Good News and Bad News

Good news and bad news: Romney lost; Obama won.

What’s most depressing about the Obama victory is that it seems to have come largely as a reward for two things: the execrable auto bailout and a despicable campaign of character assassination.

What’s most refreshing about the Romney loss is that it seems to have come largely as a punishment for his cruelly evil immigration rhetoric. (Remember “self-deportation”?) This is tempered somewhat by the fact that Obama seems to have escaped punishment for his cruelly evil immigration policies. (Under Obama, deportations have reached an all-time high.)

Obama, I believe somewhat more than Romney, pitched his rhetoric at an audience presumed to be incapable of critical thinking. It’s a little depressing to be reminded how large that audience must be.

The other big victory of the night, and one much to be celebrated, goes to Nate Silver and his ilk — the true believers in empirical evidence and statistical theory. Silver was accurate across the board. It would have been sad if it had been otherwise. Go Nate.

Any conceivable outcome would have been comforting in some ways and depressing in many others. I’m going to sleep.

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133 Responses to “Good News and Bad News”


  1. 1 1 Tristan

    Just because of the immigration thing, I’m glad Obama won.

  2. 2 2 Phil King

    Hypocrisy is a big winner tonight.
    All or nothing systems on Wall St. and for entrepreneurs. Bad.
    All or nothing when your guy gets the right 49% of the vote. Good.

    I can’t believe how pompous people are over winning an election by the slimmest of margins.

  3. 3 3 Roger

    His cruelly evil immigration rhetoric? By saying that he was against illegal immigration? No, that is not why Romney lost.

  4. 4 4 Bearce

    …despicable campaign of character assassination.

    Where were you four years ago? Might as well go back to the 90′s with that one.

  5. 5 5 Max

    The big winner is the Supreme Court, because opening the floodgates of money proved to be harmless. The election was determined by the usual factors and money played no discernible role (other than increasing the incomes of political operatives and a few lucky TV stations). Go free speech.

  6. 6 6 KS

    Yeah, who would have thought that Nate Silver’s empirical and mathematical approach would triumph over Peggy Noonan’s gut instinct based on yard signs????

  7. 7 7 Nick

    I think the big winner are the people are children that are born poor and need medical attention. People that can’t vote.

  8. 8 8 Harold

    There are many factors in who won or lost. It is a bit dangerous to pick one or two of the contributing factors and put all the blame on them. About 95% of who won or lost was probably because they were republican or democrat. To then say that the 1% extra they won or last due to a particular policy was the cause of the victory / defeat is not entirely accurate.

  9. 9 9 Ken B

    It’s not the economy, stupid!

    I think the numbers I have seen all make sense if you accept one radical premise: the economy played almost no role in this election. Instead it was a ‘public choice’ election. The auto bailout delivered MI and OH for Obama. Immigration gained him huge ground in Florida, and abortion decided at least two senate races. Most of the rest of the country just voted the way they always do.

  10. 10 10 Ken B

    What’s most depressing about the Obama victory is that it seems to have come largely as a reward for two things: the execrable auto bailout and a despicable campaign of character assassination.

    Bravo, and for most of you here — how quickly they forget!

    Examples: distorting Akin, wife-killing, put you all back in chains, implications that opponents of Oabamacare want the poor to die, nasty immigration rhetoric. And note that Steve did not say that Obama himself did the assassinating, and nor do I. But there was a thorough-going campaign from his supporters.

  11. 11 11 Matthew

    Despite his rhetoric towards immigration, Romney was the better candidate and deserved to win.

  12. 12 12 Eliezer

    The silver lining in all of this is that since Americans have proven themselves incapable of making rational choices, we’re probably better off with more central planing anyway. (sniff… I need a tissue.)

  13. 13 13 Economiser

    Great point by Max. Hopefully this result will put to bed the boogeyman of Citizens United.

  14. 14 14 Harold

    “opening the floodgates of money proved to be harmless.” I don’t really see how we can know this without knowing what would have happened, or what will happen in the future.

    Regarding character assasination not by candidates, I think Obama has been on the sharp end as well – anyone remember the birther thing? And lots of people think he is a Muslim. I think it is not clear cut that Romney has been the biggest victim here.

  15. 15 15 Ken B

    @Harold: Good examples but I think you’re missing a key point. Those delusions were old news and didn’t sway voters this time. The smears on Romney seem to have had effect. The WSJ makes the case well about Romney though:

    Mr. Obama’s campaign stitched together a shrunken but still decisive version of his 2008 coalition—single women, the young and culturally liberal, government and other unions workers, and especially minority voters.

    He said little during the campaign about his first term and even less about his plans for a second. Instead his strategy was to portray Mitt Romney as a plutocrat and intolerant threat to each of those voting blocs. No contraception for women. No green cards for immigrants. A return to Jim Crow via voter ID laws. No Pell grants for college.

    This was all a caricature even by the standards of modern politics. But it worked with brutal efficiency—the definition of winning ugly.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204349404578102971575770036.html?mod=rss_opinion_main

  16. 16 16 KS

    @ Ken B–

    “I think the numbers I have seen all make sense if you accept one radical premise: the economy played almost no role in this election. Instead it was a ‘public choice’ election. The auto bailout delivered MI and OH for Obama. Immigration gained him huge ground in Florida, and abortion decided at least two senate races.” Most of the rest of the country just voted the way they always do.

    1. The Democrats would likely have won MI regardless.
    2. I agree the auto bailout sealed the deal for OH for Obama.
    3. That said, Obama still won Virginia and Florida. So he didn’t need either of those two.
    4. In fact, Obama won Iowa, New Hampshire, Colorado, and Nevada. So he in didn’t need Ohio, Virginia, or Florida to win. (Those put him at 271).

    “Most of the rest of the country just voted the way they always do.”

    False.

    Eight years ago, places like Colorado, Virginia, and Nevada were Republican strongholds. The demographics have rapidly changed, however, and the Republican party has to acknowledge that you can likely no longer win a presidential election by appealing primarily to white voters.

  17. 17 17 Andrew

    Ken B:

    To be fair, the GOP gave POTUS much of the ammo he used against Romney. It’s difficult to win rational arguments when the majority of people use emotion to make their decisions.

  18. 18 18 Ken B

    @Andrew: Oh yeah. Akin etc made life tough for Romney. And frankly, except for some of the usual suspects like some on MSNBC or Andrew Sullivan there was less anti-Morman bigotry than I expected.

  19. 19 19 Scott H.

    On to Nate Silver…

    Too much cool-aid drinking by the Romney supporters. Most Republicans I know are shocked by these election results. They should be embarrassed if they are. Reality denial is political kyrptonite.

  20. 20 20 Tony N

    There was indeed a palpable if immeasurable disparity in decency. It can’t be observed objectively; it can’t be broken down into units and quantified; but it was there. Maybe not between the parties or the machines, but between the candidates it was there. A sad night for me.

  21. 21 21 Floccina

    I think that the election and reelection of Obama shows that white Americans are among the least racists people in the world and that is good news (Obama got about 30% of the white vote). On the other hand, I read that polls showed that Romney got less than 0.5% of the Black vote.

  22. 22 22 Ken B

    @TonyN: And it was there last time too. Calling Palin a pig. Giving Hillary the finger. Mocking McCain’s teeth and typing (both the result of his torture). Calling his grandmother a racist.

    (Now, just wait for eruption of the apologists here …)

  23. 23 23 Ken B

    @Scott H: Yup. I was a Romney supporter but I’ve been saying all along Obama would win. I’m a little surprised by a couple states, but I was reasonably close. I know people predicting Romney by 6 or more, with 6+ senate seats gained. Instead we see a close election but a clear democrat victory. Which is sort of the main point here: numbers are better indicators than human intestines.

  24. 24 24 Al V.

    My suspicion is that being a Mormon hurt Romney more than the birther/Muslim topic hurt Obama. Anyone who believes Obama is a Muslim or was born in Kenya probably wasn’t going to vote for him anyway – the only impact that could have had would have been to boost Romney’s turnout slightly.

    People who failed to vote for Romney because he is a Mormon probably cuts across the political spectrum. I wouldn’t be surprised if Romney’s religion surpressed the evangelical turnout slightly.

  25. 25 25 Al V.

    @Floccina, the number I saw was that Romney got 7% of the black vote.

  26. 26 26 Tony N

    @Ken B

    I agree re numbers vs gut. And there was plenty of confirmatory bias impairing right-of-center minds, with mine being no exception. But I do think the Nate Silver thing is a bit overblown. In 2010, Silver put bad data in and got bad data out. This time he put good data in and got good data out.

    There was another super-accurate model available to us all this year; one that wasn’t esoteric and partially proprietary but instead incredibly simple and obvious:

    Trust the proven state polls.

  27. 27 27 Ken B

    @TonyN: Time for me to ‘fess up. I trusted the polls I couldn’t see. Let me explain.

