Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Blogger Candidate Forum: Cities And The American Heath Care Act

Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan holding a copy of AHCA
Getty Images
Hello Everyone:

It is time for the weekly edition of Blogger Candidate Forum.  Shall we talk about the spectacular failure that was round one of the American Health Care Act?  The much touted "repeal and reform" of the Affordable Care Act (i.e. Obamacare) could not even be brought to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote because its massive lack of support.  After the fingers were pointed and tweets sent out into the digital universe, the House Republicans are going to try again.  Ironically, the partisan and in-party squabbling may lead to an expansion of the federal Medicaid program.  Meanwhile, let us take a look at house AHCA would affect American cities.

Laura Bliss, in her CityLab article "The Cities Trumpcare Would Hurt (and Help), asks "Which cities would hurt from the Trump-backed health care bill attracting withering criticism on both sides of Congress?"  A new analysis published by WalletHub (; date acted mar. 29, 2017) 2017's Cities Most Affected by Trumpcare by Richie Bernardo, found that "urban places with large populations of poor, non-white policyholders would see the tax credits they receive under the Affordable Care Act more than halved under the GOP's proposed plan,..."  Cities and towns in the suburbs, exurbs, and rural communities would also experience a reduction in tax credits and coverage.

Downtown Yuma, Arizona
Of the ranked 475 American cities with populations greater 75,000, Yuma, Arizona is the city hit hardest by AHCA, version 1.0.  "The average couple would lose nearly $8,000 in subsidies."  Yuma's population mirrors those who have reaped benefits from ACA; "18 percent of the city's residents lives below the poverty, 55 percent are Latino, and 21 percent are foreign-born, according to Census tracts (  Wallethub's methodology, which relied on the Kaiser Family Foundation's Health Insurance Marketplace Calculator, used a model two-person, joint-filing Yuma household-where neither half of the couple smokes, median age, and earn the city's median income ($43,663 according to; date accessed mar. 29, 2017).  The model couple would be eligible for nearly $13,000 in yearly tax credits under ACA's income- and location-based system.  Under whichever version of AHCA eventually makes it (if at all) to President Donald Trump's desk for his signature, the subsidy would drop to $5,000 under the age-based subsidy plan.

Downtown Anchorage, Alaska
Economically challenged cities populate the list of places greatly affected by AHCA.  These cities are notable because they feature "significant concentrations of low-income African-American residents: Syracuse, New York; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Birmingham, Alabama; and Bridgeport, Connecticut fill out the top 25.  One city in particular, Anchorage, Alaska, ranks behind Yuma as the second-worst affected city.  Anchorage is not a particularly economically challenged city but its remote location makes healthcare costs especially high.  Under ACA, Alaskans received some of the most generous subsidies in the United States.  In an aside Laura Bliss, "Relatedly, older, poorer folks who live in truly rural areas-in other words, Trump's biggest supporters-may have the most to lose with the GOP's bill out of everyone."

Aerial view of Newport Beach, California
Photography by D. Ramey Logan
There cities that would thrive under AHCA-in fact, quite a lot of places, according to WalletHub's 2017's Cities Most Affected by Trumpcare.   Specifically, three-quarters of the 457 cities on the list would benefit from more generous tax subsidies.  Wealthier cities, where many people receive little or nor subsidies under the current system would do particularly well: "Average households in affluent Newport Beach, California; the Woodlands, Texas; and Virginia Beach, Virginia all net $5,000 or $6,000 credits they don't currently receive."

Laura Bliss reports, "WalletHub divides the 457 cities into different population tiers for a more apples-to-apples comparison of different-sized cities.  Still, it is advisable to look at this ranking as an sketch, rather than a completer analysis, of Trumpcare's urban impact, because it uses city limits as its geographic metric, rather than metro areas."  A WalletHub analyst told Ms. Bliss, via email,  that this approach, provided as few data limitations as possible, "but it gives a misleading impression of how the most economically powerful urban areas in the country would be affected."

Downtown Washington D.C.
Metropolises such as Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Washington D.C. would also benefit if and or when the GOP-supported plan.  However, like many big cities, only "city proper" counts in the metric because "these places have higher concentration of wealth than the suburbs and towns that radiate around them."  Suburban Atlanta is notoriously poor, plagued with high rates of chronic diseases; thus repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act with a zip code and income blind plan would be, to say the very least, very unhelpful.

Following this logic, Ms. Bliss writes, "Wallethub doesn't account for the share of city residents that are currently covered thanks to ACA, nor how many would be projected to drop out of the marketplace sure to the new plan's cost hikes."  Further, the analysis makes no mention about how rolling back Medicaid expansion would impact these cities.  In an aside Ms. Bliss notes, "Reliable Medicaid enrollment data is extremely hard to come by."

On Friday, Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) sounded a defeated note admitting that ACA is the law of the land for the foreseeable future.  Never one to admit defeat, President Donald Trump said that perhaps with would be better to let the bill die and the Affordable Care Act explode (it is not) so that he can negotiate a better deal.  The House Republicans are going to try again.  Perhaps they, along with the President, will learn from their mistakes and do better.  Blogger is hoping for a more bipartisan solution but is not holding her breath.     

