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Posts Tagged ‘Elections’

In an amazing display of incompetence, we still don’t know whether Bernie Sanders or Pete Buttigieg won the Iowa caucus.

This has created some opportunities for satire, with people asking how a political party that can’t properly count 200,000 votes somehow can effectively run a healthcare system for 340 million people.

That’s a very good point, but today let’s focus on a contest that does have a clear winner.

As explained in this video, John Stossel and his team crunched the numbers and they have concluded that “Crazy Bernie” wins the free-stuff primary.

Senator Sanders doubtlessly will be very happy with this victory, especially since he trailed Kamala Harris when Stossel did the same calculations last summer.

America’s taxpayers, however, might not be pleased with this outcome. Especially if Bernie Sanders somehow gets to the White House.

Last week, I shared new numbers from the Congressional Budget Office, which showed that the federal budget is now consuming $4.6 trillion.

Bernie Sanders is proposing a staggering $4.9 trillion of new spending – more than doubling the burden of government spending!

And the 10-year cost of his promises could be as high as $97 trillion.

To make matters worse, all this new spending is in addition to already-legislated spending increases for everything from boondoggle discretionary programs to behemoth entitlement programs.

Hello Greece.

Heck, it may be hello Venezuela if Bernie gets unleashed.

P.S. Trump’s record on spending is bad, though his mistakes are measured in billions rather than trillions.

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When Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton agree on things, it’s always bad news for taxpayers.

Now they both agree that it’s somehow the federal government’s job to subsidize child care, though they’ve each concocted different ways of implementing this new form of redistribution.

The Wall Street Journal opines on this fiscally incontinent bidding war.

…both candidates [are] offering multiple subsidies for raising kids. This will end up raising prices and it won’t address the real reason parents feel squeezed: a decade of slow or no economic growth. Donald Trump on Tuesday proposed a tax deduction that would let families write off the average cost of child care for up to four children, among other ideas. Hillary Clinton has already promised to limit care expenses to 10% of income; raises for caretakers; universal pre-K; an increase in the $1,000 per child tax credit; a new program for student parents, and more.

Looking at the details, Trumps plan would exacerbate the EITC problem.

Here’s the dirty detail: Mr. Trump proposed an up to $1,200 child-care tax rebate for low-income families that would be delivered by expanding the earned-income tax credit. But the credit would inevitably phase out as income increases and disappears at $31,200. The result would be a higher inframarginal tax cliff—when people are discouraged from earning more income because they lose more in benefits than they can gain in wages. This disincentive to advancement is already steep.

He’s also proposing a new subsidy for savings accounts.

Mr. Trump also proposes savings accounts for child care to add to the tax-free destinations for retirement, health care, college and more. This new benefit, worth up to $2,000 a year, would make tax reform more difficult. The government would also match parental contributions at 50% up to $1,000 a year for low-income families. That’s a wonky way of unveiling a new $500 transfer payment.

And Trump even wants to engage in a no-win bidding war with Hillary Clinton to create a new European-style entitlement for paid maternity leave (even though, as a columnist for the New York Times even admitted, this type of scheme will backfire against women by making them less attractive to employers).

Then there’s six weeks of paid maternity leave that Mr. Trump says he would guarantee through unemployment insurance. He claims he’ll pay for this by cleaning out fraudulent payments, though this is his funding mechanism for every proposal. Mr. Trump will nonetheless lose the family bidding war with Mrs. Clinton, who wants 12 weeks of paid leave for new mothers and fathers.

The Clinton plan, meanwhile, is a predictably statist prescription for more intervention and subsidies.

And the WSJ‘s editorial correctly points out that is a recipe for ever-higher costs.

Mrs. Clinton raises the Trump offer in every regard, from more Head Start funding to salary support for day-care workers. And if you think care is expensive now, wait until Mrs. Clinton wades in. She likes to say that child care can be more expensive than college tuition, which is false. The irony is that her day-care blowout would recreate what has made college notoriously expensive—large subsidies for the provider and buyer. Day-care centers and pre-Ks could raise prices, confident that government will cover the increase.

The fact that Hillary Clinton wants bigger government is not the most shocking revelation in the world.

Her voting record as a Senator was almost identical to Bernie Sanders’.

And every single proposal in her big economic speech last month required a larger burden of government.

But it’s rather odd to find the Republican nominee being the statist Tweedledee to match the statist Tweedledum.

In an article for Commentary, Noah Rothman looks at Trump’s overall approach to fiscal policy.

Donald Trump…is a self-described Republican who has cast aside the austere facade of fiscal conservatism in favor of any and every spending proposal that crosses his transom. Promising the electorate the world in the campaign with every intention of working out the details after the election is hardly a new phenomenon, but it used to be one that Republicans rejected. Today, under Trump’s corrupting umbra, the GOP has become the party of wild assurances and cascading spending proposals with no intention of ever making good on them.

Actually, I fear the spending promises would be fulfilled if Trump got to the White House. Though I agree that Trump personally doesn’t care if they are either adopted or forgotten.

Here are just a few of the spending promises Trump has made.

Trump promised to augment the Pentagon’s budget by repealing the portions of the Budget Control Act of 2011 (aka, “Sequester”) that imposed limits on defense spending. …Trump has called for “more funding” for the Department of Veterans Affairs to augment job training, research on traumatic stress, brain injury, and suicide prevention, and to hire more service providers at VA hospitals. The Republican nominee promised a massive $500 billion public works program that you dare not call a “stimulus,” which he proudly boasted would spend more than double what Hillary Clinton has pledged to refurbish America’s infrastructure. …He has attacked as cold-hearted the idea that America’s entitlement state must be curtailed and reformed—a massive expenditure that already consumes nearly two-thirds of the nation’s annual outlays.

In other words, Trump is a big-government, Nixon-style Republican.

Which means advocates of limited government are not exactly thrilled about November.

P.S. Other Republican presidential candidates have boosted the burden of government when they took office (President George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush are two dismal examples of this phenomenon). But they at least pretended to be vaguely in favor of smaller government during their respective campaigns. The fact that Trump doesn’t even fake it during the campaign suggests that economic policy would be very bad if he ever got to the White House.

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It’s not easy being a libertarian, especially in election years.

  • Do you choose not to vote because you either reject your choices or even the entire principle of majoritarianism?
  • Do you vote for the Libertarian Party even though that historically is nothing more than an ineffective way of sending a message?
  • Or do you strategically cast a vote for a major-party candidate, fully aware that such a person inevitably will be a disappointment in office?

If you’re normally in the last category, 2016 will be especially difficult.

Let’s start with Trump. On the positive side, he’s proposed a good package of tax cuts. And he’s…….ummm……..errrr……well……(scratch head)……

Actually, in terms of specifics rather than rhetoric, the tax cut is about the only market-oriented policy he’s embraced.

On the negative side, he’s a big fan of protectionism, and that’s definitely not a recipe for prosperity. And he’s rejected much-need reforms to entitlement programs, which therefore makes his big tax cut totally unrealistic.

But mostly it’s impossible to know what he really thinks for the simple reason that he probably doesn’t have deep thoughts about public policy (look at his flailing response to the question of debt). Even when he’s been specific, does anyone think he’s philosophically committed to what he has said while campaigning?

So my assessment, as explained in this interview with Neil Cavuto, is that Trump is a grenade that will explode in an unpredictable fashion.

So if you’re a libertarian and you choose to vote for Trump, just be forewarned that you’ll probably be standing next to the grenade when it explodes.

So what about the alternative? Is there a libertarian argument for Hillary Clinton (other than the fact that she’s not Trump)? Can a politician who has spent decades promoting cronyism and redistributionism actually deliver good policy?

Her husband actually did a good job when he was in the White House, but you can probably sense from this debate with Juan Williams on the Stossel show, I’m not overflowing with optimism that she also would preside over a shift to better policy.

Here are a few additional thoughts on my debate with Juan.

Keynesian economics doesn’t work, either in theory or in reality. And it’s laughable that the excuse for Keynesian failure is always that politicians should have spent more money.

