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Posts Tagged ‘2012 Election’

Partisans for both Obama and Romney are arguing about who won the debate.

But having listened to all the debates so far, I think this guy has been the clear winner.

With the exception of Romney saying he wants to defund Big Bird and the rest of the moochers at PBS, I don’t think either candidate has breathed a word about the need to reduce the burden of government spending.

And because neither candidate seems serious about following Mitchell’s Golden Rule, their assertions about middle-class tax relief almost surely are insincere.

P.S. Though, to give Obama credit, I think he is completely serious about wanting to impose class-warfare tax hikes.

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On the big issue of who wins the presidential election, I’ve been as constant as the north star.

But for state-by-state estimates, I’ve been flipping back and forth like a corrupt politician (pardon my redundancy) trying to decide between two interest groups.

This month, I’m reversing everything from last month. I give Florida back to Romney, largely on the basis of his performance in the debate. Moreover, I was thinking of giving Virginia and Colorado back to Obama, thus changing what I did in July and August, but decided to leave those states in the GOP camp because of what happened on the stage in Denver.

But I decided I was wrong about Iowa and Wisconsin. The polls from those two states are simply too unfriendly and I’m guessing the Obama turnout operation will be stronger.

However, I’ve decided to shift New Hampshire to Romney, again because of the debate, so the net effect is a very close election. But Obama still prevails.

For what it’s worth, the folks at Real Clear Politics show Obama winning 303 electoral votes. The difference in our projections is that they give Nevada, Colorado, Virginia, and New Hampshire to Obama.

Are they right? Well, their estimates are based on polling data, so you have to ask yourself if the polls are accurate and/or if the polls today reflect what will happen on November 6.

Intrade says Obama is a 2-1 favorite, so the people putting money on the table certainly think the election isn’t that close. Then again, Intrade had Obama as a 3-1 favorite before the debate, so that number also can move a lot.

P.S. I realize Romney supporters probably aren’t very happy with my prediction. To compensate for being the bearer of bad news, you can see some viciously funny anti-Obama jokes here, here, and here.

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Two months ago, I predicted that Obama would win reelection with 297 electoral votes, 27 more than needed.

Last month, I shifted Virginia to Romney’s column and predicted Obama would still win, but with 284 votes.

Today, with just three months to go, I’m guessing the election will be even closer. In my latest electoral map, I’m moving Colorado from the lean-Obama category to the lean-Romney category. This leaves Obama with a lead of just 275-263 in the electoral college.

Now let me preemptively deal with some complaints and criticisms.

Some people ask why I’m so pro-Obama. After all, the unemployment rate is above 8 percent and I’ve told audiences that Obama won’t win unless the joblessness rate drops under that level. Surely I must have my thumb on the scale for Obama.

Other people ask why I’m so pro-Romney. After all, Real Clear Politics gives Obama 332 electoral votes and Intrade gives Obama a 58 percent chance of winning (up from 56 percent last month). Surely I must have my thumb on the scale for Romney.

Folks, I don’t have a dog in this fight. I’m just giving you my best guess as to the map we’ll see early in the morning of November 7.

Now let’s move to the really interesting political news. I noticed on Twitter that people seemed to think it was somehow important that Jenna Jameson endorsed Romney. I’m not sure that her profession and her endorsement are all that helpful, but judge for yourself.

Porn star Jenna Jameson chose a familiar stage to make her endorsement for the 2012 presidential election Thursday night. At a San Francisco strip club, the former adult actress and stage performer said she was ready for a Romney presidency. “I’m very looking forward to a Republican being back in office,” Jameson said while sipping champagne in a VIP room at Gold Club in the city’s South of Market neighborhood. “When you’re rich, you want a Republican in office.”

For what it’s worth, Obama has porn star supporters as well. Ron Jeremy says nice things about Romney, but he’s supporting the incumbent.

In an interview with the Boston Herald, Jeremy said he’s voting for President Barack Obama in November. But he told the paper he still gives Romney “credit.” “I think he means well, I think he’s a good man,” Jeremy told the Herald. “I think the fact that he’s such an amazing father proves a lot. I give him a lot of credit. He’s raised some good sons. When a man is a really, really good father, that’s very important… It’s a good race.”

The presumptive Republican nominee wins the tiebreaker, though, with support from Michael Lucas, one of the world’s leading gay porn stars.

