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U.S. Politics & Policy

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Evaluating the Federal Government’s Response to Environmental Justice

In the 1970s and 1980s, the U.S. Congress passed a series of laws that were milestones in environmental protection, including the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. But by the 1990s, it was clear that environmental benefits were not evenly distributed and that poor and minority communities bore disproportionate environmental burdens. The Clinton administration put these concerns on the environmental policy agenda, most notably with a 1994 executive order that called on federal agencies to consider environmental justice issues whenever appropriate. This volume offers the first systematic, empirically based evaluation of the effectiveness of the federal government’s environmental justice policies.

The contributors consider three overlapping aspects of environmental justice: distributive justice, or the equitable distribution of environmental burdens and benefits; procedural justice, or the fairness of the decision-making process itself; and corrective justice, or the fairness of punishment and compensation. Focusing on the central role of the Environmental Protection Agency, they discuss such topics as facility permitting, rulemaking, participatory processes, bias in enforcement, and the role of the courts in redressing environmental injustices. Taken together, the contributions suggest that—despite recent environmental justice initiatives from the Obama administration—the federal government has largely failed to deliver on its promises of environmental justice.

Contributors
Dorothy M. Daley, Eileen Gauna, Elizabeth Gross, David M. Konisky, Douglas S. Noonan, Tony G. Reames, Christopher Reenock, Ronald J. Shadbegian, Paul Stretesky, Ann Wolverton

Immigration and the American Backlash

Illegal immigration continues to roil American politics. The right-wing media stir up panic over “anchor babies,” job stealing, welfare dependence, bilingualism, al-Qaeda terrorists disguised as Latinos, even a conspiracy by Latinos to “retake” the Southwest. State and local governments have passed more than 300 laws that attempt to restrict undocumented immigrants’ access to hospitals, schools, food stamps, and driver’s licenses. Federal immigration authorities stage factory raids that result in arrests, deportations, and broken families—and leave owners scrambling to fill suddenly open jobs. The DREAM Act, which would grant permanent residency to high school graduates brought here as minors, is described as “amnesty.” And yet polls show that a majority of Americans support some kind of path to citizenship for those here illegally. What is going on? In this book, John Tirman shows how the resistance to immigration in America is more cultural than political. Although cloaked in language about jobs and secure borders, the cultural resistance to immigration expresses a fear that immigrants are changing the dominant white, Protestant, “real American” culture.

Tirman describes the “raid mentality” of our response to immigration, which seeks violent solutions for a social phenomenon. He considers the culture clash over Chicano ethnic studies in Tucson, examines the consequences of an immigration raid in New Bedford, and explores the civil rights activism of young “Dreamers.” The current “round them up, deport them, militarize the border” approach, Tirman shows, solves nothing.

The United States and other advanced economies in the Eurozone and elsewhere face severe fiscal problems. The United States is on an unsustainable dynamic path; absent corrective fiscal policies, federal deficits and debts relative to gross domestic product will continue to increase dramatically. In this book, experts consider possible fiscal reforms aimed at addressing the debt problem, focusing on entitlement programs, budgetary issues and processes, and individual and corporate income tax reform.

The contributors address such topics as the interaction of rising health care costs and the level of federal expenditures; alternative methods for evaluating the fiscal health and sustainability of Social Security; the effectiveness of budgetary constraints imposed on the states, including balanced budget amendments and debt ceilings; approaches to curtailing individual tax expenditures and methods for increasing the progressivity of the tax system; and the effects of traditional base-broadening, rate-reducing corporate income tax reforms.

Contributors
Henry J. Aaron, James Alm, Rosanne Altshuler, Daniel Baneman, Joe Barnes, Robert J. Carroll, Ruud A. de Mooij, John W. Diamond, Jagadeesh Gokhale, Jane G. Gravelle, Peter R. Hartley, Vivian Ho, John Kitchen, Edward D. Kleinbard, John Mutti, Thomas S. Neubig, Mark V. Pauly, Rudolph G. Penner, Andrew J. Rettenmaier, Shanna Rose, Joseph Rosenberg, Daniel Smith, Eric Toder, Alan D. Viard, Roberton Williams, George R. Zodrow

George W. Bush and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Although George W. Bush memorably declared, “I’m the decider,” as president he was remarkably indecisive when it came to U.S. policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His administration’s policymaking featured an ongoing clash between moderate realists and conservative hard-liners inspired by right-wing religious ideas and a vision of democracy as cure-all. Riven by these competing agendas, the Bush administration vacillated between recognizing the Palestinian right to self-determination and embracing Israeli leaders who often chose war over negotiations. Through the years, the administration erratically adopted and discarded successive approaches to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The results of this irresolution included the stunning triumph of Hamas in the 2006 Palestinian elections, Israel’s 2006 invasion of Lebanon, the 2008-2009 clash between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, and, in the end, virtually no diplomatic progress toward lasting peace. 

