At my other blog at the Government Affairs Institute, I have a post up on the increasing uncompetitiveness of U.S. House districts. There are signs that House elections may be increasingly affected by national trends. However, the flip side is that there are fewer competitive seats.
I wanted to take a moment for a little Rule 22 self-promotion. Congratulations are in order for a supermajority of this blog. Last week, Josh was awarded the American Political Science Association's Congressional Fellowship--the oldest and most prestigious fellowship for any student of Congress. He joins a long line of noted congressional researchers who served as fellows (including our advisor at Florida, Larry Dodd). In addition, Nate has accepted a tenure-track appointment at Kansas State University beginning next fall. This is quite an accomplishment; one that is very well deserved.
So congratulations to both!
If you were suspicious of the claim that 98% of Catholic women used birth control, it turns out you had good reason. Lydia McGrew breaks down the study Democrats used for that talking point. Matt Glassman has a nice post on this as well. 'Political Scientists are hotter than Economists,' via The Monkey Cage. This has been everywhere but it's too funny not to post.
Jonathan Bernstein called Congress's non-retaliation over Obama's recess appointments. Point: Plain Blog. As we've noted here before, this has been a trend. Bernstein has been right on about recess appointments.
Fun, interactive, database that tracks members pork and their private property from the Washington Post.
And voteview came out with polarization scores through 2011. Spoiler alert: we're still polarized. The most interesting trends are the significant conservative shift among both conservative and moderate Republicans in the Senate. On the other hand, moderate Republicans actually were slightly more moderate in 2011 in the House (though probably not statistically significant). The rest of the party moved more right, undoubtedly due to the influx of Tea Party members. Democrats on remained constant for the most part though moved slightly left in the House.
A little bit of super committee satire courtsey of pardonthepundit.com. My favorite part:
“Look, I like John. He’s a friend, but when you get him talking about government spending multipliers, wow, he can talk for weeks,” said one Democratic member who asked not to be identified. “He drones on and on, and when he’s done, I sometimes have forgotten where I am. He could put Ambien out of business. Let me give you some advice, if you are around John and he starts talking about ‘total change in output as a result of a change in government spending,’ run. Just run. Run as if your life depended on it.”
Awesome! Hat tip to Matt Caverly for linking to the article.
We're swinging back into a semi-normal routine after vacation. If you haven't already read the BE Press Forum on the Senate, it has several very solid articles from multiple leading Senate scholars. If you have the time and interest, I recommend all of them (also, its free).
Jonathan Bernstein has a great take on who decides when congressional recesses occur. Beyond recommending his blog more generally, Bernstein always has excellent analyses on Senate confirmations or, more accurately, the lack thereof.
In a similar vein, Matt Glassman offers some perspective on recess appointments and constitutional powers more generally. It's a great read and digs a little deeper into the potential historical significance for the separation of powers.
Ok, this isn't about the Senate but over at The Monkey Cage Charles Tien and Michael Lewis-Beck offer their 2012 Election prediction based on consumers' perceptions of business conditions. I've used their analyses as a guide in a couple of my posts but reading the real thing is better. As conditions (read: perceptions) stand right now they predict a narrow victory for Obama in November. Keep in mind, this is before the President's campaign is in full swing (i.e. relatively little Obama spin on economic numbers compared to the Republicans' primary campaigns). My guess is that voters' perceptions will shift in Obama's favor as his campaign ramps up.
Happy 2012, everyone!
