The Monkey Cage

We are professors of political science.

Post-Election Report: Argentina

In our continuing series of election reports , we welcome political scientists Natalia C. Del Cogliano and Mariana L. Prats with the following post-election report on last week’s Argentinian elections: ******* The fact that this report could largely have been written two months ago right after primaries were held is a reality we cannot avoid. Is uncertainty in results a necessary condition for elections in a democratic context? It seems not. Besides the unhappy claims of the opposition saying that there has been fraud in the primary elections , the final results provided by the National Judicial Power rejected such a possibility. And the citizens of Argentina reconfirmed it on Sunday, October 23. In August, the primaries resulted in a difference of 8.150.000 votes (38.04%) between current President (Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Frente para la Victoria) and the runner-up candidate Ricardo Alfonsín (Unión Cívica Radical/Unión para el Desarrollo Social) a difference that was not easy...

Redistributing Upwards

Most people think of social welfare policies as ones that aim to help people with low or moderate incomes, but the largest entitlements in what I call the Submerged State conglomeration of policies channeled through the tax code and subsidies to private organizations—benefit especially high income households. The three submerged policies that are most costly to the United States are the tax subsidies for employer-provided health and retirement benefits and the home mortgage interest deduction. Each of these three policies favors more affluent Americans, as seen in the figure below. In 2004, families with incomes of $100,000 or above—the top 15 percent of the income distribution—claimed 69 percent of the benefits of the home mortgage interest deduction, and 55 and 30 percent of the tax benefits associated with employer-provided retirement benefits and health benefits, respectively. On the rare occasions when policymakers discuss these policies, they usually imply that they help middle...

Gauging the Influence of Public Interest Groups

A Monkey Cage reader and long-time affiliate of Washington public interest groups asks: Do public interest groups influence policy decisions? For an answer, I asked two political scientists who study interest groups: Dara Strolovich , the author of Affirmative Advocacy , and Matt Grossmann , the author of the forthcoming Not So Special Interests . Here is their post: Categorizing groups as representing the “public interest” is tricky. Even among groups typically considered “public interest groups,” a few relatively large and well-established organizations account for the bulk of opportunities for influence , such as media appearances and committee testimony. And these groups may only represent the interests of their most advantaged constituencies, ignoring the issue concerns of disadvantaged subgroups of their constituencies. “Public interest groups,” in other words, represent small portions of the public. The answer to the reader’s question depends even more on our standard for...

When Can You Trust Polling about Ballot Measures?

In just over a week, Ohio voters will decide on Issue 2, a referendum on whether to keep a recently enacted law which “ limits collective bargaining for public employees in the state .” Recent polls show decidedly more public opposition to this law than support for it, with a 57-32 pro-repeal split in a Quinnipiac poll and a similar 56-36 split in a PPP poll . But as Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent reports , labor groups opposing the law are circulating a once-internal memo questioning just how predictive those polls will turn out to be. The memo points out that the surveys do not include the actual language that will appear on the ballot, that turnout levels in off-year elections are uncertain, and that polling on prior Ohio ballot measures has been inaccurate. The accuracy of telephone surveys on ballot measures is an empirical question, and one that is of interest well beyond Ohio’s Issue 2, so let’s look at the data. Between 2003 and 2010, we can track down 438 publicly...

How Important is Turkey’s Support of the Free Syrian Army?

This week, the New York Times reported that Turkey has begun to actively support the Syrian Free Army by providing shelter in a camp guarded by the Turkish military. From the Times : Turkey is hosting an armed opposition group waging an insurgency against the government of President Bashar al-Assad , providing shelter to the commander and dozens of members of the group, the Free Syrian Army, and allowing them to orchestrate attacks across the border from inside a camp guarded by the Turkish military. Two questions immediately emerge: 1) How will the provision of sanctuary affect the rebels’ chances of defeating Assad; and 2). What are the long-term regional consequences of providing sanctuary to a rebel organization? The answer to both questions: rebel group sanctuary can be a game-changer. Regarding the first question, a number of scholars have previously found that external sanctuary is associated with insurgent success. Jeffrey Record, for instance, reviewed a number of...

Seif Gadhafi and the International Criminal Court

Monkey Cage readers Emily Ritter of the University of Alabama and Scott Wolford of the University of Texas-Austin send along the following: News emerged yesterday that Seif al-Islam Gadhafi has been in “indirect” contact with the International Criminal Court over the terms of a possible surrender , seeking a guarantee that he wouldn’t be sent back to Libya in the event he’s found innocent. With no independent force to arrest suspects, the ICC relies primarily on others to arrest suspects and hand them over to the court for trial—-an inefficient process at best and one that often leaves suspects at large , presumably continuing their pattern of crimes against humanity. In a paper forthcoming at the Journal of Theoretical Politics , we argue that an international criminal tribunal like the ICC could improve its ability to bring suspects to trial if it were to bargain with suspects directly rather than waiting for their capture. Though both parties—-the ICC Prosecutor and a Gadhafi...

Sigh. Drew Westen. Again.

