Archives: 07/2016

Is There a War on Police?

Heather MacDonald, who is based at the Manhattan Institute, has a new book out titled, The War on Cops.  Is there a war?  John Stossel notes that the “war on cops” narrative is overblown: “ ‘War’ means killing.  The attack on officers in Dallas was despicable, but, even including those five deaths, it is still safer to be a cop today than in years past.  According to FBI records, 2015 was one of the safest years ever recorded.”

MacDonald seems to recognize that.  Her primary aim is to push back against the critics of the criminal justice system.  She says we need more proactive policing and stricter incarceration practices to protect our cities from what she calls “mass destruction.”  I have a review of the book over at Reason and outline several problems with MacDonald’s thesis.

Here’s an excerpt:

In 2013, a federal district court ruled that the NYPD’s [stop & frisk] tactics were unconstitutional. The court noted that cops were evaluated by their “productivity”—that is, finding contraband and making arrests. Officers were not disciplined for stops that turned up nothing, and innocent persons had no practical legal recourse for brief detentions and patdowns of their clothing. Thus, the police had job pressures to stop a lot of people, suspicious or not, to see what might turn up. That helps to explain why, of the 4.4 million police stops between January 2004 and June 2012, there was no further action taken, such as an arrest or summons, in a whopping 88 percent. Mac Donald does not address these points.

That 88 percent might actually be an underestimate, because the police do not necessarily file the proper paperwork where a questionable stop turns up nothing. Recall that when NYPD officers roughed up former tennis pro James Blake last year in a case of mistaken identity, they did not report the encounter. As far as police records showed, it never happened. Fortuitously, the incident was captured by a hotel security camera and Blake’s wife urged him not to drop the matter, arguing that it would highlight a type of abuse that black men had been complaining about.

Read the whole thing.  Related items here, here, and here.

Cross-posted at Cato’s Police Misconduct web site.

Three-and-a-Half Centuries of Drought in Southwest China

Drought is a natural hazard that climate models have predicted will increase in the future in consequence of CO2-induced global warming. One way to gauge the validity of such predictions is by examining long-term historic trends in drought to see if there is anything unusual about their occurrence over the past few decades, during which time climate alarmists claim the Earth has experienced unprecedented global warming due to rising atmospheric CO2 emissions. And that is exactly what the seven member research team of Bi et al. (2015) did in assessing drought variability for southwest China over the past three-and-a-half centuries. 

To accomplish their objective, Bi et al. analyzed 39 tree ring cores obtained from 23 Picea likiangensis trees growing on Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (27.14°N, 100.23°E), located at the southern part of the Hengduan Mountains, southwest China, to reconstruct a historical spring season Palmer Drought Severity Index (PSDI) for this region. The resulting series is presented in the figure below.

Figure 1. Reconstructed spring PDSI (from March to May) for Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, southwest China. The thin line represents the annual value, while the thick line is an 11-year smoothing average. Adapted from Bi et al. (2015).

Figure 1. Reconstructed spring PDSI (from March to May) for Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, southwest China. The thin line represents the annual value, while the thick line is an 11-year smoothing average. Adapted from Bi et al. (2015).

As shown above, there have been multiple wet (positive PSDI values) and dry (negative PSDI values) periods over the 361-year record. And with respect to extremely wet or dry years (more than 2 standard deviations above or below the mean), Bi et al. note such events occurred in 1674, 1712-1714, 1728, 1824-1827, and 1941-1942 for extremely wet years and in 1736-1737, 1758, 1762, 1766, 1768-1769, 1819, 1969 and 2008 for extremely dry years. They also report that although the 2000s was a relatively dry decade, “our study reveals that spring drought events during this period were not as extreme as in some other periods within the time scope of our study.”

Consequently, given the findings presented above, there appears to be nothing unusual, unnatural or unprecedented about the recent drought history of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain region, suggesting rising atmospheric CO2 has had little, if any, measurable impact on this hazard phenomenon. And since it has had no remarkable impact on the past, there is no compelling reason to conclude that it will have any measurable impact in the future.



Bi, Y., Xu, J., Gebrekirstos, A., Guo, L., Zhao, M., Liang, E. and Yang, X. 2015. Assessing drought variability since 1650 AD from tree-rings on the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, southwest China. International Journal of Climatology 35: 4057-4065.

Economics Will Be Our Ruination

That there title is known as “clickbait.”

But there are challenges in using economics in public policy. Economics is a value-free tool that makes it easy to overlook embedded values.

