Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Fast Food, Slow to Change

AP Images/Rui Viera
The strikes of fed-up fast-food workers move westward with the sun. On Wednesday evening, fast-food employees in St. Louis, like their peers in New York and Chicago earlier this spring, staged a one-day strike to dramatize the low wages they, and millions of American workers in the restaurant and food sectors, take home. The job action is one of a series of short strikes that the Service Employees International Union, in conjunction with a range of local community groups, is helping to organize. Similar actions in other cities are slated in coming weeks. The goal of these actions is to catalyze a broader movement of workers in the sector—not with the intent of winning contracts from corporations like McDonald (that’s far beyond the labor movement’s capacity, alas), but in hopes that such a movement could spur city councils and state legislatures to enact higher minimum wages or living wage provisions for workers in specified sectors. At Tuesday’s night annual Hillman Prize...

Ringside Seat: The American People Will See!

Yet again, congressional Republicans have devoted time and energy to hitting the Obama administration over the incident in Benghazi, Libya, where a diplomat and several other State Department employees were killed in an assault by a heavily-armed group. The administration insists that this was a tragic accident, and an investigation has cleared officials of wrongdoing or serious mistakes. But Republicans continue to believe that this was mishandled, to the extent that administration officials are covering up key information. They point to inconsistent talking points from the White House—originally, the attacks were blamed on a video—and the question of security around the compound. For the last nine months, Republicans on the House Oversight Committee have tried to prove this point with constant hearings, each aimed at a different facet of the alleged cover-up. And each time, they find nothing. There’s no doubt the administration made mistakes in handling Benghazi, but there’s no...

When Bad Intentions Meet Bad Data

Numbers!
When the Heritage Foundation released that study showing immigration reform would cost American taxpayers a gajillion feptillion bazillion dollars, people were obviously going to pick it apart and reveal its flaws and tendentious assumptions, which they did. But today came something else interesting. Dylan Matthews read the dissertation written by one of the authors, Jason Richwine, in which Richwin writes that "The average IQ of immigrants in the United States is substantially lower than that of the white native population, and the difference is likely to persist over several generations." In order to deal with the problem, Richwine suggests IQ-testing everyone who wants to immigrate, and taking only the smart ones. As Matthews describes it, "Richwine's dissertation asserts that there are deep-set differentials in intelligence between races ... He writes, 'No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have...

Today in Hostage Taking

Gage Skidmore/Flickr
At some point this year, Congress will have to raise the debt ceiling, as well as deal with a host of out-standing budget issues. But rather then try to discuss them in good faith—free of a manufactured crisis—Republicans have all but announced their decision to take some kind of legislative hostage, as soon as they can find one. Here’s Lori Montogomery, reporting for The Washington Post : Democrats are urging Republicans to initiate talks well before the next deadline and at last resolve the long-standing dispute over whether to tame the debt solely by cutting spending, as Republicans demand, or also by raising taxes on the wealthy, as Obama insists….But senior Senate Republicans, including several who recently dined with Obama and huddled with administration officials, conceded that it may be tough to bring their colleagues to the table too far ahead of the debt-ceiling deadline….“We need to realize this debt ceiling is out there. It’s inevitable. It’s coming. And [the later...

Try to Find the Heritage Foundation's Anti-Immigration Study on its Spanish-Language Site

*/ You'd think, based on the media blitz promoting the conservative Heritage Foundation's recent study—which claims immigration reform will cost the country $6.3 trillion dollars—the organization would be using its full web presence to promote their work. Not so on the think tank's Spanish-language site, Heritage Libertad . Whereas the study, " The Fiscal Cost of Unlawful Immigrants and Amnesty to the U.S. Taxpayer ," is touted at the top of the Heritage Foundation's English-language website with the blazing headline "The Cost of Amnesty to You," on its Spanish-language site the report is buried well below the fold (on my browser, it's two screen-lengths deep). This may all be a coincidence, but with content like " Why Does America Welcome Immigrants? " the site gives the general impression the organization in fact supports immigration reform. "Looking at the Heritage foundation libertad webpage, they put information that gives the impression that they support immigration reform, or...

