Research Roundup: Prosperity Economics, Non-Existent Voter Fraud, and More

In this Research Roundup:

Prosperity Economics, an antidote to “austerity economics.” Plus, recent reports from: the Annie E. Casey Foundation on key indicators of child well-being in each state, the Pew Charitable Trusts Economic Mobility Project on economic mobility across generations, the Strengthen Social Security coalition on how Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid work for each of the fifty states, People for the American Way on the “predatory privatization” of public services and assets, News21 on how the voter fraud that state voter suppression laws purport to address is “virtually non-existent,” the National Education Association on how anti-union RTW laws increase poverty, the Center for American Progress on growing conservative attempts to politicize state court systems through legislation, Americans for Tax Fairness on the effect that extending the Bush tax cuts for the richest 2% would have state-by-state, and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities on how many weeks of unemployment compensation are available state-by-state.


Prosperity Economics: Building an Economy for All — This report by Professor Jacob Hacker and Nathaniel Loewentheil of Yale University provides “a comprehensive blueprint to grow our nation’s economy, strengthen our economic security, and rescue our democracy from powerful special interests.” The authors argue that “the only way to achieve sustainable, long‐term growth is to build an economy in which the benefits of growth are broadly shared,” an approach they note contrasts sharply with the right-wing “austerity economics” of tax cuts for the rich and destructive budget slashing. Three “pillars” of prosperity economics are highlighted: innovation-led growth powered by immediate action to jumpstart the economy and investment to create good jobs and wages, security — for workers, their families, for the environment, and for the fiscal health of the country, and a democracy that is accountable and works for the people, not the powerful. Key recommendations include major investments in infrastructure, a college system that guarantees all qualified students the chance to graduate, empowering workers to engage in collective bargaining, strengthening Social Security, continuing to improve health coverage and lower medical costs, and stricter lobbying rules and public financing of elections. Organizations supporting the plan include AFL-CIO, Center for Community Change, Economic Policy Institute, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Council of La Raza, and SEIU.

2012 Kids Count Data Book: National and State-by-State Data on Key Indicators of Child Well-Being — This resource by The Annie E. Casey Foundation provides national and state-by-state data on key indicators of child well-being, including the percentages of children in poverty, whose parents lack good jobs, who are not in preschool, who are not proficient in reading and math, who lack health insurance, and who live in high-poverty areas. The report’s research shows that over the past seven years, “children have seen gains in education and health, while there have been setbacks in their economic well-being.” New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont rank highest in “overall child well-being,” while Nevada, New Mexico and Mississippi rank lowest. The report also notes that child poverty rates have risen in 43 of the 50 states — with changes ranging from 10 percent in New Hampshire to 33 percent in Mississippi.

Pursuing the American Dream: Economic Mobility Across Generations — A new report by the Pew Charitable Trusts Economic Mobility Project, Pursuing the American Dream looks at the economic mobility of Americans and concludes that “while a majority of Americans exceed their parents’ family income and wealth, the extent of their absolute mobility gains is not always enough to move them up the economic ladder.” Among the key findings based on recent data: while 84 percent of Americans have higher family incomes than their parents, over 40 percent of those who are raised in the bottom quintile of the family “income ladder” remain there as adults and 70 percent remain below the middle. According to the report, African Americans are also both more likely to be stuck at the bottom of the income ladder and to fall from the middle of the economic ladder across a generation.

Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid Work for America: State Reports 2012 — This series of 50 state reports by the Strengthen Social Security coalition provides information about the history of the program and “compelling, real-life stories” that highlight state statistics on the number of recipients of benefits, the types of benefits they receive, and the total amount of funds going from these critical programs into every state.

Predatory Privatization: Exploiting Financial Hardship, Enriching the One Percent, Undermining Democracy — People for the American Way released this report looking at how, in many states who have recently seen budget crises and the rising influence of anti-government ideology among elected officials, the push to privatize public services and assets “often reduces the quality of services, burdens taxpayers and threatens democratic government.” Stories of destructive predatory privatization noted in the report include those of the selling of public parking meter revenues, privatizing prisons, privatizing public education, and even turning over toll roads to private corporations.

Who Can Vote: Election Fraud in America — As state voter suppression laws requiring the possession of certain types of photo identification to exercise the constitutional right to vote spread across the nation, this database and report compiled by News21 (a Carnegie-Knight investigative reporting project) analyzed 2,068 reported cases of election fraud over the past dozen years and found precisely 10 cases of alleged in-person voter impersonation — the type of fraud that voter ID laws purportedly aim to prevent. With 37 state legislatures having enacted or considered voter suppression laws, the conclusion of the study — that in-person voter fraud on Election Day is “virtually non-existent” — should give supporters of such legislation pause. The authors note that “with 146 million registered voters in the United States [since 2000], those 10 cases represent one out of about every 15 million prospective voters.” (That’s 0.0000006%.)

Right-to-Work Laws Increase Poverty, Decrease Productivity — This analysis recently featured by the National Education Association takes a look at the real world effects of so-called “right-to-work” (RTW) laws in the 22 states where a version of the anti-worker law is on the books, versus the 28 worker-friendly states. Analyzing a “spectrum” of seven measures for standard of living (including GDP, poverty rates, life expectancy rates, and more), the study notes the data “clearly show the adverse consequences of RTW laws on people living in those states.” Among other findings, the report notes that 11 of the 15 states with the highest poverty rates are RTW states, while nine of the 11 states with the lowest are worker-friendly.

The Conservative Takeover of State Judiciaries: Ballot Referendums to Watch — This Center for American Progress issue brief points to a growing effort in multiple states to politicize the judicial system by allowing governors to replace competent state judges — an effort primarily backed by conservatives. The authors note that lawmakers in 24 states have proposed such legislation in 2011 or 2012, with one result being increased pressure on judges “to lean conservative in their judicial outcomes.” The brief summarizes current pushes for politicization of the courts in Missouri, Florida, and Arizona, suggesting that these efforts are a growing threat that will continue to spread through the states in 2014, 2016, and beyond.

Effects of Bush Tax Cuts in Your State — With the Bush tax cuts set to expire at the end of the calendar year, this collection of state-specific reports and press materials from Americans for Tax Fairness documents the cost, state-by-state, of continuing to give tax breaks to the richest 2%.

How Many Weeks of Unemployment Compensation Are Available? — This policy brief and accompanying map from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows the maximum number of weeks of unemployment insurance benefits currently available in each of the 50 states.