Reading through some old posts I came across Jonathan Bernstein's TNR article from 12/2 aptly titled "Yes, Newt's Up in the Polls. No, You Shouldn't Take His Candidacy Seriously." The relevant info is in the title. Now the blogosphere can be quite harsh when people are wrong in their predictions (and politics can be difficult to predict sometimes), so I think we should be equally laudable when someone makes a prediction and hits it on the head. And though I'm not sure I necessarily agree that we "shouldn't take Gingrich seriously", I think Bernstein's article is starting to ring true more than two weeks after the fact. As you may know Gingrich is currently slipping in Iowa according to recent poll results (and the speculation is that this is due to recent attack ads highlighting Gingrich's past). I found these two paragraphs from Bernstein's two-week old article especially perceptive and enjoyable in light of these recent developments:
The reasons why we don’t have to take Newt seriously are many, but the most obvious is that, despite his recent polling, he’s still the same candidate with all the same baggage. He’s still got his history of deviations from party orthodoxy on practically every issue, and the ethics violations, and the marital problems. He’s still the same guy who wound up not being trusted at all by those who worked with him when he was in office. And he’s still got a long history of just not being very popular with anyone outside of the most intense of intense partisans—and even they are likely aware that he’s risky at best and more likely pure poison in a general election.
The main reason for all this instability in the polls is that most Republicans just aren’t paying very much attention to the contest right now. That’s hard for the sorts of people who read The New Republic to accept, because for us politics is an active ongoing part of our lives, verging for some on an obsession. But that’s not how it is for most people. Even for those who will eventually care enough to vote, politics most of the time is background noise and an occasional conversation topic, not something to stay up-to-date on; it’s the difference between season ticket holders and people who start watching when the playoffs begin.
This weekend 60 Minutes' aired an excellent piece on members legally trading stocks on insider information. Earlier this year we reviewed some research on this exact topic. The authors find that representatives' stocks do abnormally well compared to the average American or even business executives. This confirms earlier research on senators' trading habits. Here is the abstract from the Ziobrowski, Boyd, Cheng, and Ziobrowski article from Business and Politics:
A previous study suggests that U.S. Senators trade common stock with a substantial informational advantage compared to ordinary investors and even corporate insiders. We apply precisely the same methods to test for abnormal returns from the common stock investments of Members of the U.S. House of Representatives. We measure abnormal returns for more than 16,000 common stock transactions made by approximately 300 House delegates from 1985 to 2001. Consistent with the study of Senatorial trading activity, we find stocks purchased by Representatives also earn significant positive abnormal returns (albeit considerably smaller returns). A portfolio that mimics the purchases of House Members beats the market by 55 basis points per month (approximately 6% annually).
Update 11/17: Eggers and Hainmueller find that members' stock holdings from 2004-2008 underperformed the market by roughly 2-3% annually. This study takes into account members' stock transactions as well as stock holdings. This makes it a bit more comprehensive than the Ziobrowski article. However, the fact that members underperformed the market doesn't exactly free them from ethical culpability. The fact members didn't benefit from their transactions doesn't change that they potentially acted on insider information.
As you've probably heard, the country singer and prospective Senatorial candidate (TN) Hank Williams, Jr. made some pretty absurd comments comparing President Obama to Hitler on Monday. His song that has been the intro to Monday Night Football for twenty years has since been yanked by ESPN, and he's been let go. Here's a copy of his statement that was posted on his website,
"I have always been very passionate about Politics and Sports and this time it got the Best or Worst of me. The thought of the Leaders of both Parties Jukin and High Fiven on a Golf course, while so many Families are Struggling to get by simply made me Boil over and make a Dumb statement and I am very Sorry if it Offended anyone. I would like to Thank all my supporters. This was Not written by some Publicist.”
While the capitalization is great, I'm a particular fan of the last line (and I'm sure his publicist is, too).
Stay classy, Hank.
One of my favorite podcasts is NPR's Planet Money. They are generally very smart and pretty entertaining. Though it's a little old now, they posted an episode last week (link here) applying some simple lessons from game theory to Congress and the creation of the Super Committee, drawing on interviews from WashU's Steven S. Smith and MIT's Charles Stewart III. It's a pretty engaging 17 minutes, and I strongly recommend both the podcast in general, and the episode in particular.
