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Monday, October 31, 2011

Mount Rushmore

Our chapter on civic culture discusses patriotic sites and symbols. One such site, Mount Rushmore, is on the cover of the book. Seventy years ago today, workers completed carving the monument.

In 1934, Hearst Newspapers sponsored an essay contest. Thirty-seven years later, William Andrew Burkett, the College Division winner, donated a bronze plaque of his award-winning essay. The plaque now hands on the Borglum View Terrace. The essay starts this way:
Almighty God, from this pulpit of stone the American people render thanksgiving and praise for the new era of civilization brought forth upon this continent. Centuries of tyrannical oppression sent to these shores God-fearing men to seek in freedom the guidance of the benevolent hand in the progress toward wisdom, goodness toward men, and piety toward God.
It ends this way:
Now these eras are welded into a nation possessing unity, liberty, power, integrity and faith in God, with responsible development of character and devoted to the performance of humanitarian duty.

Holding no fear of the economic and political, chaotic clouds hovering over the earth, the consecrated Americans dedicate this nation before God, to exalt righteousness and to maintain mankind’s constituted liberties so long as the earth shall endure.

The God Gap

Gallup reports on the connection between religion and party identification:

Religion remains a significant correlate of political party identification in the U.S. today.

The impact of religion is most evident among whites, whose net Republican orientation moves from +35 points among the very religious to -17 points among the nonreligious. A white American's degree of religiousness, in other words, is a strong predictor of that person's political orientation.

Highly religious white Americans are an important group in American politics, perhaps more so than one would think, given their 28% representation in the overall adult population. This segment of voters is highly active in politics, overrepresented in the Tea Party movement, and generally continues to be a force in driving political discussion and in voting.

Democrats to date have been unable to make a substantial dent in the Republican orientation of very religious whites, thus leaving a substantial segment of the electorate -- and by many measures, a highly motivated one -- to the opposing party.

It is notable that religiousness still makes a difference even within the Democratically oriented Hispanic and Asian segments of the population. The impact of religion is not strong enough to push even the most religious among these two ethnic groups to a net Republican orientation, but clearly, religion could be a factor that allows Republican candidates to make inroads into these groups if religiously oriented issues come to the forefront.

The situation among American blacks today is quite different. The historical ties between blacks and the Democratic Party are so strong that they overwhelm any of the independent impact of religiousness so evident among other racial groups. This is despite the fact that blacks are themselves highly religious on average, and on some social and values issues have more in common with traditional Republican than with traditional Democratic positions.

Social Security is Cash-Negative

Social Security is now paying out more in benefits than it is receiving in taxes. Lori Montgomery writes at The Washington Post:
Last year, as a debate over the runaway national debt gathered steam in Washington, Social Security passed a treacherous milestone. It went “cash negative.”

For most of its 75-year history, the program had paid its own way through a dedicated stream of payroll taxes, even generating huge surpluses for the past two decades. But in 2010, under the strain of a recession that caused tax revenue to plummet, the cost of benefits outstripped tax collections for the first time since the early 1980s.

Now, Social Security is sucking money out of the Treasury. This year, it will add a projected $46 billion to the nation’s budget problems, according to projections by system trustees. Replacing cash lost to a one-year payroll tax holiday will require an additional $105 billion. If the payroll tax break is expanded next year, as President Obama has proposed, Social Security will need an extra $267 billion to pay promised benefits.

But while talk about fixing the nation’s finances has grown more urgent, fixing Social Security has largely vanished from the conversation.

Lawmakers in both parties are ducking the issue, wary of agitating older voters and their advocates in Washington, who have long targeted politicians who try to tamper with federal retirement benefits. Democrats lost control of the House last year in part because seniors abandoned them in protest over Medicare cuts in Obama’s much-contested health-care act, and no one in Washington has forgotten that lesson.

In his February budget request, Obama ignored the Social Security blueprint put forth by his own bipartisan panel on debt reduction. During this summer’s debt-limit showdown, he endorsed the panel’s proposal to tie future benefits to a less-generous inflation index. But Obama took that idea off the table in September when he submitted recommendations to a special debt-reduction “supercommittee” now at work on Capitol Hill. Until recently, members of the supercommittee said, Social Security had rarely come up in their closed deliberations.

Social Security is hardly the biggest drain on the budget. But unless Congress acts, its finances will continue to deteriorate as the rising tide of baby boomers begins claiming benefits. The $2.6 trillion Social Security trust fund will provide little relief. The government has borrowed every cent and now must raise taxes, cut spending or borrow more heavily from outside investors to keep benefit checks flowing.
View more presentations from Congressional Budget Office

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party: A View from Texas

At Scripps-Howard, Trish Choate reports that West Texas lawmakers and tea party activists say that they have little in common with Occupy Wall Street. Choate quotes a political scientist on similarities and differences between the tea party and Occupy Wall Street.
"Occupy Wall Street is capturing more of the general dissatisfaction and malaise within society," University of North Texas political science professor Kimi King said.

The Tea Party movement argues we need to change by shifting more to the right, King said. Occupy Wall Street argues we need to shift more to the left.


King sees some glaring differences and some similarities between the two groups.

"The Tea Party wants to change the election outcome for 2012," she said. "Occupy Wall Street wants to change society for the next decade."

It's questionable whether Occupy Wall Street's goals are the same across all of the groups in the United States, King said.

The Tea Party, however, focuses on a narrow range of issues, King said. Tea Partiers also have more history and experience, as well as more organization and money.

"They have been successful in gathering support from political candidates for their views," King said.

Occupy Wall Street seems to be suffering from being a relatively new phenomenon, she said.

Both movements are using the right of assembly and free-speech rights to raise awareness about their causes, King said.

"But the method that Occupy Wall Street is using will sooner or later become problematic unless you have identifiable goals because while you have free speech rights, no free speech right is absolute," she said.

Concerns about public order, sanitation, criminal behavior and the general health and welfare of individuals allow the government to impose limits, King said.

"That's not a free-speech issue," she said. "That is an issue of maintaining health and welfare."

Social Media, Technology, and Campaign Coverage

At The American Journalism Review, Jodi Enda writes of how social media and other technologies are changing how reporters cover the 2012 campaign:

"Use of social media and electronic media obviously means that anybody with a laptop, anybody with a PDA, is a journalist," says Roger Simon, Politico's chief political columnist and another newcomer to news-by-tweet.


"I think the pluses of technology are obvious. What it allows you to do is layer the coverage in a way that allows voters to drill down and see what they want to," says Kathy Kiely, managing editor of politics at National Journal. She is pleased that news outlets can link to documents and audio and video of candidates. "I'm a big believer in the power of words, but there's nothing like actually hearing the voice of a candidate, the timbre, how they're saying something.

