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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Party-Aligned Think Tanks and Congress

E.J. Fagan at
As they have grown, these party-aligned think tanks have become more influential in Congressional debates. One way that I measure the changing influence of think tanks over time is to observe how frequently they testify in hearings. The figure below charts the number of witnesses from the six think tanks per hearing against the staff witnesses from the CBO, CRS, and OTA. The two trends are mirror images of each other. When Congress cut the budgets of its analytical organizations in the mid-90s, there was a subsequent explosion in think tank witnesses. While this explosion subsided after the 104th Congress, a new equilibrium was established for much of the late-90s and early 2000s. Finally, the series accelerates again in the mid-2000s, as the analytical organization budgets suffered further cuts.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Ancient Origins of Advice and Consent

Allan Matkins at The National Law Review:
The United States Constitution vests the executive power of the federal government in the president, but his or her power is not entirely autonomous. Notably, Article II, Section 2 notably endows the president with the power to make treaties with the "advice and consent" of the Senate. While the president has unilateral power to nominate ambassadors, judges and other officers of the United States, actual appointments may only be made with the "advice and consent" of the Senate.
The concept of advice and consent is an ancient one. It may have begun with the Etruscans, a people who preceded the Romans on the Italian peninsula. Like the Greeks and Romans, the Etruscans worshipped a pantheon of deities having one king or chief god. For the Greeks, this was Ζεύς (Zeus), for the Romans in was Jupiter, and for the Etruscans it was Tinia. Like his Greek and Roman counterparts, Tinia could hurl thunderbolts. Unlike Zeus and Jupiter, however, Tinia was required to consult with, and obtain the consent of, the other principal gods before throwing a destructive thunderbolt.

This idea of advice and consent became a central feature of the Roman government. Unlike the United States Senate, the Roman senate was not a legislative body. It was a deliberative body whose consent was required to legitimize executive and administrative actions. This consultative role gave it indirect executive power.
The founding fathers of the American republic may not have been thinking of Tinia when they wrote the advice and consent requirement into the Constitution. There can be no doubt, however, that they were familiar with, and borrowed from, precedents from the Roman republic that had their origins in Etruscan theology.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Census Citizenship Question

The 1950 census was the last one to date that collected citizenship information from the whole U.S. resident population. The 1960 census had no citizenship question per se but queried a sample of respondents about birthplace. From 1970 on, the Census Bureau asked a population sample about citizenship or naturalization status, first as part of the census, then in the American Community Survey (ACS). Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and his staff reportedly asked the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) if it would request the Census Bureau to collect citizenship data in the 2020 census. DOJ made the request on December 12, 2017. Secretary Ross announced on March 26, 2018, that the 2020 census will ask the ACS question “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” The choice of ACS answers is “Yes, born in the United States”; “Yes, born in Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, or Northern Marianas”; “Yes, born abroad of U.S. citizen parent or parents”; “Yes, U.S. citizen by naturalization—Print year of naturalization”; or “No, not a U.S. citizen.” DOJ stated that the census, not a survey with associated sampling error, “is the most appropriate vehicle for collecting” citizenship data “critical to the Department’s enforcement of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act” and its “protections against racial discrimination in voting.”
Opponents of the citizenship question have expressed concern that it may depress immigrants’ census response rates or cause them to falsify data, especially if their status in the United States, or that of their friends or families, is illegal. Census Bureau fieldworkers in 2017 noted heightened anxiety about data confidentiality among certain foreign-born respondents and reluctance to answer questions, particularly about citizenship status. Six former bureau directors, from both Republican and Democratic administrations, signed a January 26, 2018, letter to Secretary Ross, opposing the late-date introduction of an untested citizenship question. Multiple lawsuits were filed to block the question; Judge Jesse Furman, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, ruled on July 26, 2018, that the consolidated suit State of New York et al. vs. U.S. Department of Commerce et al. could proceed.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Fragile Communities

