(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘lobbying

“Here’s to alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems”*…




Of all the substances people intoxicate themselves with, alcohol is the least restricted and causes the most harm. Many illegal drugs are more dangerous to those who use them, but are relatively hard to obtain, which limits their impact. In contrast, alcohol is omnipresent, so far more people suffer from its adverse effects. In 2010 a group of drug experts scored the total harm in Britain caused by 20 common intoxicants and concluded that alcohol inflicted the greatest cost, mostly because of the damage it does to non-consumers such as the victims of drunk drivers…

No Western country has banned alcohol since America repealed Prohibition in 1933. It is popular and easy to produce. Making it illegal enriches criminals and starts turf wars. In recent years governments have begun legalising other drugs. Instead, to limit the harm caused by alcohol, states have tried to dissuade people from drinking, using taxes, awareness campaigns and limits on where, when and to whom booze is sold.

The alcohol industry has pitched itself as part of the solution. In Britain more than 100 producers and retailers have signed a “responsibility deal” and promised to “help people to drink within guidelines”, mostly by buying ads promoting moderation. However, if these campaigns were effective, they would ruin their sponsors’ finances. According to researchers from the Institute of Alcohol Studies, a think-tank, and the University of Sheffield, some two-fifths of alcohol consumed in Britain is in excess of the recommended weekly maximum of 14 units (about one glass of wine per day). Industry executives say they want the public to “drink less, but drink better”, meaning fewer, fancier tipples. But people would need to pay 22-98% more per drink to make up for the revenue loss that such a steep drop in consumption would cause.

Health officials have taken note of such arithmetic. Some now wonder if Big Booze is sincere in its efforts to discourage boozing. In 2018 America’s National Institutes of Health stopped a $100m study of moderate drinking, which was partly funded by alcohol firms, because its design was biased in their products’ favour. And this year the World Health Organisation and England’s public-health authority banned their staff from working with the industry…


Governments are growing more suspicious of Big Booze: “Alcohol firms promote moderate drinking, but it would ruin them.”

See also “How much beer does your state drink? In the thirstiest, about 40 gallons a year per person,” source of the image at top.

* Homer Simpson


As we muse on moderation, we might recall that it was on this date in 1944 that Harvey, a play by Mary Chase, opened on Broadway.  It ran for 1,775 performances and won the (1945) Pulitzer prize for Drama.  The story of a care-free dipsomaniac named Elwood P. Dowd, whose best friend was a “pooka” (an imaginary rabbit named Harvey), it was directed by Antoinette Perry– the actress, director, and co-founder of the American Theater Wing, for whom the Tony Awards are named.  It’s been regularly revived on-stage, and was adapted into an Oscar-winning film that starred Jimmy Stewart as Elwood.

220px-Harvey-FE-1953 source


Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 1, 2019 at 1:01 am

“If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you”*…




Everyone always talks about how much money there is in politics. This is the wrong framing. The right framing is Ansolabehere et al’s: why is there so little money in politics? But Ansolabehere focuses on elections, and the mystery is wider than that.

Sure, during the 2018 election, candidates, parties, PACs, and outsiders combined spent about $5 billion – $2.5 billion on Democrats, $2 billion on Republicans, and $0.5 billion on third parties. And although that sounds like a lot of money to you or me, on the national scale, it’s puny. The US almond industry earns $12 billion per year. Americans spent about 2.5x as much on almonds as on candidates last year.

But also, what about lobbying? Open Secrets reports $3.5 billion in lobbying spending in 2018. Again, sounds like a lot. But when we add $3.5 billion in lobbying to the $5 billion in election spending, we only get $8.5 billion – still less than almonds.

What about think tanks? Based on numbers discussed in this post, I estimate that the budget for all US think tanks, liberal and conservative combined, is probably around $500 million per year. Again, an amount of money that I wish I had. But add it to the total, and we’re only at $9 billion. Still less than almonds!

What about political activist organizations? The National Rifle Association, the two-ton gorilla of advocacy groups, has a yearly budget of $400 million. The ACLU is a little smaller, at $234 million. AIPAC is $80 million. The NAACP is $24 million. None of them are anywhere close to the first-person shooter video game “Overwatch”, which made $1 billion last year. And when we add them all to the total, we’re still less than almonds.

Add up all US spending on candidates, PACs, lobbying, think tanks, and advocacy organizations – liberal and conservative combined – and we’re still $2 billion short of what we spend on almonds each year. In fact, we’re still less than Elon Musk’s personal fortune; Musk could personally fund the entire US political ecosystem on both sides for a whole two-year election cycle…

[A consideration of the factors that limit political giving/spending]

I don’t want more money in politics. But the same factors that keep money out of politics keep it out of charity too.

The politics case is interesting because it’s so obvious. Nobody’s going to cynically declare “Oh, people don’t really care who wins the election, they just pretend to.” It’s coordination problems! It has to be!

So when I hear stories like that Americans could end homelessness by redirecting the money they spend on Christmas decorations, I don’t think that’s because they’re evil or hypocritical or don’t really care about the issue. I think they would if they could but the coordination problem gets in the way.

