Tag Archives: Republicans

Big Government NOT Linked to Greater Corruption

You hear it all the time: “Big government is the problem.” “We need to reduce the size of the government if we want to eliminate corruption.” As it turns out, just because the government grows in size doesn’t mean that corruption will grow along with it.

From a journal article published last year [Emphasis added]:

This study’s findings suggest that anticorruption policy is regularly hindered by oversimplistic analyses suggesting that “government size” must be synonymous with “corruption,” and that by cutting its government a country is concomitantly reducing the opportunities for the abuse of public office. In contrast with such analyses, this study found no evidence that government size is directly associated with corruption. In fact, the findings presented here indicate that generally the reverse is true. Government size is inversely linked to the level of corruption across nations.

You read that right — the size of the government is inversely linked to the level of corruption across nations. Meaning, as the size of the government grows, the level of corruption seems to go down.

If you had to guess, what would you say would be the most effective way to reduce corruption? There’s a strong hint in the title of the journal article. From the article [Emphasis Added]:

This study’s analysis suggests that an increase in nonprofit sector size should have the greatest anticorruption effect.

This study was done on a global-scale. Here’s a list of some of the countries that were included (there were 50 in all): Argentina, Canada, Denmark, India, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Sweden, and South Korea. The study also looked at corruption at the national level.

Maybe this is a good time to clarify that one can’t actually measure corruption as it happens because by definition, corruption happens in secret. In order to get around this, proxies like “Black Market” activity are used. In this study, the researchers relied on the “Corruption Perception Index.”

~

Even with studies like this being published, I worry that folks hellbent on “drowning government in the bathtub” will continue to use corruption in the opening salvo. And when pressed to face the facts of studies like this, they’ll explain it away as not being “relevant” to the US. So, I’d really like to see a study that specifically looks at government corruption in the US. Again, I realize the limitations of taking on a research question like this, but I think it would be interesting to look at the level of corruption in local and state governments. In fact, I’m sure there’d be differences in the level of corruption when moving from state to state, but I wonder if the difference in corruption would be negligible or if we might find something substantial. More than that, I’d be interested to see if government corruption is more strongly linked to one party or the other.

ResearchBlogging.orgThemudo, N. (2014). Government Size, Nonprofit Sector Strength, and Corruption: A Cross-National Examination The American Review of Public Administration, 44 (3), 309-323 DOI: 10.1177/0275074012465791

Journalism, Republicans, and the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

I saw a post yesterday from Chris “The Fix” Cillizza that made me instantly think of the self-fulfilling prophecy. I didn’t include this as part of my series on biases in judgment and decision-making, but it’s certainly something to keep in mind. The post from The Fix was titled: “Just 7 percent of journalists are Republicans. That’s far fewer than even a decade ago.” At first, I thought that number seemed kind of low, but after reading through the post (and the primary source), it makes sense — there are less Republican journalists because of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Let me explain.

A self-fulfilling prophecy is exactly what it sounds like — a prediction that (in)directly causes that prediction to come true. For instance, if you say that you’re going to fail your finals over and over again, and then you fail your finals, that could be said to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. So, how have I concluded the results of this survey to be a self-fulfilling prophecy? “Mainstream media.”

This phrase — mainstream media — is often said in a pejorative manner by Republicans and conservatives who accuse news outlets of having a liberal bias. According to Wikipedia, the use of this term grew in the 1990s. So, if you had a desire to be a journalist and were coming-of-age when journalists were being grouped in with the “lamestream media,” do you think that this is a a career you’d want to pursue? If you did, there’d certainly be an element of cognitive dissonance to your choice. My guess is that you probably wouldn’t make that choice and that you’d steer clear of journalism as your profession. Or, if you did pursue journalism, you’d probably go into thinking of yourself as an Independent. Not surprisingly, as you can see from the graphic below, the number of journalists who identified as Independents in the 2013 increased more than 50%!

Screen Shot 2014-05-06 at 11.29.07 PM

While this hypothesis might be difficult to (dis)prove, it’s certainly interesting to think about the ramifications of how the things we’re talking about today can and will affect the lives of those to come.

Listen — Let It Swirl Around Your Head, Then Form Your Opinion

In the past two weeks, I’ve seen a lot of people make a lot of different arguments about why they support/oppose intervening in Syria. Of all the arguments I’ve heard, the ones that irritate me the most: “I’m a Democrat/liberal and Pres. Obama thinks we should go to Syria, so I think we have to intervene.” OR “I’m a Republican/conservative and we can’t give Pres. Obama what he wants, so we shouldn’t intervene.” Both of these arguments (and the many derivatives thereof) are quite frankly, awful. They’re just awful.

Basing your opinion on a label like Democrat or a label like Republican is so near-sighted. A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about labels for political ideologies and parties. In that post, I linked to a video from Chris Rock talking about political ideologies and parties. The video has since been taken down, but I did find a few other versions of it (here, here, and here). My purpose in sharing this clip is not because I want you to change your mind and support intervening or change your mind and not support intervening, no. It’s because I want you to make up your mind for yourself.