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Gentrification Is A Health Issue

Keith Haring inspired mural in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Photograph by Matt Rourke/AP
Hello Everyone:

Today we are going to return to one of the big subjects on the blog, gentrification.  Did you think yours truly was going to say immigration?  Maybe tomorrow.  We have talked a lot about the impact of gentrification on communities and people.  We are returning to the subject of how gentrification affects people.  Specifically, we are going to look at new study, The Association of Minority Self-Rated health with Black versus White Gentrification by sociologists Joseph Gibbons and Michael S. Barton, published on October 19, 2016 in the Journal of Urban Health (; date accessed mar. 28, 2017).  Our guid for the day is Richard Florida's CityLab article "Race, Gentrification, and Health in Philadelphia."  The question to consider is do African American residents in gentrifying neighborhoods experience better or health?  Shall we find out?

Fish Town
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Richard Florida begins, "The impact of gentrification-especially the displacement of lower-income residents-remains a topic of enormous debate in urbanism circles."  True enough.  The majority of research on the topic found that the "the extent of displacement to statistically rather small, in fact,..., Lance Freeman of Columbia University, argues that widespread displacement caused by gentrification is largely a myth."

However, this does not imply that long-term residents do not experience other effects.

The study conducted by Messrs. Gibbons and Barton provides fresh insights into gentrification by studying the health and well-being of African American and Caucasian residents in the throes of it.  The co-authors point out, "the Centers for Disease Control...lists a variety of adverse health effects that may stem from gentrification and displacement, particularly increased stress that can lead to mental health problems, health problems, premature birth, and in some cases death."  The study goes deep into the link between gentrification and health using a sweeping health survey (, conducted in Philadelphia, a city that has experienced widespread gentrification.

Gentrification map of Philadelphia
Gibbons and Barton/CityLab

The survey assembled specific information on individual health status and conditions, health-related behavior and access to health care as well as demographic and socioeconomic traits.  Mr. Florida writes, "Gibbons and Barton use this data to compare the health outcomes on black and white residents of gentrifying and other neighborhoods in Philadelphia, using the conventional measures of gentrification-changes in housing in housing costs, incomes, and education levels across neighborhoods or Census tracts."

The map above left identifies the different neighborhoods in the process of gentrifying in Philadelphia.

The map reveals an very fascinating fact: "Nearly 80 percent of the 968 neighborhoods were considered non-gentrifable; a third of the other 20 percent were found to be gentrifying."  Further, out of that third of the other 20 percent, "31 neighborhoods experienced white gentrification and 29 experienced 'black gentrification'-where middle-class black residents move into lower-class black neighborhoods."  The study developed and used statistical models that analyzed the effects of this process on individuals's health.  Income, education, employment, race, and other factors were the control factors.

"Gentrification mapped and correlated between residents reporting poor health scores
Gibbons and Barton/CityLab
Once the gentrifying neighborhoods were identified, the study linked the responses of the health survey to the places where the respondents live.

Richard Florida writes, "While gentrification has an overall marginal effect on improving self-raid health, it led to worse health reports from black respondents."  The map on the left-had side diagrams the strength of the correlation between race and self-rated health in neighborhoods around Philadelphia.

What we find is African American respondents "...were more likely to rate their health as poor or fair neighborhoods that are gentrifying  or those that are nearby..."  In general, African American respondents "...were 27.3 percent more likely than white respondents to report poor to fair health."  However, African American respondents residing in gentrifying neighborhoods were nearly "...75 percent more likely to report poor-to-fair health than counterparts in other neighborhoods.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
When factoring in additional socioeconomic results, the outcomes conclude that there is some doubt that poorer result for African American respondents in gentrifying neighborhoods is caused by displacement.  Joseph Gibbons and Michael S. Barton argue that "the endurance of these bad health outcomes suggest the subtle effect of gentrification's cultural displacement."  Further, "That change is also difficult to quantify: Self-reported bad health outcomes had similar correlation in neighborhoods experiencing black gentrification."

Whatever the gentrifying process may be, The Association of Minority Self-Rated health with Black versus White Gentrification alluded to the idea that importing affluence and resources to a community is not necessarily beneficial to long-term residents.  Like the income gap, disparities in health, effecting rich and poor, are more sustainable.


Monday, March 27, 2017

Is This The Way To Make America Great?


Patent application for "the multiple telegraph"
Alexander Graham-Bell (born in Scotland)
Library of Congress
Hello Everyone:

Welcome to the new week and newish subject to chat about.  Today we are going back to the topic of immigration.  In this case, how immigration impacts innovation.  Some our greatest innovators have been, at one point, immigrants, like Scottish-born Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone.  Now imagine, an modern day Alexander Graham Bell, trying to enter the United States following President Donald Trump's executive orders and promised crack down on immigration.  You could argue that "he is from Scotland and therefore, not subject to immigration restrictions."  However, if POTUS manages to get his immigration legislation passed and signed into law, it is possible that even a Scottish-born, highly skilled immigrant like Alexander Graham Bell could be shut out of the United States.  How can this be possible?  Read on.

