now fascist right wing has been so much better inciting fear among voters, coupled with the whole dis-information environment of cable news, talk radio and now the social media megaphone, has made it very difficult to get any other message out. In short any positive messages get drowned in the flood of dis-information and fear mongering.

    Todd E, you should read the entire opinion piece. It does not focus on just the stock market. It looks at several measures of economic growth, GDP, growth rate of non-farm jobs, and even wage growth rate, plus the stock market. As we know from the current situation, the stock market IS NOT the economy.

    I think the final conclusion was that pragmatic solutions win over idealistic solutions; a Keynesian model of economics over what you want to believe is real. “Democrats have been more willing to heed economic and historical lessons about what policies actually strengthen the economy, while Republicans have often clung to theories that they want to believe — like the supposedly magical power of tax cuts and deregulation. Democrats, in short, have been more pragmatic.“

    I had seen this same topic mentioned in memes about a year ago. This was the first time I had seen how credible and “statistically significant” the differences were. I shared a significant portion of the text from the opinion piece, along with the link, on my Facebook page a few days ago. Maybe because is was more than 7 words long, or needed a certain amount of reading comprehension, or it could be perceived as politically biased, I think I only got 3 responses out of 100 “friends”. Reality can be boring. I am sure I could have gotten a much bigger reaction if the data pointed to the fact that one side was pedophile baby eaters.

  11. Remove the word “economy” and replace it with “climate change” and the pattern holds. When you push what you want to be true vs. what is true, a penalty will all ways follows.

  12. It’s all about marketing. For 40 years, the party of Q has been using focus groups to find short phrases that work. They repeat them over and over and most of the general population swallows it hook, line, and sinker. If that sounds simplistic, it is, but good governance is hard and we always look for the easy answer.

  13. Republicans started to go astray when their egos got hooked on the entertainment media theme that business is harder to run than the government is which they explained as why all of the smart people are running businesses and the leftovers flock to government. The truth is that the larger any institution is the harder it is to manage which requires the most capable people because those who do it can’t see the many trees in expansive forests. Inadequately capable top management launches things that don’t work well by the time the order gets to the rubber meeting the road. It happens in businesses, the military, religions, and governments. The media entertainers concluded from this that the government is too large and that required Brexit and lower taxes despite expenses. There was however crickets about Apple and Microsoft and Amazon and the Catholic Church and the US military being too large.

    There is no measure of the right size of government except how well the products of government, which support both businesses and individuals, serve their purpose. If it is determined that some of the products are underserving the current need the answer is to increase investment (think Democrats) not reduce expenses (think Republicans) and adjust taxes to cover costs (think deficit). The resultant economic growth will eventually cover the debt.

  14. Nelson DeMille, in his novel ‘The Gate House’, notes that many wealthy families, who own the great mansions of northern Long Island, have had wealth in their families for so long, like centuries, that they no longer recall how that wealth was originally created.

    That observation seemed to me to be wrong, or at least much exaggerated…and then I realized that at least 80% of all Americans — even those who watch their parents grow rich — do not know how wealth is actually created.

    A couple of years ago, I asked a 94-year-old friend, who owns ranches, mansions, jets, banks, and fleets of fishing vessels all over the world, how he made all that money. “In real estate,” he answered.

    “But how did you make the money to invest in real estate?”

    He looked at me as if I were the classroom dunce, “In real estate, I told you. I saved my money.”

    “But, Bob, how did you make it in the first place?”

    “Didn’t make it; I saved it.” He looked around the room, as if hoping to find someone else to talk to who had the sense God gave a goose. “See, when money comes in, you put a percentage of it away and you never touch it, not even in an emergency. That way, when a deal comes along, you’ve got the cash to make the deal. I don’t expect you liberals to understand that.”

    He’s right. I don’t understand.

    I also don’t know to this day, having known Bob for twenty years, how he made his initial capital: hod carrier, blacksmith, wheelwright, plumber, carpenter, messenger, sales, butcher, baker, candlestick maker.

    I do know, however, that Bob knows nothing about the part the rest of us play in making such wealth; he’s heard of it, but he denies it.

