P.S. I added a couple of clarifications above to address some of the commenters who were questioning our numbers.
P.P.S. This post is not tautological. The context is that people discuss electoral strategies, which states the Republicans need to target, etc. What I'm saying is, sure, targeting key states is important during the campaign. But that's all minor compared to the larger goal of national popularity. For the Republicans (or, for that matter, the Democrats) to improve their chances for 2012 and 2016, right now they have to be thinking about what will swing voters at the national level. There's not a lot of evidence that you can easily push buttons and swing particular voting blocs or states.
I could imagine a world in which candidates could win elections by targeting particular states. That's just not the world we live in. We live in a world of approximate uniform swing. Recall these graphs:
The swing from 2004 to 2008:
The swing from 1980 to 1984:
The swing from 1952 to 1956:
Not exactly a random scatterplot but, again, more variation than we saw from 2004 to 2008. Actually, the variation from 1952 to 1956 and from 1980 to 1984 is more comparable to the variation in two recent elections, say from 2000 to 2008:
So, the data say that swings are more national than they used to be.
Most industrial democracies employ some form of single-payer health care system. These systems not only deliver universal coverage, they also provide better health outcomes at far lower cost than the largely private health insurance system used in the United States. One of the main advantages of single payer is that it avoids the for-profit private insurance industry’s costly maneuvering to limit reimbursements and avoid issuing policies to the people most likely to need coverage. Many health policy experts agree that if the United States were building a health care system from scratch, a single-payer system would be the way to go.
Yet none of the major health reform proposals currently under discussion includes a single-payer program. There’s a simple reason: As the Clinton reform effort discovered in 1993, most voters are reasonably satisfied with the employer-provided health insurance they currently have will and resist giving it up for something new and unfamiliar. To gain any traction politically, any new system must therefore give people the option of retaining their current coverage.
But that doesn’t mean single-payer is doomed.
Ezekiel Emanuel (a physician and White House health policy advisor) and Victor Fuchs (a highly respected Stanford University health economist) have proposed a system under which everyone would receive a government voucher sufficient to purchase any of a variety of competing health care plans. Their employer’s current plan, if they have one, would be included on the list, as would a basic public plan.
If the public plan is really more efficient, as many policy experts claim, its prices would be lower, which would lead more and more people to switch to it over time. Additional volume might then allow it to achieve greater economies of scale, increasing its cost advantage still further. The eventual result, then, might be virtually equivalent to a single-payer system.
As Emanuel and Fuchs emphasize, however, no one should prejudge how the dynamics of this competition will play out. Some private health plans, such as Kaiser Permanente’s, have delivered high average customer satisfaction at relatively low prices. If most people ended up preferring a plan like that to the public plan, well and good. But even then, we’d end up with what amounts to a single-payer system managed by a private company.
The important point is that, no matter which outcome prevailed, we’d end up vastly better off than under our current dysfunctional system. That’s the good news about the Emanuel-Fuchs plan.
The bad news is that, as currently proposed, it is unlikely to be adopted. Ezra Klein recently argued that the biggest obstacle it faces is that most people would be reluctant to abandon their current employer-provided health insurance for insurance paid for by the government. But since the voucher would enable them to retain exactly the same insurance they currently have, it’s not clear why that hurdle would be decisive.
A much bigger problem is that unlike the current system, which is paid for largely by an invisible implicit deduction from salaries, the Fuchs-Emanuel plan would shift those expenses onto the government budget, where they would be very visible indeed. To generate the required revenue, Emanuel and Fuchs proposed a Value Added Tax, which is essentially a national sales tax. But sales taxes are among the most regressive taxes of all, and with the Democrats in firm control in the Senate, it’s hard to see a VAT being enacted any time soon.
So if hope for fundamental health care reform is to be salvaged, we’ll need other sources of revenue to pay for it. As I’ve argued elsewhere, the most promising candidates are taxes on activities that generate negative externalities. And as I’ll explain in a future post, one such tax in particular has the potential to attract political support from both sides of the aisle.
Let's look at the basic starting parameters for the 2012 Republican nominee:
- You start out with 179 EV from the states McCain won, adjusted for projected changes in the electoral vote based on the 2010 Census. We'll go ahead and give you credit for that last Electoral Vote in Nebraska.
- You need to find 91 more EV to win.
- 172 Obama EV are plausibly competitive; Of these votes 92 are in the Midwest, 56 are in the South; just 20 are in the West (with the last 4 in New Hampshire)
State 2008 2012 EV Hisp%* Demographic Trends**As you start to pare down your list of targets, New Mexico and Nevada are probably going to be just about the first states to go anyway. They really didn't wind up being at all that close in 2008, your "momentum" in both states is poor, and they don't contain that many electoral votes. Colorado is slightly better, but not a whole heck of a lot better, and it's been behaving as a very blue state since 2006 or so; both of its senators are Democratic, as its its governor and 5 of its 7 U.S. Reps.
NC -0.3 15 3 Poor
IN -1.0 11 4 Neutral
FL -2.8 28 14 Neutral-Poor
OH -4.6 19 4 Neutral-Good
VA -6.3 13 5 Poor
CO -9.0 9 13 Poor
IA -9.5 6 3 Neutral
NH -9.6 4 2 Neutral-Poor
MN -10.2 10 3 Neutral
PA -10.3 20 4 Neutral
NV -12.5 6 15 Poor
WI -13.9 10 3 Neutral
NM -15.1 5 41 Poor
MI -16.5 16 3 Hard to Tell
* Based on 2008 exit polls;
** Entirely subjective.
If you excise those three Southwestern states, you still have a menu of 159 EV from which to choose, of which you need 91. And the remaining states are noteworthy for their relative absence of Hispanic voters. If you could gain ground in the Midwest or the South by pursing an anti-immigrant, anti-NAFTA, "America First" sort of platform, you really wouldn't be putting all that much at risk by losing further ground among Latinos. Yes, you could make life (much) harder for yourself if you screwed up Florida or put Arizona into play in the process, but it's not a bad strategy, all things considered.
About half the Hispanics in the United States reside in California or Texas, and another 20 percent are in New York, New Jersey or Illinois, none of which look to be competitive in 2012. (Yes, the Republicans could lose Texas, but probably only in a landslide). There just aren't that many Hispanic voters near the electoral tipping point.
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I'll show you what we found, then give some brief discussion.
Here's how Obama did among Hispanics in the states where there is a large Hispanic presence:
[In response to commenters, here are some numbers for McCain's estimated share of the two-party vote among Hispanics: NM 27%, CA 26%, TX 42%, FL 43%, AZ 35%, NV 24%, NY 25%, CO 27%, NJ 23%, IL 23%, CT 24%. Exit polls give slightly different answers. No data source is perfect and we have to acknowledge that there is uncertainty in our estimates.]