Tanvi Misra points out in her CityLab article, " How Immigrants Changed the Geography of Innovation,"  "...his immigration and refugee ban, leaked draft orders, and the language of his top aides all suggest that he's looking to go further, restricting the legal immigration of 'high-skilled' workers."  Thus, an immigrant Alexander Graham Bell would not be able to enter the United States, regardless if he or she is able make a positive contribution to the nation.  Even more potentially damaging is a possible restriction of highly skilled immigrants would compromise America's ability to innovate, limiting the country's technological advantage and economic growth.

Percentage of Foreign- and Native-Born workers in occupation
 History offer some support for the above argument.  A new working paper by University of Chicago economists Ufuk Akcigit and John Grigsby with Harvard economist Tom Nicholas,  The Rise of American Ingenuity: Innovation and Inventors of the Golden Age (; date accessed Mar. 27, 2017), looks at the role that immigrants play in innovation.  By matching U.S. patent information to local Census numbers between 1880 and 1940-which they refer to as the "golden age of innovation-" the co-authors were able to quantify the major contributions immigrants to American technological progress.  The macro-view is "...immigrants fueled regional inventiveness, bolstered creative momentum within their industries, and drove  long-tern technological growth."

"The Geography of Immigrant Skills"
  Tom Nicholas told CityLab,

You've got these anecdotes like Alexander Graham Bell that give you an image of what immigrant inventors were like, but hopefully, the beauty of this paper is that we're going way beyond those anecdotes.

Tanvi Misra writes, "The paper first illuminates how immigrants influence the geography of inventiveness."  For example, states like New York andI Illinois had the highest per capita patents during the study period, "around 20 percent of the population was foreign-born."  In states with the least per capita patents, immigrants make up "2 percent of the population."  This statistic is particularly significant because  regions and technology hubs with higher patents experience more economic growth, according to a previous analysis by the co-authors.  There are two reasons for this phenomena.  Prof. Nicholas continued,  One explanation is that immigrant inventors concentrate in...Independently, they fill gaps in knowledge.

In essence, immigrants with great ideas tend to congregate in places and occupations where their ideas are welcome.  Further, "when many of them work together, they influence each, compounding the ingenuity in their own field and others," according to Prof. Nicholas.  Independently, they fill gaps in knowledge.

Inventors per 10,000 people, 1880-1940

The map on the left-hand side diagrams concentration of foreign-born inventors according to states. The Northeastern states (dark orange) show a high number of immigrants contributing to American innovation.  The Southern states (pale yellow) have the lowest concentration of foreign-born innovators.  The co-authors write,

...perhaps because such places were less likely to be open to disruptive ideas and intolerant of social change.

Thus, it is no big surprise that cities with the greatest number of patents: San Jose, Houston, New York, Chicago have a greater share of immigrants populations.

Immigrant skill and innovation
Prof. Nicholas and colleagues also concluded that "...immigrants made up a higher share of the inventor population (around 20 percent) than the non-inventor population between 1880 and 1940."  Europeans were the dominant demographic group, which is logical given the tight restrictions on Asian and Middle Eastern immigrants at the time.  Tanvi Misra notes, "Around 30 percent of today's inventors are immigrants hailing from India and China."

Further, on average, immigrant inventors were more productive, "with 9 percent more patents through their careers than their native-born counterparts."  Despite the higher level of productivity, immigrant inventors were "paid 5 percent less."  Ms. Misra concludes, "The mismatch between wages and relative productivity suggests labor market discrimination."  Fair conclusion.

The irony in all this is President Trump campaigned on the promise of "Make America Great Again," is doing precisely the opposite.  Then-candidate Trump based his campaign on economic anxiety, promising to return the United States to a high level of competitiveness, yet wants to severely limit immigration.  The Rise of American Ingenuity: Innovation and Inventors of the Golden Age ( by University of Chicago economists Ufuk Akcigit and John Grigsby with Harvard economist Tom Nicholas bolsters the case that tech companies, like Apple and Microsoft,  are making against a legislative agenda that potentially threatens the future of American innovation.  Ms. Misra speculates, "With fewer immigrants, Silicon Valley may no longer be able to maintain its primacy as a global tech hub."  Should the unthinkable happen and legal immigration is severely restricted, the more welcoming Vancouver, Canada will be in optimal place to open up to global talent.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Blogger Candidate Forum: Carnage?

Supreme Court confirmation hearing of Judge Neil Gorsuch
Hello Everyone:

