Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hindsight bias

The economy, “super PAC” money, debate performances, the candidates’ personalities. Roll it all together, and it’s obvious who’s going to win.

Or, uh, it will be.  Amid the many uncertainties of next Tuesday’s presidential election lies one sure thing: Many people will feel in their gut that they knew the result all along. Not only felt it coming, but swear they predicted it beforehand — remember? — and probably more than once.

These analysts won’t be hard to find. They will most likely include (in addition to news media pundits) neighbors, friends, co-workers and relatives, as well as the person whose reflection appears in the glare of the laptop screen. Most will also have a ready-made argument for why it was inevitable that Mitt Romney, or Barack Obama, won — displaying the sort of false, after-the-fact “foresight” that psychologists call hindsight bias.


OK:  I'll make MY prediction beforehand, at the risk of being a "Nimrod". Romney will win as a beneficiary of the Bradley effect -- JR.


Does Obama Have White Voter “Problem”?

Some polls have found that white support for President Obama has dropped to unprecedentedly low levels, and this topic is getting no end of media attention. Gawker wrote “Gee, White Voters really don’t like Barack Obama. Huh.”

But this misses a central point: Since the mid-1970’s Democrats have had a white voter “problem.” Obama is a Democrat. This is by far the best lens through which to view white support for Obama.  Conversely, it is also the best lens through which to view black support for Obama.  For example, LBJ received essentially the same level of black support in 1964 as did Obama in 2008.

This is not to say that race doesn’t matter or that Obama’s race wasn’t important in 2008.  It might have been.  It’s just to say that party is much more important in understanding Obama’s white racial gap.

A recent Washington Post poll found a 21-point gap in white support between Romney and Obama. But we have to put this one poll in context.  In 2008, Obama garnered about 43% of the white vote. This was the high water mark for Democratic presidential candidates since Jimmy Carter in 1976 – not coincidentally about the time in which party polarization starts to take hold in the U.S.  Put differently, Obama received as much or more white voter support than Kerry, Gore, Dukakis, Mondale, Carter (1980), and even Bill Clinton (see the data here or see the historical chart in the Post piece here).

What about the white voter “gap?” From CNN’s article yesterday, “Obama in 08 became the first presidential candidate ever to lose whites by double digits and win,” suggesting Obama has a particular white voter problem separate from white Democratic candidates. First, this is not true.  Clinton’s white voter gap in 1992 (including Perot supporters) was 21 points. In1996? 14 points. Second, Obama is the only other Democrat besides Clinton to win a national election since 1976. How did the Democratic losers do? Kerry’s gap was about 17 points. Gore’s gap was around 12 points. Obama’s gap in 2008? 12 points

Even in the South the data do not back up the white voter bias claim. Relative to Kerry, Obama did a little worse in some Southern states (Alabama, for example), but a little better or equally well in others (Georgia and North Carolina, for example).

What about the polls in 2012? Here is the Romney/Obama white voter gap in June: Gallup, 16-17 points; CNN, 14; Fox News, 16; Ipsos-Reuters, 15; Pew, 13. These are all in line with the historical pattern for Democrats. In October, as the race tightened, the gap widened, but has still been very much in line with past Democratic performance: IBD/TIPP, 15 points; ABC/WaPo, 21 (two weeks before it was 11 points), Fox News, 19; Pew, 21; CBS, 14.

Has Obama’s white support gone down since 2008?  Probably. But does he have a white voter “problem?” Probably not. Even if he does, it is not an Obama problem. It has more to do with the fact that he is a Democratic incumbent running during a struggling economy.  So how should we think about race and the 2012 election?

* Obama is likely get between 38% and 43% of the national white vote.

* This will fit within the historical pattern of Democrats since 1976.

* Racial attitudes are already baked into the partisan cake, thus racial bigots on the left and right made their partisan choices a long time ago and will dance with whoever brought them to the party on Election Day.

* Obama’s white voter problem is the Democrat’s white voter problem. Indeed, he has performed better with this group than any national Democrat since the era of party polarization began.



Should governments Be Allowed to Steal Your Property?

I’ve already written about the despicable practice of “civil forfeiture,” which allows governments to confiscate the property of innocent people who have not been convicted of any crime.

And I’ve cited great columns on the issue from George Will and John Stossel., as well a sobering report on the topic from the Wall Street Journal.  Now the Institute for Justice has a video that should outrage any decent person.

It’s examples of government thuggery like this that make me a libertarian. You should be one as well.  If you need more convincing, check out these horror stories of statist abuse.

* A story of vicious IRS persecution.

* A women jailed overnight because she let her kids play outside.

* Threatening to send a woman to jail because someone whistled at a whale.

* Two stories of innocent people who were victimized by the idiotic Drug War.

* A video about how the EPA tried – and fortunately failed – to destroy a family.

* A story about the Justice Department’s discriminatory attack on a hapless homeowner.

* The government treating child molesters more leniently than people who accidentally omit irrelevant info from forms

* Putting a store out of business for selling toy guns.

* Regulations making it difficult for trucking firms to weed out drunk drivers.

* Year-long sting operations by federal milk police.

* Rules harassing coffee shops with bikini-clad sales staff.

* OSHA requirements for expensive safety harnesses for people working 11 feet off the ground.

* Rules from the EEOC for “pee-shy” employees.

* The IRS making banks put foreign tax law above US tax law.

Remember, if government is the answer, you’ve asked a very strange question.

More HERE  (See the original for links)


Obama’s War on Women… and Intelligence

When President Obama started talking about “shovel-ready jobs,” who knew he was talking about the shovels needed to dig a hole deep enough to lower the bar to a level his campaign could clear. As if his campaign of “Romnesia,” Big Bird and “binders” wasn’t desperate enough, the stench of desperation was turned up to 11 yesterday.