Entitlements will cripple America’s economy if left on auto-pilot. I’ve repeatedly made the point that we’re like Greece 10 or 15 years ago. By claiming at the time that there was no crisis, Greek politicians ensured that a crisis eventually would occur. The same thing is happening here.

I’m skeptical about the claim that climate change is a crisis, but a revenue-neutral carbon tax is the most sensible approach if action genuinely is required. But the left prefers sure-to-fail (but very lucrative to cronies) industrial policy.

Government can help create conditions for prosperity by providing core public goods like rule of law, but that only requires a very small public sector, not the bloated Leviathans that exist today.

I’d be delighted to have a woman as President if she had the same principles and judgement as Margaret Thatcher. To be colloquial, that ain’t a description of Hillary Clinton.

Last but not least, I was rhetorically correct but technically wrong about welfare dependency in Hong Kong. I said fewer than 3 percent of Hong Kong residents get public assistance when I should have said that Hong Kong spends less than 3 percent of GDP on redistribution. That’s an amazingly small welfare state, but it does ensnare about 5.5 percent of the population. Which if far lower than the share of the population getting handouts in America, so my point was still very much correct.

Not that any of this matters in the short run since there’s a 99.9 percent probability that America’s next President will be perfectly content to let the country sink further into the swamp of statism.

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I wouldn’t be completely distraught to have Clinton in the White House in 2017. But before concluding that I’ve lost my mind, I’m thinking of Bill Clinton, not his far more statist (though similarly dodgy) spouse.

You’ll see what I mean below.

In a column for National Review, Deroy Murdock has some fun by pointing out that Bill Clinton just unintentionally attacked Barack Obama.

Bill Clinton…unsealed an indictment against Obama’s economy. …Hillary’s “secret weapon” told Granite State voters Monday, “I think this election is about restoring broadly shared prosperity, rebuilding the middle class, giving kids the American Dream back.”

Why is this an attack against Obama?

For the simple reason that we haven’t had “broadly shared prosperity” during the Obama years.

…a far-left Democrat has been president for the past seven years. The economic stagnation that Clinton critiqued is Obama’s. In Obama’s first or second year, Clinton might have managed to blame Baby Bush’s massive spending, red tape, and nationalizations for America’s economic woes and middle-class anxieties. But in Obama’s seventh year, this excuse has rusted. Obamanomics has narrowed prosperity, dismantled the middle class, and snatched the American Dream from America’s kids.

Deroy then compared the economic recovery America enjoyed under Reagan with the far-less-robust recovery taking place today.

In the 25 quarters since the Great Recession, Obama’s average, inflation-adjusted annual Gross Domestic Product growth has limped ahead at 2.2 percent. During Ronald Reagan’s equivalent interval, which began in the fourth quarter of 1982, such GDP growth galloped at 4.8 percent. …The total-output gap between Reagan and Obama is a whopping $10.6 trillion. …Under Reagan, private-sector jobs expanded 23.6 percent, versus the average recovery’s 17.0 percent, and 11.6 percent under Obama — less than half of Reagan’s performance. If Obama had equaled Reagan, America would enjoy some 12.9 million additional private-sector jobs. …Under Reagan, real after-tax income per person grew 3.1 percent, compared with 2.5 percent growth in an average recovery, and 1.2 percent under Obama. Had Obama delivered like Reagan, every American would have accumulated an extra $21,306 since June 2009.

All of this analysis is music to my ears and echoes some of the points I’ve made when comparing Reagan and Obama.

But I want to augment this analysis by adding Bill Clinton to the mix.

And I want to make this addition because there’s a very strong case to be made that we actually had fairly good policy during his tenure. Economic freedom increased because the one significantly bad piece of policy (the failed 1993 tax hike) was more than offset by lots of good policy.

Here’s a chart I put together showing the pro-market policies that were adopted during the Clinton years along with the one bad policy. Seems like a slam dunk.

At this point, I should acknowledge that none of this means that Bill Clinton deserves credit for the good policies. Most of the good reforms – such as 1990s spending restraint – were adopted in spite of what he wanted.

But at least he allowed those policies to go through. Unlike Obama, he was willing to be practical.

In any event, what matters is that we had better policy under Clinton than under Obama. And that’s why it’s useful to compare economic performance during those periods.

The Minneapolis Federal Reserve has a very interesting and useful webpage (at least to wonks) that allows users to compare various recoveries on the basis of GDP growth and job creation.

I’ve used this data to compare Reagan and Obama, so now let’s add the Clinton years to the mix. The following two charts from the Minneapolis Fed show the post-1981 recovery in blue, the post-1990 recovery in yellow, and the post-2007 recovery in red.

These numbers don’t match up exactly with when presidents took office, but it’s nonetheless apparent that we got the best performance under Reagan, and also that Clinton was much better than Obama.

Here’s the chart with the job numbers.

And here are the numbers for gross domestic product.

Here’s the bottom line.

Party labels don’t matter. Policy is what counts.

When the burden of government expands, like we saw with Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama on the Democrat side, but also with Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush on the Republican side, the economy under-performs.

Similarly, when the burden of government is reduced, like we saw under Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, the economy enjoys relative prosperity.

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I’m currently in Paris for my final stop on the Free Market Road Show. In other words, I’m in the belly of the beast of big-government statism.

So you would think I might be depressed, but I’m actually in a good mood.

Not because I’m surrounded by millions of socialists, but because voters in my home state just punished a couple of entrenched incumbent Republican politicians who sided with special interest groups and voted to rape and pillage taxpayers.

Here are some bring-a-smile-to-your-face details from a Washington Post report.

Two 20-year veterans of Virginia’s House of Delegates lost their seats Tuesday, falling to GOP primary challengers who assailed their support for a tax-heavy transportation funding overhaul. Del. Joe T. May (Loudoun) and Del. Beverly J. Sherwood (Frederick) lost to political newcomers who railed against the transportation plan, which imposes a $1.2-billion-a-year tax increase. … No sitting Republican delegate had faced a primary challenge since 2005, when activists went after some of those who supported a $1.5-billion-a-year tax hike pushed by then-Gov. Mark Warner (D).

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that these Republican-in-name-only lawmakers claimed tax hikes were necessary because there was no room to cut spending.

But the real problem is that too many Republicans in Richmond decided that the cesspool of big government was actually a hot tub. So rather than drain the swamp (yes, I’m mixing my metaphors), they decided they wanted more money to waste.

So, over the past several years, the burden of spending rose. Not just rose. It climbed twice as fast as inflation.

But they needed more money to maintain and support bigger government. So they disregarded their anti-tax promises.

And two of them paid the price at the polls. That may not sound like much since 34 GOP lawmakers sided with the left and voted for the tax hike.

But remember that it’s very hard to defeat incumbent politicians. So when a pair of 20-year incumbents lose, you can be sure that other lawmakers now will be far less likely to side with the political class instead of the people back home.

By the way, what makes the story in Virginia so pathetic is that Republicans normally get seduced into tax increases because of stupidity. As the Charlie Brown parody indicates, they get tricked into believing higher revenues will be used to lower deficits.

But in this case, the RINO Republicans openly admitted that they wanted more revenue to expand the state budget.

Heck, they didn’t just deserve to lose. They should have been tarred-and-feathered.

The no-tax-hike position is a line in the sand that shouldn’t be crossed.

The starve-the-beast rejection of tax hikes isn’t a sufficient condition to control big government, but it darn sure is a necessary condition.

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Welcome to Paul Krugman’s readers. I invite you to read my response.

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I was surprised when the people of Oregon voted for a tax increase back in early 2010.

Yes, I realize that the politicians and interest groups structured the measure so that the majority of voters would be unaffected. It was basically a class-warfare proposal, with a small fraction of the population being targeted to generate (at least in theory) a bunch of revenue that could be used to maintain a bloated and over-compensated state bureaucracy.

But I was nonetheless surprised because I figured voters would realize that upper-income taxpayers aren’t fatted calves idly awaiting slaughter. They can easily move to other states (particularly nearby zero-income tax states such as Washington and Nevada).

In other words, I thought Oregon voters understood that you shouldn’t drive away the geese that lay the golden eggs. A state isn’t like the old Soviet Empire, with an “Iron Curtain” of watchtowers and guard dogs to keep a population under control.