In a recent story entitled “Pokémon Go is Everything that is Wrong with Late Capitalism,”—talk about clickbait—Vox reporter and Cato alum Timothy B. Lee recounts “some real downsides” to the new mobile gaming phenomenon. In brief, Internet businesses like Nintendo, Amazon, and such are causing a cash drain from most parts of the country to a small number of tech-industry centers. The result is a slow-down in the overall economy because entertainments like Pokémon Go don’t support complimentary businesses like the theaters, parking concessions, and restaurants, for example, that crop up around blockbuster movies.

Tech businesses are moving wealth from most places to San Francisco or Seattle, and the rest of the country concommitantly slumps.

But what is it to “slump”? Pokémon Go players aren’t slumping. They’re running all over the place, offending some of the more curmudgeonly among us. They’re making friends.

On average, market transactions make all parties better off. And Pokémon Go players certainly look like they’re having a good time. How is it that millions of market transactions are making us worse off?

The question is one of values. Orthodox economics prioritizes a bottom line measured chiefly in the flow of dollars or dollar-equivalents. To oversimplify, “good” is more dollars moving around. Fewer dollars on the move is “bad.” That’s often right, in my opinion, but sometimes it’s not. I don’t think people exist to keep certain measures of the economy moving upward—much less the numbers for their nation-states.

Happily, there’s some economic research being done out there that more neatly fits my values. Erik Hurst, a macroeconomist at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, is investigating whether tech-based entertainments like Pokémon Go are contracting the labor supply—contra the widespread assumption that there’s a curious lack of demand.

It may be that young men, in particular, with less than a four-year college education, are forgoing work to play video games. Crucially, Hurst says, “happiness surveys actually indicate that they [are] quite content compared to their peers.” Let the economists fret. People are having a good time on the cheap.

Plenty of us in the world of advanced degrees and blog reading—we flâneurs among material that might contain the word “flâneur”—are inclined to believe that preferring video games to educational and career advancement is a road to a horrible life. That may be true, but it’s also a little self-focused. It may be that continuing advances in technologies of many kinds will make it smart in the future to have declined the rat race and enjoyed more leisure across the entire span of life—economic statistics be damned.

Title aside, I think Tim Lee’s piece made a pretty orthodox economic case. His prescriptions included both liberty-friendly and liberty-loathing ideas. And his real point was something about the Euro. Another response to his clickbait, naturally, is: ‘Pokemon Go’ Represents The Best Of Capitalism. My point here is to highlight the values embedded in economic orthodoxy, which I sometimes find dubious, as I prefer individual liberty.

Proposition 187 Turned California Blue

California politics began to shift in the 1990s to such a degree that the state turned into a Democratic stronghold by the early 2000s.  There are two main accounts of why that happened.  The first is that Hispanics are naturally Democrats so as their numbers increased they naturally turned the state blue (Gimpel 2010 makes this point for presidential election outcomes by county) while an increasingly liberal white electorate also helped.  The other theory is that Republican support for anti-immigrant ballot initiatives and candidates ruined the GOP brand in the eyes of immigrants, their children, and whites who were turned off by the nativist appeals – driving all of them into the arms of the Democrats who were pro-immigration.  More evidence supports the second theory than the first.

California Partisan Background  

California was never a Republican or conservative stronghold.  Democrats controlled the legislature since 1959 with brief exceptions during 1969 to 1971 and from 1994 to 1996.  Democratic governors were also elected in 1958, 1962, 1974, and 1978.  On the policy front, California has been known for high progressive income taxes, high welfare benefit levels even after adjusting for the cost of living, and onerous building restrictions.  California’s only claim to being a Republican state was that it voted for the Republican candidate in every post-World War II Presidential election prior to 1992 except for 1948 and 1964.  The two presidents from California have both been Republicans – Nixon and Reagan.   

Political changes in California occurred both in its elections for national positions and on the state level.  This post will examine how the demographic changes, Proposition 187, other propositions that were viewed as anti-immigrant, and Republican Governor Pete Wilson’s embrace of nativism are mostly responsible for shifting the Golden State’s politics.   

Proposition 187 and Pete Wilson

Known as the “Save Our State” initiative, Proposition 187 would have denied all public services to illegal immigrants and forced all state employees to immediately report illegal immigrants to the Immigration and Naturalization Service for deportation.  It appeared on the ballot in 1994 when California Republican governor Pete Wilson was running a very hard fought campaign for reelection.  Wilson’s campaign embraced Proposition 187, the Republican Party threw its financial support behind it and used other nativist talking points in order to win the election.

