Monied 'Burbs

November 10, 2011
Tuesday was a good day to be a Democrat. A year after a massive electoral defeat and months of polls showing their president is in for a tough fight for re-election, a string of wins in states raging from Maine to Ohio to Mississippi gave the party faithful reason to smile. Even in Virginia, where it seemed all-but-certain Republicans would capture the state senate, the margins were perilously tight and a recount left things undetermined as of Wednesday morning. What it all means for 2012, is far from clear. There is always a danger in reading too much into any election – and that’s doubly true in an off year when voter attention and turnout are low. Tuesday may seem like ancient history 12 months from now. But looking closer at the results from Ohio’s proposal to tighten rules on public-sector unions and earlier results this year from a similar measure in Wisconsin, there may be a trend forming in the vote in small-town rural America and the...
November 8, 2011
The hard economic times of the last few years have been felt widely, but not uniformly. As we have often noted on Patchwork Nation, American communities that relied heavily on specific slices of the economy -- housing, manufacturing -- were particularly hard hit. A new report from The Brookings Institution, The Re-Emergence of Concentrated Poverty: Metropolitan Trends in the 2000s, sheds light on what those differences mean in America's largest metro areas. And when you examine the numbers from that report using Patchwork Nation's 12 county types, some common themes emerge in how life is changing in urbanized and rural America. First, while the cores of the nation's big city areas still have many troubles, they are lessening somewhat in relative terms. Poverty grew more in suburban counties than in the dense heart of those urban centers. Second, it appears that more distant suburbs and many rural areas saw much steeper jumps in poverty. As Patchwork Nation has...
November 4, 2011
The 2012 primary contests have not yet begun, but one trend has emerged in the early stages of the campaign. In national polls, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney sits firmly in the 25 percent support range. Why? Romney's struggles are not in character with the traditional path for Republican candidates. Usually, the candidate who has run before and not run afoul with the party is treated as the heir apparent. The big campaign bank account that comes with that position -- something Romney also has -- doesn't hurt either. So why is Romney having a hard time locking down front-runner status? Some argue it is his Mormon faith, an issue Patchwork Nation has examined. Some point to the role he played in the Massachusetts health care plan. But when Patchwork Nation looks back to the last presidential campaign, we're not sure Romney's struggles within the GOP base are such a surprise. It was evident fairly early in 2008 that Romney had problems with key parts of...
October 31, 2011
AS THE 2012 election approaches, one question is on every candidate’s mind: What exactly are the American people thinking? The question has never seemed more pertinent. The recession has come to look more like a long-term reshuffling, the Tea Party is up in arms about spending, and economic inequality is growing. But the question has also never been so flawed. Because in 2012 the idea of following or understanding “the American people’’ has never been such an anachronism. The electorate is not a single thing, or something that can be sorted neatly with a couple of color codes — red on this side, blue on that side. It is an immensely complicated tapestry of thousands of communities experiencing different realities. And anyone — Democrat or Republican — who thinks they know where “it’’ is moving in 2012 is fooling themself. Since 2008 I’ve been traveling the country as director of Patchwork Nation, a journalism...
October 26, 2011
As the early stages of the 2012 campaign progress, a new question has come into play: Are the rich really different? Or, more specifically, should they be treated differently in the U.S. tax code? Flat-tax plans -- or flatter-tax plans -- are popular among those in the 2012 Republican presidential field. Texas Gov. Rick Perry unveiled his proposal to reform the tax code Tuesday adding the third major flat-tax proposal to come from GOP presidential hopefuls. Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan and Newt Gingrich's proposal were already circulating. The idea behind a flat tax is simple. The tax code has gotten so complicated that it needs to be cut back down to size and a "flat tax" -- where there is one simple rate that everyone pays on income - is a quick and easy way to do that job. But behind all that ease is one big broad question: How exactly do Americans feel about everyone paying the same percentage of their income in taxes? After all, the current system may be...
October 20, 2011
The race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination has reached something of a stalemate. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is the presumptive front-runner because he has money and a previous presidential run in 2008, but his percentage of support in surveys hovers somewhere in the 20s as other candidates yo-yo up and down. Last month, it was Texas Gov. Rick Perry holding the edge in the polls before falling back down. This month, former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain is out front – at least for now. What’s driving the uncertainty in the GOP field? It’s all about the Republican base and geography, and a look at third-quarter donations to the candidates offers some insight. Poll numbers are nice, but donations show a heavier level of voter commitment. Patchwork Nation looks at where the GOP field's third quarter donation came from in this week's Politics Counts column at WSJ.com.
October 18, 2011
Ad Age magazine is working with Patchwork Nation on its new American Consumer Project. By combining Patchwork Nation's 12 county types with the esri's Tapestry demographic segmentation, Ad Age is looking at how consumers in different parts of the country are facing the country's troubled ecnomic times. The initial story from Ad Age is about the struggling, shrinking American Middle Class. We'll be posting more links to the Ad Age series as it progresses.
October 11, 2011
What began in Manhattan more than three weeks ago with the rallying cry to "occupy Wall Street" has grown to become something more. The loosely organized liberal protest group has used social media to spread to scores of others cities -- from Washington to San Diego to Missoula, Mont. Many of the protests are shorter affairs -- an afternoon of marching -- and not the long-term "occupation" in New York's Zuccotti Park. But the size and spread of the protests have caught the attention of media from across the spectrum - from The New York Times opinion pages to Forbes.com. Meanwhile, voices in the conservative Tea Party movement have offered their critiques. But as many have noted already, however, when you look closely at the "Occupy Together" and Tea Party movements there are more than a few similarities. Both are loosely organized, both express anger toward groups in power and both are calling from complicated sets of big changes to help a...
October 3, 2011
If you are looking, there are any number of reasons not to raise taxes on various groups of Americans right now. The poor continue to have it rough. The middle class is still trying to dig out. And the wealthy are the engines of growth. They are “job creators.” And when unemployment is high who wants to hike taxes on those who create jobs? That last point in particular has become a key one in Washington. As Congress looks to find ways to chip away at the debt, President Barack Obama has said he wants to increase taxes on families with incomes of over $250,000. Republicans say no, any increase like that would hit at small business owners who create jobs. Patchwork Nation has spent the last few days looking at this argument and thinks there are a few points missing from it. First, that $250,000 mark is really close to the stratosphere of American incomes. Only about 4 percent of households make $200,000 or more a year and in the framework of America’s 12 county...
October 2, 2011
By Graham Brookie and Jack Doherty Nashua’s economy may be lagging, but the Granite State’s second largest city certainly isn’t short in political theatre. New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary has candidates making the trek to Nashua and convincing voters they’re the one for the job.  The actual date of the primary has not been set. As the Nevada GOP caucuses were set for Jan. 14th, the Union Leader predicted New Hampshire’s primary would fall naturally on Tuesday, Jan. 3. Bill Gardner, the New Hampshire Secretary of State, says it could be as early as December. Gardner explained that since New Hampshire law dictates that the state must have must have its primary a week before any other state he would have to wait to when other states – including South Carolina and Iowa – set their set their election calendars. In 2008 the New Hampshire primary was held on January 8th. With every campaign striving for attention, some...