Category Archives: Politics

Money Unlimited: How Chief Justice John Roberts orchestrated the Citizens United decision

Source: Jeffrey Toobin, The New Yorker, May 21, 2012

As American politics assumes its new form in the post-Citizens United era, the credit or the blame goes mostly to Roberts…The new majority opinion transformed Citizens United into a vehicle for rewriting decades of constitutional law in a case where the lawyer had not even raised those issues. Roberts’s approach to Citizens United conflicted with the position he had taken earlier in the term. At the argument of a death-penalty case known as Cone v. Bell, Roberts had berated at length the defendant’s lawyer, Thomas Goldstein, for his temerity in raising an issue that had not been addressed in the petition. Now Roberts was doing nearly the same thing to upset decades of settled expectations….

Inequality in Our Age

Source: Azizur R. Khan, Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Working Paper Series, Number 277, January 2012

From the abstract:
The purpose of this essay is to outline the evolution of inequality in the post-World War II period and the causes shaping that evolution. The starting proposition of the essay is that both inequality and the social tolerance of inequality have substantially increased almost everywhere over this period. The increase in inequality over this period, however, consists of divergent changes over two sub-periods: for the first three decades after the end of WWII inequality actually declined over much of the world; over the last three decades the increase in inequality has afflicted pretty much every significant human society. While in the decades immediately after WWII human societies almost everywhere were, at least seemingly, engaged in finding ways to reduce inequality, in the last three decades societies everywhere have demonstrated greater tolerance of inequality. The essay also argues that these trends in inequality were not determined by inevitable technological, economic or historical forces but largely by policy choices made by political forces. Finally it argues that, the demise of traditional standard bearers of equality, such as the actually-existing socialist system and the quest for non-capitalist development in the Third World, and the emergence of capitalism as the only economic system, do not signal the “end of history” for the human pursuit of equality. Plenty of paths to greater equality are available to contemporary societies that are serious in their pursuit of the goal.

The Austerians Attack!

Source: James Crotty, In These Times, February 2012

From the abstract:
In this cover article for In These Times, James Crotty asks, “How is it that a right-wing coalition is closer to destroying social democracy in America than at any time since its emergence in the 1930s?” He questions the popular wisdom that the right-wing has a history of fiscal conservatism, and the media narrative that has resulted from that assumption, and places the roots of the crisis back in the 1920s. Crotty looks ahead at political and policy routes to stability and growth that don’t rely on a war of austerity against the poor, the middle class, the sick and the elderly.
See also:
The Great Austerity War

Regulatory Red Herring: The Role of Job Impact Analyses in Environmental Policy Debates

Source: Michael A. Livermore, Elizabeth Piennar, and Jason A Schwartz, Institute for Policy Integrity, April 2012

From the abstract:
The current debate on jobs and environmental regulation too often relies on thinly-supported forecasts about jobs “killed” or “created” by public protections. In this debate, the larger costs and benefits of protections for clean air or water can get lost.

In Regulatory Red Herring, the Institute for Policy Integrity looks at how economics can be used to evaluate the effects of environmental regulation on layoffs and hiring.

It also looks at models that are used to make predictions about the jobs impact of regulation. These modeling tools have important limitations that are rarely communicated, leading to misunderstanding and counterproductive political debates.
See also:
Use Of Phrase ‘Job Killing Regulations’ Increases 17,550% In Newspapers Since 2007
Source: Michael A. Livermore, ThinkProgress, ClimareProgress April 24, 2012

Neoliberal Globalization and Trade Unionism: Toward Radical Political Unionism?

Source: Martin Upchurch and Andy Mathers, Critical Sociology, Vol. 38 no. 2, March 2012
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article revisits the question of changing forms of trade unionism within the context of neoliberal globalization. While broadly accepting the argument that globalization might encourage the development of more radical forms of unionism as survival strategies, it argues that such radicalism cannot be understood satisfactorily by the term social movement unionism (SMU). This is due to over-reliance on theories of the new social movements (NSMs), which produce a largely de-classed and de-politicized perspective. The article uses insights gained from theoretical work on protest and labour movement development to bring the state back into the analysis and applies this analysis to oppositional trade union practice in a variety of institutional contexts. It concludes by making a case for understanding contemporary forms of oppositional trade union strategy through the term radical political unionism which takes account of both its social and political determinants as well as the agency role played by political leaderships.


Source: LittleSis, 2012

LittleSis is a free database detailing the connections between powerful people and organizations.

We bring transparency to influential social networks by tracking the key relationships of politicians, business leaders, lobbyists, financiers, and their affiliated institutions. We help answer questions such as:

Who do the wealthiest Americans donate their money to?
Where did White House officials work before they were appointed?
Which lobbyists are married to politicians, and who do they lobby for?

All of this information is public, but scattered. We bring it together in one place. Our data derives from government filings, news articles, and other reputable sources. Some data sets are updated automatically; the rest is filled in by our user community.

A smart ALEC threatens public education

Source: Julie Underwood and Julie F. Mead, Phi Delta Kappan Magazine, V93 N6, March 2012

From the abstract:
Coordinated efforts to introduce model legislation aimed at defunding and dismantling public schools is the signature work of this conservative organization.

Public education has historically been in the public and political eye. Then came 2011 and the high profile and well televised protests in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana. In each case Republican Governors and Republican controlled state legislatures had introduced substantially similar bills that sought sweeping changes to each state’s collective bargaining statutes and various school funding provisions. What was going on? How could elected officials in multiple states suddenly introduce such similar legislation? The answer: The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has become a very efficient mechanism for corporations to exercise political power — and they have.

Labor on the Line

Source: David Harrison, CQ Weekly, Vol. 70 no. 5, February 6, 2012
(subscription required)

A “confluence of events,” including Republican militance and budget austerity, is threatening America’s unions. For labor, the 2012 elections may be the most important in decades.
See also:
Governors Bruised in Anti-Union Bids
Source: Micheline Maynard, CQ Weekly, Vol. 70 no. 5, February 6, 2012

Defending Democracy: Confronting Modern Barriers to Voting Rights in America

Source: NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, December 2011

From the summary:
The NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) and the NAACP have been tracking the rising tide of legislative measures designed to block access to the polls for voters of color. What our research has uncovered is a cause for grave concern: a coordinated and comprehensive assault has been launched against our voting rights.

The findings of our research are gathered in this report, Defending Democracy: Confronting Modern Barriers to Voting Rights in America. The report reveals direct connections between the trend of increasing, unprecedented turnout among voters of color and the proliferation of restrictive measures across the country designed to thwart electoral strength among people of color–particularly those who are poor, young, or elderly….

…These voting restrictions have been pushed in states with large communities of color where political participation has surged. The measures range from new and enhanced voter identification requirements to provisions that will curtail voter access to registration, inhibit critical voter
registration drives, limit voting periods, and tighten the ability to cast ballots.
In all, 14 states have passed 25 various measures designed to restrict or limit the ballot access of voters of color, threatening to disfranchise millions of people, a disproportionate number of whom are people of color. …