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Friday, November 28, 2014

Democratic Divisions

Michael Barone notes that House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi suffered a postelection setback:
That defeat was the election by the Democratic Caucus of New Jersey’s Frank Pallone to be ranking minority member of the Energy and Commerce Committee over Pelosi’s choice, California’s Anna Eshoo. The election was conducted by secret ballot, and the vote was 100–90.

Those numbers are a vivid contrast to the totals in what was probably the most dramatic leadership vote in the Democratic caucus, the contest for majority leader in 1976, 38 years ago. The winner was Texas’s Jim Wright, who would go on to become speaker after Tip O’Neill retired ten years later. The loser was California’s Phil Burton. The vote was 148–147. Burton spent the rest of his life — he died suddenly in 1983, at 56 — trying to track down those who had committed to him but cast their secret ballot for Wright.
Do the arithmetic. There were 295 House Democrats voting in the caucus that year. This year there were 190.
Seniority once determined chairmanships, but liberal Democrats in the 1970s shifted the decision to the Democratic Caucus.  Republicans did something similar when they took over in 1994. Now anybody who wants to chair a committee has to raise a lot of money for the party. For years, Pelosi thrived in this system.
But in November 2010, Democrats lost 63 seats and their House majority. Democratic moderates virtually disappeared. Pelosi’s hold on the leadership remained strong. But this year she stumbled.
She pushed hard for Californian Eshoo, a close personal friend, though Pallone had more seniority. Black Caucus members, many with seniority, didn’t like that. Some resented Pelosi’s refusal to allow a pregnant and disabled member to vote by proxy.
Burton’s reform made the House Democratic Caucus more liberal — but also much smaller. Now Pelosi’s grip seems to have weakened just a little.
Peter Nicholas, Siohhan Hughes and Byron Tau report at The Wall Street Journal:
“You’re going to get a fight within the Democratic Party,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler (D., N.Y.), as the progressive wing of the party splits from centrists, who fear that liberal economic policy proposals are unpalatable to most voters. “There is a substantial disagreement coming up.”
Democratic infighting has largely been out of public view for the last half-dozen years. Since Mr. Obama took office, Republicans have been the ones dealing with rifts. A conservative Tea Party wing clashed with mainstream Republicans in primary contests this year, jockeying for sway over the party’s ideological compass. That debate remains unsettled and is likely to play out in the 2016 Republican primaries.
Now, it is the Democrats who are looking increasingly fractious. Unusual as it was to see Mr. Schumer part ways with Mr. Obama on policy, it was even more extraordinary for himto target the Affordable Care Act, a law so tied to the Obama legacy.
Democrats, Mr. Schumer said, “blew the opportunity the American people gave them” by focusing “on the wrong problem—health care.” Key provisions of the health law, he said, affected relatively few voters. Instead, the party should have pressed for programs that would have raised wages and helped more of the middle class, he said.
Mr. Schumer’s comments drew angry responses from Obama loyalists. They said Mr. Obama had promised to break from a politics-as-usual attitude in Washington, while echoing the president’s argument that making health care more widely available boosted many Americans’ economic security.
David Axelrod, a top strategist in both of Mr. Obama’s presidential races, said: “If your calculus is solely how to win elections, and that is your abiding principle, it leads you to Sen. Schumer’s position. But that’s precisely why big, difficult problems often don’t get addressed in Washington, and why people have become so cynical about that town and its politics.”

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Facebook and Political Ads

At The Washington Post, Philip Bump explains how John Cornyn used Facebook in his 2014 primary and general election campaigns.
By the time the general election came, Facebook had introduced an interface that made the process much more robust. "They partnered with Acxiom and created an interface so you can simply upload any postal list that you want," campaign political director Josh Eboch told us by phone, "and they'll match it to your Facebook account and give you those users in an audience within a matter of hours." The match isn't only based on the email address you use to log in. "You can match postal addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, user IDs, if you have those, or even app IDs. If you have any of that data, they can use it," Eboch said. It's the postal address that's most useful "because it gives you so much more flexibility."
Think about that. Assuming you have a Facebook account, which you do, Facebook knows your email address. It probably knows your name, your birthday, where you work, where you worked, and who you're friends with. It knows far more than that, of course, both directly and indirectly. The firm that Eboch mentioned, Acxiom, also provides a wide swath of other data to Facebook, beyond what you've entered on the site or "liked."
This allows campaigns (as it does other advertisers) to target very, very specific groups of people linked tightly to the campaign's voter file. One of the best practices for campaign communication is to sandwich messages, layering a communication (like a piece of mail or a TV spot) with some other spur (like an email or a Facebook ad) both before and after. Cornyn's team could advertise to specific voters on Facebook before and after fundraising solicitations appeared in their actual mailboxes

