Economist Dean Baker at the Michigan Policy Summit

Economist Dean Baker, the co-founder and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C., was the keynote speaker at the 2009 Michigan Policy Summit in Detroit on Saturday, May 16, 2009. Baker has a Ph.d. in Economics from the University of Michigan and blogs for the American Prospect.

Baker’s talk:

Note: This video was submitted to us by Thomas Rico, you can check out his blog for more related video at ricothomasrico.blogspot.com.

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Prison Profiteers: Who Makes Money from Mass Incarceration

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By their very nature, prisons are something that is kept out of sight. The community doesn’t want to notice them and those housed within prisons have been temporarily (although in many cases the effects of incarceration remain long after release) removed from society. This out-of-sight nature makes it difficult to find out information about conditions in prisons. Beyond government statistics and agencies, it can be difficult to find out what happens inside prison walls.

This lack of transparency has accelerated in recent years as the number of privately run prisons–often with even more limited forms of disclosure–has risen. Private prisons have appeared in response to mass incarceration in the United States, with over two million people in prison. Private companies have realized that there is a fortune to be made in housing prisoners.

However, it isn’t just through the construction of private prisons that companies are making money from mass incarceration. Prison Profiteers: Who Makes Money from Mass Incarceration looks at the other ways in which corporations are profiting from the prison boom. The book is the third in a series that look at unprecedented increase of mass incarceration since the 1980s. The others include Prison Nation: The Warehousing of America’s Poor and The Celling of America: An Inside Look at the US Prison Industry.

Prison Profiteers features eighteen essays divided into three sections–“The Political Economy of Prisons,” “The Private Prison Industry,” and “Making Out Like Bandits.” The essays expose a host of problems with the prison system ranging from inadequate prison care to misuse of public funds. All of the examples share the same motivation: profit. The essays on the prison healthcare system were particularly striking, with distributing examinations of horrific healthcare given to inmates by companies such as Correctional Medical Services. In some cases, this grossly negligent care has resulted in unnecessary deaths. The book spends a significant amount of time on the increasing number of private prisons, looking at problems and the companies behind them. In one particularly interesting chapter, Samantha Shapiro reports on the increase of evangelical Christian programs in prisons. These programs–of which Prison Fellowship Ministries is the largest–are sold to prisons as a way of minimizing violence and improving prisoner behavior. While they have had some success, the author raises important questions about the ethics of these programs. The book looks at lesser known ways in which private companies profit from mass incarceration as well, including prisoner transport, prison phone service, and jail fees.

Prison Profiteers also looks at the relationship between the growth in the private prison industry and the growth in prisoners, finding that the correlation doesn’t always work as one might expect. Logic would seem to indicate that private prison companies have grown as the number of prisoners grow, however, in some cases it appears that the privatized prison services companies–many of which often have close relationships with governments–are in some ways fostering an increase in the number of prisoners.

Overall, Prison Profiteers sheds light on an issue that many likely have not considered, while offering a larger critique of the prison system as a whole.

Tara Herivel and Paul Wright, Eds., Prison Profiteers: Who Makes Money from Mass Incarceration, (The New Press, 2008).

Obama’s Challenge: America’s Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency

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Robert Cuttner’s Obama’s Challenge: America’s Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency argues that Obama has the power to be a “transformative president,” who:

“…profoundly alters American politics and the role of the government in American life–one who uses his office to appeal to our best selves to change our economy, society, and democracy for the better.”

For Kuttner, Obama qualifies because of his unique leadership abilities and because of the historical moment–severe economic crisis–that offer him the opportunity to make dramatic changes in the direction of the country.

Obama as a Transformative Leader

Kuttner sees Obama in the vein of Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson. He argues that those men were progressive presidents who faced great challenges and used those challenges to advance progressive policy positions. The early chapters of the book contain explorations of these presidents and their policies to help Kuttner prove his case.

Kuttner argues all of this with only a limited examination of Obama’s policies, instead focusing on rhetoric and potential rather than Obama’s voting record or his policy statements while on the campaign trail. He praises Obama’s “unusual gifts of character and leadership” and uses examples from Obama’s writings and speeches to highlight Obama’s willingness to move in a progressive direction.

