Tuesday, April 19, 2016

 The Journal of the American Medical Association released an article online on April 10 by Chetty, R, Stepner M (Stanford University), Abraham S, et al., with a fascinating statistical analysis of the relationship between income and life expectancy, broken down to the county level and large metropolitan commuting zones.  It is free, and well worth downloading.  Major takeaways:
  1. Nation-wide, gaps in life expectancy by income increased from 2001-1014.  For those in the bottom 5% of income life expectancy remained the same; for those in the top 5% life expectancy during that time frame increased by about 3 years.
  2. Life expectancy increases continually with income.  If you are a man in the top 1% of income at the age of 40 your life expectancy is fully 15 years more than a man of 40 in the bottom 1%; for women the gap is 10 years.
In Dona Ana County men in the top quarter of income can expect to live to about 83, about 7 years longer than men in the bottom quarter of income.  For women the gap is about 5 years.  In the Albuquerque metropolitan region men in the top quarter can expect to live to about 85, about 10 years longer than men in the bottom quarter, while for women the gap is about 6 years.  On the other hand, men in the bottom quarter of income in Dona Ana County live about one year longer than men in the bottom quarter in Albuquerque.

The best place to live in New Mexico, statistically speaking, if you want to live to a ripe old age in any income category, is Santa Fe or Rio Arriba and Taos counties, where men in the bottom income quartile can expect to die around the age of 77 and men in the top quartile can expect to die at about 86 years of age.  In these counties women in the bottom quartile can expect to die at the age of abut 83 and women in the top quartile can expect to hang on to the age of 88, only two years longer than their male counterparts.  The article has exceptionally clear maps where you can compare, county-by-county, these results.

Monday, April 11, 2016

About the links:  James Hamilton at Econbrowser asks the question why lower oil prices has not lifted the economy.  His answer:  while consumers have spent the extra cash, especially among those who rely on gasoline (trucking companies, taxi drivers), lifting the economy, oil producers have offset these gains by reducing spending.  Once the employment drop in the oil sector registers, we can expect a corresponding drop in GDP.  This gives added credence to the rumors of an impending recession.  NMPolitics.Net links you an excellent site, Buying of the President 2016 (click here) and a story about big money shoveling its way to the Hillary campaign while she tries to keep up with Bernie in bashing big money on the rhetorical end.  Tim Taylor summarizes evidence suggesting "alternative" jobs account for all the job growth during the past ten years.  Robert Reich shows that the big banks are even bigger than they were before the bust, directing you to a statement by the Vice Chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (click here) that the assets of four big banks are about the same as GDP in the US in 2012.  ProMarket discusses how special interests have intimidated journalists into legitimizing those with an interest in denying man-made climate change.

Talking about intimidation, Heath Haussamen (click here) posted a chilling story last week about a border check point stop and followed with another story written by Cassie McClure (click here and here) who suggests abuse of authority at check points is common.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Quotes from Two Mainstream Republicans From the 1980s

1. "I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could--if that were your sole purpose--you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down."
---Bill Bennett, transcribed from his conservative talk show, Morning in America, in 2005.  Bennett was head of the National Endowment for Humanities under Reagan, later becoming Secretary of Education under Reagan.  He was Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under George H.W. Bush, Distinguished Fellow in Cultural Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation, author of Moral Compass:  Stories for a Life's Journey, editor of The Children's Book of Virtues, and a political analyst for CNN from 2008 until he was terminated in 2013.

2.  "You start out in 1954 by saying, 'Nigger, nigger, nigger.'  By 1968 you can't say 'nigger.'  That hurts you.  Backfires.  So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff.  You're getting so abstract now that you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is that blacks get hurt worse than whites."---Lee Atwater, on tape in 1981 in an interview with Alexander P. Lamis.  Atwater was campaign manager for George H.W. Bush.  He was author of the Willie Horton ad against Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis in 1988,  Later  he became Chairman of the Republican National Committee.  When dying of a brain tumor at the age of 40 he apologized to Michael Dukakis in a Life magazine interview, for the "naked cruelty" of the 1988 presidential campaign.

