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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Consulting the Public

Kevin Kosar and John Maxwell Hamilton at RCP:

 Fixing Social Security is a straightforward arithmetic problem. Revenues need to cover the outlays. The tricky part is to decide who pays more or gets less.

To see if a mutually acceptable solution was possible, the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation surveyed 2,500 Americans. These women and men received a battery of facts, figures, and policy options. And, lo, a consensus emerged that touched on both the revenue side of the equation and the outlay side.

Strong majorities favored lifting the level of income subject to Social Security taxes, which is currently capped at $160,200. They also favored lifting the payroll tax rate from 6.2 to 6.5 percent. John and Jane Q. Public also thought benefits should be trimmed a little by raising the retirement age from 67 to 68 years.

These solutions would keep Social Security solvent for 75 more years.


It is one thing to inveigh against the other side of the aisle, and quite another for individuals on the fringes to argue excluding the great mass of Americans from the political process.

One way to organize such an approach is for legislators to partner with nonpartisan research outfits like Professor Kull’s or Ohio State University’s Connecting to Congress initiative. They can convene cross-sections of Americans to deliberate with members about public problems. These meetings would not be anarchic public townhalls that, as often happens, feature cranks shouting nonsense. Nor would they be like the typical congressional hearings, which are adversarial proceedings that encourage acrimony and showboating. These panels would have legislators and citizens having a structured conversation to better understand a public problem and to come up with solutions.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Unions, Policy Advocacy, and Public Relations


We develop new facts relating news coverage, interest groups, and events in the legislative histories of minimum wage increases. First, we create and validate a database of news articles that includes coverage of minimum wages and organized labor. Second, we show that policy changes predict increases in news coverage that connects organized labor and minimum wages, in particular when those articles reference high-profile interest groups and research output. Third, these policy events lead coverage of organized labor to shift towards articles about minimum wages. We observe that the minimum wage’s popularity with the public makes this shift qualify as “good PR,” an assessment that is supported by sentiment analysis of articles about organized labor. This public relations channel can thus help rationalize why interest groups engage in policy advocacy.

Monday, March 20, 2023

White Christians in Decline

 Robert P. Jones:

[All] white Christian subgroups—white evangelical Protestant, white non-evangelical/mainline Protestant, and white Catholic—have declined across the last two decades. Notably, in the last ten years, white evangelical Protestants have experienced the steepest decline. As recently as 2006, white evangelical Protestants comprised nearly one-quarter of Americans (23%). By the time of Trump’s rise to power, their numbers had dipped to 16.8%. Today, white evangelical Protestants comprise only 13.6% of Americans. As a result of this precipitous decline, white evangelical Protestants are now roughly the same size as white non-evangelical/mainline Protestants, a group that experienced its own decline decades early, but has now generally stabilized.


As the numbers of white Christians have dropped, their presence in our two political parties has also shifted. Two decades ago, white Christians comprised approximately 8 in 10 Republicans, compared to about half of Democrats, a gap of about 30 percentage points. As their numbers have declined, this gap has increased to about 45 percentage points, with white Christians continuing to account for about 7 in 10 Republicans but only about one quarter of Democrats.


If we overlay the current ethno-religious composition of our two political parties onto the generational cohort chart, we see a stunning result. In terms of its racial and religious composition, the Democratic Party looks like 20-year-old America, while the Republican Party looks like 80-year-old America.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Pro-Russian Twitter Accounts

David Klepper at AP:
Soon after a train derailed and spilled toxic chemicals in Ohio last month, anonymous pro-Russian accounts started spreading misleading claims and anti-American propaganda about it on Twitter, using Elon Musk’s new verification system to expand their reach while creating the illusion of credibility.

The accounts, which parroted Kremlin talking points on myriad topics, claimed without evidence that authorities in Ohio were lying about the true impact of the chemical spill. The accounts spread fearmongering posts that preyed on legitimate concerns about pollution and health effects and compared the response to the derailment with America’s support for Ukraine following its invasion by Russia.


Another pro-Russian account recently tried to pick an online argument with Ukraine’s defense department, posting photos of documents that it claimed came from the Wagner Group, a private military company owned by a Yevgeny Prigozhin, a key Putin ally. Prigozhin operates troll farms that have targeted U.S. social media users in the past. Last fall he boasted of his efforts to meddle with American democracy.

A separate Twitter account claiming to represent Wagner actively uses the site to recruit fighters.

