The Patricians and the Plebeians in today’s economy The elites aren't feeling today's economy in their bones, the way that the commoners do

We have previously noted the career of Yahoo! Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer, and things have not gotten better since the buyout deal with Verizon. From The Wall Street Journal:

Yahoo Core Revenue Drops Again

Internet firm, looking to close its deal with Verizon, also posts earnings that top analysts’ expectations

By Deepa Seetharaman | Updated October 18, 2016 4:58 p.m. ET

Yahoo! Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer

Yahoo! Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer

Yahoo Inc. on Tuesday posted a 14% drop in its core revenue, reflecting the continued deterioration of its advertising business and raising more questions about the future of Verizon Communications Inc. ’s deal to buy Yahoo.The revenue decline to $857.7 million, which excludes commissions paid to partners for web traffic, marks the seventh decline in the past eight periods for this key metric. Revenue from “Mavens” — a grouping Yahoo introduced to track mobile, video, native and social ads — rose 24% to $524 million.

Yahoo reported quarterly earnings of $162.8 million, or 17 cents a share, and 20 cents a share excluding certain expenses. Analysts, on average, expected the company to post adjusted earnings per share of 14 cents, according to Thomson Reuters. A year ago, the company posted adjusted earnings of 15 cents a share.

I have perhaps more respect than some for Mrs Mayer: in choosing to leave a very secure executive position with Google for the top job at Yahoo!, she took on what Greg Sterling, a contributing editor at Search Engine Land, called a suicide mission, trying to right an already sinking ship, a mission that five previous CEOs over the previous five years could not accomplish.1

But having the courage to take on that suicide mission does not, in the end, outweigh the fact that she failed in that mission. The sale to Verizon, with Verizon already looking for a price cut due to the huge data breach Yahoo! suffered, hasn’t fallen apart — yet — but Verizon is going to be pressing for an even lower price now. If Mrs Mayer can keep the sale on track, it will be about as much success as she has had there, but it certainly isn’t the legacy she had hoped to build.

But, that blow to her legacy might be softened somewhat, with the $44 million to $55 million severance package she could receive if Verizon fires her. In business, success is the only thing that matters, but for some in business, failure isn’t all that bad an outcome.

However, this raises a subject that I don’t think the good people at The Wall Street Journal really understand, the price of failure for small businesses. Mrs Mayer, who just happened to be a “bundler” for Barack Obama, will walk away a multi-millionaire, regardless of what happens at Yahoo! For Cendi Jean Newberry, things are a little bit different. From my favorite CNNMoney reporter:

Meet ‘Joe the Plumber’ of 2016

by Heather Long | @byHeatherLong | October 18, 2016: 12:48 PM ET

Cendi Jean Newberry is voting for Donald Trump.

She didn’t vote for President Obama because she thought he was a Muslim (he’s not). Now she worries Hillary Clinton will take away her ability to own a gun.

“His background was Muslim,” she told CNNMoney over lunch at Diner 23 in Waverly, Ohio, a small town in southern Ohio that is divided almost 50/50 between Republicans and Democrats. When pressed, Newberry admits it could have been information that wasn’t true, “but it set in my mind.”

“Cendi the chef” is arguably the new “Joe the Plumber.” In the 2008 election, Joe the Plumber (aka Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, also from Ohio) became the face of the struggling middle class. He challenged Obama over what he would do for small businesses and taxes.

In 2016, “Cendi the chef” is worried about jobs, guns and morals.

It’s would be easy to dismiss her as uninformed. But her life is a complex tale that gets to the heart of what America’s lower middle class is dealing with — and why she’s voting “anti-Hillary” this year.

There’s more at the original, but it boils down to one thing: failure in small businesses means poverty, bankruptcy, and living on the edge, and public assistance. And it is in the small business sector where the public are favoring Donald Trump, because conditions for small business are really, really tight, and most small businesses will fail. Mr Trump has promised to increase our real growth rate to 3.5%, and while I don’t believe that he can keep that promise, it sure sounds good to people who are hearing that 2%, or even lower, is the “new normal” for the US economy.

Opening a small business is tough enough, with expenses eating away at income, seriously enough that it doesn’t take much of a hiccup to push the business into the red. The requirements of the Affordable Care Act then hit small businesses just as they start to become successful enough to reach the fifty-employee threshold, piling on a huge, additional expense just as small businesses reach a growth milestone, souring the dreams of the small businessmen to profit and grow. Hillary Clinton famously said, back in 1993, when President Clinton put the First Lady in charge of devising a universal health care coverage plan, and was old that her plan would devastate small businesses, “I can’t be responsible for every undercapitalized small business in America.”

But small business is by far the major employer of Americans:

In 2012, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, there were 5.73 million employer firms in the U.S. Firms with fewer than 500 workers accounted for 99.7 percent of those businesses, and businesses with less than 20 workers made up 89.6 percent. Add in the number of nonemployer businesses – there were 23.0 million in 2013 – then the share of U.S. businesses with less than 20 workers increases to 97.9 percent.

