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Voter Turnout Same in 2004 and 2008

November 7th, 2008 No comments

Via Drudge, this CNN news account of a serious academic analysis says that voter turnout nationwide was about the same in 2008 as in 2004. More Democrats turned out, but fewer Republicans. That’s interesting. It makes sense. Obama had lots of money for turning out voters, and lots of special enthusiasm perhaps from blacks who would not otherwise vote. McCain was not inspiring.

Categories: elections, obama Tags:

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Regulation

September 23rd, 2008 No comments

Charles Calomiris has a WSJ op-ed (with someone else) on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s role in the subprime mortgage market and the Republicans’ attempt to stop them. The Democrats are squarely to blame, it seems. The op-ed also points out that deregulation has played no role in this crisis. The problem on Wall Street is that we’ve never regulated investment banks’ capital levels, not that we’ve deregulated them, and that financial innovations have created a need for regulation.

Categories: Economics, elections Tags:

Barack Obama’s Economic Policies

August 6th, 2008 2 comments

From Obama for
President
website, here are some of his economic policies, with my
commentary.

* Provide Additional Tax Rebates to American Workers: The economy
has continued to weaken significantly, despite congressional action to
provide immediate tax rebates to American consumers. Stimulus: $20
billion.

Good. Taxes are tending to increase, so cutting them is good, even if
the tax cut is called a rebate.

* Establish a $10 billion Foreclosure Prevention Fund: Given the
downturn in the economy, Obama is calling for immediate creation of
his Foreclosure Prevention Fund that will dramatically increase
emergency pre-foreclosure counseling, and will help families facing
foreclosure to responsibly refinance their mortgages or sell their
homes. Obama’s plan will not help speculators, people buying vacation
homes or people that falsely represented their incomes. It is meant to
help responsible homeowners through this difficult period. Stimulus:
$10 billion.

Bad. People who are overextended are given plenty of time by their
banks, who lose money from foreclosures. The industry of reckless
lending should not be subsidized this way.

* Provide $10 billion in Relief for State and Local Governments
Hardest-Hit by the Housing Crisis to Prevent Cuts in Vital Services:
Because of the housing crisis and the weakening economy, many state
and local governments are facing significant revenue shortfalls.
Barack Obama believes that in the areas hardest-hit by the housing
crisis we should provide immediate, temporary funding to state and
local governments so that the decline in property values does not
cause them to slash critical public services and cut vital
infrastructure spending. Stimulus: $10 billion.

Bad. Localities can raise their own taxes if they want to, rather
than using national taxes.

* Extend and Expand Unemployment Insurance: Barack Obama believes
we must extend and strengthen the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program
to address the needs of the long-term unemployed, who currently make
up nearly one-fifth of the unemployed and are often older workers who
have lost their jobs in manufacturing or other industries and have a
difficult time finding new employment. Expanding UI is one of the most
effective ways to combat economic turmoil; every dollar invested in UI
benefits results in $1.73 in economic output. Obama is calling for a
temporary expansion of the UI program for those who have exhausted
their current eligibility. Stimulus: $10 billion.

Bad. We shouldn’t encourage people to stay unemployed.

* Provide a Tax Cut for Working Families: Obama will restore
fairness to the tax code and provide 150 million workers the tax
relief they need. Obama will create a new “Making Work Pay” tax credit
of up to $500 per person, or $1,000 per working family. The “Making
Work Pay” tax credit will completely eliminate income taxes for 10
million Americans.

Bad. We’ve already done too much of this. It’s good for everyone to
contribute at least a little in income tax. Also, this plan does
exactly what the Earned Income Credit is supposed to be doing
already.

* Eliminate Income Taxes for Seniors Making Less than $50,000:
Barack Obama will eliminate all income taxation of seniors making less
than $50,000 per year. This proposal will eliminate income taxes for 7
million seniors and provide these seniors with an average savings of
$1,400 each year. Under the Obama plan, 27 million American seniors
will also not need to file an income tax return.

Bad. Why should old people get a special tax break?

* Simplify Tax Filings for Middle Class Americans: Obama will
dramatically simplify tax filings so that millions of Americans will
be able to do their taxes in less than five minutes. Obama will ensure
that the IRS uses the information it already gets from banks and
employers to give taxpayers the option of pre-filled tax forms to
verify, sign and return. Experts estimate that the Obama proposal will
save Americans up to 200 million total hours of work and aggravation
and up to $2 billion in tax preparer fees.

Good idea.

* Fight for Fair Trade: Obama will fight for a trade policy that
opens up foreign markets to support good American jobs. He will use
trade agreements to spread good labor and environmental standards
around the world and stand firm against agreements like the Central
American Free Trade Agreement that fail to live up to those important
benchmarks. Obama will also pressure the World Trade Organization to
enforce trade agreements and stop countries from continuing unfair
government subsidies to foreign exporters and nontariff barriers on
U.S. exports.

* Amend the North American Free Trade Agreement: Obama believes
that NAFTA and its potential were oversold to the American people.
Obama will work with the leaders of Canada and Mexico to fix NAFTA so
that it works for American workers.

Bad. He’s a protectionist.

* Improve Transition Assistance: To help all workers adapt to a
rapidly changing economy, Obama would update the existing system of
Trade Adjustment Assistance by extending it to service industries,
creating flexible education accounts to help workers retrain, and
providing retraining assistance for workers in sectors of the economy
vulnerable to dislocation before they lose their jobs.

Bad. Boondoggle spending.

* Invest in our Next Generation Innovators and Job Creators: Obama
will create an Advanced Manufacturing Fund to identify and invest in
the most compelling advanced manufacturing strategies. The Fund will
have a peer-review selection and award process based on the Michigan
21st Century Jobs Fund, a state-level initiative that has awarded over
$125 million to Michigan businesses with the most innovative proposals
to create new products and new jobs in the state.

