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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Month: March 2013

Greenberg; Lessons of immigration Politics Vex Conservatives

TDS founding co-editor Stanley Ggreenberg has an article up at Financial Times, discussing how “Immigration exposes political weakness.” Noting that, after their 2012 shellacking, many Republicans suddenly saw the light and became supporters of “immigration reform that included a path to full US citizenship,” Greenberg explains:

This repositioning will not be pretty. In the past few decades, citizens in developed countries have often demanded that governments take control of borders in response to globalisation. Many feel their concerns have been ignored – or, worse, dismissed as ignorant or even racist. They feel let down by politicians on the left and the right. Nevertheless, conservatives have until recently benefited from scepticism about the gains from immigration; this is now changing, across the rich world.
Mr Romney knew what he was doing when he used immigration to define himself as an authentic and “severe” conservative. He played to the anger and frustration of Republican voters. It helped him win over a sceptical party and to win the primary. But later, it also helped him to lose the election.
Now, Republican leaders will probably not block immigration reform because of the electoral mathematics. Business support for reform is also important. The US Chamber of Commerce, and industrial, agricultural, and high-tech sectors are desperate for reform to meet their needs. A battle has begun between the political and corporate elite and the Republican base.

Greenberg sees a similar “problem for the political right” across Europe, where “conservative politicians are caught primarily between extremists and nativist sentiment to their right and more liberal voices to their left” and adds,

This confusion has made immigration an explosive issue. It was at least as important as public spending when British voters threw out Gordon Brown in 2010, who dismissed a voter who quizzed him about eastern European migrants as “bigoted” during his ill-fated campaign. Immigration today is the first or second priority for citizens across Europe, according to polls.
Under Tony Blair, Britain introduced restrictions on asylum seekers and adopted a points system for non-EU migrants. These changes were rendered irrelevant, however, in the eyes of many voters when eastern European immigration exceeded estimates by a factor of 20.
More recently, David Cameron’s Conservative party lost disastrously to the United Kingdom Independence party in the Eastleigh by-election, in large part because of worries about immigration. Mr Cameron has promised to make life tough for the Romanians and Bulgarians who might come when they are permitted to work in the UK next year, and to tighten benefit rules, but this has not stemmed the Tory erosion. They lead the opposition Labour party by only three points on the issue of immigration – and trail Ukip by 13.

Greenberg cites an electoral victory by conservative Alfred Gusenbauer in Austria, when he “moved ahead of other Social Democrats and spoke comfortably about immigrants learning German and their families respecting women’s rights” and became chancellor. Greenberg adds that the lesson has not been lost on the UK’s Labor Party leader Ed Miliband, “who has made repeated efforts to position himself wisely on immigration.”
Here in the U.S., however, it remains to be seen whether Republicans are ready to give up the nativist pandering to the satisfaction of Latino voters, many of whom have problems with GOP economic policies. Democrats, meanwhile, have staked out both economic and immigration policies that should keep them in good stead with this key constituency.

One Democratic Woman Governor in U.S.

At National Journal ‘Hotline on Call’ blog, Scott Bland’s “EMILY’s List Sets Sights on Statehouses in 2014” notes that Dems only have one woman governor right now, Maggie Hassan in NH. It’s a deplorable statistic for a party that purports to be more inclusive, one which ought to make Dems do a little more thinking about our recruitment strategy. Fortunately, Emily’s List is on the case, and is discussing possible candidacies with 15 women. Bland adds:

Numerous high-profile Democratic women are already laying the groundwork for 2014 gubernatorial runs, whether against Republicans or fellow Democrats. Democratic Rep. Allyson Schwartz has said she is interested in running against GOP Gov. Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania. In Illinois, Attorney General Lisa Madigan is reportedly “very close” to deciding to run (against unpopular Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn) there, while Rep. Colleen Hanabusa is mulling a primary challenge against Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (or a Senate bid).
Schriock mentioned Rhode Island — “Gina Raimondo is going to jump in and run, that’s another exciting one,” she said — where independent Gov. Lincoln Chafee is a vulnerable incumbent; Raimondo, the general treasurer, has positive approval ratings. Schriock also said she hoped that women candidates would jump to the fore in Maine and Florida, among many states.
Though congressional Democrats make sure issues like the long-stalled Violence Against Women Act become national stories, the main events in Democrats’ “war on women” narrative the past two years have come from state governments helmed by Republican governors. Schriock said women gubernatorial candidates will be particularly well-equipped to take advantage this cycle. For various reasons, not least the 2010 Republican wave, the number of Democratic women governors has dwindled to one as the number of Democratic women legislators has risen, both in Congress and at the state level. There are 58 female Democratic House members and over 1,100 Democratic women in state legislatures across the country, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. Many were elected with EMILY’s List’s support.

Four Republican women are currently serving as governors of AZ, NM, OK and SC, which is not all that impressive either. But clearly Dems have to do better if we want to gain credibility as a genuinely inclusive party and if we want to increase our share of women voters in statewide elections.
Emily’s list does have some resources for “pro-choice Democratic women” who want to run for office at this link. The Rutgers University Center for American Women and Politics has a clickable map showing education and training resources for women who want to run for office for the 50 states. Emerge America also has training resources for Democratic women right here.

Political Strategy Notes

Dems need a net gain of 18 seats in 2014 to win back control of the House of Reps, which sounds like a tall order given the mid term election historical patterns. But doing so is the president’s top political goal going forward, and Pennsylvania is a crucial battlefield. But Robert Vickers ‘ “Analysis: Obama’s midterm strategy could pose problems for Corbett” in the Central Pennsylvania Patriot News writes: ” While the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report currently ranks the Pennsylvania governor’s race as a “pure toss-up,” all the state’s congressional seats are ranked “safe” or “favored” for the incumbent…However, all three “favored” seats are Republican-held, and appear to be part Obama’s midterm strategy…Democrats have prioritized two of those “Republican favored” districts – freshman U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus’ 12th district seat, and two-term U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick’s 8th district seat. Fitzpatrick reclaimed the seat last year after losing his first re-election effort.” Vickers reports that Dems are also looking at winning two other seats in the ‘burbs outside Philadelphia.
At Roll Call, Stuart Rothenberg notes four House districts Dems should be able to pick up with better candidate recruitment.
Associated Press has an update on the “challenging terrain” Dems face in holding their majority in the U.S. Senate next year. Dems are placing their hopes on “polarizing primaries” for the GOP.
The Bangor Daily News has an editorial defending the voting rights of prisoners, who have been convicted of the most serious crimes (Only Maine and Vermont allow that right), and also providing an informative discussion of the pros and cons of the policy.
According to Lily Kuo’s Quartz post, Electronic voting is failing the developing world while the US and Europe abandon it “In the US and Western Europe, more states have been opting out of electronic voting systems and returning to paper out of worries over the number of glitches and, as we’ve reported before, the inability to verify that electronic votes or the software on machines have not been manipulated…In the US 2012 election, 56% of voters cast paper ballots that were optically scanned (pdf. p. 75) while only 39% used electronic voting machines. Similarly in Europe only two countries-Belgium and France-use electronic ballots. Out of eight European countries that have experimented with electronic voting, six reverted back to paper ballots.”
Some Dems got scammed by Rand Paul’s grandstanding. But MoJo’s David Corn ain’t having it. Neither is Alternet’s Joshua Holland.
Ralph Nader tries to answer a provocative question, “Why Are Democrats So Defeatist?” As Nader explains: “The leadership is still reluctant to represent the more than three-quarters of the American people who want big business to be held accountable for its special privileges, reckless behavior and disregard for people’s livelihoods. Many senior Democrats are settled in their own safe seats and care little about the overall prospects of the party winning a majority in the House.”
At the Wall St. Journal, Phil Izzo has a revealing statistic to ponder: “7.1%: What the unemployment rate would be without government job cuts.”
GOP-driven deficit hysteria is arguably the most destructive force in American politics. Krugman’s Saturday column, “Dwindling Deficit Disorder,” has some cogent thoughts on the topic, including: “…In fact, the deficit is falling more rapidly than it has for generations, it is already down to sustainable levels, and it is too small given the state of the economy. ..the facts about our dwindling deficit are unwelcome in many quarters. Fiscal fearmongering is a major industry inside the Beltway, especially among those looking for excuses to do what they really want, namely dismantle Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security…The deficit is indeed dwindling, and the case for making the deficit a central policy concern, which was never very strong given low borrowing costs and high unemployment, has now completely vanished.”
I think not.

