Shrinking local autonomy: corporate coalitions and the subnational state

Source: Yunji Kim, Mildred E Warner, Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, Volume 11, Issue 3, October 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Using focus groups and government finance data, we explore three areas of US state rescaling at the subnational level: revenue tools, expenditure responsibilities and policy authority. Expenditure responsibilities, especially social welfare, have been devolved to the subnational level, while local revenue tools and policy authority are preempted. This decoupling of responsibility and power is cracking the foundations of fiscal federalism. At the behest of corporate-legislative coalitions, subnational state governments are shrinking local capacity and authority to govern. This is not state shrinkage; it is a fundamental reshaping of the subnational state to the detriment of democracy and the social contract.

Alexander’s Loan-Repayment Overhaul

Source: Andrew Kreighbaum, Inside Higher Ed, February 19, 2019

Proposal to automatically deduct loan payments as a share of borrowers’ paychecks promises big improvements but raises questions over some new complications, too.

Student advocates have for years complained about the complex set of options borrowers must navigate to repay their student loans. Student loan borrowers are faced with a dizzying nine repayment plans based on their income, in addition to a standard 10-year loan-repayment plan.

There’s a growing consensus that Congress should reduce those options to one income-based option on top of the standard plan.

Senator Lamar Alexander, the chairman of the Senate education committee, would go one step further, calling for loan payments to be automatically deducted from borrowers’ paychecks. ….

…. While the proposal to reduce the myriad repayment options for borrowers already has broad support among higher ed interest groups, getting buy-in for making student loan payments work more like payroll taxes is more uncertain.

Jessica Thompson, director of policy and planning at the Institute for College Access and Success, said streamlining the repayment plans available to borrowers is “an overdue change.” But she said paycheck withholding for loan payments is “in reality a lot more complicated than it sounds.” ….

Dirty Data, Bad Predictions: How Civil Rights Violations Impact Police Data, Predictive Policing Systems, and Justice

Source: Rashida Richardson, Jason Schultz, Kate Crawford, New York University Law Review Online, Forthcoming, February 13, 2019

From the abstract:
Law enforcement agencies are increasingly using algorithmic predictive policing systems to forecast criminal activity and allocate police resources. Yet in numerous jurisdictions, these systems are built on data produced within the context of flawed, racially fraught and sometimes unlawful practices (‘dirty policing’). This can include systemic data manipulation, falsifying police reports, unlawful use of force, planted evidence, and unconstitutional searches. These policing practices shape the environment and the methodology by which data is created, which leads to inaccuracies, skews, and forms of systemic bias embedded in the data (‘dirty data’). Predictive policing systems informed by such data cannot escape the legacy of unlawful or biased policing practices that they are built on. Nor do claims by predictive policing vendors that these systems provide greater objectivity, transparency, or accountability hold up. While some systems offer the ability to see the algorithms used and even occasionally access to the data itself, there is no evidence to suggest that vendors independently or adequately assess the impact that unlawful and bias policing practices have on their systems, or otherwise assess how broader societal biases may affect their systems.

In our research, we examine the implications of using dirty data with predictive policing, and look at jurisdictions that (1) have utilized predictive policing systems and (2) have done so while under government commission investigations or federal court monitored settlements, consent decrees, or memoranda of agreement stemming from corrupt, racially biased, or otherwise illegal policing practices. In particular, we examine the link between unlawful and biased police practices and the data used to train or implement these systems across thirteen case studies. We highlight three of these: (1) Chicago, an example of where dirty data was ingested directly into the city’s predictive system; (2) New Orleans, an example where the extensive evidence of dirty policing practices suggests an extremely high risk that dirty data was or will be used in any predictive policing application, and (3) Maricopa County where despite extensive evidence of dirty policing practices, lack of transparency and public accountability surrounding predictive policing inhibits the public from assessing the risks of dirty data within such systems. The implications of these findings have widespread ramifications for predictive policing writ large. Deploying predictive policing systems in jurisdictions with extensive histories of unlawful police practices presents elevated risks that dirty data will lead to flawed, biased, and unlawful predictions which in turn risk perpetuating additional harm via feedback loops throughout the criminal justice system. Thus, for any jurisdiction where police have been found to engage in such practices, the use of predictive policing in any context must be treated with skepticism and mechanisms for the public to examine and reject such systems are imperative.