The Florida state legislature, at Governor Rick Scott's urging, passed strict legislation earlier this year requiring welfare recipients to take mandatory drug tests--and pass--as a requirement for receiving their state benefits. Tampa Bay Online ran a story today reporting that only 2% of welfare recipients have failed their drug tests thus far. That's a surprisingly low number. However, the author of the article draws a faulty conclusion from this figure:
The initiative may save the state a few dollars anyway, bearing out one of Gov. Rick Scott's arguments for implementing it. But the low test fail-rate undercuts another of his arguments: that people on welfare are more likely to use drugs.
As much as I would love this conclusion to be true, it suffers from a flaw known to most social scientists--selection bias. Specifically, individuals most likely to fail a drug test are not going to take the test. The drug test is voluntary, after all. Thus, the TBO's attempt to draw a larger conclusion from this figure is extremely dubious.
We can add one more case to the list of government shutdowns. Politico has an interesting article about the implications that the government shutdown has on Tim Pawlenty's presidential bid, suggesting that the current state of the budget could come back to bite him. I'm not so sure. I don't think he's a viable candidate in the first place - so this is marginally unimportant. To be sure, these pre-primary days are pretty volatile, but Intrade has him at 9% for the GOP nomination, while Nate Silver seems rather lukewarm. Evidently, being able to participate in 4th of July celebrations makes you (slightly) more likely to be a Republican. Who knew?
According to the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, uploading your working papers to the SSRN counts as a publication, thus excluding you from being able to publish the work in their journal. My CV just got a lot longer.
College football and politics mix again. Heath Shuler (D NC-11) is considering leaving Congress to serve as the Athletic Director at the University of Tennessee. This is certainly a rare move, but it actually makes a good deal of sense. As the Politico story points out, he's not exactly endeared himself to leadership and his district is about to redrawn unfavorably. Moreover, he'd be returning to his alma mater, where he held nearly every school QB record until some guy named Peyton Manning showed up. He would certainly restore some pride in a Tennessee athletic department that has seen its reputation sullied in the past few years. Here's guessing that there'll be a lot more orange ties in Shuler's closet by this time next year (hopefully Bruce Pearl took his orange blazer with him when he left).
Here are the mandatory Wiener-gate posts. On a side note, when is the media going to get more creative with scandal titles? Why must everything end in –gate? From my understanding, a lot of this behavior was on Capitol Hill. I think Weiner-Hill is much more fitting (and possibly appropriate given members’ behavior). Interesting take on aggregate behaviors accumulated from individual motives.
This guest post on The Monkey Cage is among the growing literature on how to keep “policy losers” (aka. moderates) to vote the party line.
We all assume politicians are out to look good to their constituents. This often means being a homer and supporting local sports teams. Well, the governor of Florida missed this memo. Here is Rick Scott throwing out the first pitch at a spring training game in Tampa, FL sporting Yankees gear.
Yesterday, the House voted to defund a $450 million project to produce a second jet engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. See articles here and here. The fighter, which has two jet engines rather than the usual one, had been described by Defense Secretary Robert Gates as an “unnecessary and extravagant expense.” So in the current climate of budget cutting, the amendment passed. Nothing unusual, right? Wrong. The engines produced for this plane are made in House Speaker John Boehner’s district. The Speaker, along with most of the House leadership including Eric Cantor, supported the amendment. So what the heck went wrong? House conservatives, including many tied to the Tea Party Caucus, broke ranks with their party’s leadership and joined a number of liberal Democrats to kill the project by a vote of 233-198.
I wondered: What’s that “look like”? Here is a spatial mapping of the House with those voting to defund the project (yea) in blue and those voting to reject the amendment (nay) in red. The x-axis is the traditional liberal-to-conservative dimension. Those further to the right are the more conservative representatives and those to the left are the more liberal representatives. I’m using Poole’s Common Space scores for lawmakers who served in the 111th (the 112th scores are not available yet).