And here's a map showing our estimate of the Hispanic vote share by state (based on the CPS post-election supplement): Hispanics represented 31% of the vote in New Mexico, 22% in California, 20% in Texas, 15% in Florida, 13% in Arizona, 12% in Nevada, and less than 10% in all other states:
OK, so Obama dominated among Hispanics. How did he and McCain do among the rest of the voters? The following map shows our estimates from our model based on the Pew data:
This map looks suspiciously close to the map for all voters. And, in fact, it is.
Here's a scatterplot comparing McCain's vote share among non-Hispanics to his total vote share by state (excluding Alaska, Hawaii, and the District of Columbia):
The removal of the Hispanic vote wouldn't have changed the election outcome in any state (although New Mexico, Florida, Indiana, and North Carolina are within 1% of flipping, and small changes to the model (for example, using exit polls instead of the Pew surveys) might cause some of these to flip). The point is, except for the six or so states with lots of Hispanic voters, the changes are mostly tiny.
Now let's look at it another way. Instead of removing Hispanics from the equation (which helps the Republicans), let's try the counterfactual in which the Republicans give up on the Hispanic vote, which I'll operationalize by transferring half of McCain's Hispanic votes in every state to Obama. (For example, we estimate that McCain got 22.8% of the two-party vote among Hispanics in New Jersey. Under this counterfactual, we'll give him just 11.4%.) Here's what happens:
Again, not much difference. Ummm . . . Missouri moves to 50.3% for Obama. And here's the scatterplot:
The bottom line: Hispanics were not a key component in Obama's win. However, this is not to say that the Republicans should not try to contest the Hispanic vote. As the last scatterplot above shows, further losses of Hispanics would make the Democrats competitive in Georgia, Texas, and Arizona. In some sense this is no big deal, at least at the presidential level: If the Democrats remain at 53% or 54% of the vote, they'll win nationally in any case. If we imagine a national swing of 3% or so toward the Republicans, so they're competitive nationally, then their big risk if they lose Hispanic votes is to no longer be viable in Florida (where we estimate McCain to have won 43% of the two-party vote among Hispanics in 2008). That's the state where Republicans really can't afford to abandon the Hispanic vote.
P.S. Some commenters point out that the Hispanic vote is expected to vote. Following up on the above, I did some crude calculations, assumning that the Hispanic vote share increases by 20% in each state:
Again, the bottom line is that the biggest difference is in Florida, with its high Hispanic vote that is currently nearly evenly split between the two parties. Texas and Arizona show big potential shifts too, but, again, if these states are swinging without other big changes happening elsewhere, the national Republican party is in big trouble anyway.
Since the Republicans, to say the least, do not seem particularly inclined to curry favor with Hispanic voters by playing nice on Sonia Sotomayor, it's worth engaging in the following thought experiment: Can the Republicans win back the White House in 2012 or 2016 while losing further ground among Latinos? And if so, what is their most plausible path to victory?
I think the answer to the first question is 'yes' -- although it depends, of course, on exactly how much more ground they lose, as well as how much ground they could hope to gain among white voters. If they chose to pursue this strategy, the Republicans would probably elect to make immigration a linchpin issue of their campaign, perhaps coupled with the adoption of some paleoconservative, protectionist rhetoric on issues like NAFTA. While this strategy would be at best a temporary fix -- it would become less effective each passing year as the country continues to grow more diverse -- it might have some strategic benefits in the next two elections, particularly if the economy remains poor or there is some sort of double-dip recession.
In 2008, the Latino vote made the difference in the outcome of three states: New Mexico, where about 2 in 5 voters identify as Hispanic, as well as -- somewhat surprisingly -- Indiana and North Carolina -- where Obama lost nonhispanic voters by a tiny margin and was put over the top by Hispanic votes. It probably also made the difference, believe it or not, in the 2nd Congressional District of Nebraska -- Omaha actually has a decent-sized Hispanic minority -- although the exit polls aren't detailed enough to let us know for sure.
That the Hispanic vote helped Obama to win electoral votes in such "gringo" territories as Nebraska and Indiana is a reminder that there are Hispanics everywhere now; the presence of a surprisingly large and extremely Democratic-leaning Hispanic vote in New Jersey, for example, is one reason why Republicans are no longer competitive there. Moreover, the growth rate of the Hispanic population tends to be fastest in such nontraditional areas as the South and even the Prairie states. According to the Census Bureau, the state where the age 18+ Hispanic population grew the fastest between 2007 and 2008 was South Carolina (+6.6%), followed by a three-way tie between North Carolina, North Dakota and South Dakota (each +6.5%).
Still, the most immediate and obvious downside to the Republicans would be in the Southwest. They would sacrifice New Mexico and Nevada, where Obama already won by 15- and 12-point margins respectively, perhaps for the foreseeable future. Although Colorado is not quite in the same category, the Republicans are already suffering from the migration of well-educated (and largely white) coastal liberal voters into the state; to deliberately sacrifice its Hispanic vote, which represented 13 percent of its electorate in 2008, would render the state all but unwinnable for them. So let's assume that any manifestation of Operation Gringo cannot rely on votes from Nevada, New Mexico, or Colorado.
Let's now work backward to figure out which states the Republicans can win. The states that John McCain won in 2008 -- counting 4 of Nebraska's 5 electoral votes -- were worth 173 electoral votes last year, but will be worth 178 in 2012, according to a recent estimate from Election Data Services. So starting with that 178-EV baseline, let's begin adding states back into the Republican column in reverse order of difficulty. Note that all electoral vote totals listed in the balance of this article reflect 2012 projections rather than 2008 figures.
Indiana (+11 electoral votes; 189 total). As we mentioned earlier, Indiana's small but heavily Demoratic-leaning Hispanic population actually made the difference in the state last November, giving Obama his 1-point victory. Nevertheless, it's a very white state, and Republicans are unlikely to be taken by surprise in Indiana as they were last time around.
Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District (+1 Electoral Vote; 190 total). This is not necessarily a gimme. As of 2007, 11 percent of Omaha's population was estimated to be Latino, and another 13 percent African-American. Still, if Operation Gringo can't work in Omaha, it probably can't work anywhere.
North Carolina (+15 electoral votes; 205 total). North Carolina is probably going to be a bit more difficult for the Republicans to win back than Indiana. Operation Gringo or no, they are unlikely to gain any ground with the state's substantial black population, and as we described earlier its Hispanic population is growing rapidly and may represent 5 or 6 percent of its electorate by 2012. Still, it's one of their easier targets, particuarly if the Republicans nominate a Southerner.
Ohio (+19 electoral votes; 224 total). Ohio is ground zero for the Operation Gringo strategy. Never an especially terrific state for Obama, Republicans could gain ground there if they try and trump Obama on issues like NAFTA.