"The downside – and this is what we really have to be cautious about – is becoming so enamored of the here and now that we forget to put things in perspective." ...

Adds Kiely: "The ubiquitous YouTubization of campaigns means that everyone is a lot more guarded than they used to be."


Candidates also utilize new-media tools as a means to defend themselves. With the help of electronic alerts, they have near-immediate access to almost everything that is written about their campaigns. This allows aides to lobby writers to quickly change what they don't like.


"We all follow the candidates on Twitter," USA Today's [Susan] Page says. "Twitter for me has replaced watching the wires. It's a faster way to find out what's happening...


"There are fewer people observing these candidates up close and more people writing about them from afar. There are a lot more people opining, blogging, tweeting, but not out there looking at candidates face to face," says [Jeff] Zeleny of the New York Times, one of the papers that still assigns reporters to trail candidates. "That's not a great trend."

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Tax Incentives for Movie Shoots

Our chapter on federalism explains how states use tax breaks and other incentives to compete for business. Variety reports that Iowa recently lost movie location shoots when it suspended its production tax credit.

Incentives don't need to be eliminated or scaled back to scare away production. These days, producers start looking at other locations as soon as a governor indicates a desire to tinker with a tax credit.

"What the industry always wants most of all is certainty," says California Film Commission director Amy Lemisch. "They want to know what they're going to get, what the rules are and that they won't change."

California got an added bit of certainty last month when Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law extending the state's $100 million-a-year tax credit through the end of the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

New Mexico wasn't so lucky. In January, Gov. Susana Martinez came into office vowing to drastically scale back the state's popular incentive program, which had attracted such big-budget films as "Cowboys & Aliens" and "Terminator: Salvation."

In the end, the state preserved its 25% tax credit and added a still-generous $50 million annual cap. But the damage was done.

"For first eight months of the new administration, nobody really knew what was going on, so therefore the number of pilots and (other projects) is way down from what it usually is," says Lance Hool, CEO of the newly opened Santa Fe Studios. In the meantime, "the money for the rebates sits there, waiting to be used."

Friday, October 28, 2011

Electoral College and Popular Vote

Gallup reports:
Nearly 11 years after the 2000 presidential election brought the idiosyncrasies of the United States' Electoral College into full view, 62% of Americans say they would amend the U.S. Constitution to replace that system for electing presidents with a popular vote system. Barely a third, 35%, say they would keep the Electoral College.

With 62% of Americans today in favor of abolishing the Electoral College, Americans show relatively little attachment to this unique invention of the country's Founding Fathers. The system was devised as a compromise between those who wanted Congress to select the president and those who favored election by the people, and it has resulted in a highly state-based approach to presidential campaigning.

Those who advocate abolishing the Electoral College often do so on the basis that the system puts undue emphasis on a small number of swing states. Whether Americans as a whole are concerned about that byproduct is unclear. However, they broadly agree that the country should adopt a system in which the popular vote prevails. While Republicans are less supportive of this than Democrats, 11 years after the 2000 election politicized the issue, the majority of Republicans once again favor the change.
A Heritage Foundation forum is highly critical of the National Popular Vote plan. Hans von Spakovsky writes:

Supporters of the NPV claim that because the Constitution gives state legislatures the power to determine how electors are chosen, the NPV is constitutional and requires no approval by Congress. Such claims, however, are specious. The NPV is unconstitutional because it would give a group of states with a majority of electoral votes “the power to overturn the explicit decision of the Framers against direct election. Since that power does not conform to the constitutional means of changing the original decisions of the framers, NPV could not be a legitimate innovation.”[17]

The Constitution’s Compact Clause provides that “No State shall, without the Consent of Congress…enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State.”[18] The Founders created the Compact Clause because they feared that compacting states would threaten the supremacy of the federal government in matters of foreign affairs and relations among the states.[19] If states could make agreements among themselves, they could damage the nation’s federalist structure. Populist states, for example, cannot agree to have their U.S. Senators vote to seat only one Senator from a less populous state.

The very purpose of this clause was to prevent a handful of states from combining to overturn an essential part of the constitutional design. The plain text makes it clear that all such state compacts must be approved by Congress.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Sad Episode in Religion and Politics

Our textbook goes into great detail about the relationship between religion and politics. Some chapters in that story are sad and ugly. Carl Cannon reports:

It’s Thursday, October 27, the anniversary of one of the most notorious orders ever issued by a governor in U.S. history. Its official name was Missouri Executive Order 44, and it was directed to General John B. Clark of the state militia by Gov. Lilburn W. Boggs on Oct. 27, 1838:

“The Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the state if necessary for the public peace—their outrages are beyond all description.”

Gov. Boggs’ vile edict became known as “the extermination order” and it achieved its desired result: The adherents of the sect known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were forced out of Clay County, Missouri, just as they had been driven out of Jackson County – where their newspaper was destroyed by a mob – five years earlier, and driven from New York and Ohio before that.

Missouri’s “Mormon War,” as it came to be known, was precipitated on Aug. 6, 1838, in the town of Gallatin when LDS members tried to vote. Yes, that is how the adherents of America’s own home-grown-religion were thrown into armed conflict with their fellow citizens. By wanting to vote, and publish a newspaper (and also to bear arms). How subversive of them.

As for Gov. Boggs’ “extermination” order, it came amid the fog of war. At the Battle of Crooked Creek, state militiamen disarmed Mormons and took three prisoners. An armed Mormon rescue party freed the captives, but in the skirmish three Mormons and one member of the militia were killed. Given wildly inaccurate reports that almost all of the Missourians had been slaughtered, Boggs issued his notorious order.

In our era -- a time when two LDS members are running for president of the United States -- it’s worth remembering that the Mormon extermination order wasn’t rescinded when Joseph Smith was taken from his jail cell and murdered by an Illinois mob in 1844.

It wasn’t rescinded when “the saints,” as they called themselves, removed to the Utah territory under the leadership of Brigham Young over the next two decades. It wasn’t rescinded when Utah was admitted to the Union in 1896.

It was finally withdrawn by another Missouri governor, Republican Christopher “Kit” Bond, in 1976. Bond's gesture was praised on the Senate floor by a Democratic senator who converted to the LDS faith as a young man. C-SPAN's video of that floor speech is here.

Don't Blame Congress

At USA Today, Ross Baker of Rutgers says that we should not blame Congress for the government's problems:

We have ourselves to blame for Congress' lamentable performance. Public criticism of Congress for inefficiency overlooks the fact that it was not designed to be efficient, or the Founding Fathers would have stuck with the one-house legislature of the Articles of Confederation. They considered Congress the most dangerous branch of government, needing to be restrained by requiring the assent of two houses as well as the president. Separation of powers is not a fast-track principle.

