Category Archives: Politics

Disenfranchisement: An American Tradition

Source: Julilly Kohler-Hausmann, Dissent, Winter 2021

Invoking the specter of voter fraud to undermine democratic participation is a tactic as old as the United States itself. …. Fair elections require clear regulations and standards, but bureaucratic hurdles inevitably depress participation by disadvantaged groups. And they have often been deliberately constructed—as an appeals court found in 2016—to “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” ….

Related:
Dozens of states see new voter suppression proposals
Source: Russell Contreras, Stef W. Kight, Axios, February 10, 2021

There are at least 165 proposals under consideration in 33 states so far this year to restrict future voting access by limiting mail-in ballots, implementing new voter ID requirements and slashing registration options.

The Economic Consequences of Major Tax Cuts for the Rich

Source: David Hope, Julian Limberg, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), Working Paper 55, December 2020

This paper uses data from 18 OECD countries over the last five decades to estimate the causal effect of major tax cuts for the rich on income inequality, economic growth, and unemployment. First, we use a new encompassing measure of taxes on the rich to identify instances of major reductions in tax progressivity. Then, we look at the causal effect of these
episodes on economic outcomes by applying a nonparametric generalization of the difference-in-differences indicator that implements Mahalanobis matching in panel data analysis. We find that major reforms reducing taxes on the rich lead to higher income inequality as measured by the top 1% share of pre-tax national income. The effect remains stable in the medium term. In contrast, such reforms do not have any significant effect on economic growth and unemployment.

Related:
Fifty Years of Tax Cuts for Rich Didn’t Trickle Down, Study Says
Source: Craig Stirling, Bloomberg, December 15, 2020

Political Openings: Class Struggle During and After the Pandemic

Source: Sam Gindin, NEW SOLUTIONS: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy, OnlineFirst, Published December 3, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Capitalism’s sustained failures to address popular needs, hopes, and fears have led to a delegitimation of state institutions and mainstream political parties. The crisis is consequently not primarily economic but social and political. The pandemic further exposed capitalism’s social irrationalities, intimated how unprepared we were for the much larger environmental pandemic to come, and generated a new level of empathy for the value of frontline workers and the workplace health risks they are exposed to. Building on these openings requires identifying a few key demands around which to unify fragmented social movements; acquiring new understandings; placing larger issues of property rights and democracy on the agenda; and creating workplace, local, and national organizations with the capacity to realize substantive change. The strategic demands the article suggests and elaborates are an emergency wealth tax, conversion of industrial capacity for environmental reconstruction, and the strengthening of unions as a social force.

Panic in the Streets—Pandemic and Protests: A Manifestation of a Failure to Achieve Democratic Ideals

Source: Adrienne Katner, Kari Brisolara, Philip Katner, Andrew Jacoby, Peggy Honore, NEW SOLUTIONS: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy, Volume 30 Issue 3, November 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
America is at a critical crossroads in history as the COVID-19 pandemic expands. We argue that the failure to respond effectively to the pandemic stems from the nation’s protracted divergence from the democratic ideals, we purport to value. Structural racism and class-based political and economic inequity are sustained through the failings of the nation’s democratic institutions and processes. The situation has, in turn, fostered further inequity and undermined science, facts, and evidence in the name of economic and political interests, which in turn has encouraged the spread of the pandemic, exacerbated health disparities, and escalated citizen tensions. We present a broad vision of reforms needed to achieve democratic ideals which we believe is the most important first step to achieving true political representation, achieving a resilient and sustainable economy, and fostering the health of vulnerable communities, workers, and the planet.

National data release sheds light on past polling place changes

Source: Carrie Levine, Pratheek Rebala, Matt Vasilogambros, Center for Public Integrity and Stateline, September 29, 2020

The first installment of a new national data release that will help journalists and researchers analyze polling place accessibility was released Tuesday as part of an investigative series, Barriers to the Ballot Box, from The Center for Public Integrity and Stateline. The data, posted to Github, includes polling place locations and addresses for 30 states for the 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018 general elections, and is aimed at aiding reporting and research on the impact that polling place closures and changes could have on the 2020 election. Data for additional states will be added in the coming weeks.

