Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Unskewing 538

Different data journalists have different estimates of the probability that Hillary Clinton will be elected. The numbers will be updates, so I type the current ones before discussing.

Five Thirty Eight polls plus 55.7%
Five Thirty Eight polls only 57.1 %
Daily Kos 63%
Upshot 75%
Princeton Election Consortium (Sam Wang) (random drift) 71%
(Bayesian) 81%

As usual Nate Silver and Sam Wang are the extremes with Silver estimating probabilities closer to 50%. This happens mostly because Silver estimates distributions of parameters which Wang assumes to be known constants. I have to admit I generally agree with Silver.

Silver explained at least part of the difference with other aggregators

High numbers of undecided and third-party voters are associated with higher volatility and larger polling errors. Put another way, elections are harder to predict when fewer people have made up their minds. Because FiveThirtyEight’s models account for this property, we show a relatively wide range of possible outcomes, giving Trump better odds of winning than most other statistically based models, but also a significant chance of a Clinton landslide if those undecideds break in her favor.

This is a bit reassuring to me. I think there are a lot of #NeverTrump voters who are very unenthusiastic about Clinton. These are voters who say he is unqualified and temperamentally unsuited to be President. I tend to guess many of them will reluctantly vote for Clinton if and only if it seems necessary and otherwise stay home of vote 3rd or 4th party. I remember 2000 (and some of these voters don’t) but I am not as alarmed as I would be without this argument.

The point (if any) of this post is that fivethirtyeight normalizes polls in which only Trump and Clinton are named to the standard of polls in which Johnson & Stein are also named. They will be on the ballot, but this seems to me to be a mistake. Respondents can volunteer that they will vote for another person if asked to choose between Trump and Clinton. I think the pressure due to naming only Trump and Clinton is weaker than the pressure of an upcoming election and fear of wasting a vote. So I’d guess polls which name only 2 candidates give more accurate forecasts. I think this is historically true (sorry no link). Certainly declared support for 3rd party candidates in September polls regularly vastly exceeds actual votes for 3rd party candidates.

I don’t know the fivethirtyeight correction term (sorry I could probably find it there if I looked). My impression is that Clinton averages 1 or 2% better in polls which name only Trump and her. Currently The Huffington Post says 1% nationwide (Clinton 4% ahead in 2 name polls 3% ahead in 3 name polls including Johnson (including Stein has to hurt Clinton)). Given the confidence interval and the fact that all aggregators assume normality, a 1% difference in means corresponds to about the difference between 57% and 75% (this is a very rough BS pseudo calculation).

An even more striking pattern over at The Huffington Post is that the fitted curve for the Clinton Vs Trump Vs Johnson is much smoother than the fitted curve for Clinton-Trump. This is partly due to their smoothing algorithm which smooths more if there are few data points (it is a compromise between don’t want to use very few points and don’t want to use very old data). But eyeballing, I am fairly sure it isn’t just that. Also the moderately smoothed Clinton support in 2 way polls varies more (including conventions roughly 44-48 for Clinton and 40-42 for Trump). I think this shows a lot of the variance is in the willingness of #NeverTrumpers to say they will vote for Clinton if pressed.

So after pychoanalyzing data ananylis, I conclude that the key issue is whether people who think Trump should not be elected, but don’t want to vote for Clinton end up reluctantly voting for Clinton. What an original thought. Bet no one has written that already in 2016.

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Loose Lips Sink Ships*

WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump Jr. has posted a message on Twitter likening Syrian refugees to a bowl of poisoned Skittles.

Seeking to promote his father’s presidential campaign, the younger Trump posted a tweet featuring a bowl of the candy Skittles with a warning.

“If I had a bowl of skittles and I told you just three would kill you, would you take a handful?” said the tweet on the verified @DonaldTrumpJr handle.

“That’s our Syrian refugee problem,” said the post, which caused a stir and negative tweets on the internet into Tuesday.

Trump Jr.’s tweet said, “This image says it all. Let’s end the politically correct agenda that doesn’t put America first.”

Donald Trump Jr. likens Syrian refugees to poisoned Skittles, Associated Press, today

It is by now hardly a secret that Donald Trump Jr. has, let’s say, friends in the white nationalist crowd.*  I mean, personal friends; not just people he hobnobs with online.

