The Right Way of Nominating a President

A talking point when people discuss the 2016 presidential election and the primaries is to talk about the unlikelihood of having Senator Ted Cruz or someone similar to him, who is considered to be an extremist on the Republican side of the political spectrum.  Often, the claim that the Republican party will nominate the one who has the best chance of winning, meaning that he is either a pragmatist or a moderate Republican, as opposed to someone who is more ideologically pure.

Let’s take a look.  We’re beginning with 1976, as it was the first time a Republican primary was held in every state.  This allows us to compare the past and present without having to rely on deals in the backroom filled with cigar smoke and scotch.


The 1976 Republican primary was slightly confusing.  President Gerald Ford initially announced that he would not seek re-election (technically, election).  But he re-considered and began a campaign to seek the nomination and eventual election.  Former Governor of California, Ronald Reagan, began to criticize Gerald Ford in the summer of 1975 and officially announced his candidacy in the fall of 1975.  Reagan was considered the favorite of the Conservative section of the Republican party.  Reagan and his Conservative allies were critical of Ford on the policy of detente with the Soviet Union, Ford’s refusal of help for South Vietnam, the signing of the Helinski Accords, and giving the Panama Canal back to Panama.  The Heritage Foundation would like to remind people that Reagan also criticized Ford for the centralization of the federal government.  Ford criticized Reagan for being too extreme.  Despite this, there was not a nominee at the time of the Republican Convention.  Ford began with a slight lead in the votes but still shy of the number needed to secure the nomination.  In order to gain some votes, Reagan pledged to nominate moderate Republican Senator Richard Schweiker as vice-president.  The move backfired, as conservative delegates were outraged at Reagan.  Senator Jesse Helms who had helped Reagan’s comeback during primary season, was particularly angry.  Helms tried to draft James Buckley as the nominee.  Many Mississippi delegates also switched allegiances and Ford won the nomination.  The Mississippi chairman allegedly switched support because of the nomination of Schweiker.

Conclusion: Reagan was clearly the Conservative choice for the nomination, but in an effort to gain votes, he tried to placate the moderates within the party and it failed.  I feel uncomfortable saying that Ford was nominated because he was seen as the more pragmatic or moderate choice.


The 1980 Republican Presidential primary more closely resembles the primaries that we see. Ronald Reagan was considered the heavy favorite, almost as soon as the 1976 Republican presidential primary concluded.  Reagan had given a speech at the end that overshadowed Ford’s speech.

Minority Leader Howard Baker was known as the great conciliator in the Senate.  There was a story that Democratic Senators would privately support Baker’s quest to run for President.  Because of this, Baker would get the dreaded RINO tag, today, if he was in the political eye.  Baker lost the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire caucus before withdrawing.  A Gallup poll found him to be in 2nd place behind just Ronald Reagan in 1979.

Former Governor John Connally was a Democrat until 1973.  Then he switched parties.  Connally was friends with President Lyndon Johnson and supported the same candidates up until the 1972 election where Connally supported Nixon, instead of George McGovern.  But anyway, Connally was considered a great fundraiser, a fairly strong leader, and a strong orator.  Connally would probably be compared to Mitt Romney in 2008.  If Reagan had been defeated in 1980,  Connally would have likely re-emerged as a potential candidate in 1984.  But poor campaigning, as well as a lack of electoral chops, ultimately doomed him.

Senator Bob Dole,who ran for vice-president under Gerald Ford ran in 1976, chose to run in the 1980 presidential election.  He received less than 1% of the vote for the New Hampshire primary, and immediately withdrew.  Dole, while he was a war hawk and tough on crime, made his first Senate speech on increasing federal aid for the handicapped and disable.  He also joined Democratic Senator Jim McGovern in an effort to lower eligibility requirements for federal food stamps, a fairly liberal goal.  Dole later pleaded with Gerald Ford to run in 1980 as a stop-Reagan faction.

Congressman Phil Crane was a Conservative member of Congress since 1968.  Crane was one of the most Conservative members of the House of Representatives, who had been raised on Barry Goldwater’s campaign for president.  Crane was the first chairman of the Republican Study Committee to keep watch of the Republican party in Congress, who was considered to be too moderate.  Crane was also the Chairman of the Illinois Citizens for Reagan, trying to help in Reagan’s primary presidential run.  He was unsure if Reagan would run again in 1980, and said that if Reagan ran, he would drop out.  He stayed in, even after Reagan’s entrance, but dropped out in early March.

Congressman John B. Anderson initially started as one of the more Conservative members of the House but eventually shifted, gradually to the left for social issues.  His fiscal conservatism remained, though.  He broke with the administration on the Vietnam War and was an outspoken critic of Richard Nixon.  Anderson was also allies with Gerald Ford.  Anderson was primaried in 1978 but survived the primary by 16% of the vote.  He decided to run for President.  Actually, John Anderson deserves a much longer post all about him.  Anderson had considerable support from Rockefeller Republicans, who were more liberal than Reagan supporters.  He was considered much more liberal than many of the Republican nominees.  At one point, he stated that cutting taxes, increasing defense spending, and balancing the budget were an impossible combination.  Anderson withdrew and eventually ran as an independent garnering 7% of the votes in the general election.

Former CIA director George H.W. Bush supposedly represented the centrist part of the Republican party.  He criticized Reagan’s supply-side economic theory as “voodoo economics.”  This eventually proved to be successful in the Iowa caucus.  He also won a primary where Reagan did not bother to show up.  But for the most part, Bush was dead in the water by the end of April.  Bush finally withdrew on May 26, 1980.  Bush was later named the vice-presidential nominee by Ronald Reagan.

Former Governor Ronald Reagan who was unsuccessful in 1968 and 1976, finally was successful in 1980.  Reagan represented the true conservatives.  He campaigned hard on the idea of supply-side economics, proposing that tax cuts would increase revenues because people would work harder.  Reagan also promised a balanced budget for the first time since 1969.  Reagan was the front-runner and after firing his campaign manager finally started to act like it, culminating in a victory.

Conclusion: The conservatives’ Conservative won the nomination.


The 1988 Republican presidential primary started with Vice-President George H.W. Bush as the front-runner but eventually included Senator Bob Dole, Congressman Jack Kemp, Governor Pierre S. du Pont IV, and televangelist Pat Robertson.

Governor Pierre S. du Pont IV was governor of Delaware and announced his intention to run for the presidency in 1986, before anyone else.  But he had some radical ideas.  He proposed reforming social security by offering private saving options .  He also wanted to wean people off of welfare by offering jobs, even entry level jobs in the government.  He proposed instituting random drug tests to those who flunked driver’s license tests.  He was a novice and bowed out after a next-to-last finish in New Hampshire.

Congressman Jack Kemp had a difficult time convincing people of his ideas if he became president.  Kemp had a libertarian philosophy of supporting individual rights, preaching tolerance, supporting women, minorities, blue-collar workers, and organized labor.  These ideas clashed with the typical conservative view of ideas and values.  To Democrats and those more liberal, his free market philosophies were just a form of anarchy.  His fiscal policy was very similar to Ronald Reagan, in that he argued for supply-side economics.  He also wanted to freeze government spending.  His poor showing on Super Tuesday eventually forced him to withdraw.  Kemp could probably be compared to the libertarian wing of the Republican party, that is in vogue today.

Televangelist Pat Robertson announced he would run in 1986 if 3 million people signed up to volunteer for his campaign.  Robertson supported a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget.  He also wanted to eliminate the Department of Energy and the Department of Education.  He also wanted to ban pornography.  He was a true social conservative.  His views are now basically the same as the generic Republicans.  With his true social conservative credentials, he managed a 2nd place finish in the Iowa caucus.  He withdrew before Super Tuesday.

