Wednesday, December 31, 2014

End of 2014

I hope all of you have had a great 2014 and will have a terrific new year! Politically, this year was no doubt a Republican year as the party won huge majorities in all election levels from local to statewide. Scott Walker won his deserved second term here in Wisconsin. In 2015 we will see who is going to run for president. Is Mitt Romney going to be back? Will Wisconsin be divided between Walker and Paul Ryan if they both run? Will the libertarian movement capture the nomination with Rand Paul? Will the GOP primaries be as divided as they currently appear? Is Hillary Clinton the inevitable Democratic nominee or will other Democrats like Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders upset her? Is it possible that Clinton may not run at all? These questions will be answered in the next year. Whatever happens, 2015 will no doubt be an exciting year in politics.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Major Cyber Attacks on PSN and Xbox Live

The Playstation 4 - Amazon
First off, I hope everyone had a good Christmas and enjoyed time with family. I had a great time with my own and we had a nice party. However, before relatives came to the party we obviously opened gifts under the Christmas tree. Among the things me and my brother opened was a new PlayStation 4. We set it up in his room and went to sign in to our PlayStation Network accounts. There was a big problem. My brother signed into his account, but I could not and soon we couldn't go online altogether. We looked up if PSN posted anything and it turned out that both the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live were cyber attacked by a group called Lizard Squad.

There are 110 million people who use PSN and another 46 million people use Xbox Live. Millions of gamers were obviously angry. Sony has run into some trouble lately after their comedy movie The Interview was pulled from movie theaters until just recently. The movie, which focuses on a comical assassination plot on North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, was attacked by hackers who have been linked to North Korea. This second attack may or may not be related to the movie. Lizard Squad has previously attacked Sony and other online servers. Xbox Live is back, but PSN is not and Sony will have to continue to fix the problem.

Today, it was reported that they attacked PSN and Xbox Live for "incompetence." They argue that PSN and Xbox Live haven't done things correctly and that they can do it better. Other tweets complain that large companies take advantage of the tax code and hide their money in shelters, but if Lizard Squad wanted to be a kind of Robin Hood, they would have gladly given money or some kind of benefit to the millions of people who can't go online. It's sad that people who invest money into gaming now can't play or interact with others on consoles because Lizard Squad believes PSN and Xbox Live do things wrong.

The important impact here is the rise of hacker groups that have been able to infiltrate large corporations. These groups might be able to go further than just getting gamers angry. What about the stock market? Trading today relies heavily on computers and online services. What about the government? Communications between policymakers and the military are critical to keeping the nation safe. We all live in a new era and this era offers new challenges. New challenges are typical in any era, but what's important is how people respond to it.

Finally, while I sympathize with fellow gamers on the hackings, I also can't understand why so many people wanted to play on their consoles on Christmas. I was more interested in mingling with relatives and friends rather than playing Grand Theft Auto V or The Last of Us. I'm shocked that others seemed to prefer playing video games, at least when looking at comments on website articles about the cyber attacks. I hope everyone had a great Christmas and will have a swell time on New Year's Eve.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Jeb Bush Moves Closer to Running for President

Former Governor Jeb Bush - RedState
Jeb Bush, former Republican governor of Florida, has announced that he is forming a PAC (political action committee) and exploring a run for president in order to see if he would have a viable candidacy. Bush is obviously also known for being the brother of President George W. Bush and son of President George H.W. Bush. He is part of a powerful political family that could help him get donors to back his campaign. By creating a PAC, Bush is looking at a White House bid unconventionally. Most candidates would be interested in forming an exploratory committee. This leadership PAC gives him the opportunity to receive more money from donors than an exploratory committee would because there are stricter Federal Election Commission regulations on exploratory committees than PACs.