Time once again for Blogger Candidate Forum.  More on the confirmation hearing of Judge Neil Gorsuch.  So far, not much in the way of bombshell revelations or fiery exchanges.  The most heated exchange, if you call it that, took place yesterday, between Minnesota Senator Al Franken (D-MN) and Judge Gorsuch over a case involving a frost bitten truck driver and another exchange with ranking member California Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) over abortion.  One telling question came courtesy of Senator Jeff Flake's son, when he asked Judge Gorsuch whether he would prefer to fight 100 duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck?  Blogger thinks the point of the question was to get to know Judge Gorsuch the person, not the federal judge.  Blogger kind of wonders if Judge Grouch's answers are sincere or specifically intended to secure his seat on the Supreme Court bench.  His answers sound a little too neat.  However, bigly barring any shocking revelations, Judge Neil Gorsuch will take his seat.  Now, on to today's subject, American carnage.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
In his inauguration speech, President Donald Trump painted a grim picture of American cities.  The image he painted was that of a war zone with bullets flying everywhere, criminal undocumented immigrants roam free, single mothers and their children living in never ending poverty.  He called it "carnage."  John Eligon, in his New York Times article "Trump's Vision of 'Carnage' Misses Complex Reality of Many Cities," reported that at a January gathering of Republicans, "Mr. Trump perpetuated this vision-'carnage' is what he calls it-when he incorrectly told a gathering of Republicans...that Philadelphia's murder rate had increased over the last year."  He also took aim at his usual favorite urban target, Chicago, asking What the hell is going on?

Chicago Theater
Chicago, Illinois

What the hell is going on, Mr. President?  What is going is your dark over generalization does not even come close to the realities of urban American.  The dropping crime rates, rising populations, and growing innovation, cities are prospering, albeit unevenly.

Isaiah Thomas told Mr. Eligon during a tour of his predominantly African American neighborhood,

Our streets are clean always...Our neighbors in our community, we know each other and we get along.  We got backyards, man.  We go outside in our backyards and play. We go swimming.  We got ballet lessons. We grew up playing instruments.  We're doing the same things that most people do in the country.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Make no mistake, American cities are still places of segregation and yawning wealth gaps.  African American and Latino families frequently bear the burnt poverty, failing schools, and violence.  Mr. Eligon reports, "The number of people nationwide living in extremely poor neighborhoods has increased by about five million over roughly the decade, according to a Brookings Institute study."

Thus, when POTUS pontificates about urban ills, the focus of his broadsides is almost exclusively "on these pockets of entrenched social ills."

Los Angeles skyline
Los Angeles, California
As incomplete as POTUS's rendering of cities are, he was, according to Lee Huang, the senior vice president of the Chicago-based Consult Solutions,

...tapping into a level of outrage that we ought to have about our cities...Whether it's violence in Chicago, whether it's unemployment and poverty in Philadelphia, whether it is these structural and physical examples of blight and disinvestment and disparity, I don't think he's off in saying our cities have a lot of challenges.

However, POTUS's critics say that his generalizations are planting fear and solidifying the racial and ethnic stereotypes that divide the United States.  Lucas Leyden commented,

It never seems like he's talking in the context of saying...It's always just disparaging remarks.  "This is bad.

Greektown Detroit, Michigan
On the campaign trail, when speaking on issues of race, then-candidate Trump frequently targeted his words on what he perceived to inner cities, at one point saying,

...African-Americans, Hispanics, are living in hell, because it's so dangerous.

Sulaiman Rahman is worried by this dark portrayal of minority communities, an attempt to justify more aggressive policing tactics.

For example, a mere one week into his administration, POTUS tweeted that if "local officials in Chicago could not control the rampant shooting there, I will send in the Feds!"

Mr. Rahman continued,

When he speaks and uses certain coded language, we kind of understand who he's talking about...You're framing it to justify a more detrimental agenda.  That's the issue.

Homicide Rates For Cities With More Than 250,000 People

John Eligon writes, "Although homicides in large cities in 2015 increased about 15 percent from 2014, they were still down 51 percent from two decades earlier, Richard Rosenfeld a professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, said."

Although homicides did go up almost 13 percent in Philadelphia between 2014 and 2015, they slightly dropped last year.  Prof. Rosenfeld said,

Carnage doesn't describe the reality of American cities.

Aaron Renn, a senior Fellow in urban policy at the conservative think tank Manhattan Institute for Policy Research argued, "Mr. Trump's assessment of cities is rooted in the problems of segregation, discrimination and economic inequality that 'urban progressives' have emphasized."  Mr. Renn would like to correct those disparities.  He said,

I've never heard him once say, "You're to blame for the problem.

Strolling through her Northside Philadelphia neighborhood of Frankford to work, Shanise Bolden has little concern about walking to her job.  She told Mr. Eligon,

Why would it be scary when we know each other.

17th Street Oakland, California
Shanise Bolden's comment is indicative of the sense of community and kinship that runs counter to the roughness of Frankford.  It is that quality that people would overlook or consider if they based their impression of the community solely on crime and economic statistics.

John Eligon describes the neighborhood, "...tightly packed rowhouses.  An elevated train track cuts through the main drag, Frankford Avenue, which is jammed with convenience stores and cellphone shops, and storefronts boasting haircare products, clothes and pawned goods.

Fishtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
 For every Frankford, there are neighborhoods like Fishtown that are undergoing gentrification.  Fishtown was once a haven for drugs and other dubious diversions  has transformed into a places of evening jogger and people toting yoga mats.  The corner convenience stores have been replaced by bars with Skee-Ball machines and billiard tables.

Gentrification has displaced a lot of low-income residents of Frankford, and has led to violence.

Leshay Davenport is not too concerned about this.  She told Mr. Eligon that "...she avoided certain parts of the neighborhood know for having a lot of riff raff.  Ms. Davenport has lived in the neighborhood for a decade and feels quite comfortable letting her daughter play outside.  She said,

It's pretty good...The kids are friendly.  There's not really too much violence.  It's a really pretty friendly neighborhood.