A Step above Obamamania

Unfortunately, the 2008 election was characterized largely by uncritical fawning over Barack Obama by much of the progressive left in the United States. While Obama offered policies that were considerably better than those of the Bush administration, he fell short in several areas–for example offering rather uninspired policies for stimulating the United States economy, for “reforming” the healthcare system, and for making changes to Social Security.

Unlike many, Kuttner is willing to illustrate these failings, which makes for some interesting discussion. Kuttner declares, “Obama will need to be a more radical president than he was a presidential candidate.” When he discusses the economic crisis, Kuttner says that it offers a unique opportunity to address specific policy failings as well as the underlying ideological failings. In this vein, Kuttner calls for radical change on a number of fronts–market regulation, housing, taxes, labor, and healthcare. He argues that Obama should embrace multi-faceted and long-term efforts to not only bring about an economic recovery but also to renew the social compact between government and its citizens.

Kuttner ultimately argues that Obama’s potential exists only if he is willing to challenge the conventional policies of the past. To that end, Kuttner offers an intriguing $600 billion policy proposal that offers a number of ideas–from labor policies to infrastructure development–that would implement a progressive policy shift.

Shifting Frames: Potentials for Obama

To make this progressive shift, Kuttner says that Obama needs to undertake bold efforts aimed at inspiring the country towards improving the common good.

He says that currently, citizens view government through a lens assuming that:

  • The fiscal cupboard is bare
  • Government is generally perverse or incompetent
  • Tax cuts are one of the few benefits that governments can reliably deliver
  • Private markets invariably work better than government

Kuttner outlines the problems with these views and gives examples of their failings, before arguing that Obama can advance an alternative lens that shows:

  • There is in fact a crisis facing both the economic system and working Americans
  • The private sector is a source of great dynamism, but it can sure make a mess if left to its own devices
  • People’s needs and economic recovery are more important right now than penny pinching
  • Tax cuts have gone mostly to the top, and haven’t done a thing for most Americans
  • Government can do great things, and it particularly needs to do great things in an economic crisis.

Kuttner argues–by compiling a speech made up of selective choices of statements by Obama–that Obama has the capacity to convincingly make such a case to the American people. That fictional speech is followed by an extensive exploration of Kuttner’s policy prescriptions.

Conclusions

Overall, the book was better than I would have expected. Kuttner makes nominal–and accurate–criticisms of many of Obama’s economic policies, which is more than many progressives do these days. However, Kuttner ultimately falls into the same trap as most Obama supporters in that he focuses more on Obama himself–how he talks, his flair for rhetoric, the excitement behind him, and his potential–than his actual policies. This results in a book, that while successfully outlining the economic challenges faced by this country, never really makes the case that Obama is the kind of leader that will be able to make a significant change.

Robert Kuttner, Obama’s Challenge: America’s Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency, (Chelsea Green, 2008).

Political Leader Spewing Hate

This commentary piece is an example of what folks can submit to Mediamouse.org for publication. If you don’t want to write something yourself but have an idea for an article, you can also suggest a story.

Almost a month has gone by since Oklahoma State Representative Sally Kern, spewed her hate for all to hear. Many people have heard Kern’s speech, and for those who have not, it is worth hearing:

The open and public demonstration of hate displayed by this political leader is appalling. The fact that over 100 Republican constituents gave this woman applause is even more disgraceful.

I firmly believe in the constitutional right of free speech, however, I also believe that political leaders have a personal and political responsibility to maintain professional ethics, while upholding the safety and security of all US citizens, regardless of one’s sexual orientation.

Sally Kern’s speech did not only completely disregard and overtly discriminate against the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender community, but also belittle the many victims and survivors of cancer and terrorism. Along with giving little disregard or empathy to the families and friends of our military service persons, the families and friends of those victimized by the Oklahoma bombings, the war, and those affected by cancer.

For Sally Kerns to equate cancer and terrorism in the same respects is one matter, but to demonize one’s sexual orientation as the eventual destruction of our nation is quite another matter altogether.

Sally Kern has, in effect, opened a floodgate for potential hate crime and has basically given her permission and support for such actions. Just ask the families of Matthew Shepard, Brandon Teena, Danny Overstreet, and many others who have died because they didn’t fit into Kern’s Christian ideal of human existence, how public speech can have an affect.