    It takes at least two villages — one village to provide all the infrastructure, the system, the science, the thinkers, the fixers, the jobs, the labor, the safety net; and it takes the equivalent of another village to simply sacrifice itself entirely.

    Bob today resides in a nursing home in Carmel, gets around gleefully in a wheelchair, and wears his red MAGA hat all day long. The wealth he enjoys now is very personal, internal, and this time he knows where it comes from — the outrage liberals feel at his riffs of insensitive opinion.

  15. As noted in the article, Republicans have been a one-trick pony when it comes to economic policy. In opposition to the New Deal, they spent decades in the desert developing an antidote, eventually force-feeding Supply-Side Economics into our policy as much because their intelligentsia (Von Mises and Hayek even Ayn Rand) were groomed in Europe hating Fascist and Communist autocracies. Escaping to America, they spent their writing careers warning of a European contagion that might one day infect American capitalism if the New Deal was allowed to continue.

    Their problem with the New Deal was that it kind of worked. When our economy was wounded and needed Keynesian solutions, unbowed, these foreign economists fabricated a concept called Supply-Side as an antidote, and desperate Republican pols seeing no alternative bought into it, funded it, and were forced to implement it time after time creating short-term stimulus with tax cuts and long-term debt.

    The problem is Keynesian style government intervention in the economy at certain times works well, but if Republicans ever allow Democrats to pursue that approach again—and it succeeds as it should—their base will come to realize that for the past fifty years, the entire Republican Economic Policy has been a political fabrication, a hope, and a prayer and that they have been lied to.

  16. Perhaps it’s not all about “policy,” whatever that may be in this world of disinformation and pretense. As a lifelong Democrat I would like to believe that Democrats have superior positions in allocating the fruits of our economy more broadly than Republicans, and we do, but also in the mix is the historical fact in re where we start from. Thus Hoover, Bush and Trump with their tax cuts and laissez faire “policies” have left us in various states of depression and recession so that when we clean it up with broader based “policies” our relative reforms may look better than they are and may be reforms whose appearances are more about accounting than structural changes.

    Of course any “reform” that leads to recovery from downturns is welcome, but we haven’t had enduring structural reforms since FDR’s New Deal, when government finally decided to intervene in taking on what private enterprise was too greedy, broke, and disinclined to handle. The New Deal ran through both Democratic and Republican administrations until its remnants were destroyed by Reagan when, finally, wage increases and the Dow stopped growing in tandem. Tax cuts and other IRC redefinitions which lowered corporate taxes were the culprits that have plagued us ever since.

    With Biden’s talk of bullet trains, an end to wage inequality and other such structural as well as accounting (read corporate tax increases) reforms, could an FDR-inspired era be in the works? I hope so.

  17. If there is a fundamental flaw – one that perfectly epitomizes the myriad other false assumptions – in the QOP approach to managing an economy, it is the trickle down theory. J.K. Galbraith explained this failing perfectly when he pointed out that, “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.” Southern preachers supported slavery for that reason. The same philosophy underpinned the Gilded Age. It has been a beacon for the QOP for 75 years as they deconstructed FDR’s efforts to make society more equitable and thus more prosperous. Today it is as deeply embraced by QOP crazies as love of guns and their abiding ability to hold conversations with the creator of the universe, even though he often gives them conflicting advice. Curiously, the QOP approach usually has a lot more to do with prosperity resulting from exclusion than from the “big tent” propaganda they awkwardly tout today. Ever since Ayn Rand wrote about this intellectual garbage, she has been the political philosopher of choice for the QOP.

    Yet Dems remain no better than average in explaining to the American people that their more pragmatic approach to running a $20 trillion economy is based on scientific analyses of how things really work. Now that science has spent the last four years in the school of hard knocks, perhaps it can begin to recover by helping to articulate how educated, experienced people bent on solving problems succeed more often than those who promote infallible ideologies and winning through intimidation. God knows Trump and Marjorie Taylor Greene and Kevin McCarthy have given us an opportunity we ignore at the nation’s peril.

  18. As a “big S” skeptic – correlation doesn’t prove causation. This is a very complex topic to have a simple answer. Let’s not fall into that far-right/far-left trap of silver causes, silver bullets.

