Saturday, March 28, 2015

A Road Not Taken

President Warren Harding at the World Series - US News
This week ends with stocks flat after it was reported that U.S. GDP only grew by 2.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014. The economic situation in the United States is still very stagnant after the 2007-2009 economic recession that struck the country. A recent survey from the Society of Human Resource Management has found that employees are working fewer hours as a result of Obamacare. The survey also found that 77 percent of companies have reported an increase in the costs of health care. While White House aide David Simas might say that job growth is now at the "fastest pace in this country's history," the facts are the exact opposite:

Wall Street Journal
It leads me to ask what could have been. The statistic above shows that job growth during the six years of President Obama's tenure hasn't even surpassed John F. Kennedy's 1,000 days. I'd take Camelot any day, especially since JFK advocated to lower taxes. When most people think of great economic recoveries Ronald Reagan comes to mind, but an example I want to give is even better. It was a recovery that saw faster positive results. Many of you may not know it, but one of the fastest economic recoveries in American history came out of the 1920-21 Depression. If you were not aware of this economic depression then that's okay. The 1920s were known for being a decade of heavy economic growth, but that came when supply-side policies were enacted that swiftly ended a severe downturn in the economy.

In 1920, America was in economic crisis after World War I. The end of war production put a strain on the economy as businesses had to immediately transition to a peacetime economy. Labor unions viciously used this situation make their claims for more power. The president, Democrat Woodrow Wilson, had intervened in labor disputes and took control of private companies for wartime benefits. The new income tax that was created in 1913 took 73 percent on incomes of $1 million or higher by the end of Wilson's presidency. All of these problems led to a massive increase in inflation and unemployment. It was in every sense a depression, not a smaller recession or a "panic" as most would call contractions back then.

Out of the gloom came Warren Gamaliel Harding, a Republican senator from Ohio. Harding ran for the GOP nomination in 1920, but was widely overlooked by most voters, who were more interested in the war hero Major General Leonard Wood and Governor Frank Lowden of Illinois. The race went all the way up to the convention, where neither front-runner could obtain a majority of delegates. In this situation, the powerful political bosses of the Republican Party met in a classic "smoke-filled room" and decided to pick Harding for the nomination, who was the strongest of the lesser popular candidates. On the tenth ballot, Harding was nominated and Governor Calvin Coolidge of Massachusetts was nominated for vice president.

Harding was by all means a simple man. Historian Steven F. Hayward describes his lack of vision on the country and the Constitution in The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Presidents: From Wilson to Obama:
Harding, who lacked a college degree, did not have a deeply developed constitutional philosophy like either Woodrow Wilson, Ph.D., or the self-taught Abraham Lincoln. As he prepared his second message to Congress at the end of 1921, Harding considered recommending a constitutional amendment calling for a single six-year term for presidents, an idea that has recurred periodically in American politics, usually at times when the president seems to be in distress. The idea appealed to Harding because he disliked the rough and tumble of partisan politics and dreaded the 1924 re-election campaign ahead of him.
Harding had shortcomings that would come out most in the people he trusted. Several major scandals would hit the public during and after his presidency. One was the Teapot Dome scandal, where Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall had accepted bribes regarding federal property that held oil reserves. The other was Attorney General Harry Daugherty, Harding's former chief political aide in Ohio, who also accepted bribes in exchange for lenience on organized crime. Harding's morality has been called into question due to the number of affairs he had with women and his legendary poker games at the White House with liquor during the Prohibition days.

No matter what his morals were, they didn't matter. What mattered were his economic views and he was consistent with what he wanted to do. The term "supply-side economics" arrived just before the Reagan Revolution, but Harding's economic program was almost entirely identical. The only significant difference was (as any typical Republican promoted at the time) the nationalistic element of protective tariffs, which has now been proven to not be a sound economic policy, especially in extreme cases. Nevertheless, tariff policy under Harding wasn't extreme and overall taxes would still be overwhelmingly reduced. In the 1920 presidential election, the Ohio senator won a landslide and the Republicans kept control of Congress. Progressivism was out and conservatism was in.

Harding's ideas for an economic recovery were influenced by Secretary of the Treasury Andrew W. Mellon. An opposing view that government should take action was proposed by Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, but it fortunately did not resonate. On the budget, Harding's policies would be considered austerity today. Government spending was slashed from $5.1 billion in 1921 to $3.1 billion in 1923. The top income tax rate was cut from 73 percent to 58 percent in the Revenue Act of 1921. The top bracket went from $1 million to $200,000.

