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Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Seamier Side of Lobbying

Politico reports:
Last year, Rep. Bill Shuster approached fellow Republican Rep. Tom Graves with a request. The powerful Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman wanted to take over Graves’ moribund Travel Transparency Act, an industry-friendly bill that would allow airlines to advertise the base price of a ticket without including fees and taxes.
The bill had gone nowhere under Graves (R-Ga.) — it didn’t even muster a hearing in committee. Once the Pennsylvania congressman took over, though, it moved at lightning speed: He introduced a revised version of the bill in March of last year, the same day he met with an airline industry group that supported it. A month later, Shuster shepherded the measure through his transportation panel in roughly 10 minutes. It sailed through the full House three months later without a roll call vote.

The legislation wasn’t only a priority for Shuster: It was a top issue for Airlines for America, and for Shuster’s girlfriend, Shelley Rubino, the organization’s vice president and a top airline lobbyist. Shuster’s panel oversees the airline industry, and Rubino’s group spends millions of dollars lobbying Congress on behalf of major U.S. airlines. Rubino herself lobbied for the legislation, according to disclosure forms.
Shuster’s relationship with Rubino was disclosed last week by POLITICO, but at the time the legislation was going through the House, it was being kept secret. His relationship with her — and his dealings with her employer — have raised new questions about Shuster’s advocacy on behalf of the airline industry. The ties go beyond Shuster and Rubino: The wife of Shuster’s chief of staff is a top executive for Airlines for America, which is known as A4A. And the congressman recently hired an A4A lobbyist to run the committee’s aviation panel.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Obama, Reagan, and the Armenian Genocide

Linda Feldmann reports at The Christian Science Monitor:
As a presidential candidate in 2008, Barack Obama promised, if elected, to refer to the Turkish mass killing of Armenians that began in 1915 as genocide.
But on this anniversary, the 100th, President Obama has once again avoided the word. In a statement released Thursday night, he referred to the genocide only as “the first mass atrocity of the 20th century."
“Beginning in 1915, the Armenian people of the Ottoman Empire were deported, massacred, and marched to their deaths,” Obama said. “Their culture and heritage in their ancient homeland were erased. Amid horrific violence that saw suffering on all sides, one and a half million Armenians perished.”
The reason for Obama’s reticence: Turkey, and its role as a key ally in NATO and in the conflicts of the Middle East. Armenia, a nation of 3 million people in the Caucasus, pales in geostrategic importance.
President Reagan did use the word in a 1981 proclamation:
Like the genocide of the Armenians before it, and the genocide of the Cambodians which followed it—and like too many other such persecutions of too many other peoples—the lessons of the Holocaust must never be forgotten.
He did not do it again, however.  At a 1983 public event, he sidestepped:
 Q. Mr. President, my name is Keshishian from California. I would like to know if the American Government has a stand on the Turkish genocide of the Armenians of 1915.
The President. The genocide of
Q. The Armenians in 1915.
Ms. Small. The Turkish and Armenian genocide.
The President. Oh. I—the only official stand that I can tell you we have is one opposed to terrorism on both sides. And I can't help but believe that there's virtually no one alive today who was living in the era of that terrible trouble. And it seems to me we ought to be able to sit down now, an entirely new group of people who know only of that from reading of it, to sit down and work out our differences and bring peace at least to that segment of humanity.
In 1985, in response to a question from a Turkish newspaper, he not only declined to use the word, but actually opposed a congressional resolution on the genocide.
Q. Turkey, like the U.S., faces constant international terrorist attacks. Armenian terrorist groups claim responsibility for Turkish victims. However, Congress is about to vote on an Armenian resolution-referring to the so-called genocide in 1915. Do you approve congressional action on such a sensitive issue?

The President. I know this is a deeply emotional issue, and I sympathize with all those who suffered during the tragic events of 1915. I also profoundly regret that Turks and Armenians have so far not been able to resolve their differences. Nevertheless, there is no question regarding my opposition to terrorism. On those grounds alone, my administration opposes congressional action on the kind of resolution to which you refer. We are concerned such resolutions might inadvertently encourage or reward terrorist attacks on Turks and Turkish-Americans. We also oppose them because they could harm relations with an important ally.

