Patchwork nation blogs

February 19, 2013
As lawmakers move beyond the messages and rhetoric of Tuesday's State of the Union address and consider policy changes to stabilize the country's financial well-being, we thought it might be helpful to share with them some insights we've gleaned from America's Budget Heroes. Video: Obama's 2013 State of the Union Address Feb. 12, 2012: See the video on C-SPAN's website | Full text In his speech, President Obama pressed Congress to pass a series of second-term agenda items aimed at strengthening the middle class -- while Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida made the case in his Republican response for a smaller government that gets out of the way of free enterprise. American Public Media and the Woodrow Wilson Center created the Budget Hero game in 2008. Since then, the game's four iterations have been played more than 1.5 million times, and hundreds of players have shared their insights on the game through the Public Insight Network. "It's a...
February 11, 2013
In his second inaugural speech this week President Barack Obama made a point of planting a flag on the issue of global warming. “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” Mr. Obama said from the steps of the Capitol. That’s the kind of line that brings applause from an audience of strong Obama supporters, but beyond the Beltway, attitudes about global warming are more complicated and mixed. How mixed? Consider two places: Ronan, Mont., and Ann Arbor, Mich. In 2011, a state representative from rural, agricultural Ronan submitted a bill that embraced global warming as “beneficial to the welfare and business climate of Montana” and that said “reasonable amounts of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere have no verifiable impacts on the environment.” In Ann Arbor, a college town where the stated goal is to “eliminate net...
January 22, 2013
By most any measure President Barack Obama’s second-term inauguration on Monday will be different from the first. It will be smaller and less rousing. And like most every incumbent, he’ll be facing a much more skeptical electorate. The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll shows a big dip in the number of voters who feel optimistic about how Mr. Obama will do in his second term compared to how voters felt four years ago about his first term. Only 51% of those surveyed are “optimistic or satisfied” that “he will do a good job,” down from a remarkable 66% in January of 2009. But the feelings are far from uniform. While the bloom is off the rose for Mr. Obama with some people and places, others are feeling pretty good about four more years. There’s a clear split along racial lines. Less than half of white Americans, 48%, say they feel good about a second Obama term. In 2009 60% of whites were optimistic. Meanwhile, nearly nine in 10...
January 11, 2013
As Washington debates how to fix the economy, one essential piece of the puzzle, the housing market, remains a drag. At its go-go peak in 2005, the residential housing industry made up about 19% of the national gross domestic product. After the housing crunch and the foreclosures that poured into banks, the industry’s percentage of GDP dropped sharply. In 2010, the industry was down to about 15% of GDP. It has improved since, but is still limping along. This week saw a few more pieces in the housing turnaround effort fall into place, including the billion-dollar settlement of some banks over their housing practices and new rules for mortgage lenders from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. But despite the best efforts of policy makers, greasing the skids for a housing recovery presents some unique challenges for Congress and the Obama Administration. And a big part of any turnaround equation may simply involve waiting. The housing collapse wasn’t just a...
January 4, 2013
Call it the cliff twist: Lawmakers representing areas most likely to get hit by the fiscal-cliff bill’s higher taxes were also more likely to vote it. The fiscal cliff bill — which raises income taxes on households making  over $450,000  a year — passed because of support from House members representing some of the wealthiest congressional districts in the country. Viewed the other way, lawmakers from less wealthy districts — the ones less likely to see a big tax hit — were the ones most opposed to the bill. On average, the “aye” votes on the bill came from districts where 4.7% of the households earned $200,000 or more. In the districts that voted “nay,” 3.6% of the households were in that rarified income group. (The U.S. median household income is around $50,000.) And it’s important to note that those divisions held up even when one breaks the vote down by Democratic and Republican districts. In the...
December 19, 2012
The Republican Party’s “Hispanic problem” is common knowledge to anyone who has looked at the presidential election results. It’s become a crucial part of the 2012 narrative. But despite all the ink, airtime and pixels given to the topic since Election Day, you can’t fully appreciate the depths of the problem until you match those results up against Hispanic population growth patterns. The impact of the GOP’s Hispanic gap could be bigger than many realize. The size of the Republicans’ challenge becomes clear when the growth in the nation’s Hispanic population through Patchwork Nation’s 12 county types. The Hispanic population had been growing across the board, but the increases in some county types in particular – the Immigration Nation counties, Monied Burbs and Boom Towns – look to have far-reaching impacts. The Only Places Obama Did Better It was always going to be difficult for President Obama to...
December 18, 2012
The election is behind them and the holidays are here, but Americans are in a dour mood about the future, particularly where the economy is concerned. More than half of them, 53%, think the country is headed in the “wrong direction” and more than a quarter, 28%, say they expect the economy will be worse next year than it is now, according to the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll. Those numbers won’t likely bring smiles to the White House, but what they actually mean and represent requires a little digging. Four years of economic ups and (mostly) downs seem to have taken a toll on the traditionally sunny American perspective. And, as one might expect, there is subdued enthusiasm for a year ahead that essentially returns an unpopular status quo to Washington to govern. But there are also deep partisan divides in evidence in this poll. And there is at least some evidence that those attitudes are having an exaggerated effect on how those people perceive the...
December 14, 2012
Friday’s mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut – 27 dead at an elementary school, including 20 children (at this writing) – will almost certainly reignite the debate about gun control in America. It was the second such event in the United States in since this summer and the shootings in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado that left 12 dead. But sudden movement on gun control may not be likely. In the wake of the Colorado tragedy, Patchwork Nation noted that gun control was unlikely to gain traction in the presidential campaign because of the ambivalence toward the issue in the electorate. Even in the influential and heavily-populated Monied Burb counties, the voters were essentially split, slightly favoring “gun freedom,” according to an April Pew Research poll. Here’s an excerpt of that post and the numbers by county type: In April, the Pew Research Center in a poll asked which was more important, "to protect the right of Americans...
December 12, 2012
By Carli Krueger GLENDALE, Ariz. - The buzz from 2012 was about Latino voters fueling the president’s re-election and worries that Republican policies pushing away potential voters, but here in Immigration Nation record numbers of Latino voters in Arizona did little to change the politics of Maricopa County. The Latino vote is on the rise in not only the nation but in Arizona and Maricopa County as well. Exit polls showed 77 percent of Arizona Latino voters voted for the president’s re-election and the LA Times reported that over 34,000 new Latino voters were registered by one group alone in Maricopa County. They also reported a jump from 90,000 to 225,000 Latinos on the early voting list. Latino participation has been growing for the past 20 years but in relation to population, it hasn’t been high. The Pew Research Center estimated that 12.5 million Hispanics would vote but closer to 11 million did. Still, national media breathlessly reported on the “...
December 10, 2012
Washington’s stalemated “fiscal cliff” negotiations may be troubling and frustrating, but no one would say they are unexpected. That’s because the debate is not just about contrasting ideas about size of government or taxes, it is about different Americas discussing what’s next. The red/blue divide that has come to dominate our political discussions has become almost an abstraction at this point. We think about it as two teams of voters going to the polls to push for their side. In reality, the supporters of the two parties increasingly come from very different places not only ideologically, but demographically–particularly at the congressional level. How different? Politics Counts broke down the current Democratic and Republican districts in the 112th U.S. House of Representatives demographically and found two Americas that in many ways look remarkably dissimilar. The breakdown shows clear signs of the racial and ethnic shift...