    I trusted the *internal* polls. Pollsters know a lot about how to get a good accurate poll. They learned that by learning all the ways polls can be affected or juiced. A sly pollster can do this in so many ways that the public cannot tell. So I distrust most publicly disclosed polls. But campaigns do their own polling, and need it to be accurate. I could see no sign from either campaign’s behavior that they thought Obama was losing in Ohio or tied in Michigan or Wisconsin. I inferred the internal polls showed him ahead. I trusted that.

  28. 28 28 Tony N

    @Ken B

    Just as good if you ask me. Although, there is still an element of savvy required when using the Ken B Model :)

    Nevertheless, it’s far superior, in my view, to Silver’s one part statistics, one part quantum mechanics, one part unicorn urine, and one part everlasting gobstopper, accurate to one hundredth of point, super-secret-science-sauce model.

    I’m certainly no expert, but I just can’t ignore the suspicion that Nate Silver is little more than the Rube Goldberg of statistical modeling.

  29. 29 29 Brian

    Good news and bad news: Romney lost; Obama won.

    First, this pretty well sums up my feelings as well. Perhaps one bit of good news (if you’re generally skeptical of ever expanding executive power and you’re not particularly convinced that things would be any different under either candidate) is that 2nd term presidencies don’t seem to accomplish much and end up having a sense of lingering lame-duckness to them. I certainly haven’t studied this but it just doesn’t seem the president has nearly as much power within his own party in congress during a 2nd term as during a first making it harder to push through major agenda items. If that’s true, then having a 2nd term president might be (just ever so slightly) better than back-to-back first-termers. I can hope, anyway…

  30. 30 30 Ken B

    The power of understanding demographics and sampling. The true moral: There’s one born every minute. And Nate Silver knows where he lives.

  31. 31 31 Neil

    As I see it, what it takes to win the Republican presidential primaries makes it awfully hard to win the general election, even with the best etch-a-sketch candidate. It is a problem the Republican party will need to address if they ever want to regain the presidency.

  32. 32 32 Paul T

    Bearce: “…despicable campaign of character assassination…
    Where were you four years ago? Might as well go back to the 90′s with that one.”

    Back to the 1790′s, in fact -

  33. 33 33 Ken B

    @Neil: I agree. The GOP is broken.

    The Democrats logically should be as well. Look at the conflicts between some of their blocks, like teachers and inner city parents, or public sector workers and … everyone else! But they seem to be able to hold it together. ‘Public Choice’ scams and demagoguery in part, but also picking the right opponents. How many senate seats have the GOP frittered away with the likes of Angle or Mourdock?

  34. 34 34 David Wallin

    r/30 Neil excellent point. How many Republican house and senate seats could they have won in the last two cycles if they would have kept the more moderate incumbent on the ticket or supported a more moderate challenger? How frequently in these races do we learn really scary things about the Republican candidate swept onto the ticket by a populist (Republican) uprising? Oh, and be the darling of conservatives, but say you support Roe v. Wade, and you’ll lose your primary to the guy who believes in UFOs, Bigfoot, and ESP, so long as he keeps repeating his opposition to abortion.

  35. 35 35 Tony N

    “Oh, and be the darling of conservatives, but say you support Roe v. Wade, and you’ll lose your primary to the guy who believes in UFOs, Bigfoot, and ESP, so long as he keeps repeating his opposition to abortion.”

    Yuuuup.

  36. 36 36 Ken B

    As for Neil’s point I justified (le mot juste) my support for Romney in the primaries by telling friends “He’s not scary.” He was the only contender I could say that about. Pretty sad when “won’t startle the horses” is a serious plus!

  37. 37 37 iceman

    I would’ve found some poetic justice in the prez having to accept the other side of a Faustian bargain struck with his base on the ACA – “hey we know ramming through a partisan version of a landmark piece of legislation using every procedural tactic at your disposal could cost you a second term, but we temporarily have the votes so we want this now!” I also find the rhetorical war on success abhorrent — that’s character assassination of American idealism itself. Where does that even enter into a utilitarian argument for redistribution? I was ready for a referendum on “you didn’t build that” alone, just so we know where we stand. And the alleged war on women (aka war on religion) seemed a manufactured, cynical ploy. But hey the guy clearly has the Midas touch, and probably usually is the smartest person in the room. I just wish it were a little easier to figure out what he actually believes in. But I’m taking 4 more years of gridlock right in stride today.

  38. 38 38 Tony N

    @iceman

    Agreed, wholeheartedly. Two things though:

    1)I’ve seen no evidence that he is likely to be the smartest guy in most rooms, much less one filled with accomplished professionals.

    2) It took him long enough, but it seems toward the end of his first term he finally started to realize that there is plenty of room to pass on either side of Congress via the judiciary and the executive order. One can only hope for gridlock at this point.

  39. 39 39 Ken

    David Wallin,

    How frequently in these races do we learn really scary things about the Republican Democrat candidate swept onto the ticket by a populist (Republican Democrat) uprising? Oh, and be the darling of conservatives liberals, but say you support don’t support Roe v. Wade, and you’ll lose your primary to the guy who believes in UFOs, Bigfoot, and ESP, so long as he keeps repeating his opposition to abortion.

    I think it’s funny this cognitive dissonance that liberals have about abortion and sex. They’re the ones running ads about sex, but, no, no, no, it’s the “scary” republican that cares exclusively about abortion.

  40. 40 40 Scott H.

    @ Ken B & Tony N: My opinion doesn’t come from Nate Silver. I just went to intrade.com. Obama had over 65% chance of wining for at least the whole last month. The people to steer clear of were the right wing talk show hosts.

  41. 41 41 nobody.really

    @30: As I see it, what it takes to win the Republican presidential primaries makes it awfully hard to win the general election, even with the best etch-a-sketch candidate. It is a problem the Republican Party will need to address if they ever want to regain the presidency.

    @32: I agree. The GOP is broken.

    The Democrats logically should be as well. Look at the conflicts between some of their blocks, like teachers and inner city parents, or public sector workers and … everyone else! But they seem to be able to hold it together. ‘Public Choice’ scams and demagoguery in part, but also picking the right opponents. How many senate seats have the GOP frittered away with the likes of Angle or Mourdock?

    @33: [E]xcellent point. How many Republican house and senate seats could they have won in the last two cycles if they would have kept the more moderate incumbent on the ticket or supported a more moderate challenger? How frequently in these races do we learn really scary things about the Republican candidate swept onto the ticket by a populist (Republican) uprising? Oh, and be the darling of conservatives, but say you support Roe v. Wade, and you’ll lose your primary to the guy who believes in UFOs, Bigfoot, and ESP, so long as he keeps repeating his opposition to abortion.

    @34: Yuuuup.

    This is a real game theoretical challenge. Who runs the GOP — and for who’s benefit?

    Thanks to gerrymandering, most House seats are designed to be safe Democratic or safe Republican seats: an elected Congressman of either party does not need to fear a challenge from the other party. Rather, a Congressman needs to fear attack from the more extreme wings of his own party, which might mount a challenge in the next primary. Congressmen face almost no risk for getting nothing done, but they face substantial risk for doing the WRONG thing, for being insufficiently pure. Given these payoffs, what behavior do we expect?

    (These dynamics don’t apply with equal force to senators and governors, because we can’t gerrymand their districts. However, the South is a pretty safe zone for even state-wide Republican candidates.)

    So again, who runs the GOP? If the GOP is run by elected officials, then these officials may well be content with the status quo: They have safe jobs so long as they can be doctrinally pure. Yes, this will turn off the public at large — but the public at large doesn’t vote in your district, so fuck those outsiders. And yes, this dynamic will hamper the GOP’s effort to field an electable presidential candidate — but most elected officials are not running for president, so fuck my fellow party members. Besides, any party can field a reasonably competitive candidate because most elections are referendums on incumbents, not referendums on the challenger; remember, Romney nearly won. Substance counts for much less than people like to imagine.

    You can well imagine a kind of adverse selection death spiral: The Republicans that do lose their seats are Republicans in less safe areas. As these swing-seat Republicans leave, the remaining elected officials come from ever more conservative districts, and there will be ever fewer people opposed to taking doctrinaire positions.

    Why aren’t Democrats trapped in the same dynamic? Not sure, but I suspect it’s because no one knows what Democrats stand for. Democrats still embrace religion, still have Pro-Life members, etc. Bigger tent, fewer loyalty oaths.

  42. 42 42 Will A

    @ Neil #30 and Ken B #32:

    I’m someone who didn’t vote for Romney, but it is possible that the GOP that still controls the house and the majority of state legislatures isn’t broken.

    It is possible that Romney is not – contrary to his own thoughts on the matter – a good executive. There is a difference between being CEO of Bain Capital and CEO of GE, Ford, Cisco, etc.

