Category: government

Life at the Extremes — Not Really

DAVID TREUER, professor of English, USC Dornsife.

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

During the election cycle we tend to ask: What does America mean; where are we going? And then someone decides to check on the Indians to find out the answer, as though Indians represent America’s soul hidden in the attic. And of course politicians have long stood next to their “souls” and posed for pictures on the campaign trail.

Within the last year, Diane Sawyer and “20/20” did a special on the sorry conditions at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, and the New Yorker featured a grim photo essay on Pine Ridge too. The New York Times published a piece on brutal crime at the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming and another on the deep financial problems at Foxwoods, the Pequot-owned “world’s largest” casino in Connecticut. Indians make the news, but the news

What a Deal: Smarter Politicians, Less Time in Office

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

This op-ed originally appeared in the Sacramento Bee.

When the original ballot initiative to impose term limits was put before California voters in 1990, I enthusiastically campaigned for its passage.

When career politicians tried to dramatically weaken the state’s term limits law 10 years ago, I fought to defeat them.

When I returned to Sacramento to serve as chairman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, I saw that term limits had dramatically succeeded in one important respect. The Legislature was far more diverse than at any other time in our state’s history. Not only were there an unprecedented number of female, Latino and Asian Pacific Islander members, but we have also seen an extraordinary range of diversity in professional experience and background as well, as small-business owners and union members, doctors and nurses, teachers and farmers and law enforcement officers have all sought and gained election to the Legislature since term limits took effect.

Political Ads Are Hazardous to Your Mental Health

MARTY KAPLAN, professor of entertainment, media and society, USC Annenberg

This op-ed originally appeared at the Huffington Post.

This is the disclaimer that Britain’s Public Interest Research Centre recently proposed for inclusion on billboards:

“This advertisement may influence you in ways of which you are not consciously aware. Buying consumer goods is unlikely to improve your wellbeing, and borrowing to buy consumer goods may be unwise; debt can enslave.”

For this buy-buy-buy holiday season, those words are a spritz of pepper spray.

Imagine, then, that advertisers were required to admit that the underlying premise of

What Brought L.A. Back From the 1992 Riots

MANUEL PASTOR, director of USC’s Program for Environmental and Regional Equity, and KAFI BLUMENFIELD, president and CEO Liberty Hill Foundation.

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

In 1992, the acquittal of four police officers accused of beating Rodney King was the match that ignited a city, setting off a wave of violence that left 53 dead, thousands injured and hundreds of businesses destroyed.

There was a lot of accumulated tinder to burn. Los Angeles was struggling with a faltering and de-industrialized economy that left too many without good jobs, a wave of demographic transition that caused ethnic and generational tensions, and a widening gap between rich and poor that was just beginning to emerge into public view — a bit like the U.S. today.

Keeping L.A.’s 30/10 Transit Plan on Track

LISA SCHWEITZER, associate professor, USC Price School

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

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa‘s 30/10 plan may be in trouble. The proposal calls for borrowing from the federal government over 10 years the total amount expected to be raised and repaid over 30 years from a half-cent sales tax authorized by L.A. County voters in 2008. With the money, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority could complete transit and highway projects in 10 years instead of 30.

However, on March 29, Congress extended federal transportation spending for only 90 days — the ninth such action since 2009 — to avoid a complete shutdown of Washington-funded highway work. Funds for the mayor’s proposal were not part of the bill. The possibility of movement won’t come until after the November elections, and even that may be a pipe dream.

The 30/10 financing model, widely heralded among transportation experts, thus appears to be another hostage to partisan acrimony in Washington. A two-year bill, which passed 72 to 22 in the Senate, included financing for the 30/10 plan, but Democrats in the House could not force a vote on the legislation. Some House Republicans simply do not want to expand federal loan programs, which they believe encourage overbuilding and mismanagement.

There are options that do not depend on Washington pulling itself together. But Villaraigosa must first decide what is truly important about his plan: fast-tracking the money or developing a model for the federal government to do so. That’s a debate worth having because there are three options for fast-tracking money into Southern California to pay for our needed transportation projects.