Frankford Avenue, 2013
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
High school senior Rasheed Ross told Mr. Eligon, "The challenges of living in a place like Frankford are real.

Positive role models are hard to come by and it is easy to trapped in the wrong things.  He continued, "A lot of people think their only avenues for success are rapping, basketball or dealing drugs.  He said,

It's hard and it's, at the same time, scary...You can get shot anywhere, at any time.

This bleak assessment aside, Mr. Ross also described more nuanced reality.  Most of the shootings are the result of personal conflicts.  He told John Eligon, It's not like somebody would just walk up to you and shoot you for no reason.

American cities as places of carnage?  Not quite true.

One more thing: Blogger would like to send lots of love and good thoughts to the friends, followers, and fans in the United Kingdom as London recovers from a horrific terrorist attack.  Stay safe.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Politics Of Place

Are we as divided as we think?
Photograph by Randall Hill/Reuters
Hello Everyone:

Day two of the Supreme Court confirmation hearing of Judge Neil Gorsuch and no bombshells.  Blogger supposes that is a good thing.  A by-the-book confirmation hearing might just be the antidote to the daily barrage White House tweet.

Is the United States a divided country?  You would think that this is the case after the November election: a red state conservative and a liberal blue state and cities.  We are half way into President Donald Trump's first hundred days, now would be a good time to step back and take a look if the United States is really divided into red states, blue states.  Our guide for today is Richard Florida's CityLab article "Putting Politics in Place."  Mr. Florida writes, "While [Hillary] Clinton won the popular vote, conservatives out number liberals in four out of five states."  This schism is less about class and culture; "place is increasingly the critical fault line of American politics."

2016 Electoral Map
A new study, The political reference point: How geography shapes political identity (; date accessed Mar. 21, 2017) adds a fascinating perspective to this narrative.  The study is co-authored by Mr. Florida's colleague at the University of Toronto Rotman School, Matthew Feinberg, concludes "that our political identification is not only shaped by where we live, it is relative to it."  The words "liberal" and "conservative are relative to the place.

Moderate in the middle
 We know this: "Someone who identifies as a moderate in a deep-blue Ithaca, New York could easily be to the left of someone who calls themselves liberal in small-town Texas, just as a self-identified conservative in Berkeley may be more liberal than a moderated Utah."

Confused?  Allow Blogger to explain matters.  Humans instinctively assign each other to neat judgement packages, including political affiliation.  Thus, people often feel pressured to conform to the political character of the place they live.  However, the key component at work is what the study calls political reference point-"a locally shaped gauge that people use to identify their own political leanings."  Essentially if you live in a red state or city, you can call yourself a moderate or liberal because your views lean left of the prevail conservative outlook surrounding you.  The opposite is also true: if you live in a blue state or city, you can call yourself moderate or conservative because your political outlook leans to the right of your peers.

Issue Position relative to State Business
Matthew Feinberg et al,/PLoS ONE

Richard Florida writes, "The study examines this relative effect of place on politics at the state level and county level, looking at the relationship between our self-reported political identity and position on different policy issues in light of the political tenor of the places we live."

Matthew Feinberg and his co-authors used data from the American National Election Survey, which aligns political identity on a seven-point scale from extremely liberal to extremely conservative.  The chart at the above left presents the results of their analysis for the 2012 presidential election.

Red state vs. blue state

If political identity was homogenous across state line, the graph lines would be flat.  However, the sloped lines present variations within same political identity across state lines.  Mr. Florida points out the obvious: "The bluer the state, the more liberal the policy positions; the redder the state, the more conservative those positions are."

To put it this way, saying you are extremely conservative means different things in Utah and Hawai'i.  For example, let us look at the white hot subject of abortion.  Extremely conservative Utahans oppose abortion in all cases, including cases of rape; an extremely conservative Hawaiian are willing to consider legalizing the procedure.  Mr. Florida writes, "As the study points out, conservative and moderates in blue states indicated more support of liberal policy policy position than conservatives and moderates in red states, and the bluer the state was, the stronger their support was for liberal position."

Liberal and conservative position on military and ACA
Matthew Feinberg et al,/PLoS ONE
The study then focused on the variation in political identity across counties.  To understand this, the study authors assembled their own survey data on political identity culled on a seven-point scale (strong conservative to strong liberal) and then across a ten-point scale (strongly oppose to strongly in favor) on ten major issues.  The authors polled individuals across seven political identities in red and blue counties to find out how affiliation squared with issue positions, based on a sample of 1,269 people.

The above left graph resents a a sample of how political affiliations correspond with position stance in different states.  (Richard Florida adds, "Be warned: the graphic is flipped from the traditional 'left-right' continuum.").  The Texas icon signifies people in the 100 reddest counties and New York icon stands for the 100 bluest counties.

Once again we see that identifiers such as "strong conservative" and "strong liberal" are formed by the political predilections of the places people live.  Mr. Florida reports, "A strong conservative in a blue county registered less support for a strong military than a strong conservative in a red county, while a strong liberal in a red county had more conservative on the military than a strong liberal in a blue county."  Moderates in blue counties aligned themselves with the same position of strong liberal in the reddest counties.