I hope the Turkish people understand that in our form of government the Executive can only seek to persuade the Congress and does not control congressional actions. Therefore, these resolutions, if adopted, would only express an opinion of the Congress. They would not and could not change my policy toward Turkey or my commitment to the fight against international terrorism.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Stock Ownership

Gallup reports:
Although the Dow Jones industrial average has made significant gains since it plummeted in 2009 after the financial meltdown, Americans are no more likely today than they were six years ago to report having money invested in the stock market. Fifty-five percent of Americans report having money invested in stocks, matching what Gallup found from 2009 through 2011, though up slightly from the low of 52% in 2013.
The latest finding comes from Gallup's annual Economy and Finance survey, conducted April 9-12.
Americans' self-reports of having money invested in the stock market -- either in an individual stock, a stock mutual fund or in a self-directed 401(k) or IRA -- were routinely higher than 60% prior to the 2009 economic crisis, but they have not yet returned to that level. That pattern is particularly evident among adults in middle-income households with incomes ranging from $30,000 to $74,999: 56% now say they own stocks, consistent with the percentage in 2010 but well below the 72% found in 2007 before the financial crisis. Stock ownership also remains down slightly among lower-income households (under $30,000), while it has held steady near 90% since 2007 among those in households earning $75,000 or more annually.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Seniors and Redistribution

Neil Irwin writes at The New York Times:
[A] working paper, from the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity by Vivekinan Ashok, Ms. Kuziemko and Ebonya Washington, looks at how thinking about redistribution has varied over time among groups. One of its more striking conclusions: The shift away from a belief in redistribution has been stronger among older Americans than any other age group.
Might this be explained by the elderly becoming more conservative in general, and therefore taking a more conservative view on this issue? Not really. The shift showed up even when the researchers controlled for views on hot-button social issues like abortion and gun control.
The researchers offer another way of making sense of the pattern: Older Americans benefit more directly than any other age group from the social safety net, specifically, Social Security and Medicare. The fact that American seniors already receive government-provided health care may make them view any talk of greater redistribution as taking away what they already have, the researchers suggest.
During the debate over President Obama’s health care overhaul, this thread was often evident; with opinion polls showing that older Americans opposed the law more than younger people did. At the same time, conservative politicians and commentators pummeled the law for cutting Medicare spending to help pay for expanded coverage for younger Americans

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Political Science Ph.D.

At The Washington Post, Daniel Drezner writes about the wisdom of getting a Ph.D. Although he is focusing specifically on international relations, his advice applies more broadly to political science:
Start by reading this. Then:
Click here if you’re a D.C. wonk thinking about getting a PhD to advance your non-academic career.
Click here if you’re a woman contemplating the PhD route as a way to advance your career.
Click here if you’re an undergraduate who wants to apply for a PhD program.
Click here if you’ve been out of college for a few years and want to apply to a PhD program.
I would add only two additional points. The first is that if your goal is to become a professor and you are not accepted with a scholarship into a top-20 political science program, I would not in good conscience recommend that you get a PhD.
Most of the professoriate in international relations comes from the elite schools. Whether this is because these schools function as a prestige cartelor not is immaterial: the reason will not change the current realities. The academic job market is brutal; getting an academic job without a degree from a top-20 institution is even more brutal.
The second point is that if your goal is to not become a professor and you are accepted into a doctoral program in political science, let me warn you right now that your goals could very well be changed while in graduate school.
He goes on to say that most Ph.D. programs train their students to be professors and nothing else. He is right.  When I was going to grad school and sought advice on non-academic employment, I found that the school had no mechanism to do so.  I went to career services, and the staffer there treated me as if I were a bum asking for a handout at a fancy restaurant:  "We don't work much with graduate students."

