Category Archives: Politics

US State Policies, Politics, and Life Expectancy

Source: Jennifer Karas Montez, Jason Beckfield, Julene Kemp Cooney, Jacob M. Grumbach, Mark D. Hayward, Huseyin Zeyd Koytak, Steven H. Woolf, Anna Zajacova, Milbank Quarterly, Vol 98, September 2020

Policy points:

  • Changes in US state policies since the 1970s, particularly after 2010, have played an important role in the stagnation and recent decline in US life expectancy.
  • Some US state policies appear to be key levers for improving life expectancy, such as policies on tobacco, labor, immigration, civil rights, and the environment.
  • US life expectancy is estimated to be 2.8 years longer among women and 2.1 years longer among men if all US states enjoyed the health advantages of states with more liberal policies, which would put US life expectancy on par with other high-income countries.

Related:

Are Conservative Policies Shortening American Lives?
Source: Lola Butcher, Undark, February 1, 2021

Americans have shorter lives than international peers. Some researchers now say conservative policies may be to blame.

Symposium on the upcoming argument in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee

Source: SCOTUSblog, February 2021

Articles include:
Supreme Court needs to set clear standards for vote-denial claims
By Ilya Shapiro and Stacy Hanson, SCOTUSblog, February 19, 2021

….After the contentious election we just had, this case presents an opportunity to make future elections cleaner and less litigious, with results that inspire greater public confidence. Those salutary outcomes turn not on whether the court upholds the two specific electoral regulations at issue, in Arizona or elsewhere, but on whether it provides a clear framework by which lower courts are to evaluate VRA Section 2 claims….

Voting discrimination is getting worse, not better
By LaShawn Warren, SCOTUSblog, February 18, 2021

Six weeks after the close of an election cycle marred by Republican efforts to exclude Black and Brown voters, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in a significant voting rights case. For generations, the court has recognized that the heart of America’s vibrant democracy is the right to vote free from discrimination. In Brnovich v. DNC, the court must once more affirm that there is no place for racism in our elections by striking down Arizona’s racially discriminatory voting laws.

Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act: Equal opportunity vs. disparate impact
By Christopher Kieser, SCOTUSblog, February 17, 2021

In the aftermath of the chaos that was the 2020 election-related litigation, it is easy to forget that the Supreme Court is now set to decide the most consequential election law dispute in nearly a decade. At issue in Brnovich v. DNC and Arizona Republican Party v. DNC is nothing less than the future of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, the nationwide prohibition of any election regulation that “results in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.” The court will likely resolve a significant circuit split over whether a disparate racial effect alone renders unlawful an otherwise legitimate state election regulation. In doing so, the court will set the boundaries for future state election laws, and it may even comment on the continuing vitality of disparate-impact liability.

Disenfranchisement: An American Tradition

Source: Julilly Kohler-Hausmann, Dissent, Winter 2021

Invoking the specter of voter fraud to undermine democratic participation is a tactic as old as the United States itself. …. Fair elections require clear regulations and standards, but bureaucratic hurdles inevitably depress participation by disadvantaged groups. And they have often been deliberately constructed—as an appeals court found in 2016—to “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” ….

Related:
Dozens of states see new voter suppression proposals
Source: Russell Contreras, Stef W. Kight, Axios, February 10, 2021

There are at least 165 proposals under consideration in 33 states so far this year to restrict future voting access by limiting mail-in ballots, implementing new voter ID requirements and slashing registration options.

The Economic Consequences of Major Tax Cuts for the Rich

Source: David Hope, Julian Limberg, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), Working Paper 55, December 2020

This paper uses data from 18 OECD countries over the last five decades to estimate the causal effect of major tax cuts for the rich on income inequality, economic growth, and unemployment. First, we use a new encompassing measure of taxes on the rich to identify instances of major reductions in tax progressivity. Then, we look at the causal effect of these
episodes on economic outcomes by applying a nonparametric generalization of the difference-in-differences indicator that implements Mahalanobis matching in panel data analysis. We find that major reforms reducing taxes on the rich lead to higher income inequality as measured by the top 1% share of pre-tax national income. The effect remains stable in the medium term. In contrast, such reforms do not have any significant effect on economic growth and unemployment.

Related:
Fifty Years of Tax Cuts for Rich Didn’t Trickle Down, Study Says
Source: Craig Stirling, Bloomberg, December 15, 2020

Political Openings: Class Struggle During and After the Pandemic

Source: Sam Gindin, NEW SOLUTIONS: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy, OnlineFirst, Published December 3, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Capitalism’s sustained failures to address popular needs, hopes, and fears have led to a delegitimation of state institutions and mainstream political parties. The crisis is consequently not primarily economic but social and political. The pandemic further exposed capitalism’s social irrationalities, intimated how unprepared we were for the much larger environmental pandemic to come, and generated a new level of empathy for the value of frontline workers and the workplace health risks they are exposed to. Building on these openings requires identifying a few key demands around which to unify fragmented social movements; acquiring new understandings; placing larger issues of property rights and democracy on the agenda; and creating workplace, local, and national organizations with the capacity to realize substantive change. The strategic demands the article suggests and elaborates are an emergency wealth tax, conversion of industrial capacity for environmental reconstruction, and the strengthening of unions as a social force.

