Putting Those 2012 Polls In Perspective

November 4, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

MSNBC’s Carrie Dunn points out that the Presidential polls in 2006 didn’t tell us much about 2008:

Before you start filling out your GOP candidate brackets, it’s worth remembering the heady days of winter 2006, when Democrats had thundered to victory in the midterms and pundits were frenetically handicapping the upcoming contests in the race to replace President George W. Bush.

It’s safe to say the chatter in the weeks after that election was often short of terrifically informative.

In mid-November 2006, pollsters found that New York mayor Rudy Giuliani would run away with the Republican presidential nomination - especially if the second most popular GOP choice, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, decided to pass on a run.

Few polls even included the eventual winner of the Iowa caucuses, Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. And in at least seven surveys that month, Mitt Romney’s support languished in single digits, behind a man who eventually passed on a run — Newt Gingrich.

On the Democratic side, a flurry of surveys in November 2006 showed Hillary Clinton leading Barack Obama by double digits. Also winning a substantial chunk of support was former Vice President Al Gore.

Huckabee didn’t start moving in the polls until December 2007, and Obama didn’t start over-taking Clinton until early 2008. As for Rudy Giuliani, he spent $ 59  million, dropped out after the Florida Primary, and won a single delegate.

Outside the Beltway

How Did American Jews Vote Last Night? One Perspective

November 3, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Unless one has been living in a cave, on some other planet, in some other galaxy, in another time warp zone, everyone knows by now that Democrats got badly defeated last night—using some terrestrial terms, President Obama described the Republican victory as a “shellacking.”

However, a persevering, optimistic observer will find some silver linings, some slivers of good news if he or she looks hard enough.

I found one this morning and from a surprising source.

Admitting that last night’s results “aren’t pretty” and acknowledging that they represent “one of the starkest shifts in partisan political fortunes in a century,” JStreet and JStreetPAC do find a sliver of good news in the way that American Jews voted and in the role Israel played as a political issue during the recent election season.

According to “data from first-of-its-kind election night polling of American Jews”:

The American Jewish community took no part in this shift, remaining a fundamentally liberal and progressive constituency and deeply suspicious of political conservatives, of the Republican Party, and of the Tea Party movement.

The data also show that in two key elections in the Illinois 9th Congressional District and Pennsylvania Senate race, efforts to drive Jewish votes away from Democrats through fear-mongering and smears over Israel failed once again.

JStreetPAC adds a couple of “quick reactions to the developing results” and promises many more in the next few days:

JStreetPAC and its slate of endorsed candidates fared well in the face of a staggering economy and the most toxic political atmosphere in recent memory.

Overall 46 of 61 endorsees won or are projected to win their races, including 84% (46 of 55) of House incumbents we endorsed this election cycle.

The PAC also shattered its own goal for 2010 fundraising, directing over $ 1.5 million to pro-Israel, pro-peace candidates, raising more than 250% of what we did in 2008 and securing our place for two cycles running as the largest pro-Israel political action committee in America.

Finally, JStreetPAC describes how American Jews voted in 2010:

American Jews remain a solidly liberal and progressive constituency, voting largely Democratic — despite predictions from conservative activists, pundits and political observers about how the Jewish community was going to vote Republican this cycle because of President Obama’s peace efforts.

The partisan and neoconservative attack ads targeting pro-Israel, pro-peace candidates over Israel failed to change the way American Jews voted in the 2010 Congressional elections.

In order to prove this, JStreet commissioned three polls on the American Jewish vote in the 2010 Congressional Elections and how Israel did or did not play a role in deciding how Jews voted.

The results from these polls can be viewed here.

According to JStreetPAC:

The American Jewish community stood its ground as a fundamentally liberal and progressive constituency in the midst of a huge Republican wave election. American Jews remain strongly supportive of President Obama and his Middle East policy, as well as the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement’s positions on the Middle East.

J Street is a non-profit (liberal—according to Wikipedia)advocacy group whose stated aim is to promote meaningful American leadership to end the Arab-Israeli and Palestinian-Israel conflicts peacefully and diplomatically. Its Political Action Committee (JStreetPAC) “was founded to give voice to the majority of Americans who favor a new direction for American policy in the Middle East and to reward American political candidates for their courage and leadership on our issues.”