Lucas, who grew up in the former Soviet Union and immigrated to the United States in 1997 after working in Europe as a male prostitute, founded Lucas Entertainment in 1998, which flourished into a mega-enterprise that produces some of the most lavish gay porn films in the industry. …Lucas, by the way, considers himself a conservative, votes Republican and donates generously to several libertarian and right-wing causes. …”I would support Romney of course,” the director of “Men in Stockings” and “Hunt & Plunge” told Yahoo News. “There is nobody else to support.”

For some reason, I don’t think we’ll see this endorsement featured in any of Romney’s commercials, but you never know.

P.S. Never forget that economists are lousy forecasters.

P.P.S. Like all good libertarians, I don’t want the government trying to outlaw porn when it involves consenting adults. But I’m mystified that it makes so much money. It’s the same thing over and over again, and it’s dull. But maybe this is just my inner social conservative speaking.

P.P.P.S. I’ll be in Colorado later this month for a visit to the High Lonesome Ranch and to speak at the Steamboat Institute’s Freedom Conference. I reserve the right to change my prediction for the Centennial State after meeting with folks on that trip.

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Here’s the second of my electoral map predictions for the November elections. In my first estimate last month, I showed Obama winning with 297 electoral votes.

This new map still shows him in the lead, but I’ve switched my home state of Virginia to the GOP column. Northern Virginia is filled with government bureaucrats and corrupt lobbyists, both pro-Obama groups, but I now think they’ll be out-voted by what my ex-wife referred to as the people from “real Virginia.”

Interestingly, Intrade.com now has Obama up to a 56 percent favorite, which is higher than he was on June 6. So either I’m wrong in thinking the race is moving in Romney’s direction or Intrade.com is wrong for thinking it is moving in Obama’s direction.

You can decide who to believe. Just keep in mind that my 2010 election predictions were very accurate and Intrade.com was wrong on the Obamacare Supreme Court decision.

P.S. My ex generated some controversy with her comment about “real Virginia,” but I’ve always been mystified by the kerfuffle. Just look at this map and see how the counties in Northern Virginia are among the wealthiest in America thanks to all the loot being redistributed from the rest of the country to the metro-DC area. Those looters and moochers have very little in common with the people in the rest of the Commonwealth.

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Even vicious, reprehensible, and disgusting tyrants sometimes make wise observations. Back in 2010, for instance, Cuba’s Murderer-in-Chief confessed that communism didn’t work.

More recently, the thug expressed unhappiness with the current crop of presidential candidates in America. Here’s some of what he wrote.

Cuban revolutionary icon Fidel Castro said Monday that a “robot” would be better in the White House than President Barack Obama — or any of the Republicans candidates in the 2012 election race. …Under the title “The Best President for the United States,” Cuba’s ex-president said that if faced with a choice between Obama, a Republican rival or a robot, “90 percent of voting Americans, especially Hispanics, blacks and the growing number of the impoverished middle class, would vote for the robot.”

I imagine someone clever could come up with a good joke about Mitt Romney being a robot and Castro making a subliminal endorsement, but I’ll simply make the serious point that elections in the United States all too often feature two candidates who only differ in that one will expand the burden of government at a faster rate than the other.

So even though Castro’s thinking and my thinking are as different as night and day, I’m also less than thrilled about the likely options this November.

Though I’m not sure why Castro has soured on Obama. Has anything changed since 2010, when he endorsed Obamacare?

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P.S. Here’s a good Jay Leno joke about Cuban and American economic policy.

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I’m a big believer in fairness. And since I’ve written about the shortcomings of Newt Gingrich, Mitch Daniels, Ron Paul, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, and Mitt Romney, I need to say something about Rick Santorum.

Actually, I don’t need to say anything, because other people have done that job already.

Here’s an excerpt of what Conn Carroll of the Washington Examiner wrote.

“Don’t tread on me” — the rallying cry emblazoned on the Gadsden flag — might as well have been the official motto of the Tea Party. If there is one central theme to the most politically effective movement in recent memory, it’s that the federal government needs to get out of our lives. Which is why it is so disheartening that Rick Santorum has become the supposed conservative alternative to Mitt Romney in the Republican primary. You would be hard-pressed to identify a Republican who better embodied the Bush era’s failed big-government/compassionate conservatism experiment.

Conn’s column includes a list of all the terrible legislation Santorum has supported, so feel free to read the entire article if you want to get depressed.

And here’s some of what Kevin Hassett of the American Enterprise Institute wrote for National Review.