Prior to the vote, many Republican supporters of Proposition 187 admitted that its passage would not affect social service spending in California, mostly because unauthorized immigrants were already ineligible for welfare, and the rest of the package would likely be struck down by the courts.  Republicans Jack Kemp and Bill Bennett even opposed Proposition 187.  Their opposition was summed up by William F. Buckley Jr. thusly:

“The Kemp-Bennet position says: Look, there shouldn’t be illegal immigrants in California, but it is the business of the Federal Government to keep them away.  To pass such a measure as 187 situates the GOP with a strain of xenophobia which will very quickly (California will be more than 50 percent Asian/Hispanic at the turn of the century whatever happens to illegals) evolve into anti-GOP resentments by the majority of Californians.  That could lead to such electoral catastrophes as pursued many GOP candidates who were slow in boarding the civil-rights crusade.” [Emphasis added]

Bennett and Kemp were right. 

Proposition 187 and Pete Wilson Were Unpopular Among Immigrant Minorities

Proposition 187 was approved by the voters in November 1994.  However, the proposition was intensely unpopular among Hispanics who were the targets of the proposition (Figure 1).  Michael Barone highlights an anecdote in his book The New Americans to show how off-putting Proposition 187 and Wilson’s campaign were for Hispanic Republicans like Jose Legaspi who said, “He was saying we don’t work hard.”  California Republican Gregory Rodriguez said, “It was a big civics lesson.  People felt they were being maligned as a group.  We were being called lazy and loafers.”  A Republican state senator even suggested that Hispanics in California would be required to carry identity cards.  These factors galvanized the Hispanic vote against the GOP.     

Figure 1

Support for Prop 187 by Race/Ethnicity


Source: Field Poll.

Governor Pete Wilson was also intensely unpopular among Hispanics and other minorities in the state.  What’s different is that Wilson’s unpopularity tainted the Republican Party and has lingered for decades after the 1994 vote.  A 2000 Tomas Rivera Policy Institute survey during the 2000 election revealed that 53 percent of Hispanic voters in California still associated the Republican Party with Pete Wilson.  In 2010, Latino Decisions polled California Hispanics if they were concerned that Pete Wilson was the campaign co-chair for GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman - their responses were stunningly negative (Figure 2).  Pete Wilson’s name was still reviled by large majorities of California Hispanics sixteen years after the 1994 campaign battle. 

Figure 2

Percent of California Hispanics Who Say They Are Concerned that Pete Wilson was Meg Whitman’s Campaign Co-Chair in 2010 Election


Source: Latino Decisions.

According to a recent dissertation by Abramyan (2016), Hispanics are more conservative and moderate in most of their political opinions than their overwhelming self-identification as Democrats would predict.  Hispanics are more Democratic because they view that party as more supportive of liberalized immigration while the Republican Party is viewed as opposing such a policy.  This means that if the GOP is to make inroads into Hispanic voters, they will need to do so by softening their stance on immigration. 

Hispanic Votes for Governor: Comparing California and Texas

Pete Wilson’s 1994 unpopularity among Hispanics was new in California.  Prior to that year, the California state GOP typically split the Hispanics vote with the Democrats in gubernatorial elections.  In 1986, 46 percent of Hispanic voters in the state voted for the Republican governor.  In 1990, 47 percent supported Pete Wilson’s election.  But beginning in 1994, the Hispanic gubernatorial vote has gone heavily Democratic (Figure 3).  In 1990, Wilson was relatively pro-immigration.  As a Republican Senator from California, Wilson voted for the Reagan amnesty and tried, but failed, to include a large guest worker visa program in the final bill.  By 1994, his pro-immigration credentials were entirely sullied.

Figure 3

Percent Distribution of Hispanic Vote in California Gubernatorial Elections 


Source: Field Institute.

Texas provides an excellent counter-example to California.  In 2014, Hispanics made up 38.6 percent of the population of both states.  From 1980 to 2012, the non-white population of both states grew at about the same rate and are very closely correlated (R-squared of 0.98).  Texas’s population was 55.7 percent non-white in 2012 while California’s was 60.8 percent.  The big difference between them is how their respective state GOPs treated a growing minority population.      

The Texas GOP courted Hispanics and opposed Proposition 187-style laws.  In 1990, Governor Bush only earned 27 percent of the Hispanic vote compared to the California GOP’s 47 percent (Figure 4).  In that year, Democrat Ann Richards was elected in Texas and Republican Pete Wilson won the election in California.  In 1994, the Texas Republican candidate George W. Bush ran on a pro-immigration platform that publicly eschewed the anti-immigration politics that Wilson championed.  Bush received only 28 percent of the Hispanic vote in that year but Wilson’s Hispanic vote total collapsed to only 25 percent.  In 1998, George W. Bush built on the inclusive, pro-immigrant language he used in his first campaign to earn 50 percent of the Hispanic vote while California Republican Dan Lungren inherited Wilson’s legacy and only earned 17 percent – practically the reverse of 1990.        

Figure 4

Hispanic Vote for Republican Gubernatorial Candidate, Texas and California


Source: Texas Tribune and Field Poll.