I was wrong about Oregon, so I shouldn’t be too surprised that California voters basically just made the same mistake.

Yesterday, the looters and moochers of the Golden State voted for Prop 30, a measure to significantly boost both the state sales tax and also hike income tax rates on investors, entrepreneurs, and small business owners.

I’m generally reluctant to make predictions, but I feel safe in stating that this measure is going to accelerate California’s economic decline. Some successful taxpayers are going to tunnel under the proverbial Berlin Wall and escape to states with better (or less worse) fiscal policy. And that will mean fewer jobs and lower wages than otherwise would be the case.

It goes without saying, of course, that California’s politicians will respond to Prop 30 by increasing the burden of government spending. They then will act surprised when revenues fall short of projections because of the Laffer Curve.

The bottom line is that the state will remain in the fiscal ditch and I expect a Greek-style fiscal crisis. When that happens, I’ll be tempted to point and laugh and make snarky comments such as “you broke it, you bought it.” But my long-run worry is that Obama may push for a federal bailout.

Let’s now take a look at the other ballot measures I wrote about on Monday.

I said the two most important measures were Prop 30 in California and Prop 2 in Michigan. Well, we know things went the wrong way in the Golden State on Prop 30, but it seems the voters in the Wolverine State are a bit more rational.

Prop 2, which would have permanently rigged the rules even further in favor of government workers, was soundly defeated by a 58-42 margin. Taxpayers presumably recognized that it wouldn’t be a good idea to dig the hole even deeper.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the other ballot measures. A majority of them went the right way. I’ve underlined good votes.

Prop 38 and Prop 39 – Two additional tax hike measures, the first targeting individual taxpayers and the second targeting businesses. Rejected 73-27 and approved 60-40.

Prop 204 in Arizona – Renewing a one-cent increase in the state sales tax, ostensibly for the education bureaucracy. Rejected 65-35.

Issue 1 in Arkansas – Imposing a half-cent increase in the state sales tax, supposedly for highway spending. Approved 58-42.

Prop 5 in Michigan – Would require a two-thirds vote of both the state house and state senate to raise any tax. Rejected 69-31.

Prop B in Missouri – Raise the cigarette tax by 73 cents per pack. Rejected 51-49.

Constitutional Amendment Concurrent Resolution 13 in New Hampshire – A constitutional amendment to prohibit enactment of an income tax. Received 57 percent of the vote, but needed a super-majority for approval.

Measure 84 in Oregon – Would repeal the state’s death tax. Rejected 53-47.

Initiated Measure 15 in South Dakota – Increases the state sales tax from 4 percent to 5 percent. Rejected 57-43.

Initiative 1185 in Washington – Reaffirms the state’s two-thirds supermajority requirement before the state legislature can increase taxes. Approved 65-35.

Prop 114 in Arizona – Protects crime victims from being sued if they injure or kill criminals. Approved 80-20.

Amendment 2 in Louisiana – Strengthens right to keep and bear arms. Approved 73-27.

Amendment 64 in Colorado, Measure 80 in Oregon, and Initiative 502 in Washington – All of these ballot measures end marijuana prohibition to varying degrees. Approved 55-45 in Colorado. Rejected 55-45 in Oregon. Approved in Washington.

Prop 1 in Idaho – This measure would overturn recent legislative reforms to end tenure in government schools. Rejected 57-43.

Prop 3 in Michigan – Require 25 percent of electricity to come from renewables. Rejected 63-37.

Question 1 in Virginia – Limits eminent domain to public purposes. Approved 75-25.

Amendment 6 in Alabama, Amendment 1 in Florida, Prop E in Missouri, Legislative Referendum 122 in Montana, and Amendment A in Wyoming – These are all anti-Obamacare initiatives in some form or fashion. Approved 60-40 in Alabama. Rejected 51-49 in Florida. Approved 62-38 in Missouri. Approved 67-33 in Montana. Approved 77-23 in Wyoming.

Is there a single lesson or theme we can discern from all these results? Other than the fact that people in California and Oregon are downright crazy?

Beats me. I think most Americans still believe in the classical liberal vision of a small federal government. But I also think the entitlement culture is becoming a greater and greater problem.

P.S. Speaking of the Iron Curtain, Walter Williams imagines California with a barbed wire fence to stop tax escapees.

P.P.S. This great Chuck Asay cartoon imagines how future archaeologists will view the Golden State.

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Last night was great. Two big victories, including a major comeback. Lots of drama, plenty of excitement. Here’s the bottom line: Notwithstanding chilly conditions and determined opposition, my Arlington County softball team cemented its hold on first place by sweeping a doubleheader. And I was 4-6 with a pair of doubles, so I managed to contribute.

Oh, wait, a few of you are interested in something else that happened last night…that’s right, there was an election. Before contemplating what this means for the nation, let’s quickly check my predictions.

  • Well, my presidential pick was fairly accurate. Even though people were scolding me for being too favorable to Obama, it turns out that I wasn’t favorable enough. He won all the states I thought he would, and he also carried Colorado and Florida. And if about 100,000 people changed their minds, my prediction would have been perfect.
  • But I was way off in my predictions for the Senate. I actually thought Republicans would pick up a couple of seats. But they somehow managed to lose a few seats, even though Democrats had more than twice as many to defend.
  • That being said, I did a semi-decent job with my guess for the House of Representatives. We don’t know all the details yet, but Republicans pretty much fought to a draw.

Now let’s think about the consequences for America.

Based on the conversations I’ve had and the emails I’ve received, many of you are very glum. I can understand the angst, so let me try to cheer you up by mentioning seven silver linings to this dark cloud.

1. There will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reform entitlements the next time a Republican wins the White House. But it has to be the right kind of reform, not means-testing, price controls, and other gimmicks designed to somehow prop up the current programs. Romney did select Paul Ryan as his running mate, so it’s possible he would have pushed for structural reforms. But I’m guessing that the guy who adopted Obamacare on the state level ultimately would have botched this issue. This means good reforms are still possible, perhaps in as little as four years.

2. One of the most worrisome things about Mitt Romney is that he repeatedly refused to rule out a value-added tax when asked by the editors of the Wall Street Journal. I don’t trust politicians when they say they’ll do the right thing. So when they refuse to even give rhetorical assurances, alarm bells definitely start ringing. My nightmare scenario is that Romney would have been elected, made some half-hearted attempt to restrain spending, and then would have decided that a new source of revenue was needed once Harry Reid said no to any fiscal restraint. And as we saw during the Bush years, Republicans in Congress generally are willing to do the wrong thing when a Republican President makes the request. With Obama in the White House, it is highly unlikely that House Republicans would agree to this dangerous new tax.

3. As a general rule, the party controlling the White House loses seats in the House and Senate during mid-term elections. This presumably means more Tea Party-oriented Representatives and Senators after 2014.

4. With Obama in the White House for four more years, there’s an opportunity for a genuine advocate of small government to run and win in 2016. I don’t know whether that person will be Senator Marco Rubio, Senator Rand Paul, Governor Bobby Jindal, Representative Paul Ryan, or someone who isn’t even on my radar screen, but all of those options seem far more appealing – both philosophically and politically – than the GOP candidates who ran this year.

5. A Romney victory may have paved the way for Andrew Cuomo or some other statist in 2016. There will be leftists running next time, of course, but I’m guessing it will be more difficult for such a candidate to win since voters often get antsy after one party is in power for too long.

6. The election was not a mandate for Obamacare or the faux stimulus. The President spent almost no time bragging about the two biggest “accomplishments” of his first term. Indeed, he was probably fortunate that he ran against a Republican who couldn’t really exploit Obamacare because he did something very similar when he was Governor of Massachusetts (as this cartoon humorously illustrates). And he certainly didn’t get any political benefit from having flushed $800 billion down the drain on a bunch of Keynesian  gimmicks.

7. One very positive feature of the elections is that lawmakers did not measurably suffer because of their support for the Medicaid and Medicare reforms in the Ryan budget. Nancy Pelosi’s “Medi-scare” campaign was the dog that didn’t bark in the 2012 elections. This presumably bodes well if there’s ever a pro-reform President.

