Author Archives: Tyche Hendricks

Exit Interviews on the Exit Poll

San Francisco State University history lecturer Steve Leikin, left, talks with a student at a university election rally in October. Leikin was working with the campaign against Proposition 32. Photo by Ian Hill/KQED.

Leading California pollsters are raising questions about the accuracy of the Edison Research exit poll (viewable on the CNN website) in terms of how big a share young voters — and non-white voters — comprised of all those casting ballots in California in last Tuesday’s election.

What’s not in dispute: Young voters and “ethnic voters” (which is to say Latinos, Asian-Americans and African-Americans) played an influential role in California’s big Democratic turnout… helping to pass Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax hike measure, and giving President Obama a 21 percentage point edge in the already-blue state.

As we reported last week, Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo cast doubt on the share of last Tuesday’s voters who were under 30. The Edison exit poll put 18-29 year olds at 27 percent of Californians who voted in this election. But 18-29 year olds make up just 16 percent of all registered voters in the state, said DiCamillo. And in 2008 exit polling showed this age group was 20 percent of California voters.

“I certainly believe that the story line of this elections the power of ethnic voters, and that younger voters turned out in high numbers,” DiCamillo said. “It has to do with the governor [specifically Gov. Brown's campaign for Prop. 30] and online registration [which went into effect in September and has so far been used mostly by young Californians]…. But I can’t believe the 27 percent. That’s a huge number. To move the needle one full percentage point is a big thing, to move it seven or eight points is beyond credibility.” Continue reading

Spreading the Wealth: America’s Geography of Jobs

 

Opening speaker at Silicon Valley's DEMO Conference for new technology

Stephen Brashear/Flickr

KQED’s Forum host Michael Krasny held a provocative conversation Tuesday with UC Berkeley economics Professor Enrico Moretti about Moretti’s new book “The New Geography of Jobs.” The Italian-born economist describes the growing chasm between prosperous cities in the United States that are centers of education, innovation and technology – and struggling cities that were once powerhouses of manufacturing but are now losing ground.

In theory, the shift from an industrial economy to one driven by innovation was supposed to make geography matter less. In fact, Moretti says, we are witnessing a “great divergence” where the resource gap between places like San Francisco, Boston and Raleigh on the one hand, and Detroit, Cleveland and St. Louis on the other.

Moretti offers a case in point through the story of a young Silicon Valley engineer, David Breedlove:

The year is 1969 and Breedlove, just like many other professionals at the time, is thinking that urban areas were not good places to raise a family. He has a house, he has a good job in Silicon Valley, but he wants something quieter. At the time Visalia is not that all that different from a place like Menlo Park. Sure, wages are slightly higher in Menlo Park and there are slightly more professionals. But at the time, both cities have a mix of residents, both cities have decent schools and both cities have a variety of social classes.

If you look at the two cities today, 40 years after Breedlove made his choice, it’s almost like looking at two different continents. On the one hand, Menlo Park has become one of the most vital and prosperous innovation hubs of the world –Menlo Park including the communities around it, the entire Silicon Valley area. Visalia hasn’t grown in 40 years. It hasn’t added any college graduates to its population. Its wages are falling, schools are very problematic. Crime, that used to be higher in Menlo Park, is now twice as high in Visalia. Pollution is much worse there.

It exemplifies what has been going on with many American communities. They were very alike in the ‘60s and the ‘70s and they’ve been growing apart and now they’re almost different continents.

The key predictor of a community’s economic success today, Moretti says, is the education level of its workers — in particular the number of college graduates in the workforce.

“It didn’t use to be like that,” he adds. “Sixty or seventy years ago, infrastructure and physical capital were the key predictors of a community’s success. Workers in Detroit were well paid because they had access to great infrastructure and great physical machines.”

But in the information age, Moretti says: “new ideas and successful innovation are rarely born in isolation” and clustering educated, innovative people has a multiplier effect.

That’s bad news for a place like Flint.

So what are we to do to secure American prosperity? One solution, Moretti believes, is that the United States must put more resources into education and support for research and development:

It’s clear that there are two engines that are supporting U.S.prosperity right now. It’s human capital – meaning people and education – and innovation. And it’s clear that we’re not investing enough in either one. We all know about the problems of not investing in education. The U.S.used to be a leader in high school graduation and college graduation and for the past 30 years it has been surpassed by a number of countries.