An Interesting Week for the GOP

By most conservative media accounts, this has been a banner week for the Republican Party, snapping it out of the malaise it’s been wallowing in since last November. The week began with Republicans deciding to celebrate the appropriations sequester as a major victory for The Cause. It ended with the conservative movement and the vast majority of Republican elected officials in Washington (not to mention RNC chairman Reince Priebus) deciding to celebrate Sen. Rand Paul’s filibuster of CIA nominee John Brennan as a great blow against Obama’s tyranny.
As they enjoy themselves this weekend, it’s worth noting the rather significant side-effects of these two ideological benders. By embracing discretionary spending cuts and brushing aside a “grand bargain” with the president, Republicans also kicked to the curb their one realistic opportunity to secure the “entitlement reforms” they’ve spent most of the last three years demanding as the most crucial step towards fiscal responsibility and limited government. It’s hard to see where they go next in the fiscal battle, unless they want to lurch towards a government shutdown or debt default.
As for their mid-week “Stand With Rand,” Republicans managed to produce three significant results: (a) forcing the White House to renounce any legal theory enabling the president to do something there is zero evidence he wants to do: launch drones at American citizens on American soil; (b) making a complete hash of their own positioning on national security and civil liberties; and (c) making the very favorite politician of the John Birch Society a conservative movement hero and a viable presidential candidate for 2016.
This is a good example of how pursuing short-term tactical maneuvers can lead a political party into a long-term strategic trap. It will be interesting to see how quickly their better minds figure that out.

Abramowitz: How Voter Suppression Has Changed

Alan I. Abramowitz adds some clarity to the debate over the continuing need for Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. in his Cystal Ball post “Why Section 5 Is Still Needed: Racial Polarization and the Voting Rights Act in the 21st Century“:

There is no doubt that old-fashioned racism has greatly diminished over the past 40 years throughout the nation and in the states covered by Section 5. However, there are good reasons to be concerned about how a decision to overturn Section 5 would affect the voting rights of African Americans and other minorities in these states — for reasons that are more political than racial. That’s because regardless of whether white political leaders in these states hold racist views, they have substantial political incentives for engaging in actions to suppress or dilute the minority vote.
In addition to a history of racial discrimination, the states covered by Section 5 are characterized by an exceptionally high degree of racial polarization in voting up to the present day. Whites and nonwhites in these states are deeply divided in their political preferences, resulting in a two-party system in which one party depends overwhelmingly on votes from whites and the other party depends overwhelmingly on votes from African Americans and other nonwhites. This racial polarization continues to provide a powerful incentive for leaders of the party that depends overwhelmingly on white votes to suppress or dilute the votes of African Americans and other minorities.