The Democratic share of the two-party vote totals in Presidential elections tells a related story (Figure 5).  Despite similar demographics, Texas and California have very different Hispanic vote shares for Democrats.  Texas’ dropped slightly after the mid-1990s and California’s skyrocketed.       

Figure 5

Democratic Share of Two-Party Vote in Presidential Elections


Source: U.S. Election Atlas

The Texas GOP went from alienating Hispanics in the early 1990s to splitting them with Democrats in 1998.  The California GOP went from virtually splitting the Hispanic vote in 1990 to only capturing 17 percent of it in 1998.  The Texas and California examples show that Hispanics can both be alienated or courted over the course of a few elections.  Gimpel (2004) argues that Republican successes in Texas have much more to do with Hispanic Democrats being deactivated by a weak Democratic candidate than the GOP activating Hispanics.  That may be the case but a Republican Party perceived as anti-Hispanic is a surefire way to activate Hispanic voters and keep them active.

Shifts in Partisanship: Comparing California and Texas

Monogan and Austin (forthcoming) argue that the 1994 campaigns for California Proposition 187 and Governor Wilson crashed Hispanic support for the GOP.  They used a metric called macropartisanship, which is a measure of political party affiliation, to document the shift of California Hispanics away from the Republicans and toward the Democrats (Figure 6). 

Figure 6

Democratic Party Identification in California as a Percent of Certain Groups


Source: Monogan and Austin (forthcoming).  

Democratic Party identification hit a low point in 1991.  Both Hispanics and whites had moved toward the Republicans Party and away from the Democrats in California throughout the 1980s.  That trend reversed in 1991, which is also the same year that Governor Wilson began to blame unauthorized immigrants and immigration in general for California’s troubles.  A 1992 special Senate election in California also emphasized that trend.  Those events reversed a decade’s long trend of Hispanics becoming less Democratic (Figure 7).  

Figure 7

Percentage of California Hispanics Who Identify as Democrats


Source: Monogan and Austin. 

Texas macropartisanship, by comparison, was stable throughout the time period (Monogan and Austin only have 1990-1998 data available).  Democratic Party affiliation in Texas was stable (Figure 8) compared to the rise in California during the same time period (Figures 6 and 7).  By 1998, California Hispanic identification with the Democratic Party was up 11 percentage points while it was down three in Texas. 

Monogan and Austin estimate that the long-term effect of Proposition 187 shifted Hispanics 7.1 percentage points toward the Democrats without affecting the party identification of white voters.  Overall, they estimated a 4.3 percentage point shift in the electorate in favor of the Democrats as a result of Proposition 187—more than enough to throw many elections to the Democratic Party.

Figure 8 

Percentage of Texas Groups Who Identify as Democrats (1990-1998)


Source: Monogan and Austin. 

Compared to national trends in Democratic Party identification, California and the rest of the nation moved together from 1969 to 1990 (R-squared of 0.77).  From 1991 to 2010, Democratic self-identification in California and the nation as a whole diverged (R-squared 0.012) as California became far more Democratic than the rest of the country.  Something occurred to Hispanic political party affiliations at the exact time when the California GOP was becoming more nativist. 

Korey and Lascher (2006) found that California was divided into two eras of macropartisanship from 1980 to 2001.  The first ran through 1991 and saw increasing Republican identification while the Democrats gained afterward.  Much of that post-1991 change comes from Hispanics becoming increasingly Democratic and Democrats becoming increasingly Hispanic.  One important point is that it is hard to determine if people tend to align their party identification with their ideologies or whether they align their ideologies with their party identification.  The large number of conservative and moderate Hispanics who vote for the Democrats in California suggest the latter.  The authors admit that they cannot determine the precise reasons for Hispanics becoming increasingly Democratic but the shift occurred at the same time the California GOP was beginning to express nativist points of view.

Dyck, Johnson, and Wasson (2011) found that Proposition 187, the other propositions, and Pete Wilson’s divisive campaign quickened Hispanic movement away from the GOP and toward the Democratic Party.  There was a 20 point shift of Hispanics increasingly identifying as Republicans from 1980 to 1991 that then reversed to a 30 point Hispanic swing against the GOP from 1991 to 2001.  The growth of the Hispanic population from 1980 to 2001 made that swing consequential for election outcomes.  They concluded that two-thirds of the Hispanic turn away from the GOP occurred after the passage of Proposition 187.  The anti-immigrant political strategy of the 1990s California GOP influenced Latino voters exodus from the GOP.

Proposition 187 Alienated Hispanics

Hispanic voters were alienated from the GOP and welcomed by the Democratic Party during the fights over Proposition 187, Wilson’s reelection, and during a series of other propositions proposed in the mid-1990s.  One way this shift occurred was by galvanizing Hispanic naturalization in response to the perceived GOP threat.  Increases in naturalization and the political activities of the naturalized are telling because naturalized Hispanics were less likely to participate in electoral politics and other activities with political organizations than similar native-born Hispanics were prior to Proposition 187, according to DeSipio (1996).  