The second under-investment we’re doing is in innovation.America does have some of the greatest innovation hubs of the globe. But at the same time we are grossly under-investing in R & D and that is costing us right now in jobs and it’s going to cost us jobs even more in the future. In the same way that there’s a market failure in the creation of human capital, there’s a market failure in the creation of innovation.

When a company, for example when Apple invents a new product like the iPad, it generates private profit in the form of its sales but it also generates an external benefit for all the other companies in the same industry that can see the new product, can learn from it and will copy the new product. Apple doesn’t get compensated for that part of innovation. That’s why the federal government provides R & D tax credits for innovation because there is a private benefit from investing in innovation but there is also a public benefit. The problem is this tax credits are not large enough and they are not permanent.

We really need to put more resources in investing in human capital and more resources in subsidizing innovation, because they both are activities that generate vast benefits for us as a society. It’s not a fairness argument; this is just a purely pragmatic self-interest argument.

 Another idea for revitalizing America’s Rust Belt (and beyond) in the post-industrial age, comes from journalist and historian Cathy Tumber, who’s new book, Small, Gritty and Green: The Promise of America’s Smaller Industrial Cities in a Low-Carbon World, argues that there’s hope for smaller American industrial cities to be revitalized through a green economy. Of course more investment in education and innovation may still be key.

Corporate Misdeeds and the Role of Government

Barclay's Bank branch

Flickr/Some Driftwood

In Wednesday’s New York Times, business columnist Eduardo Porter probes what he calls “The Spreading Scourge of Corporate Corruption,”in the wake of the scandal in which Barclay’s Bank admitted trying to manipulate key interest rates to its benefit (at a cost to consumers, businesses and investors), and implicated other banks.

Porter says misconduct in the financial industry has become so commonplace that it seems to have lost its shock value:

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the Libor scandal is how familiar it seems. Sure, for some of the world’s leading banks to try to manipulate one of the most important interest rates in contemporary finance is clearly egregious. But is that worse than packaging billions of dollars worth of dubious mortgages into a bond and having it stamped with a Triple-A rating to sell to some dupe down the road while betting against it? Or how about forging documents on an industrial scale to foreclose fraudulently on countless homeowners?

Porter debates whether corporations have become less ethical in recent years or whether their misdeeds are just more visible to us lately. He suggests “the temptation to bend the rules is probably highest toward the end of an economic upswing, when executives must be most creative to keep the stream of profits rolling in.” And he ticks off some of the forces that can lead to corruption:

  • Complex balance sheets at big companies make it easier to hide fraud;
  • Government’s urge to bail out banks that are “too big to fail,” can encourage them to take self-serving risks;
  • Globalization can spur “tooth and claw” competition for new markets;
  • The surge of corporate cash into the political process (see: Citizens United) can influence politicians to make laws friendlier to business desires.

Whatever the case, the United States at this point is no beacon of ethical behavior, Porter asserts. He cites an international watchdog agency:

In 2001, Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index ranked the United States as the 16th least-corrupt country. By last year, the nation had fallen to 24th place. The World Bank also reports a weakening of corruption controls in the United States since the late 1990s, so that it is falling behind most other developed nations.

Weakening corruption controls… what are those controls? They’re the laws and regulations that require transparency and fair dealings… and the regulatory agencies that enforce those rules. California’s “Homeowners Bill of Rights,” which Gov. Jerry Brown will sign into law Wednesday, is an example.

An accompanying article on the New York Times business page reports that regulators with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission have just approved new rules aimed at reining in the derivatives industry and “preventing a repeat of the financial crisis.” The Securities and Exchange Commission last week approved similar rules, which are a key part of enacting the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory law.

But the same article points out that one member of the commodity futures commission voted against the plan because he said “the fine print created loopholes wide enough for Wall Street to exploit,” and it said the commission wrote exemptions to the new rules “after months of frenetic corporate lobbying.”

On the one hand, it seems we need regulation to keep business and finance operating on the up-and-up to protect consumers and investors. On the other hand, businesses argue that regulation can become unwieldy and put them at a competitive disadvantage. So what’s the proper balance? And who will get us there? To help you understand the philosophies about regulation of presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, the National Journal recently came up with this explainer.

The whole debate brings to mind a 2008 radio piece produced jointly by NPR News and This American Life. Called “The Giant Pool of Money,” it does a good job explaining the mortgage meltdown and connecting the dots between the world of high finance and the homeowners who lost their homes to foreclosure. The program is an hour long, but it’s clear and entertaining.

