Peterson on Scenarios for a Messy Election Aftermath

Public Policy Professor Mark Peterson spoke to Elite Daily about a post-election scenario that has raised concerns: What would happen if President Trump lost reelection but refused to give up power? Trump has made multiple comments suggesting that he would not commit to stepping down if he lost the election. According to Peterson, this scenario is highly unlikely. Election results are verified through the Electoral College and then declared by Congress, he explained. An incumbent president who fails to win a second term yet refuses to leave the White House may be escorted off the premises by the newly elected president’s Secret Service detail once power changes hands on Inauguration Day. Peterson added that Trump’s claims of voter fraud are baseless and “undermine the confidence that people have in our institutions and in our elected officials.” And he expressed concern about potential violence from informal right-wing militias who might be triggered into action by a Trump loss.

After the Pandemic, a Focus on Transportation Equity

An article in the Hill on the post-pandemic future of public transportation featured research presented at this year’s UCLA Lake Arrowhead Symposium. The virtual learning series, hosted by the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, explored how the transportation sector can recover from the economic shock of COVID-19 in an equitable manner. The Hill cited two scholars who presented research during the symposium. Deborah Salon of Arizona State University shared results from a survey finding that many employees may prefer to continue working from home even after pandemic restrictions are lifted, decreasing commuter demand for transit options. Giovanni Circella of UC Davis pointed to a “massive shift” toward car travel among those who have reduced their reliance on public transit. “In the other direction, among those reducing driving, pretty much nobody is increasing the use of transit,” he said. 

Gilens on American Attitudes Toward Welfare

A Fortune article summarized Public Policy Chair Martin Gilens’ analysis of American attitudes toward welfare in order to better understand the effect of the pandemic on the country. New studies have found that the poorest Americans have gotten poorer during the pandemic, despite unemployment benefit programs such as the $2.2 trillion CARES Act. On the other side of the U.S.-Canada border, Canadians received $2,000 deposited directly into their bank accounts days after filling out an online form as part of the Canadian Economic Recovery Benefit. Canada’s social safety net and collectivist mindset have supported Canadians during the pandemic, resulting in fewer deaths and COVID-19 infections compared to the U.S. after adjusting for population size differences, the article stated. It cited Gilens’ book “Why Americans Hate Welfare,” which argues that individualism, economic self-interest, the trope of the “undeserving” welfare recipient and racial discrimination each contribute to American attitudes on wealth redistribution through taxation.

Science Matters, Torres-Gil Says

The Larchmont Buzz highlighted Professor of Social Welfare and Public Policy Fernando Torres-Gil’s perspectives on the eradication of polio and lessons for the COVID-19 era at an online event marking World Polio Awareness Day. Polio cases have been reduced by 99.9% since Rotary launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988, the article noted. Torres-Gil, a public health expert who survived polio contracted as an infant, told fellow Rotarians that he is concerned about mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic. “Science matters, unity matters, public-private partnerships matter,” said Torres-Gil, director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging at UCLA Luskin. “That’s what made the fight against polio work. … Unfortunately, it has been the exact opposite with COVID-19.” In addition to a death toll that has climbed past 200,000, the credibility of the scientific community is in danger, Torres-Gil explained. “The health of the nation is not a partisan issue,” he said. “We need data and facts.”

Gilens on the Gender Gap in U.S. Politics

Public Policy Chair Martin Gilens was featured in a New York Times article on the gender gap in U.S. politics. Over the years, women have been more likely than men to favor government spending on social issues. Trying to explain the gap, some scholars argued that women were voting in their self-interest. The article cited a counterargument Gilens wrote in the 1980s. “I do not believe that ‘women’s issues’ such as the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) or abortion, nor economic conditions such as the growing number of impoverished women, are primarily responsible for the gender gap,” he wrote. “The gender gap reflects traditional differences in male and female values and personalities, differences such as men’s greater competitiveness and concerns with issues of power and control, and women’s greater compassion and nurturance, rejection of force and violence, and concern with interpersonal relations.” In 2020, Gilens noted, “women see [President Trump] as being the opposite of someone who is caring.” 

