Tag Archives: politics

How Mass Incarceration Undermines America’s Democratic Way of Life

Photo by Kathryn, via Flickr.com CC

This article is a Scholars Strategy Network Brief.

Download a PDF from SSN.


Glenn C. Loury is a Merton P. Stoltz Professor of Social Sciences at Brown University. He has been published mainly in the areas of applied microeconomic theory, game theory, industrial organization, natural resource economics, and the economics of race and inequality.

Imprisonment in the contemporary United States far surpasses other nations. The ironies are sharp and manifold. The United States deploys armies abroad under the banner of freedom and at the same time has the largest custodial prison infrastructure on the planet, a system of jails and prisons that locks up a greater fraction of our people for life—more than fifty for every 100,000 residents—than the population share imprisoned for any length of time by Denmark, Sweden, and Norway combined. American democracy is inspired by ideals of active and equal citizenship, yet racial and class inequalities run through the heart of our criminal justice system. Urban black communities have little voice in setting criminal justice policies, even though they experience the brunt of violations and the direct and indirect effects of punishment. Intellectuals have an obligation to lay bare the threat to American democracy caused by massive, racially skewed imprisonment. To that end, I offer the following reflections. (more…)

The Struggle to Restore Voting Rights for Former Prisoners—and a Telling Success in Rhode Island

Photo by Cynthia Donovan via Flickr.com CC

This article is a Scholars Strategy Network Brief.

Download a PDF from SSN.


Michael Leo Owens is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Emory University. He specializes in urban politics, state and local politics, and the politics of mass incarceration.

Even after felons pay their dues to society and leave prison, America sidelines them from the public square. Parolees and probationers are often perceived as undeserving of citizen benefits, and they have little power to assert their rights. Not only do governments often deny felons public resources such as Food Stamps, subsidized college loans, public housing and professional opportunities like licenses and contracts, it is also common for U.S. states to deny former prisoners the right to vote and otherwise exercise full and free citizenship.   (more…)

How Community Health Centers and Millions of Uninsured Are Hurt by the Refusal to Expand Medicaid in Texas

Photo by Cushing Memorial Library and Archives via Flickr.com CC

This article is a Scholars Strategy Network Brief.

Download a PDF from SSN.


Jessica Sharac is a Senior Research Associate with Geiger Gibson/RCHN Community Health Foundation Research Collaborative and Department of Health Policy at George Washington University. She conducts research on community health centers, women's health, and behavioral health.
Peter Shin is the Director of Geiger Gibson/RCHN Community Health Foundation Research Collaborative and an Associate Professor of Health Policy at George Washington University. He is an expert policy analyst and health services researcher.
Sara Rosenbaum is a Harold and Jane Hirsh Professor of Health Law and Policy and Founding Chair of the Department of Health Policy at George Washington University. She has devoted her professional career to issues of health justice for populations who are medically underserved as a result of race, poverty, disability, or cultural exclusion.

The state of Texas leads the nation in the percentage of residents lacking health insurance. In 2012, nearly a quarter of the state’s population went without health coverage, some 6.4 million people. Texas alone is home to 13% of all uninsured Americans, with poor and low-income people the most affected. More than ninety percent of well-off Texans have health insurance. But the ranks of the uninsured include more than two out of five impoverished Texans—as well as more than a quarter of individuals earning modest incomes in 2014 between $11,670 and $46,680 (or between $19,970 and $79,880 for a family of three). (more…)

The Truth About Health Reforms, Jobs, and the Economy

Photo by Edward Kimmel via Flickr.com CC

This article is a Scholars Strategy Network Brief.

Download a PDF from SSN.


Jonathan Gruber is a Ford Professor of Economics and Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research focuses on the areas of public finance and health economics.

When the Congressional Budget Office issued its latest report about the Affordable Care Act in early February, public reaction was sharp—and mostly focused on a drop of worrisome news in a sea of encouraging findings. On the good news side, the report found that insurance premiums are considerably lower than previously anticipated by the Budget Office, and that health reform is now projected to cost $9 billion less than previously estimated. And it debunked worries about a legal provision designed to buffer insurance companies from risk; it is not at all a “bailout,” as some have claimed, and indeed the federal government is projected to take in billions more than it spends. These and other encouraging findings were overshadowed by attention to another projection—that reform may reduce employment and worker hours by the equivalent of about two million full time positions in 2017. (more…)

Do Term Limits Encourage Legislators to Ignore Constituents?

Photo by flguardian2 via Flickr.com CC

This article is a Scholars Strategy Network Brief.

Download a PDF from SSN.


Jennifer Hayes Clark is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Houston. Her work examines the role of political parties in legislative politics.
Robert Lucas Williams is a Research Assistant and PhD Candidate in Political Science at the University of Houston. His research concerns representation and partisanship in the American context, particularly in the state legislatures.

The idea that legislators work on behalf of their constituents and cast votes in accordance with constituency opinion is central to our understanding of how democracy is supposed to work. Political science research often considers whether representatives actually function this way—and new questions arise when legal term limits come into the picture. In recent times, Congress and state legislatures have gotten very low approval ratings from the public, and some reformers have pushed term limits—rules that prevent legislators from seeking re-election after one or more terms—as a remedy.

Legislative term limits are celebrated by proponents as a way to increase electoral competitiveness, limit the “incumbency advantage,” and ensure greater accountability by elected officials. But critics argue that term limits can actually make legislators less responsive to constituents, by allowing representatives to abstain from votes and shirk their duties. We have looked into this issue and found that term limits don’t necessarily lead to avoiding votes. Legislators’ goals for their future careers and the types of votes at issue matter more than term limits alone. (more…)

How Unlikely Allies Can Roll Back America’s Prison Boom

Photo by Aidan Jones via Flickr.com CC

This article is a Scholars Strategy Network Brief.

