Friday, October 31, 2014

Misinformation... BOO!

Happy Halloween everyone! I hope you are all able to go out and enjoy some spooks and scares. I debated with myself about whether to share some musings about past Halloween's and some nice anecdotes about the holiday, or if I should address something truly scary!

Misleading Information (Dum dum duhhhhmmmm...)

Partisan Politics (Dah Daaaahhhhhh....)

and, Election Surprises (Eeeeeeeekkkkk!!!!)

Just a couple days ago the good people at Politicususa.com posted an article sharing irrefutable evidence that the economy is always awesome under Democratic presidents, and that it (almost) always stinks under the rule of Republicans.

Of course anyone who has paid a sliver of attention to the economy for more then 5 years can look at their primary graphic and know that there is something fishy going on. Take a look at the Bureau of Labor statistics for private job growth and you will find out that shock! The numbers don't say that. Going from inauguration to inauguration their creation rates should be Bush (-80K/year) and Obama (+1100K/year). Far from the rates implied in the graphic.

Now don't get me wrong, these still aren't numbers that I would brag about, but it does lead you read the fine print on the graphic. They are measuring based on their budget years, not the time they are actually in office, creating a lag of several months from a presidents inaguaration (February) to the end of the budget year (October). For the Bush v. Obama example, things were not good those first several months of the Obama presidency, the debate will go on for years about how quickly and positively President Obama's policies impacted our recovery from that recession.

This specific manipulation of data isn't totally unjustified, though. It takes some time for an entering administration to get their house in order and begin to make changes, and then for those changes to have some effect.

While political economy models can get quite sophisticated and complicated and may entail a wide variety of not so obvious 'tweaks' and not so realistic assumptions to massage data to make a point (exactly what I am arguing here, btw) the idea of economic inheritance can be boiled down to adding together two major yet simple points. The first, already noted, is that there is a lag in the economy. There is an inertia or continuity in the economy that carries forward from one fiscal year to the next and that does not get disrupted so suddenly by a change in administration.

Some of you may be rolling your eyes right now, "Blame Bush!" I appear to be saying. I said there was some inertia, but I think the discussion has to be in the frame of months, not years. When the Obama administration declared 'Recovery Summer!' in 2010 and proceeded to create a few hundred thousand jobs after we had lost millions and spent trillions to get them back. That is the definition of a failed plan.

There is a clear break, however, in the argument of blaming someone for a downturn and blaming someone for how they responded to it. It is this second point that holds the key to voters perception of how Presidents handle the economy that allows for close elections when all the massaged numbers in presented show that Democrats are such clear champions of jobs and economic growth.

I'm getting a little long winded, feel free to take a break and grab a soda... You good? Okay, because here is the crux of my argument

*official onset of a recession as defined by the National. Bureau of Economic Research
The economies inherited by each of the new Republican presidents from their Democratic predecessors in this post World War 2 era had gone into recession within the year leading up to the parties’ change in stewardship. Don't believe me? Well here is my not so pretty graph to prove my point. Provided by the University of Buffalo Political Science department.

For those of you familiar with concepts like Okin's Law, recessions typically lead to job loss. If we accept the data from PoliticusUSA that there is a lag, then is it such a stretch to point out that what happens during that lag can be factored into our conclusions as well?

What is the main point you can gleam off this data? The 2 second sound bite would be "Democratic Presidencies lead to recessions". I'm going to try and be a little more polite in my assessment and say that the criteria for a Republican to get elected president is different then it is for a Democrat to be elected president. This truth extends well beyond how the economy is doing from one quarter to the next. If it were simply a numbers game then it would be a matter of who can dump the most money into an economy that would lead to jobs. 

It's a bait statistic to say Democrats create more jobs, because to say that no they don't is 1). In the most direct interpretation inaccurate, 2). because Republicans are more about creating free and fair economic opportunity. They promote low debts, low taxes, and removing the barriers that may prevent people from creating a new enterprise, and 3). a concession against the old argument that government does not create jobs. 

One can also look at the above data and say Democrats care more about how they can prop you up. Typically, when these types stimulus, jobs programs, and short term infrastructure programs end, such as the case may be during an administrative change, there is a hole left that only continued government 'tinkering' with economic factors such as investment can sustain. This line of reasoning also ties in greatly with ideas of dependency that frequently is brought up in election year debates.