In Indecision Points, Daniel Zoughbie examines the major assumptions underpinning U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East during the Bush years. Was there one policy or two? Was the Bush administration truly serious about peace? In a compelling account, Zoughbie offers original insights into these and other important questions. Drawing on the author’s own interviews with forty-five global leaders, including Condoleezza Rice, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Kofi Annan, Colin Powell, Tom DeLay, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, Richard Perle, Leon Panetta, Chuck Hagel, Shlomo Ben Ami, and Salam Fayyad, Indecision Points provides the first comprehensive history of the Bush administration’s attempt to reshape political order in a “New Middle East.”

Competition Policy for the Twenty-first Century

For more than two decades, the U.S. Department of Justice, various states, the European Commission, and many private litigants pursued antitrust actions against the tech giant Microsoft. In investigating and prosecuting Microsoft, federal and state prosecutors were playing their traditional role of reining in a corporate power intent on eliminating competition. Seen from another perspective, however, the government’s prosecution of Microsoft—in which it deployed the century-old Sherman Antitrust Act in the volatile and evolving global business environment of the digital era—was unprecedented.

In this book, two experts on competition policy offer a comprehensive account of the multiple antitrust actions against Microsoft--from beginning to end—and an assessment of the effectiveness of antitrust law in the twenty-first century. Gavil and First describe in detail the cases that the Department of Justice and the states initiated in 1998, accusing Microsoft of obstructing browser competition and perpetuating its Windows monopoly. They cover the private litigation that followed, and the European Commission cases decided in 2004 and 2009. They also consider broader issues of competition policy in the age of globalization, addressing the adequacy of today’s antitrust laws, their enforcement by multiple parties around the world, and the difficulty of obtaining effective remedies—all lessons learned from the Microsoft cases.

Salvos from The Baffler

There’s never been a better time to be outside the consensus—and if you don’t believe it, then peer into these genre-defining essays from The Baffler, the magazine that’s been blunting the cutting edge of American culture and politics for a quarter of a century. Here’s Thomas Frank on the upward-falling cult of expertise in Washington, D.C., where belonging means getting the major events of our era wrong. Here’s Rick Perlstein on direct mail scams, multilevel marketing, and the roots of right-wing lying. Here’s John Summers on the illiberal uses of innovation in liberal Cambridge, Massachusetts. And here’s David Graeber sensing our disappointment in new technology. (We expected teleportation pods, antigravity sleds, and immortality drugs. We got LinkedIn, which, as Ann Friedman writes here, is an Escher staircase masquerading as a career ladder.)

Packed with hilarious, scabrous, up to-the-minute criticism of the American comedy, No Future for You debunks “positive thinking” bromides and business idols. Susan Faludi debunks Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg’s phony feminist handbook, Lean In. Evgeny Morozov wrestles “open source” and “Web 2.0” and other pseudorevolutionary meme-making down to the ground. Chris Lehmann writes the obituary of the Washington Post, Barbara Ehrenreich goes searching for the ungood God in Ridley Scott’s film Prometheus, Heather Havrilesky reads Fifty Shades of Grey, and Jim Newell investigates the strange and typical case of Adam Wheeler, the student fraud who fooled Harvard and, unlike the real culprits, went to jail.

No Future for You offers the counternarrative you’ve been missing, proof that dissent is alive and well in America. Please be warned, however. The writing that follows is polemical in nature. It may seek to persuade you of something.

Copublished with The Baffler.

