Friday, January 22, 2016

Policy and Presidential Candidates

Vox has a symposium up on whether policy proposals matter for presidential candidates.  Lots of back and forth but not a whole lot of answering the question.  I think Ezra's comments toward the end were the best part I read:
Ezra Klein So to offer one overarching thought here: For all kinds of reasons, I think a giant percentage of campaign coverage is useless at best, counterproductive at worst. There's demand for much more coverage than there is actually important news during the campaign, the coverage squeezes out important non-campaign stories, and the coverage often turns out to have been a really poor guide to what officials do once elected.
I think policy coverage is relatively better than most forms of campaign coverage, but the whole enterprise has some real problems that I don't think anyone actually knows how to solve.
While it was hinted at elsewhere I think that policy proposals are seen as a window into what the candidate values.  I think this is one of the reasons that Bernie Sanders resonates so well in the primary.  His policy proposals are much more in line with Democratic values and Democratic voters.  Hillary Clinton's proposals, in being "pragmatic" don't line up as well with the values of the Democratic primary voters (or, really, the general election voters).  They reflect a lack of solid values.  Dealmaking is not a value.  It is a good thing to be capable of for a president, but for a primary voter you really want to know that those deals are being made with your values in mind and with every attempt to get as much as possible in that direction.

I don't mind "pragmatic" policy proposals, but the candidates should, along with those, make it clear to voters what their ideals are, and unrealistic fantasy proposals do that.  I remember reading (and writing) quite a few complaints about Obama compromising with himself before sending bills to the floor then having to move a compromised position further to the right to get it passed.  I don't know whether it would have changed the legislation that did get passed, but it would have been nice if he had staked out a solid Democratic bill/position to start with so that the country knew where that position was, and so that the Republicans would have a harder time pushing the Overton window even further right (remember: the ACA was and is the right wing answer to universal coverage but now most people consider it a liberal bill).

Hillary Clinton's policy proposals are a continuance of this part of the Obama presidency that many [liberal] Democrats did not like.  Add that to her Iraq war vote (which is still an issue to lots of people...including me) and you get a candidate that many Democratic primary voters are not going to like.  Bernie may not be as effective, but lots of primary voters trust that he will fight for them more than they do Hillary.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Clinton vs. Sanders

I like Bernie Sanders, but I'm not so sure that he would be able to get much done as president.  I'm not a huge Clinton fan (Hillary or Bill) but I suspect she would be able to be more effective in meeting her goals as president.  That is probably the best reason to pick Hillary over Bernie (and this Vox article kind of gets there).  

My main problem with Hillary is not her pragmatism or even her "liberal creds" on domestic and social issues: it is that she is far too hawkish on the military/interventionist front.  Her single vote for the Iraq debacle is a black mark that is virtually impossible to erase, and all the talk about how knowledgeable she is on...well, everything...makes that vote even worse.  She should have known the correct way to vote (Bernie did) and she voted the wrong way, most people seem to presume for political purposes.  If it was not a pure political maneuver, then it is very strong evidence that she would, as commander in chief, be more likely to err on the side of bombing, invading and killing than on the side of peace and diplomacy.  

I'm not sure how I can vote for a candidate who is supposedly so well versed in detail and understanding of the issues and process, yet who made such a glaringly wrong choice.  

My Thoughts Show up on Digby's Blog

In this case Digby is quoting someone else but she didn't link to it and I'm too lazy to find it so you get the link to her article.

I didn't listen to the SOTU but the morning after one of the quotes played was the "I have no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide..." and my first thought was "Bullshit!".  Obama has to know better, and it is very frustrating that he would have said that, but neither of those presidents "bridged the divide".  Their opponents hated them.  One's mere election led to succession and civil war and the other was despised but his opposition was helpless to do much since the country had placed them so firmly in the minority.

I think it is one of Obama's greatest failings that he seems (maybe still) to think that Republicans and Democrats can come together and do great things.  Politicians and people associate with R or D because they prefer one set of ideas to another.  Compromise is fine, but you can't get consensus between the parties on major things because the parties exist because of differences of opinions in those big things.

When you get control of everything you don't compromise, you do what you think is best.  If it turns out badly, your side gets tossed and the other gets a chance.  If you get control of everything then try and get a bunch of compromises through, you are dooming your own party and any hopes of getting the things your party's supporters want.  Obama has never seemed to understand that.

(Note: no, this doesn't mean I think he could have necessarily gotten much more accomplished, but he wasted years of efforts in a futile attempt, and he did dishearten lots of the Dem base that got him elected in the first place.)

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Maybe...But Not Necessarily

I suppose this should get filed under problems with statistics.  This Vox article is talking about maps showing student loan balances and delinquencies (which is sourced from the Washington Center for Equitable Growth), and while it may seem that their conclusion is logical, it may not be factual.

They are stating that since the high delinquencies map is practically the inverse of the high loan balances that people with lots of student loans are doing ok while those who are having problems don't have high balances, and that seems to follow but maybe not.

The problem is the way averages work.  If one area has lots of college grads with student loans and most of them are doing well, then it would follow that you get low delinquency rates, but also that the loan balances would be higher (high density college grads would imply greater need for higher education to live/work in the area, which would mean more and more expensive education).  On the other hand places with lots of college dropouts and with people not generally doing well, are likely to have lower debt and higher delinquencies.  BUT without knowing the delinquency rates and the distribution of the loan balances you can't say anything about the relationship.

What you want to see is a plot of delinquency rates at various loan balance ranges, and maybe one showing loan balances vs. income level.  This doesn't mean the drawn conclusion is wrong, but just that it shouldn't have been drawn in the first place.