Matt Yglesias has discovered that inflation increases poverty and that jobs reduce it. He attributes it (at the very least obliquely) to partisan reasons:
There was some discussion on Twitter earlier today about one of my favorite themes—the large reduction in poverty associated with the Great Society and the uptick in poverty circa 1980.
That circa is important. The increase starts in the late 1970s and declines beginning in 1982. His conclusion is apparently that the tax reforms of the early Reagan Administration increased poverty (before they were enacted!). Mine is, as noted above, that inflation is hard on poor people and those with low marginal productivity of labor. He continues:
We then had a giant reduction in poverty among this group in the 1990s which was a combination of strong economic performance, “welfare reform,” and also the fact that the Clinton administration really wanted to make welfare reform work so threw lots of stuff—EITC expansion, SCHIP, etc.—at making it work.
Progressives fought the repeal of AFDC to the bitter end. Certainly strong economic performance was a factor in the reduction of poverty—check the unemployment and total employed figures for the period. I’d certainly be interested in disaggregating the effects of the lots of stuff he mentions from increased employment.
I simply don’t see the world in that way, with all good things coming from Democratic policies and administrations and all bad things from Republican policies and administrartions. Right now in the comments section of this post of mine there’s a debate along those lines going on. Here’s the argument:
I actually think the problem stems in large part from a corrosive cynicism about government. This derision, this contempt, this “government is the problem” attitude results unsurprisingly in a government that doesn’t work because whether it works well or poorly it gets the same beating.
Why? Why can Germany and France and even the UK have competent government and we can’t?
I have an answer for you: Republicans. Republicans since the 80’s have told us that government is always, always, always the problem. And now we expect competent government? From whom? From the people who deny the possibility of competent government? Isn’t that like expecting miracles from atheists?
I’m skeptical of that explanation but I’m willing to entertain it. How would one go about proving it? Disproving it?
I would think that, if that were true, states that lean Democratic would have solid, competent functioning state governments while states that lean Republican would be the reverse. Is that the case?
In Illinois the governor’s mansion and both houses of the state legislature have been in Democratic control for quite a while. In Indiana it’s almost the complete reverse (the Indiana House of Representatives has a narrow Democratic majority). Illinois’s state government is a train wreck. Four of the last six governors (3 Democrats; 1 Republican) have been convicted of corruption of one form or another. By most accounts Indiana’s state government is pretty solid.
I’m a registered Democrat. I don’t feel comfortable defending Republicans. I think there’s a lot to complain about in today’s Republican Party but, then, I think there’s a lot to complain about in today’s Democratic Party, too. I’m not an ideologue and both parties have been moving in that direction for decades.
I think that being wary or outright hostile to the federal government has been a feature of American politics since there has been an American politics. Can it be attributed solely to the Republican Party?
At any rate, how would you go about testing the hypothesis? Simply noting that France doesn’t have the same problems that we do doesn’t cut it. France has also been creating a national identity by suppressing minorities cf. Basques, Bretons for centuries. The differences between the United States and France go far beyond the Republican Party.