The most interesting thing I’ve read this week: HuffPo/YouGov poll on Trump turning Republicans into pro-universal healthcare enthusiasts

by Ryan Streeter on September 4, 2015. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

At one level this shocking. On another it’s totally predictable. Either way, it’s kind of depressing how much celebrity drives views on policy:

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Democratic support for universal health care dwarfs Republican support among respondents who were told Obama endorsed the policy. But respondents from both parties were about equally likely to agree with universal health care when they were told Trump supported it. Republicans were significantly more likely to agree with Trump, while the percentage of Democrats who said they weren’t sure how they felt about universal health care jumped from 8 percent to 33 percent when Trump was the one endorsing the idea.

This is from a recent HuffPo/YouGov poll.

Think shrinking cities suffer from brain drain? Think again

by Ryan Streeter on September 1, 2015. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

America’s shrinking cities are widely viewed to be suffering from a “brain drain”—the flight of highly educated residents to other, more hospitable locales—that is crippling these cities’ economic competitiveness. While such cities have many problems, brain drain as popularly conceived is not one of them. Indeed, the conventional wisdom on brain drain and declining human capital in shrinking U.S. metropolitan areas is largely a myth: brain gain, not drain, is the reality.

That’s from the executive summary of Aaron Renn’s new study on 28 shrinking cities. He found that only 3 cities could arguably be suffering from brain drain. The rest are “attacking the wrong problem” whenever they commit resources to try to reverse their cities’ putative brain drain.


Regulations matter more than taxes to small businesses in this survey

by Ryan Streeter on September 1, 2015. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

The author of Thumbtack’s survey, which rates the business-friendliness of cities and states based on business owners’ perceptions, writes that “labor rules were 88 percent more important in driving state friendliness scores when compared to tax rates.”

It turns out that business owners’ perceptions track pretty closely with other indicators of migration and business health. Northeastern cities don’t fare as well as Sun Belt and other southern cities:

Small businesses in Manchester, Dallas, Richmond, Austin, and Knoxville gave their cities the highest ratings. Providence, New Haven, Buffalo, Albuquerque, and Hartford were the survey’s worst­-performing cities as rated by their small business owners.

Economic liberty vs. economic security

by Ryan Streeter on August 28, 2015. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

In the Weekly Standard, I argue that GOP candidates could learn a thing or two from Trump and Sanders about tapping into the sentiments of voters who feel that large forces they cannot control have largely taken over their lives:

To many Americans, low wages and low-quality jobs are symptoms of a deeper problem in which, to use Elizabeth Warren’s words, the game is rigged. Banks and corporations, foreign governments, and our own government are profiting from policies they have shaped with politicians at the expense of ordinary people. Sanders’s promise to break up the banks or Trump’s promise to take on China (all by himself, apparently) strike a chord with frustrated voters who feel helpless and want someone to fight for them.

The feeling that the powerful are rigging the game against the rest of us runs deep. According to Gallup, the share of Americans who say they are satisfied with the freedom they have to choose the direction of their lives has dropped steadily over the past decade, while the percentage of Americans who believe the U.S. government is corrupt has grown. For nearly 50 years until 2000, more than 80 percent of Americans said the United States offers plenty of opportunity to get ahead, but that figure steadily dropped to roughly 50 percent in recent years. In Pew’s political typology study last year the vast majority of Americans, including steadfast conservatives and “young outsiders” who lean right on many issues, believe too much power is concentrated in the hands of too few companies. A smaller yet still significant share of people in the survey believes our current economic system favors the powerful. All of these trends stand against the backdrop of flagging confidence in institutions. With the exception of the military and small business, every institution Gallup tracks suffers from lower public support than its historical average, with the presidency, the courts, and Congress near the bottom along with banks.

You can read it all here.

On the progressive libertarianism of tech founders

by Ryan Streeter on August 1, 2015. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

There are a number of interesting charts in this post, but this one in particular raises some good questions about the future public policy and political influence of the tech community:

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It’s based on the author’s “novel representative sample” of Silicon Valley tech founders, so I have no idea how large or truly representative it is. But with that caveat, it expresses in chart form what most people who observe the political views and activity of tech entrepreneurs have found.

Everyone knows that the tech community leans heavily to the left in its politics, and yet as the post shows, it does so in ways at odds with traditional progressive politics (the rest of the post shows other ways, too).

And so, on the one hand, tech founders have a greater faith in government to do good than the general public, but have more in common with libertarians on infusing competition into government to disrupt its status quo manner of operating. And when it comes to change and new experiences, the tech community is – as expected – high on the chart but clearly more in line with libertarians than the general public.