Now here are three reasons to be unhappy.

1. Obama is a bad President. His Keynesian stimulus was a flop. Obamacare made a bad healthcare system even worse. He keeps pushing for class-warfare tax policy. And he wants to increase the burden of government spending. I fully expect him to pursue the same misguided policies in a second term.

“Ha, ha, ha, I will haunt your dreams for the next four years!”

2. If there are any vacancies on the Supreme Court, they will be filled by doctrinaire leftists. So the great libertarian conspiracy to restore constitutional constraints on the federal government will be temporarily postponed.

3. We have to endure four more years of sanctimonious speeches.

But I doubt Romney would have pursued good policies, picked good Justices, or given uplifting speeches, so I would have been unhappy regardless.

So cheer up, my friends. Our Founding Fathers had to risk their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to create America. In the battle to restore/protect their vision, all we have to do is engage in some activism.

P.S. Since I’ve written that conservatives and libertarians share some common ground on the issue of abortion, I’m going to make a friendly suggestion to pro-life Republican candidates and their consultants. Spend a couple of days before each campaign developing a few on-the-shelf talking points so you’re less likely to say really stupid things about rape and abortion.

P.P.S. For my partisan Republican friends who are looking for someone to blame, allow me to suggest George Bush and Karl Rove. By deliberately choosing bad policy in hopes of gaining short-run political advantage, they created the medium-run conditions that enabled Obama to win the White House.

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

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

Last month, I predicted things were moving even farther in the GOP direction. By moving Colorado to the Republican side, I guessed the outcome would be 275-263 for Obama.

Romney partisans will be disappointed to learn, though, that their candidate has fallen a bit further behind in my new prediction for the 2012 election.

The big change is that I moved Florida to the “leaning Obama” category and those 29 electoral votes more than offset the impact of shifting Iowa and Wisconsin to the “leaning Romney” column.

Why these changes? Well, I suspect that the demagoguery on Social Security and Medicare will hurt in Florida, even though the GOP platform on entitlement reform is that people over age 55 are exempt.

I’m shifting Wisconsin because of Paul Ryan. As for Iowa, I’m going by nothing but gut instinct.

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In what will almost surely be the nastiest campaign ad of the political season, a pro-Obama super PAC basically accuses Mitt Romney and Bain Capital of causing a woman’s death.

Viewers are supposed to hold Romney responsible because the woman’s husband lost his job, and the resulting lack of insurance prevented her from getting health care in time to stop her cancer.

The ad has been debunked for several reasons, including the fact that the woman apparently had her own job with her own insurance for two years after her husband lost his job and her cancer wasn’t even discovered until seven years after Romney left Bain, but let’s set those issues aside, assume all the facts are true, and contemplate what it means if we apply the same standard of accountability to the Obama Administration.

Here’s a simple chain of reasoning.

1. There’s a well-established relationship between a nation’s prosperity and the lifespan of its people (see Figures 1 and 2 in my 1992 article in the Journal of Regulation and Social Cost).

2. Obama’s policies have dampened growth in the United States (according to data from the Congressional Budget Office and the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank, actual GDP (in today’s dollars) is $836.6 billion below potential GDP).

3. Based on these two simple facts, we can conclude that the foregone growth is causing needless premature deaths.

But how many deaths are being caused? Do we have to make a wild guess?

It turns out that there’s a considerable amount of academic research on this topic. It doesn’t make for exciting reading, unless you like learning about concepts such as “usable income” and “value of a statistical life.” Or how about “valuation of statistical mortality risk” and “implicit income gains.”

But the academics find ways of measuring the relationship between economic performance and mortality.

To make sure we’re being fair, we’ll first look at the research compiled by Cass Sunstein, who served as President Obama’s Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Writing back in 1997, he compiled 11 studies from the late 1980s and early 1990s that estimated that a premature death was caused when income fell by some amount between $1.8 million and $12.4 million (roughly between $3.3 million and $22.9 million in today’s dollars).

There’s also a very thorough study by Ralph Keeney of the University of Southern California. He found that an additional fatality was linked to income losses (adjusted to today’s dollars) of between $8.42 million and $23.59 million.

“This is more fun than a death panel!”

Looking over much of this research, it appears that $14 million is a reasonable middle-ground estimate of how much foregone income is associated with a needless death.

Now let’s do some simple math to get an estimate of the total number of preventable deaths caused by the economy’s sub-par performance during Obama’s reign. Going by the lofty standards of Priorities USA super PAC, we’ll call this number the “Obamanomics Death Toll.”

So let’s divide $836.6 billion (our earlier estimate of foregone growth) by $14 million and we get an estimate that Obama’s policies have caused 59,757 deaths.

I wouldn’t put much faith in my back-of-the-envelope calculations. Experts in the field doubtlessly could point out several methodological mistakes, so I have no idea if the weak economy has caused 10,000 premature deaths or ten times that amount.

But I can say with complete certainty that if you took all the experts and gave them a month to work on the answer, the final number would be far higher than Romney’s supposed death toll.

And I’m also quite confident that my analysis – however inadequate – is far more defensible than the garbage from the pro-Obama super PAC.

Now let’s be serious. It’s ridiculous to hold Romney personally responsible for the unfortunate death of the woman mentioned in the super PAC commercial. And it’s also absurd to hold Obama personally responsible for the 59,757 people who may have prematurely died because of the weak economy.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could actually have an open and honest debate about real issues, such as entitlement reform? Or how best to fix our corrupt tax system?

P.S. If you want to heap scorn on people who genuinely are responsible for deaths, think of the 62 million butchered by the dictators of the Soviet Union and the 76 million killed by the communist tyrants in China.

Gee, isn’t communism just wonderful? Something to think about the next time you see some jackass with a Che Guevara t-shirt.

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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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At the start of the year, I predicted Obama would be reelected, largely because of my assumption that the unemployment rate would drop below 8 percent.

But my prediction on jobs is looking quite shaky, so this discussion about the economy and the election with Fox Business News is very timely.

I argued, unsurprisingly, that the economy is anemic because Obama’s been pursuing an agenda of wasteful spending and class warfare.

So if he loses, he has nobody to blame but himself.

That doesn’t mean Romney would be an improvement, especially if the warning signs are correct and he saddles the country with a value-added tax, so the American people may be tossed from one frying pan to another.

P.S. Hadley Heath may look familiar because she narrated this video about the damaging impact of welfare programs for the Center for Freedom and Prosperity.

P.P.S. On the completely separate topic of the Greek elections, I am more peeved than ever that the idiots in the media are reporting the results as a victory for the pro-bailout parties over the anti-bailout parties. That is nonsense. All the parties favored bailouts. As I wrote earlier this year, the election was a fight between parties that want no-strings bailout money and parties that at least pretend they are willing to implement reforms as a condition of getting bailout money.

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Since I’m a policy wonk and not a political prognosticator, I’m not sure why people keep asking me what will happen in the November elections. But since I got lucky with my 2010 predictions, I may as well throw in my two cents.

The election is now exactly five months away, so here’s my first cut at what will happen.

At this point, I am predicting an Obama victory, albeit by a much narrower margin than in 2008.

Given the weak economy and unpopularity of Obamacare, one might think Romney should be the favorite. However, the establishment media is completely in the tank for Obama and Romney is not exactly the strongest candidate, and I think those factors will tip the scales in November.

That being said, Obama has dropped from being a 60 percent-plus favorite on Intrade to just a 52.3 percent favorite in recent weeks, so GOP partisans have reasons to be hopeful.

Since all I care about is policy, I confess I’m not sure whether to be happy about my prediction. It all boils down to whether the “Richard Nixon Disinfectant Rule” applies to Romney. As of right now, we don’t know the answer. Here’s what I told ABC News earlier this week.

“The negative spin is that he’s said all these things to basically get past a conservative-leaning Republican Party electorate and that he’s really the Massachusetts moderate that some of his opponents tried to make him out to be,” said Dan Mitchell, a Cato economist… The flip side, Mitchell said, is that if Romney does stick to his promises to conservatives, they’ll be pleased when he gives support to Paul Ryan’s budget, takes steps to lower the spending-to-GDP ratio significantly, and offers states flexibility on spending Medicaid money.