Jobs for the sake of jobs is not a fair benchmark to measure such approaches, if you don't care how a job is being funded or how that job came about. Sure, Democratic administrations appear to have an edge, if you care about sustainability and not having government be a requirement for your economic prosperity, the data above helps with that argument. 

And of course, there are other factors, who controls congress, how much debt is involved, what was the unemployment rate going in. If I asked who had lower unemployment on average during their presidency, George W. Bush or John F. Kennedy, who would you guess? What about Clinton v. Nixon? (The republican in both cases, but again, these numbers are horribly misleading)

I've exhausted enough of the limited internet space and most readers attention span, The final conclusion I want you to be able to draw from this is no conundrum to begin with as to why Democrats aren't considered the champions of job creation. Republicans fare about as well as Democrats in presidential elections over a long enough span because the economic records of Republican presidents were about equal to those of Democratic presidents once short term inherited economic conditions are taken into account. It's the methodology and principles behind the numbers that drive most voters as the observable results, at least in the short term, tend to be the same.

You can omit key factors or twist facts all day long, but if the outcome of such contorted data seems to make you wonder why there isn't a clearer result come election time, there is a pretty fair chance that there is something frighteningly misleading about that data.

That's it, I'm off my soap box for the day, now gimme some candy!


Friday, October 24, 2014

Why We Don't Have a Surgeon General

What do you do when you can't even get your own party to support you? Well, if you are on the left in todays political climate, the answer is you blame the other guys.

Almost a year ago, Harry Reid called for a vote to repeal the Senate rule of needing a 60 vote majority to break a filibuster, the dreaded nuclear option. Since then, the senate has only needed 50 votes with Vice President Biden casting a tie breaker in order to get just about any nomination confirmed in the senate.

Sure, there was a small flood of nominees that began to get confirmed in the immediate wake of this historic move, but you knew it would only be a matter of time before Democrats would start needing excuses again as to why nothing is getting done.

Enter Ebola, the lethal disease that is presently trying to get a foothold on the U.S. soil. With levels of paranoia being high the attacks rooted in the lack of leadership and clarity coming out of the White House in addressing yet another global crisis have started anew. And just as predictably as Manning calling an 'Omaha' play for the Broncos, the Democrats have done everything they can to blame anyone but themselves.

This meme from Daily KOS is an example of how they reflect their failures back onto Republicans.

The meme is correct, with a potential health threat staring us down, we could use a surgeon generals office that has more then a 'vacancy' sign on the door. But, if reading this meme makes you think back to the second paragraph of this post, congratulations, you have a better memory then most politicians.

Harry Reid does not need permission from republicans or the NRA to bring this vote to the floor, all he needs is 50 of his 55 (including 2 independents caucusing with) democrat senators to vote for the President's nomination.

Take a look at the example of Debo Adegbile. A nominee to head the Justice Departments Civil Rights division. He was lambasted as an extremist by conservative groups by noting his long history with the NAACP and dredging up stories from a trial in which he represented a cop killer in Philadelphia. Harry called for a vote thinking that a behind the doors campaign directed at his own party would keep the democratic detractors low enough to get the nominee through. 

It didn't work, and Democrats felt an embarrassing blow that not has turned into an fumbling attempt to still blame republicans for something that had bi-partisan opposition. 

Harry now knows better, he knows the President, for becoming more and more obvious reasons, chose a nominee that can not get confirmed, nuclear option or not. That reason is to keep the best attack line democrats have going for them intact. That it is republicans in congress that are impeding the hope and change that was promised 6 years ago. That it's republicans that are the reason the administration is fumbling and bumbling responses with indecisiveness and a 'wait and see'  mentality to almost every event that occurs. 

To summarize, this is one of the scariest times, justifiable or not, that we have faced when it comes to public health. The position of power that should be leading a response both in action and public perception is currently filled by nobody. The reason that there is nobody there is because the one and only person who has been nominated for the position in the past year can not get enough DEMOCRAT support to get approved. The reason why the democrats have not changed nominees or called for a vote, both actions within their power, is specifically so they can continue to blame republicans.

