By Michael Ettlinger and Jordan Hensley

It is no secret that the American version of democracy does not guarantee a national government reflecting the preferences expressed by the majority of voters.

Michael Ettlinger and Jordan Hensley

The population of states represented by Democratic senators sums to 26% more people than the population of states represented by Republican senators — 202 million compared to 160 million. Yet only half the Senate’s seats are held by Democrats. A Black American is 16% less represented in the Senate than an American on average; A Latinx American 32% less. The under-representation of residents in populous states in the Senate that causes these distortions was true at the Senate’s creation, but it’s much more accentuated now than in the 18th century . . . …

My article in Vox is up. It catalogs and discusses compromises to weaken the filibuster that might pass muster with sufficient Senate Democrats.

Making the Senate more democratic via the filibuster

Michael Ettlinger

One of the reasons some Democrats have opposed eliminating or weakening the filibuster is that it would allow Republicans as well as Democrats to more easily pass legislation. They look at various legislation that Democrats have blocked with the current filibuster rule and fear passage of their like in a filibuster-free Senate.

There is a principled reform, however, that would distinguish between Democratic and Republican filibusters. It is possible because the two parties, at least in recent years, use the filibuster for different purposes. Republicans use it to block the will of senators who represent the majority of the public…

Michael Ettlinger and Jordan Hensley


As of now, the Democrats are trailing Republicans 50–48 in their attempt to gain control of the U.S. Senate in 2021 — with the two Georgia run-offs set to decide the final tally. Although the Democrats have locked down fewer seats, they will definitely represent more people. Even if the Republicans win both Georgia seats, giving them a 52–48 majority, the states represented by Democratic, or Democrat-allied, senators will have a combined population of 12% more than the states Republicans represent: 191 million versus 171 million. …

Michael Ettlinger and Jordan Hensley

In an earlier piece we showed the impact of the undemocratic nature of the U.S. Senate on the representation of members of different groups. Black, Hispanic and Asian residents are notably under-represented. A reader asked how adding senators from Washington DC and Puerto Rico would affect that underrepresentation. We did an analysis of the combined effect of both DC and Puerto Rico becoming states. With the vote in the House of Representatives on DC statehood we’ve updated the analysis and broken out DC and Puerto Rico separately. In the table below a negative number indicates…

The release of the Bureau of Labor Statistics state level jobs data for April provides an opportunity to see how reliable an indicator Unemployment Insurance initial claims are of employment loss for particular states. UI data for this purpose has the virtue of being timely, but is confounded by the varying UI laws, rules and practices of states which can affect the initiation of claims and the awarding of benefits.

The first chart plots, for each state, its percent payroll employment loss from February to April (the payroll week that includes April 12), against its UI initial claims made from…

Puerto Rico, with its 1% of the population, started the stay-at-home trend on March 15. California added its 12% of the population on March 19. Since then the share of the U.S. population under stay-at-home orders, or strongly worded guidance, has risen to 96.2% (as of April 11)— with Nebraska most recently adding its 0.6% of the national population on April 9.

States without stay-at-home orders are Arkansas, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming. Parts of Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming are under local stay-at-home orders.

Sources: The National Governors Association, The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation and the reporting of various news outlets, including lists compiled by the New York Times and the Washington Post. Populations are from Census estimates for July 1, 2019.

The argument that the late response of other countries was the result of China under-reporting the extent of its epidemic doesn’t hold water. Even China’s reported numbers had hit almost 60,000 cases on February 14 when the United States had 13 — so there was ample notice that it was a very serious situation and there was ample time for the U.S. to take action (and plenty of people calling for taking the situation seriously). China was being accused from the beginning of underreporting, which should have accentuated the concern. …


The most widely used graphical representations comparing different countries’ COVID-19 paths cloak the fact that some countries had more lead time to identify the best response and take preventative action. The graphs start at a point in time for each country when the virus started to spread, at the 100th confirmed case for example, and compare countries’ paths from that point. But the United States, among other countries, had its 100th confirmed case much later than other countries and had the opportunity to learn from them. As the graph…

Michael Ettlinger

Director, Carsey School of Public Policy, UNH. Fmr Clinton-Kaine transition, @pewtrusts @amprog @economicpolicy @taxjustice. Views here in a personal capacity.

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