We’ll have plenty of time between today and November 6 to analyze the presidential election, so let’s leave the national stage and take a look at what happened yesterday in Wisconsin and California.

We’ll start with California, because there were two very important – but largely overlooked – votes in San Diego and San Jose about curtailing lavish pensions for bureaucrats. The results were shocking, particularly since California is a left-wing state. Here’s part of the AP report.

Voters in two major California cities overwhelmingly approved cuts to retirement benefits for city workers in what supporters said was a mandate that may lead to similar ballot initiatives in other states and cities that are struggling with mounting pension obligations. Supporters had a simple message to voters in San Diego and San Jose: Pensions for city workers are unaffordable and more generous than many private companies offer… In San Diego, 66 percent voted in favor of Proposition B, while 34 percent were opposed. Nearly 97 percent of precincts were tallied by early Wednesday. The landslide was even bigger in San Jose, the nation’s 10th-largest city. With all precincts counted, 70 percent were in favor of Measure B and 30 percent were opposed.

Since I’ve written repeatedly about excessive compensation for government employees, these results are encouraging. Perhaps the gravy train has finally been derailed

Yesterday’s big election, though, was in Wisconsin. Republicans took control of the state in 2010 and enacted laws to restrain the power of union bureaucracies, which led to a counterattack by the left. First, there was a recall effort against Republicans in the State Senate and that failed. Then there was a recall against one of the GOP judges on the state’s Supreme Court, and that failed.

The climactic battle yesterday was to recall Governor Scott Walker. So how did that turn out? Let’s enjoy these excerpts from the Washington Post.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker won a vote to keep his job on Tuesday, surviving a recall effort that turned the Republican into a conservative icon…That made Walker the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall election; two others had failed. …the night provided a huge boost for Walker — as well as Republicans in Washington and state capitals who have embraced the same energetic, austere brand of fiscal conservatism as a solution for recession and debt. In a state known for a strong progressive tradition, Walker defended his policies against the full force of the labor movement and the modern left. And he won, again.

By the way, the final result in the Badger State was 53 percent-46 percent and I predicted 54 percent-46 percent, so I somewhat atoned for my awful guess on the Iowa caucuses.

P.S. This cartoon accurately shows what was at stake in Wisconsin.

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I periodically get emails asking whether I support a presidential candidate. Most of these messages complain that I’ve been critical of RomneySantorumGingrich, etc, and inquire if there’s anybody I like.

As a general rule, I don’t respond because I work at a think tank and we’re not supposed to be involved in partisan politics according to IRS rules.

But I found a loophole, so the time has come for me to announce my preferred candidate for the 2012 presidential election. And I’m making this much-anticipated announcement even though I won’t be casting a vote.

I want people to select François Hollande.

Who is Mr. Hollande, you ask? Well, actually, he’s Monsieur Hollande, because I’m making an endorsement in France’s presidential election.

For those of you who follow such matters, you may be wondering why I would prefer Monsieur Hollande. After all, he is the candidate of the French Socialist Party.

Read these excerpts from today’s Wall Street Journal editorial page and you’ll begin to understand why. We’ll start with a quick glimpse at France’s dire situation.

The French head to the polls Sunday for the first round of Presidential voting, but you wouldn’t know the candidates were competing in Europe’s most important election since the start of its economic crisis. …the contenders for the Elysée Palace—including Mr. Sarkozy—are in one way or another running on fairy tales. …The French economy is in a severe, if not yet acute, crisis. …French growth has been stagnant for five years. Unit labor costs have risen steadily for more than a decade, and high unemployment has become chronic. A quarter of French youth are jobless.

Here’s what we know about the supposedly right-of-center incumbent, Nicolas Sarkozy.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the center-right incumbent, is proposing to shrink the budget deficit by raising taxes in the name of “solidarity.” On top of his already-passed hikes in corporate and personal income taxes, and his 4% surcharge on high incomes, Mr. Sarkozy also promises an “exit tax” on French citizens who move abroad, presumably to make up for the revenue that goes missing when all those new levies impel high earners to leave the country. …Mr. Sarkozy proposes reducing payroll charges paid by employers but would make up for it by increasing VAT and taxes on investment income. This assumes there will be investment income left in France once Mr. Sarkozy’s financial-transactions tax goes into effect in August.

In other words, Sarkozy is a statist. But you knew that already if you read thisthisthis,this, or this.

So what’s the alternative? Well, there isn’t one.

The President’s Socialist rival is a throwback of a different sort. François Hollande’s campaign has adopted a fiery old-left style that most had taken for dead after the Socialists’ 2007 defeat. All of Mr. Hollande’s major economic policy plans have roots in a punitive populism that would make U.S. Congressional class warriors blush. …Mr. Hollande says he’s “not dangerous” to the wealthy—he merely wants to confiscate 75% of their income over €1 million, and 45% over €150,000. He is, however, a self-avowed “enemy” of the financial industry, and he plans to impose extra penalties on oil companies and financial firms. He’d also raise the dividends tax and impose a new, higher rate of VAT on luxury goods.

The unfortunate people of France, to be blunt, are screwed no matter which candidate prevails. Government will get bigger, taxes will climb higher, jobs will be lost, and living standards will continue to stagnate.

Given this dismal outlook, though, I’d rather have the unambiguously left-wing party come out of top.

My reasoning is simple, and I’ve even decided to create a new rule to commemorate the analysis. The “Richard Nixon Disinfectant Rule” is that it’s always better to let the left-wing party win when the supposedly right-wing party has a statist candidate.

I name this rule after Nixon for the obvious reason that he was one of the worst Presidents in American history. And I’m not even counting the Watergate scandal and subsequent resignation. I’m referring to the spending, the taxes, the regulation, and the intervention.

Sarkozy, needless to say, has shown that he’s a French version of Nixon. Or Bush.

So if the French are going to be governed by a statist, it may as well be Hollande. That way, there’s at least a slight chance that the alleged right-of-center party will come to its senses and offer voters a genuine choice in the next election.

By the way, this was my mindset as a teenager when I wanted Jimmy Carter to beat Gerald Ford. I figured that was the best way of getting Ronald Reagan.

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I like to think people in the United States still believe in liberty, and I’ve cited some polling data in support of American Exceptionalism.

And it seems like that philosophical belief in individualism and limited government sometimes has an impact in the polling booth. According to a recent study, Obamacare was poison for Democrats in 2010.

Here’s an excerpt from a report in The Hill.

Voting for President Obama’s healthcare reform law cost Democratic incumbents 5.8 percentage points of support at the polls in 2010, according to a new study in the journal American Politics Research. The study helps explain why Democrats lost 66 House seats, significantly more than the median academic forecast of 44 to 45 seats, study co-author Brendan Nyhan of Dartmouth College writes on his blog. Democrats in the lead-up to the elections took a number of tough votes — notably on the Wall Street bailout, the stimulus and cap-and-trade — but none was as unpopular as their support for the healthcare reform law. “We show that the roll-call effect on vote share was driven by healthcare reform. Democratic incumbents who voted yes performed significantly worse than those who did not,” Nyhan writes. “We then provide simulation evidence suggesting that Democrats would win approximately 25 more seats if those in competitive districts had voted no, which accounts for the gap between the academic forecasts and the observed outcomes.”

As with any statistical study, you should take the results with a big grain of salt. That caveat aside, the conclusions of the study seem quite plausible. And since I’m not a fan of Obamacare and think the law will be much more costly than advertised, I’m not shedding any tears for politicians who lost their jobs after voting for the new entitlement.

But the 2010 election may have been a Pyrrhic victory – a short-run victory that paves the way for long-run defeat.

I think the left made a clever calculation that losses in the last cycle would be an acceptable price to get more people dependent on the federal government. And once people have to rely on government for something like healthcare, they are more likely to vote for the party that promises to make government bigger.

One of the most-viewed posts on this blog is the set of cartoons drawn by a former Cato intern, one showing how the welfare state begins and the other showing how it ends.

