Friday, August 27, 2004

Electoral race

With the presidential election only a couple of months away, it's time to start making predictions about the outcome. The LA Times has a cool Flash utility to let you examine poll results and do your own red-state/blue-state analysis. (registration required?)

The present electoral picture with electoral votes is as follows:

Bush: AL (9), AK (3), GA (15), IN (11), ID (4), KS (6), LA (9), MS (6), MT (3), NE (3+1+1), ND (3), OK (7), SC (8), SD (3), TX (34), UT (5), VA (13), WY (3) = 147.

Kerry: CA (55), CT (7), DC (3), IL (21), MD (10), MA (12), NJ (15), NY (31), RI (4), VT (3) = 161.

Swing: AZ (10), AR (6), CO (9), DE (3), FL (27), HI (4), IA (7), KY (8), ME (3+1), MI (17), MN (10), MO (11), NH (4), NM (5), NV (5), NC (15), OR (7), OH (20), PA (21), TN (11), WA (11), WV (5), WI (10) = 230. Slate is doing an in-depth look at most of these states (example).

I'll go on record predicting that Bush will win AR, TN, NC, KY, and CO (196 total). Kerry will take WA, OR, NH, HI, at least 3 of the 4 votes from ME, and NM (195 + 1? total). I predict that Florida will have more problems this election. Anyone care to guess how the remaining states (and therefore the election) will go?


Blogger Eric said...

I'm still hoping to find a candidate that I can vote for. Here are the issues that are important to me...

- America should formally denouce the "Bush doctrine" which permits America to make premptive military strikes. This obviously eliminates Bush. But also Kerry... he voted to authorize force in Iraq and even with hindsight has said that he would still have chosen to go to war in Iraq, even knowing there were no weapons of mass desctruction.

- Make large cuts in military spending, reduce new weapson programs, reduce payrools, reduce our overseas troop deployments, and only base troups in countries that really want us to there.

- America should for once and for all renouce the policy of deficit spending (no excuses... terrorism, war, recession, blah, blah) and start working immediately to reduce the debt, including off the book liabilities (i.e., Social security, medicare).

- Social security needs to be made sound so that my generation can be confident that we'll get something out of it. When SS started one generation enjoyed the benefits without paying the costs. After all these years Social security has still not covered that initial cost. A policy of increased taxation and reduced benefits needs to be put in place so as to spread the cuts over the widest possible range of generations. I'll propose a couple possible ways to work towards this goal... eliminating the cap of earnings which are subject to SS taxes, implement a national sales tax on non-food and non-housing purchases, and temporarily suspending the inflation-indexed increases in SS benefits.

- Healthcare... Make reforms to medicare so that is sustainable without requiring any larger fraction of revenues than it does currently. This means significant cuts to medicare benefits, not adding new benefits (unless accompanied by cuts to make up the costs)! I'm not opposed to a national health care program, but it must have very precisely defined and very limited benefits... treatments that will reduce long term costs to society. Reimportation of drugs should be legalized and attempts to prevent reimportation by quotas should be criminalized.

- Taxation... Drastically simplify the income tax code. Eliminate special tax treatment of treasury and municipal bonds. Eliminate all deductions (possibly excluding a standard deduction), exceptions, credits, AMT,... Separate rates for earned income, interest, long-term capital gains and dividends are allowed.

- Energy policy... Increase taxes on fossil fuels at least to levels comparable to those in Europe. Use proceeds to implement currently viable alternative energy generation possibilities and fund research for improving the non-fossil fuel options. It may be necessary to invest significantly in nuclear power plants to hold us over until science makes other sources viable for mass production.

Let's see, is there any possible voting group that my platform wouldn't anger? Is there any candidate that comes close? Even on the first few points?

8/27/2004 03:11:00 AM  
Blogger Eric said...

My prediction...

Whoever wins two of OH, PA, and FL will win.

Ok, you want an prediction not conditioned on a posteriori information... Kerry will only win states bordering a major body of water with the following exceptions NM, IA, WV, VT. (BTW- I had to check, but PA borders on Lake Erie.)

If I had to be even more specific...

Bush: AZ (10), AR (6), CO (9), KY (8), TN (11), NV (5), NC (15), OH (20), MO (11) = 95

Kerry: DE (3), HI (4), IA (7), ME (3+1), MI (17), MN (10), NH (4), NM (5), OR (7), PA (21), WA (11), WV (5), WI (10) = 108

Let's see, that means that if FL (27) goes to Bush, then there'd be a tie which would be broken by the House. Now wouldn't that be interesting!

Actually, I suspect that FL may go to Kerry, just due to Democratic anger over the last election being more of a motivating factor to vote than Republican happiness over it. However, according to my "bordering major body of water" theory, Bush has a good chance at NM (5), IA (7), WV (5) and almost PA (21) (empirical data suggests not VT). If Bush were to get PA and one of NM, IA, or WV, then there could still be a tie (thanks to ME and NE). So if I were a gambler, then I'd go for the high payout and predict a tie in the electoral college (resulting in Bush staying around).