Think about this logically and you almost laugh at how stupid it is, see more memes about blaming republicans and you realize how gullible some people can be into believing these lies.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

NFL Headlines

You can thank my wife for the triumphant return of...


Rex Ryan starts new 'stress diet'. Looses 50 pounds in one loss to New England.

Bill Belichick was visibly ecstatic after his team blocked a field goal with seconds left to hold off the Jets. When asked if he was happy and proud of his team for it's tenacity, he nodded twice.

In anticipation of a great season, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has begun plans for anew, state of the art stadium with a jumbo-tron that will dwarf his current one with the added benefit of blocking field goals.

In related stadium news, the Atlanta Falcons announced a new feature for their new stadium that promises to have pillars and other obstructions strategically placed to make the falcons appear better then then actually are.

Brett Favre takes to twitter to congratulate Payton Manning on breaking his all time touchdown record. It was later revealed that Brett would have called Payton, but was on the phone with Minnesota planning a comeback at the time.

Brett Favre also has struck a deal to become the new spokesman for MicroTouch. Insiders say the deal almost didn't get finished due to Brett's insistence that his testimonial include how he uses the device to shave his junk before sending lude pictures to former colleagues. 

Tony Sparano was asked what the odds are of the Raiders finishing the season with an 0 and 16 record. Tony immediately recanted by saying "0 and 16, we should be so lucky!"

California hopes to crack down on traffic violations. The plan is that rather then issuing speeding tickets, they will begin issuing Raider's tickets.

Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson met with the intention on forming a new football league specifically for people banned from the NFL. Team names that are being mentioned are 'The Switches', 'The Elevator Doorman', 'The Whoopings', 'The Cold Clockers' among others. Rodger Goddell has inquired about an opening in their league central office.

The Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport had ceased all inbound flights from Cleveland after hearing that there was a passenger infected with the experience of watching a Browns game. As a precaution, the Cowboys have begun testing alternate jerseys to prevent the spread of any game play that could be construed as 'Clevelandesk'.

Tim Tebow spends first 30 minutes of his debut on the SEC network replaying footage of all his game winning drives with the Denver Broncos while constantly looking to the camera talking about how good he looks in Jaguar teal and gold.

There are growing concerns over a defenses ability to play pass coverage after the NFL announced a new policy of having a trained psychologist be present at the end of every play in order to ask every wide receiver to point on a doll where the mean corner back touched him. 

And Lastly, in Fantasy news, does anyone want to trade for Reggie Wayne? Seriously, he is doing nothing for me and I really need a running back. Crazy thing when you draft Adrian Peterson and Zac Stacy in the first 2 rounds of your draft...ugh.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Invisble Hand: A Textbook Case Study

How does an industry that gets to set their price and all but force their consumers to buy their product fail to make a profit? Because people don't like to be screwed would be the layman's answer.

A consumers ability to skirt around an expense that they do not wish to expend isn't just a case of people being cheapskates, it's the entire premise behind how capitalism works. The burden of creating value is on the provider of the good, regardless of how stacked the deck is in their favor.

For those of you who perhaps never attended college, let me preface this for you. College is expensive, really expensive. And no small factor in that is in the cost of the textbooks that a classroom may require. You've already spent several thousand dollars in tuition, what's several hundred more in books going to hurt you?

And several hundred dollars more it is, the average amount spent on textbooks by your average college kid is around $700. Compare that to the amount that kids spent on textbooks 10 years ago, which was... about $700. Yet, the average cost of a textbooks, nearly doubled in that same time.

Wait, so what is going on here? How can these textbooks, which are required in most cases, be going up in price while students are spending about the same amount?

Anyone who has ever had to set a budget, personal or otherwise, knows the answer. Even in places where items can be mandated, the invisible hand will creep in and find a way. Prices go up, demand goes down. In this case, the demand for buying these books goes down, not for the content in them that is required.

When prices go up, people usually try to find ways to avoid paying those higher prices. That seems to be what is going on here. The spread of the Internet has made it easier for students to find used textbooks in faraway places. Textbook rental has become a thing. Some students can now buy e-textbooks, which tend to be cheaper than print books. Others are borrowing books or <gasp> going without and they just accept the potential negative impact that it brings.