It is not possible to understand the 2016 Republican primary contest, yet alone American politics today without knowing something about the Republican Southern Strategy (of which both quotes above are a part), which triumphed in 1968 and dominated national campaigns for the next half-century.  You must also reflect on the mischief created by bipartisan "political correctness," as enforced ideologically and selectively by the increasingly arrogant establishment media, and the damage it has caused to honesty in political expression. 
But mainly you must understand the profound frustration of millions of white working class Republicans (not just in the South) who drank the kool-aid only to wake up decades later and discover the ineluctable truth that it was their vote--not their financial security nor their health nor "family values"--that stood behind the curtain of the American Dream envisioned by Republican campaign strategists.  How to channel this frustration is what the Republican campaign of 2016 became after Trump began winning primary elections.  Trump, Cruz, and Kasich represent different versions of just how to do this, but the national electorate doesn't seem to be buying it so far.  The Clinton and Sanders campaigns also represent variations on how to deal with these same frustrations over massive, bipartisan, government failure on bread and butter issues.  Not since 1968, with its political assassinations and violence in the streets over Viet Nam and civil rights has the public played as decisive a role in setting the terms of the debate.  This election is a game-changer, long overdue.

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Cartel on the US Side

News media attention for decades has focused on the Mexican drug lords--Amado Carrillo Fuentes, Pablo Acosta, Chapo Guzman, the Arellano Felix brothers, El Mencho, etc.  These entrepreneurs carve out territory, bribe the appropriate officials, guard their turf jealously, and create viable supply chains all the way through Mexico to the border.

But what happens to the drugs once delivery is made to the US?  Is the distribution of drugs franchised like a hamburger chain?  Is it still controlled by the drug lord in Mexico?  Surely the managerial ability to get the drugs to market rivals the managerial ability to create a supply chain through Mexico.  But very little media attention has been paid to this aspect of drug trafficking.  This article, "The Twins that Betrayed El Chapo," translated from El Debate by Borderland Beat, while not answering all the questions, goes a long way toward giving you a strong picture of some of the elements.  It is about the Flores twins' empire in Chicago before it collapsed.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Can Bernie Win New Mexico?
Feedback suggests I hit a sensitive nerve in the Bernie campaign.  I argued a couple of days ago that the Sanders campaign has four problems in New Mexico, three of which are fixable:
  • The campaign isn't reaching out to Hispanic and Native voters
  • The campaign isn't relating the Sanders candidacy with inequality in New Mexico
  • There isn't any visible statewide strategy to win the primary election.  This is particularly true in areas with heavy concentrations of Native and Hispanic voters, using what works at local levels.
  • The Democratic Party apparatus and many progressive NGOs are for Clinton.  
Neither the Clinton nor the Sanders campaigns have been very visible.  Most Democrats probably believe Clinton has the nomination locked up, something reinforced daily in the establishment news media.  Also, since the New Mexico Primary is in June, most Democrats assume the nomination will be locked up by then, so no need to expend energy in a major push for votes.  Here is a recent article that argues Bernie has a chance.

Whether Bernie has a chance to win in New Mexico will depend on what Sanders supporters do between now and the primary to address the three fixable problems listed above.  If things remain the same, Clinton will almost certainly win.  Most incumbent Democratic candidates at the local level are probably for Clinton; most of the party apparatus is for Clinton.  Without a strong statewide effort, and with Bernie trailing in the polls, turnout will probably be dominated by Clinton supporters.

On the other hand, it would be nice, and healthy for the body politic, to see a serious campaign in New Mexico for the presidential primary.

It's too early to know what will happen in New Mexico in the Republican primary.  But if Trump is just a few votes shy of the nomination, it could be an exciting time among New Mexico Republicans in late May.
The Failure of Trickle Down

 The Failure of Trickle Down:  Since 2010 the wealth of the US, adjusted for inflation, has gone up 12.6%, as measured by GDP.   However, the Pew Charitable Trust study shows that average household expenditures, adjusted for inflation, have gone up about that much while average household incomes, adjusted for inflation, have actually declined.  The pie is growing but the vast number of Americans have actually seen their slice of it grow smaller.  While other presidential candidates this year have been debating about the the cost of health care, how to fight terrorism, planned parenthood, the rights of minorities, etc.,Sanders has stuck to the bread-and-butter issue of dividing an expanding pie more fairly.  Trump, while not discussing this issue head-on, speaks to voters who toed the Republican line for many years but find themselves frustrated by a deep sense of betrayal--for all their political correctness, all the Tea Party legislators and Republican governors elected in the past few years, they still just as far are behind the curve ball.  He addresses their frustration by blaming political correctness itself, by blaming immigration policy, and simply pointing to poor leadership in both parties.  Both candidates give voice to the frustrations of people angry at a political system that doesn't address the underlying problem laid out in Pew report.