What chances does Bush have in becoming the Republican nominee? Right now he has a bump from media attention. A look at the RCP average on the night of December 23, 2014, shows Bush with 15.2 percent, Paul Ryan with 10.8 percent, and Chris Christie with 10.4 percent. All the other candidates don't have their poll numbers in double digits. The latest poll from ABC News and the Washington Post shows him at 14 percent, Ryan at 11 percent, and Rand Paul at 10 percent. Bush obviously has a lot do to become the Republican nominee. There is currently no front-runner and the small bump doesn't give Bush that status.

Bush will likely have a difficult time running for president in a similar way the 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney did. Romney (who might run again) was clearly part of the moderate side of the Republican Party and was a favorite of the establishment after the party leaders looked at all the other candidates. Romney was continuously attacked by conservative candidates (or candidates who appeared more conservative) who were favorites of the Tea Party. He won after hard campaigning, debating, and fundraising. Bush's position actually seems worse because he appears even more moderate than Romney. It is the case of trying to avoid being a RINO (Republican in name only).

Journalist John Feehery of the Christian Science Monitor wrote why Jeb Bush would be a good candidate, but also writes, "We live in a populist moment and there is perhaps nobody less populist than Jeb Bush." The former Florida governor is not someone who can get a crowd excited. Erick Erickson of RedState gave three questions Bush needs to answer in order to help him win some members of the Tea Party. These are why he is the most qualified, does he consider himself conservative and how he defines that ideology, and where is he least conservative. The final question concerns the fact that both his father and brother broke with the conservative base of the GOP, but they nevertheless were willing to support them. His father raised taxes after promising not to and his brother expanded the federal government's social programs with Medicare Part-D and No Child Left Behind.

These questions and his lack of popularity show the problems with Bush. The liberal website Mother Jones posted a stinging article earlier this year giving 23 reasons Bush should "reconsider." Some of these are family issues like his daughter being a drug addict, others are his work in the private sector such as being a financial adviser under Lehman Brothers when the bank went under, and there are some political problems such as his change of opinion on immigration policy. Bush is wise to prepare now for what will be a long campaign and it is clear that he will have a lot of problems to overcome if he wants to be the GOP nominee and the president of the United States.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Success of Supply-Side Economics

Arthur Laffer (seated), Dick Cheney (left), and Donald Rumsfeld (right) - Bloomberg Businessweek
"It's not Republican, it's not Democratic, it's not conservative, it's not liberal, it's not left-wing, it's not right-wing, it's economics." - Arthur B. Laffer

This year marked the fortieth anniversary of the birth of the supply-side revolution in the United States. On September 13, 1974, Dick Cheney, who was assistant to President Gerald R. Ford at the time and Donald Rumsfeld, Ford's chief of staff, met with economist Arthur B. Laffer and journalist Jude Wanniski at the Two Continents restaurant in the Hotel Washington. The three living members of that lunch meeting pictured above reunited on November 10. Their discussion back in '74 was over the state of the U.S. economy. In December 1974, the unemployment rate stood at 7.2 percent. Real GDP from 1969 to 1974 during Richard M. Nixon's presidency had averaged at 2.75 percent. From 1969 to 1975, the Dow Jones industrial average had declined by 6.46 percent. It was clear why members of the Ford administration were seeking economic advice on how to get the recovery going. 

At the time, Ford prepared a policy called Whip Inflation Now or WIN. Part of this was a 5 percent surcharge. At the dinner, Laffer argued that the 5 percent surcharge would not give 5 percent additional revenue to the federal government. It would be less or even negative meaning that it would decrease revenue. Cheney and Rumsfeld didn't believe it, but Wanniski and Laffer argued for it. To simplify what he was saying, Laffer took out a sharpie from his pocket and drew an economic concept now known as the Laffer curve on his table napkin. Cheney and Rumsfeld were stuck by its simplicity. The laws of the curve were simple: a 0 percent tax rate means no revenue, but so does a 100 percent tax rate because no one would work if all their income was taken. Laffer argued that lower tax rates would actually generate more revenue because there would be more incentive to work. Rich people, who are often criticized for putting their capital in tax shelters to avoid taxes, would bring it out with a lower rate because they would be losing less money, but at the same time paying more in taxes because they aren't hiding as much. With more investments and activity the economy would grow. Here's a graph to show the Laffer curve:

The Laffer Curve - Forbes
The Laffer curve is the center argument of supply-side economics, which is the economic theory that less taxes, less deductions, and less government intervention in the economy will hasten an economic recovery and increase revenue. Conservatives embrace this economic theory. The counterargument made by liberals, such as economist John Maynard Keynes, advocates for demand-side economics, which they believe will raise revenue through higher taxes on the rich with larger deductions and more government intervention in the economy to stimulate demand to bring a quick economy recovery. However, supply-side economics has been proven to contain superior policies that bring back struggling economies. Ford, a Republican, went on with his WIN policy and lost the 1976 election to Democrat Jimmy Carter, but Carter's presidency bombed so badly that the Republicans won back the White House with former California Governor Ronald Reagan in 1980 by a landslide. During that time Jude Wanniski was promoting supply-side economics in The Wall Street Journal from Art Laffer's information. When Reagan was elected, he picked Laffer as his chief economic adviser. Supply-side economic policies were implemented and there was a huge economic boom.

Historically, supply-side economics did exist before Laffer, Wanniski, and Reagan. In addition to the Reagan years there have been two other major eras of supply-side economics. Let's examine all three and see if they all worked. I am going to be using real GDP, DJIA, and the unemployment rate to see economic results. The first two variables can be found by work from Samuel H. Williamson while the last one can be found from work by Stanley Lebergott and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. All these and any other sources will be linked in the bibliography.

Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge Tax Cuts (1921, 1924, 1926, 1928)

Harding (left) and Coolidge (right) - Kai's Coolidge Blog
The income tax was created in 1913 under President Woodrow Wilson. The Democrats favored this plan because the old system supported by Republicans, tariffs on foreign goods, was proving not to work. The income tax started out as a good idea. Originally, it started at a top rate of 7 percent, but as a result of World War I the top income tax rate was raised to 77 percent and was cut a bit to 73 percent by the end of his presidency. This high tax rate was a disaster for the United States and the economy went into a recession by the end of his presidency. In the 1920 election, the Republicans won a landslide and Warren G. Harding became president. Two influential secretaries gave him advice: Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover believed the government had to intervene to support labor and business, but Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon preferred to reduce tax rates and intervene very little in the economy. Harding picked the latter's advice,

The Revenue Act of 1921 cut the top income tax rate from 73 percent to 58 percent. The tax relief worked, but sadly Harding died in office. Vice President Calvin Coolidge became president and he was even more conservative than Harding. Three tax bills were signed by Coolidge, all cutting taxes dramatically. The top income tax rate went to 25 percent by the end of his presidency, the lowest top income tax rate for any president at the end of their tenure. Did the plan work? Unemployment statistics calculated by economist Stanley Lebergott (there were no government unemployment numbers at the time) found the unemployment rate, by percent of the civilian labor force, at 11.9 percent in 1921. By 1929 that rate was at 3.2 percent. Millions of jobs had been created. Real GDP growth during all of Wilson's presidency was an incredibly slow 1.43 percent. During Harding/Coolidge that growth was at 4.8 percent, a huge economic boom that many presidents have been unable to reach. The Dow Jones industrial average had grown by 3.04 percent under Wilson, but during Harding/Coolidge it grew by 19.57 percent. Coolidge currently holds the record for DIJA growth. Government revenue? Every year during Harding's and Coolidge's presidencies, the federal government ran a surplus:

I use percentage of GDP (and will continue to use it for government statistics) because it is better than using simple dollars. $10 billion can mean something different in Zimbabwe than in the U.S. and that is why it is important to use real GDP for a perspective of how significant something is in relation to the economy. Fiscal year 1929 wasn't really under Coolidge, but actually Hoover when he became president. Nevertheless I felt it was right to put it in to show the next incumbent was left with a good start. We know Harding wasn't because a recession threatened the meager surplus Wilson made after World War I. There was also $28 billion in debt. Despite these problems, Harding and Coolidge were very successful in bringing back the economy and reducing the national debt.