Wachs on Understanding the History of L.A. Traffic

A StreetsBlog article highlighted the findings of a new paper by Professor Emeritus of Urban Planning Martin Wachs and graduate students Peter Sebastian Chesney and Yu Hong Hwang about the history of Los Angeles traffic congestion. Their paper, “A Century of Fighting Traffic Congestion in Los Angeles: 1920-2020,” delves into the many arguments over how to battle congestion in the city over the last 100 years. While solutions including improvements in public transit and construction of new freeways have been proposed, these strategies have never brought more than a temporary reprieve from the unrelenting growth in congestion, the authors say. They argue that in order to address traffic congestion today, experts must understand the city’s complicated history with public transit and transportation infrastructure. Today’s proposals are not much different from past solutions, and even though mistakes have been made, it’s not clear that lessons have been learned, they wrote.

Ong on Fallout From a Flawed Census

Paul Ong, director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge at UCLA Luskin, spoke to KCRW’s Press Play about flaws in the 2020 Census, which has been cut short by two weeks. Ong said that, 10 years ago, about 5% of households responding to the census provided inaccurate information. “I suspect it’s going to be much worse this time around given the pandemic and given the politicization of the whole process,” he said. Ong also responded to the Trump administration’s efforts to subtract undocumented immigrants from census totals. The policy would deepen the political alienation of a broad group of people, including people of color, low-income populations and immigrants who are in the country legally but who are not yet citizens, Ong said. It would also drain political and economic resources from disadvantaged neighborhoods, with “long-term implications for who gets what and who’s left out.”

Diaz on the Increasing Influence of Voters of Color

Several media outlets have called on Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin, for insights on election-related issues including the presidential debates, voter suppression and the important role of voters of color. On ABC7’s Eyewitness Newsmakers, beginning at minute 16:35, Diaz addressed misconceptions about the engagement of the Latino electorate, noting that younger voters do not turn out at the same rate as older Americans. She added, “Our studies show that 30% of Americans that will cast a ballot on Nov. 3 are non-white. This is really important and will only continue to increase for foreseeable generations.” On WHYY’s Radio Times, Diaz said some states are instituting “arduous hoops to overcome the ballot box … at a time when we are still not over the hump with this pandemic.” She concluded, “I think that this election is a lot about whether or not people are going to be able to cast a ballot without risking their lives.” 

Yaroslavsky on the Question That Will Decide the Election

KCAL9 News called on Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, to provide analysis of the final presidential debate of the 2020 election. Donald Trump and Joe Biden both delivered their messages effectively, he said, but noted that the debate came after 48 million Americans had already cast their ballots. Yaroslavsky weighed in on the role that personal character will play as voters choose their candidate and on the possibility that Russian agents will sow chaos on Election Day. On COVID-19, “Trump has no defense for his inaction,” Yaroslavsky said. “This issue is one that every man and woman in this country understands viscerally, in their gut, because they all know somebody who’s gotten the virus and many of us know people who’ve died of the virus.” He concluded, “Do you want four more years of what we’ve had for the last four, or do you want something different? That’s going to decide this election.”

Akee on Achieving Equity for Indigenous People

In an interview with the Center for Public Integrity, Associate Professor of Public Policy Randall Akee explored how Indigenous people fit into the national discussion of racial justice in the United States. Akee noted the similarities between Black and Indigenous people when it comes to overly harsh policing and intrusion into communities of color. However, he explained that the inherent sovereignty of tribal nations is an additional layer of complexity that differentiates Indigenous people from other communities of color. There is allyship and alignment of some issues between Black Lives Matter and Indigenous communities, but Akee argued that Native American issues and those of other communities of color are “distinctly different legally, politically, socially and culturally.” Through his research, Akee has found that local conditions improve in Indigenous communities under self-governance. Equity for Indigenous peoples starts with sovereignty and reclaiming land, he said.

Top Issues Driving the Latino Vote

A new UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative report reveals that the economy, health care, COVID-19 and racial justice – not immigration – will drive the 2020 Latino vote in four key swing states. News outlets have shared the report, which is intended to dispel a common misconception that immigration policy is a top-of-mind issue for Latino voters. Candidates for federal, state and local offices who want to capture the Latino vote should talk about how they will address Latinos’ concerns about economic and health issues, the report concludes. The study, which focused on voters in Arizona, Florida, Nevada and Texas, recommends establishing a national minimum wage of at least $15 and eliminating exclusions for domestic, farm and tipped workers; increasing Latino representation and graduation in institutions of higher education; ensuring access to health care for all regardless of immigration or employment status; and expanding workplace health and safety regulations to protect workers from exposure to COVID-19.