Senator Bob Dole, who had previously lost as a vice-president in 1976 and lost the Republican nomination in 1980, decided to have another go at it.  Dole and Bush did not differ much in their views.  Bush drew criticism for his portrayal of Dole.  Dole was viewed as an angry person by responding to a question by saying Bush should stop lying about my record.  He was also viewed as a micromanager who could not handle a presidential campaign.  At this point, Dole would be comparable to Mitt Romney in 2008.

Vice-President George H.W. Bush was the early front-runner for the presidential nomination.  Bush was still considered to be the leader of the centrist part of the Republican party, but there was no real conservative to challenge him.  Bush finished in third place at the Iowa caucus.  During the New Hampshire primary, Bush ran a campaign ad portraying Dole as a taxraiser which helped contribute to Dole’s response.  But Bush’s organizational strength really helped as he was able to clinch the nomination once Super Tuesday began.  This is likely comparable to John McCain in 2008.

Conclusion: The only “true” Conservative was Robertson who finished 3rd or 4th.  But the two front-runners were both Republicans who appealed to the centrist wing of the party.


The 1996 Republican primary did not have any immediate front-runners.  The only one who was considered in that breath was Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole.

Ambassador Alan Keyes entered the 1996 Republican presidential primary to center the debate around abortion and bring it to the forefront of the political debate.  Keyes did not fare well in the primaries and eventually withdrew.  He would be comparable to what Ben Carson is trying to do, now.

Governor Lamar Alexander ran for President in 1996.  He did not do anything memorable, apparently, and ducked out pretty quickly.  He later served as an adviser to the Dole/Kemp campaign.

Journalist Steve Forbes tried to run in 1996.  He supported a flat tax of 17% on earned income, while maintaining the first $33,000 would be exempt from the tax.  Beside that, he was a traditional Republican.  He supports free trade, school vouchers, downsizing the federal government, and the death penalty. He also opposed drug legalization, same sex marriage, gun control, and environmental regulation.  But his campaign was doomed by his inability to cultivate a winning campaign style.

Presidential advisor Pat Buchanan challenged George H.W. Bush in 1992 because he thought Bush was leading the country in a liberal direction.  Buchanan wanted to challenge the Washington establishment in 1996.  He ran to the right of Bob Dole.  He opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  But there were questions about Buchanan’s comments about being a possible Holocaust denier and having a key campaign adviser go to a meeting with a white supremacist group.  Buchanan denied these allegations saying that the media was trying to smear him.  Buchanan is probably most comparable to Newt Gingrich in 2012.

Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole was the front-runner for the 1996 presidential nomination but did not have the support of many of the party’s higher-ups.  George W. Bush, Colin Powell, and Dick Cheney were all approached to run in 1996 but declined to run.  Dole was criticized by the left and the right of his party, over the convention platform and his platform, too.  Dole was criticized for the inclusion of the Human Life Amendment.  He had promised a return to supply side economics, promising a 15% cut across the board to income tax.  He is comparable to Mitt Romney in 2012.

Conclusion: There was not a real strong primary challenge in 1996, Bob Dole rose to the top of the pile.  The more conservative members were not real strong challengers.


Again, in 200, there was not a real front-runner for the nomination but George W. Bush became the favorite among the Republican leadership.  John McCain was a darkhorse but he became quite the challenger to Bush.

Ambassador Alan Keyes: Keyes ran again in 2000, this time on a more Conservative platform than before.  He called for the elimination of all federal taxes except tariffs.  He also campaigned on a ban of homosexuals in the military.  He continued his call for bringing abortion policies to the forefront of the political debate.

Senator John McCain: McCain tried to fight against the political doublespeak and the special interest groups.  His campaign focused extensively on campaign finance reform.  McCain repeatedly held long town halls and frequent meetings with reporters to show his straight talk campaigning.  McCain was repeatedly accused by the Bush campaign as a Manchurain candidate.  The Bush campaign also accused supporters of McCain that they were not really Republicans but Democrats pretending to be Republicans.  McCain’s independent streak in the Senate finally caught up with him and the straight talk campaign was defeated under a slew of negative ads.

Governor George W. Bush ran as a “compassionate Conservative.”  He implied that he was a centrist Republican.  He ran on bringing honor and integrity back to the White House.  He also ran on cutting taxes, increased military spending, improving education, and aiding minorities.  Bush’s campaign was that of a generic Republican.  But he was able to effectively paint McCain as a RINO.  Bush won the South Carolina primary, the nomination, and the election on the backs of Christian Evangelical voters.

Conclusion: While Bush implied that he was more of a centrist Republican, he effectively showed himself to be the more Conservative option between himself and John McCain.


The early front-runner for the 2008 Republican nomination was Rudy Giuliani but he bowed out fairly early after failing to do well in Iowa.  Mike Huckabee won Iowa and seized the early momentum but John McCain finally won the nomination.

Congressman Ron Paul announced his candidacy in March of 2007.  Paul had a large following and a large group of supporters but ultimately he was unable to unseat any of his rivals in the primary elections.  Paul ran on a campaign of balancing the budget, bringing the troops home, non-interventionist foreign policy, an attempt to be a civil libertarian, and being pro-life.  Paul’s supporters claim to be libertarians but it comes from a different brand, overall, than traditional libertarians.  ANYWAY, Paul failed to endorse another Republican candidate in 2008.

Governor Mike Huckabee was the most Conservative candidates in the 2008 Republican primary.  He was a favorite among Christian evangelicals.  He has stood by his comments that we need to take this nation back to Christ.  He drew considerable support from the Christian evangelical activist groups.  Some media outlets looked through his past speeches and claimed that he was a right-wing Christian.  Huckabee won the Iowa caucus but ultimately bowed out of the election because of lack of funds and structural problems with his campaign.

Governor Mitt Romney’s first run as the presidential nomination was a failure.  Romney’s biggest liability was that he ran for Senate and was Governor of one of the most liberal states in the union.  Late in his gubernatorial tenure, he began to shift his social values to align more with the traditional conservatives’ views.  He was derided by social conservatives for lack of core values and opportunism.  He also faced suspicion from Christian evangelicals because of his religious faith.  Romney was charged as being a flip flopper and came off as phony.  Despite his obvious skills as a fundraiser, it was too much to overcome, with a serious challenger.

Senator John McCain attempted to run for President in 2008.  McCain had national name recognition.  But he faced some criticism for his support of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007.  But he mainly got the nomination because of the troubles and inexperience of Huckabee and the phoniness of Romney. McCain’s straight talk and his appeal as an independent thinker showed support from many in the Republican electorate.

Conclusion: McCain was hardly more electable than Romney, but McCain proved to be more Conservative than Romney but less so than Huckabee.


The 2012 Republican primary basically pitted favorite Mitt Romney against the rest of the field.  The rest of the field was supposed to step up to become the anti-Romney candidate.

Speaker Newt Gingrich was one of the favorites for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination in 2011.  Gingrich had some hiccups early on in the campaign having to fire most of his staff.  He appeared back on the upswing and fared well in the South and with evangelical Christians.  Gingrich was a favorite at one point but he struggled and began to lag behind Romney.  Gingrich, typically, fared well in the debates but his campaign was plagued by gaffes such as his ill-fated moon colony idea.  Gingrich lasted well into the primary despite the urging by fellow candidate Rick Santorum.  Gingrich announced he was the “last conservative standing.”  He eventually withdrew and threw his support behind Romney.

Ron Paul ran in 2012 like he had in 2008.  He ran a similar campaign to what he had in 2008.  He eventually ran out of money.  He refused to endorse any Republican candidate or speak at the Republican National Convention.

