Pension Debate: Think Big Instead

Over at Fox and Hounds, Joe Mathews complains, rightly, that the California pension debate is “small and boring.” We ought to be thinking about what adequate retirement security looks like for all workers, not just public employees.

In a paper published last year, Micah Weinberg and I did some of that thinking. You can check it out here.

Those Not-So-Independent “Independents”

Congratulation to the alter kockers over at Calbuzz for trying to push a big rock up a steep hill: showing journalists that “independent” voters aren’t the same thing as “moderates” or “Decline to State” voters.

Political scientists have been pointing out for many years that many “independents” vote more reliably for one party or the other than do many people who are party registrants or who identify themselves with a party. But the brain-dead media keep ignoring the evidence.

In a culture that denigrates partisanship and promotes the notion that sophisticated people should be seen as thinking for themselves, it’s easy to see why more people these days describe themselves as “independents.” But why do journalists, who are trained to get a confirming source even when their mothers say “I love you,” take them at their word? If DTS voters are really “independent,” why are there such a high percentage of them in San Francisco and other Bay Area counties that vote overwhelmingly for Democrats?

Now that California has abolished party primaries and adopted a two-stage general election, party registration has become essentially meaningless. Your party registration matters only in presidential primaries (and even there it matters little if the parties continue to allow DTS voters to participate in their primary.) We can expect that more and more voters, as they register and re-register, will list themselves as DTS.

And as they do, expect to read and hear breathless accounts reporting that California voters are becoming more “independent.” You can lead the media to data but good luck in making them think, especially if it requires breaking with the conventional wisdom.