Iowa (+6 electoral votes; 230 total) and New Hampshire (+4 electoral votes; 234 total). One nice advantage the Republican nominee will have in 2012 is that he (or she) will have spent many months barnstorming through Iowa and New Hampshire, giving them a head start on endearing themselves to that state's voters. Coupled with the fact that Iowa and New Hampshire are as white as any states in the country, they're two of the more plausible targets.
Virginia (+13 electoral votes; 247 total). Don't take this for granted; 30 percent of Virginia's electorate was nonwhite in 2008 (including 5 percent Hispanic) and among the white population, an increasing number are wealthy liberals whose ideological orientation is more Mason than Dixon. Moreover, it is a well-educated and fairly sophisticated state that might not take kindly to a campaign based on identity politics. But the Republicans will have to find some way to win it by a couple of points.
Florida (+28 electoral votes; 275 total). I know what you're going to say -- doesn't Florida have a substantial Latino population? It does, but much of that population is Cuban, a group with whom Republicans have long done reasonably well. Obama won only 57 percent of Florida's Hispanic votes in 2008, his smallest margin among any of the dozen or so states in which exit polls tracked this number.
If the Republicans did manage to win Florida, along with the other Obama states mentioned above, they would have a winning electoral map that looks like the following:
Note that New Hampshire is actually redundant here -- the Republicans could lose it and still win 271-267. They could also win New Hampshire but lose Iowa, which would give them a 269-269 tie, give or take a vote or two depending on how the electoral reallocation shakes out following the Census.
But we've made a big assumption here -- that Republicans can somehow cleave up the Cuban and non-Cuban Hispanics, and hold on to Florida and its 28 electoral votes. What if they can't? Let's bump them back down to 247 electoral votes and start finding some more states for them.
Pennsylvania (+20 electoral votes; 267 total). We saw how well the Republicans' all-out efforts to win Pennsylvania worked for them in 2008, and indeed they haven't won the state since 1988. Still, they could hope that the protectionist, anti-free trade components of Operation Gringo would play well enough among union workers to tip the balance in their favor, particularly if they've won back the state's governorship in 2010 and control of its political machine. Unfortunately, however -- unless they catch a couple breaks with the Census -- Pennsylvania alone would not be enough to get the Republicans to 270.
Minnesota (+10 electoral votes; 277 total). It's hard to know how to read Minnesota. The Republicans managed to hold Obama to "only" a 10-point victory there, less than his 14-point win in neighboring Wisconsin, which has traditionally been more of a swing state. Then again, they spent an awful lot of resources there -- including holding their convention in St. Paul -- to come even that close. But Minnesota is, of course, a very white state, and they would probably have to find some way to win it -- nobody said the Florida-less version of Operation Gringo was going to be easy.
If they pulled all of this off, it would give the Republicans a winning electoral map that looks as follows:
There is, however, another wrench in the works: Arizona, which we have been taking for granted until now. Arizona was not terribly competitive in 2008, but there is a good reason for that: it was John McCain's home state. Unless they pull a fast one on us and nominate John Kyl or Jeff Flake in 2012, the Republicans will not have that advantage next time around. The "home state advantage" is typically worth about 7 points, although it can vary from candidate to candidate and state to state. Considering how well Obama performed in some of Arizona's neighbors, it would probably have been competitive had McCain been from, say, Wyoming instead. With its large Hispanic population, it would certainly become competitive in 2012 if the Republicans chose to pursue an Operation Gringo strategy.
So let's assume that the Republicans lose Arizona, which projects to have 11 electoral votes by 2012. That knocks them back to 266 electoral votes. Their next best option is probably...
Wisconsin (+10 electoral votes; 276 total). This is a tall order. Obama won the state by 14 points, it would be besieged by volunteers from neighboring Illinois, and the state seems to have shaken off its Tommy Thompson experimental phase and returned to its more progressive roots. Nevertheless, if they could win Wisconsin, the Republicans could win the White House with this very strange-looking electoral map:
There is one last state that the Republicans might have a few concerns about: Texas. Twenty percent of its electorate was Hispanic in 2008; another 13 percent was black; and another 4 percent was Asian or Other. If Obama can win 98 percent of Texas' black vote, as he did in 2008, while improving to 75 percent of its Hispanic and "other" vote, that would get him to 47 percent of its vote based on its 2008 electoral demographics. But the demographics of Texas are changing in ways that are favorable to the Democrats, and so 50 percent-plus might be within his grasp.
If the Republicans were to lose Texas in addition to Arizona -- and let me disclaim, I don't think this is likely in 2012 but it might be relevant in 2016 and certainly 2020 -- then naturally they are in a whole heap of trouble. Texas will be up to 37 electoral votes in 2012 according to EDS projections (and may well hit 38); if we subtract the 37 electoral votes from the Republican column they are back down to 239. They would then need to win...
Michigan (+16 electoral votes; 255 total). We don't know what exactly what Michigan is going to look like four years hence in the wake of the disaster that has befallen the auto industry. What we do know is that Obama won it by 16 points and that, because the Republicans abandoned the state early on, they will be disadvantaged in 2012 by lacking things like up-to-date voter lists. Nevertheless, it's the best of a series of bad alternatives.
Maine (+4 electoral votes; 259 total). You got a better idea? Maine is certainly very white and, while not really a swing state in recent Presidential elections, has some history of behaving idiosyncratically: for instance, electing two Republican women to the Senate in spite of having went for Obama by 17 points. The Republicans could presumably also consider something like a Huckabee-Snowe ticket to improve their chances in Maine and New Hampshire.
But here is where things get really difficult. The next-closest available state based on 2008 results -- excluding those like Colorado that we eliminated earlier -- is New Jersey, which Obama won by 15.5 points. But New Jersey itself has a somewhat large Hispanic population -- about 15 percent of its adult population is Latino, and while its Hispanic turnout somewhat lagged in 2008, it would surely be motivated to register and vote by Operation Gringo. After New Jersey, the next-closest state in 2008 was Oregon, which was highly competitive as recently as 2004, but unfortunately it does not give the Republicans a sufficient number of electoral votes. That would seem to leave only...
Washington (+11 electoral votes; 270 total). Good luck. Washington hasn't voted Republican since 1984. Its electorate is not as white as you'd think -- 7 percent Hispanic in 2008 and another 7 percent Asian/other. Moreover, it would get the Republicans only to 270 electoral votes, exactly the number they'd need for victory, so if there are any fluctuations at all from the projected electoral vote totals (or they lost one of Maine's two congressional districts), it might only produce a tie or even a narrow loss. But beggars can't be choosers; we would at least have this very interesting map to look at:
This is the sort of electoral future the GOP might have to contemplate if they start losing the Hispanic vote by margins of 3:1, 4:1 or more. Giving up on New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado is a feasible, and perhaps even wise, strategy. But if they don't thread the needle just perfectly, and they make it difficult for themselves to win back Florida, while putting Arizona and perhaps even Texas increasingly into play, their task will become nearly impossible.
