How Congress and the Courts Are Closing in on Dodd-Frank

Apr 4, 2013Mike Konczal

What are the serious threats to Dodd-Frank? Last month, Haley Sweetland Edwards wrote "He Who Makes the Rules" at the Washington Monthly, which is the best single piece on Dodd-Frank implementation I've seen. In it, she identifies "three main areas on this gauntlet where a rule can be sliced, diced, gouged, or otherwise weakened beyond recognition." The first is "the agency itself, where industry lobbyists enjoy outsized influence in meetings and comment letters, on rule makers’ access to vital information, and on the interpretation of the law itself." The second is the courts, "where industry groups can sue an agency and have a rule killed on a variety of grounds." And the third is Congress, "where an entire law can be retroactively gutted or poked through with loopholes."

How important have those three areas been? Looking at the first two and a half years of Dodd-Frank, the courts turned out to be the unexpected danger for financial reform. I have a piece in Bloomberg View today arguing this, as well as the fact that the courts are structurally biased against reform in some very crucial ways.

That's not to say the lobbying battle is going well. But when the bill passed, people understood that rulewriting would be a difficult battle, and some groups like Americans for Financial Reform and Better Markets could at least help balance the lobbying efforts of financial industry groups. What was less understood was that the D.C. Circuit Court would have so many vacancies, and thus tilted to the far right and a radical agenda. I hope you check out the piece.

But what about Congress? Erika Eichelberger at Mother Jones has an excellent piece about the ongoing, now biparistan, efforts to roll back parts of Dodd-Frank's derivative regulations that are starting up in the House Agriculture Committee. (I wrote about this effort for Wonkblog here.) This third area Edwards identifies, Congress, is only now becoming a serious battlefield. But isn't the timing off? President Obama and the Democrats lost in 2010 but won in 2012. Yet while the threat of Congress rolling back Dodd-Frank, one of President Obama's major achievements, with new bills wasn't on the radar in 2011, it may be in 2013. Isn't that backwards?
 
Part of the answer is that the rules are becoming clearer, so financial industry lobbyists have more concrete targets to bring to Congress. But there's a political dimension as well. The general shutdown and polarization that dominated Congress after 2010 made a congressional threat to Dodd-Frank less likely. And ironically, the rise of the Tea Party within the conservative movement, even with its anti-Obama and anti-regulatory zeal, made bills to weaken Dodd-Frank less likely to pass. One reason is that the Tea Party wanted a full repeal of the bill or to gut entire sections, rather than more targeted interventions. Another is that the biggest losers in the 2010 shellacking were centrist “new Democrats,” those that would be more responsive to the needs of the financial industry than the progressive caucus that gained in relative strength afterwards.
 
It’s possible many more centrist Democrats could have moved a bill through Congress weakening Dodd-Frank as it was being implemented, especially if conservatives were looking to compromise. But remaining centrist Democrats were not going to remove the FDIC's new resolution authority to end Too Big To Fail, which is what the Ryan budget calls for, or knee-cap the CFPB out the door, which is what the Senate GOP wants in exchange for nominating a director, or vote to repeal the bill in its entirety, which was a litmus test for the 2012 GOP presidental candidates. Especially after they just took a lot of heat to pass the bill. Deficit hysteria was the only thing that got momentum, with both parties doing serious damage by cutting the budget of the CFTC.
 
(The unpopularity of the financial industry probably didn't help either. The congressional change that the financial industry most wanted, the delay of a rule designed to limit the interchange fees associated with debit cards, failed to clear 60 votes in the Senate.)
 
Now that the GOP is realizing that Dodd-Frank is here to stay, we might see more effort to reach across the aisle to dismantle smaller pieces of it in accordance with what the financial industry wants. Health care is facing a similar situation, where conservatives policy entrepreneurs are currently debating whether or not to work within the framework of Obamacare or continue trying to repeal it. Sadly, conservatives will probably do far more damage if they get to the point of accepting that Dodd-Frank is the law of the land and try to do more targeted repeals rather than wage all-out war.
 
