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Posts Tagged ‘Romney’

An Open Letter to Fox News Viewers/Readers

November 7, 2012 4 comments

Hello readers,

This is not intended to be a post preaching to the choir. If you are here to laugh at Fox News, then I don’t need you to keep reading. There are many people who I know and love that actually do get the bulk of their news from watching Fox News, reading their website, reading Breitbart.com, listening to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Neal Boortz, and other similar methods (but no differing). If this sounds like you, please keep reading. I’d like to talk to you. This is not about the content of the election or the issues espoused by different candidates, but about the information you received. Most of you seem relatively surprised with the results of Tuesday’s election. Many of you professed a great deal of confidence in Governor Romney’s chances on Tuesday night. This troubles me greatly, and I think it opens up an opportunity to understand just how cut off from reality reaffirming media bubbles can become.

You see, this election was not much of a surprise. In fact, according to those who paid a great deal of attention to what was going on in state polls and early voting, the election went almost exactly as expected. Take this quote from The New Yorker’s John Cassidy Tuesday morning:

The vast majority of pundits, academics, and forecasters agree that Obama will win. Indeed, there is a broad consensus about his likely margin of victory in the electoral college: 303 to 235. In addition to myself, a number of prognosticators have settled on these figures. They include the Democratic strategist Joe Trippi; the Slate blogger Matt Yglesias; the Huffpo’s Pollster tracking model; the Web site PredictWise, the consulting firm CabPolitical. Most other forecasts are grouped around the 303-235 projection. Early Tuesday morning, Nate Silver’s 538 model was predicting Obama 315, Romney 223; Sam Wang’s Princeton Election Consortium had it at Obama 309, Romney 229. Larry Sabato and his colleagues at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics were predicting that Obama would do slightly less well but still win. Their figures for the electoral college: Obama 290, Romney 248.

(the whole article is worth a read)

I’ll note that Sam Wang and Nate Silver’s projections stem from expected value models, which are averages of different possible outcomes, not state-by-state projections added up. Looking state-by-state, Nate Silver got everything correct right down to Florida being too close to call with a slight Obama lean. What you see here is a consensus prediction around the exact outcome that occurred. By nearly every detailed, analytical prediction, the only source of disagreement was generally around Virginia and Florida’s results. In addition to human projections, betting sites and market forecasts such as Betfair and Intrade gave Obama strong odds as the favorite.

This information is not meant as a means of gloating. This is just some evidence that the information available regarding this race led to a very easily-predicted outcome. Even as a novice non-pollster, I read enough to feel very confident in the outcome of the election. When I posted a reactionary blog post at 11:23 Tuesday night–just eight minutes after the earliest call of the race (NBC followed shortly after by Fox News)–it wasn’t because I am a very fast typist, and it wasn’t because I wrote a reaction post for either result. It was because I was so sure of the outcome that I planned ahead for it, accused by some of my more worrisome or superstitious friends as possibly jinxing the whole thing.

The reason I want to be clear that this outcome was predictable is that you should by now be wondering why you didn’t see this coming. Why were you fairly sure that Romney would emerge victorious? I think we know the answer. The answer is that Sean Hannity, Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, Dick Morris, and Ben Shapiro told you that Romney was heading for a win–some said a landslide. Unskewedpolls.com explained that the polls (which proved right) were inherently biased and presented its own, very different results (which proved wrong). Any prognosticator or pundit who projected an Obama win–or even a toss-up–on the airwaves that you watched or listened to or in the articles you read were instantly countered with hard theories about why those predictions would prove incorrect. Every poll they chose to report was an optimistic, right-leaning poll while ignoring that it was often a statistical outlier. You were inundated with information about this election that pointed to a Romney win–and maybe even a big one.

And that brings us here. In the information age, you can pick and choose where you get your information. There is more knowledge and data available than ever before. The sources that you have chosen were wrong. They weren’t even close. Many, many other sources got this right. The correct sources were ignored or discredited in your world. This leaves me wondering: is there any such thing as information accountability? Is there a reward for getting things right? A punishment for getting things wrong?

