Category Archives: Politics

Inequality of Wealth and the Role of Unions

Source: Jack Heyman, CounterPunch, Weekend Edition January 3-5, 2014

….The U.S. is the most unequal of all advanced industrialized countries because the political system here has shaped the economy in ways that have led to powerlessness of the working class. In short, both political parties, Democrats and Republicans, represent the same capitalist class interests. There is no mass party that represents the working class. Unions have the power to reshape the wealth gap between rich and poor to some extent by negotiating decent contracts and striking to achieve that, if necessary. But they’re not doing that. In countries like Spain, France, Greece and South Korea, unions have been fighting back and even organizing general strikes. But in the U.S., the trade union bureaucracy has cowered in the face of attacks against workers and, indeed, continues to support the twin party system….

Political Campaigns and Big Data

Source: David Nickerson, Todd Rogers, HKS Working Paper No. RWP13-045, November 14, 2013

From the abstract:
Modern campaigns develop databases of detailed information about citizens to inform electoral strategy and to guide tactical efforts. Despite sensational reports about the value of individual consumer data, the most valuable information campaigns acquire comes from the behaviors and direct responses provided by citizens themselves. Campaign data analysts develop models using this information to produce individual-level predictions about citizens’ likelihoods of performing certain political behaviors, of supporting candidates and issues, and of changing their support conditional on being targeted with specific campaign interventions. The use of these predictive scores has increased dramatically since 2004, and their use could yield sizable gains to campaigns that harness them. At the same time, their widespread use effectively creates a coordination game with incomplete information between allied organizations. As such, organizations would benefit from partitioning the electorate to not duplicate efforts, but legal and political constraints preclude that possibility.

The Landscape of Local Asset Disclosure

Source: Alisha Green, Sunlight Foundation, December 9, 2013

Questions about the basic integrity of government officials can be difficult to answer with any one kind of disclosure. While disclosing information about campaign finance and lobbying are crucial steps toward answering these kinds of questions, asset disclosures help complete the picture by allowing for public oversight of basic conflicts of interest and empowering the prevention of corruption. Asset disclosures, defined broadly, include information about the financial stakes of elected or appointed officials that could impact their decision making. This data complements information about campaign finance, lobbying, legislation, rulemaking, procurement, and more to show how money might be influencing decisions made by those in government. As part of our ongoing exploration of local open data, we decided to shine a light on how this important dataset is currently shared and what steps could be taken to improve it.

New Tax Return Shows Karl Rove’s Group Spent Even More On Politics Than It Said

Source: Kim Barker, ProPublica, November 25, 2013

On its 2012 tax return, GOP strategist Karl Rove’s dark money behemoth Crossroads GPS justified its status as a tax-exempt social welfare group in part by citing its grants of $35 million to other similarly aligned nonprofits. (Here’s the tax return itself, which we detailed last week.)

The return, signed under penalty of perjury, specified that the grants would be used for social welfare purposes, “and not for political expenditures, consistent with the organization’s tax-exempt mission.”

But that’s not what happened. …

Newly Uncovered Documents Expose ALEC’s Anti-Gay Past

Source: Calvin Sloan, People For The American Way, December 4, 2013

Throughout the 1980s, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) — now infamous for its work on behalf of “stand your ground” laws and restrictions on voting rights — was instrumental in pushing anti-gay policies throughout the country, according to documents recently uncovered by People For the American Way and the Center For Media and Democracy.

A 1985 policy memo entitled “Homosexuals: Just Another Minority Group” sums up ALEC’s anti-gay policy positions and the false claims and outrageous stereotypes on which they were based. ALEC disseminated the memo to its public sector members, arguing that the “homosexual movement has had an impact too great and far reaching for Americans to ignore.”

Through the policy memo and its monthly newsletters, ALEC tracked local, state and federal legislation and provided its members with “research” to help them prevent advances in gay rights. However ALEC of course did not view these rights as rights; instead, ALEC asserted that the gay community was organizing “to achieve the privileges it thinks it deserves.”

America the Unequal: Origins and Impacts of a Policy Revolution

Source: Josh Bivens, Dēmos, 2013

This paper reassesses the origins and effects of the neoliberal policy revolution launched in the late 1970s. … This paper argues that growing inequality is not just the most salient economic fact of life for the vast majority of American families over the past generation; it is also a direct consequence of profound changes in economic policy, with systematic distributional implication. We begin by charting out the changes in policy that were undertaken, and then provide an examination of why these changes were proposed and (more importantly) what led to their adoption. The paper concludes by assessing what can be learned about policy impacts on the distribution of economic rewards, and by identifying the challenges and opportunities inherent in undertaking a political campaign to brake or reverse the rise in inequality …

ALEC facing funding crisis from donor exodus in wake of Trayvon Martin row

Source: Ed Pilkington and Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, December 3, 2013

…The Guardian has learned that by Alec’s own reckoning the network has lost almost 400 state legislators from its membership over the past two years, as well as more than 60 corporations that form the core of its funding. In the first six months of this year it suffered a hole in its budget of more than a third of its projected income.