Whom Do Employers Want? The Role of Recent Employment and Unemployment Status and Age

Source: Henry S. Farber, Chris M. Herbst, Dan Silverman, Till von Wachter, Journal of Labor Economics, Ahead of Print, February 19, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
We use a résumé audit study to investigate the role of employment and unemployment histories in callbacks to job applications. We find that applicants with 52 weeks of unemployment have a lower callback rate than those with shorter spells. There is no relationship, however, between spell length and callback among applicants with spells of 24 weeks or less. We also find that both younger and older applicants have a lower callback probability than prime-aged applicants. Finally, we find that applicants who are employed at the time of application have a lower callback rate than do unemployed applicants.

Who’s afraid of sunlight? Explaining opposition to transparency in economic development

Source: Nathan M. Jensen, Calvin Thrall, Washington Center for Equitable Growth, February 2019

From the abstract:
Why do some firms oppose transparency of government programs? In this paper we explore legal challenges to public records requests for deal-specific, company-specific participation in a state economic development incentive program. By examining applications for participation in a major state economic program, the Texas Enterprise Fund, we find that a company is more likely to challenge a formal public records request if it has renegotiated the terms of the award to reduce its job-creation obligations. We interpret this as companies challenging transparency when they have avoided being penalized for non-compliance by engaging in non-public renegotiations. These results provide evidence regarding those conditions that prompt firms to challenge transparency and illustrate some of the limitations of safeguards such as clawbacks (or incentive-recapture provisions) when such reforms aren’t coupled with robust transparency mechanisms.

Related:
Amazon HQ2: Texas experience shows why New Yorkers were right to be skeptical
Source: Nathan M. Jensen, Calvin Thrall, The Conversation, February 14, 2019

New York offered Amazon close to US$3 billion to build a “second” headquarters in Long Island City on the promise of 25,000 jobs.

Since the deal was joyfully announced in November, however, many local residents and some politicians in the area have been questioning whether it’s worth it, both in terms of the price tag and the impact on housing and traffic congestion. And on Feb. 14, Amazon backed out of the deal, citing political opposition to its plans.

The research supports those who question the wisdom of cities and states incentivizing economic development. Studies suggest the jobs and economic gains are usually not worth the tax breaks since the majority of companies would have come even without incentives.

And that’s when the companies try to live up to the promises they made. They don’t always do so, with the latest example being Foxconn’s announcement that it is reconsidering plans to build a factory in Wisconsin – less than a year after agreeing to create up to 13,000 high-tech jobs in exchange for more than $4.5 billion in incentives.

But how often do companies that agree to build factories and create jobs in exchange for economic incentives back away from their promises? And when they do, do taxpayers ever learn about it?

To shine light on these questions, we conducted a study of a Texas economic development program. Taxpayers in any American city considering luring a company with cash should take heed…..
Opinion: Amazon, New York and the End of Corporate Welfare
Source: Mene Ukueberuwa, Wall Street Journal, February 18, 2019
(subscription required)

Special tax breaks do little to spur the economy. Now they’re becoming politically unpopular too

Are New Yorkers better off after Amazon’s decision Thursday to cancel its planned headquarters in the Queens neighborhood of Long Island City? It’s a complicated question, weighing the benefits of new high-earning residents against the added strain on local services. Yet the pullout could lead to a decisive triumph for taxpayers across the nation, as city and state officials start to reckon with the popular backlash against corporate tax incentives…..

Opinion: New York Did Us All a Favor by Standing Up to Amazon
Source: David Leonhardt, New York Times, February 17, 2019

Yes, Amazon’s departure will modestly hurt the city’s economy. But it’s also a victory against bad economic policy.

New York Labor Didn’t Shrink from Confronting Amazon
Source: Steven Greenhouse, American Prospect, February 18, 2019

But unions were sharply divided about how to deal with the tech giant.

Rare Recordings of Civil Rights Activists Available Now

Source: Elizabeth Riordan, University of Iowa Libraries, News, February 12, 2019

Exciting news from University Archivist, David McCartney, about the incredible recordings found in the Eric Morton Civil Rights Papers.

In 1963 and 1964, attorney Bob Zellner recorded a series of interviews with civil rights activists in Mississippi and Alabama. Zellner conducted the interviews on behalf of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in an effort to document the activists’ experiences, which were often under challenging and violent circumstances.

The interviewees participated in the Mississippi Summer Project in 1964, later to be known as Freedom Summer, a drive to register African Americans in the Magnolia State to vote. For decades, attempts by blacks to register at county court houses across the state were met with intimidation, harassment, and even violence. Freedom Summer was an organized response to this situation, with activists from across the U.S. participating, including over 800 college and university students. Among them were about a dozen students from the University of Iowa.