8/27/2004 03:49:00 AM  
Blogger Vincent said...

I'll consider each of your seven issues in turn in the context of a two-candidate race. Since California is not a swing state, you can vote your conscience, but some of us live in states where every vote will count in the presidential race.

1) Bush doctrine: No matter how badly things go, Bush is too proud (or fanatically convinced of his correctness) to reverse course. It's a shame that Kerry is afraid to take a self-consistent stand on Iraq, but he couldn't possibly have bungled Iraq and international relations as badly as Bush. Advantage: Kerry2) Military spending: Bush has revived missile defence, a costly expenditure in a scientifically unsound program of dubious value post-9/11. Bush does want to pull troops out of Saudi Arabia (which doesn't really want us), but only if he can base them in Iraq (which really doesn't want us, puppet government excluded). We still have a huge base in Guantánamo, located in a country that doesn't want us, and our treatment of the base as a zone where no law applies undercuts our moral superiority over the Cuban government. Advantage: Kerry3) The deficit: In 2001, the Democrats left behind a huge surplus and fiscal responsibility. Three things plunged us into deficit: an economic slowdown, tax breaks, and increased spending. One could argue that the economic slowdown was a matter of bad timing for Bush, although I've disapproved of his handling of the economy in general. The Republicans frittered much of the surplus away with reckless, regressive tax cuts that the Democrats opposed. And spending has skyrocketed in defence, spearheaded by a costly, quixotic crusade into Iraq. Advantage: Kerry4) Social security: The more fiscally responsible candidate (Kerry) is the one more likely to create an environment in which social security can continue to exist. Bush's pet project of privatizing social security will have the result that millions of seniors will lose much of their retirement savings in the stock market. Unfortunately, neither major party candidate is calling for eliminating the cap on earnings subject to social security taxes, nor is either candidate pushing cutting social security and medicare taxes rather than income taxes. Advantage: Kerry5) Healthcare: Actually, I disagree with you here. Medicare benefits should be increased and extended to everyone. This would of course be far more expensive than the current system and require higher taxation, but the higher taxes would be more than offset by the elimination of health care premiums (on an aggregate basis, as well as for the average wage-earner). Neither major candidate is willing to go this far, although in the 2000 debates Bush was unwilling to consider a program that would guarantee health care coverage for all Americans. Reimportation of drugs is not a sustainable solution to the problem of high prescription drug costs, although senior citizens should not be prosecuted for seeking a lower bill for pills. I don't really know enough about those medicare prescription drug cards that have recently been introduced, but I hear that seniors aren't happy with them. Advantage: Private health care industry and Kerry

6) Taxation: I don't disapprove of special treatment for treasury and municipal bonds. Governments can get cheaper credit since the tax advantages are built into the lower rates of return. Increased federal revenues from taxing municipal bonds would have to be offset by additional transfers of funds to cities, so at best it would be a wash. Separate rates are okay, but capital gains and dividends should not be taxed at a substantially lower rate than wages. Bush's dividend tax cut showed a total disregard for an equitable allocation of resources. Advantage: Kerry7) Energy policy: Increasing fossil fuel taxes to European levels would be economically disastrous unless it happened over a long period of time. I fully support nuclear power as a short- to intermediate-term solution, although a recent Physics Today article shows that this is not a viable long-term solution. What do the candidates have to offer? Kerry wants to promote conservation and alternative energy solutions. Bush wants to drill in ANWR and let the oil companies dictate national energy policy. Advantage: KerryEven if there's a candidate that's a perfect match on the issues, I have to support Kerry because I live in a swing state. Given that this country doesn't move fast politically, he objectively is a good choice because he will move us incrementally in the correct direction on most of these issues.

Actually, there are plenty of candidates that would substantially agree with you on most or all of these issues, just not in the US. In Canada for instance, three of the four main political parties (including the ruling Liberals) are in favour of international cooperation, a small military, a solvent social and employment insurance system, sustainable national health care, progressive taxation including a national sales tax, and an energy policy that reduces per capita consumption while moving away from petroleum-based fuels. Honestly, our country would do well to emulate Canada on many issues. After all, what could be more American than stealing somebody else's good ideas and calling them your own? :-)

8/29/2004 02:04:00 AM  
Blogger Eric said...

Thanks for the analysis. Although, I'm not sure I agree with you on some of them being "advantage "Kerry".

Bush doctrine: Kerry could have easily chosen to use his Vietnam experience as a background for a current stand against our campaign in Iraq, with his service as insulation from attack that he was a wimp. Instead he choose to take the opposite position, emphasizing his qulaifications as having been in Vietnam for a few months. I would have been much more impressed if he choose to emphasize his time protesting Vietnam and carried it forward to this day. Still, I agree it's hard to Kerry to be as pro-Bush doctrine as Bush.

