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Archive for October, 2012

Thank Your Grandparents for Equality Surging in Polls

October 31st, 2012

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This piece was originally featured on the Advocate.

This year might bring the first-ever statewide vote in favor of marriage for same-sex couples — and for that you have your grandmother to thank. Why? Because contrary to conventional wisdom, Americans born in the 1940s have been changing their minds on the marriage issue faster than nearly any other age group. And they are in good company.

Some marriage advocates have posited that the mammoth growth our country has seen in support for allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry has been primarily caused by younger, more accepting voters replacing older ones in the population. But new data released in our new report, The Big Shift, shows that this phenomenon only explains one quarter of the total movement since 2004, while 75% of the shift was caused by Americans of all ages — including your parents’ and grandparents’ generation — changing their minds. Read the rest of this entry »

Split Election May Fan ‘Red Rage’

October 31st, 2012

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This piece was originally posted on the Huffington Post.

Yes, it could happen. Mitt Romney could win the popular vote while Barack Obama wins the electoral vote—and gets re-elected. It could happen if Romney wins overwhelming popular majorities in the South while Obama ekes out narrow victories in the rest of the country. But the consequences this time would be more serious than they were in 2000, mainly because Republicans would be less likely to accept the result than Democrats were.

In 2000, most Americans accepted the Supreme Court decision for the same reason the Court felt compelled to make it: political necessity. In many countries, the narrow resolution of a disputed election on dubious legal grounds would have brought protesters into the streets, and possibly violence. It is a tribute to the American public’s respect for the Constitution, and for the Supreme Court as the voice of the Constitution, that nothing of the sort happened. Al Gore set the tone when he told the country, “Let there be no doubt: while I strongly disagree with the court’s decision, I accept it.” Read the rest of this entry »

Progressives should support a ‘grand bargain’

October 26th, 2012

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This piece was originally featured in Politico.

This week, some of the most vocal progressive organizations planted a flag in the ground in opposition to a grand bargain budget agreement in the lame duck Congress. Led by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who Tuesday wrote an op-ed in POLITICO, “Americans don’t want ‘grand bargain,’” these groups made a particular point in opposing any fixes to Social Security and Medicare. If too many progressives follow suit, this could not only damage our economy but also hurt the middle class and put retirement entitlements in ultimate danger.

For nearly a century, progressives have fought to construct a secure and comprehensive safety net. With the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, that mission is essentially complete. Now our challenge is to maintain the safety net as we approach the most consequential demographic aging in the nation’s history. Any responsible approach to fixing the safety net must necessarily include a balance of measures that make the programs healthy and solvent — new revenue, modest reductions in benefits to some recipients and a commitment to working class people that we will not raise payroll taxes on them in the future. We also believe the time to make these changes is now, for the following reasons: Read the rest of this entry »

Energy Policy after 2012

October 23rd, 2012

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Summary points

  • Thanks to continued partisan gridlock, major congressional action on energy is unlikely after the 2012 elections. However, this could change if there is a deal to address the budget deficit or if one party makes significant gains in seats.
  • Domestic oil and natural gas production will continue to grow under either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney.
  • A second Obama administration would be likely to seek to accelerate the commercialization and deployment of clean energy through a mix of tax incentives, encouraging private financing, and regulation of conventional and climate pollutants.
  • A Romney administration would be likely to focus on increasing domestic conventional energy production by reducing environmental regulation, particularly on coal-burning power plants, and opening more public land to oil and natural gas development. Excluding basic research, government incentives for clean energy would most likely be eliminated.

Introduction

In 2008, the price of natural gas in the United States was roughly $8 per thousand cubic feet (tcf), coal was used to generate more than 47 per cent of all electricity, and there was a consensus among Democrats and Republicans that climate change was real, caused by humans, and needed to be addressed immediately. It seemed only a matter of time before the country adopted a cap-and-trade system similar to one backed by both parties’ presidential nominees.

Four years later, the energy landscape has changed dramatically. Cap-and-trade is on the ash heap of history, and climate change and clean energy have become enormously politicized. The price of natural gas has dropped as low as $2.25 per tcf thanks to the hydraulic fracturing drilling process (fracking) that has given the United States access to more than 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and sent domestic coal use into a precipitous decline. That same fracking technology has led to a domestic oil boom, with imports dropping to 42 per cent of use, the lowest level in two decades. Clean energy, particularly wind and solar, also saw a boom in the early years of the Obama administration thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).

The growth in domestic shale oil and gas production seems inevitable. But the broader future of US energy faces much more uncertainty. There are enormous differences in how the two candidates would approach regulation of energy production and generation, climate change and America’s competition in the global clean energy race. Polling shows that these issues will have little impact on the decisions voters make. But they will have enormous implications for the price and source of the energy Americans consume, the success of America’s energy industries and the fate of international efforts to stem climate change.

Read the rest of this entry »

Why Washington is Wrong on A123

October 16th, 2012

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A123 Prismatic Battery Modules for PHEV and EV Applications via FlickrAmerican advanced battery manufacturer A123 filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this morning. In Washington, this is going to be spun as yet another failed DOE loan recipient, an example of why the government shouldn’t be picking winners and losers, and a technology that couldn’t succeed without government support. In the business world, though, it’s merely a once-$2 billion company that struggled to overcome an expensive product recall and cash crunch. Companies fail all the time, but it doesn’t mean the technology is a failure.

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Why it’s all about Obama

October 16th, 2012

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This piece was originally featured on Reuters.

President Barack Obama may have lost the first debate the minute he appeared on stage in Denver. Just by showing up, he changed the terms of the campaign. Viewers immediately saw the election as a referendum on the president. The decision became whether to fire him or rehire him.

This was bound to happen sooner or later.  It always happens when an incumbent is running for reelection.  Until the Oct. 3 debate, Democrats had made a vigorous, and mostly successful, effort to turn the election into a choice rather than a referendum: Which guy do you like better — Obama or Mitt Romney? Read the rest of this entry »