Gallup asked its respondents to rate each nominee as excellent, good, fair or poor. I'm going to create a quick Likert-type score for each one, assigning 10 points for each response of 'excellent, 7 points for 'good', 3 points for 'fair' and 0 points for 'poor'; cases in which the respondent had no opinion on the nominee are discarded.
By this very rudimentary analysis, Sotomayor rates as a slightly more popular selection than Samuel Alito and Harriet Miers, and slightly less popular than John Roberts.
Still, the differences are small across -- just barely on the fringes of statistical significance -- the board. In certain ways, it's disappointing to see that the public wasn't better able to distinguish Roberts, who objectively speaking was a strong nominee, from Miers, who, um, wasn't. It seems like 80 percent of the public is making a snap judgment on the basis of partisanship (which should, of course, be helping Sotomayor because of the Democratic plurality right now) whereas only a small fraction are actually looking at the nominee's credentials.
Of course, public opinion can change as they learn more about a nominee -- as it did in an unfavorable way for Miers. So perhaps that small vanguard of people who are not judging the nominee on a partisan basis are leading indicators of sorts. Of the 18 Republican Senators who voted on Sotomayor in 1998, 7 or 39 percent voted to confirm her. Translated over the entire, 40-member Republican caucus, that would translate to 15-16 yea votes, which when coupled with what will presumably be 59 Democratic yeas, would produce a 74- or 75-vote margin for her overall. That would put her ahead of Samuel Alito's 58-vote confirmation (indeed, she could beat Alito without any Republican votes) but just behind Roberts' 78.
Economic theory alone does not prescribe what the right level of saving should be: Optimal saving is a function of the subjective rate of time preference, and economists have no basis to say that some intertemporal preferences are better than others. In my savers-spenders model, both savers and spenders may be acting optimally given their own preferences. I am sure, however, that none of these arguments would have convinced my grandmother.
I don't quite follow the "intertemporal preferences" thing. Yes, I understand the meaning of the phrase, I just don't see how it really applies here. If Sotomayor has enough money now, and she'll be getting enough money in the future, then what does intertemporal preference have to do with anything? Is the argument that, if she has a long time horizon, she'll save more now so she can "buy a jet ski made out of diamonds" (in the words of commenter Drew Miller) in a few years? That doesn't make a lot of sense to me. I don't see intertemporal preference as the appropriate analytical concept here.
But Mankiw's last sentence makes me think he's agreeing with my P.S. here. I think he's saying that his grandmother had such a depression mentality that, even though Sotomayor has a well-paying job for life and money in the bank, it wouldn't be enough. Thus, Mankiw was ultimately making more of a claim about his grandmother's attitudes (and, more generally, those of people of her generation) than about Sotomayor's financial choices.
OK, enough about this now. And I promise not to analyze the arguments of Alan Dershowitz, John Yoo, and the rest. Back to data analysis.
There is just one problem with this theory. Nobody has bothered to look up data for the control group: the list of dealerships which aren't being closed. It turns out that all car dealers are, in fact, overwhelmingly more likely to donate to Republicans than to Democrats -- not just those who are having their doors closed.
Here, for instance, is what Huffington Post's Fundrace site turns up for those who list their occupation as "auto dealer":
Republican donations outstrip Democratic ones by about 8.6:1. Next, let's try "car dealer":
For some reason, those persons who describe themselves as "car dealers" are just slightly more likely to donate to Democrats than those who call themselves "auto dealers". Nevertheless, the list of contributions tilts Republican by better than a 3:1 margin.
Next up, "automobile dealer":
Roughly a 10:1 advantage for Republicans. Finally, we'll look at the slightly more obscure formation of "automotive dealer":
Big Republican edge here too.
Combining the data:
Overall, 88 percent of the contributions from car dealers went to Republican candidates and just 12 percent to Democratic candidates. By comparison, the list of dealers on Doug Ross's list (which I haven't vetted, but I assume is fine) gave 92 percent of their money to Republicans -- not really a significant difference.
There's no conspiracy here, folks -- just some bad math.
It shouldn't be any surprise, by the way, that car dealers tend to vote -- and donate -- Republican. They are usually male, they are usually older (you don't own an auto dealership in your 20s), and they have obvious reasons to be pro-business, pro-tax cut, anti-green energy and anti-labor. Car dealerships need quite a bit of space and will tend to be located in suburban or rural areas. I can't think of too many other occupations that are more natural fits for the Republican Party. Unfortunately, while we are still a nation of drivers, we are not a nation of dealers.
Nevertheless, this is a predicament that Democrats shouldn't really be finding themselves in at all, not in deeply blue Connecticut, and not against a relatively generic GOP challenger like Simmons. And as it turns out, they might not have to. Dodd has a declared primary challenger in the form of Hartford native Merrick Alpert, a small business owner and Air Force veteran with an attractive family looks like it came right from the pages of Better Homes & Gardens catalog.
The Quinnipiac poll has Alpert trailing Dodd 44-24 in the Democratic primary, with 30 percent of voters undecided. What's remarkable about these numbers is that Alpert has 24 percent of the vote even though 91 percent of Democrats, and 93 percent of all Connecticutians, have no idea who he is, telling Quinnipiac they hadn't heard enough about him to form an opinion.
Although much of the undecided vote is likely to flow to Alpert as he improves his name recognition, he may not get much help from institutional sources. The White House has already begun to rally on behalf of Dodd, someone to whom they owe at least two favors: firstly, for Dodd's endorsement of Obama during the primaries, and secondly, for his taking some of the heat off the Administration's shoulders (with quite a bit of collateral damage) on the AIG bonus brushfire. The netroots, meanwhile, tend to be quite supportive of Dodd; he also has a strong, pro-union voting record, and is likely to win their endorsements.
Alpert, for his part, is not perceived as being especially politically progressive. His list of donations includes some progressives like Ned Lamont and Rosa DeLauro (as well as Dodd himself), but also some more centrist Democrats like Solomon Ortiz, Joe Baca, and Steny Hoyer's Ameripac. Still, his somewhat wishy-washy politics could prove to be beneficial in both the primary and the general election; faced with two equally bland alternatives in Alpert and Simmons, Connecticutians would presumably vote their party ID and go with the Democrat.
The only way for progressives to have their cake and eat it too would be to rally behind some kind of liberal challenger to Dodd, but so far they don't seem inclined to do so.