John F. Kennedy quote
The conclusions of The political reference point: How geography shapes political identity support a more optimistic view about the American political landscape.  The study found,

[T]he animosity and disgust so commonly felt toward those on the other side of the political ideology spectrum may often be misplaced...[I]f a person feels hatred toward others simply based on the how they identify on the political ideology spectrum, then in some circumstances, that hatred is actually aimed at some with the exact same policy stances.

Matthew Feinberg and his co-authors conclude that frequently,

It is not the policy preference or the values that differ between people, but simply the labels they give themselves-labels that shift depending on the their political reference point.

The social media has so greatly enhanced our difference that, to the rest of the world, it seems that Americans live in two separate countries.  We do not.  The things that separate are not as great as we think they are and that is a reason for hope, even in this fraught moment in history.  Hope is powerful thing.  It gives us a reason to work for a better future.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Income Inequality And Poverty Are Also Geographic


America's Distress Belt
Population Reference Bureau
Hello Everyone:

Washington D.C. was buzzing with activity this morning.  The rather by-the-book Supreme Court confirmation hearing of Judge Neil Gorsuch and Federal Bureau of Investigation James Comey's testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.  The two big revelations: the FBI is investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.  Second, the Department of Justice was not wiretapping Trump Towers.  No surprise.  Stay tuned, more will be revealed.  Alright, onto to today's subject inequality and poverty.

Here is another non-surprise, income inequality has dramatically risen in the United States since the early eighties.  This fact is linked to worsening health, higher rates of violence and minority incarceration, limited upward economic mobility.

Richard Florida reports in his CityLab article, "America's Economic Distress Belt" reports,  "But until  recently, a county with higher inequality did not necessarily have a high concentration of poverty."

High-Inequality, High-Poverty
Population Reference Bureau

A new study, Poverty and Inequality Pervasive in Two-Fifths of U.S. Counties, by Beth Jarosz and Mark  Mather, published by the Population Reference Bureau, follows the rapid growth in inequality across over 3,000 American counties over a two-and-half decade study period.

Mr. Florida reports, "Today, 41 percent of U.S. counties suffer from high levels of combined poverty and income inequality, up from just 29 percent back in 1989."  Shocking.  The table at the left presents a worse situation, "...just 28 percent of counties have low levels of poverty and low levels of inequality."  In short, "...more than 70 percent of counties have either high levels of inequality, high levels of poverty, or both."

"High Levels of Inequality and Poverty Are More Prevalent Across
All Types of Counties Today Than Two Decades Ago"
Population Reference Bureau

The bar graph on the left-hand side charts the level of inequality according to type of counties: large metropolitan counties, small and medium-sized counties, non-metropolitan and rural counties.

Looking at the numbers for metropolitan counties (the second to the left), the pink bar represents "...11 percent of large metropolitan counties suffered from high levels of inequality, a figure that grew to 21 percent by 2014 [the red bar]."  In the small and medium-sized counties "The combination of inequality and poverty increased from 22 percent to 46 percent of small and mid-sized counties  and expanded from 35 percent to 44 percent of rural and non-metropolitan counties over that same time period."

Time lapse map of "Number of Counties With High Levels of Inequality
and Poverty Has Increased Over Time"
Population Reference Bureau

The time lapse map follows the increase in poverty and inequality throughout U.S. counties.  The green signifies counties with low poverty and inequality, gold stands for low inequality and high poverty, blue is low poverty and high inequality, and red signifies the alarming rate of high inequality and poverty.

Over time, large swaths of the map turn red.  Mr. Florida writes, "Today, the health pockets of green (representing low inequality and low poverty counties) are limited to Midwest and Mountain regions of the country, along with parts of the Mid-Atlantic."  However, the Sunbelt states (eg. Southern California, Arizona, Texas, and South Carolina), in particular, has become America's economic distress belt, with high rates of inequality and poverty.

Although some pundits continue to laud the Sunbelt's rapid growth and low housing costs, an increasing numbers of people and places are falling behind "in absolute terms and compared to the rest of the country."  The bottom line is inequality and poverty are beyond class issues, they extend to geographic issues, as well.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Blogger Candidate Forum: What Does Infrastructure Mean?


Old Post Office Building under renovation for the Trump International
Washington D.C.
Hello Everyone:

It is time for the weekly edition of Blogger Candidate Forum.  Today we are going to step away from the subject of sanctuary cities, for now, Blogger promises, and on to the subject of infrastructure.  Specifically, we are going to look at what will President Donald Trump's $1 trillion build out look like?  This is the question that Laura Bliss ponders in her CityLab article "What Does Trump Mean When he Says 'Infrastructure?'"  It is an issue that has been moved to the back burner, for now but no less important.  Another question that needs to be asked is whether or not Congress will make it happen?  Ms. Bliss writes, "Key among the questions waiting to be answered is a very basic one:  What is Trump talking about when he talks about 'infrastructure'?  Is it the state highways and municipal water pipes you're imagining?  Or could it also be the kind that's attached to the the kind of projects a golf course developer/casino magnate would best: real estate?"  All could questions that hopefully will be answered in the next 3 years and 10 months.