There are probably conservative Jewish advocacy groups with slightly different aims and perhaps widely differing claims. I am sure those with some knowledge about them will share such with us.

The Moderate Voice

Health Reform And The Midterm Elections — A Historical Perspective

November 1, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

NBC’s presidential historian Michael Beschloss added one more important point of historical context to the ongoing question of how much the actual policies in the Affordable Care Act have contributed to the Democrats’ poor showing in the polls and tomorrow’s expected Republican electoral wave. Beschloss recalled that despite a two-thirds majority in the House and the Senate, President Lyndon B. Johnson recognized that he had a narrow window of opportunity to pass Medicare and other “Great Society” programs before the public turned against him.

He did and they did:

BESCHLOSS: Look at 1965. Lyndon Johnson came in, if you can believe it Rachel, two-thirds of the senate was Democrats, two-thirds of the House was Democrats. But even despite that, LBJ said, this doesn’t happen very often, I’ve got six months. He used those six months to get through the Great Society, Medicare, voting rights, very basic programs. He said after that they’re going to start voting against me and there will be a backlash. He was absolutely right. The Democrats had huge setbacks in Congress in 1966, but LBJ and the Great Society had probably more of an influence on Americans in terms of saying where the Democratic party is, for well or ilk, than probably any other president of the period.

Watch it:

If anything underscores the point that these kinds of social reforms are investments that could yield long-term dividends for the country it’s that today most Republicans are pledging to protect Medicare from the cuts in the health law and are campaigning against reform’s cuts to the program.

Of course, what’s unique about the health reform debate is that Republicans are still opposing the legitimacy of the law. As James Morone — a professor of political science at Brown University — has pointed out, “Normally in our political system, when we have enormous battles over legislation, most political actors consider the politics done when the legislative battle is over. What’s new here is the idea that the battle goes on into the implementation phase. This wasn’t true for Social Security, it wasn’t true for Medicare, it wasn’t true for civil rights.” “I’m not sure the Democrats have been quite this insistent after losing legislation. To have the Republican Party be this forceful about a position after the normal political process has run its course is pretty extraordinary,” he added.

Wonk Room

The Correct Perspective on Social Security Privatization

October 27, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

By Jagadeesh Gokhale

In today’s WSJ, William Shipman and Peter Ferrara have a column criticizing Present Obama’s recent and vehement rejection of Social Security private accounts. I agree with Shipman and Ferrara — it’s rather shabby logic from a President of all of people.

Shipman and Ferrara correctly note that Social Security privatization options provide participants with a choice – opt for private accounts or stay with traditional system. In other words, people can choose their preferred risk set – political or market.  The lesson here is that there’s no avoiding risk.

Shipman and Ferrara suggest that all investments in private Social Security accounts do not have to be in stocks – people can choose bonds as well.  Better yet, they can hold the market basket of all stocks and bonds through low-cost index funds, and hold some cash.  They can select the mix between these elements to optimize the risk-return trade-off given their abilities/preferences on the two. This investment strategy is transparent and easy to learn – it requires only a modicum of financial literacy.

However, the “Joe the Plumber” example given by Shipman/Ferrara is rather lame. Who cares if investing on the planet Mars yields 50 percent annual returns if we cannot do it unconditionally — that is, without incurring costs that would neutralize its higher-than-Social Security returns?  Those additional costs arise from having to borrow to pay existing Social Security beneficiaries their “promised” benefits, and from carrying market risks on personal account portfolios of Martian investments. 

Market risk represents a real cost – even if investments are for the long term.  The Shipman/Ferrara calculations take account of the recent financial crisis.  But they don’t take account of the potential for fat tails in the distribution of financial crises that we could be facing.  The recent crisis could have been less severe.  But what if it had been more severe and had wiped out all savings for many more people?  Is there zero risk of such an outcome? A generalization on the basis of just one 40-year record of investment returns is inappropriate and insufficient for ruling out the importance of market risk.

