It saddens me to watch the reactions to the suggestion out of NYC that we should regulate sugary drinks.
From here. This chart is the usual VoteView scatter plot with one more bit of data added. For those who haven’t been following along each point is a member of congress, and the X axis shows how economically conservative the member is (e.g. how much they prefer legislation that servers large economic entities v.s. small ones); and the vertical economic axis is their preferences on civil rights issues, higher is (roughly) more socially liberal. The red points are the Republicans and the Democrats are blue. As you can see there are few, if any centrists, and the two parties are totally polarized.
The added datum is the “grade level.” It’s based on a somewhat silly measurement tool that used on text to estimate the grade in school the reader would need to have achieved to read that text. In this case the text is the member’s statements in the congressional record.
Honestly I don’t know that I’d draw any conclusions from this, but don’t let me stop you from that pleasure.
Apparently the key to Newt’s success in South Carolina was $5,000,000 donation from Sheldon Adelson. Fortune says that Sheldon’s net worth is $21,500,000,000. That $5,000,000 was two hundredth of a percent (.02%) of his net worth. I’m pretty well off, and if I multiple the price of my house times .02% I get an amount less than the a bill I paid for dinner the other evening.
Poor Sheldon is #16 on the Fortune list. There are 112 million households in the US, so Sheldon’s worth is $191/household. He made his money in the Casino business.
What percentage of the top .1% are going to decide to toss .02%, or even 1% of their net worth into this?
I want to quote this item from Talking Points Memo, because it is a nearly perfect example of how firms can structure their operations to avoid responsibility for actions that are criminal; in this case by pushing that criminality onto contractors.
TPM Reader MM weighs in on last night’s comments on Vince and Linda McMahon:
I don’t think you can forgive the McMahons for the steroid use and abuse of narcotic painkillers by its independent contractors simply by dismissing the performers as “unstable narcissists.” Even if you grant Mr. Hackett’s claim (and I do), you have to hold the McMahon’s responsible for the decisions they made in creating their product.If you look at the history of professional wrestling (by which I mean, look up some random clips on Youtube) you’ll find a high percentage of normal to athletic bodies in the sport right up through the ’80s where the comic-book muscleman era began, under the leadership of the McMahons.
The physical standard is now quite difficult or impossible to obtain without the use of steroids. If you don’t have the body, you don’t get the work. You’re an independent contractor, so if you don’t get the work, you don’t get paid. Once you get the work you have to convince the McMahons to invest in making you a star if you want to make much over the minimum. That means, for most of them, maintaining less than 4% bodyfat on a 260 pound frame, while on the road more than 250 days a year (covering your own travel and lodging expenses, every step of the way).Also, keep in mind that the guys you’re working with, and who you’re competing with for TV time, pay per view slots and house show bookings are all using steroids. How else do you keep up with them? This is why we’re finding out that everyone in the Tour de France is blood doping – the standard to compete is now so high that it’s physically impossible for anyone to do it clean.
The bottom line is, no matter how “out there” the performers are (and let’s face it, it’s not a typical way to make a living) the McMahons created a product that demands its performers use steroids and they work so hard a schedule in a tough physical job that painkiller use is normal. It doesn’t have to be this way.
The McMahons could have chosen to push a different, physical type of performer (the spectacle has been popular before without overblown bodies) and they could have chosen to be like every other form of sport, entertainment or circus and have an off-season so that its performers would have adequate time to rest, heal, and train naturally.
A huge majority of Republicans believe that a business bears no responsibility for the consequences of the choices it enables; even if it knows those consequences are horrific. This is what they mean when they talk about “choice.” They do not mean freedom, they mean that the absence of obvious and viscous coercion absolves the firm and it’s managers of any moral or ethical responsibility.
It makes me physically ill to think that the right wing and the idiot media managed to turn this eloquent beautiful speech into baseless acquisition of racism. It makes so angry that some moron in the Federal government decided to fire this wonderful woman. Shame!
This was not chance. This was a malicious act by those on the right. And everybody who went along with it is guilty of the crime. If you are not livid your not paying attention.
Consider this a warning. This is what we have to look forward to after the fall elections.
David Leonhardt’s piece this morning in the Times “In Health Card Bill, Obama Attacks Wealth Inequality” hits an exceptionally key point. It’s written in a very balanced way. I recommend it and I’m surprised that for those on the left this point hasn’t been more at the forefront of their thoughts and rhetoric over the last year.
The goal of trying to change course on the inequality problem is clearly one of the legs that this effort stands, and something Obama cares about. It’s something lots of Democrats care about. But there are other legs and it is important not to ignore them. Let me enumerate a few.
The Democratic party is far more likely to look after the interests of small economic actors than the Republicans. The data on that is overwhelming. But wealth inequality isn’t the only reason why the party would support reform. The risks and uncertainty caused by the old system fall almost entirely on the smaller economic actors. Those of us (families and businesses) in the top quarter of the economy are almost blind to the uncertainty created by the current system, with the exception of the occasional catastrophe.
But yet old system was on the fast track to making American industry entirely unable to compete. And hence even those who think that Government’s only function is to help large economic actors were largely in support of reform.
If you map out the left-right spectrum of the nation and the legislatures the reform we got falls at the center. That was exactly what Obama signaled he would aspire to deliver; going all the way back to the earliest days of his campaign. As a practical matter this bill is about exactly as far to the left as anybody should have hoped for. The party on the left doesn’t get to pass a bill that is at the center of it’s party member’s opinions. You only get to pass a bill that gets you the vote of that last necessary right most legislator.
I also think that there was a leg to this effort that has largely been miscomprehended.
