Friday, May 29, 2015

GOP Candidates and Debates

2012 Republican candidates - Politico
The Republican Party is reaching a big dilemma for upcoming debates: how do they fit all the candidates on a debate stage? By the end of the summer, it is possible that there will be fifteen Republican candidates, all with their own ideas and visions on what needs to be done for the country. The problem is that the 2016 Republican nomination primaries will be the most competitive in the party's history because of the many candidates that are running. As of now, eight Republicans are officially candidates:

Marco Rubio, senator from Florida
Rand Paul, senator from Kentucky
Ted Cruz, senator from Texas
Ben Carson, retired neurosurgeon
Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard
Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas
Rick Santorum, former senator from Pennsylvania
George Pataki, former governor of New York

It's obvious there will be more candidates to add to this list later. We are vastly approaching the second phase of the campaign season where most candidacies are officially declared for the party nominations as the first phase that focuses on preparation fades away. There are going to be eleven Republican debates during the nomination race in order to avoid the chaotic amount of debates last time. Fox News has decided that the top ten candidates with the best poll numbers will debate.

Every candidate will be interested in participating in the first debate in Ohio, but none more so than the governor of the state, John Kasich, who is floating his own presidential run. If he becomes a candidate for the GOP nomination, he might have to deal with the real possibility of not being invited to a televised debate in his own state because his national poll numbers would be so low. For whoever is left out of the debate, Fox News host Greta Van Susteren will invite those candidates to her show in order to get some attention from viewers. Some other candidates that are in danger of not being able to debate are Fiorina and potential candidates Bobby Jindal and Lindsey Graham.

Fox News and CNN both have solutions for their debates. Fox News is using an average from the five most recent polls that are from "major, nationally recognized organizations that use standard methodological techniques" in order to decide who will debate. CNN did it a bit differently, since they will hold two debates at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in September. The ten candidates with the best national poll numbers will face off in one debate, while all the other candidates with poll numbers of 1 percent or higher (who do not have the high numbers for the first debate) will participate in another.

Fox News and CNN will be the hosts for most debates in the Republican primaries. Fox News will host three debates and another will be hosted by the Fox Business Network right here in Wisconsin. CNN will also host three. Other news networks like ABC and NBC will have to find their own solutions to dealing with the number of Republican candidates depending on how many will still be standing once their debates roll around. Overall, it's shaping up to be a very exciting year in presidential history.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Could World War II have been won without the United States?

D-Day landings - Wikimedia
In short: yes and no. Yes if we are arguing that the United States did not send actual troops and ships, but kept doing Lend-Lease. No if the United States did not intervene at all. With this being the last year of the 70th anniversary of World War II, I thought it would be fitting to explore this topic. It is in my opinion that the Soviet Union and the British Empire could have won without U.S. troops, but did need supplies from American Lend-Lease to keep fighting. If this were the case, however, World War II would have lasted longer for months to at most two years. If the United States didn't send any aid at all, then the scenario of the Soviets and British winning without any American support is unlikely.

It is necessary to understand what America was dealing with during the early years of World War II before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Most Americans did not want to enter the war, even though they wanted Britain and France to win. President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided to run for the Democratic nomination a third time because he didn't trust any in his own party or in the Republican Party. He won in the 1940 election and walked a fine line between intervention and isolation as he prepared for the inevitable American entrance into the war. His most major step during the American build-up period was the Lend-Lease policy that sent vital supplies to the British, the Soviets, and many other allies fighting the Axis before and after American troops were engaged in the conflict.

The Lend-Lease, in my opinion, tipped the balance in favor of the allies and was important to helping them win. When the United States entered the war, it hastened the defeat of the Axis, but with Lend-Lease the victory was inevitable because German industrial production could not keep up. This is critical to understand because after World War II the Soviets launched a huge propaganda campaign that acted as if they had defeated Germany alone in their "Great Patriotic War" against fascism. This narrative is incorrect and hides the truth. Both the U.S. and Britain risked valuable supplies to the Soviets. The U.S.S.R. received supplies and munitions amounting to $11.3 billion from the United States and was only second in receiving Lend-Lease to the British Empire.

The amount of supplies sent from both the United Kingdom and the United States is tremendous. Soviet leaders during the Cold War said that the Lend-Lease was "only 4 percent" of their production during the war. The truth, based on information revealed after the fall of the Soviet Union, shows that Allied supplies played a very crucial role. British-supplied tanks made up between 30 and 40 percent of heavy and medium tanks in the Soviet's Red Army during the most dangerous period for the Soviets in December 1941. The British tanks were immediately used to push the German war machine back since Soviet tank numbers were depleted. Aircraft were needed as well. Around 15 percent of planes defending Moscow were from the British 6th Fighter Air Corps. They were mostly the famous Tomahawks and Hurricanes, which were of higher quality compared to the early models of the Soviet Yak-1 (no radios at the time) and the outdated Polikarpov I-153. The foreign equipment made the difference when Moscow was about to fall and was continuously used once they had the upper hand.

