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Independents Are Republicans in Denial

A recent article by Peyton Craighill in the Washington Post entitled “Public Opinion On the Biggest Economic Worries” contained some interesting information. The article reviewed results of a recent Washington Post – Kaiser Harvard poll about what people are most concerned about in terms of the economy. However, one of the most interesting aspects of the results as they were presented is that people identifying themselves as “Independents” rather than “Republicans” or “Democrats” are closet Republicans – at least when it comes to the economy. Consider this set of responses to the question: “ Which of the following economic issues worry you the most?”

Dem Rep Indep
Job Situation 28 17 18
Budget Deficit 17 30 33
Health Care 29 18 19
Rising Prices 17 17 13
Housing / Finance 4 8 7
Other Mentions 5 8 9

Putting my own numeric filter on the findings, I came up with the following:

The difference between priorities expressed by Democrats and Independents looks like this:

Job Situation 10 Average Delta:
Budget Deficit 16
Health Care 10
Rising Prices 4
Housing / Finance 3
Other Mentions 4


The difference in priorities expressed by Republicans and Independents looks like this:

Job Situation 1 Average Delta:
Budget Deficit 3
Health Care 1
Rising Prices 4
Housing / Finance 1
Other Mentions 1

Therefore, Independents are four times as likely to vote with Republicans on issues, as they are to align with Democrats. If I was a prognosticator of election results, at least at a macro level, I would conclude that if all voters focused on were financial issues, three quarters of Independents would vote along the party lines of Republicans.

This, of course, begs the question: “Why do Independents identify themselves as Independents rather than Republicans? I have seen absolutely no data on this, but I am one of those people. Asked whether I am a Conservative or a Liberal, there is absolutely no question about it. I’m a Conservative. But asked whether I am a Democrat or a Republican, my answer is: “Neither. I am an Independent.” Why? Because I don’t like to be labeled, and because I have voted for both Republicans and Democrats over the last nearly 40 years since I have been eligible to vote. I wonder whether that’s why others define themselves as Independents.

What do you think?

Are Your Children Being Impacted by the Economic Downturn?

Children Affected by EconomyAn article in the Wall Street Journal from January 1, authored by Sudeep Reddy entitled “Downturn’s Ugly Trademark: Steep, Lasting Drop in Wages” highlighted a number of interesting points.

Among them was a recent US Department of Labor study reflecting that those losing jobs in the United States are more likely than not to suffer lasting income decreases of more than 20%, and that many of them never financially recover. This is probably not really news to most of us, since we experience it and/or see it around us every day.

However, buried deeper in the article is a reference to another economic study being conducted at the University of California, Davis which is unearthing a troubling phenomenon related to the children of parents who are displaced from their jobs. Children whose parents experience job loss appear to achieve lower income levels in their own adult lives.

Some excerpts from this excellent study by Page, Stevens, and Lindo include the following. The study is available for review at:

  1. “Like previous studies, we find that family resources decline substantially when a job loss occurs. For example, when all displacements are followed, head’s earnings fall by 36% and family income falls by 21% in the year after displacement. Family resources recover somewhat over time, but even 6 years later head’s earnings are approximately 26% lower than they would have been if the displacement had not occurred. Similarly, family income is reduced by 20 percent.”
  2. “Specifically, children whose parents experienced a job loss have adult earnings that are about 9% lower than children whose parents did not, even after controlling for family background characteristics other than income.”
  3. [Findings] “suggest that children whose parents lose their jobs via a firm closure are less likely to complete high school and less likely to attend college.”
  4. On the probability that a child will be found to be working after age 24, “individuals are significantly more likely to be working if their father experienced a job loss.”

There is, of course, much more to this study. This list is not meant to represent the scope of the study – just some of the elements I found most interesting. But it does foster some thoughts along these lines:

Why do layoffs and other financial setbacks impact the children still in the home, or is this a causal relationship at all? Perhaps it’s simply a matter of less discretionary spending in the household on private school tuition, private tutoring, and other extracurricular enrichment activity. This seems unlikely though, because the study seems to suggest that the financial impact on the next generation is most pronounced among those families having the lowest baseline income before the job loss occurred. In other words, the poorest families suffer the most. In these families, it is far less likely that there was much discretionary spending on private schools and tutoring. There simply isn’t enough money to provide those things. Is the child’s self-esteem or desire to excel diminished in some way by these events that plague the lives of their most prominent role models – their parents? Does the loss of a parent’s job necessitate a geographic move or other similar change that results in attendance at a school with lower-performing teaching staff? What other possibilities seem most likely? If the relationship is non-causal (or coincidental) it could arise from a more general economic downturn in the area that simply reduces employment opportunities and / or causes the most talented and skilled education professionals to migrate away from the area or from their teaching positions.

Whatever the reasons for this unfortunate phenomenon, what can and should be done to minimize this damage? If the root cause here is job loss, is it reasonable to expect that the employment situation in troubled areas can be stabilized quickly enough to prevent these job losses? If so, how should this be done and by whom? If local job displacement is not a fixable problem in the near term, what steps could be taken to assist the children of parents afflicted by this economic malady, and by whom?

What do you think?

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