Rick Santorum decided to run for President to allow the Conservative voice to be heard and articulated.  Santorum initially lagged behind many of those who dropped out and the favorite, Mitt Romney.  But as more of the conservative candidates dropped out, Santorum became the only voice for the true conservatives.  Santorum was able to hold on as long he could before eventually suspending his campaign.

Mitt Romney’s second run for the Republican nomination was more successful than the first.  Always adept at fundraising, Romney was able to compete against lesser opponents.  While charges of his flip-flopping re-emerged in 2011, he was able to defend himself against them.  He focused primarily on the eventual match-up with Barack Obama, as opposed to criticizing his fellow Republicans.  Because of his fundraising ability, he was able to outspend his opponents to the point where he broke them.

Conclusion: I’ve been very critical of the 2012 Republican primary field but Romney was the strongest of the weak candidates.  Romney was easily the most electable candidate of the bunch, but not as a question of his moderate ability.  He was a talented fundraiser and able to effectively communicate his message.  It also helped that Romney seemed to look like a president.

1976: More moderate

1980: More conservative

1988: Senator Bob Dole vs. Vice President George H.W. Bush had Bush as more conservative than Dole.

1996: Weak candidates but Dole was moderate

2000: More conservative between Bush and McCain

2008: This one is tough. Huckabee was more conservative than McCain or Romney but was not as strong as a candidate as either of them.

2012: Weak candidates but Romney was moderate

Overall conclusion: The Republican nominations seem to vary over time but it does not seem that there is a tendency by the party to nominate the most moderate choice.  It seems that there is a bias to elect the most electable candidate with a particular bias toward those who have run for the nomination in the past.  When there are stronger candidates, the Republican party chooses the most Conservative stronger candidate.  But at times when there are weaker candidates, the moderate candidate is allowed to shine and win the nomination.

Postal Service Reform

Priorities for United States Postal Service (USPS) Reform:

  • Maintain six-day delivery
  • Reduce debt by USPS and return the USPS to viability
  • Solve or reduce debt caused by the Retirement Health Benefit Fund (RHBF)
  • Stop postal office closures
  • Generate new revenue for the USPS

Relevant Organizations:

American Postal Workers Union (APWU): member of the AFL-CIO, President of the APWU is Cliff Guffey.  APWU represents employees of the United States Postal Service (USPS), who are clerks, maintenance employees, and motor vehicle service workers.  APWU represents more than 220,000 employees and retirees, and nearly 2,000 private-sector mail workers.  Members belong to a local union in their city or town.  Locals elect their own officers and conduct day-to-day business.  These officers report to regional coordinators who then report to the National Executive Board.  The APWU has the APWU-COPA that raises voluntary contributions to assist the campaigns of legislators who support working families.  The APWU’s President has appeared for Congressional hearings on various issues related to postal reform. The APWU gave $3,657,735 in contributions and spent $681,000 on lobbying in 2012.  Most of the money given to candidates in 2012 by APWU was given to Democratic candidates.  The top recipient was Representative Stephen Lynch (MA-09) at $20,000.  The APWU gave $6,000 to Representative Loretta Sanchez in 2012.

National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC): affiliated with the AFL-CIO, current president is Fredric Rolando.  NALC has 2,500 local branches representing carriers in all 50 states also including, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam.  NALC represents non-rural letter carriers employed by the United States Postal Service.  NALC represents 300,058 active and retired members, 214,084 are active letter carriers.  NALC operates from its national headquarters in Washington with state associations and branches throughout the nation, along with a regional network of national business agents.  NALC gave $3,088,669 in contributions and $240,000 on lobbying in 2012.  Most of the candidates that NALC spent money on in 2012 was Democratic candidates.  NALC gave Representative Loretta Sanchez $8,500 in 2012.    NALC spent the most money on Janice Hahn and Ron Barber whom they spent $20,000 on each.

National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association (NRLCA): represents rural letter carriers employed by the United States Postal Service, mission is to improve the methods used by rural letter carriers, to benefit their conditions of labor with the United States Postal Service, and to promote a fraternal spirit among its members. NRLCA represents 104,717 members.  NRLCA spent $902,925 in contributions and $500,000 in lobbying in 2012.  NRLCA spent most of its money giving to Democratic candidates.  The candidate who received the most money from NRLCA was Representative Stephen Lynch who received $20,000.

National Postal Mail Handlers Union (NPMHU):  represents 47,000 active mail handler craft workers who load, unload, prepare, sort and containerize mail for delivery by the United States Postal Service.  The mission of the NPMHU is to come with an agreement with the U.S. Postal Service that establishes wages, cost-of-living adjustments, working conditions, and fringe benefits.  The group is a member of the AFL-CIO federation.  Members of the NPMHU join a local union with jurisdiction in their city, town,  or area.  They work with regional groups and go all the way to a national group which is headquartered in Washington, D.C.   NPMHU gave $417,500 in contributions and $30,800 on lobbying in 2012.  The top recipient was Representative Stephen Lynch who received $20,000.

National League of Postmasters (NLP): Professional and premier organization for postmasters.  Postmaster is the head of an individual post office.  NLP represents the interests of postmasters.  The purpose is to provide a place where postmasters and other members may assist one another in matters connected with their career employment in the USPS.

National Association of Postmasters of the United States (NAPUS): The larger of the group between the postmasters. NAPUS has 80% of the postmasters in its group. NAPUS has state organizations called chapters in all 50 states and Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Each chapter has elected and appointed officers. NAPUS spent $382,807 on contributions and $190,000 on lobbying in 2012. They gave JoAnn Emerson $9,500 and Steny Hoyer $9,500 in 2012. Those were the two highest recipients of NAPUS money.

National Association of Postal Supervisors (NAPS): Management association representing first-line supervisors who work both in facilities where postal employees process and deliver mail, to mid-level and senior managers in every functional area of the Postal Service as well as postmasters. NAPS has branches in all 50 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. NAPS spent $593,650 on contributions to candidates and $80,000 on lobbying in 2012. NAPS spent $20,000 on contributions to Rep. Stephen Lynch who was the largest recipient for contributions from NAPS.

Action during the 112th Congress by Rep. Loretta Sanchez

On August 4, 2011, Representative Stephen Lynch (MA-9) introduced H.R. 1351, the United States Postal Service Pension Obligation Recalculation and Restoration Act of 2011.  Representative Loretta Sanchez had signed on as a co-sponsor on 06/21/11.  H.R. 1351 attempted to amend provisions for calculating the amount of the postal surplus for the supplemental liability under the Civil Service Retirement System.  If there was a surplus after recalculating the supplemental liability, they would transfer it to the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Funds.  Despite a total of 230 co-sponsors for the legislation, H.R. 1351 died in committee.

H.R. 1351 was supported by the following groups: NAPS, APWU, NALC, NPMHU, NLP, NARLCA, and NAPUS.

Representative Sam Graves (MO-1) introduced H. Res. 137, expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the United States Postal Service should take all appropriate measures to ensure the continuation of its 6-day mail delivery service.  Representative Loretta Sanchez signed as co-sponsor on 03/16/11.  H. Res. 137 urges the United States Postal Service to take all appropriate measures to ensure the continuation of 6-day mail delivery service.  H. Res.  137 had 222 cosponsors but still died in committee.

  1. Res. 137 was supported by the following groups: NAPS, APWU, NALC, NPMHU, NLP, NARLCA, and NAPUS.

H.R. 466, to amend title 39, United States Code, to extend the authority of the United States Postal Service to issue a semipostal to raise funds for breast cancer research was introduced by Representative Joe Baca (CA-43) on January 26, 2011.  Rep. Loretta Sanchez signed as a co-sponsor on 03/02/11.  H.R. 466 would have extended for four years, the authority of the USPS to issue a semipostal to contribute to funding for breast cancer research.  H.R. 466 had 141 cosponsors and died in committee.

