Category Archives: Economics

Racial attitudes still divide the two major parties

Barack Obama’s presidency has been marked by heated debates about the Republican Party’s racial attitudes. Many liberals have noted the dog whistles —subtle cues that play on stereotypes and may trigger taboo sentiments — employed in Republican attacks on the president. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, for instance, famously called Obama a “food stamp president,” former Sen. Rick Santorum accused him of giving welfare to “blah people,” and many conservatives have claimed Obama couldn’t have been born in the United States.

For the most part, the public abhors and condemns such blatant racism. But recent data on public sentiments suggest that many Americans hold beliefs affirming subtler, structural racism and that the popularity of these believes divides sharply along party and political lines.

I began my examination of whether there is a partisan divide on racial issues with the American National Election Studies 2012 survey. The first set of questions I examined measures racial stereotyping, asking respondents whether they believe that black people are “hard-working” or “lazy,” “intelligent” or “unintelligent” and whether they have “too much influence” or “too little influence” in politics — in other words, questions measuring explicitly racist attitudes.

The second set of questions I examined measures what scholars call racial resentment. These questions measure perceptions of the persistence of racial inequality and discrimination by asking respondents whether they agree or disagree with these statements:

• Irish, Italians, Jewish and many other minorities overcame prejudice and worked their way up. Blacks should do the same without any special favors.
• Generations of slavery and discrimination have created conditions that make it difficult for blacks to work their way out of the lower class.
• Over the past few years, blacks have gotten less than they deserve.
• It’s really a matter of some people not trying hard enough; if blacks would only try harder, they could be just as well off as whites.

I also looked at responses to the question “How much discrimination do black people face?”,as well as whether respondents support government assistance to African-Americans, including employment protections.

This second group of questions examines issues related to colorblind racism. As sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva writes in “Racism Without Racists,” colorblind racism is “racism lite,” in which “instead of proclaiming God placed minorities in the world in a servile position, it suggests they are behind because they do not work hard enough.”

Among non-Hispanic whites, there are strong and persistent gaps between Republicans and Democrats, with at least 22-point gaps in opinion on each issue I examined. The deepest divide is on whether blacks should work their way up, as Irish- and Italian-Americans supposedly did, which divided members of the two parties by 30 points.

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On racial stereotyping, the gaps are smaller, with only an 8-point gap in the share saying black people are unintelligent, but an 18-point gap in the share saying they are “lazy.” While only 7 percent of Democrats believe that blacks have too much influence over politics, 25 percent of Republicans do. With regard to the government’s role in ameliorating racial inequality, the split was even larger, with 35-point gaps on whether the government should help blacks or blacks should help themselves, and on whether or not it is the government’s job to ensure fair treatment in the workplace.

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Examining self-identified conservatives and liberals gives similar results, with gaps of 26 to 38 percentage points on issues related to colorblind racism, gaps averaging 17 points on the stereotyping questions and gaps averaging 40 points on questions about government aid.

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In a piece last year, journalists Nate Silver and Allison McCann investigated whether white Republicans were more racist than white Democrats. They focused on questions that examine racial stereotyping, such as whether blacks are lazier or less intelligent than whites and whether a white person would feel comfortable with a close family member marrying a black person. On many of these questions, partisan gaps have disappeared. However, on the question of whether blacks “lack the motivation to pull themselves out of poverty,” the partisan gap is large: In the 2012 survey, 57 percent of white Republicans and 41 percent of white Democrats agreed.

Silver and McCann concluded that “there’s a partisan gap, although not as large of one as some political commentators might assert. There are white racists in both parties. By most questions, they represent a minority of white voters in both parties.” However, assuming Bonilla-Silva is correct that institutional racism is the primary problem today, the questions Silver and McCann used didn’t adequately address the real partisan gaps on race.

My analysis suggests that focusing on stereotyping and other explicitly racist attitudes rather than structural racism obscures much of the differences between how Republicans and Democrats think about race. The two parties are significantly divided on whether entrenched barriers still hamper upward mobility for blacks and whether government should intervene.

That said, we cannot be sanguine about how explicit racial stereotyping influences conservative politics. Those who claim, as economist Alex Tabarrok did before the 2012 election, that “it is undeniable that some Americans are racist but racists split about evenly across the parties” are mistaken. In reality, while 23 percent of Democrats say black people are lazy, 41 percent of Republicans do. And among strong Democrats and strong Republicans, the numbers become even more stark, 20 percent compared with 46 percent. Furthermore, 41 percent of whites who say they are extremely conservative believe black people are lazy, compared with 14 percent of whites who say they are extremely liberal. On the question of whether black people are unintelligent, it’s 30 percent for extremely conservative whites versus 11 percent for extremely liberal whites. This clearly suggests that racial animus is more prevalent among conservatives and Republicans.

It also accounts for why debates about race in America are subject to such deep partisan conflict. Since the civil rights movement, Americans have broadly rejected explicit expressions of racism. On the question of black intelligence, the gaps are smallest between the two parties, suggesting that views of inherent black inferiority are rejected across the political spectrum — or are simply too taboo to admit. But on issues of discrimination, the persistence of racism and the importance of history, the parties are sharply divided.

Law professor Ian Haney Lopez argued, “We have to get away from this idea that there is one sort of racism and it wears a Klan hood. Of course, that is an egregious form of racism, but there are many other forms of racism. There are racisms.” He noted that these other forms of racism “are easily used to manipulate broad swaths of the American electorate.”

In 2005, Republicans apologized for the post-1968 Southern strategy of targeting white voters with thinly veiled racial appeals. But a decade later, as the rise of Donald Trump illustrates, they haven’t stopped using it.

This piece originally appeared on Al Jazeera America. 

How public financing can win back democracy

This week’s elections featured a number of losses for progressive politics, but there was at least one silver lining: They showed that when voters have an opportunity to reject big donor politics, they overwhelmingly will. In both Maine and Seattle, voters approved ballot measures to implement or strengthen public financing, an important reform that can increase the diversity of the donor pool and reduce the power of big money in politics. In Maine, the ballot initiative would boost funds for qualifying candidates and require more disclosure of some political spending. In Seattle, Initiative 122 implements a first of its kind voucher program, which gives each voter $25 vouchers that they can give to their preferred candidate for mayor, city council and city attorney. The initiative also bars contribution from companies or individuals that have large contracts with the city.