This is why Obamacare – and the rest of the entitlement state – is so worrisome. If more and more Americans decide to ride in the wagon of government dependency, it will be less and less likely that those people will vote for candidates who want to restrain government.

Europe is a good example. The supposedly “conservative” leaders of major nations such as SpainGermanyFrance, and the United Kingdom are a bunch of big-government statists.

That being said, I’m not a complete pessimist. The Medicaid and Medicare reforms in last year’s Ryan budget would largely solve the problem, especially since any Obamacare subsidies presumably could be eliminated as part of such reforms.

I’m just not holding my breath that we’ll get real entitlement reform in the next four years.

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I’ve written several times about the major fight in Wisconsin to control excessive compensation for government bureaucrats. Governor Walker basically won the first battle in that important and necessary campaign, but Yogi Berra sagely explained that “the opera ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings.”

In this case, the proverbial fat lady is yesterday’s election for Wisconsin’s Supreme Court. Leftists control three of the seven seats on the Court and were hoping to use the fight over bureaucrat compensation as a trigger to pick up a critical fourth vote. Here’s how today’s Milwaukee Journal describes what was at stake.

Interest groups on both sides had portrayed the election as a referendum on Gov. Scott Walker’s agenda and particularly on the collective bargaining law. Conservatives backed Prosser, and liberals supported Kloppenburg, even though the candidates themselves insisted they were politically neutral.

The election is critical, not just in terms of whether the Wisconsin reforms could be blocked by an ideologically motivated state Supreme Court, but also because the election has been closely watched by political activists in other states.

Simply stated, the winning side will gain lots of momentum. Unions poured lots of money and muscle into the race. They want to send a signal to lawmakers around the nation that any effort to control compensation costs will result in a political backlash.

At this stage, you’re probably saying, “enough blather, Dan, tell us who won!” Unfortunately, I can’t answer that question. Here’s the screen capture of the latest results from the Milwaukee newspaper. As of this moment, the union-backed candidate is trailing by a very tiny margin.

We’ll find out later today (hopefully!) who won the race, but I feel much better than I did last night. When I went to sleep, Kloppenburg had a lead of 18,000 votes and it appeared things were trending in her direction.

P.S. This election comes very close to debunking my cranky post from last year saying that voting was theoretically a waste of time since no single vote would ever decide an election.

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For my latest electoral prediction, click here.

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A lot of my Republican friends (yes, I admit to having some) are feeling very confident about the 2012 election. They’re not quite measuring the drapes in the Oval Office, but this electoral map seems to be their “worst-case” example of how the states will break in 2012.

Notwithstanding my reasonably accurate 2010 election predictions, I don’t think I’m an expert on politics. But that’s never stopped me from commenting on things beyond economics, so here’s why I think Republicans are prematurely giddy.

First, while I certainly agree that Obama is much less popular than he was in 2008, that’s not terribly important since the election is still more than 18 months away.

Second, we don’t know what the economy will be a net plus or net negative next year. There’s a lot of evidence that people vote on pocketbook  issues, and it appears that disposable income is an important variable. If we manage to have any sort of growth, even sub-par growth of perhaps 2.5 percent annually, that may be enough to make people more comfortable and to bring unemployment down close to 8 percent. If that happens, Obama will claim he brought the nation back from the brink of a second Great Depression. The fact that his policies actually retarded the recovery will be overlooked.

Third, you can’t beat something with nothing. Barack Obama’s secret weapon is the names on this list.

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Last month, I predicted that Republicans would wind up with 242 seats in the House and 48 in the Senate.

With the final race having just been decided, it is now official that my House prediction was exactly right. And my Senate prediction was off by only one seat.

But when I make mistakes, they tend to be big. My one mistake for this year was a prediction that Harry Reid would lose. And since that may have been the top race in the country, I have some egg on my face.

This is sort of like my 2004 election predictions. I correctly predicted 49 out of 50 states, but the one state I got wrong was Ohio. And since that was the deciding state, my prediction of a Kerry presidency obviously was wrong.

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In the grand scheme, I realize red-light cameras are not very important, but I was absolutely delighted to see that Houston voters approved a referendum to stop the city from using these devices. Red-light cameras should be called revenue cameras because local governments almost always use them to collect more money rather than to promote safety. Indeed, there’s good evidence that they cause accidents, in part because governments shorten yellow lights in hopes of raping more motorists.

 The same is true of cameras to catch speeding. In my life, I’ve been nailed a couple of times by those devices, and in every case it involved an absurdly (and deliberately) low speed limit (including 45 on an interstate highway and 25 on a four-lane road in a non-residential area).

The fringe benefit of this Houston referendum, by the way, is that the city will be forced to spend less. The City Controller acts as if this is a terrible result, but one quick solution for the city’s budget problems would be to limit average pay for all government officials to the average of private sector pay in the region. Here are some excerpts from a story in the Houston Chronicle. Read and enjoy.

Houstonians rejected the city’s red light camera program in a hard-fought ballot contest, delivering an immediate $10 million hit to an already dire budget situation at City Hall. With all votes counted, 53.2 percent of voters demanded a decisive end to the use of the devices, which had been used to issue more than 800,000 tickets and collected $44 million in fines since 2006. …City Controller Ronald Green said the loss of the devices would amount to a $10 million shortfall in revenues, a sharp decrease that would greatly complicate efforts to close a shortfall that was already nearing $80 million. “We’re going to have to cut expenses,” he said. “We need to really start talking about the fact that furloughs and layoffs may really be a potential option. … It’s now time for drastic cuts.” Jim McGrath, a spokesman for Keep Houston Safe, said he did not anticipate that the political action committee — backed by the Arizona-based company that runs the city’s red-light camera program – would try to fight the election results in court.

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Actually, if you want good election predictions, don’t listen to me. I’m just an amateur without any special expertise. If you want real knowledge, I encourage you to visit these three sites:

Realclearpolitics.com, which has good summaries of polling data and predictions based on that data.

Intrade.com, which is a political betting market site, so you are seeing estimates based on people defending their views with cold, hard cash.

Fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com, which is Nate Silver’s site and seems thoroughly researched.

But since several of you have emailed for my thoughts, I predict the number of House Republicans will jump from 178 to 242, for a gain of 64.

In the Senate, the GOP delegation will climb from 41 to 48 (I hope all of you can figure out that’s a gain of seven seats). Since there’s a lot of attention being paid to the Nevada race, I will specifically predict that Harry Reid goes down.

By the way, for any of you in southern in Florida, I’ll be at the Allen West victory party tonight. Stop by and say hello.

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I don’t know if “be careful what you wish for” is actually an ancient Chinese proverb, but it does apply to this year’s mid-term elections. Most of my GOP friends are very happy about the expected takeover of the House of Representatives, and they are keeping their fingers crossed that there will be enough big wins in Senate races to capture that chamber as well.

I certainly agree that Pelosi, Reid, et al, are a bunch of statists and that they deserve to lose, but that’s not the same as thinking that Republicans deserve to win. The GOP leaders in the House and Senate, after all, are mostly the same crowd that voted for bigger government and more intervention during the Bush years. Is there any reason to think that they’ve had epiphanies and now genuinely believe in freedom?

But even if you think that Boehner, McConnell and the rest of the Republicans now have their hearts in the right place, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it would be good for Republicans to re-take Congress. Let’s walk through the upsides and downsides.

The biggest upside, as noted above, is that the current crop of Democrats would lose. I realize it’s not nice to enjoy the misery of others, but I would take great pleasure in watching Reid and Pelosi eating crow tomorrow night as they discuss big Democratic defeats. In the same spirit, I would be happy that so many evil people would be sad, particularly the global warming fanatics and the government employee union bosses.

But I don’t think better public policy will be one of the upsides. Even if Republicans somehow win the Senate, it takes 60 votes to make big changes. That obviously won’t happen. Moreover, Obama surely would veto any reforms to shrink the burden of government.

This is a perfect segue to a discussion of the downsides of a GOP victory. One of those downsides, which already was mentioned, is that Republicans need more time in the wilderness to purge the big-government virus that ran rampant during the Bush years.