Not only were tanks, planes, and guns sent, but also raw materials that helped the Soviets build their own weapons to fight the Germans. Simple American vehicles like the truck provided the Red Army a rapid way to move troops. Even with these vast amounts of supplies sent to the Soviets, the memory of the sacrifices of the Arctic convoys were largely forgotten in the name of Cold War propaganda. Sir Max Hastings, a fellow of the Royal Historical Society, has written in his Inferno: The World At War, 1939-1945:
Crews were obliged to labour relentlessly, hacking dangerous weights of ice from upperworks and guns, testing weapons on which lubricants froze. Men moved sluggishly in heavy layers of clothing which never sufficed to exclude cold. Alec Dennis, the first lieutenant of a destroyer, tried to nap on deck because he knew that if he took to his bunk he would be pitched out: "While one could keep one's body reasonably warm, I found it impossible to keep my feet warm in spite of fur-lined boots." He spent the first hour of every four off watch thawing his frozen feet sufficiently to be able to sleep. Crews subsisted on a diet of "kye" - cocoa - and corned-beef sandwiches served at action stations, snatching sleep during brief intervals between Germany attacks.
For their great sacrifice, the Arctic convoys are sadly one of the most forgotten operations in World War II history, despite their vital supplies sent to the Soviets to win the Battle of Moscow. I suppose that is expected because so much carnage happened during the war, but I hope this post reminds people of their sacrifice. It is worth mentioning, however, that the Soviets should still receive high praise for taking on the bulk of the Germans and the other Axis countries more than any other country in the Grand Alliance, but it is just as important to realize that Britain and American aid helped the Soviets turn the tide before Moscow could fall.

To finish up my post, I do think World War II could have ended in an allied victory as long as the United States sent Lend-Lease. The war would have lasted longer, but eventually the British would have kicked the Axis out of North Africa followed by an invasion of Italy. With American supplies, they would have had what was needed to launch an invasion to retake France, but would require more troops for their own part. The Soviets would have fought exactly as they did without America involved, but the difference would be that the Germans could have more reserves to spare if Adolf Hitler did not feel Britain was as big a threat on its own. After the Germans fell, both the Soviets and the British would focus on the Pacific and win against Japan.

The entrance of American forces helped provide a quick end to the war and we should be thankful for the men and women who fought on our side to end it. It was very disrespectful for the Soviets, even though they fought most of the German military, to brush off the U.S. and Britain as if they contributed nothing to the war. Happy Memorial Day folks!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Is Greece about to Collapse?

Nate Beeler
Earlier this month, I made a series of posts about the success of British Prime Minister David Cameron's government and his policies of cutting spending and taxes. Greece is the exact opposite and the country's potential default is causing Europe to fall apart. I will briefly explain some history as to why Greece is in a precarious situation. In 1992, the European Union was formed with the Maastricht Treaty after the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Warsaw Pact. The idea was to promote integration, good relations, and economic strength in Europe. In order to economically compete with the United States and China, the Eurozone was formed.

The Eurozone was created in 1999 and currently 17 of the 27 nations in the European Union follow it. Some EU countries like the United Kingdom and Norway decided not to join the Eurozone through referendums. The Eurozone meant that the seventeen nations participating would have to fix their exchange rates and use a single currency called the euro. This appealing economic "superstate" led investors to put funds into Eurozone countries. This was a mistake. Just because Eurozone members had the same currency does not mean Greece and Spain were as safe investments as Germany and the Netherlands, but the fixed interest rate made it seem so. One of the greatest problems Eurozone countries made on their own was spend on vast social programs and borrow money. This blew up with Greece.

Economists Glenn Hubbard and Tim Kane explain what happened next perfectly in their book Balance: The Economics of Great Powers from Ancient Rome to Modern America:
The Maastricht Treaty obligates Eurozone members to maintain sound fiscal policies, with total debt limited to 60 percent of GDP and annual deficits no greater than 3 percent of GDP. Not only did Greece exceed the 3 percent rule every year that it was part of the Eurozone, but it hid the true extent of its deficits from investors, included fellow EU nations. This misrepresentation was exposed in early 2010, and sparked a panic when the 2009 deficit was revised from 5 percent of GDP to the shocking truth of 12.7 percent of GDP. After investigations, European statistical agencies revised the figure to 15.6 percent of GDP.
For comparison, in 2010 the deficit of the United States was at 8.6 percent of GDP according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Basically, the problem was that the Greek government was spending so much money on lavish welfare state programs that they couldn't keep up with tax revenue, so they decided to lie about how bad their deficits were. Now Greece has a national debt (360 billion euros) higher than its GDP.

Private investors were stunned and if the Greeks kept going on this path, then eventually the investors would lose faith that those debts could be repaid. The Greeks have asked Europe for a bailout and received two from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund in exchange for austerity measures that would cut the welfare programs and wages. The response was heavy anger from the Greeks over these cuts. They didn't want their welfare programs cut, which are some of the most generous programs in the world.

The country that dominates the European Union is Germany, so many Greeks and their allies criticize the Germans for not sending more aid to their country. This would be a bad idea. Unlike Greece, the center-right government led by Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Christian Democratic Union has met its fiscal obligations. Merkel has her own voters and it would be wrong for her people to bailout other countries for their mistakes. The second (and more important) problem with more bailouts is that they create moral hazard if they continue. In economics, the term "moral hazard" refers to when an person continues to take risks that another person pays for. Would it be right for Germany and other Eurozone members to pay for Greece's problems? What if Greece makes their situation even worse thinking that other nations will always be there to help them? These are questions that raise concerns over the bailout solution.