An April release from the Center for Advancing Opportunity:
In order to identify barriers to opportunity for members of fragile communities across the country and provide better solutions for them, the Center for Advancing Opportunity (CAO) has released its second annual State of Opportunity in America report in collaboration with Thurgood Marshall College Fund, The Charles Koch Foundation, Koch Industries and Gallup Inc.
The report provides insight into some of the most pressing issues addressed by CAO’s three pillars of focus: criminal justice reform, education reform and economic mobility. The report highlights these key findings:
  • Though black and Hispanic residents of fragile communities are less likely than whites to feel that people like themselves are treated fairly by their local police or legal system, they are more likely than whites to say they would like the police to spend more time in their area.
  • Among residents of fragile communities with children under 18 in their households, less than half say they are “extremely satisfied” (9%) or “satisfied” (37%) with the quality of public K-12 schools in their area.
  • Among fragile community residents, 36% said they find it difficult to get by compared with 17% of Americans overall. Only 18% of residents said they are living comfortably compared with 45% of Americans overall.
The report is based on a nationwide survey of 5,784 Americans from 47 states living in areas of concentrated poverty. The survey was conducted from July through September 2018.
Gallup reports:
While nearly all fragile community residents think postsecondary education is important, just 29% agree or strongly agree that all people in their area have access to an affordable college education if they want it, while 44% disagree or strongly disagree.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Facts v. Opinions in News Media

At Rand, Jennifer Kavanaugh and colleagues have a report titled. News in a Digital Age:Comparing the Presentation of News Information over Time and Across Media Platforms. Key Findings:
Print journalism has made modest shifts toward more-subjective reporting
  • Typical characteristics of print reporting in the pre-2000 period were context- and event-based reporting, reliance on directives, and use of titles and official positions. Many of these linguistic features were frequently used together.
  • The post-2000 sample showed a meaningful shift away from such language and toward unpacking social and policy issues through character-centered stories, such as homeless children as a way to discuss homelessness.
Television news has made stronger shifts to subjectivity, conversation, and argument
  • Similar to print journalism, television news has shifted from straight reporting that dealt with complex issues and grounded news in the abstract concepts and values of shared public matters to a more subjective, conversational, argumentative style of news presentation.
  • When comparing broadcast news with prime-time cable programming in the period after 2000, an even more dramatic difference is apparent, with prime-time cable programming being more subjective, abstract, and directive. However, prime-time programs on cable news channels tend to be opinion-based shows led by pundits, not news reporting-based programs, which could influence the comparison.
Online journalism features a subjective kind of advocacy
  • Online journalism is more personal and direct than print journalism, narrating key social and policy issues through very personal frames and subjective references.
This research presents key insights for Truth Decay
  • There does seem to be evidence of a growing use of opinion and subjectivity in the presentation of news. However, the results of this study are not necessarily generalizable. Also, some of the effect sizes are relatively small, and changes observed over time and differences across platforms are subtle in many cases.
  • Changes in news presentation identified in this report are relevant to individual news consumer decisions about which media organizations to use and which to trust; trends toward subjective journalism might reduce that trust.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Public Opinion on the State of the Democratic System

Chris Jackson and Mallory Newall at Ipsos:
A new poll conducted by Ipsos, on behalf of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, looks at American views of the current state of the democratic system. While the Constitution created the three branches of government to be equal, only slightly more than a third (35%) of Americans think the Presidency, Congress, and the Supreme Court have the same amount of power. Of the three branches, Americans are most likely to consider the Supreme Court the most powerful (22%), closely followed by Congress (20%), and lastly, the Presidency (17%).
Americans think the peaceful handover of power after elections and both parties respecting the results of elections (both 91%) are essential for American democracy, with broad agreement across party lines. Four in five also believe that the two-term limit for the president is essential (79%), with Independents (87%) more likely than Democrats or Republicans (both 78%) to say this. While nearly two-thirds of Americans (62%) think the president’s ability to veto legislation passed by Congress is essential for our democracy to work well, views are highly split by partisanship. Four in five Republicans (83%) agree with this, while only 61% of Independents and half of Democrats (49%) say the same. One third or fewer Americans think lifetime appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court (33%) and the filibuster in the Senate (30%) are essential for the healthy functioning of American democracy.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Lowest Number of Births in 32 Years

From CDC's National Center for Health Statistics:
The provisional number of births for the United States in 2018 was 3,788,235, down 2% from 2017 and the lowest number of births in 32 years. The general fertility rate was 59.0 births per 1,000 women aged 15–44, down 2% from 2017 and another record low for the United States. The total fertility rate declined 2% to 1,728.0 births per 1,000
women in 2018, another record low for the nation. Birth rates declined for nearly
all age groups of women under 35, but rose for women in their late 30s and early 40s. The birth rate for teenagers aged 15–19 was down 7% in 2018 to 17.4 births per 1,000 women; rates declined for both younger (aged 15–17) and older (aged 18–19) teenagers. The cesarean delivery rate decreased to 31.9% in 2018; the low-risk cesarean delivery rate decreased to 25.9%. The preterm birth rate rose for the fourth year in a row to 10.02% in 2018; the 2018 rate of low birthweight was unchanged from 2017 (8.28%).