Category Archives: 2024 election

tracking the Biden climate investments

The United States began a major experiment in 2022. After decades without an intentional industrial policy and not much action on the climate crisis, the federal government decided to spend something on the order of a trillion dollars over a decade to subsidize green industries.

I interpret this decision not only as a way to purchase lower emissions by (for example) buying solar panels, but also as a strategy for changing the power-base of the economy. As long as the livelihoods of many voters are tied to carbon, it’s very hard to regulate emissions. But once many people are involved with green technologies–as producers and/or consumers–they will demand green policies. This is also a competitive move, challenging other countries to subsidize their green sectors.

I believe this experiment should be on almost everyone’s minds. Conservatives and libertarians should acknowledge that it’s underway–because that’s the truth–and criticize it on its merits. Center-left people should defend it and also think hard about what comes next–whether Trump is elected and tries to undo it all or Biden gets another four years to build on it. Economic and environmentalist radicals are free to criticize the Biden strategy or to vote based on other issues, including the Mideast, but they should at least discuss the opportunities that a green industrial policy creates.

Instead, many conservatives seem locked into the idea that Biden is feckless and has done nothing. At least some on the center-left want to base the 2024 election entirely on Trump and abortion. And most radicals seem uninterested. For every thousand articles about Israel-Palestine debates on elite college campuses, I think I see less than one about the progress of the Inflation Reduction Act–which, by the way, was given a blatantly misleading name on the assumption that voters care about inflation, not climate. I am alarmed at how this whole topic is submerged.

As a very minor and amateurish effort to direct attention to the Biden climate policy, I recommend that people check out the official page for Clean Jobs America. Some points that strike me:

  • About $150 billion has been committed so far to concrete projects. For reference, that’s about the same as the annual budget of the Commonwealth of Virginia. It’s somewhat less than the annual cost of the US Navy (about $200 billion).
  • On a per capita basis, the largest investments are in South Carolina ($2,800 per resident), Arkansas (almost $2,000 per resident), and North Carolina ($1,800 per resident). Eleven states and DC have no specific projects yet.
  • South Carolina got $14 billion in investments. The same state sends $28 billion to the federal government in tax revenues annually. Basically, South Carolina is getting half its federal taxes back to fund green industry. On the other hand, Washington State sends $100 billion to DC each year and has received no clean energy support.
  • If you think of this as a jobs program, it is expensive. I calculate that about one job is created for every $1.2 million spent. On the other hand, the impact is not only on direct employment but also on carbon emissions, and there may be long-term positive effects on employment.
  • The cost of the jobs created varies a lot by sector. Only 200 jobs have been created so far in energy efficiency, but those were cheap at $30,000 per job. (If you want to accomplish something important, and it only costs you $30k to create a new position to do it, that’s a bargain.) On the other hand, the electric vehicle sector has seen more than 60,000 new jobs at $1.3 million per job.

The Biden Administration has also taken regulatory actions regarding hydrofluorocarbons and electric vehicles–see the tracker from the World Resources Institute. But I would regard the industrial policy as much more innovative and significant–for better or worse.

See also: a trillion here, a trillion there, and pretty soon, you’re talking real money; a different way in which the 2024 election is a failure for democracyfederal spending for both climate and democracythe major shift in climate strategy

Bar chart: Black and Latino Youth Are Less Likely to Take High School Civics Courses and to Consider them Impactful Data at

Unequal opportunities for voice in high school civics classes

In CIRCLE’s 2024 national survey of youth, about 40 percent of the 18-24-year-old Americans who were polled recalled having “experiences in class, in student groups, or with school leaders where they felt their voice and opinion mattered” while they were high school students. “White (41%) and Latino youth (40%) were more likely to say they remembered such student voice experiences compared to Black and Asian youth (both 34%).”

White youth were also more likely to recall taking a course labeled “civics,” “American government,” or just “government” in high school (77% of Whites versus 64% of Blacks). After controlling for race/ethnicity, gender, college experience and age, CIRCLE finds strong positive relationships between experiencing voice in high school and planning to vote in the 2024 election. Of those who had positive experiences of voice, 81% say they are “extremely likely to vote,” as compared to 44% of those who did not.

This relationship is probably not entirely causal, with experiences of voice completely explaining the higher intentions to vote. To some extent, people who want to vote now may have sought out high school experiences or may remember those experiences when they are surveyed in the present. Some communities may both support voice in schools and encourage voting later on. Nevertheless, the correlations are stark and apply across demographic groups, which suggests that voice has a substantial impact.

We need two aspects of policy: ensure that every student takes courses on civics, government, and history, and make sure that meaningful discussion of current issues is part of those curricula.