The truth is that the election is not the only issue in which this happens. However, the election provides the clearest opportunity to point out the discrepancy between what you’re being told and what is actually happening. This discrepancy is real. This is not an attack from the “lame stream media.” If you found yourself caught by surprise–both by the Obama victory and by the relatively easy margin of the electoral victory–then you now have the evidence right in front of your face. If I found out that all of the news I had been receiving for the past several weeks was completely tainted by an ideological desire to promote a false version of reality rather than reporting the information that was readily available about the true situation, I would cease to use that source. I’m left wondering, will you?

Gingrich has already admitted that “the whole group of us” got it wrong. Was it a coincidence? I leave you with this admission from Byron Allen of WPA Opinion Research, and a final thought:

As a researcher, I’m sad to admit that I let my hopes overtake the data.  The facts, based on well-conducted survey research, always pointed to an Obama win.  But many Republicans, me included, tried to find a way to argue that the data didn’t mean what it said on its face and that Romney would still win.

(emphasis added)

The election coverage by the right-wing media outlets was deliberately misleading and was proven incorrect. In a world with information at your fingertips, don’t make the same mistake again. Look for different sources. Yours are failing you.

Sincerely,

Max

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An Open Letter to Elected Republicans

November 6, 2012 1 comment

Hey guys,  I know it’s been a little bit of a rough day/night for you, and I want to be sympathetic, but I won’t pretend I’m not pretty pleased with the outcome. We all know that you and I have our differences. I imagine losing the presidential election to the incumbent despite poor economic conditions is pretty sobering. You’re probably looking in the proverbial mirror wondering what went wrong. More importantly, you’re probably wondering where does the party go from here. You tried the maverick in 2008. You swung right with the Tea Party in 2010. You went with prototype president version 2.12 in 2012. And yet, Barack Obama is still the president.

There are a number of possible reactions. Was Romney too moderate? Should the party push farther to the right? Maybe the party should continue to blur the lines between being a Republican and a Libertarian. There’s always the option of using a vast media propaganda machine to undermine the legitimacy of the 2012 elections, thus undermining the legitimacy of the Obama administration (thus also undermining the entirety of the American political process, but that’s collateral damage deemed worth it to many). Of all the reactions that you could have, however, I would like to offer one simple suggestion.

Govern. I know, it sounds crazy, right? But after 4 years of trying tooth and nail to limit the actions of the government and the administration, you’ve received a loss. The plan did not work. In 2014, and again in 2016, if you want to make gains and see results, perhaps you should consider giving the people something concrete for which they can vote. Show us that you can work with others and not just against them. We understand that you’re really good at obstructing. We realize that the congress elected in 2010 passed the least amount of legislation of any in recent history by a long shot. Well done.

Now, in a center-right country with a weak economic recovery, you still lost to a Democrat. Maybe what’s missing is the “center” in the center-right. Maybe the rigid adherence to ideology at the expense of results is holding you up. Maybe, over the next two to four years, you should try to give the people something to vote for instead of someone to vote against. Move on from this loss quickly; don’t dwell on the election and try to undermine its results or question its mandate. And when you move on and return to legislation, don’t point fingers across the aisle, but instead look inward and ask, “what can I do within my principles and within the legislative reality that will improve my country?” Try for collaborative accomplishments. I promise you, this strategy more than any other will lead to the results that you want. Until/unless that happens, look for more of the same: a center-right country begrudgingly electing Democrats.

Good luck,
Max Gross

On The Second Presidential Debate… and how stupid it was

October 17, 2012 1 comment

Tonight was a fun night to love politics. I went to an event where a room full of policy students watched the debate together. There was some mild frustration, there were a lot of laughs, and there were some tense moments that drew audible reactions. And somewhere in the middle of it all, it hit me just how stupid this whole spectacle was.