Among employer C Corporations in 2012, 99.2 percent had less than 500 workers, and 86.2 percent had fewer than 20 employees.

Heather Long noted that 60% of active investors prefer Mrs Clinton for President, while only 40% support Mr Trump. I don’t find that at all surprising, in that the same survey found that 45% of active investors in the E*Trade survey gave the economy an A or a B grade. Mr Trump’s support comes from the fact that most Americans are not active investors, and across wide swaths of the United States, the supposedly rosy economic numbers — the official, U-3, unemployment number is down to 5.0%,2 but the U-6 number is almost twice that, at 9.7% — don’t reflect their reality. From Investor’s Business Daily:

A Census Bureau report published in May 2015 shows that the share of Americans receiving government assistance of one form or another went from 18.6% in 2009 to 21.3% in 2012, the last year for which they had data. Also, the number of people getting food stamps jumped from 33.5 million in 2009 to 45.8 million last year.

More and more people needing some form of government assistance is not the kind of statistic we would expect from an economy that grades an A or a B, as the active investors believed, but an economy in the doldrums, one that the Federal Reserve Board of Governors recently estimated would grow only 1.8% in real terms this year.3 Despite the banks having plenty of money to lend, the rate of new business creation has fallen by 30%. Why? Because confidence in the economy, in the ability of entrepreneurs to actually make money in this economy, has fallen. This is something that the patricians cannot see, but the plebeians can feel in their hearts, in their bones, and in their wallets.

Marissa Mayer will land on her very fashionably-shod feet,4 regardless of how Yahoo! goes in the future; Cendi Newberry will still worry about how to catch up on her mortgage.

  1. Mr Sterling actually gives Mrs Mayer’s performance a “B,” with the qualification that her final grade will depend on the Verizon sale.
  2. The U-3 number is actually up a tick, from 4.9% in August.
  3. We took those estimates by the professional economists to task here.
  4. That might sound a bit sexist, but given Mrs Mayer’s self-promotion and penchant for glamour shots, I don’t find it too inappropriate.

More pearl-clutching hypocrisy from the left What's sauce for the gander is apparently not an acceptable sauce for the goose!

From The Wall Street Journal:

Big Labor Unions Step Up Presidential-Election Spending

Funding to outside political groups increases 38% as part of an effort to boost Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton

By Brody Mullins, Rebecca Ballhaus and Michelle Hackman |
Updated Oct. 18, 2016 9:25 a.m. ET

PHILADELPHIA—U.S. labor unions are plowing money into the 2016 elections at an unprecedented rate in a frenzied effort to help elect Hillary Clinton and give Democrats a majority in the Senate.

According to the most recent campaign-finance filings, unions spent nearly $110 million on the elections from January 2015 through the end of August, a 38% jump from $78 million at the same point in the 2012 election, and nearly double their 2008 total during the same period.

Almost every large union is spending more than ever before seen in modern elections. The AFL-CIO has spent $11.4 million funding outside political groups thus far, up from $5 million at this point in the 2012 election, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. The National Education Association has spent $14 million, up from $7.7 million.

How amazing it is that the left have no problem at all with unions — which make donations from dues from workers who might not support Mrs Clinton — giving money to Hillary Clinton, but are up in arms about Peter Thiel giving $1.25 million of his own money to Donald Trump:

Thiel’s Trump donation stirs controversy, ire in tech

Marco della Cava, USA TODAY 7:26 a.m. EDT October 18, 2016

SAN FRANCISCO – The candidacy of Donald Trump continues to create rifts in Silicon Valley.

The catalyst this time was word that libertarian tech investor Peter Thiel had funneled $1.25 million to the Republican presidential candidate’s campaign.

That move drew a mixed reaction from Thiel’s friend Sam Altman who is president of influential tech incubator Y Combinator — Thiel is a partner in Y Combinator — which in turn drew a rebuke from tech employment advocate Ellen Pao.

“Thiel is a high profile supporter of Trump, I disagree with this,” Altman tweeted Sunday, after The New York Times reported on Thiel’s Trump donation. In other tweets, Altman called Trump “an acceptable threat to America.”1

That said, Altman made it clear was not not going to distance himself personally or professionally from Thiel: “YC is not going to fire someone for supporting a major party nominee.”

Why don’t the media report on union members who support Mr Trump having their dues used to support Mrs Clinton? Mr Trump’s main support comes from working class white men, who make up the bulk of union membership.

  1. This was a typographic a error, which should have said “unacceptable threat to America.

Erick Erickson wants you to vote for Evan McMullin for President

From Erick Erickson:

For Character

By Erick Erickson | October 17, 2016, 08:00am

The race for President is over. It is unfortunate. We will be stuck with Hillary Clinton barring a miracle. Republicans need to focus on saving the House and Senate. But Republican voters also need to send a message to their party that character still counts and is not tied to partisan politics.

The best way to do that is to vote for Evan McMullin. You may have to write him in in your state, but you should.

Republicans have decided that they must stoop to the lows of the left to win. They have decided that they should get in people’s faces and yell. They have decided that they should defend a man accused of sexual assault, going so far as to attack the appearance of the women who have come forward. They have decided that, like the Underminer from The Incredibles, they will be beneath everyone, but nothing and no one will be beneath them.

