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Friday, October 24, 2014

Work for Interest Group, Get Rich

Inside Higher Ed reports:
Salaries for executives at higher education trade associations rival those of top-paid college presidents.
Compensation for the leaders of these higher ed groups – which are considered nonprofits by the IRS – has climbed in recent years.
Twenty-seven of 48 association heads earned about as much or more than the median salary for a university president, which was about $400,000 in 2012-13.
The highest-paid sitting association leader is Mark Emmert of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. He earned $1.7 million from fall 2012 to fall 2013.
The second-highest-paid sitting leader, Michael Lomax, runs the United Negro College Fund. The UNCF, as it is known, supports the nation’s private historically black colleges – many of which are struggling financially – and provides scholarships for students from low-income families. Lomax earned over $1.4 million from spring 2012 to spring 2013, including $101,000 in performance-based incentives and $695,000 in retirement payouts from his previous eight years as UNCF’s leader.
A more recent look by executive compensation firm Quatt Associates, conducted on behalf of the Secretariat members themselves in 2014, found the median compensation of its associations' CEOs was $419,000 per year.
Some of the associations are active in trying to fend off regulatory efforts, including President Obama’s plan for a college rating system and federal efforts to protect students from sexual assault. Others have lobbied for the government to increase aid to students or to institutions. Stills others’ bread and butter is simply selling tests to high school and college students, like the ACT, SAT and GRE.
Senator Chuck Grassley, who has taken a keen interest in higher education salary and benefits, said it’s been clear for a while that tax-exempt organizations tend to use the same few salary-setting firms to get salary recommendations.
Higher education is hardly unique.  In 2012, Politico reported:
Ten of the top trade association heads brought in a total of more than $37 million for the 2011 tax year, according to numbers recently compiled by CEO Update. The top earner was Edison Electric Institute’s Tom Kuhn, who reported $6.7 million in compensation. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Tom Donohue made $4.9 million.
It wasn’t always this way. Bill Clinton made headlines in 2000 when movie execs reportedly offered him a multimillion-dollar deal to run the movie lobby. Nowadays, trade group chiefs can pull down 10 or 15 times the U.S. president’s $400,000 salary by working the Hill for energy, banking or other industries.

The difference now? A mix of worry and self-protectiveness on the part of top industries, at a time when Washington can have a dramatic effect on a company’s bottom line, and when even the fear of a regulatory or legislative change is enough to cause these trade groups to launch defensive action.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Evil Empire

On March 8, 1983, President Reagan spoke to the National Association of Evangelicals in Orlando, He expressed his views on the Soviet Union, famously calling it an "evil empire." He defendedthe Judeo-Christian traditions against the Soviet Union's totalitarian leadership and lack of religious faith, saying that these differences were at the heart of the fight between the two nations.

This document makes clear that Reagan did not simply read the words before him:  he played a very active part in writing the speech itself.  One amusing sidelight:  speechwriter Tony Dolan included a spurious quotation from Alexis deTocqueville -- which Reagan changed:

And here is video:

Americans Still Support the Death Penalty in 2014

Gallup reports:
Six in 10 Americans favor the death penalty for convicted murderers, generally consistent with attitudes since 2008. Since 1937, support has been as low as 42% in 1966 and as high as 80% in 1994.
Americans' support for the death penalty has varied over time, but apart from a single reading in 1966, the public has consistently favored it. Support ebbed from the 1960s to the mid-1970s, when the application of the death penalty was questioned and ultimately led to the Supreme Court's invalidating state death penalty laws. Subsequent to that, newly written laws passed constitutional muster and states began to use the death penalty again in the late 1970s, with support among Americans increasing to 70% or more in the mid-1980s to the late 1990s.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Strong Parties v. Polarization