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Opinion on the Death Penalty

Pew reports:
A majority of Americans favor the death penalty for those convicted of murder, but support for the death penalty is as low as it has been in the past 40 years. A new Pew Research Center survey finds 56% favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder, while 38% are opposed.
The share supporting the death penalty has declined six percentage points, from 62%, since 2011. Throughout much of the 1980s and 90s, support for the death penalty often surpassed 70%. In a 1996 survey, 78% favored the death penalty, while just 18% were opposed.
Much of the decline in support over the past two decades has come among Democrats. Currently, just 40% of Democrats favor the death penalty, while 56% are opposed. In 1996, Democrats favored capital punishment by a wide margin (71% to 25%).
There has been much less change in opinions among Republicans: 77% favor the death penalty, down from 87% in 1996. The share of independents who favor the death penalty has fallen 22 points over this period, from 79% to 57%.
The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Mar. 25-29 among 1,500 adults, finds widespread doubts about how the death penalty is applied and whether it deters serious crime. Yet a majority (63%) says that when someone commits a crime like murder, the death penalty is morally justified; just 31% say it is morally wrong, even in cases of murder.
At the same time, 71% of Americans say there is some risk that an innocent person will be put to death. Only about a quarter (26%) say there are adequate safeguards in place to make sure that does not happen.
About six-in-ten (61%) say the death penalty does not deter people from committing serious crimes; 35% say it does deter serious crime.
And about half (52%) say that minorities are more likely than whites to be sentenced to death for similar crimes; fewer (41%) think that whites and minorities are equally likely to be sentenced for similar [sic].
The survey also finds that Americans are relatively unaware about whether the number of death penalty executions taking place in the U.S. has changed in recent years. According toU.S. Justice Department records the number of prisoners executed in the last 10 years has declined.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Ideological Liberals and Operational Conservatives?

Thomas B. Edsall writes at The New York Times:
With the advent of the Affordable Care Act, the share of Americans convinced that health care is a right shrank from a majority to a minority.
This shift in public opinion is a major victory for the Republican Party. It is part of a larger trend: a steady decline in support for redistributive government policies.
Emmanuel Saez, an economics professor at Berkeley and one of the nation’s premier experts on inequality, is a co-author of astudy that confirms this trend, which has been developing over the last four decades. A separate study, “The Structure of Inequality and Americans’ Attitudes Toward Redistribution,” found that as inequality increases, so does ideological conservatism in the electorate.
The erosion of the belief in health care as a government-protected right is perhaps the most dramatic reflection of these trends. In 2006, by a margin of more than two to one, 69-28, those surveyed by Gallup said that the federal government should guarantee health care coverage for all citizens of the United States. By late 2014, however, Gallup found that this percentage had fallen 24 points to 45 percent, while the percentage of respondents who said health care is not a federal responsibility nearly doubled to 52 percent.
The conservative shift in public attitudes on health care and on issues of redistribution and inequality pose a significant threat to the larger liberal agenda.
The 2013 paper published in Public Opinion Quarterly that I mentioned at the beginning of this article, “The Structure of Inequality and Americans’ Attitudes Toward Redistribution,” suggests that Democratic programs providing tax-financed benefits to the poor are facing growing hostility.
The author of the paper, Matthew Luttig, a Ph.D. candidate in political science at the University of Minnesota, found that while “numerous political theorists suggest that rising inequality and the shift in the distribution of income to those at the top should lead to increasing support for liberal policies,” in practice, “rising inequality in the United States has largely promoted ideological conservatism.”
Why?  The cliche has long been that Americans are ideological conservatives and operational liberals: that is, they support limited government in the abstract but big government in the particular. But these data suggest issues where the opposite is the case:  that many people like items on the liberal menu but turn conservative when they see the prices.

Moreover, there was a huge gap between the promises of the Affordable Care Act -- the president pledged that it would be essentially painless -- and the reality.  Barney Frank said: "But frankly, he should never have said as much as he did, that if you like your current health care plan, you can keep it. That wasn’t true. And you shouldn’t lie to people. And they just lied to people.”