H.R. 6121, the Victory for Veterans Stamp Act of 2012 was introduced by Representative John Larson (CT-1) on July 12, 2012.  H.R. 6121 would have created a stamp that gives money from the proceeds equally to the post office, the postal debt, and to help veterans.  Rep. Loretta Sanchez signed as co-sponsor on 07/12/12.  H.R. 6121 received 116 cosponsors and died in committee.

Congressional Action during 112th Congress

There have not been any bills related to postal reform that have been passed by Congress.  The only bills that are even partially related are bills to re-name post offices.  The biggest pieces of legislation that have been attempted to have been passed are as follows:

H.R. 2309 Postal Reform Act of 2011: Establishes the Commission on Postal Reorganization, requests reduction of mail service days from 6 to 5, imposes a limitation on USPS contributions to postal employees’ health and life insurance premiums, gives power to the PRC to negotiate with the USPS on almost all issues.  Rep. Loretta Sanchez did not co-sponsor this legislation.  This legislation was not supported by any group.  This legislation died in committee.

H.R. 2967 Innovate to Deliver Act of 2011: Provides nonpostal services using USPS infrastructure, invest excess money of the CPF. Rates and fees are at least equal to the costs of providing postal services. Revises prepayment schedule of Retiree Health Benefit Fund to allow amortization of payments over a longer period.  Rep. Loretta Sanchez did not co-sponsor this legislation and this legislation was not supported by any group.

H.R. 1351 United States Postal Service Pension Obligation Recalculation and Restoration Act of 2011: Rep. Loretta Sanchez co-sponsored this legislation.  See Action by Loretta Sanchez for more information.

Key Members of Congress

Representative Darrell Issa (CA-49): Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee since 2011. As leader of the committee that oversees any legislation related to postal reform, he holds a lot of sway with how the legislation is formed or completed. He introduced the Postal Reform Act of 2011 and Postal Reform Act of 2013. He has been talked about wanting to privatize the Postal Service. While the Postal Reform Act of 2013 has some concessions from the Postal Reform Act of 2011. His bills have been criticized by almost all interest groups related to postal reform as not doing enough to stop the pre-funding requirements, as well as trying to end the the six-day delivery of mail.  It remains to be seen if his legislation tackles any of the key priorities of postal service reform.

Key legislation: H.R. 2748 Postal Reform Act of 2013, H.R. 2309 Postal Reform Act of 2011

Representative Stephen Lynch (MA-09): Member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, ranking member of the Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service, and the Census Subcommittee. Lynch’s top contributors to his campaign are interest groups for the postal service, including the APWU, NAPS, NPMHU, and NRLCA. Lynch’s legislation that he has introduced on postal reform has been praised by various postal interest groups. They have been extremely popular with all of the major groups. Rep. Loretta Sanchez has co-sponsored the bills that Lynch. He has worked on legislation that preserves the viability of the Postal Service, including six-day delivery of mail. Lynch has also put legislation out there to recalculate pension overpayment and a way to re-pay some of the debt that the Postal Service has racked up.

Key legislation: H.R. 961 United States Postal Service Stabilization Act of 2013, H.R. 1351 United States Postal Service Pension Obligation Recalculation and Restoration Act of 2011

Representative Elijah Cummings (MD-7): Ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Cummings has done work to compromise between Republicans and Democrats to help produce legislation that might get passed. Cummings legislation in postal reform focuses on more revenue production for the postal service, trying to focus on flexibility. But interest groups generally do not completely support his legislation because he also talks about workforce realignment and does not focus on the pension or RHBF.

Key legislation: H.R. 2690 Innovate to Deliver Act of 2013, H.R. 2967 Innovate to Deliver Act of 2011

Action during the 113th Congress by Rep. Loretta Sanchez

H.R. 262, the Multinational Species Conservation Funds Semipostal Stamp Reauthorization Act was introduced by Representative Michael Grimm (NY-11) on January 15, 2013. Rep. Loretta Sanchez signed as cosponsor when it was introduced.  H.R. 262 would reauthorize the Multinational Species Conservation Funds Semipostal Stamp and has been referred to the House Natural Resources and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committees.

H.R. 630 Postal Service Protection Act of 2013 was introduced by Representative Peter DeFazio (OR-4) on February 13, 2013.  Rep. Loretta Sanchez signed as co-sponsor on 03/07/13.  H.R. 630 recalculates and restores retirement annuity obligations of the United States Postal Service, eliminates the requirement that the United States Postal Service pre-fund the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits fund, place restrictions on the closure of postal facilities, and creates incentives for innovation for the United States Postal Service.  Or as the NALC puts it, it includes all key provisions to return the Postal Service to financial health in both the short and long terms.  H.R. 630 has been referred to the House Oversight and Government Reform and House Judiciary Committee.

H.R. 630 is supported by the following groups:  PRC, APQU, NALC, NPMHU, NARLCA, NAPUS, and NAPS.

H.R. 376 Universal Right to Vote by Mail Act was introduced on January 23, 2013 by Representative Susan Davis (CA-53).  Rep. Loretta Sanchez signed as cosponsor on 04/24/13.  H.R. 376 allows all eligible voters to vote by mail and allows any citizen to request a ballot through the mail in a federal election.  H.R. 376 has been referred to the House Administration Committee.

H.R. 376 is supported by the NALC.

H.R. 961 United States Postal Service Stabilization Act of 2013 was introduced by Representative Stephen Lynch (MA-9) on 03/05/13 and Rep. Loretta Sanchez signed as cosponsor on 04/23/13.  It has been referred to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.  H.R. 961 re-calculates postal surplus in the FERS pension fund using salary and demographic assumptions.  Surplus funds would be used to pay down USPS debt.

H.R. 961 is supported by the following groups: NAPUS, APWU, NALC, NPMHU, and NRLCA.

H.R. 2459, the Protect Overnight Delivery Act was introduced on 06/20/13 by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (CT-3) and Rep. Loretta Sanchez signed as an original cosponsor.  H.R. 2459 has been referred to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.  H.R. 2459 would reinstate overnight delivery standards for market-dominant products.

H.R. 2459 is supported by APWU, NALC, and NRLCA.

Postal Reform Act 2013

Major Points:

  • Modifies the Saturday Delivery Schedule. The Postal Service maintains Saturday delivery for packages and medicines, for at least five years, but phases out delivery of mailing bills and advertisements.
  • Phases out “to the door” delivery. The Postal Service will begin to stop delivering to the door mail and focus on delivering to clusterboxes and curbside delivery.
  • Brings new managers to manage the Postal Service. Brings in a panel of 5 full-time executives that have a clearly stated goal to turn around the postal service. Once the postal service is able to earn a profit, the panel is then eliminated in favor of the current set-up of the Board of Governors.
  • Changes some rates. Changes rates of postage to cover the cost of postal delivery.
  • Pay and benefits. Requires postal workers to pay the same premium contribution for health and life insurance benefits that other federal workers now pay.
  • Revenue. Allows the Postal Service to sell advertising space on vehicles and facilities.  Also allows the Postal Service to offer state and local services, such as the sale of fishing or hunting licenses.
  • Retiree Health Care Benefits. Starting in 2014, all future payments to the Retiree Health Care Benefits will be based on an actuarial calculation designed to achieve full funding by 2056.
  • Pension Accounts. Stops projected surpluses in the Postal Service’s pension system from going to pay for the operating losses of the Postal Service, but allows it to be used to pay for other benefits.