John F. Kennedy Tax Cut (1964)

Kennedy addressing the nation on his tax cuts. - National Public Radio
President Hoover was not from the same faction of the GOP that Harding, Coolidge, and Mellon were. When the Great Depression struck as a result of monetary mismanagement of the Federal Reserve and the passage of the huge Smoot-Hawley tariff by a Senate committee, he raised taxes to a top rate of 63 percent. This ruined the economy, but Democrat Franklin Roosevelt rose it to a high of 91 percent. This rate was kept under Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, but a recession struck in 1958 as a result of slowing economic growth. Eisenhower and the Republicans should be credited for restraint, but could have done more by lowering taxes. Instead, Democrat John F. Kennedy won a close election and advocated a tax cut.

Kennedy wasn't a conservative economically, but he wasn't liberal either. He was more of a moderate, who advocated both supply-side economics and demand-side economics. However, the tax cut he worked to pass in 1964 were his crowning economic legacy because it was very successful. Kennedy believed they were needed in order to bring back the economy from its stagnant position when he took office. Passed after his assassination, it had huge benefits for the economy. Known typically as the Kennedy tax cut, the bill lowered the top income tax rate from 91 percent to 70 percent. Unfortunately, JFK didn't live to see the results. We now had government unemployment statistics and here's how the rate turned out before and after the tax cuts:

Effects of tax cuts before and after. - The Manhattan Institute
As we can see, there was a huge reduction in the unemployment rate after the tax cuts that improved the slow economic recovery. Real GDP had recovered quickly after the recession at 4.69 percent, but grew even more after the tax cut at 5.17 percent. The DJIA grew by 3.04 percent from 1960 to 1963. From 1964 to 1968 it grew by 4.43 percent. This was another period of rapid economic growth. Here's the deficit:

The deficit was lower after 1964 until 1967 when JFK's successor Lyndon B. Johnson spent high sums of money on both military spending for the Vietnam War and domestic spending for his War on Poverty. The result was a disaster that slowed the economy for the next decade. A better look at revenue growth has been done by Laffer. Tax revenue grew by 2.1 percent before the tax cut to 8.6 percent after. What we can see though is that 1965 when the tax cuts were fully in place was the year of the lowest deficit during Kennedy/Johnson. 

Ronald Reagan Tax Cuts (1981, 1986)

Reagan addresses the nation on his 1981 tax cut. - Wikimedia
Federal spending rose during the Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter years. The economy started to strain and demand-side economic policies did little to help the situation. The tax cut from JFK may have given the economy a boost, but presidents after him slowed growth extensively through policies that weren't friendly to the free market. In 1980, Reagan was elected by a landslide. With Laffer as his head economic adviser, Reagan cut the top income tax rate from 70 percent to 50 percent in 1981 and from 50 percent to 28 percent in 1986. After JFK, Reagan had one of the longest periods of economic growth. Starting at an unemployment rate of 7.5 percent, the recession hit just as he entered office and unemployment peaked at 10.8 percent in November 1982. By then, his tax cuts started to go into effect and unemployment fell rapidly. By the end of his presidency it was at 5.4 percent.

