FM newswire for 26 February, articles for your morning reading

Today’s links to interesting news and analysis, collected from around the Internet.  Excerpts from these appear below.  If you find this useful, pass it to a friend or colleague. 

  1. ‘Starve the Beast’ – Origins and Development of a Budgetary Metaphor“, Bruce Bartlett (bio), The Independent Review, Summer 2007
  2. Broke states are releasing prisoners.  How will they work out?  “A review of 13 major studies in the US and Canada on the accelerated release of prisoners and its impact on public safety“, The National Council on Crime and Delinquency, January 2008
  3. Citizens’ Perceptions of Ideological Bias in Research on Public Policy Controversies“, Robert J. MacCoun and Susannah Paletz (both UC Berkeley), Political Psychology, February 2009 — “Citizens, especially those holding conservative beliefs, tended to attribute studies with liberal findings to the liberalism of the researcher, but citizens were less likely to attribute conservative findings to the conservatism of the researcher.”
  4. About the ACORN stings by Andrew Breitbart:  “An Independent Governance Assessment of ACORN“, Scott Harshbarger and Amy Crafts, Proskauer (an international law firm founded 1875), 7 December 2009 — The investigators found a different story than the news media gave us.

(1)  Origin of the “starve the beast” tactic to shrink the government

‘Starve the Beast’ – Origins and Development of a Budgetary Metaphor“, Bruce Bartlett (bio), The Independent Review, Summer 2007 — Excerpt:

In recent years, one of the most common metaphors for using tax cuts to discipline government spending has been “starve the beast.” The idea is that if revenues are unilaterally reduced, this reduction will lead to a higher budget deficit, which will force legislators to enact spending cuts. Thus, using tax cuts to bring about spending cuts has been called “starving the beast.”

The budgetary experience of recent years, in which Congress has enacted large tax cuts and large spending increases at the same time, has caused some former supporters of the starve-the-beast idea to reconsider their view. However, the metaphor remains a powerful one. In this article, I trace the origins and development of the idea and the reasons why it rose to prominence not just among policymakers, but among professional economists as well.

The earliest reference I have seen to the phrase starve the beast appeared in a Washington Post article one hundred years ago. The author, Charles Edward Barnes (1907), used it literally to refer to intentionally starving an animal. …

(2)  Today’s feature story:  saving money by releasing prisoners

Since we’ll be releasing prisoners to save money, will this lead to more crime?  “A review of 13 major studies in the US and Canada on the accelerated release of prisoners and its impact on public safety“, The National Council on Crime and Delinquency, January 2008 — Excerpt:

The incarceration rate in our nation is by far the highest in the world at over 700 per 100,000 citizens. Most European nations have rates less than 175. The impact on communities — and the hardest hit are communities of color — is devastating. High incarceration rates often lead to prison overcrowding. One way to address this overcrowding is through accelerated release programs.

In accelerated release programs, eligible prisoners may be released ahead of their sentenced release dates through the application of good time credit, intense community supervision, or other methods. Accelerated release programs have been implemented throughout the country in different ways and at different times. They have always been confronted with opposition by critics who claim that accelerated release poses a threat to public safety.

… The studies revealed no significant difference in rates of recidivism among accelerated release and full-term prisoners. In fact, in some cases, early release prisoners had lower rates of recidivism than full-term prisoners. In Illinois, inmates released via Supplemental Meritorious Good Time (SMGT) had the same recidivism rates as those serving full sentences.

(3)  Too many Americans judge truth by how well it meets their preconceptions

Anyone reading the comments on the FM website already knew this:  “Citizens’ Perceptions of Ideological Bias in Research on Public Policy Controversies“, Robert J. MacCoun and Susannah Paletz (both UC Berkeley), Political Psychology, February 2009 — “Citizens, especially those holding conservative beliefs, tended to attribute studies with liberal findings to the liberalism of the researcher, but citizens were less likely to attribute conservative findings to the conservatism of the researcher.”  Excerpt:

We also found support for the naïve realism hypothesis. Participants were more likely to speculate that a study was “biased” when it conflicted with their personal views. Also, those with conservative issue attitudes and liberal-favoring results showed a greater tendency than other respondents in other configurations to attributing the findings to the researcher’s own ideology.

However, we didn’t find a parallel tendency among those with liberal issue attitudes and conservative favoring results. Again, it may be that the “researchers are mostly liberal” belief mitigated against an attribution that the author was conservative. There is also considerable evidence that self-identified liberals are more apt to perceive (or tolerate) ambiguity and “shades of gray” in their beliefs about the world (J. Jost, Glaser, Sulloway, & Kruglanski, 2003; Tetlock, 1993). As such, liberals may be less vulnerable to naïve realism than conservatives.

(4)  About the ACORN stings by Andrew Breitbart

An Independent Governance Assessment of ACORN“, Scott Harshbarger (former Massachusetts DA) and Amy Crafts, Proskauer (an international law firm founded 1875), 7 December 2009 — The investigators found a different story than the news media gave us.  Red emphasis added.

We were invited by ACORN to conduct an independent analysis not just of the videos that caused this summer’s uproar but also of the entire organization, its core weaknesses and inherent strengths.

… This hidden camera controversy is an apt example. While some of the advice and counsel given by ACORN employees and volunteers was clearly inappropriate and unprofessional, we did not find a pattern of intentional, illegal conduct by ACORN staff; in fact, there is no evidence that action, illegal or otherwise, was taken by any ACORN employee on behalf of the videographers. Instead, the videos represent the byproduct of ACORN’s longstanding management weaknesses, including a lack of training, a lack of procedures, and a lack of on-site supervision.

The publicly released versions of the videos show ACORN or ACORN Housing employees apparently willing to offer ways to effect illegal schemes involving tax advice, misuse of public funds and illegal trafficking in children, and feed the impression that ACORN believes it is above the law. The videos were distributed on or about September 10, 2009 on BigGovernment.com, triggering a period of intense coverage and commentary in traditional and social media.

The unedited videos have never been made public. The videos that have been released appear to have been edited, in some cases substantially, including the insertion of a substitute voiceover for significant portions of Mr. O’Keefe’s and Ms.Giles’s comments, which makes it difficult to determine the questions to which ACORN employees are responding. A comparison of the publicly available transcripts to the released videos confirms that large portions of the original video have been omitted from the released versions. To date, the videographers have declined or ignored our interview requests.

… Based on our investigation, we offer the following comments:

  1. Three of the six videos – Brooklyn, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. – involved only ACORN Housing employees, over which ACORN has no control.
  2. The released videos offer no evidence of a pattern of illegal conduct by ACORN employees. In fact, out of the three videos involving ACORN employees, at least two involve extenuating circumstances.
  3. The ACORN employees captured on video were members or part-time staff. They were not organizers or supervisory level employees.
  4. None of the individuals captured on video consented to being video- or audiotaped, and four of the states where the videos were recorded appear to prohibit such taping without consent.
  5. In offices where the videographers spoke with organizers, videos were not released.
  6. Police reports regarding the video incidents were filed in Philadelphia and San Diego.
  7. The released videos were edited or manipulated by the videographers and/or individual(s) acting on their behalf.
  8. There is no evidence that any action, illegal or otherwise, was taken by ACORN employees on behalf of the videographers.
  9. Experienced forensic investigators would be able to determine the extent to which the released videos have been manipulated to distort, rather than merely shape, the facts and the conversations, as ACORN alleges.

For more stories about Andrew Breitbart’s sting of ACORN see The Brad Blog.  Esp note this about the “pimp outfit” lie that provided much of the drama to the original story.

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