In the authors’ defense, however, is the fact that the historical evidence of market returns is conditional on the existence of Social Security (and Medicare and the rest of the government’s panoply of welfare programs, regulations… etc.)  Without such broad and deep government interference in markets, the history of capital returns may have been different – returns may have been smaller (because the economy may have been be better capitalized) but also more stable. And correlations between worker average wage growth and capital market returns may also have been smaller—yielding important diversification benefits from a privatized system of retirement saving.  But the bottom line is that we just don’t have adequate data of the correct type to make the “analytical” arguments that the authors attempt in their op-ed.  

Shipman and Ferrara (jointly and individually) have never explicated this latter argument clearly. They persist with their superficial “higher-and-sexy-market-returns” argument in support of private Social Security accounts.  As such, I’m compelled to say, they continue to exhibit a real and serious learning disability.

On balance, however, when faced with two extremes – 1) political risk that the government will muck things up so badly that we and our children will suffer considerably reduced living standards and 2) market risks that could devastate retirement savings because a recession/depression wipes out the value of lifetime savings – I would recommend an “interior solution” – one that straddles both worlds.  Continue a strictly limited government-run Social Security system and supplement it with a privatized element – as many other countries have done – the UK and Australia being important examples. 

Some would say that we have such as system already - in the form of 401k, IRA and other tax qualified saving plans.  However, not all workers have access to 401k plans.  And the evidence is that despite those plans, national saving has declined considerably during the last 3 decades.  My analysis suggests that the reason for the decline in saving is the very existence of (seemingly) government guaranteed Social Security (and Medicare) benefits that lull us into a false sense of security.  The key shortcoming is the lack of a system of universal Social Security personal accounts wherein a minimum amount of saving is mandatory (despite government mandates being bad in general). Such a system would provide a vehicle for the rich and the poor alike to partake of the wealth creation process that capital markets can and do provide. 

We’re not there today - and the correct direction from where we are is toward, not away, from Social Security personal accounts.

The Correct Perspective on Social Security Privatization is a post from Cato @ Liberty - Cato Institute Blog

Cato @ Liberty

2010, 1994, 1982: Some Historical Perspective

October 26, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

That's Silver's judgment. No big surprise. This feels increasingly like a wave election, buoyed by economic and cultural discontent and bewilderment. I wouldn't be surprised if we saw a GOP take-over of House and Senate.

But the following strikes me as an important piece of perspective. It's highly predictable in that, barring some big external factor (like a war in 2002), a president loses big in his first midterm. 1994 saw a massive backlash against a president we now regard as a quintessential centrist, embraced by many in the GOP - a gain of 54 seats by the GOP. But they were starting from a relatively low base. The party gap wasn't that large in the general polling. In 1994, the GOP won 48 percent of the popular vote, to 44 percent for the Dems.

More interestingly, because the economic parallels are closer, 1982 saw a Democratic gain of 27 seats in the wake of Reagan's first two years. Not as impressive, but that's also largely because they began with a very large base.

The Democrats went into the 1982 midterms with a majority of 50 seats and ended it with a majority of 103! The Democrats won 54 percent of the vote to 43 percent for the GOP, an 11 percent lead. That compares with a 52 - 47 spread right now for the GOP in Obama's first term, a 5 point lead. By the end of 1982, Reagan had a Gallup rating of 40 percent. Obama currently has a Gallup rating of 41 percent, and a 45 percent rating in the poll of polls.

In 1982, unemployment was at 10.8 percent. Today, it is 9.6 percent. Just some data for an amnesiac political class.

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The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

Putting TARP In Perspective

October 26, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Ross Douthat has an evenhanded column up about the emergency measure and the voter backlash against it. I think he gets it exactly right myself: TARP was necessary, surprisingly successful and a horrible example of moral hazard. A political rebuke of it is, in some ways, salutary.

But one realizes that most of those rebuking it do not credit its success; while most of those defending it acknowledge its poisonous necessity and the awful precedent it set. That's the difference between an irrational party and a rational one. And it seems increasingly clear that the role of the few sane Republican commentators left like Ross and Chris Caldwell will be to find a rational meta-defense for a seethingly emotion-driven base. Still, from Ross's and Chris's point of view, they're not going to lack for material for the foreseeable future, are they?