Panic in the Streets—Pandemic and Protests: A Manifestation of a Failure to Achieve Democratic Ideals

Source: Adrienne Katner, Kari Brisolara, Philip Katner, Andrew Jacoby, Peggy Honore, NEW SOLUTIONS: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy, Volume 30 Issue 3, November 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
America is at a critical crossroads in history as the COVID-19 pandemic expands. We argue that the failure to respond effectively to the pandemic stems from the nation’s protracted divergence from the democratic ideals, we purport to value. Structural racism and class-based political and economic inequity are sustained through the failings of the nation’s democratic institutions and processes. The situation has, in turn, fostered further inequity and undermined science, facts, and evidence in the name of economic and political interests, which in turn has encouraged the spread of the pandemic, exacerbated health disparities, and escalated citizen tensions. We present a broad vision of reforms needed to achieve democratic ideals which we believe is the most important first step to achieving true political representation, achieving a resilient and sustainable economy, and fostering the health of vulnerable communities, workers, and the planet.

National data release sheds light on past polling place changes

Source: Carrie Levine, Pratheek Rebala, Matt Vasilogambros, Center for Public Integrity and Stateline, September 29, 2020

The first installment of a new national data release that will help journalists and researchers analyze polling place accessibility was released Tuesday as part of an investigative series, Barriers to the Ballot Box, from The Center for Public Integrity and Stateline. The data, posted to Github, includes polling place locations and addresses for 30 states for the 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018 general elections, and is aimed at aiding reporting and research on the impact that polling place closures and changes could have on the 2020 election. Data for additional states will be added in the coming weeks.

Polling place reductions and changes can lower turnout by creating confusion and barriers for voters, potentially disenfranchising them. There is no national public dataset of polling place locations and addresses for past federal elections.

…The polling place location information, now in a usable data format, standardized and available to the public, can be used to track the movement and consolidation of polling places. Combined with other data, such as voter file data, it can shed new light on which voters were affected by the changes. …

…U.S. elections are administered by thousands of separate jurisdictions. Every state has different laws and deadlines governing voting, which can include unique requirements for polling places. Local authorities typically choose them based on a variety of factors.

Public Integrity and Stateline filed and tracked roughly 1,200 records requests to assemble the polling place location data.

In 12 states — Alabama, California, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming — data had to be obtained county by county for at least one of those elections….

What Is ALEC? Learn About the Organization Writing Your State Laws

Source: Sophie Hayssen, Teen Vogue, September 25, 2020

The American Legislative Exchange Commission writes “model legislation” that detractors say “sustains corporate power.”

….ALEC has existed for decades, but spent most of its life in the shadows, cultivating a reputation as a conservative organizational powerhouse. On its website, ALEC describes itself as a “nonpartisan” organization “of state legislators dedicated to the principles of limited government, free markets, and federalism.” Though that description may appear staid at first glance, its detractors argue that ALEC is central to some of the most profound shifts in American politics over the last several decades. Groups like Dream Defenders and the Center for Constitutional Rights, have accused it of resembling a “shadow-state apparatus” and promoting “legislation that sustains corporate power.”

Here’s what you need to know about the controversial organization…..

Why Public Sector Union Members Support Their Unions: Survey and Experimental Evidence

Source: Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Ethan Porter, Social Forces, Advance Articles, Published September 7, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Despite their decline, unions, and especially public sector unions, remain important civic and economic associations. Yet, we lack an understanding of why public sector union members voluntarily support unions. We report on a field experiment conducted during a 2017 Iowa teachers union recertification election. We randomly assigned union members to receive emails describing union benefits and measured effects on turnout effort (N = 10,461). Members were more likely to try to vote when reminded of the unions’ professional benefits and community—but not legal protections or political representation. A follow-up survey identified the specific aspects of professional identity and benefits that members most valued and why. In a context where union membership and support is voluntary among professionalized workers, our findings emphasize the possibility of training for fostering shared identities and encouraging support for public sector unions. Our results have broader implications for understanding the public sector labor movement in a context of legal retrenchment.

Black Women Best: The Framework We Need for an Equitable Economy

Source: Kendra Bozarth, Grace Western, and Janelle Jones, Roosevelt Institute, Issue Brief, September 2020

From the summary:
This brief explains how centering Black women in US politics and policymaking in the short and long term will bolster immediate recovery efforts, build durable and equitable institutions, and strengthen collective prosperity.