The Germans have expressed support over a possible referendum that would give the Greek people the decision on if they want to continue austerity with financial aid. This is bad news for Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left), which took power in the 2015 Greek legislative election back in January. What happens if the Greek people don't want to keep their end of the deal? The Greek government now has to repay 1.5 billion euros on June 5. They made an IMF repayment back in March after hunting for all cash reserves, but now they have almost nothing left. Investors are pulling out of Greek deposits, but there is a risk that the government will try to restrict withdrawals. If that happens there will be a great deal of civil unrest and financial chaos.

Unemployment in Greece is around 25 percent, but it could get much worse. In my opinion, a Greek default is almost guaranteed, but we will have to see what happens as we get closer to the June 5 deadline. If the default does occur, it will set off a chain reaction in other European countries who have banks that invested in Greece (France is in the most danger). On a final note, I want to address the "austerity" efforts made by the previous Greek governments before SYRIZA won the last election. If you look at their spending as a percentage of GDP, you will see they had no backbone to holding the deal whatsoever:

The Greeks saw only tiny cuts since 2010 and in 2014 all spending discipline was evaporated under the political party New Democracy. Let's compare that to real cuts made by the Conservatives in the UK when they took power in 2010:

Government spending in the UK has decreased by 5 percent. In Greece, government spending has increased by 5 percent since 2010. If these two graphs don't show a strong contrast between politicians who keep their pledges and politicians who don't, then I'm not sure what does.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Need for Free Trade

Members of the TPP - Wikimedia
One of the dumbest things I've ever seen in politics is the skepticism of politicians on free trade while a clear majority of economists agree that it is beneficial to all parties. This skepticism showed on Tuesday when the Democrats decided to block debate on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free trade bill that both President Obama and the Republicans support. Only one Democrat in the Senate and the overwhelming majority of Republicans voted for debate on the bill. Leading the senators who blocked the debate was Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who is considering her own presidential run for the Democratic nomination. I can't believe the poor decisions and beliefs these senators hold, which goes against almost all evidence.

Opponents of the TPP, like Bill Curry, a former counselor to President Bill Clinton who writes for the left-wing website Salon, complains in an article about how it only benefits big multinational corporations and that politicians are working with special interest. He says that free trade hurts workers, economic growth, and causes wealth inequality. After reading his article, the first thing to know about Curry is that he understands nothing about economics and comes off like an 1880s protectionist politician. The left often complains that conservatives don't acknowledge global warming despite mountains of evidence. In the case of free trade, the left are the ones who are ignoring those mountains of evidence.

A more reliable and credible voice to listen to on free trade would be N. Gregory Mankiw, the Robert M. Beren professor of economics at Harvard University, who posted an article about the factual benefits of free trade in The New York Times. Mankiw describes the basic economic concepts of free trade written by Adam Smith in his 1776 book An Inquiry into the Natures and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Smith, who is considered the first economist, took on the conventional wisdom of his time called mercantilism (a form of nationalism in political economy). Mercantilism argued that countries should only focus on exports in order to accumulate as much capital as possible. There was little regard for imports because that meant sending capital abroad.

Today, Smith's arguments for free trade are now the conventional wisdom. We now know that imports are just as beneficial as exports for consumption purposes. A consumer can now have more choice over goods and services than before. Exports are good too, but only in the sense that a country focuses on sectors where they excel in production, quality, and efficiency. Your country might be good at producing cars, but might not be good at producing cell phones. Most people wouldn't like to be forced to purchase cell phones of low quality even though it might say "Made in America" on it. Additionally, exports are necessary only in that a country be paid for the goods it provides.

Curry attacks free trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) for causing the United States to have a trade deficit with Mexico. Basically, the U.S. imports more than it exports from Mexico, but that isn't a problem. Business journalists Steve Forbes and Elizabeth Ames debunked this in their 2014 book Money: How the Destruction of the Dollar Threatens the Global Economy - and What We Can Do About It:
Neo-mercantilists overlook the fact that the United States has had a merchandise trade deficit for roughly 350 of the last 400 years. America ran a trade surplus during the Great Depression of the 1930s, for all the good that did. It has run trade deficits generally in more prosperous times, such as the late 1990s. That's because in those environments the United States is seen as a desirable market that's rapidly growing and consuming. People want to sell to America.
For those who might be confused. Technically the United States is going to be 239 years old this year, but if we go back to the Jamestown colony of 1607 then we are 408 years old.

Even with history on the side for those who advocate for free markets, the neo-mercantilists have the benefits of manipulating voters into seeing trade as a competitive business for whatever nations reaps the most wealth. Neo-mercantilists, like Bill Curry, spin working with foreigners as if it is a bad thing. They attack free trade with rhetoric that it hurts workers and they use class warfare to attack corporations and CEOs, even though nationalist and Marxist command economies have proven time and time again to fail. Finally, neo-mercantilists attack free trade by saying it takes jobs away to countries with cheap labor, but the whole idea of economic progress is shifting labor and resources to the best sectors of a country where there is room for expansion.

The wealth inequality argument seriously needs to stop because it's just cherry-picking statistics. Mark J. Perry, professor of economics at the University of Michigan and scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, has addressed this in a recent blog post. Progressive Democrats and labor unions say that CEOs earn anywhere between 200 to 350 times as much as the average worker, but these statistics only account for a couple hundred large corporations that exist in several nations and ignores domestic American companies. When looking at all 246,240 chief executives, the wealth ratio of CEO to worker pay is below 4:1.

