Category Archives: Politics

DMI’s First Annual Survey on the Middle Class and Public Policy Finds Broad Policy Agreement Among Fearful Families

Source: DMI, August 19, 2008

DMI’s first annual survey on the Middle Class and Public Policy reveals that America’s middle-class households are fearful families – overwhelmingly pessimistic about the direction of the country, especially the economy and high gas prices. Most have little flexibility in their own economic situations and have little if anything left over each month after meeting basic expenses. The middle class is disgruntled with the direction of the country and politicians and see little coming out of Washington that would give them cause for optimism.

Middle-class Americans do know what policies they would like to see enacted. Despite media depictions of a sharp red and blue divide, the nation’s middle class displays broad consensus on a range of public policies aimed at easing their economic squeeze: they support a universal national health insurance plan, requiring employers to provide paid family and medical leave, making it easier for employees to join labor unions and allowing bankruptcy judges to change mortgage payments to keep homes out of foreclosure. A majority of middle-class adults – whether they are Democrats, Republicans, or independents and whether they are supporters of John McCain or Barack Obama for President – believe that these policies represent good ideas for the country. Regardless of party affiliation or presidential preference, these Fearful Families think largely alike.

Votes or Money? Theory and Evidence from the US Congress

Source: Matilde Bombardini and Francesco Trebbi, Chicago Graduate School of Business, Research Paper No. 08-10, July 1, 2008

From the abstract:
This paper investigates the relationship between the size of interest groups in terms of voter representation and the interest group’s campaign contributions to politicians. We uncover a robust hump-shaped relationship between the voting share of an interest group and its contributions to a legislator. This pattern is rationalized in a simultaneous bilateral bargaining model where the larger size of an interest group affects the amount of surplus to be split with the politician (thereby increasing contributions), but is also correlated with the strength of direct voter support the group can offer instead of monetary funds (thereby decreasing contributions). The model yields simple structural equations that we estimate at the district level employing data on individual and PAC donations and local employment by sector. This procedure yields estimates of electoral uncertainty and politicians effectiveness as perceived by the interest groups. Our approach also implicitly delivers a novel method for estimating the impact of campaign spending on election outcomes: we find that an additional vote costs a politician between 100 and 400 dollars depending on the district.

Tax-Exempt Organizations: Political Activity Restrictions and Disclosure Requirements

Source: Erika Lunder, Congressional Research Service, RL33377, September 11, 2007

From a summary:
Recently, significant attention has been paid to the political activities of taxexempt organizations. In particular, the activities of IRC 501(c)(3) charitable organizations, 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations, 501(c)(5) labor unions, 501(c)(6) trade associations, and 527 political organizations have been scrutinized. This report examines the limitations that the Internal Revenue Code places on political activity, including lobbying and campaign intervention, by tax-exempt organizations. It focuses on the above organizations, but also discusses the restrictions on the other types of tax-exempt organizations. The report also looks at the administrative procedures recently unveiled by the IRS that provide for expedited review of possible tax laws violations by IRC 501(c)(3) organizations that conduct political activities. In addition, the report contains a summary of the information that tax-exempt organizations must report to the Internal Revenue Service about their political activities and whether the information must be made publicly available.

The Party of Lincoln and the Politics of State Fair Employment Practices Legislation in the North, 1945-1964

Source: Anthony S. Chen, American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 112, No. 6
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From the abstract:
From 1945 to 1964, more than a score of northern states passed laws mandating non-discrimination in employment. Why did some states pass such fair employment practice (FEP) laws much more slowly than other states? This article presents archival and statistical evidence that partisan control of policy-making institutions – namely, Republican control of veto points in the legislative process – is associated with a substantial reduction in the likelihood that a state would pass FEP legislation, even when controlling for potentially confounding variables. This finding casts doubt on the leading account of the electoral realignment that began in the mid-1960s and culminated in the Reagan-Bush years. Well before the advent of affirmative action, key numbers of GOP office-holders – allied with organized business and motivated by a free-market, anti-regulatory ideology – worked successfully to block the adoption of color-blind laws mandating formal racial equality.

Candidate Views Index 2008

Source: Brookings Institution, 2008

Compiled by Brookings Institution experts, this chart is part of a series of issue indices to be published during the 2008 Presidential election cycle. The policy issues included in this series were chosen by Brookings staff and represent the most critical topics facing America’s next President.

Available vote records and statements vary based on time in office.

The index displays the presumptive candidate from both major parties.