Look, there are plenty of issues to discuss from the debate. There were plenty of potentially big moments. The fact checkers will assuredly be busy. But does any of it matter? Much as cable news has devolved into entertainment, so too has political discourse–and no longer only from the talking heads. The candidates for the highest office in the land themselves are engaged in entertaining the viewers.

In the first debate, Mitt Romney was “aggressive,” which meant he interrupted. That scored well, so now everyone interrupts everyone–each other, moderators, and I’m pretty sure Obama interrupted himself once, though that may have just been a stutter. Romney said he had binders full of women, and the internet lit up with a facebook page and a blog of memes posted before the debate even ended. Obama said that the gang-bangers should be deported, and facebook newsfeeds and twitter went wild. I’m part of this. I enjoyed it. I thought that it was all pretty hilarious.

Did you see what happened when the candidates got a chance to talk to a Hispanic voter? The one who asked about undocumented workers? Did you catch her name? Because the candidates sure did. They each asked her name. Romney asked, checked, re-checked. Then Obama got his chance, and also checked to ensure he had her name right. We need the Hispanic vote! We better get that name right!

And the bickering. When are we going to learn that the only way to moderate a debate is to bestow upon the moderator the power to turn off microphones? The most blatant abuse was when Candy Crowley stated that she had to move on, and Mitt Romney said, point blank, “No.” That was the trend all night. Talking at each other, over each other, over the moderator, around the topic, off the topic, returning to topics long-since-passed.

Zingers. One-liners. Gaffes. Social media trends. Focus-tested word choice. Oh, the focus-tested word choices. You say “illegal,” I say “undocumented.” The middle class has been “crushed” and “buried.” China “cheats.” The term “good-paying jobs” was big tonight, and has always bothered me. How is that grammatically correct? Good is an adjective. Well is an adverb. If something is describing how something else pays, why don’t you use the adverb? I’m getting off track, and that’s exactly the point.

Tonight, I was a commodity. I was marketed to. Tonight, focus groups and advisers went to work to win my allegiance. And I was not convinced; I was instead entertained. This is similar to when you go to see the latest action movie and within minutes decide that it’s clearly a comedy even though it wasn’t intended to be. “So bad it’s funny,” you might say. Tonight, politics was so bad that it was funny. If only it wasn’t supposed to be so important.

On Taxes. I’m So Sick of Writing About Mitt Romney’s Tax Plan

October 16, 2012 Leave a comment

I think I’ve finally made sense out of the rhetoric about Governor Romney’s tax plan; of the independent reports and of the “6 reports” that disputed the first report. I think I know what’s going on. It was hidden in Romney’s answers tonight, of all places. Listening to President Obama and Romney discuss Romney’s tax proposals reminded me of the old Highlights Magazines in doctors’ office waiting rooms. There are two pictures side by side, and you have to pick out the differences. They’re subtle, but they’re there. Did you hear it? Were you listening?

Here it is. Obama talks about the tax rates for the top 2% (generally couples above $250,000; individuals above $200,000). If you cut those tax rates by 20%, as Romney proposes, then there don’t appear to be enough deductions to eliminate to make up for the lost revenue just from that bracket.

However, Romney talked about the top 5%, and maintaining the same share of the tax burden as they currently pay (about 60% of income taxes). Now, first of all, maintaining the same share of the tax burden does not rule out a tax cut if everyone else is also getting a tax cut. But that aside, the 5% versus the 2% is how they make the numbers work. If the top 5% are getting deductions eliminated, then revenue neutrality can be achieved even if the top 2% are getting a cut, paid for by reduced deductions for the 95th-97th percentiles (the next 3%).

I don’t know the general income numbers for those percentiles, but I have a hunch that it lines up fairly well with Martin Feldstein’s defense of Romney’s plan which called for eliminating deductions for all those making over $100,000 a year. And thus, if you make between $100,000 and $200,000 as an individual or the equivalent tax bracket as a couple, Mitt Romney’s tax plan is likely to hurt you. And that’s what we learned in tonight’s debate. Obama’s plan hurts the top 2%. Romney’s plan will probably help the top 2% on the backs of the next 3%. And hopefully, I’ll never write about Mitt Romney’s tax plan again.