Why do these programs matter? A recent study from the Institute for Southern Studies of North Carolina shows that the donor class is overwhelmingly white, far whiter than the general public. Alex Kotch, author of the report, writes, “95 percent of the largest North Carolina donors to key federal races in the 2014-2016 election cycles were white, while non-Hispanic whites make up 65 percent of the state population.” A study of Seattle’s 2013 election suggests that while Seattle is 67 percent non-Hispanic white, the neighborhoods from which more than half of contributions came from were 80 percent white.

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There is evidence that public financing would increase the diversity of the donor base. A study of New York City’s 2009 municipal election finds that “donors giving $10 or less live in neighborhoods that are more racially diverse than the city as a whole.” Research suggests that the city’s public matching system (which uses public funds to match small donations) increased the diversity of the city’s donor pool. Otherresearch suggests that the small donor pool tends to be more racially diverse than the large donor pool and that donors as a whole tend to be whiter than the general population.

The donor pool also has differing preferences from the general population. As I’ve noted several times, there is ample evidence that donors are pulling the nation to the right on economic issues, exacerbating rising inequality. Donors of all stripes tend to be more economically conservative as the chart below, made with data from the 2014 Cooperative Congressional Election Study shows.

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A study by Didi Kuo and Nolan McCarty finds, “Donors are also more supportive of low taxes and freer trade. Donors were slightly less supportive of the Affordable Care Act, which overhauled the American health care system to promote universal coverage.” One study by a group of scholars spearheaded by Wesley Joe of the Campaign Finance Institute finds, “Large donors are more likely than small donors to give in the interest of advancing their own narrow economic concerns, as distinct from a more general concern about the economy.” The chart below shows this. Large donors are far more likely to report donating for “material” reasons (advancing their own material interests), while small donors tend to donate for “purposive reasons” (ideological alignment and which candidate they feel would be better for the economy). Their study also finds that small donors are closer to the opinions of non-donors than large donors, with large donors being more economically conservative.

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There is evidence that public financing frees politicians from the influence of the donor class. A study by Peter Francia and Paul Herrnson finds that candidates who are publicly financed spend less time raising money than privately funded counterparts. Miller finds that publicly financed candidates spend more time interacting with the general public. That matters, because as Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy has said of fundraising for his campaign, “I talked a lot more about carried interest inside of that call room than I did in the supermarket . . . [The people I’m calling] have fundamentally different problems than other people.”

A Demos study of public financing in Connecticut finds that, “In the short time since public financing has been in place, Connecticut has seen an increase in diversity in the legislature, a more substantive legislative process, and more freedom from big donor and special interests.”

The experience of one former legislator is telling. He tells Demos,

“Before public financing, during the session…there were ‘shakedowns’ where lobbyists and corporate sponsors had events and you as a legislator had to go. That’s no longer a part of the reality.”

There are other benefits of public financing. In his book, “Subsidizing Democracy,” Michael Miller finds, that roll-off (when individuals vote for the most high-profile contests but don’t complete their ballot) appears to be lower when at least one candidate ran with public financing. If public financing does increase turnout, that would have further political benefits for Laws for political equality help increase economic equality. A study by Patrick Flavin finds that, “states with stricter campaign finance laws devote a larger proportion of their annual budget to public welfare spending in general and to cash assistance programs in particular.” Thus, by limiting big money in politics,

Public financing of elections is popular and, given the Supreme Court decisions over the last few decades, one of the few options left to reformers that want to make America live up to its democratic values. The ballot initiatives in Seattle and and Maine provide a glimmer of hope in the often bleak news about the increasing power of the donor class.

This piece originally appeared on Salon

The silent political war on the middle class

Teddy Roosevelt famously argued that, when it comes to foreign policy, one should “Speak softly, and carry a big stick.” Similarly, an apt summation of the political inclinations of billionaires might be, “Speak softly, and carry a big check.”

While some billionaires, like Warren Buffett, are outspoken on political issues, most tend to say very little, or speak in vague generalities. But a new working paper by political scientists Benjamin Page, Jason Seawright and Matthew Lacombe finds that what billionaires say and what they do are dramatically different. While billionaires rarely go on the record discussing Social Security and taxes, they work behind the scenes to oppose policies favored by average Americans. Often, there are deep disconnects between what billionaires say regarding policies and which organizations they fund.

The new study examines an even smaller and more insular group than the previous work of Page and Seawright: the richest 100 American billionaires. Together, the billionaires were worth $1,291 billion (more than the entire GDP of Mexico). Obviously, the billionaires weren’t going to sit down for lengthy interviews on policy priorities. Instead, the authors combed through nearly every public statement by the billionaires on two subjects: tax policy and Social Security. The project required a massive amount of work: Lacombe spent nearly 400 hours conducting the related searches. One of the first things the authors find is that even the politically active wealthy rarely take overt public stances. They write, “The Koch brothers (David and Charles) are a leading example of this: they generally combine public silence about policy with large financial contributions to political causes.” Though they intend to contribute nearly a billion dollars to influence the 2016 election cycle, they “generally make only vague political comments, if any comment at all.”

The authors dub this “stealth politics.” Indeed, only 26 billionaires (a quarter) made any statements on tax policy over the last 10 years. Of these, the vast majority of statements came from a small but politically active and visible group: Michael Bloomberg, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and George Soros, who made 65 comments in total. Even those statements tended to be vague and rather brief. More strikingly, only three of the billionaires made statements regarding Social Security. When billionaires do make statements, they appear to be a rather diverse and moderate group. As the chart shows, when speaking on most key issues, billionaires are split pretty evenly (although they tend to favor more carbon taxes, and fewer corporate taxes). But that billionaires were largely silent and moderate doesn’t mean they aren’t concerned with more radical policies.

The billionaires the authors examined were rather active politically. One-third either hosted a political fundraiser or bundled contributions for a candidate (this compares to one-fifth of the top 1 percent of the wealthiest and very few if any average Americans). A whopping 82% of the billionaires in the sample gave to political candidates in 2011-2012, and they gave, on average, $74,982 (that’s $20,000 more than the median household income in the United States).

Brian Schaffner, a professor of political science at University of Massachusetts-Amherst and one of the lead researchers on the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (a massive survey that includes 50,000 respondents), provided data on the what the general public gives. CCES data suggest that 24% of Americans gave money in the 2012 election cycle, but only 6 percent gave more than $200. On average, the general public gave $336, meaning that the average donation by one of the super rich is 223 times more than the donation of the general public. Unsurprisingly, given other research, the billionaires heavily favored the Republicans: 65 percent of those who made partisan contributions were exclusively or primarily to Republicans. On average, each billionaire in the sample gave $53,227 to a Republican candidate and $21,411 to Democrats.