Finally, Marxists say that neoliberalism, the primary ideology behind no trade barriers, exploits workers and has little interest in raising the conditions of human capital. In fact, neoliberalism prevents the worst human action from occurring: war. Nobody wants their relatives and friends to die in a war. Nobody wants World War III. While war is impossible to expel from humanity, it does extraordinarily decrease in a world of neoliberalism. Free trade means less war!

Explaining how free trade promotes peace is quite simple and there is tons of research to support it. A businessman in Country X who needs supplies that are in another country will buy them. Let's say he needs chairs in his restaurant, but the kind of chairs he wants are in only made in County Y. The businessman in Country Y sells him these chairs for profit. The businessman in Country X now has chairs for his restaurant, so people will come to eat and he makes profit. Free trade is a win-win and if a war occurred between Country X and Country Y then the relationship between the two businessmen would be broken. If we take it to the level of a multinational corporation like Burger King, we know the business executives leading it wouldn't want a war between two countries that have their restaurants, so they advocate against it.

Free trade has been proven to be the greatest economic policy in the entire world. The Trans-Pacific Partnership would expand free trade in the Pacific. We should not block this great opportunity.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Great Wisconsin Economy under Scott Walker

Scott Walker in South Carolina - Journal Sentinel
While Governor Scott Walker's approval ratings may have plummeted here in Wisconsin, that doesn't change the fact that the economy is doing wonderfully in my state. Yes, a Marquette Law School poll shows that his approval rating has fallen to 41 percent, but this doesn't dispel how great Wisconsin is doing under Walker. I conclude that the reason his approval rating has fallen is because of the budget he is proposing, but keep in mind that he did deal with low approval ratings back in 2011 when he was proposing Act 10. Once the budget is actually implemented, the approval ratings will change once people see how successful his plan is.

I have mentioned in a previous post the fallacy of comparing Wisconsin to Minnesota. Economic policy analyst Jon Hartley has posted a good article on Forbes that covers the differences of the two states and how the Midwest is doing as a whole. In the Midwest, there are two kinds of states. The western states in the Midwest have benefited from the energy boom of horizontal drilling that has been bringing gas prices down nationally. I already talked about how fracking has helped the American economy in a post back in January. This has been the case with Minnesota, where the energy industry has driven unemployment down to under 4 percent.

Wisconsin and the eastern states in the Midwest are different because they are dominant with manufacturing, not energy. Of these manufacturing states, Wisconsin is in the best condition. The unemployment rate here is lower than in other similar states like Illinois and Michigan. It is also far lower than the national average:

One attack Democrats make on Walker and the Wisconsin economy is that it is last in Midwest job growth. This is true, but Hartley explains why such an attack is fallacious:
An important analytical caveat is when a states like Wisconsin approach or attain full-employment, job growth will likely slow to be more in line with population growth. It’s important to note that the U.S. economy needs to add 80,000 jobs per month according to a paper by Chicago Fed economists Dan Aaronson and Scott Brave simply to keep up with population growth and maintain the same employment rate as the previous month. Some reports have confused this principle in attempting to misuse data to direct political attacks toward Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, using 12-month job growth as the only metric in measuring the state’s economy, ignoring the unemployment gap (relative to full-employment) and labor force participation, two of the most popular metrics preferred by economists when assessing the state of the labor market.
Remember that Wisconsin did not have to create as much growth to return to normal economic conditions from the economic crisis. Our recovery was not as strong as other states because it didn't need to be. Secondly, remember that Minnesota has always had a lower unemployment rate than Wisconsin under both Democrats and Republicans in times of economic booms and economic busts.

Noah Williams, an economics professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has also written about how superior the Wisconsin economy has been doing under Governor Walker's policies. In Wisconsin, labor force participation has been at 68.5 percent, while at the national level it has fallen to 62.8 percent. From 2011 to 2013, real median income in Wisconsin rose by 2.7 percent while at the national level it has fallen by 1.3 percent. These numbers show how great Wisconsin is doing under the current economic policies.

As always, a state has to pay its bills and Governor Walker's next budget would provide a surplus for the state. His intention is to give the University of Wisconsin system more autonomy while cutting $300 million from the system to save money. Some of that money will be given back to the taxpayers. There is a claim by opponents of the cuts that it reduces aid by as much as 13 percent. This is false, because the figure used ignores almost $5 billion in funding from federal, segregated, and program revenues. The figure used only considers funding from the state. It is also important to note that Democrats who oppose the UW system cuts implemented cuts of their own back in 2003 under Governor Jim Doyle.

The MacIver Institute has found that foundations for UW-Madison have more than $6 billion in assets to assist the UW system. These foundations have only sent five percent of that amount back to the college in fiscal year 2014. The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation raked in $3.22 billion in 2014 and the University of Wisconsin Foundation had $3.10 billion in 2014. The UW system also has more than $1 billion that was discovered during the 2013-2015 debate by legislators. These hidden reserves more than surpass the cuts. Overall, it is a great budget for Wisconsin that keeps the surplus and provides less taxes that helps the Wisconsin economy grow. Everyone should be happy, especially college students who have seen a tuition freeze under Governor Walker's policies. Let's hope he keeps passing the policies needed to help the Wisconsin economy to grow!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Fiorina, Carson, and Huckabee are all Running for President

Ben Carson announces presidential run - Yahoo
As we get closer to the summer, more candidates are officially entering the race. Three Republicans have become official candidates recently. These are former HP CEO Carly Fiorina, former pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson, and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. These three new candidates add diversity and dynamic political views to the GOP primaries. I will go through each candidate briefly and explain their campaign strategy.