While supply-side policies were the fiscal response, the monetary officials over at the new Federal Reserve (created by Wilson) went on a vast deflationary policy even before Harding became president. In June 1920, the discount rate was set at a high of 7 percent. Prices tumbled down by 15.8 percent in twelve months. Keynesian economists today might call such a policy madness because it doesn't stimulate demand on either the fiscal or monetary fronts. Did these policies work? The annual unemployment rate (compared with the annual unemployment rate during Obama's first three years as president) speaks for itself:

In three years, the economy had completely recovered. The unemployment rate was 11.9 percent in Harding's first year. It went down to 7.6 percent the following year and 3.2 percent in the third year. Obama's performance in three years? The unemployment rate started out at 9.3 percent in his first year, but in the second year it was 9.6 percent and in the third year it was 8.9 percent. Economic stagnation at its finest. As a result of the benefits of the gold standard (the commodity flowed into the United States during the depression), the Fed would slowly lower interest rates to create stability and add credit once the inflation problem was resolved. Real GDP during the years of Wilson's progressivism grew at a rate of 1.43 percent, but during the following conservative years real GDP grew at 4.80 percent. Financial journalist James Grant, author of The Forgotten Depression: 1921, The Crash that Cured Itself (a great book for anyone interested), has written:
What distinguished the subsequent recovery was likewise its uptempo pace. From 1921 to 1922, industrial production jumped by 25.9 percent and residential construction by 57.9 percent. Manufacturing employment increase to 9.0 million from 8.2 million, a gain of 9.5 percent (though, as had been amply demonstrated, employment was a somewhat fuzzy datum). Real income per capita rose to $553 from $522, a gain of 5.9 percent.
Overall, the "forgotten depression" is forgotten because of how quickly it was resolved. Just like the depression itself, Harding is also mostly forgotten. Sadly, the president's health was failing and he died of a heart attack in 1923 in San Francisco, California. Today, most people who do remember Harding think of him as a joke, even though his policies created the Roaring Twenties as well as an era of peace with the Washington Naval Conference. Going to back to the budget numbers, a surplus of $509 million in 1921 increased to $713 million in 1923. Although Harding had his flaws, many might wonder where this kind of economic and international leadership is now.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

What is Perceived Electability?

"Perceived electability" is a term you can easily find among political scientists and political crowds. It simply means as it says: is a candidate electable? This is important because usually political parties want to run someone who can get elected. It would make no sense to run a candidate who would lose, even if they are consistent with the party's views because that candidate is unlikely to win an election. To begin, it is important know what I mean when I say "the establishment" of either the Republicans or the Democrats. The establishment of both political parties is usually people who could be considered the party's leaders and individuals with heavy influence and power (big donors, political consultants, politicians with a lot of experience). They are the political class, who are highly interested in political affairs and want to see their party have power.

Both the Democratic establishment and the Republican establishment want to win elections, but also believe in what their party stands for (after all, they are the ones who usually set the agenda of their political parties every four years). In other words, the people of the Democratic establishment are center-left or liberal while the people of the GOP establishment are center-right or conservative. The problem is that several times they fear that some candidates are two ideological to win an election and that is when the establishment comes at odds with their party base.

In the case of the Republicans, we can go back to 2012. The establishment did want a candidate who would be acceptable to both themselves and the base, but the only acceptable candidate was Tim Pawlenty and he dropped out early. The establishment would now have to battle with the base over their favored candidate who they thought was the most electable (Mitt Romney) and the Tea Party base's candidates. The 2012 primaries were a win for the establishment as Tea Party candidates continued to fall apart. It is important to understand however, that the establishment would have gone with a ideological conservative if he or she proved to be electable, but that did not happen. Michele Bachmann could simply not keep up steam and faded, Rick Perry proved hopeless in debates, Herman Cain withdrew from sexual harassment allegations, Newt Gingrich's conservatism seemed to waiver at times, and Rick Santorum's campaign was based on social issues rather than economic issues most voters concentrated on.

As for the Democrats, we can go back to 2008. Just like in 2016, Hillary Clinton appeared to have an easy shot at winning the nomination. Then came Barack Obama, a senator from Illinois with little experience who hadn't even completed his first term. In this case, Obama had strong liberal credentials and over time was proven as someone who could be elected. Clinton was electable, but the Democratic establishment lost confidence since they could find someone who was just as electable, but more liberal as well. Rather then face a battle at the convention, she withdrew to Obama. Some people argue that as a political reward for not tearing apart the convention, she was made the head of the State Department.