As I said a few days ago, it’s difficult to know when being in the minority is the right thing to do. It’s even harder to know if that’s right when you’re blindly following the opinion of someone else. So, take a minute (that’s the length of the clip!) and watch Chris Rock.

Warning: NSFW language!

Note: The title of this post is a line from the video.

Massive Miscalculation by GOP Chairman Reince Priebus: No Debates with CNN or NBC

Earlier today, I saw a series of tweets from the GOP Chairman, Reince Priebus:

At first blush, it seems like nothing more than some kind of a stunt to draw attention to the matter. It’s also a great way for the Chairman to do some interviews and bad-mouth CNN/NBC. As I thought about it a bit more, it seems like this can’t end well for the Chairman:

It wouldn’t surprise anyone that there are more Democrats who watch MSNBC and more Republicans who watch Fox News, but what about the people who watch CNN? Well, as it happens, this is home to the political Independents of the electorate. According to TiVo data (actually quite sophisticated):

CNN, which has branded itself as the cable news network without a partisan skew, has apparently made the sale among independent voters. The network’s biggest skew was among independents, 17 percent above the national average with that group.

So, the majority of Independents that watch TV get their news from CNN. Let’s play out this scenario for the GOP. Assume that CNN/NBC decide not to pull their “Hillary Programming,” then the GOP has two options:

1. They’re forced into reneging on their initial stance of no primary debates for CNN/NBC.

2. Or, Like they said, having no debates with those networks. I suppose there might be some unforeseen third option, but at this point, this is what it looks like.

If they pull they’re debates with CNN/NBC, they’ll be losing out on the largest concentration of Independents. For a party that’s currently not in power that wants to be in power, in what will be an “up for grabs” election with President Barack Obama joining the list of Presidents who’ve served two terms, it seems ludicrous that they’d want to remove “free media” of their candidates to Independents.

So, this would force them into reneging on their stance of not having any debates with CNN/NBC, right? Except that this may make them look weak with their base of voters, which usually wouldn’t matter. However, “Republicans like elected officials who stick to their positions.” From my vantage point, this ultimatum has backed the GOP into a corner for which there is no escape.

~

Revisiting that third option… it may just be that no one cares about any of this when the 2014 midterms roll around or the 2016 general election.

Is It Time to Pay Politicians More?

A few months ago, I saw this very argument made in Slate. At first, I’m sure you’re doing a double-take? Why would we pay them more? They are hardly doing the job that we elected them to do in the first place. Why would we reward failure, stagnation, and an inability to get stuff done? That’s absurd!

All natural reactions, yes, but when you take a second to think about it, the idea isn’t that bat-crap crazy. For instance, consider the Governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell. Josh Barro over at Business Insider makes the case that the Governor is underpaid. Why? Well, look to the incentives! The Governor of Virginia has a salary of $175,000, which is in the 90th percentile for Governors in the USA. That’s certainly a lot of money — almost triple the median income in Virginia. So, again, you may be thinking, why would we pay them more?

Well, consider the kinds of people that the Governor interacts with on a daily basis. Plutocrats. Governor McDonnell, on a daily basis, interacts with people who have income/wealth that far exceed the Governor’s “measly” $175,000 salary. You may be thinking, why is this a problem if the Governor got into politics for purely altruistic reasons?

Even if the Governor did do such a thing, research tells us that unethical behavior has to do with the kind of person you are and more to do with the situations you find yourself in. For instance, you may be the most ethical person in the world, but if you happen to find yourself in a bind financially and a whole host of other variables are weighing on you, there’s probably a situation that you may find yourself in where overlooking a conflict of interest may seem like an okay thing to do.

That’s the argument for increasing the salaries of politicians — to remove the incentive to be unethical. Of course, there’s still likely to be unethical behavior conducted regardless of what the salaries are raised to, but it may eliminate some of it. How much, I don’t know. What would be a fair salary?

The article in Slate discussed Sinagpore, which is known for being one of the most efficient governments in the world. He explained that in Singapore, the Prime Minister earns more than four times the salary of President Barack Obama and the President gets $400,000 a year! Government Ministers (akin to cabinet Secretaries), earn over $1 million a year. The highest paid cabinet Secretary (Secretary of the Treasury) gets approximately $190,000. So, government Ministers earn more than 5 times as much as their American counterparts.

I’m not advocating this particular raise, but I think it’s a conversation worth having.

I suppose the other option would be to remove the influential plutocrats from the equation. Although, I don’t know that with the American political system arranged in the way that it is, if that’d be constitutional. Larry Lessig, someone who’s been working tirelessly on the option of getting money out of politics was asked what a question about salaries for Congress. I’ll leave you with the question and his answer:

Question: You advocate in your book that congressmen should be paid much more than what they are right now (about $175,000/year). How much do you think they should be paid to make them lose the incentive to become a lobbyist? Does 250-300k sound better?