    It’s just possible that if Romney would have won the election if he hadn’t:
    * Made statements to CNN that the poor are well off (the American poor are way better off than the world, but you don’t say this if you want to win).
    * Tried to make a gentleman’s wager of $10,000 on national TV.
    * Talked about how he loves things, but wants to cut them. I love big bird, I love Jim Leher, I love PBS, I love planned parenthood, but they have to go. (How about saying what is wrong with them that requires them to be cut)
    * Had staff that talked about etch-a-sketches
    * Had an incoherent strategy at his convention.

    There are obviously things that Romney couldn’t control (secretly recorded speech, Hurricane Sandy, etc.)

    But if your calling card is that you are a top executive, you better execute on what you can control.

  43. 43 43 Neil

    @WillA,

    One of the more insightful comments I read somewhere nailed Romney. It said that Romney was successful in his campaign at convincing many voters that he would be a good problem solver. But he was not successful at convincing enough voters that the problems he’d solve were the ones that concern them.

  44. 44 44 Al V.

    We don’t need, or want, the President to be the smartest guy in the room. If we do, then should we have elected Edward Witten to the Presidency? Or who? What we want is a President who is smart enough to know who to listen to. A President who is smart enough to name the right people to the cabinet and judgeships. And a President who knows when it is time to make a decision, and when it is time to wait.

  45. 45 45 KS

    Dr. Landsburg, a theme of your post here seems to be the difference between an empirical/mathematical approach (say Nate Silver) and intuitive punditry (ie, Peggy Noonan).

    My question is, on what basis do you make the following claim?

    “What’s most depressing about the Obama victory is that it seems to have come largely as a reward for two things: the execrable auto bailout and a despicable campaign of character assassination.”

    If you look electorally, Obama would have won if he lost Ohio. He would have won if he lost Ohio and Florida. Heck, he would have won if he lost Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and North Carolina — because he won Colorado, Nevada, and Iowa.

  46. 46 46 Mike H

    Re KS(#45) Yes, I heard some Ohioan bigwig pronouncing “Ohio’s important! They didn’t call the election until they called Ohio” However, it struck be that that’s not evidence that Ohio’s of ultimate importance. It’s evidence that Ohio is located geographically in the central or western part of the United State, so they finish counting at roughly the right time.

    So, here’s a nice math puzzle : how can we determine which state was the “decider”? Part A of the puzzle – what, exactly, does that mean?

  47. 47 47 Steve Landsburg

    KS:

    My question is, on what basis do you make the following claim?

    “What’s most depressing about the Obama victory is that it seems to have come largely as a reward for two things: the execrable auto bailout and a despicable campaign of character assassination.”

    If you look electorally, Obama would have won if he lost Ohio. He would have won if he lost Ohio and Florida. Heck, he would have won if he lost Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and North Carolina — because he won Colorado, Nevada, and Iowa.

    Point well taken.

  48. 48 48 Frozen

    Romney was never a great candidate. Not because he was too moderate or too conservative, but because he was too etch-a-sketch. He really had no ground from which to criticize Obama other than to simply complain about the economy. Romneycare inoculated Obamacare. Nominating Ryan –who really DOES get it– put Mediscare back into play for Obama and didn’t even net Romney Wisconsin. Romney’s taxes were used to great effect against him. His tax plan was so ethereal that no one believed it. He just didn’t offer much to vote for and was only a proxy for a vote against.

    That doesn’t mean that the Republicans are doomed, but they do need to open the tent a little more. For all the Sturm and Drang over the implosion of the Tea Party and “radical” Republicans, one shouldn’t forget just how decisive the 2010 elections were. The fact is that the public remains deeply ambivalent about this president and I like to think that were haven’t yet hit the tipping point of dependency that truly does lock us into Euro-Socialism. Maybe that’s just me being optimistic, though.

    What is more disturbing is that much of the media gets to paint fiscal conservatism as radical, extreme, even “wing nut.” Of course that means that Republicans need to “compromise” which translates into making the tax code even more progressive and collecting more revenue and spending more. Isn’t that much like compromising with the bear by sticking your head into its maw? Fundamentally that IS a dividing line between the parties. Bearce will throw out his social capital argument that 90% of all wealth isn’t generated by the individual and I’ll say the exact opposite. Why is one considered extreme and the other not? It’s disgusting that the notion of property rights –that you keep what you earn and what is yours IS yours– can be described as radical. That is the truly bad news of the night.

    Steve, here’s the real question for you. A few posts ago you claimed that an Obama win would make entitlement reform more likely. Are you still confident of that? I might have a crisp $1 bill (soon to be inflated away to a shiny $0.50 piece) that says otherwise…

  49. 49 49 KS

    @ Mike–

    “Yes, I heard some Ohioan bigwig pronouncing “Ohio’s important! They didn’t call the election until they called Ohio” However, it struck be that that’s not evidence that Ohio’s of ultimate importance. It’s evidence that Ohio is located geographically in the central or western part of the United State, so they finish counting at roughly the right time.

    So, here’s a nice math puzzle : how can we determine which state was the “decider”? Part A of the puzzle – what, exactly, does that mean?”

    Yeah, this election didn’t hinge on Ohio (as in 2004) or Florida (as in 2000). I interpret this election as a result of three things: (1) the subpopulations that make up the American electorate can vary significantly in terms of party preference, (2) the composition of these subpopulations in how they make up the national electorate is changing demographically, and (3) these changes are for the most part benefiting the Democratic party, for now.

    (That’s why Virginia, Iowa, Colorado, and Nevada, once reliably Republican, are now lean Democratic).

  50. 50 50 neil wilson

    Global Warming. Does science make sense or doesn’t it?
    Evolution. Does science make sense or doesn’t it?

    “The true believers in empirical evidence and statistical theory” are not the Tea Party.

    Think about it. Crazy Republicans have cost the Republicans control of the Senate. Maine, Indiana, Missouri, Delaware, Colorado, Nevada. The Senate should be 51-49 Republican.

    What was it that Rove said last time? Something like “You can use your numbers but I have THE NUMBERS!”

    How can we have a political party where they let the crazy people be in charge of the entire party???

  51. 51 51 Harold

    Will A. “There are obviously things that Romney couldn’t control (secretly recorded speech…” This is an odd example of things beyond his control. He could not control the recording, but he could control what he said.

    Ken B. Regarding the predictions, I don’t understand why it is in the interests of polling companies to get the result wrong. If they can acccurately predict the outcome, why would they deliberately get it wrong in the public ones? Obviously polls generated by the parties thenselves are suspect, but there are lots of independent ones, aren’t there? Do they all have vested interests? if so, surely there is a market for an accurate one?

    Floccina: You link the fact that Obama got 30% of the white vote with the assertion that this is demonstration that white Americans are among the least racist in the world. You then cite that Romney only got 0.5% of the Black vote (apparently a wrong figure anyway). There is an implication in your post that white americans are less racist than black americans. This may or may not be true, but the evidence you cite does not demonstrate it. Or have I misinterpreted this? I do believe that white Americans are less racist than they were – a while ago I think it unlikely that a Black man could have been elected because of racism.

  52. 52 52 BC

    Re: Mike H. (#46). I would define the “decider” states as the set with the minimum change in popular vote required to have changed the electoral vote outcome. Heuristically, for example, we could list states in ascending order of popular vote differential divided by electoral votes (“cost” of that gaining that state’s electoral votes in terms of popular votes). Then, take the first N states on this list that, had these states flipped the other way, would have changed the outcome. I’m not sure that this heuristic algorithm actually yields the decider states as I’ve defined them, but it may come close. For example, if the Nth state has more electoral votes than required to change the outcome, then some combination of states lower on the list might yield the minimum number of electoral votes with lower popular vote “cost”.

  53. 53 53 Ken B

    @Harold: “I don’t understand why it is in the interests of polling companies to get the result wrong.”
    Attention, or ideology, or the behest of clients. As for the first (and maybe the second), look up some of the professional analyses of Zogby. Zogby would always have flashy outlier polls and then, near the end, detect ‘movement’ no-one else detected — movement back to the pack. Attention is money. Only the last polls are testable, so polls in-flight are easily smudged.

    There are markets for accurate ones! I cited 2! There are others but you need to learn which. Mine is a search heuristic.

  54. 54 54 Al V.

    I think the poster child for the GOP’s issues with the electorate is Huntsman. He didn’t have a chance of winning the GOP nomination, but I believe he would have beaten Obama easily, if he had been nominated. I am a life long Democrat, but I would have voted for Huntsman, given the opportunity. The GOP’s positions on abortion, immigration, and civil rights (including gay marriage) forced many moderate Republicans into Obama’s camp. For example, conservative Latinos are often anti-abortion and gay rights, but were pushed into Obama’s camp by immigration.

    Under Reagan and GHW Bush, the GOP had a “big tent” philosphy, that allowed people of different perspectives into the party, so long as they adhered to core positions on fiscal policy and the role of government. That alignment has been thrown out the window with the rise of the Tea Party.

