March 29, 2016

National Security Studies at a Christian University

This essay approaches two interrelated topics. First, what does it mean to be part of the security studies field? Second, are there unique considerations for how faith-based institutions approach the field? Addressing these topics will help articulate some of the reasoning behind the coming expansion of our university’s curriculum with a new national security program.

January 22, 2016

Studying Politics with a Faith Perspective

You don’t have to choose between being a person of faith and a scholar. I see at least three ways that my faith in Christ and my appreciation of the academic discipline of political science have affected each other in positive ways.

November 5, 2014

First Reaction to the 2014 Midterms

It's been a long time since I've posted something on here, and no time like the day after the 2014 midterm election turned into a trip down Beatdown Boulevard* for the Democrats. Here's my quick take on what I'm looking at going forward, with some help from Public Enemy, Rick Pitino, SNL, and Bon Jovi.

June 5, 2014

How Brett Favre Teaches Us About Politics

I decided to go back through my social media feeds for mentions of recently released Taliban prisoner Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. My N=1 findings match those of this Vox piece regarding the about-face done by many of Bergdahl’s fiercest advocates.

It may be an excellent example of cognitive dissonance and balance seeking at work. This is something we all can catch ourselves in. Or, as I call it, the Brett Favre problem.

Yes, this guy teaches us about politics.

The “Brett Favre” problem:
  1. Packers fans love Favre.
  2. Favre joins the hated Vikings.
  3. Packers fans need balance. 

May 28, 2014

Obama's Foreign Policy: Art of the Possible or Playing out the String?

Today, President Obama chose a West Point commencement address to revisit for the public his administration's foreign policy. The address will be picked apart by many, but it is unlikely to go down in history like Bush's 2002 commencement speech in terms of importance. That doesn't mean it's not worth considering. 

February 16, 2014

Political Science Critics: Digging in the Wrong Place?

By now, most observers who care about political science have surely come across, and commented about, Nicholas Kristof’s column bemoaning the cloistered nature of political scientists. I won’t try to rehash what's already been done by Steve Saideman, MonkeyCage, and other notable scholars who are regularly engaging in public discourse. Instead, I’ll try to touch on a few things that haven’t received much attention in the debate.

In the original Indiana Jones movie, there comes a point where the heroes realize that the bad guys are “digging in the wrong place” for the Ark. They haven’t done their homework. I’m not saying Kristof is a bad guy (he’s not), but he is definitely digging in the wrong place.

February 13, 2014

Picturing Income Inequality, Part 1

With the increased emphasis on income inequality in both Washington and the media, we are certain to be bombarded with competing partisan and ideological claims about the nature and severity of that inequality. As a political scientist, I'd like to focus on what the data say and in that way hopefully contribute to the civic discourse on the issue. This installment uses data available from the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey (CPS)—one of the key sources of information on income inequality. (For the truly wonkish, I discuss these data in more detail at the end of the post.)

The Bottom Line

The evidence from the CPS data supports the following claims:
  • The richest households have a greater share of income today than they did in 1967; everyone else has seen their share go down.
  • Average household income has increased across the board, but the growth has been unequal and tilted toward the richest households.
  • The top 5% have enjoyed the greatest increase in both share of income and average household income.
  • Consequently, there is greater income inequality in the US today than there was in 1967.

The Evidence

Figure 1 graphs the share of income from 1967 to 2012 for American households grouped into five equally-sized groups (quintiles). Two things are apparent in the figure. First, there is a fair amount of income inequality across those years.* Second, the bottom 80% of American households have seen their share of income decrease, while the richest 20% have seen their share go up.

A more intuitive way to understand income shares is to imagine 100 people who together earned $100. We could divide those 100 people into five groups of 20 (income quintiles). An equal distribution of income would result in each group having $20. The data show, however, that in 2012 the top 20 people had $51 collectively, the middle 20 (middle class) had $14, and the bottom 20 had only $3.