I shall post videos, graphs, news stories, and other material there. We shall use some of this material in class, and you may review the rest at your convenience. You will all receive invitations to post to the blog. (Please let me know if you do not get such an invitation.) I encourage you to use the blog in these ways:
To post questions or comments about the readings before we discuss them in class;
To follow up on class discussions with additional comments or questions.
To post relevant news items or videos.

There are only two major limitations: no coarse language, and no derogatory comments about people at the Claremont Colleges.

Search This Blog

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Evaluating the Simulation

1. Peer evaluation: This Monday, April 4, please bring in a short memo in which you identify three or four members of this class who did a particularly good job. Give a couple of sentences to each person you name, explaining why she or he stood out. Give special attention to those who did their work behind the scenes. Please take some care with these memos. In addition to using them for evaluating the assignment, I save them so that I may quote them in letters of recommendation. Evaluations are anonymous: do not put your own name on the sheet.

2 Writeup: In analyzing your role in the simulation, please cover these points:

  • How well did your positions and goals match those of your real-life counterpart?
  • What methods did you use? In the circumstance that you dealt with, would your counterpart have done the same?
  • What obstacles did you face?
  • What did you achieve?
  • How did the simulation both resemble and differ from the real world?
  • Overall, what did you learn?

You may attach or e-mail me relevant supporting materials, such as: memoranda, bill drafts, or strategy notes. (Better yet, refer to material that is already online at https://sites.google.com/site/congresssimulation2011/home and other sites) Please be selective here: do not include everything, just the key items.

  • Essays should be typed, stapled, double-spaced, and between 5 and 6 pages long. I will not read past the 6th page. (Supporting materials do not count against the page limit.)
  • Cite outside sources in standard format (e.g.,Turabian).
  • Watch your spelling, grammar, diction, and punctuation. Errors will count against you.
  • Return essays to class on Wednesday, April 13. Your grade for the simulation will drop one gradepoint for one day's lateness, a full grade after that.

Keynes vs. Hayek

If only the economics governing our nation's fiscal policies could always be explained this way...

Friday, March 25, 2011

Black Hawk Down

Chad Pergram writes:

For every minute that Muammar Qaddafi remains in power...

For every hour that ticks by during America's military operations in Libya...

During every sortie...

An horrific set of images haunts official Washington.

They are the pictures of Somali rebels dragging the corpses of U.S. soldiers through the streets of Mogadishu on October 3, 1993.

Certainly the specter of Vietnam agonizes Washington as the benchmark for military conflicts gone horribly wrong. Congress approved the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in August, 1964 in response to attacks on U.S. vessels. But over time, the resolution proved to be the touchstone of mission creep. It constructed a gateway for the U.S. to get bogged down in an unwinnable conflict which cost tens of thousands of lives. That explains why Vietnam torments policymakers today every time U.S. forces are involved overseas.

But it was that harrowing day in downtown Mogadishu nearly 18 years ago that bedevils lawmakers, generals and administration-types even more now than Vietnam.

Which is precisely why everyone is wringing their hands about whether or not the U.S. is at "war" with Libya. It's why House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) fired off a letter to President Obama Wednesday afternoon, not ten minutes after Air Force One returned from a trip to South America and Latin America. The speaker demanded answers as to the "objectives of this mission, what our national security interests are, and how it fits into our overarching policy for the Middle East?"

It's why some lawmakers, ranging from liberal Democrats to conservative Republicans, have criticized the president for failing to adequately consult with Congress before committing U.S. forces to this operation in Libya.

"I can only conclude that your order to the United States Armed Forces to attack the nation of Libya on March 19, 2011 is in direct violation of the War Powers Resolution and constitutes a usurpation of Constitutional powers clearly and solely vested in the United States Congress and is accordingly unlawful and unconstitutional," wrote Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) in a unilateral missive to Mr. Obama.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Monday, March 21, 2011

Reason on the Budget

Reason tv's interview with Rand Paul is a bit long, but a pretty interesting testament to the Tea Party's continuing attempts to distinguish themselves from establishment Republicans. He talks about the budget negotiations process. Indicative of his views on the subject is his criticism of Senator Henry Clay, "the Great Compromiser" from Paul's own state. According to Paul, who recently authored The Tea Party Goes to Washington, we can't afford compromise on this issue.

McCaskill will sell 'the damn plane'

Sen. Claire McCaskill is selling the personal plane that has caused her turbulence in recent weeks after POLITICO revealed she used taxpayer money to cover the cost of political travel.

The first-term Democrat said she was very happy she was able to convince her husband to "sell the damn plane."