Military spending: Missile defence is at least clearly a defense. Granted I think it's premature to be deploying it in Alaska, but if we "have" to waste some money on defense spending to keep our aerospace companies in business, then I'd rather it be on missle defense than stealth bombers.

Bush has proposed reducing troop levels in several countries (e.g., Germany, Italy), and Kerry immediate denounced it.

And Kerry seems to be just as big on defense spending as Bush, so I'd say, advantage Bush. (Wow, that was hard for Kerry to mess up.)

The deficit: In 2001 the tax base was unsustainablely large. The projections of eliminating the deficit were based not only on the current year's revenues, but also on an unrealisitic "growth rate" extrapolated just from the boom years. For once, the economy grew faster than politicans could increase spending. No one frittered away a surplus, the surplus either just dissappeared or was never there and is a example of the government's poor accounting. I would have done the tax cuts somewhat differently, but it's hard to argue that they haven't helped the economy in the short term. Of course, the long term harm done to the economy by the costs of the war outweigh them. Kerry has offered no economic plan other than raising the income tax on the top percent or so of taxpayers, but has offered broad ideas for plans that would cost much more that that. Oh, and he supports raising the minimum wage which I beleive is unlikely to help low wage earners in the long term and will stimulate inflation which the Federal reserve is working so hard to prevent. Advantage... Kerry if you include the war in economic policy, Bush if you don't.

4) Social security: Both candidates have promised not to cut benefits for current beneficiaries, and both candidates have promised not to cut benefits for "near retirees". And neither has offered a plan to solve the problem. Bush's retirement savings accounts would gaurentee there'd be something for our generation, but Bush hasn't addressed how to fund SS in the iterim while the money going to savings is money not going to retirees. As far as I can tell Kerry has not plan at all, but if anything would like to increase benefits more. In my book, both fail miserablely, but if you had to give an advantage... Bush.

5) Healthcare: I see plenty of room for respectful disagreement here. I feel that some medical treatments will have a long term net savings for society and therefore it makes sense to provide them for everybody. Additionally, genetic testing may soon make insurance such a sticky issue that national healthcare is the only way for some unfortunates to get reasonablely priced insurance. At the same time, I do not feel that having access to all the latest and greatest drugs, proceedures, etc., is a human right. Nor do I feel that it's always cost effective. Given the high costs and rapid increased in the cost healthcare, I feel that the only solution is for Americans to get out of the mindset that "I'm priceless, I must have all possible medical treatments." Again, both candidates support increasing benefits (e.g., prescription drugs), and neither have offered a viable plan to pay for the current benefits, let along their desired increases. I agree that reimportation is not a long term solution, but there's not reason to criminalize it. It's fine if we disagree on this very touchy subject, but I'd say both candidates fail miserablely by my criteria.

Taxation: Neither candidate has even talked about significantly simplifying the income tax code. Bush requested a study looking into a flat tax for a while, but didn't have the courage to figure out a way to make it politically practical. While it may not seem like the nicest thing socially, I beleive that it's important that tax rate on investment not stifle investment activity. A high income tax rate is not as detrimental to people continuing to work as a high tax rate on investment income is to discourage taking on on new investment risks. I actually think that Bush's tax cut on dividends was a step in the right direction, reducing (but not eliminating) the disincentive for businesses to pay dividends. I beleive this is likely have a healthy effect on the corporate investment and hence the economy. Kerry attacked these tax cuts using class warfare. Again, I vastly disagree with both, but if I had to give an advanatge, I'd say Bush is closer.

Energy policy: I disagree that increasing fossil fuel taxes would be an economic disaster. People learn to adapt to whatever the current price of the gas is. They'd complain _A LOT_, but they'd survive. And I beleive that making consumers pay to burn fossil fules (both directly and indirectly) is the only way to get the consumers to choose to really value conservation. I agree nuclear is only a stop gap measure. Bush tried to push this, but somehow that idea seems to have goten lost. Clearly ANWR drilling is also a stop gap measure (which I'm not overly interested in). And conservation just isn't going to cut it. Given, that magnitude of the problem and the pathetically little attention that both candidates have given, I'd say both fail miserablely, and I can't find grounds to give either an advantage.

So, I'm still looking for some unlikely-to-win, but possiblely not-grossly-irresponsible candidate. If I had to pick one, I'm afraid that I just couldn't vote for Bush on moral grounds... the Bush-doctrine is just unacceptable to me. But I also beleive that Kerry would leave this country worse off economicaly than Bush, and I would suffer the long term consequences.

Canada: Hehe. Maybe I should move there!

8/29/2004 12:15:00 PM  

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