How Do Citizens React When Politicians Support Policies They Oppose? Field Experiments with Elite Communication

Source: David E. Broockman, Daniel M. Butler, University of California, Berkeley and Washington University in St. Louis right, September 9, 2014

From the Futurity summary:
The research is based on an experiment designed to see if voters would change their opinions on a controversial issue after receiving a personal letter from their state legislator.

Researchers surveyed targeted voters to benchmark individual attitudes on various hot-button issues, then surveyed them again after they received one of three official form letters, all of which were sent by the researchers, but appeared to come directly from the legislator.

The first version of the letter included only a broad, generic message with no policy statements, the second included a brief mention of the politician’s stance on a controversial policy issue, and the third offered a detailed discussion of why the legislator favored this position.

The research team’s analysis of the survey data uncovered strong evidence that legislators can significantly shape constituents’ views on issues by merely staking out their positions.

Key findings include:
– Citizens who received letters often adopted their representatives’ issue positions even when representatives offered little justification.
– Voters getting a letter laying out their legislator’s disagreements with them were about five percent more likely to change their opinion to agree with the legislator’s stance.
– Public officials faced little push back for taking a position that ran counter to constituents’ preferences, regardless of the extent to which legislators provided justifications for their positions. Citizens who received letters from their legislators taking positions that they disagreed with did not evaluate their legislators less favorably.
– The findings were surprising, Butler says, because the experiment was based on voter reactions to correspondence from state legislators who are often not well known by their constituencies.

Building a Skilled Teacher Workforce: Shared and divergent challenges in early care and education and in grades K-12 prepared

Source: Marcy Whitebook, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 2014

From the summary:
Across the K-12 and early care and education (ECE) communities, similar conversations are underway about how to recruit teachers and strengthen their preparation, how to provide ongoing learning experiences for new and veteran teachers, and how to organize school environments to ensure that all teachers can best address the needs of an increasingly diverse child population. But these conversations are also widely divergent, given that the histories of the two sectors have led to distinct personnel and service delivery systems.

In order to develop an early learning strategy for the U.S. that is capable of improving educational outcomes for young children, it is critical to understand the personnel-related opportunities and challenges the ECE sector faces, as well as how these differ from those encountered in the K-12 sector. This paper discusses the public perception of early childhood teaching, the history and purpose of education for children of different ages, and describes key features of the personnel systems that have emerged from these varied roots, comparing them along several dimensions, and offers several suggestions for promoting a skilled and stable early care and education workforce for the 21st century.

Apple vs. the Law

Source: New York Times, Room for Debate, September 30, 2014

The director of the F.B.I., James Comey, recently criticized Apple and Google for encrypting new smartphones’ data and rendering it inaccessible to law enforcement, even with a court order. “What concerns me about this is companies marketing something expressly to allow people to hold themselves beyond the law,” Mr. Comey said. But shouldn’t companies put their costumers’ security and privacy concerns first? How much should tech companies cooperate with the government on data access? …

Securing Our Data Should Come First
Alex Abdo, ACLU
It is shortsighted to believe that making all of our information more vulnerable will somehow make us safer.

Don’t Create Virtual Sanctuaries for Criminals
Ronald T. Hosko, Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund
The virtual sanctuaries built and marketed by some technology companies will not only attract ordinary Americans seeking to protect their private communications, but also criminals and conspirators.

Holding On to a Small Measure of Privacy
Faiza Patel, Brennan Center
Compared with the sea of information the government can obtain through various means, what’s saved directly on our iPhones is but a crumb.

Data Access Shouldn’t Be Up to Companies Alone
Stewart Baker, former Homeland Security Department official
With Apple’s new encryption, probable cause and a warrant will be of little help to the police who seize a suspect’s iPhone and want to search it.

Encryption Restores Trust in Technology
Seeta Peña Gangadharan, Open Technology Institute
When technologies come to market with security and privacy baked in, they help users navigate an increasingly opaque digital landscape.

Bureau of Prisons: Information on Efforts and Potential Options to Save Costs

Source: U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), GAO-14-821, September 30, 2014

From the summary:
Correctional services—which includes salaries and benefits for correctional officers—is the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) largest operational cost, and BOP has undertaken a number of initiatives to reduce costs. Specifically, on the basis of GAO’s analysis of BOP’s fiscal year 2013 obligations of approximately $6.6 billion, BOP obligated the largest share—about $3.9 billion, or 59 percent—for personnel compensation and benefits. Further, BOP has undertaken a number of initiatives, such as renegotiated contracts, to achieve cost savings of about $61 million over the last 3 years.