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To further discern political preferences, the authors took a new tack: They examined political donations to issue-specific organizations, rather than to candidates, parties or PACs. (For research on these subjects, see here). This has two advantages.

First, much of the money that’s given to more moderate candidates is aimed at cultivating access and creating the appearance of “moderation.” If a billionaire wants to change policy, they are better off donating to incumbents or candidates highly likely to win than dark horse candidates that are closer to their values (a lesson the left could learn from). This argument makes sense: research shows that individuals who donate to campaigns tend to focus on ideological purity, whereas PACs and businesses spread money more widely and focus on getting access and policy results. Given the vast amounts billionaires give, it would make more sense for them to pursue the strategies a PAC or business would, not the strategies of an individual donor. Second, placing candidates on a simple left/right axis obscures more than it illuminates. Research suggests that the wealthy are more socially liberal than the average American and far more fiscally conservative. This would lead to the appearance that the rich are more in line with American values than they actually are.

What the researchers found through the aforementioned strategy is interesting. To use just one example: While billionaires often spoke in favor of estate taxes, the 12 percent of billionaires who donated to political organizations focused on estate taxes all donated to organizations seeking to reduce them.

The authors created a model to test stealth politics, and they find that “among those who did not speak, higher wealth led to more conservative overall patterns of political action related to taxes or Social Security.” That is, the wealthy tend not to speak out when their views would be unpopular, but rather covertly donate to unpopular causes.

The charts below show this fact rather dramatically. However, even these data understate the extent of the problem. Many of the organizations that billionaires would use to advance their political views are 501(c)4 or (c)6 organizations, which don’t have to disclose their donors.

As Open Secrets notes, “[Political] spending by organizations that do not disclose their donors has increased from less than $5.2 million in 2006 to well over $300 million in the 2012 presidential cycle.”

It will likely increase even more in the future.

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The first step toward reducing stealth politics includes some rather simple proposals: First, all political donations should be disclosed. While the Supreme Court has decimated most possibilities for robust campaign finance reform, this door remains open. An easy first step would be an executive order that mandates that government contractors disclose political donations. Research by Christopher Witkosuggests why this is necessary: He finds that government contractors that donate more money to federal candidates receive more contracts, even after controlling for numerous relevant factors. A recent Demos report by Naila Awan and Liz Kennedyfinds that 80 percent of the largest 20 government contractors don’t disclose the money they contribute to 501(c)(4) and 501(c)(6) organizations.

The United States also needs a robust public financing system, which would allow for more small donor democracy. According to Brian Schaffner, the average small donation (under $200) in 2012 was $85, meaning that to equal the $889 million the Koch Brothers plan to spend, it would take 10.5 million small donors.

There are many policies that are required for the U.S. to become a true democracy. To begin, we need to end the stealth politics of America’s wealthiest citizens and amplify the voices of ordinary Americans.

This piece originally appeared on Salon. 

Politicians respond overwhelmingly to the rich

Since the beginnings of democracy, debate has raged as to how responsive politicians are to their constituents. Though such debates stretch back centuries, only recently have academics gotten the ability to use data to test how well legislatures represent the people they ostensibly serve. So far, the evidence hasn’t been kind, with two leading academics arguing recently that, “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”

That’s academic for: “American democracy is a joke.”

Much of the academic work, and nearly all of the press coverage of the field, has focused solely on the United States. In a new working paper, a luminary in the field, political scientist Larry Bartels, expands his analysis to explore the relationship between policy and public preferences to the international arena. First, Bartels finds increasing demand for a stronger safety net across in many countries where data stretch back more than two decades, including the United States. (Indeed, support for more social spending has increased the most dramatically in the US). He does so by using a question that asks individuals to indicate where they would like more government spending. (The question notes that tax increases may be necessary to boost government spending.) Although there are eight spending areas in the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) data, Bartels focuses in on four: pensions, health, unemployment benefits, and education.

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While it initially appears that policymakers respond to changes in public preferences, Bartels shows that in fact the changes are endogenous. When Bartels controls for economic growth and unemployment, the apparent relationship between public opinion and public spending is eliminated. (See the dashed line in the figure below.)

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Bartels finds massive differences between the rich and poor on preferences for social spending, budget cutting and “welfare state values.” To determine public support for budget cutting, Bartels used a question that asked whether cuts in government spending as “some things the government might do for the economy.” What Bartels refers to as “welfare state values” are these questions: “On the whole, do you think it should or should not be the government’s responsibility to provide a job for everyone who wants one?” and “ “On the whole, do you think it should or should not be the government’s responsibility to reduce income differences between the rich and the poor?”

As the chart shows, the rich are less supportive of social spending, more supportive of budget cuts, and opposed to government guaranteeing jobs and reducing inequality (“welfare state values”).

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The United States was a leader in class conflict, with the largest gap between the rich and poor on social spending of any nation, the second highest gap on budget-cutting preferences (only Finland had a greater level of class conflict) and the fourth highest gap on welfare state values (after Netherlands, Sweden and New Zealand). The Nordic countries had among the highest gaps in opinion, suggesting that many of the rich may feel that the country has gone too far to reduce inequality and providing public goods. In only one country, South Korea, were the rich more supportive of higher social spending than the poor. In all countries, the wealthy were less supportive of “welfare state values” than the poor.

When Bartels compared the policy preferences of the rich and poor to actual policy results (with controls) his results were disturbing. He finds that low-income preferences had virtually no effect on policy outcomes.

Then Bartels, in a deeply original and important contribution to the literature, estimates what the effect of equal representation would be on social spending, and uses that measurement to conclude that, by contrast, biased responsiveness reduces real social spending per capita by 28 percent on average. In the United States, he finds that the gap is around 40 percent.

To repeat: Social spending in the United States is 40 percent lower than it would be if policymakers didn’t disproportionately respond to the rich.

A paper by researcher Derek A Epp, currently under review, suggests one possible source of the problem: “During periods of high inequality the government engages in fewer policy activities on a narrower range of topics.” He finds that redistribution is one of the first issues pushed off of the agenda. This is largely in line with the work of a group of political scientists who find that policy stagnation has reduced the ability of government’s to respond to rising inequality.

Further, as I’ve noted, the agendas of the poor and rich are different, the poor and middle class tend to be more concerned with issues of redistribution like poverty and the minimum wage. Legislatures are increasingly stretched, and they rely more on pre-packaged bills by organizations like ALEC and turn to interest groups and lobbyists to help analyze and draft legislation.