Changes from 2011:

  • No BRAC- there will not be a BRAC commission to ensure closure of postal service facilities that are losing money or to ensure that area and district facilities are consolidated. In 2011, there was a commission similar to BRAC to decide if postal service facilities should be closed.
  • Changes the Retiree Health Care Prefunding way of calculating to fully prefund the retiree health care benefit in 2056. In 2011, the bill would have deferred some payments but not set it up for an actuarial calculation.
  • Saturday Package Delivery is Protected. For at least 5 years, the Postal Service would maintain package and medicine delivery on Saturdays.  Other Saturday mail is not protected. In 2011, there was no such protection.
  • Pension surpluses. There would be an annual schedule to use projected pension surpluses to pay the retiree health care benefits, as opposed to a one time change.


The Postal Service, with its median pay of $53,090/year for postal service workers has allowed many workers to be able to reach middle class status even for non-college graduates.  Most jobs for the postal service require only a high school diploma.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2010, the Postal Service employed 522,144 career employees nationwide and over 8 million total, including 66,356 in California (with 2,637 in CA-46 alone).  Over the years from 2010-2020, BLS estimates a growth rate of -26% for Postal Service workers, which they classify as declining rapidly.  BLS estimates that the Postal Service will lose 138,600 career jobs over the years of 2010-2020.  BLS estimates that that the U.S. economy will add 20.5 million jobs in the same timeframe.  Out of 749 detailed occupations, 657 are projected to grow while only 92 are projected to decline.

The biggest decrease in revenue by the postal service came from 2008 to 2009.  In 2008, USPS generated $74.9 billion but in 2009, that had fallen to $68 billion.  This was partially caused by the recession while it had started in December 2007, did not take a sharp downturn until September of 2008.  Comparing 2008 to 2009, total mail volume fell by 25 billion, first class mail fell by nearly 4 billion, and advertising mail volume had fallen by 16.5 billion.  During the same time, nearly 40,000 career jobs were lost.  Since 2009, revenue has fallen from $68 billion to $65.2 billion and 100,000 career jobs have been lost.

In 2006, H.R. 6407 the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) was passed by the House and Senate and became law.  The PAEA established the Postal Service Retirement Health Benefit Fund (RHBF) and shifted away from the “pay as you go” model of paying for retirement benefits.  The Postal Service was required to prefund the health benefits of current and future postal retirees.  The RHBF was funded with $17 billion from the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and $3 billion that had been put in escrow from the suspension of the annual CSRS payment.  The PAEA required the Postal Service to make annual payments into the RHBF over a ten year period and to pay off the rest of its liability in the years 2017 to 2056.  The Government Accountability Office (GAO) in a recent report titled “Status, Financial Outlook, and Alternative Approaches to Fund Retiree Health Benefits”, stated that the payments to the RHBF were significantly frontloaded.  The fixed payments in the first 10 years exceeded what actuarially determined amounts would have been using a 50-year amortization schedule.  Due to these large upfront payments, the Postal Service has gotten deeper into debt.  Out of the $41 billion that the Postal Service owes, about $33 billion is because of this frontloaded payment schedule.  Taking the RHBF payments out of the equation, the Postal Service operates at a profit in 2007 and 2008, while managing less than $3 billion in the years of 2009 and 2010.  In 2011 and 2012, the debt is $5 billion in each of those years.  Without the payments to the RHBF, the Postal Service lost just over $8 billion from the year 2006-2012.

Postal reform seems unlikely without dealing with the scheduled pre-funding payments for the RHBF.  Almost all union groups agree that the PAEA’s scheduled pre-funding requirements need to be repealed.  Unfortunately, at this time, any legislation concerning the scheduled pre-funding requirements would not pass either the House of Representatives or the Senate.  The Postal Reform Act of 2013 addresses the RHBF by basing it on actuarial calculations designing it to achieve full funding by 2056.  The draft letter for the Innovate to Deliver Act of 2013 cuts pre-funding costs by less than six percent over the next 10 years.  The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and the USPS have announced a proposal that they call the Seal and Grow Approach.

The Seal and Grow Approach is a variation of the “pay as you go” method.  The USPS would stop prefunding and pay its share of premium payments for retirees as they become due.  The existing fund would be left to grow with interest until the USPS’s liability was fully funded.    The OIG estimates that it would grow from $44 billion to $90 billion in 21 years.  The OIG also stated in a 2009 report that the USPS could pay about $1 billion per year to prefund its retiree health benefits and still achieve the same level of funding.  The OIG found that 38 percent of Fortune 1000 companies prefund retiree benefits at a median level of 37 percent.  The Department of Defense prefunds its retiree health benefits.  While the Department of Defense has a 100 percent target funded percentage, it was funded at just 38%.  The OIG thinks it would be sufficient to prefund at just 30%.

Easing on the pre-funded requirements for the RHBF is unlikely to pass Congress.  Even if it did pass Congress, there is still a need for the Postal Service to make money to maintain its viability.


Ensure the appointment of those with extensive large business experience to the Board of Governors of the United States Postal Service.  Move away from the practice of Senate leaders recommending appointees to the board and instead focus on those who have proven track records working in large businesses, non-profits, or with working with unions.  Work with the Board of Governors to nominate a Chief Innovation Officer (as called for in the Innovate to Deliver Act of 2013) from the Board of Governors.  Finally, make sure that the Board of Governors does not have a vacancy on the Board of Governors for any more than 90 days.

  •   Allow for the shipping of beer, wine, and spirits as long as it is in accordance with state law. The general guidelines for shipping alcohol via FedEx would be applied here.  There would need to be an alcohol shipping agreement and identify alcohol shipments.  Some state laws require that there has to be an adult signature at the time of delivery for every package containing alcohol.  Alcohol that is illegal in states (i.e. Everclear) to purchase should not be shipped to states where they are illegal to purchase.  States that have laws prohibiting out of state beer, wine, alcohol would not be shipped to.
  • Allow for the sale of hunting and fishing licenses at Post Offices (as stated in the Postal Reform Act of 2013)
  • Advertising. With over 1 million visitors to the USPS’s website per day and 72,000 visitors per day for the USPS’s mobile website, it would be beneficial to allow for the sale of advertisements on their website.  Advertisements on vehicles could also be beneficial.  Advertisements in facilities could also be added to the list of beneficial revenue streams.
  •  Allow for postal service employees who work at postal facilities to be trained to be public notaries. In addition to being trained, public notary services will be offered at a competitive fee for the area at postal facilities.
  • Postal service facilities that have extra computers and access to internet can charge for use of the computer and internet such as printing, e-mail, etc.
  •      Postal service facilities can charge for the use of a fax machine at the postal service facilities.
  • Change the charge for delivery of mail to match the charge in CPI for private sector delivery charges.  Doing so would tie postage rates to cost trends in the Postal Service’s industry.
  • Based the payment for the RHBF on an actuarial calculation that is intended to fund the RHBF at 50% over the next 40 years.  Additionally, delay payments to the RHBF until 2017.  Adopt a modified Seal and Grow Approach.    Calculate payment into the FERS pension fund using postal demographics.  Surplus payments into the FERS pension fund can be used by the Board of Governors however they see fit. Surplus payments in the CSRS can be transferred to any way that the Postal Board of Governors sees fit.
  • Study over the next 90-120 days how the impact of subsidizing payments from political parties, political mailings, etc. will impact the revenue of the postal service.

Personal take:

After watching the markup in the committee of H.R. 2748, the Postal Reform Act of 2013, I think it’s fair to say that actual postal reform is unlikely at this point in time.  It’s possible in the future but there are too many issues where the parties are too far apart on to even agree to simplistic reforms. In the past two Congress sessions, there has not been a bill that emerged from committee to actually voted on by the House.  The bills that got brought to the floor for a vote, somewhat related to Post Office services, were the bills that were naming post offices.

When I first took on this project, I thought that the only reason that we’ve not come to a postal reform is because we were looking at the reform much too broadly.  There are going to be obvious disagreements, especially since the Democratic Party is focusing on the overpayment of the RHBF, especially the pre-funding requirements of the PAEA.  This is being taken apart by the Republican Party because this issue is the one that is brought up by every union when discussing the reform of the Postal Service.

