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Saturday, October 21, 2017

Support for Democracy

Pew:
To examine the public’s support of representative democracy over nondemocratic alternatives, we constructed a commitment to representative democracy index. (The index does not include the question about direct democracy.) Respondents are classified as “committed democrats” if they support a system in which elected representatives govern but do not support rule by experts, a strong leader or the military (i.e., nondemocratic governments). Respondents who say a representative democracy is good but also support at least one nondemocratic form of government are classified as “less-committed democrats.” And those who do not support representative democracy and instead support at least one nondemocratic form of government are classified as “non-democrats.”

Roughly a quarter of people (median of 23%) across the 38 countries surveyed are committed democrats. About twice as many (median of 47%) are less-committed democrats. Relatively few (13%) are nondemocratic. A small share (8%) does not endorse any of these forms of governance.

Commitment to representative democracy is strongest in North America and Europe. A median of 37% across the 10 European Union nations polled, as well as 40% in the United States and 44% in Canada, support democracy while rejecting nondemocratic forms of government. Australia is the only country outside of North America and Europe where at least four-in-ten are categorized as committed democrats.

Sweden (52%) shows the strongest level of commitment of all countries surveyed, with roughly half holding this view. By contrast, Russia (7%) has the lowest percentage of committed democrats.
Unlike the relationship between wealth and religiosity, the relationship between wealth and support for democracy is linear, with the US close to the line.

 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Bush on National Identity

From remarks by President George W. Bush on October 19, 2017 at the "Spirit of Liberty: At Home, in the World," the Bush Institute’s national forum on freedom, free markets, and security. From Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York, New York.
The American dream of upward mobility seems out of reach for some who feel left behind in a changing economy. Discontent deepened and sharpened partisan conflicts. Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.
There are some signs that the intensity of support for democracy itself has waned, especially among the young, who never experienced the galvanizing moral clarity of the Cold War, or never focused on the ruin of entire nations by socialist central planning. Some have called this “democratic deconsolidation.” Really, it seems to be a combination of weariness, frayed tempers, and forgetfulness.
We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. At times, it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates into dehumanization. Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions – forgetting the image of God we should see in each other.

We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism – forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America. We see a fading confidence in the value of free markets and international trade – forgetting that conflict, instability, and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism.
We have seen the return of isolationist sentiments – forgetting that American security is directly threatened by the chaos and despair of distant places, where threats such as terrorism, infectious disease, criminal gangs and drug trafficking tend to emerge.
In all these ways, we need to recall and recover our own identity. Americans have a great advantage: To renew our country, we only need to remember our values.
...
Our identity as a nation – unlike many other nations – is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood. Being an American involves the embrace of high ideals and civic responsibility. We become the heirs of Thomas Jefferson by accepting the ideal of human dignity found in the Declaration of Independence. We become the heirs of James Madison by understanding the genius and values of the U.S. Constitution. We become the heirs of Martin Luther King, Jr., by recognizing one another not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
This means that people of every race, religion, and ethnicity can be fully and equally American. It means that bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Filling the Amendment Tree

James Wallner at The R Street Institute:
The majority leader blocks senators from offering alternative proposals by filling the amendment tree, i.e., offering the maximum allowable number of amendments to legislation before other senators have had a chance to debate the measure and offer their own amendments.
Once used sparingly in extraordinary circumstances, the tactic is now routine and well-documented. But less appreciated is the extent to which its normalization in recent years represents a radical break from the Senate’s past practice. Also, less understood is how precisely the tactic empowers the majority to pass its agenda, given that the minority can still filibuster the underlying legislation.
Recent research suggests that the amendment process gradually evolved to facilitate the orderly consideration of the Senate’s business. The direction in which it evolved was informed by the Senate’s effort to balance the need for order in its work with the imperative of legislative deliberation.
While the Senate’s first amendment trees only permitted two amendments to be pending at the same time, they were expanded in response to member demands by adding new branches. The result was to increase the number of amendments that could be pending before the Senate simultaneously.
Notwithstanding this increase, members maintained order by adhering to the principles of precedence first compiled for the Senate in Thomas Jefferson’s A Manual of Parliamentary Practice for the Use of the Senate and still followed today. In general, those principles held that senators should have an opportunity to amend legislative text proposed to be stricken and/or inserted before the actual vote to strike and/or insert said text.
Analyzing how the Senate’s current amendment trees came to be underscores the extent to which using them to block amendments is a perversion of the Senate’s rules and practices. That is, the precedents underpinning the trees are now being used for a purpose fundamentally at odds with the one for which they were first created. Instead of facilitating the orderly consideration of amendments on the Senate floor, they are now being used to block the consideration of amendments altogether.
...
The routine practice of filling the amendment tree in the Senate today, coupled with the cloture process to end debate, effectively prevents members from being able to perfect legislation before it receives an up-or-down vote on final passage. Instead of a deliberative process designed to discern the true sense of the institution’s membership on an issue, senators are confronted with a fait accompli. This practice is inconsistent with the longstanding rules and practices on which the amendment process is based.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Guns and Intensity

