Posts

Gilens on Stalled Attempts to Tax the Rich

A story in The Hill about the forces preventing adoption of new taxes on super-rich Americans quoted Public Policy chair Martin Gilens. Polls show that a majority of voters — both Democrats and Republicans — believe the country’s billionaires should pay more in taxes. Democrats in the White House and Congress have put forth several proposals for progressive taxation on the wealthy, but their chances are “slim to none in the short term and even perhaps the medium term,” said Gilens, co-author of a 2014 study showing the outsize influence of rich people and trade groups on U.S. government policies. Elected representatives spend an enormous amount of time with wealthy constituents or potential donors, and this “creates a sense of distortion about both what the public wants and what seems reasonable,” he said. “Whether taxing wealth seems like a reasonable thing to do might depend on whether you spend a lot of time hanging out with wealthy people.” 


 

New Book by Segura Measures the True Cost of War

A new book co-authored by UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura measures the full cost of war by examining the consequences of foreign combat on domestic politics. In “Costly Calculations: A Theory of War, Casualties, and Politics,” published by Cambridge University Press, the authors employ a variety of empirical methods to examine multiple wars from the last 100 years. The human toll – the military dead and injured – is generally the most salient measure of war costs and the primary instrument through which war affects the social, economic and political fabric of a nation, according to Segura and co-author Scott Sigmund Gartner, provost of the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. Their work provides a framework for understanding war initiation, war policy and war termination in democratic polities, as well as the forces that shape public opinion. “War-making is not just strategic but also represents a political action of some consequence filtered through a societal lens,” the authors write. “Leaders embark upon a course of conflict with an eye on the level of public support, work hard to win that support if it’s missing, actively attempt to manage public beliefs about the conflict and its costs and benefits, and may suffer the political consequences when the people viewing a conflict through the eyes of their communities believe that they miscalculated.” 


 

Peterson on Lawmakers and Voters Breaking Away From the GOP

Public Policy Professor Mark Peterson spoke to the American Independent about the decision of some Republicans to leave their party after the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump. While many GOP officials stand by Trump, an unusually high number of current and former lawmakers, as well as voters, are quitting the party, deepening its ideological divide. Peterson said that while the exodus is a break from the norm, the long-term impact is unclear. Continued attention on Trump’s performance in office might reduce his hold on voters, he said. The article also noted that party dynamics may change if GOP lawmakers struggle to get out the vote without Trump on the ticket.

Ong on Prospects of Closing Rifts Among Immigrant Communities

Research Professor Paul Ong spoke to NBC News about President Biden’s immigration policies and rhetoric, which are being closely watched by much of the nation’s foreign-born population. Some immigrants who are grappling with scarcity and insecurity in the United States were particularly susceptible to Trump administration characterizations of “good immigrants” and “bad immigrants,” the article noted. It added that limited access to unbiased information in a native language contributes to the level of vulnerability to such rhetoric. Ong offered the example of Vietnamese Americans, who have been closely allied with the Republican Party. Many come from refugee families shaped by unique experiences with the Vietnam War and strong opposition to communism. This background makes the group more likely to buy into an American nationalistic narrative, Ong said.

Diaz on the Value of Leaders Who Reflect the Nation’s Diversity

Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin, co-wrote a CalMatters commentary on the importance of voters seeing themselves reflected in their government representatives. Diaz and co-author Michele Siqueiros, a higher education advocate, praised Gov. Gavin Newsom for two groundbreaking appointments: Secretary of State Alex Padilla as California’s first Latino U.S. senator and Assemblywoman Shirley Weber as its first Black secretary of state. “Today’s winning coalition of voters will continue to shape American politics,” the authors wrote. “Newsom’s dual appointments met their unapologetic expectations that our elected officials better reflect the country’s racial and ethnic diversity.” Diaz also spoke to the Sacramento Bee after Padilla’s selection, noting that he is likely to focus on immigrant protections and environmental issues. And she spoke to Elite Daily about the importance of engaging young Latino voters, whose political power will expand in the coming years.