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What are the serious threats to Dodd-Frank? Last month, Haley Sweetland Edwards wrote "He Who Makes the Rules" at the Washington Monthly, which is the best single piece on Dodd-Frank implementation I've seen. In it, she identifies "three main areas on this gauntlet where a rule can be sliced, diced, gouged, or otherwise weakened beyond recognition." The first is "the agency itself, where industry lobbyists enjoy outsized influence in meetings and comment letters, on rule makers’ access to vital information, and on the interpretation of the law itself." The second is the courts, "where industry groups can sue an agency and have a rule killed on a variety of grounds." And the third is Congress, "where an entire law can be retroactively gutted or poked through with loopholes."

How important have those three areas been? Looking at the first two and a half years of Dodd-Frank, the courts turned out to be the unexpected danger for financial reform. I have a piece in Bloomberg View today arguing this, as well as the fact that the courts are structurally biased against reform in some very crucial ways.

That's not to say the lobbying battle is going well. But when the bill passed, people understood that rulewriting would be a difficult battle, and some groups like Americans for Financial Reform and Better Markets could at least help balance the lobbying efforts of financial industry groups. What was less understood was that the D.C. Circuit Court would have so many vacancies, and thus tilted to the far right and a radical agenda. I hope you check out the piece.

But what about Congress? Erika Eichelberger at Mother Jones has an excellent piece about the ongoing, now biparistan, efforts to roll back parts of Dodd-Frank's derivative regulations that are starting up in the House Agriculture Committee. (I wrote about this effort for Wonkblog here.) This third area Edwards identifies, Congress, is only now becoming a serious battlefield. But isn't the timing off? President Obama and the Democrats lost in 2010 but won in 2012. Yet while the threat of Congress rolling back Dodd-Frank, one of President Obama's major achievements, with new bills wasn't on the radar in 2011, it may be in 2013. Isn't that backwards?
 
Part of the answer is that the rules are becoming clearer, so financial industry lobbyists have more concrete targets to bring to Congress. But there's a political dimension as well. The general shutdown and polarization that dominated Congress after 2010 made a congressional threat to Dodd-Frank less likely. And ironically, the rise of the Tea Party within the conservative movement, even with its anti-Obama and anti-regulatory zeal, made bills to weaken Dodd-Frank less likely to pass. One reason is that the Tea Party wanted a full repeal of the bill or to gut entire sections, rather than more targeted interventions. Another is that the biggest losers in the 2010 shellacking were centrist “new Democrats,” those that would be more responsive to the needs of the financial industry than the progressive caucus that gained in relative strength afterwards.
 
It’s possible many more centrist Democrats could have moved a bill through Congress weakening Dodd-Frank as it was being implemented, especially if conservatives were looking to compromise. But remaining centrist Democrats were not going to remove the FDIC's new resolution authority to end Too Big To Fail, which is what the Ryan budget calls for, or knee-cap the CFPB out the door, which is what the Senate GOP wants in exchange for nominating a director, or vote to repeal the bill in its entirety, which was a litmus test for the 2012 GOP presidental candidates. Especially after they just took a lot of heat to pass the bill. Deficit hysteria was the only thing that got momentum, with both parties doing serious damage by cutting the budget of the CFTC.
 
(The unpopularity of the financial industry probably didn't help either. The congressional change that the financial industry most wanted, the delay of a rule designed to limit the interchange fees associated with debit cards, failed to clear 60 votes in the Senate.)
 
Now that the GOP is realizing that Dodd-Frank is here to stay, we might see more effort to reach across the aisle to dismantle smaller pieces of it in accordance with what the financial industry wants. Health care is facing a similar situation, where conservatives policy entrepreneurs are currently debating whether or not to work within the framework of Obamacare or continue trying to repeal it. Sadly, conservatives will probably do far more damage if they get to the point of accepting that Dodd-Frank is the law of the land and try to do more targeted repeals rather than wage all-out war.
 
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Mark Schmitt: Constitutional Amendment Against Citizens United Distracts from Real Progress

Mar 13, 2013

Few on the left were happy with the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United that paved the way for so-called corporate personhood and opened the floodgates for money in politics. But taking that frustration and focusing it solely on a constitutional amendment is misguided, as Senior Fellow Mark Schmitt told Democracy Now. "I view it as a real distraction from some of the progress that we can make on money in politics," he explained.