Lessig: Oh please don’t out me on this. Ok, but DON’T TELL ANYONE I SAID THIS: They are lawmakers. Why aren’t they paid as much as a first year partner at a DC firm? In Singapore, gov’t ministers get paid $1 million a year. Where is corruption in Singapore. NO-where.

Political Implications of the SCOTUS Decision on the Voting Rights Act

More than a week ago, the Supreme Court of the United States rendered a decision on a case that had implications for the Voting Rights Act (VRA). The Court ruled that the formula from Section 4 of the VRA was unconstitutional. The decision has certainly enraged liberals and the political left as is clear in Justice Ginsburg‘s dissent:

[T]he Court’s opinion can hardly be described as an exemplar of restrained and moderate decision making. Quite the opposite. Hubris is a fit word for today’s demolition of the VRA.

Because of this outrage, I’ve seen some people argue that this decision was good for liberals/democrats because it will ignite those potentially disenfranchised people to vote. From Ross Douthat:

Well, to begin with, voter identification laws do not belong to the same moral or legal universe as Jim Crow. Their public purpose, as a curb to fraud, is potentially legitimate rather than nakedly discriminatory, and their effects are relatively limited. As Roberts’s majority opinion noted, the voter registration gap between whites and blacks in George Wallace’s segregationist Alabama was 50 percentage points.

… But voter ID laws don’t take effect in a vacuum: as they’re debated, passed and contested in court, they shape voter preferences and influence voter enthusiasm in ways that might well outstrip their direct influence on turnout. They inspire registration drives and education efforts; they help activists fund-raise and organize; they raise the specter of past injustices; they reinforce a narrative that their architects are indifferent or hostile to minorities.

W.W. from The Economist finds Douthat’s analysis “quite plausible.” Both articles referenced the same information I talked about yesterday: the missing white voter.

I don’t know that I necessarily agree with this assessment.

In Wisconsin a couple of years ago, citizens were pretty excited about recalling Governor Scott Walker. Some folks were really upset by Gov. Walker’s actions on collective bargaining. Democrats, Gov. Walker is a Republican, thought that they could seize this opportunity to recall the Governor. There were over 1 million signatures to recall the Governor. It seemed like there was lots of momentum and people engaged in the recall. However, during the recall election of 2012, Gov. Walker won more of the vote than he did in the gubernatorial election of 2010.

There’s another example from this past election: The Affordable Care Act. Otherwise, known as “ObamaCare.” In March 2012, when the Supreme Court heard the arguments for the case, Karl Rove wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

This week’s historic Supreme Court hearings on President Obama’s health-care overhaul will have huge political ramifications.

Then, in June, when the decision was rendered, there was this from The Weekly Standard:

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the constitutionality of Obamacare, the principal choice now facing Americans on November 6 will be whether to keep Obamacare or to repeal it.

Republicans and conservatives thought that ObamaCare was going to give them the chance they needed to have a Republican elected President. It’s safe to say that it didn’t turn out the way they wanted. Not only did Republicans not elect a Republican President, but they also lost seats in the Senate (when they anticipated winning more seats).

Neither of these examples perfectly map onto the VRA decision, but it seems to me that there’s a bit of an overreaction in assuming that this decision is going to be a lightning rod for Democrats. I’d say that it’s “too early to tell” how this will affect the upcoming 2014 and 2016 elections. For now, the one of the only things that can be said about the political implications of the VRA: We’ll see…

If Cats and Dogs Could Vote, Which Party Would They Vote For?

The other day I was playing with my dog and I said something about moving ‘to the left.’ Naturally, my wife recalled the Beyoncé song, “To The Left.” However, since I spend a lot of time watching and thinking about politics, my first thought was that our dog was moving “to the left” — politically. That then made me think, if cats and dogs could vote, who would they vote for?

Now, we can quickly descend into a discussion about animals’ ability to think, but that’s not where I’d like to go with this. Let’s assume that animals would be “rational actors” and vote in their best interest (regardless of how they may or may not be swayed from charismatic politicians or issue ads). Keeping in mind that this is all meant in jest, let’s begin!

If dogs could vote, who do you think they’d vote for? If I had to choose, I think they’d probably vote for the Democrats (or a Liberal party). Why? Well, let’s look at a dog’s life — they’re really interested in ‘programs’ (take me or a walk, feed me, etc.) where the government (owner) takes care of them. Of the two main political ideologies, who do we think is more likely to offer this?

Okay, now let’s look at cats. If cats could vote, who do you think they’d vote for? If I had to choose, I think they’d probably vote for the Republicans (or a Conservative party). Why? Well, look at a cat’s life — they really say (well, they don’t speak, do they?) and do whatever they want, whenever they want. They’re not interested in coming when you call them and they pretty much take care of themselves. To me, this *sort of* gets to the whole idea of ‘personal responsibility that you hear from politicians/parties on the right.

This experiment was meant in jest, but it’s a great way to exercise your thinking muscles. Can you think other pets and which parties they might prefer? Let us know in the comments!