Unfortunately, the disagreements between the two political parties or the two sides of the argument, we’re looking at a much bigger gap.  In the Innovate to Deliver Act of 2013 that will be introduced by Representative Elijah Cummings, ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, it will allow for the shipment of beer, wine, and spirits through the Postal Service.  This type of shipping might be able to add marginal revenue to the United States Postal Service.  Two private shipping companies, UPS and FedEx, allow for the shipping of alcohol based on agreements with the company.  They’re allowed to be shipped if they comply with all of the state laws.  For instance, some states do not allow for the shipment of wine.  Both companies require that someone who is over 21 signs for the alcohol.  Representative Blake Farenthold (TX-27) was appalled at such a suggestion during the markup of H.R. 2748.  He claimed that his daughters would have used mail service alcohol to drink underage.

Representative Farenthold also claimed that the shipping of alcohol was unconstitutional, claiming that part of the repeal of prohibition would prohibit the transport of alcohol across state lines.  Representative Jason Chaffetz (UT-03) is concerned that Utah would be importing too much alcohol into the state that is not in accordance with state laws.  Representative John Mica (FL-07) made the claim that everyone was actually thinking.  He stated that there was no need for the USPS to ship alcohol because there were already private businesses that offered that service.  Unfortunately, there was not a hearing about the shipping of alcoholic beverages by the private shipping companies.  The Postal Service because it is a quasi-government entity has to go through Congressional oversight.  This is just an example of the problems I see with even trivial postal reform.  Obviously, shipping beer, wine, alcohol, and spirits is not going to solve the problems of the Postal Service.

On the left side of the political spectrum, there has been claims that Representative Darrell Issa is trying to privatize the Postal Service.  This might be true, it might not.  The way he thinks about the Postal Service was made clear during the markup of his Postal Reform Act of 2013 bill.  He stated that the Postal Service was one of the least creative, least flexible organizations in the government.  He went on and claimed that the Postal Service should not offer any service that private businesses already offer.  Representative Jason Chaffetz echoed this claim adding that the reason for this was because the Postal Service enjoys special tax breaks or because they are allowed to subsidize how they ship packages.  But let’s imagine that the Postal Service actually became privatized.  What steps might they take to maintain financial viability?

My guess is that the first step they would take is to deunionize as much as they can.  Most career employees for the United States Postal Service are members of a union.  Largely, because of the union ties, career employees are able to make more money than they would with similar education and work experience.  Deunionizing the postal service would allow those who want to privatize the Postal Service to pay less in actual wages to employees, not to mention benefits.  Also, because of the unions, there are clauses in their contracts to prevent being laid off.  Without the unions, this would also be gone.  Next step, would be to find a way to stop overpaying into a retirement pension fund or to move the money from the pension fund to cover the debt.  The RHBF would likely have been replaced or removed when they deunionized the workforce.  If it was not, they would probably do what other Fortune 1000 companies do and fund the RHBF to about 30-35%.  Then they would look to compete with other private businesses.  They would add advertisements on their websites.  They would sell advertisements on vehicles and facilities.  They would likely sell facilities to the highest bidder (unlike what is happening now) after they were consolidated or closed.  They would likely do most of my recommendations.  But they would definitely try everything they can to make as much money as possible.  I doubt a privatized postal service would not deliver on Saturday.  That is a competitive advantage.  The real question in all of this is, if you want the Postal Service to run like a business, why are you not allowing them to run like a business?

Quick Facts:

  • 522,144 career employees for the USPS
  • 108,000 career employees who are veterans
  • -26% expected growth from 2010-2020, meaning over 100,000 career jobs lost
  • 0- number of bills that have been brought to the House floor related to postal reform
  • $787 million, online revenue for USPS in 2012
  • 160 billion total mail volume
  • 68.7 billion, total first-class mail volume
  • $85 billion, value of USPS real estate portfolio
  • $46 billion, remaining obligation in the RHBF
  • $22 million/day payments into the RHBF
  • $5 billion, amount required per year for the first 10 years by the PAEA to pay into the RHBF
  • $31.9 billion, payments into the RHBF from 2007-2012, out of $40.9 billion in debt
  • $34 million, debt accrued by the Postal Service without RHBF payments
  • $500 million, amount projected to save under POStPlan by replacing 10,000 career postmasters with part-time workers
  • 4.3%, amount first-class volumes are down in first quarter of FY2013
  • 4.8% amount periodicals are down in first quarter of FY2013
  • 10.3% amount that First-class single-piece volumes would fall in the first year of new service standards according to one study.  A later study showed it would be a 2.8% drop
  • 19.7%, amount that periodicals would fall in first year of new service standards according to one study, a later study showed it would be a 2.1% drop

The Left Way of Nominating a President

I would like to make historical comparisons, if I can.  Some on the Left, make a generalized comment that the Democratic Party chooses the most conservative candidate for the Presidential nomination. I will start with the 1972 Presidential Primary and conclude with the 2008 Presidential primary.


In 1970, Maine Senator Edmund Muskie gave the message of the Democratic Party to Congressional voters before the mid-term elections.  In January of 1971, South Dakota Senator George McGovern announced his candidacy for the Presidential nomination, polling in 5th place among other Democratic hopefuls.  By August of 1971, Muskie was the heavy favorite to win, not only the Democratic nomination but to win the Presidential election.  In January 1972, McGovern was polling at 3% among Democratic voters.  In January 1972, Alabama Governor George Wallace announced his candidacy for the Presidential nomination.  Former Vice-President Hubert Humphrey announced his near perennial decision to run for President in 1972.  In March of 1972, former Governor of North Carolina announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.  The Congressional Delegate for Washington, D.C., Walter Fauntroy, announced his candidacy and won the D.C. primary.  After a series of campaign attacks, Muskie ended up losing momentum and withdrew from the nomination before the convention.  George Wallace survived an assassination attempt in May of 1972, but was paralyzed from the waist down.  This effectively ended his campaign and he withdrew during the convention.  Humphrey was well-organized for the 1972 primary season, eventually winning many primaries.  He ultimately withdrew after a delegation fiasco at the convention. Sanford withdrew during the convention after finishing in 5th.  McGovern won the nomination.


Edmund Muskie: Muskie was the vice-presidential nominee for Hubert Humphrey in the 1968 election.  Muskie became the voice of the Democratic party by 1970.  He was also chosen to give remarks to the State of the Union address in 1972 and 1973.  Muskie was the heavy favorite to win the Democratic nomination.  But Richard Nixon and his “dirty tricks team” forged a letter alleging that Muskie insulted French Canadians and that his wife drank and swore.  Muskie made a big deal out of his defense for his wife.  He had melted snowflakes on his face that many people thought were tears.  He was accused of breaking down.  Even though Muskie won the Iowa Caucus and the New Hampshire primary, Muskie’s momentum was halted and he withdrew from the nomination.


Hubert Humphrey: Humphrey served as Vice-President from 1965-1969.  Humphrey was originally a skeptic of the Vietnam War.  But after President Lyndon Johnson gave him the cold shoulder for his criticism, Humphrey became a vocal supporter of the war.  Although Humphrey had major support from labor unions and other key Democratic allies, including civil rights activists, he was eventually troubled from his lack of support from college students and anti-war activists over his support for the Vietnam War.  Humphrey, who had the full faith and credit of the Democratic Party in 1968, tried to skip the primaries in 1972, ultimately failed, losing to George McGovern at the convention.

