Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Thoughts on the Election

Last night's election seems to have been a pretty significant victory for the Democrats.  The GOP campaign push, which at the beginning of the year looked like significant gains in the US Senate evaporated starting with the unfortunate Todd Akin but extending into states like Indiana, Wyoming and Montana.    The Romney campaign which had some very good issues did not seem able to exploit them.

So what happened?

1) Demographics can no longer be ignored by the GOP - As the percentage of White voters in the electorate continues to drop, the GOP has failed to generate interest in especially Hispanic voters.   That is in part based on their lack of a reasonable stance on immigration.   The option here is change or die.
2) I am skeptical about revenues and even more skeptical about the efficacy of tax policies adopted in California.  The Governor's Proposition 30 passed with a big vote from LA County.  The voters bought his argument of a gun to the head of the schools.  But I remain skeptical whether the revenue estimates that are projected ($6 billion) will solve the budget deficit that California has faced for the last decade or so.   What is more troubling is the notion that California does not need to reform its tax system which now can claim the highest sales tax in the nation and an income tax system which has punishing incentives for investors.   If the revenues are not realized I would expect the Governor to come back with some other proposal which also involves taxes.   Ultimately to make California a better place we will need to do a lot of work on the tax system including simplification and base broadening.   At the same time we need to blow up things like Proposition 98.  Schools deserve a priority in funding but Proposition 98 has not provided anything close to the guarantee that was promised.
3) Californians are bizarre - On Tuesday Californians voted to reduce the stringency of the Three Strikes Law but refused to stop the death penalty.   Both measures were conceived on the notion of saving taxpayer dollars (it is likely that eliminating the death penalty would have larger long term effects).   We refused (rightly I believe) to adopt a byzantine new set of regulations for regulating genetically modified food.  At the same time we adopted new measures against "human" trafficking which from my perspective look equally labyrinth like.

California also seems to have given a two thirds majority to democrats in both the Assembly and the Senate.  That kind of supermajority is likely to advance to the kind of mercantilist policies that have made other lefty paradises hell on earth.   I wonder how long it will take the voters to recognize what they have wrought.  The unfortunate situation is that the GOP in California died a few years ago and so there is no realistic opposition.

4) The Fiscal Cliff may be in better shape than before the election - Right after the election two of our leaders (Boehner and the President) at least made noises about figuring out how to think about our problems from both sides of the aisle.   The Minority and Majority Leaders of the Senate (which is supposed to be the mature body in Congress) echoed the sounds of the petulant children we have come to expect.   One scenario that was discussed last night was to let the country fall off the cliff so that and changes in tax policy would not be scored - but the risks and consequences could be substantial - especially if they fail to achieve the macro goals (partial pun intended).
5) Conservative Talk Radio needs to rethink their memes - The Salem Radio network seems to be all GOP all the time.  While there are some very interesting people on the station at times, others seem simply there to pimp for the current GOP candidate or issue of the day.   I would argue that a lot of the legacy media and the new lefty cable channels (MSNBC) are just as bad.   And in the end while I do not disagree with the idea that ideological media is useful, it needs to get some better perspective.
6) Breaking Precedents - When the Redskins lose in their last game before the election.  The Ruling Party loses.  Ditto for a president with a smaller margin than the first election.   Both of those were not upheld in this cycle.  But then there is the meme about Presidential coattails affecting the House more than the Senate and that one seems not to have been upheld either.

So what happens next?   1) We will continue to have crappy economic growth AND that will even be worse in California based on our new tax regime. That will not improve until we understand that government should revert back to a smaller percentage of the GDP.  2) The optimist in me says the politicians will finally realize that we should be working on the deficit.  The pessimist in me says to buy property in Mexico.  3) Big Bird is safe, at least for now, but I still believe that he should find his own dimes rather than taking tax dollars.

Funny things - the WSJ had two great posts in James Taranto's Best of the Web - One a Romney Haiku -  He did do better 
     Than 47% 
     But not by enough

The second thing he comments was the split voters made in battleground states (voting for the president versus their votes for House members) - 

Here's how the new House delegation breaks down for each swing state with 9 or more electoral votes, with Republicans counted first: Colorado 4-3, Florida 17-9 (with 1 yet uncalled), Michigan9-5, North Carolina 9-3 (1 uncalled), Ohio 12-4, Pennsylvania 13-5, Virginia 8-3, Wisconsin 5-3.  Voters, even in the battleground states, really do not want a unified government.

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