The last time a person who never held an elective office became president was Dwight Eisenhower, which means that Fiorina's chances of winning the Republican nomination are slim. Nevertheless, of the three new candidates she will probably gain the most support because she is at rock bottom in the polls right now. I have mentioned in a previous post how minor GOP candidates, such as herself, can become stronger candidates. For Fiorina this means "owning" a certain issue. Fiorina should pick an issue and focus on it during the campaign trail to enhance her candidacy. This is best if it ties something in her background. Cyber security or net neutrality are perfect issues since she was the leader of one of the largest tech companies in the world. She is also a woman, so she can speak of issues like abortion in a way that male candidates cannot.

It is very important that Fiorina be able to participate in the debates in order to make her candidacy viable. She should talk about her business experience and use that to help her when receiving questions about the economy. She has to get voters to believe her and respond effectively to the fact that she was fired over corporate strategy at HP. Her uniqueness as a woman gives her more credibility on women's issues and she should hope that her message on these issues can get conservative women on her side. She can go after Hillary Clinton like no other current Republican candidate can. Since she is in no way favored by the center-right establishment, she will have to garner support from the Tea Party and other grassroots movements to win primaries. It is a bit difficult for me to say where she should win, but it would be best to go for Iowa and South Carolina. At the same time, based on her presidential announcement video, she wants to target Hillary Clinton and the political class in the United States. Here it is:

It could be said that Fiorina benefits from the same popularity that Herman Cain had. The African-American businessman who had a working class background rose to become a CEO through his own hard work and determination. Like Fiorina, his company (Godfather's Pizza) faced a crisis and Cain was able to save the company from going bankrupt. While Fiorina does have those links, there is a second Herman Cain in this nomination race as well. His name is Ben Carson. 

Ben Carson is an articulate speaker who has expertise in the medical field and is an African-America. Like Fiorina, he has a lot going for him. Like Fiorina, Carson is not a politician and will have to rely on grassroots support against major campaign machines like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Scott Walker. This should be easy for Carson, as he does have a lot flair with him and unlike Fiorina he has more name appeal in conservative crowds. Carson can talk about a wide variety of campaign issues since more people know about him. He doesn't have to target one issue, but there are issues that will enhance his popularity. He needs to do this because his poll numbers have fallen considerably. The RealClearPolitics average from March 1 to today has had Carson decline from 12.3 percent to 5 percent.

Carson can talk about President Obama's Affordable Care Act with more credibility than other Republicans because he worked in the medical field for many years. Additionally, sociological voting fits since he is black. Black voters might be interesting in voting for Carson from what he has to say. Recently, Carson visited Baltimore, where he lived most of his life, after rioting following the death of an African-American who was in the hands of the police. He discussed with leaders in the black community about how a small government approach can help rise blacks out of poverty. With strong debate performances and charisma, Carson can excite Tea Party crowds and triumph in the Republican primaries from a sweeping support of grassroots conservatives and blacks who usually don't vote in Republican primaries. This especially helps in South Carolina, but he can focus on social issues in order to win some evangelicals in Iowa. You can find Carson's announcement speech here:

Finally, Mike Huckabee is currently dealing with same problem Carson is in the polls, but not as badly. Using the same period, the RCP average had the former Arkansas governor and Fox News host at 13.3 percent when March started, but as of now it is 7.5 percent. Huckabee will need to rally the social conservatives to his side. He knows if he can centralize his main support through talking about topics like abortion and gay marriage, he can then go after other voters like militarist conservatives or the center-right who focus heavily on fiscal issues.

Huckabee must prove to voters that he is an economic conservative, which was the main problem with him when he ran for Republican nomination in 2008. He must be able to refute attacks made against him in debates and show how they are inaccurate. He would help him greatly if he put forward a firm supply-side plan. Tax cuts are always a win for conservatives, but if he can go further and propose a fundamental change in the tax system by proposing a flat income tax or the FairTax. Strategically, he must win in Iowa and South Carolina just like he did in 2008 to have momentum for later primaries. If Rick Santorum, the favorite of the social conservatives in 2012, runs again then the social conservatives will be split and both candidates will be hurt. They will have to battle each other to gather more supporters. Here's Huckabee's speech:

You might notice something: I believe that each of these candidates will have to win Iowa and South Carolina. That's because it is dead true and every other Republican candidate has to do so as well in order to avoid a big fight later on over other primaries or even at the convention. For Carson and Huckabee this is certainly true, otherwise they will have to wait longer to win states they know they can compete for. Fiorina is a bit different. It is possible she can win in the west in early primaries like Nevada, but there is a case for her everywhere else too. She has more options. What is guaranteed is that each candidate makes the Republican field more diverse. Not just by race or gender, but also their stances on the issues as the Republican race for the nomination heats up.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

David Cameron and Conservatives win in 2015!