The New York Times devotes additional column inches to the opinions of Drew Westen. Last time, that didn’t work out so well . How about this time? Westen: Because of their attitude toward authority and hierarchy, Republicans in Congress are more likely to follow their leaders… Democrats on the other hand react so strongly against taking “marching orders” that they can scarcely stay on message even if their political lives depend on it (which they often do). Fact: Democrats in Congress are as unified if not more unified than Republicans in Congress. See here or here . Westen: …the most popular political figure or institution in the country remains “none of the above.” Westen again: If the American people aren’t drinking the Kool-Aid from either side of the aisle, it’s probably because they don’t trust the water from either well. Fact: When Obama is pitted against a generic Republican candidate or any of the current Republican candidates, only a handful of people, perhaps 10% at best,...

Potpourri: Money and Men Edition

The sentence that spawned super-PACs. Super-PACs and the shadow party system. But see Jon Bernstein . Too many men destabilize the world . [Hat tip to Daniel Lippman] Blame testosterone . [Hat tip to Dot Smith]

Free Trade II: Free Trade and Intellectual Property

On the more particular topic of free trade agreements, Matthew Yglesias posts today on how US free trade agreements aren’t so much about free trade any more. The trade deal was supposed to be a political vehicle for overcoming special interest politics, but it’s really just become another venue for interest group politics. … The pharmaceutical industry has a lot of clout in the U.S., because we’re a major pharma producer. Most foreign countries aren’t like that, so they’re only willing to pay relatively low amounts for drugs. Since the marginal cost of producing pills is low, drug companies generally agree to sell at these low prices. But now pharma can leverage its political clout into the United States into turning the USTR ’s office into an extension of its lobbying operations. One can actually go further than this. There is a very strong case to be made that US trade policy made the intellectual property lobby (of which pharma is a constituent player) just as much as the...

Free Trade I: Does Free Trade Help Workers’ Rights?

Layna Mosley, at UNC , argues yes in today’s New York Times. Research I conducted over the last several years with the political scientists Brian Greenhill and Aseem Prakash suggests that trade with developed nations helps developing countries expand labor rights themselves. Why? International trade gives producers incentives to meet the standards of their export markets. When developing nations export more to countries with better labor standards, their labor rights laws and practices tend to improve. Our findings, which are based on newly collected measures of labor rights around the world, demonstrate a “California effect” on workers’ rights, in which exporting nations are influenced by the labor rights conditions that prevail in their main trading partners. … Our research demonstrates that when a developing country with low labor standards trades with higher-standards countries like the United States and those in Europe, it comes under influences from the market itself that...

The World’s Most Bizarre Political Ads

Hermain Cain’s somewhat unusual ads have inspired some to come up with all-time lists of bizarre political ads from the U.S. . I wonder if we could use the collective wisdom of Monkey Cagers to find some of the most bizarre political ads across the globe. I accept nominations in the comments and via e-mail. I nominate this ad from Rita Verdonk ’s Trots op Nederland (Proud of the Netherlands). She was a cabinet minister and leader of what once was a prominent opposition party, until voters forced her into retirement. The ad is horrific on so many levels that it is hard to do justice in words. Watch and weep.

Baseball World Champions

I just wanted to clarify Josh’s post on the baseball “world series” for our non-American audience. Josh was not writing about the improbable run that the Dutch national honkbal team made last week to defeat Cuba, the US, and others to become the first European world champion in baseball since 1938. No, Josh was referring to the improbable win by the team from St. Louis from the state Missouri in the North American baseball championships. See, we’re always helpful this way at the Monkey Cage. Go honkballers!

This Week in Political Science

RETIREMENT . This week the New York Times reported that Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), who caucuses with the Democrats, has been speaking with previous contender Linda McMahon, a Republican campaigning for her party’s nomination for Lieberman’s seat, drawing the ire of many establishment Democrats. Lieberman’s retirement and that of other members of Congress this year raises this question: how does the replacement of incumbents (and particularly moderates) by new members affect the polarization of the parties in Congress? University of Texas political scientist Sean Theriault finds ( ungated ) that the replacement of moderates by more ideologically extreme members has driven polarization: As southern Democrats, the bulk of whom were in the middle third of the ideological continuum, died, lost, retired or otherwise vacated their seat, they have been, for the most part, replaced by conservative Republicans. Quite simply, when extremists replaced moderates, the ideological middle disappeared...

The Supercommittee and Secrecy: A Good Thing?

With the Supercommittee back in the news (see here and here , for example) after weeks of secrecy, it seems a good time to ask the question of whether all this secrecy is good for policy making. After all, it seems antithetical to traditional notions of openness and transparency in government, things we often seek to encourage in other countries . Political scientist Jordan Tama , however, makes the opposite argument. Writing in the NY Times last week , Tama argues that: Greater openness by the panel, officially known as the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, would actually be harmful to the public interest. Private meetings are essential to give the committee’s six Republicans and six Democrats the freedom to step away from party orthodoxies, conduct serious negotiations and search for common ground, rather than engage in political posturing…. History reveals the importance of extensive private talks for members of a bipartisan group to get to know one another and pursue...

Special World Series Edition of Graphiti: Win Probabilities from Game 6

In the “picture is worth a thousand words” department, the following graph shows the probability that each team will win at each moment of the game: Of course, this picture is pretty good too: Source for win probabilities (and more explanation available at): Fangraphs . H/t for the photo to Grantland .

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