Lee Drutman has made this argument forcefully and frequently, noting, “The entire House and Senate combined spend less on staff ($2 billion a year) than corporations spend on lobbying ($2.6 billion a year).” The result is obvious: economic inequality only further strengthens the power of the already wealthy, creating a self-fueling cycle. As Drutman notes, the solution is equally obvious: bolster legislative capacity by increasing staff size and salaries. At the state level, we need professionalized state legislatures. (While part-time citizen legislators sound good, the research suggeststhey do a bad job representing their constituents.)

The literature on inequality and democracy continues to expand dramatically. There’s been increasing research at the state level, as well as new studies examining race, gender and the interactions of race and class. Further, studies are increasingly honing in on the donor class, differential turnout and rising economic inequality as explanations for this unequal representation.

The solutions are simple to imagine, but more difficult to put into practice. Unions promote both economic and political equality – they both push up the wages of workers and mobilize politically for the interests of the middle class. Automatic voter registration would boost turnout, and combined with non-partisan get-out-the-vote operations offers the most viable route to boosting turnout among low-propensity individuals. Disclosure of campaign donations, robust public financing of electionsand limits on the ability of corporations and wealthy individuals to influence elections could alleviate the pervasive influence of money over politics.

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As it happens, policies to reduce the power and influence of the elite class over politics have broad public support, across all parties. (The charts above show net support, meaning I subtracted the share of people against the policy from the share in support.) The problem, of course, is getting the politicians already under the sway of powerful interests to pass laws limiting their influence over politics.

This piece originally appeared on Salon

How donors distort democracy

What would America look like if donors didn’t rule the world? It’s an interesting question and one worth pondering as the 2016 Presidential campaigns kick off. Available data reveals that donors not only have disproportionate influence over politics, but that influence is wielded largely to keep issues that would benefit the working and middle classes off of the table.

Do donors really rule the world? Recent research suggests that indeed they do. Three political scientists recently discovered that a 1 percent increase in donor support for a policy leads to a 1 percent increase in the probability the president supports the policy, if the president and donor are in the same party. On the other hand, they find no similar effect from general public opinion on presidential policies. In another study, Brian Schaffner and Jesse Rhodes find, “the roll call voting of members of Congress may be more strongly associated with the views of their donors (including outside donors) than with those of their voting constituents.” So who are these donors?

First off, donors are rich. Michael Barber performed a survey of about 2,870 donors who gave more than $200 in the 2012 election. The chart below shows the distributions of income and wealth, and donors are far richer. Fewer than 3 percent of donors reported an annual family income of less than $50,000 and more than 30 percent had an income greater than $350,000.

Donors are also whiter than the general public. Research suggests that 90 percent of federal contributions greater than $200 in the 2012 general election came from majority white neighborhoods. A study of the 2009 New York City municipal election finds that, at the highest levels of giving, the donor pool is least diverse. A study of Seattle’s 2013 election suggests that more than a quarter of contributions came from 391 contributors (0.07 percent of the population) who gave $1,000 or more. The research also shows that while Seattle is 67 percent non-Hispanic white, the neighborhoods from which more than half of contributions came from were 80 percent white. Other research suggests that donors are also disproportionately male.

Donors are also more conservative than the general public. There are two ways to show this. First, we can examine the preferences of the hyper-rich who make up the vast majority of donors. Benjamin Page, Larry Bartels and Jason Seawrightinterviewed some of these individuals, who make up the richest 1 percent of the population. Within their sample, 21 percent had helped bundle for candidates, and 68 percent had contributed money to candidates (an average of $4,633 over the 12 months before the survey). As the charts below show, these donors are more likely to oppose government ensuring that all Americans have healthcare coverage. In addition, while majorities of the general public favor national health insurance and are willing to pay more in taxes to provide health coverage to everyone, majorities of the wealthy disagree.

On issues of inequality, an interesting divide occurs. The rich agree with average Americans that inequality isn’t necessary for America’s prosperity and that income differences are too large. But, while the general public sees government as a way to reduce inequality, namely through taxes on the wealthy, the wealthy vehemently disagree.

Another source on differences between the donor class and the general public is the 2012 CCES, which political scientists Didi Kuo and Nolan McCarty recently analyzed. The chart below shows the preferences of ordinary Americans, the donor population in general, and then specifically Republican donors on a broad swath of issues. The data show that donors tend to be more conservative. Even without addressing partisan affiliation, donors are more likely than non-donors to support the extreme House Republican budget (17 percent of non-donors vs. 21 percent of donors in favor) and the Bowles-Simpson deficit reduction package (47 percent to 54 percent). In addition, they are more likely to favor exempting contraception from the insurance mandate (37 percent to 45 percent). Republican donors, meanwhile, overwhelmingly supported exempting contraception from the mandate (88 percent). Finally, while the split between donors and non-donors on the ACA is small, only 9 percent of Republican donors supported the law, compared with 24 percent of Republicans who were non-donors.

In the absence of the donor class then, our policies on economic issues would be more progressive. Adam Lioz has argued that policies would also be more racially equitable, noting that, “the drive for racial equity in America faces a serious headwind: the role of private wealth and big business in our political system.” Lioz outlined how big money has helped fuel mass incarceration, the subprime mortgage crisis and slow the passage of paid sick leave.

The solution to big money is two-fold. First, we need mass voter participation. The path is simple: Eliminate unnecessary barriers to voting, shift the burden of registration off of people and onto the government and expand nonpartisan mobilization efforts. But that won’t be enough as long as donors rule democracy. So we should broaden the donor pool with a vibrant public financing system. Evidence from New York suggests that a donor-matching system could increase the diversity of the donor pool, further bolstering democracy. Demos has profiled a number of candidates that fight for working class and non-white Americans but were massively out-raised by their opponents, and showed how small donor democracy would boost their chances of winning. Candidate Eric Adams, when commenting on the New York public matching system noted that, “a large number of people who contribute to my campaign have never contributed to a campaign before.” A world in which big donors are less powerful is a world where average Americans have more of a say in politics.

This piece originally appeared on Salon

The case for a job guarantee

Long-term unemployment is the scourge of modern economies. In a society where people take value from work, unemployment is destabilizing and degrading. A bout of long-term unemployment can permanently scar worker, leaving them with lower wages and fewer usable skills. Last year, Jared Bernstein and Dean Baker put forwarda persuasive case for a return to full employment as the palliative to unemployment. But it’s increasingly clear the private sector cannot create full employment on its own. Even at the height of the Clinton boom, millions of African-Americans and low-skilled workers were jobless. To get full employment, progressives should embrace an idea that hasn’t surfaced recently in mainstream American political dialogue: a universal government job guarantee.