Here’s reporter Adam Davidson describing what happened to an Iraq war veteran and to others like him:

Richard actually qualified for a Veterans Administration Loan at a really good rate. And he had money to put down. But the broker convinced him to take a mortgage that turned out to be much worse, but did have a much higher commission.

Mortgage brokers were walking around east Flatbush knocking on doors, telling just about anybody, hey, we can get you a house. If you have a house, we can get you a big home equity line of credit. This happened in poor neighborhoods all over the country.

And while the FBI and other law enforcement folks say they don’t have the exact numbers, it’s clear that fraud, like that fraud on Richard’s application, was ubiquitous.

What’s at stake when business regulation fails? Eduardo Porter ties it to a broader breakdown in trust, a fraying of the social compact that underlies our whole democracy:

It’s hard to fathom the broader social implications of corporate wrongdoing. But its most long-lasting impact may be on Americans’ trust in the institutions that underpin the nation’s liberal market democracy.

An overstatement? A mis-reading? Or grimly accurate? What do you think?

 

Health Care Reform… Is That What Government’s For?

Naval Medical Center, San Diego

Flickr/U.S. Navy photo, Todd Hack

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act June 28 has consumed lots of attention. Republicans are talking about repealing the act, while Democrats defended the law as “transformative of our society.” Why is it that this has become such a polarizing issue?

Pew Research Center President Andrew Kohut, a veteran pollster, shared some insight, based on his public opinion surveys, in a wide-ranging conversation this week with PBS NewsHour’s Jim Lehrer:

“Instrumental to the dislike of this program is the mandate,” said Kohut, referring to polling last month that showed that Americans are divided on the Obama-backed health reform law but that a majority disapprove of the “individual mandate,” that requires individuals to purchase health insurance coverage or face a penalty. “What has been overwhelming is the reaction to the mandate in particular and the concern about the role of government.”

The role of government… in health care and so many other aspects of American life… has become a central point of debate this election year.

Take a look at this graph from the Gallup poll: A decade ago, roughly 6 in 10 people believed the federal government had a responsibility to make sure all Americans have health care coverage. Now just 5 in 10 think so.

Gallup health care survey 2000-2012

Gallup health care survey 2000-2012

Yet, the government’s role in ensuring health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act is a much smaller one than in other proposals Americans have debated in recent years.

Remember the “public option”…? That was the proposal for a government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurers as part of the health care overhaul. It was widely popular, according to a New York Times poll in 2009.

The national telephone survey, which was conducted from June 12 to 16, found that 72 percent of those questioned supported a government-administered insurance plan — something like Medicare for those under 65 — that would compete for customers with private insurers. Twenty percent said they were opposed.

But it didn’t pass muster in Congress and didn’t end up in the final version of the law.

Looking back a little further, Ezra Klein, writing in the New Yorker, reminds us that the “individual mandate” that conservatives now consider a government intrusion, actually began its life as a conservative idea.

The mandate made its political début in a 1989 Heritage Foundation brief titled “Assuring Affordable Health Care for All Americans,” as a counterpoint to the single-payer system and the employer mandate, which were favored in Democratic circles.

Here’s a link to that brief, by Stuart M. Butler with the conservative Heritage Foundation, which formed the basis for a Republican alternative to President Clinton’s plan for health care reform in the early 1990s.

A lot of Americans still don’t fully understand what the Affordable Care Act would do (or what the Supreme Court did last week). In fact, the New York Times reports, some of the politicians campaigning to repeal the law are actually proposing to replace it with… elements that are already in it.

A spokesman for Representative Rick Berg, Republican of North Dakota who is seeking a Senate seat, told a reporter in his state that Mr. Berg wants to replace Mr. Obama’s health care law with one that does not deny insurance coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and closes the “doughnut hole” — a gap in pharmaceutical coverage — for people on Medicare. Those are two of the most popular provisions of the law Mr. Berg would repeal, which would be difficult to replicate without the regulatory mandates and tax increases he has vowed to reverse.

So what IS in the law? For an easy overview, check out this animated video from the Kaiser Family Foundation. It was produced before the Supreme Court’s ruling (and has been viewed more than 400,000 times) but most of it still holds true:

And then let us know what you think: What IS the role of government in terms of health care?

 

 

 

San Diego’s Political Geography is Increasingly Divided

Flickr/Dan Englander

What does a freeway mean in California? In the city of San Diego, Interstate 8 is more than a way to get from the desert to the beaches. It has become a political boundary. Since redistricting, newly drawn city council districts no longer cross the east-west freeway.