Make no mistake, perceived electability is very important. A lot of party voters who are centrists vote strategically in the primaries in order to nominate the best candidate who could win the presidential election. Usually this means looking at polls between candidates. Currently, most pollsters see Clinton as the likely Democratic nominee, so Republicans are being matched against her. Every Republican is at a disadvantage in the polls, but what matters to the GOP establishment is which candidate is not losing by double digits. I have ranked the RCP averages from the Republican with lowest margin of defeat to the one with the highest. Here's what we have as of March 26:

RCP Average (2/20-3/15): Clinton 49.5%, Rubio 41.5% - Clinton +8.0
RCP Average (2/20-3/15): Clinton 49.0%, Walker 40.8% - Clinton +8.2
RCP Average (1/12-3/15): Clinton 50.0%, Paul 41.5% - Clinton +8.5
RCP Average (1/12-3/15): Clinton 49.4%, Bush 40.6% - Clinton +8.8
RCP Average (1/12-3/15): Clinton 50.0%, Christie 40.2% - Clinton +9.8
RCP Average (2/20-3/4): Clinton 50.3%, Cruz 39.0% - Clinton +11.3
RCP Average (2/20-3/15): Clinton 50.3%, Carson 38.7% - Clinton +11.6
RCP Average (1/12-3/15): Clinton 52.0%, Huckabee 40.3% - Clinton +11.7

Those candidate who have margins under double digits are likely ones the establishment will consider. They will specifically look for candidates where Clinton is polling under 50 percent. Candidates who are facing Clinton where she's polling over 50 percent are going to be overlooked. It will be an upward fight for those candidates, who are viewed as highly unelectable. Those who appear to be able to compete will be the ones establishment Republicans will look at and are more likely to get nominated. The biggest task is who the conservative base will sway too.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Four Examples of Why Feminism is Unpopular

Back in September 2014, actress and activist Emma Watson made a speech to the United Nations where she said, "feminism has become an unpopular word." Time magazine found in November that the word "feminist" was unpopular as well by conducting a survey which found that "feminist" beat out of all its competition for words the public would like to see gone with 51 percent. Time decided to apologize afterword for finding that out. Around this same period, Professor Glenn Harlan Reynolds of the University of Tennessee wrote this in the USA Today:
According to a HuffPost/YouGov poll, only 23% of American women and only 20% of Americans overall identify as feminists, even though most are in favor of gender equality. Feminists, who like to say that feminism is gender equality, are unhappy with this, but I think the poll captures a truth. Whatever feminists say, their true priorities are revealed in what they do, and what they do is, mostly, man-bashing and special pleading.
When you act like what pioneer feminist Betty Friedan once called "female chauvinist boors," you shouldn't be surprised to lose popularity.
His article was also about an outrageous reaction by feminists to a scientist who was wearing a shirt they didn't like during a historic landing of a probe 300 million miles away. What was supposed to be a groundbreaking scientific event turned into a divisive issue from feminist criticisms. One of the most important things to understand about why feminism has become so unpopular is because, as I believe, it has served its purpose in the western world. It's not like Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan where women truly suffer and are treated as second-class citizens. Feminism is needed there, but not in places where it has already made all of its actual achievements. Women in western countries have some of the best advantages in the entire world and current issues facing first world feminists really don't matter as much nor do they appear oppressive to the rest of the western population. If you do think women are still oppressed in western countries, here are four points you should probably take a look at:

1. Women go to the ballot box. It is hard to say women are oppressed in the United States when in the 2012 presidential election, 53 percent of the voters were women according to data from the Roper Center. This isn't just a first occurrence, but is actually quite the norm as more women voted than men in 2008 and 2004 as well. In other countries, the difference is fairly equal. In the 2010 British general election, 66 percent of men turned out and 64 percent of women.

2. Women are in government. In the U.S. Senate a fifth of all the senators are women and that is almost the same in the House of Representatives. In other words, Congress does have many elected women. If we go across the pond to the British House of Commons, there are 148 female MPs out of 650 members. In the German Bundestag, there are 230 women since the 2013 federal election out of a total of 631 seats. It is clear that many legislative chambers have a considerably amount of women. What's that? You say there aren't enough women? In other words, you are arguing for more votes and representation sociologically than on actual issues? Well, that is quite a hinder to the purpose of democracy if you think representation should be gender based. Yes, some men will vote for candidates because they are men, but some women will vote for candidates because they are women. If one thing is certain, I am happy most people don't vote based on gender.

