Category Archives: Politics

Black lives matter: Differential mortality and the racial composition of the U.S. electorate, 1970–2004

Source: Javier M. Rodriguez, Arline T. Geronimus, John Bound, Danny Dorling, Social Science & Medicine, In Press, Available online 21 April 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Excess mortality in marginalized populations could be both a cause and an effect of political processes. We estimate the impact of mortality differentials between blacks and whites from 1970 to 2004 on the racial composition of the electorate in the US general election of 2004 and in close statewide elections during the study period. We analyze 73 million US deaths from the Multiple Cause of Death files to calculate: (1) Total excess deaths among blacks between 1970 and 2004, (2) total hypothetical survivors to 2004, (3) the probability that survivors would have turned out to vote in 2004, (4) total black votes lost in 2004, and (5) total black votes lost by each presidential candidate. We estimate 2.7 million excess black deaths between 1970 and 2004. Of those, 1.9 million would have survived until 2004, of which over 1.7 million would have been of voting-age. We estimate that 1 million black votes were lost in 2004; of these, 900,000 votes were lost by the defeated Democratic presidential nominee. We find that many close state-level elections over the study period would likely have had different outcomes if voting age blacks had the mortality profiles of whites. US black voting rights are also eroded through felony disenfranchisement laws and other measures that dampen the voice of the US black electorate. Systematic disenfranchisement by population group yields an electorate that is unrepresentative of the full interests of the citizenry and affects the chance that elected officials have mandates to eliminate health inequality.

• We estimate effects of black excess deaths on the composition of the US electorate.
• Excess mortality reduced the 2004 black voting age population by 1.7 million.
• In 2004, Kerry lost 900,000 votes and Bush lost 100,000 to black excess death.
• Outcomes of 7 senate and 11 gubernatorial races could have been reversed.
• Excess mortality among blacks in the United States dampens blacks’ political voice.

Black lives matter: premature deaths skew US election results
Source: MacGregor Campbell, New Scientist, May 1, 2015

If Black People Lived As Long As White People, Election Results Would Be Very Different
Source: Samantha Michaels, Mother Jones, May 1, 2015

When Bosses Recruit Employees into Politics – Evidence from a New National Survey

Source: Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Scholars Strategy Network, Key Findings, April 2015

In 2012, journalists reported that Georgia Pacific, Cintas, and other large companies were sending election campaign endorsements to their workers and predicting job losses or plant closures if favored candidates lost in that year’s election. Are similar efforts by bosses and managers happening in the run up to the 2016 election? Results from a new national survey reveal that one in four American employees has been contacted by his or her boss about politics. Detailed findings suggest the need for reforms to protect a small but significant minority of U.S. workers who are subject to inappropriate political pressures in the workplace….

To be Effective Legislators, Members of Congress Need Expert Resources of Their Own

Source: James M. Curry, Scholars Strategy Network, Key Findings, May 2015

Members of Congress used to enjoy support from legislative service organizations, taxpayer funded offices that provided policy analyses on many topics to members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. But after sweeping victories in the 1994 elections, Republican Congressional leaders cut these offices in the name of eliminating “waste” on Capitol Hill – but my research suggests this was penny wise and pound foolish. Developments since 1994 highlight the growing disconnect between the complexities individual members of Congress are asked to understand and the resources they have to analyze policy alternatives. What is more, the expert resources Congress now commands are increasingly centralized in the offices of party leaders….

Guest Post: Will Governor Rauner’s New Bankruptcy Proposal Break Chicago’s Pension Obligations?

Source: Michelle Wilde Anderson, OnLabor blog, May 1, 2015

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has decided that allowing his state’s municipalities to declare bankruptcy is an important arrow in his quiver to break “the corrupt bargain that is crushing taxpayers”—namely union influence and membership rates in Illinois. ….

…. So the recent big city Chapter 9’s eliminated costly health care benefits and deeply discounted capital market creditors’ debts, but nonetheless preserved most of their pension payments. Why they struck that balance is critical for Illinois voters and politicians to understand. Rationales in each city varied, but two main themes emerged.

First, the plan authors in Detroit saw that cutting their retirees’ benefits would sink many retirees below the poverty line in the city and the region. This was a painful humanitarian reality, but so too was it an economic one: a municipal debtor has to be stable enough to pay its obligations under its bankruptcy plan. More concentrated local poverty does not help. A second main argument against cutting pension benefits showed up in Stockton. Officials determined that cutting benefits and thereby being excluded from the state pension system would make the city uncompetitive for public employees, especially police. That was a hard pill to swallow for a city with a spiking homicide rate and no cash to spare on competitive wages. Many other concerns surfaced in both cities as well, but they amounted to a bottom line determination that there were vanishingly few fat cat pensioners to be found, and the municipalities would be even worse off—as a debtor, as a city—if they cut into their retirees’ payments. (Because these big cases and others have effectively settled, the legal fairness of the decision not to cut pension payments has never been tested by a higher court, but there are compelling arguments that these decisions are consistent with Chapter 9.) …..