BOP has designed internal processes to identify opportunities for additional cost efficiencies, but could improve the monitoring of corrective actions to achieve them. For example, BOP focuses on cost efficiency and innovation in its strategic plan and has developed mechanisms for staff to share information on best practices and cost savings efforts. BOP also employs an internal control system with processes, such as program reviews, that allows it to identify opportunities for cost efficiencies. However, when program reviews repeatedly cited frequent deficiencies or significant findings that could increase costs—such as insufficient contract monitoring—responsible BOP Central Office divisions did not provide specifics or documentation for how they always monitor the effectiveness of corrective actions to prevent the same deficiency or issue from reoccurring. Establishing a mechanism for relevant Central Office divisions to consistently monitor the progress of bureau-wide corrective actions in the presence of repeated frequent deficiencies or significant findings could help BOP better ensure that it is resolving such deficiencies or issues promptly and, ultimately, operating more efficiently.

BOP’s current authorities to reduce inmate sentence length result in limited cost savings, but potential actions outside of its authority could have a greater impact on costs. GAO has reported previously on BOP authorities to reduce inmate sentences, and thus its costs, in detail, and found that inmate eligibility for certain programs and lack of capacity affect BOP’s use of them. For example, greater use of programs such as Compassionate Release for terminally ill inmates could reduce sentences, but cost savings relative to BOP’s budget would be small—about $651,000 in 2013. Additional opportunities outside of BOP’s authority, including those requiring legislative or executive action, such as options to reduce sentence length, could reduce BOP’s population, and thus potentially significantly reduce its costs. For example, an option to reduce sentences of incarcerated drug offenders by an average of 44 percent could save about $4.1 billion. Potential savings could be even higher if the changes sufficiently reduced the inmate population to allow BOP to reduce its staff or close facilities. Expert entities GAO consulted reported that all of the options GAO reviewed also have advantages and disadvantages unrelated to costs that should be taken into consideration, such as potential effects on public safety if released inmates reoffend. GAO is not taking a position on any of these options, but presents information on estimated cost savings and experts’ views of advantages and disadvantages for such options to inform policymakers as they weigh whether and how to address rising costs at BOP…..

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: Largest Issuers of Health Coverage Participated in Most Exchanges, and Number of Plans Available Varied

Source: U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), GAO-14-657, August 29, 2014

From the summary:
Most of the largest issuers of health coverage from 2012 participated in the exchanges that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) required be established in all states in 2014. Previously, in 2012, while a large number of issuers participated in state individual and small-group markets, a small number of these participating issuers held a majority of the market share in terms of enrollment. In 2014, for both those exchanges serving the individual market and those serving the small-group market, in more than two-thirds of states the issuer with the largest share of the 2012 market participated in the 2014 exchange. In addition, in most states, other larger issuers with a 5 percent or more share of the 2012 market participated in the 2014 exchanges. Most smaller issuers with less than 5 percent of the 2012 market did not participate in the 2014 exchanges, although in many states more than one of these smaller issuers did participate. In addition, some issuers that participated in a 2014 individual or small-business exchange had not offered coverage in the respective 2012 market, although they may have offered coverage in other markets within the same state. In most states, for 2014, the issuers participating in the exchanges represented a mix of larger issuers, smaller issuers, and issuers new to that market….

2014 Health and Voluntary Workplace Benefits Survey: Most Workers Continue to be Satisfied With Their Own Health Plan, but Growing Number Give Low Ratings to Health Care System

Source: Paul Fronstin, Ruth Helman, Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), EBRI Notes, Vol. 35 No. 9, September 2014