Bask in the warm glow of bipartisanship. Though a number of freshman GOP representatives were critical to killing this project, they are not included in the figure (because we don’t have sufficient roll call data to scale). Still, the picture is pretty clear (and fun to look at). Compare this vote to the House vote to approve the Affordable Care Act:
Here is your congressional "did you know" for the day. As you are probably aware, Darrell Issa is the current Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. In this capacity Issa has raised concerns among Democrats that he will use the committee's subpoena power to target the Obama administration. It's fitting, therefore, that Issa is the literal voice of the Viper Car Alarm. If you remember the ads from the 1980s, the alarm tells would-be thiefs "protected by Viper, stand back." See this ad: [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3p06XHHRvpk]
Yes, that voice is the current Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. If that wasn't interesting enough, the irony is that Issa's brother was arrested for car theft! In this video he admits that fact, plus does a nice impression of the Viper alarm:
The majority of Rule22 is in New Orleans this week for the Southern Political Science Association's annual conference. I, with my co-chair Paulina Rippere, planned the Graduate Student Section at this year's conference and wanted highlight a few of our panels this week. So if you're in New Orleans these will not disappoint. In order of appearance:
- Thursday 11:30-1: Career Advice for Graduate Students: What every Grad Student should Know. Chair: Jordan Ragusa. Participants: Jan Leighley, University of Arizona; John Aldrich, Duke University; Jon Bond, Texas A&M; Michael Jones-Correa, Cornell University.
- Saturday 8-9:30am: Integrating Empirical Theories and Methods into Graduate Instruction. Chair: Josh Huder. Participants: Larry Dodd, University of Florida; John Aldrich, Duke University; Anne Pitcher, University of Michigan; Joshua Clinton, Vanderbilt University; Arthur Lupia, University of Michigan; Valerie Bunce, Cornell University.
- Saturday 9:45-11:15 (same room): The Future of Political Science. Chair: Natalie Jackson, University of Oklahoma. Participants: Hans Noel, Georgetown University; Adam Sheingate, Johns Hopkins University; James Johnson, University of Rochester; Jeffrey Staton, Emory University; David Sobek, Louisiana State University; Rodney Hero, University of California, Berkeley.
Look forward to seeing you there!
If you're traveling to New Orleans for the Southern Political Science Association's annual meeting, might I suggest some in-flight reading to make your time on Bourbon Street more joyous. Take a look at "On the Losses of Dissolved CO2 during Champagne Serving" (or in layman's terms, how to pour your drink scientifically). Using infrared thermography, researchers have shown that the best pour is down the side, rather than straight into the glass. The reason: A side pour releases less CO2. Why can't political science answer the important questions... Also relevant if you are traveling to New Orleans, city officials have told the remaining FEMA trailer tenets that they need to be out or face stiff fines (see this story in the Washington Post). I'm surprised nobody has mentioned the obvious: that FEMA is making room for their "concentration camps." (Maybe I have a career in talk radio.)
Democrats lost, Republicans gained. Call it what you want: a tsunami, earthquake, or good old voter anger/rage. After being flogged by pundit's hyper-speculation on what this election "meant," here are some more grounded opinions: Eric McGhee's interesting analysis of how controversial votes in Congress affected Democrats on Nov. 2nd.
Was saving the economy a political liability to Obama?
John Sides gives some perspective where and why Democrats lost.
Seth Masket has an interesting post on growing partisan swings in midterm elections.
Check out the footage from New York Gubernatorial Candidate Jimmy McMillian in last night's debate. Perhaps his sterling performance will boost McMillian in the polls, as going in, he was not considered a threat to Cuomo. Be sure to catch Andrew Cuomo's statement at to the end. If the conditions are right, we might see some major party absorption of a third party's platform. Will the price of rent be an issue triggering partisan re-alignment? I suppose that only time will tell....
As an aside, I contend that McMillian easily has the best facial hair on a politician this side of the 19th century (any challenger nominations? We'll host a debate in the comments section).
Update: Obviously, I'm not the only one who admires McMillian's style. As Henry Farrell writes at the Monkey Cage, McMillian's facial hair has garnered him the venerable endorsement from the American Mustache Institute.