This is one reason I’m so gung ho about people pledging to donate 10% of their income to charity. It mows through these kinds of problems. I may not be a great person. But I spend more each year on the things I consider most important than I do on almonds, and this is the kind of thing that doesn’t happen naturally. It’s the kind of thing where I have to force myself to ignore the feeling of “just a drop in the ocean”, ignore whether I feel like other people are free-riding on me, and just do it. Pledging to donate money (and then figuring out what to do with it later) ensures I will take that effort, and not end up with revealed preferences that seem ridiculous in light of my values.

Scott Alexander with a counter-intuitive– and provocative– take on politics and money: “Too much dark money in almonds.”

[Image above: source]

* Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), as well as acting White House Chief of Staff, in 2018, while serving as interim head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau


As we take the pledge, we might recall that it was on this date in 1957 that the words “In God We Trust” first appeared on U.S. paper currency– when the updated one-dollar silver certificate entered circulation that day.

Though it had only been adopted by Congress as the official motto of the U.S. the prior year, the phrase had appeared occasionally (as had variations on the theme) on coinage since Civil War times; regularly– despite Theodore Roosevelt’s conviction that it was sacrilegious– from 1908.

220px-1in_god_we_trust source


Written by (Roughly) Daily

October 1, 2019 at 1:01 am

Here she comes, Miss…

MISS LIBERTY AMERICA (sm) is dedicated to discovering America’s elite feminine patriots and giving them the opportunity on a national stage to showcase their patriotism, intelligence, talent, and beauty. The ultimate mission is to promote Liberty, the military, and the documents of our founding fathers.  The contestants will be judged in categories of personal interview, swimsuit, evening gown, beauty, talent, questions regarding the documents of America’s founding fathers, and  Marksmanship! This will be the first pageant of its kind to introduce competency in the handling, safety and use of firearms, and CPR!   The contestants must be able to save a life as well as defend one!

More on this incumbent pageant, scheduled to debut in 2012 (in Las Vegas) here.

UPDATE: Further to the almanac entry on Wednesday about the incarceration rate in the U.S., this NPR report on the way that the private prisons industry collaborated in the drafting of, then lobbied for/made campaign contributions in support of Arizona’s controversial immigration law. As the head of the largest private prison operator says in an excerpt of an analyst call that’s played in the piece, “those people coming across the border and getting caught are going to have to be detained and that for me, at least I think, there’s going to be enhanced opportunities for what we do.”  One might have thought that the recent revelations in Pennsylvania would stand as a cautionary example.

As we join Christine O’Donnell in boning up on the Constitution, we might celebrate some women who knew their stuff: it was on this date in 1966 that the meeting to create the National Organization for Women was convened in Washington, D.C.

NOW Organizing Conference, Oct. 29-30, 1966. Key to picture above: 1. Inez Casiano, NY, Community Activist, Program and Research; 2.Clara Wells, NY, Community Development Human Relations, Resources Committee; 3. Inka O’Hanrahan, CA, California Comm. Status of Women; 4. Alice Rossi, IL, Sociologist, University of Chicago; 5. Lucille Kapplinger, MI, Legal Assistant to Governor, Governors Commission; 6. Ruth Gober, WI, Academic; 7. Caruthers Berger, Washington, D.C., Attorney, U.S. Dept. of Labor; 8. Sonia Pressman, Washington, D.C., Attorney, EEOC; 9. Amy Robinson, IN, Governors Commission; UAW; 10. Betty Friedan, NY Author, The Feminine Mystique; 11. Morag Simchak, Washington, D.C., Equal Pay for Equal Work, U.S. Dept. of Labor; 12. Mary Esther Gauldin, TX, Univ. of Texas Southwestern Medical School; 13. Dr. Pauli Murray, Washington, D.C. Poet, Attorney, EEOC Consultant; 14. Mary Eastwood, Washington, D.C. Attorney, U.S. Dept. of Justice; 15. Dr. Caroline Ware, VA, Consultant, U.N.; 16. Sister Mary Joel Read, WI, Alverno College; 17. Unidentified; 18. Dorothy Haener, MI, UAW, Women’s Department; 19. Unidentified; 20. Anna Arnold Hedgeman, NY, National Council of Churches; 21. Robert Gray; 22. Muriel Fox, NY, Carl Byoir & Associates; 23. Pat Perry Gray, Washington, D.C., Carl Byoir & Associates; 24. Colleen Boland, IL, President, Steward & Stewardesses of Airline Pilots Association; 25. Charlotte Roe, NY, Project Director, National Affairs Assoc. U.S. Youth Council.

Many more women and men were involved in the founding and early days of NOW, including: Ada Allness, Dr. Shepard Aronson, Dorothy Austin, Mary Benbow, Gene Boyer, Analoyce Clapp, Catherine Conroy, Claire Dalmond, Caroline Davis, Carl Degler, Sister Austin Doherty, Elizabeth Drews, Edith Finlayson, Betty Furness, Anna Roosevelt Halstead, Lorene Harrington, Jane Hart, Mary Lou Hill, Esther B. Johnson, Nancy Knaak, Rev. Dean Lewis, Min Matheson, Mabel McClanahan, Ollie Butler Moore, Helen Moreland, Ruth V. Murray, Grace Olivarez, Marjorie Palmer, Pauline Parish, Dr. Patricia Plante, Eve P. Purvis, Charlotte Roe, Edna Schwartz, Dr. Vera Schwartz, Mary Jane Snyder, Dr. Gretchen Squires, Betty Tarkington, Olla Werner, Herbert Wright.

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