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The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

Time for perspective: 21 ways to be a good Democrat

October 20, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

The original post goes back to at least 2007, we can do some updating to 21 ways to be a good Democrat.  But since we have the NAACP lecturing us about how racist the TEA Party leaders are, I guess it is fair to recount some ways to be a good Democrat:

1. You have to be against capital punishment, but support abortion on demand.

2. You have to believe that businesses create oppression and governments create prosperity.

3. You have to believe that guns in the hands of law-abiding Americans are more of a threat than U.S. Nuclear weapons technology in the hands of Chinese and North Korean communists.

4. You have to believe that there was no art before Federal funding.

5. You have to believe that global temperatures are less affected by cyclical documented changes in the earth’s climate and more affected by soccer moms driving SUV’s.

Catch the original post for 6 through 20.  It closes with this:

21. You have to believe that it’s okay to give Federal workers off on Christmas Day but it’s not okay to say “Merry Christmas.”

Let’s add some of our own:

22.  You have to believe that the NAACP, an organization whose very name exudes racial superiority, has the right to comment on any other organization’s racial orientation.

23.  You have to believe Hillary Clinton comments ad nauseam on domestic issues yet isn’t running for president in 2012.

24.  You have to believe that your cookie-baking grandmother that shoved a bar of soap in your mouth when you uttered “damn” is a closet racist that is unhappy with President Obama only because he’s half black.

25.  You have to believe that labor unions only want fairness and equality by and among its members.

26.  You have to believe that the American education system sucks because of a lack of federal funding instead of the teachers in the classroom.

27.  You have to believe that the color-coded Terrorism alert system, which was ridiculed when W was in office, hasn’t been changed because the Obama Administration has so many more important things to do.

28.  You have to believe that shoving a few hundred thousand of Stimulus dollars to study the sex habits of Syracuse University female students is an important thing to do.  (OK, maybe I’ll give you this one.)

29.  You have to believe that Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, John Kerry, and Barney Frank are an impressive leadership team rather than four yahoos that failed to return to the asylum when their day passes expired.

30.  You have to believe that Barack Obama has spent several million dollars keeping his birth certificate locked away and has refused to release his college records because he’s just a private guy.

31.  You have to believe that Michelle Obama is just “heavy boned,” and that she’s eaten healthily her entire life, and that the cheeseburger the other day was just a “present to herself” and that someone that in public has only been a vegetarian can eat a hunk of dead cow without vomiting.

Any more?

Liberty Pundits Blog

Limits of Engagement: ROE and negotiating with the Taliban from our soldiers’ perspective

October 19, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Interesting quotes in this article.  Here’s the opening:

Having been criticized in the past for my “naive and ignorant” views on Rules of Engagement (ROE)I have been hesitant to write about the ridiculous restrictions our brave warriors are required to operate under in Afghanistan. Upon reading this article at the Washington Examiner.com I will risk sounding “naive and ignorant” since some of our brave warriors are exhibiting extraordinary bravery in speaking out about the asinine policies coming from the illegal occupant of the White House.

The very least I can do is write about it with the hope that more people will become aware of the problem, and will write or call their worthless so-called representatives in Washington, DC to demand that our soldiers be permitted to do their jobs without putting themselves in more danger than they already must endure.

Read the post for quotes from our brave soldiers in the field.

Liberty Pundits Blog

One Perspective on the Scope of Federal Power “In the Commercial Sphere”

October 15, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

(Orin Kerr)

I recently was reminded of this quote about Commerce Clause doctrine and I thought I would put it out there for comment in light of the recent debates on the constitutionality of the individual mandate:

[T]he Court as an institution and the legal system as a whole have an immense stake in the stability of our Commerce Clause jurisprudence as it has evolved to this point. Stare decisis operates with great force in counseling us not to call in question the essential principles now in place respecting the congressional power to regulate transactions of a commercial nature. That fundamental restraint on our power forecloses us from reverting to an understanding of commerce that would serve only an 18th century economy, dependent then upon production and trading practices that had changed but little over the preceding centuries; it also mandates against returning to the time when congressional authority to regulate undoubted commercial activities was limited by a judicial determination that those matters had an insufficient connection to an interstate system. Congress can regulate in the commercial sphere on the assumption that we have a single market and a unified purpose to build a stable national economy.