“It didn’t intend to be a demographic divide,” San Diego State University Geography Professor John Weeks told our reporter Katie Orr. “We do have this historical divide that’s created a demographic divide between the old part of the city, where people have sort of been left behind a little bit and the newer parts of the city, north of Interstate 8.”

San Diego’s northern suburban neighborhoods are home to residents who are wealthier, older, whiter and much more likely to vote Republican. In the central city and southern neighborhoods, residents are on average younger, less well off, more ethnically diverse and more Democratic. And some observers fear that will mean council members will be less willing to reach across the freeway… er, aisle.

Until recently, San Diego had a moderate mayor and a mix of Democratic and Republican city council members from both northern and southern neighborhoods. Now, all the northern council districts are represented by Republicans and all the southern ones by Democrats.

“We all know about the north and south of 8 divide,” said Councilman Todd Gloria. “What I think is perhaps troubling about the current drawings, though, is that there aren’t council members who have a stake on both sides of that fence.”

Will that set San Diego up for political gridlock?

And is it emblematic of California’s divided political geography more broadly?

Check out the story here:

Primary’s Lesson: Every Vote Counts

Primary Voters in California

Flickr/Old Man Lee

Two weeks after the June 5 primary, county elections officers are still hard at work counting ballots. There are still more than 300,000 absentee and provisional ballots yet to be processed around California. And lots of races hinge on those votes.

For starters: the fate of Proposition 29, the state tobacco tax hike. Support for the measure still lags, but the gap is narrowing. As of late Tuesday afternoon, the “Yes” votes were 17,571 behind the “No” votes. That’s a tiny fraction of the five million votes cast. And the margin against Prop. 29 has been shrinking steadily.  On June 12, it was 28,000, down from 63,000 votes the day after the election. And 337,977 ballots are still to be counted.

In addition, five congressional races and ten state assembly races are too close to call… with margins of less than two percent between the second and third vote-getters (only the top two will advance to the Nov. 6 general election).

In Congressional District 2, which stretches from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border, Democrat Norman Solomon trails Republican Daniel Roberts by 1,241 votes. The winner will face off against Democrat Jared Huffman in November.

In Congressional District 8, in the sparsely populated region east of the Sierras, three Republicans and one Democrat are all within about 900 votes of each other. The candidate currently in third place is just 215 votes shy of second place.

In Congressional District 21 which runs from south of Fresno down to Bakersfield, Democrat Blong Xiong trails Democrat John Hernandez by 492 votes. The winner will face Republican David Valadao.

In Congressional District 38, in Los Angeles County, Republican Jorge Robles is 632 votes behind Republican Benjamin Campos in a fight to take on Democratic incumbent Linda Sanchez.

And in Congressional District 52, in San Diego County, Democrat Lori Saldana is just 713 votes behind Democrat Scott Peters in a race to take on incumbent Republican Brian Bilbray.

In all those races, there are still thousands, if not tens of thousands, of ballots still being tallied.

The moral of the story? Your vote COUNTS!

Two thirds of California’s registered voters didn’t make it to the polls on June 5. But just a few hundred more votes in any of these close races could have swung the outcome. By voting — or staying home — you’ve had an impact on the election.

The Home Stretch to California’s Surpisingly Hot June Primary

United States Capitol

Tyche Hendricks/KQED

The June 5 primary may look drama free. After all… The presidential contest? Settled. The U.S. Senate race? Not too exciting.

But thanks to retirements, redistricting and California’s new top-two primary, the conventional wisdom about incumbents having safe seats is being turned on it’s head.

Host Scott Shafer moderated the conversation on Forum Friday, zooming in on several hotly-contested Congressional races and analyzing two political reforms that have completely re-shuffled the deck.

He’s joined by:

  • Carla Marinucci, political writer for The San Francisco Chronicle
  • Eric McGhee, research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California and author of “Open Primaries,” a report prepared for PPIC about the possible impacts of Proposition 14
  • Matt Rexroad, Yolo County supervisor, Republican political consultant and founding partner at Meridian Pacific
  • Robert Stern, former president of the Center for Governmental Studies

Take a listen:

Top-Two Primary Election: How’s That Work Again?

The "top-two" primary will be tested in a California state-wide election for the first time in June. Illustration: Getty Images

If you open your Sample Ballot for the June 5 primary election, you’ll find a big difference.

Take the race for the U.S. Senate: Instead of a roster of candidates for the one political party to with you belong, you’ll see all 24 candidates in a big long list (including 14 Republicans, 6 Democrats, 2 Peace and Freedom, 1 American Independent and 1 Libertarian). Even if you don’t have a party affiliation, you can now vote in the primary.