Voters added to the likelihood of stalemate in 2010 by giving Republicans control of the House while retaining a Democratic majority in the Senate. So at a time when Democrats and Republicans can't even agree on who is buried in Grant's Tomb, dividing control of the national legislature is a pretty good prescription for inaction and discord.

Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, the second-ranking Democrat in the House, recently observed that "if elections have consequences — which I think they do — some of those consequences are getting what you vote for. In this case, many people voted for people who thought compromise was not something they ought to participate in."

So before we heat the tar and pluck the feathers to apply to Congress, we need to consider the others who contribute to the apparent dysfunction.

Accessible to all, especially the news media, Congress' sins and shortcoming are on constant public display. The deliberations of others whose results Congress must ultimately deal with are not so transparent.

The robbery committed under a street light is going to have many more eyewitnesses than a mugging in a dark alley.


The Congressional Budget Office reports on trends in household income between 1979 and 2007:

After-tax income for the highest-income households grew more than it did for any other group. (After-tax income is income after federal taxes have been deducted and government transfers—which are payments to people through such programs as Social Security and Unemployment Insurance—have been added.)

CBO finds that, between 1979 and 2007, income grew by:

  • 275 percent for the top 1 percent of households,
  • 65 percent for the next 19 percent,
  • Just under 40 percent for the next 60 percent, and
  • 18 percent for the bottom 20 percent. The share of income going to higher-income households rose, while the share going to lower-income households fell.
    • The top fifth of the population saw a 10-percentage-point increase in their share of after-tax income.
    • Most of that growth went to the top 1 percent of the population.
    • All other groups saw their shares decline by 2 to 3 percentage points.

    Market Income Shifted Toward Higher-Income Households

    Shifts in the distribution of market income underlie most of the changes in the distribution of after-tax income. (Market income—or income before taxes and transfers—includes labor income, business income, capital income, capital gains, and income from other sources such as pensions.)

    • Each source of market income was less evenly distributed in 2007 than in 1979.
    • More concentrated sources of income (such as business income and capital gains) grew faster than less concentrated sources (such as labor income).

    Government Transfers and Federal Taxes Became Less Redistributive

    Government transfers and federal taxes both help to even out the income distribution. Transfers boost income the most for lower-income households, while taxes claim a larger share of income as people's income rises.

    In 2007, federal taxes and transfers reduced the dispersion of income by 20 percent, but that equalizing effect was larger in 1979.

    • The share of transfer payments to the lowest-income households declined.
    • The overall average federal tax rate fell.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

GOP Rapid Response

Political figures are embracing social media, not just in campaigns, but in day-to-day politics between elections. Jennifer Steinhauer writes at The New York Times:

Barely a minute goes by between the time Mr. Obama — or a high-ranking member of his administration — makes a speech, holds a news conference or says something to a talk show host, and a team of young Republican House staffers, fueled by pizza and partisanship, punches back.

It’s a bit of a table turn on Mr. Obama, whose 2008 campaign capitalized on social media in a way that left Republicans bruised and scrambling. Now, after a post-election order from Speaker John A. Boehner that year, House Republicans have embraced Twitter as their karaoke microphone to push their message against the White House bullhorn.

The insta-Tweet has revolutionized rapid response operations that just two years ago relied heavily on cable television, e-mails and news conferences to spread the word of the opposition, which often took a day or two to gain momentum. That time lag could delay the message from taking hold, a result Republicans were eager to undo.

Sarah Peters writes at The Hill:

Republicans have again co-opted an Obama administration slogan to mock the president.

On Monday, the GOP used Obama's #WeCantWait hashtag to criticize Democrats for the state of the economy.

"#WeCantWait to make @BarackObama a one-term president," tweeted Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.

Opinion Shifts on Gun Control

In our chapter on civic culture, we discuss the issue of crime. Individualism helps explain why Americans are less likely than people in other countries to accept restrictions on firearms. And Gallup reports that public opinion has been shifting against gun control:
A record-low 26% of Americans favor a legal ban on the possession of handguns in the United States other than by police and other authorized people. When Gallup first asked Americans this question in 1959, 60% favored banning handguns. But since 1975, the majority of Americans have opposed such a measure, with opposition around 70% in recent years.

The results are based on Gallup's annual Crime poll, conducted Oct. 6-9. This year's poll finds support for a variety of gun-control measures at historical lows, including the ban on handguns, which is Gallup's longest continuing gun-control trend.

For the first time, Gallup finds greater opposition to than support for a ban on semiautomatic guns or assault rifles, 53% to 43%. In the initial asking of this question in 1996, the numbers were nearly reversed, with 57% for and 42% against an assault rifle ban. Congress passed such a ban in 1994, but the law expired when Congress did not act to renew it in 2004. Around the time the law expired, Americans were about evenly divided in their views.

Additionally, support for the broader concept of making gun laws "more strict" is at its lowest by one percentage point (43%). Forty-four percent prefer that gun laws be kept as they are now, while 11% favor less strict laws.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Perry on the Birth Certificate

Rick Perry is still discussing President Obama's birth certificate. From an interview in The New York Times:
Q. Why did you choose to keep the birther issue alive?

A. It’s a good issue to keep alive. You know, Donald [Trump] has got to have some fun. It’s fun to poke him a little bit and say “Hey, let’s see your grades and your birth certificate.” I don’t have a clue about where the president — and what this birth certificate says. But it’s also a great distraction. I’m not distracted by it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Perry and the Birther Issue

In an interview with Parade, Texas Governor Rick Perry entered the "birther" contoversy:
Governor, do you believe that President Barack Obama was born in the United States?
I have no reason to think otherwise.

That’s not a definitive, “Yes, I believe he”—
Well, I don’t have a definitive answer, because he’s never seen my birth certificate.

But you’ve seen his.
I don’t know. Have I?

You don’t believe what’s been released?
I don’t know. I had dinner with Donald Trump the other night.

That came up.

And he said?
He doesn’t think it’s real.

And you said?
I don’t have any idea. It doesn’t matter. He’s the President of the United States. He’s elected. It’s a distractive issue.

The Legality of the Declaration

Last week, American and British lawyers staged a debate in Philadelphia. The topic was the legality of the American Declaration of Independence. The BBC summarizes the two sides:
The American Case for the Declaration

The Declaration is unquestionably "legal". Under basic principles of "Natural Law", government can only be by the consent of the people and there comes a point when allegiance is no longer required in face of tyranny.

The legality of the Declaration and its validity is proven by subsequent independence movements which have been enforced by world opinion as right and just, based on the fundamental principles of equality and self-determination now reflected in the UN Charter.

The British Case Against the Declaration

The Declaration of Independence was not only illegal, but actually treasonable. There is no legal principle then or now to allow a group of citizens to establish their own laws because they want to. What if Texas decided today it wanted to secede from the Union?