This is the path of further loss. This is the path of permanent rejection. The voters need to stage an intervention for the GOP.

Writing in Evan McMullin may, if we believe in miracles, throw this race to the House of Representatives and deny both Clinton and Trump victory. But, barring miracle, voting for Evan McMullin sends a powerful signal that character matters in Presidential candidates and character is not partisan.

Who is Evan McMullin? From his biography page:

Evan McMullin was born in Provo, Utah on April 2, 1976 to David McMullin, a computer scientist, and Lanie (Bullard) McMullin.

He graduated from Auburn High School in Auburn, Washington, and earned a Bachelor’s degree in International Law and Diplomacy from Brigham Young University (BYU) and a Master’s of Business Administration from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Evan served as a Mormon missionary in Brazil and Volunteer Refugee Resettlement Officer in Amman, Jordan on behalf of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

On September 11th, 2001 Evan was in training at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. He completed his training and repeatedly volunteered for overseas service in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, spearheading counterterrorism and intelligence operations in some of the most dangerous places on earth.

Having completed his CIA service, in 2011, McMullin transitioned to the Investment Banking Division at Goldman Sachs in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he worked with companies in several industries, including technology, energy, consumer goods, biotech, industrials and real estate on capital raising projects and mergers and acquisitions.

In 2013, McMullin joined the House Committee on Foreign Affairs as a senior advisor and later became the chief policy director of the House Republican Conference.

He declared his candidacy for President of the United States on August 8, 2016, saying “In a year where Americans have lost faith in the candidates of both major parties, it’s time for a generation of new leadership to step up. It’s never too late to do the right thing, and America deserves much better than either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton can offer us. I humbly offer myself as a leader who can give millions of disaffected Americans a better choice for President.”

There’s a strange scenario in which Mr McMullin carries his home state of Utah, and throws the election into the House of Representatives. The slight chance that Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson could carry Alaska only helps that scenario, but it still seems as probable as the sun rising in the west to me.

Mr McMullin seems like a fine man to me, but, of course, I’ve never met him and read only a few articles about him. That Mr Erickson likes him is certainly a point in his favor. But when it comes to a third party candidate, we all know that a vote for him is a protest vote, a message vote, and in that regard, it seems to me that the only way to send that message is to cast that vote for Governor Johnson; he will be the only third party candidate to win a noticeable number of votes, and sending a message requires getting that message noticed.

I do not agree with Governor Johnson on some issues; on others, I’m perfectly happy with his positions. But I don’t agree completely with anyone; it will always be a compromise when voting for a candidate, and I have to compromise less with Mr Johnson than with anyone else who would get noticed.

So much for populism!

From my favorite CNNMoney reporter:

Investors really want Clinton to win now

Investors are now saying loudly and clearly: We want Hillary Clinton to win, and we think she will.

Nearly all the “market metrics” point to a Clinton victory.

Investors are no longer gobbling up gold, which usually happens when they are worried. The price has fallen 6.5% since the first presidential debate, as Donald Trump’s poll numbers have tanked.

Similarly, the Mexican peso jumped sharply after the release of the Access Hollywood tape of Trump’s vulgar comments about women on October 7. The peso has stayed elevated ever since, a bad sign for Trump.

But the biggest indication of just how much sentiment has shifted in favor of Clinton comes from investor polling data.

There is more at the link.

When I saw the story, I wasn’t surprised in the slightest; I have already said:

It can, and will, be argued that a lot of businesses support the candidacy of Hillary Clinton, at least over that of Mr Trump; I expect The Wall Street Journal to endorse Mrs Clinton, something at least one editorial board member has already done. But the Journal is very much the voice of big business, and of the financial sector; it has very little identification with smaller businesses, with minor companies.

Populism, from both the left and the right, was very much a part of the primary contests, and among the Republicans, Mr Trump was the most populist of all, which seemed sort of odd given that he was by far the wealthiest of the candidates. Among the Democrats, Bernie Sanders was the one running on a populist message, and if he survived longer than Martin O’Malley and James Webb, he still never came close to Mrs Clinton. Part of that was Mrs Clinton adopting parts of his populism message, on college tuition and on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but it’s pretty clear: the active market investors are not populists, not in the slightest, they aren’t worried about Mrs Clinton’s (probably faux) populist positions, and they heavily support Mrs Clinton. Given Mrs Clinton’s almost certain victory, populism will lose again in the election; whether the populism of the right would have done better had a better spokesman than Mr Trump1 been nominated is unknowable.2

  1. Better spokesman being a relative term; Mr Trump clearly has more charisma and ability to connect with the audience than any of his sixteen Republican primary rivals. His problem is his huge personal baggage.
  2. Most of the GOP candidates took some populist positions, primarily on immigration, but few of them ever seemed wholehearted about it. Carly Fiorina, the candidate I supported, was certainly no populist. While I have written several times about the seeming inability of the patricians to understand or respect the plebeians, it would not be accurate to label me a populist.