* Double Funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership: The
Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) works with manufacturers
across the country to improve efficiency, implement new technology and
strengthen company growth. This highly-successful program has engaged
in more than 350,000 projects across the country and in 2006 alone,
helped create and protect over 50,000 jobs. But despite this success,
funding for MEP has been slashed by the Bush administration. Barack
Obama will double funding for the MEP so its training centers can
continue to bolster the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers.

Bad. This is fascist industrial policy, the kind that was widely
ridiculed in the 1980’s. The government shouldn’t be funding private
investment.

* Invest In A Clean Energy Economy And Create 5 Million New Green
Jobs: Obama will invest $150 billion over 10 years to advance the next
generation of biofuels and fuel infrastructure, accelerate the
commercialization of plug-in hybrids, promote development of
commercial scale renewable energy, invest in low emissions coal
plants, and begin transition to a new digital electricity grid. The
plan will also invest in America’s highly-skilled manufacturing
workforce and manufacturing centers to ensure that American workers
have the skills and tools they need to pioneer the first wave of green
technologies that will be in high demand throughout the world.

Okay.

* Create New Job Training Programs for Clean Technologies: The
Obama plan will increase funding for federal workforce training
programs and direct these programs to incorporate green technologies
training, such as advanced manufacturing and weatherization training,
into their efforts to help Americans find and retain stable, high-
paying jobs. Obama will also create an energy-focused youth jobs
program to invest in disconnected and disadvantaged youth.

Bad. Industrial policy again.

[To be continued]

* Boost the Renewable Energy Sector and Create New Jobs: The Obama
plan will create new federal policies, and expand existing ones, that
have been proven to create new American jobs. Obama will create a
federal Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) that will require 25
percent of American electricity be derived from renewable sources by
2025, which has the potential to create hundreds of thousands of new
jobs on its own. Obama will also extend the Production Tax Credit, a
credit used successfully by American farmers and investors to increase
renewable energy production and create new local jobs.

Terrible idea, and rotten economics.

Barack Obama believes that it is critically important for the United
States to rebuild its national transportation infrastructure – its
highways, bridges, roads, ports, air, and train systems – to
strengthen user safety, bolster our long-term competitiveness and
ensure our economy continues to grow.

* Create a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank: Barack Obama
will address the infrastructure challenge by creating a National
Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank to expand and enhance, not supplant,
existing federal transportation investments. This independent entity
will be directed to invest in our nation’s most challenging
transportation infrastructure needs. The Bank will receive an infusion
of federal money, $60 billion over 10 years, to provide financing to
transportation infrastructure projects across the nation. These
projects will create up to two million new direct and indirect jobs
per year and stimulate approximately $35 billion per year in new
economic activity.

Infrastructure is what a lot of our porkbarrel spending has been about. This Bank would have huge patronage power and would undoubtedly be corrupt, just like Democrat-led Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

* Invest in the Sciences: Barack Obama supports doubling federal
funding for basic research …

* Make the Research and Development Tax Credit Permanent: Barack
Obama wants investments in a skilled research and development
workforce and technology infrastructure to be supported here in
America so that American workers and communities will benefit. Obama
wants to make the Research and Development tax credit permanent so
that firms can rely on it when making decisions to invest in domestic
R&D over multi-year timeframes.

I do like that.

* Deploy Next-Generation Broadband: Barack Obama believes we can
get broadband to every community in America through a combination of
reform of the Universal Service Fund, better use of the nation’s
wireless spectrum, promotion of next-generation facilities,
technologies and applications, and new tax and loan incentives.

I don’t know much about that.

* Provide Tax Relief for Small Businesses and Start Up Companies:
Barack Obama will eliminate all capital gains taxes on start-up and
small businesses to encourage innovation and job creation. Obama will
also support small business owners by providing a $500 “Making Work
Pay” tax credit to almost every worker in America. Self-employed small
business owners pay both the employee and the employer side of the
payroll tax, and this measure will reduce the burdens of this double
taxation.

This sounds like a good tax cut.

* Create a National Network of Public-Private Business Incubators:
Barack Obama will support entrepreneurship and spur job growth by
creating a national network of public-private business incubators.
Business incubators facilitate the critical work of entrepreneurs in
creating start-up companies. Obama will invest $250 million per year
to increase the number and size of incubators in disadvantaged
communities throughout the country.

Sounds like pork to me.

Obama will strengthen the ability of workers to organize unions. He
will fight for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. Obama will
ensure that his labor appointees support workers’ rights and will work
to ban the permanent replacement of striking workers. Obama will also
increase the minimum wage and index it to inflation to ensure it rises
every year.

All bad. He wants to support unionized workers at the expense of poor workers who might compete with them.

* Ensure Freedom to Unionize: Obama believes that workers should
have the freedom to choose whether to join a union without harassment
or intimidation from their employers. Obama cosponsored and is strong
advocate for the Employee Free Choice Act, a bipartisan effort to
assure that workers can exercise their right to organize. He will
continue to fight for EFCA’s passage and sign it into law.

I don’t know this bill, but unionizing already has lots of protection, since the 1930s.

* Fight Attacks on Workers’ Right to Organize: Obama has fought
the Bush National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) efforts to strip
workers of their right to organize. He is a cosponsor of legislation
to overturn the NLRB’s “Kentucky River” decisions classifying hundreds
of thousands of nurses, construction, and professional workers as
“supervisors” who are not protected by federal labor laws.

I don’t know this decision, but my guess is that he wants to force all these people to join unions against their will.

* Protect Striking Workers: Obama supports the right of workers to
bargain collectively and strike if necessary. He will work to ban the
permanent replacement of striking workers, so workers can stand up for
themselves without worrying about losing their livelihoods.

If a worker decides his employer is not paying him enough and goes on strike, why shouldn’t the employer be allowed to hire someone else who would be happy to get that wage?

* Raise the Minimum Wage: Barack Obama will raise the minimum
wage, index it to inflation and increase the Earned Income Tax Credit
to make sure that full-time workers earn a living wage that allows
them to raise their families and pay for basic needs.

Bad economics.What he really wants is to get those workers fired so union workers who pay him big campaign contributions will be hired instead.