Lincoln made the case against secession and he was right. The Declaration of Independence itself, in the absence of any recognised legal basis, had to appeal to "natural law", an undefined concept, and to "self-evident truths", that is to say truths for which no evidence could be provided.

The grievances listed in the Declaration were too trivial to justify secession. The main one - no taxation without representation - was no more than a wish on the part of the colonists, to avoid paying for the expense of protecting them against the French during seven years of arduous war and conflict.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Cain and the Constitution

Herman Cain recently made a mistake about the Constitution, as Ben Smith writes at Politico:
In an interview with David Brody last night, Cain said he'd sign a pro-life constitutional amendment if it crossed his desk as president.

“Yes. Yes I feel that strongly about it. If we can get the necessary support and it comes to my desk I’ll sign it," he said. "That’s all I can do. I will sign it.”

The only problem with that statement? Presidents don't sign constitutional amendments -- they're passed in Congress and then need to be ratified by the states, and the president plays no formal role in the process.
For the record, here is Article V of the Constitution, which lays out the process for amending the document:
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.

Isolationism and the Parties

A previous post discussed the question of isolationism in contemporary politics. At The New York Times, Sam Tanenhaus writes:
The Republican debate Tuesday night included many heated exchanges, but relatively few on the subject of foreign policy. There was instead surprising unanimity, whether it was Mitt Romney and Rick Perry debunking foreign aid, Ron Paul warning that America has become an empire, or Michele Bachmann, in what now seems an ill-timed critique, objecting to President Obama’s having “put us in Libya.”

Collectively, the candidates were channeling a broad shift in thinking on the right about America’s global responsibilities. It has been only a few years since George W. Bush labeled himself a “war president” leading a crusade for worldwide democratization. And the sentiments were not his alone. In December 2004 a majority of conservative Republicans agreed “it is best for the future of our country to be active in world affairs,” according to the Pew Research Center.

In 2011, a roughly equivalent majority believe America “should pay less attention to problems overseas and concentrate on problems at home.”
The analysis is incomplete in a couple of important ways. First, Romney suggested that certain kinds of foreign aid are worthwhile. Second and more significant, while conservative Republicans have indeed shifted on America's role in the world, they are not alone. The Pew Research Center shows that Democrats and independents are more likely than conservative Republicans to say that we should pay less attention to problems overseas.

Ranked-Choice Voting

An earlier post dealt with ranked-choice voting in San Francisco. John Wildermuth writes at The San Francisco Chronicle about the system's political effects.

"It's a real challenge, since you're really running two elections simultaneously," said Jim Stearns, consultant for state Sen. Leland Yee's run for mayor. "Normally, in a primary you have to identify your base, organize and get them out to vote. But in a ranked-choice election, you have to get beyond your base and identify other potential supporters."

Under ranked choice, if no candidate collects a majority of the first-choice votes in the first round, the candidate with the fewest votes is dropped from consideration and his second-choice votes are added to the totals of the remaining candidates. This continues, round after round, until someone crosses the 50 percent mark.

"All of a sudden, we're talking about seconds and thirds," said John Whitehurst, a political adviser to City Attorney Dennis Herrera's campaign for mayor.

Because each voter can choose three candidates on the ballot, many of the city's dozens of endorsing groups are listing three names, too. That opens the door for Herrera and other candidates to get a second- or third-choice nod from groups where they would never be the first pick.

"In a regular election, we'd normally go after four or five endorsements," Whitehurst said. "Now we go after everything because the cumulative effect can make a difference."

Cain's Challenges

Herman Cain recently enjoyed a surge in support for the GOP presidential nomination. But will it last? Walter C. Jones writes at the Morris News Service:
But Cain has never served in elective office and is behind Romney and Perry in fundraising, leaving most experts to discount his chances.

That’s because voters haven’t gotten serious about their choice yet, according to Steven P. Millies, associate professor of political science at the University of South Carolina-Aiken.

“Republicans all over the United States are having a hard time closing the deal with Romney even though it’s becoming more inevitable,” he said.

Economic conservatives, including those in the tea-party movement, don’t trust him because of the healthcare plan he instituted in Massachusetts when he was governor, and evangelicals don’t trust him because he’s a Mormon.

“What you’ve really got is a double strike against Romney,” Millies said.

Independents do prefer him, as do those over age 65, according to the breakdown of the polls. His strength in New Hampshire, where InsiderAdvantage has him leading with 39 points to Cain’s 24, stems from being governor of a neighboring state.

So, the conservatives in the party are trying out different alternatives to him. Cain, though, isn’t likely to be it when it’s time to vote unless he can quickly get the wherewithal to compete in large states like Florida, said Robert Jackson, political science professor at Florida State University.

“It’s going to be important for him to translate his momentum into fundraising,” Jackson said of Cain. “In a month or so he won’t be the flavor of the month.”

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Parties Differ on Economic Growth

Partisan polarization is more than conflict between politicians. The parties in the electorate differ as well. Gallup reports that Republicans and Democrats have different views of economic remedies:
Republicans and Democrats are sharply divided on the government's role in creating jobs in the United States. Republicans are more likely to say reduced government regulation and involvement will lead to more jobs, while Democrats focus more on government involvement such as funding infrastructure work. Similar percentages in both groups, however, say the best way to create more jobs is to stop sending work overseas.

These results are based on responses to an open-ended question asking Americans to give their thoughts on "the best way to create more jobs in the United States." Gallup has asked this question three times over the last two years, most recently in an Oct. 6-9 survey.

The top recommendation among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents is keeping manufacturing jobs in the U.S., followed by less government involvement and lower taxes. Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents' top recommendation is spending more on infrastructure jobs, and then keeping manufacturing jobs in the U.S.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Twitter and 2012

At Campaigns and Elections, Colin Delany writes of social media and the 2012 campaign:

Twitter: It was relatively new in 2008—and politically, it was a non-factor. Barack Obama had one of the biggest Twitter fan bases in the world as of Election Day, and with all of 118,107 followers, it was less than 1 percent of the size of his email list. Since then, though, tens of millions of Americans have turned to micro-blogging, particularly those of us in the political space. Even if a campaign’s own Twitter feed isn’t very active, Twitter will shape the communications environment in which a modern political fight takes place.