Cameron officially announces government - The Guardian
In a shocking victory everyone was not expecting, the Conservative Party has won an outstanding victory and have enough seats to form a government without another party needed for a coalition. David Cameron will continue as the prime minister. Here are the results:

Conservative Party (David Cameron) - 331 (+24)
Labour Party (Ed Miliband) - 232 (-26)
Scottish Nationalists (Nicola Sturgeon) - 56 (+50)
Liberal Democrats (Nick Clegg) - 8 (-49)
DUP (Peter Robinson) - 8 (-/+)
Sinn Fein (Gerry Adams) - 4 (-1)
Party of Wales (Leanne Wood) - 3 (-/+)
SDLP (Alasdair McDonnell) - 3 (-/+)
UUP (Mike Nesbitt) - 2 (+2)
UKIP (Nigel Farage) - 1 (-1)
Green Party (Natalie Bennett) - 1 (-/+)

I was way off from this one, but I'm not alone as everyone else was too. Why did the Conservatives win so big when so many thought they were going to lose seats? The answer is something I briefly mentioned in my last post called the "shy Tory factor". A Tory is another term for a Conservative. The shy Tory factor first came up in the 1992 general election. As the day of the election got closer and closer, polls showed that the Labour Party led by Neil Kinnock had a lead and was going to be the governing party. When the election came, analysts noticed quickly that something was off. Labour wasn't winning as many seats as it was supposed to. When the results of all 650 seats were finished, the Conservatives still had a majority and John Major was still prime minister. The conclusion by political scientists was that a certain percentage of Conservative voters (anywhere between 1 percent and 10 percent) do not reveal their voting intentions in polls.

In this general election, a BBC exit poll revealed that the Conservatives were set to win decisively with 316 seats. UKIP was only going to win two, so it looked like the split of the right-wing votes wasn't going to be as effective as the left hoped. The exit poll was so unpredictable that former Liberal Democrat party leader Paddy Ashdown even said he would eat his own hat if the poll was correct. It just got better for Cameron as the results were revealed. The Tories received a majority of the seats in the House of Commons. While the majority is very close, the election was a massive victory for the Conservatives because they were expected to lose seats and rely another coalition government to compromise with if they could get returned to power.

I'm happy to see the Conservatives returned to power with their majority. It means Cameron can get a referendum on Europe for the British people and he can go further with austerity policies to really slash the intervention of the state. Supply-side tax cuts will also be very important for their economy to continue to grow. One of my favorite historians and economists, Niall Ferguson, has written a very good article on the success so far of the Conservative Party's economic policies:
The UK had the best performing of the G7 economies last year, with a real GDP growth rate of 2.6%. In 2009, the last full year of Labour government, the figure was -4.3%. The coalition formed five years ago by Conservative leader David Cameron and the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg inherited an almighty mess from Gordon Brown, who had presided over feckless public sector expansion and reckless disregard for bank leverage and mismanagement. Five years ago, according to the Bank for International Settlements, the UK’s fiscal and financial trajectories were the worst in Europe.
Ferguson goes on about the successes of the tax cuts and spending cuts the Conservatives authorized. There has been rapid job creation and the unemployment rate is at 5.6 percent, which is way lower that other European countries that didn't want to return to a balanced budget. The deficit has been halved under Cameron.

While the Tories celebrate their victory, the three rival political parties are suffering from their losses. The Labour Party, which campaigned for more spending and more taxation on the wealthy, lost seats in the general election. This is a terrible defeat for Labour because they were expecting a victory. Ed Miliband has resigned as leader of the Labour Party, but they also lost crucial MPs like Ed Balls, Jim Murphy, and Douglas Alexander. It will be the job of the Labour Party to reinvent a center-left message over the next five years.

Two bigger losers tonight are the Liberal Democrats and UKIP. Most people at least expected the Liberal Democrats to have up to 20 seats when the election was over. Instead, the Liberal Democrats suffered an epic defeat and lost everything except for eight measly seats from 56. Nick Clegg will resign as leader of the Liberal Democrats. UKIP's situation was even worse. The right-wing political party, which had mostly taken voters from the Conservatives, won 12.6 percent of the electorate (3.88 million votes) and only ended up with one seat at the end of the night. Their valuable party leader, Nigel Farage, failed to win his own seat and has resigned as leader of the UK Independence Party. On one side he successfully increased the party's votes and made it a dominant force in the European Union, but problems with boundaries are what probably made UKIP win so little seats in this election. We will see what happens in five years once the Conservative government changes the boundaries, which will hopefully make representation more fair.

Farage himself has criticized the voting system because his party won more votes than the Scottish National Party, but the SNP ended up with 56 seats making them a big winner tonight. The reason for this is that the SNP concentrated only in Scotland and thus won a massive number of seats with just 4.7 percent of the electorate (1.45 million votes). SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon was able to present her party as better for the Scottish people than Labour or the Liberal Democrats. UKIP was more spread out, specifically across England. Farage did go out with a joke though, sarcastically congratulating two right-leaning newspapers that said the UKIP vote would split the Conservative vote and probably influence some former Tories to back and vote Conservative again.