In a recent article, Derek Thompson explored a future “world without work.” While his article was well-researched and informative, it misses a key point: For inner-city Black Americans, “a world without work” is not a dystopian future, but a present reality. As Mark Levine writes, “By 2010, in five of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas, fewer than half of working-age black males held jobs. In 25 of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas, fewer than 55 percent of working-age black males were, in fact, employed.” In a recent Center for Economic Policy Research report Cherrie Bucknor notes the Black/white gap in employment rates “increased during the recent recession and is still larger than its pre-recession level.”

Reniqua Allen refers to this reality as the “permanent recession” that Black men face. People of color are the first to lose jobs during a recession and the last to gain them in a recovery. Further, many future losses from new technology will occur in heavily racialized sectors, like retail and fast food. Occupational segregation means that people of color, and particularly women of color, will bear the brunt of job losses. Racial justice requires addressing the future of work.

A government job guarantee has a long history in American politics. As Theda Skocpol notes in “Social Policy in The United States,” during the recession of the 1890s, the American Federation of Labor (which later merged with the Congress of Industrial Organizations to form AFL-CIO), requested public works to abate the recession. They repeated these demands during the early 1900s, and after World War I demanded that “a nation that sent men into battle had a moral and political obligation to make sure they had jobs when they returned home.”

However, the AFL were opposed to government-sponsored unemployment insurance. Skocpol cites Alex Keyssar who writes that, “unionists stressed that public works programs were preferable to simple poor relief in three respects: They paid workers a living wage rather than a pittance; they permitted jobless men and women to avoid the demoralizing consequences of accepting charity; and they performed a useful public service.” However, over the past decade, the government hasn’t guaranteed jobs; instead ,conservative austerity policies have lead to millions of public sector jobs being cut.

One partial reason the government job guarantee may be off the political map these days is because many of those who support such a program no longer turn out to vote. Using ANES, I find that while non-voters are more likely to support than oppose a government-job guarantee, voters are overwhelmingly opposed. However, the ANES question is also rather strongly worded: The option that “government should let each person get ahead on own” is appealing, but in an economy where millions of Americans are unemployed or under-employed even at the lowest levels of unemployment, it also seems mythological.

A recent YouGov poll asks a more pointed question: “Would you favor or oppose a law guaranteeing a job to every American adult, with the government providing jobs for people who can’t find employment in the private sector?” In this formulation support increases significantly, though as the chart below shows, there are still race and class gaps.

A job guarantee could leverage two of the strengths of the progressive movement: electoral power at the federal and city level. A progressive President could direct money and projects to mayors, thereby ending the scourge of inner-city poverty that has plagued America for far too long. Progressives have a long history of creating more jobs, but have failed to articulate an argument for why that is true. That is mainly because progressives have preferred an active monetary policy, rather than active fiscal policy, to boost employment. But voters struggle to understand monetary policy. On the other hand, they could understand a universal job guarantee.

Research suggests that Obama’s response to the Great Recession may lead to voters trusting Democrats more on the economy; but as of yet, this has yet to materialize, and Republicans remain more trusted. A universal job guarantee could change that.

A recent survey of 200 leading economic security experts by the Center for Global Policy Solutions finds that 91 percent say that job creation is important for closing the racial wealth gap. The report recommends a National Investment Employment Corps, guaranteeing jobs with an annual salary of $23,000.

The biggest opposition to a government job guarantee will almost certainly come from big business, and particularly the business-conservative wing of the Republican Party. This may seem surprising, since businesses would benefit from infrastructure and public works, as well as having a highly trained workforce. But this is to misunderstand what corporations seek: not profit, but power.

Economist Chris Dillow makes this argument, arguing that full employment would deprive business of political power by removing their mystical power over the “state of confidence.” If, in fact, the government can maintain full employment, it won’t have to kowtow to business on taxes, regulation and spending. There are also labor implications. If workers could chose to reject a private sector job knowing that a public sector job was available, business would actually have to make working conditions livable and pay a fair wage. This “reserve army of unemployed paupers,” as one economist called them, ensures that workers accept degradation on the job rather than suffer the horrifying fate of unemployment.

The ultimate goal of business conservatives is to turn labor into one homogeneous glob that can be fired, re-located and re-trained at will. Thus they oppose paid sick leave, family leave and higher wages, even though all of these changes boost workerproductivity. Business conservatives despise the minimum wage, though there is very little credible evidence that a higher minimum wage would eliminate large numbers of jobs. The threat of the minimum wage is that it would cut into profits and, more importantly, power. Though more worker ownership would boost worker happiness and productivity, it worries bosses who feel they would be ceding control. Business wants to control workers as much as possible, devising Orwellian strategies to intrusively monitor workers. Business conservatives want workers to be expendable, so they have fought to ensure that if a worker is killed or maimed on the job, they will receive next to nothing.

With workers free to pursue a well-paid, productive public job, corporations would have to pay fairer wages and ensure better labor standards. But while private companies say they love competition, in reality nothing is more terrifying. That will be the most difficult force to overcome in the push for a public jobs program. But if it can be overcome, Americans will benefit extraordinarily. In the wake of the Great Recession, LaDonna Pavetti, writes, “thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia used $1.3 billion from the fund to place more than 260,000 low-income unemployed adults in temporary jobs in the private and public sectors.” The result for workerswas higher incomes, and an easier transition into the workforce after the subsidy program ended.

During the Great Depression, make-work programs funded art and infrastructure, most of which we still enjoy today. In the future, robots may do many of the jobs that humans currently do. That shouldn’t be a lament: We can now put human effort into healing the environment, curing disease and ending hunger.

Today, millions of Americans are jobless. Putting them to work would be a boon for economic growth. In the future, everyone can have a truly fulfilling and life affirming job. But that’s going to require some will, and some government.

This piece originally appeared on Salon

How the prison-industrial complex is corrupting American elections

Voting matters. Though many Americans believe that voting is either useless or merely a civic duty, in reality it carries huge consequences for the decisions of politicians. There is overwhelming evidence that politicians are more responsive to the preferences of voters than non-voters, and that voting affects government policy. These facts have key implications for policies that disenfranchise individuals who would otherwise vote. Indeed, America’s racist voting practices continue to disenfranchise the poor and communities of color, robbing them of billions in public funding.