Twitter’s strength is speed—breaking news now flashes around the world in seconds, and news stories and political message points have plenty of fresh ground in which to take root. It’s also good at connecting people, and smart campaigns will not only tweet themselves but will also spend time cultivating Twitter activists and prominent voices in their districts and beyond. You’ll want to have good relationships established before you need them, meaning that it’s time to cash in those chits with Ashton Kutcher.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


In our chapters on federalism and economic policy, we discuss "butt-legging," the practice of buying cigarettes in low-tax states and illegally reselling them in high-tax states. CBS reports:

Tobacco products face varying levels of taxation in different locations, creating opportunities and incentives for illicit trade. Cigarettes are taxed at the federal, state, and in some cases, local levels. According to industry representatives, taxes and other fees make up significant components of the final price of cigarettes, averaging 53 percent of the retail price. While the national average retail price of a pack of cigarettes was $5.95 in 2010, in New York City, a pack can cost up to $13.00 or more due to high combined state and city taxes. In contrast, a pack of cigarettes in Richmond, Virginia, can cost approximately $5.00, due to low state cigarette taxes there. The tax differential between a case of cigarettes (typically containing 12,000 cigarettes) in New York City and Richmond is over $3,000, creating incentives for illicit trade and profits. Excise taxes and other fees on tobacco products can be evaded at numerous points in the supply chain. Law enforcement officials told us another incentive to engage in this activity is the fact illicit tobacco penalties are comparatively less severe than other forms of illicit trade. According to experts we spoke with and literature we reviewed, a wide range of schemes are used by different actors to profit from illicit trade in tobacco products, mainly through the evasion of taxes. Schemes can range from individual consumers purchasing tax-free cigarettes from Internet Web sites, to larger-scale interstate trafficking of tobacco products, to smuggling cigarettes into the country by criminal organizations.

Also see a Justice Department report on the topic.

Poverty by State

The Census Bureau is reporting new data on poverty by state:
  • Thirty-two states experienced an increase in the number and percentage of people in poverty between 2009 and 2010. For 20 states, this was the second consecutive annual increase.1
  • No state had a statistically significant decline in either the number of people in poverty or the poverty rate between 2009 and 2010.

Click the map to enlarge:

Economic Turmoil and Public Opinion

In our chapter on civic culture, we note that Americans have long been wary of concentrations of power either in the federal government or the corporate sector. USA Today reports:
Most Americans blame Wall Street for the nation's economic predicament — but they blame Washington more.

And in the democracy that fancies itself the capital of capitalism, more than four in 10 people describe the U.S. economic system as personally unfair to them. A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken last weekend, as the Occupy Wall Street protest movement completed its first month, found that:

•When asked whom they blame more for the poor economy, 64% of Americans name the federal government and 30% say big financial institutions.

•Only 54% say the economic system is personally fair to them; 44% say it is not.

•78% say Wall Street bears a great deal or a fair amount of blame for the economy; 87% say the same about Washington.

The poll shows that most Americans are paying attention to the protest movement. But most don't know enough to take a position. Even among those who have followed the protests closely, 43% don't know enough to say whether they support or oppose the movement's goals.

About a quarter of poll respondents describe themselves as supporters of the movement; 19% call themselves opponents.

National Journal, however, reports very different poll results:

A new survey shows that Americans overwhelmingly support the self-styled Occupy Wall Street protests that not only have disrupted life in Lower Manhattan but also in Washington and cities and towns across the U.S. and in other nations. Some 59 percent of adults either completely agree or mostly agree with the protesters, while 31 percent mostly disagree or completely disagree; 10 percent of those surveyed didn’t know or refused to answer.

What’s more, many people are paying attention to the rallies. Almost two-thirds of respondents—65 percent—said they’ve heard “a lot” or “some” about the rallies, while 35 percent have said they’ve heard or seen “not too much” or “nothing at all” about the demonstrations.

The results appear in the latest edition of the United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll.
This article does not provide the wording of these questions. But as our chapter on public opinion explains, wording can have a big impact on survey results.

As for the protesters, Democratic pollster Douglas Schoen writes in The Wall Street Journal:

The protesters have a distinct ideology and are bound by a deep commitment to radical left-wing policies. On Oct. 10 and 11, Arielle Alter Confino, a senior researcher at my polling firm, interviewed nearly 200 protesters in New York's Zuccotti Park. Our findings probably represent the first systematic random sample of Occupy Wall Street opinion.

Our research shows clearly that the movement doesn't represent unemployed America and is not ideologically diverse. Rather, it comprises an unrepresentative segment of the electorate that believes in radical redistribution of wealth, civil disobedience and, in some instances, violence. Half (52%) have participated in a political movement before, virtually all (98%) say they would support civil disobedience to achieve their goals, and nearly one-third (31%) would support violence to advance their agenda.

The vast majority of demonstrators are actually employed, and the proportion of protesters unemployed (15%) is within single digits of the national unemployment rate (9.1%).

An overwhelming majority of demonstrators supported Barack Obama in 2008. Now 51% disapprove of the president while 44% approve, and only 48% say they will vote to re-elect him in 2012, while at least a quarter won't vote.

Fewer than one in three (32%) call themselves Democrats, while roughly the same proportion (33%) say they aren't represented by any political party.

What binds a large majority of the protesters together—regardless of age, socioeconomic status or education—is a deep commitment to left-wing policies: opposition to free-market capitalism and support for radical redistribution of wealth, intense regulation of the private sector, and protectionist policies to keep American jobs from going overseas.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street

At The Aberdeen News, Professor Kenneth Blanchard discusses the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements:

Both the left and the right in American politics want to believe that their own army of protesters is spontaneous and righteous and that the folks across the street are artificial and pernicious.

In fact, the tea party movement and the occupy movement are entirely genuine, composed of red-blooded American sons and daughters of liberty. We're mad as hell, and we aren't going to take it anymore, or at least not without a good shaking of our fists.

After the tea party movement emerged, Democrats launched a campaign to show that the movement was violent and racist. Neither accusation was true. Whoever you are, you'd be safer at a tea party gathering than pretty much anywhere else. And now that the current favorite of the tea partyers is Herman Cain, the charge of racism is refuted.

It's true that of the hundreds of tea party gatherings, a handful of racist signs have been observed. It's also true that some occupiers have carried anti-Jewish posters. There are bad eggs and oddballs at any gathering.

The tea party movement had a big influence on the last election. The influence of the occupation remains to be seen. Let me just say that this is how Americans are supposed to behave.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Rick Perry, Literally

Those who study and practice politics should take care in their choice of words. Strunk and White warn us that people often incorrectly use literal or literally "in support of exaggeration or violent metaphor." Paul Brians writes in Common Errors in English Usage:
Like “incredible,” “literally” has been so overused as a sort of vague intensifier that it is in danger of losing its literal meaning. It should be used to distinguish between a figurative and a literal meaning of a phrase. It should not be used as a synonym for “actually” or “really.” Don’t say of someone that he “literally blew up” unless he swallowed a stick of dynamite.