  19. “The column began with an acknowledgement of the limited control presidents exert over the economy. ”

    Then the column goes on to completely ignore that disclaimer to talk about how the economy has grown under Democratic and Republican Presidents. What?

    Presidents are at best bit players in affecting the economy and most of those limited effects are long-term, not short. Yet the media continues to perpetuate the myth that Presidents of the United States can go into some room in the White House, and flip a series of switches to make the economy run well. As far as civics education goes, I’d like some of it to go toward debunking the notion that the President runs the American economy.

    If we’re going to go down this road, why not compare who is in control of Congress to how well the economy is doing. When it comes to fiscal and tax policy, Congress has more say than the President.

  20. those mentioned tax cutts are the padding for the rich to return a generous campaign buck,and support a think tank mentallity. its obvious the above opinion is real, as far as numbers. whereas, i see the grownth of profits in everyday needs to be staggering. went to micky Ds yesterday,and had a chicken combo meal, small and small,, $9.14 with tax.. seems the whole market is a trivial mess to most people in congress..when the profits of ones work doesnt pan out to investors,(we know 88% of domestic stock,NYSE, is now owned by the bezos crowd) thier demands from is again, dig deep buddy,were not through..
    im trying to find a monitarty measurement to the numbers on wall street, @ the present number of 30K. anyone have one on one point in relation to 30K?i dont care who owns what,i need a number that is in contrast to the the profits gained on stocks,against the numbers. if we had a actual monitary factor,to the percentage of wealth of the whole,of the stock market.then we could have a talk about where the money goes,and to who..demo or republican,campaigns need a new rules enforcement that doesnt allow for any outside BS. pacs and trump like rips for money should be eliminated entirely.
    best wishes..

  21. I do not agree that presidents have little to do with fiscal policy, not so long as they have the veto pen at the ready and a bully pulpit from which to inflame the masses. For instance, it was Trump who pushed Ryan and a lame duck Republican Congress to give the rich (including Trump and Ryan) a massive tax cut in December, 2017, just a month before Democrats took over the House and would have had none of such immense additions to our long term deficit. Presidents may not have a vote on the House Ways and Means Committee but with his/her veto pen he has the ultimate vote, one that requires a 2/3s majority to overturn, and we have learned long ago that, contrary to propaganda outlets, neither tax increases nor decreases have any substantial effects on the economy.

  22. I have to accept Lester’s skepticism and even Paul’s correct observation that the President doesn’t have total control of the economy.

    Given that, the President sets the tone and vision (as well as having the veto).

    Here, there are (mostly) stark differences. Deficits didn’t correlate, but Republicans have created deficits by cutting taxes for the rich, while Democrats have created deficits by spending for the entire nation, aimed somewhere lower on the economic scale. This is a generalization, and like all generalizations, it needs to be taken with a grain of salt, but at its core, it is true.

    Thank you, Terry, for reminding us of the Galbraith quote. I love it.

    Let me make a further analogy. Republicans believe in misting the leaves; Democrats believe in tending to the soil. A plant, or the economy, grows from the roots. I always liked Thornton Wilder’s line from “The Matchmaker” – “Money is like manure; it’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around encouraging young things to grow.”

    That is an economic truth.

    Democrats have been bad at understanding one basic thing, and I think (wishfully?) that they have finally figured it out. Sure, people say they want “bipartisan” government, but first, they want government that works for them. Today’s Democrats don’t seem ready to compromise for the illusion of bipartisanship. Again, bad marketing – they should say “We are in a ship with ten holes leaking water. You can’t only patch five because you gold plated the captain’s quarters last month. That isn’t an acceptable compromise.”

    However, if they provide results, the marketing weakness won’t matter.

    As for the QOP (I like that), Richardallen pointed out the basic problem, and you never are going to convince “crazy”, so you shouldn’t waste your breath.

    One last note – Patrick – I never was into “Libertarian” philosophy because I don’t believe in the magic of the marketplace, nor any other kind of magic, but I do find common cause on some issues. Universal income may be a good concept. I haven’t heard enough of the pros and cons yet, but I do think we need a 21st Century set of “next steps” like Social Security and Medicare were in the 20th Century.