Does Terry McAuliffe Stand a Chance?

mou-ikkai/Flickr
mou-ikkai/Flickr I argued yesterday that Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli—the Virginia GOP’s right-wing nominee for governor—is likely to win the state’s gubernatorial election, for reasons of turnout. Barring a strong mobilization effort from Democrat Terry McAuliffe, there will be far fewer voters in November’s election, and the majority will Republican. If Cuccinelli can avoid serious mistakes, he’ll have an easy path to victory. If the latest poll from NBC News is any indication, this judgment may have been premature. NBC finds a tight contest in the commonwealth, with McAuliffe winning 43 percent of registered voters to Cuccinelli’s 41 percent, and 16 percent saying their undecided. McAuliffe has relatively poor name recognition, which gives him room to grow—with a strong campaign, he can overcome the built-in disadvantages of the landscape. Likewise, McAuliffe may also benefit from the GOP’s poor approval ratings in Virginia—53 percent say they have an unfavorable opinion of the...

The Return of Mark Sanford

Wikipedia
If there’s a lesson from yesterday’s special election in the first district of South Carolina—which covers most of Charleston, as well as small towns like Summerville and Goose Creek—it’s that Republican voters in the state are willing to do anything but vote for a Democrat. Elizabeth Colbert-Busch (sister of Stephen Colbert) ran a well-funded campaign to take the seat, but couldn’t prevail over disgraced former governor Mark Sanford, who won by a comfortable nine-point margin . Not that this comes as a surprise. Not only does Sanford have a long-standing relationship with the district—he held the seat for three terms before becoming governor—but it’s also a deeply conservative area which Republicans routinely win by double-digits or more. Yes, one early poll from Public Policy Polling gave Colbert-Busch a large lead over Sanford, but at every point, the most likely outcome was a win for the former governor. It’s tempting to read a broader narrative into this race, but the truth is...

Chris Christie and GOP Primary Voters, Not So Perfect Together

Flickr/Bob Jagendorf
As an aficionado of American regional resentment and distrust, not to mention someone who grew up in the Garden State, I find the question of whether Chris Christie could take his Jersey style national and win the hearts of Republican presidential primary voters to be quite interesting. Would a party whose center of gravity lies firmly in the South being willing to seriously consider not just a guy from New Jersey, but a guy who is obviously from New Jersey? Christie recently told the New York Post that he had lap-band surgery a couple of months ago, so by the time the Iowa caucuses roll around, he could look a little less like Bobby Bacala and a little more like the kind of rugged outdoorsman Republicans favor. But will that be enough? Yesterday, Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner argued that the answer is going to be no: Also, beyond any given issues, it’s questionable how Christie’s brash New Jersey style will play out beyond the Northeast. When Rudy Giuliani ran for president...

LLM: Lawyers Losing Money

AP Images/Chitose Suzuki
American University’s Washington College of Law (WCL) is in crisis. Situated in the toughest job market for lawyers in the United States, the Washington, D.C. school has fallen 11 spots in the U.S. News rankings since the class of 2013 applied. This is in part due to the release of detailed employment statistics that show the schools’ full-time, long-term legal employment rate of 39 percent ranks 5th out of 7 area law schools. A group of students have started a petition to fire Dean Claudio Grossman and a WCL theatrical troupe staged a play, “Grossman’s Eleven,” alluding to the 2001 heist movie starring George Clooney. The school is undergoing a $130 million expansion and has moderately grown its LLM program—a once rare post-graduate degree whose recent proliferation is becoming to critics a symbol of unscrupulous law school practices. American is not alone in growing its LLM program. From the early 1970s to the late 1990s, the LLM was a marginal degree aimed primarily at foreign...

Underfunded and Under Five

AP Photo/The Hawk Eye, John Lovretta
AP Photo/The Winchester Star, Jeff Taylor A s we contemplate the possibly bright future of pre-K laid out in Obama’s state of the union address this year, in which the feds work together “with states to make high-quality preschool available to every single child in America,” along comes a sobering glimpse of what public preschool looks like now. It’s not quite as rosy. Rather than charting progress toward getting all four-year-olds ready for kindergarten, the National Institute for Early Education Research’s annual survey of programs, just issued last week, shows a system in disrepair—or perhaps even retreat. Even as recognition of the benefits of preschool for four-year-olds has grown, the actual implementation of it has stalled—and, in places, lost ground. Meanwhile state funding for pre-K has gone down by more than half a billion dollars in the last year, according to NIEER. In 2012, state spending per child fell to well below what it was ten years ago. The backsliding, which can...