The good news is that much of Santorum’s plan is centered on lowering taxes. The bad news is that much of his tax relief is either welfare in disguise or social engineering. …Santorum would also triple the personal exemption for dependent children while maintaining the earned-income tax credit and the child tax credit. This move would radically reduce the percentage of taxpayers paying any federal income tax whatsoever. Since he would retain most of the other major individual tax deductions, complexity would not be reduced… This plan caters to the fetishistic political focus on giveaways to manufacturing. An optimal code would reward job-creating businesses regardless of their industry. The radical differences between taxes for manufacturing and other activities would introduce perhaps the biggest and most damaging tax distortion in American history. It would also invite endless fraud. As I type this piece, I am manufacturing sentences, am I not? Shouldn’t my income be taxed as manufacturing?

Kevin also points out good features of Santorum’s plan, such as getting rid of the tax penalty on new investment, but concludes that Santorum’s plan is an implausible mess.

Even the people who say nice things about Santorum inadvertently point out bad policies.  Here’s some of what David Brooks wrote as part of a column praising the Pennsylvania Republican.

Santorum has sought to use the federal government to nurture healthy communities. …he came to support AmeriCorps, the federal community service program. Santorum believes Head Start should teach manners to children. He has supported efforts to police the airwaves and corporate marketing campaigns.  …If you believe in the centrality of family, you have to have a government that both encourages marriage and also supplies wage subsidies to men to make them marriageable.

I’m not sure if the last excerpt is something Santorum has endorsed, or if it’s something Brooks is endorsing, but it’s probably the most absurd idea I’ve heard in a long time. Do these people really think it’s the job of the federal government to make men more marriageable? Or that such a program would actually work?

Last but not least, Jon Henke neatly shows what’s wrong with Rick Santorum by juxtaposing two quotes to illustrate the decline of the GOP.

From Ronald Reagan:

If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. … The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.

To Rick Santorum:

One of the criticisms I make is to what I refer to as more of a libertarianish right. … This whole idea of personal autonomy, well I don’t think most conservatives hold that point of view. Some do. They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do, government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulations low, that we shouldn’t get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn’t get involved in cultural issues. You know, people should do whatever they want. Well, that is not how traditional conservatives view the world and I think most conservatives understand that individuals can’t go it alone. That there is no such society that I am aware of, where we’ve had radical individualism and that it succeeds as a culture.

Santorum’s straw-man attack on libertarians is especially silly and sophomoric. We want a smaller federal government precisely because we value the institutions of civil society as well as the principle of individual liberty.

Someone who doesn’t understand the value of freedom probably shouldn’t be in the White House. Heck, Santorum probably thinks this satirical video is an accurate portrayal of libertarianism.

But if you want another George W. Bush, feel free to support Santorum.

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Even though I did a pretty good job guessing at the outcome of the 2010 elections, I’m a policy wonk, not a political hack, so take these predictions with a bucket of salt.

Especially since I’m predicting Ron Paul will win even though the intrade.com betting shows a Romney victory, and I cited those betting markets in 2010 when predicting that Scott Brown would win the special election for Ted Kennedy’s seat by a 51-48 margin (actual results: 51.8-47.1).

So here’s my prediction, along with a few thoughts on each candidate.

Paul (23 percent)

Ron Paul’s gotten a lot of flak for having some unsavory supporters, and that will probably hurt him, but he benefits from being an anti-politician. And he appeals to all the Republicans who want less government. Simply stated, what you see is what you get – even when it’s something crazy such as being against the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Santorum (22 percent)

I’m mystified by Santorum’s rise in the polls, which I think is happening solely because he’s not Mitt Romney and voters have somewhat soured on the other supposedly conservative candidates. But I want to stress the “supposedly” in the previous sentence. The former Pennsylvania Senator is not a fiscal conservative, having supported all the wasteful spending of the Bush years. If he does well, Mitt Romney will be very happy since Santorum will split the anti-Mitt vote for a longer period of time.

Romney (22 percent)

The former Massachusetts Governor tries to be all things to all people, which means he routinely does the wrong thing on policy (i.e., his refusal to reject the value-added tax, his less-than-stellar record on healthcare, his weakness on Social Security reform, his anemic list of proposed budget savings, and his reprehensible support for ethanol subsidies). But he has a base of support among people who are Republicans because their parents were Republicans.  For what it’s worth, I’ve already predicted that he wins the nomination and loses to Obama in November.

Perry (14 percent)

The Texas economy gives Perry a strong talking point, but he did not do well in the debates. Moreover, some Americans are probably reluctant to trust another folksy Texas GOP Governor after what happened during the Bush years. He still has a chance of winning the nomination if he can survive ’til South Carolina and consolidate the anti-Mitt vote.