Contributors
Chris Bray, Mark Dancey, Barbara Ehrenreich, Susan Faludi, Thomas Frank, Ann Friedman, James Griffioen, David Graeber, A. S. Hamrah, Heather Havrilesky, Chris Lehmann, Rhonda Lieberman, Anne Elizabeth Moore, Evgeny Morozov, Jim Newell, Rick Perlstein, John Summers, Maureen Tkacik

How Americans Think about Energy in the Age of Global Warming

How do Americans think about energy? Is the debate over fossil fuels highly partisan and ideological? Does public opinion about fossil fuels and alternative energies divide along the fault between red states and blue states? And how much do concerns about climate change weigh on their opinions? In Cheap and Clean, Stephen Ansolabehere and David Konisky show that Americans are more pragmatic than ideological in their opinions about energy alternatives, more unified than divided about their main concerns, and more local than global in their approach to energy.

Drawing on extensive surveys they designed and conducted over the course of a decade (in conjunction with MIT’s Energy Initiative), Ansolabehere and Konisky report that beliefs about the costs and environmental harms associated with particular fuels drive public opinions about energy. People approach energy choices as consumers, and what is most important to them is simply that energy be cheap and clean. Most of us want energy at low economic cost and with little social cost (that is, minimal health risk from pollution). The authors also find that although environmental concerns weigh heavily in people’s energy preferences, these concerns are local and not global. Worries about global warming are less pressing to most than worries about their own city’s smog and toxic waste. With this in mind, Ansolabehere and Konisky argue for policies that target both local pollutants and carbon emissions (the main source of global warming). The local and immediate nature of people’s energy concerns can be the starting point for a new approach to energy and climate change policy.

A Textual Analysis

American monetary policy is formulated by the Federal Reserve and overseen by Congress. Both policy making and oversight are deliberative processes, although the effect of this deliberation has been difficult to quantify. In this book, Cheryl Schonhardt-Bailey provides a systematic examination of deliberation on monetary policy from 1976 to 2008 by the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee (FOMC) and House and Senate banking committees. Her innovative account employs automated textual analysis software to study the verbatim transcripts of FOMC meetings and congressional hearings; these empirical data are supplemented and supported by in-depth interviews with participants in these deliberations. The automated textual analysis measures the characteristic words, phrases, and arguments of committee members; the interviews offer a way to gauge the extent to which the empirical findings accord with the participants’ personal experiences.

Analyzing why and under what conditions deliberation matters for monetary policy, the author identifies several strategies of persuasion used by FOMC members, including Paul Volcker’s emphasis on policy credibility and efforts to influence economic expectations. Members of Congress, however, constrained by political considerations, show a relative passivity on the details of monetary policy.

How America Can Build a Low-Cost, Low-Carbon Energy System

Energy innovation offers us our best chance to solve the three urgent and interrelated problems of climate change, worldwide insecurity over energy supplies, and rapidly growing energy demand. But if we are to achieve a timely transition to reliable, low-cost, low-carbon energy, the U.S. energy innovation system must be radically overhauled.
Unlocking Energy Innovation outlines an up-to-the-minute plan for remaking America’s energy innovation system by tapping the country’s entrepreneurial strengths and regional diversity in both the public and private spheres. “Business as usual” will not fill the energy innovation gap. Only the kind of systemic, transformative changes to our energy innovation system described in this provocative book will help us avert the most dire scenarios and achieve a sustainable and secure energy future.

Beyond Gridlock

The “golden era” of American environmental lawmaking in the 1960s and 1970s saw twenty-two pieces of major environmental legislation (including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act) passed by bipartisan majorities in Congress and signed into law by presidents of both parties. But since then partisanship, the dramatic movement of Republicans to the right, and political brinksmanship have led to legislative gridlock on environmental issues. In this book, Christopher Klyza and David Sousa argue that the longstanding legislative stalemate at the national level has forced environmental policymaking onto other pathways.

Klyza and Sousa identify and analyze five alternative policy paths, which they illustrate with case studies from 1990 to the present: “appropriations politics” in Congress; executive authority; the role of the courts; “next-generation” collaborative experiments; and policymaking at the state and local levels. This updated edition features a new chapter discussing environmental policy developments from 2006 to 2012, including intensifying partisanship on the environment, the failure of Congress to pass climate legislation, the ramifications of Massachusetts v. EPA, and other Obama administration executive actions (some of which have reversed Bush administration executive actions). Yet, they argue, despite legislative gridlock, the legacy of 1960s and 1970s policies has created an enduring “green state” rooted in statutes, bureaucratic routines, and public expectations.

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