But the bigger concern is that Republican victories this year might reduce the odds for big wins in 2012. If the GOP takes full or partial control of Congress, that means they also will be at least somewhat responsible for anything that happens between now and the 2012 elections. And Obama, aided and abetted by the establishment press, will blame any bad news on Republicans.

This is the worst of all worlds. You don’t have the power to actually change policy, but you have enough power that people will blame you if they don’t like the results.

This is why the best result, from a long-term GOP perspective, is to win lots of seats, but to leave Democrats in charge of both the House and Senate. If Republicans wind up with 215 seats in the House and 49 seats in the Senate, that will be more than enough to block Obama from imposing additional bad policies (especially with the Senate filibuster). But Republicans won’t be in the difficult position of having illusory power to make changes.

And if everything goes well, this would put them in a position to enjoy big gains in 2012. That means winning the White House and capturing both chambers of Congress with big majorities.

That would please Republicans, but some of us are concerned about better public policy rather than partisan politics. So the goal is not to get more Republicans, but rather to get a Reagan-type person elected to the White House at same time that a 1994-style GOP Congress is elected.

As I’ve explained before, America is on a pre-determined path to being a European welfare state. Preventing that tragic result will require real control of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. That might happen in 2012, but it will be less likely if the GOP takes over Congress in 2010. Food for thought.

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The “good government” crowd tells us that voting is a “civic duty.” When I hear that type of nonsense, it makes me want to deliberately stay home.

But I did actually vote today, in part to avoid lines on Tuesday and in part because I leave that morning for a speech in Florida. But why did I bother? The odds of my vote making a difference in any race are so infinitesimally small that there’s no logical reason to vote. But that’s if you view voting as an “investment good” – i.e., you vote in hopes of influencing the outcome.

Voting only make sense as a “consumption good.” In other words, you do it just for the sheer joy of voting against someone (or, in very rare cases, because you actually want to vote for someone).

Some libertarians argue that voting is wrong, for any reason, because it legitimizes the current system. This is the sentiment that motivates this t-shirt, and it also is the title of P.J. O’Rourke’s new book. But that argument, while superficially appealing, doesn’t make sense. Does anyone actually think that the corrupt crowd in Washington will suddenly stop stealing our money and trying to control our lives if fewer people decide to vote? I don’t think it would have the slightest impact on their behavior.

I’m not saying people should vote, but don’t delude yourself into thinking that you can escape the predations of the political class if you opt out. Pericles, way back around 430 B.C., supposedly said that, “Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.”

I’m not sure if that’s a real quote, but it sure is accurate.

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While everyone is focused on whether Republicans will win control of the House and/or Senate, there are several issues that voters will directly decide that deserve close attention. Here are the nine initiatives that have caught my attention. I’m probably missing some important ones, so feel free to add suggestions in the comment section.

1. Imposing an income tax in the state of Washington – This is the one I’ll be following very closely. I have a hard time thinking that voters would be dumb enough to impose an income tax, but the Pacific Northwest is a bit crazy on these issues. Oregon voters, for instance, approved higher tax rates earlier this year.

2. Stopping eminent domain abuse in Nevada – This initiative is very simple. It stops the state from seizing private property if the intent is to transfer it to a private party (thus shutting the door that was opened by the Supreme Court’s reprehensible Kelo decision).

3. Marijuana legalization in California – Proponents of a more sensible approach to victimless crimes will closely watch this initiative to see whether Golden State voters will say yes to pot legalization, subject to local regulation.

4. Strengthen rights of gun owners in Kansas – If approved, this initiative would remove any ambiguity about whether individuals have the right to keep and bear arms.

5. Protecting health care freedom in Arizona – For all intents and purposes, this is a referendum on Obamacare. I’m hoping that it will pass overwhelmingly, thus giving a boost to the repeal campaign. There’s apparently a similar initiative in Oklahoma, but it hasn’t gotten as much attention.

6. Reducing benefits for bureaucrats in San Francisco – If one of the craziest, left-wing cities in America decides to require bureaucrats to make meaningful contributions to support their bloated pension and health benefits, that’s a sign that the gravy train may be in jeopardy for bureaucrats all across the nation.

7. Making it easier to increase government spending in California – The big spenders want to get rid of the two-thirds requirement in the state legislature to approve a budget. This would pave the way for even bigger government in a state that already is close to bankruptcy.

8. Reducing the sales tax in Massachusetts – The entire political establishment is fighting this proposal to roll back the sales tax from 6.25 percent to 3 percent, and pro-spending lobbies are pouring big money into a campaign against the initiative, so you know it must be a good idea.

9. Controlling benefits for bureaucrats in Louisiana – The initiative would require a two-thirds vote to approve any expansion of taxpayer-financed benefits for government employees.

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That’s the tile of an insightful column at Thehill.com, which points out that Tea Party activism has succeeded in shifting the debate from making government bigger to making government smaller. The columnist also is correct in explaining how the Tea Party, by dethroning some entrenched incumbents, is forcing the GOP to at least pretend to be on the side of taxpayers.

The Tea Party insurgency will not only cost Democrats dozens of seats in Congress, and likely their majority — it will define the coming GOP presidential nominating process, determine the direction of the GOP for years to come and threaten any remaining plans Obama has for sweeping reforms of education, energy policy or our immigration system. Last March, Republicans joined Democrats in calling on Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) to end his filibuster against the extension of unemployment benefits paid for by deficit spending, embarrassed he was blocking aid to the jobless. But it took just three months for the grassroots pressure to reach the Capitol — Bunning was a Tea Party hero. By the time the $30 billion expired on June 2, Senate Republicans had united behind a nearly two-month filibuster of the next round of $34 billion in “emergency spending” for unemployment insurance. They were joined by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), and some House Democrats warned their own leaders at the time that the days of votes on “emergency spending” would soon have to come to an end. …The Tea Party candidates themselves — like O’Donnell, whom Karl Rove called “nutty,” — matter little. Only a few will actually get elected this fall. Yet the Tea Party has won without them. There are no tea leaves left to read. Democrats have been spooked and Republicans threatened, cajoled or cleansed. The results are already in.

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Steve Chapman points out that the Tea Party movement (like any other large group of people) has a few odd characters, but he is delighted that there is a growing mass of citizens who think it’s important to restrain government and not impose burdens of future generations.

Here’s my first impression of the tea party movement: It’s a rabidly right-wing phenomenon with a shaky grasp of history, a strain of intolerance and xenophobia, a paranoia about Barack Obama, and an unhealthy reverence for Fox News. Any movement that doesn’t firmly exclude Birchers, birthers, and Islamaphobes is not a movement for me. Here’s my second impression of the tea party movement: We are lucky to have it. That’s because the tea partiers, who may not all agree on gay marriage or birthright citizenship, are united behind a couple of sound goals: curtailing the cost of government and refusing to live at the expense of future generations. Those are goals that, for eight years, had many rhetorical supporters in Washington, but few authentic champions. Blame that on George W. Bush, who arrived billing himself as a compassionate conservative, a description that was accurate except for the adjective and the noun. Whatever his ideology, his policy was to expand federal spending at a rate unseen since President Lyndon Johnson, the architect of the Great Society. He didn’t do it alone, though. Had Bush been a Democrat, Republicans would have fought his budget plans at every turn. But since he was one of theirs, they joined in the spree with gusto, even as they cut taxes and piled up deficits. The prevailing attitude was: Live it up now, and let someone else worry about paying for it later. Budget hawks were left wondering what happened to Republican tightwads, who thought every dollar spent by the government was a dollar that had to be justified as a vital necessity. The tea partiers were dismayed to see these penny-pinchers replaced by poll-driven insiders with an appetite for earmarks. That’s one big reason hard-right candidates have scored so many upsets in recent GOP Senate primaries—including Rand Paul in Kentucky, Sharron Angle in Nevada, Joe Miller in Alaska, and Christine O’Donnell in Delaware. They didn’t get nominated because they look and sound like the popular image of a savvy, experienced, well-informed, practical-minded U.S. senator. They got nominated because they don’t.