Abramowitz provides data showing racial polarization in voting patterns in states that are covered, as well as those that are not, “with African Americans making up only 1% of Republican voters in both sets of states.” He notes further that all nine covered states are now dominated by the GOP and adds:

…African Americans and other nonwhites made up 62% of the Democratic electoral coalition in the covered states versus only 35% in the rest of the country. African Americans by themselves made up 42% of Democratic voters in the states covered by Section 5, but only 19% of Democratic voters in the rest of the country. It is clear that Democratic candidates in the covered states are much more dependent on the votes of African Americans and other nonwhites than Democratic candidates in the rest of the country.
…Republican leaders in the states covered by Section 5 have frequently attempted to suppress or dilute the minority vote through actions such as enacting voter identification laws, changing voting dates, changing poll locations, replacing partisan elections with nonpartisan elections, switching from district-based to at-large elections and changing district boundaries. While such actions have occurred in other states, the evidence collected by Congress in 2006 showed that they occurred much more frequently in the states covered by Section 5. In numerous instances, only the power of the federal government to block such discriminatory laws and regulations has prevented their implementation.

On a surface level, any visitor to the modern south will see ample racial integration in terms of the workplace and socializing, though residential and school de facto segregation are still prevalent. Voter suppression in the covered states, in the past, as well as today, has always been about hording political power for the privileged. There is still raw racial bigotry in the covered states, though not as bad as it was before the Voting Rights Act. But today it’s even more about protecting political advantage for the Republicans. Section 5 has been a great equalizer in southern cities, which have been electing African American mayors for decades. At the state level, however, it’s a different story. As Abramowitz concludes: “Far from being outdated, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act may be needed more than ever in the coming decades.

How Right-wing Think Tanks Support the GOP Surge in the States

Most alert Democrats are aware that our party has been out-organized in too many states where we should be stronger. But the really bad news is that it’s probably worse than we thought. That’s the conclusion that is hard to avoid after reading Patrick Caldwell’s post “Outmatched” at The American Prospect.
Elated as all Dems were to re-elect President Obama, the painful truth is that we have failed to match the Republicans at the state level. They have paid much more attention to building political political infrastructure, and it is starting to pay off, big time.
Like many Dems, I had been worried about this trend for a while, noting mounting GOP gains in state legislatures. 2010 was a wake-up call. But what really brought it home to me was the recent fiasco in Michigan. As Caldwell explains:

It seemed unfathomable that Michigan, once the cradle of a thriving and unionized American workforce, could have turned overnight into a right-to-work state. But then many traditions have been upended since the 2010 midterm elections in which Republicans took control of both legislative chambers in 26 states. (Though a few states flipped sides in the November election, that number still holds.) Longtime progressive and purple states, newly under Republican control, have turned into Texas-lite. In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker and the Republican legislature stripped public employees of collective-bargaining rights. In Maine, Governor Paul LePage and a Republican-held legislature cut health benefits for the poor. Early this year, Republicans in North Carolina (a state under Republican control for the first time in more than a century) approved cutting unemployment benefits by a third.

Credit the Republicans with politically-astute powers of observation and a commitment to exploit weaknesses of their adversaries. They spotted our achilles heel — relatively weak state parties in a few big states — and made the most of it. Demographic trends are very much on our side. But demography is destiny only up to a point — and then it isn’t anymore. History is replete with examples of forces with superior advantages getting shellacked by smart strategy. It applies to politics as well as military conflict.
Caldwell explains how the Republicans mobilized some of their statewide takeovers:

Several groups can be thanked for the rightward swing in state policy. Progressives have lately focused much of their attention on the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate-funded alliance that crafts model policy and even bills for state legislators (it had done so in secret for almost three decades until Freedom of Information Act requests revealed the extent of its work in 2011). But in Michigan’s case and others, key policy ideas had been incubating for years–sometimes decades–across a more loosely knit but effective web of conservative think tanks working at the state level.
Sitting atop this coalition is the State Policy Network (SPN), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. “We’re a service organization dedicated to encouraging state-focused think tanks,” Meredith Turney, the group’s director of strategic communications, said by e-mail, “so we spend most of our time in the states, not D.C.” Thomas Roe Jr.–a member of Ronald Reagan’s “kitchen cabinet” of informal advisers, longtime board member for the Heritage Foundation, and founder of his own think tank, the South Carolina Policy Council–started the organization in 1992.
SPN’s modest budget–$5.1 million in 2011, according to the latest available figures–pales in comparison to the Heritage Foundation’s roughly $80 million annual budget, and it operates with a light touch. Unlike ALEC, which dictates corporations’ policy interests from the top down, SPN does not enforce strict adherence to a particular dogma. Affiliates have latitude to pursue the occasional heterodox project; the Texas Public Policy Foundation, for example, normally pushes for minimal taxes and regulations (the think tank receives all of the proceeds* from Rick Perry’s pre-presidential campaign book) but also advocates for criminal-justice reforms and reductions to prison sentences. Still, the group’s members have worked together to push what they call free-market principles. Theirs is a long-term mission, requiring years of advocacy to convert what often start out as fringe concepts into palatable policy.
Various state-level think tanks in the network have also served as launching pads for Republican politicians. As a 2007 National Review article on SPN pointed out, before Jeff Flake successfully ran for the House of Representatives in 2000, he served as executive director of Arizona’s Goldwater Institute; Mike Pence oversaw the Indiana Policy Review Foundation before he entered the U.S. House in 2001. As of January, Flake is now a U.S. senator and Pence the governor of Indiana.

Caldwell goes into much more detail in his article about the particulars of conservative think tank strategy, noting that “SPN advises member think tanks on fundraising and running a nonprofit and helps train them in communicating ideas.” What is starkly clear from his article is that these think tanks excite and energize their constituencies to an impressive extent, apparently more than do their progressive counterparts. He quotes Mark Schmitt noting that “there’s more of them and they’re bigger” than are liberal think tanks. They also relate to constituencies at the state level more effectively.
Schmitt notes further that conservatives may have a natural advantage at the state level to some extent, being more about “states rights.” Caldwell adds that Dems tend to spend more money on causes than strengthening our organizational capacity. he concedes that there have been pro-Democratic think tanks successes, like Policy Matters Ohio, which “provided the analytical backbone for a voter-approved amendment in 2006 that automatically ties the state’s minimum wage to the Consumer Price Index” and Washington state’s Economic Opportunity Institute, which mobilized “a coalition that convinced Seattle to pass a paid sick-day policy.” yet, as Caldwell adds,

…Still, for all the individual victories, the broader change pushed by conservative state think tanks has eluded progressives. “Since we’ve really had a retrenchment of economic rights over the last generation,” says Amy Hanauer of Policy Matters Ohio, “and a retrenchment of economic equity, it’s hard to make the case that liberal think tanks have been very effective on the economic front.”

Dems need to face the fact that, going forward, we are likely to have very few candidates as charismatic and/or capable as President Obama. He is an exceptionally-strong candidate for reasons that have nothing to do with his race. It is entirely possible that the Republicans will run a better-prepared presidential candidate in the not too-distant future. If Dems don’t have a stronger infrastucture at the state level than we do now to check the GOP, we could pay a dear price.
It doesn’t have to be that way — especially if the Democrats will now pay closer attention to building state-wide institutions that can support progressive causes and candidates. Nor does it mean we have to do it the way the Republicans did it. We have to draw on our unique strengths and repair our particular weaknesses. But we must be every bit as creative and driven as the Republicans have been. However we do it, this is a challenge we must accept to prevent a Republican takeover of all America’s political institutions and to make the most of our demographic advantage in forging a better future for our party and the nation..