Few on the left were happy with the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United that paved the way for so-called corporate personhood and opened the floodgates for money in politics. But taking that frustration and focusing it solely on a constitutional amendment is misguided, as Senior Fellow Mark Schmitt told Democracy Now. "I view it as a real distraction from some of the progress that we can make on money in politics," he explained. The amdendment is "sending the wrong signal to people and overlooking the tremendous progress that’s actually being made…on public financing that offsets the role of money from individuals and money from big corporations."

And there's a lot of hope in public financing for money in politics reformers. "We’re really undergoing a grand experiment of how much we can do with public financing of elections," Schmitt says. "I think we’re beginning to find that those systems that either provide a fixed amount of money to candidates who agree to forgo most private money or that match small contributions…those can really help candidates get to the point of being heard without turning to big money and get them enough that they’re not necessarily shot down by big money." Systems in New York City, Arizona, Minnesota, and Connecticut are all working, he said: "These systems are popular, they’re resilient, they withstand legal challenges, and that’s really where the energy ought to be focused at this point."

While he understands the appeal of a constitutional amendment -- "it’s easy to get people to sign a petition for it because it sounds very clear cut" -- the slow and perhaps even impossible progress on this front could send the signal that nothing can be done. "The message it sends is we can’t do anything until we have a constitutional amendment," he said, which is "exactly the same as saying we can't do anything."

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The Case for Optimism About Campaign Finance Reform – With Scalia on the Bench

Mar 4, 2013Mark Schmitt

Current limits on money in politics being tested across the country should give reformers hope.

Current limits on money in politics being tested across the country should give reformers hope.

Last Monday, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case challenging the century-old ban on direct corporate contributions to federal election campaigns. That counts as good news in a month that included the court’s earlier decision to hear a case that challenges the aggregate contribution limits in campaign finance and Obama strategist David Axelrod declaring that he would prefer a system of unlimited contributions with full disclosure. Almost all Republicans, the Supreme Court, and a powerful faction of the Democratic Party now fall somewhere on the spectrum between skepticism and vehement opposition to limits on contributions. The flimsy remains of the post-Watergate system of campaign finance regulation are on the verge of collapse.

Richard Hasen, law professor and proprietor of the indispensable Election Law Blog, argued in Slate last week that there was still hope for campaign finance reform – just not until Justice Antonin Scalia leaves the court. But there are other reforms currently being tested on the ground that hold out hope for changing the power of money in politics.

Hasen is right, of course, that until at least one of the five members of the Citizens United majority leaves the court by death or retirement and is replaced by a Democratic appointee, the best hope is that it will rule narrowly in cases such as the one involving aggregate contribution limits, rather than using them as opportunities, as they did in Citizens United, to punch holes in the law that are bigger than the cases themselves. He’s also right that expecting a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United (or do various other things, depending on the version) is far less likely to reopen the path toward a reasonable balance of the role of money in politics than a change in the membership of the court.

Hasen proposes that campaign finance reform advocates take the time now “to plan for the next Supreme Court.” We should use the indefinite waiting period to “think more about what a reasonable campaign finance regime would look like” and acknowledge that “conservatives are absolutely right that campaign finance laws can boost incumbents and stifle political competition.”

I agree with Hasen on all of that, even the last points, but I’d go even further: A reasonable campaign finance regime, one that doesn’t boost incumbents or stifle competition, could even be put in place with the existing Supreme Court. (The current Congress is another story.) The thinking he’s proposing is going on right now, and is even being tested, in systems based on the principle of “small-donor public financing.” These systems use some combination of matching funds, tax credits, vouchers, or generous public financing for candidates who show a base of small-donor support. They make it easier for candidates to run who don’t have big-donor support in order to enhance public participation and to ensure that elected officials aren’t entirely dependent on big donors or corporations, whether those donors are giving directly to campaigns or to outside groups.

The public financing systems in Arizona, Maine, and Connecticut, which have been resilient, strongly supported by the public, upheld in the courts, and used by almost as many Republicans as Democrats, fall into this category. So does the generous matching system in New York City that has the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and a growing number of legislators, which can serve as a model for legislation elsewhere. So can Minnesota’s system, which is currently unfunded but which until a few years ago offered a quickly refundable tax credit for small contributions along with a match on the candidate side. All of these systems can be considered part of a broad experiment, and scholars are looking closely at them to see whether they change who runs for office, who donates, and ultimately whether the states’ political processes are more responsive to the public.

