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Thursday, November 15, 2018

Presidential Succession

In the 116th Congress, a Democrat will be speaker of the House, and 85-year-old Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) will be president pro tem of the Senate.

Last year, Whet Smith and Mark J. Rozell wrote at The Hill:
One simple change Congress should make is to revisit the Presidential Succession Act. Currently, the next two figures in line to fill a presidential vacancy are the speaker of the House and the president pro tempore of the Senate. This is decidedly less than ideal.

First, a member of Congress derives his or her authority from a regional mandate. Second, it creates major separation of powers issues. Third, it overturns a national electoral mandate if the House speaker is from the opposition party. Fourth, the president pro tempore in the modern era is selected essentially for being elderly, which is not a great characteristic for an emergency replacement.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Students Studying Abroad

Elizabeth Redden at Inside Higher Ed:
The number of American students studying abroad continues to steadily increase, growing by 2.3 percent in academic year 2016-17 compared to the previous year, according to new data from the annual Open Doors report released today by the Institute of International Education.
A total of 332,727 students studied abroad for credit in 2016-17. IIE estimates that about 10.9 percent of all undergraduate students -- and 16 percent of those earning bachelor’s degrees -- study abroad at some point in their undergraduate careers.
The profile of study abroad students continues to become more racially and ethnically diverse, though is still a long way from reflecting the diversity of enrollment in U.S. higher education, which is about 42 percent nonwhite. About 29.2 percent of students who studied abroad in 2016-17 were nonwhite, compared to 18.1 percent a decade earlier.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Size of the House

A NYT editorial explains that the membership of the House, set by statute at 435 members, is too small.
For starters, how does a single lawmaker stay in touch with the concerns of three-quarters of a million people? The answer is she doesn’t. Research shows that representatives of larger districts are more likely to take political positions at odds with what a majority of their constituents want. These representatives are also ripe targets for lobbyists and special interests, whose money enables them to campaign at scale, often with misleading messages. Special interests are more likely than regular voters to influence policy positions and votes.

Second, the cap on the number of House members leads to districts with wildly varying populations. Montana and Wyoming each have one representative, but Montana’s population — 1.05 million — is nearly twice the size of Wyoming’s. Meanwhile, Rhode Island, which has roughly the same population as Montana, gets two seats. These discrepancies violate the basic constitutional principle of one-person-one-vote, causing voters to be unequally represented in the chamber that was designed to offset the Senate, where every state gets two seats regardless of population.

Third, the size of the House determines the shape of the Electoral College, because a state’s electoral votes are equal to its congressional delegation. This is one of the many reasons the college is an unfair and antiquated mechanism: States that are already underrepresented in Congress have a weaker voice in choosing the president, again violating the principle that each citizen should have an equal vote.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Grace, Reconciliation, and a Veteran

On Saturday Night Live last week, Pete Davidson mocked Dan Crenshaw, a GOP congressional candidate who had lost an eye during combat in Afghanistan.  It was an ugly joke.  A week later, though, he apologized to Crenshaw on air, and the segment turned out to be remarkably moving and patriotic.  Crenshaw -- now a representative-elect from Texas -- not only accepted the apology with grace and wit, he mentioned Davidson's father, a New York firefighter who gave his life on 9/11.

It is a perfect clip to watch on Veterans Day.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month

Kelly Ann Holder at the Census:
The “War to End All Wars” came to an end on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.

A year later on Nov. 11, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first Armistice Day, the precursor to what we now call Veterans Day. This commemoration was dedicated to the cause of world peace in honor of those who served in World War I.

”To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations”
— President Woodrow Wilson

Over 30 nations were at war between 1914 and 1918. World War I was the first truly modern war, with the introduction of air warfare and tanks, while 65 million troops worldwide fought in its battles.

The United States entered the war in 1917. Nearly 5 million men and women served our country during the conflict, with 116,516 lives lost.

In 1954, Armistice Day became Veterans Day, which now pays tribute to all veterans who served our country in peacetime and in war. Today, 18.2 million veterans live in the United States and Puerto Rico, according to Census Bureau data.

In fact, the first post-war decennial census to include a veteran status question was in 1930. Twelve years after the end of the war, we counted 3.7 million veterans of The Great War.

The 1990 Census, 72 years after the war’s end, was the last time World War I was included as a period of military service. At that time, roughly 62,000 veterans remained.

The last known surviving U.S. World War I veteran, Frank Buckles, died in 2011.


Saturday, November 10, 2018

American Wages

Steve LeVine at Axios:
Despite a tightening labor market, wage growth has remained sluggish. Against this trend, 10 large cities have passed $15-an-hour minimum wages, in addition to the state of California. New York has set a $15 minimum for fast-food workers, and Massachusetts for home health workers. In Tuesday's elections, two red states — Arkansas and Missouri — passed higher hourly minimums of $11 and $12, respectively.
By the numbers: Wages have risen by 3.1% year on year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last week — well below the 3.5% to 4% they routinely increased during the tight labor markets of the 1990s and 2000s.
The backdrop: Labor's share of national income has plunged since 2000, according to the St. Louis Fed, and wages have been largely flat since. The rise in corporate profit is far outrunning labor income, the Fed branch said. (h/t Heather Long).
The tipping point for the pushback was the 2016 elections, in which Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders made a $15 minimum his central plank — more than double the $7.25 federal minimum.
Between the lines: Leading economists are not convinced that the hikes — in both red and blue states — amount to a nascent pro-labor public groundswell.
Alan Krueger, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Obama, tells Axios that the economic and public policy environments have become decidedly less favorable for labor.
"A lot has changed," Krueger said. "Unions are weaker and the chance of unionization is lower; labor laws, such as an emphasis on arbitration over allowing the courts to adjudicate enforce workers’ rights, have shifted against workers; employer concentration has increased, especially in national markets, etc."

Friday, November 9, 2018

Crime Concern

Just under half (49%) of Americans believe the problem of crime in the United States is very or extremely serious -- a 10-percentage-point drop from last year's 59% and the first time the number has been below 50% since 2005.
 Line graph. The percentage of Americans who perceive crime as extremely or very serious fell to 50% this year.
Government statistics have shown a general decline in crime rates nationally since the 1990s, but Americans have been loath to accept the concept that crime is decreasing.
The FBI's annual reports show a drop in the national violent crime rate in 15 of the 20 years from 1998-2017, with the overall rate falling from 568 crimes per 100,000 persons in 1998 to 383 crimes per 100,000 last year. Over the same time span, Gallup asked Americans in every year but one (1999) if crime was increasing or decreasing nationally, and in all but two years (2000 and 2001) a majority said it was increasing. Only once, in 2001, did a higher percentage say crime was decreasing (43%) rather than increasing (41%).
Line graph. Sixty percent of Americans say there is more crime in the U.S. this year than last.