Do you agree or disagree? The source of the quote, for those who are interested, is below the fold.

Source: Justice Kennedy, concurring in United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549 (1995).

The Volokh Conspiracy

Environmental Skeptic Offers Fresh Perspective on Global Warming Debate

October 7, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

If you take Al Gore and replace his global warming apocalypticism with a careful pragmatism and his insistence for title="blocked::http://www.heritage.org/Research/Commentary/2010/09/The-Costs-of-Cap-and-Trade" href="http://www.heritage.org/Research/Commentary/2010/09/The-Costs-of-Cap-and-Trade">energy taxes with a love for human innovation, research and creativity, you will end up with someone similar to Skeptical Environmentalist author Bjorn Lomborg.  At href="http://www.thebloggersbriefing.com/">The Heritage Foundation Bloggers Briefing this Tuesday, Lomborg said he considers global warming to be a legitimate threat  - one that is exaggerated and can be handled through the power of human ingenuity.

Lomborg shows his other way to tackle global warming in his new film Cool It.  Forget about onerous cap-and-trade legislation, which href="http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2010/01/what-boxer-kerry-will-cost-the-economy">Heritage estimates would cost the average family of four $ 3,000 by 2035.  Instead, Lomborg sees solutions in further research and experimentation.

One of many possible solutions mentioned in the film is predicated on something Benjamin Franklin discovered when a volcano in Laki, Iceland erupted in 1783. id="more-44506">

Franklin made a connection between the volcano’s eruption and the change in the climate.  His theory was confirmed in 1991 when scientists determined that the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines href="http://www.geology.sdsu.edu/how_volcanoes_work/climate_effects.html">cooled the earth’s overall temperature by almost one degree Fahrenheit.

A href="http://reason.com/archives/2009/11/03/superfreaking-out-over-climate">group of entrepreneurs who work for an organization known as href="http://www.intellectualventures.com/Home.aspx">Intellectual Ventures have now come up with a way to cool the earth’s temperature using a hose that injects sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere.  The hose imitates what the eruption in Pinatubo did to lower the earth’s temperature.  Such efforts to control the earth’s temperature are known as href="http://geo-engineering.blogspot.com/">geoengineering.

There are, of course, legitimate href="http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/columnist/vergano/2009-04-19-geoengineering_N.htm">objections to the idea.  But if injecting sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere won’t work, maybe another geoengeneering proposal called href="http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=albedo-yachts-and-marine-clouds">Cloud Brightening will.  The goal of Cloud Brightening is to make marine clouds reflect more sunlight back into space, which would offset Co2.

Geoengineering is still very new and purposely changing the earth’s temperature by even one or two degrees may have href="http://www.econlib.org/library/Columns/y2009/Murphygeoengineering.html">considerable unintended consequences that include ocean acidification or even international tensions (India becomes indignant because they miss their monsoon season).  However, if global warming is a real threat ( href="../2010/02/18/the-science-behind-global-warming-not-so-irrefutable/">which is still highly debatable) and a geoengineering solution like Cloud Brightening doesn’t work, America’s innovative history can assure that a solution will come soon enough.

Lomborg said the U.S. government should spend 0.2 percent of GDP on researching the issue, but there is no reason private organizations and philanthropists can’t take care of the job without Uncle Sam’s help.  If there emerges evidence showing that global warming is a serious threat to America’s future, philanthropists, environmentalists and concerned citizens won’t hesitate to fund projects like Intellectual Ventures.

Once all the “poverty fighting” programs of Johnson’s Great Society began, charitable href="http://www.downsizinggovernment.org/hhs/welfare-spending#_edn50">giving decreased dramatically, and when welfare reform took place in the 90’s, giving started to increase again.  This gives us good reason to believe that individuals will give to a cause if the government gets out of the way.  But the federal government has already decided for us that global warming is a pressing issue, and its solution, is once again, more taxes.  If individuals decide for themselves that global warming is a serious threat, the solution would mean voluntary, private funding for the things that made America great in the first place: ingenuity, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Mark Chenoweth is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: href="http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm">http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm

The Foundry: Conservative Policy News.

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