Texas is in the middle of a preventable natural disaster. Millions are facing dangerous cold failures and water failures without reliable electricity. At least 16 people are dead as of Wednesday night. ERCOT, the state’s electrical utility, warns that the outages may continue at least until the weather breaks this weekend. Damage from frozen pipes and other infrastructure failures will be costly. Hospitals are running low on water. Texans are burning their furniture for heat:

While many other states are facing the same extreme weather, only Texas has experienced such massive power outages this week. …


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Source: Wikimedia Commons

After sweeping to huge majorities in the Presidency, House, Senate and state offices in the 2006 and 2008 elections, Democrats got shellacked in the 2010 midterm elections. Some of the shellacking was predictable: the nation was in the middle of the Great Recession, and the President’s party often faces a thermostatic backlash in the midterm elections after a big win.

Joe Biden’s team is well aware of what happened, and wants to guard against it happening again. According to an article in Politico, the efforts are focused largely on prioritizing investments in state and local parties and devoting top White…


CONGRESS

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By: E.J. Fagan, Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago, and Zachary McGee, PhD Candidate, UT-Austin

We often observe members of Congress blatantly disregarding non-partisan expertise. If an expert says something that they disagree with, they often disagree back without rigorous evidence. These incidents may suggest that Congress rarely consults expertise when dealing with an emerging public policy problem. However, new research published at Legislative Studies Quarterly from Zachary McGee and I suggests that they do indeed seek out the advise of non-partisan experts.

Congress established the Congressional Research Service (CRS) in its current form in 1970 to provide high-quality…


Politics

Consolidating decision-making power will make governance worse

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Photo Credit: Cherry Bream (flickr)

Today, on his excellent new blog, Matt Yglesias argued that American political institutions should consolidate powers around mayors and governors. Yglesias claims that today’s executives are more democratically accountable than modern local legislative institutions due to the decline of local news and the increasing pull of national politics.

While my read of the literature is that Yglesias is correct about democratic accountability in the post-local media world, he misses one large trade-off of consolidating decision-making power in the hands of fewer elected officials: it will make governance worse. Government’s ability to efficiently process information will diminish.

Efficiency

At any…


Democratic Convention

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Photo: Anthony Quintano / flickr

The Democratic National Committee released their platform for the 2020 election this week. It contains 62 dense pages of policy promises, ranging from statehood for Washington, DC to expanding U.S. Department of Agriculture loans to small farmers to a $15 minimum wage.

It’s tempting to treat the platform as an academic exercise. Few voters will ever read it, and it in no ways binds the party to policy decisions should they regain power. However, my research shows that the issues emphasized in the platform tend to predict the issues that the new Congress will take up after the election. Party…


Politics

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Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Senate is poised to vote on the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020 as an amendment to the National Defense Appropriations Act this week. If enacted, the bill will eliminate anonymous shell companies in the United States. A similar bill passed the House in October. Any bill that passes would have to be reconciled in conference committee.

Anonymous shell companies are critical to any large-scale money laundering process. They allow illicit actors to disguise the identities of the real (“beneficial”) owners of the company, and thus the source of funds. …

E.J. Fagan

Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Illinois at Chicago

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