With Judge Sonia Sotomayor already facing questions over her 60 percent reversal rate, the Supreme Court could dump another problem into her lap next month if, as many legal analysts predict, the court overturns one of her rulings upholding a race-based employment decision.There are two fairly obvious problems with this. Firstly, only five of Sotomayor's opinions have been ruled upon by the Supreme Court. That's hardly enough to reach a statistically sound conclusion. Moreover, as a matter of semantics, most people don't begin quoting percentages until the number of instances is significantly higher than five. If you came into the office on a Monday morning, and I asked you whether you'd gotten out over the weekend, you probably wouldn't say: "Yes, I got out 66.67% of the time!" -- you'd just tell me that you went out on Friday and Saturday and then sat around and watched basketball on Sunday.
Three of the five majority opinions written by Judge Sotomayor for the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals and reviewed by the Supreme Court were reversed, providing a potent line of attack raised by opponents Tuesday after President Obama announced he will nominate the 54-year-old Hispanic woman to the high court.
"Her high reversal rate alone should be enough for us to pause and take a good look at her record. Frankly, it is the Senates duty to do so," said Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America.
But secondly, a 60 percent reversal rate is actually below average based on the Washington Times' criteria. According to MediaMatters.org, the Supreme Court typically reverses about 75 percent of circuit court decisions that it chooses to rule upon.
The reason that the reversal rate is so high, of course, is that the Supreme Court has a lot of discretion about which cases it chooses to review and rule upon, and is generally not going to be inclined to overturn law dictated by a lower court unless the legal reasoning is substantially questionable and has a strong chance of reversal. The better metric would probably be the number of decisions that the Supreme Court overturned out of all of Sotomayor's majority opinions -- whether the Court elected to review them in detail or not. According to the terrific SCOTUSBLOG, "Since joining the Second Circuit in 1998, Sotomayor has authored over 150 opinions, addressing a wide range of issues, in civil cases". Even if we do not count the opinions she has authored in criminal, rather than civil, cases, that means the Supreme Court's reversal rate is not 60 percent, but at most 2 percent -- 3 cases out of 150. I have no idea whether that figure is above average, below average, or somewhere in between, but three reversals in more than a decade's worth of jurisprudence strikes this layman as being an extremely solid track record.
EDIT: For a better informed (although not uniformly favorable) statistical take on Sotomayor's jurisprudence, see Eugene Volokh's post here.
LOS ANGELES — AT&T, one of the biggest corporate sponsors of “American Idol,” might have influenced the outcome of this year’s competition by providing phones for free text-messaging services and lessons in casting blocks of votes at parties organized by fans of Kris Allen, the Arkansas singer who was the winner of the show last week.This seems like a pretty crappy thing for AT&T to have done. Still, I'm not sure that it changed the outcome of the elect... er... vote. According to the website DialIdol.com, which projects winners of the contest based on busy signal patterns, Kris Allen, the eventual winner, had a slight lead on runner-up Adam Lambert based on their algorithm, which gave him a DialIdol Score of 61.14 to Lambert's 60.04. The 1.1-point edge for Allen is within the algorithm's purported margin of error of 1.6 points, but if the algorithm is as accurate as it claims to be, that would make Allen something along the lines of a 4:1 favorite.
Representatives of AT&T, whose mobile phone network is the only one that can be used to cast “American Idol” votes via text message, provided the free text-messaging services at two parties in Arkansas after the final performance episode of “American Idol” last week, according to the company and people at the events.
There appear to have been no similar efforts to provide free texting services to supporters of Adam Lambert, who finished as the runner-up to Mr. Allen.
The interesting thing is that DialIdol projections are based on phone calls only -- they specifically do not include text messaging results, the subject of the controversy involving AT&T. Thus, if Allen received additional votes from AT&T's malfeasance, odds are that they merely increased his margin of victory rather than handing him the win.
Of course, all of this is a bit speculative since FOX and the other sponsors of American Idol release very little detail about the voting tallies. I can't say I'm a huge fan of the show, but one of the great things about it is that it's authentically democratic -- fans take their responsibilities as voters seriously, and moreover, they have a pretty good track record of judging the outcome based on actual talent rather than identity politics. Unless it wants to wind up with a bunch of jaded pre-teens who are as jaded as Pat Buchanan voters in Palm Beach County, or to eventually get caught in a Quiz Show type of scandal, FOX would seem to have little to lose by releasing the voting tallies.
Grandmother of World's 23rd Best Economist Posthumously Offended by Sonia Sotomayor's Spending Habits; Will Obama Withdraw Nomination?by Nate Silver @ 10:27 PM
I once wrote a short paper called The Savers-Spenders Theory of Fiscal Policy based on the premise that there are two types of people: Some save and intertemporally optimize their consumption plans, while others live paycheck to paycheck, spending their entire income as soon as it's received.[...]While admittedly, the She's-just-Sonia-from-the-Bronx narrative has already grown a bit tiresome, Mankiw's critique is a bizarre on several levels. For one thing, while a $179,000-per-year income is quite a lot wherever one lives, it doesn't go as far in New York City as in almost any other place. State taxes in New York are pretty high for the upper income brackets, and New York City also charges a city tax of 3.648%. As a single filer, Sotomayor's income tax burden, counting her federal nut, is probably something like $65,000.
Apparently, the new Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor is an example of the latter. The Washington Post reports that the 54-year-old Sotomayer has a $179,500 yearly salary butOn her financial disclosure report for 2007, she said her only financial holdings were a Citibank checking and savings account, worth $50,000 to $115,000 combined. During the previous four years, the money in the accounts at some points was listed as low as $30,000.My grandmother would have been shocked and appalled to see someone who makes so much save so little.
In addition, New York City is an expensive place to live: particularly on the Island of Manhattan, and even more particularly in the West Village neighborhood where Sotomayor has her apartment. The average price of a two-bedroom rental apartment apartment in a doorman building in Greenwich Villiage is $5,396 per month, or about $65,000 per year. (Sotomayor, from what I can gather, in fact still rents her space). So considering her tax bill and the cost of her apartment, Sotomayor is down to "only" about $50,000 in disposable income per year. A single person can certainly live very well on that sort of income -- even in Manhattan -- but would probably not live what we'd ordinarily consider an extravagant lifestyle. It would be quite easy to spend a good chunk of that $50,000 on utilities, transport, groceries, and extra medical care (Sotomayor is diabetic); throw in a couple of nice meals out every month, tickets to a dozen Yankees games each year, and maybe a week's worth of vacation, and you're not going to have a whole heck of a lot left over. And of course, if one is generous with one's friends, or gives money to one's extended family or to charity, the money will go even faster. Sure, it's a pretty full life. But it's not likely that Sotomayor is downing bottles of Cristal and snorting coke in the bathroom every Friday at Hotel Gansevoort, or having four-martini lunches with the Sex and the City girls at Bryant Park.
