Many of Obama’s liberal allies have been disillusioned, too. When Steve Jobs last met the President, in February, 2011, he was most annoyed by Obama’s pessimism—he seemed to dismiss every idea Jobs proffered. “The president is very smart,” Jobs told his biographer, Walter Isaacson. “But he kept explaining to us reasons why things can’t get done. It infuriates me.”
Yet our political system was designed to be infuriating. As George Edwards notes in his study of Presidents as facilitators, the American system “is too complicated, power too decentralized, and interests too diverse for one person, no matter how extraordinary, to dominate.” Obama, like many Presidents, came to office talking like a director. But he ended up governing like a facilitator, which is what the most successful Presidents have always done. Even Lincoln famously admitted, “I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events controlled me.”
NY Times reports:
But Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, questioned whether there were other factors that might explain the higher graduation rate in the small schools, like fewer special education students or better attendance records for those entering the small schools, since attendance rates have been shown to be an indicator of on-time graduation.
“I’m very happy for any school that is graduating students,” Mr. Mulgrew said. “But a study that is trying to say that one particular type of school is better than the other without looking at all the relevant factors is disingenuous.”
Gordon Berlin, president of MDRC, said the lottery process ensured that there were comparable numbers of special education students and English-language learners represented in both groups of students being tracked. He said attendance records for the students prior to high school were also comparable, and would not have affected the results.
NY Times reports:
Researchers at Pennsylvania State University tracked the body mass indexes of 19,450 students from fifth through eighth grade. In fifth grade, 59 percent of the children attended a school where candy, snacks or sugar-sweetened beverages were sold. By eighth grade, 86 percent did so.
The researchers compared children’s weight in schools where junk food was sold and in schools where it was banned. The scientists also evaluated eighth graders who moved into schools that sold junk food with those who did not, and children who never attended a school that sold snacks with those who did. And they compared children who always attended schools with snacks with those who moved out of such schools.
No matter how the researchers looked at the data, they could find no correlation at all between obesity and attending a school where sweets and salty snacks were available.
The New York Times reports:
The disparity persisted even when the researchers adjusted for income, homeownership, assets and education. The evidence suggested that lawyers were disproportionately steering blacks into a process that was not as good for them financially, in part because of biases, whether conscious or unconscious.
More than adjusting for these differences, however, the researchers went a step further:
A survey conducted as part of their research found that bankruptcy lawyers were much more likely to steer black debtors into a Chapter 13 than white filers even when they had identical financial situations. The lawyers, the survey found, were also more likely to view blacks as having “good values” when they expressed a preference for Chapter 13.
Pretty often, writes Ezra Klein (citing work by political scientist Jonathan Bernstein). Moonbase, here we come?
I was reading this New York Times article “Among the Wealthiest 1 Percent, Many Variations” the other day, and came across this sentence:
The top 1 percent of earners in a given year receives just under a fifth of the country’s pretax income, about double their share 30 years ago. They pay just over a fourth of all federal taxes, according to the Tax Policy Center. In 2007, they accounted for about 30 percent of philanthropic giving, according to Federal Reserve data. They received 22 percent of their income from capital gains, compared with 2 percent for everybody else.
As far as I can tell, the Fed does not collect data on philanthropic giving. The Times unfortunately provides no specific source and does not give a link.
Does anyone know what data set the “30 percent” figure is from?
Via the TaxProf Blog, a new Congressional Research Service report tackles the question of the effects of corporate tax reform on government revenues (specifically if there is a “laffer curve”). This bit excerpted on Paul Caron’s blog caught my eye:
The analysis in this report suggests that many of the concerns expressed about the corporate tax are not supported by empirical data. Claims that behavioral responses could cause revenues to rise if rates were cut do not hold up on either a theoretical basis or an empirical basis. Studies that purport to show a revenue maximizing corporate tax rate of 30% (a rate lower than the current statutory tax rate) contain econometric errors that lead to biased and inconsistent results; when those problems are corrected the results disappear. Cross-country studies to provide direct evidence showing that the burden of the corporate tax actually falls on labor yield unreasonable results and prove to suffer from econometric flaws that also lead to a disappearance of the results when corrected, in those cases where data were obtained and the results replicated. Similarly, claims that high U.S. tax rates will create problems for the United States in a global economy suffer from a misrepresentation of the U.S. tax rate compared to other countries and are less important when capital is imperfectly mobile, as it appears to be.