Akee on Historic Nomination for U.S. Interior Secretary

Associate Professor of Public Policy Randall Akee co-authored an article for the Brookings Institution on the nomination of the first Native American to hold a U.S. Cabinet position. If confirmed, New Mexico Congresswoman Deb Haaland would lead the Department of the Interior, which has oversight of federal lands and waterways as well as the plants, animals and natural resources located there and also manages the U.S. government’s relationship with Native American nations. “Rep. Haaland’s nomination marks a turning point in valuing the experiences, knowledge and leadership of Native American nations, which would have been unimaginable in previous presidential administrations,” wrote Akee and Robert Maxim, a Brookings research associate. They cautioned that “the day-to-day challenges many Native Americans face will be impossible to overcome through just a single nomination” but welcomed the opportunity to “move the Interior Department from a position of active harm toward Native American nations to one of mutual respect, partnership and understanding.”

Envisioning a New Voting Rights Act for the 21st Century At UCLA conference, experts map out new federal protections after an election season marred by suppression and intimidation

By Mary Braswell

Voting rights experts from around the country gathered at a UCLA conference to brainstorm ways to protect Americans’ access to the ballot box, even as votes cast in the 2020 election continued to be challenged in court.

Elected officials on the front lines of the civil rights fight joined legal scholars, policy analysts, attorneys and advocates at the Dec. 8–9 virtual seminar. The event was hosted by the Voting Rights Project, a division of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin.

The seminar’s organizers intend to turn the attendees’ shared wisdom into a report to Congress that could help shape comprehensive national legislation to safeguard the right to vote.

Among the topics that guided the conversation: voter suppression and intimidation during this year’s election cycle and the Supreme Court’s 2013 rollback of core provisions of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“This is what we get when we have elections without the full protection of the federal Voting Rights Act that stood and served well for more than 50 years,” California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said. “It has unleashed the floodgates for a lot of the voter suppression measures that we’ve seen in the last seven years and we saw in full display in the 2020 election.”

Texas Rep. Marc Veasey, who co-founded the Congressional Voting Rights Caucus, said the country is witnessing “egregious stories that you would think we wouldn’t be seeing in modern-day America.”

In his state, he said, officials have attempted to require people registering to vote to first produce a birth certificate or passport. Another proposal, seen as an invitation to voter intimidation, would have permitted cellphone recordings of citizens casting their ballots as a way to document “fraud.”

“We’re revisiting a very dark time in U.S. history where people just absolutely have no regrets at all about rolling back the rights of people to be able to vote, particularly people of color,” he said.

For example, Padilla noted, during the Georgia primaries, the wait time to vote in Black neighborhoods averaged 51 minutes, compared with six minutes in white neighborhoods.

While some state and local jurisdictions are pushing for rules that chip away at the freedom to vote, others are lighting the way for federal reforms, the speakers stressed.

Padilla and Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea spoke of changes in their states that have made it easier for citizens to register and vote — changes that were accelerated because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What made this cycle different is that the pandemic focused us to reexamine how people vote,” Gorbea said. “And in many of our states we adapted our democracy to provide easier and safer access to the ballot box, which meant that people could vote while still taking care of their health.”

The seminar included workshops that zeroed in on specific facets of the voting rights movement, including fair redistricting, equal access for low-income and minority communities, planning for the next public health crisis, and overcoming procedural hurdles that have blocked past efforts to bring change.

Panelists and participants in the audience weighed in on the strengths and omissions of legislation already in the pipeline, including HR1, the For the People Act, and HR4, the Voting Rights Advancement Act.

Panelists represented several organizations with long histories of championing voting rights, including the ACLU, Campaign Legal Center, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Southern Coalition for Social Justice, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

The discussion took place amid persistent efforts by President Donald Trump and some of his supporters to discredit the results of the 2020 presidential election. Padilla said those efforts have been fueled by “baseless conspiracy theories that have been spewed that seek to question the legitimacy of votes cast by Black voters and Latino voters, among others.”