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I certainly am not a political expert, but several people have emailed to ask what I think about the GOP nomination fight for Biden’s seat in Delaware. So here’s some amateur punditry indicating why I am reasonably happy about the “sure thing” GOP candidate losing last night to a “Tea Party” insurgent.

1. Republicans often can do more damage than Democrats. Big government GOPers are toxic, not just because they vote with the left for more statism, but also because they give a bipartisan veneer to bad policy. The Democrats, for instance, desperately want to lure some Republicans into supporting higher taxes. They know that a budget summit agreement creates a win-win situation. They get (at least on paper) more money to spend, and they get Republicans to cut their own throats in terms of electoral appeal. Castle is the type of Republican who would get easily tricked into selling out taxpayers in this fashion.

2. Political consultants are wrong to think that moderates make the most effective candidates. That may be true in some circumstances, but there are two factors suggesting this is not a good rule to follow. First, elections often are driven by turnout, and conservative/small government candidates often generate more enthusiasm than middle-of-the-road squishes. Second, elections generally are not decided by two candidates fighting over the “median voter.” Instead, the deciding factor is whether candidate A or candidate B succeeds in making the election revolve around wedge issues that put their opponent on the wrong side of the electorate. As such, it’s quite possible for O’Donnell to win, particularly given the national mood. Remember, Jimmy Carter’s people wanted to run against Reagan, who they thought would be another Goldwater. History showed that Reagan’s strong principles were a big benefit to his campaign.

3. My main point is that nobody, regardless of ideology, should give money to party committees. The Republican National Committee, National Republican Congressional Committee, and National Republican Senatorial Committee (as well as their Democratic counterparts) are bloated, inefficient, and intellectually vacuous. The NRSC, in particular, wins this year’s prize for being the most ineffectual party committee. Heck, this may be the most incompetent performance in modern political history. Here’s a blurb from a column in the Washington Examiner.

O’Donnell isn’t the central issue. The central issue was the Republican Party. Insiders have so consistently made it difficult for conservative candidates (and their supporters), this result shouldn’t be all that surprising. They did it to themselves. How toxic have they made this environment, that the grassroots of their own party rejects anything they do? The NRSC has created its own backlash, for example, by once supporting politically disastrous Florida Gov. Charlie Crist over conservative favorite Marco Rubio, or going to bat for Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski over conservative military vet Joe Miller. It’s what therapists call a “broken relationship.” Those who believe the Buckley rule, that conservatives should vote for the “rightward-most viable candidate,” know that the the party establishment rarely followed it. If it had, it might have been taken seriously when addressing O’Donnell’s shortcomings. Instead, party leaders are beginning to find that people are refusing to follow, not in preference for another leader, but out of disdain for the status quo. They don’t care to win at any cost. They just don’t want to be stuck with someone they think is a loser.

P.S. Mike Castle apparently refuses to endorse Christine O’Donnell. A sore loser and a squish is not a very appealing combination.

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One of the main factors determining incumbent election success is economic performance. When disposable income is rising and people feel good about the future, it is difficult for an incumbent to lose. So why, then, is Obama pursuing policies that are undermining growth? Sure, it is in the interests of the left in the long run to create more dependency on government. That’s one of the reasons why there is nothing resembling a free market party in most European nations. But America isn’t at that stage yet (thankfully). And as John Stossel writes, Obama’s bad government policy is causing joblessness and uncertainty. This is going to hurt Democrats this November and may linger until 2012, when Obama would suffer the consequences (in the unlikely event that Republicans put forth a semi-decent candidate).
Why isn’t the economy recovering? After previous recessions, unemployment didn’t get stuck at close to 10 percent. If left alone, the economy can and does heal itself, as the mistakes of the previous inflationary boom are corrected. The problem today is that the economy is not being left alone. Instead, it is haunted by uncertainty on a hundred fronts. When rules are unintelligible and unpredictable, when new workers are potential threats because of Labor Department regulations, businesses have little confidence to hire. President Obama’s vaunted legislative record not only left entrepreneurs with the burden of bigger government, it also makes it impossible for them to accurately estimate the new burden. In at least three big areas — health insurance, financial regulation and taxes — no one can know what will happen. …Nothing more effectively freezes business in place than what economist and historian Robert Higgs calls “regime uncertainty.”

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The title of this post is tongue-in-cheek, but the Obama presidency certainly has sparked a resurgence in the limited-government movement. Professor John J. Pitney, Jr., explores this issue for Reason TV.

I actually wanted Obama to win in 2008 for precisely this reason. Yes, Obama is giving us bigger government, but a McCain victory also would have meant bigger government. Some people will argue, quite correctly, that we wouldn’t have been saddled with Obamacare if McCain had won. My response is that McCain’s healthcare plan also was bad, and surely would have become even worse as it meandered through a legislative process controlled by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. Moreover, cap-n-trade and a value-added tax would have been much more likely under a McCain Administration.

With Obama in the White House, the free-market movement is enjoying a renaissance. That would not have happened under a McCain Administration. Moreover, Republicans on Capitol Hill are at least pretending they now believe in small government. That’s only happening because Obama is in the White House.

In short, a McCain victory would have meant continued growth of government with no prospect of a conservative/libertarian renewal. Obama’s victory has been giving us bad policy, of course, but at least there’s now a backlash for freedom.

For what it’s worth, I’ve always been a fan of this one-step-backwards-two-steps-forward strategy. I wanted Carter to win in 1976, Clinton to win in 1992, and Kerry to win in 2004. If we’re going to have someone in the White House who is doing the wrong thing, it’s better for it to be a Democrat. After all, Carter paved the way for Reagan in 1980 and Clinton set the stage for the 1994 GOP revolution. I suspect something equally interesting will happen this November.

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Walter Williams looks at the terrible job Republicans did when they last held power and asks whether they deserve to win the House and/or Senate this November. Or perhaps the real question is whether it would make a difference for Republicans to regain control? The real test, Walter explains, is whether they would use their power of the purse to de-fund the implementation of Obamacare.

…what can liberty-minded Americans expect from a Republican majority? Maybe a good starting point for an answer might be to examine how Republicans have handled their majority in the past. …The 1994 elections gave Republican control of both the House and Senate. They held a majority for a decade. The 2000 election of George W. Bush as president gave Republicans what the Democrats have now, total control of the legislative and executive branches of government. When Bush came to office, federal spending was $1.788 trillion. When he left office, federal spending was $2.982 trillion. That’s a 60 percent increase in federal spending, closely matching the profligacy of Lyndon Johnson’s presidency. During the Republican control, the nation was saddled with massive federal interference in education through No Child Left Behind. Prescription drug handouts became a part of the Republican-controlled Congress’ legacy. And it was during this interval that Congress accelerated its interference, assisted by the Federal Reserve Bank, in the housing market in the name of homeownership that produced much of the financial meltdown that the nation suffered in 2008. …If Republicans win the House of Representatives, there are measures they should take in their first month of office, and that is to undo most of what the Democratically controlled Congress has done. If they don’t win a veto-proof Senate, they can’t undo Obamacare but the House alone can refuse to fund any part of it. There are numerous blocking tactics that a Republican-controlled House can take against those hell-bent on trampling on our Constitution. The question is whether they will have guts and principle to do it. After all, many Americans, including those who are Republicans, have a stake in big government control, special privileges and handouts.

I’m skeptical about the benefits of a GOP takeover. Look at the GOP leadership in the House and Senate and you will find a bunch of politicians who supported Bush’s big-government policies. They have been fighting against Obama’s statist schemes for the past two years, to be sure, but are they saying and doing the right thing now because they genuinely believe in freedom, or are they fighting Obama merely for partisan purposes? Needless to say, I’m not very confident about the answer to that question.

I’ve had conversations with people about whether it might be best for the nation to have Republicans go up to 215 seats in the House and 48 in the Senate. That would be enough (particularly in the Senate) to block any new Obama schemes such as cap-n-trade, but it would leave Democrats in the majority and give Republicans more time to purge the big-government virus that infected the party during the Bush years. But if I genuinely had confidence the GOP would de-fund the implementation of Obamacare, that might change the calculation.

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