What makes Mankiw's argument even sillier, however, is that it reflects a lack of understanding of the very thing that he, as the World's 23rd Best Economist*, ought to know very well: incentives. What are a person's incentives to save, rather than spend, money? The four basic ones are usually these:
1. To protect against downside in one's income, particularly the risk of being fired.
2. To save for retirement.
3. To save for one's family and children.
4. To save for an expensive purchase, such as a home or a nice car.
Nos. 1-3 don't really apply to Sotomayor. With the possible exception of being a tenured professor at Harvard, few positions offer more job and income security than that of a justice on the Federal Circuit Court; Sotomayor would have to be impeached by the House and found guilty by the Senate to lose her job, something which has happened only a handful of times in American History. Sotomayor's federal pension is undoubtedly very generous, rendering #2 somewhat moot, particularly as she could also stand to make a significant "post-retirement" income in private practice or on the lecture circuit. And she does not have a children or a husband to support. It would be quite irrational if she had half a million dollars collecting dust and 0.01% interest in her Chase checking account.
Perhaps Mankiw's grandmother would find her more virtuous if she were saving up for a Lexus or a summer home in the Hamptons, but that doesn't seem to be her cup of tea. Her one real indulgence is the apartment she keeps in the West Village. Although virtually anywhere that would be a reasonable commute from her courtroom in Lower Manhattan would be relatively expensive, she could save a bit by living in the Financial District or perhaps in Brooklyn. But Mankiw, who lives in a zip code where the median price of a house is 1.65 million dollars, should not exactly be throwing stones from his undoubtedly very charming, New England Colonial home.
* Barry Julian Eichengreen, who recently surpassed him in the rankings, should not be expecting any Christmas Cards from the Mankiw family!
The American Diabetes Association
Greg Mankiw's grandmother
Of all the "againsts," the strongest reaction was from . . . economist Mankiw's grandmother, who would have been "would have been shocked and appalled to see someone who makes so much [$180,000 a year] save so little [only $100,000 in the bank]." From a pure economics standpoint, though, I wonder if Sotomayor is being a rational follower of the lifetime earnings model: with a job for life, full health care, and, as a commenter notes, a pension if she chooses to retire, why save? On the other hand, as a Supreme Court judge, I can't imagine there are lots of ways to spend your extra money, so I expect her bank account will gradually grow in future years.
P.S. Nate goes through Sotomayor's cost of living, but maybe we're looking at this the wrong way. To be fair to Mankiw, it may very well be true that his savers-spenders theory is empirically correct. For Sotomayor, this may indeed be the point, that she is very rationally being a "spender" even though probably many people in similar circumstances elsewhere are "savers." And it might also be true that Mankiw's grandmother "would have been shocked"; after all, she might well have had a simplistic view of economics of the sort that would demand "scrimping and saging" from even a person with a job for life. We often think of depression-era grandmas as being on an extreme point on the spender/saver spectrum, and Grandma Mankiw may be no exception.
So I think the right way of taking Mankiw's remark is as a comment on his grandmother's charming but naive conception of household economics--even in a case of a childless federal judge, she would've missed the point of spending one's money.
I have no comments on the reasoning of Dershowitz, Yoo, and the rest.
The following table contains data on all 2009 surveys I could find that break out support for gay marriage among Hispanic respondents. This includes one national survey, one California survey, and three New York Surveys. In addition, I include two prominent surveys from 2008: the
The Prop 8 exit poll reported that 47 percent of Hispanics voted 'no' on Proposition 8 (indicating their support for gay marriage) as opposed to 51 percent of whites; the difference is not statistically significant given the sample size. Each of the other surveys indicate that Hispanics support gay marriage at almost exactly the same rates as non-Hispanic whites, except for a recent Quinnipiac national poll, which actually has them supporting gay marriage at significantly higher rate than whites.
If we aggregate the eight polls and weight by sample size, we find essentially no difference in support for gay marriage between Hispanic and white voters. (Please note that the 47 percent figure you see should not be read to mean that this is the number of Hispanics who support gay marriage nationwide, since the average includes a disproportionate number of respondents from New York and California, two very liberal states -- the relative support for gay marriage is all we're examining here).
Now, it can be argued that because Hispanics are more liberal than whites on most other issues, gay marriage is still a relatively good way for the GOP to garner support with that group; some scholarly research has suggested, for instance, that "moral values" issues were an important source of Hispanic votes for George W. Bush, who performed relatively well among the demographic in 2004.
Further evidence from the General Social Survey, however, calls that claim into question. Although the relevant sample sizes are somewhat small, their polling in 2006 and 2008 suggested that about half of Hispanics who were opposed to gay marriage nevertheless voted for John Kerry; the comparable fraction among non-Hispanic (mostly white) voters was only about one-third. Hispanic votes appear to be less sensitive to this issue than are white ones.
Black voters, on the other hand, do indeed appear to be quite strongly opposed to gay marriage -- but they also, of course, vote overwhelmingly Democratic.
Among those Senators who are still in the chamber today, however, Sotomayor's margin of confirmation was a bit more comfortable: 36-11. CORRECTION: The list below omits John Kerry, who also voted in favor of confirmation. That makes the total 36-11, rather than 35-11 as originally reported.
How Current Senators Voted on Sotomayor
Asterisks indicate members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Note that the ranking Republican member, Alabama's Jeff Sessions, voted against Sotomayor in 1998, although Orrin Hatch, who was then the Committee chair and remains on the committee today, voted for her.
It seems to me that with this pick, Obama may be trying to carefully calibrate the amount of Republican resistance: enough that there's a chance that they'll do something that makes them look silly, but not enough for them to seriously threaten Sotomayor's nomination with a filibuster.
Although Sotomayor has often been described as the favorite to succeed Souter on the bench, Intrade odds as of this morning had given her just a 20 percent chance to become the next Supreme Court justice, behind others like Elena Kagan and Diane Wood. Moreover, according to the punters at Intrade, Sotomayor's odds had steadily been falling over the course of the month as she was the subject of a torrent of conservative criticism.
More analysis coming in a moment.
To repeat an earlier summary statistic, there were 49 so-called "McCain Democrat" divided districts--that is, districts that in 2008 elected a Democrat to the House but that John McCain carried. More than a third are located in just five states: Pennsylvania (5), Arkansas, Arizona, Ohio and Tennessee (3 each).