The seminar capped a hectic electoral season for the Voting Rights Project, whose members conducted research, wrote policy reports and appeared in court to battle efforts to disenfranchise voters.

Tye Rush, a UCLA political science doctoral student, said a reinvigorated Voting Rights Act for the 21st century would eliminate the need for piecemeal litigation of civil rights violations.

“We’re looking to get something in front of Congress that can be signed and that will protect against the onslaught of voting rights–related rollbacks that we’re seeing in this era,” said Rush, a research fellow at the Voting Rights Project.

Peterson on Becerra’s Impact on California’s Progressive Agenda

Public Policy Professor Mark Peterson spoke with Kaiser Health News about prospects that California’s health care agenda will grow more progressive once the state’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, is elevated to the nation’s top health care post. In his three decades of political experience, Becerra has been a strong advocate of health-care reforms including a state-level single-payer system, environmental justice and protecting immigrants’ access to safety-net care. Many California Democrats believe his selection as the next U.S. secretary of health and human services will give them a strong federal ally who will help make the state a laboratory for progressive ideas. Should Becerra back a progressive health agenda in California, similar proposals could follow in other states, Peterson said. “California has pushed the envelope on health care beyond where other states are,” he said. “And that gives more capacity for California sensibilities and ideas to get into the mix in Washington.”


 

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.”


 

Events

Luskin Summit 2021: Called to Action

The 2021 Luskin Summit will be a series of webinars focusing on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and other important public policy issues. Here are the confirmed sessions for which registration is now available:

 

2 p.m., Jan. 28: Keynote Address — Kickoff session with Anthony Rendon, speaker of the California Assembly since 2016. He was first elected in 2012 to represent the 63rd Assembly District in southeast Los Angeles County.


Feb. 4: Preparing for Even Wilder Wildfires — Wildfires ravaged an unprecedented amount of California in the past 12 months. This session will explore the impacts of wildfires on health, low-income housing and small water systems, as well as highlight innovative tactics to increase resiliency, especially for populations that are most vulnerable to wildfire.


Feb. 10: The Threat of Mass Evictions and an Opportunity to Rethink Housing — The economic slump precipitated by COVID-19 has led to evictions in California and across the country, and the problem seems likely to get worse. This crisis calls for an immediate response, but it also offers an opportunity to rethink housing policies and our housing system, addressing longstanding failings.


Feb. 17: A Landmark Opportunity for Park Equity — The pandemic has proved the importance of public parks for our physical and mental well-being, as well as the environmental health of communities. During this watershed moment, new funding offers an opportunity to improve access to public spaces for all. This discussion will illuminate pathways to increase park equity in Los Angeles and beyond.


Feb. 22: Transit Impacts: Fewer Riders, More Homelessness — The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically affected public transit systems. Fewer people are riding, public health protocols and workforce reductions are complicating operations, more people experiencing homelessness are turning to transit for shelter, and financial shortfalls loom large. This panel will explore these challenges as agencies struggle to recover.


Feb. 24: Sexual Health: Hooking Up With Home-Based Testing and Telemedicine — Investment in home-based testing, telemedicine and partner-delivered therapy for sexually transmitted infections are among the options to deliver sexual health care remotely. Implementation of these strategies in L.A. County has traditionally been slow, but the uptick in remote delivery of medical services amid the pandemic presents an opportunity to integrate more remote practices for sexual health care.


REGISTER TODAY!

 

Planned but not yet open for registration: 

February or March: A micro-summit with at least three sessions in one day focusing on adaptive reuse of commercial properties and public buildings to benefit people experiencing homelessness or facing pandemic-related eviction from their homes.

April: Unveiling of the 2021 Los Angeles County Quality of Life Index