Segment of I-97 between Baltimore and Annapolis, Maryland
On the campaign trail, POTUS used some traditional infrastructure words when spoke on the subject.  In a post-election interview published by the New York Times, then-President-elect Trump said,

We're talking about a very large-scale infrastructure bill...[a]and we're going to make sure it is spent on infrastructure and roads and highways."  (; date accessed Mar. 15, 2017)

President Trump's economic advisors released a proposal (; date accessed Mar. 15, 2017) to privatize infrastructure projects  The proposals describes infrastructure as the

...complex network of airports, bridges, highways, ports, tunnels, and waterways that underpins private sector growth.

Los Angeles International Airport Theme Building, 1961
Los Angeles, California
This is all well and fine but neither the proposal, nor POTUS has clearly states what specific types of projects would be applicable to the privatization scheme, "which would incentivize private companies to bankroll, construct, and own infrastructure assets by handing them tax credits worth 92 percent of their original down payments."  In all, the advisors (Laura Bliss notes that they did not return request of comment as did the transition team) claimed that the plan would drive $1 trillion in infrastructure spending, at zero cost to taxpayers "because the original federal tax credits would be eventually offset by tax revenue from associated wages and business profits.  Does this make any sense?

Flint, Michigan water pipes

What type of projects would get built under the proposed privatization scheme?  Most likely the ones that would not necessarily serve the public interest.  For example, badly needed water pipe reconstruction in Flint, Michigan is not as attractive as-maybe, a toll road in heavily travel area-to investors.  However, it would be still hard to conceive of enough glamorous highway projects that would add up to $1 billion in infrastructure investment-"or enough tax revenue from profits for the feds to break even."

Rendering of an industrial park in Port of Vancouver, Washington

Be that as it may, it is possible that  POTUS may not be referring to "rebuilding infrastructure" in the typical way, rather, in new property development.  That would make sense given his background in real estate development.  Ms. Bliss speculates, "Could an industrial park primed to have a major, even transformative, economic impact on a region be considered infrastructure?"  Further, POTUS has also found success developing apartments thus, could housing be thought of as infrastructure?  What about all the sewer and utilities needed to support new residential projects?  Consider the construction booms in in Hunters Point, San Francisco and Roosevelt Island, New York City.  The point is that developers frequently pay out of pocket via impact fees for utilities (i.e. water and power) and roads that come with these types of lucrative developments.  Laura Bliss speculates, "But perhaps under a Trumpian infrastructure scheme they'd be eligible for a whopping 82 percent tax credit."

Construction on Roosevelt Island, New York
  How many ways can we say this would be so wrong?  Several ways.  First, without an encompassing definition of "infrastructure, there is almost no reason to believe that the Trumpian scheme would actually create new investment.  The New York Times columnist Paul Krugman pointed out in his column "that it could wind up privatizing projects that would have been built anyway with regular federal support-in other words, removing assets from the public's control, and for giveaway prices."  To put it this way, if Trumpian definition of infrastructure includes some types of profitable real estate development, then the federal government would be funding ventures that private companies would want to be part of anyway.  In effect, the federal government would control the market, essentially padding the wallets of said private stakeholders-while the public picks up the bill. Mr. Krugman presents once example of how this would play out:

[I]magine a private consortium building a toll road for $1 billion.  Under the Trump plan, the consortium might borrow $800 million while putting up $200 million i equity-buit it would a tax credit of 82 percent of that sum, so that its outlays would only be $36 million.  And any future revenue from tolls would go to the people who put up that $36 million.  ((; date accessed Mar. 15, 2017)

Clear as mud, right?

To put it another way, if we apply this method to a profitable business park.  The taxpayers foot the bill for a development that private development companies would have built without any incentive.  The companies that build and manage the center receive large checks-the very definition of corporate welfare.  This would result in grand scale corruption.

Members of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, said they would work with President Donald Trump on his infrastructure  bill.  Before they jump on board, they should first pin down a specific definition of infrastructure, "because there is no legal definition."  How President Trump defines infrastructure may not be the way you or Blogger define infrastructure.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

"The Rest Is History"

Image from the Fugitive Slave Act
Hello Everyone:

Today we are going back to the subject of sanctuary cities.  This time, we going to look at the historic context of these jurisdictions.  The best place to understand them is to step back in time to the Civil War-era.  Just as contemporary American cities are opting out of enforcing immigration laws, prior to the Civil War, Northern states chose not to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act, a legal move supported by the United States Supreme Court.

Tanvi Misra's CityLab article, "Lessons From the 'Sanctuary Cities' of the Slavery Era," offers an illuminating look how Northern cities defied law and gave refuge to Slaves, fleeing the Southern states, and what we can learn from this moment in history.