George Wallace: Wallace was the Governor of Alabama, who ran in 1970 for re-election as Governor, based on pretty racist advertisements including accusing blacks vowing to take Alabama.  Wallace did not support the Vietnam War.  Wallace’s 1968 election has been the platform for the Republican Party, since.  He argued against the federal government and busing laws.  Arguments, that more or less, carried over to today.  But in 1972, Wallace declared himself a Democrat and that he was a moderate on segregation.  Wallace was a great campaigner, but his assassination attempt ended his campaign.

Terry Sanford: Sanford, the former Governor of North Carolina, announced his candidacy to show that not all Southerners were in favor of segregation.  Sanford served as Governor of North Carolina, where he increased the state’s expenditures to public universities.  He oversaw the creation of North Carolina’s Community College System.  He raised taxes to help pay for the expenditure.  He also fought for desegregation in North Carolina.  He also was a vocal opponent of the death penalty.  Sanford did not fare well in the primaries.

George McGovern: McGovern, the Senator from South Dakota, was a vocal critic of the Vietnam War.  He had helped lead protests in 1968 after Humphrey won the nomination.  He announced his candidacy before anybody else, in January 1971.  McGovern was still polling below 5% by 1972.  McGovern ran with a grassroots level organization focusing on his anti-war policies.  McGovern won less primary votes than Hubert Humphrey but won, in part by a winner take all system in California.  McGovern’s campaign was focused on withdrawal of Vietnam, amnesty for draft dodgers,  and a 37% decrease in defense spending,  McGovern’s campaign at the end was attacked by the labor movement and Southern Democrats.

Conclusion: McGovern won over the party’s established candidates in Muskie and Humphrey.  By focusing on college students and appealing to the Left, McGovern won the nomination.  The favorites were both Muskie and Humphrey, they both lost.



There were no heavy favorites for the 1976 Democratic nomination, a record 23 people entered the race, but ultimately, it went to Jimmy Carter. In February of 1975, Henry Jackson, Senator from Washington, announced his candidacy.  He was considered the favorite when he ran for his candidacy.  Governor of Georgia Jimmy Carter announced his candidacy, as late as January of 1976, Carter was polling at 4% among Democratic voters.  After Carter announced his candidacy, Morris Udall, a Congressman from Arizona announced that he would be the liberal alternative to Carter.  Near the end of the campaign, Governor of California Jerry Brown announced that his campaign hoping to stall the conservative Carter’s campaign.


Henry Jackson: Jackson was considered a whore for defense spending.  He criticized President Dwight Eisenhower for not spending enough for defense spending.  He was considered the Senator from Boeing for his all talk about adding additional contracts to his state.  Jackson was one of the biggest supporters for the Civil Rights movement.  But because of his calls for defense spending and his support for the Vietnam War, Jackson’s campaign was initially attacked by the Left.  Jackson had raised his profile by speaking about the Middle East and U.S.-Soviet policy.  Jackson was also supported for his vocal support for Israel.  But because he never got off the ground for his support for Vietnam War and his lack of support from the labor movement, he ran out of money and ultimately dropped out of the campaign.

Jimmy Carter: Carter was not well-known nationally.  But because of the opposition to the Watergate scandal, Carter was able to target people because of his outsider status.  Carter won election as Governor of Georgia, in part because of a nasty racially charged campaign.  While he was Governor, he announced that segregation was over.  Carter merged hundreds of state agencies, as well.  He ran as a moderate in the South to George Wallace’s ideology.  While in the North, he looked Conservative.  Carter grabbed the early momentum by winning Iowa and New Hampshire. His early successes led the Left to find a new candidate to support.

Morris Udall: By the time Udall decided to run, Carter defeated his early challengers with a string of victories.  Udall announced his candidacy as the liberal alternative to Carter.  Udall was known in Congress for his environmental policies, Native American welfare, and commitment to campaign finance reform.  Udall, apparently, made witty speeches, which delighted a lot of his supporters.  Udall did not really emerge as a a formidable foe to Carter.  He was attacked as a racist in the Michigan primary.  He ultimately lost and did not get over the campaign as he endorsed Edward Kennedy’s run in 1980 against Carter.


Jerry Brown: Brown announced his candidacy even later, hoping to challenge the moderate Carter.  Brown was the Governor of California, at the time.  He was a fiscal conservative, championed environmental issues, and opposed the death penalty.  Brown was unable to stop Carter’s momentum, despite ultimate primary wins in Louisiana, New Jersey, California, and Nevada.

Conclusion: There was no clear establishment favorite after Edward Kennedy declined to run.  Jackson was the first favorite, but ultimately dropped out.  Carter was considered a conservative, at the time, but never really earned the support of the Party.  The Carter primary victory was vastly different than any since.



At the beginning of the campaign, vice-president and former Senator from Minnesota, Walter Mondale was the early favorite for the 1984 Democratic nomination.  Despite a primary win in New Hampshire by a moderate Senator from Colorado named Gary Hart, Mondale maintained his front-runner status.  Civil Rights Activist Jesse Jackson was regarded as a fringe candidate and finished in 3rd place, eventually winning 21% of the popular vote from the Democratic primary.  Former astronaut and Ohio Senator John Glenn also announced his candidacy, he was in 2nd place behind Mondale in early polling, but Glenn ultimately failed as a candidate.


John Glenn: Glenn was an astronaut and became a Senator in 1974.  Glenn was considered a choice for Carter’s vice-president nominee but his speech did not impress the Democratic Party.  In November of 1983, Glenn was polling a close second, trailing only Mondale.  Glenn decided to run for President as if he was voting for Senate.  He declined to cater to the interest groups, trying to appeal to everyday voters.  Glenn went deep in debt for his presidential campaign and failed to live up to his early billing.

Jesse Jackson: Jackson was more or less considered a fringe candidate.  He managed to win three to five primaries.  He won more votes in Virginia than any other candidate, but Mondale won more delegates.  Jackson’s campaign was doomed by his anti-Semitic remarks referring to New York City as Hymietown.  He also refused to disassociate himself from Louis Farrakhan.  He also was a supporter of the Palestine state.  Jackson was also critical of Mondale, saying that the last relevant politician from Minneapolis was Hubert Humphrey.


Gary Hart: Hart, Senator from Colorado, started out behind many contenders as someone who was not well known within the Democratic Party.  He began his campaign in New Hampshire earlier than most.  By late 1983, Hart was ahead of the middling contenders and polled in the middle of the pack.  Although, he lost the Iowa caucus, he came back and won the New Hampshire primary.  Hart was a moderate Democrat, who people thought represented the future of the party.  Because he was more independent, his ideas were different than many of the contenders in the Democratic primary.  Mondale jumped on this by claiming that Hart’s ideas were not substantial enough.  Ultimately, Hart lost to Mondale in the Democratic convention.

Walter Mondale: Mondale, by virtue of being Vice-President from 1977-1981 and running in 1980, was the clear front-runner in the 1984 election.  Mondale was a typical liberal Democratic presidential candidate who eventually campaigned against Ronald Reagan by supporting the Equal Rights Amendment, a nuclear freeze, and against Reagan’s economic policies.  His liberal attitudes helped him clinch the Democratic nomination but ultimately failed him in the general election.

Conclusion: Mondale was the most liberal candidate in the field.  He was also the front-runner throughout the entire election.  Some credit his lopsided defeat in the general election as the reason to shift to more moderate candidates from the Democratic party.



After the fairly strong showing in the 1984 presidential primaries, Gary Hart was considered the front-runner for the 1988 nomination.  But in 1987, news broke that Hart had an extra-marital affair.  Hart suspended his campaign and it became a free-for-all for the nomination.  Representative Dick Gephardt initially seized some of the momentum in Iowa by highlighting what he thought was unfair trade practices by Japan and South Korea.  Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis portrayed Gephardt as a flip-flopper in commercials.  Gephardt finished second to Dukakis in New Hampshire but his flop-flopping advertisements doomed Gephardt by Super Tuesday.  In early 1988, Jesse Jackson gained momentum by winning in Michigan.  But that was short-lived, as Dukakis won the Colorado primary and Wisconsin primary in back to back days. Senator Al Gore ran, as well, trying to capture the momentum on Super Tuesday as being the only Southern candidate, when 12 states would hold their primaries.  But he failed to account for Jackson, as Jackson and Gore split the Southern votes.  Dukakis did not focus on the Southern states and was able to win the majority of the primaries.