The only positive that can come of Kern’s speech is that we all know where she stands and we also now know that Oklahoma is not a very friendly place to visit, live, spend our money… because of open and encouraged discrimination.

When our so-called leaders can spew venom from their mouths, and get an applause for doing so, we need to truly start looking at the direction our country is going and who we put in office to lead us there.

Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law

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Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law in many ways offers nothing new to those who have been following the politics and policies of the current administration. The book, written by President of the National Lawyers Guild, looks at the US War/Occupation of Iraq, the issue of torture, treatment of detainees in Cuba, the NSA spy program, and a general refusal by the Bush Presidency to follow the law. However, after reading this book it became clear that such a book was useful in two ways. First, it provides a nice overview of the major crimes of the current administration, and secondly, it does it in such a way that you don’t need to be a lawyer to understand it.

The book is also timely, as the government gets ready to decide on whether or not to give Bush the additional funding to prosecute the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. People will be reminded of the illegality of the initial US invasion of Iraq, the constant violations of international law, the disregard for the Geneva Convention in promoting torture in detention centers in Iraq and Cuba, the slaughter of innocents in Fallujah, Haditha and numerous other cities, and the deporting of “terror suspects” to foreign torture chambers known as extraordinary rendition. Considering that the corporate news has a short memory on these things, this book is an important reminder of what atrocities have been committed in the name of the “war on terror.”

At the same time, Cowboy Republic, has some significant shortcomings. First, the book pretty much lets the Democrats off the hook on these matters. In the introduction she says, “Congress passed a bill that would bring the troops home from Iraq by 2008, but President Bush vetoed it.” This is a true statement, but she provides no analysis of how the Democrats have pretty much supported the ongoing US occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, the torture centers, the NSA spy program, and the failure to prosecute high-ranking officials for torture, extrajudicial executions and violations of international law. The other failure of this book is that it provides no real call to action. There is no organizing component and not even a sense of urgency about what the American public can do to stop the ongoing war crimes being committed by the US government. This is unfortunate since Richard Falk, in the forward to this book, provides some framework for accountability. Falk speaks about international law and provides the example of Lt. Watada, who disobeyed orders to deploy to Iraq. Watada understands what he is obligated to do and is following the provisions laid out in the US Army Field Manual, which states that a soldier must disobey an unlawful order. For Watada, participating in an illegal war would violate his legal obligations to international law, even as a US soldier. Falk also cites the American prosecutor at Nuremberg, Robert Jackson who clearly understood that the only reason that US Generals and policy makers were not tried for war crimes is because they were the victors. However, the rulings in Nuremberg have universal application that must be advocated for today. Jackson says, “We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants today is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our lips as well.” While Cowboy Republic, provides readers with the information necessary to see the current administration’s war crimes it does not forcefully advocate for the prosecution of those crimes.

Marjorie Cohn, Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law, (PoliPoint Press, 2007).

Top Michigan PACs Surpass 2006 Election Cycle Pace

money in politics

A new review by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network has found that the top 150 political action committees (PACs) have raised $9,558,690 through July 20th this year. This number exceeds the pace of the 2005-2006 election cycle, when the top 150 PACs had raised $9,538,880. In 2006, contributions were up 55% compared to previous election cycles. The top 10 PACs were the Michigan House Democratic Fund, the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, the House Republican Campaign Committee, the Michigan Health & Hospital Association, Michigan Association of Realtors, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan, (Jennifer) Granholm Leadership Fund, Senate Democratic Fund, Auto Dealers of Michigan PAC, and the Michigan Education Association PAC.

Former President Clinton Speaks in Grand Rapids, Addresses a Variety of Issues

Former President Bill Clinton spoke in Grand Rapids Monday, addressing a variety of issues including inequality, global warming, and the Israel-Palestine conflict. Clinton’s speech called for greater cooperation between the people of the world and argued for the importance of finding “common ground.”

photo of bill clinton in grand rapids

Last night, former President Bill Clinton spoke to an audience of 2,100 at the annual dinner of the Economics Club of Grand Rapids. He began his speech with a joke about Bono, who spoke last year at the Economic Club, saying thank you “for the introduction, the welcome, and for giving me the only time in my life when I drew a bigger crowd than Bono.” The joke set the stage for much of the media coverage of his speech, which focused on the most trivial comments he made, downplaying the seriousness of many issues that Clinton spoke on during his talk.