Fugitive Slave warning
On January 25, 2017, President Donald Trump issued his "Executive Order: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States."  Section 1 of the order states,

Sanctuary jurisdictions across the United States willfully violate Federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from remove United States.  these jurisdictions have caused immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic... (; date accessed Mar. 14, 2017)

The city of San Francisco has challenged the administration, arguing that it violates the tenth amendment to the Constitution, a challenge supported by some legal experts.  The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution states,

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, to the people. (; date accessed Mar. 14, 2017)

Tanvi Misra writes, "In doing so, it launched the first counterstrike in what might a long, tumultuous battle between the local and federal governments on immigration."

"Practical Illustration Of The Fugitive Slave Law"
For historian and writer H. Robert Baker, this conflict is all too familiar.  His February 2, 2017 blog post , "A Brief History of Sanctuary Cities," Prof. Baker provides a short summary of a similar moment from the Antebellum period, that may provide clues as to how this battle might play out.

Ms. Misra writes, "Baker writes that a version of sanctuary cities existed in the late 18th century, in the form of Northern jurisdictions that refused to capture and return fugitive slave-'America's first significant class of refugees.'"  The  Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 guaranteed slaveholders the right to retrieve escaped slaves.  However, without the cooperation of the individual states, it was difficult to enforce.  Ironically, demanding tighter compliance contradicted the Southern states cherished belief in States's Rights.  Prof. Baker explained,

"Practical Illustration Of The Fugitive Slave Law"
...Congressional statutes assumed state cooperation, as did the Fugitive Slave Act of the 1793.  But by the 1810s and 20s, such cooperation began to look increasingly like coercion, especially to southerners who were making much of the sanctity of states' rights.  An attempt to revise the Fugitive Slave Act in 1818 led to failure, in part, because the proposed bill required state officers to enforce federal law.  This violated contemporary understandings of dual sovereignty-the idea that federal and state governments were each sovereign in their sphere, and that the spheres were entirely separate.  Congress might direct federal law enforcement officers and judges, but they could not direct state officers, and vice versa... (; date accessed Mar. 14, 2017)

Antebellum cartoon

Tanvi Misra reports, "In 1842, the Supreme Court backed up the ideas of dual sovereignty.  The ruling in Prigg v. Pennsylvania said that the issue if fugitive slaves  was indeed a federal matter, just like immigration is today."  In essence, the states, could not enact laws that interfered with federal "but they also had the right to opt out of enforcing it."  Once again Prof. Baker explains:

 ..This meant that city constables and sheriffs were instructed not arrest suspected fugitive slaves, that state jails were closed to federal marshals who had fugitives in their custody, and that state judges would refuse to issues warrants or certificates of removal.  Into the breech stepped free blacks and their white abolitionist allies, who organized protective societies and became increasing bold in their opposition to federal law enforcement.  Sanctuary cities became like fortresses.  (Ibid)

Cartoon supporting the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850
E.W. Clay

Are you beginning to understand the precedent in the challenge to President Trump's ill-conceived executive order?  Constitutional law and Supreme Court ruling appear to be on the side of cities like San Francisco.  Little more history.

During the pre-Civil War-era jurisdictions that opted out of assisting federal law enforcement were not called sanctuary cities.  The phrase comes from the sanctuary movement of the 1980s, when houses of worship provided shelter for refugees from Central America who were denied asylum.  The sanctuary movement was a response to the Reagan-era restrictive asylum police, which supporters of the movement viewed as immoral.

"Solidarity in 1980s Sanctuary Movement" 
By the eighties, Los Angeles already ordered police officers not to check immigration status during routine stops.  Surprisingly former Los Angeles Police Department Chief Darryl Gates, who was known for not being easy on minorities, believed that this move allowed undocumented immigrants to report crimes without fear of deportation.  San Francisco enacted a 1989 ordinance forbidding the use of municipal funds for federal immigration enforcement.

Other cities followed suit since 2008, when Immigration and Customs Enforcement began asking local law to detain alleged undocumented immigrants for additional time, even if they were not charged for a crime.  Ms. Misra writes, "The constitutionality and legality of ICE's 'detainer' requests, which sometimes even target American citizens, have since been challenged in court."  Regardless what the name implies, the current 300-plus sanctuary cities are not making an effort to prevent federal authorities from deporting criminals rather, they are just establishing their own priorities reminiscent of what the Northern states in the Antebellum era.

Sanctuary Austin
In the current grand scheme of power, states trump cities.  Be that as it may, this period in American history provides some fuel to the sanctuary cities legal battle against the federal government.  Prof. H. Robert Baker writes,

[States' rights] modern association with "massive resistance" to desegregation has tarnished it to liberal eyes.  but sanctuary cities are cut from the same constitutional cloth-the very same that gave abolitionists the cover they needed to resist the Fugitive Slave Act.  Sanctuary cities' resistance to federal immigration law depends upon local popular support, legal and political assistance from the state, and a constitutional regime that respects the integrity of two sovereigns sharing the same space.  (Ibid)

The point of this history lesson is "...resolving the local-versus-federal fight may not necessarily end the political divide that caused it in the first place."  The decision in Prigg v. Pennsylvania allowed Congress to expand the federal mechanism to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act, fueling more resistance among Northern communities that federal authorities did not have the resources to put down.  Citizens rioted, shamed slave catchers, and held mass protests outside places where slave were detained.  In 1860, the Southern states seceded.  As they say, "the rest is history."