How Government and Community Nonprofit Collaboration and Non-Collaboration Affects Public Sector Outcomes

Source: Rebecca H. Padot, International Journal of Public Administration, OnlineFirst, February 15, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This four state foster care study seeks to understand what practices state public managers perform with regards to community nonprofits that contributes to effectiveness in producing better public sector outcomes. The study produced key player field research data on the conditions under which community nonprofits produce better public sector outcomes.

This article offers reasons as to why some effective community nonprofits were able to achieve collaboration with the public sector, while others were not, despite their effectiveness. Effective public managers in the area of foster care administration permit, and at times recruit, community nonprofits to have an impact on their foster care domain, while ineffective public managers never reach out to community nonprofits as partners or further yet, block nonprofits from access.

Local government – Connecticut – Financially strained municipalities face continuing fiscal challenges

Source: Lauren Von Bargen, Thomas Jacobs, Leonard Jones, Joseph Manoleas, Moody’s, Sector In-Depth, February 11, 2019
(subscription required)

Cities and towns in Connecticut have faced several credit challenges in recent years, including negative demographic trends such as aging population and limited labor force growth, anemic economic expansion and modest tax base increases. For some municipalities, these issues are compounded by limited operating flexibility due to elevated tax rates and high fixed costs per capita. To counter these obstacles, local governments have turned to short-term fixes, including funding pensions at less than required levels and using fund balance to fill budget gaps, but such tools will not be sustainable over the long run. This report focuses on seven financially strained municipalities— Bridgeport (Baa1 stable), Hamden (Baa2 negative), Hartford (B2 stable), New Britain (Baa2 stable), New Haven (Baa1 negative), Waterbury (A2 stable) and West Haven (Baa3 negative)— and outlines the economic, revenue and expenditure challenges they face as well as the tools they use to manage budgetary pressures. The wide range of ratings reflects differences in local economic trends, debt and fixed cost burdens and current financial positions, among other factors…..

The Wired Guide to Your Personal Data (and Who Is Using It)

Source: Louise Matsakis, Wired, February 15, 2019

On the internet, the personal data users give away for free is transformed into a precious commodity. The puppy photos people upload train machines to be smarter. The questions they ask Google uncover humanity’s deepest prejudices. And their location histories tell investors which stores attract the most shoppers. Even seemingly benign activities, like staying in and watching a movie, generate mountains of information, treasure to be scooped up later by businesses of all kinds.

Personal data is often compared to oil—it powers today’s most profitable corporations, just like fossil fuels energized those of the past. But the consumers it’s extracted from often know little about how much of their information is collected, who gets to look at it, and what it’s worth. Every day, hundreds of companies you may not even know exist gather facts about you, some more intimate than others. That information may then flow to academic researchers, hackers, law enforcement, and foreign nations—as well as plenty of companies trying to sell you stuff…..

….The trade-off between the data you give and the services you get may or may not be worth it, but another breed of business amasses, analyzes, and sells your information without giving you anything at all: data brokers. These firms compile info from publicly available sources like property records, marriage licenses, and court cases. They may also gather your medical records, browsing history, social media connections, and online purchases. Depending on where you live, data brokers might even purchase your information from the Department of Motor Vehicles. Don’t have a driver’s license? Retail stores sell info to data brokers, too…..

The shutdown: Drowning government in the bathtub

Source: William E. Nelson, The Conversation, February 12, 2019

…. Shuttering the government for the third time since Trump took office remains possible, but is less likely now, given Monday’s progress towards a deal in Congressional talks over securing the border. Meanwhile, bipartisan support, including among prominent Republicans like Sens. Chuck Grassley, Lisa Murkowski, Lamar Alexander and Rob Portman, is rising for bills that would prohibit shutdowns.

The president’s observable objective in this political conflict is getting money from Congress to build the border wall.

As legal scholars who have spent much of our careers analyzing the interaction between government and society, including the economy, we believe that intentionally or not, the shutdown also was consistent with a goal long sought by a subset of the Republican Party – not to be confused with traditional, moderate Republicans – that wants to dismantle the government.

Starve the beast

These advocates of limiting government’s size have a traffic cop theory of the state, featuring a minimalist state focused on safety and security.

Many believe that government is at best superfluous and at worst a drag on a free market. It has long been their aim to cut taxes to “starve the beast.” ….