Park on Cumulative Effect of Heat on Learning

R. Jisung Park, associate director of economic research at the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, spoke to KJZZ’s The Show about his research into the link between hotter temperatures and the racial achievement gap in U.S. schools. Park’s study, which measured the impact of heat exposure on reduced learning, found that the negative effect of heat is more pronounced in school districts serving underrepresented minorities. “Over time, if you experience more hot days during the school year, and especially if you go to school in an area that doesn’t appear to have adequate school facilities, for whatever reason, those small cuts do seem to add up in a way that actually ends up being measurable in your standardized achievement,” said Park, an assistant professor of public policy. “To the extent that education is such an important component of economic mobility, one would be concerned about the cumulative nature of these cuts.”

Ong on Pandemic’s Blow to Mom-and-Pop Businesses

Paul Ong, director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge at UCLA Luskin, spoke to the Los Angeles Times for a column about the COVID-19 pandemic’s toll on independent booksellers and other mom-and-pop operations that are part of the city’s historical identity. Ong’s research looks at specific neighborhoods, and preliminary trends show that small businesses in ethnic enclaves have been particularly hard-hit. “We’re talking to some community folks close to the ground who are saying that many of these businesses will not be back,” Ong said. In some ethnic neighborhoods, merchants didn’t appear to have access to financial resources, or language barriers kept them from making full use of government assistance, he said. Ong noted, however, that largely Latino Boyle Heights has fared pretty well, possibly because major hospitals in the neighborhood help anchor the micro-economy. COVID-19’s impact on ethnic communities is felt nationwide. An NBC News article on Asian Americans struggling in New York City also highlighted Ong’s research.  

Peterson on Regulating Dialysis Clinics

Public Policy Professor Mark Peterson spoke to CalMatters about what’s at stake with Proposition 23, which would require dialysis centers to have at least one licensed physician on site during operating hours as well as requiring clinics to report dialysis-related infection data to the state and obtain state permission before closing a site or reducing services. Many Californians will vote on Proposition 23 despite having little or no experience with kidney failure or dialysis treatment. “It’s a highly technical issue in a realm that gets into … very specific clinical concerns about the nature of care,” Peterson said. “That is not something that any of us in the general public are trained in.” Opponents of Prop. 23 say the driving force behind the initiative is not patient care but rather a labor union’s desire to organize dialysis workers. Peterson suggested that regulating dialysis clinics might be better addressed through active deliberation in the state Legislature.

Pierce Investigates Failing California Water Systems

Greg Pierce, associate director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, spoke to Bay City News about the lack of access to clean drinking water in rural regions of California. Roughly 1 million residents rely on failing water systems with contaminated drinking water. According to Pierce, “about 90% of California’s public water system violations occur in systems serving less than 500 service connections, underscoring the inherent risk of small size and lack of capacity.” Smaller systems have less revenue and often fail to provide necessary system maintenance and repairs. Pierce is leading a Center for Innovation team seeking to identify all of the small community systems and private wells that need help meeting drinking water standards. The State Water Resources Control Board has identified more than 300 systems that are out of compliance and will use the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund, established last year, to upgrade and consolidate smaller water systems.

Roy on the Intersection of Scholarship and Activism

Professor of Social Welfare and Urban Planning Ananya Roy was featured on a Quarantine Tapes podcast episode exploring the shared struggles of scholars and activists. Roy’s research focuses on the relationship between property, personhood and the police, as well as the ways in which inequality and power fixate in space. Roy, director of the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy, explained how universities as elite institutions continue to reproduce racial harm and discussed her recent experiences calling for UCLA to divest from the police. “We’ve become very good at gestures,” she said. “We’re not very good at actually nurturing students and faculty who come from the communities most impacted by racial harm.” She argued that “we must challenge the university as an institution if we are to produce scholarship to accompany movements,” emphasizing the importance of journeying with and learning from the movements and communities on the front lines in a shared space of scholarship.