Pantoja, Ramirez, and Segura (2001) wanted to see whether Hispanics voted different if they naturalized because of the perceived political threat.  They found that newly naturalized Hispanics in California behaved very differently from other Hispanic citizens of California and newly naturalized Hispanics in Florida or Texas.  They found that voter turnout was higher for California Hispanics who naturalized in the shadow of the divisive Proposition 187 campaign than for Hispanics who naturalized at the same time in other states who were not the targets of anti-immigrant campaigns – 60 percent in the Golden States versus 37 percent in Texas. 

There was an 80 percent increase in naturalization applications filed between October 1994 and January 1995 but a roughly 650 percent increase in Los Angeles County following the kickoff of the Proposition 187 campaign.  From 1993 to 1996, the number of naturalizations in California rose by 554 percent.  Excluding California, the nationwide increase was only 269 percent.  Texas saw an even lower 219 percent increase.  The nationwide, California, and Texas trends are all consistent with the threat thesis described by Pantoja, Ramirez, and Segura (2001). 

California naturalization numbers surged during and after 1994 and other elections while they have been flat in Texas (Figure 9).  1993 and 1994 were watershed years in California and not in Texas.  Their conclusion is: “[O]ur findings suggest that immigrant-bashing and other activities perceived to be anti-Latino potentially have huge negative political consequences for those political forces perceived to be the source of such attacks.”  

Figure 9

Naturalization Petitions Filed by the Petitioner’s State of Residency


Source: Department of Homeland Security

Not only were immigrants more likely to naturalize in California as a result of Proposition 187, they were also more likely to vote.  Ramakrishnan and Espenshade (2001) found that immigrants in California were twice as likely to vote as immigrants in other states without anti-immigrant ballot propositions.  That trend continued for subsequent generations as well.  Second generation immigrants in California were 83 percent more likely to vote than their generational peers in other states while Californians in the third and higher generations were 32 percent more likely to do so.  The so-called California effect dissipated in subsequent years, possibly because anti-immigrant propositions and candidates in other states activated voters there too, but it did not fade away entirely.  Proposition 187 prompted a large-scale increase in voting by the first and second generations.       

Barreto (2005) found that growth of the Hispanic vote in California was driven entirely by foreign-born Hispanics of the type activated by the Proposition 187 campaign and other anti-immigrant actions.  Foreign-born Hispanics were more likely to vote in California in 2002 than native-born Hispanics and about even with non-Hispanics.  From 1998 to 2002, the foreign-born Hispanic vote grew by 22.1 percent while the native-born Hispanic vote actually dropped by 5 percent.  These new voters broke heavily for the Democratic Party.

Focusing on voter registration and turnout in Los Angeles County, Barreto and Woods (2001) find that Hispanics in the 1998 gubernatorial election were more likely to register and vote than other groups.  After 1994, Hispanic registration significantly favored the Democrats as a result of that year’s contentious election that was reinforced by later partisan disagreements over Propositions 209 and 227.  Barreto, Ramirez, and Woods (2005) investigated whether the beneficiaries of the 1986 Reagan amnesty drove the bump in naturalizations in the mid-1990s.  They found that amnestied immigrants did not drive that increase but a reaction to Proposition 187 and a growing number Hispanics generally explain the rise of the Hispanic vote in California from 1996 to 2000. 

Citrin and Highton (2002) found that Hispanic turnout in California was always higher than in Texas but that the gulf widened in 1994 and afterward.  From 1990 to 2000, the percent of the California adult population that was Hispanic jumped from 22 to 26 percent while the percent of the voting population that was Hispanic went from 9 percent to 14 percent.  In 2000, there were more Hispanic adults as a percentage of the population, a greater percentage of the total registered population, and of the voter population in the state of Texas than in California.  If somebody wants to argue that an increase in Hispanic voters solely explains why California became blue, they have to explain why a relatively larger voting population of Hispanics in Texas was so Republican and/or inactive.  

Pantoja and Segura (2003) argue that immigrant Hispanics in California in the mid-1990s became more politically active and interested in following the candidates than Hispanics in other states because of Proposition 187.  The percentages of California Hispanics who were concerned with race relations, anti-Hispanic bigotry, and other negative issues stemming from these propositions were all higher among naturalized Californians than naturalized Texans.  Interestingly, this activation effect only holds for naturalized Hispanics – the group most targeted by the mid-1990s campaigns.