Gentlemen, we have interfered, are interfering and will interfere,” Prigozhin said last fall on the eve of the 2022 midterm elections in the U.S. “Carefully, precisely, surgically and in our own way, as we know how to do,” Prigozhin said at the time.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Domestic Terrorism on the Rise

According to U.S. law, domestic terrorism is generally defined as involving criminal acts dangerous to human life occurring in the U.S. that appear intended to coerce a civilian population or influence or affect the conduct of government. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) tracks cases (which it defines as investigations and disruptions) consistent with its investigative mission. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) tracks incidents which it defines attacks or plots, consistent with its definition of domestic terrorism. From fiscal years 2013 through 2021, the FBI's number of open domestic terrorism-related cases grew by 357 percent from 1,981 to 9,049, From calendar year 2010 to 2021, I&A tracked a total of 231 domestic terrorism incidents, with racially- or ethnically-motivated violent extremists committing the most violent incidents during the time period.
The FBI and DHS I&A collaborate via headquarters staff, fusion centers, and through serving on task forces, to identify and counter domestic terrorism threats. GAO found that they generally followed leading collaboration practices, but challenges remain. For example, FBI and DHS have agreements in place, but they have not assessed if these agreements fully reflect how their personnel should collaborate on their shared charge of preventing domestic terrorism. Due to the rapidly evolving threat landscape, having up-to-date, comprehensive formal agreements would enhance the two entities' collaboration. Further, FBI and DHS I&A have evaluated individual activities but have not consistently assessed the overall effectiveness of their collaborative efforts. Doing so can ensure both agencies are capitalizing on efforts that may lead to improved information to counter domestic terrorism threats.

Friday, March 17, 2023

Non-Catholic Irish Americans

 Maurice O'Sullivan at America:

While I recognize that change, I also know that no one back in my Jersey City youth could have imagined someone named Kevin McCarthy as either a Baptist or an ally of anti-immigrant activists like Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene, a woman who once said that Satan controlled the Catholic Church. Yet today few are surprised that the speaker, the great-grandson of an Irish Catholic immigrant from County Cork and the first Republican in his family, reportedly attends Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield, Calif.

At the same time, Mr. McConnell’s membership in Louisville Southeast Christian Church, an evangelical megachurch, follows logically from his family’s Presbyterian, Scots-Irish roots. Although his family also came from Ireland’s southernmost county, Cork, they joined the first great immigration from Ulster or Northern Ireland to the original 13 American colonies. While a few adapted to the Anglo-Germanic-Quaker culture of Middle Colonies like Pennsylvania, most moved to Appalachia and the South.

Their greatest influence was in Arkansas and in Appalachian states like Tennessee and Kentucky, which Senator McConnell now represents. As they settled in the mountainous regions of Appalachia and the Ozarks, they often named at least one of their sons after their hero, King William III of England, who defeated the largely Catholic army of the deposed King James II. Members of Ulster’s Orange Order continue to celebrate King Billy’s victory in their own parade each July 12, donning bowler hats, white gloves and orange sashes each to demonstrate their loyalty to the United Kingdom.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Attitudes Toward Religious Groups

Patricia Tevington at Pew:
Far more Americans express favorable than unfavorable views of Jews, mainline Protestants and Catholics, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey that measures U.S. adults’ broad sentiments toward several religious groups.

At the other end of the spectrum, more Americans express negative than positive attitudes toward atheists, Muslims and Mormons (members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).

Some survey respondents may find it strange or difficult to be asked to rate an entire group of people. Indeed, most Americans give a neutral response – or choose not to answer the question – when asked about some religious groups. For example, about six-in-ten U.S. adults (59%) say they hold “neither favorable nor unfavorable” views of Muslims or “don’t know enough to say,” while 17% express very or somewhat favorable views of Muslims and 22% express very or somewhat unfavorable views of the group.

The patterns are affected in part by the size of the groups asked about, since people tend to rate their own religious group positively. This means that the largest groups – such as Catholics and evangelical Christians – get a lot of favorable ratings just from their own members. One way to adjust for this is to examine how people rate all religious groups except their own.

Looking at the data this way, it is clear that non-Catholic Americans have a net positive view of Catholics. But there is a big difference between the way that evangelical Christians are rated by the whole public (including roughly one-quarter of U.S. adults who describe themselves as born-again or evangelical Protestants) and the way they are rated by people who are not evangelicals.

Overall, similar shares of the whole public say they view evangelical Christians favorably (28%) and unfavorably (27%). But among Americans who are not themselves born-again or evangelical Protestants, the balance of opinion is much more negative (32% unfavorable vs. 18% favorable). Some of this sentiment is tied up with politics: Democrats who are not born-again or evangelical Protestants are far more likely than non-evangelical Republicans to view evangelicals negatively (47% vs. 14%, respectively).