Category: 2012 presidential campaign

The Future American Electorate Is California

SHERRY BEBITCH JEFFE, senior fellow, USC Price School of Public Policy, and DOUGLAS JEFFE.

This op-ed originally appeared at Reuters.

The changing face of the American electorate is etched all over the map of California. The Golden State may no longer be a partisan battleground, but it continues to be a reliable bellwether for the evolving national political landscape.

Even as President Barack Obama won a second term with an electorate that mirrored the demographic trends that have made California deep blue, Golden State voters chose to raise taxes to fund education and gave Democrats a two-thirds “supermajority” in both houses of the state legislature—meaning Democratic lawmakers will have the ability to raise taxes without a single Republican vote.

The Medicare Disadvantage

DANA GOLDMAN, director of USC’s Schaeffer Center, ADAM LEIVE, graduate student at University of Pennsylvania and DANIEL MCFADDEN, senior fellow, Schaeffer Center.

This op-ed originally appeared at the New York Times.

One question at the center of the Medicare debate is whether private insurance companies have a future role to play in the huge federal program. Paul Ryan’s 2012 budget proposal gives private health plans a starring role in the form of a voucher program. But some economists would give them the hook, citing the failure of Medicare Advantage to control costs. Some perspective is in order.

Medicare Advantage has historically cost 7 to 12 percent more than traditional Medicare, according to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission. But to conclude that this cost difference proves that private health plans have no place in Medicare misreads the Medicare Advantage experience in an important way: It ignores the decisive role that government has played in driving up the program’s costs. Medicare Advantage is only partly about reducing costs. It is also designed to increase choice for beneficiaries. And the incentives that government gives private health plans to expand choice end up undercutting efforts to save money.

Making Universities and Colleges More Military Friendly

RON AVI ASTOR, professor of urban social development, Schools of Education and Social Work

This op-ed originally appeared at the Huffington Post.

Relations between academia and the military services are not known for their cordiality. The flash point was the Vietnam War. Campuses across the country were incubators of the anti-war movement and arenas for major protests. Many units of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps were shut down, especially at the Ivies. More recently, the government’s “Don’t-Ask-Don’t Tell” policy for gays was a source of friction at some universities.

Warriors on the Edge of a Fiscal Cliff

RON AVI ASTOR, professor of urban social development, USC School of Social Work.

This op-ed originally appeared at CNN.

With the presidential race heading into its final stretch, both candidates vow to protect the sacred promises made to military families. But neither is offering any details on how they might support military families if we hit a fiscal cliff with budget cuts that could wipe out services for military and veterans’ families.

Month after month, in the midst of a heated presidential and congressional pre-election cycle, we see no organized blueprint to integrate millions of military family members into civilian society.

New China Syndrome: Richer, Unhappy

RICHARD A. EASTERLIN, professor of economics, USC Dornsife.

This op-ed originally appeared in the New York Times.

China’s new leaders, who will be anointed next month at the Communist Party’s 18th National Congress in Beijing, might want to rethink the Faustian bargain their predecessors embraced some 20 years ago: namely, that social stability could be bought by rapid economic growth.

As the recent riots at a Foxconn factory in northern China demonstrate, growth alone, even at sustained, spectacular rates, has not produced the kind of life satisfaction crucial to a stable society — an experience that shows how critically important good jobs and a strong social safety net are to people’s happiness.

The Great Diversion: Romney’s Taxes

EDWARD J. McCAFFERY, professor of law, economics and political science, USC’s Gould School of Law.

This op-ed originally appeared at CNN.

By now, most of us have probably heard that Mitt and Ann Romney paid just under $2 million in taxes on income — virtually all from investments — of just under $14 million for 2011, an effective tax rate of 14.1%. This is a low tax rate, lower than the typical middle-class American worker pays, especially when one considers payroll taxes, the largest burden for most Americans. It should concern us that individuals of Romney’s wealth — analysis has put his personal fortune as high as $250 million, not counting some $100 million in trusts set up for his five children — pay so little as a percent in taxes.

Habits of the Heart Still Matter to Voters

DIANE WINSTON, Knight chair media & religion, USC Annenberg.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

What role will religion play in the 2012 elections? According to voters, not a big one. A recent Pew Research Center poll revealed that most Americans are comfortable with what they know about the candidates’ faith and that their votes will have little to do with the nominees’ religion. In fact, a majority of the electorate is significantly more interested in Mitt Romney‘s tax returns and gubernatorial record than in his beliefs.

Some Call It Tax Planning — Or Is It Tax Cheating?

EDWARD D. KLEINBARD, professor of law, USC Gould School of Law.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

For citizens hoping for serious tax policy and budget debates, this has been a dispiriting election cycle. One party urges tax rates too low to support any plausible platform from which government can deliver the services we all expect.

Those are the Democrats.

The other party inhabits a realm of fantasy akin to Erewhon, the fictional land created by the 19th century satirist Samuel Butler. In Erewhon, Butler wrote, “If a man has made a fortune … they exempt him from all taxation, considering him as a work of art, and too precious to be meddled with; they say, ‘How very much he must have done for society before society could have been prevailed upon to give him so much money.'”

Romney Courting an Unlikely GOP Constituency

DAN SCHNUR, director of USC’s Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

Have you heard the one about the Westside Jewish Republican Club? Its members take turns hosting the gatherings, and they meet each month in the host’s car.

The Democrats‘ advantage among Jewish voters might not be quite that extreme, but there’s no question that the Jewish community in this country has always leaned strongly toward the Democratic Party and its candidates. Read more →

Profiles in Tax Avoidance

EDWARD D. KLEINBARD, professor, USC’s Gould School of Law, and Peter C. Canellos, former chair of the New York State Bar Association Tax Section.

This op-ed originally appeared at CNN.

Mitt Romney’s refusal to release tax returns in the critical years of his income accumulation has done little to dispel the legitimate concern that arises from hints buried in his scant disclosure to date: Did he augment his wealth through highly aggressive tax stratagems of questionable validity?

One relevant line of inquiry, largely ignored so far, is to examine what exists in the public record regarding his attitude toward tax compliance and tax avoidance. While this examination is hampered because his dealings through his private equity company, Bain Capital, are kept shrouded, there are other indicators.