There are dozen or more really awful problems facing the nation. For example global warming, banking regulation, and the polarization that means the two parties have zero overlap in many of our legislative bodies.
It is my impression that Obama appreciates and has spent a vast amount of calories trying to address the polarization issue. His offer to the Republicans of a seat at the table was genuine. He didn’t need to to it and he spent a lot of time enabling their shenanigans by doing it. He shunned the temptation to accept their continual taunting and respond in kind. That strategy, it seems to me, wasn’t optimal for getting the best health care reform outcome. But is continues to be the right approach if we are to back away from the extreme dangers implicit in the polarization. Dangers I don’t think many observers have even begun to grasp.
Maybe I don’t read the right blogs but I’m delighted to see a blog post that actually looks at politics from the perspective of the common space scores. The chart below shows the distribution of the scores for various state legislatures (i’ve no idea what the order means):
This is a very instructive chart. CA, UT, WI, FL, and WA have no common ground between the parties. I’m surprised they let NJ, HI, NY, RI, and MA Republicans into the hall when national Republicans gather.
California is an object lesson in where we are headed if the nation doesn’t figure out how to back off from the polarization between the two parties. I wonder, does a requirement for a super majority tends to help consensus when there is a large overlap and tends to create an incentive to polarize when the overlap weakens?
Now what do they do? Corporations that is. I mean, given the license corporations have been granted. Will they reward their friends on the Supreme court? Have they jiggered the goals for their strategic planning people? Where is the cookbook of standard recipes; e.g. what you do if your firm owns the big employer in a town or state, or what you do if your industry hasn’t captured your regulator yet.
And what about their suppliers? Have all the big consulting firms fired up new divisions to advise them? Does O’Reilly has a “Voter Hacks” queued up? Where is a package to be sold to every company that rules a company town that bridges from people’s economic anxieties into votes for candidate that will sell the commonwealth at low cost to the firm. Is there a conference yet, a professional society, a code of practice?
This seems quite scale free. Economic entities of all scales should be able to find something they want and political actors who will support them. How many nations have spun up a task force? How many local businesses. How hard would it be to get somebody elected who then hands over the trash collection franchise, or let’s you build your factory in that bit of park land?
All this seems inevitable. Otherwise we should see shareholder suits accusing them of dropping the ball. Will we? There ought to be a lot of action going on. A lot of first mover advantage to be captured. I’d think all that movement would be obvious if you knew were to look? Have the starting salaries of political scientists ticked up?
We all have various theories for what is drives elections. For example: left v.s. right, race, social issues, economic issues, skilled campaigning, endorsements, slander, self-interest, get-out-the-vote, voter-suppression, candidate height, etc. etc. In thinking about that it is critical to draw a distinction between what garners votes for a candidate, say his height, and how he votes once elected, say for environmental regulations.
As a practical matter if you want your guy elected it’s important to set aside the issues and focus entirely on the question of what will get him votes.
Let’s say you accept that. So what do you do? Well, you go find the literature and experts and extract from them the secret formula. Wait. Why would that formula be secret? Certainly discovering that formula would be a central theme in political science? So, I don’t think it is a secret. But as usual it is a bit hard to find the formula in the face of so much noise. Some of that noise comes from the disputation nature of scientific enquiry; the political scientists are always disputing the question and puzzling out who’s clueful and who’s not is often difficult. Much of the noise comes from confusing the first distinction – lots and lots of people assume that you get elected because of where you stand on the issues. Maybe that’s true (the formula would tell us), but I presume it’s not and so all explanations about elections based on issues are just noise.
This formula might look something like this. P = a*x + b*y +c; where P is the percentage of the vote the incumbent gets. And the various terms represent the answer to our original question; what are the drivers that garner votes. Of course there could be dozens of terms, and it could be that the constants, a, b, c; vary substantially from one election and venue to another. But, maybe not.
One school of thought about what drives elections is that it’s all about the economy. In that case you give the incumbent some constant c; say 50% of the vote, you then select a measure x, say unemployment, multiply it times a, add them up and you’ve got your prediction. If this model has high predictive power then you’d better work on x. Everything else you work on is about issues and policy, it’s not about getting reelected.
Models like that are sometimes called “economic determinism.” Andrew Gelman wrote a short post on economic determinism back in 2008 providing pointers to the political scientists who have worked on the question.
The first paper (pdf) I read is simple enough. Bob Erikson fitted a somewhat more complex model P = a*x + b*n + c. The economic metric x was how much per-person income had changed, weighting the recent past more than the more distant past.
Bob’s model fit his small sample (10 presidential elections) really really well. He concluded that economic term was very potent. A 1% change in income drove a 2.7% change in the vote. But so was second term b*n.
The metric he selected for n is called NCE, or net candidate advantage. That’s based on a voter survey (the National Election Study) of how much the voters like/dislike the candidate.
Based on the table in his paper and my calculations on average 12% of the votes the incumbent gets are driven by economic issues, 6.2% was driven by the NCE, and only 2.5% was left unexplained. So 12% is economics and 8.8% is other stuff. While economics is not entirely deterministic it certainly sets up a powerful current your either swimming with or against.
I’ve not followed any of the other bread crumbs that Andrew tossed out in his posting. I have some strong doubts about Bob’s model, in particular the last election mentioned is Reagan’s 2nd; and that puts the entire data set before the last three decades of Republican party shift to a highly disciplined far right party. Further economic growth was largely positive thru that entire period, while since then it’s been flat for voters.
FYI – the US economy is in a recession. The entire economy is running at about 80% of it’s potential. You can see that 20% short fall in lots of statistics, labor participation, railroad freight, it’s all over the place. Not a happy time for incumbents.