In a conference call Monday afternoon, McCaskill revealed that after her own review of the plane's records, she had not paid personal property taxes on the aircraft over the past four years.

"I have discovered that the personal property taxes on the plane have not been paid. There should have been a reporting to the county of the existence of this plane. There are people I could blame for this, but I know better. I take full responsibility," McCaskill said to reporters, after revealing she had conducted her own audit of all 89 flights she had taken.

"This was a mistake, It should have been reported in Missouri. It will be paid in Missouri today," she said.

McCaskill said she would be sending a check for $287,273 to St. Louis County Monday for the back taxes she owed between 2007 and 2010. She also said she had campaign lawyers looking into the flights to determine if any more in-kind contributions needed to be reported to be in compliance.

Asked if this would hurt her reelection bid, McCaskill replied, "I don't know, I've tried to handle this like I handle anything else," citing her advocacy for transparency and accountability in Congress.

McCaskill expressed remorse and contrition throughout the half hour conference call and said the entire episode has made her "sick to her stomach."

But she stressed that she was not trying to evade taxes and that the failure to register the plane in Missouri was a "mistake."


Congress and the Executive II

Review from Before Break:

"The Human Sacrifice"

Opting Out of Standardized Testing

Nine parents at a Pennsylvania elementary school decided their children should not take the standardized tests this spring, legally required by No Child Left Behind. They argue that the tests create detrimental anxiety for the students and teachers, negatively affecting the learning environment. They also criticize the system for forcing teachers to teach to the test, reducing the quality of instruction. President Obama admits that the tests need updating, but he still affirms that they are necessary to measure progress and compete with other nations. Parents are organizing boycott groups on Facebook to spread the word, and some parents have followed suit in states like Colorado. It will be interesting to see whether or not this trend gains any substantial momentum over the next few years.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Celebrity Testimony

The Haskell reading for tomorrow includes a discussion of the role of celebrity witnesses during congressional hearings. I came across this list of a selection of celebrities who have testified before Congress. It gives an idea of the breadth of issues that celebrities have testified on, as well as varying expertise. For example, Clemens devoted a substantial chunk of his life to pushing for copyright reform, while I doubt Colbert has done much with farm workers since his testimony.

Speaker Boehner pressures the White House

This is an interesting article in light of the discussion we've been having regarding the balance of power between the legislative and executive branches. Speaker Boehner speaks about what the White House should do in Libya.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Will the health care bill be repealed? Gingrich thinks so

The Washington Post is reporting that Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich predicts that the health care bill will be repealed by 2013. Gingrich believes that a new president in 2013 (most likely a Republican in his scenario) would repeal the bill. Gingrich also believes the House will eventually refuse funding for the bill, saying that “I think that Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor are absolutely committed to refusing [to] fund the implementation of Obamacare.” Gingrich also noted that historically, unpopular reforms are generally repealed. Click here for the full article.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Rand Paul Interveiwed on The Daily Show

I'm sure that most of you remember Senator Rand Paul from Sabato and from our test. On March 7th 2011, Senator Rand Paul was a guest on The Daily Show with John Stewart to promote his new book, The Tea Party Goes to Washington.

Senator Paul's main argument is that we need to go back to a balanced budget. Unlike many politicians Rand argues that we need to cut entitlement spending and military spending as well as discretionary spending if we ever want to balance the budget. Stewart debates the correct level of government with Paul. Stewart argues that larger government arose out of demand by the people for a better living. Stewart said, "Where we've come in two hundred years in terms of racial equality environmental quality, food quality, life expectancy, I really hate to demonize very government by the people for the people that helped get us there."
Paul agrees that Stewart is right about the good the government can do but maintains the government has gone too far now. They also touch on the legitimacy and efficiency of the government bailout. Paul argues that the correct choice was to let the bad firms fail even with the possibility of a recession.

Paul and Stewart both conduct themselves well and argue their points clearly and effectively. Also, both bring out a lot of numbers and statistics to better argue their points. Though the debate is a short and simple one, I was pleasantly surprised by the level of discourse and the knowledge that both Stewart and Paul brought to table.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Rand Paul Pt. 1
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive - Rand Paul Extended Interview Pt. 2
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Monday, March 14, 2011

Education Reform

President Obama (the real one, not the simulation) has just spoken on education reform. From a White House release:

In a speech at Kenmore Middle School, President Obama urged Congress to fix No Child Left Behind (NCLB) before the start of the next school year. The President articulated key priorities for reforming NCLB that will enable us to win the future and prepare our students to out-educate and out-compete the world in the 21st century economy:

  • A fair accountability system that shares responsibility for improvement and rewards excellence, and that is based on high standards and is informed by sophisticated assessments that measure individual student growth;
  • A flexible system that empowers principals and teachers, and supports reform and innovation at the state and local level;
  • And a system focused on the schools and the students most at risk -- that targets resources to persistently low-performing schools and ensures the most effective teachers serve students most in need.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Alan Simpson Update

Politico reports on Alan Simpson:
The co-chairman of President Obama’s deficit commission tried to scold the elderly on Monday for complaining about their Social Security funds being targeted, but instead he found himself making a reference to “Snoopy Snoopy Poop Dogg.”