At The New York Times, Thomas B. Edsall writes:
Nathaniel Persily, a professor of law at Stanford, is a proponent of strong, well-financed parties. Polarization, he wrote in an email to me, “is a cost of many of these good government reforms. It is almost an intended cost if you think about it.” Why? Persily argues that the purpose of
good government reforms is often to make politics more about ideas and less about material or private gain. Well, we have ideological parties now, with clear distinctions and a broad gulf between them. There is nothing wrong with that in the abstract. However, a separation of powers system requires compromise between the parties. Transparency, open meetings, bans on earmarks, and weaker party machines make compromise more difficult.
In “Strengthening Parties,” a chapter in the forthcoming volume “Solutions to Political Polarization in America,” Persily contends that in the case of campaign finance, “the good good-government reforms that have been tried have, if anything, made things worse.”
The claim that reforms have made things worse is based on the interaction between the 2002 McCain-Feingold Act, which regulated campaign finance, and two 2010 court decisions, the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United and the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit decision v. F.E.C.
The McCain-Feingold Act prohibited political parties from accepting unlimited contributions from corporations, unions and rich people, which had come to be called “soft money.”
The federal court decisions, in contrast, explicitly allowed independent political groups – including both super PACs and politically active nonprofits – to accept all forms of soft money.
Pro-party advocates argue that McCain-Feingold in particular has undermined political parties, while court rulings have empowered donors and independent committees, many of whom have agendas more polarizing than those of the parties.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Media and Polarization

Pew reports on a new study of where liberals and conservatives get their news.

Conservatives believe that they are under-represented in the mainstream media. There is some evidence for that belief.

Striking Differences Between Liberals and Conservatives, But They Also Share Common Ground o

"We Are Not About to Send American Boys..." -- LBJ, Fifty Years Ago Today

Fifty years ago today,on October 21, 1964, Lyndon Johnson went to Akron and spoke about the Vietnam War.  He said: “Sometimes our folks get a little impatient. Sometimes they rattle their rockets some, and they bluff about their bombs. But we are not about to send American boys 9 or 10,000 miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.”

On September 24, however, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara had told him that the situation was likely to deteriorate after the election:
President Johnson: I’ve been reading about all these coups out there, and all the problems of [South Vietnamese leader Nguyen] Khanh and everything. I was just wondering what’s happening to me. [Both chuckle.] I start out with a war.
Now, tell me, what’s your evaluation of the stuff we’re getting from [Ambassador Maxwell] Taylor tonight? I’m just reading it, and it doesn’t look very good.
McNamara: It doesn’t look good, Mr. President. It’s no different, you know, than what we’ve seen here and sensed here for some time. I think the odds are we can squeeze through between now and the next several weeks. But it certainly is a weak situation.
I’m going to meet tomorrow at 11:00 with Dean Rusk and Mac [Bundy] and others to reappraise it and see what we think can be done, if anything. I really don’t think there’s much we can do in the next several weeks to change the outlook. But neither do I think it’s going to completely collapse in that period.
Afterwards, though, after the election, we’ve got a real problem on our hands.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Polarization and Inequality

Pew reports that Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say that inequality is a major national challenge.
There is also partisan disagreement on the most important reasons for the gap between the rich and the poor. Republicans (39%) are most likely to say it exists because some people work harder than others. Democrats (17%) and independents (23%) are much less likely to blame the poor’s work ethic.
Republicans (28%) also say inequality is a product of government economic policies, a view held by 24% of Americans overall. Democrats (20%) and independents (25%) are less likely to point the finger at government, putting more emphasis on shortcomings of the U.S. education system. A fifth of Democrats and 17% of independents (17%) cite the educational system as the most important reason for the rich-poor gap compared with just 9% of Republicans.
Republicans and Democrats also strongly disagree on the role of taxes in addressing the gap between the rich and the poor. About seven-in-ten Republicans (71%) favor a policy of low taxes on the wealthy and corporations to encourage investment and economic growth as a means of reducing inequality. The same number of Democrats (71%) back high taxes on the rich and companies to support programs that help the poor. A plurality of independents (48%) also favor high taxes.