Unlike the two previous presidents, Reagan was stuck in the middle of a war with the Soviet Union. The Cold War was not a conventional war, but was nevertheless a war as two sides competed against each other. In order to defeat the Soviet Union, Reagan built up the military (as required during other times of crisis). The deficit grew because of this military spending:

By 1989, the Cold War was over and in the last three years of Reagan's presidency the deficit went down. The deficit was at the same level of GDP in 1989 as it was 1981 when Reagan became president. Tax cuts did not primarily cause the deficit to go up, it was actually military spending. Domestic spending was limited. Economist Daniel J. Mitchell notes:
Critics charge that the tax cuts caused higher deficits, but they misread the evidence. The Reagan tax cut, though approved in 1981, was phased in over several years. As a result, bracket creep (indexing was not implemented until 1985) and payroll tax increases swamped Reagan's 1.25 percent tax cut in 1981 and effectively canceled out the portion of the tax cut which went into effect in 1982. The economy received an unambiguous tax cut only as of January 1983. Thereafter, personal income tax revenues climbed dramatically, increasing by more than 54 percent by 1989 (28 percent after adjusting inflation).
 It's important to note Reagan's second tax cut and major reform of the tax code was in 1986 as the deficit continued to go down. As for real GDP, from 1981 to 1989 it was 3.61 percent. During Carter's four years it grew at 2.75 percent. The Dow Jones industrial average grew by 11.28 percent under Reagan's presidency while under Carter it decreased by 0.22 percent.


From these three cases of supply-side economics, it is clear that this economic system works as a way to quickly bring back an economy in recession. If we reduce tax rates, end some deductions and loopholes, and reduce the size and power of economic intervention from federal government (or at least limit it) then greater business activity will be encouraged through incentives and the U.S. economy will be back on track. Just remember that while people by political ideology disagree on if it works or not, what matters is the economics and the economics prove that supply-side policies work.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Look at Right-to-Work Laws

National Right to Work Committee
Here in Wisconsin, Republicans and Governor Scott Walker are considering a right-to-work law after winning greater majorities in both houses of the state legislature and a second term at the state executive level. As this debate begins between Republicans and Democrats, it is important to look at how right-to-work laws have affected other states to see if they are beneficial or not and that's what I am examining today. If anyone is curious, a right-to-work law (which I will sometimes abbreviate as RTW) blocks employers and unions from making agreements that would force workers to join and pay obligations to unions. Supporters of right-to-work legislation argue that no worker should be forced into a union if he or she doesn't want to be part of one while supporters of organized labor term workers who receive union benefits but do not contribute to the unions "free riders" who must be part of a union and pay parts of the costs in negotiating a contract.

The most important thing is how right-to-work laws affect growth for the states and the people. According a report published by the National Institute for Labor Relations, states with right-to-work laws have greatly benefited from them as wages and job growth have gone up decisively in comparison to states that don't have such laws. States with right-to-work laws have seen non-farm total private sector employment grow by over 16 percent in this fall of 2014 report. There are twenty-four states that have right-to-work laws. In the other states, unions have entrenched themselves and can easily do so with simple majority votes despite the fact that only 8 percent of union workers have actually voted in their own unions. By doing so, not only are current workers who didn't vote and don't want to be a part of a union affected, but future workers are as well. The law that allows this, the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 passed under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, gives unions monopoly bargaining and forced agency fees. States are able and have been challenging the latter through right-to-work. 