3. Women are powerful. Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel, Julia Gillard, Dilma Rousseff, Sonia Gandhi, Queen Elizabeth II, Hillary Clinton, Janet Napolitano, Loretta Lynch, Janet Reno, Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice, Sarah Palin, Tammy Baldwin, Elizabeth Warren, Michele Bachmann, Carly Fiorina, Meg Whitman, Janet Yellen, Michelle Obama, Melinda Gates, Sheryl Sandberg, and Christine Lagarde are just some of the many examples of women who do have power or did have power either if its political, economic, or social. How can anyone say women are still oppressed in western nations and that there is some bias against them when there are plenty of women with power?

4. Academic advantage. Last year, a study from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that women are 33 percent more likely than men to earn college degrees. Further research from the Pew Research Center finds that women excel in college enrollment gains by every major racial demographic. These figures are not unique to the United States. The same statistics can be found in Britain, where more women applied for college than men in 2014.

From these four important examples, we can see the first world feminist argument of a bias against women in western society is very weak. Women have plenty of opportunities.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Ted Cruz is First to Declare Candidacy for President

Senator Ted Cruz announces presidential run. - New York Daily News
We now have our first official candidate for the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas announced on Monday that he was running for president. That same day marked the anniversary of President Obama's highly unpopular Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. According to the most recent poll for the Republican nomination conducted by CNN and ORC International that was released on March 18, Jeb Bush is in the lead with 16 percent, Scott Walker has 13 percent, Rand Paul has 12 percent, and Mike Huckabee has 10 percent. Ted Cruz falls very short with just 4 percent in the crowded field.

Being the underdog is nothing new for Cruz. When he ran for the Republican nomination in the 2012 Texas election for the U.S. Senate, he was behind in the polls against Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst. Dewhurst was clearly the favorite of establishment Republicans while Cruz was backed by the Tea Party. In the Republican primary, Cruz won an upset by energizing his supporters and getting them to turnout. He then went on to win the Senate.

There are many reasons why Cruz picked now to officially run for president. Since he has been polling so low, he will likely receive a bump of support now that his candidacy is official. People who might be supporting other candidates will draw to Cruz for the time being. We don't exactly know how many will. It could be a bump of 2 percent or a bump of 8 percent, but there will certainly be a bump. Conservatives will jump to Cruz's support and with it will come money. While some possible candidates like Walker and Donald Trump deal with the longer process of turning exploratory bids into actual presidential campaigns, Cruz cuts through all that to burst out of the starting gates and quickly earn funds from Tea Party donors.

Given Cruz's ability to receive a surge of support at the last minute in elections, he knows he can use that to his advantage. He said on Hannity after declaring his run for president that he wants to bring out conservatives and Reagan Democrats who "stayed home" in 2008 and 2012. Indeed, there was a decrease of 6.5 million white voters in 2012. Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics found these white voters to be largely rural, blue-collar, and northern. Think of people who voted for Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996 and George W. Bush to an extent in 2000 and 2004. These people were turned off by an urban liberal like Barack Obama and a corporate venture capitalist like Mitt Romney. It always helps to have working class roots in elections. The obvious question is if Ted Cruz is the man to bring back that coalition.

While he is charismatic, has unquestioned conservative views, and is energetic in getting supporters to vote, Cruz will have some weaknesses. Cruz was elected in 2012, so he has not yet served a full term. In fact, if he were elected president he would have the same length of experience as President Obama did when he ran for president. Some voters will be concerned over his lack of experience. A strong attack on him that can be used by leftist media outlets and a Democratic presidential campaign would be the argument that he led a government shutdown back in 2013 following his filibuster of Obamacare that lasted 21 hours. He has no signature legislation in his record either.

As of now, Cruz will have an uphill battle to win the Republican nomination. There are many other likely Tea Party candidates that will be watching him. He won't get any serious support from the Republican establishment and centrists. For those of you who didn't see Ted Cruz declare his candidacy for president, here's the video:

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Strategy for Minor GOP Candidates

Carly Fiorina at CPAC 2015 - ABC News
Most casual political readers know who Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, and Rand Paul are. These five also happen to be the top five in the RCP average as of March 23. However, most of these political readers have probably not heard of John Bolton, Carly Fiorina, Bobby Jindal, and George Pataki. All of these candidates are fairly low in the polls and have very little name recognition in a highly crowded Republican field. Other candidates who poll low numbers but have some name recognition are Chris Christie, Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz. If these Republicans do officially become candidates, it will be hard from them to shift attention away from the candidates who are garnering the most attention.

