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.

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Sunday, March 10, 2013

News Items That Bear on the Simulation

The prospect of a tax overhaul has already kicked the capital’s influence industry into high gear. From corporate chiefs and hedge fund lobbyists to Montana ranchers and Broadway producers, the players have already begun their campaigns, pressing for everything from lowering the corporate tax rate to preserving cherished deductions and, in some instances, inserting new tax loopholes into law.
Much of that energy is being directed at a hectic suite of cramped, nondescript offices in the 80-year-old Longworth House Office Building, where eight staffers on the Ways and Means Committee are sifting through possible changes to the nation’s tax code of nearly 4 million words.
Eager to help is a steady stream of lobbyists, like Duane Musser of the National Roofing Contractors Association, who stopped by the offices on a recent Wednesday afternoon to argue his case that commercial roofs should be granted faster depreciation for tax purposes. “Everything is on the table,” he said.
Lobbying over the tax code has more than tripled since Obama took office, disclosure records show. And the pace of activity accelerated toward the end of last year amid the fight over the “fiscal cliff,” as lawmakers from both parties sought to turn the struggle over tax rates into a discussion about overhauling the tax code.
Meanwhile, the Beer Institute, which represents brewers, is pushing to prevent a hike in the excise tax on beer. Although officials at the trade group are not aware of any such proposal, “excise taxes could be put on the table to raise revenue in any comprehensive tax reform deal,” spokesman Chris Thorne said.
“Just the possibility is enough to ensure that we are out there talking to members of Congress and their staffs,” said Thorne, whose institute paid a lobbying firm $50,000 to advocate on tax reform and several other issues in the fourth quarter of last year. “It’s important to prevent that beer drinkers, middle-class Americans, could be seen as an ATM.” 
Also see:

AP reports:
The eight senators meet in private several times a week, alternating between Sen. John McCain's and Sen. Charles Schumer's offices. They sit in arm chairs arranged in a circle and sip water or soft drinks as they debate temporary workers and border security. In a capital riven by partisanship and gridlock, they are determined to be the exception and actually get something done.
This is immigration reform's "Gang of Eight." With them lies the best hope in years for overhauling the nation's byzantine immigration laws -- and they know it. That's partly why they are, by all accounts, working amazingly well together as a self-imposed deadline approaches for their sweeping legislation to be released. The progress is happening even though the group includes some of the Senate's most outsized personalities, failed and prospective presidential candidates, one lawmaker dogged by scandal and another facing a potential re-election challenge that could be complicated by his stance on immigration.
"I tell you what, this is one of the best experiences I've had. Everybody's serious, everybody's knowledgeable, they've been around the issue," said Sen. Lindsey Graham-R-S.C., who's up for re-election next year and facing a potential GOP primary challenge from the right. He said it's "sort of what I came up here to do -- sit down with serious people to solve serious and hard problems."
In addition to McCain, R-Ariz., Schumer, D-N.Y., and Graham, the gang includes Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a potential 2016 presidential candidate; Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.; Michael Bennet, D-Colo.; and Robert Menendez, D-N.J., who's battling allegations related to prostitution and his ties to one of his donors.
Also see:

As President Barack Obama and lawmakers spar over huge federal deficits, they're confronted by a classic contradiction: Most Americans want government austerity, a survey shows, but they also want increased spending on a host of popular programs: education, crime fighting, health care, Social Security, the environment and more. Less for defense, space and foreign aid.
The newly released General Social Survey asked people whether they believe spending in specific categories is "too much," ''too little" or "about right." It covers the public's shifting priorities from 1973, when Richard Nixon was president, through 2012 with Obama in the White House.

"Despite a dislike of taxes, more people have always favored increases in spending than cuts," wrote the survey's director, Tom W. Smith, of the independent research organization NORC at the University of Chicago.

While people's priorities shift over the years, they've not changed on one category. Foreign aid has been stuck firmly in last place since the survey began. Last year, 65 percent of those surveyed thought there was "too much," 25 percent checked "about right" and a slim 11 percent said "too little." The numbers are not much changed from 1973 — when 73 percent said too much on foreign aid, 22 percent just right and 5 percent too little.
Various polls have consistently shown the public believes foreign aid is a far bigger slice of the spending pie than it actually is.
The full General Social Survey report is here.

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