Category Archives: Elections

First Iowa, and now the worst ratings ever.

Last week, Republicans decided to “give Iowa a try.” Then T-paw, first man into the race for President, became the first man out of the race (unless you count this dufus). Then, with a nary a whimper (and a jet black bus), the President kicked off what Mitt Romney called the “Magical Misery Tour,” a bus tour of mid-west swing states.

“During his Magical Misery bus tour this week, it is unlikely President Obama will speak with unemployed Americans, to near-bankrupt business owners, or to families struggling to survive in this economy,” the campaign said in a statement released prior to Obama’s arrival in Minnesota Monday.

I don’t know about that…last I checked, the President wasn’t opposed to having a beer with a couple of regular guys.

Besides, President Obama knows what it looks like to have unemployment staring him in the face. It’s happening to him now.

Yep. It’s President Obama’s worst approval rating since his inauguration. Even with the election more than a year away, he can’t be relishing these kind of ratings. I’m not sure if there’s just a lot of news about the GOP due to Iowa (a debate, a straw poll, a Texan entering the race, and, of course, that butter statue) or if the country is really looking for someone to blame, but President Obama is taking a part of the hit (the economy is swallowing the rest of the malaise).

On the other hand, there’s a lot of politics between now  and the only poll that matters, and President Obama is not idiot. I suspect he’s ready for the next fourteen and a half months.

Grab yourself a cold one, put on your most comfortable shoes, and get ready: it’s going to be a magical ride, misery or not.

 (h/t Gallup and DBKP)

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Reading right now: “The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies.”

Lately, I’ve not had a lot of time to read. But when I have had time, I’ve enjoyed reading the wonkish and pointed “The Myth of the Rational Voter” by Bryan Caplan.

It’s an economist’s look at why, as the sub-title says, voters tend to support bad public policies. The reason, Caplan argues, is not special interests or rampant lobbying, but rather, it is “popular misconceptions, irrational beliefs, and personal biases head by ordinary voters” (from the fly-leaf).

What is interesting, as I have barely begun to read it, is the biases that he points out and, to deepen the plot, as it were, is that economists have long seen and known these biases.

For example:

  • Antimarket Bias: “the tendency to underestimate the economic benefits of the market mechanism.” (p. 30)
  • Antiforeign Bias: “a tendency to underestimate the economic benefits of interaction with foreigners.” (p. 36) Interestingly, Caplan tells in association with this bias of an business associate of his that believes everything wrong with the American economy could be solved with a naval blockade of Japan and a Berlin Wall at the Mexican border…hmmm, I can’t imagine where I’ve heard something like that latter one before.
  • Make-work Bias: “a tendency to underestimate the economic benefits of conserving labor.” (p. 40) In other words, “[w]here noneconomists see the destruction of jobs, economists see the essence of economic growth–the production of more with less.” Not sure how you’d explain that one to the 10% of America who is under or unemployed right now.
  • Pessimistic Bias: “a tendency to overestimate the severity of economic problems and underestimate the recent past, present, and future performance of the economy.” (p. 44) I know one man who must wish this one didn’t exist, and he’s the Cheerleader-in-Chief.
The results? People act irrationally while making ballot box decisions, resulting in public policy that is against their interests. 
Check it out. It’s an interesting read and well worth your time as we move into an election year where the economy really is the only issue.

“I have often wondered why economists, with these absurdities all around them, so easily adopt the view that men act rationally.”

“I have often wondered why economists, with these absurdities all around them, so easily adopt the view that men act rationally.  This may be because they study an economic system in which the discipline of the market ensures that, in a business setting, decisions are more or less rational.  The employee of a corporation who buys something for $10 and sells it for $8 is not likely to do so for long.  Someone who, in a family setting, does much the same thing, may make his wife and children miserable throughout his life.  A politician who wastes his country’s resources on a grand scale may have a successful career.”

Ronald Coase, “Comment on Thomas W. Hazlett” (1998: 577) Quoted in The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies by Bryan Caplan

You might live in a swing state if…

…you’re more likely to run into a candidate for the White House than a Mormon missionary when you get a knock at the door.

I ran into an interesting set of data today: voter turnout nationally has never really been that high, and while it may be falling, it’s never really changed in Presidential years.

Voter Turnout in Presidential Elections from 1948-2008

Why is it that voter turnout seems stuck somewhere between 55 and 65%? What would it take to boost participation? Continue reading

Mitt Romney and “the Mormon Question.”

Governor Mitt Romney of MA

Image via Wikipedia

The “Mormon” question. [sigh] Who hasn’t heard it yet?

Can a Mormon be elected president?

I can’t get into a conversation about politics and the 2012 campaign for the White House without Mitt Romney coming up. This includes conversations with your average voters and political insiders, family and friends, Democrats and Republicans alike. (Why, yes, I do live in Utah…why do you ask?)

My in-laws ask about what I think Mitt’s chances are while munching on cupcakes after the baby blessing. While in D.C. last week, GOP party insiders and legislators from at least three different states  swapped reasons why they think that, short of a major scandal, Mitt’s got the nomination all but in the bag. The man is getting a lot of attention (right now), and there are few who think he can’t pull it off. Continue reading