A few days ago, in trying to emulate his father and his father’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway by attributing to Clinton, or the news media’s coverage of her, a high-profile trait of Donald Trump, or a routine practice of the mainstream media in covering the Trump campaign—the Trump campaign’s bizarre, kaleidoscopic modus operandi—Trump Jr. claimed that the political-news media was far harsher toward his father than to Clinton, whom, he said, the media had been letting off the hook.  His choice of analogy? Warming up the gas chamber.

In a blog post titled by the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake last week titled “A lot of Donald Trump Jr.’s trail missteps seem to involve white nationalists and Nazis,” the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake wrote about Trump Jr.’s comment:

“The media has been her number-one surrogate in this,” Trump said in a Wednesday interview with a Philadelphia radio station, referring to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. “Without the media, this wouldn’t even be a contest. But the media has built her up. They’ve let her slide on every indiscrepancy [sic], on every lie, on every DNC game trying to get Bernie Sanders out of this thing.”

Then he added: “If Republicans were doing that, they’d be warming up the gas chamber right now.”

Blake noted also that after Clinton made her “basket of deplorables” comment, Trump Jr. “Instagrammed a mock-up of a ‘The Expendables’ movie poster with his, his father’s and his father’s supporters’ faces superimposed over the words ‘The Deplorables.’  The problem: One of the superimposed faces was of Pepe the Frog, a symbol that has been co-opted by white supremacists and nationalists.”

In response to criticism about it, as Blake recounted, Trump Jr. said a friend sent it to him:

On “Good Morning America,” Trump said he didn’t know the frog was such a symbol. “If I’m glib — perhaps that’s the case — I’ve never even heard of Pepe the Frog,” he said. “I thought it was a frog in a wig. I thought it was funny. I had no idea that there’s any connotation there.”

It may well be that he—likely like most Americans (I, among them)—was unaware of the backstory to that image.  But what about the friend who had sent it to him?  And why did the expression “warming up the gas chambers” come so quickly to mind for him—an obviously weird analogy to news-media criticism of a presidential candidate?  This guy seems as mentally off as his father.

Although maybe this Wharton School bachelor’s degree holder, admitted there undoubtedly based, like his father before him, solely on his school transcripts, SAT score, and extracurriculars—I’m presuming no indiscrepecies there regarding the school’s admission of either father or son—inherited something else from his father: the sheer coincidence of regularly saying things that are misunderstood by, well, everyone.

Last weekend, NYT columnist Timothy Egan, in a column titled “America the Plunderer” that in my opinion should be nominated for a Pulitzer, discussed something that dismays be as much as it does him: During Matt Lauer’s infamous interviews of the two candidates two weeks ago, Trump reiterated his position, expressed during the primaries but (I believe) not in several months, that this country should have appropriated Iraq’s oil fields, and that it should do so now.  Yet virtually no one, including the Clinton campaign, noticed.  Or at least has cared to make this a major public point.

Egan wrote:

Because he’s being graded on a doofus curve that is unprecedented in presidential politics, Donald Trump said more than a dozen outrageous, scary or untrue things in the last 10 days and got away with all of them. But with at least one statement, marking a profound shift in how the United States would interact with the rest of the world, Trump should be shamed back to his golden throne.

He wants the United States to become a nation that steals from its enemies. He’s already called for war crimes — killing family members of terrorists, torturing suspects. He would further violate the Geneva Conventions by making thieves out of a first-­class military.

“It used to be to the victor belong the spoils,” Trump complained to the compliant Matt Lauer in the now infamous commander­-in-­chief forum. Oh, for the days when Goths, Vandals and Nazis were free to rape, pillage and plunder. So unfair, as Trump said on an earlier occasion, that we have “all sorts of rules and regulations, so the soldiers are afraid to fight.”

As with everything in Trump’s world, his solution is simple: loot and pilfer. “Take the oil,” said Trump. He was referring to Iraq, post-­invasion. And how would he do this? There would be an open-­ended occupation, as a sovereign nation’s oil was stolen from it. Of course, “you’d leave a certain group behind,” he said, to protect the petro thieves.

A certain group. Let’s be clear what he’s talking about: Under Trump’s plan, American men and women would die for oil, victims of endless rounds of lethal sabotage and terror strikes. That’s your certain group. He thinks we could get in, get the oil, and get out. Just like the cakewalk of occupying Iraq. And if such a seizure violates international law, what’s the rest of the world going to do about it? “Anything is legal” in war, as the deranged Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani explained.