Fiscal Responsibility
Children
Iraq
Health Care

Gerrymandering the Vote How a “Dirty Dozen” States Suppress as Many as 9 Million Voters

Source: Marc Dunkelman, Democratic Leadership Council, Policy Report, June 2008

From the summary:
Voters are frustrated by the gridlock in Washington. Surf by C-SPAN on the dial and it is not hard to find members talking past one another from the political extremes.

In large measure, today’s stalemate is the result of partisan gerrymandering. The boundaries that separate districts hew to the partisan advantage of one party or the other, encouraging members of Congress to play to their party’s base, rather than the broad center of the electorate.

When members can’t lose, voters do — because it takes pressure off Congress to get the job done. But gerrymandering has another nefarious effect: pre-determined election results suppress the vote. This study explores just how dramatically partisan redistricting hampers the ability of voters to affect policy in Washington, D.C.

Key Findings:
• Low Voter Turnout. The United States ranks 139th in the world in terms of voter participation, according to the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.
• 30,000 Additional Voters Cast Ballots in Competitive Elections. On average, 30,000 additional voters cast ballots when elections are competitive. That’s the equivalent of expanding the voting pool by one-sixth.
• 11 Million Votes Suppressed. As many as 11 million voters fail to cast ballots because of gerrymandering.
• 86 percent of Members Coast into Office. During 2002, 91 percent of House members won their seat by 10 percent or more. And in 2006, all but 60 of the 435 voting members of the House won by as large a spread.
• 28 Percent More Voters in Most Vs. Least Competitive Districts. On average, 214,000 voters cast ballots in each of the 60 most competitive House races run in 2006. In 60 of the least competitive elections (where members won by between 50 and 90 percentage points), only 153,000 voters came out to have their choices counted — 28 percent fewer.
• “Dirty Dozen” States. Of the almost 11 million suppressed votes, as many as 9 million might be cast in 12 particular states: Alabama, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Presidential Candidates’ Key Proposals on Health Care and Climate Will Require WTO Modifications, Overreach of WTO Highlighted by Potential Conflicts with Candidates’ Non-Trade Proposals

Source: Todd Tucker and Mary Bottari, Public Citizen, Global Trade Watch, February 2008

From the press release:
Public Citizen today identified changes needed to World Trade Organization (WTO) rules and the investment provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to implement a dozen of the presidential candidates’ key health and climate policy proposals.

The changes were detailed in a report, “Presidential Candidates’ Key Proposals on Health Care and Climate Will Require WTO Modifications, Overreach of WTO Highlighted by Potential Conflicts with Candidates’ Non-Trade Proposals.”

Although they have nothing to do with trade, key health care cost containment proposals on the creation of health insurance risk pooling mechanisms, reduction of pharmaceutical prices and electronic medical record-keeping, a proposal to expand coverage by requiring large employers to provide health insurance and a proposal to establish tax credits for small employers as an incentive to provide health insurance fall within WTO jurisdiction. In addition, proposals that address climate policy, such as increasing Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) standards, banning incandescent light bulbs, establishing new regulation of coal-fired electric plants and establishing national renewable portfolio standards (RPS), green procurement proposals and green industry subsidies come under the jurisdiction of existing U.S. WTO commitments.

Health Care Opinion Leaders’ Views on the Presidential Candidates’ Health Reform Plans

Source: Katherine K. Shea, Sara R. Collins, and Karen Davis, Commonwealth Fund, January 2008

From the overview:
The 13th Commonwealth Fund/Modern Healthcare Health Care Opinion Leaders Survey asked a diverse group of experts for their perspective on the health care reform proposals of the 2008 presidential candidates. Survey participants strongly support reform proposals that applied a mixed private-public market approach. Additional favored policy strategies for reform include a requirement for individuals to obtain health insurance, new private market regulations, and a requirement for employers to provide coverage or contribute to a coverage fund. Alternatively, respondents think proposals that focus on tax incentives to purchase individual private health insurance are not an effective method for controlling the rising costs of health care or achieving universal coverage. Health care opinion leaders call for the next president to simultaneously address universal coverage and quality, efficiency, and cost containment policies to move our health care system toward high performance.

Related commentaries:
Reform Is No ‘Either-Or’: We Must Fix the Payment System Along with Access
Darrell Kirch, M.D, president and chief executive officer of the Association of American Medical Colleges
Tough Choices Ahead: Candidates Ignore Pain of Needed Cuts to Health Costs
Dallas L. Salisbury, president and CEO of the Employee Benefit Research Institute and a member of The Commonwealth Fund Commission on a High Performance Health System

Related resources:
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