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Election Watch

Will interest on the debt exceed defense spending by 2022?

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The hotly contested West Virginia primary for a U.S. Senate seat is now over. But it didn’t take more than a few hours for the general election to start.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., appeared on West Virginia radio host Hoppy Kercheval’s show, the morning after election night. In the general election, Manchin faces Republican state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in what most observers see as a competitive race.

Manchin portrayed himself as a fiscal conservative both as governor and in the Senate in his interview with Kercheval. He expressed concern about the rising federal debt, which exceeds $21 trillion in the broadest measurement.

“By 2022, just the interest payment on our debt will be greater than the defense of our country,” Manchin said.

Is Manchin right? We found that he’s at least certainly close.

In 2017, the last year for which complete data is available, defense spending stood at $590 billion.

Net interest on the debt stood at $263 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan budget analysis arm of Congress.

So defense spending is currently more than twice as big as net interest.

However, net interest is expected to grow faster than defense spending over the next decade.

That’s according to CBO’s most recent Budget and Economic Outlook report, which projects a variety of budget categories 10 years into the future. (See Fig. 2.1 here.)

Between 2018 and 2028, CBO projects, both defense and interest will rise, with interest overtaking defense spending in fiscal year 2023.

In 2023, defense spending will be $679 billion and net interest will reach $702 billion. The gap will only grow from there.

So CBO has it one year later than Manchin said.

That said, things could change between now and then — and CBO’s assumptions are not the only way to make these projections.

CBO’s projections assume that defense spending will return to tighter levels in 2020, after the current spending bill expires, said Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

However, Congress has regularly raised the spending limits since they were first imposed in 2011. And if Congress acts as it has in the past, that would change the calculations.

However, CBO does not specify the amounts under this alternative assumption, so that scenario is too speculative to consider.

Our ruling

Manchin said, “By 2022, just the interest payment on our debt will be greater than the defense of our country.”

The closest official estimate we could find says that net interest will pass defense spending in 2023, or one year later than Manchin said. But using a different set of unofficial assumptions, it could be different.

We rate his statement Mostly True.

This article was originally published by PolitiFact.

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Election Watch

Where the Vote Shifted in Kentucky from 2015 to 2019

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Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, right, with his wife Glenna, speaks to supporters gathered at the republican party celebration event in Louisville, Ky., Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. Photo: Timothy D. Easley/AP Photo

Andy Beshear’s lead in the Kentucky gubernatorial race came largely from cities and suburbs. But a shift toward the Democratic candidate occurred across the state, compared to the 2015 governor’s election.

This time, it really was the cities and suburbs.

The television maps of Kentucky’s vote Tuesday night appeared to show that a shift in rural areas was a decisive factor in Democrat Steve Beshear’s apparent victory in the governor’s race. And there was a movement in that direction, especially in parts of Eastern Kentucky.

But the areas that gave the Democrat a lead over incumbent Governor Matt Bevin were in the state’s major cities and close-in suburbs.

The map above shows the shift in the percent of people voting for Democrats from the 2015 governor’s race (won by Republican Bevin) to this week’s contest. Only 39 of Kentucky’s 120 counties were more Republican this week than four years earlier. Almost all counties were rural or exurban (the remotest suburbs) and they are concentrated in the western portion of the state.

The counties that moved most strongly toward the Democrats were central city counties of the major metro regions of the state and their suburbs (including those neighboring Cincinnati, Ohio). Of the seven counties where Democrats increased their share by 10 percentage points from 2015, five were attached to major metro areas.

There was a strong Democratic trend in a number of Eastern Kentucky counties. Magoffin, Knott and Perry counties (all once dependent on the coal industry) had some of the strongest Democratic shifts in the state.

But since the urban and suburban counties have much larger populations than rural counties, most of the surge in Democratic votes was tied to the cities. Democrats increased their total vote by 283,000 from 2015 to 2019. Nearly two-thirds of that increase (177,000 votes) came from the state’s major cities or suburbs.

In fact, nearly 40 percent of that increase came from just two counties, the central parts of Louisville (Jefferson County) and Lexington (Fayette County).

Explore an interactive map of Kentucky’s election results here.

The increase in voter turnout was massive in Kentucky, compared to 2015. The Democratic vote increased by 66 percent from 2015 to 2019. The Republican turnout increased by 37.7 percent – a huge gain but not enough to offset the Democratic surge.

The Democratic vote in downtown Lexington nearly doubled.