“This is a fakery,” Simpson said on Fox News. “If they care at all about their children or grandchildren, and sometimes I doubt that – I think, you know, grandchildren now don’t write a thank-you for the Christmas presents, they’re walking on their pants with the cap on backwards listening to the enema man and Snoopy Snoopy Poop Dogg, and they don’t like them!”

The former Republican senator of Wyoming, who apologized in the summer for comparing Social Security with “a milk cow with 310 million tits,” also denied that his panel had proposed privatizing Social Security. “It is fakery,” he repeated. “We never suggested that!”

Congress and the Executive I

The Congressional Review Act and net neutrality

Legislative Veto and the Presentation Clause (Art I, sec. 7, clause 3): Every Order, Resolution, or Vote to which the Concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of Adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States; and before the Same shall take Effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the Rules and Limitations prescribed in the Case of a Bill.

W.H.: GOP met 'more than halfway'


The White House insisted Monday that it has met Republicans on their budget-cutting demands “more than halfway,” just a few days after the GOP claimed Democrats were coming up far short of such a benchmark.

Last week, the White House’s proposal to cut $6.5 billion in spending enraged Republicans, who are urging for a figure closer to $60 billion.

Republicans decried the plan unveiled Thursday as “outrageous,” “unserious,” “unacceptable” and just a mere “drop in the ocean.” But with less than two weeks before the government faces another potential shutdown, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters that the administration’s plan meets Republicans “more than halfway.”

Carney based his statement on saying that “regardless of whatever number you want to start from,” Republicans picked a “baseline” for cuts at $100 billion.

“We have now ... met the Republicans more than halfway, at $51 billion and change,” Carney said in his briefing on Monday. “We are engaged and will continue to engage in negotiations.”

Carney said the White House is optimistic that the government won’t shut down, and he called the practice of staving off such an event every two weeks a “tollbooth” approach.

“The last thing we should be doing is taking actions that reverse the trend of the recovery,” Carney said.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Politicization of the Supreme Court

In this article from Salon, UC Berkeley Professor Robert Reich asserts that the Citizens United ruling is illegitimate because Justices Thomas and Scalia are too closely affiliated with Congressional Republicans and outside Republican organizations. It's quite an impassioned piece, but includes a good discussion of the Citizens United ruling. From the article:
When Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia go to secret political strategy sessions with Republican partisans they jeopardize everything the Supreme Court stands for. They make a mockery of the common sense of Americans.

If it wants to maintain its legitimacy the Court has to appeal to that common sense rather than to partisan politics.

It provides an interesting discussion of several topics we've been discussing inclass - Citizen United, campaign finance, lobbying, etc. - all things important for our Midterm on Wednesday.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Practice Exam

Briefly identify 8 of the following 10 (5 points each):
  • Great Compromise
  • Budget authority
  • Committee of the Whole
  • Signing statements
  • Iran-Contra
  • Phonemarking
  • The Johnson Treatment
  • Citizens United decision
  • Richard Gephardt
  • Polarization
Answer two of the following three questions. Each answer should take a paragraph or two (15 points each).
  • What does Connelly mean by the "government or opposition" dilemma?
  • Explain the distinctions between the authorization process, the appropriations process, and the budget process.
  • Who actually writes the bills?
Answer one of the two questions. Your answer should take 2-3 bluebook pages. (30 points)
  • Explain the sources of the incumbency advantages in congressional elections. Compare and contrast the advantage in House and Senate elections. If the incumbency advantage is so strong, how did Republicans take control in 201o?
  • How could the Senate benefit by removing the possibility of a filibuster? How could it lose?

Secretary of Education Discusses Fixing Struggling Schools

Thursday, President Obama visited Miami Central Senior High School, which has received $800,000 in federal funding to support efforts close its achievement gap. Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, visited alongside the president. In an Op-Ed in the Miami Herald, Secretary Duncan discussed the Administration's education reform goals and the problems he sees with No Child Left Behind. For anybody in the HELP Committee, I think reading Secretary Duncan's goals and views may be interesting and helpful.

