It’s been a while since I’ve delved into politics in this space, but with the 2012 Legislative Session in New Mexico starting today, a particular piece of legislation has me worried. What’s worse, it comes from the lawmaker representing my hometown in Silver City. I’m speaking, of course, of the voter ID law proposed by Silver City Republican Dianne Hamilton.
In a story that appeared in several news outlets this weekend, Hamilton reiterated her desire to reintroduce the bill, which has failed in the past three years it was offered:
She says the system should change to make sure the integrity of elections is upheld. ”I don’t think this is a poll tax. I don’t think this is discriminatory. I do think it is time for this law,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton argues, without one scintilla of proof, that voting in New Mexico is somehow compromised. But is it? Last year, New Mexico’s Secretary of State, Dianna Duran, alleged that 117 foreign nationals had registered to vote and that 37 of those individuals had cast ballots. Those figures were revised down late last year after the ACLU of New Mexico filed suit to determine the veracity of those claims. Duran wouldn’t release the names because the information she was citing came, apparently, from DMV records.
In other words: they had driver’s licenses.
Now, whether non-citizens should be issued a drivers license is a separate issue. It’s pretty obvious, however, that a voter ID law wouldn’t have prevented this fraud, since the individuals possessed the ID the legislation calls for. In addition, Duran has said that many of the 19 foreign nationals who cast ballots likely did so “mistakenly, thinking they had the right to vote.”
This hardly seems like the rampant abuse of a system in a state where 607,700 people voted in 2010′s general election.
What’s more, these latest efforts at solving a non-existent problem come after years of similar machinations. David Iglesias was canned for neglecting to follow the mythical rabbit down the voted fraud hole. But this non-existent problem is one that just won’t go away, either in New Mexico or across the country.
Race has popped up in the campaign this year. Newt Gingrich tripped over it while talking about food stamps and let’s not even deal with the preposterous lie that Rick Santorum told about how he really said “blah people.” Both of them were talking in gussied-up code, and they professed to be mystified as to how anyone could possibly think such a thing. And, of course, race has been a central theme (never a subtext; don’t even try to make that case) in the irrational hatred directed at the current occupant of the White House. And it’s not possible to read Lyndon’s great speech — in which he called out ”every device of which human ingenuity is capable, has been used to deny this right” — and not think of all the smart little clerks all over the country with their smart little voter-ID laws who are so damned mystified as to why people are so upset.
That’s the thing: these proposed laws, intentionally or otherwise, are aimed directly at minority voters, something which is recognized by the Department of Justice:
“Despite our nation’s record of progress, and long tradition of extending voting rights – today, a growing number of citizens are worried about the same disparities, divisions, and problems that Dr. King fought throughout his life to address and overcome,” Holder said at an MLK Day event in Columbia, S.C.
Holder’s remarks in the Palmetto State come just weeks after the Justice Department blocked the state’s new voter ID law from taking effect, citing an unfair burden on minority voters.
The Department of Justice recently vacated a South Carolina law that was designed to combat voter fraud by requiring a state ID. DOJ found the law unfairly targeted minority residents, in violation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. While I welcome the action on the part of the DOJ, it’s a small victory in a larger battle: the GOP War on Voting.
“One of the most pervasive political movements going on outside Washington today is the disciplined, passionate, determined effort of Republican governors and legislators to keep most of you from voting next time,” Bill Clinton told a group of student activists in July. “Why is all of this going on? This is not rocket science. They are trying to make the 2012 electorate look more like the 2010 electorate than the 2008 electorate” – a reference to the dominance of the Tea Party last year, compared to the millions of students and minorities who turned out for Obama. “There has never been in my lifetime, since we got rid of the poll tax and all the Jim Crow burdens on voting, the determined effort to limit the franchise that we see today.”
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, these efforts could disenfranchise almost 5 million Americans this year:
“If you’re poor…and you don’t have a birth certificate or a credit card, then it becomes extremely difficult to get those things so you can get out and vote,” Norden notes. “Some of those people are going to get ID [and be able to vote], but some of them aren’t.”
At least 16 states have tried (and many have succeeded) passing legislation aimed at “solving” the voter ID problem. That’s quite a bit of effort for an issue with precious little evidence supporting it. The penalties for voter fraud are so high (incarceration for citizens, deportations for non-citizens) that it’s outrageous to expect that there’s any wide-spread voter fraud. But that hasn’t stopped legislators like Hamilton, who postponed her retirement in order to introduce her bill again this year:
“I guess I’m Don Quixote – better make that Donna Quixote – tilting at windmills,” Hamilton said of offering another voter identification bill in the legislative session that begins this week.
Tilting at windmills—I couldn’t have put it any better myself.