Much of Clinton’s speech emphasized the need for finding “common ground.” He argued that this is important regardless of one’s politic views and affiliations and began by speaking of his work with President George H.W. Bush raising money for the Asian Tsnuami and Hurricane Katrina relief and being honored for it by the National Underground Railroad Museum. He said this was particularly important because many Americans are searching for “a common ground” out of the “clamor and din of modern life.” He went on to say that whatever ones politics are, there are five questions that we must all be able to ask and answer–what is the fundamental nature of the 21st century world, is it a good or bad thing, how would I like to change it, what steps would necessary to make those changes, and who is supposed to take the steps.

According to Clinton, most people see the 21st century as a globalized world, although Clinton himself prefers the term “interdependence” rather than “globalization.” Countries are tied together through economics, travel, information technology, and people are increasingly learning in common. As an example of this, he cited the mapping of the human genome and the international space station, arguing that it proves the world is interdependent.

He followed up by stating that while that answered the first question, the second question is answered by saying that the world is both good and bad. He highlighted the fact that the state of the world is good for the people at the dinner–they are able to afford fancy clothes and he could fly here on an airplane–but there are three serious problems with the modern world. He said that the world is unequal, unstable, and unsustainable. Clinton told the audience that many people are not part of the globalized economy and that half the population are living on less than $2 per day. He argued that it not trade–an oblique reference to the fact that Clinton and other Democrats have been criticized for their support of NAFTA and other neoliberal trade agreements–that is causing this, asserting that instead trade lifts people out of poverty. Aside from income inequality, Clinton also referenced a lack of education, disease, and lack of water as further indicators of inequality in the world.

Clinton argued that the world could be characterized as “unstable” because of terror, weapons of mass destruction, and the potential for epidemics being spread because of our interdependence. He mentioned the potential threat of avian influenza and compared it to the flu epidemic of 1918 that killed some 25 to 50 million people. He then focused his attention on weapons of mass destruction, highlighting the potential for terrorists to acquire such weapons. He drew the current United States showdown with Iran into the discussion, stating “it’s one of the reasons that I hope that we’ll find a way before disaster develops to keep Iran from continuing past a certain point with its nuclear program.” He further stated that he believes once Iran realizes that if they use a nuclear weapon “it would be the end of their country” that they will not do it, although he said Iran would give the material to terrorists. Finally, he said that terrorism makes the world unstable. He did say that he believes the 21st century will be less violent than the 20th century, with less people “being slaughtered” over political violence in the 20th century–but that it is perhaps scary for Americans because many now feel that they could be the victims.

Clinton declared that the world is “unsustainable” because of climate change, which he argued is now largely considered to be a fact. He said that it will change agriculture and living patterns, ushering in major changes in peoples lives, pointing out as an example the situation in Darfur, which was exacerbated by a drought. He also cited resource depletion as further proof that the world is not sustainable, arguing that trees, water, topsoil, and species destruction are threatened. Similarly, oil is being depleted quicker than people thought, with some estimates suggesting that oil will be depleted in 35 years. Population growth will be an additional problem, with the majority of the growth being in areas that cannot support additional people.

In light of these problems, Clinton argued that “we cannot be naive” about the realities of the world and that a strong security system is necessary. For Clinton, this system includes not just the military, but interagency cooperation and even integrated health systems. However, security will not be enough, because you “cannot kill, jail, or occupy everyone who is or might be against you.” Instead, allies are needed and relationships with other nations can help greatly. Clinton said that while he supports the war in Afghanistan (where he called for more troops) but not Iraq, the costs are astronomical compared to the total cost of meeting the UN Millennium development goals, which he placed at $120 billion per year. He said that if the United States pursued the development goals, there would be fewer people “making bombs and blowing themselves up.”

Clinton also called for “home improvement” or the continual improvement of the United States. He placed this in the context of Michigan’s economy, which has been particularly hard hit. He said West Michigan is doing better than some areas because of its diversified economy, but that overall the United States is in a difficult place. Despite productivity growth, a record high stock market, increased corporate profits, and other indicators, wages for the median wage earners have remained stagnant. Clinton claimed that it is not possible to have a strong middle class in a global economy without a source of new jobs every 5 to 8 years nor can you maintain a stable social fabric unless you can compete with the strongest competitors. He mentioned that the United States has failed to work with the world community to address climate change and healthcare, with the United States being far behind other countries. He cited the successes of Great Britain and Norway as possible models for success, while also advocating for personal actions such as switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs. Clinton argued that fighting climate change and improving energy efficiency by doing things such as retrofitting buildings to be more efficient could be the biggest mobilization of American since World War II and provide a significant boost to the economy.