The Washington Post has a sophisticated analysis of the urban, suburban and rural shifts in Kentucky’s elections. It finds that the split between central cities and counties farther from city centers has widened since 2015.

The Yonder finds the same widening gap. For example, there was a 22.5 percentage point difference in the Democratic vote between Louisville (Jefferson County) and the state’s most rural counties in 2015. This week, the gap was 29.6 points.

Bill Bishop is a contributing editor and co-founder of the Daily Yonder.

This article was originally published by the Daily Yonder.

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Election Watch

Election Results: Off-year Democratic Wins See Seed Change in KY, VA

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Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear, along with lieutenant governor candidate Jacqueline Coleman, acknowledge supporters at the Kentucky Democratic Party election night watch event, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. Photo: Bryan Woolston/AP Photo

Heading into Tuesday’s off-year elections in a handful of Appalachian states– Virginia, Kentucky and Mississippi notably among them– important races for governor and state legislative seats were being posited as an early referendum on the White House. 

President Trump spent the days leading up to the race rallying in Kentucky and Mississippi for Republican gubernatorial candidates in tight races, but avoided purple Virginia. But in the end, his support, or lack thereof, resulted in a mixed bag of results. 

In Kentucky, voters elected a new governor in a close race between the Republican incumbent Matt Bevin and Democrat Andy Beshear, the state’s attorney general. Beshear took the win with 49.2 percent of the votes. 

Mississippi picked a new governor as well. With the Republican Governor Phil Bryant out of the race due to term limits in his state, the current Republican lieutenant governor of Mississippi Tate Reeves run against the Democrat Jim Hood, a current attorney general of the state.

Reeves won decisively with 52.3 percent of the votes against Hood’s 46.5 percent. 

All of the seats in Virginia’s bi-camerral legislature were on the ballot Tuesday and for the first time in 20 years, the governing body will be led by Democrats. Democrats are projected to have 54 delegates out of 100 in the House and 21 senators out of 40. 

With the executive branch already in their hands, the results leave Democrats in complete control of the state.

The visible absence of the presidential support on the ground in Virginia could be a sign of the national Republican Party noticing a decline in suburban support for the current administration. 

It is a widely held Democratic belief that it’s in the suburbs of traditionally red or purple states where the Democrats have the best chance of stealing votes away from Republican candidates in 2020, including President Trump himself. 

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Election Watch

Early Presidential Primary States Have Stronger Job Growth

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From left, Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., entrepreneur Andrew Yang, former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke and former Housing Secretary Julian Castro are introduced for the Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by ABC on the campus of Texas Southern University Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019, in Houston. Photo: AP Photo/Eric Gay

While Democrat candidates criticize Trump on the economy, the states that hold their presidential nomination contests first (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina) are doing better than the rest of nation with jobs.

Job growth in the first four Democratic primary states was far stronger than the national average over the last year, according to the latest federal reports.

Moreover, unemployment rates in these states were also at or well below that of the nation as a whole. And the good employment reports came from both urban and rural counties.

Democratic candidates have uniformly criticized President Donald Trump’s handling of the economy. That message is being delivered in states that have had good job growth, and low unemployment rates, in the last year.

Credit: Daily Yonder graphic/Bureau of Labor Statistics

The first four Democratic primaries will be in Iowa (caucuses Feb. 3), New Hampshire (Feb. 11), Nevada (caucuses Feb. 22) and South Carolina (Feb. 29). The chart above shows the job growth in those states from July 2018 to July 2019. The figures are broken down between rural and urban counties.

The job growth rate in urban Iowa is more than three times that of the U.S. total. In rural Iowa, jobs have been growing at a little less than twice the national average. Des Moines has had the sixth fastest rate of job growth since last July of all U.S. metro counties at 5.3 percent.

The same is true across the first four Democratic primary states. Not one state has job growth rates lower than the national average. The closest is New Hampshire, which clocks in with job growth at just a bit above the national figures. Every other state has job growth rates at two to three times the national figures, in both rural and urban counties.

The only state of these four with a higher unemployment rate than the national average in July of this year is Nevada. It had a statewide unemployment rate of 4.5 percent compared to the national rate of 4 percent, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Iowa had an unemployment rate of 2.7 percent in July. South Carolina’s rate was 3.2 percent, and New Hampshire’s rate was 2.2 percent.

What does this do to the rhetoric coming from Democratic candidates – or its reception by voters? The Daily Yonder has no idea.

This article was originally published by the Daily Yonder.

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