Where You Sit Is Where You Stand

by Dave Schuler on April 9, 2014

Wow. No wonder income inequality is a more important issue among Congressional Democrats. As you can see from the chart above, income inequality is a bigger factor in many of the districts represented by Democrats than among those represented by Republicans.

The graph is from a genuinely interesting article by Michael Zuckerman at The Atlantic which considers issues of income inequality, political party, Congressional seniority, and ideology.

That is, the most senior Democrats in Congress—and their constituents—seem to have far more direct experience with income inequality than the most senior Republicans in Congress. It’s not surprising that they see the issues differently.

None of this is to say that income inequality isn’t a big problem. I believe it is. But then again, I live in the Massachusetts 5th, the 74th most unequal congressional district in the country. It’s no wonder I’m more alive to the problem than a resident of Bachmann’s Minnesota 6th, which comes in 436th place (D.C. included).

While true, none of that establishes the actual objective significance of income inequality. It does go a long way to explaining why individual Congressional representatives may or may not think it’s important.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

PD Shaw April 9, 2014 at 4:20 pm

I live in the 359th most unequal District, which I certainly believe contributes to my relative disinterest in the topic of income inequality. That said, I’m not sure districts are a good way to do much besides look at the electoral incentives. In my real world, poor blacks are on the other side of a district line from me, but we share a community and schools.

Trumwill April 9, 2014 at 5:26 pm

Dan Kahan’s response to Krugman.

Andy April 9, 2014 at 5:36 pm

The district I grew up in is 127th. My current district is 139th. Not sure how much this applies to me, since I haven’t lived in the same place for more than 4 years over the last 25 years.

Dave Schuler April 9, 2014 at 5:44 pm

Thanks for that, Trumwill (although I think the comment belongs on a different thread). As I see it there are a number of distinct different errors that may occur.

The first (which I think is the one that Drs. Kahan and Krugman are both addressing) is when arguments are evaluated based on their conclusions rather than the other way around. You either accept or discard the argument depending on its conformity with your preconceived notions.

The second is when individual pieces of evidence are evaluated as relevant or irrelevant based on whether they advance the preferred narrative. I think this is a uniquely post-modern contribution to the menagerie of fallacies.

The third and, sadly, most common is when the argument and/or the evidence are evaluated based on the imprimatur of some high priest of the ideological line you hold. As it works out Dr. Krugman is one of these high priests.

As Augustine said, an appeal to authority is the weakest form of argument.

steve April 9, 2014 at 8:30 pm

Kind of a shame it got called inequality. The real problem is wealth concentration into the hands of very few people. That is a problem no matter what district you live in.

Steve

OT- Any thoughts on the Rand study?

Dave Schuler April 9, 2014 at 8:35 pm

The last I checked the RAND study seemed to be based on a pretty small sample.

steve April 9, 2014 at 8:44 pm

What was the size of the sample used in the Forbes paper you cited?

Steve

Dave Schuler April 9, 2014 at 8:50 pm

Maybe I misunderstood what was being presented but I thought it was the product of a survey of brokers rather than a sample of the insurable population.

Another issue with the RAND study is that it does not appear to be seasonally adjusted.

PD Shaw April 9, 2014 at 8:59 pm

How about a quick survey?

Does anybody find their health insurance more affordable?

No. Our health insurance premiums are about 2/3rds of the median household income of one House district.

... April 9, 2014 at 9:38 pm

PD, we won’t know until a little later this month. We’re on a weird plan year, which starts June 1, so our election period is about to start. But from what we’ve heard, we’re likely to be paying significantly more.

Dave Schuler April 9, 2014 at 9:42 pm

Same here. Ours is, essentially, July through June.

Dave Schuler April 10, 2014 at 7:15 am

Steve, let me expand on my response a bit. I took the terminology as being used in the conventional way. “Agent” is not the same as “broker” is not the same as “underwriter”. The brokers that I know handle hundreds of thousands of insureds. Underwriters can handle millions or even tens of millions.

A survey of nearly 150 brokers would likely be managing millions or tens of millions of insureds in the individual and small group market. That’s a significant chunk of that market.

Zachriel April 10, 2014 at 8:25 am

Urban vs. rural.

PD Shaw April 10, 2014 at 8:41 am

@Zachriel, I see a lot of suburban districts in the “least unequal” category.

Dave Schuler April 10, 2014 at 9:22 am

It might be that “most gerrymandered” is a better explanation. The Illinois 7th Congressional District (the fourth most unequal) gerrymanders inner city Chicago neighborhoods with Oak Park, Forest Park, and River Forest, uniting both with mostly black working class suburbs Maywood and Bellwood.

The Illinois 9th District is a really remarkable gerrymander, obviously intended to dilute Republican strength. It combines the poor East Rogers Park with the extremely well-to-do North Shore, then does a corkscrew through Park Ridge out to Mount Prospect.

My home district, the Illinois 5th (#35), is a sort of U-shaped gerrymander, clearly designed to provide a safe Democratic seat while diluting Republican strength that unites Sauganash and Edgebrook (fairly tone-y parts of Chicago) with white working class suburbs, extending out to DuPage county and Oak Brook. My neighborhood while nominally Democratic is actually independent. It ocillates between going Democratic and going Republican in presidential elections.

On the other hand, the Illinois 4th District, possibly the most gerrymandered district in the country escapes income inequality by being pretty uniform poor. However, it’s not gerrymandered to produce a safe Democratic seat but to produce a safe Hispanic seat concentrating Hispanic Chicago into a single Congressional district.

Zachriel April 10, 2014 at 9:24 am

PD Shaw: I see a lot of suburban districts in the “least unequal” category.

http://abcdunlimited.com/ideas/images/suburbia.jpg

PD Shaw April 10, 2014 at 12:46 pm

Nice pic.

Agree about the gerrymander.

steve April 10, 2014 at 7:10 pm

“Here is a funny story about some funny stories you may have read this week. Maybe this will provide some insight on how the Republican Party message machine works. Of course, Democrats attempt to do the same thing. You, a casual follower of politics, may not know any better.

It starts with a national report from Morgan Stanley on expected health insurance rates changes in different states next year. What it said about New Hampshire was rather alarming: Rates for health insurance on individuals went up 90 percent.

A blogger for Forbes.com wrote up the report. On Monday, seeing an opportunity, the New Hampshire Republican Party sent out a press release blaming Democratic politicians and the Affordable Care Act for the huge rate increase.

Then a local Republican blogger followed the press release by tweeting a link to the Forbes story. Within minutes, the state Republican Party then retweets the blogger. The story is then gaining interest to other media outlets. The next day, The Union Leader made it a front page story with the headline “Survey: NH health premiums up 90%.”

WMUR-TV did not air a story about it.

Here’s why: it’s all based on one anonymous person’s opinion.

You see, Morgan Stanley conducted a survey of insurance agents in 34 different states. On page six of their report it details how many people they talked to in each state. In New Hampshire, they said they talked to one person, who they don’t name. Interestingly they also only got one response in nine other states. They got the most responses (31) from Idaho. For those keeping track, 21 percent of all survey respondents were from Idaho.

Morgan Stanley never promised that this survey was based on actual insurance rate data in each state. But if you are interested in that the state Insurance Department hired an outside firm to do that analysis. They found that, after you factor in subsidies in the new health care law, the average premium would actually decrease eight percent this year.”

Dave Schuler April 10, 2014 at 7:19 pm

Brokers are not the same as agents.

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