Political activities are not just limited to voting.  Barreto and Munoz (2003) look at non-citizens attendance at political meetings, volunteering for campaigns, and their money donations to political causes.  They find that foreign-born Hispanics are not less active than naturalized and native-born Americans.  Contrasting slightly with the other studies, they found that non-citizens in California were not more likely to be involved in political activities than those in other states.     


Proposition 187 May Have Alienated White Voters Too

Like the above papers, Bowler, Nicholson, and Segura (2006) argue that Propositions 187, 209, and 227 reversed the trend of Hispanics self-identifying as Republicans in the early 1990s and then rapidly shifted them to the Democratic camp.  This paper differs from those above by finding an anti-Republican and pro-Democratic effect among non-Hispanic white Californians.  In other words, California’s transformation is not just due to Hispanics being repelled by the GOP but also from non-Hispanic whites also leaving the GOP as a result of these propositions (Table 1).  The small white shift matters so much because whites were a majority of the state’s electorate.

Table 1

Percentage of Whites and Hispanics in California by Political Party Identification


Before Propositions

After Propositions











Non-Hispanic Whites  











  Source:  Bowler, Nicholson, and Segura.

Changes in partisanship and party identification are usually slow and gradual but the rapidity of the shift in California points to an extraordinary catalyst – like Proposition 187 affecting a group of new citizens less attached to either party.  One lesson from Bowler, Nicholson, and Segura (2006) is that anti-immigrant propositions or candidates don’t just activate opposition from the groups targeted but also lose more voters in every demographic group in the long term than they gain.               

Dyck, Johnson, and Wasson (2011), however, found that white voters were not turned away from the GOP as a result of Proposition 187 but that that loss in Hispanic voters was far greater than any potential gain from white, explaining the GOP’s future defeats.  From 1980 to 2001, they found that the change in voting habits of non-Hispanic whites was unremarkable.  Monogan and Austin (forthcoming) also found that the white vote in California did not shift as a result of Proposition 187. 


The biggest disagreement in the research cited above is how non-Hispanic whites reacted to Proposition 187 and the GOP’s nativist turn.  Bowler, Nicholson, and Segura (2006) found that whites left the GOP as a result of their nativism and perceived racial appeals that were too explicit as Mendelberg (2001) describes.  In contrast, Dyck, Johnson, and Wasson (2011) and Monogan and Austin (forthcoming) find no change in white attitudes. However, they all agree that Hispanics rejected the GOP and became more Democratic in large part due to Proposition 187, Wilson, and the other GOP-supported propositions.

The thoughtful reader who still doesn’t want to credit the California GOP-fueled nativism with turning the state’s Hispanics into voting Democrats must explain why such a sudden political shift occurred at the same time as these nasty campaigns were underway.  They also must explain why such a titanic shift occurred in California but not in Texas where Governor George W. Bush actually reversed the trend.  The political history of the 1990s shows how easy it is to turn a group of voters against a political party when they feel targeted by it.  Nuno (2007) reveals some strategies the GOP can deploy to reach out to Hispanic voters but it cannot do so while maintaining an immigration policy perceived as an anti-Hispanic.

The California Republican Party’s decision to represent the anti-immigration wing of the American electorate in the early 1990s destroyed that state’s GOP for at least a generation in exchange for winning one election in 1994 and a symbolic victory on Proposition 187 that didn’t actually change policy.  That’s a bad deal that the Republican Party should avoid making again.    

Pervasive Misconduct and Corrosive Culture at the TSA

A new report from the House Homeland Security Committee lays bare the culture of misconduct that continues to plague the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), finding a surge in complaints and a pervasive lack of accountability at the agency.

This comes on the heels of another significant increase in cases of employee misconduct at the TSA, as a 2013 investigation from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported a 27 percent increase from fiscal years 2010 to 2012. In response to that earlier report and the GAO’s related finding that the TSA did “not have the process in place to adequately address it,” the TSA installed adopted many of the GAO’s recommendations for investigating misconduct in an attempt to finally bring some effective oversight and accountability to the troubled agency.

Despite those efforts, there has been no slowdown in the surge of misconduct allegations filed against TSA employees: misconduct complaints increased by 28.5 percent from fiscal year 2013 to 2015 while the number of full-time equivalent employees grew by only 1.6 percent.

These allegations range from relatively mundane but still troubling offenses like a failure to follow instructions and failure to report to duty to more egregious cases like an officer being charged with facilitating human smuggling and allegations of sexual misconduct by officers.

The concerns go beyond just the sheer number of complaints or the recent surge, it’s that there are so many employees that have allegedly committed some form of misconduct multiple times: roughly 43 percent of the employees with a complaint had more than one, almost 5 percent had more than 5, and one ‘enterprising’ employee had 18 separate complaints during fiscal years 2013 to 2015.  Despite the long-recognized problems contributing to a culture prone to misconduct, there do not seem to be consequences for these TSA employees. As the report says “it appears as though minimal accountability is provided with certain employees engaged in ongoing misconduct.”