That observation brings us to Governor Rick Perry and his book Fed Up. If you read it literally, you find that it makes some extraordinary claims:
  • "Keep in mind that since 2007, federal spending has literally exploded by about $1 trillion..." Watch out: those government checks are full of bombs. Call for the guy from The Hurt Locker!
  • "Unfortunately, we are engaged in a fight to once again live in that country—and its future literally hangs in the balance." That must be one heck of a produce scale.
  • "The amount of government spending occurring today is staggering, and we are seeing literally only the tip of a Titanic-sized iceberg looming on the horizon. " If you can see it from Texas, that iceberg must be in the Gulf of Mexico. So much for global warming.
  • "This is not hyperbole, for our ability as Americans to have access to the best health care in the world—and our right to make our own personal health care decisions—literally hangs in the balance..." Boy, they're sure loading stuff onto that gigantic produce scale. No hyperbole there.

A Thousand Days

Our chapter on the presidency describes the formal and informal sources of presidential power. The topic is timely now that President Obama has marked his 1000th day in office. Professor Daniel J. Palazzolo of the University of Richmond notes that the national agenda has changed in ways that do not work to the president's advantage. He adds:
The president’s “power” has also declined. As the late political scientist Richard Neustadt observed, presidential power is the power to persuade other people who share power (congressional leaders, presidential appointees, lobbyists and groups, foreign leaders, the news media, and the public) that it is in their interest to go along with the president. The president’s persuasive power is partly a function of his personal skills, but also a result of how others perceive his status and prestige.

By this standard, in the first 100 days of his presidency, Obama had tremendous power. Today, like other presidents who have suffered a similar fate, Obama’s diminished power has been affected partly by conditions he cannot control and partly from his own decisions. A controversial battle over health care (which remains unresolved), a stubborn economy racked by a housing crisis, banking and credit problems, persistent unemployment, and a series of apparent missteps in handling a range of issues from Guantanamo Bay to Solyndra have overshadowed President Obama’s successes.

An overwhelming majority of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track, shorthand for saying the president is not doing the job we expect of him. As the nation goes, so goes the power of the president.

Monday, October 17, 2011

"No Religious Test"

Article VI, paragraph 3 of the Constitution contains the "No Religious Test" Clause:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

At Commentary, Peter Wehner writes:

During the ratification period, the No Religious Test clause was used as ammunition by the anti-Constitutionalists. But the framers would not budge; for them, the issue was paramount. And the great 19th century legal scholar Joseph Story, in his magisterial Commentaries on the Constitution, explained why.

“This clause is not introduced merely for the purpose of satisfying the scruples of many respectable persons, who feel an invincible repugnance to any religious test, or affirmation,” according to Story.

It had a higher object; to cut off forever every pretense of any alliance between church and state in the national government. The framers of the Constitution were fully sensible of the dangers from this source, marked out in the history of other ages and countries; and not wholly unknown to our own. They knew that bigotry was unceasingly vigilant in its stratagems, to secure to itself an exclusive ascendancy over the human mind; and that intolerance was ever ready to arm itself with all the terrors of the civil power to exterminate those who doubted its dogmas or resisted its infallibility.

Story went on to remind his readers of the history of other countries, where they “found the pains and penalties of non-conformity written in no equivocal language, and enforced with stern and vindictive jealousy.”

I recount this simply to remind us that religious liberty depends on religious tolerance, and injecting sectarianism into politics has an ugly history. There are certain civic wounds that one doesn’t want to reopen.

America has achieved something remarkable in the history of nations: allowing religion to play a constructive role in the public square in a way that honors both faith and politics. It isn’t an easy balance to achieve, to say the least; and we have achieved it better than anyone. And so we don’t need ministers of any faith, including Christianity, attempting to undo what the framers created, with such great care and wisdom.

Social Media in the Classroom

The Lincoln Journal Star reports:

Ari Kohen thinks learning shouldn’t be restricted to the classroom.

“It’s not sufficient to just stand up in front of a class for one hour twice a week,” the University of Nebraska-Lincoln political science professor said. “It’s just not the way people naturally learn. It seems to me you can learn anytime, as long as you're open to it and ready for it.”

For the past few years, Kohen has been incorporating various technologies and social media into his classes. This not only helps continue the conversation outside class, the use of new media and communication also is relevant to some of his courses, which deal in contemporary political issues.

This semester, Kohen decided to bring a new social media feature into one of his classes: the Google Plus hangout. He did this out of necessity. Over the summer, Kohen moved to Omaha when his wife got a job there. He makes the commute to teach two or three days a week, but he’s managed to do the rest of his work from Omaha.


Kohen’s first experience with a hangout was earlier this year with Newt Gingrich, who regularly holds the chats to talk issues with a dozen people for 15 minutes or so. Kohen liked the ease and convenience of the feature, and the light bulb hovering above him switched on. If this is good enough for Newt, he figured, it’s good enough for Kohen and his students.

Now, from 9 to 10 a.m. every Wednesday, Kohen meets with a few of his students at a virtual hangout, and he still drinks coffee during the chats.


And, to be clear, Kohen’s not just a Google Plus guy. He’s been using Twitter to foster discussion with his classes for years. He communicates with students over Facebook more than he does email. He even once supervised a class while he was out of town by being Skyped into a laptop. His students put the laptop on the podium, and Kohen was, for all intents and purposes, there.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Unanticipated Consquences of Election Reform

Our chapter on elections and campaigns discusses the importance of election laws. Sometimes, well-intentioned reforms have unanticipated consequences. The Bay Citizen reports on San Francisco's experience. Interim mayor Ed Lee is likely to win the city's upcoming mayoral election, but rules on campaign finance and election procedure complicate matters:

Currently, according to an analysis by The Bay Citizen, if Lee were to win the election tomorrow, San Francisco taxpayers would have spent $4 million on losing candidates. Voters would have spent $2 million on candidates who, according to the survey, have between 0 and 3 percent of votes. Besides Ting, they include Michela Alioto-Pier (3 percent), Joanna Rees (3 percent), Tony Hall (2 percent) and Bevan Dufty (2 percent).

In fact, the mayoral candidate fund provides an incentive for candidates to stay in the race. Should they drop out before the election, they would have campaign debts, and they would be required to return the money they received from the city.

“If you don’t have enough to pay back financing,” said Corey Cook, professor of political science at the University of San Francisco, “you stay in the race, even though you can’t win.”

The San Francisco Ethics Commission rolled out the mayoral-candidate fund with the intention of reducing the influence of large donors and giving people without vast resources the opportunity to compete for public office. Candidates who raise $25,000 on their own qualify for the program. Whatever money they raise after that is matched, up to $900,000, if they agree to cap spending at $1.5 million. Nine of the 16 mayoral candidates qualified this year.


The large number of candidates may have been spurred by the city’s switch to a ranked-choice voting system, which is playing out this year for the first time in a competitive San Francisco mayoral race.