Download a PDF from SSN.


David Dagan is a PhD Student in Political Science at John Hopkins University. His research focuses on the politics of criminal justice.
Steven M. Teles is an Associate Professor of Political Science at John Hopkins University. His research focuses on the interaction of public policy and processes of organizational genesis and change.

To many liberal critics, America’s swollen prisons have grown like a rapacious weed—one entirely immune to efforts to hack it back. The growth of incarceration seems inexorable and irreversible, driven by a combination of cynical politics, racial inequalities, and lobbying by corporations, unions, and towns that profit from the prison business.

These self-reinforcing dynamics are very real, but they are not cause for despair. In fact, there is reason to hope that the political momentum is turning against our over-reliance on cuffs and cages. The U.S. prison population declined each year from 2009 through 2012, and the number of new inmates admitted to state and federal prisons has reached a 12-year low. States from Texas to New York have taken aggressive steps to curb their prison populations, and even the U.S. Congress is entertaining sweeping reforms. There is no more important force in this reversal of political fortunes than the willingness of conservatives to take a more critical look at our prison system. (more…)

North Carolina’s “Moral Monday” Protests in Defense of Equal Voting Rights and Social Protections

Photo by Will Thomas via Flickr.com CC

This article is a Scholars Strategy Network Brief.

Download a PDF from SSN.


Rebecca Sager is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Loyola Marymount University. Sager's research focuses on the intersection of religion, the non-profit sector, and public policy.

“We know we are in a war for the ballot. Raleigh is our Selma. The general assembly is our Edmund Pettus Bridge.” That is how Reverend Doctor William Barber II explained a major purpose of Moral Monday protests against extreme laws enacted by North Carolina Republicans.

If there is a sacred tenet of American democracy, it would be one person, one vote, but this basic underpinning of a functioning and healthy democracy is being threatened by conservative takeovers of many state governments in the United States. The 2010 elections ushered in Republican super-majorities and an unfettered wave of right-wing activism, much of it focused on making voting more difficult for minority, low-income, and young voters. Perhaps no state felt this change as dramatically as North Carolina, where Republicans took control of the legislature and governor’s office in 2010 and unleashed radical changes. The state has cut off unemployment insurance benefits to many workers and refuses to expand Medicaid with new federal funding. To keep themselves in power, Republicans have also enacted what some analysts have called the most extreme voter suppression law in the country. The new law cuts back early voting by a week, rules out early voting on Sundays when many African Americans go to the polls in groups, ends early registration for high school students, and requires voters to present by 2016 a specific type of government-issued photo identification that many do not have. (more…)

How Health Reform Makes the Job Market More Flexible and Unleashes Entrepreneurs

Photo by Marmett Tallahassee via Flickr.com CC

This article is a Scholars Strategy Network Brief.

Download a PDF from SSN.


Theda Skocpol
Theda Skocpol is the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard University and is the Director of the Scholars Strategy Network. Her research focuses on health reform, social policy, and civic engagement.

Stuck in a corporate job he called “not exactly fulfilling,” a 35-year-old man in Austin, Texas, told an NBC News reporter in September 2013 that he looked forward to the advent of Affordable Care reforms on January 1, 2014, because he will be able to quit and start working as an independent consultant. He couldn’t move on earlier because his wife has rheumatoid arthritis, a pre-existing health problem that made his employer benefits indispensable. Insurance companies would have charged him very high premiums for any plan he tried to buy on his own.

About three-quarters of Americans who work full time get health insurance through their employers, so the Austin man is not alone in experiencing what experts call “job lock” – a reluctance to change jobs for fear of losing employer health benefits. It’s a problem not just for would-be entrepreneurs but also for employees who just want to consider changing jobs. (more…)

Bolstering Safety Net Providers Can Ensure that Health Reform Leaves No One Behind

This article is a Scholars Strategy Network Brief.

Download a PDF from SSN.


Rekhi
Rahul Rekhi is a Doctor of Medicine Student at Stanford University School of Medicine and a Marshall Scholar at Oxford University. Rekhi's experience and research spans the nexus of healthcare policy, public health, and medical innovation, with a particular focus on the intersection of technology and economics in health systems.

U.S. health care is in the midst of a major transformation. With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, tens of millions of Americans are getting health insurance coverage for the first time. Expanded coverage will bring a tsunami of new demand, and current transformations underline the truth that insurance is not the same thing as access to appropriate health care. Across the nation, front-line providers of primary care – safety net providers – risk becoming overwhelmed by the arrival of millions of people newly insured or enrolled in Medicaid, including many vulnerable people with special needs. As happened after the start of Medicare in 1965, the United States faces the prospect of tremendous strain on the vital primary care infrastructure – with the risk that many people could still go without adequate care.

Bolstering safety net services will be essential to meet the needs of the newly insured – as well as the needs of millions who will still remain uninsured (either because Affordable Care does not include them or because they live in conservative states that refuse to expand Medicaid). (more…)

Life and Health Will Suffer in States Opting Out of the Medicaid Expansion

This article is a Scholars Strategy Network Brief.

Download a PDF from SSN.


Dickman
Samuel L. Dickman is a Third Year Medical Student at Harvard Medical School. Dickman’s research focuses on disparities in access to care, prisoner health, substance abuse, and HIV/AIDS. He completed his Bachelor of Arts in mathematics at Brown University.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 – popularly called ObamaCare – was designed to increase access to health insurance. The law does this in several ways, including by setting up exchange marketplaces where uninsured Americans can comparison shop for private health plans and (if they have low or moderate incomes) get subsidies to help pay the premiums. Medicaid expansion is another, equally important, method by which the Affordable Care Act will enlarge health insurance coverage. (more…)