Thursday, June 28, 2012

TAMU Law School: The Rent Is Too Damn High

Texas A&M is apparently set on buying Texas Wesleyan's law school. The deal will cost A&M $20 million up front, another $5 million sometime in the next five years, plus $2.5 million a year to rent the law school's building and grounds in Ft. Worth from TWU (a figure that will be adjusted for inflation). That's a cost of $50 million over the first ten years and $125 million over the forty year facilities lease.

What is A&M getting for that?

An unranked law school with an pretty awful record of placing its graduates that's at least a three hour drive from its main campus plus the chance spending untold millions more to upgrade the facilities and faculty at the new law school.

A&M System Chancellor John Sharpe estimates that the University could have started a new law school "from scratch" for $100 million. Given the up-front costs, the facilities lease, and the costs of overhauling TWU's law school, the purchase won't end up offering big savings over that figure. Plus, many of the benefits of the law school (e.g. a law library, public events and lectures) will accrue at TWU's campus in Ft. Worth and not on A&M's main campus.

The deal between A&M and TWU is still taking shape. So, I may end up being pleasantly surprised by the way that the law school ends up integrating with the rest of A&M. Also, having a law school may add a lot of value to A&M in general and certainly would be useful for my work on judicial politics. Still, given the cost of the deal and the distance between the law school and the main campus, I can't help but be a bit skeptical about whether this is the right time and place for A&M to enter the law school world.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Five Things about Tom Perriello's Post at The Atlantic

Tom Perriello's post at The Atlantic comparing opponents of the Affordable Care Act to secessionists and segregationists has effectively annoyed the bejesus out of me.

1. Calling people "Confederates" is tantamount to calling them traitors and racists. Pierello admits this explicitly, noting, "the term 'Confederate' rightly conjures up America's sin of slavery and the racially charged movements for states' rights and state nullification." Conflating opposition to the the constitutionality of the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act with slavery, secession, and segregation is sloppy and ignorant. Calling people "confederationists" in a context in which you have already invoked the Civil War is no better.

2. The Founders did not write "a Constitution that empowered America to 'legislate in all cases for the general interests of the Union.'" That language is not in the Constitution at all. In fact, the Constitutional Convention explicitly rejected James Madison's proposal to authorize Congress to "legislate in all cases." Instead, the Convention granted Congress a limited set of enumerated powers---including the power the regulate interstate commerce. As a result, Congress may not do whatever it likes or whatever might be expedient. It must act within the confines of its enumerated powers.

3. In Lochner v. New York (1905), the federal Supreme Court ruled that the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the federal Constitution prohibited states from imposing minimum wage laws. Lochner is a case about the federal government imposing its will on the states. Invoking Lochner to indict the current Supreme Court's alleged preference for a weak central government is inappropriate at best.

4. Yes, the Supreme Court just ruled that Montana's restrictions on corporate contributions to political campaigns violated the First Amendment. Once again, that is evidence of the Supreme Court's willingness to impose a centralized view of government power on the states. That is also evidence in its decision in Arizona v United States, which held that that most of Arizona's strict immigration law, SB 1070, is preempted by federal immigration law.

5. Invalidating the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate and other, nonseverable provisions of the law does not threaten Social Security or Medicare. Congress has the power to tax and spend for the general welfare. It could have enacted health care reform in any number of ways that simply raised tax revenues and spent money on health care, just as it does for Medicare. Instead, it chose to mandate that people purchase health insurance. Medicare and Social Security may or may not be wise policies, but they are within the bounds of Congress's enumerated powers. The mandate to purchase insurance is outside of those bounds. The Court can invalidate the mandate and leave those other programs, and indeed, the rest of the architecture of the modern welfare state intact. This is precisely the position adopted by Randy Barnett, the lead attorney in the case against the mandate.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Immigration, Health Care, and the Legitimacy of the Supreme Court

Today, Francisco Pedraza and I have a post at Latino Decisions reporting some data from our recent survey of attitudes toward the Supreme Court among Latinos and other Americans. The post focuses on how the Supreme Court's pending immigration decision might affect its standing among Hispanic Americans. However, we also deal with the health care case and some other evidence out there indicating relative low "approval" ratings for the Supreme Court. So, the post is (hopefully) useful to anyone interested in the public standing of the Supreme Court.

Here's some of our key analysis:
[W]e asked, “Would you say the Supreme Court is too liberal, too conservative, or about right in its decisions?” Here, we find strikingly similar results to the Time’s survey. Only 43% of our respondents said the Supreme Court’s decisions were “about right,” a figure almost identical to the 44% approval rating identified by the Times.  However, our survey shows that those dissatisfied with the Supreme Court are evenly divided between those who believe the Court is “too liberal” (25%) and those who believe it is “too conservative” (25%).

This basic pattern is true among both Latinos and non-Latinos. As Figure 1 shows, a plurality of Americans, Latinos and non-Latinos alike, believe that the Supreme Court is getting its decision-making right in ideological terms while the remainder of the public is about evenly divided between believing the Court is too liberal or too conservative. Though it may look like Latinos are more likely than other Americans to regard the Supreme Court as too conservative, this is because Latinos are more strongly Democratic partisans. Latino Democrats are actually more likely to say the Supreme Court decides cases “about right” (42%) than non-Latino Democrats (37%).
Figure 1: Would you say that the Supreme Court is too liberal, too conservative, or about right in its decisions?
The even ideological division between those who are dissatisfied with the Court for being too liberal versus being too conservative means that we should probably interpret the Supreme Court’s 44% “approval” rating much differently than, say, President Obama’s 46% approval rating in the latest Gallup poll. The set of Americans who “disapprove” of the job President Obama is doing in office undoubtedly includes some strong progressives who do not think the president has been aggressive enough in promoting liberal policies. Yet, the bulk of the President’s critics are conservatives and moderates who think his policies are too liberal or that he is doing a bad job managing the economy. In contrast, those who disapprove of the Court  share no such ideological unity. Whether the next major decision of the Supreme Court is liberal or conservative, there is a well of support for that decision among those who think the Court has not been liberal or conservative enough that the justices can count on to get behind their institution.
 The whole thing is here.