To Democrats it seems women are nothing more than hyper-fertile vaginas on a constant quest for sex, contraception and abortions. What else has the president’s campaign addressed? No appeals to women on jobs, even as they suffer an obscenely high unemployment rate. Despite all the talk of equal pay, no accountability or attempt to rectify or explain the Obama administration paying women 18 percent less than men.

They think women don’t care the administration ignored both pleas for more security before the attacks that killed four Americans in Libya and cries for help during the attack. They don’t think women care about Obama’s unwillingness to answer a direct question about it, or that he ordered an investigation into it while the seven-hour attack what happening. And they really don’t think women will find it odd he demanded those attacking Americans be brought “to justice” after the attack rather than bombing them beforehand when he had the chance.

Nope, for women it’s been, “Here’s some free birth control, now shut up and vote for me.” And “There’s a war on women, and Republicans are responsible.” Disgusting.

And now we have the latest salvo in the Democrats’ real war on women.

The Obama campaign released a new ad featuring actress Lena Dunham talking about her “first time.” For those of you who don’t know, Dunham is in HBO’s mildly amusing show “Girls,” which is set in Brooklyn and has been widely criticized for managing to not have any minority characters in the heart of America’s melting pot.

Her “first time” refers to her first time voting, and voting for Barack Obama. But it’s done in a double-entendre way that is beneath the office of the president.

I love a good double-entendre joke as much as anyone. But this is just trashy and exposes even further the lack of respect Democrats show women.

Dunham says your first time should be with “A great guy.” So what to her and the Obama campaign constitutes “a great guy”? It seems it’s “A guy who cares whether you get health insurance and specifically whether you get birth control.”

The use of the word “specifically” is what’s most telling. The ad is absurd and sickening, but that line takes the cake. Honestly, that’s what constitutes “a great guy” to liberals? “I know you don’t have a job, but I’m paying for your birth control, and we all know that’s what really matters to you. Here’s the pill, now let’s get it on.”

It’s like Democrats want women in the bedroom – barefoot but not pregnant. Women, real, intelligent women, want more from life.

So who does this ad target? Allahpundit at asks the question of a campaign that produces an ad like this, “Do they think women are too stupid to appreciate a straightforward pitch on the issues?”  They must.

Dunham also lists Obama’s support for gay marriage as a reason why he should be your “first.” But the joke is on her, because the President told MTV, after raising millions off his support, that he’ll do exactly zero about it, that gay marriage is a state issue.

Ace over at the Ace of Spades website points out how this sort of superficial pap appeals to the president’s base. He writes, “It underlines the essential triviality of Obama and his Government Client & Upper Upper Class White Voter agenda. There is nothing to his campaign except very small social-progressive appeals to people who are simply not affected by the economy, whether they are too poor to notice a bad economy, immunized from the economy by being a government worker, or so rich they have nothing at all to fear from a bad economy.”

Most Americans, of course, don’t fit into those categories. Most are suffering in Obama’s economy.

But in an election when turning out the base could be everything, making an appeal to that group, particularly young people, makes sense. And considering the un-and-under-employment of recent college graduates is about 50 percent, an appeal on policy or accomplishment is out of the question. So you end up with something incredibly stupid and un-presidential like this ad that harkens back to a panned and quickly retracted campaign picture that implored women to “Vote like your lady parts depend on it.” Because, to Democrats, that’s all you are.

Come to think of it, considering the unemployment rate for the targeted group is 50 percent and the incredible, crushing debt they’ll inherit from this president, maybe birth control and contraception should be a priority for every young person. After all, if Barack Obama wins a second term and it’s anything like his “first,” we’re all getting completely screwed.



More than one cliff facing Americans

You’ve heard talk about “the fiscal cliff.” But that definite article is misleading. We’re headed towards more than one such cliff.

This coming January, if Congress and the president fail to take action, every American who pays income taxes will pay more. Also set to increase? Payroll taxes, which every worker pays.

And an increase in taxes is the very opposite of a “stimulus” to the economy. Hence “the cliff” metaphor.

But even if we can avoid falling off those cliffs, another threatens.

It has been identified by finance professors Robert Novy-Marx at the University of Rochester and Joshua Rauh at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, who summarized for The Washington Post their recent research paper, “The Revenue Demands of Public Employee Pension Promises,” in which they essayed to determine...
"how much additional money would have to be devoted annually to state and local pension systems to achieve full funding in 30 years, a standard period over which governments target fully funded pensions. . . . How much will your taxes have to increase? We found that, on average, a tax increase of $1,385 per U.S. household per year would be required, starting immediately and growing with the size of the public sector. An alternative would be public-sector budget cuts of a similar magnitude, or a combination of tax increases and cuts adding up to this amount."
But that $1,385 figure is only an average. “New York taxpayers would need to contribute more than $2,250 per household per year over the next 30 years,” according to their analysis. “In Oregon, the amount is $2,140; in Ohio, it is $2,051; in New Jersey, $2,000.”

If we don’t get the problem under control, this cliff keeps getting higher, making, as the professors put it, “the $1,385 per-household increase required today seem cheap.”

How did we find ourselves on top of such a steep fiscal cliff?

Well, that brings us back to politicians. These are the folks we vote into office at the state and local level. They face similar pressures that politicians in Washington, DC, face. Whatever their intentions when going into office, while there they are surrounded not by normal citizens, but by state functionaries, by “public servants.” And these are awfully nice people who any reasonable person wants to help. So, when politicians sit down with government employee union reps and the head bureaucrats, to determine rates of compensation, including “benefits,” it’s awfully tempting to be generous.

With our money.  With money the politicians haven’t collected yet, in taxes, and we haven’t even made yet, in our salaries and profits and the like.




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