Clinton focused a portion of his comments on the recent conflict in Palestine, blaming Hamas for the current situation. He said that Hamas took away security from the Palestinian people rather than focusing on the hungry, arguing that this is what happens when people only look at their differences. He said that the Palestinians could develop their beaches to improve their economy if only they could set aside their differences. Clinton argued that outside of Palestine most of the Palestinians he knows are professors and that the only poor ones are in Palestine, where politicians have “grinded them down” talking about their differences. He further said that if the Israelis and Palestinians could put their differences aside, they could become the economic powerhouse in the Middle East. Clinton’s simplistic comments assigned no fault to Israel, nor did it look at the historical aspects of the conflict.

Clinton argued that everyone needs to participate for changes to take place in society. He cited the growth in charity as an example of success in the country. He said that philanthropy–for example through his foundation–can make significant changes in addressing many of the problems that he talked about. He argued that people should find hope in the world and that there are things that can be done to improve it, especially if people realize that they can seek “common ground” rather than divide themselves. Clinton asserted that if people looked beyond what was different and focused on what is the same–truly seeing people as people–there could be fundamental change in the world.

Report Claims Majority Support “Progressive” Stands

A new report published jointly by the Campaign for America’s Future and Media Matters for America argues that the majority of people living in the United States support “progressive” policies on a wide variety of social and political issues. The report, titled “The Progressive Majority: Why a Conservative America is a Myth,” analyzes data from a plethora of opinion polls to arrive at the conclusion that the United States is not as conservative as many believe. Despite the prominence of conservative views in the media, the report declares that progressive positions are continuing to gain ground.

A sampling of the report’s findings:

On Health Care: 69 percent of Americans think it is the responsibility of the federal government to make sure all Americans have access to health coverage; 76 percent find access to health care more important than maintaining the Bush tax cuts; three in five would be willing to have their own taxes increased to achieve universal coverage.

On Energy Policy: 52 percent of Americans believe “the best way for the U.S. to reduce its reliance on foreign oil” is to “have the government invest in alternative energy sources”; 64 percent are willing to pay a higher energy tax to pay for renewable energy research; 68 percent of the public thinks U.S. energy policy is better solved by conservation than production.

On the Economy: 77 percent of Americans believe Congress should increase the minimum wage; 66 percent believe “upper-income people” pay too little in taxes; 53 percent feel the Bush administration’s tax cuts have failed because they have increased the deficit and caused cuts in government programs.

On Government’s Role: 69 percent of Americans believe the government “should care for those who can’t care for themselves.” Twice as many people (43 percent to 20 percent) want “government to provide many more services even if it means an increase in spending” as want government to provide fewer services “in order to reduce spending.”

On Immigration: 62 percent of Americans believe undocumented immigrants should be given a chance to “keep their jobs and eventually apply for legal status.” 49 percent believe the best way to reduce illegal immigration from Mexico is to penalize employers, not more border control.

The Jesus Machine: How James Dobson, Focus on the Family, and Evangelical America are Winning the Culture War

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Focus on the Family is one of the most well known Christian right organizations in the United States, but few people understand it according to The Jesus Machine: How James Dobson, Focus on the Family, and Evangelical America Are Winning the Culture War author Dan Gilgoff. In his introduction, Gilgoff explains how he was given the task of profiling the organization for US News and World Report after the 2004 elections and how he originally viewed Focus on the Family as a “Christian advocacy organization.” However, after researching the organization, Gilgoff came to understand that much of its power derives from the fact that it is perceived as not being a Christian advocacy organization. With its origins as a ministry giving advice on “family” issues from raising children to marriage, Focus on the Family and its powerful founder–James Dobson–have been able to appear “above the fray” of other well-known Christian right organizations such as the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition. However, while those organizations largely collapsed in the 1990s, Focus on the Family has become the most powerful evangelical organizations and has been able to mobilize large numbers of evangelical voters for religious right causes.