For this kind of plunder, there is in fact a precedent for Trump’s plan: Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. The United States fought the first gulf war because the Iraqi dictator tried to seize Kuwait’s oil. We were the good guys, fighting an invading military force that was trying to steal a small country’s most precious natural resource.

I remember upon reading about Clinton’s “basket of deplorables’ the day after she made that comment at an evening fundraiser sponsored by an LBGT group attended, at her invitation, by her campaign’s news media pool, why on earth she would squander the attention of the political press by not using it to describe and highlight information about Trump that most of the public wasn’t aware of—and maybe refute a key claim against her—instead of just reiterating the same-old, same-old about Trump.

What I had in mind specifically then concerned Trump’s financial assistance to Florida AG Pam Bondi’s reelection campaign, including his use of his ostensible charitable foundation to funnel a substantial donation to her PAC at the same time as the public revelation that her office was considering joining New York state’s lawsuit against Trump University and Trump Institute alleging rather clear consumer fraud.  The story finally was gaining steam as a story in the mainstream media, and a reporter-pool-attended Friday evening campaign event struck me as the perfect mechanism to reach a broad spectrum of the electorate.

Equally important—if not more so—it provided the perfect hook for Clinton to compare her own foundation with Trump’s, and to get across to the public what she had failed to even try to do in late August when the story about the emails to State Dept. aides about requests from people connected in one way or another to the Clinton Foundation was omnipresent: the actual specifics of what had occurred, why they had occurred, and the result.

I had not watched the Lauer debacle, and most of the torrent of media outrage about it focused on Lauer’s failure to call Trump on his false reassertion that he had voiced opposition to the Iraq invasion before it occurred—and had used as evidence of it an interview of him more than a year after the invasion.  And about Lauer’s extensive questioning of Clinton about her emails—on the theory that this issue hadn’t received enough news coverage.

And so I didn’t yet know that Trump, after bragging falsely that he had opposed the Iraq invasion before it occurred, then said that as long as we were, y’know, there anyway, we should have confiscated the country’s oil fields as our spoils of victory.  On the theory that we needed most then, and still need most, is to invite universal international outrage against us and deliberately incite terrorism here and worldwide. And do it at the cost of the lives of military personnel who along with their loved ones are, as a demographic, among Trump’s strongest supporters.  Including those who vote in swing states such as Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio and Iowa.

Trump Jr.’s latest comment will be treated as yet another appalling racist and xenophobic shout-out by this family and this campaign.  But that is not the only reason it should draw attention.  A hallmark of his father’s various proposals during the course of his campaign is that they demonstrate a key, discrete mental trait that should be addressed in and of itself: Trump lacks the intellectual capacity to understand that actions have certain or near-certain consequences beyond the immediate, narrow ones that the policy is intended to have.  He does not know that they do.  However obvious it is that they do.

Thus, he casually suggests that this country should threaten default of its debt in order to negotiate partial default with the country’s bondholders—utterly clueless of the unequivocal repercussions should this actually be threatened, or even hinted at.

He also says, expressly, that he does not know why we can’t use our nuclear weapons, since, after all, we have them.

And he says—repeated as recently as two weeks ago—that we should have appropriated Iraq’s oil fields.  To the victor should go the spoils.  But only if it’s other people’s blood, and other people’s loved ones’ blood, that effectuates it, for no purpose other than that we want to provoke terrorism, here and elsewhere around the world.

Donald Trump is often analogized to a child or adolescent in personality, but this is an intellectual trait, not merely a temperamental trait, of children.

Trump Jr. thinks his picture of a bowl of Skittles says it all.   Actually, it says only some of it all.  An image of U.S. military personnel in heavy combat at an Iraqi oil field in efforts to defend this country’s confiscation and appropriation of it, and a few images of terrorist attacks around the world during this ongoing combat or in the wake of belligerent comments by President Trump, would say some of the rest of it all.

As they used to say back during the two world wars: Loose Lips Sink Ships.

Let’s indeed end the politically correct agenda that doesn’t put America first.  And while we’re at it, make clear that the folks who incessantly invoke the moniker “politically correct” are the ones to whom it actually now applies.