  55. 55 55 Ken B

    @Al V 54: Not really the Tea Party. That’s about smaller govt. It’s the social issues — abortion, gay marriage, immigration, school prayer, pot. All those problems are pretty independent of the Tea Party. What the TP did do was scramble the candidate selection process, not always wisely. As has been noted, the primaries generally are where the trouble is.

    Me? I’d go back to the smoke filled rooms that gave us Lincoln, Coolidge, Goldwater. Ain’t gonna happen.

  56. 56 56 Al V.

    Under @BC’s criteria, the deciding state was Colorado. Romney needed to win Florida, Ohio, Virginia, and Colorado to win the election. He still could win Florida. Romney needed a swing of 1.5% in VA, 2.4% in CO, and 1.0% in OH.

    Put another way, Romney needed 190,000 voters to have switched their votes to have won. Or if the GOP had been able to suppress Obama’s turnout by 374,000, Romney could have won.

  57. 57 57 Al V.

    @Ken B 55, if the Tea Party had really been all about fiscal responsibility and smaller government, then Ron Paul or Gary Johnson would have been the nominee. There is a serious evangelical/social conservative streak the in Tea Party – at least in South Carolina where I come from. Just look at who the prominent Tea Partiers are in Congress – the two most notable people who claim the mantle of the Tea Party are Michele Bachmann and Jim Demint, both social idealogues.

  58. 58 58 Ken B

    @Al V and neil wilson: There being no formal Tea Party membership test, opinions must vary. But you seem to argue that

    1) Michele Bachman who couldn’t finish in the top 5 in her own state caucuses was Ms Tea Party.
    2) The Tea Party controls the prinaries and caucuses.

    I suggest 1 and 2 are contradictory. You believe Bachman’s claim to embody the Tea Party; I believe her lack of Tea Party votes. Even in caucuses where Tea Partiers should be over represented.
    She’s a straight up long time evangelical social conservative, and her entry into politics long predates the Tea Party. Herman Cain would be a better example. But he fits my mold better than yours.

  59. 59 59 Ken

    neil wilson,

    Vaccinations. Does science make sense or doesn’t it?
    GMO. Does science make sense or doesn’t it?
    Nuclear power. Does science make sense or doesn’t it?
    Biotechnology and biomedicine. Does science make sense or doesn’t it?

    “The true believers in empirical evidence and statistical theory” are not the Democrat Party.

    Think about it. Crazy Democrats have cost the Democrats control of the House and their super majority in the Senate. And now republicans make up 30 governors, i.e., 60% of governors.

    How can we have a political party where they let the crazy people be in charge of the entire party???

  60. 60 60 Ken B

    @Ken: Yes, this is what bugs me about the “Republican war on science” meme. It’s like Orville Faubus criticizing Augusta National for not having women members.

    And it gets worse. In Canada the left parties had in their platform support for homeopathy!

  61. 61 61 neil wilson

    Vaccinations. Does science make sense or doesn’t it?
    Most all Democrats believe in vaccinations. The kooks of the left don’t run the Democratic party.
    Can a Democrat win the nomination who wants to vaccinate people?
    GMO. Does science make sense or doesn’t it?
    Doesn’t virtually everyone in this country eat GMO?
    Nuclear power. Does science make sense or doesn’t it?

    Biotechnology and biomedicine. Does science make sense or doesn’t it?
    I don’t want to sound like a broken record but all the major Democrats basically believe in those things to some extent.

    Can any Republican win the nomination saying they believe in Global Warming? Evolution?

    National Review had a list of the most dangerous books of all time and listen Darwin’s book.

    Face it. Democrats understand Math. Republicans seem to have decided that Math is some kind of Communist plot. At least Karl Rove has.

  62. 62 62 KS

    “Republicans seem to have decided that Math is some kind of Communist plot. At least Karl Rove has.”

    The problem is, it’s hard to be (1) objective and (2) partisan. Actually it’s impossible.

    As Nate Silver said last night on the Daily Show, the vast majority of the state polling showed a strong chance of Obama victory by a 1-3% margin in the pertinent swing states. As he also added, you could certainly make a scientific case that some of these states are traditionally Republican-leaning, and point to methodological errors with the polls, and claim that the race might be a tossup.

    However, to claim — as many did (Karl Rove, George Will, Dick Morris, etc…) — that Romney was going to win by 5-7 points in a landslide?!?! That implies your views are entirely divorced from, um, reality.

  63. 63 63 Al V.

    @neil wilson 61, I think you are guilty of the same mistake that I made in 57, which is assuming that a segment of a group represents the whole group. I think the Republican Party has three wings:
    1. The rational wing, represented by Gary Johnson and Jon Huntsman. They believe in science, and are willing to admit it. The people often fall into the libertarian camp, who are really small government moderates who don’t care to much about social policy.
    2. The irrational wing, represented by Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann, who don’t believe in science, and will scream it to all who will listen. These people are usually (but certainly not always) evangelical Christians or orthodox Jews.
    3. The lying wing, represented by Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, who believe in science, but are willing to lie about it to get the votes of #2. In their heart of hearts, they are probably close to #1 in beliefs, but are willing to pander to #2.

    But the Democratic Party has much of the same challenges. They just held together better this election, because they were scared of Romney. The Dems’ three camps are:
    1. The airy fairies: folks who believe in junk science like homeopathy or believe that GMOs will harm us all. These are the people who quashed food irradiation, even though the risks are far outweighed by the benefits. Most of the people that I know in this camp believe that the government has infinite money, and don’t see why we can’t just fund anything we want to.
    2. Union members: often social conservatives who fall into the Democratic Party solely because they see benefits from big government.
    3. Moderates: probably not much different from the Republican rationals, except that the prioritize social policy (abortion rights, gay marriage, immigration reform) over fiscal policy.

    And then cutting across both parties are single issue voters, who will put their vote on whomever aligns to their interest on their single issue. These are people like the Israel lobby, who will vote for anyone who will spend money on Israel or against Iran. This year these people backed Romney, but if Paul or Johnson had been the GOP nominee they would have backed Obama. Another example is the immigration supporters. They have moved away from the GOP recently, but many backed Bush and McCain, because they were rational on immigration.

    @Ken B, I was pointing that Ms. Bachmann claimed the mantle of the Tea Party, but you are correct that it appears that the Tea Party largely rejected her.

  64. 64 64 Ken

    neil wilson,

    Most all Democrats believe in vaccinations.

    Most republicans believe in evolution.

    Doesn’t virtually everyone in this country eat GMO?

    Yes, which is exactly why liberal democrats railing against it sound so stupid.

    I don’t want to sound like a broken record but all the major Democrats basically believe in those things to some extent.

    Can any Republican win the nomination saying they believe in Global Warming?

    I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but all the major republicans believe in global warming to some extent, like George W Bush. Mitt Romney believes in evolution. George W Bush managed to win two terms as president as a republican and Mitt Romney was the republican presidential nominee this election.

    While there are certainly republicans that don’t believe in either of those things, there are just as many democrats who are just as bad as those republicans and “deny science” as much as republicans.

    Face it. Democrats understand Math.

    Unless it has to do with money. Don’t forget that Obama thinks that halving the deficit (what he said) means doubling it (what he did) and Biden has claimed that to keep from going bankrupt, you have to spend even more money.

    And democrats are especially wrong about the math of capital gains. Those who pay capital gains pay a higher rate of taxation than those who don’t.

  65. 65 65 Ken

    neil wilson,

    That those who pay capital gains taxes pay higher rates of taxation than those who don’t is furiously denied by democrats, demonstrating very clearly just how bad democrats are at math.

  66. 66 66 John

    Where did you get the assertion that deportations are at an all time high under Obama ? Thanks.

  67. 67 67 Vald

    @John

    That deportations are at an all time high is a pretty well known fact, and one that tends to make the left wing of the democratic party rather angry too (when they don’t pretend its not happening).

  68. 68 68 Harold

    Shawn Otto acknowledges that both political wings have their share of ant-science views, but “Of these two forms of science denialism, the Republican version is more dangerous because the party has taken to attacking the validity of science itself as a basis for public policy when science disagrees with its ideology.”

    There is a difference between believing things for which there is no evidence, but which are scientifically palausible (vaccines cause autism), and believing things that are contradicted by science (ID, no global warming, a position held widely until recently).

    On Romneys expressed views, in June 2011 he said “I believe based on what I read that the world is getting warmer, and number two, I believe that humans contribute to that.”

    Limbaugh had a real go at him over this, and by October it had changed to: “My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet”.

    I think it is more diffiicult for a Republican to maintain support if they express reasonable science views than it is for democrats.

    I largely blame the media. They are collectively are appaling at reporting scientific controversy.

  69. 69 69 neil wilson

    “Limbaugh had a real go at him over this, and by October it had changed to: “My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet”.

    I just heard Rush say, after the election, that “Globabl Warming is a sham.”

    SOmeone mentioned Global Warming at a Romney rally a couple of days ago and was the crowd started shouting “USA, USA”

    Global warming is a tenent of faith for Republicans.