In a pioneering 2013 study, Elizabeth Cascio and Ebonya Washington examined how the elimination of literacy tests, after the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, affected the distribution of public spending. They find that removing literacy tests increased per capita state transfers by 0.57 percent for each percentage point increase in the Black population share. This equates to a 16.4 percent relative increase over the 20 year period they studied for the average county, a large difference. They find that a key change was educational spending: removing literacy tests lead to more spending directed at Black students, a better pupil-to-teacher ratio and higher Black school enrollment. This study is supported by other research suggesting that women’s suffrage lead to increased spending on healthcare, which prevented 20,000 child deaths each year. A 2003 study by Paul Martin finds that members of Congress push more funding towards districts with higher voter turnout. The effect he finds is not small. He provides as an example Grant County, which had a population of 30,000 received $18,030,000 in federal grants in 1994. Each percentage point increase in turnout would have boosted spending by $21,420.

Today, literacy tests and poll taxes are banned (though voter ID laws are oftenessentially poll taxes), but states can still disenfranchise felons. Because of race and class disparities in the criminal justice system, the impact of disenfranchisement hits communities of color and low-income communities the hardest.

We would expect, for example, given the studies above, that felon disenfranchisement would reduce spending for communities disproportionately affected by mass incarceration. And a new study by Brice Richard confirms this, finding that the impact of disenfranchisement is profound. Richard finds in particular that an extra percentage point of voter turnout leads to a 2 percent to 3 percent increase in per capita spending. The chart below shows that turnout is lower in disenfranchising states, and that state to county transfers are also lower.

By exploiting the differences in disenfranchisement across states, he finds that disenfranchisement may have reduced public spending by as much as 18 percent. The total impact of disenfranchisement is $1.8 billion in public goods that otherwise would have flowed towards high poverty communities and those with large Black populations. The impact is particularly strong regarding education spending; Richard estimates that each child in a disenfranchising state lost out on $640 in educational spending, with the impact concentrated on Black students. As the chart below shows, transfers to Black communities and poor communities is far lower in disenfranchising states than non-disenfranchising states.

One possible reason why the effects of disenfranchisement are so powerful is that voting tends to become a social norm. Voting correlates with other civic behaviors. Being socialized in a community where voting is the norm increases an individual’s propensity to turnout. Indeed, in households where parents vote, children are more likely to. If a household receives a get-out-the-vote message, the member of the household that does not answer the door is more likely to vote than otherwise. Disenfranchisement then, will reduce the social norm for voting, potentially having effects beyond only the individual who is disenfranchised.

Disenfranchisement is not the only mechanism working against the Black vote. In another study, four political scientists showed how premature death among the black community robs them of important political clout. They find that premature death led to 1 million fewer Black votes in 2004, and while this wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the Presidential election, it would have affected state-level races. This premature death is the legacy of white supremacy and racism. In addition, Nathan Cohn has found that the legacy of Jim Crow has continued: African-Americans who were disenfranchised before the Voting Rights Act make up a smaller share of the electorate than younger African-Americans.

In a recent analysis, I found a strong correlation between the level of racial stereotyping in a state and the likelihood of the state having a voter ID law. I also found a correlation between racism and the openness of the voting system. I’ve also shown that ease of access is correlated with turnout, which isn’t surprising: numerous studies suggest that policies like same-day registration boost turnout. The impact is obvious: racism suppresses voting, meaning that less government spending goes to communities of color and low-income communities.

Many disenfranchised felons face a second blow: prison-based gerrymandering. In this practice, prisoners (who can’t vote) count toward the population of the area where they are incarcerated which affects how districts are drawn. Research suggests that when districts are drawn unequally, public funds are distributed unequally. In the wake of Baker v. Carr (which allowed federal courts to intervene in districting to protect the principle of “one person, one vote”), public funding shifted$7 billion towards previously underrepresented counties.

The stark reality of racism in this country is that it serves to undermine democracy. In a famous 2002 study, Christopher Uggen and Jeff Manza find that felon disenfranchisement has influenced the outcome of numerous Senate races and at least one Presidential election. They estimate that 35 percent of disenfranchised felons would vote in a presidential election, and 20.5% in a midterm election. In the 2014 election, Michael McDonald estimates that 3,445,233 felons were disenfranchised.  Although opposition to felon disenfranchisement has traditionally come from the progressive side (Hillary Clinton has long opposed the practice) some conservatives, like Rand Paul, are starting to join the ranks.

This piece originally appeared on Salon

Why does the GOP hate college?

In the last week, the chasm between Republicans and Democrats on higher education has become clear. On the one hand, Democrats have begun a sustained push for debt-free higher education. Hillary Clinton will make the issue central to her campaign and both House and Senate Democrats introduced a resolution calling for debt-free higher education. While Democrats see public higher education as a public good that contributes to economic growth and innovation, Republicans see higher education as a consumer good that only the wealthy should enjoy. These two visions will collide in 2016, the vision of everyday Americans and the vision of the plutocrats.

While the proposals are still taking shape, President Obama has already pushed for free community college, and has expanded an income-based repayment program. On the other hand, Republicans have released proposals that would open up higher education funding to massive cuts, particularly programs that give low-income students a shot at the American dream. Republicans have proposedremoving guaranteed funding for Pell Grants, meaning that every year low-income students would worry about getting their legs cut out from under them. Already, Pell Grants have lost a large share of the value, from funding 76 percent of a student’s college costs in 1980 to 30 percent in 2014.

Republicans have called for an end to an Obama program that would prevent a graduate’s monthly student loan bill from exceeding more than 10 percent of their income and offer debt forgiveness after 20 years of repayment. Such a program is standard in other developed countries. After Obama proposed free community college, Republicans were quick to distance themselves from him again there. (John Boehner, for instance, created a page full of Taylor Swift gifs opposing the proposal, for some reason.) The difference in vision couldn’t be clear. On one side is the American vision of an opportunity-based society. On the other side is the plutocratic vision of limited upward mobility and a permanent ruling class. As the chart below shows, the cost of college can cost more than 80 percent of a low-income family’s annual income, compared with only 20 percent for wealthy families. Further public cuts will pull college even further out of reach.

What’s interesting about the Republican agenda, though, is that for a policy so widely shared among party elites, it’s actually deeply unpopular with voters. In agroundbreaking study two years ago, Benjamin Page, Jason Seawright and Larry Bartels examined the preferences of the wealthiest Americans, who are notoriously hard to poll. What they discovered is that the wealthy are strongly opposed to things that average voters support, and that education was one of the deepest chasms (see chart).