DCorps: 10 Economic Lessons from President Obama’s State of the Union Address

The following article is cross-posted from a DCorps e-blast:
Last month, we watched President Obama’s State of the Union Address with 44 swing voters in Denver, Colorado. We have condensed our findings to 10 critical economic lessons economists, reporters, and leaders should take from this research. READ IT HERE.
1. The economy is still very difficult for voters at the pocketbook level.
2. The President can now highlight economic progress without taking credit.
3. Voters are aware of, and concerned bout, the long-term decline of the middle class.
4. Voters support a growth agenda rather than an austerity agenda.
5. Voters are looking for a balanced approach to deficit reduction.
6. There is strong support for further and more progressive tax reform.
7. Raising the minimum wage is a good start.
8. Unmarried women are still engaged and are the most engaged on economic issues affecting them.
9. Republicans are on a different path on economic issues and budget choices.
10. Voters are receptive to smarter government that invests in broad-based growth.
Click here to read the full memo from Stan Greenberg, James Carville, and Erica Seifert.
Click here to see dial charts from President Obama’s State of the Union Address.
This analysis is based on dial testing focus and group research conducted on February 12, 2013, by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner for Democracy Corps, Women’s Voices. Women Vote Action Fund, the Voter Participation Center, and the Economic Media Project. Research was among 44 swing voters in Denver, Colorado, using Perception Analyzer by Dialsmith.

OFA Bans Corporate Cash, Will Report Names of Contributors

Organizing for Action has made a very smart decision — not to take corporate contributions, and, even better, to report all contributions of $250 and more, including the names of donors each quarter. OFA Chairman Jim Messina announced the decision in a CNN.com op-ed.
It’s a pretty gutsy move. Rachel Weiner reports at WaPo: “As a 501(c)4 non-profit social welfare organization, the group can raise unlimited funds and is not subject to Federal Election Commission disclosure rules.” Messina explains further:

“We believe in being open and transparent…That’s why every donor who gives $250 or more to this organization will be disclosed on the website with the exact amount they give on a quarterly basis. We have now decided not to accept contributions from corporations, federal lobbyists or foreign donors…We’ll mobilize to support the president’s agenda, but we won’t do so on behalf of political candidates.”

Wealthy individuals can still make contributions to OFA, though their names will be made public, unlike the policy of the right-wing Super-PACs. The new, more transparent OFA policy on limiting and revealing contributions should improve the organization’s populist creds while making the shadowy and secretive conservative groups look like they have something to hide, which is exactly the case.
OFA has already launched “a six-figure online advertising campaign aimed at getting Republican lawmakers to support stronger background checks on gun purchases,” notes Weiner.
Openness and transparency in reporting contributions always enhances an organization’s credibility, especially when in stark contrast to the policy of its adversaries. It remains unclear, however, whether the MSM will now challenge the conservative PAC’s to make a commitment to greater openness in reporting their sources of support.