    However, school vouchers are a different issue. They are greatly popular with people who want to shield they children from other ideas and keep them in religious schools. They are popular with parents who never wanted to send their children to public schools in the first place. They hurt the people who don’t have the time and/or access to enroll their children in adequate private schools.

    But all of this missed the point. If education were all a “personal choice”, then there would be no public schools because there would be no need. Public education is a public good for two main reasons. First, an educated populace would aid the economic well-being of the country (even dish washers should know how to read – and count their pay) – and if civics and rational thought were part of the curriculum, citizen voters would make more informed choices.

    The second reason is the one mostly overlooked. E pluribus unam – School socialize citizens. They enable us to view ourselves as part of one nation, with a common culture and history. Throughout our history, immigrants came here and, however imperfectly, their children grew up educated to be “Americans”. We can improve how we do this, but starving public education will not replace this function. If we are serious are better education, we should spend more money on public education, with better facilities and highly paid, highly trained teachers, like in Finland.

  23. Len Farber@3:12–My most recent IBJ column is precisely on the point of your last paragraph. I am reproducing it here:

    Teaching the Wrong Lessons

    The Indiana legislature is back in session, and as usual, there are multiple reasons for concern.

    For example, there’s House Bill 1005. It proposes to expand taxpayer funding for private education by more than $100 million dollars next year. Indiana already has one of the nation’s largest voucher programs, which was sold to the public on the theory that private schools would “rescue” students from failing public schools, and improve students’ academic performance.

    It’s bad enough that so many legislators—and parents—consider education to be just another consumer good—providing children with skills needed for participation in the marketplace. But even if that were the case, even if transmitting marketable skills was the sole mission of the schools, study after study has demonstrated that the promised improvement has not materialized—that voucher programs have consistently failed to improve academic performance.

    So why do our legislators continue sending Hoosier tax dollars to private schools, rather than spending to improve public education? Follow the money.

    Over 7,000 schools around the country currently participate in a voucher or tax credit program. Three quarters of those participating schools are religious. In Indiana, the percentage is higher; it’s estimated that over 90% of Hoosier voucher recipients attend a religious school.

    A recent study reported by Huffpost and Salon found 30 percent of participating religious schools using books and curricula provided by one of three sources: Abeka, Accelerated Christian Education, and Bob Jones. The analysis also found that—in addition to teaching creationism and the “sinfulness” of homosexuality—language in the books “overlaps with the rhetoric of Christian nationalism, often with overtones of nativism, militarism and racism as well.”

    While public schools are subject to numerous legal requirements, there is virtually no oversight of private schools, especially those that are religiously affiliated.

    When a colleague and I researched whether schools accepting vouchers are under any state-imposed obligations to teach civics, for example, we found a total lack of any such requirements–and virtually no oversight at all. (A study of religious voucher schools in Louisiana found numerous health and safety violations, along with creationism in lieu of science instruction.)

    Private schools, including private religious schools, have a First Amendment right to teach whatever they want–when they are being funded with private dollars. When they are being supported with public dollars taken from public schools, however, as they are in Indiana and other states with voucher programs, the calculus should be different. This is especially the case because public education isn’t simply concerned with teaching English and STEM subjects—it is also supposed to be a mechanism for instilling Constitutional and democratic values. Public schools, as Benjamin Barber memorably wrote, are “constitutive of a public.”

    As current levels of civil discord demonstrate, Americans increasingly occupy different realities. We consult different media sources, embrace different political ideologies, attend different (or no) churches, and even tend to move to neighborhoods populated by people who look and think like us.

    There are fewer and fewer “street corners” in today’s fragmented world, fewer places where people from different cultures, races, religions and perspectives come together in any meaningful way. Economically-separated residential patterns make that ideal hard enough to achieve through public school systems–but using our limited tax dollars to create yet another set of “bubbles” that enable parents who are so inclined to deny science and transmit a Christian Nationalist worldview is both a betrayal of our public obligations and yet another cause of America’s declining civic cohesion.

  24. I don’t remember reading references regarding the status of stimulus checks; are they considered income and subject to being taxed?

  25. Sheila – I let my IBJ subscription lapse during one of my “between jobs” periods, so I missed reading this. Thank you for posting it here. It is excellent.

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