Recent work published by economists Arthur B. Laffer, Stephen Moore, Rex A. Sinquefield, and Travis H. Brown titled An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of States: How Taxes, Energy, and Worker Freedom Change Everything, has found that right-to-work laws have been great for states that have passed them. Their statistics follow performance metrics of 23 (there is now 24, but Michigan did it too recently in March 2013 to consider it an RTW state) right-to-work states against forced-union states over a ten-year period from 2002 to 2012 (except for tax revenue growth which is 2001 to 2011). They write:
The growth differential in personal income over the past 10 years between right-to-work and forced-union states was an enormous 12.8 percentage points in favor of right-to-work states, with RTW states' personal income growth averaging 58.0 percent to the forced-union states' 45.2 percent. For gross state product growth, the story is much the same, with the RTW states (59.1 percent) outperforming the forced-union states (45.4 percent) by a 10-year growth differential of 13.7 percentage points . The final catergory, state and local tax revenue growth, showed the average of the 23 RTW states slightly outperforming the forced-union states' average, 57.8 percent versus 55.4 percent.
In addition, more research conducted by these economists has shown that these 23 states grew faster in terms of population growth. The RTW states grew their populations, on average, by 12.6 percent compared to states that don't have right-to-work with 6.5 percent. That isn't all because net domestic in-migration for the 23 RTW states was 3.0 percent while the 27 forced-union states saw -0.9 percent. In other words, people living in states that don't have right-to-work are moving to states that do because of the benefits from them. North Carolina, the state with the least unionized workforce (2.93 percent) saw net domestic in-migration of 6.9 percent. Coming in second was Arkansas with a unionized workforce of 3.17 percent and 2.8 percent net domestic in-migration. In third was South Carolina with a unionized workforce of 3.29 percent and 7.1 percent net domestic in-migration. In comparison the state with the highest unionized workforce was California at 23.15 percent and -8.0 percent in net domestic in-migration. Alaska is second with a unionized workforce of 22.38 percent and has -1.2 net domestic in-migration followed by Hawaii with 21.68 percent of its workforce unionized and net domestic in-migration growth of -2.0 percent.

Based on this research, it is undoubtedly clear that states with right-to-work legislation are superior in economic growth, personal income growth, tax revenue growth, and population growth. These four variables combined create an economic paradise for the states that have RTW laws as well as low taxes and a minimum wage kept at the federal level. It is clear that Scott Walker should support right-to-work legislation in Wisconsin to continue moving forward.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Bill Cassidy Defeats Landrieu by a Landslide

Representative Bill Cassidy - The Huffington Post
Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu, symbolically being called "the last southern Democrat" in the Senate, has lost by a landslide to Republican Representative Bill Cassidy. The Louisiana runoff was the final election for the 2014 midterms after no candidate in that election received over 50 percent of the vote needed for an outright win in November. This is the ninth Republican gain in the Senate for this election cycle and it is a huge victory for the GOP. In 2015, there will be 54 Republican senators against 46 Democrats and caucusing independents. Here's the results from Politico:

Bill Cassidy (Republican) - 55.9%
Mary Landrieu (Democrat) - 44.1%

It might seem hard to believe, but less than 65 years ago in 1952, Republican Dwight Eisenhower won the presidency with only four of the eleven states from the former Confederacy:

The election map shows the fundamental change of both parties as they became centered to one ideology. Over the decades, Democrats embraced liberalism which flourishes in the northeast and west coast while Republicans bonded with conservatism and found core supporters in the south and center-west of the nation. Landrieu tried to attack Cassidy as a man who would just bring more partisanship to the Senate, but in a state where Obama's disapproval numbers are over 70 percent there was no way she was going to win. Louisiana actually wants to embrace one party anyway since on the national level it has been clear that the Democratic Party has made little effort to keep their constituents in the south. It was the Republican Party that worked harder to get to areas where it has been traditionally weak in recent years. We this through governors winning in states like Illinois and Maryland as well as new representatives in New England.

Landrieu's last attempt to get the Keystone XL pipeline passed did not work. It was clear to everyone that this was rushed for political purposes, but outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid did not seem interested. Her attempts to make herself appear as a centrist did not resonate with the voters. All in all, there was no way Mary Landrieu was not going to win because of how unpopular President Obama has been. In the runoff, major Democratic donors decided not to waste their money on a candidate who was bound to lose. That was the problem with Mary Landrieu and all Democrats who lost this year.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Fall of Mary Landrieu

Senator Mary Landrieu - RedState 
December 6, 2014 is the date for the runoff election in Louisiana. Last month, neither of the three major candidates won a majority of the votes. Here's the results:

Mary Landrieu (D) - 42.1%
Bill Cassidy (R) - 41.0%
Rob Maness (R) - 13.8%

The obvious reason why the election went into a runoff is because there was divisions in the Louisiana Republican Party between the moderates who favored Cassidy and the Tea Party who favored Maness. Why is Landrieu in so much trouble? The reason is the political changes since she was elected in 1996. Back then, she could ride on the coattails of fellow southerner President Bill Clinton. Clinton's political skills were great and he was able to tap into some southern states for the Democrats at both the presidential and congressional levels. In 2002, the Republicans had less interest in the election when it went to a runoff because control of the Senate was already certain. In 2008, there were concerns for the Democrats because the state shifted even more to the right on the presidential level. As a result of Hurricane Katrina, Democrats were worried that she would lose because of the African-American population dispersing. This demographic group plays a key role for Democrats in Louisiana elections. However, this time she was saved by Barack Obama and a surge in black turnout while getting just enough white voters to back her.

Her situation in 2014 is different in that for the first time in her senatorial career the Democratic Party has an unpopular incumbent. Louisiana has continued to move right and in every past election her margins of winning were always slim. The main reasons Landrieu won those three elections were because of a popular incumbent, an uninterested opposition, and the Obama wave. In this election Obama is a curse rather than a benefit. It doesn't help recently that Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York attacked President Obama for doing the wrong thing in early 2009 by focusing the majority of his political capital on healthcare reform rather than the economy. He argued that there should have been more programs and spending needed than just the stimulus bill. We can debate about how bad or good the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was, but that drags away from the point: a popular Democrat in the president's own party is attacking him on his most signature legislation.

After the midterm elections, Obama said the new Congress wasn't elected as a referendum against him, but instead the American people elected the new Congress to work with him to "get things done." Unfortunately, Obama seems to have decided that the best way to get things done is pick one of the more divisive issues in American politics. His decision to focus on an executive order to grant five million illegal immigrants amnesty has worsened the situation instead of improving it. Midterm elections have always been based on the president's job approval. Right now, the president's approval rating is still very low at 42.3 percent today based on the RealClearPolitics average. This reflects Landrieu's situation, which shows that her poll numbers are a disaster. The map of the results of the jungle primary show that her position is precarious.

I believe Bill Cassidy will win this election. Landrieu has little that can redeem herself. Politicians and activists of both parties have flooded into Louisiana. However, as have seen in the case of Mary Burke in Wisconsin, it does not matter how many big names you bring into an election. This goes for both Cassidy and Landrieu. What will matter is the political situation in Louisiana. Landrieu might try to save herself through the failed vote on the Keystone XL pipeline, but her chances are still slim.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

My Political Ideology

If anyone was curious about what my political ideology is, here you go from the Political Compass:

I am economically to the right by 6.00 points and socially more authoritarian by 0.67 points. Generally, this makes me a conservative by ideology because conservatives are economically on the right in favor of a free market and are more authoritarian on several social topics.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Has the Presidential Election Already Begun?

Former Senator Jim Webb - NewsBusters
Who is Jim Webb you may ask? A former Democratic senator from Virginia who recently announced that he was forming an exploratory committee to run for president. While he isn't among one of the favorites for president in the Democratic Party, Webb is the first man who is taking a serious step towards the nomination. Webb served as a senator from 2007 to 2013, but before that he was actually a Republican in the Reagan administration. Webb served under Reagan as the assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs from 1984 to 1987 and then as secretary of the navy from 1987 to 1988. While there is a general thought of Reagan as a hawk who sought to defeat the Soviet Union through a massive build-up of arms, Reagan actually fired Webb in 1988 for wanting to increase the size of the U.S. Navy to over 600 ships. Reagan was cutting military spending during the last three years of his presidency as the Cold War came to an end and there was increased cooperation between the Americans and Soviets. Webb was fiercely against this, but eventually resigned.