The reference to the Prodigal Son Project is just one of many revelations contained in a batch of internal Alec documents that have been obtained by the Guardian. The documents, prepared for its most recent annual board meeting in Chicago in August, cast light on the inner workings of the group.

They show that:
• Alec has set up a separate sister group called the “Jeffersonian Project” amid concerns over possible government inquiries into whether its activities constitute lobbying – which would threaten its tax-exempt status;
• the network has suffered a decline in its membership among state-based Republicans and among big corporations following the Trayvon Martin controversy;
• its income raised from conferences, membership fees and donations has fallen short, leaving the group with a potential funding crisis;
• a draft agreement prepared for the board meeting proposed that Alec’s chairs in each of the 50 states, who are drawn from senior legislators, should be required to put the interests of the organisation first, thus setting up a possible conflict of interest with the voters who elected them;
• Alec also considered extending its remit to include the gambling industry, particularly online gambling, as a possible source of new members and revenue….

The documents include:
Jeffersonian Project
Draft state chair agreement
Public affairs update
2013 “Prospects”
Lapsed corporate members
Budget shortfall in six months to 30 June 2013
Financial services companies “failed to renew”
Gambling proposal

The Pledge of Corporate Allegiance?
Source: Leo Gerard, In These Times, December 11, 2013
Leaks reveal that corporate front group ALEC may ask for loyalty oaths from legislators….

Generation Hopeless?

Source: Matthew Richards, In These Times, November 25, 2013

Occupy has left some Millennials questioning their place in social movements. …

…Occupy was the source of both intense hope and despair for Richards. In the following essay, adapted from a piece that originally appeared on his Facebook page, Richards grapples with what the movement meant and whether Occupy’s unfulfilled promises are a lost cause or the seeds of the different world whose promise he glimpsed two years ago.

To foster a robust dialogue about the future direction of the movement, we asked a number of politically savvy people, young and older, to respond to Richards’ essay, to explore the role of social movements in creating political change and to tell us why we have reason to be hopeful—or not. —The Editors…

…Read responses to this essay from:

A Historical Perspective on Occupy
Neal Meyer
Why Occupy is a continuation of the Left’s struggle.

Who Are The 99%?
Asha Ransby-Sporn
A suggestion on how to build radically inclusive movements.

Occupy’s Success Will Take a Lifetime
Nick Espinosa
An organizer’s perspective on the need for continued efforts.

Occupy For the Long-Haul
Andrew Bashi
Why you can’t build movements based on immediate gratification.

Despite Becoming a Branded Revolution, Occupy Still Built Solidarity
Rebecca Burns
The movement becomes less about ‘social movement creation’ and more about making alliances between students and workers.

While Occupy Wasn’t Perfect, It Didn’t Fail Either
Michael Collins
How smaller coalitions are more inclusive and better equipped to address state powers.

Finding Power in Occupy
Kirin Kanakkanatt
How Occupy invigorated a generation’s fight for survival.

Advice For Strategic Planning
Susan Levine
A history professor weighs in on how Occupy will bring change.

If Occupy Is a Battle, the First Round Was a Success
Carl Davidson
Understanding that the tides of social movements bring challenges and victories.

The Institutions of the Left Did Little
Cole Stangler
How Occupy survived despite a lack of union support.

The Possibilities of Change
Sarah Jaffe
Young people continue to organize in the wake of Occupy

The Naiveté of Nihilism
Marilyn Katz
How Occupy challenged the way we think, speak and act upon resistance.

Occupy Is Not the Only Movement
Biola Jeje
The strength of radical movements lies in their variety.

‘Hopelessness is Our Biggest Enemy’
Linda Stout
Why young people must continue to fight for change.

Under Pressure: An Update on Restrictive State Insurance Marketplace Consumer Assistance Laws

Source: Justin Giovannelli, Kevin Lucia, and Sarah Dash, Commonwealth Fund blog, October 31, 2013

To help consumers enroll in the recently opened health insurance marketplaces, the Affordable Care Act created outreach and consumer assistance positions such as “navigators,” in-person assisters, and certified application counselors. Though they are subject to uniform federal standards, in practice, these programs range widely from state to state, because of the adoption of laws and regulations in many states that make it difficult for navigators to perform their jobs, as well as differences in funding for consumer assistance for different types of marketplaces. In this post, the first of a two part-series, we will examine the new restrictions; our next post will look at the how the limited funding for outreach and education for federally facilitated marketplaces, compared with state-run or state partnership marketplaces, may be limiting consumer outreach efforts in those states.

This summer, we reported that many states with federally facilitated marketplaces had imposed requirements more stringent than the federal rules governing the navigator program. Supporters of these efforts say that more regulations are necessary to ensure that navigators are well trained and protective of consumers’ rights. However, some of the new restrictions seem likely to prevent navigators and other consumer assisters from doing the jobs they were created to do.

17 states hinder consumers from getting help in health insurance marketplaces