____

*I just saw this, posted tonight at Slate.  The list it includes hopefully will be widely disseminated.  There are some additional indiscrepancies in it, and all should be noted.  Added 9/20 at 8:48 p.m.

____

UPDATE: You really, really should read Paul Waldman’s new post at the Washington Post’s Plum Line blog about Post investigative reporter David Farenthold’s report in today’s Post about the massive illegality Farenthold just uncovered at the Trump Foundation–conduct that is at the  very heart of that foundation.

The title of Farenthold’s article is “Trump used $258,000 from his charity to settle legal problems.”  The legal problems all concerned fines or debts his businesses owed.  His businesses, folks.

His tax-exempt non-profit, whose funds came entirely from others’ donations to this ostensible charity, paid Donald Trump’s for-profit businesses’ legal obligations. As well as Trump’s payoff to Bondi–as Waldman mentions.

Got that?

That report is just the latest in Farenthold’s series of investigative reports on the Trump Foundation, for which I expect him to be nominated for a Pulitzer.

Added 9/20 at 4:58 p.m.

 

*Yes, it’s loose lips, not lose lips, that sink ships, as reader MS 57 kindly mentioned to me in the Comments thread.  Usually it is, anyway, although losing lips might prevent indiscrepencies of that sort.

Aaaaaargggggh.

Corrected 9/21 at 10:45 a.m.

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Negative Effects of Immigration on the Economy

by Mike Kimel

Negative Effects of Immigration on the Economy

In a recent post, I showed that looking at data since 1950 or so, the percentage of the population that is foreign born is negatively correlated with job creation in later years. I promised an explanation, and I will attempt to deliver on that promise in this post.

I can think of a few reasons for the finding, just about all of which would have been amplified since LBJ’s Presidency due to two things: the 1965 Hart-Cellar Act and the launch of the Great Society. The Hart-Cellar Act may be better known as the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. It phased out country quotas in existence since the 1920s. As a result of these quotas, about 70% of all immigrants were coming from England, Germany and Ireland, with most of the remainder coming from elsewhere in Western Europe and from Latin America. The Great Society, of course, included a number of welfare programs, many of which (or their descendants) are still in existence.

With that, reasons why the foreign born population is negatively correlated with subsequent job creation include:

1. Immigrants who are sufficiently similar to the existing population when it comes to language, culture, skillsets and expectations will integrate more smoothly. Slower and more imperfect integration necessarily requires more expenditure of resources, resources which otherwise could go toward economic development.

2. Naturally, skills and values that are more productive and efficient than those of the existing population are conducive toward growth. Conversely, bringing inferior technology and processes does not improve the economy. As the source of immigrants shifted away from sources of sources of high technology like England and Germany and toward the developing and not-developing world, the likelihood that a randomly selected new immigrant will improve productivity diminishes.

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Nine Spades Are a Lump of Leets

The section on capital from Joan Robinson’s 1970 review of Charles Ferguson’s The Neoclassical Theory of Production and Distribution employs the “lump of leets” motif to highlight a key issue in the Cambridge critique of neoclassical capital theory. Robinson’s substantive lump-of-leets critique offers an instructive contrast to the abject flimsiness of the proverbial lump-of-labor fallacy claims.

For some years they remained cooped up in this position, repelling all attacks with blank misunderstanding. Then, growing bold, they descended to the plains and tried to prove Sraffa wrong. …

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That’s what I’m talkin’ about! (Ireland)

 

I have argued many times (most directly here) that, contrary to the claims of nearly all Irish policymakers, low taxes are not what makes the Irish economy tick. The country experienced 30 years of low taxes with no gain on average European income; it was only after 1987 that other policy changes (education, EU-funded infrastructure, and Social Partnership) led to gains on the EU average. Thanks to a Tax Justice Network blog post, I now have a great illustration to show this in living color.The graph below plots Irish income per capita as a percentage of the EU average from about 1955 to 2012, with important dates noted as vertical lines. Notice that Ireland doesn’t get above 60-65% until after 1990. In addition, the Commission-enforced increase in the corporate income tax rate from 10% to 12.5%, which took effect in the early 2000s, had no impact on the Celtic Tiger’s spectacular rise in income per capita relative to the EU average. This means Ireland had higher growth when the tax rate was 12.5% than when it was 0%!Q.E.D.ireland-gnp-graph

Source: Tax Justice Network, link above

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Blanchard & Posen: Inflation tied to Corporations Trying to Maintain Profit Margins

I have posted this model of core inflation before. Core inflation on y-axis. Corporate-after-tax profit rate minus nominal rates on x-axis.

inf taller 15

The model implies that inflation depends upon the difference between an aggregate corporate profit rate and nominal rates. The more nominal rates cut into corporate profit rates, the more corporations would choose to raise prices to maintain “net” profit rates… and thus create inflation.