Voting is an indicator here, not necessarily the goal. We teach civics to prepare and enourage young people to engage in many ways, not only at the ballot box. Still, voting is a clear measure of engagement.

See Kelly Siegel-Stechler, Naraya Price, Alberto Medina (with Abby Kiesa, Noorya Hayat, and Sara Suzuki), “Youth Who Develop their Voice in High School Are More Likely to Vote,” March 12, 2024

Biden’s democracy agenda is limited but Trump is against democracy

Tisch College Dean Dayna Cunningham and I have a piece in The Conversation today. We begin:

President Joe Biden argues that “democracy is on the ballot” in the 2024 election.

We believe there are potential threats to U.S. democracy posed by the choices voters make in this election. But the benefits of American democracy have for centuries been unequally available, and any discussion of the current threats needs to happen against that background. …

For us, Biden’s talk of democracy is a useful starting point for a broader conversation about U.S. democracy and the 2024 election. …

youth views of Israel/Palestine

CIRCLE has published detailed data on young people’s views of the current war in the Middle East. I’ll share two graphs, but I recommend their whole document.

First, compared to older generations, young Americans are much more likely to perceive genocide in Palestine (almost 50% agree that it’s happening) and to support an immediate ceasefire.

Second, young Americans are split on whether to sympathize more with Palestinians or Israelis and are divided about US support for Israel. There are differences by race and ethnicity: white youth are least critical of Israel; Asian/Pacific Islander youth are most critical. To my eye, these differences are not very large–particularly between white and African American youth–and the disagreements within each demographic group are more notable.

(By the way, not being sure what to think of this issue seems understandable–for anyone, and especially for someone who is young.)

Whether and how young people will vote in the 2024 election is certainly not the only relevant or important question. That said, political scientists generally doubt that Americans vote on foreign policy issues; and in 2022, according to CIRCLE, just 4% of young Americans named foreign affairs among their top three issues. But in this cycle, as many as 82% of young people are naming foreign policy. I agree with CIRCLE that many young Americans may be “viewing this conflict through a different lens” and, in particular, seeing it as continuous with domestic US issues regarding race.

a different way in which the 2024 election is a failure for democracy

Here’s a modest and basic account of democracy: While they seek office, candidates make proposals. Voters select the politicians with the proposals they prefer. The winners try to implement their ideas. Voters observe, discuss, and evaluate what happens. In the next election, voters decide whether to stay or change the course.

In 2020, Joe Biden and congressional Democrats ran on a fairly clear platform of spending money to stimulate green manufacturing in disadvantaged places. They then managed to pass the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, the $739 billion Inflation Reduction Act, and the $280+ billion CHIPS Act. The total was less than some of them had proposed, but it was more than I had expected, considering that congressional Republicans were also elected who opposed these ideas.

The net effect is not only a significant change in policy but also a turn of the steering wheel. We’re now at the beginning of a long journey toward a green industrial policy.

In 2024, the voters will–as they should–determine whether to stay on this route or hit the breaks. But they will not make a conscious decision. The federal budget will not be a decisive issue, or perhaps even a prominent one. Whether the country shifts to an industrial policy will be an unrecognized side-effect of votes cast for other reasons.

Biden does not seem likely to emphasize the federal spending because it doesn’t poll well. Perhaps that’s partly because voters (including liberal ones) do not believe what Democratic incumbents claim about their own policy successes. Instead, Biden will run on Trump’s unfitness, Jan. 6, and abortion, and he may well win on that basis.

Trump will not run against the federal spending because he has other grievances on his mind. Besides, he does not really oppose ambitious and expensive federal interventions. The rest of his party will take pot shots at the deficit but not challenge the spending because doing so would concede that the Democrats have made substantial changes. They prefer depicting Biden as feckless rather than wrong.

And the press won’t cover the spending because its results are not yet very tangible, and it no longer qualifies as a live political conflict. As a rough proxy for press attention, consider the trend in Google searches for “Inflation Reduction Act” since 2020. The current rate is one fiftieth of the brief peak that occurred while the Act was political news.

I favor the Biden-era policies. I understand principled arguments against them from several directions. We should be debating green industrial policy and deciding whether or not to continue this course.

One reason we will miss this debate is that Donald Trump has given us other grave matters to discuss. Indeed, it would be problematic if voters failed to consider the threat he poses to the constitution. But I don’t think Trump is the only reason. The failure of a major ideological change to register on the public consciousness is symptomatic of a breakdown in news, attention, and public discussion that prevents the people from controlling our government.

See also: preparing for a possible Trump victory; a presidential election with two incumbents?; 1984 all over again? The Reagan/Biden analogy; whether to make the election a referendum on MAGA