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Waldmann’s thoughts on voting districts

by Robert Waldmann

I think this is the best post I have read so far on the topic by Kathleen Geier.  Just go read it before reading my comment below.

Of course I have my usual comments:

Thank you Kathleen Geier  for your excellent post based on good shoe leather (OK leather ear to the phone) reporting.  I should also thank the political scientists who have been doing their job while I pretend to do it commenting on blogs (I’m supposed to be an economist).

But (of course there is a but) in those comments I have been stressing that bipartisan and court-drawn maps systematically cause Republicans to win a larger fraction of seats than votes.  The reason is that a bipartisan and court (except sometimes the Supremes) principal is that the House should look like the country and not like the White plus some brown and no black at all Senate.  There is an absolutely deliberate effort to create majority minority districts.  Those districts are overwhelmingly Democratic districts.  The intent isn’t partisan, but the effect is to cause Republicans to be over represented.  I add that I support the effort to make the House look like the country and not like the Senate.

Also, while I see why incumbency helps the party with more seats I do not at all find an explanation for why it explains the gap between popular vote and seats won.  The advantages of incumbency discussed in the post should cause the party with more incumbents to get more votes, yet they are discussed as if they affect seats won but not vote totals.  To explain the gap, one has to argue that incumbents generally win by narrow margins or lose by wide margins.
Here I think the problem may be with the reported vote totals.  Some states don’t report votes in races where there is only one candidate on the ballot.  Incumbents often get on the order of 99% of votes or more.  That’s a lot of wasted votes which would cause the party of incumbents to have a lot of votes per seat won.  But only if they are counted.

Even if the votes are counted, they may be few.  Some people (definitely including me) are irritated when invited to vote for the only candidate on the ballot (if I wanted to live in the USSR I would have moved there back when it existed).  For decades I chose Michael Capuano over write in, but I’m sure lots of other people left the oval empty out of irritation (this year I actually got to vote in a contested congressional election for the first time since hmmm voting for O’Neill over Abt in 1982 IIRC).  I think some correction for races with only one candidate on the ballot is needed.

Finally I don’t get this bit about fewer people in red districts.  What geographic boundaries are being considered ?  I can see how the requirement that each state have 1 representative could in theory create a small population at large district.  However, I think it doesn’t as even Wyoming is not an unusually small district.  I don’t see why representation of low population states would be rounded up more often than down.  If the boundaries are, say, county boundaries, then current redistricting does not respect them (I vote in the same county and a different district).  I tend to suspect that the random districting which respects geographic boundaries doesn’t correspond to anything but a silly modeling assumption.
Polite conclusion about how this is a great post and political scientists are awesome.

cross posted with   Robert’s Stochastic Thoughts

For anyone who ever thought they were too busy to vote

For anyone who ever thought they were too busy to vote, meet 21-year-old Galicia Malone.

The south suburban Dolton mom-to-be was spotted at her polling place Tuesday morning on her way to give birth at a local hospital.

Cook County Clerk David Orr said Malone’s contractions were five minutes apart when she showed up around 8:30 a.m. at her precinct’s location named, yes, New Life Celebration Church.

Robert Waldmann spotted this (by proxy…Dan here)

Ok class, let’s review before the exam (election)

I’m sure you are all feeling kind of blah. You have this final exam for this session and I can tell by your performances on the quizzes that you are still confused. The problem solving portions of the quizzes have been very telling. So lets review.
You’re taxes are not too high. It’s your income that is too low! Remember this and you will be able to solve enough of the problems to obtain a passing grade and graduate. And class, no one running today for president gets this. It is why President Obama looked like such a dufus in the debate. Romney took a step to his left… right into Obama’s policy space. Where does one go to gain more space when they have walled up the door to the left of them as President Obama has?
Let’s get something real clear from the beginning. Unless you are acquiring the majority of your money from money YOU ARE NOT A CAPITALIST 

So much for GOP Siren of voter fraud

Maybe the appropriate title for this is: Do as I say and not as I do….

Just listening to Thom Hartman and he noted something that struck a cord (chord?) with me: voter ID, electronic ballots. In the caucuses last night, the Republican party did not require and ID, they allowed onsite registration and hand counted the ballots.  This is completely and totally counter to the Republican national position.  Even RIland passed an ID law.  Dare I use the over used word “hypocrisy”?  No, this is not hypocrisy.  This is flat out A-holeism.  This is the big middle finger from the GOP to the nation that the MSM villagers have totally…ignored? Avoided?  To stupid to recognize?  Believes in?  

