Lobbying and Campaigning Rights for Nonprofits

So, if religious groups can have a tax exemption, but are not resticted in their campaign and lobbying activities, surely it must be unconstitutional to deny the same rights to nonprofit organizations.  That would both be content based discrimination and establishment of religion.

That might lead to more than Trump bargained for today.

Be careful what you wish for.

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Will the New York State Zero Cost Public College Commitment Make the Partisan Divide Between the States Worse?

Its astonishing that the new New York State budget, assuming it gets approval from the rubber stamp members of the legislatture, includes a guarantee that anyone in a family earning less than $125,000 (after phase in) will not have to pay any college tuition to go to SUNY or CUNY.  It is not a perfect plan, for example you have to stay in the state for as long as you received benefits.

But it will act as a magnet for families in terms of where they move, increasing the appeal for those who are deeply committed to education.  Moreover those already in the state will surely obtain more eeduction, and learn to think and vote like grads.

Given that education is such a high predictor of voting behavior, its hard not to think that in the long term, and particularly if similar plans are adopted by other states, that this will speed up the political “sorting” already going on.

Simply put, education oriented states are investing more in education, will attract those committed to education, will increase the numbers with education and thus change both individual and aggregated voting behavior.  Those who do not value education will not choose those states.

That process does not make state red states less red, or blue states less blue.

Conversely, a federal “no cost” guarantee, as urged by many, would perhaps tend to have the opposite effect.  At a minimum with a such a program low education commitment states would end up subsidizing high education commitment states .  At least the change would reduce the opposite current state transfer effect, in which blue states generally making much larger federal revenue contributions.

 

 

Focusing Research To Support an “Appropriate Unrigging” Agenda By Getting Beyond Symptoms

If I am right that our change strategy has to be based on understanding how Trump voters and potential Trump voters think about the term “rigging,” then we need to be doing research that shows how and why the system is rigged, and for whom.

My own personal feeling that much of the problem is that research, after currently being mediated through the media, ends up reporting on symptoms, but not on causes and dynamics.  For example, the recent numbers on suicide, health and life expectancy in declining counties did get widely reported, but I bet they made it through as just that, leaving the impacted population to fill in their own “low information” explanations, that probably focused on external threats, (drugs and foreign competition), rather than lack of opportunity caused by American corporate decisions, lack of health care caused by Republican de-funding, etc. (That hypothesis in itself would make a fascinating research project)

While we can not reshape the media, at least in the shot term, I fear, we can start to do research that focuses not so much on the symptoms, but on government and corporate behavior, with symptoms as only the afterthought, and with analysis of the mechanisms of the impact that causes those symptoms.

We should be conducting focus groups and testing messages that are specifically not about getting short term support for specific changes, but getting insight into people’s understanding of underlying dynamics and finding what would disrupt or replace those understandings.

For example, this paper from the FTC on big data raises many questions about the possible discriminatory and exclusionary impacts of big data.  I would suggest that these impacts might include pricing policies that have discriminatory impact on the declining county areas, others that make it harder for people from those areas to apply for jobs, or even get health care assistance online.

So the research needs to be about the direct line from the corporate behavior, in this case the use of big data, to the impacts that the population of those areas feel.

An economist would say these big data techniques help make markets even more perfect.  Others might experience them differently.  The point is for research to provide the information and does not allow victims to be set against each other.

 

Trump Legitimacy Dissected and Projected

A few days before the election (with prescience that I find more frightening than anything else) I  blogged about the potential legitimacy of a Trump minority vote victory.

I would say that it would be legally and constitutionally legitimate, but morally and politically illegitimate.

Translation:  Otherwise legal (ha!) decisions he makes are to be respected and obeyed, within the constitutional framework.

But they are entitled to no moral or political deference.  He speaks for the government, but not for the people, either nationally and internationally.  Every political or moral choice is subject to challenge within the constitutional framework, and following its rules.

Moreover, any attempt to change the legal or practical constitutional framework would be subject to particularly strict legal and political scrutiny.  An example would be any attempt to change the rules allowing the filibuster of Supreme Court nominees, which not in the constitution, are protective of its balance.

So a couple of predictably terrifying, but occasionally slightly reassuring weeks out, where are we?

Above all, it is only just starting to sink in that for the first time in the a very long time, of the last three presidents have been first selected without plurality and without majority votes.  The only elections won by popular vote since 1996 are those of Obama and Bush’s reelection, which was not a selection of a president, but in effect dependent on the prior non-majority choice.

So whatever we may or may not have now, it can hardly we said to be a democracy.  That underlines the lack of legitimacy described above, and puts even more importance on understanding and acting on it.

Similarly, continued emphasis on the lack of any mandate (other perhaps in a warped sort of way) to preserve the Electoral College, is critical to counter the apparently massive changes that some of Trumps again apparent allies are planning in areas such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — areas that have very broad popular support and for which not just no change, but protection was promised.  Moreover, the total vote for Democrats who will be in the new Senate was greater than that for epublicans.

So, in so many substantive areas the slogan has to be “No Majority, No Mandate, No Change.”

In others, it will simply be “Keep Your Promises.”  Particularly when polling indicates (as rarely) popular agreement.

If Trump Supported or Protected The Tax Breaks He Took Advantage of, He Is Done

Trump and his surrogates have been relying on one defense to his more and more likely log term non-payment of taxes.  That defense is that he is under a duty to his investors to maximize their returns under the law.

Note that:  Under the law.

If there is any evidence that he lobbied to enact, or protect those breaks, whether in Congress or within the IRS regulatory structure, or even through the media, he is gone.

Because surely his may supporters will understand that there is a big difference between knowing how to navigate through an already rigged system, and being one of those who rigged the system.

He has been very honest about “paying to play.”  So it would be astonishing if he did not in fact make political donations to the chairs and members of the relevant tax-writing committees, and also have them expert influence over the statute and tax regulation writers.

Some of that may actually have happened during the two years that the Clintons were in the White House, AND Congress was republican.  So be it.  He’s been playing this game for a long time.  Remember, his claim is that he is different.  Saying the Clintons were part of it destroys his legitimacy much more than hers.

So, journalists and advocates, get out there, look at the contribution records of Trump and his groups.  Do FOIA requests of communications with the regulators.  (We know he could not resist pretending to be others).  Get the Congressional Research Office requests and how they relate to timing.

You just know that the evidence is going to be there.  Find it!