The book places Focus on the Family’s work in the context of the rise of the religious right in the United States in the late 1970s. Focus on the Family formed in 1977 and eventually became an important entity in the movement, with Focus taking up many of the causes that would characterize the religious right over the past twenty-five years. At the state level, Focus on the Family affiliates have played important roles in mobilizing voters and passing conservative legislation. In the 1980s, Dobson founded and later helped revive the Family Research Council, an organization that became the religious right’s major Washington DC lobbying entity following the collapse of the Christian Coalition. While now separate from Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council has remained closely linked. Focus on the Family has become increasingly political over the past several years, with Focus on the Family Action forming to raise money and directly fund candidates, something that the nonprofit Focus on the Family was unable to do. Additionally, Dobson has been an important part of the Arlington Group, a prominent religious right organization that brings together leaders of many different religious right organizations to coordinate policy. Like many groups on the religious right, Focus on the Family has also engaged in the important work of capacity building and has launched the Focus Family Institute to train and educate young leaders.

Despite its importance as a religious right entity organizing evangelical voters to engage in political action, the core of Focus on the Family’s operations has been its reputation built through James Dobson’s numerous books and pamphlets giving family advice from a Christian perspective. Gilgoff examines in detail how Dobson was able to build a large following on Christian radio and how he built multi-million dollar organization dispensing his advice on a variety of different topics and via a range of media. Gilgoff talks of a strict commitment to “customer service,” individual attentiveness to callers, databases of Dobson’s advice, and trained therapists willing to help callers. At the center of the operation is James Dobson, who has built bonds of trust with his audience through his radio show and has cultivated a reputation for being a “trusted” doctor that is there to help. As such, Dobson’s political participation has been well received by his followers, with many taking him at his word and frequently generating thousands of calls to Congress. Similarly, Focus on the Family has been able to develop extensive mailing lists that can be used to mobilize evangelicals to both pressure legislators and to vote.

In addition to general discussions of Dobson and Focus on the Family, Gilgoff focuses much of his book on recent events in which Focus on the Family has played a pivotal role. Gilgoff recounts how the Terri Schiavo case became an issue of utmost concern for the religious right and Focus on the Family, detailing how the movement responded and pushed their agenda to the forefront of the national debate and to the floor of the legislature. The 2004 election is examined as well, with Gilgoff recounting how Focus on the Family and organizations that it is affiliated with were able to mobilize evangelicals–the so-called “values voters”–to help elect President George W. Bush and what they expected in return. Gilgoff also explores Focus on the Family’s involvement in anti-gay marriage campaigns at the state and federal level, as well the involvement of Focus on the Family, James Dobson, and the larger religious right in determining who would be nominated by President Bush to fill recent vacancies on the Supreme Court. Throughout these discussions, Gilgoff analyzes what has and has not worked for Focus on the Family and the extent to which efforts are likely to continue once Dobson is no longer involved with the organization.

Gilgoff’s book is a worthwhile read for those interested in understanding James Dobson and Focus on the Family. By providing an overview of many aspects of the Focus on the Family operation, their involvement in recent elections, and the challenges facing the organization, Gilgoff makes a valuable contribution to the literature on the political involvement of evangelicals in the United States.

Dan Gilgoff, The Jesus Machine: How James Dobson, Focus on the Family, and Evangelical America Are Winning the Culture War, (St. Martin’s Press, 2007).

Report Argues for Broad Political Reform in Michigan

A new report by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network (MCFN) argues for political reform in Michigan. The report, titled “A Case for Political Reform in Michigan,” provides a detailed rationale for thirty-three political reforms in the areas of campaign finance, lobbying, ethics, term limits, redistricting, election administration, judicial independence, and enforcement. The report argues that in light of the “extraordinary” role that money plays in Michigan politics and the make-up of the state House and Senate that the time is right to pursue political reforms. The MCFN’s report is designed to offer “a broad analysis of the many problems that challenge democracy in Michigan” and to offer meaningful ideas for reform. Among the ideas for reform are an overhaul of Michigan’s campaign finance system to establish functional contribution limits and accountability in political campaigns, public funding of Supreme Court candidates, and the elimination of term limits to mitigate lobbyist influence.