Category Archives: Politics

The Influence of Federal Spending on Presidential Elections

Source: Douglas L. Kriner, Andrew Reeves, American Political Science Review, Vol. 106 no. 2, May 2012
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Do voters reward presidents for increased federal spending in their local constituencies? Previous research on the electoral consequences of federal spending has focused almost exclusively on Congress, mostly with null results. However, in a county- and individual-level study of presidential elections from 1988 to 2008, we present evidence that voters reward incumbent presidents (or their party’s nominee) for increased federal spending in their communities. This relationship is stronger in battleground states. Furthermore, we show that federal grants are an electoral currency whose value depends on both the clarity of partisan responsibility for its provision and the characteristics of the recipients. Presidents enjoy increased support from spending in counties represented by co-partisan members of Congress. At the individual level, we also find that ideology conditions the response of constituents to spending; liberal and moderate voters reward presidents for federal spending at higher levels than conservatives. Our results suggest that, although voters may claim to favor deficit reduction, presidents who deliver such benefits are rewarded at the ballot box.

The Price of Inequality

Source: Joseph Stiglitz, interviewed by Joan Walsh, Commonwealth Club, 2012

From the event summary:
Critics are charging that our current economic system has made America the most unequal advanced industrial country, with crippled growth and undermined democracy. With the top 1 percent of Americans controlling an estimated 40 percent of the country’s wealth, Stiglitz makes a forceful argument against our divided society and vicious circle of inequality. In an effort to bridge that growing gap, Stiglitz offers his plan for changing our current fiscal and budgetary policies and create a more just and prosperous future.
See also:
Hard work has failed us
Source: Joan Walsh, Salon, June 14, 2012

Sunlight State by State After Citizens United

Source: Robert M. Stern, Corporate Reform Coalition, June 2012

From the press release:
The report, “Sunlight State by State After Citizens United,” details the steps, legislative and otherwise, that each state took to respond to the Citizens United decision and grades them on transparency in spending. It also points to a need for more sweeping federal reform. Thirteen states received a perfect score of 100 when it came to their disclosure requirements of political spending. One, North Dakota, received a score of zero. All but one, Montana, either repealed independent expenditure prohibition laws or issued interpretations that declared the laws unenforceable. Montana defended its law, which was upheld by the state Supreme Court, a decision that the U.S. Supreme Court may review. In all, 22 states reviewed their laws regulating political spending and decided to respond to the Citizens United decision in some way.

Intellectual Freedom And The Politics Of Reading: Libraries As Sites Of Conservative Activism, 1990-2010

Source: Loretta Mary Gaffney, Dissertation, Graduate School of Library and Information Science University of Illinois, 2012

From the abstract:
During the 1990s and 2000s, conservative activists not only appropriated libraries as battlegrounds for causes like antigay activism, but also incorporated libraries and librarianship into the issue base of the pro family movement. A collection of loosely linked, well-organized grassroots campaigns around issues like opposition to abortion and gay marriage, the pro family movement was a resurgence of conservative activism in the late 20th and early 21st centuries that brought libraries into the culture wars crossfire. Pro family library challenges went beyond objections to particular materials in order to target library policies of open access, collection diversity, and patron privacy. Pro family activists also mounted an explicit critique of the American Library Association (ALA), opposing the ALA’s defenses of intellectual freedom for all ages and all types of media. These activists described their own struggle as a quest to wrest libraries away from the ALA and restore them to parental and taxpayer control.

This dissertation explores why libraries and librarianship became issues in the pro family movement. Written at the intersection of media studies and library history, it places library challenges within a social movement context, illustrating the symbiotic relationship between grassroots campaigns and national pro family groups. It analyzes the writings of individuals and organizations that identify as “pro family” and that target libraries and/or youth reading, discussing media aimed at actual and potential activists. It reveals that conservative library challenges are driven by competing worldviews of reading, information access, and the role of libraries in the community, and explicates how those worldviews inform pro family library activism. Neither librarians’ professional literature nor LIS scholarship has fully recognized how pro family library activism altered the political landscape of library challenges. This dissertation illustrates that the root quarrel in pro family challenges is not simply an argument about whether or not certain materials belong in libraries, but an argument about the purpose of the library and who shall have the right to determine it.

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.