From the abstract:
Four years after passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA), implementation of many of its provisions and delay of others, an increasing majority of workers continue to give low marks to the U.S. health care system. This paper examines public opinion with respect to various aspects of the United States health care system using data from the 2014 EBRI/Greenwald & Associates Health and Voluntary Workplace Benefits Survey (WBS) as well as from the 1998-2012 EBRI/Greenwald & Associates Health Confidence Survey (HCS) and the 2013 WBS. The WBS and HCS examine a broad spectrum of health care issues, including workers’ satisfaction with health care today, their confidence in the future of the health care system and the Medicare program, and their attitudes toward benefits in the workplace. Asked to rate the U.S. health care system, many workers describe it as poor (29 percent) or fair (32 percent). One-quarter consider it good, while only a small minority rate it as very good (10 percent) or excellent (1 percent). Dissatisfaction with the health care system appears to be focused primarily on cost. The 2013-2014 EBRI/Greenwald & Associates Workplace Benefits Survey (WBS) and the 1998-2012 EBRI/Greenwald & Associates Health Confidence Survey (HCS) find that the percentage of workers rating the health care system as poor more than doubled between 1998-2006 (rising from 14 percent to 32 percent); however, while between 2006-2013 that percentage fell slightly, it jumped to 29 percent in 2014. In contrast to the ratings for the health care system overall, workers’ ratings of their own health plans continue to be generally favorable. One-half of those with health insurance coverage are extremely or very satisfied. While 47 percent of workers indicate they are extremely or very confident about their ability to get the treatments they need today, only 30 percent are confident about their ability to get needed treatments during the next 10 years, and just 19 percent are confident about this once they are eligible for Medicare.

The Big Tax Increase Nobody Noticed

Source: Dean Baker, Issue Brief, September 2014

From the abstract:
In January of 2013 nearly every worker in the country saw their payroll tax increase by 2.0 percentage points. The payroll tax holiday that had been put in place at the start of 2011 ended in December of 2012, leading to a jump in the Social Security tax from 10.4 percent to 12.4 percent of earnings up to the taxable limit.

This was an extraordinarily large increase in the payroll tax. Past increases had generally been phased in gradually. For example, from 1980 to 1990 the tax rate was increased by a total of 2.24 percentage points; however in no year did the rate rise by more than 0.72 percentage points, just over one-third of the 2013 increase. If the public was strongly opposed to any tax increases, it would be expected that one as large as the 2013 rise in the Social Security tax would lead to considerable anger, especially given the weakness of the labor market which was still very much feeling the impact of the 2008-2009 recession at that point.

The Limitations of Disability Antidiscrimination Legislation: Policymaking and the Economic Well-Being of People with Disabilities

Source: Michelle Maroto, David Pettinicchio, Denver Journal of International Law and Policy, Vol. 36 No. 4, 2014

From the abstract:
Although Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to address, in large part, the declining economic well-being of people with disabilities — twenty years later — the trend has not reversed. To shed light on this puzzle, we use multilevel models to analyze Current Population Survey data from 1988 through 2012 matched with state-level predictors. We take a more nuanced approach than previous research and consider institutional factors related to the creation, enforcement, and interpretation of legislation, as well as individual demographics and employment situations. Our results show continual gaps in employment and earnings by disability status connected to the enactment of state-level antidiscrimination legislation, the number of ADA charges brought to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the results of ADA court settlements and decisions. Our findings suggest a complex relationship between legislative intent and policy outcomes, showcasing the multilayered institutional aspects behind the implementation of disability antidiscrimination legislation.

Paying an Unfair Price: The Financial Penalty for Being LGBT in America

Source: Movement Advancement Project and the Center for American Progress, September 2014

From the summary:
Paying an Unfair Price: The Financial Penalty for Being LGBT in America paints a stark picture of the added financial burdens faced by LGBT Americans because of anti-LGBT laws at the national, state and local levels. These laws contribute to devastating cycles of poverty and create unfair financial penalties in the form of higher taxes, reduced wages and Social Security income, increased healthcare costs, and more.

The report documents how inequitable laws harm the economic well-being of LGBT people in three key ways: by enabling legal discrimination in jobs, housing, credit and other areas; by failing to recognize LGBT families, both in general and across a range of programs and laws designed to help American families; and by creating barriers to safe and affordable education for LGBT students and the children of LGBT parents.

Paying an Unfair Price offers broad recommendations for helping strengthen economic security for LGBT Americans, such as instituting basic nondiscrimination protections at the federal and state level; allowing same-sex couples to marry in all states; allowing LGBT parents to form legal ties with the children they are raising; and protecting students from discrimination and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Paying an Unfair Price was co-authored by the Movement Advancement Project and the Center for American Progress, in partnership with the Center for Community Change, the Center for Popular Democracy, the National Association of Social Workers, and the National Education Association.
Condensed Report
Executive Summary
Video: Paying an Unfair Price – Maria’s Story