Gingrich (12 percent)

The former Speaker of the House enjoyed a meteoric rise because of his debate performances, but the other candidates then ganged up and reminded voters of Newt’s various sins – such as criticizing the Ryan budget, climbing into bed (or at least onto a couch) with Nancy Pelosi to advance global warming hysteria, and supporting ethanol handouts. Heck, I remember having a bitter argument with Newt back in 2003 about Bush’s terrible prescription drug entitlement.

Bachmann (5 percent)

Congresswoman Bachmann had her moment of glory last summer when she won the Ames straw poll. She’ll be out of the race after today’s results.

Huntsman (2 percent)

He is putting all his eggs in the New Hampshire basket, so his last-place performance won’t surprise anyone. As a general observation, I’m surprised he’s not pushing his rather attractive tax reform plan.

P.S. I’m also surprised that Gary Johnson didn’t attract more support. And I’m baffled that the GOP establishment kept him out of the debates. That decision drove the former New Mexico Governor to bolt for the Libertarian Party. I suspect he will do surprisingly well, assuming Romney is the GOP nominee.

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Last January, I identified five things that worried me for 2011. Here’s what had me concerned, along with some ex post facto analysis about whether I was right to fret:

1. A back-door bailout of the states from the Federal Reserve – Thankfully, I was way off base with this concern. Not only was there no bailout, but Congress even got rid of Obama’s wretched “build America bonds.”

2. A front-door bailout of Europe by the United States – The bad news is that there have been bailouts of Greece, Ireland, and Portugal via the clowns at the IMF. The good news is that the bailouts haven’t been as big or extensive as I originally feared.

3. Republicans getting duped by Obama and supporting a VAT – I was needlessly concerned about a VAT sellout, but I was right to worry about tax increases. GOPers repeatedly expressed willingness to surrender, notwithstanding their anti-tax hike promises.

4. Regulatory imposition of global warming policy – The EPA has been busy imposing lots of costly regulation, but it appears that my fears on this issue were misplaced.

5. U.N. control of the Internet – As far as I can tell, the statists did not make any progress on this issue, so my concerns were unfounded.

This year, I’m not going to put together a list of things that should make us worry. After all, we should always be concerned. As Thomas Jefferson is reported to have warned, “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” And Gideon Tucker correctly noted that, “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.”

Instead, I’m going to come up with a list of predictions. But I won’t try to predict the economy. As I already have explained, economists are lousy short-term forecasters. If we actually knew what was going to happen, we’d be rich.

So here are some policy and political predictions for 2012.

1. Obama will win reelection – Unless I’m wildly wrong, Romney will be the nominee, and he is a very uninspiring choice. That gives Obama somewhat of an advantage. More important, I think the unemployment rate will continue to drift downwards (even if only because workers get discouraged and drop out of the labor force) and that will allow Obama to claim – with lots of help from the media – that his policies have started to work.

2. Greece will drop the euro – Politicians have three ways of financing government spending. They can tax, they can borrow, and they can print money. Nations such as Greece already impose stifling tax burdens and further tax increases probably would reduce revenue because of the Laffer Curve. Nations such as Greece already are so indebted that nobody will lend them money, especially since they’ve already defaulted on existing debt payments. This means Greece has to go with the final option and drop the euro so it can print lots of drachmas.  (Greece could solve its problems by cutting spending, of course, but let’s not engage in ridiculous fantasy).

3. At least one major European nation will default – Yes, the Baltic nations have shown it is possible to make real spending cuts and restore fiscal stability, but I don’t expect other European nations to learn from those success stories. So the only question is whether nations such as Spain and Italy default right away, or whether they get additional bailouts that set the stage for even bigger defaults in the future. The answer probably depends on Germany, and I’m guessing Merkel will finally do the right thing (if only for political reasons) and reject additional bailouts.

4. China and Japan have major problems, but will survive 2012 without crisis – I’ve already written that I’m not overly impressed by China and that I think there’s a bubble in the Chinese economy. And I’ve commented on the enormous debt burden in Japan. But even though I think both nations are very vulnerable to economic trouble, I’m going out on a limb and predicting that they’ll make it through this year without a major problem.

5. The Georgia Bulldogs will win college football’s national championship, demonstrating that there is justice in the universe.

P.S. I have been somewhat accurate in my election predictions and I’ve been getting some requests to predict what will happen in Iowa. If I get motivated, I may do that on Tuesday morning.