Protest Campaigns and Movement Success – Desegregating the U.S. South in the Early 1960s

Source: Michael Biggs, Kenneth T. Andrews, American Sociological Review, Published online before print March 9, 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Can protest bring about social change? Although scholarship on the consequences of social movements has grown dramatically, our understanding of protest influence is limited; several recent studies have failed to detect any positive effect. We investigate sit-in protest by black college students in the U.S. South in 1960, which targeted segregated lunch counters. An original dataset of 334 cities enables us to assess the effect of protest while considering the factors that generate protest itself—including local movement infrastructure, supportive political environments, and favorable economic conditions. We find that sit-in protest greatly increased the probability of desegregation, as did protest in nearby cities. Over time, desegregation in one city raised the probability of desegregation nearby. In addition, desegregation tended to occur where opposition was weak, political conditions were favorable, and the movement’s constituency had economic leverage.

The Whiteness of Wisconsin’s Wages: Racial Geography and the Defeat of Public Sector Labor Unions in Wisconsin

Source: Hannah Walker & Dylan Bennett, New Political Science, Volume 37 Issue 2, 2015
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From the abstract:
In 2011, the passage of Wisconsin Act 10 eliminated substantive collective bargaining rights for public employees in Wisconsin. How did politicians in Wisconsin invoke racial symbolism in the policy contest over public sector collective bargaining rights? To what extent did this policy battle reconstruct racial identities of blackness and whiteness? In this analysis, we leverage a multi-method approach to speak to these questions. We use a historical analysis of race in Milwaukee and current public opinion around support for public sector cuts to frame a discourse analysis of political rhetoric employed by the Walker campaign. We join critical race perspectives to examine how politicians play on existing inequalities as a method of gaining political and electoral legitimacy and achieving a retrenchment of the modern state. Moreover, we build a case supporting the claim that Governor Walker and his allies activated the racial animus of white workers.

Poor People Need a Higher Wage, Not a Lesson in Morality

Source: Greg Kaufmann, The Nation, April 22, 2015

David Brooks’ rendition of poverty is as “representative” of people with low-incomes as corrupt corporate titans are of small entrepreneurs. …. What we really need isn’t a moral revival but a moral revolution, one that might begin with Brooks and others looking in the mirror and asking some basic questions:
Do I accept that people working full-time are paid wages that keep them in poverty?
Do I accept that workers with low-incomes can’t take a paid sick day to care for themselves or a family member?
Do I accept that many parents can’t afford the childcare they need to go to work?
Do I accept that people with low-incomes often lack the transportation needed to get to job assignments and as a result are kicked off of income assistance?
Do I accept that our public schools are separate and unequal—with some kids forced to share textbooks while just miles away an affluent community has state-of-the-art facilities?
Do I propagate myths and stereotypes about people living in poverty, or do I help spread the truth—like the fact that more than 1 in 2 Americans will spend a year in poverty or near poverty during their working years?
Do I embrace the real evidence that shows just how far a little assistance can go to improve life outcomes for people in poverty? ….

The Job of Government: Interweaving Public Functions and Private Hands

Source: Donald F. Kettl, Public Administration Review, Vol. 75 Issue 2, March/April 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Lively and sometimes raucous debate about the job of government has increasingly engulfed American politics. Much of that debate has swirled around government’s size, with conservatives arguing the case for shrinking government and liberals fighting to grow it. In reality, however, neither of these debates engages the critical underlying trend: the increasing interweaving of governmental functions deeply into every fiber of the nongovernmental sectors. Many reforms have sought to rein in government’s power, but none has engaged the fundamental interweaving of policy implementation, and, not surprisingly, most have failed. Indeed, many have eroded the public’s trust in the governmental institutions on which they depend. This process raises fundamental challenges for defining government’s core role, for building the capacity to govern effectively, and for enhancing the accountability of governmental programs. Many of government’s administrative tools are a poor match for the governance problems they seek to solve.

Politicians from Working-Class Families are More Likely to Support Policies to Expand Economic Opportunity

Source: Jake Martìn Grumbach, Scholars Strategy Network, Key Findings, April 2015

….Almost all members of Congress are upper class, but privileged legislators from humble class upbringings are more supportive of policies that support working-class families. In my statistical models, I find that a working-class upbringing is more influential than many other key factors known to influence the policy choices of members of Congress. Specifically, the influence of working-class family origins on a legislator’s votes is equivalent to the impact of a constituency than leans ten-percent more Democratic. And when economic policies as such are at issue, the impact of a working-class childhood is equivalent to having constituents who lean 31-percent more Democratic! Family backgrounds, in short, make a huge difference…..