Roy Ulrich

Roy Ulrich is a lecturer at the Goldman School of Public Policy at U.C. Berkeley and a policy analyst at Demos.

Recent Articles

Why Is the IRS Auditing the Poor More Than the Rich?

EITC recipients get scrutinized, while the offshore accounts of corporations and the wealthy generally don’t. 

Just in case you didn’t have a clue who Donald Trump’s friends are, a peek into the recent enforcement actions and inactions of the Internal Revenue Service will offer some guidance on this matter. Budget cuts have crippled the IRS over the past eight years. While the number of tax returns filed each year has grown by 12 percent in the past decade, the number of agents able to conduct face-to-face audits of taxpayer returns has fallen by 25 percent, from 16,000 to 12,000. Moreover, according to data collected and analyzed by a tax watchdog group at Syracuse University, the targets of these audits tend not to be large corporations and the wealthy but the proverbial “little guy.” In particular, the IRS has been beefing up its audits of Americans who claim the earned-income tax credit (EITC), which supplements the salaries of low-income workers. (To be eligible for this program, household income can’t exceed $35,000.) No doubt, the Administration is...

Dump the Electoral College!

Even though recent Democratic presidential candidates do pretty well with it.

M. E. J. Newman/University of Michigan/Creative Commons
For many years, progressives and the Democratic left have been clamoring for a constitutional amendment that would replace the antiquated Electoral College with a popular vote for president. Their argument is simple and persuasive—chiefly, that the institution is undemocratic and, as the 2000 election made clear, not necessarily a reflection of the popular vote. Ironically, Democrats are making this argument at a time when their presidential candidates have fared well in the Electoral College in recent contests. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have voted for a Democrat in the last six presidential contests. These account for 242 of the 270 electoral votes needed to capture the presidency. In contrast, the 13 states that voted Republican in the last six presidential election cycles have just 102 electoral votes. This year, if Hillary Clinton happens to capture Florida’s 29 electoral votes and the 19 states (plus D.C.) that Democrats have had in the bank since...

The Subversion of Direct Democracy

(Flickr/Neon Tommy)
A few months ago, I attended a large political gathering. There, a gentleman was handing out flyers which read, “Abolish the Congress and replace it with direct citizen voting by phone or television.” A few days later, a newly-arrived transplant to Southern California wrote a letter to the Los Angeles Times . He said he was mystified by California’s method of writing and enacting laws by ballot initiative. He wondered what happened to the concept of laws being written by elected legislators. The flyer and the letter represent polar opposite views about direct versus representative democracy. The major complaint I hear about the initiative process is that it is dominated by those very interests it was originally designed to overcome. For one thing, proponents write initiatives as a wish list. Unlike the legislative process, which involves hearings, debates, and compromise, drafters of initiatives often write extreme measures representing their own agenda in the hopes...