Number of Complaints among Employees with Filed Complaints, FY 2013-2015


Source: Homeland Security Committee.

This recent surge in complaints might be due to the perception that allegations of misconduct will not be thoroughly investigated, and this does not seem to be baseless: even as the number of complaints increased substantially, the number of investigations over this same period declined by 15 percent, while the number of investigations closed fell by 28 percent. Even within the shrinking pool of cases where the agency takes some action, fewer employees faced real consequences, as “TSA increased the use of non-disciplinary actions by almost 80 [percent], while it decreased the use of disciplinary and adverse actions by 14 [percent] and 23 [percent], respectively.” In most cases, TSA employees can think it is plausible that they can avoid being investigated should they have a complaint filed against them, and if there is ultimately a decision against them, the most likely reprimand will be non-disciplinary actions like counseling, guidance, or additional training.

Employees within the TSA who might have tried to bring attention to some of the agency’s problem may have faced some form of backlash, as almost a dozen individuals told staffers that  “certain senior leaders at TSA have reassigned employees to other locations around the country as retaliation for, in some cases, employees raising security concerns.” Far from moving towards more transparency and attempting to address the ongoing misconduct that seems to be so prevalent in the agency, some senior level employees could be undermining these efforts. Outside agencies and Congress have also lamented their limited ability to investigate these concerns because the agency has not been forthcoming with requested data.

Misconduct Allegations and Investigations, FY 2013-2015


Source: Homeland Security Committee.

Beyond these concerns about misconduct, other investigations have revealed the TSA to be ineffective and prone to security failures. My colleague Chris Edwards has an insightful policy analysis laying out the case for privatizing the TSA and following the lead of most airports in Europe and Canada that use private companies for screening procedures. As he explains, allowing competitive bidding to multiple companies could finally bring a degree of accountability to the sphere, something that is sorely lacking at the TSA. 

On Baltimore’s Economic Plunge

After Monday’s acquittal of Lt. Brian Rice in the ongoing Freddie Gray saga, lead prosecutor Marilyn Mosby is batting a perfect 0-4. The three previous defendants were similarly acquitted, with two (and perhaps three) more officers to take the stand in the future. 

It appears that Marilyn Mosby’s prosecutions have been politically motivated and without foundation. The big problem, however, is that Freddie Gray has taken the focus off of Baltimore’s long and painful economic plunge – a plunge that can be laid squarely at the feet of Charm City’s long embrace of anti-market economic policies.

My colleague, Prof. Stephen J.K. Walters, and I wrote about this in the Investor’s Business Daily on April 22, 2016: “One Year After: Freddie Gray and ‘Structural Statism’.”

Here is some of what we wrote about how the path of structural statism has contributed to Baltimore’s poverty and associated problems.

“When Freddie Gray was born in 1989, Baltimore hosted 787,000 residents and 445,000 jobs. By the time his fatal injuries in police custody provoked riots last April, the city’s population had fallen by one fifth, to 623,000, and its job base had shrunk by one quarter, to 334,000.

Little wonder that throughout his life, Mr. Gray had never been legally employed. Nevertheless, friends and family considered him “a good provider,” according to The Baltimore Sun.

This was because he worked in the drug trade, which filled his city’s economic vacuum. An average day on the corner can yield take-home pay ten times that available in the low-skill warehousing or service jobs sometimes available to high-school dropouts like Gray.

The catch, of course, is that such rewards carry two great risks. The lesser of these is regular involvement with the justice system. Gray was arrested 18 times and served three years behind bars in his tragically brief life.

Far more dangerous is how competition works in illegal markets. When selling contraband, one does not pursue market share by advertising high quality or low prices. Sales are increased by acquiring territory from rivals, often violently.

For Baltimore’s drug cartels, the post-riot disequilibrium provided an opportunity for market expansion. Inevitably, each strategic assassination produced reprisals and collateral damage.

As a result, 2015 saw the highest homicide rate in Baltimore’s history, at 55 per 100,000 residents — over 13 times New York’s rate. This horrific suffering was concentrated in the African-American community: 93% of victims were black, of which 95% were male and 65% aged 18 to 34.

In Freddie Gray’s demographic, then, the homicide rate was 450 per 100,000 — higher than the peak U.S. combat death rates recorded in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The prevailing narrative is that all this is a by-product of structural racism and exemplifies a society “built on plunder” (according to the celebrated black radical Ta-Nehisi Coates). This is a myth.

It is not that racism doesn’t exist but rather that it is relatively constant. When explaining variations in economic and social outcomes, constants have little power.