    While I am at it. Megan McCardle(sp) wrote that you don’t have to believe that lowering marginal rates increases taxable receipts. She later admitted she was wrong. A huge portion of the Party jumped all over her.

    Higher rates might be good, they might be bad, but higher rates on income taxes increase revenue. Don’t change the topic to capital gains where you have a lot more control over the timing.

  70. 70 70 Ken B

    “There is a difference between believing things for which there is no evidence, but which are scientifically palausible (vaccines cause autism), ”

    This is dangerous folly. The study on which that whole scare was based was proven to be fraudulent. The lack of a link has been shown over and over and over. California has seen increases in whooping cough (pertusis) because on parents withdrawing their children from vaccination. The horn of Africa region had an epidemic of polio a few years ago when false theories about vaccination spread. There are more examples, in more countries.

    Vaccination is the greatest advance in medical history.

    Perhaps the Republican evolution deniers really are worse, but so far theme parks about dinosaurs as pets haven’t killed anyone. Vaccination alarmists cannot make the same boast.

  71. 71 71 Ken B

    @John 66: Search the TBQ archives. Steve had a post about it a few months ago.

  72. 72 72 Eliezer

    I think I figured something out. Do you know why deportations are so high under Obama?? I think it is because if “un-documented workers” and their employers see this going on, they will push for immigration reform to stop it from happening. That makes Obama the good guy because he can come in and say, “we need to have immigration reform and stop all this deportation.” If they were just stopping the deportation, then there’s no chance for Obama to be the good guy.

  73. 73 73 Eliezer

    In other words, if we always had good policies then there would be nothing to vote for. I think?

    Sorry for the double post.

  74. 74 74 Harold

    Ken B: I was not trying to say that the people who believe vaccines are causing autism are in any way right – they are clearly wrong, and can do great harm. “The study on which that whole scare was based was proven to be fraudulent.” I think you mean the Andrew Wakefield one? There were others as well, tiomersal (thimerosal) in the USA. As wikipedia says, the current scientific consensus is that this does not cause autism. Continuation in the belief after it has been proven to be fraudulent may shift the error into the same camp as the creationists, but there are more recent academic papers in proper journals that keep it alive – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21623535 On reflection, I agree that those who promote the link between vaccination and autism are just as bad – if different- from the others.

  75. 75 75 nobody.really

    Yes, I heard some Ohioan bigwig pronouncing “Ohio’s important! They didn’t call the election until they called Ohio” However, it struck be that that’s not evidence that Ohio’s of ultimate importance. It’s evidence that Ohio is located geographically in the central or western part of the United State, so they finish counting at roughly the right time.

    So, here’s a nice math puzzle: how can we determine which state was the “decider”? Part A of the puzzle – what, exactly, does that mean?

    Nate Silver has a blog post about this. While he had forecast that Ohio would be the “decider” state, his analysis reveals that this honor really belonged to Colorado.

    So, how bad is the news for Republicans? Yes, Republicans have made huge gains in Missouri (10 Electoral College votes) and W. Virginia (5). Meanwhile, Democrats seem to have locked up the Hispanic vote in Florida (29). And it’s not obvious that either trend will change soon.

    Obama won the Electoral College handily and won the popular vote by about 2.5% (some tallies are still trickling in). If Romney had succeeded in attracting an additional 4.5% of the popular vote proportionately, such that Romney won the popular vote by 2%, then he would have been able to win Florida, Ohio, and Virginia – but he STILL would have lost the Electoral College.

  76. 76 76 iceman

    If young people voted overwhelmingly for Obama, can I feel less guilty about the debt they will inherit from our spending?

  77. 77 77 Ken B

    @Harold: The autism lin k is completely bogus and based on fraud.
    Some people are allergic to thimerosol. My better half is, mildly and gets a sore arm usually. Rare allergies are a small risk, as is the damage that can be done by a vaccine. But it’s completely orthognal to autism scares.

    Wearing a helmet whilst motorcycling increases some risks. It reduces others far more of course. If Limbaugh started inveighing about how helmets cause autism though …

  78. 78 78 Ken B

    @Harold: Sorry to seem sharp. You have wondered onto one of my pet peeves and frustrations. Two of them in fact!

    Discalimer: my better half works in pharma but is VERY knowledgeable about these issues.

  79. 79 79 Ken B

    “So, how bad is the news for Republicans?”

    Not as bad as it is for Americans. Ba-rum-ba!

    I’m not sure the combinatorics are as bad as you say, since any gains won’t be spread evenly. But the POLITICS are terrible since I cannot see the GOP shedding its skin on abortion and social conservatism anytime soon. The dems were smart enough to tone it down on gun copntrol once it became clear that hurt them. I don’t think the repubs can manage the same trick quite so easily.

    This is related to my disagreement with Al V et al. The Tea Party impulse, cut spending, can form part of a sellable package if you can domesticate it, and pick good candidates. The social conservative evangelical Mourdock-Akin stand on abortion cannot be.

  80. 80 80 nobody.really

    The big winner is the Supreme Court, because opening the floodgates of money proved to be harmless. The election was determined by the usual factors and money played no discernible role….

    Not so fast: The New Republic speculates that Romney lost because – he was underfunded!

  81. 81 81 Al V.

    I suspect that most of the readers of this blog have libertarian leanings. And as I posted above, I really believe that a small government social libretarian could win a general election, if he (or she) could get nominated. But how could that person get a major party nomination? A candidate for abortion rights and gay marriage can’t get the Republican nomination, so it seems that the only opportunity is to find a small government/fiscally responsible Democrat. Who would that be?

  82. 82 82 Ken B

    @Al V: It would be one of the few Americans now legally debarred from being elected.

    You put your finger on why I used to leam democrat and do so no longer: the JFK, Sam Nunn, William Proxmire, Bill Clinton wing of the party. Now gone the way of the dodo.

  83. 83 83 Ken

    I just heard Rush say, after the election, that “Globabl Warming is a sham.”

    The last time I checked, Rush Limbaugh is not, nor ever was, a politician.

    Additionally, AGW is a sham as can be seen primarily be seen by the actions of the people who supposedly believe AGW is real. After all, if Al Gore, an actual politician who sought political office unlike Rush Limbaugh, really believed his own theory, why did he buy an $8 million house that, by his own projections, would be under water in a few decades? Is he bad at math, is he bad at science, or is he lying about AGW just to gain elected office?

    Don’t change the topic to capital gains where you have a lot more control over the timing.

    Translation: “I’m not good at math, so don’t bring up examples where math is used that clearly demonstrates I am not good at math.” My argument was never that a capital gains tax was good or bad, as you want to argue, but that the tax rates paid by those who pay capital gains as computed by democrats are completely wrong, demonstrating that democrats don’t even understand basic math, like subtraction and division.

  84. 84 84 Ken
  85. 85 85 Harold

    Ken – does it not worry you that your arguments against AGW have nothing to do with the science or evidence?

  86. 86 86 Will A

    @ Ken and neil wilson:

    Here is some gallup math for your discussion:
    http://www.gallup.com/poll/155003/hold-creationist-view-human-origins.aspx

    58% of Republicans believe in creationism.
    41% of Democrats believe in creationisms.

    So Ken is clearly wrong is saying that the majority of Republicans believe in evolution. In your face Ken.

    However, I think that this data though confirms Ken’s point about different parties have different coalitions. With 41% of Democrats (how I tend to vote) believing in evolution, I wouldn’t take on a mathier than thou attitude.

    Lastly neil, when Democrats talk about “what’s wrong with Kansas” and say that religious conservatives below the 75% income level should vote their pocketbooks. This is clearly an effort to increase their percentage of voters who don’t believe in evolution.

  87. 87 87 Ken B

    @Harold:
    If another Ken may interject …
    I think the world is warming. I think mand-made CO2 probably plays a role, but that the role is smaller than Gore and his ilk say. I certainly think the error bars are wide, other causes such as sunspots are not easily dismissed, and the science is therefore not settled. I think all the long term simulations unreliable, and the models have failed at even 10 year forecasts. I also think the costs have been hyped but not the benefits. Cold kills too. I think that we cannot acurately predict the consequences, and that even if we could it’s odd to demand that costs that could be ameliorated or averted by future technology, or defrayed over 100 years by a richer world, should be born in a short span by the poor of the world today.

    Does it worry me that my argument is about certainty, costs, and fairness not science? No.

  88. 88 88 Ken

    does it not worry you that your arguments against AGW have nothing to do with the science or evidence?

    Nope. For things I really don’t know too much about and can’t really dedicate the time and effort to really delve into the science, I rely on the signals being sent from those who do. I’m sure you can’t put a coherent picture together from the work that’s been done studying AGW, unless you are an academic who researches this or works on the IPCC. One can only be an expert in only two or three things and must rely on experts in other fields to analyze the science of their field. If you’re claiming that you are not a climate scientist, yet understand the science, I’m calling bullshit.

