Given the post from last week, I'm somewhat surprised that this has happened so fast. There was some speculation that the scrapping of uniforms by Ghadaffi's soldiers meant that the battle into Tripoli would be a long and drawn out affair, as Ghadaffi loyalists geared up for more of an insurgency-style campaign against the rebels. However, it's also possible that they were just ditching the uniforms so as to not get killed. Either scenario is plausible, and the reality is probably a mixture of the two. Anywho, I had just a couple of thoughts as to where we go from here.
A few weeks ago, it appeared as though certain House Republicans would have rather seen the country go into default rather than raise taxes. Now it seems that the GOP is willing to let the temporary payroll tax cuts expire as planned. This is the same GOP who fought hard to make sure the Bush tax cuts did not expire (as that would have been a tax increase).
It is interesting that the GOP suddenly had a change of heart over taxes. It is even more interesting that they support a tax increase that will mostly likely affect lower and middle class income earners, not the super rich. Recall Warren Buffett's op-ed piece from the NY Times last Sunday. In the article he talks about how many of the wealthiest Americans pay less in taxes than middle class wage earners because the wealthiest tend not to pay payroll taxes. As Buffett explains:
"If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your [tax] percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine — most likely by a lot.
To understand why, you need to examine the sources of government revenue. Last year about 80 percent of these revenues came from personal income taxes and payroll taxes. The mega-rich pay income taxes at a rate of 15 percent on most of their earnings but pay practically nothing in payroll taxes. It’s a different story for the middle class: typically, they fall into the 15 percent and 25 percent income tax brackets, and then are hit with heavy payroll taxes to boot.
... In fact, 88 of the 400 [largest income earners] in 2008 reported no wages at all, though every one of them reported capital gains."
Politifact did a fact check on Buffett's statements and demonstrated why his statements were true. They go into great detail about how the current structure of the capital gains tax encourages individuals who earn income on investments to declare most of their income as capital gains in order to avoid paying payroll taxes.
So although the GOP is not blatantly coming out and saying they support raising taxes for everyone but the super rich, their statements as of late suggests that is their position on the issue. Furthermore, conservative talk show pundits have also been taking increasingly hostile position towards the "poor". The Daily Show did a segment on this last Friday.
Taking such a strong stance against lower income earners and in favor of the wealthiest Americans is an interesting strategy given that most voters (including Republicans) are lower and middle class, and are struggling given the economic climate. Can this be a viable electoral strategy? In terms of campaign donations, I think it will have a positive impact on donations. In terms of voter turnout, I think this strategy will either have no effect on turnout, or a slight negative effect.
First, the strong position the GOP is taking on behalf of the wealthiest Americans will probably encourage wealthy Republicans to make large campaign contributions (especially to super PACs). So in this respect, this strategy gives Republicans a great deal of resources to spend on campaign ads and events. Next, the strong position the GOP is taking against the poorest Americans will either (1) not have an effect on Republican voter turnout in 2012 or (2) will have a slight negative effect. Primarily, the literature on voting behavior in the US suggests that individuals rarely take into account their own economic self interest in voting. Hence, the average Republican voter in 2012 may not take into account that GOP leaders want to raise their taxes. Nevertheless, the combination of a strong vocal stance against lower income earners and a weak economy could just be enough to discourage at least some Republicans (and independents) to not vote or to switch votes. We shall see in 2012.
I really don't know how many times I'll be able to use that title, but given that the American audience has become so distracted by the Washington debt ceiling battle, I decided to check on some old favorites and post a quick update on goings on elsewhere.
Libya: Apparently Libyan rebels have made "significant" gains in the past week, taking control of some key cities on the way to Tripoli. NATO planes have damaged or destroyed over 150 targets in the past week alone. However, who really knows what qualifies as a "military target" for these purposes. Sources in the article also indicate that some of Ghadaffi's forces have begun consolidating in Tripoli and have begun removing their uniforms, apparently gearing up for a transition in tactics. It will be interesting to see what the next month brings.
Syria: It sounds like the body count in Syria is continuing to rise steadily. Syrian security forces are apparently combating "armed gangs" in an effort to protect the people. This includes firing into Palestinian refugee camps as well it seems. The article also mentions a Youtube video that has surfaced, purportedly showing some pretty graphic scenes from the crackdown. I've not seen it, but it sounds pretty unsettling.
Bahrain: It sounds as though things have quieted down for the time being, but Bahrain is still dealing with the fallout from the previous protests and crackdowns. Quiet doesn't necessarily mean good, however, as the BBC is reporting that hundreds of people are still in jail and there are reports of widespread torture. Not terribly surprising, but it's important to keep in mind the fact that the violence carries on even once the streets have cleared.