This raises interesting questions about how their optimism about disruption and optimism about government will “get along” going forward.

Progressives “stand athwart history, yelling Stop!”

by Ryan Streeter on July 31, 2015. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

In The Hill I write:

When 3D food printing makes it possible for restaurants to produce dishes with items they formerly purchased from federally inspected manufacturers, how will progressives respond? If the online delivery of high-quality, low-cost education options grow to the point that traditional public schools lose too many students, how might progressives propose we change “No Child Left Behind”? What will progressives say about Pager, the new Uber-like app that dispatches doctors directly to patients’ homes?

These questions become especially important when we consider that the regulators in government agencies are biased, typically in a progressive direction. As a new Brookings Institution study finds, federal regulators impose rules in a manner consistent with their own views. The study’s authors found that regulators overestimate small risks, much like ordinary people. The EPA, for instance, engages in the “bizarre practice of treating as equal both real and hypothetical exposure risks”…

The arc of progressivism is on the wrong side of history when it comes to the disruptive technologies that benefit the middle class that progressives love to defend. Whether conservative and libertarian-leaning leaders can offer an alternative vision remains to be seen, but the progressive tendency to stand athwart history on these matters has given them an open door to try.

Kudos to those who get the veiled Bill Buckley reference at the end.

“Texas is now America’s top technology exporter”

by Ryan Streeter on July 22, 2015. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

In their editorial yesterday on how well Texas’s diversified, low-cost economy has weathered the downturn in oil prices, the Wall Street Journal editors note:

[I]n Austin, which has little exposure to the energy industry, business other than government is booming. May job growth surged at an annual rate of 6.6%, including “a significant increase in high-paying scientific and technical services jobs.” Texas is now America’s top technology exporter, surpassing long-time leader California. [emphasis added]

The quote and data come from the Dallas Fed Beige Book.

Another interesting thing to note about tech enterprises is how they spur job growth in business services. Note in this Kotkin/Shires article how employment growth in businesses services outpaces tech growth but seems to be centered in cities with good tech numbers, since that’s where so much opportunity and action is.

Work levels, discouragement, and their sources

by Ryan Streeter on July 20, 2015. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

Whether or not it is a problem that a rising share of men do not want a job depends on the reasons for this increase. Certainly the increasing number of men receiving federal disability benefits bears scrutiny and offers another way for policy to encourage opportunity-promoting incentives.

That is Scott Winship’s conclusion at the end of an otherwise fairly optimistic (as is Scott’s wont) account of work patterns among Americans under 25. This piece is a condensed version of testimony Scott delivered before the JEC.

In her testimony at the same hearing, Aparna Mathur said:

If workers are too discouraged about the prospects of finding a job, the labor force participation rate for the U.S. economy will continue to decline. This is exactly what we see in the data.

Scott accounts for the relationship between education and work participation, namely that the drop in participation among younger workers is because many of them are in school, which is a good thing. But he and Aparna are right to shine a light on, first, the role that our disability programs may be playing in keeping people detached from meaningful work and, second, how other sources of discouragement (taking part-time work because you can’t find a job in the field for which you are qualified or in which you are interested) are creating problems. These are two of the most important questions for research and policy debate on labor markets going forward, I think. Somewhere deeply embedded in all of this are questions of how and whether a sense of purpose, in the Aristotelian sense, has been on the decline because of the nature of work and its relationship to other things we care about.

Where have all the workers gone? U.S. participation rate falls below Japan’s, Germany’s, and the UK’s

by Ryan Streeter on July 3, 2015. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

The work participation rate in the U.S. continues to be a puzzler. It’s at its lowest in 40 years, and nearly 100 million people over the age of 16 are not in the workforce.

It’s especially puzzling because it has continued to decline as economic conditions have improved and, as Jim Pethokoukis points out, it is now lower than other advanced countries.

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Business owners say their biggest problem is the “society of rules” in which they operate

by Ryan Streeter on June 21, 2015. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

I was perusing the latest NFIB survey of small businesses (PDF) in America and was struck by the following two charts.

Regulation has spiked dramatically since 2008 as the #1 concern in the following collection of problems facing business owners.

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It’s interesting to note that insurance concerns, which spiked in the early aughts, began falling in 2005 before the debate over Obamacare began.

In the following list, taxes have assumed their place at the top, displaced by sales only because of the Great Recession. What’s also interesting is the generally inverse relationship between sales and labor quality. The latter has displaced the former recently as a concern, which matches the “skills mismatch” problem we hear so much about these days.

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