Legislation at the federal level has followed the small-donor model as well. Rep. John Sarbanes’ Grassroots Democracy Act, for example, draws on elements from several of the successful state programs, including a refundable tax credit for small donors along with a matching program for campaigns. The Fair Elections Act similarly incorporates a combination of small donor incentives with full public financing. A voucher that would allow every citizen to contribute in the same way that she votes, long advocated by Yale Law Professor Bruce Ackerman who calls them “Patriot Dollars,” and more recently by his Harvard counterpart Lawrence Lessig, is attracting renewed interest as well.

All these systems are voluntary, and alone they don’t go too far toward controlling big money, except for the candidates who participate. But they do make it possible for candidates to run who wouldn’t be able to otherwise or who want to run independently of big money. If they’re designed well, they can help candidates be in the position to get their messages out, and at a certain point it doesn’t matter all that much if the other candidate has a lot more money or more outside money spent on her behalf. (The Brennan Center put out an excellent report in 2011 on the many positive effects of small-donor public financing.)

The big question is whether these systems can work without limits on outside money. Without limits, candidates might hesitate to participate, voluntarily limiting their own spending, if they worry about being overwhelmed by big outside campaigns. It’s also unlikely that the public will support throwing good money into a cesspool of unregulated spending for very long. If that’s the case, these systems will need backup from the kind of limits that are under challenge in the recent cases or rejected by the court in Citizens United or other cases. But even after the court rejected a feature of the Arizona system that gave candidates more money if they were attacked by outside money, the system survived, and a majority of candidates for statewide office in 2010 and 2012 participated in the system.

The 2012 federal elections offered even more evidence that small-donor systems can work. It was not that “money doesn’t matter” (a view challenged by Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Thomas Ferguson and colleagues here), but rather that once a candidate for the House, Senate, or lower office has reached the threshold that allows him to be heard, extra money on the other side, whether from outside groups or the opposing campaign itself, matters less. For example, all the Senate candidates hit with outside spending by the Sheldon Adelson and Koch Brothers-funded groups won reelection. If small-donor public financing can get candidates to that threshold, then limits on outside spending won’t be as important in making the system work.

That’s not to say that it isn’t worth trying to strengthen the limits that remain and to build on the broader consensus that supports disclosure. In particular, the Internal Revenue Service should enforce the law governing 501(c)(4) non-profits, which are increasingly being used as vehicles for undisclosed and unlimited campaign spending, but which are not permitted to have influencing elections as their “primary activity.” The sheer number of mechanisms by which a donor can try to influence the outcome of an election has proliferated so far beyond the old standby of broadcast advertising that it will be impossible to chase it all down.

The next generation of campaign finance reform doesn’t have to be developed in a laboratory while waiting for Scalia or one of his colleagues to retire or to encounter a higher judge. It’s being designed, refined, tested, and improved as you read this in a half dozen states and municipalities. If it works, it will lead us to a system that will moderate the influence of economic inequality on democracy while enhancing competition and strengthening First Amendment rights of free expression. 

Mark Schmitt is a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute.

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Mike Konczal: The BP Trial Could Be Environmental Regulation's Last Stand

Mar 4, 2013

This past weekend, Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal joined a panel on MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry to discuss the significance of the BP trial and the true cost of the damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. Because of weak laws and regulatory capture, Mike says, the civil court system "is ultimately the last form of regulation we have." But will the punishment, if any, fit the crime?

This past weekend, Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal joined a panel on MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry to discuss the significance of the BP trial and the true cost of the damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. Because of weak laws and regulatory capture, Mike says, the civil court system "is ultimately the last form of regulation we have." But will the punishment, if any, fit the crime? "It's one thing for them to say, 'There's all these damages and we're going to pay them out.' That's just basic fairness," Mike argues. But "without a serious payout that is punitive and that actually deters future behavior, we're going to see more things like this." Unfortunately, "People will tally up things that they can measure, but human suffering, third-order poverty that has skyrocketed as a result of all this industry collapse, that is very difficult to put a price tag on."