The first is the California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank, which has been around since 1994. Because California’s economy is bigger than that of most countries, it can finance much of its own infrastructure. The bank has an AAA credit rating and thus can offer competitive rates. It has helped fund some large projects, including the Bay Bridge‘s deck replacement. Given its modest size, the bank probably wouldn’t bankroll more than a handful of projects at once, so Los Angeles would need to prioritize its projects. But then, nobody really expected the feds to finance the entire 30/10 wish list either.

Villaraigosa also could look overseas for some fast money. The European Investment Bank has lent money to 78 countries to build highways and transit projects, the bulk of it to member states of the European Union. Although the bank has not financed a project in the United States, its mission is to foster infrastructure projects that support EU goals, among them slowing global warming. The 30/10 plan has multiple transit projects — the Westside subway and the Green Line/LAX extension — that dovetail nicely with this environmental goal. Villaraigosa could make an unprecedented proposal to the European bank. What’s the worst that could happen? It says no and mocks our soccer teams ?

Obama’s Energy Straddle

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

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

Like every president seeking re-election, Barack Obama walks the fine line every day between the discordant goals of motivating his party’s strongest loyalists and reaching out to swing voters for their support. A few weeks ago, that pathway took him to a tiny town in Oklahoma, where, caught between the anti-drilling demands of the environmental community and the thirst for more affordable gasoline from unions, business owners and drivers, the president announced his support for building half of an oil pipeline.

The President’s Transit Pipe Dream

LISA SCHWEITZER, associate professor in USC Price School of Public Policy:

This article originally appeared in POLITICO,

“Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood last week told POLITICO that the House transportation bill is “the worst” measure he’s ever seen “during 35 years of public service.”

His problem? The legislation would eliminate the deficit-plagued Highway Trust Fund as a funding source for transit, walking and biking projects. Money for those projects would instead have to come out of the general fund.

Transit and sustainability advocates are outraged. Don’t the bill’s supporters know how crucial these non-automobile means of travel are to cities?

Attention Romney: How to Pass the Authenticity Test

DAVE LOGAN, lecturer in the Management & Organization department in USC’s Marshall School of Business:

This article originally appeared on CBS MoneyWatch.

“Mitt Romney has a leadership problem, he doesn’t know it, and he can’t fix it. Gingrich has a similar problem, but he does know it, and he has tried unsuccessfully to fix it. You may have the same problem: You need to change something about yourself — a position on an issue, or even how people think of you as a person — and you need to do it with authenticity. In leadership, change is rarely optional, and authenticity never is. Get change and authenticity right and you’re Ronald Reagan, who left the Democratic Party and became the standard bearer in the 20th century of new conservatism. Get it wrong and you’re, well, Romney and Gingrich.

Romney won Florida handily Tuesday, and certainly he’s the odds-on favorite to win the nomination. But he still has a challenge ahead. What Romney is asking the Republicans to believe is that he’s looked deep inside himself and seen the error of his ways on abortion and healthcare, and that he’s converted to the right of where he was for most of his adult life. What he’s asking us to buy is nothing short of a political rebirth. Anyone who has heard a

Huntsman’s Flatline Campaign

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

This article originally appeared on

“When Jon Huntsman announced his campaign for president last summer, he received the type of media attention that presumed he would be an immediate and formidable challenger for the Republican nomination.

Unlike other early casualties like Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann, Huntsman did not self-destruct. There was no spectacular immolation or flameout that rocked the political world, nor had there been the type of stratospheric rise that marked Cain and Bachmann’s campaigns.

Rule Changes That Could Boost Minority College-Going

LINDA J. WONG, executive director of USC’s Center for Urban Education, ESTELA MARA BENSIMON, professor of higher education and co-director of the center, and ALICIA DOWD, associate professor of higher education and co-director of the center:

This article originally appeared in the Sacramento Bee.

“The Obama administration’s decision to make it easier to consider race in promoting diversity in our schools comes at a propitious time for California.

Race and ethnicity are front and center in the state’s education system with minorities now representing 70 percent of public school students and more than half of those attending community colleges. The billions of dollars in education budget cuts have and will continue to hit these students the hardest. But new federal diversity guidelines, if followed, hold out