“Smart Power” and the failure of President Obama’s foreign policy

Remember when President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, basically for not being George Bush?

Obama’s Fifth War

Noah Rothman | October 16, 2016

Barack Obama entered office with a mandate to end America’s post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He will leave office in three months having presided over the proliferation of America’s conflicts in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Add Yemen to the list. This week, to the terrifying disinterest of the American public, three U.S. Naval vessels off the coast of Yemen were targeted by sophisticated anti-ship missiles on several occasions. The White House responded to this attack by launching a retaliatory cruise missile attack on radar facilities inside Yemen, resulting in their destruction. On Friday afternoon, the White House sent a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan formally informing him of his order to use military force pursuant to his authority under the War Powers Resolution.

The United States has been conducting drone strikes targeting al-Qaeda in Yemen for years, but strikes on government targets now controlled by the Houthi militia is a new development. The Houthis, an Iran-backed force, overran Yemeni government positions in the nation’s northeast in 2014, complicating America’s mission in Yemen. Iran’s bold intervention in Yemen behind a proxy force was a predictable result of the Islamic Republic’s rehabilitation by the Obama administration, which sought not only to ink a nuclear deal with Tehran but also to outsource Iraqi security to the region’s predominant Shiite power after U.S. forces withdrew from the region. Following the fall of Yemen’s capital Sana’a to Iranian proxies, Saudi Arabia—Iran’s chief competitor for regional hegemony—found the condition so intolerable that they intervened militarily in the conflict (with the support of the White House). All the while, the Obama administration has had the gall to call this muddled approach to conflict resolution in the Middle East “smart power.”

There’s more at the original, but one has to wonder: how has the Obama Administration’s “smart power” approach achieved anything better than the plain old dumb power they seem to deplore? Here is a fawning story from CBS News, from 2011:

Clinton: US using “smart power” for Libya, Syria

CBS/AP | August 16, 2011, 3:22 PM

WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton defended the U.S. response to crises in Libya and Syria on Tuesday, saying the Obama administration is projecting “smart power” by refusing to act alone or with brute force to stop autocratic repression in the two countries.

Clinton said the United States remains the world’s strongest leader but is wisely building coalitions to respond more effectively and better promote universal values of human rights and democracy.

“The United States stands for our values, our interests and our security, but we have a very clear view that others need to be taking the same steps to enforce a universal set of values and interests,” she told an audience in a joint appearance at the National Defense University with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

“We are by all measurements the strongest leader in the world and we are leading, but part of leading is making sure that you get other people on the field. And that’s what I think we are doing,” she said.

Clinton has been a champion of the administration’s “smart power” policy, which aims to combine defense, diplomacy and development to advance U.S. foreign policy goals. The term is most commonly used to describe the strategies President Obama has employed in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the U.S. has placed heavy emphasis on civilian projects designed to eliminate the roots of extremism. But Clinton said other elements of smart power are also at work in Libya and Syria.

And how’s that “smart power” worked out for us? Libya wound up being a death sentence for our ambassador and three other Americans, while the civil war continues in Libya, with The Wall Street Journal reporting yesterday that the United States and the United Kingdom are talking about new sanctions against Russia for its role in Syria. Though there were some precursor organizations prior to President Obama taking office, very few people in the West had ever heard of Da’ish before 2010; it has expanded dramatically since President Obama took office. The response to the militant Islamic rebel group Boko Haram, seizing 276 schoolgirls in Chibok, Nigeria? The #Bring Back Our Girls hashtag on Twitter.

Depiction of Satan, the central character of John Milton's Paradise Lost, c. 1866, by Gustavé Dore

Depiction of Satan, the central character of John Milton’s Paradise Lost, c. 1866, by Gustavé Dore

“Smart power”? The notion stems from the mindset of President Obama and the left, that the enemies of the West will come to see Western civilization for what it is, the most peaceful and prosperous system ever seen on our planet. Somehow, some way, it is simply beyond their paradigm to consider that Da’ish aren’t interested in peace and prosperity, but in power. Had the highly educated policy wonks in the Obama Administration ever read John Milton, they might have remembered the most famous line in Paradise Lost, in which Satan says it is “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.”

This is a fundamental problem for the left in America.  They believe their own propaganda, that they’re just so much smarter than everyone else, and that if they could just convince others of how right they are, the plebeians would simply go along with them.  That other people, especially those from completely different cultures, might not think the way that they do, is just something so foreign to them that it doesn’t enter into their calculations because it can’t enter into their thinking.  Strangely enough, the greatest advocates of multiculturalism are about as culturally egocentric as can be.


What will happen to down ballot #NeverTrump Republican candidates? Most of them are scared to death

From Commentary:

Voters Set to Reward Trump-Dumpers

by Noah Rothman | October 16, 2016

Republicans have a bitter choice to make. Do they abandon their party’s nominee and risk the wrath of the base or do they stand by him and suffer the consequences on Election Day? Republican incumbents have so far focused only on the risks associated with standing up to Donald Trump. The rewards have gone overlooked.