On the Monthly Jobs Report

I don’t remember exactly when it happened. I think it was some time while I was in Afghanistan. Maybe having a regular piece of news from the states helped count down the months until I returned. Or maybe it was because each month, you have this little piece of hope and optimism begging for tangible evidence that the U.S. economy will, in fact, get better. Maybe it’s something a little wonkier than that and was just part of my growing appreciation for economics. Whatever the reason, sometime within the past 18 months, I’ve become obsessed with the monthly jobs reports.

It’s a little embarrassing, really. I have on at least two occasions declined the chance to stay out late on Thursday nights because I didn’t want to sleep through the Friday 9:00 am release of the numbers. This past semester, I was lucky enough to have one early Friday class that forced me to be awake, and then a clear day behind it so I got to devote plenty of time to jobs coverage. My normal routine is to start on Fox News. I know enough myself to be able to digest and interpret most of the numbers, but part of the fun of the monthly job report is watching all the spin, and nobody spins like Fox News. After getting a healthy (often infuriating) 30-45 minutes on Fox News, I’ll hop around from CNN to MSNBC and if I happen to be in a car that day at the right time, I of course tune into NPR (and yes, I know that radio is available outside of cars).

Having said all of that, the next part might come as a bit of a surprise coming from me: We have to calm down about the monthly jobs report. I guess this is mainly a media/political pundit problem. I’m sure telling casual readers of my blog to calm down about the jobs report may count as preaching to the choir, but I hope that this post might serve as a sort of viewers’ guide as far as how NOT to interpret the monthly jobs report… or at least its coverage.

The most important thing I have to say here is that each month is not an isolated event. Remember in December, January and February, when the monthly jobs reports were beating expectations and the Obama administration and many Democrats greeted each new report with an accompanying statement that this was proof that the economy was on the right track? And here we are this week after the job growth numbers have failed to meet expectations for 2-3 consecutive months and now Mitt Romney has repeatedly stated that this is clearly proof that Obama’s policies have failed. Of course, if June’s numbers prove that Obama’s policies have failed, what did February’s numbers tell us?

You see, one month cannot “prove” anything. And if anyone uses one month as “proof,” they set themselves up to be proved wrong a month or two later when the report goes a different direction.  When the Obama administration claimed that a monthly jobs report, on its own, could prove their point, they left themselves open to the counter attack when the bad news came… and the funny thing is that we knew it was coming.

When seeking out the most objective economists’ opinions, it becomes a lot easier to keep things in perspective. When those higher-than-expected numbers were flowing at the beginning of 2012, many economists theorized that the unseasonably warm weather was causing some hiring to “borrow” from the Spring by hiring workers earlier than they normally would. Those economists predicted lower-than-expected numbers for Spring, just as we have been seeing.

Furthermore, you may have heard a lot of Republicans claiming that the unemployment number was dropping only because the labor force was shrinking (a claim that was often true for individual months, but is untrue when looking at the broader trend over the past 6-8 months). Because the labor force participation rate has been low coming out of the recession, many economists suggested that as the unemployment number fell, many people would see signs of improvement and resume their job search, thus pushing the unemployment number back up a little, something like what just happened in going from 8.1% to 8.2% this month.

Like I said, looking at the broader trend and the numbers through a long-term scope, we all should have known what kind of jobs reports to expect this Spring. When the unemployment rate unexpectedly fell from 8.5% to 8.3% in a single month, my first thought was, “That’s probably going to start to tick back up soon.” When new jobs were far outpacing expectations, I thought, “This won’t last.” The numbers told us to think that. Honest economists told us to think that.

But when each individual month is looked at in a vacuum and politicized to the maximum degree, a bad jobs report seems like the end of the world, and a good jobs report seems like cause for a national celebration. Clearly, neither is true. And I think that I would enjoy my little ritual on the first Friday of every month a lot more if the people covering the numbers were honest enough to admit that.