* Create a New FHA Housing Security Program: Barack Obama strongly
supports the efforts of Senate Banking Committee Chair Chris Dodd
(D–CT) to create a new Federal Housing Administration (FHA) program
that will provide meaningful incentives for lenders to buy or
refinance existing mortgages and convert them into stable 30-year
fixed mortgages. This plan provides an important federal backstop –
not a bailout – to this growing national problem. Neither lenders nor
homeowners would receive a windfall from this plan.

I don’t know that bill.

* Create a Universal Mortgage Credit: Obama will create a 10
percent universal mortgage credit to provide homeowners who do not
itemize tax relief. This credit will provide an average of $500 to 10
million homeowners, the majority of whom earn less than $50,000 per
year.

* Ensure More Accountability in the Subprime Mortgage Industry:
Obama has been closely monitoring the subprime mortgage situation for
years, and introduced comprehensive legislation over a year ago to
fight mortgage fraud and protect consumers against abusive lending
practices. Obama’s STOP FRAUD Act provides the first federal
definition of mortgage fraud, increases funding for federal and state
law enforcement programs, creates new criminal penalties for mortgage
professionals found guilty of fraud, and requires industry insiders to
report suspicious activity.

* Mandate Accurate Loan Disclosure: Obama will create a Homeowner
Obligation Made Explicit (HOME) score, which will provide potential
borrowers with a simplified, standardized borrower metric (similar to
APR) for home mortgages. The HOME score will allow individuals to
easily compare various mortgage products and understand the full cost
of the loan.

* Create Fund to Help Homeowners Avoid Foreclosures: Obama will
create a fund to help people refinance their mortgages and provide
comprehensive supports to innocent homeowners. The fund will be
partially paid for by Obama’s increased penalties on lenders who act
irresponsibly and commit fraud.

* Close Bankruptcy Loophole for Mortgage Companies: Obama will
work to eliminate the provision that prevents bankruptcy courts from
modifying an individual’s mortgage payments. Obama believes that the
subprime mortgage industry, which has engaged in dangerous and
sometimes unscrupulous business practices, should not be shielded by
outdated federal law.

* Create a Credit Card Rating System to Improve Disclosure: Obama
will create a credit card rating system, modeled on five-star systems
used for other consumer products, to provide consumers an easily
identifiable ranking of credit cards, based on the card’s features.
Credit card companies will be required to display the rating on all
application and contract materials, enabling consumers to quickly
understand all of the major provisions of a credit card without having
to rely exclusively on fine print in lengthy documents.

* Establish a Credit Card Bill of Rights to Protect Consumers:
Obama will create a Credit Card Bill of Rights to protect consumers.
The Obama plan will:
o Ban Unilateral Changes
o Apply Interest Rate Increases Only to Future Debt
o Prohibit Interest on Fees
o Prohibit “Universal Defaults”
o Require Prompt and Fair Crediting of Cardholder Payments

* Cap Outlandish Interest Rates on Payday Loans and Improve
Disclosure: Obama supports extending a 36 percent interest cap to all
Americans. Obama will require lenders to provide clear and simplified
information about loan fees, payments and penalties, which is why
he’ll require lenders to provide this information during the
application process.

* Encourage Responsible Lending Institutions to Make Small
Consumer Loans: Obama will encourage banks, credit unions and
Community Development Financial Institutions to provide affordable
short-term and small-dollar loans and to drive unscrupulous lenders
out of business.

* Reform Bankruptcy Laws to Protect Families Facing a Medical
Crisis: Obama will create an exemption in bankruptcy law for
individuals who can prove they filed for bankruptcy because of medical
expenses. This exemption will create a process that forgives the debt
and lets the individuals get back on their feet.

* Expand the Family and Medical Leave Act: The FMLA covers only
certain employees of employers with 50 or more employees. Obama will
expand it to cover businesses with 25 or more employees. He will
expand the FMLA to cover more purposes as well, including allowing
workers to take leave for elder care needs; allowing parents up to 24
hours of leave each year to participate in their children’s academic
activities; and expanding FMLA to cover leave for employees to address
domestic violence.

* Encourage States to Adopt Paid Leave: As president, Obama will
initiate a strategy to encourage all 50 states to adopt paid-leave
systems. Obama will provide a $1.5 billion fund to assist states with
start-up costs and to help states offset the costs for employees and
employers.

* Expand High-Quality Afterschool Opportunities: Obama will double
funding for the main federal support for afterschool programs, the
21st Century Learning Centers program, to serve a million more
children. Obama will include measures to maximize performance and
effectiveness across grantees nationwide.

* Expand the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit: The Child and
Dependent Care Tax Credit provides too little relief to families that
struggle to afford child care expenses. Obama will reform the Child
and Dependent Care Tax Credit by making it refundable and allowing
low-income families to receive up to a 50 percent credit for their
child care expenses.

* Protect Against Caregiver Discrimination: Workers with family
obligations often are discriminated against in the workplace. Obama
will enforce the recently-enacted Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission guidelines on caregiver discrimination.

* Expand Flexible Work Arrangements: Obama will create a program
to inform businesses about the benefits of flexible work schedules;
help businesses create flexible work opportunities; and increase
federal incentives for telecommuting. Obama will also make the federal
government a model employer in terms of adopting flexible work
schedules and permitting employees to request flexible arrangements.

* Housing: In the U.S. Senate, Obama introduced the STOP FRAUD Act
to increase penalties for mortgage fraud and provide more protections
for low-income homebuyers, well before the current subprime crisis
began.

* Predatory Lending: In the Illinois State Senate, Obama called
attention to predatory lending issues. Obama sponsored legislation to
combat predatory payday loans, and he also was credited with lobbying
the state to more closely regulate some of the most egregious
predatory lending practices.

* American Jobs: Barack Obama introduced the Patriot Employer Act
of 2007 to provide a tax credit to companies that maintain or increase
the number of full-time workers in America relative to those outside
the US; maintain their corporate headquarters in America; pay decent
wages; prepare workers for retirement; provide health insurance; and
support employees who serve in the military.