To strong you say?  Then consider these graphs from Juan Cole (ht digby):

Didby looks at these graphs is sees it as a means to interpret the MSM Villagers favorite phrase: Real Americans.  She correct in that one too.

Wonder why we can’t solve problems? Consider BP’s latest ad, what you heard and the word “risk”.

By Daniel Becker

An ad I’ve been seeing recently aired by BP is promoting how much work they are doing to clean up the oil spill. It is designed to leave you feeling comforted that they are on top of it, they are cleaning it up in a massive effort. Say, 29 million gallons of oil and water sucked up. Wow. 29 million gallons.

Ever think about how big that is? Every stop to get out the calculator and crunch a few simple numbers to see how big 29 million is? Did you ask: I wonder how much that is in relation to the guesstimated barrels of oil spilled? Do you even think you need to know? Did it occur to you that maybe, in order to make an informed voting decision, you should see just how big a mess the oil spill is by comparing it to the 29 million gallons BP is impressing people with? You know, figuring it out because there is the possibility that this oil spill thing really is more than you might think as it relates to catastrophes to tell your grand kids about.

No? Yes? Maybe? I don’t know?

June 10th estimates were 25K to 30K barrels per day. June 15th estimates were 35K to 60K barrels per day. Gallons per barrel: 42. 29 million / 42 = 690,476.19 barrels / 25K barrels = 27.62 days of spill.

690,476.19 / 35K = 19.73 days of spill. 690,476.19 / 60K = 11.5 days of spill.

Total number of days of spill: 94 (by my count, can’t get google to answer the question). 27.62 days is 29% of the spill days. 19.73 days is 21% of the spill days. 11.5 days is 12% of the spill days.

But, here’s the rub, not all of the 29 million gallons captured is oil. It is water and oil. Thus, the total amount of oil recovered as presented in number of days of spill is something less. Are you still impressed with BP’s results? Does this make you reconsider your estimate of the risk of oil drilling as it is currently performed?

At 35K barrels per day, there are 3,255,000 barrels of oil spilled. At 60k barrels there are 5,580,000 barrels of oil spilled. Roughly. That is 136,710,000 to 234,360,000 gallons of oil. At 29 million gallons of liquid sucked up, we are talking about 4.7 to 8.1 times the number of days it has taken BP to reach that 29 million mark. Assuming that all 29 million gallons was only oil. But, it was not.

Can you relate the need to do such a simple calculation to the concept of risk? “Yeah, there’s a risk” you may say in response. Are you thinking physical risk? How about the concept of risk as exemplified in the concepts of hedging, credit default swaps and derivatives? Or the economic profession’s use of the word risk? Because if you are only thinking about the physical risk, then BP succeeded in it’s messaging. They succeeded by diverting your mind away from their concern and thus their means, modeling and reference for interpreting life and thus formulating and implementing their intentions. This means the chances of you making the voting decision that best benefits you are slim. Why? Because you failed to walk in their shoes because you listened as if you were the only one in the conversation. Yes, the empathetic concept of walking in someone else shoes does not only serve your ability to help another and sooth your soul, it also protects you from one who would use you.

Still want to know why we can’t solve anything in this nation any more such that your life gets easier or do you get it as to your roll in this democracy now? Our roll is not to just take in the message and see if it fits our individual language of how life works. It is to also understand the messenger and their interpretation of how life works.  In BP’s case, life works based on economics.  Their reference for words comes from economics.  Their understanding of democracy is economic based.  Freedom/free market.  Liberty/more choices.  Fiduciary responsibility/make money.  Justice/market clearing price.  Free speech/advertizing.  One vote/one unit of currency.  Rights/market power.  Social conscience/consumer reseach.  

Want another example of where we have failed as citizens in a democracy? Lets consider the relationship of the fed’s recently reported medicare fraud case involving 94 people and $251 million in false billings (fact, really happened) and the message that private insurance will reduce our costs, that a private insurance system is the best way to go. Or, how about the economic message behind the “private insurance is best” message that the free market is always best. Go ahead. Meld those two thoughts. One that is real, $251 million in fraud found by your government and one that is what? I already have tried and thus wonder: How is it that the private market with all it’s cost controls and managed care systems did not catch $251 million dollars in false payout? You know, considering “market clearing price”, “rational consumer”, “perfect knowledge”, etc, etc, etc. Haven’t heard these terms? I assure you BP et al have ’cause it’s all economic democracy to them.