    There are two ways to rely on others for information. You can rely on their statements or rely on their actions. It’s far more reliable to rely on their actions, as it’s easy to lie, but it’s difficult to escape reality. For example, if I was the CEO of a large company and I told everyone the company was strong, but was divesting myself of most of my shares in the company would you believe me? If I really believed in the strength of the company, don’t you think I’d be buying stock, or at least not selling?

    For those who are yelling about how awful AGW is due to carbon emissions, yet are living a jet setting life-style releasing carbons all over the place, orders of magnitude greater than the average American, you have to ask yourself just how serious they are. If they really believed ecologic disaster was imminent, would they really be acting in such a manner that they claim will only hasten their demise? I don’t. Do you?

  89. 89 89 Ken

    In your face Ken.

    Oh burn!

  90. 90 90 Neil

    You really need to learn about the prisoner’s dilemma, Ken. People often take individual actions that are counter to those they would take if everyone could coordinate their actions.

  91. 91 91 Ken B

    “You really need to learn about the prisoner’s dilemma, Ken.”
    Can you hum a few bars? Or did you mean the other Ken?

  92. 92 92 Martin-2

    Neil (90) – A good refutation of the claim about Al Gore’s lifestyle. But the observation about Al Gore’s house is still compelling. Then again, Al Gore isn’t a scientist either.

  93. 93 93 Will A

    @ Ken #89:

    I was just trying to channel the oblivious poster who doesn’t realize that the data they are quoting actually disproves a point they are making.

    I meant no offense in that post (toward you).

  94. 94 94 neil wilson

    #83>“I just heard Rush say, after the election, that “Globabl Warming is a sham.”

    >The last time I checked, Rush Limbaugh is not, nor ever was, a politician.

    The last time I checked, Rush Limbaugh was the undisputed KING of the Republican Party. No one in the Republican party can say anything bad about him and survive. (OK, it is an overstatement but Rush is by far the most powerful person in the Republican Party.)

    >Additionally, AGW is a sham as can be seen primarily be seen by the actions of the people who supposedly believe AGW is real. After all, if Al Gore, an actual politician who sought political office unlike Rush Limbaugh, really believed his own theory, why did he buy an $8 million house that, by his own projections, would be under water in a few decades? Is he bad at math, is he bad at science, or is he lying about AGW just to gain elected office?

    What is the point of living? Basically to enjoy yourself. Gore made a ton of money after he left office and is spending some of it. Not that it matters because even billionaires don’t have much effect on AGW but I bet that Gore’s carbon footprint is less than 10% of Romney’s. Just a guess and I could be off, maybe it is 50% of Romney’s.

    >Don’t change the topic to capital gains where you have a lot more control over the timing.

    >Translation: “I’m not good at math, so don’t bring up examples where math is used that clearly demonstrates I am not good at math.” My argument was never that a capital gains tax was good or bad, as you want to argue, but that the tax rates paid by those who pay capital gains as computed by democrats are completely wrong, demonstrating that democrats don’t even understand basic math, like subtraction and division.

    I will wager my master’s in math and my job using non-linear optimization techniques to reduce corporation’s income taxes against your math background on anything tax related.

    There is not a single case in the last 25 years where lowering personal income tax rates did not reduce government revenue. There is not a single case in the last 25 years where raising personal income tax rates did not increase government revenue.

    Go back and look at the people who said that the Clinton tax increases would reduce revenue. Were they right or were they wrong?

    We can argue about the Bush tax cuts but it is pretty obvious that the economy of the Bush years were the worst 8 years since when? The 30’s?

    What tax increases took place in the last 4 years?

  95. 95 95 Harold

    Ken B: I disagree with the first part of your post – in degree. Obviously there are uncertainties, but the models have not failed. They were never intended tobe 10year forecasts. The uncertainties go both ways, and many indicators have been under-estimated in the IPCC reports, the scientists taking a too-cautious position. Sunspots are within the known science, and the science is settled in terms of the warming is happeneing and is man-made, and will very, very likely be within the range predicted by the IPCC. I am happy to accept the concensus opinion of experts in the vaccination vs autism case. Equally I am prepared to accept the overwhelming concensus of climatologists about the climate.

    Your second point I agree more with – that the steps we should take are less obvious. Best estimates are that current trends will result in very large net financial loss after 2050 or so, but maybe even a gain for few years yet. The overall costs are likely to be much larger the longer we carry on as we are, but the costs won’t become due for many years. Many actions taken now in the name of globalwarming are laughable, and will have very little benefit. The Greens are often as bad – it is difficult for me to see how you can take global warming seriously and not consider nuclear to be essential as part of the solution.

    However, if we reject the evidence, we cannot possibly arrive at a sensible answer about what we should do.

    Ken: “to really delve into the science, I rely on the signals being sent from those who do.” Surely the signals you should be listening to are those from the scientists?

  96. 96 96 Will A

    @ neil wilson:

    Are you really a Democrat or are you really a Republican pretending to be the irrational Democrat.

    When you make the argument:

    There is not a single case in the last 25 years where lowering personal income tax rates did not reduce government revenue. There is not a single case in the last 25 years where raising personal income tax rates did not increase government revenue.

    You are basically arguing that there are potentially multiple times before 1987 where lowering personal imcome tax rates have increased government revenue.

  97. 97 97 neil wilson

    “You are basically arguing that there are potentially multiple times before 1987 where lowering personal imcome tax rates have increased government revenue.”

    That is an interesting point you are making.

    I was trying to avoid any possible argument that lowering the top rate from 70% increased or decreased taxes. I think there is a good argument that lowering the top rate from 90% to 70% actually increased revenue. To answer your question directly, I don’t know how many times we lowered rates and increased revenue.

    I haven’t studied ancient history enough to understand what happened in the 60′s. I think the 80′s are far too complicated because the biggest tax cut in history in 81 was followed by one of the largest tax increases in history in 82.

    There is some logic to the Laffer curve but it should be obvious which side of the curve we are on when we talk about top rates of less than 50%. I also am not smart enough to know what the effective top rate is in places like California or New York City.

    My career has been in avoiding/evading corporate taxes, not personal taxes.

  98. 98 98 John K

    “Obama, I believe somewhat more than Romney, pitched his rhetoric at an audience presumed to be incapable of critical thinking. ”

    yeah, probably.

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/27847/majority-republicans-doubt-theory-evolution.aspx

  99. 99 99 Babinich

    Steve Landsburg,

    If you would be so kind to tell us what your predictions are (jobs, spending, after tax take home pay, all the good stuff) for the next four years?

  100. 100 100 Chicago Jack

    @94
    Neil,

    If we were on the downward sloping side of the Laffer curve, we should be able to see an increase in revenue in both 1981 and after 2001. Regarding the Bush tax cuts in 2001, where Bush cut taxes from 39.6%->36%, 36%->33%, 31%->28%, 28%->25% in marginal tax rates, and obviously the Regan tax breaks in 1981. In 1980, this was a time when the top marginal tax rate was 70%, and the lowest was 14%. Regan cut it down from 70 to 50 and to the bottom tax rate from 14 to 11. So lets look at the graph.

    Clearly, there are two conditions we need to address before we evaluate the revenue as a percentage of gdp graph. We need to consider booms and recessions (where average income tax revenue is positively correlated with these two activities), and also this graph includes capital gains taxes as well as income taxes (there s a positive correlation between rapid stock price changes and this graph).

    So notice in the graph: Accounting for the 1981-1982 recession and the temporary increase before that, despite the GDP growth in the 1980′s, government revenue remains relatively unchanged. After 1991-1992 recession, the rapid growth of gdp and the unusually high rate of growth in stock market prices cause revenues to increase until the decline in stock prices in 2000 and the 2001 recession hits. After, we see this percentage decrease even further.

    So even evaluating this just from a qualitative perspective, and knowing a little history, I think we can safely say we are on the good side of the Laffer curve.

    I apologize for the awkward link. It was the quickest one I could find from FRED:
    http://static4.businessinsider.com/image/5033e7836bb3f7e45e00000c-900/as-a-percent-of-the-economy-though-federal-tax-revenue-is-actually-well-below-average-only-17-of-gdp.jpg

  101. 101 101 Ken

    Neil,

    Your responses to me are a series of straw men. Your response to the fact that Gore doesn’t act like global warming is a crisis by say he should enjoy his millions and Romney’s carbon footprint may be larger? I never said Gore shouldn’t enjoy his millions. There are tens of thousands of other mansions that he isn’t predicting will be under water in a decade.

    As for saying reducing tax rates reduces revenue, again this is NOT what I was arguing. I said very clearly that my post on capital gains tax rates was about how democrats are BAD at math. With your grandiose masters in math can you refute Steve’s logic, who has a PhD in math as if degrees matter, that those who pay capital gains taxes pay higher rates than those who don’t or are you going to change the subject again to gov revenues rather than talk about tax rates paid?