The rigged nomination process in the Democratic Party is analyzed by Charles M. Blow in the NY Times op-ed piece about the superdelegates.  This is the best briefing I've seen of this deliberately confusing maze of rules that privileges establishment (that is to say, entrenched) elements in the party.

The Wisconsin Democratic Primary election will probably be close between Sanders and Clinton.  RealClear Politics summarizes the latest polling data.  As is true everywhere, Sanders is overwhelmingly the choice of younger voters, under 50.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

CJNG Arrests in Cancun Suggest Expansion to Quintana Roo as Well as to Tijuana

Borderland Beat (see blogs here under "Frontera"), a blog that covers drug trafficking in Mexico, recently reported the arrest of 14 presumed drug traffickers in Cancun (in the state of Quintana Roo), "most" of whom were thought by authorities to be recently arrived members of the Jalisco Cartel (CJNG).   The state attorney general said in a press conference that the CJNG operatives were "seeking to take over the plaza," presumably away from the Gulf Cartel.

The CJNG, which has in the past specialized in the production and distribution of methamphetamine, is reported by the Global Initiatives network to be expanding operations to Japan, Indonesia, and Hong Kong, where profits are significantly higher than in the U.S.  Unlike the Sinaloa Cartel the CJNG and their associates, Los Cuinis (said to be in-laws of Nemesio Oseguera Cárdenas (El Mencho), have targeted markets in Europe instead of the U.S. (See this report, from Borderland Beat, which summarizes a press release from the DEA, also reported in the Mexican magazine Proceso).  In addition, Global Initiatives network reports relatively longstanding associations with elements of the FARC in Colombia.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Can Bernie Win in New Mexico?

Where is the Sanders campaign in New Mexico?  The last poll of Democrats was released in late February, showing (click here) Clinton well ahead, overall (especially with women), but trailing Sanders considerably among likely voters between 18 and 49.  This follows the national trends, and if the Sanders campaign can mobilize this demographic, he stands a fighting chance to close the gap and take the lead as he has done in other states.

The same elements fueling Sanders nationally are present in New Mexico, in spades:  poor job prospects as employers offer temporary jobs with fewer benefits, growing income disparities between the rich and the lower 99%, entrenched party leaders, comfortable with the status quo, etc.  This should be fertile ground for Bernie.  But most observers believe it is not.  Here are some reasons why.

1.  The Bernie phenomenon looks White in a New Mexico where most Democrats are Hispanic.  There appears to be no serious outreach among Bernie organizers toward heavily Hispanic populations or Native American, except at colleges and universities; no surrogates advocating for Bernie among these populations; no Spanish language outreach.  Clinton appears to be headed for a primary victory simply for lack of attention to the bulk of Democratic voters.  The small number of delegates and the lateness of the state primary election almost certainly have something to do with this, but if Bernie followers really want to ignite a "revolution," New Mexico is a relatively inexpensive place to explore the views of the Hispanic and Native populations.

2.  There has been no visible effort to link New Mexico's economic plight to the stakes in the presidential campaign.  In spite of poor economic conditions in the state (this has received enormous attention in recent months) and a more unequal distribution of income in New Mexico than in the nation at large, there has been no effort to link the state's poor economic performance to some of the things Bernie is for:  campaign finance reform (the blogs are full of examples of statewide abuse), lower interest on student loans and free college education (UNM is about to raise tuition again, hurting Hispanics more than Anglos), expanded health care (Hispanic and Native American access to the best health care is significantly below that of the White, non-Hispanic population); raising the minimum wage (the New Mexico poverty rate is exceeded only in Mississippi and Louisiana).

3.  The state's liberal (progressive?) political and civic organizations appear to be dominated by Clinton supportersLeadership among the gatekeepers of civic action in New Mexico appears to be firmly in the hands of Democrats attached to traditional power structures.  This is not something the Sanders campaign can do much about, but his campaign has overcome these odds in other states.

4.  The Sanders campaign appears to be deliberately non-hierarchical, dispersed among groups throughout the state without an apparent central leadership cadre.  This may have worked in other states, but in New Mexico it pays to have a statewide strategy that can identify geographic and demographic priorities and follow these through with action.  In particular, there is no single media market outlet for the state.  It takes knowledge of multiple media markets and their demographic correlates, to be effective.