Friday, April 18, 2014

Lincoln on the Declaration and the Constitution

Here is a followup to a recent post on the connection between the Declaration and the Constitution.  In January, 1861, Abraham Lincoln wrote: 
All this is not the result of accident. It has a philosophical cause. Without the Constitution and the Union, we could not have attained the result; but even these, are not the primary cause of our great prosperity. There is something back of these, entwining itself more closely about the human heart. That something, is the principle of “Liberty to all” — the principle that clears the path for all — gives hope to all — and, by consequence, enterprize, and industry to all.
The expression of that principle, in our Declaration of Independence, was most happy, and fortunate. Without this, as well as with it, we could have declared our independenceof Great Britain; but without it, we could not, I think, have secured our free government, and consequent prosperity. No oppressed, people will fight, and endure, as our fathers did, without the promise of something better, than a mere change of masters.
The assertion of that principle, at that time, was the word, “fitly spoken” which has proved an “apple of gold” to us. The Union, and the Constitution, are the picture of silver, subsequently framed around it. The picture was made, not to conceal, or destroy the apple; but to adorn, and preserve it. The picture was made for the apple — not the apple for the picture.
So let us act, that neither picture, or apple shall ever be blurred, or bruised or broken.
That we may so act, we must study, and understand the points of danger.
Source: The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, ed. Roy P. Basler, volume 4 (Rutgers University Press: New Brunswick, NJ, 1953), 168-169.

News Polls in Decline

As we note in our textbook, this trend complicates life for pollsters.

TOP TALKER – “As polls vanish, so do clues about 2014,” by Steven Shepard, editor of POLITICO’s new Campaign Pro: “The last reliable nonpartisan poll on the [Arkansas Senate] race was conducted in October … Good polling is becoming increasingly scarce, walloped by shrinking newsroom budgets and the soaring costs of conducting surveys. … FiveThirtyEight … launched with a clarion call: ‘Somebody Poll a Senate Race.’ … Over a 15-year period, the completion rate for Pew’s pollsters … fell from 36 percent in 1997 to just 9 percent in 2012.
The main reason is the migration to cellphones. It’s more expensive and time-consuming to call cellphones because they cannot be dialed by a computer, per FCC regulations. … Cash-strapped news outlets are increasingly turning to less-expensive survey methods — like automated-phone and Internet polling … And campaigns and partisan groups are more than happy to fill the void and constant news cycle with numbers that are often more favorable toward their candidate.” Free to Pros

Thursday, April 17, 2014

New York Goes for National Popular Vote Compact

Emma Roller writes at National Journal:
On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that adds New York to the roster of states in the National Popular Vote compact.
The law allows New York to award its 29 electoral votes "in any manner it deems appropriate," under Article II of the Constitution. Cuomo has pledged New York to give those votes to the candidate who wins the national popular vote. Currently, New York awards its electoral votes to the candidate who wins the state's popular vote.
So far, nine other states and the District of Columbia have signed on to the National Popular Vote compact. Unfortunately for popular vote advocates, this sort of legislation does not actually take effect until enough states—representing a majority of the Electoral College's 538 votes—pass similar laws. Ironically, popular-vote advocates have to win over the Electoral College before they can dismantle it.
At Jurist, William G. Ross writes:
The constitutional foundation of NPVIC is Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, which provides that states shall appoint electors "in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct." Advocates of the compact point out that the plain language of this text appears to provide legislators with plenary authority over the method of selecting electors, an interpretation endorsed by the US Supreme Court more than a century ago in McPherson v. Blacker in 1892 and again in 1969, Williams v. Virginia Board of Elections. Like all provisions of the Constitution, however, this section must be read in context and in conjunction with other provisions of the Constitution.
The principal constitutional impediment to NPVIC probably is the so-called "Compact Clause" in Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution, which provides that "No State shall, without the Consent of Congress ... enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State." Although the US Supreme Court has concluded that the Compact Clause does not require Congress to consent to compacts that affect only the internal affairs of the compacting states, it has indicated in US Steel Corporation v. Multistate Tax Commission that the Compact Clause requires Congress to consent to an agreement that "would enhance the political power of the member States in a way that encroaches upon the supremacy of the United States," or "impairs the sovereign rights of non-member states."
Some opponents of NPVIC also have warned that the compact might violate sections 2 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by diluting the votes of racial minorities and impeding their exercise of the franchise. Since African-Americans and Latinos are concentrated in populous states that have large numbers of electoral votes, these opponents of the compact contend that the election of a president by virtual popular vote would diminish the electoral influence of these racial minorities.
Many supporters of the measure think that the electoral college has a Republican bias.  But the opposite may now be true.  Nate Silver wrote last year:
President Obama won the Electoral College fairly decisively last year despite a margin of just 3.8 percentage points in the national popular vote. In fact, Mr. Obama would probably have won the Electoral College even if the popular vote had slightly favored Mitt Romney. The “tipping-point state” in the election — the one that provided Mr. Obama with his decisive 270th electoral vote — was Colorado, which Mr. Obama won by 5.4 percentage points. If all states had shifted toward Mr. Romney by 5.3 percentage points, Mr. Obama would still have won Colorado and therefore the Electoral College — despite losing the national popular vote by 1.5 points.

