Weekly Links for 1/29/10


I already posted links on health care reform, see last post. 

First up, Ignorance.   A depressing poll  (with great commentary that addresses Gary’s questions so cynical about politics), on how little Americans know about the stuff we talk about all the time.  Only 26% of Americans know that it takes 60 votes to break a Senate filibuster and only 32% said they knew that Obama’s health care bill got zero GOP votes.   Republicans did better on the whole than Dems.  This is unusual, but maybe it’s because the questions don’t ask about any partisan issues that are flogged on, e.g., Fox News all day. 

Here’s the poll itself, with 12 questions on public policy.  See how many you get right.  Only 2% of takers get all 12. 

Second, Hunger.  The group talked about hunger in America once, and some doubted it existed because people aren’t starving in the streets, like in some Ethiopian famine.  True.  But, this article explains what is meant by “hunger” in our wealthy country.  [Update: Article no longer available on-line.  Ask me for a copy some day.]  They call it “food insecurity.”  Few starve, but tens of millions of children live in households that are short of food intermittenly, can be devastating to a child’s development.  I think we should revisit poverty one of these days.

Third, Pestilence.  Just kidding.  The stimulus.  It worked, or at least helped, says an almost universal concensus (here, here, here).  Too bad the public thinks it was pestilence, having been persuaded by repitition that it didn’t work.

Fourth, for fun, or at least my idea of fun, here’s one way the 50 state boundaries could be redrawn so they would all have similar populations (to fix the Senate’s unequal representation problem; e.g., CA has 70 times the population of WY, but each state has 2 senators!)

Last, a good statement of my constant point on how this year in politics could have turned out differently.  Here’s the money quote since some of you have asked for excerpts and not just links.

“…it’s always worth noting that the radical vision of filibuster opponents is … majority rule.  The majority rule that Congress used until very recently, the majority rule that is explained to children when they learn about the American government, and the majority rule that we use to run, well, everything else.  Scott Brown, for instance, got 51 percent of the votes in Massachusetts, not 60 percent. In fact, you never hear anyone say that we’re a more polarized country now, so we should subject elections to a 60 percent requirement. Majority rule works just fine, thanks.

Meanwhile, in California, the legislature works off two-thirds rule, and the state is in an acute fiscal collapse. And it’s not as if there are obvious examples of supermajority rule dramatically improving the condition of states or, to my knowledge, other countries. Nor do you hear people in Washington talking about how well it works now that everything requires 60 votes in the Senate. Everyone agrees Washington is broken. But people have a status quo bias, and so they think up ways to justify the current state of affairs, even as that state of affairs is a huge and radical break with our past.”


3 responses

  1. I’m very intrigued by the 50 state map. It should get wider publicity, if only to bring home the point of how unrepresentative the Senate is now, which most of the public probably ignores.

    I hadn’t realized myself that most of our large cities should be “states” and have two Senators of their own.

    It would also be interesting to extrapolate
    what the political make up of the Senate might be under this arrangement.

  2. You know all those maps that show which states are “red” and which “blue?” They all make the country seem totally Republican. but that’s because many of the red states are largely empty. Here are two maps that give more perspective.

    1. 2008 presidential results by county, in 3-D to show counties as taller if more people voted in them: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/interactives/campaign08/election/uscounties.html

    2. Shows the 50 states reshaped to reflect the size of their vote: http://odtmaps.com/detail.asp_Q_product_id_E_pres-map-2008

  3. Obama has just announced budget proposal for
    fiscal 2011, beginning Oct. 1

    NYT has an interesting chart which makes it easy to follow them:

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