It’s the application of destructive public policies that explain why neighborhoods like Gray’s Sandtown-Winchester are deprived. If one had to put a label on this malignant force, it might be structural statism: an addiction to market-unfriendly governmental approaches to every problem.”

Stay tuned: with several trials still to come, we’re bound to hear more about the Freddie Gray Sideshow, even as Baltimore’s plunge into poverty – and its causes – goes unnoticed.


How to Save Refugees with U.S. Ties

Refugees have few options to flee persecution both quickly and legally. Only a tiny fraction are granted access to formal refugee programs, and while other legal immigration avenues are available, they have quotas that can trap people attempting to escape violence in massive backlogs. But Congress could solve this problem by exempting immigrants from the quotas when they are otherwise eligible for a visa and meet the definition of a refugee.

Why are refugees with U.S. ties forced to wait?

With the exception of immediate family of American citizens, the U.S. government places strict limits on the number of immigrant visas issued each year. When more people apply than visas are made available, the process becomes backlogged. Some applicants from more populous countries must wait a decade or more for a visa number to become available. Nearly 4.6 million people were waiting for employer- or family-sponsored visas as of November 2015.

Under the Refugee Act of 1980, refugees admitted under the formal refugee program are exempted from the normal worldwide limits on immigration. They are also exempted from almost all of the non-criminal requirements for entry—health, income, etc. These exemptions make sense if the goal is to save victims of violence.

Yet as soon as refugees apply for other immigration programs, where they actually meet the qualitative requirements to enter the United States, the caps are enforced against them, and they are forced to wait just like anyone else. This makes no sense. People who otherwise meet all of the criteria for admission to the United States should not die due to an arbitrary and inflexible quota.

The government does not estimate how many people in the visa lines are refugees, but certain countries from which the United States has received a large number of refugees have thousands of people waiting for a visa. The United States, for example, has accepted 39,000 refugees from Iran since 2005, yet another 53,000 Iranians are currently waiting overseas for a visa under the non-refugee programs. In Syria, we have accepted roughly 8,200 refugees since 2005 with another roughly 6,400 waiting in line for an immigrant visa as of fiscal year 2014.

Graph: Immigrant Visas Issued, Refugee Admissions, and Immigrant Visas Pending for Syria and Iran

Of course, the majority of these applicants are unlikely to be refugees, but those who are will get caught up in the backlog just the same—with possibly fatal consequences. (You can read here about the Syrian mother of Rep. Steve Russell’s friend who was killed waiting for a visa.) While Congress should increase the green card limits generally, a specific exemption could save thousands of refugees around the world from persecution, violence, and death.

Why can’t these refugees access the U.S. refugee program?

Under the Refugee Act, the president does have the authority to admit as many refugees of “special humanitarian concern to the United States” as he decides, so the president could simply increase the number of slots and allow refugees who are waiting for visas to apply directly to the program. Indeed, President Obama took both of these actions on behalf of Syrian refugees this fiscal year.

But this fails to solve the problem for several reasons. First, the refugee program is so slow, often taking more than two years to process a single person, that these refugees are just being pushed from one wait list to another. The regular immigration process is faster based on the reasonable rationale that people with proven U.S. ties present a lower potential security threat than others.

Here’s the much bigger problem: because refugees are entitled to so many federal benefits, the program has a de facto cap. The president can only admit as many refugees as Congress appropriates money to fund. Unless Congress increases funding, something it is unlikely to do, green card applicants only take away slots from refugees without any other option to immigrate to the United States.

The president could allow—as I have suggested elsewhere—some refugees to be admitted under the refugee program without benefits or with sponsors who reimburse the government. But admitting refugees who are already eligible under other family- or employer-based programs, which bar their access to benefits, would obtain essentially the same result, allowing the United States to invite in more refugees per dollar spent than under the formal U.S. refugee program.

Even if Congress did fund an increase in refugee expenditures, it would still not make sense to push people with other legal immigration options into the refugee system. The United States can help more people if it simply numerically exempts refugees with pending green cards—who have U.S. sponsors to support them if necessary—instead of sending them to the slower and more expensive refugee program.

How can Congress reform the law?

Congress could fix this issue with a simple change to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)—subsections (c) and (d) of section 201—to state that immigrants who are designated as refugees by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees or present proof that they meet the definition of a refugee (under section 101) shall not be included in the quota calculation for employer- or family-sponsored green card limits.

Typical complaints about refugees—that “we don’t know who they are”—shouldn’t apply here. By virtue of their connection to the United States, we do know who they are: they are a close relative of a U.S. resident or an employee of a U.S. company, and it makes little sense to force these people to suffer for an extra few years. After all, they are coming either way—let’s just make sure that it’s not in a body bag.