Of greater interest are the margins by which McCain carried these 49 districts. In some cases, the split-ticket voting is remarkable, with McCain posting 20-plus point margins despite Democratic winners. Not surprisingly, these districts are home to many Blue Dog Democrats who are popular back home in part because they have consistently centrist voting records; even less shocking is how many are southern Democrats. Few of these are really in any electoral jeopardy, at least in the districts as currently configured, including members like Gene Taylor (MS-4, McCain margin 36 points, Taylor vote share 75%); Marion Berry (AR-1, 20, uncontested); Bart Gordon (TN-6, 25, uncontested); and Charlie Melancon (LA-3, 24, uncontested). Without beating the Whistling Past Dixie horse to death, it's important to realize that these districts are safe now, but (a) may be less so starting in 2012, depending on redistricting outcomes; and (b) regardless of boundaries, if these popular incumbents retire Republicans will be well positioned for capturing these seats.
Elsewhere among this southern-dominated group of McCain Democrats are some seats that Republicans might be able to use anti-Obama sentiments and resistance to expanding government to make a run at Democratic incumbents, especially without Obama on the ticket. These might therefore be better split into three groups, based on whether and to what degree Obama's presumed downballot effect helped them in 2008 but may not next year:
Non-swing state McCain Democrats from districts McCain carried by wide margins include:
- Chet Edwards (TX-17, McCain margin 35 points, Edwards vote share 53%)
- Bobby Bright (AL-2, 26, 50)
- Parker Griffith (AL-5, 26, 52)
- Walt Minnick (ID-1, 26, 51)
- Childers (MS-1, 24, 54)
- Frank Kratovil (MD-1, 19, 49)
Swing-state McCain Democrats from districts McCain carried barely include:
- Tom Perriello (VA-5, 51, 50)
- Betsy Markey (CO-4, 50, 56)
- Harry Teague (NM-2, 50, 56)
- John Murtha (PA-12, 49, 58)
- Kathleen Dahlkemper (PA-3, 49, 51)
Finally, there are a couple of McCain Democrats to keep an eye on because they hail from districts McCain carried barely in the non-battleground states and, again, are rookies trying to get past that critical, sophomore cycle: Eric Massa (NY-29, 50, 51) and Ann Kirkpatrick (*AZ-1, 54, 56).
So, in short, Democratic rookies beware.
*AZ is arguably a special case because it is McCain's home state and might become a battleground in 2012; but because Obama fared pretty well there Kirkpatrick may have a tougher time there in an off-year cycle, especially since she was running in a Republican scandal-plagued district.
In the meantime, for those who feel like indulging me, a few observations from my trip to London and Paris.
Although I spent a year in London studying at the LSE from 1998-99, this was the first time I've left the country since 2001, and for some reason the differences between the United States and Europe were more striking to me now, as a "mature" adult, then they were when I was a student.
* London has changed quite a bit since I lived there 10 years ago; in particular, there's been a lot of new construction, and the city is notably more diverse. Also, the East End, which until quite recently was parodied as working-class and somewhat derelict, has predictably now become trendy and rather posh.
* London, and the United Kingdom in general, has sort of become ground zero for what is known as libertarian paternalism, with all sorts of subtle nudges to influence behavior. For instance, cigarette packs now contain not only the phrase 'smoking kills' in prominent letters on the front side of the package, but also, a disgusting picture of rotted teeth on the backside (a practice which is somewhat reminiscent of an American PsyOps operation in Afghanistan). There is now a commuter tax to drive into the city. Tube maps contain firmly-worded admonishments to riders, advising them to avoid changing trains at busy stops like Covent Garden or Bank. Black cabs feature doors that lock and unlock automatically as the car begins to accelerate. The amount of liquor in a cocktail is strictly regulated (although this was true when I was there as well). Overall, one is generally more aware of the presence of government than one is in the United States, even though they have several freedoms over there (broader tolerance for things like gambling and gay marriage for instnace) that we don't have over here.
* The advertising in London, although just as intrusive and abundant as in New York (some Underground stations now feature video display panels on the escalator corridors), is always very interesting, seeming to cater to an extremely savvy, jaded, almost post-consumerist consumer. See some representative examples here, here, and here.
* Credit cards in both the UK and France now almost universally feature a smart chip, which require the consumer to key in a four-digit PIN before a credit card charge is approved. This can occasionally be a problem for Americans, as I encountered one or two merchants in London (although none in Paris) who were reluctant to accept my regular old U-S-of-A Visa. However, in other ways the use of credit cards is a breeze in Europe -- in restaurants, for instance, the waiters walk around with hand-held terminals and can process your charge more or less instantaneously, which at a busy restaurant can easily save you 5-10 minutes of waiting time at the end of your meal.
* Cellphones are fully functional in the Paris Métro -- or at least mine was! In spite of this, I observed only a couple of Parisians actually using them to make phone calls whilst underground, and when they did so they tended to do so very discretely. I'm not sure if this would work in, say, Manhattan, a faster-paced, higher-octane city where cellphone users (yours truly included) seem to have the insatiable urge to talk at higher-than-usual volumes and to draw attention to themselves. Still, it's probably only a matter of time before this practice makes its way over here. Perhaps the MTA will follow the lead of Amtrak, which designates certain trains as 'quiet cars', or perhaps they'll figure out some way to allow you to send e-mails and text messages but not actually talk on your phone.
* The leisurely lifestyle of Paris, lovely as it is for someone on vacation, has a tendency to dictate itself to you whether you like it or not. The Parisians get a late start on their days and a somewhat early finish; although mealtimes are late (9 PM might be the peak time to have dinner), the whole city is seems to have gone to bed by 1:15 AM or so, as once the sidewalk cafes close there is very little nightlife outside of tourist traps and ambisexual Eurotrash clubs. Restaurants and cultural instituitons are at risk of being closed on Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, any of a dozen or so Catholic holidays, and the entire month of August. Not surprisingly, the French spend more time eating and sleeping than any other industrialized people. They also drink more than almost all of them, although paradoxically there is very little public drunkenness, perhaps because alcohol is almost always consumed with food.
* Paris is also extremely unusual for its lack of a central business district; as most large businesses are instead confined to the outer reaches of the city. At 3 PM on a weekday in Central Paris, I'd guess that only about 1 in 20 Parisian men you might pass on the sidewalk is wearing a suit; the comparable number in Lower Manhattan or the West End of London must be something like 1 in 4.
* The food in Paris was, per its reputation, consistently very good, but I don't think I'd trade it for the cuisine in New York, as there tend to be few appealing options outside of traditional French fare. Although we had one very good Vietnamese meal and a ridiculously delicious kebab from a Lebanese street vendor, the French on the whole don't really seem to have developed an affinity for 'ethnic' food, which is what makes eating so terrific in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles or San Francisco so terrific.