Data from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee shows that Americans overwhelmingly support debt-free higher education; but, particularly important, a majority of Republicans (56 percent) even support it.

A recent YouGov poll asked respondents the following: “Do you think it’s a good or a bad idea for the government to pay so that students can attend college for free?” Among those earning less than $40,000 a year, 66 percent said it’s a good idea, compared with 33 percent of those earning more than $80,000 a year. But what’s key is that the middle class ($40,000 to $80,000) overwhelmingly support the lower-income respondents, with 60 percent saying free community college is a good idea.

There are two possible reasons for the rich being out of step with average Americans: The wealthy were far less likely to say they knew someone who wanted to attend college but could not (37 percent of those earning more than $80,000, compared with 56 percent of those earning between $40,000 and $80,000); and they were also less likely to say it’s a good idea to “encourage every high school graduate to attend college” (53 percent compared with 67 percent).

The chart below shows the portion of the YouGov poll dealing specifically with Obama’s community college proposal, which has broad support nationally.

What’s particularly surprising is that 42 percent of Republicans support the plan, even though the question explicitly notes that the proposal was released by Obama. The plan would cost $60 billion over the next decade (or roughly two years’ worth of funding for the F-35 stealth jet — which still cannot fire its gun).

Over the last two decades, an increasingly radical conservative base has pulled the Republican Party out of line with the American people. The rich control the Republican agenda, and they are pulling the party not just to the right of the average voter, but also their own voters. In the 2016 election, progressives need to frequently bring to the forefront of the debate the issues on which they stand firmly with the majority of Americans. Issues like universal childcare, universal paid sick leave and higher minimum wages. The centerpiece should be good jobs and upward mobility. By forcing Republicans to choose between plutocrats and voters, debt-free higher education is crucial to such a campaign.

This piece originally appeared on Salon. 

Why higher-ed budget cuts are so devastating

Co-written with Demos Senior Policy Analyst Robbie Hiltonsmith.

Over the last decade, states have made massive cuts to higher education, with average state support falling from $9,729 per student in 2001 to $6,815 in 2011. While a large share of the blame for these cuts can be pinned on the financial crisis and subsequent recession, some of the decline is due to a deliberate effort to eviscerate public higher education. For instance, Bobby Jindal plans to savage higher education spending in Louisiana to the tune of $141.3 million, or about 12 percent of the state’s higher education budget, to pay for tax cuts. In Wisconsin, Scott Walker is cutting $300 million over two years, again to pay for reckless tax cuts. Kansas is an even sadder story. Though the state had a large reserve fund in 2012, Governor Sam Brownback quickly depleted it with a massive tax giveaway to the rich. Now he’s cutting K-12 and university funding to the tune of $44.5 million. There’s a good reason our list of governors seeking deep cuts is shaded a uniform red: Both research and history shows that Republican-controlled states are more likely to cut higher education. One study found that when Republicans take over governors mansions they reduce spending on higher education by $0.23 per $1,000 in personal income (a measure of the state’s total tax base). Each 1 percent increase in the number of Republicans in the legislature leads to a $0.05 decrease. Given that theaverage spending on higher education across all states in 2014 was $5.47 per $1,000, the effect is large.

Nationwide, the total impact of these cutbacks is breathtaking. Between 2008 and 2013, states cut a total of $16 billion, adjusted for inflation, from their higher education budgets, even as enrollments rose more than 11 percent. Funding per student dropped even more dramatically, falling by more than 27 percent, or about $2,500 per student. These cutbacks, in turn, have translated nearly 1-to-1 into tuition increases, which averaged nearly $3,000 over the past decade. But the question is not simply deficits, but priorities: Just seven months of funding for the F-35 Fighterwould be enough to fully restore higher education spending across the nation.

A new Demos study estimates that 78 percent of tuition increases at public universities in the past decade can be explained by decreased state spending on higher education (see chart). Commonly cited factors like “administrative bloat,” are far less important, accounting for only 5 percent of the increase in higher education costs.

These state cuts and resulting skyrocketing tuition prices are incredibly worrying for upward mobility in America, because they’ve forced young people seeking a college education to borrow unprecedented amounts just to earn a degree. Low-income students and students of color leave college with more debt than wealthy white students (see chart), and they bear the brunt of austerity.

Public universities and community colleges are important, because the top tier of private universities are very exclusionary, and few poor and middle class students are admitted. Further state cuts to higher education will create a world where only some, mostly wealthy Americans have a shot to better their life by completing higher education.

It’s not just progressives making this point; recently, Standard & Poor’s argued that inequality was slowing growth by reducing college graduation rates among low-income people, likely in part due to the effects of the debt necessary to finance low-income students’ educations. The analysts suggested that a way to bolster upward mobility and reduce inequality would be increased college attainment. Yet in recent years, many conservatives, who claim to support economic growth and business, have made savage cuts to education.

These cuts are particularly shortsighted because the benefits of higher education, both for individuals and society at large, pay for the cost of investment many times over. The body of research on the impacts of higher education is massive, but their consensus is that increased higher education impacts nearly every corner of society, from increased economic growth to lower crime, better health, greater civic participation, and even childhood development. A few highlights: One study foundthat 8.7 percent of all economic growth between 1959 and 1998 could be attributed to increased education. Other studies have found that increased higher education leads greater rates of voter participation, to the tune of 22 percent; a 15 percent reduction in crime, and better cognitive development among children of parents with college degrees.

On the flip side, the costs of state disinvestment in higher education are similarly staggering. Further state cuts will lead to even higher levels of student debt, which then leads to lower homeownership rates, less retirement savings, and fewer vehicle purchases, among other effects. Previous Demos work suggests that $53,000 in student debt will lead to lifetime wealth loss of $208,000, largely through lower retirement savings and home equity.

Although public investment in higher education is broadly popular, the wealthy tend to be the least supportive. In their recent study of the wealthiest Americans, Benjamin Page, Larry Bartels and Jason Seawright find that 78 percent of the general public agree that “[t]he federal government should make sure that everyone who wants to go to college can do so,” compared to only 28 percent of the richest Americans.