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Immigration and Inequality

At The Daily Beast, Joel Kotkin looks at the unanticipated consequences of the president's immigration decision as well as other policies.
This workforce is being legalized at a time of unusual economic distress for the working class. Well into the post-2008 recovery, the country suffers from rates of labor participation at a 36 year low. Many jobs that were once full-time are, in part due to the Affordable Care Act, now part-time, and thus unable to support families. Finally there are increasingly few well-paying positions—including in industry—that don’t require some sort of post-college accreditation.
Sadly, the legalization of millions of new immigrants could make all these problems worse, particularly for Latinos already here and millions of African-Americans.
The President’s action on immigration requires a profound shift in economic policy, particularly in the large urban centers where most undocumented are clustered, to avoid creating a squeeze on scarce jobs and services. But Obama’s other big agenda—addressing climate change—has slowed the expansion of fossil fuel development.
Meanwhile, it’s the energy sector that creates precisely the kinds of high-paying blue collar jobs, averaging upwards of $100,000 annually, that immigrants might be eager to fill and could give low unskilled workers a foothold into the middle class.
Similarly, efforts by Obama’s allies at Federal agencies like HUD to encourage dense housing and discourage suburban growth means far less construction employment, one of the largest generators of good blue collar jobs and opportunities.
Ironically, the places where the cry for amnesty has been the loudest—New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago—also tend to be those places that have created the least opportunity for the urban poor. This is in part due to the fact that these areas have tended to de-industrialize the most rapidly, discourage fledgling grassroots businesses through high taxes, environmental and housing, regulations.
Whatever their noble intentions, these cities generally suffer the largest degree of income inequality, notes a recent Brookings study. In fact, according to an analysis by Mark Schill at the Praxis Strategy Group, African-American incomes in New York are barely half those of whites and, in San Francisco somewhat below half. In contrast, cities with broader economies like Dallas and Houston, have black populations earning sixty five percent of white incomes. Similarly, Latinos in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco do far worse, relative to incomes, than their Sunbelt counterparts, compared to whites.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Autism and Public Policy

Data and Ferguson

Max Ehrenfreund writes at The Washington Post:
 How frequently do police officers shoot unarmed civilians?
Headlines about police shootings are frequent. Over the weekend, for example, police shot and killed a 12-year-old boy carrying a BB gun in Cleveland.
But this is another hard question to answer. There is no comprehensive database on officer-involved shootings, although the federal government collects data on all kinds of crimes.
Also at The Post, Michelle Ye Hee Lee examines claims about race and homicide:
[A BJS] report found most murders were intraracial, committed by friends or acquaintances of the victim. Stranger homicides were more likely to be interracial, with a lower rate of white-on-black murders than black-on-white murders.
The 2013 FBI Uniform Crime Report, a compilation of annual crime statistics, also shows similar data: 83 percent of white victims were killed by white offenders; 90 percent of black victims were killed by black offenders; 14 percent of white victims were killed by black offenders; and 7.6 percent of black victims were killed by white offenders.
It is true that the rate of black homicide victims and offenders were disproportionately represented compared to the general population, the 2011 BJS report found. The black victimization rate (27.8 per 100,000) was six times higher than the white victimization rate (4.5 per 100,000). Black offending rate (34.4 per 100,000) was almost eight times higher than whites (4.5 per 100,000), according to the report.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Bias Against Veterans

Inside Higher Ed reports:
"Did you kill anybody while you were in the military?"
It’s a provocative title for an education-related research paper, admits Lesley McBain, its author.
But it’s not an embellishment. The question is one that young veterans on college campuses routinely face, McBain said Friday during a presentation on student veterans at the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Higher Education here.
She uses the question -- which she characterizes as "offensive" -- as the driving example of how student veterans are alienated by civilians.
But the question also is off-putting because it highlights a misunderstanding of student veterans -- many were never even in a position to kill someone.
In fact, despite varied topics, all three of the papers presented in the session on veterans suggested that higher education institutions carry misconceptions about and biases toward veterans that limit their ability to support them effectively.
The majority of Americans don’t have direct connections to the military through family who are serving. Sixty percent of veterans under 40 have an immediate family member who is also a veteran, but only 39 percent of civilians under 40 do, according to the study.
That creates a gap between the civilian and military worlds that’s perpetuated by a mutual lack of understanding, McBain said.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Congress: Fresh Blood Surging, Institutional Memory Waning

Aaron Blake writes at The Washington Post:
You can say a lot of things about the U.S. Congress. One thing you can't really say, though, is that they've been in Washington way too long.
Come January, nearly half of Congress (48.8 percent) will have been in office for four years or less -- i.e. elected in 2010 or later. That includes 49.7 percent of the House and 45 percent of the Senate -- assuming GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy defeats Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu in the Louisiana runoff Dec. 6.
In addition, the average length of service in the new House will be less than nine years (8.8 years, to be exact) -- continuing a downward trend after reaching a high of more than 10 years last decade and in the early 1990s. (8.8 years is still on the high end historically, but it's one of the lowest numbers in the last two decades.)
Some lawmakers want to take up tax reform.  But the new Congress will have little institutional memory of the last major tax overhaul, in 1986.  Only a dozen House members of the 114th Congress served in the 99th.  Seventeen senators served in the 113th:  five were in the Senate at the time, twelve in the House.

House members of the 114th Congress who served in the 99th:


Don Young (AK)
F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (WI)
Harold Rogers (KY)
Christopher H. Smith (NJ)
Joe L. Barton (TX)


John Conyers Jr (MI)
Charles B. Rangel (NY)
Steny H. Hoyer (MD)
Marcy Kaptur (OH)
Sander M. Levin (MI)
Peter J. Visclosky (IN)
Jim Cooper (TN)
Senators of the 114th Congress who served in Senate during the 99th Congress:


Orrin G. Hatch (UT)
Thad Cochran (MS)
Charles E. Grassley (IA)
Mitch McConnell (KY)
Patrick J. Leahy (VT)

Senators who were serving in the House at the time:

John McCain (AZ)
Pat Roberts (KS)
Richard C. Shelby (AL)
Dan Coats (IN)

Barbara Boxer (CA)
Thomas R. Carper (DE)
Barbara Mikulski (MD)
Bill Nelson (FL)
Harry Reid (NV)
Charles Schumer (NY)
Ron Wyden (OR)
Edward J. Markey (MA)