Penny Arcade, a comic that usually discusses video games and the video game industry, weighs in on Jonathan's Card--apparently, homo economicus can gain utility by not only defecting and receiving the largest share possible, but also gains utility purely by gaming the experiment. Unfortunately, it appears the test has come to an end (Starbucks deactivated the card) due to abuse and apparent fraud in the experiment (perhaps Tycho-types have won). The premise of the project was to have a publicly available Starbuck's card that anyone could use. The card started with a balance and anyone with a smart phone could use it to pay for coffee at Starbuck's. Likewise, anyone could add money to the card to buy coffee for strangers they would likely never meet. The data of transactions was made publicly available, published on twitter, and some graphing has occurred.
It was suggested that this might have been a viral marketing campaign by Starbuck's, but it appears that this was not the case after all.
A few sites have posted more detailed analysis on the card:
I have mentioned, in a previous post, all of the books that fill up my summer reading list. As of now, I have at least one book completed and several more have been added to my list. I have recently finished The Future of Political Science: 100 Perspectives, a collection of 100 short articles aimed at discussing what has not been properly analyzed or should be analyzed in political science. The book ended up being more oriented towards the fields of American and Comparative than I had originally anticipated (mostly by the title); however, this is more my own fault than anything else. Quickly browsing the titles of the 100 articles and the authors or knowing that the book is a festshcrift for Sidney Verba easily conveys that information.
The book is not homogeneous. For example, the two initial sections take opposing views with Arend Lijphart arguing that the United States is more unique than comparative scholars give it credit for and Russell Dalton taking the opposed position that US institutions have far more in common with other states than what has been examined previously. There are clusters of articles that deal with similar topics (e.g. elite behavior, institutions, voting, parties), but not all topics have a set of opposing viewpoints (nor should they necessarily). The introductory chapter offers a few rubrics for organization of the book that were ultimately rejected and provides some glimpse of the diversity of the subjects that are covered.
Beyond several substantive propositions, the book also has some focus on methodology. None of the articles that discuss political methodology were overly technical or beyond an average political scientist's comprehension of what is being discussed. The range of approaches vary form those who question the utility of quantitative political science in research to those who articulate more inclusion of qualitative methods or theoretical understandings of applying econometric techniques to political science. For example, David Butler has a very short piece that argues "Everything happens in a historical context. It is wise to be sceptical about articles on politics that never mention individual politicians. Specific leaders do make a difference. What if Gore not Bush had been adjudged the winner in 2000? What if Blair had yielded precedence to Brown in 1994? No numerical approach will explain the impact of Churchill in 1940 or of Kennedy in the early 1960s The run of history is not inevitable."
The collection is diverse. For Comparative and American scholars looking for potential dissertation topics or a new topic to work on, this might be an ideal book to thumb through and read. I will have to recommend some of the short pieces on elite behavior and third party representation to two different friends.
Things are pretty crazy around here with the impending school year and upcoming conference season. However, since the country is currently swept up in credit rating mania, I figured I would take the time to pass along some new research that is immediately relevant and serves as a nice complement to the Pontichelli and Voth paper being discussed over at the Monkey Cage. From my fellow Binghamton graduate students Matthew Digiuseppe and Colin Barry, as well as former Binghamton graduate student and current UNO faculty member Richard Frank:
Previous research indicates that a lack of state capacity is a key determinant of internal armed conflict. Scholars identify several internal dimensions of state capacity, but have yet to explore how international finance influences state resources. This is surprising because sovereign lending has increased dramatically in recent decades and plays an increasing role in the functioning of developed and developing governments. In this article, we explore this relationship between a state’s integration into global credit markets and its subsequent capacity to promote domestic stability. We argue that international capital increases a state’s ability to respond to internal opposition because states with favorable credit terms can expand their resource base beyond domestic constraints to deter, accommodate, or repress opposition while maintaining a level provision of resources to their political base. We examine the influence that both capital access and credit terms have on the risk of civil conflict in 141 countries from 1981-2007. Our empirical results indicate that states with affordable credit access are indeed less likely to experience civil conflict.
The paper can be found here. It is forthcoming at the Journal of Peace Research.
Several recent studies by three University of California psychologists, Michael Kraus, Paul Piff, and Dacher Keltner, suggest that individuals with lower class incomes are more empathetic and more altruistic than individuals with higher class incomes. They argue that since lower income individuals have to rely more on others to survive, they learn pro-social behaviors and learn to emphasize with others.
The results of these studies may explain why some individuals with a great deal of disposable income (1) are unaware of the magnitude of income inequality in the US, (2) believe they should pay the same tax rate as lower income individuals, and (3) want to reduce government spending on social programs. These studies can also explain the results of a recent CNN poll that suggests that individuals making under 50K a year are more likely than individuals making 50K a year or more to want the government to keep taxes high "so the government can use their money for programs to help lower-income people".