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Monday, September 24, 2018

The California Treasury Depends on Rich People

California has a highly progressive tax system. At The Los Angeles Times, Melanie Mason reports:
While Democrat Gavin Newsom and Republican John Cox campaign on their visions for the state’s next chapter, it’s the financial success of residents in Palo Alto’s 94301 and a handful of other affluent ZIP Codes that will determine whether promises to build more houses, overhaul healthcare or invest in schools can actually be kept.
The state scooped up just under $1 billion from nearly 9,000 tax returns filed in 94301 in 2016 — more revenue than from any other ZIP Code in California.
Much is made of the widening gap between California’s very rich and very poor. But just as significant is how the fate of the latter depends heavily on the former.
We are very dependent on millionaires,” said Mike Genest, former budget director for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. “If the millionaires get a cold, we all die of the flu.”
 The vulnerability stems from the state’s lopsided reliance on personal income tax — including taxes on capital gains — to fund its budget. Nearly 70% of California’s revenue comes from personal income tax, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office. That share has steadily risen since the 1950s, while other sources of revenue, such as sales and use tax and corporate tax, have declined in significance. And personal income tax revenue is especially concentrated among the state’s top earners. In 2016, the top 1% of filers paid out nearly 46% of income tax revenue.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Survey on Religion and Politics

A release from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research:
There is little consensus among the public when it comes to the level of influence religion should play in politics and government policies. People who are unaffiliated with a religion tend to see religious influence as excessive, while those who identify with particular faiths are more inclined to regard religion as having either the right amount of influence or too little.
Nearly 4 in 10 Americans say evangelical Christians and the Catholic Church have too much influence on American politics. However, 47 percent of white born-again Christians say evangelical Christians have too little influence. Fifty three percent of Catholics consider their Church to be exercising the right amount of influence.

When it comes to the impact of religion on various aspects of life in the United States, white born-again Christians tend to regard the influence of religion as insufficient, while those with no religious ties say religion has an excessive amount of influence. For example, 52 percent of white born-again Christians say religion has too little influence on most members of Congress, while 59 percent of unaffiliated Americans see most members of Congress as overly influenced by religion.

Few Americans put a lot of emphasis on religion when deciding how to vote. But white born-again Christians and non-white Protestants are much more inclined than other Americans to consider religion when choosing a candidate to support.

Tax exempt charitable groups, including churches and religious organizations, are prohibited from participating in any political campaign.1 Most Americans oppose any change to this regulation. Thirteen percent favor allowing religious leaders to endorse political candidates without losing their tax-exempt status and 53 percent oppose the idea.

The nationwide poll was conducted August 16-20, 2018 using the AmeriSpeak® Panel, the probability-based panel of NORC at the University of Chicago. Online and telephone interviews using landlines and cell phones were conducted with 1,055 adults. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4.2 percentage points for all respondents.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Tariff Authority

Rachel Fefer and colleagues write at CRS:
Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 (19 U.S.C. §1862) provides the President with the ability to impose restrictions on certain imports based on an affirmative determination by the Department of Commerce (Commerce) that the product under investigation “is being imported into the United States in such quantities or under such circumstances as to threaten to impair the national security.” Section 232 actions are of interest to Congress because they are a delegation of Congress’s constitutional authority “to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations.” They also have important potential economic and policy implications for the United States.

Congress enacted Section 232 during the Cold War when national security issues were at the forefront of national debate. The Trade Expansion Act sets clear steps and timelines for Section 232 investigations and actions, but allows the President to make a final determination over the appropriate action to take following an affirmative finding by Commerce that the relevant imports threaten to impair national security. [Before 2017] there have been 26 Section 232 investigations resulting in nine affirmative findings by Commerce. In six of those cases the President imposed a trade action
In establishing Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act, Congress delegated aspects of its authority to regulate international commerce to the Administration. Use of the statute to restrict imports does not require any formal approval by Congress or an affirmative finding by an independent agency, such as the U.S. International Trade Commission, granting the President broad discretion in applying this authority. Should Congress disapprove of the President’s use of the statute, its current recourse is limited to passing new legislation or using informal tools to pressure the Administration (e.g., putting holds on presidential nominee confirmations). Some Members and observers have suggested that Congress should require additional steps in the Section 232 process, such as requiring an economic impact study by the U.S. International Trade Commission, congressional consultation or approval of any new tariffs (see, for example, S. 3013), or allowing for a resolution of disapproval as exists in the case of petroleum. In addition, some Members and observers have suggested that Congress should revisit the delegation of its  constitutional authority more broadly, such as by requiring congressional review of executive branch trade actions generally (see, for example, H.R. 5760 and S. 177).

