Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Dolla Dolla Bill (Wednesday LINKS)

I've been reading yet another book on economics and policy in which the author presents a very interesting observation about the role of money in politics and campaigns.  He posits that while economists have concluded that voting is an irrational act, since the true value of one's vote is not proportionate to the time and effort it takes to make that vote.  (Here is the Freakonomics explanation).  All the same it is in our collective interest to vote, because to do otherwise would cede the influence of government to other interests.

That's where money comes in with a two pronged approach.  The overall effect of campaign ads, particularly negative ones, and a cynical press is to depress voter turnout, effectively making us all more rational actors.  Despite the civic-mindedness of those reading here, the baseline for your average voter is "not voting".  With that being the case, money is necessary, if not crucial, to:

1) Continue to depress my opponent's voter base;
2) Compel my voter base to come to the polls (GOTV - Get Out The Vote).

This strategy was refined and mastered by GOP Political strategist Karl Rove and mimicked by President Obama's team.  One can see how this can quickly turn into an arms race without much time to explain why the money is so crucial or defend its use.

But let's go back to the set-up -- Voters not voting.  The distinct irony here is that most of these non-voters will say they are staying home because the big donors run the show, never realize that they are partially complicit.  In fact, in countries with mandatory voting, the influence of big-money-donors diminishes significantly, if for no other reason that dilution.  But not only does the voice of the people become magnified, but the utility of campaign war chests fades.  Sure, I want to manage the message and frame the issues, but I am also accountable to the entire voting public, not just the voter pool I can create.

The word "mandatory" is a scary word, but we have no discomfort using it in other contexts; when the existence of the institution requires it.  Jury duty.  Taxes.  Military draft.  It would be hard to argue with anyone who suggested that our election process has been bastardized by the failures of campaign finance reform.  But that doesn't mean the topic is closed.  To reference the corniest of all metaphors: When one door closes, another door opens.  How would mandatory voting change the status quo?  The only certain answer is -- Drastically.


The O's beat the Yankees 11-5 last night after the Yankees scored 5 runs in the first inning off Chris Tillman.  Tillman stayed steady didn't allow another run for the next four innings.  Also fun - Chris Davis hit a grand slam in the second.

Maryland is home to the most medaled Olympian of all time: Michael Phelps

Luke Lavoie has an article in the Flier about the Columbia Association Board's consideration of sending 1-4 Board members, Staff, and/or Residents to France for the Twinning Sister City event.  As I've said before, my largest concern is whether CA and Columbia residents benefit from this expenditure, regardless of the amount.  I have not been sold that we will, but also see the benefit in sustained participation in the Sister City program.

The bankruptcy auction of the Sparrow's Point plant is something for all Marylanders to follow.  Even though we don't feel it here in Howard County, Maryland once had a strong manufacturing sector that is crumbling underneath our feet.  I'm not suggesting we need an effort to "bring the jobs back", because that may never happen, but it is critical that we have resources in place to reeducate this workforce and sustain this segment of the private sector.

I enjoyed this long-form piece about Congressman Paul Ryan in the New Yorker.  As always, consider the source, but the essay does provide a condensed history of this new conservative movement and Paul Ryan's place in the middle.  Incidentally, it also describes the dangers and consequences of unplugging federal infrastructure improvements to struggling areas of the mid-West.

Featured Blog Post of the Day: Duane at HoCo Connect has an interesting "Columbia Spectrum" scale for readers to complete.  Maybe I'm in my own sub-bubble, but I would think there should be at least ONE question about attending a Village or CA Board meeting.

That's all for today.  Have a great Wednesday doing what you love!  If you're not doing what you love, figure out why.