The Cruz Paradox: Senate hits a level of dysfunction that actually somehow turns back on itself and gets things done.
As far as I can tell, this is a new phenomenon in the space-time continuum of political science: In their negotiations over the CRomnibus spending bill, a couple of conservative senators—Sens. Cruz and Lee—insisted on keeping the Senate in session to take a meaningless vote against the President’s recent immigration action. That enabled Sen. Reid to maneuver around a long-term Republican block and bring a bunch of President Obama’s nominees to the floor for a vote. And remember, these appointments can no longer be filibustered, so they’ll pass in this session with majority D’s (as opposed to the incoming Senate).
I feel certain there’s some advanced algebraic topology that explains how knots of dysfunction unravel in higher dimensions, but I’m not smart enough to write down the equations. Surely there’s a poli-sci dissertation in here somewhere.
The Price of Oil and the Calculus of Tight Oil
There are many interesting dimensions to the dramatic decline in oil prices in recent weeks, and I hope to write more about one in particular in coming weeks, i.e., taking advantage of this moment to put a federal gas tax increase on the table.
But one interesting economic question arising here is why isn’t OPEC acting like a cartel and restricting supply to arrest the price decline? Instead, they’re pumping as much as ever, especially the Saudi’s, OPEC’s largest supplier.
The answer appears to be that they’re sacrificing profits today for market share tomorrow. They believe—correctly, according to conventional analysis—that when oil hits $60-$70 a barrel, which is where it is now, extracting “tight oil”—fracking and tar sands—is no longer profitable. And in fact, there’s some evidence that it’s working already, as tight oil producers respond quite elastically to the new, low price.
The implication, of course, is that once supply adjusts, energy prices will start climbing again. So I’d think twice before picking up that new Hummer.
The Unique Politics and Policy of Balancing Work and Family
The NYT has an extended feature on the decline of women’s employment rates in the US relative to that of women in other advanced economies. Read it yourself, but one theme of the piece is that US policy—really, the absence of such policy—makes it harder for women to balance work and family here relative to Europe. Research cited in the report suggests that these differences explain one-third of the difference in movements of women’s labor force participation. “Had the United States had the same policies [as Europe] women’s labor force participation rate would have been seven percentage points higher by 2010.” Given the typical movements in these numbers, that’s a very large effect.
My strong reaction is this: I’m hard pressed to think of another set of policies that more tightly hits that rare sweet spot of great politics and great policy than this one. If I were a politician considering a run for high office, I’d be all about these work/family balance ideas. They’re pro-growth, pro-family, and as the NYT piece stresses, have to potential to reach a lot of women who struggle for balance in this space.
Which is why I touted them in a recent paper as an important PGEP:
PGEPs in this space include paid sick leave, robust maternal and paternal leave policies, worker-centered scheduling, ensuring parents have ample time and resources to care for children and elderly parents (prevent discrimination against caregivers), and affordable, high quality child care.