  102. 102 102 neil wilson

    To try and keep things simple:
    If we raise the top rate to 39.6% tax revenue will go up.

    Anyone disagree?

  103. 103 103 Mike H

    @Ken #88 If they really believed ecologic disaster was imminent, would they really be [Jetsetting]?

    I think you’ve misunderstood what “they” believe.

    Suppose I’m a politician or scientist or journalist who believes in anthropogenic global warming, and realises that it’s a disaster. I will quickly realise that my own consumption makes virtually no difference – I can double or halve my emissions and the effect will nil. Or maybe 0.000000001 degrees. Instead, my only hope is to persuade a few billion people to reduce their carbon emissions. To do this, I might have to attend a few conferences and give speeches in other countries.

    So, Ken, do this happening? Are “they” behaving in a manner consistent with their beliefs?

  104. 104 104 Ken

    To try and keep things simple:
    If we raise the top rate to 39.6% tax revenue will go up.

    Anyone disagree?

    I see you’re still trying to change the subject. So, to try to keep things simple: People who pay capital gains taxes pay higher tax rates than those who do not pay capital gains taxes. Anyone disagree?

  105. 105 105 Ken

    Mike H,

    Are “they” behaving in a manner consistent with their beliefs?

    No.

  106. 106 106 Ken

    Mike H,

    If you by “belief” you mean these people believe in AGW, the answer is clearly “No”.

  107. 107 107 Harold

    Ken.
    ” After all, if Al Gore… really believed his own theory, why did he buy an $8 million house that, by his own projections, would be under water in a few decades?”

    A while ago there was a whole post on TBQ about Gore’s house. http://www.thebigquestions.com/2010/05/13/from-an-eternal-perspective/

    So you do not have to go far to get some high quality arguments about this.

    The upshot was that the best estimate of the elevation of his house was betweeen 50 and 180 ft above sea level. There was also no substantiation that Gore had said that the sea level rise would be catastrophic within a few years. It seems you are totally wrong that this house would be underwater by his own predictions.

    Either you are re-circulating tired old mis-information, or perhaps you have new evidence to support your claim?

  108. 108 108 Ken B

    @Harold: Thanks for the link. Especially as it undercuts you!

    The issue is not the IPCC predictions, but the mega catastrophe Gore told us 12 years ago would be upon us by now. It is quite possible to take AGW seriously without being an alarmist, and to be an alarmist without being a Gore-scale alarmist. He had irrevocable doom arriving even before the end of the Mayan calendar.

  109. 109 109 Harold

    Ken B. I am not an expert in Al Gore, so I can’t speak with authority on what he said or not. However, the issue is whether he bought a house he predicted would be underwater.

    I have not seen a reference that he said there would be sea level rise catastrophically by 2012. I have seen reference to possible catastrophic rise in the more distant future. I would be grateful if you could point out where he said that sea levels would rise by say, 10ft by 2012.

    Whether he actually said this or not, Ken’s reason for doubting AGW is invalid because house is much higher than that above sea level – unless you can show me where he said sea levels would rise by over 50ft in a decade or so?

    If you want to use second hand indicators, at least pick ones that show what you want them to.

  110. 110 110 Ken B

    @Harold: No, the issue is whether his house would drop sharply in value.

    Gore predicted we would reacha tipping point where the warming and its harm would become irrevocable. He gave a time frame of 10-15 years and he did it more than 10 years ago.

    So two points.
    1. You don’t need to build a rendering plant in my neighbourhood to drive down house values. You jusat have to announce you will and be believed.
    2. Flooding a town can destroy the value of all parts of the town if it detroys roads and infrastructure. Also if the flooding will continue. See point 1 for more on this.

  111. 111 111 Harold

    Ken B the tipping point could come a long way before the problem manifests.
    And I just looked back – Ken’s post definitely says Gore predicted his house would be underwater, not just that the value may have gone down. Given the context of the post, I don’t think a charitable interpretation for hyperbole is appropriate.

  112. 112 112 Ken B

    @Harold: I wasn’t addressing that as my point about projected values makes clear. The point was about ‘those who tell me it’s a crisis’ not acting like it’s a crisis. Gore is an example of that.

    While a tipping point could logically come before the problem manifests itself (AIDS for example) that was not something Gore ever argued. Remember all the melting glaciers, etc? Gore was slightly less understated than the Comet Kahoutek people.

  113. 113 113 neil wilson

    #104″I see you’re still trying to change the subject. So, to try to keep things simple: People who pay capital gains taxes pay higher tax rates than those who do not pay capital gains taxes. Anyone disagree?

    No!!!

  114. 114 114 Mike H

    Ken #105, who, specifically, do you think is behaving in a manner inconsistent with their stated belief that 1) the climate is changing, 2) this is a bad thing, 3) the only way to prevent disaster is for billions of people to overall reduce their use of fossil fuels?

  115. 115 115 Mike H

    People who pay capital gains taxes pay higher tax rates than those who do not pay capital gains taxes. Anyone disagree?

    IF we define “tax rate” as “the rate of consumption tax we’d have to impose to eliminate all income taxes and have the person’s consumption remain unchanged”, THEN
    People who
    * earn,
    * are taxed,
    * invest some of what they earned,
    * obtain investment income,
    * are then taxed on the investment income
    ARE taxed at a higher rate that people who
    * earn,
    * are taxed,
    * spend everything on consumption.

    However, people who
    * earn,
    * disguise their earned income as capital gains
    * pay capital gains taxes,
    pay a LOWER* rate of tax than people who
    * earn,
    * declare their earnings as earned income
    * pay income tax, and do not pay capital gains taxes.

    You must be careful about exactly what you mean by “pay capital gains tax”

    Footnotes :
    * depending on their jurisdiction, of course. Tax laws are complicated.

  116. 116 116 Harold

    Ken B. Whether Gore is behaving consistently with his stated beliefs is a side show, and not really worth spending enough time to verify or otherwise. No-one has shown me where he said he believed there would certainly be catastrophic sea level rise in a decade. I am not going to waste time seeking something that may not exist. A judge found that he made an error in saying sea level rise of 20ft would be caused by melting ice-sheets “in the near future”. The judge said the best science predicted this would take millenia. In this context, 2 or 3 centuries is “the near future”. The same judge ruled that the film could be shown in schools as long as it was accompanied by guidance notes pointing out the errors. “Mr Justice Burton said he had no complaint about Gore’s central thesis that climate change was happening and was being driven by emissions from humans.”

    As I said, this is a side-show, and a very poor basis for deciding what you believe about global warming.

  117. 117 117 Ken B

    ” this is … a very poor basis for deciding what you believe about global warming.”

    But no-one said it was probative about global warming. They said it was probative about whether global warming is a crisis.

    Here’s an example.

    Apple seeds contain cycanide. Eat enough of them quickly and you’ll die. I’ll happily explain this truth to you while munching apple seeds because the dose is really low. If I stood there munching apple seeds whilst yelling about the threat from the deadly ASC (apple seed cyanide) and demanding money and power to deal with this crisis, I think you’d be skeptical even if you knew no organic chemistry. That wouldn’t make you a apple-seed-cyanide denier would it?

  118. 118 118 Harold

    If the only information available were you eating apple seeds and what you said to me, I would doubt the toxicity of apple seeds. I would of course, go look up as reliable information as I could to verify or otherwise your assertions. I would discover quite easily the real situation. I would not go around telling people that apple seeds are halmless becasue I had seen you eating them. For all I know you are suicidal.

    But the correct analogy here is even more tenuous. All I have is second hand reports that you said one thing and did another. There appears to be no evidence that your principle belief is that apple seed are a crisis, even if you said something that some people interpreted as such once.

    If you were to claim a link bewteen cancer and smoking, but you had smoked, or even still smoked, I would not reject your claim only on that basis.

    If the point you are trying to make is that we are not about to be submerged under a 20ft tidal wave, then I agree with you. But since nobody is seriously suggesting policy on that basis, it is irrelevant.

    But the claim was not that the crisis is exagerated; it was ” AGW is a sham as can be seen primarily be seen by the actions of the people who supposedly believe AGW is real.” No mention of crisis – the word was sham “Something false or empty that is purported to be genuine”.

    The evidence to support this was of one person, and is not valid. There are many explanations why Gore would behave as he did and believe in AGW. If you choose to accept one interpretation – that he must not believe in AGW because he behaved as he did. then I think you are sufffering form confirmation bias.

    You may have entierly different claims, but I responded to those separately.

  119. 119 119 Al V.

    @ Ken 104, Yes. I disagree. Mitt Romney paid an effective rate of 13% for tax year 2011, because most of his income was from capital gains. My effective tax rate for tax year 2011 was around 20%, because while I had some capital gains, most of my income was from wages.

  120. 120 120 Paul T

    Scott H: “Too much cool-aid drinking by the Romney supporters. Most Republicans I know are shocked by these election results. They should be embarrassed if they are. Reality denial is political kyrptonite.”