In a ranked-choice election, voters pick their first, second and third choice for mayor, and a search for the candidate with more than 50 percent of votes begins. If no candidate has a majority, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. When a voter’s first choice is eliminated, his or her second- and third-choice votes are distributed to the remaining candidates.

Ranked-choice voting, which, ideally, allows a diverse field of candidates the chance to win, would seem to be complemented by the city’s mayoral-candidate fund, which provides support for numerous hopefuls.

But ranked-choice voting can also encourage candidates to stay in a race past any capacity to win, giving them further incentive to hang on to their city funds, said Jim Ross, a political consultant who worked on Gavin Newsom’s 2003 mayoral campaign.

See here for another story on the ranked-choice system.

Gingrich, Romney, and Rockfeller

On CNN's "State of the Union," Newt Gingrich spoke with Candy Crowley about Mitt Romney:
GINGRICH: He's a very likable person. He works very hard. He's very smart. And he is a Massachusetts moderate Republican. It is the Nelson Rockefeller problem. I mean, there is a natural ceiling. And if you go back and look at the race last time, he ran into a natural ceiling.

CROWLEY: But it is a natural ceiling in the primary, is it a natural ceiling ion the -- because in head-to-heads he tends do better against this president.

GINGRICH: Well, and Rockefeller always did better in the general election run but the problem is if you can't get the nomination you don't get to go head-to-head.
At The Wall Street Journal, Janet Hook explains: "Mr. Rockefeller, the former New York governor who failed repeatedly to win his party’s presidential nomination, minted the centrist political label “Rockefeller Republican."

One bit of background is worth noting here: Gingrich himself was a Rockefeller Republican. When he was a graduate student at Tulane, he worked for Rockefeller's 1968 presidential campaign. This aspect of his life came up in a 1992 press breakfast when a reporter asked him why he was supporting President George H.W. Bush over Pat Buchanan: "Bush has never been a Rockefeller Republican. I have been. In 1968 I was for Rockefeller because he was the most pro-integrationist Republican candidate." David Kramer, a fellow Tulane grad student, once recalled:
It was extremely audacious for a young man who was trying to establish his roots in the Republican Party in Georgia to basically take on the Republican establishment in Louisiana and we got a great deal of pressure. I can tell you that, in particular, the Nixon forces were extremely unhappy with what we were trying to do in Louisiana. Newt did not flinch at all. I think that's typical. He thought at the time that it made a lot of sense to try to elect a moderate Republican and he thought it made a lot of sense to try to attract black people to the Republican Party in Louisiana, particularly in Orleans Parish.

Race in College Admissions

Our chapter on civil rights looks extensively at affirmative action. One key case was Grutter v. Bollinger, in which the Supreme Court upheld a University of Michigan Law School program that gave significant preferences to minority applicants so that the school could enroll a "critical mass." In Gratz v. Bollinger, the Court overturned an undergraduate admissions program that automatically awarded points to minority applicants. The New York Times reports on a case that may soon reach the Court.

ABIGAIL FISHER, a white student, says she was denied admission to the University of Texas because of her race. She sued in Federal District Court in Austin, causing Judge Sam Sparks to spend time trying to make sense of a 2003 Supreme Court decision allowing racial preferences in higher education. “I’ve read it till I’m blue in the face,” Judge Sparks said in an early hearing in Ms. Fisher’s lawsuit. But the meaning of the central concept in the decision — “this esoteric critical mass of diversity of students,” he called it — kept eluding him.

The 2003 Supreme Court decision he was trying to understand, Grutter v. Bollinger, had elevated the concept of “diversity” from human-resource department jargon to constitutional stature. The pursuit of diversity, a five-justice majority said, allows admissions personnel at public universities to do what the Constitution ordinarily forbids government officials to do — to sort people by race.

Judge Sparks in the end ruled that the Grutter decision meant that Texas was allowed to take account of Ms. Fisher’s race. Now her case is hurtling toward the Supreme Court. That could provide a fresh opportunity to consider what we mean when we talk about diversity. It could also mean the end of affirmative action at public universities.

Ms. Fisher’s lawyers filed a petition seeking a Supreme Court review last month, and legal experts say the justices will probably agree to hear it, setting the stage for a decision by June. Such a decision, given changes in the membership of the court since 2003, is likely to cut back on if not eliminate the use of race in admissions decisions at public colleges and universities.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Perry and Energy

A problem for presidential candidates is finding issue positions that both appeal to the party base and yet set them apart from other candidates. That is hard to do, as Governor Perry is finding with the issue of energy.

Most Republicans would probably approve of Governor Perry’s plan, but it’s unlikely to shake up the campaign. The major parts of the plan are neither new nor unique to Perry. Republicans have been saying these things for years, so Governor Perry is just adding his voice to the choir.

Says Governor Perry: “I believe in an `all of the above’ energy plan that encourages the development of all our conventional and renewable sources.” He is echoing John McCain: “We have to have all of the above, alternative fuels, wind, tide, solar, natural gas, clean coal technology. All of these things we can do as Americans and we can take on this mission and we can overcome it.(Second debate with President Obama, 10-07-08)

Even Democrats have talked about some of these things. Perry says he will initiate a review of federal regulations. President Obama said the same thing. See a White House fact sheet from January 11: “The President has ordered a review of regulations to remove needless burdens, while ensuring common sense standards to protect the American people.”

Friday, October 14, 2011

Social Media's New Role

At TechPresident, Nick Judd writes of the new role of social media in the presidential campaign:

More than in any other race to date, Americans may experience the 2012 presidential election through precisely targeted phone calls, visits, tweets and Facebook posts — messages not from the candidates themselves, but from their own politically active friends.

If those messages come, they won't be random. As campaigns become more savvy about their data on supporters and voters, they are also becoming more and more sophisticated in the way they plan voter contact. This is already leading to new tools, like one built by NGP VAN and used in an ongoing labor campaign, that don't just encourage users to spread the message of a campaign — they help each supporter make a data-driven decision about who to contact.

The union-backed We Are Ohio campaign, organizing against changed collective bargaining laws in Ohio, uses a tool built by NGP VAN that serves as a prime example of this kind of strategy. Users who visit the tool, accessible via a web interface, can build a list from among their Facebook friends by logging in with their account. (They can also type names in one at a time.) As they identify people they'd be willing to reach out to, the tool checks an NGP VAN voter database for an existing record of that person's name, phone number and voting status. When the user has a list of the right kinds of people to call, the tool then presents the user with each voter's phone number and a script.

"We know that messages coming from your friends or your family are more powerful," Melissa Fazekas, a spokeswoman for We Are Ohio, told me Monday. At We Are Ohio, this tool is called the "friends and family program" — and it taps into the personal connections of thousands of supporters, she said.