Finally, two other big winners will be right-wing Irish parties. In Northern Ireland, the Democrat Unionist Party and the Ulster Unionist Party won seats and could be part of the Conservative government in order strengthen votes on bills. The DUP won eight seats and the UUP has two seats. These ten seats could be important for Conservative legislation. That one UKIP MP could additionally help. Overall, a majority of the British people did vote for right-wing political parties, which shows that the United Kingdom is going further into the best direction for their country. Now let's hope we can get a Republican president in 2016!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

2015 British General Election Prediction

Prime Minister David Cameron - The Telegraph
Can Prime Minister David Cameron and the coalition government of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats survive on May 7? The 2015 general election in the United Kingdom is going to a very tight one. It is guaranteed that no political party will have enough seats to reach the magic number, 326, to control the House of Commons. It is clear that there will be a hung parliament and a coalition government will be needed to rule the country. If the political situation is so bad that not enough parties can agree on a coalition, then a minority government will rule with authorization from Queen Elizabeth II.

All political parties are doing what they possibly can to increase their numbers on the day of the election. The Conservative Party has received a boost from 5,000 small businesses that have signed an open letter to The Telegraph endorsing the work of the current government under Cameron. The prime minister has said that right-wing voters cannot vote for the UK Independence Party because doing so will split the vote of the right in favor of the center-left Labour Party and left-wing Scottish National Party. The Conservatives have released this last ad before the general election:

The odds are, without out a doubt, stacked against the Conservatives in this general election. The constituency boundaries are old and outdated. Why didn't the Conservatives try to change them? They did try, but the problem with a coalition government came up. The Liberal Democrats were opposed to boundary changes even though it would have helped their coalition win a second term. Unlike previous coalition governments, the Liberal Democrats have been hostile to get what they want. This has hurt them tremendously. On May 7, the Liberal Democrats are certain to lose a lot of seats, but this is the price they pay for trying to get more of what they wanted as the smaller party in a coalition government. In addition, the Liberal Democrats under Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg are simply too centrist as a political party. No one exactly wants leaders who are in the middle of every political view, but that is what the Liberal Democrats are and it won't help them on May 7.

The leading opposition to the center-right coalition government is the Labour Party. Led by Ed Miliband, Labour intends to eliminate the austerity policies that the Conservatives put into place. They argue for more spending in the economy and intend to raise taxes on the wealthy. Miliband has assured the voters that he will keep his promises. He is going so far that he has recently set his promises in stone. Many are concerned that Labour will overextend their spending plans like they did before the Great Recession. A financial adviser, Adrian Gill, went on a question segment with Miliband and strongly criticized Labour for spending too much during the pre-recession years that led to a deficit. He published an article for the Daily Mail after the segment:
As a financial adviser, I am legally obliged to carry a capital adequacy – a technical term for the amount of cash I have to hold in reserve in case things go wrong. It forms a prudent part of any business.
So why should a country act any differently? Why, after the golden economic inheritance they got from the last Conservative Government in 1997, were they unable to build up some capital adequacy to enable them to ride out the storm? Had they not let spending rocket out of control they would have had such a surplus to fall back on.
While Labour struggles to convince the voters that they will stick to a new approach, the Scottish National Party led by Nicola Sturgeon is set to win a huge landslide in Scotland by getting support from half the electorate, but almost no support anywhere else in the UK. The SNP will gain a mountainous number of seats that will guarantee them large bargaining power. Miliband would hope to not have to rule along with the SNP, but it will be needed after May 7 if he intends to get most of his legislation passed. Had the SNP not surged as it has, then left-leaning Scotland would have went to mostly Labour candidates and some Liberal Democrats. Labour would have a comfortable lead and many would expect Miliband to be the next prime minister in that scenario.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage - The Telegraph
Back on the right, the UK Independence Party is expected to get a great deal of right-wing support. UKIP's leader, Nigel Farage, is popular among his supporters. Farage has working class roots that resonate with many voters who are disenfranchised with Cameron and the Conservatives. As of now, the cheerful and charismatic Farage would likely be my favorite choice for prime minister, but I also like Cameron. UKIP's policies are very similar to those of Margaret Thatcher, my favorite British prime minister. However, while it is likely that over 10 percent of the electorate will vote for UKIP, it is still unknown if the party will win any seats. I find that one big criticism of UKIP is that it is racist, which is completely wrong.

There are other political parties in the UK, but they vary in power. The Green Party of England and Wales (led by Natalie Bennett) and the Party of Wales (led by Leanne Wood) haven't done much for themselves and I don't expect to see gains for them. An analysis of a final debate showed that Cameron, Sturgeon, Miliband, and Farage did the best, but that Clegg, Wood, and Bennett did poorly. Northern Ireland might be more important than it usually is in a general election. Parties like the center-right Democratic Unionist Party and the left-wing Sinn Fein might be central for a coalition government. No matter what, this election will be decided from the voters. No party will win a majority of the voters, the important thing is who wins the most votes.

One of the big problems with the parliamentary system, as a single system of government, is that it is not always precisely proportional. Just because you have 30 percent of support in Britain does not mean you will exactly get 30 percent of the seats. The party that can usually get the most voters from the constituencies necessary for a majority is the one that wins, which is why constituency boundaries are important. Rarely in proportional representation does a party win seats relative to the exact percentage of voters, but the party that gets the most votes will likely get the most seats depending on what constituencies are needed to win.