Watch the full video of Mike's appearance below:




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Dorian Warren: We Need "National Voting Reform" if SCOTUS Decides Against Voting Rights Act

Feb 28, 2013

Antonin Scalia made his feelings on the Voting Rights Act, which took a beating during Supreme Court oral arguments this week, pretty clear, calling it a "perpetuation of

Antonin Scalia made his feelings on the Voting Rights Act, which took a beating during Supreme Court oral arguments this week, pretty clear, calling it a "perpetuation of racial entitlement." But as Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren explained on MSNBC's The Last Word, he's not alone -- nor is his line of thinking unique. Attacks on the Voting Rights Act are part of "a long-term, more than 30-year effort to chip away at most of the civil rights victories." Which is ironic, given that the arguments came on the same day the U.S. Capitol unveiled its new statue of Rosa Parks, "who led the Montgomery bus boycott in Alabama, the very state challenging the most significant and important civil rights victory of the movement," he said.





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The argument against the Voting Rights Act is basically that we've moved beyond racism, so targeting certain states for their histories of discrimination is out of line. But impulses to morph the law in ways that would discriminate against black people "have always been there, from the founding and especially through the '60s, until we had an effective legislation measure to deal with it," Dorian said. That's a lot of history to have already overcome.

So what do we do if the Supreme Court strikes down this law? There could be one upside. "In response we can then make a demand for some kind of national voting reform," he concluded. We'll have to wait and see.

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Dorian Warren: We Need "National Voting Reform" if SCOTUS Decides Against Voting Rights Act

Feb 28, 2013

Antonin Scalia made his feelings on the Voting Rights Act, which took a beating during Supreme Court oral arguments this week, pretty clear, calling it a "perpetuation of racial entitlement." But as Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren explained on MSNBC's The Last Word, he's not alone -- nor is his line of thinking unique.

Antonin Scalia made his feelings on the Voting Rights Act, which took a beating during Supreme Court oral arguments this week, pretty clear, calling it a "perpetuation of racial entitlement." But as Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren explained on MSNBC's The Last Word, he's not alone -- nor is his line of thinking unique. Attacks on the Voting Rights Act are part of "a long-term, more than 30-year effort to chip away at most of the civil rights victories." Which is ironic, given that the arguments came on the same day the U.S. Capitol unveiled its new statue of Rosa Parks, "who led the Montgomery bus boycott in Alabama, the very state challenging the most significant and important civil rights victory of the movement," he said.



Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The argument against the Voting Rights Act is basically that we've moved beyond racism, so targeting certain states for their histories of discrimination is out of line. But impulses to morph the law in ways that would discriminate against black people "have always been there, from the founding and especially through the '60s, until we had an effective legislation measure to deal with it," Dorian said. That's a lot of history to have already overcome.

So what do we do if the Supreme Court strikes down this law? There could be one upside. "In response we can then make a demand for some kind of national voting reform," he concluded. We'll have to wait and see.

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Women Are Less Safe in Gayle Trotter’s World

Feb 4, 2013Andrea Flynn

The right is borrowing pro-choice language to push back on regulations that could save women's lives.

The right is borrowing pro-choice language to push back on regulations that could save women's lives.

Just when we thought the gun lobby’s approach to ending gun violence couldn’t get any more ridiculous, last week we were introduced to Gayle Trotter. A fellow at the conservative Independent Women's Forum, Trotter unveiled to the Senate Judiciary Committee the latest canard that curbing access to guns would create an "undue burden" for women who would "choose" to defend themselves from violence. Her assertions are illogical at best and downright dangerous at worst. Two aspects of her testimony are particularly troubling: the appropriation and misapplication of pro-choice language to describe the need for unfettered access to weapons and the notion that guns make the world a safer place for women.

It’s puzzling that Trotter decided to use the loaded language of choice and undue burden to argue that women must have access to assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. The concept of undue burden has done more to roll back access to abortion than perhaps any other legislation. It’s derived from the Supreme Court’s 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which gave states the right to restrict abortion as long as their laws didn’t create an “undue burden” for women. Over the past two decades, we have watched as states across the country have determined that there are actually very few burdens that are undue: 72-hour waiting periods; mandated parental or court consent; involuntary, and sometimes invasive, ultrasounds; lectures based on factual inaccuracies and disproven pseudoscience; and travelling hundreds of miles from home to access care.

In many parts of the country it is far easier to obtain a gun than it is an abortion. In 35 states women are required to receive counseling before an abortion is performed and 26 of them require women to wait at least 24 hours before obtaining the procedure, meaning at least two separate trips to the clinic. Only 12 states require some type of waiting period between the purchase and acquisition of a gun, and in some cases those laws only apply to federally licensed dealers. How’s that for a pro-life agenda?