Friday, September 21, 2018

Madison and Civic Education

Jeffrey Rosen at The Atlantic:
The best way of promoting a return to Madisonian principles, however, may be one Madison himself identified: constitutional education. In recent years, calls for more civic education have become something of a national refrain. But the Framers themselves believed that the fate of the republic depended on an educated citizenry. Drawing again on his studies of ancient republics, which taught that broad education of citizens was the best security against “crafty and dangerous encroachments on the public liberty,” Madison insisted that the rich should subsidize the education of the poor.These are dangerous times: The percentage of people who say it is “essential” to live in a liberal democracy is plummeting.
To combat the power of factions, the Founders believed the people had to be educated about the structures of government in particular. “A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both,” Madison wrote in 1822, supporting the Kentucky legislature’s “Plan of Education embracing every class of Citizens.” In urging Congress to create a national university in 1796, George Washington said: “A primary object of such a national institution should be the education of our youth in the science of government.”
The civics half of the educational equation is crucial. Recent studies have suggested that higher education can polarize citizens rather than ensuring the rule of reason: Highly educated liberals become more liberal, and highly educated conservatives more conservative. At the same time, the National Assessment of Educational Progress has found that citizens, whether liberal or conservative, who are educated about constitutional checks on direct democracy, such as an independent judiciary, are more likely to express trust in the courts and less likely to call for judicial impeachment or for overturning unpopular Supreme Court decisions.
These are dangerous times: The percentage of people who say it is “essential” to live in a liberal democracy is plummeting, everywhere from the United States to the Netherlands. Support for autocratic alternatives to democracy is especially high among young people. In 1788, Madison wrote that the best argument for adopting a Bill of Rights would be its influence on public opinion. As “the political truths” declared in the Bill of Rights “become incorporated with the national sentiment,” he concluded, they would “counteract the impulses of interest and passion.” Today, passion has gotten the better of us. The preservation of the republic urgently requires imparting constitutional principles to a new generation and reviving Madisonian reason in an impetuous world.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Experienced Legislative Staff

How Experienced Legislative Staff Contribute to Effectiveawmaking*
Jesse M. Crosson, University of Michigan; Geoffrey M. Lorenz, University of Virginia;
Craig Volden, University of Virginia; Alan E. Wiseman, Vanderbilt University

Members of Congress seek to allocate their scarce staff resources carefully, given their multiple, sometimes competing, objectives. Using data on House members’ staff allocations from 1994 to 2013, we demonstrate that legislators advance more (and more significant) legislation when they retain a more experienced legislative staff. This benefit, however, accrues mostly to committee chairs, whose institutional privileges allow them to leverage experienced staff, and to the most junior legislators, whose inexperience can be best supplemented by experienced aides. Finally, we show that legislators do not generally benefit from large legislative staffs, but rather from having
individual legislative staffers with high levels of experience. This finding suggests that a targeted strategy to retain the most experienced legislative staff in Congress may pay the greatest dividends in regards to lawmaking.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Video on Vets

At AEI, Rebecca Burgess discusses military veterans.
Much to the surprise of the public, a vast number of post-9/11 US military veterans have successfully attained higher education and economic stability over the last 10+ years. AEI’s Rebecca Burgess explains that despite this positive outlook for America’s military, public perception has cast many of these brave men and women in a “broken veteran” narrative that hinders countless others from succeeding back on the home front.