Categories: Economics, elections, obama Tags:

John McCain’s Economic Policies

August 6th, 2008 No comments

I’ve just been asked to sign an economists’ letter of support for John McCain’s economic plan. In general I don’t like that kind of letter unless it’s on some issue where pretty much all top economists can agree. Possibly there would be a consensus on the policy proposals mentioned in the letter itself, but McCain has some bad economic policy views not mentioned there.

First, what’s in the letter. I’ve omitted the first and last “puff” parts.

His plan would control government spending by vetoing every bill with earmarks, implementing a constitutionally valid line-item veto, pausing non-military discretionary government spending programs for one year to stop their explosive growth and place accountability on federal government agencies.

Vetoing every bill with earmarks is a bad idea. He thereby throws away his bargaining power with Congress, and his ability to buy votes for important national-interest policies. Often a president needs to buy support for his foreign policy or trade policy by using earmarks.

The line-item veto would be good.

Pausing spending is bad. I don’t know that most agencies’ budgets have been growing too fast– the big complaint is about earmarks.

His plan would keep taxes from rising, because higher tax rates are exactly the wrong policy to restore economic growth, especially at this time.

His plan would reduce tax rates by cutting the tax that corporations pay to 25 percent in line with other countries, by completely phasing out the alternative minimum tax, by increasing the exemption for dependents, by permitting the first-year expensing of new equipment and technology, and by making permanent a reformed tax credit for R&D.

That’s pretty good. I’m not sure about eliminating the AMT, though, because it’s a flat tax, which is a good thing.

His plan would also create a new and much simpler tax system and give Americans a free choice of whether to pay taxes under that simple system or the current complex and burdensome income tax.

That’s a good idea.

His plan would open new markets for American goods and services and thereby create additional jobs for Americans by supporting good free trade agreements, such as the one with Colombia, and working with leaders around the world to avoid isolationism and protectionism. His plan would also reform education, retraining, and other assistance programs so they better help those displaced by trade and other changes in the economy. His plan addresses problems in the financial markets and housing markets by calling for increased transparency and accountability, by targeted assistance to deserving homeowners to refinance their mortgages, and by opposing so-called reform plans which would raise the costs of home-ownership in the future.

Free trade is good. “Deserving homeowners” shouldn’t be bailed out. We DO need reforms to raise the cost of home ownership for the rich.

Now for some other things from the Issues section of his website (accessible via http://www.johnmccain.com/Issues/JobsforAmerica/energy.htm.

John McCain will put our country on track to construct 45 new nuclear power plants by 2030 with the ultimate goal of eventually constructing 100 new plants.

Very good.

John McCain will encourage the market for alternative, low carbon fuels such as wind, hydro and solar power. … John McCain believes in an even- handed system of tax credits that will remain in place until renewable energy has progressed to the point that it is competitive with conventional energy sources.

Bad.

John McCain will commit our country to expanding domestic oil and natural gas exploration. The current federal moratorium on drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf stands in the way of energy exploration and production. John McCain believes it is time for the federal government to lift these restrictions and work with states to put our own reserves to use.

Good.

For every automaker who can sell a zero-emissions car, John McCain will commit a $5,000 tax credit for each and every customer who buys that car. For other vehicles, whatever type they may be, the lower the carbon emissions, the higher the tax credit.

Bad.

John McCain has long supported CAFE standards – the mileage requirements that automobile manufacturers’ cars must meet. Some carmakers ignore these standards, pay a small financial penalty, and add it to the price of their cars. John McCain believes that the penalties for not following these standards must be effective enough to compel carmakers to produce fuel-efficient vehicles.

Bad.

John McCain will make greening the federal government a priority of his administration…. By applying a higher efficiency standard to new buildings leased or purchased and retrofitting existing buildings, we can save taxpayers money in energy costs, and move the construction market in the direction of green technology.

Bad

John McCain will lead the fight for medical liability reform that eliminates lawsuits directed at doctors who follow clinical guidelines and adhere to proven safety protocols.

Good.

… John McCain will give every family a refundable tax credit – cash towards insurance – of $5,000 (Individuals receive $2,500). Every family in America, regardless of the source of their insurance or how much they make will get the same help. Families will be able to stay with their current plan, or choose the insurance provider that suits them best and have the money sent directly to the insurance provider.

This sounds crazy, so it’s probably not quite as stated. As stated, a family already receiving $8000/year in employer-provided insurance could take the government’s $5000 and top up their insurance with superduper coverage–say, for plastic surgery, air fares to exotic hospitals, etc. Probably the plan is limited to basic health insurance, in which case it might not be so bad.

Americans need insurance that follows them from job to job. Too many job decisions today are controlled by a fear of losing health care. Americans want insurance that is still there if they retire early and does not change if they take a few years off to raise the children. John McCain will lead the reform for portable insurance.

I’m not sure about that one. It’s a good question as to what that will do to adverse selection.

[to be continued]

Categories: Economics, elections Tags:

The British Constitution

June 30th, 2008 No comments

Cranmer writes that the hereditary peers in the House of Lords voted against the Treaty of Lisbon by a large margin (50 to 14), and it only passed because of the numerous other peers. The BBC says that the Lords voted against a referendum by 280 to 218.

If the House of Lords had voted against the measure, and the Labor government had gone to the country by setting a new election for the Commons, almost surely the Tories would have won the election. Thus, it seems this is a case in which the old hereditary lords would have enable popular opinion to win through.

In America, if Congress voted to delegate some of its power to a different elected assembly, the courts would rule the bill unconstitutional. (It has allowed Congress to delegate rule-making power to the executive branch (e.g. the EPA) and to independent commissions (e.g. the FTC), but that is different.)

Surely there must be some similar constitutional principle in Britain. Maybe it does not apply here because Britain can withdraw from the EU, so this is just like joining the WTC and agreeing not to set tariffs. Suppose, though, that Parliament voted to delegate all its power to a single person. If that person made a law, would the British courts administer that law, or would they refuse to issue penalties based on it?