The strategy for a minor Republican candidate is to find a way to get name appeal and attention. What a candidate in this position should do is pick an issue and make themselves the "owner" of it. It helps of this issue is reinforced by experience. For example, John Bolton served as an ambassador to the United Nations during George W. Bush's presidency from 2005 to 2006. Bolton can focus specifically on a foreign policy issue like ISIS or the negotiations with Iran. If this issue is elevated to greater importance, then Bolton gets more attention and support by focusing on it during his presidential campaign and having the experience that makes him credible to talk about.

Another example is Carly Fiorina. She will already have some appeal and interest if she is the only female candidate running for the Republican presidential nomination. Fiorina also has business experience because she worked as an executive at AT&T and then became the CEO of Hewlett-Packard (HP) where she served from 1999 to 2005. Afterword, she was on several boards for tech companies. Fiorina can expand on issues that are centered around women or she can focus on cyber issues such as net neutrality. If an issue she owns gains more importance, then she gets more attention.

Mike Huckabee is actually the perfect example of this strategy working even though he ironically tried to avoid it. In the 2008 Republican primaries, Huckabee was called "the preacher" because he had spent several years as the pastor of a Baptist church. In the debates, Huckabee felt that he was being limited to only being focused on religious and social issues. In fact, the debate moderators were aiding Huckabee by letting him talk about issues he had depth on. Voters in the Iowa caucus (many of which are evangelical Christians) were very interested in what Huckabee had to say on social issues and this is what led him to win the state decisively.

While candidates with little name recognition try to dominate a specific issue, candidates with name recognition will be in a tricky situation. Chris Christie has been polling fairly low, but most Republicans already know him. Does that mean they simply don't want Christie? No it doesn't. Christie can be largely affiliated with center-right Republicans like Jeb Bush can. The New Jersey governor will have to carve himself as a better centrist than Bush with conservative credentials. This might mean attacking Bush in the debates. Think of him as the Jon Huntsman of 2016. Donald Trump is also someone with name appeal, but little support. However, he cannot be counted out considering the money he can bring to a campaign. Recently, he has formed an exploratory committee. Like Fiorina, he can talk about business issues like no other candidate can.

As we get closer to the actual campaign, we will see which of these minor hopefuls actually run for the Republican nomination and which don't find running worth it. As of now, these Republicans who poll fairly low will have to rally their own base of support to back them if they run for president.

Monday, March 16, 2015

How the Email Scandal Damages Hillary Clinton

Lisa Benson
For the last week, Hillary Clinton has been on the defense over using a private email server rather than communicating through a government email as secretary of state. The server was revealed from an investigation in the House of Representatives led by Republicans. The State Department has decided to reopen an open-records court case over Clinton's emails after the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch had requested some of them. It is likely that the State Department wanted to reopen the case because they did not search over or have access to Clinton's emails before.

Politically, the revelation over the email scandal has been damaging to Clinton. One her closest allies, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, criticized Clinton for being so silent when the reports on her emails first came out and was one of the reasons Clinton decided to finally accept a press conference at the United Nations. Feinstein was just one of several Democrats who put pressure on the former secretary of state to come out publicly. Like I typed above, eventually she did do a press conference to try and stem the controversy, but only after she was defiantly silent on the issue. Republicans, myself included, were happy that we finally got some answers from her, but I would prefer more and hope that she has to go before an investigation in Congress to answer some questions. This new scandal exposes one of the great weaknesses of Hillary Clinton. Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune wrote it best:
Why did she not come forward until two days after Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat and leader on national security issues, admonished her on "Meet the Press" to "step up and come out and state exactly what the situation is ... I think, at this point, from this point on, the silence is going to hurt her." 
One would think so. Yet her remarkably glib and casual responses to questions about her email destruction ("I didn't see any reason to keep them") and her justification for mingling public and private emails ("convenience") recall some of her ugliest past episodes — just as she appears poised by all indications to throw her bonnet into the ring as a presidential candidate.
Indeed, this is one of the cases of Clinton at her ugliest. Her decision to not respond personally to the email revelations shows a problem on her part to try and remain above the issue rather than counter it. As the server was revealed, Clinton did not cancel any of her speaking events that were probably meant to build momentum over a presidential campaign. Instead, her speeches and appearances on women-centered issues were completely forgotten in the wake of the scandal. Someone more responsible would directly talk about the emails, but she has showed many times that she never addresses controversy. For example, there were billing records that were subpoenaed from her law firm during the Whitewater land deal scandal, but these papers were found two years later in the White House after they had been requested.