Megan Brenan at Gallup:
In the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, more Americans support tighter controls on guns. Six in 10 U.S. adults now support stricter laws covering the sale of firearms, up from 55% last year and the highest percentage since 2004. However, the public is sharply divided over an assault weapons ban, though the 48% in favor exceeds last year's record-low 36%. Americans still widely oppose an outright ban on handguns, but more favor such a ban than in 2016
Lydia Saad at Gallup:
The great majority of Americans are in favor of more stringent regulation of the sale and ownership of guns in three ways that go beyond current law in most states. U.S. adults offer near-universal support for requiring background checks for all gun purchases, backed by 96%. Also, three-quarters favor enacting a 30-day waiting period for all gun purchases and 70% favor requiring all privately owned guns to be registered with the police.
As previous posts have noted, however, there is an intensity gap on gun control

Pew:
Large majorities of Americans support several specific policies intended to limit access to guns, including expanded background checks and restrictions on sales to the mentally ill. But relatively few Americans actually contact public officials to express their views, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in the spring.
Just 15% of all U.S. adults say they have ever contacted a public official to express their opinion on gun policy. About one-in-five gun owners (21%) have done this, including 9% who say they’ve done so in the past year. That compares with 12% of non-gun owners who have ever reached out to officials about gun policy, including 5% who have done so in the past year.
Furthermore, Americans who believe gun laws should be less strict are more likely to contact public officials on the issue than those who think gun laws should be stricter or are about right (22% have ever done so, compared with 15% of those who favor stricter laws and 10% of those who think laws are about right). Among gun owners, 19% of those who want less strict laws have contacted a public official in the past year, compared with 9% of those who want stricter laws.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Adopted Sons and Daughters of America

The Wall Street Journal excerpts remarks by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy at a Sept. 21 naturalization ceremony in Bakersfield, Calif.:
Every one of you has a story—an American story now. You come from many countries—but today the Pilgrims are your ancestors. You’ve known many leaders—but today George Washington is your Founding Father. You’ve experienced many hardships—but today Valley Forge is your winter.

The Declaration is your inspiration and the Constitution is your inheritance. Lincoln is your liberator. . . . The GIs of D-Day are your heroes. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of your dreams. The moon bears your flag. And our future is your future.

You are adopted sons and daughters of America with every right, every privilege, every duty and every national memory of those blessed with citizenship by birth. I pray that as you grow into your place as a citizen, that what you would feel more than anything else is gratitude.

Lobbying for Opioids

This important story illustrates key aspects of legislation today.
Scott Higham and Lenny Bernstein report at WP:
In April 2016, at the height of the deadliest drug epidemic in U.S. history, Congress effectively stripped the Drug Enforcement Administration of its most potent weapon against large drug companies suspected of spilling prescription narcotics onto the nation’s streets.
...
The chief advocate of the law that hobbled the DEA was Rep. Tom Marino, a Pennsylvania Republican who is now President Trump’s nominee to become the nation’s next drug czar. Marino spent years trying to move the law through Congress. It passed after Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) negotiated a final version with the DEA.
...
Deeply involved in the effort to help the industry was the DEA’s former associate chief counsel D. Linden Barber. Once a DEA lawyer who supervised cases against pharmaceutical companies, he left the agency and is now an executive at Cardinal Health. While at the DEA, he helped design and carry out the early stages of the agency’s tough enforcement campaign, which targeted drug companies that were failing to report suspicious orders of narcotics.
When Barber went to work for the drug industry in 2011, he brought an intimate knowledge of the DEA’s strategy and how it could be attacked to protect the companies. He was one of dozens of DEA officials recruited by the drug industry during the past decade.
Barber played a key role in crafting an early version of the legislation that would eventually curtail the DEA’s power, according to an internal email written by a Justice Department official to a colleague. “He wrote the Marino bill,” the official wrote in 2014.
Barber declined repeated requests for an interview.
With a few words, the new law changed four decades of DEA practice. Previously, the DEA could freeze drug shipments that posed an “imminent danger” to the community, giving the agency broad authority. Now, the DEA must demonstrate that a company’s actions represent “a substantial likelihood of an immediate threat,” a much higher bar.

Coda:

Monday, October 16, 2017

Dollar Stores and Fishtown

Mya Frazier reports at Bloomberg at the sad story behind the growth of dollar stores:
Already, there are 14,000 one-story cinder block Dollar Generals in the U.S.—outnumbering by a few hundred the coffee chain’s domestic footprint. Fold in the second-biggest dollar chain, Dollar Tree, and the number of stores, 27,465, exceeds the 22,375 outlets of CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens combined. And the little-box player is fully expecting to turn profits where even narrow-margin colossus Walmart failed.
...

About a year ago, as stores were going under across the nation, Garrick Brown, director for retail research at the commercial real estate company Cushman & Wakefield, was searching for bright spots in the industry. For five years running, he realized, a dollar store had opened once every four and a half hours, an average of more than five a day. “They see a need and are aggressively racing to meet that need for low-cost goods in places that are food deserts,” he says.
...
“It reminds me of a craps table,” Brown, the commercial real estate analyst, says. “Essentially what the dollar stores are betting on in a large way is that we are going to have a permanent underclass in America. It’s based on the concept that the jobs went away, and the jobs are never coming back, and that things aren’t going to get better in any of these places.”