That example is like the creation of the Vichy government in 1940. The French legislature by a massive majority (something like all but 3 legislators) freely delegated its authority to General Petain, amidst general recognition of its own incompetence. I don’t know how the French courts responded.

Categories: law, politics Tags:

France’s Europe Minister Is an Anti-American Nut

June 27th, 2008 No comments

Cranmer tells us that:

According to France’s Europe Minister, Jean-Pierre Jouyet, the intervention of certain neocons ‘played a significant role in the Irish rejection of the Lisbon treaty’. In Le Monde (via EUobserver), M. Jouyet said: ‘Europe has powerful enemies on the other side of the Atlantic, gifted with considerable financial means. The role of American neo-conservatives was very important in the victory of the “No”.’

This sounded so weird that I checked the original inLe Monde :

Une analyse étayée par le secrétaire d’Etat aux affaires européennes, Jean-Pierre Jouyet : “L’Europe a des ennemis puissants de l’autre côté de l’Atlantique, dotés de moyens financiers considérables. Le rôle des néoconservateurs américains a été très important dans la victoire du non.”

The translation is accurate.

Categories: europe, politics Tags:

Pivotal Voting

June 26th, 2008 No comments

I was talking with Bernie Groffman just now and thought I’d make a record of the simple example of why apparent voting strength is not real voting strength. Suppose we have a committee on which Spain gets 50 votes, France gets 50 votes, and Andorra gets 1 vote. All have equal voting power, in fact. A winning coalition needs 2 and only 2 of the countries, and it doesn’t matter which two.

Categories: game theory, politics Tags:

Are the Tories Helping Gordon Brown?

June 16th, 2008 No comments

A prominent Tory MP recently resigned to re-fight his election in protest against an extension of the 28-day imprisonment-without-cause rule to 42 days. That in itself doesn’t make sense to me (his party already opposes the change, 28 vs. 42 seems to miss the point of suspending habeas corpus anyway, … ), but TV pundits were saying that his party leader must be angry with him for shifting news attention away from Prime Minister Brown’s unsteady position within the Labor Party.

I wonder whether the motivation might not be just that. Perhaps the Tories like Brown being at the head of Labor and are helping him out. The very oddity of the Tory resignation helps distract attention from Brown and allows the public mood to improve for him.

Categories: game theory, politics Tags:

Charity Giving by Prominent American Liberal Politicians

June 6th, 2008 No comments

This American Spectator article, “Liberal Scrooges” by Peter Schweitzer, is amazing. It relates the tiny amounts that Obama, Ted Kennedy, Kerry, Andrew Cuomo, Gore, Reich, Jesse Jackson, and Franklin Roosevelt gave to charity, and the much larger fractions of income by Reagan, both Bushes, and Cheney (though the emphasis is on the liberals).

Categories: philosophy, politics Tags:

The Popular Vote: Obama or Hillary?

June 2nd, 2008 No comments

Back to that question of who has more of the popular vote, Obama or
Hillary: Realclearpolitics, has the following table:

Popular Vote

The top heading “Popular Vote Total” is the popular vote excluding
Michigan. The third and fourth lines include Michigan, unmodified. The
fifth and sixth lines include Michigan, but with 100% of the Uncommitted
vote going to Obama.

The second, fourth, and sixth lines include estimates of the popular
votes in the caucus states of Iowa, Nevada, Maine, and Washington.

But as
Talkleft
points out, there is still another wrinkle to the
definition of “popular vote”: states which have both caucuses and
primaries, where the caucus determines who gets the delegates, but the
primary has more voters expressing a preference for a candidate.
Nebraska, Idaho, and Washington both had primaries as well as caucuses. It seems
reasonable to include them if we are measuring popular votes cast either
literally or to see which candidate has more support among voters.

Including them helps Hillary and hurts Obama. I use numbers from
Talkleft
.

Nebraska had a primary in May, as well as its earlier caucuses which
actually chose the delegates (see here for a news
story).

Nebraska had 38 thousand caucus votes and 95 thousand votes in its
May primary. In the caucuses, Obama beat Hillary 68% to 32%, 26 to
12 thousand, a 14 thousand margin. In the primary, Obama beat Hillary
49.4% to 46.6%, 47 to 44, a 3 thousand margin. Replacing caucus with
primary results adds 11 thousand to Hillary’s total popular vote.

Washington had 238 thousand caucus votes and 691 thousand votes in its
February primary (on which, see here). In the
caucuses, Obama beat Hillary 67% to 31%, 159 to 74 thousand, an 85
thousand margin. In the primary, Obama beat Hillary 51% to 45%, 352
to 311 thousand, a 41 thousand margin. Replacing caucus with primary
results adds 44 thousand to Hillary’s total popular vote.

In Idaho, Obama had a 13 thousand vote lead in the caucuses, but only 8 thousand in the primary.

Replacing the Washington and Nebraska and Idaho caucus results with primary
results thus helps Hillary by 60 thousand votes. The spreads in
RealClearPolitics’s 6 categories change to

Clinton +36 thousand

Obama +74

Clinton +363
Clinton +2538
Clinton +125

Clinton +16

Thus, the only definition of these, once Nebraska and Washington popular
votes are included, by which Obama wins is if we exclude the Michigan
primary and include estimates from the 4 caucus states.

Of course, all of these vote totals are very close, as are the
delegate totals. Their main importance in my opinion is as a gauge of
how much each candidate appeals to voters, and really we should weight
the later primaries more heavily in measuring that. For someone who
believes in “count every vote”, though, the popular vote is crucial,
more important perhaps than the vote allocated by the rules.

Speaking of the rules, the Democratic National Committee ruling today
puzzles me. It seems blatantly illegal. The DNC has said that delegates
from Michigan and Florida will only get 1/2 vote each. That’s fine—
those states broke the rules. But it is also allocating the Uncommitted
vote in Michigan to Obama, giving him the delegates based on that. Since
the voters voted for Uncommitted, not Obama, how can those delegates
possibly be committed to vote for Obama? The same result could have been
achieved by picking allowing the Obama camp to pick the delegates but
leaving them formally uncommitted, but why wasn’t that done? Or *is*
that how it was done?