Polling place reductions and changes can lower turnout by creating confusion and barriers for voters, potentially disenfranchising them. There is no national public dataset of polling place locations and addresses for past federal elections.

…The polling place location information, now in a usable data format, standardized and available to the public, can be used to track the movement and consolidation of polling places. Combined with other data, such as voter file data, it can shed new light on which voters were affected by the changes. …

…U.S. elections are administered by thousands of separate jurisdictions. Every state has different laws and deadlines governing voting, which can include unique requirements for polling places. Local authorities typically choose them based on a variety of factors.

Public Integrity and Stateline filed and tracked roughly 1,200 records requests to assemble the polling place location data.

In 12 states — Alabama, California, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming — data had to be obtained county by county for at least one of those elections….

What Is ALEC? Learn About the Organization Writing Your State Laws

Source: Sophie Hayssen, Teen Vogue, September 25, 2020

The American Legislative Exchange Commission writes “model legislation” that detractors say “sustains corporate power.”

….ALEC has existed for decades, but spent most of its life in the shadows, cultivating a reputation as a conservative organizational powerhouse. On its website, ALEC describes itself as a “nonpartisan” organization “of state legislators dedicated to the principles of limited government, free markets, and federalism.” Though that description may appear staid at first glance, its detractors argue that ALEC is central to some of the most profound shifts in American politics over the last several decades. Groups like Dream Defenders and the Center for Constitutional Rights, have accused it of resembling a “shadow-state apparatus” and promoting “legislation that sustains corporate power.”

Here’s what you need to know about the controversial organization…..

Why Public Sector Union Members Support Their Unions: Survey and Experimental Evidence

Source: Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Ethan Porter, Social Forces, Advance Articles, Published September 7, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Despite their decline, unions, and especially public sector unions, remain important civic and economic associations. Yet, we lack an understanding of why public sector union members voluntarily support unions. We report on a field experiment conducted during a 2017 Iowa teachers union recertification election. We randomly assigned union members to receive emails describing union benefits and measured effects on turnout effort (N = 10,461). Members were more likely to try to vote when reminded of the unions’ professional benefits and community—but not legal protections or political representation. A follow-up survey identified the specific aspects of professional identity and benefits that members most valued and why. In a context where union membership and support is voluntary among professionalized workers, our findings emphasize the possibility of training for fostering shared identities and encouraging support for public sector unions. Our results have broader implications for understanding the public sector labor movement in a context of legal retrenchment.

Black Women Best: The Framework We Need for an Equitable Economy

Source: Kendra Bozarth, Grace Western, and Janelle Jones, Roosevelt Institute, Issue Brief, September 2020

From the summary:
This brief explains how centering Black women in US politics and policymaking in the short and long term will bolster immediate recovery efforts, build durable and equitable institutions, and strengthen collective prosperity.

Labor, Poverty, and Power

Source: Cambridge Now Blog, September 3, 2020

Countries around the world are struggling with the economic repercussions of the pandemic, and the United States in particular has recorded levels of unemployment not seen since the Great Depression. While the CARES Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Trump in March, provided $600/week in supplemental income to some workers, this benefit lapsed at the end of July and no replacement program has been enacted, leaving millions in a state of housing and food insecurity. At the same time, states have made cuts or are considering steep cuts to Medicaid and other social safety programs precisely as need surges, with millions of Americans losing health insurance along with their jobs. A disproportionate number of those who are at risk are Black Americans and people of color who worked—or still work, in some cases, but at minimum wage—in industries without organized labor, which has also been in decline over the past several decades in the United States. Indeed, the precarious position of low-wage workers and the unemployed stands in contrast to legislation designed to protect businesses and employers—for example, a $25 billion bailout to the airline industry, or the GOP Liability Shield Bill, which would give employers sweeping immunity against Covid-19 related lawsuits brought by employees.

We spoke to several Cambridge University Press authors and editors about the legal, political, and historical factors that explain these converging crises and make low-income and unemployed Americans especially vulnerable. We also asked about connections between calls to end anti-Black racism and to reinvigorate organized labor, and, more generally, how anti-labor and anti-poor measures have exacerbated the systemic effects of racism.