The House Takes Mass Incarceration to Task

Wikimedia Commons
AP Photo I n today's Washington, the formation of a bipartisan committee and/or commission is generally reason to cringe . Today, however, Congress created a bipartisan committee that could deserve optimism. The House Committee on the Judiciary Over-Criminalization Task Force will address an extremely severe problem: mass incarceration in the United States. There is very good reason for the formation of the committee. The rates of incarceration in this country are staggering . The United States imprisons more people per capita than any country in the world—not only far more than any comparable liberal democracy, but more than the world's authoritarian regimes as well. Even worse, this mass incarceration reflects and exacerbates racial and economic inequalities. As scholars such as Michelle Alexander and Becky Pettit have shown in chilling detail, mass incarceration has taken a massive toll on racial minorities. One in every 36 Hispanic men over the age of 18—and one in 15 African-...

Ringside Seat: Sanford v. Colbert Busch

Down in South Carolina, one of the more ridiculous special elections in recent history is wrapping up today. That the race in the extremely conservative 1 st district is close at all can be attributed partly to the reflected fame of Democratic candidate Elizabeth Colbert Busch, who happens to be Stephen Colbert's sister, partly to the fact that she massively outraised him thanks to generous donation drops from D.C., but mostly to the fact that when approximately 275 Republicans ran in the primary (OK, it was only 16, but still), Mark Sanford—whose first name was officially changed to "Disgraced former governor" due to that one time he abandoned his official duties and his family to go "hike the Appalachian Trail," a.k.a. "run off to Argentina to see his mistress"—came out on top. There's nothing conservatives love more than a redemption story, and Sanford's chutzpah in making a political comeback may pay off, as late polls had him pulling even with Busch. To be realistic, there are...

The Future of White People

honeyfitz/Flickr
honeyfitz/Flickr Writing for Reuters , Reihan Salam has an excellent take on the evolution of Hispanic identity. He doesn’t try to relate this with the current push for immigration reform, but it’s useful to consider in the broader context of American politics. Here’s the key passage: The Census Bureau relies on individuals to self-identify with a given ethnic category. We now know, however, that many individuals who could identify as Hispanic, by virtue of a parent or grandparent born in a Spanish-speaking country, choose not to do so. In recent years, Brian Duncan, an economist at the University of Colorado Denver, and Stephen Trejo, an economist at the University of Texas at Austin, have been studying this “ethnic attrition rate” among U.S. immigrants and their descendants. And their findings suggest that while a given generation of Americans might identify as Hispanic, there is a decent chance that their children will not. This squares with what I found last year, in my piece for...

Did the Obama Campaign Matter?

KCIvey/Flickr
President Obama’s 2012 reelection victory was immediately followed by reporting and analysis on his turnout operation, which surpassed 2008’s in scope and scale. The Obama campaign devoted millions to sophisticated polling, modeling, and data collection. It was able to pinpoint particular demographic groups, and target them with mail, advertisements, volunteers and everything else in their arsenal. The general assumption from everyone—including myself—was that this operation was integral to Obama’s success. Or was it? At The Monkey Cage , political scientists Ryan Enos and Anthony Fowler find that Obama’s voter mobilization effort—while more sophisticated than any other operation in election history—was only slightly more effective than Mitt Romney’s. Here are the details: While registered Democrats and Republicans in these media markets (7.5 million and 7.0 million individuals, respectively) were heavily targeted by the Obama and Romney campaigns, others may not have been. Among...

What We Talk about When We Talk about Immigration

From the Heritage Foundation web site.
If you've read or heard anything about immigration today, it probably had to do with a just-released Heritage Foundation report claiming that immigration reform will cost America eleventy bazillion dollars, or as the enormous headline on their web site screams, "The COST of Amnesty TO YOU." If you're interested in a point-by-point analysis of why the assumptions and omissions in the report skew things so absurdly, you can read Dylan Matthews or Alex Nowrasteh , but you have to hand it to Heritage: despite the questionable quality of the work and its obvious intent to scuttle immigration reform, they've gotten a tremendous amount of attention for it. That's partly a result of good timing (nobody else had attempted to put a dollar figure on reform, so they were the first), and partly due to what I'm sure is a large and skilled communication staff. The way these things work is that your policy people write the report, then your communication people work the phones and email to get...

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