Election Story Interlude

In contrast to Mankiw’s attitude (see cactus’s post below*), my favorite election story of the year comes from Ms. Mochi_tsuki:

So they started explaining to me what an absentee ballot is and how to fill one out. I pointed out that I’d spent 11 years of my adult life overseas and was very familiar with the process. One of them pointed to the other and said, “He’s been overseas as well. He’s a retired Admiral.” WTF?

You may know this, but by law, there are never more than about 200 Admirals in service. Really rare creatures, those. This one? Retired last month. And he’s spending his weekends working on the GOTV effort in rural Virginia.

But I guess retired Admirals don’t need the motivations that economics professors do.

*In fairness to Mankiw, he knows his numbers are b.s. The giveaway: “In a sense, putting the various pieces of the tax system together, I would be facing a marginal tax rate of 93 percent. [italics mine]” Not to mention the corporate tax free finesse, and the assumption that r=0.10, but lets sidebar those.

Voting your pocketbook?

by divorced one like Bush
Update below.

The other day, reading the comments got me thinking about the relationship of peoples income vs their presidential candidate choice. I think it was about how the economy is doing. Well, we all say it is bad because all these big, humongous finance institutions are having troubles. But, my perspective is that the economy is about you and me. It exists for us. But, not much is being looked at from that perspective, except for the home mortgage sector. Simultaneously we hear how we (you, me and thee) have to learn to save more while being asked what can be done to revive the consumer economy. You know, get it back to the good old days. Yes-er-y, that’s a solvable puzzle. Which good old days do they want to recreate? The saving days or the consuming days? If they want both, I would say ok, but we will have to reverse the income shift.

Anyway, I decided to see if I could create a movement to focus the issue of the economy back onto how you and me are doing. It’s a monumental task, but I’m game. I’ve gotten a little help from McCain in that he has tied the fundamentals of the economy to you and me, the American Worker (stand up and salute!). As much as “fundamentals” are not considered the worker, the reality is we the citizens are the fundament factor in an economy. No you and me, no exchange of valuable stuff.

So, I have created a chart because I don’t know how to produce one of those neat colored USA maps of all 50 states, their unemployment rate, hourly wage, 1 yr change of wage, hours worked and 1 yr change of hours worked. The data is from here. I then color coded the state name based on the polling map as of 9/16/08.

How do you like it? I’m rather proud of my self.

The color for the states are blue, light blue, red, light red and black. I assume the red/blue shades are obvious. The black are toss-up states. The data in blue are numbers that did worse than average for the variable to the detriment of the citizen. If the unemployment was higher than average, it is blue. If the wage change and hourly wage was less than average it is blue. Those in red are negative. The hours worked and change in hours worked greater than average are in blue. I view having to work more a negative. I do not want to have to continually increase my time in the rat race. Though, some I’m sure would look at the opportunity to work more as a positive. You get to earn more. Well that’s relative to your opinion of what your free time is worth. One state has green…Utah. It’s hourly wage and work hours have gone down. But, hey the unemployment rate is very low.

There are 8 undecided, 18 blue or leaning blue and 24 red or leaning red.
14 of 23 states with unemployment below average are voting or tending to vote McCain. Three undecided have lower rates. 8 states of the 23 are voting or tending to vote Obama. 61% red and 44% blue are below the average unemployment.

12 of 22 states with above average hours worked increase are red or leaning that way. 8 of are blue.
6 of the 12 state with negative increases in hours worked are red, 4 are undecided which leave 2 blue.

9 of 26 states that saw negative, zero or less than average 1 year hourly wage increases are red or leaning such. 7 are undecided and 10 are blue or leaning such. 3 of the 6 states with negative hourly wage growth are red, one is undecided and one is blue.

21 states of 30 who have an average hourly wage less than the national average are red or leaning that way. 5 are blue or leaning such and 4 are undecided.

18 of the 24 states that work more than the national weekly average hours are red or leaning such. 3 are undecided and 3 are blue.

6 of 9 states who are working more than the average work week and did not see their wage increase the average amount are red or leaning red. 2 are undecided and 1 is blue. 2 states saw their hourly wage go down and their hours worked go up, both are red.

Ok, so what are we to make of the voting your pocketbook thought?

Update: Ran some numbers. Red states average $19.41/hr and 35.73 hours per week for a gross pay of $693.52. Blue states average $22.68/hr and 34.38 hours per week for a gross pay of $779.74. Earn more, work less. Now that is the way to get out of the rat race!