    A percipient piece by someone who concurs:
    WSJ, 11/13/12:
    http://online.wsj.com/article/global_view.html

  121. 121 121 Steve Landsburg

    Al V:

    @ Ken 104, Yes. I disagree. Mitt Romney paid an effective rate of 13% for tax year 2011, because most of his income was from capital gains. My effective tax rate for tax year 2011 was around 20%, because while I had some capital gains, most of my income was from wages.

    And if your 2010 income had been taxed at 15% in 2010 and then the same income had been taxed again at 15% in 2011, would you still describe your tax rate as 15%?

  122. 122 122 Paul T

    iceman: “I was ready for a referendum on “you didn’t build that” alone, just so we know where we stand…. I just wish it were a little easier to figure out what he actually believes in.”

    Obamarxism.

    In 2008, he was a cipher, an empty suit. Astonishingly, this was an ASSET! He stood for nothing, for everything; voters could project whatever they wanted. And anointed the Messiah.

    His program is centralization of power, Big Brother will run your life. And always was, since his youth. The voters know this now, and re-elected him.

    The difference between Obamney, in substance, is hair thin. But symbolically, it’s a watershed moment – the moochers now outnumber the makers. We’re on the european track, to stagnation and delapidation. California is already Greece, the Obamarxists want to take everyone down that road.

    Amazingly, the most dynamic, entrepreneurial country is COMMUNIST China! Who thought we’d ever see the day -

  123. 123 123 Will A

    @ Paul T #122:

    California is much more like Germany in a European analogy. 21% of federal revenues collected from California go to other states.

    Mississippi and Alabama are much more like Greece in that they get hand outs from other states.

    You can see from the following link that there is a pretty strong correlation with the moochers voting Republican and the makers voting Democratic.

    http://taxfoundation.org/sites/taxfoundation.org/files/docs/sr139.pdf

  124. 124 124 Frozen

    “Mississippi and Alabama are much more like Greece in that they get hand outs from other states.”

    Is there a reason you left out NM and HI or DC? I agree on the whole that Red states have a ratio greater than one but so do some Blue states. I would be more interested in a demographic breakdown by income and voting preference. I suspect that very high earning coasties voted their guilt with Obama, lower earning southerners voted their conservative values with Romney, and low earning urban core voted their federal assistance with Obama.

  125. 125 125 Frozen

    Mike #114

    Ken #105, who, specifically, do you think is behaving in a manner inconsistent with their stated belief that 1) the climate is changing, 2) this is a bad thing, 3) the only way to prevent disaster is for billions of people to overall reduce their use of fossil fuels?
    ——————–
    That’s easy. As pointed out by Ken that would be Al Gore and the perennial IPCC panels flitting around the globe to talk up the crisis. If you are truly that concerned about carbon emissions, then why can’t you pick up a phone or skype? Just more of the same “for thee, not for me” hypocrisy.

    Gore:
    http://www.factcheck.org/2009/06/al-gores-mansion/
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamestaylor/2011/06/29/is-al-gore-a-fossil-fuel-industry-mole/

    As to the Gold LEED certification I can personally attest to its silliness. I guarantee that my house is more efficient than Gore’s. I built it in ICF with an average wall insulation of R40. Additional attic insulation. Triple pane windows with IR reflectors and geothermal HVAC and hot water. Lumber from sustainable forestry. I barely qualify for silver certification because of other factors requiring proximity to certain “planned community” features as well as the fact that I have a respectable chunk of land and my square footage is too large (but still substantially smaller than Gore). Gore gets a skate because he buys some green energy. Please.

  126. 126 126 Will A

    @ Frozen #124:

    I think I said correlation. Besides, I was more being ironic. I wouldn’t call people in Alabama moochers more than I would call people in California moochers.

    I’d like to think that anyone who works is a producer. Whether you’re driving a truck, running a local convient store, or investing in companies, you are working and a person who has value.

    I think that the moocher/maker argument that is bubbling up as a talking point amoung some conservatives (Bill O’Reily, Paul T #122, etc.) is interesting.

    Depending on the unemployment statistic you use, the unemployment rate is somewhere between 7 and 15%. This means an 85% employment rate.

    Obama got 50% of the vote. Does this mean that about 40% of employed Americans are moochers.

    Asian Americans voted more overwhelmingly for Obama than hispanics. Hard to call Asian Americans a group of moochers. For sure hard to say they don’t know math:
    http://jadeluckclub.com/math-scores-lag-world-asian-americans-math-scores-highest-united-states/

    I know that Bill O’Rielly and Paul T #122 don’t speak for all Republicans. However, if I were a Republican, I would be really worried that this attitude gets hung on Republicans in general:

    Hey you mooching Asians. Don’t you know that your free loading ways are ruining our country. The Republican party needs to take our country back. Remember vote Republican 2016.

  127. 127 127 Harold

    Frozen: I think you missed the part that said “billions of people” need to cut their CO2 emissions. Gore is one person, so you can easily hold those beliefs, while behaving as he does, as long as you think the other 999,999,999 plus will cut their emissions.
    Oh – your fact check link concludes that the email suggesting Gore uses more power than average is now out of date.

  128. 128 128 Harold

    Ken B – I will respond over here. I don’t quite know what you mean by crisis. Nobody is predicting sudden innundation. The prediction is that the big problems will start 2050 or so, but these are becoming more and more likely.

    Regarding the Daily Mail article – from this article:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2012/11/short-term-trends-another-proxy-fight/#more-13283

    •The linear trend from August 1997 to August 2012 (181 months) is 0.03ºC/decade.

    •The trend from August 1975 to July 1997 is 0.16ºC/dec, and the trend to August 2012 is 0.17ºC/dec.

    •The ten years to August 2012 were warmer than the previous 10 years by 0.15ºC, which were warmer than the 10 years before that by 0.17ºC, which were warmer than the 10 years before that by 0.17ºC, and which were warmer than the 10 years before that by 0.17ºC.

    •The continuation of the linear trend from August 1975 to July 1997, would have predicted a temperature anomaly in August 2012 of 0.524ºC. The actual temperature anomaly in August 2012 was 0.525ºC.

    So in summary, if you take only 1997-2012, it looks like warming has stopped. If you take a longer trend, it looks like it is continuing at about the same rate since 1975.

    I am concerned that this will degenerate into a global warming discussion, which while interesting is not the point here. Please feel free to come back with a reply, but I don’t intend to enter into a long discussion here. I think you feel likewise.

  129. 129 129 Ken B

    @Harold: “I don’t quite know what you mean by crisis.”

    Requiring immediate and drastic action.

  130. 130 130 Harold

    Ken B – OK, now we have to define “drastic” :)

  131. 131 131 Ken B

    @Harold: “drastic: adj: More than I would do.”

    :)

    As you can see from my earlier comments, I mean forcing the costs on the current populace rather than deferring action to the future.

  132. 132 132 neil wilson

    October 2012: Earth’s 5th warmest October on record

    By Dr. Jeff Masters
    Published: 5:18 PM GMT on November 15, 2012

    http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/article.html

    Just sayin

  133. 133 133 Harold

    Ken B. “As you can see from my earlier comments, I mean forcing the costs on the current populace rather than deferring action to the future.”

    This is a very reasonable debate to have. (I note some value laden language – should the current population bear the cost rather than force it on future ones may be more appropriate phrasing.) This is where we should be focusing our attention. Given the best estimates of the consequences, what action (if any) should we take? If we wish not to take action, it should be for valid reasons rather than made up ones.

    The US Govt assesses the social cost of carbon to be $21 per tonne (central estimate). This is based on best estimates of impacts, and does discount for the future.
    http://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/appliance_standards/commercial/pdfs/sem_finalrule_appendix15a.pdf

    There are criticisms that the discounting is too high. It uses market interest rates of 2.5-3% rather than social welfare formula such as Ramsey’s formula, because it is so difficult to assign values. The criticism is that it takes only the highest interst rates without giving reasons for rejecting lower interest rates for long-term investments. It also does not give “equity weighting” for relative income in different regions.
    http://www.ourenergypolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/fulltext.pdf

    Whatever the criticisms, it seems that the best economic analysis assigns a positive cost to producing CO2 today. The bennefits of mitigation will outweigh the cost by this amount AFTER considering future growth etc.

    There is criticisms of the rates assigned – the link above considers a better value to be between $57 and $252 per tonne. The values are higher because they use a lower discount rate, and use equity weighting. Stern used 1.4%, which give a higher cost.

    Maybe there are other estimates that are lower. What we actually do about it is another matter. I think Bob Murphy has some posts on this issue, showing that a carbon tax could be counter productive for complex economic reasons. Fine – lets discuss that. But it is senseless to deny that there are costs when they have been calculated using recognised economic principles. This is in effect assuming a cost of zero, when we have very good evidence that it is higher than that.

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