Hillary Clinton has an image that makes her look as if she doesn't care what the public thinks and in many past scandals that has seemed true. It doesn't look good for a candidate if one of their perceptions seems to not be caring about what the voters think or demand. Further weakening her, a judge has ordered the State Department to release records from Clinton's plane manifests to see if Clinton Foundation donors went with her on work trips. The Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation has come under scrutiny from accepting donations from nations that have problematic relations with the United States. Is it possible that Hillary Clinton profited from her job at the State Department? Seeing other things that she has done in the name of more political power, I think it's possible.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Debunking the Walker vs. Dayton Facebook Comparison

Because Facebook pictures are always valuable in giving accurate information.....
This Facebook image has been circulating around recently and it pretty much shows a great problem with political debate and the internet. Recently, I did comparisons using data to show the difference in various economic metrics between states with supply-side policies and demand-side policies. I also did a comparison of oil policies between Texas and California. The reason I did that is quite simple in that both states have widespread access to oil while most states do not, so it wouldn't be fair to compare all states with each other since several have access to little oil and their policies reflect the scope of how much they would be able to drill. Tax policy is a lot different because all states can flexibly choose what rates and policies they want no matter the population. I will never narrow results unless they need to be narrowed.

In the specific case shown by the picture, Scott Walker's policies of cutting taxes and spending are compared to the policies of Democratic Governor Mark Dayton, who has raised taxes and spending during his tenure. This is an example of when data is too narrow because it only shows one state with a Republican governor against one state with a Democratic governor. Nevertheless, this comparison can be debunked anyway and that's what I'm doing in this post. Dayton and Walker have both served the same number of years as governors. First, I want to tackle the job numbers. According to the 2014 Gallup Job Creation Index, Wisconsin scored 31 in job creation and Minnesota scored 28. Wisconsin was ranked second that year in job creation (tied with two other states) while Minnesota was ranked thirteenth. The problem with making such claims as in the picture is that it is comparing one state to another as if they are the same, which is a major flaw when comparing states. Wisconsin's unemployment rate, no matter what governor is in control, has always traditionally been above that of Minnesota's.

During 2009, the trough year of the Great Recession, Minnesota's unemployment rate peaked at a high of 8.3 percent while Wisconsin's peaked at 9.2 percent. This is nothing new, the unemployment rate has always been traditionally lower in Minnesota than in Wisconsin because of how both economies generally are in their characteristics. Geography and the history of the state plays a role too. Wisconsin's workforce has always been larger than Minnesota's. Usually a state with a larger workforce has a higher unemployment rate in both boom times and bust times. These numbers are not unique to Walker and Dayton.

A perfect example of this is Iowa. Iowa's unemployment rate peaked at 6.4 percent in August 2009, but has only fallen by 2.3 percent when looking at labor statistics data from December 2014. During that same time, Wisconsin's unemployment has fallen by four percent. This doesn't mean Iowa was doing something better or worse than Wisconsin, it simply means that less people would be unemployed in Iowa because of a smaller workforce. Iowa had a total of 1.64 million people employed in December 2014 while Wisconsin had a total of 2.96 million people employed that same month. Iowa didn't need that great a recovery because it had a small recession to begin with. Wisconsin's was larger, so it needed a larger recovery, but Wisconsin wasn't as bad as Michigan. In August 2009, the Michigan unemployment rate peaked at an eye-watering 14.2 percent. Likewise, Michigan's unemployment rate has fallen faster and employment has risen higher because they simply have more people that needed to be employed back into the workforce, which in December 2014 numbered up to 4.44 million people.