This is an important point because it makes Webb a perceived independent who has worked in both parties. However, right now he is seen as a long shot. He has little resources and the RealClearPolitics average as of today still shows a strong lead for Hillary Clinton. While he was for a massive navy, he was also a critic of the Iraq War because of the lack of a consistent strategy involved. Like Elizabeth Warren, the populist Democratic senator from Massachusetts, Webb is strongly against Wall Street and puts a lot of attention on the issue of wealth inequality. These are two things that Hillary Clinton, the front-runner in the Democratic Party, has not focused on despite a strong anti-Wall Street group in the Democratic Party. If he runs for president, he could pose major problems for Clinton's candidacy and in this way he is actually more left than Clinton is.

His exploratory committee brings a major question: Has the presidential election already started? It is possible, but it is better to look at presidential election as a series of cycles than as one election. Specifically, there are four cycles in the primary process that both the Democrats and Republicans will witness. The cycle we are in now is something I will call the preparation process. It might be hard to believe, but most candidates have decided months (or even years) ago that they will run for president or not. However, these candidates still have the possibility to change their minds at the last minute and there are still a few who are genuinely undecided. Most people think Hillary Clinton is going to run for president and is positioning herself to do so. This has made her recent actions of collecting large sums of money from speeches and publishing a book (just about every other person who is running for president does that) notorious because it seems so obvious to most political observers that she will run for president. Either way, Clinton is not the only person who has likely made her decision (and keep in mind political observers can be wrong).

The GOP has its own candidate with an exploratory committee. This is businessman and film maker Dennis M. Lynch, who like Webb has a steep climb to win the nomination. In contrast to the race for the Democratic nomination, the RealClearPolitics average shows a free-for-all in the Republican primaries. No candidate has over 20 percent in the polls and every group of the Republican Party (militarists, libertarians, Christian conservatives, free market capitalists, etc.) are all supporting a different candidate. Currently, candidates from both parties are making political positions, building assets, preparing a campaign, and collecting data to do so. This is exactly what the preparatory phase of the presidential primaries is. Most candidates will declare their runs for president in the late spring or summer. Right now they are just waiting and preparing for when they declare that they really are running.

Why now? Because midterm elections are critical to candidates' decisions over running for president or not. It is clear now that in the last two years of Obama's presidency there will be a Republican Congress. PolitiFact has researched that over 95 percent of incumbents were re-elected despite only a 14 percent approval rating. In a previous post, I put up a video that was uploaded onto Youtube by political scientist Dick Morris. In that video, he was correct in saying that midterm elections are strong predictors before a presidential election two years later. Combining this with the knowledge we have on incumbents, the 2016 election looks good for the Republicans. It is these conditions that will primarily make candidates from both parties run for president or not. Will some Democrats not run because they don't want to be stuck with a Republican Congress or will they attempt to capture the White House anyway? Does this encourage more Republicans to seek their party's nomination for president? These are questions that many candidates will have to consider.

Here's some Democrats to watch:

Hillary Clinton, former secretary of state
Elizabeth Warren, senator from Massachusetts
Joe Biden, U.S. vice president
Jim Webb, former senator from Virginia
Martin O'Malley, governor of Maryland
Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont
Brian Schweitzer, former governor of Montana
Bernie Sanders, independent senator from Vermont
Jerry Brown, governor of California
Joe Manchin, senator from West Virginia

Here's Republicans to watch too:

Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida
Paul Ryan, representative from Wisconsin
Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin
Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey
Rand Paul, senator from Kentucky
Ben Carson, former director of pediatric neurosurgery at John Hopkins Hospital
Dennis M. Lynch, founder and CEO of TV360Media
Donald J. Trump, chairman and president of the Trump Organization
Rick Perry, governor of Texas
Rick Santorum, former senator from Pennsylvania

Keep in mind, that there are plenty of other potential candidates from both parties that aren't listed here. These are just the candidates I'm looking at.