So what is my prediction for this general election? This is the closest general election in British history and there is a lot of uncertainty. It is important to understand that while the polls are close, I expect Labour to get the most votes, but not enough to win the most seats. At the end of the day, I believe the Conservatives will survive as the largest party in the House of Commons. I believe, as everyone does, that the SNP will dominate in Scotland and they will be the biggest winners. The Liberal Democrats will fall apart and be the biggest losers of the election. UKIP will make small gains.

My prediction for how the House of Commons will look is this:

Conservative Party (David Cameron) - 278 (-24)
Labour Party (Ed Miliband) - 265 (+9)
Scottish Nationalists (Nicola Sturgeon) - 52 (+46)
Liberal Democrats (Nick Clegg) - 26 (-30)
DUP (Peter Robinson) - 8 (-/+)
Sinn Fein (Gerry Adams) - 5 (-/+)
UKIP (Nigel Farage) - 5 (+3)
SDLP (Alasdair McDonnell) - 3 (-/+)
Independents - 3 (-2)
Party of Wales (Leanne Wood) - 3 (-/+)
Alliance (David Ford) - 1 (-/+)
Green Party (Natalie Bennett) - 1 (-/+)
Respect (George Galloway) - 0 (-1)

I am hopeful that the Conservatives are able to hold on and create a center-right coalition. Research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies finds that the Conservatives will cut spending the most with the least tax burden on the British people. A balanced budget is projected under the current government, but all the other parties are planning to spend more than the Conservatives. Issues like these will also be important to the American presidential election in 2016. However, a left-wing coalition is possible as well and easier to see under my prediction. What must quickly be mentioned is something called a "shy Tory factor" where several who are polled don't claim themselves to support the Conservatives (also known as Tories), but end up doing so on election day. That is a possible situation that would lead to a Conservative edge, but how important it is varies. If it is very important in this general election's result, I will go further into length in my next blog post after the election.

Every seat will count in this general election and every party is crucial. It is best for Cameron to continue a coalition with the Liberal Democrats and bring UKIP and the DUP into the coalition. According to my scenario, that will be 317 and for a government there needs to be 326. In comparison, Miliband would have to get the SNP on his side no matter what he says, but this is still only 317 seats! If he can get the Liberal Democrats on his side then there will be a majority government, but the question remains how stubborn Miliband will be with the SNP. A grand coalition between the Conservatives and Labour is possible, but not desirable by either side. There is a very real possibility that the House of Commons will have a minority government, making governance highly difficult.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Get Ready for Bernie Sanders to Lose Badly

Senator Bernie Sanders - NBC News
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has announced that he is running for president of the United States. Sanders, an independent, has decided to seek the Democratic nomination, which is the party he caucuses with in the Senate. Sanders has immediately received $1.5 million for his presidential campaign, but that is a far cry from what Hillary Clinton has raised. The 73-year-old senator is the only other official candidate in the Democratic primary aside from former Secretary of State Clinton, but I'm telling you right now he's unlikely to win and he if he is nominated I will be incredibly happy with the Republican landslide that would be guaranteed in the 2016 election.

First, it is important to understand that Bernie Sanders has admitted many times that he is a democratic socialist who wants higher taxation on the rich and a greater expansion of social programs in the federal government. No amount of serious support would go to a candidate who wants taxes as high as Sanders wants it. I often observe that proponents of democratic socialism will often promote the few states with mixed economies that are working, but fail to note the majority of others that are failing like Greece, Spain, and France. Let's not forget that French President Francois Hollande's 75 percent income tax on the wealthy was a disaster.

Let's not forget that Sanders is everything the Democratic Party doesn't want to be: an old white man. Sanders cannot take the advantage of the Obama presidential campaign strategy that appealed so nicely to minorities. Sanders is the exact opposite of the Obama coalition (blacks, Hispanics, young people, single white women) that was electorally successful in 2008 and 2012. He doesn't appear all that presidential like John F. Kennedy, so looks won't get him anywhere in the primaries. He could potentially get numbers past 15 percent, but this won't get him to close to Clinton. It is also possible that other Democrats might suck more political support from Sanders later, such as Martin O'Malley and Elizabeth Warren.

The strategy for the Bernie Sanders campaign will be to promote a more active role for the federal government than it is now. Sanders is very outspoken about the wealth gap and is far more genuine than everyday people "champion" Hillary Clinton on the issue. His arguments for higher taxes will appeal to the poor, some middle class, and possible the liberal youth (a Democrat Ron Paul), but not to the greater whole of the American people or the Democratic Party. He will also get a lot of support with these groups if he plans to push an expansion of Social Security and other welfare programs.

Politically, his candidacy will force Clinton to the left on many issues. She might have problems with more liberal or democratic socialist voters in the primaries, which is why her campaign right now is trying to make her appear as a fighter for the working class. She cannot just simply say it now, but has to have actual proof that she has been and will be someone who supports the working class. Most Democrats acknowledge that Sanders has used working class populist rhetoric that for a long time. Her past policy positions will likely return to haunt her, as they did with John Kerry when he was the 2004 nominee. Voters will question if she will do what she really says on the campaign trail. Overall, she does have the possibility to blow it like she did in 2008. She has no choice, but to move left to appeal the Democratic base and try to ignite the Obama coalition. Nothing is impossible in politics. As of now, however, Sanders is still a long shot.