In haste, a series of Republicans reacted with terror and bolted from Trump’s side following the revelation that he had made lewd comments bragging about adultery and sexual assault into a hot mic in 2005. A humiliating number of Republicans soon reversed themselves and re-endorsed Trump after it became clear that their party’s most vocal base voters were livid and resolved to punish those who failed to support their party’s presidential nominee.

Those Republicans who abandoned Trump in principle and came crawling back following the admonishment of their base voters are trapped. They are married to Trump, and they have shed the fealty to principle and decency in the process. Their decision-making process was entirely reactive. They came back to Trump for the fear that core Republican voters would be depressed by the factionalism within the GOP, and that would drag the GOP’s majorities down with their party’s doomed White House candidate. These GOP incumbents neglected to consider the benefits of abandoning Trump in the form of goodwill among swing voters. Those benefits may be substantial.

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey released on Sunday found Trump again trailing Clinton by double-digits, but Republicans down the ticket fare far better. While Clinton’s margin over Trump had widened, the generic ballot test found Republicans gaining on Democrats. The president’s party had a slim two-point advantage over Republicans when voters were asked which party they’d prefer to see control Congress. Most remarkably, that survey found that a whopping 53 percent of voters could be persuaded to vote for Republican congressional candidates if they ran as a check on President Hillary Clinton. Just 40 percent disagreed.

A shallow political analysis notes that Congress’s overall approval ratings are and have been dismal for years, but that only tells half the story. Individual representatives and Senators usually have higher approval ratings than the institution in which they serve, and Americans have voted consistently for divided government for the last three consecutive election cycles. They appear set to do so again.

There’s more at the original, but this is why the so-called ‘GOP establishment’ wasn’t all that fond of Donald Trump: those Republicans facing their own elections knew that running on the same ticket with Mr Trump was a hugely risky proposition. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), locked in a tight re-election battle with Katie McGinty, has zigged and zagged, waffled and equivocated, not wanting to take a stand at all, seeing Mr Trump as an albatross around his neck. Senator Toomey has always been a free trader, which is now the opposite of Mr Trump’s protectionist positions, while Mrs McGinty has been running anti-free trade advertisements.1

I will vote for Senator Toomey on November 8th.

  1. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement while she was Secretary of State, has waffled and now opposes it.

A Tale of Two Polls

From The Wall Street Journal:

Hillary Clinton Extends Lead Over Donald Trump to 11 Points

Democratic nominee picks up support from women, swing voters in latest WSJ/NBC News poll

By Janet Hook | October 16, 2016 9:00 a.m. ET

Hillary Clinton is consolidating a substantial lead over Donald Trump less than a month before Election Day, picking up support from women and swing voters as the Republican nominee navigates a roiling sex scandal, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds.

Heading into the final presidential debate in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Mrs. Clinton led Mr. Trump by 11 percentage points among likely voters, 48% to 37%, a big jump from the six-point edge she held in mid-September.

Moreover, the Republican presidential nominee is losing his advantage on matters that were once the cornerstone of his campaign—his trade policies, command of economic issues and claims to be more honest and straightforward than his opponent.

The poll also found that Mr. Trump had been damaged politically by the release of a 2005 recording in which he spoke about touching women sexually without consent, a problem that has been compounded in recent days as women have come forward to accuse him of unwanted sexual conduct over the last 30 years.

The poll is a snapshot of the electorate at a particularly rocky time for Mr. Trump, but there is little time for him to change the political dynamic now. . . . .

The poll was conducted Oct. 10-13, after the second presidential debate but before this week’s sexual-misconduct allegations against Mr. Trump. The New York businessman has denied all misconduct.

There’s more at the original, but one thing jumped out at me: while both polls have Hillary Clinton’s support very close to each other, The Wall Street Journal/NBC poll has Donald Trump’s support at 37% while the Washington Post/ABC poll has it at 43%. The latter poll claims a margin of error of ±4%, while the former poll claims a MOE of ±3.26%. Those two polls would have to pretty much meet in the middle at the maximum extent of their purported margins of error over Mr Trump’s support to both be ‘correct.’  In addition, The Wall Street Journal/NBC poll has a Trump victory outside the stated margin of error, while the Washington Post/ABC poll has a Trump victory well within the margin. At this point, one has to question their methodology.

From last year, in The New York Times:

What’s the Matter With Polling?

By Cliff Zukin | June 20, 2015

Over the past two years, election polling has had some spectacular disasters. Several organizations tracking the 2014 midterm elections did not catch the Republican wave that led to strong majorities in both houses; polls in Israel badly underestimated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s strength, and pollsters in Britain predicted a close election only to see the Conservatives win easily. What’s going on here? How much can we trust the polls as we head toward the 2016 elections?

Election polling is in near crisis, and we pollsters know. Two trends are driving the increasing unreliability of election and other polling in the United States: the growth of cellphones and the decline in people willing to answer surveys. Coupled, they have made high-quality research much more expensive to do, so there is less of it. This has opened the door for less scientifically based, less well-tested techniques. To top it off, a perennial election polling problem, how to identify “likely voters,” has become even thornier.