There are bright spots in this sad story: President Obama’s plan for free community college is a welcome opportunity for the government to step in and fill this gap. Two weeks ago Senate and House Democrats introduced a resolution to create debt-free higher education. Hillary Clinton says she’ll be rolling out a comprehensive plan to tackle student debt. On the other side of the aisle, the House Republican budget would eliminate guaranteed funding for Pell Grants, which helped 9 million low income students attend college in 2013-2014 school year. One analysis suggests that some students using the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) program would end up with twice the debt under the Republican budget proposal. They would also As the national discussion about higher education proceeds it’s important to remember the government has an important role to play in supporting debt free higher education.

Robbie Hiltonsmith is a Senior Policy Analyst at Demos and author of “Pulling Up the Higher-Ed Ladder: Myth and Reality In The Crisis of College Affordability.”

This piece originally appeared on Salon. 

Republican presidents flunk the economy: 11 reasons why America does worse under the GOP

Consider the following fact: The last time a Republican president created an average of 1 million jobs a year over the course of his presidency was nearly three decades ago, under Ronald Reagan. When the the 2016 election comes around, a full 44 percent of voters will have entered the workforceafter that period of time. Then consider that Barack Obama has created 7.35 million jobs since taking office, and will almost certainly cross the million-per-year threshold. And that, for many Americans, the last time the economy was working for them was under Bill Clinton.

As the chart below (using data from the Economic Policy Institute) shows, the last time Americans at the bottom of the income distribution had a raise was during the sustained employment growth under Bill Clinton.

The conclusion? If Democrats want to win the White House, they need to promote a progressive, pro-jobs agenda.

I’ve previously discussed the rather large body of research suggesting that not only does the economy perform better under Democrats, it tends toperform better for everyone under Democrats. People of color do far better in terms of employment, incarceration and income growth when a Democrat is in office. The incomes of the poorest tend to increase more rapidly as well. Both effects are likely tied to two major policies: First, Democrats tend to preside over lower unemployment rates; and, second, they are far more likely to raise the minimum wage. There are other factors at work, of course: I’ve noted how market conditioning (things like regulatory policy) can change outcomes as well. But another major factor is that the key to increasing the bargaining power of workers and creating a more racially just society is jobs. And progressive policy creates jobs.

There are several specific factors that explain this.

(1) Liberal governments tend to invest more money in infrastructure and education, both of which bolster growth.

(2) While conservative governments try to maximize growth for the rich by reining in inflation, progressives benefit everyone by reducing unemployment.

(3) Conservatives spend a large amount of their political capital reducing labor force participation among gays, people of color and women. Conservatives oppose policies that would help women balance work and family responsibilities, openly sabotage their economies to discriminate against gays, and pursue policies that overwhelmingly harm people of color. By doing this, conservative governments shut out talent and competition, in all probability harming economic growth: One study finds that about one-fifth of the increase in productivity growth between 1960 and 2008 can be explained by the increase in talent from women and people of color getting jobs they were previously excluded from.

(4) Conservatives pursue policies that increase inequality, which studies suggest can also slow growth.

(5) Conservatives are less queasy about the influence of money on politics, fostering cronyism that can undermine growth.

(6) A weak safety net means that fewer Americans can take entrepreneurial risk, when entrepreneurship is a key factor in bolstering growth.

(7) By creating a winner-take-all economy, conservative governance reduces social trust necessary for growth.

(8) By promoting war and violence abroad, and a bloated military at home, conservative governments reduce the money available for clean energy, healthcare, education and tax cuts for the middle class, which create more jobs. Matt Yglesias also argues it could increase oil shocks, thereby harming growth.

(9) By promoting an oversized and unregulated financial system, conservative governments make crisis more likely. Studies also suggest that when the financial sector gets too large it starts to reduce growth.

(10) By reducing upward mobility, conservative governments reduce growth by leaving millions of opportunity-less youth mired in poverty.

(11) Conservatives are less amenable to more open immigration policies, when immigration boosts growth.

Whichever of these factors cause conservative governments to be less effective, the differences are stark. The chart below shows the average job growth under each president over the last 75 years.

Bloomberg examined private sector job growth between January 1961 and April 2012. Over that period, Republicans have held the Presidency for 28 years and Democrats for 23. Republican presidents created 71,000 jobs per month, while Democratic presidents created 150,000. In total, Democrats created 42 million jobs, compared to Republicans 24 million.

All of this means that Hillary Clinton should embrace jobs and argue that progressive policies can unleash economic growth. She should argue that the country needs a proactive government working with the free market to best promote the interests of all Americans, not just the rich. As Bob Moser notes in the American Prospect, the most successful Democratic candidates have been those who embraced economic populism rather than a fuzzy centrism. He points to Gary Peters, the only freshman Democratic Senator, who ran a populist campaign that targeted the Kochs for their plutocratic policies. Moser notes that three of unabashed populist progressives — Jeanne Shaheen, Jeff Merkley and Al Franken — not only won their elections but also won white working class voters at a time when Democrats nationally lost them by 30 percentage points. (Peters lost the white working class, but only 47 percent to 48 percent.)

Dorian Warren is an associate professor at Columbia and a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute who is leading “Putting Families First: Good Jobs for All,” ​which seeks to put jobs at the center of the political agenda. He tells Salon via e-mail that a jobs-centered Presidential campaign could be a political winner: “It is time to embrace a simple but achievable idea: that government should take action to create millions of good, new jobs in emerging sectors and ensure these jobs are open and accessible to all, guarantee decent wages and benefits for all who want to work, and ensure equity in the labor market for women and people of color.”

Warren cites research by Celinda Lake showing that three core messages resonate with Americans across the political spectrum: infrastructure spending, government investment in green energy and government creating jobs in high unemployment communities, particularly communities of color. As the chart below shows, progressive policies are popular with the Rising American Electorate (African Americans, Hispanics, millennials, and unmarried women) who veteran pollster Stanley Greenberg notes will be more than half of the electorate in 2016.

The Lake memo also notes that turnout is key to a progressive victory. In 2014, 34.5 percent of the Rising American Electorate who voted Obama for Obama’s re-election in 2012 stayed home. Mobilizing these voters will be key.

If Clinton is the nominee, she should emphasize the track record of Democrats creating and sustaining jobs. Instead of running away from Obama’s achievements should build on them. She should focus her message on a strong public sector being necessary for a strong private sector. By setting the rules for fair play, the government ensures that those who get ahead do so by creating value, rather than extracting it. By investing in the next generation, government gives private companies an educated and highly trained workforce. By ensuring paid sick leave, childcare and universal pre-k, the government allows women to bring their skills to creating prosperity. The difference between conservative and progressive governance is simple: one benefits a small elite while the other promotes widespread prosperity.

This piece originally appeared on Salon.