Before she wielded such historically charged language, Trotter should have made sure it would actually help make her case. Is she suggesting the courts apply the same extremely low undue burden standard to guns that they have applied to reproductive health care? By that logic, mandatory background checks and restrictions on high capacity magazines and battlefield-appropriate automatic weapons should hardly be contentious.

But as a woman and a sensible human, what I find even more troubling – and outright erroneous – is the claim that a society with more guns is a society safer for women. A growing chorus of gun advocates have dusted off outdated gender stereotypes of women as vulnerable and defenseless, exploiting them to make the case for fewer restrictions on guns. Arguing that without guns women will be less safe perpetuates the notion that violence against women at the hands of men is an inevitable reality of our culture. It suggests that attempting to stem violence at its root is futile and the only solution is to go “all in” on guns—arm everyone. I am offended and frightened by the notion that what is needed to keep women and children safe is an increased presence of the very weapons responsible for so many deaths of women and children every year.

This claim falls along the dangerous spectrum of (il)logic that says we simply should dress more modestly, drink less, stay at home after dark, and arm ourselves with mace and self-defense skills to avoid being the victims of violence. But if those things don’t work, we should just tuck an automatic weapon in our purse or under our pillow for when we inevitably will have to fend off a band of heavily armed attackers.

How is this the answer to our epidemic of violence against women? Shouldn’t we be demanding changes to a culture that normalizes violence, instead of trying to convince people that we’d be safer if more of us were armed with deadly weapons?

In her testimony, Trotter referenced women who used guns to defend themselves against violent intruders—guns that would not be banned under the proposed legislation. Trotter’s anecdotes can be compelling. But you know what else is compelling? Evidence! Research! Logic!

In an editorial over the weekend, the New York Times called into question Trotter’s suggestion that bands of armed home intruders are a common problem facing women and provided a wealth of statistics to illustrate that the presence of guns greatly increases the risk of lethal violence against women. Mayor Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns campaign will soon release statistics that illustrate how much less safe guns make women. Trotter conveniently ignored the research that shows that in states that that require a background check for every handgun sale, 38 percent fewer women are shot to death by intimate partners. She failed to mention that in the United States, women are 11 times more likely to be murdered than women in other high-income countries with sensible gun restrictions. She didn’t tell us that the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide for women by 500 percent.

As Bloomberg’s campaign points out, Trotter attached a list of 21 self-defense incidents that occurred over the course of two years and four months to her written testimony. In that same period, 1,900 women were murdered with guns by current or former intimate partners. The women Trotter speaks of are outliers in a society where women are far more likely to be injured or killed by someone they know. More guns won't fix this. The proposed gun legislation alone won't rid us of our culture of violence, but it is a critical step in the right direction. And for that matter, so is passing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a legal commitment to protecting women from assault, adequately punishing those who harm them, and demanding an end to a culture where women are the all too frequent victims of violence. Trotter puzzlingly opposes this legislation.

Fight firearms with firearms? Makes sense if you want to sell more guns, but not if you want to protect women.

Andrea Flynn is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute.

 

Woman with gun image via Shutterstock.com.

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Mike Konczal: Is Occupy a Small Government Movement?

Nov 29, 2012

In the latest episode of the Roosevelt Institute's Bloggingheads series, Fireside Chats, Fellow Mike Konczal talks to Yale JD/PhD candidate Jeremy Kessler about the intersection of the law and the left and about

In the latest episode of the Roosevelt Institute's Bloggingheads series, Fireside Chats, Fellow Mike Konczal talks to Yale JD/PhD candidate Jeremy Kessler about the intersection of the law and the left and about leftists who dissent from mainstream progressivism. In the clip below, they discuss whether the Occupy movement, which Mike says has "made a comeback recently" with Strike Debt and Occupy Sandy, represents a libertarian rejection of the state rather than a progressive revolution.