Categories: elections, obama Tags:

Thatcherite Gordon Brown

May 21st, 2008 No comments

Blogger Cranmer tells us that Gordon Brown gave a speech to the Church of Scotland Assembly about his moral vision. Brown says he believes in the Parable of the Talents, but clearly he has forgotten the parable’s ending and its moral. He says

And amidst all the challenges and headlines of recent months I have learned what really matters: that, for me, a life is best measured not by what office or title you hold but by what difference you can make by seeking to do what you judge the right thing, however difficult, and by the causes to which you dedicate your efforts.

As a son and now a father I believe in the Parable of the Talents my father taught me:

* that everyone has a talent,

* everyone should have the chance to develop that talent,

* and everyone should be challenged to use that talent and given the best chance to bridge that gap between what they are and what they have it in themselves to become.

And so I believe in the power of opportunity to change lives.

In the Parable, after the third servant has not used his one talent, unlike the first two servants with their their two and ten, his master says:

Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:
Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.
Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.
For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.
And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Thus, Brown is saying inadvertently that he opposes the welfare state!

Categories: politics, religion Tags:

Sexist Bias

May 15th, 2008 No comments

Suppose we think that a person’s political position is biased by his group category. We might think that a man will be biased in a pro-man direction on issues involving the role of women or wealth redistribution. Of course, a woman would be biased in the opposite direction according to this idea, so no person would have an objective opinion. That is probably the conclusion feminists would have reach, actually.

I think the conclusion is too hopeless because the idea starts off on the wrong foot. A man is a man, to be sure, but he also has personal biases in favor of his relatives, many of whom might be women. In fact, for many issues what would matter most, if personal interest is what counts, is not one’s own sex, but one’s children’s. I have a wife, four daughters, and a son. That means my family’s interest is pro-female by 5 to 2. Thus, I should be biased in the pro-female direction, and if I talk like a conservative patriarchalist, well, that’s a sign the neutral, objective position is even more patriarchalist than me.

The people who are most biased are thus male and female homosexuals, who might have bias proportions of 2 or 3 or more to 0, and the divorced women with daughters. Unmarried people are next, who have biases of 1 to 0. Then come unbalanced families such as my own with ratios such as 5 to 2. Couples without children would be unbiased, with proportions of 1 to 1, and the most unbiased of all would be a large family with 5 sons and 4 daughters, which would be 6 to 6 (helping out with the problem of someone weighting his own self highest).

Categories: feminism, politics Tags:

Democratic Primary Popular Votes: Obama and Clinton

May 14th, 2008 No comments

The Realclearpolitics website has a good table of Democratic delegates and popular votes according to various definitions. I see that right now Hillary is already ahead in the popular vote by one definition.

Categories: politics Tags:

Co-opting Your Opponent’s Issues

May 12th, 2008 No comments

Steve Teles talked about a good idea in a conference here last weekend: the idea of going on one’s opponent’s issue ground in politics and beating him on his own terms. His paper was on Compassionate Conservatism. Here are perhaps other examples. The paradigm is:

“Liberals say X helps Y, but X actually hurts them.”

1. X = Immigration, Y = Mexican-Americans

2. X= the minimum wage, Y = poor people

3. X= easy divorce laws, Y = women

4. X= low penalties for crime, Y = blacks

5. X= unions, Y = workers

We need a good name for this tactic. It is not the same as Co-Opting, really, or Issue Stealing

Hilary Clinton Is Winning the Popular Vote

April 23rd, 2008 No comments

Michael Barone has good posts here and post-Penn about Clinton’s popular vote chances. But I think he does it wrong.

Since the popular vote competition is informal, each side will pick its own rules. Mrs. Clinton has said that MIchigan and Florida should count. Florida gives her 288 thousand and Michigan gives her a 90 thousand margin over Uncommitted, though she will point out that it gives her 328 thousand more people than voted for Obama, who wasn’t on the ballot. That’s 616 thousand from those two states,using Clinton-supporter math.

RealClearPolitics gave Obama a lead of 827 thousand before Pennsylvania. Subtract the 106 thousand that’s just attributed to Obama from caucus states but are not actual votes, to get 721 thousand. Subtract Florida and Michigan to get 105 thousand. Now subtract Clinton’s 205 thousand margin from Pennsylvania, and she’s ahead nationally by 100,000 votes. She doesn’t need Porto Rico any more to claim victory.

Which rules to use is debatable. It being debatable is a good argument for judging winners by pre-set rules rather than ex post judgements. Many Democrats prefer ex post judgements, both as a matter of political style (that applies to judicial decisionmaking too) and because they argued for it in the Gore-Florida situation in 2000. Furthermore, in that election they argued for the most expansive rules possible, to count the most people who came to the polls and tried to vote (though as I recall– I might be wrong– nobody realized at the time that if the Democrat definition had been adopted, Bush would have won). Here, a primitive one-man one-vote theory would say that Clinton is ahead, because Obama really didn’t get any votes in Michigan. To get round that, you’d have to resort to a theory that what should count is who people would have voted for if their candidate had been on the ballot, and that is perilously close to a theory of how people would have voted if Obama had been as much the favorite in January as he is now.

I think these popular-vote calculations shouldn’t matter and it would be fine for the superdelegates to ignore them. But then I thought it was fine to follow the pre-set rules in Florida 2000 too. The Democrats think differently, so they have a big problem– and it is a problem not unrelated to their political philosophy, so we shouldn’t feel it’s unfair that they have it.

Categories: elections, obama Tags:

The Obama Tax Returns

April 11th, 2008 No comments

Mr. Obama’s tax returns are here. 2000-2004 he and his wife earned about 250,000 dollars per year and gave about 2,500 dollars to charity. In 2005 and 2006 they went up to 1.6M and 1M in income (his book came out and earned a lot), and raised their donations too. When Mr. Obama became senator, the U. of C. created a high-paying administrative job for Mrs. Obama, another reason for the increase in income.