Since that article was written, the polls also got wrong what I consider to be one of the most important votes in some time; the polls predicted a narrow victory for the ‘Remain’ side in the Brexit vote, but the voters fooled them, with the majority, 52%, opting to leave the European Union.

In terms of speed, the growth of cellphones is like few innovations in our history. About 10 years ago, opinion researchers began taking seriously the threat that the advent of cellphones posed to our established practice of polling people by calling landline phone numbers generated at random. At that time, the National Health Interview Survey, a high-quality government survey conducted through in-home interviews, estimated that about 6 percent of the public used only cellphones. The N.H.I.S. estimate for the first half of 2014 found that this had grown to 43 percent, with another 17 percent “mostly” using cellphones. In other words, a landline-only sample conducted for the 2014 elections would miss about three-fifths of the American public, almost three times as many as it would have missed in 2008.

Since cellphones generally have separate exchanges from landlines, statisticians have solved the problem of finding them for our samples by using what we call “dual sampling frames” — separate random samples of cell and landline exchanges. The problem is that the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act has been interpreted by the Federal Communications Commission to prohibit the calling of cellphones through automatic dialers, in which calls are passed to live interviewers only after a person picks up the phone. To complete a 1,000-person survey, it’s not unusual to have to dial more than 20,000 random numbers, most of which do not go to actual working telephone numbers. Dialing manually for cellphones takes a great deal of paid interviewer time, and pollsters also compensate cellphone respondents with as much as $10 for their lost minutes.

One of the most annoying parts of my day are the calls I get on my cell from robocallers. They are easy to recognize . . . after I answer the phone! It rings, I answer, and then there is a dead space, in which the computer which called recognizes an answer, and then hands it over to a (supposedly) living human being. Well, in that short space of time, I simply hang up!1 Those calls have greatly increased in the past few months; some of them may be pollsters, though I suspect that most are calls asking for political contributions. I would guess that I am not the only person in the world who simply hangs up on calls like that as soon as he recognizes that it is a computer call. Perhaps the law does “prohibit the calling of cellphones through automatic dialers,” but it seems as though that law is being routinely violated.

I would guess that Mr Trump and his supporters are counting in an inaccuracy in the polls, that there is some fairly large bloc of voters out there who simply won’t answer pollsters — or would deliberately lie to them — and would be more inclined to vote for Mr Trump than Mrs Clinton. Given the recent history of the professional pollsters simply getting the wrong answers, and the errors tending to fall rather uniformly toward the left, perhaps Mr Trump does have some reason for optimism.

  1. I can set my cell to reject calls from those numbers, but I carry an older flip phone, and I have to open the phone, which answers the call, to utilize the reject feature. My job includes physical labor outside, and upgrading to a more modern phone would simply be inviting my cell to get smashed.

18th century technology: The lingering death of print newspapers

I saw the tweet above from The Wall Street Journal, and thought back to a telephone conversation I had on Friday with my best friend. Ken, who is retired and thus home most of the day, hasn’t been on the internet much of late, neglecting his e-mails as I pointed out to him.

“I know that you like television a lot, but you can’t be watching that much TV,” I said to him.

He corrected me, noting that as the election is drawing nearer, he keeps watching the 24-hour cable news shows. He did mention something that I’d written to him earlier, concerning how terrible CNN and Fox News Channel were during the day, having the same few stories, and running them over and over and over again, and how CNN is in the bag for the Hillary Clinton campaign while Fox is the total Trump network.

Then he got onto the subject of newspapers, and how he reads, over his iPhone, about twelve of them a day. He does get one print newspaper, the Louisville Courier-Journal. Why? Well, he’s 62 years old, and grew up reading print newspapers; they are a comfortable, familiar feeling to him. I pointed out that we were pretty much the next to the last generation which grew up depending upon newspapers for information, but that even I had abandoned the dead trees editions. I subscribe to one newspaper, The Wall Street Journal,1 and even that is a digital-only subscription, which is not only less expensive, but doesn’t clutter up my house with old paper.2

In the end, the print editions of newspapers are doomed: they are, at best, updated versions of eighteenth century technology. The Lexington Herald-Leader, which I delivered in Mt Sterling, Kentucky, when I was a teenager, stopped its own printing presses and outsourced the print edition to Gannett Publishing Services, in Louisville, where the Courier-Journal is also printed. In the end, the print editions have become too costly, and Lexington’s very Democratic newspaper still chose to lay off 25 full-time and four part-time workers to save money. With fewer and fewer people still wanting to hold the print editions while they read, eventually there simply will not be the sales to justify printing newspapers any longer.

The real problem: how can the metropolitan daily newspapers make money in the digital world, where so much is available online, for free?

  1. I remember the days when the Journal, and other newspapers, published all of the previous day’s stock quotes, and that was the only way the vast majority of people could get them. I think that makes me officially old.
  2. In Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, the only way I could get the print edition delivered is through the mail, which would be a day late. The Philadelphia Inquirer is a decent newspaper, but it, too, would be mail delivery only here. I do have the option of picking up the print editions at the Turkey Hill on US 209 on my way to work, but why bother? While I choose to pay for the Journal, for the purpose of this website, there’s nothing in the Inquirer I can’t find online, for free.