Mike notes that despite Occupy's renewed vigor, some progressives continue to write "quasi-obituaries" that paint it as an aimless anarchist movement. Critics argue that "when you think of them creating a whole new world in Zuccotti Park" it sounds like "the gulches of Ayn Rand novels," and that "a lot of this focus on mutual aid essentially fills in for a rapidly receding government presence under neoliberalism." Mike says this can be seen with Occupy Sandy, which essentially serves as a replacement for FEMA, or the push for homeschooling, which is "just amplifying the way the state is privatizing and dismantling public education." But while Jeremy admits "there is a lot of allergy to the idea of centralized power" in the movement, he and Mike agree that it advances the left's cause by highlighting the failure of the neoliberal state and the "zones of privation" that the shrinking of government has created.

For more, including their discussion of the changing politics of the Supreme Court and the conservative police state, check out the full video below:

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Mike Konczal: Is Occupy a Small Government Movement?

Nov 29, 2012

In the latest episode of the Roosevelt Institute's Bloggingheads series, Fireside Chats, Fellow Mike Konczal talks to Yale JD/PhD candidate Jeremy Kessler about the intersection of the law and the left and about leftists who dissent from mainstream progressivism. In the clip below, they discuss whether the Occupy movement, which Mike says has "made a comeback recently" with Strike Debt and Occupy Sandy, represents a libertarian rejection of the state rather than a progressive revolution.

In the latest episode of the Roosevelt Institute's Bloggingheads series, Fireside Chats, Fellow Mike Konczal talks to Yale JD/PhD candidate Jeremy Kessler about the intersection of the law and the left and about leftists who dissent from mainstream progressivism. In the clip below, they discuss whether the Occupy movement, which Mike says has "made a comeback recently" with Strike Debt and Occupy Sandy, represents a libertarian rejection of the state rather than a progressive revolution.

Mike notes that despite Occupy's renewed vigor, some progressives continue to write "quasi-obituaries" that paint it as an aimless anarchist movement. Critics argue that "when you think of them creating a whole new world in Zuccotti Park" it sounds like "the gulches of Ayn Rand novels," and that "a lot of this focus on mutual aid essentially fills in for a rapidly receding government presence under neoliberalism." Mike says this can be seen with Occupy Sandy, which essentially serves as a replacement for FEMA, or the push for homeschooling, which is "just amplifying the way the state is privatizing and dismantling public education." But while Jeremy admits "there is a lot of allergy to the idea of centralized power" in the movement, he and Mike agree that it advances the left's cause by highlighting the failure of the neoliberal state and the "zones of privation" that the shrinking of government has created.

For more, including their discussion of the changing politics of the Supreme Court and the conservative police state, check out the full video below:

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Children, Parents and Mass Incarceration

Nov 21, 2012Mike Konczal

After a round of discussion on family structure, Reihan Salam tweeted out "@reihan Important point about family stability and public policy: mass incarceration is a huge part of the problem." I've just read a book, Invisible Men: Mass Incarceration and the Myth of Black Progress, by the sociologist Becky Pettit, whi

After a round of discussion on family structure, Reihan Salam tweeted out "@reihan Important point about family stability and public policy: mass incarceration is a huge part of the problem." I've just read a book, Invisible Men: Mass Incarceration and the Myth of Black Progress, by the sociologist Becky Pettit, which addresses this. Let's get a few charts out.

Here's a chart of children with a parent behind bars:

That's a fivefold increase since 1980. But that's with a parent behind bars at any one moment. What about the percentage of children who will have had a parent behind bars at some point in their childhood?

24% of black children will have had a parent behind bars by age 17, an eightfold increase since 1980.

The interesting thesis of Invisible Men is that the government, through the means it uses to record, analyze and ultimately see the population it governs, systematically misses incarcerated people. This biases various policy debates, as researchers build their arguments off these records. This is particularly important for some serious ongoing debates, like gaps between blacks and whites in earnings or labor-force participation, or the high-school dropout rate. This missing population also means that a variety of research agendas, from political participation to family structure, are also lacking an analytical mechanism for understanding how the large increase in incarcerated populations are impacting the topics.

There aren't definitive answers for how incarceration changes family structure, though there is evidence that incarcerated fathers are less like to be cohabitating or marrying a year after their child's birth. And incarceration increases the liklihood of divorce. But we don't have full answers, in part because the incarcerated fall off the government's radar for data collection. Hopefully Pettit's book will draw attention to this gap in our knowledge, and help future researchers understand the subtle yet devestating consequences of the War on Drugs and other means of mass incaraceration for our country.
 
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