A reader should be very skeptical of real median income numbers because they have also fallen under the same historical economic trends. Wisconsin's per capita income has almost always been lower than that of the United States since 1990. Minnesota's has always been above the national level, so in other words these statistics are (once again) hardly unique to Walker and Dayton. The picture also doesn't favor the budget argument because Walker's new budget would bring a surplus:

Finally, what about the economic confidence figures? Did you notice that they didn't mention anything about economic confidence in Wisconsin? That's because there's hardly a difference between Wisconsin and Minnesota since according the 2014 Gallup Economic Confidence Index, Wisconsin was tied in seventh place and Minnesota was ranked first. An important thing to note is that Minnesota has been ranked number one in economic confidence for seven years in a row, so (again) the numbers are not unique to the two current governors of both states. In conclusion, this picture that has been going through the internet should not be taken seriously because all of its claims aren't reflective of the policies of both governors.

Monday, March 2, 2015

How Valuable is CPAC in Predicting the GOP Nominee?

Rand Paul at CPAC 2015 - Politico
The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this year at Washington D.C. has ended and here's the results from the 3,007 attendees who voted:

Senator Rand Paul - 25.7%
Governor Scott Walker - 21.4%
Senator Ted Cruz - 11.5%
Retired Doctor Ben Carson - 11.4%
Former Governor Jeb Bush - 8.3%
Former Senator Rick Santorum - 4.3%
Senator Marco Rubio - 3.7%
Businessman Donald Trump - 3.5%
Businesswoman Carly Fiorina - 3.0%
Governor Chris Christie - 2.8%
Former Governor Rick Perry - 1.1%
Undecided - 1.0%
Governor Bobby Jindal - 0.9%
Former Governor Sarah Palin - 0.8%
Other - 0.7%
Former Governor Mike Huckabee - 0.3%
Former Ambassador John Bolton - 0.3%
Senator Lindsey Graham - 0.1%
Former Governor George Pataki - 0.1%

Those in the top five will have the most momentum coming out of CPAC and the rest will note their place in the straw poll and decide if it is actually worthy of deciding their presidential campaign or not. Rand Paul has now won a trifecta at CPAC and one of the most important takeaways is that almost half of those who attended CPAC are in the young voter demographic. This straw poll is valuable to see the opinion of young conservatives and libertarians. We know Paul is the favorite in that group, which is why he won three times in a row. Scott Walker should be happy to see the surge in support he has received from CPAC as well.

All that aside, how valuable is CPAC in terms of predicting the actual Republican nominee? It is important to understand that the attendees vote largely based on how the Republican hopefuls speak. The Republicans who give the better speeches are the ones who get more votes. This is different than the Ames straw poll, which is dependent on a debate between the candidates. Here's a look at CPAC and who has won the Republican nomination in recent years:

CPAC 2006: George Allen
CPAC 2007: Mitt Romney
CPAC 2008: Mitt Romney
2008 Nominee: John McCain
CPAC 2009: Mitt Romney
CPAC 2010: Ron Paul
CPAC 2011: Ron Paul
CPAC 2012: Mitt Romney
2012 Nominee: Mitt Romney
CPAC 2013: Rand Paul
CPAC 2014: Rand Paul
CPAC 2015: Rand Paul

Paul isn't the only candidate to win a trifecta at CPAC, so has Mitt Romney who currently holds the record for most CPAC wins (four). However, one of the most interest things about Romney's win as that most are tied around the 2008 presidential election where he lost to John McCain for the Republican nomination. Romney did win in 2012, but did not win in the two CPAC straw polls before that. There will be one more CPAC conference before the Republican convention in 2016, but there's little guarantee that CPAC 2016 will be critical to win for a Republican candidate. There is simply little evidence that a straw poll with several thousand people can do that.

Finally, I want to address the idea that CPAC actually hurts the Republican nominee, which is false. If anything, CPAC does very little to help or hurt a Republican nominee. Ronald Reagan won it in 1980 and went on to win the presidency. George W. Bush won CPAC in 2000 and won the presidential election as well. Democratic political analysts are wrong to think that CPAC hurts Republican candidates. The truth is CPAC does very little for any Republican candidate. It gives the candidates who finish at the top a little momentum, but does little other than that. It does nothing to help a candidate, but just offers the media and political analysts a look at what young and D.C. area conservatives think of the candidates based on their speaking abilities.

The only other effect of the CPAC straw poll is that some Republicans who may have been hoping to use it as launching pad for their campaign might be disappointed at their poor showing. While Chris Christie might not take CPAC into consideration since he doesn't affiliate with the more conservative factions of the GOP, candidates like Bobby Jindal and Mike Huckabee will. As for now though, the possible Republican candidates will be moving on to other ventures to help with their presidential runs.