Political parties split on how to solve inequality
The themes of economic mobility and rising inequality will likely serve as the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address next week. In the months leading up to the speech the president has called restoring economic fairness “the defining challenge of our time” and said the government “can’t stand on the sidelines” in addressing the issue.
A new poll released Thursday by the Pew Research Center and USA Today found widespread public support for certain elements of the president’s agenda.
Seventy-three percent of Americans said they favored raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour, while 25 percent said they opposed such a move. On the matter of extending long-term unemployment insurance benefits, 63 percent of respondents supported doing so, compared to 34 percent against that proposal.
The survey revealed a split not just between Democrats and Republicans, but among those who identify with the GOP:
Among Republicans and those who lean toward the Republican Party, 70% who agree with the Tea Party oppose an extension of unemployment benefits and nearly as many oppose raising the minimum wage (65%). Yet 52% of non-Tea Party Republicans favor a one-year extension of unemployment benefits and an even higher percentage (65%) supports increasing the minimum wage.
Even as polls show a decline in the level of trust in government, Thursday’s survey found that 69 percent of Americans believe government should do “a lot” or “some” to address the gap between the rich and everyone else. Only 26 percent said the government should do “not much” or “nothing.”
Among Democrats, 90 percent responded “a lot” or “some,” while 69 percent of independents and just 45 percent of Republicans did so.
A sharp partisan divide also exists when it comes to potential solutions for reducing poverty. A majority of Americans (54 percent) support raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations to expand programs for the poor. Three-quarters of Democrats back that step, but only 29 percent of Republicans agree.
Those differences outline the challenge Mr. Obama will face when he goes before Congress next Tuesday, and as he hits the road to sell his agenda to the broader public.
But for all the renewed political chatter on economic inequality and mobility, with politicians often using the terms interchangeably, a new study out Thursday finds that increasing income inequality has not led to any less economic mobility. Moving up the economic ladder today is no harder or easier than it was 30 years ago, according to the team of economists who told us last year that where you live affects your chances of moving up. Their new study, the most comprehensive to date, underscores the significance of what Harvard co-author Raj Chetty calls “the birth lottery” — where luck puts you. That’s because the ladder between the poor and the rich has grown longer, but mobility — the force it takes to climb the ladder — has stayed the same. Mobility is still low in the U.S. relative to other developed nations, and low levels are particularly pervasive in certain areas of the country.
- Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring will announce his support of two couples challenging the state’s same-sex marriage ban on grounds that it is unconstitutional. The move is a reversal of the opinion Herring held eight years ago as a state senator.
- In a suggested renovation of the nation’s electoral system, the bipartisan Presidential Commission On Election Administration has proposed expanding online voter registration and early voting, and updating voting equipment to prevent against election fraud.
- Treasury Secretary Jack Lew sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner urging Congress to raise the debt limit before the Feb. 7 deadline. Lawmakers were quick to respond with Democrats siding with Lew and Republicans saying a “clean” debt limit increase will not pass.
- Mr. Obama launched a task force focused on preventing sexual assault on college campuses Wednesday, saying that such assaults threaten “our families, our communities, and ultimately our country.”
- Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., won’t run for governor of his state and will instead seek re-election in the second district.
- Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder will ask for 50,000 special federal immigration visas meant to attract immigrants to Detroit.
- Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal came out in support of legalizing medical marijuana in his state as long as it is made available under “very strict supervision.”
- A slim majority of Americans now favor legalizing marijuana, according to a CBS News poll.
- And Colorado Rep. Jared Polis told Roll Call Mr. Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid should visit the state’s recently opened stores for recreational marijuana.
- The clash between New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio deepens. Cuomo now says he’s committed to funding pre-kindergarten in the city. But in a 90-minute interview with the Times, he suggested that his fellow Democrat is more interested in raising taxes for political symbolism than to fund any project.
- Hillary Clinton will travel to San Francisco, San Diego and San Jose in April to deliver a series of speeches. A promoter for one of the events said it’s “not a political rally,” despite the Ready for Hillary Super PAC pledging to have a presence.
- The Republican National Committee votes Thursday and Friday on stricter penalties for states (looking at you, Florida) that schedule early primaries to try to beat Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. GOP officials are considering cutting the number of primary debates and moving their convention to earlier in the summer.
- At the March for Life rally Wednesday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., told the crowd that the House of Representatives will vote on the “No Taxpayer Funds for Abortion Act” next week.
- Politico’s James Hohmann profiles Matt Bevin, the tea party-backed businessman challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky’s GOP primary.
- The Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in a case that asks how much children exploited in child pornography should receive as restitution payments from the people who look at the illicit images. Justices from both ends of the political spectrum struggled with the idea that a single perpetrator would pay nothing or all — in this case $3.4 million — for damages to a victim who often has no direct contact with them. Writer Emily Bazelon profiled “Amy Unknown,” the victim at the center of this case, and another victim of child pornography in this riveting New York Times Magazine piece last year.
- The Washington Post’s Reid Wilson analyzes the most corrupt states in America.
- David Hawkings of Roll Call revisits the Absam scandal and asks whether an American Hustle-style ruse could happen today.
- PBS NewsHour Weekend’s Hari Sreenivasan showed up on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” Wednesday night for a sit-down interview about PBS and the climate of TV news.
- Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post explained to the NewsHour the federal felony charges that former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell faces with his wife in an ethics scandal.
- Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.
For the record, we have interesting characters in Florida, but just cause he got arrested here, don’t put Bieber on us. We have standards
— Steve Schale (@steveschale) January 23, 2014
— Niels Lesniewski (@nielslesniewski) January 22, 2014
— hari sreenivasan (@hari) January 22, 2014
Ruth Tam, Bridget Bowman and Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.
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Questions or comments? Email Terence Burlij at tburlij-at-newshour-dot-org.
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