In fact, the average number of textbooks that the average student buys throughout the year has gone down. Suddenly, the textbook industry is less and less about trying to figure out how to create a great product at a great value, and more and more about closing loopholes and tightening their grip on students wallets. They must have missed that scene in Episode IV:

"The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers." -Princess Leia

They have created a system in which those who play by the traditional rules get pummeled with ridiculous prices and those who find those loopholes and workarounds get through college with the same results but having paid much, much less. All because a mandated product is trying to get the same amount of money out of them in the end.

Think about how this concept applies to our taxes, and you start to ask some valid questions about our tax system and the 74,000 pages of tax code it possesses.

Can such a tax code ever be 'loophole free'?

What is the incentive for a company or individual to find/create a tax loophole?

As some politicians continue to push for a system that is more fair in which rates go up while closing tax loopholes. Just think to yourself as a college kid holding on to a required biology book that costs $300.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Party Positions in 2064

Inspired by a casual conversation with my Wife. We take a look into the future to see what the political stances of the two major parties will be in the year 2064.

On the use of Military Might.

Democrats will fully support the use of androids, robots, drones and terminators without congressional approval as a means of eliminating all foreign threats so long as none of the aforementioned weapons are built with boots on them.

Republicans will continue the fight to extend rights, benefits, and freedoms to our veteran androids, robots, drones, and terminators much in the same way it has fought to extend religious freedoms to corporations. The rights to life will also extend to ingots of steel and boxes of electronic components under the slogan "We are the voice for the not yet assembled"

On the Federal Debt and Spending

Democrats will continue to push for an additional $80,000,000,000,000 in stimulus for fiscal year 2065 because the federal interest rate of -8.5%  is far better then the inflation rate of 58%

Republicans will capitulate on increasing the federal spending limit on a week by week basis, attaching it to a continuing resolution to keep the federal government open so long as the following week's cafeteria menu has spaghetti down for every day.

On Healthcare

Democrats will finally be able to tout the completion of www.Healthcare.gov as a completely error free way to sign up for healthcare just in time for the advent of the latest form of communication and interaction, black holes. The government's new platform for signing up for healthcare will be located at emcc://healthcare.temporalrift.gov. However, upon launch it would accidentally suck in 1 out of 3 people that tried to sign up and empty them through a singularity onto the planet B'larb. Democrats will insist the fissure in time and space is being worked on and that you should not be discouraged from using the rift.

Republicans will press for allowing health insurance plans to be purchased on an individual by individual basis from competing companies. Of course, after 50 years of Obamacare, the industry has been so tightly restricted that any discernible difference from one company to the next will amount to little more then minors changes in the name of one company to the next. When a Republican candidate give the example of "Choosing between insurance company A and company B." People will accuse them of being on the payroll of insurance companies that are actually called 'Company A', and 'Company B'.

On The 2nd Amendment

Democrats will continue to insist that the founding fathers never intended that the 2nd Amendment was meant for the average citizen be armed with a death ray that vaporizes everything in it's path.

Republicans will continue to defend the right using the argument that the people need to be able to defend themselves should the government ever decide to turn it's even larger death ray against them.

On Workers Pay

Democrats will be in a bind when their voting block of imported sentient robots will demand merit based pay for merit based work once the robots realize that they are 600 times more productive then their flesh based counterparts.

Republicans will be fighting to abolish the national minimum wage of $673.23/hr. leaving it up to the states to set their own levels. They will argue "The 1800 dollars per hour minimum wage for Seattle may be OK for them, But here in Alabama, we are fine with 34 cents an hour."

(On a related note, color TV will be introduced to southern Alabama in 2057 when it will be declared of the devil and blasted with one of their many death ray guns.)

On Welfare

Democrats will push to extend unemployment and welfare benefits for then entire life of every American. The following year, the secret to immortality will be discovered and the amount in unpaid liabilities the U.S. owes will officially become incalculable.

Republicans will continue to push for job training over welfare handouts. They will have a hard time answering constituent questions about who will pay for the 18 years of college at $5,000,000 a semester it takes to become qualified to hold a white collar job in 2064. They instead decide to support the Democrats plan then then claim their $70,000,000,000,000,000.00 jobs bill is actually a debt reducing measure.

On Border Security

After the advent of teleportation devices, both sides agree that a ginormous wall would probably be a waste of money and resources.