The oddest thing about the returns is the lack of capital income before the big pay increase in 2005.
Did their savings all go into tax-exempt vehicles such as life insurance, pension plans, etc.? Or did they not save anything?

In three of the years, even interest from a bank account isn’t included. They probably had it, but were sloppy and didn’t report it. That isn’t a significant violation of tax law either legally or ethically, but it indicates remarkable sloppiness. They must have been filling out their own taxes (a sensible thing to do) rather than hiring someone, but a lawyer-administrator couple ought to notice details, especially when the lawyer is in politics.

2000. Interest 38. Dividends 0.
2001. Interest 0. Dividends 0.
2002. Interest 33. Dividends 0.
2003. Interest 0. Dividends 0.
2004. Interest 0. Dividends 0.
2005. Interest 13,385. Dividends 2,754. From two banks. I think one bank
was investing in stocks for him.
2006. Interest 4,590. Dividends 1,188. Capital loss taken 3000 (10,136
total loss, Nuveen floating rate PDF SHS).

The TaxProfblog has a good post, links, and, especially, comments on the tax returns. One commentor suggests that they should have paid AMT, and thus underpaid about $14,000 in one year. That fits with the general naivete of the tax returns. Also, it seems they deducted a $13,000 contribution to the Congressional Black Caucus– a political contribution! They later amended the return to fix that up.

APril 22: He has released his 2007 returns now too. There is a big change: Lots of tax-exempt interest income, $200,000+ in charitable donations, AMT paid too.

Categories: obama, politics Tags:

February 22nd, 2008 1 comment

Soft Conservatives. George
Neumayr
makes good observations on how liberal the conservative movement is nowadays on social issues. It has amazed me how mild was the conservative reaction to Romney and Giuliani. Huckabee is not entirely conservative, but his weakness is mostly in economic policy, and I don’t think low taxes are the essence of conservatism.

It tells you a lot about the state of the establishment conservative
movement that in the end, given a choice between a (basically) red-meat
conservative from the South and a recently pro-abortion moderate from
the North, it chose the latter. The savaging of Mike Huckabee has been
highly revealing, betraying more than just personal distaste.

Amongst not all but many of his critics, there is at work a basic
contempt for natural law conservatism, which came out most vividly in
the sputtering over Huckabee’s references to amending the Constitution
in accordance with “God’s standards.”

As the good Enlightenment liberals they have become, some modern
American conservatives are naturally horrified by such a statement: How
dare that hick suggest touching a venerable man-made document (never
mind that the founders, being deeper and more thoughtful about these
matters, put an amendment power in their Constitution for the people to
govern themselves according to God’s standards).

Huckabee, for all of his glibness, is striking much closer to the
bedrock of philosophical conservatism than his critics. If conservatism
is not about conserving principles that originate in reality — a
reality that comes from God and is made known to man through his reason
— then what good is it?

Categories: politics Tags:

February 16th, 2008 No comments

Presidential Candidate Quiz. USA Today has a good quiz for “choose your presidential candidate”. They allow you to change the weights on the various issues, and it shows you, in real time, how well the candidates are doing in your ranking as you proceed with the questions.

My favorites according to the Quiz?

Romney, Brownback, and Thompson. Biden and Edwards were my lowest.

Romney being the top shows a problem with quizzes, though. I don’t believe he really holds those positions. He was a liberal governor of Massachusetts, and it was amazing that he got the endorsement of so many conservatives.

Categories: politics, quizzes Tags:

February 8th, 2008 No comments

A Short Speech and a Bye-Ku. Stromata Blog has two good entries. One is an all-purpose stump speech from one of Mark Steyn’s readers:

My friends, we live in the greatest nation in the history of the world. I hope you’ll join with me as we try to change it.

The other is an original bye-ku for Dennis Kucinich as he drops out of the presidential race:

He could have gone far
if that saucer had landed
little green voters.

Categories: politics, writing Tags:

February 7th, 2008 No comments

Puerto Rico and the Primaries. Michael Barone notes that Puerto Rico, a late-deciding caucus state with a strong governor, may well have very strong bargaining power in the Democratic presidential nomination, because it will be effectively winner-take-all and has 63 delegates, more than Georgia or New Jersey.

I can imagine the following scenario. Hillary Clinton’s delegate margin over Barack Obama rises and falls a bit from week to week, depending on primary results. Her margin among superdelegates, around 100, fails to increase much because party and public officeholders are wary of offending Obama’s youth and black constituencies. Then, presto! In early June, Puerto Rico’s 63 delegates put her over the top. She has her majority and goes about the business of choosing a vice presidential candidate.

Categories: politics Tags:

January 28th, 2008 No comments

Clinton Ethics Again. I wonder what all the Clinton admirers think of the Clintons trying to rally white voters against black ones to beat Obama in South Carolina and beyond. It is sassy strategy– to unethically rally the white vote by claiming Obama is unethically rallying the black vote. The AP says:

Each side accused the other of playing the race card, sparking a controversy that frequently involved Bill Clinton.

“They are getting votes, to be sure, because of their race or gender. That’s why people tell me Hillary doesn’t have a chance of winning here,” the former president said at one stop as he campaigned for his wife, strongly suggesting that blacks would not support a white alternative to Obama.

Clinton campaign strategists denied any intentional effort to stir the racial debate. But they said they believe the fallout has had the effect of branding Obama as “the black candidate,” a tag that could hurt him outside the South.

Categories: politics Tags:

January 18th, 2008 No comments

Is Obama a Black Nationalist? I met two people yesterday who were starry-eyed about Obama being a reconciler and unifier. That’s not consistent with his past church choice, as Steve Sailer notes, which was to pick a pastor known for his racism. If a Republican candidate had belonged to a church run by an admirer of the KKK, it would be commented on, but Obama doesn’t get that kind of attention. Yet.

After all, an enormous amount of talk has been devoted to, say, Mitt Romney and his church, even though Romney was born into being a Mormon. In contrast, Obama knew dozens of Chicago pastors through his ethnic organizing job, but, when he figured out that he had to belong to a church to have an effective political future on the South Side, he shopped around and chose Rev. Wright’s church.