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Governor Rick Perry of Texas has announced a plan, which he outlines in today’s Wall Street Journal, to replace the corrupt and inefficient internal revenue code with a flat tax. Let’s review his proposal, using the principles of good tax policy as a benchmark.

1. Does the plan have a low, flat rate to minimize penalties on productive behavior?

Governor Perry is proposing an optional 20 percent tax rate. Combined with a very generous allowance (it appears that a family of four would not pay tax on the first $50,000 of income), this means the income tax will be only a modest burden for households. Most important, at least from an economic perspective, the 20-percent marginal tax rate will be much more conducive to entrepreneurship and hard work, giving people more incentive to create jobs and wealth.

2. Does the plan eliminate double taxation so there is no longer a tax bias against saving and investment?

The Perry flat tax gets rid of the death tax, the capital gains tax, and the double tax on dividends. This would significantly reduce the discriminatory and punitive treatment of income that is saved and invested (see this chart to understand why this is a serious problem in the current tax code). Since all economic theories – even socialism and Marxism – agree that capital formation is key for long-run growth and higher living standards, addressing the tax bias against saving and investment is one of the best features of Perry’s plan.

3. Does the plan get rid of deductions, preferences, exemptions, preferences, deductions, loopholes, credits, shelters, and other provisions that distort economic behavior?

A pure flat tax does not include any preferences or penalties. The goal is to leave people alone so they make decisions based on what makes economic sense rather than what reduces their tax liability. Unfortunately, this is one area where the Perry flat tax falls a bit short. His plan gets rid of lots of special favors in the tax code, but it would retain deductions (for those earning less than $500,000 yearly) for charitable contributions, home mortgage interest, and state and local taxes.

As a long-time advocate of a pure flat tax, I’m not happy that Perry has deviated from the ideal approach. But the perfect should not be the enemy of the very good. If implemented, his plan would dramatically boost economic performance and improve competitiveness.

That being said, there are some questions that need to be answered before giving a final grade to the plan. Based on Perry’s Wall Street Journal column and material from the campaign, here are some unknowns.

1. Is the double tax on interest eliminated?

A flat tax should get rid of all forms of double taxation. For all intents and purposes, a pure flat tax includes an unlimited and unrestricted IRA. You pay tax when you first earn your income, but the IRS shouldn’t get another bite of the apple simply because you save and invest your after-tax income. It’s not clear, though, whether the Perry plan eliminates the double tax on interest. Also, the Perry plan eliminates the double taxation of “qualified dividends,” but it’s not clear what that means.

2. Is the special tax preference for fringe benefits eliminated?

One of the best features of the flat tax is that it gets rid of the business deduction for fringe benefits such as health insurance. This special tax break has helped create a very inefficient healthcare system and a third-party payer crisis. It is unclear, though, whether this pernicious tax distortion is eliminated with the Perry flat tax.

3. How will the optional flat tax operate?

The Perry plan copies the Hong Kong system in that it allows people to choose whether to participate in the flat tax. This is attractive since it ensures that nobody can be disadvantaged, but how will it work? Can people switch back and forth every year? Is the optional system also available to all the small businesses that use the 1040 individual tax system to file their returns?

4. Will businesses be allowed to “expense” investment expenditures?

The current tax code penalizes new business investment by forcing companies to pretend that a substantial share of current-year investment outlays take place in the future. The government imposes this perverse policy in order to get more short-run revenue since companies are forced to artificially overstate current-year profits. A pure flat tax allows a business to “expense” the cost of business investments (just as they “expense” workers wages) for the simple reason that taxable income should be defined as total revenue minus total costs.

Depending on the answers to these questions, the grade for Perry’s flat tax could be as high as A- or as low as B. Regardless, it will be a radical improvement compared to the current tax system, which gets a D- (and that’s a very kind grade).

Here’s a brief video for those who want more information about the flat tax.

Last but not least, I’ve already receive several requests to comment on how Perry’s flat tax compares to Cain’s 9-9-9 plan.

At a conceptual level, the plans are quite similar. They both replace the discriminatory rate structure of the current system with a low rate. They both get rid of double taxation. And they both dramatically reduce corrupt loopholes and distortions when compared to the current tax code.

All things considered, though, I prefer the flat tax. The 9-9-9 plan combines a 9 percent flat tax with a 9 percent VAT and a 9 percent national sales tax, and I don’t trust that politicians will keep the rates at 9 percent.

The worst thing that can happen with a flat tax is that we degenerate back to the current system. The worst thing that happens with the 9-9-9 plan, as I explain in this video, is that politicians pull a bait-and-switch and America becomes Greece or France.

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