If you’ve been reading Paul Krugman regularly for the past 18 months, you know what he says about interest rates, and the way traditional monetary measures are unavailable to us during this recession. This is Krugman back in January 2009:
But looking forward, the Taylor rule says that the Fed should cut rates a lot from here — in fact, to negative 6%. That’s not surprising: we’re clearly opening up a huge output gap, inflation is turning into deflation.
The problem, of course, is that you can’t cut interest rates below zero (if you try, lenders will just hoard cash.) So the Fed simply can’t do what the rule says it should.
He’s been beating this drum pretty regularly since that time, writing many posts on the liquidity trap and zero interest rate policy. This one is long (and, as he says, wonkish) while this one gets to the nitty gritty. What it comes down to is this:
The whole subject of the liquidity trap has a sort of Alice-through-the-looking-glass quality. Virtues like saving, or a central bank known to be strongly committed to price stability, become vices; to get out of the trap a country must loosen its belt, persuade its citizens to forget about the future, and convince the private sector that the government and central bank aren’t as serious and austere as they seem.
Of course, that’s the opposite of what we’ve been doing lately, but that’s beyond the scope of this post. What made me want to write about this today was a graph and two paragraphs in Calculated Risk. First, the graph:
And now, the real meat of this post—thanks for sticking around—the two paragraphs that sum up our situation so well:
Usually near the end of a recession, residential investment (RI) picks up as the Fed lowers interest rates. This leads to job creation and also additional household formation – and that leads to even more demand for housing units – and more jobs, and more households – a virtuous cycle that usually helps the economy recover.
However this time, with the huge overhang of existing housing units, this key sector hasn’t been participating. This is what I expected when I first posted the above graph two years ago!
The housing bubble really pooched us, as I’m sure you’re aware by now. But we can’t rely on the housing sector to help bring us out of the unemployment slump this time around either, because we can’t lower interests rates like we normally would.
More on Facebook.
I seriously want to do this next year.
Kerry: how’s your garden?
I’m never going to eat all these cucumbers
Kerry: make ice cream
That’s my plan for next week
Meredith loves em
You could give them as xmas gifts
“Fancy Baltimore Pickles”
Kerry: make that “Avelino’s Fancy Baltimore Pickles”
put peppers in with them
“Avelino’s Spicy Baltimore Pickles”
you’ll have a pickle empire
“Avelino’s Spicy B’more Pickles, Hon”
me: I’ll just convert the whole plot to cucumbers and peppers (and chiles) next year
Kerry: I’ll design the packaging
that would be amazing.
cukes & chiles
Kerry: Fiery Pickles
so much potential.
me: the name works perfect too
Kerry: of course, you’ll have to grow a beard.
me: Of course
Kerry: And the bottles need to be oddly shaped. None of that pickle jar nonsense.
chile shaped cucumbers!
me: though that might not be easy to store
Kerry: with red dye
man. We may have a hit on our hands
A few weeks back I finished Jon Krakauer’s latest, Where Men Win Glory, which focused on the life and death (and subsequent coverup) of Pat Tillman. Like other Krakauer books, the text is engaging and (at least to me) moving. Some of Krakauer’s back story regarding the Afghanistan war with the Soviet Union seemed familiar, mostly from my reading of Khaled Hosseini’s Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, (which, I’m somewhat ashamed to admit were the closest I’d come to histories of the region).
Fortunately, Krakauer described one of his resources on Afghanistan, Steve Coll’s Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. Beginning in 1979, Coll’s study spans two decades, detailing the worldwide rise of Islamic fanaticism and, more importantly, the complicity of the world’s intelligence apparatus in fostering that fanaticism (especially during the Soviet invasion and its aftermath). Coll is extremely detailed in his account: I’m more than 1/3 of the way through and the Soviet invasion is just barely ending. The details are grounded, however, in a fluid narrative that passes from Islamabad to Kabul to Moscow to Washington to Riyadh and back. I wish the most shocking element was how much money passes between those locations in the 80s. Unfortunately, what’s most surprising is how many opportunities there were for intelligence agents, lawmakers, diplomats and administration officials to recognize the threats posed by their handpicked allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan (and I’m only 1/3 of the way through!).
Coll’s book was published in 2004, a few years prior to the release of The Looming Tower, which is considered by many to be the preeminent history of the 9/11 attacks. I’m going to pick it up next, but thus far I’m incredibly impressed with Ghost Wars. It’s an elaborate, if chilling, history of the events leading up to some of the most important events in our lifetimes.
P.S. If you haven’t read Where Men Win Glory, I also recommend it. Krakauer is one of those writers that people seem to love or hate, but if nothing else the Tillman story serves as a stunning reminder of the depravity of the Bush Administration. But more than that, Krakauer shows the power of the Freedom of Information Act while casting a new light on recent events (I feel no sympathy whatsoever for Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s downfall following Rolling Stone‘s controversial interview). Above all, Tillman is revealed as loyal friend, brother, son and husband, and a ultimately a true patriot.