It’s not exactly a secret that Obama’s Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. is a radical leftist black racialist. After all, Rev. Wright went with Louis Farrakhan to Libya to meet Col. Gadaffi in 1984, and just last November Wright gave his Lifetime Achievement award to Farrakhan at a big gala at the Chicago Hyatt Regency.

Wright calls his stance “black liberation theology” and relates it to Nicaraguan Marxist liberation theology. But I doubt if 2% of the voters know that. The media haven’t been in any hurry to alert the voters, perhaps because Obama’s supporters have tried to brand the Scarlet R on anyone who mentions anything about Obama other than that he will bring us together to bring about change. (Just as there has been more coverage of Romney’s great-grandfather’s polygamy than of Obama’s father’s polygamy…

Furthermore, reading Obama’s account in his autobiography (for an overall analysis of Obama’s 1995 memoir Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, see my American Conservative article “Obama’s Identity Crisis”), it’s evident that Obama’s concern was not whether Wright was, say, the far left blowhard that he appears to be, but whether Wright’s church was leftist enough for Obama…

In other words, Obama is wondering, in effect, whether Wright can help him reconcile his black racialism with his vaguely Marxist class-strife ideology. See, the “problem,” as Obama saw it in 1987 (and in 1995 when he wrote his autobiography) is that some blacks are getting ahead in the America, which lessens racial solidarity among blacks, and raises contradictions between racialism and socialism, both of which the young Obama wants to believe in.

Categories: media, politics Tags:

January 15th, 2008 No comments

McCain’s Record. For a list of problem’s conservatives should have with McCain’s record, see this Mark Levin article in NRO.

Categories: politics Tags:

January 6th, 2008 No comments

Here’s a Bible story from Judges 10 that I just learned about. Abimelech killed all his brothers, who were the rulers of Shechem, except for Jotham. Jotham told this story to the men of Shechem before he fled.


[7] And when they told it to Jotham, he went and stood in the top of mount Gerizim, and lifted up his voice, and cried, and said unto them, Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you.

[8] The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us. [9] But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honour God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees? [10] And the trees said to the fig tree, Come thou, and reign over us. [11] But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees? [12] Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou, and reign over us. [13] And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees? [14] Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us. [15] And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow: and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon.

Jotham says more to connect this to Abimelech, implying that Abimelech is the bramble and that he and the men of Shechem will come to blows later, which they do.

The main point, I think, is that you have to worry about the motives of anybody who wants to be king. It is Plato’s problem of the Philosopher King stated some centuries earlier.

Categories: politics, religion Tags:

December 10th, 2007 No comments

Huckabee. Governor Huckabee is a sound conservative on most social issues, which is why he is doing so well in the polls and why I like him. He seems to have a penchant for sentimental reprieves of criminals, and the Wall Street Journal says he thinks we are too tough with terrorists and has little affection for free trade. It also says he is vague about his economic policies generally, which I would not find so objectionable if his policy instincts were not questionable. The WSJ likes socially liberal candidates, so it’s not surprising that they are dumping on Huckabee. I’d like to support him, but I worry that he would enjoy cutting bigger-government deals with the Democrats.

Categories: politics Tags:

November 28th, 2007 No comments

Old-Fashioned Liberalism. Marginal Revolution quotes a Herb Gintis review of a Krugman book:

…1950’s liberalism was based on southern white racism and solid support from the unions, neither of which exists any more. There is no future in pure redistributional policies in the USA for this reason. Indeed, if one looks at other social democratic countries, almost all are moving from corporate liberalism to embrace new options, such as Sarkozy in France (French socialists have the same pathetic political sense as American liberals, and will share the same fate).

I am sorry that we can’t do better than Krugman. There are very serious social problems to be addressed, but the poor, pathetic, liberals simply haven’t a clue. Conservatives, on the other, are political sophisticated and hold clear visions of what they want. It is too bad that what they want does not include caring about the poor and the otherwise afflicted, or dealing with our natural environment. Politics in the USA is no longer Elephants and Donkeys; it is now conservative Pigs and liberal Bonobos. The pigs are smart but only care about what’s in their trough. The Bonobos are polymorphous perverse and great lovers, but will be extinct in short order.

Categories: liberalism, politics Tags:

November 26th, 2007 No comments

Democracy: Elections and Referenda. At my workshop today at the business school, the issue came up of whether people’s votes express their preferences or whether they are too easily misled. Can we decide the intensity of feeling over abortion by seeing which candidate wins an election? A referendum would not work as well, since it is a vote on a single issue, so there is no opportunity for tradeoff. Everyone who voted would vote their preference, intense or mild, and the only opportunities for intense preferences to count for more would be in turnout and in spending on advertising to convince those with mild preferences. Interestingly enough, in such a case the presence of many almost indifferent voters could be very helpful in making the vote display intensity too. Someone who is almost indifferent is up for grabs, and so the intensity of other voters can obtain a double vote where it could not if the voter had somewhat stronger views. The danger from a tyranny of the majority is greatest not when there is a large number of voters with weak views, but where there are few such people, but many whose views are just strong to induce them to vote on their own initiative and to be immune to persuasion by the efforts of those with intense feelings.

Categories: politics, research, social regulation Tags:

November 3rd, 2007 No comments

Selective Prosecution. The Taipei Times article “Ma found not guilty in corruption trial” tells of how the KMT government in Taiwan prosecuted opposition party leader Ma for keeping for personal use much of a “special allowance” as mayor of Taipei. It seems that it has been customary for years for officials to treat the allowance as income, and Ma made no secret of doing so, in which case this seems a good example of selective prosecution for political purposes.

Categories: law, politics, prosecutors Tags:

Election Fraud and Fired US Attorney John McKay

October 5th, 2007 No comments

I have read people saying that election fraud has trivial importance in the United States, so the Republicans’ desire for investigations and for identity to be verified for voting is unjustified. Here’s clear evidence against that. Note, too, the behavior of US Attorney John McKay, who was later fired.Click here to read more