* I did not find Paris particularly snobbish or anti-American, although I was probably helped by the fact that my expectations have been lowered by living in New York, and that one of my traveling companions grew up in Montreal and speaks fluent French (although with a Québécois accent). There was one notable exception: a restaurant we went to early in the week sat is in a small, somewhat spartan room in the corner of the restaurant, along with three other couples who just so happened to speak English. Perhaps they thought they were doing us a favor, but it was extremely unusual and off-putting, as a white American, to have the experience of feeling 'ghettoized'.
* Although there were generally not many outward signs of international politics, there is a certain amount of Obama bling to be found in Paris, as well as various iterations of phrases like Yes Oui Can!
In an earlier post, I argued that a progressive consumption tax could free up the resources needed to avoid economically crippling budget deficits in future years. But because the United States is notoriously tax-phobic, many view any major new tax as little more than a political pipedream.
The initial reaction to my proposal in the comments was distinctly skeptical, not to say hostile. But as the conversation unfolded in the comments on a subsequent post, opposition has gradually softened. From having had hundreds of conversations about this issue over the course of many years, I can report that this pattern is typical. As the details of how a progressive consumption tax would work become more clear, its appeal grows, not only to the middle-class families that constitute a decisive electoral majority, but also to the wealthy, whose political influence far exceeds their number.
First, the middle-class: Although the tax would have little effect on how much the government collects from low- and middle-income families, it would reduce the growing financial pressures confronting these families. The greatest income gains over the last three decades and the lion’s share of income tax cuts have gone to top earners. Finger-wagging social critics have been quick to denounce the lavish spending of this group, but top earners have been building larger houses and throwing more expensive parties simply because they have more money. That’s what people of all income groups do.
Such spending has had little direct impact on people in the middle. To the extent they pay any attention to it at all, they look on with bemused admiration. But the spending of top earners shifts the frame of reference of the near-rich, leading them to spend more as well. (Perhaps the bigger mansions of the rich have made it the custom to host their daughters’ wedding receptions at home, rather than in hotels and country clubs.) So the near-rich, who travel in the same social circles, are moved to build bigger too, and so on all the way down the income ladder. The resulting expenditure cascade has affected families at every income level.
For example, the median new house in the United States now has over 2,300 square feet, over 40 percent more than in 1979, even though real median family earnings have risen little since then. And many middle-income children now take it for granted that their birthday party guests will be entertained by a professional clown or magician. These spending changes are a consequence of the pressure middle-income families feel to keep up with the spending patterns of their peers.
If the only cost of failing to keep up were hurt feelings, that would be one thing. But many middle-income families feel pressure to spend beyond their means because more expensive neighborhoods tend to have better schools. That means a family that spends less than its peers on housing must send its children to lower-quality schools. In the short term, a progressive consumption tax would slow the growth of high-end spending that has made it increasingly difficult for middle-income families to make ends meet. Longer term, increased investment would spur income growth, raising living standards for families at all income levels.How would the wealthy be affected by a progressive consumption tax? The attractions of the tax for low- and middle-income families are clear enough. Perhaps more surprising, in light of its high marginal rates on high levels of consumption, is the attraction of this tax for high-income consumers.
Evidence suggests that, beyond some point, across-the-board increases in many types of consumption spending deliver little increase in consumer satisfaction. As the economist Richard Layard has written, “In a poor country, a man proves to his wife that he loves her by giving her a rose, but in a rich country he must give a dozen roses.”
The upshot is that when the wealthy all increase the size of their mansions from 50,000 square feet to 60,000 square feet, the main effect is to raise the bar that defines how big a mansion a wealthy family needs. So across-the-board increases in house size beyond some point yield little gain. Indeed, given the hassles involved in recruiting, training, and supervising the staff to take care of a larger mansion, the wealthy might well be happier with smaller mansions, even neglecting the extra security they’d enjoy from the extra money they saved.
In short, the spending incentives confronting the wealthy resemble those confronting rival nations embroiled in a military arms race. It would be good to build fewer bombs, but only if everyone did it. By creating incentives for across-the-board reductions in high-end purchases that deliver little value, a progressive consumption tax helps solve this collective action problem.
Conservatives often complain that if we raise the top marginal tax rates on income, the wealthy will move away. Although that sometimes happens in countries whose tax rates are high relative to rates elsewhere, it is not a practical worry for the US, whose marginal tax rates are among the lowest anywhere.
But under a progressive consumption tax, higher marginal rates on top consumption levels would actually make a country more attractive to the wealthy, because it would help them avoid squandering resources on unproductive spending arms races.
The 1973 Roe versus Wade decision established a woman's constitutional right to an abortion, at least in the first three months of pregnancy. Would you like to see the Supreme Court completely overturn its Roe versus Wade decision, or not?The 68 percent level of support for upholding Roe v Wade is the highest of any poll I can find in the
30% Yes, overturn
68% No, not overturn
I've seen some complaints from conservative websites that CNN's poll wording is misleading -- first because they insert the modifier "completely" before before the phrase "overturn its Roe v Wade decision", and secondly because the poll specifies that the decision applies only to the first three months of pregnancy. I'm glad that people are getting in the habit of scrutinizing question wording and undoubtedly it makes some difference. In 2005, for example, Pew Research -- which was using virtually identical question wording -- found that removing the word "completely" decreased support for Roe from 62 percent to 57 percent.
Nevertheless, CNN's question wording is fairly common, having been used by Pew, AP and NBC/WSJ in the past (although not by CNN itself, which used different wording when the last surveyed this question in 2007), and support for Roe has never been quite as high as 68 percent.
The reason this poll may be important is because the meanings of the terms "pro-choice" and "pro-life" are at least somewhat fungible; years of Democrats saying things like "I am personally opposed to abortion, but I don't think I have a right to impose my few on the rest of society" (as Vice President Biden has may serve to blur the lines a little bit. Likewise, questions about whether abortion should be legal in all/some/no circumstances may elicit different responses depending on exactly what those circumstances are perceived to be. The Republican have, somewhat smartly, shifted the debate in recent years to so-called 'partial-birth' (late-term) abortions, which overwhelming majorities of Americans oppose. If Americans think of the 'some' category as being represented by partial birth abortions -- as opposed to, say, abortions in the case of rape or incest -- this may alter their responses to pollsters accordingly.
In spite of this poll, I don't think Democrats ought to take for granted that public opinion is etched in stone on the abortion choice issue. That increasing numbers of young people, for instance, are apparently taking a pro-life, but pro-gay marriage position suggests that terms on which this issue was debated among Baby Boomers may not resonate in the same ways with Gen Y'ers, whose opinions may be more malleable.
The more obvious and salient fact, however, as we are about to begin the debate over President Obama's Supreme Court pick, is that support for Roe v Wade has always been higher than support for either the "pro-choice" or the legal abortion positions in the abstract, and remains that way today. Republicans are probably in error if they think they can gain ground with the public by vigorously opposing Obama's Supreme Court pick for this reason.