Olivier Blanchard and Adam Posen wrote last December in 2015 an article titled, Japan’s Solution Is to Raise Wages by 10 Percent. As wages rise, corporate profit rates come down. So if you want to cut into corporate profit rates but cannot do it by raising nominal rates, then do it by raising wages. Either way, the data points move left on the x-axis making inflation increases more likely.

Olivier Blanchard and Adam Posen give the logic of the model when they say in their article…

“The point is not to redistribute income from business to labor. If anything, employers and other price setters should be encouraged to pass on the increased costs from wages to consumer prices and try to maintain their profit margins.”

The key to inflation is making corporations try to maintain their profit margins. But supply-side economics has lowered corporate taxes, lowered minimum wages, weakened unions and more in order to raise corporate profit margins. Is it any wonder that inflation will be low for years to come?

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Trump is wrong. Hillary Clinton didn’t start the birther claim. New Jersey Muslims standing on rooftops did.

Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it. I finished it, you know what I mean. President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period. Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.

— Donald Trump, today

I took that quote from Paul Waldman’s post at the Washington Post’s Plum Line blog titled “Donald Trump just summed up his entire despicable campaign in 30 seconds.”  Waldman then says, “Neither Hillary Clinton nor her campaign ever questioned Obama’s birthplace in 2008, as Trump claims. Every fact-checker has verified that. Trump is lying.

Lying?  Nah.  I think, instead, that Trump just has Clinton and her earlier presidential campaign confused with one of the groups of New Jersey Muslims on rooftops, and the year 2008 with 2001.  I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that the Obama-birther claim originated back in 2001 in New Jersey by people standing on rooftops and cheering as the Towers fell.

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Oh, God. Why does Clinton refuse to run on the Democratic Party platform? And against pro-Citizens United justices?

The Clinton campaign today made a key concession about its analysis of the fundamentals of the race. This concession was made almost in passing, as an afterthought, in a statement released late last night by Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri:

“One upside to Hillary Clinton’s break from the trail was having time to sharpen the final argument she will present to voters in these closing weeks.  So when she rejoins the trail tomorrow, Hillary Clinton will deliver the second in a series of speeches laying out her aspirational vision for the country: that we are “Stronger Together.” Tomorrow’s remarks will focus on what has been at the core of who Hillary Clinton is as a person and the mission of her campaign — how we lift up our children and families and make sure that every child has the chance to live up to their God given potential.

“Our campaign readily admits that running against a candidate as controversial as Donald Trump means it is harder to be heard on what you aspire for the country’s future and it is incumbent on us to work harder to make sure voters hear that vision.”  [Boldface in original.]

Hillary Clinton’s campaign just admitted she has a real problem, Greg Sargent, yesterday morning

 

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September 13, 2013, the date of publication of the initial Orlando Sentinel article reporting that Bondi’s office was considering joining the New York AG’s fraud lawsuit against Trump U., was … a Friday. The Trump Foundation’s check to Bondi’s PAC arrived on September 17, the following … Tuesday. Bondi’s office responded to the Sentinel reporter’s Aug. 29 inquiry HOW many days before the article was published, exactly? And WHAT was the date of that late-summer phone call Bondi made to Trump?

Look, here is the actual check from the Trump Foundation (remember, all just an innocent mistake, heh-heh!), dated 9/9/13. Totally undercuts the idea that Trump bribed Bondi to head off an investigation, doesn’t it? [Photocopy of front and back of canceled check.]

Except not so much. Even the Times acknowledges, this doesn’t absolutely clear up anything, since

“Even as he has denied trying to do so in this instance, he has boasted brazenly and repeatedly during his presidential campaign that he has made copious campaign contributions over the past two decades, including to Hillary Clinton and other Democrats, in order to buy access and consideration for his business dealings.”

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