Is voting third party the throwing away of your vote?

From my favorite CNNMoney reporter:

I’m casting a ‘protest vote’ in 2016

Heather Long
@byHeatherLong follows you
Senior stock market & economy writer, @CNNMoney Email:

by Heather Long | | October 15, 2016: 8:38 AM ET“You’re just throwing away your vote.”

Dan Mizener of Cleveland, Ohio, has heard that many times since he told friends that he’s voting for Gary Johnson, the libertarian candidate. He used to get a lot of flak. Now people are calling him with a lot of questions.

A registered Republican, Mizener made up his mind over the summer to vote for Johnson, long before the latest bombshells about Donald Trump allegedly groping women.

“It comes down to, can I really go to sleep at night knowing that I voted for someone like Donald Trump?” Mizener told CNNMoney in September.

All of a sudden, a “protest vote” is cool.

Many voters feel that 2016 is the ultimate “lesser of two evils” election. But there are more than two options on the ballot. Google searches for “write in” surged this week, hitting their highest levels since right before the 2004 Bush v. Kerry election.

In Utah, independent candidate Evan McMullin might actually beat Hillary Clinton and Trump. Many Mormons find both Trump and Clinton “morally repugnant.”

There’s more at Miss Long’s original.

My darling bride (of 37 years, 4 months and 27 days) and I were walking back home from downtown Jim Thorpe this afternoon, when she asked me about something that has been in the back of her mind. She asked me if, given his bizarre statements and behavior, I thought that Donald Trump was somehow deliberately trying to throw the election.

I responded that I didn’t think that at all, but that Mr Trump was simply being himself, that he was behaving the way he has because that’s the only way he knows how to behave, the only way he can behave. I continued that I didn’t think that Mr Trump would deliberately try to throw the election because he has always been about winning, about winning in everything he could.

But he question raises an interesting point: while she would never, ever have considered voting for Mr Trump, his antics have been so bizarre and unprecedented that serious people can have real doubts that it is all real.

I’ve already said that I am going to vote for Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson. To me, he is the only actual Republican running, even though his libertarian1 philosophy fits only part of what would be considered standard Republican policies. To me, voting for Mr Johnson is not a wasted vote at all, due to the mechanics of the Electoral College. The candidate who wins the most votes in Pennsylvania will be awarded all twenty of the Keystone State’s electoral votes, and the others, even if losing by but a single vote, will get exactly zero electoral votes. Donald Trump will not win here, is way behind in the polls, and even when third party candidates are included, Mrs Clinton’s 48% tops the combined 39% for Mr Trump and 6% for Mr Johnson. The Republican presidential nominee has not carried Pennsylvania since the elder George Bush in 1988. Simply put, Donald Trump will not win the Keystone State even if everybody who plans on voting for Mr Johnson holds his nose and casts his ballot for Mr Trump. If it somehow does get so tight that Mr Trump has a chance here, then my vote won’t be needed, because he will be sweeping to a landslide victory across the country.

In Ohio, in Florida, in North Carolina, where there is a reasonable chance that Mr Trump could defeat Hillary Clinton, it could be argued that a vote for a third party candidate could make the difference between the Republican or the Democrat winning; the votes Ralph Nader siphoned away from Al Gore in Florida in 2000 almost certainly gave the state, and the presidency, to the younger George Bush. But, as Dan Mizener put it, “It comes down to, can I really go to sleep at night knowing that I voted for someone like Donald Trump?”

Don’t get me wrong here: I believe that Mrs Clinton is even worse than Mr Trump, and the argument that conservatives have to vote for Mr Trump, regardless of their feelings about him and his fitness for office, to keep Mrs Clinton from winning has an appeal. But the mechanics of the Electoral College are clear: there are really only a few states in which the winner is not a foregone conclusion, only a few states in which that argument matters. I might as well vote my conscience!

  1. Note that I wrote libertarian, not Libertarian; Governor Johnson’s positions differ somewhat from the past platform of the Libertarian Party.

The racism of the left

I found this story thanks to a tweet by Heather Long:

It’s lonely in the Black 1%

by Tanzina Vega | @tanzinavega October 14, 2016: 11:03 AM ET

It’s one of the loneliest, most exclusive clubs in America.

Among the nation’s wealthiest Americans — known as the Top 1% — only a very small percentage are black.

To gain membership into this elite group in 2013, it required a household net worth of nearly $7.9 million, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. And only 1.7% of those who met that mark are black.

Sheila Johnson is one of them. Johnson is the co-founder of Black Entertainment Television, chief executive of Salamander Hotels & Resorts and she owns a stake in three professional sports teams, including the NBA’s Wizards, the NHL’s Capitals and the WNBA’s Mystics.

Yet despite these accomplishments, Johnson said she still has had to contend with racism and biases that have presented costly and frustrating roadblocks.

