Cheers and Jeers
September 16, 2011

It was an ugly moment at the September 7 Republican debate when the discussion turned to the death penalty. “Governor Perry, a question about Texas,” moderator Brian Williams began. “Your state has executed two-hundred thirty-four death-row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times.” Suddenly, Williams was interrupted by an outburst of applause and cheers from the audience. The point being made by the Republican spectators could not have been clearer: The death penalty was not just a policy they favored. It was something to celebrate.

Pull Yourself Together, D.C.! Perrymania Is Overrated
August 16, 2011

Like much of his career, Rick Perry’s entry into the presidential campaign was exceptionally well-timed. Announcing the very day that his main rival for the “electable conservative alternative to Mitt Romney” mantle, Tim Pawlenty, was driven from the race by a poor third-place showing at the Iowa Straw Poll, the Texan has a lot of open political space to occupy.

The MLB All-Star Game And The Sluggish Economy: Do Cities Benefit From Hosting?
July 13, 2011

Last night, the National League defeated the American League 5-1 in the eighty-second MLB All-Star Game, posting its second consecutive victory after more than a decade of losses to the AL. Last night’s game took place at Chase Field, the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. (For those of you questioning the wisdom of holding the All-Star Game in Phoenix at this time of year, remember that the field has a retractable roof and massive cooling system, which lowered the game-time temperature to a pleasant 72 degrees.) But what did the event mean for Phoenix?

The State of the States in Developmental Disabilities: It's Not Good, Especially in Red States
June 22, 2011

Pardon my excursion into graphs and scatterplots today. There is a broader purpose. Last Tuesday I hit the “send” button on a big grant concerned with intellectual and developmental disability (I/DD) policy issues. Last Wednesday, the bible of the field, State of the States in Developmental Disabilities, appeared in my mailbox. Such is life. State of the States is a periodic compendium of state policies, service patterns, and spending across the country.

The Perfect Crime: GOP Kills Diamond Nomination
June 05, 2011

Peter Diamond, the Nobel-winning economist from MIT, will not be serving on the Federal Reserve. Therein lies a story about our dysfunctional Senate and our even more dysfunctional economics debate. President Obama first nominated Diamond in April, 2010. At the time, the choice prompted almost universal acclaim. Nobody in his generation may be better at applying theory to real-world problems like the design of social insurance or the nature of unemployment.

California Dreaming
June 04, 2011

Some of the most interesting developments in health care policy these days aren’t taking place in Washington. They’re taking place in Sacramento and the rest of California, where public officials, private sector leaders, and activists are working to implement the Affordable Care Act. Remember, under the terms of the law, states must must do everything from setting up new insurance exchanges to slapping regulations on insurers.

Turning FEMA Around
May 28, 2011

It’s not exactly the Rapture, but the tornadoes that have been tearing through the Midwest and South this year certainly have an end-times feel to them. Just this past Sunday, an EF-5 level tornado (that’s as fierce as it gets) plowed through Joplin, Missouri, killing at least 125 people, flaying the bark off trees, crumpling cars like aluminum cans, and basically flattening everything in its six-mile path.

Cicadas Confounding Scientists!
May 10, 2011

While some parts of the South are dealing with (or bracing for) record floods, others are anticipating another kind of flood: a flood of cicadas. A brood that emerges every 13 years started appearing late last month in southern Alabama, and the insects have since appeared in Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, and a number of other southeastern states. The cicadas will mate with each other en masse before dying, which frankly seems like a pretty hasty end after 13 years underground. But why every 13 years (or, with some other species, 17 years)?

How Conservatives Tax The Poor
April 01, 2011

Ezra Klein the other day posted an analysis of state taxation that deserves more attention than the issue gets. Although he didn't quite put it this way, what he showed -- based on Katherine Newman's book, "Taxing the Poor" --  is that Republican states tend to raise a far higher share of their taxes from the poor, and less from the rich, than Democratic states. Here's the graph: The South is the most reliant upon regressive sales taxes, followed by the West, followed by the Midwest, followed by the Northeast.

Free Peter Diamond!
March 09, 2011

Few political spectacles depress and alarm me right now more than the stalled nomination of Peter Diamond. For those of you who don't already know, Diamond is the MIT economist whom President Obama has nominated to serve on the Federal Reserve Board. Diamond is widely considered among his generation's most brilliant economists.