From the article:

President Obama and I are determined to challenge low expectations at underperforming schools. For the first time, the federal government is providing billions of dollars to states — roughly $4 billion all told over the next five years — to help turn around the nation’s 5,000 lowest-performing schools.

These schools represent just five percent of America’s public schools. Yet unlike in the past, these schools will now be instituting one of four far-reaching reform models to boost student achievement. Our redesigned School Improvement Grants program (SIG) will provide up to $6 million for each school targeted for turnaround over a period of three years.
Why is the administration taking this unprecedented step? The easy, timid approach to turning around low-performing schools has been tried over and over again — and failed.

Under the 2002 No Child Left Behind law, districts had five options to intervene in schools that failed to make “adequate yearly progress” five years in a row. But over 80 percent of the failing schools chose the minimalist “other” option that asked for little change from principals, teachers, and district administrators.

The tragic result of this tireless tinkering is that millions of children continue to be denied their one shot at an American birthright — an education that opens the door to college, careers, and opportunity.

Senators Offer Principles for No Child Left Behind Overhaul

EdWeek reports that a group of moderate Democrats (including Senators Bennet, Hagan, and Manchin) has published a statement of goals for reform of the ESEA.

A summary of the principles outlined in the statement is below:

Accountability Structure: Reward growth and progress. The No Child Left Behind Act treated all schools that failed to make adequate yearly progress the same and did not tailor interventions to meet the specific needs of schools. The old accountability system fails to recognize growth and constantly labels failure. A new accountability structure needs to provide more flexibility for schools to determine the best way to meet the needs of their students, instead of a one-size-fits all approach from Washington.

(EdWeek: this includes using accountability measures of student growth over time, instead of comparing groups of students to other groups of students. The proposal also emphasizes giving flexibility to schools to achieve their targets, especially when the schools struggle with one type of student rather than struggling with most students).

School Turnaround: Support bold, aggressive action to change the odds for students in schools that persistently fail to provide them with a quality education. Under current law, states and districts frequently choose the least intensive option for reform.

Teachers and Leaders: Dramatically improve our system for recruiting, training, supporting, retaining and paying teachers and leaders. Competitive funds to create and replicate effective teacher and leader preparation programs is an essential element. Require better teacher and leader evaluation systems that include examination of student learning gains and provide extra compensation for those who take on additional responsibilities.

(EdWeek: the proposal suggests the use of student outcome data in teacher evaluations. It also supports increasing the pay of teachers who take on more responsibilities).

Foster Innovation: Create opportunities for states, districts and schools that want to push beyond the status quo through innovative and promising new approaches.

(EdWeek: the Senators support continuing Race to the Top as well as extending the Investing in Innovation program).

Equity in Resources (Close the Title I Comparability Loophole): Closing the loophole to require school districts to report actual expenditures at the school-level, including those devoted to salaries for teachers, when applying for Title I funding. Title I, the largest program in ESEA provides grants to districts with children living in
concentrated poverty. Closing this loophole will result in more equitable funding between schools."

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Victory for the Westboro Baptist Church

Today the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that the hate speech of Westboro Baptist is protected at military funerals. I am appalled that the Supreme Court could not protect funeral processions from hate speech. What is time, place, and manner for anyways?

Fiscal Policy

A leftover from last week, some legislative slang:

Continuing from last time...

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

No Government Shutdown

There will be no government shutdown. At least for two weeks. A Reuters article published late Tuesday revealed that the House voted to "extend government funding for two more weeks, a move that would avert a federal shutdown but do nothing to resolve a bitter debate over the federal budget."

"Current funding is due to expire on Friday. The bill drafted by House Republican leaders, which passed by a vote of 335-91, would give Obama and Congress until March 18 to agree on funding levels for the rest of this fiscal year that ends on September 30.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama was encouraged by this progress and reiterated both sides must find common ground "to reach a long-term solution that removes the kind of uncertainty that can hurt the economy and job creation."

Republicans, spurred on by Tea Party fiscal conservatives, have made spending cuts their top priority after winning control of the House in November on a promise to scale back government and trim a massive budget deficit."

And the saga continues....

House Speaker John Boehner is working hard to put Senate Democrats and President Obama between a rock and a hard place. Actually it's more like Speaker Boehner keeps throwing grenades (stop-gap spending bills) over to the senate with the pin pulled (short expiration dates) in an attempt to make Democrats panic, either letting it blow up in their face (letting the government shutdown) or throwing it in a direction they would not prefer (the wrong way or at President Obama). So it appears Congress is engaging in a game of hot-potato with live ammunition: the budget.

Blog Archive