Pick your one choice from that long list. The two candidates who get the most votes will go to the general election in November.

KQED’s education blog, The Lowdown, explains it right here.

Once you understand how to vote using the new system, you may want to know more about how it’s going to change California politics. KQED’s Forum devoted an hour to the topic earlier this week. It was a lively — even heated — debate.

Former California Democratic legislator Steve Peace is the co-chairman of the California Independent Voter Project, which authored the Top Two Candidates Open Primary Act. He thinks the new primary system is good for Democracy:

Bottom line is, open primary means competition. Competition means a healthier system…. Seventy-three percent of Californians say that partisanship is at the root of our problems. (Yet) we’re run by the other 27 percent.

But Jon Fleischman, a GOP strategist and publisher of FlashReport.org, a website on California politics, hates it:

As I watch the practical application of Proposition 14, the amount of money that it takes to compete now is just absolutely staggering and stunning. The effect of that is that I’m watching the special interests from Sacramento, whether it’s the labor unions on the Democrat side, whether it’s certain business PACs on the Republican side or certain major donors are now weighing in and coming into these districts and they’re going to cherry pick the candidates.

You can hear the entire show right here:

Election Road Trip: Inland Empire Voters Seek a Voice in Wake of Recession

Riverside Foreclosure Auction/Scott Shafer

Outside the courthouse in the city of Riverside housing speculators sit in lawn chairs — protected from the mid-day sun by little blue awnings – and place their bids in the daily home foreclosure auction.

The same scene plays out every week day in San Bernardino, Chino, Fontana and other Inland Empire cities. Behind each auction is someone who reached out for the American Dream but couldn’t hold on.

On a road trip to take the political pulse of this growing region, The California Report’s Scott Shafer talked with homeowners losing their grasp and investors scooping up properties at a discount — who say they are re-energizing the area’s economy and helping it recover from the crushing effects of the recession.

But it will take a long time for the Inland Empire to bounce back from the mortgage meltdown. The region boomed in the last decade, then suffered the second highest home foreclosure rate in the country. It still struggles with 13 percent unemployment, higher than the state average.

The recession has left many in the Inland Empire feeling politically irrelevant and overlooked, in spite of the fact that the region is home to 4 million people, larger than many states.

In his reporting, Shafer found people working to create a stronger political voice for the region. And this election year could be key.

Though the Inland Empire has long been a Republican stronghold, many of the new arrivals from coastal cities are more likely to be Democrats. That means that several congressional elections here are now hotly contested. And with both parties campaigning hard, the Inland Empire could get what it’s been craving: attention from politicians.

Listen to Shafer’s story:

 

First Up on KQED’s Election 2012 Road Trip: The Inland Empire

Scott Shafer reporting in the Inland Empire

The California Report’s Scott Shafer just returned from the first stop on a statewide “listening tour” to take the pulse of California voters this election year.

The November election is shaping up to be a referendum on government… “How much government do we want? And who’s going to pay for it?” So we’re framing our election coverage with the question “What’s Government For?”

In Riverside and San Bernardino counties, Shafer heard some surprising answers, such as Republicans feeding the poor and asking government to do more. And he found that the region’s elected officials don’t yet reflect the changing political complexion of its current population.

In the presidential lounge at Riverside’s Mission Inn hang portraits of the presidents who have visited over the years. All but one are Republicans. And the Inland Empire has long been a bastion of the GOP. Four years ago, though, voters went for Barack Obama.

Shafer found that many of the new Democratic voters are transplants from coastal cities like Los Angeles. And many of them are Latinos. But low voter turnout prevents them from having the political clout they could. Shafer met some folks who are trying to change that.

Take a listen:

 

California’s Inland Empire

So what is the Inland Empire?

MAJOR CITIES: Riverside, San Bernardino, Fontana, Moreno Valley, Rancho Cucamonga, Ontario, Corona, Victorville, Murrietta, Temecula

POPULATION: 4.2 million (grew by almost one-third over past decade)

RACE and ETHNICITY: Latino 47%, White 37%, Black 7%, Asian American 6%

MAJOR INDUSTRIES: Warehousing/logistics, service sector, manufacturing, agriculture (once-booming construction and real estate/finance jobs dried up with the mortgage meltdown)

ECONOMIC INDICATORS: 13% unemployment, second highest home foreclosure rate in California, highest poverty rate in California for a metro area larger than 2 million people