Another War

The Armed Forces Press Service reports:

President Barack Obama has authorized the deployment to central Africa of 100 combat-equipped U.S. forces whose mission is to help regional forces fight the notorious Lord's Resistance Army and its leader, Joseph Kony.

In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner and Daniel Inouye, president pro tempore of the Senate, Obama notified Congress of his actions, as required by the War Powers Resolution of 1973, a federal law intended to limit the president’s power to commit the United States to armed conflict without congressional consent.

On Oct. 12, the president wrote, the initial team of U.S. combat-equipped military personnel deployed to Uganda. A total of 100 service members and civilians will deploy to the region over the next month, including a second combat-equipped team and headquarters, communications and logistics personnel.

Obama said the forces will provide information, advice and assistance to select partner nation forces and act as advisers to partner forces that seek to remove Kony and other senior LRA leadership from the battlefield.

U.S. forces will not engage LRA forces unless necessary for self-defense, the president said, and “all appropriate precautions have been taken to ensure the safety of U.S. military personnel during their deployment.”

The president's letter closes this way:

I have directed this deployment, which is in the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive. I am making this report as part of my efforts to keep the Congress fully informed, consistent with the War Powers Resolution (Public Law 93 148). I appreciate the support of the Congress in this action.

Note that the phrase is "consistent with," not "in compliance with." No president has ever acknowledged the constitutionality of the War Powers Act. As law professor Lori Damrosch wrote in 2000:

President Ford complied with the reporting requirements of the War Powers Resolution in relation to evacuations from Danang, Phnom Penh, and Saigon, and the retaking of the SS Mayaguez. Nonetheless, he maintained the position of principle that the War Powers Resolution could not impair the President's constitutionally-based powers.When reporting to Congress as the War Powers Resolution provides, neither Ford nor his successors ever conceded that any legally operational significance would attach to a report submitted "consistent with the War Powers Resolution."In other words, no President has ever acknowledged the Resolution's timetable of sixty or ninety days for withdrawal of troops (unless Congress were to authorize their participation in hostilities) to be running.

Births, Economics, Politics

In Our Country (pp. 43-44), Michael Barone writes:
No statistic probes more deeply into people's personal lives, into the things they care about most, than the fertility rate. This statistic -- the annual number of births per1,000 women aged 15 to 44 -- had been declining in the 1920s, in line with the typical pattern in increasingly affluent countries and also in response to the cutoff in immigration ... Fertility fell even more sharply as the economy collapsed. In 1929 and 1930, there were 89 births for each 1,000 women in the childbearing years; most of these children were conceived before the 1929 crash and all before it became apparent that the depression was not going to end soon. In 1931, the fertility rate dropped to 85, in 1932 to 82, and in 1933 to 76, and it remained at about that level until World War II.
That passage provides a backdrop for a new Pew Research Center report, which finds a close link between a plunge in fertility rates and the economic turmoil of recent years.
The official start of the U.S. economic recession was in December 2007, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. However, the timing and magnitude of economic declines associated with the recession have varied markedly from state to state. For instance, per capita income in Nevada declined by 4.6% from 2007 to 2008, while in West Virginia, per capita income increased by 1.6%. And in states such as Arizona, per capita income began declining by 2007, while in states such as Alaska and Montana declines did not appear until 2009.


In 48 of 51 states (a number that includes the District of Columbia), fertility declines occurred within one to two years of the start of economic declines (as indicated by the percent change in personal income per capita, and the percent change in the employment rate). This does not conclusively prove that the economic changes led to fertility changes. However, the timing is consistent with the time it might take people to act upon fertility decisions.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Occupy Procedure

Like many interest groups, the "Occupy" groups must grapple with internal decision-making:

The Death Penalty

Our chapter on public opinion discusses sentiment toward the death penalty. Gallup reports:
Sixty-one percent of Americans approve of using the death penalty for persons convicted of murder, down from 64% last year. This is the lowest level of support since 1972, the year the Supreme Court voided all existing state death penalty laws in Furman v. Georgia.

Gallup first asked about use of the death penalty in murder cases in 1936. At that time, 59% of Americans supported it and 38% opposed it. Americans' views on the death penalty have varied significantly over the 75 years since, including a period from the late 1950s to the early 1970s when less than a majority of Americans favored it. Support climbed to its highest levels from the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s, including the all-time high of 80% who favored the death penalty in 1994. Since then, support has gradually declined; this year's measure of 61% marks a 19-percentage-point drop over the past 17 years, and a 3-point drop from last year's measure.

The Oct. 6-9 poll was conducted shortly after the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia, which generated widespread protests and extensive news coverage. This could help explain the slight drop in support for the death penalty this year. However, there have been high-profile executions in the news in previous years without concomitant drops in death penalty support, making it less clear that such events have a direct impact on attitudes.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Conscientious Objector Who Won the Medal of Honor

Religion and military service can come together in unexpected ways.

On this day in 1945, President Truman awarded the Medal of Honor to 15 servicemen. He said:

As I have told the rest of these young men who have been here before me, I would much rather have that Medal around my neck than to be President of the United States. It is the greatest honor that can come to a man. It is an honor that all of us strive for, but very few of us ever achieve.

Now these young men will go back and become citizens of this great country, and they will make good citizens; and you won't find any of them bragging about what they have done or what they propose to do. They are just going to be good citizens of the United States, and they are going to help us take this Republic to its leadership in the world, where it belongs, and where it has belonged for the past 25 years.

One of them was Desmond T. Doss, an Army medic who saved dozens of fellow soldiers during the Battle of Okinawa. He was the first conscientious objector ever to receive the award. From his 2006 obituary in the New York Times:

Mr. Doss, a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, was guided all through his years by a framed poster of the Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer that his father bought at an auction when he was growing up in Lynchburg, Va. That poster depicted Cain holding a club with the slain Abel beneath him.

"And when I looked at that picture, I came to the Sixth Commandment, 'Thou shalt not kill,' " Mr. Doss told Larry Smith in "Beyond Glory," an oral history of Medal of Honor winners. "I wondered, how in the world could a brother do such a thing? It put a horror in my heart of just killing, and as a result I took it personally: 'Desmond, if you love me, you won't kill.' "

When Mr. Doss was drafted in April 1942 after working in a shipyard, he was given conscientious objector status, having declined to bear arms because of his religious principles. He became a medic, the only way he could adhere to the Sixth Commandment as well as the Fourth Commandment, to honor the Sabbath. Seventh-day Adventists consider Saturday the Sabbath, but Mr. Doss felt he could serve as a medic seven days a week since, as he put it, "Christ healed on the Sabbath."

A trailer for a documentary about Doss: