The Voter Study Group’s Report: On the Money

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Trey welcomes Lee Drutman, Vanessa Williamson and Felcia Wong to the show to discuss their latest report and study through the democracy fund voter study group: On the Money.

Topics discussed include:

  • why study voter’s economic policy preferences
  • why Republicans do not share an economic policy position
  • the difference for people’s individual policy preferences and their overall policy goals
  • the role of luck in economic policy views
  • the predictive power of economic policy views in American elections
  • Donald Trump and Republican economic policy views

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The Wall Returns!, Mueller, Budget Deal, Facebook Fine, California Cuts a Deal

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Mike and Jay kick off the show by looking at the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision allowing construction of a Mexico border wall to move forward pending litigation. The Court’s five conservatives didn’t rule on the substance of President Trump’s action but indicated that the plaintiffs were unlikely to have standing to sue. Jay feels that the court got it right, though Mike is more inclined to side with the four liberals who dissented, arguing that once the wall is up, the harm that’s been done cannot be undone and so building should be on hold until the matter is resolved.

Next, they talk about the testimony of former special counsel Robert Mueller before Congress. It was certainly political theater, but Mike feels it was a worthwhile ‘Hail Mary’ shot and bringing the often dry contents of the Mueller Report to life, even if it was unlikely to sway many people. Both Jay and Mike agree that Mueller’s performance in this political theater wasn’t very strong, though Jay still believes there will be both an impeachment inquiry and impeachment proceedings. Mike doesn’t see that happening.

After that, the Guys discuss a rare bit of bipartisanship – the two year budget and debt ceiling deal. Jay, like many fiscal conservatives, doesn’t like the fact that it raises spending by nearly a third of a trillion dollars without providing any way to pay for it. Mike points out that not all deficit spending is bad, and that the U.S. is able to borrow at extremely low rates of interest – investing that money in things with a higher return is smart, though he admits that this doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should. He also points out that we’d be in much better shape if not for the massive GOP tax cut.

Following that is a look at the deal Facebook made with the FTC, agreeing to pay an unprecedented $5 billion fine as well as comply with a number of checks on its practices to better ensure user privacy. Mike wishes the deal had pushed Facebook more, but feels that on balance it may have been preferable to a long, drawn out legal battle with a highly uncertain conclusion. Jay agrees, though he’s less conflicted about it than Mike, and more reluctant to call for action such as breaking up Facebook or other big tech companies.

The show closes with a discussion of an emissions deal the state of California made with four auto manufacturers who together make up 30 percent of the US auto market. The car companies agreed to increased emissions standards that are lower than called for by Obama-era regulations, but higher than the freeze in standards the Trump administration is pushing for. Mike’s a bigger supporter of higher emission standards than Jay, but they both agree that California has a legal right to set its own standards and that if the Trump administration wants to change that, they should do so through the legislative process, not via administrative fiat.

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Thanks to the great folks at Total Recorder. (This isn’t an ad, just appreciation for some help they recently gave us. Great recording software and excellent customer service.)

Mayor Pete’s Funding, the Democratic Debate, and the Role of Capitalism

Will and Brian begin by discussing Mayor Peter as a Democratic candidate this week given his last quarter fundraising showing. While Will argues that Mayor Pete is an intriguing candidate—even for someone who leans right—he also suggests his polling numbers with African-American voters could be problematic in the primaries. Brian suggests Mayor Pete may be quick to collapse in the race given that other candidates—namely Biden—actually brought in more per day during the cycle. Further, Brian is not convinced he is ready for continued primetime pressure, which he didn’t face in the first debate.

Next, Will and Brian discuss the upcoming second Democratic debate. Both believe the field remains too large to allow for nuanced policy discussions. Having the debates over two nights, Will asserts, prevents voters from seeing interactions and discussions they may need to see to differentiate between candidates. Thus, donations will possibly split and general uncertainty will continue to rise to the surface. Brian worries about the longer-term impact given that all demographic data suggests Democrats should be looking to stronghold a long-term gain rather than in-fighting for the next two years.

Lastly, Will and Brian discuss the role of capitalism in the United States today. This discussion was brought on by Abigail Disney’s undercover trip to Disneyland and comments regarding Bob Iger’s wages compared to the average worker at the park. Will advocates strongly for the system as it is today while Brian ponders whether it’d be possible to change the economic infrastructure of society even if we decided we wanted to.

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We Landed on the Moon, Trump’s Twitter Fallout, Contempt from Congress, and McAleenan Testimony

Will and Brian begin by discussing the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. Brian sees great value in space and exploration as a means to advance scientific knowledge and understanding. Even more importantly, he finds that interest in STEM can help motivate children to pursue careers that will continue to move the world forward. Will also sees value in space exploration but wants to remind everyone of the political push behind many early endeavors. Moreover, he also posits the good that could be done with the same budget money today to help citizens across the United States.

Next, they move to a lengthy discussion around Trump’s Tweets aimed at the Squad and fallout surrounding it. Brian argues the tweets are explicitly racist and problematic for democratic governance in the country. Will, on the other hand, believes that while the intention was clear, the message itself was not as direct as many are claiming. Both believe the move was quite strategic. Will posits that Trump used this to move the news media off of other areas while also forcing Speaker Pelosi to defend the Squad, consequently positioning the left as being more extreme than they currently are in reality. Both agree that this issue will continue to be discussed but will not lead to any noticeable shifts in public opinion and pushes for impeachment are wasted efforts today.

Will and Brian then discuss the contempt charges brought against Attorney General Barr and Secretary Ross by the House over the citizenship Census question. Will points out that the entire debate is not about the actual question, since it has existed in some format for decades, but instead about how the information could and would be used. Brian believe the contempt charges are largely political theater but still send an important message regarding the current state of Congressional relations with the President.

Lastly, they briefly discuss the testimony of Secretary McAleenan regarding border conditions today. Will begins by saying that Mike Pence’s comments on the conditions got his attention more than anything else in the news recently given his political leanings and honest assessment. Moreover, Will worries that presidential candidates are using the border as a photo opp which undermines the plight of the individuals currently held there. Brian is concerned both with the conditions and the way that Americans are responding. Both wonder if McAleenan was suggesting to the House that this could all be solved if they were willing to more actively take other measures to curb immigration.

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Kristin & Mike Take a Test

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Now for something a little different and fun – Mike and Kristin take a test! Before they take the Pew Research Center’s Political Typology Quiz, Kristin responds to a question from listener Martin about why she plans to vote for President Trump in 2020.

After that, Mike and Kristin get right down to business and take the test, which consists of choosing between a series of two statements on a variety of issues. They discuss the binary nature of the test and both feel that it’s important to choose the statement that is closer to their beliefs. They run into trouble with a few questions and the phrasing, but have a great time discussing each and challenging each other’s positions along the way.

To hear the results, where each host fell on the ideology scale, and to take the test right along with them, be sure to tune in until the end!

Epstein / Acosta, Border Crossings Down, British Ambassador Resigns, Emoluments Suit Dismissed, Democratic Tensions

Mike and Kristin kick things off by discussing the latest twists and turns in the Jeffrey Epstein case, new sex trafficking charges, and his former friendships with high-powered political types. They agree on the reprehensible nature of the charges and discuss the idea that money can “get you out of trouble”. Both say that there is obvious disparity between rich evil-doers and regular folks who do evil. Also, they get into the resignation of Labor Secretary Alex Acosta.

Next up is the fact that Mexico seems to be stepping up their efforts at the border, as per their deal made with the U.S. government last month. Both Mike and Kristin raise the point that while this is promising, it will take time to see more data. If there seems to be a trend towards fewer border crossings, this might be a jumping off point for discussion once again.

Then, the British Ambassador to the U.S. has resigned due to leaked memos he’d sent previously to London, which contained disparaging remarks about Trump. Trump went on the offense and, after some barbs traded, Ambassador Darroch stepped down. Both Mike and Kristin agreed that stepping down was the right thing to do. Kristin made a point about this being symptomatic of our increasingly polarized atmosphere, and Mike emphasized that this is nothing new in the Trump Era.

An Appeals Court ordered the dismissal of the Emoluments Clause case against Trump, citing that the Attorneys General who brought the case lacked standing. This ruling made sense to both Kristin and Mike. Mike hopes that this is actively pursued, perhaps by Congress. Kristin mentioned that she feels this is mostly politically motivated, another “proxy battle” between Left and Right.

Finally, the big, headline-making battle within the Democrat Party was on everyone’s minds! Kristin was curious to see what Mike had to say, citing that it brought back memories of the Tea Party infighting within the GOP and that many prominent Democrats had taken to blasting the more progressive congressional freshmen for making wild claims against Pelosi and company. Mike found that he was more intrigued by this story than he thought he would be, and sided with Pelosi, though he said that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and company may have valid points buried in the back-and-forth.

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Tyler Cowen’s Love Letter to Big Business

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Mike welcomes George Mason University economist Tyler Cowen back to the show to discuss his latest book, Big Business: A Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero. As you may know, Tyler is a very busy guy – in addition to his academic position, he runs the Marginal Revolution blog  and Conversations with Tyler podcast. He’s also regular contributor at Bloomberg Opinion and has written multiple books, including two Mike previously spoke with him about on the show: Stubborn Attachments and The Complacent Class.

Topics Mike & Tyler discuss include:

  • fraud in the business world
  • if big business is more honest than people in non-business settings
  • why top CEos may actually be underpaid
  • work vs leisure
  • monopolies, with a focus on Facebook, Google, and Amazon
  • problems with the finance industry
  • crony capitalism
  • how much political influence big business really has
  • why we personalize big business, and why we shouldn’t

follow Tyler Cowen on Twitter

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Trump’s Potential Executive Orders on the Census Citizenship Question and Drug Prices, The Border Patrol Facebook Group, School Busing

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Trey and Mike open the show outlining the latest developments on the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 census. Trey focuses on the larger picture that an executive order circumventing a court order would mean for presidential power. Mike considers the actual immediate policy implication and sees it unlikely that an executive order is feasible.

Next, they turn Trump’s push for lower drug prices. Mike argues that President Trump is looking for a win for 2020. Drug prices are an easy potential win, but it certainly isn’t a free market position. Trey agrees that President Trump generally is not a free market individual, but sees this as normal Trumpian policy. The pair also address President Trump’s tweet on using an executive order to lower drug prices.

After that they turn to the controversy surrounding a private Facebook group titled “10-15” for current and former border patrol agents. Trey sees the issue as one where the nexus of public and private speech of blended. Social media creates the ability to know more about people than we ever dreamed possible — even things some of us thought were not as mainstream as they are. Mike argues that the investigation should move forward, but that human nature might suggest being faced with an insurmountable problem we can at least, intellectually, understand the frustration of border patrol agents.

They close the show by returning to what, until recently, seemed a 1970s era policy question: school busing. Trey asks if this is really just an issue of whether or not former Vice-President Biden is “woke” or not. Mike makes the liberal argument against busing and challenges policy makers to address residential segregation.

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Superdelegates, Democratic Strategy, Biden’s Troubled Past, Out of Touch Politics Guys, and Media Bias

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In this episode, Mike & Jay respond to listeners on:

  • whether changes to the Democrats’ superdelegate rules will have a big impact on who their 2020 nominee will be
  • what Democrats can do to win back the Midwest
  • if Joe Biden is out of touch and past his prime
  • if the Politics Guys are out of touch and past their primes
  • story selection bias in the mainstream media

Listener support helps make The Politics Guys possible. If you’re interested in supporting the show, go to or