The Declaration and the Constitution

[Author Timothy] Sandefur, principal attorney at the Pacific Legal Foundation, notes that since the 1864 admission of Nevada to statehood, every state’s admission has been conditioned on adoption of a constitution consistent with the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration . The Constitution is the nation’s fundamental law but is not the first law. The Declaration is, appearing on Page 1 of Volume 1 of the U.S. Statutes at Large, and the Congress has placed it at the head of the United States Code, under the caption, “The Organic Laws of the United States of America.” Hence the Declaration “sets the framework” for reading the Constitution not as “basically about” democratic government — majorities — granting rights but about natural rights defining the limits of even democratic government.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ben Carson and Alexis deTocqueville

In The Washington Times, Dr. Ben Carson writes:
Tocqueville was impressed by the fiery sermons that emphasized the word of God and not the social mores of the day. He concluded his American analysis by saying, “America is great, because America is good. If America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.” America was different because we openly acknowledged the role of God in our lives.
As I have written on many, many, many occasions, Tocqueville wrote no such thing. It is a fake quotation.  For decades, writers have passed it along like a virus.

Inequality and Single Parenting

At National Affairs, Ron Haskins writes how education and nonmarital birth combine to worsen inequality:
Throughout the 40-year period from 1970 to 2010, women with less education were always more likely to give birth outside marriage, but by 2010 the differences among educational groups had become enormous. As the chart below shows, a 35-year-old woman with less than a high-school degree, for instance, was more than five times as likely to be both never married and a mother than a woman with a bachelor's degree or more.

Haskins Spring 2014 Chart 3 Very Small

Since 1994, the literature on the effects of single parenting on children has continued to grow. A partial list of these effects includes an increased likelihood of delinquency; acting out in school or dropping out entirely; teen pregnancy; mental-health problems, including suicide; and idleness (no work and no school) as a young adult. Married parents — in part simply because there are two of them — have an easier time being better parents. They spend more time with their children, set clear rules and consequences, talk with their children more often and engage them in back-and-forth dialogue, and provide experiences for them (such as high-quality child care) that are likely to boost their development. All these aspects of parenting minimize the kinds of behavioral issues that are more commonly seen among the children of single parents.

Many of these problems have consequences for future generations. One of the reasons it is so difficult for people born into poor families to lift themselves into the middle class is that the good jobs that pay well are often out of reach for those who grew up in poor neighborhoods. This should not be surprising in an economy dominated by high-tech industries and global business: An increasing share of jobs that pay well require a good education, which is much harder to obtain in failing schools in impoverished neighborhoods. And, regardless of the quality of their schools, children from single-parent families on average complete fewer years of schooling, which is correlated with lower adult earnings. This correlation makes it more likely that the cycle of poverty continues into the next generation.

The negative consequences of the rise in single parenting are not limited to those in single-parent families. The trend affects everyone. There are, of course, the immediate costs imposed on taxpayers to pay for government benefits for impoverished single mothers and their children. Single mothers often receive the Earned Income Tax Credit, which can be worth over $6,000 per year for a mother with three or more children, as well as the Additional Child Tax Credit, which can be worth up to $1,000 per year for each child. Female-headed families are also more likely than married-couple families to receive other welfare benefits such as housing, food stamps, medical care, and other benefits which can be worth several thousand dollars a year.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Stealthy Grassroots Lobbying

A number of posts have discussed Astroturf, i.e., artificial grassroots lobbying. Pro Publica reports: that Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, has used stealthy grassroots campaign tactics to lobby against free, simple tax filing.
Over the last year, a rabbi, a state NAACP official, a small town mayor and other community leaders wrote op-eds and letters to Congress with remarkably similar language on a remarkably obscure topic.

Each railed against a long-standing proposal that would give taxpayers the option to use pre-filled tax returns. They warned that the program would be a conflict of interest for the IRS and would especially hurt low-income people, who wouldn't have the resources to fight inaccurate returns. Rabbi Elliot Dorff wrote in a Jewish Journal op-ed that he "shudder[s] at the impact this program will have on the most vulnerable people in American society."
"It's alarming and offensive" that the IRS would target the "the most vulnerable Americans," two other letters said. The concept, known as return-free filing, is a government "experiment" that would mean higher taxes for the poor, two op-eds argued.
The letters and op-eds don't mention that, as ProPublica laid out last year, return-free filing might allow tens of millions of Americans to file their taxes for free and in minutes. Or that, under proposals authored by several federal lawmakers, it would be voluntary, using information the government already receives from banks and employers and that taxpayers could adjust. Or that the concept has been endorsed by Presidents Obama and Reagan and is already a reality in some parts of Europe.
So, where did the letters and op-eds come from? Here's one clue:
Rabbi Dorff says he was approached by a former student, Emily Pflaster, who sent him details and asked him to write an op-ed alerting the Jewish community to the threat.
What Pflaster did not tell him is that she works for a PR and lobbying firm with connections to Intuit, the maker of best-selling tax software TurboTax.
 Op-Eds and Letters Opposing Return-Free Tax Filing