Political Strategy Notes

It’s too late to do much about it until next year, but at Washington Monthly’s ‘Political Animal’ blog TDS managing editor Ed Kilgore makes an important, if overlooked point about the renewed talk about filibuster reform: “…Our friends in the MSM continue to struggle to call a filibuster a filibuster, and instead persist in talking about bills being “voted down” in the Senate because they don’t receive 60 votes. If it takes live demagoguery on the Senate floor to make it obvious what’s going on, maybe it’s worth the effort.” Kilgore adds, “But in any event, progressives should not shut up about filibuster reform until something significant is actually done about it.”
This Economist ‘Lexington Blog’ post on “The politics of purity” argues that the GOP’s current deliberations about their primary system will do more to determine their political future than all of their agonizing ideological reappraisals.
Some good talking points for gun control advocates in this report by Yamiche Alcindor of USA TODAY on a new study by Boston Children’s Hospital, based on data from all 50 states between 2007-10: “States with the most laws had a mortality rate 42% lower than those states with the fewest laws, they found. The strong law states’ firearm-related homicide rate was also 40% lower and their firearm-related suicide rate was 37% lower…The study also found that laws requiring universal background checks and permits to purchase firearms were most clearly associated with decreasing rates of gun-related homicides and suicides.”
Timothy Noah’s “If Democrats Want to Solve the Sequester, They Should Move Left” at TNR argues, that, while centrist policies are good for winning elections, “If Democrats shift leftward, their governing prospects will improve because Republicans will shift leftward, too. Then compromise with Republicans will produce acceptably centrist results.”
In his Otherwords.org op-ed, “A global spotlight on voter suppression,” Ron Carver, an Institute for Policy Studies associate fellow and former Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee field organizer, raises an issue that Justices Roberts and Kennedy ought to think about in their deliberations on the fate of the Voting Rights Act. Carver quotes from a letter signed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu from South Africa and human rights luminaries from 22 countries: “America’s leadership in voting rights has been a beacon of hope for millions around the world who have made their own sacrifices for freedom and democracy…Beyond your borders, the global march toward justice will suffer grievous harm should you surrender to those who seek to disenfranchise American citizens.” Gutting the law could do serious damage to U.S. credibility as an advocate of democracy.
At the Columbia Journalism Review Brendan Nyan continues his discussion on “The third party fever dream, revisited” regarding prospects for the emergence of a viable third major political party amid growing public grumbling about both parties.
Daniel Marans, an executive producer for Take Action News has “An Open Letter to MSNBC: Disclose Ed Rendell’s Conflicts of Interest” up at HuffPo. Marans takes MSNBC to task because Rendell, a former Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, “as co-chair of the Fix the Debt campaign…frequently uses his platform as an MSNBC analyst to call for cuts to Social Security and Medicare.” Rendell is a frequent commentator on MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe’ program, which has a lopsided pro-austerity bias.
Those who have been searching for a sensible progressive analysis of how to insure Social Security solvency without inflicting unfair burden on working people should start with Thomas B. Edsall’s New York Times ‘Opinionator’ post “The War On Entitlements,” which includes a persuasive case for lifting the payroll tax cap.
You already knew that the wealthy have different economic policy priorities than average working people. But this data-rich Demos report, “Stacked Deck: How the Dominance of Politics by the Affluent & Business Undermine Economic Mobility in America” documents the process with exceptional clarity.
Taegan Goddard takes a stab at a daunting task, selecting the “10 dumbest things Republicans said last month,” the most bizarre of which may be Alan Keyes assessment of the rationale behind the president’s gun control proposal: “They are going to cull the herd, so that instead of having billions, we’ll only have hundreds of millions of human beings on the face of the planet.”

Yglesias: ABC’s Misleading Sequester Poll Distorts Public Views

At Slate.com Matthew Yglesias alerts readers to the misleading frame that renders a new ABC News poll about the sequester worse than useless. Yglesias provides an excellent example of the importance of context in polling questions, data and conclusions. Here’s his take:

ABC is out with an extremely Republican-friendly sequestration poll noting that most voters say they back the idea of a 5-percent cut in federal spending, but cutting the military is unpopular. I have no doubt that’s an accurate reflection of public opinion, but it’s also an extremely misleading way to frame it.
The correct context for this is a Pew poll which asked about many categories of spending, and found majority support for cuts in exactly zero categories. Decrease spending is a plurality position on foreign aid and nothing else. For the State Department and aid to the unemployed, keeping spending constant is the plurality position, but spending hawks outnumber increasers. On every other category, more voters prefer an increase in spending to a decrease. In some categories (military, 32-24; aid to the domestic poor 27-24) the margin is relatively narrow, whereas in others (Social Security, 41-10; veterans, 53-6) the margin is enormous.
…if you constructed any ABC-style poll where you first ask about spending cuts and then ask about one particular program, you’d get the ABC result that people want big spending cuts but also want to exempt Program X from the cuts. But that’s just a kind of cheap trick…

In reality, concludes Yglesias, “cuts to military spending are among the least-unpopular cuts around.” Sounds like ABC’s polling team could benefit from developing a more rigorous checklist to insure bipartisan integrity in polling and poll analysis.