Then, further down:

Eddie Brown, a Baltimore-based hotelier and chief executive of Brown Capital Management agrees. Brown and his wife Sylvia are also part of the 1% and seek to help other people of color get ahead through philanthropy and other initiatives.

Not only is the majority of the staff at Brown Capital black — a choice that Brown said is deliberate — but the couple’s charitable foundation provides grants for education, art and health initiatives that help low-income people living in Baltimore.

Think about that. If I owned a capital management firm, one licensed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, as Brown Capital is, and I said, in public, that “the majority of the staff at Pico Capital is white, a choice that is deliberate,” I could soon expect a visit from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and quite probably the Department of Justice. Heck, I couldn’t even get away with saying that a very small, local business like a shoe store or barber shop or diner,1 deliberately hired a majority white staff without risking legal trouble if the wrong people heard about it. Yet somehow, some way, Tanzina Vega, the CNNMoney reporter who wrote the article, and is listed as formerly “a staff reporter for The New York Times where she created and covered a beat on race and ethnicity for the national desk, reported on digital media and advertising for the business desk and covered the New York City courts for the metro section,” thought nothing at all extraordinary or potentially problematic legally about stating that Brown Capital Management deliberately engages in racial discrimination.

And this tells a great truth about race relations in the United States: while the Fourteenth Amendment states that all are entitled to the equal protection of the laws, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, under Title VII, firms and companies which meet the definitions of a covered employer2 yet are owned by black Americans are apparently exempt from anti-discrimination laws, to the extent that they can admit discriminatory policies in public, with seemingly no fear of prosecution or other legal problems.

Simply put, the Civil Rights Act applies to white Americans only. Oh, that’s not the way that the law is written, of course, but that is and has been its practical application.

This is a major factor in the Donald Trump phenomenon. White Americans have long accepted the idea that everyone should be treated equally under the law, and that it is illegal to discriminate, in business, on the basis of race. Yet, our society, our businesses and our public institutions are flush with discrimination on the basis of race, not only under ‘official’ Affirmative Action programs, but under the unofficial ignoring of companies like Brown Capital Management and its publicly announced policy of racial discrimination. Many white Americans ask, often subconsciously, why it is illegal for them to discriminate, yet perfectly fine for black Americans to do the same thing? If racial discrimination is wrong, then racial discrimination is wrong, period, regardless of the direction it takes. If racial discrimination ought to be ended, then the only way to end it is to end it, and not try to somehow reverse it until we reach a ‘zero’ point.

That ‘zero point’ is, I suppose, what the proponents of Affirmative Action think might somehow be reached. In the terrible case of Grutter v Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003), Associate Justice Sandra O’Connor, writing for the majority, which decided that the “narrowly tailored use of race in admissions decisions to further a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body” somehow supersedes the plain words of the Constitution, said, “We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today.” That Opinion was delivered on June 23, 2003, which means that the majority expected that ‘zero point’ right around the end of the school year in 2028.

Well, guess what? That 25 years envisioned by the majority is already more than half gone; 13 years, 3 months and 22 days have passed since the Opinion of the Court was issued, and in that time we have seen the election, and re-election, of the first (half) black President, the continued persistence of Affirmative Action, and I would argue that race relations are worse today than they were in 2003. Miss Vega’s article is just more evidence of that, as even the wealthiest black Americans say that they somehow still feel excluded. We have the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag and phrase, and those who dare to suggest that #AllLivesMatter are somehow just terribly insensitive and racist; it’s not going to make white Americans feel all warm and fuzzy when they are being told that no, their lives don’t matter as much to the left as do the lives of black Americans, and are racist for saying that they do. It’s the kind of thing that is going to generate about as much sympathy for the #BlackLivesMatter cause as deliberately blocking traffic does.3

If we are ever to have any hope of ending the effects of racial discrimination in the public square, the only solution is to end all forms of legal racial discrimination, and that must include government programs which favor one race over another. If we are to expect businesses and schools not to discriminate against black applicants and employees, then we cannot tolerate allowing businesses and schools to discriminate against white applicants and employees.4
Cross-posted on RedState.

  1. These are hypothetical examples; the only business the Editor owns is The First Street Journal, and there are no employees.
  2. Section 701(b) defines an employer as “a person engaged in an industry affecting commerce who has twenty-five or more employees for each working day in each of twenty or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year, and any agent of such a person.” Brown Capital Management’s “Our People” page carries the photographs and names of 35 employees.
  3. In the internet kerfuffle over Glenn Reynolds’ tweet suggesting that the protesters who blocked the interstates should be run down, the commenters on The Washington Post article were upset about Professor Reynolds’ comment, but there was nary a word about the frustrations of the drivers trapped by this, many of whom might well have felt that the protesters blocking their paths should be run down. Calling such a feeling ‘road rage’ ignores the fact that those protesters were deliberately creating road rage among people who were simply driving from one place to another, and minding their own business.
  4. It seems that Affirmative Action and other programs do not just discriminate against whites; Americans of Asian descent are getting the exclusion treatment because they’ve been too good.