Could it be that the CRS is familiar with bias and inconsistency? And lo and behold, from inside the PDF:
In their study, Brill and Hassett use panel data for the OECD countries from 1981 to 2003.30 They use regression analysis (OLS) to estimate the effects. Brill and Hassett find that the corporate tax rate has at first a positive effect on corporate tax revenues as a percentage of GDP and then a decreasing effect—the effect looks like an inverted U, the shape of the classic Laffer curve. All of their coefficient estimates are statistically significant. However, they do not account for problems often encountered with the use of panel data, and their coefficient estimates would appear to be biased and inconsistent.
Linda Greenhouse blogs at the New York Times, citing research from political scientists Gibson and Caldeira. Greenhouse’s takeaway:
In other words, the public is capable of holding two views at the same time: one, that judges don’t simply paint by numbers, but do bring their own values and views to bear and two, it is not simply the fact of discretion, but the way judges exercise it, that sustains the legitimacy of the judicial enterprise. Politicians who condescend to the public with their formulaic invocation of the myth of legality do us all, including the courts they claim to protect, a disservice.
Two big articles on economic disparities between members of Congress and their constituents appeared on December 27th, one in the New York Times and one in the Washington Post. (Not sure if there is anything behind the coincidence).
The Times article is more about how members of Congress (MC’s) have been relatively sheltered from the economic downturn. It includes a brief discussion of whether MC’s use their insider connections to benefit in the stock market, including a reference to a paper by Jens Hainmueller and Andrew Eggers:
While the housing collapse nationwide has hurt many Americans, lawmakers still find the real estate sector the most popular place to park their money, statistics from the Center of Responsive Politics show, and members of Congress continue to profit from their investments there. Perhaps the most tantalizing but hotly debated factor in the rising wealth of Congress is lawmakers’ performance in the stock markets — and the question of whether they are using their access to confidential information to enrich themselves.
In a study completed this year, Mr. Ziobrowski at Georgia State and his colleagues found that House members saw the stocks they owned outperform the market by 6 percent a year. Their research from several years ago found that senators did even better, at 12 percent above average. The researchers attributed the performance to a “significant information advantage” that lawmakers hold by virtue of their positions and the fact they are not bound by insider-trading law.
However, a separate study last year by researchers at Yale and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that the portfolios of lawmakers actually performed somewhat worse than average investors. It found that members did do better when investing in companies in their home districts or associated with campaign donors — suggesting that they benefited from their political connections — but still not as well as the average investor.
The Post article is more about the absolute level of wealth of MC’s versus their constituents, and includes a quote from Duke political scientist Nicholas Carnes:
A representative’s occupation before being elected influences how liberal or conservative he or she is in voting, according to an analysis of more than 50 years of congressional votes by Duke University professor Nick Carnes.
In order from most conservative to most liberal: farm owners; businesspeople such as bankers or insurance executives; private-sector professionals such as doctors, engineers and architects; lawyers; service-based professionals such as teachers and social workers; politicians; and blue-collar workers, according to the analysis, which is being published in Legislative Studies Quarterly.
Carnes said that while party affiliation is the strongest determinant of voting records, “the differences between legislators of different occupational backgrounds are pretty striking. People tend to bring the worldview that comes with their occupation with them into office,” he said.
The Post article has almost 5,000 comments; the Times article about 250, as of this writing.
Apropos of my earlier post, Larry Bartels has written a blog post on Bill Moyers web site (linked to on the Monkey Cage) asking whether the Occupy movement has made inequality salient in public opinion. The short answer: nope. Here’s the key table, but it’s definitely worth reading the whole post.
Of course, maybe people don’t connect their own concerns about inequality with specific policy programs. They might care about inequality more because of OWS, but not see the link to the Bush tax cuts.
In fact, this is what Bartels himself argued in his paper Homer Gets a Tax Cut, right?
Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be many questions like this asked over time, so it’s not clear how much this can be credited to the Occupy protests.