Dick Gephardt: Rep. Gephardt ran for President from his position representing Missouri, the 3rd District.  Gephardt, initially was dependent on labor and union spending as he decided to run.  He, initially, was critical of the decision in Roe v. Wade but later decided that he no longer supports restrictions on abortion rights.  He, also, initially voted in favor of Reagan’s tax cuts before being against them. He supported universal health coverage, fair trade, and progressive taxation.  He was able to capitalize on this spending by running advertisements that included highlighting unfair trade from Japan and Korea.  But after Jesse Jackson’s strong showing in Michigan, many unions and those in the labor movement switched support to Jesse Jackson, Gephardt ran out of money and steam.  Despite his strong showing early, he was out by Super Tuesday.

Al Gore: Gore, initially was a long-shot for the nomination.  But because of his youthfulness and his centrist policies, Gore seemed to be a match made in television heaven.  Gore was a Southern Democrat who opposed federal funding for abortion, supported prayer in school, and voted against banning interstate sales of handguns.  Gore was compared, somewhat favorably, to John F. Kennedy.  But Gore did not foresee Jackson splitting the Southern vote with him on Super Tuesday.  Gore was also criticized for some of the supporting words given by New York City Mayor Ed Koch in defense of Israel.  Many of these views cast others in  negative light and Gore was perceived as being too negative, he soon dropped out of the race.

Jesse Jackson: Initially considered a long shot due to his race and his kind of strange showing in the 1984 Presidential nomination process, Jackson showed to be a formidable foe by giving a rousing speech to the United AutoWorkers in Detroit.  Jackson picked up a lot of support in the union heavy Michigan.  After, he won the state, Jackson was considered the front-runner.  Jackson was considered to be a very liberal candidate supporting a variety of views that were not even on the Democratic party platform.  He was a supporter of single payer health care, going away from mandatory minimum sentences, reviving many of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal policies for farmers, providing free community college for all, among others.  Jackson was doomed, in part, because of the criminal activity of his half-brother.  Jackson, also, did not have the support from white voters.

Michael Dukakis: The Governor of Massachusetts at the time, Dukakis merely outspent the rest of his opponents to eventually win the nomination.  It really wasn’t that impressive of a victory.  This seems similar to Mitt Romney in 2012.  Dukakis ate up his competitors by outspending them and appealing to white voters.  By not focusing on the South, Dukakis was able to win other stats while Gore split the South with Jackson.


Conclusion: This election was very strange.  Dukakis was able to pick apart his opponents by using their weaknesses against them.  By focusing on flip-flopping with Gephardt, appealing to white voters to defeat Jackson, and to show that Gore was not liberal enough, Dukakis was able to secure the nomination.  This one had three lead changes for the nomination and the heavy favorite before the election did not even end up running.



As the Iowa caucus came about Iowa Senator Tom Harkin won handily but less than one month later, Harkin was out of the race.  Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, who was painting himself as a New Democrat, was a relative unknown.  A woman came forward claiming an affair with Clinton, but he re-branded himself as the comeback kid.  He finished in second place behind Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas in New Hampshire.  California Governor Jerry Brown won in Maine delaying the momentum of Tsongas.  Clinton began to take the momentum away from Tsongas and Brown, finishing in 2nd place in Arizona before beginning to win states of his own.  Tsongas hoped to push Brown out of the race by Illinois but Brown managed to stick around coming in 3rd place.  A week later, Brown won Connecticut sealing the fate for Tsongas.  Clinton won the vast majority of states after Connecticut.  Brown lost New York after being ahead for awhile.  That was the end for Brown.  Clinton was able to secure the nomination.


Tom Harkin: The Iowa Senator was considered the early favorite for the Democratic nomination.  He had strong support with the labor movement and began his run as a populist.  But he was not well suited for a national campaign.  Poor showings at other primaries doomed Harkin.  He threw his support behind Bill Clinton, early on, and later campaigned for him.

Paul Tsongas: Tsongas ignored the Iowa caucus and decided to focus on the New Hampshire primary.  He began the campaign focusing on his independence and fiscal conservatism.  He decided against campaigning on a tax cut like many other candidates. He was viewed as a social liberal and an economic moderate.  While in Congress, he focused on environmental conservation  and pro-business economic policies.  He was critical of the Democratic party for focusing on wealth redistribution when he thought they should be focusing on the federal deficit.  Tsongas, after his New Hampshire primary win, picked up several other primaries but was unable to match Clinton for fundraising.  His biggest chance was to force Jerry Brown from the race, which he was unable to do.  He was briefly considered the front-runner but Bill Clinton’s popularity and narrative as the comeback kid, placed him as the favorite for the majority of the race.


Jerry Brown: The former Governor of California was considered to be the most left candidate and the candidate who was the most right.  He campaigned by only accepting individual donations.  He also campaigned on populist ideals, calling for Congressional term limits.  But at different points, he campaigned for a flat tax, the abolition of the Department of Education, opposition to NAFTA, and support for living-wage laws.  Brown’s campaign was interesting, not spending for commercials but hosting talk and radio shows.  What allowed him to be a serious contender to Clinton was a narrow victory in Connecticut.  What doomed him was his in the New York primary, he told many Democratic leaders in New York City that he was considering Jesse Jackson as his Vice-President.  Because of his anti-Semitic remarks earlier, Jackson was still a hated figure in New York City.  Brown was unable to win New York.  Ultimately, Brown came in 2nd place overall.

Bill Clinton: Clinton gave a very long speech at the 1988 Democratic National Convention that was poorly delivered.  He should have played the saxophone.  But Clinton was an unknown in Iowa for the nomination, finishing a distant third.  While campaigning in New Hampshire, accusations of an extramarital affair was surfacing.  Clinton went on 60 Minutes with Hillary Rodham Clinton fighting the charge.  Clinton was able to convince enough voters to give him some love.  He finished within single digits of Tsongas in New Hampshire.  This was considered a major victory for Clinton’s campaign because he was not expected to do this well.  Clinton secured most of the South on Super Tuesday but he had failed to win a state outside of the South.  Because of Jerry Brown’s mistake in New York, Clinton was able to win New York which gave him credence that he wasn’t a regional candidate.  Clinton later became the nominee.

Conclusion: The original favorite bowed out early.  Clinton became the favorite by New Hampshire but there were still many questions about his ability to win outside of the South fairly late.  While Brown was never considered a favorite, he gave Clinton a challenge.  As for who was most Conservative and most Liberal?  Clinton was thought to be the leader of the New Democratic Party where it was going to win the middle of America.  Brown was considered the most Conservative and most Liberal candidate.  Tsongas is certainly not a Liberal.  Harkin was the closest to a Liberal in the campaign.  But, yikes. There was not a true Liberal in the Mondale mold.



Vice-President Al Gore was considered the favorite to run for the presidential nomination, as early as 1997.  Meanwhile, New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley formed an exploratory campaign to run for President in 1998.  Bradley was the only candidate to challenge Gore.  He trailed Gore in every poll and every primary.


Bill Bradley: Bradley campaigned as the liberal alternative to Vice-President Al Gore.  He campaigned on universal health care, gun control, and campaign finance reform.  Bradley also advocated for expanding the minimum wage, the Earned Income Tax Credit, expand Head Start, and expand welfare.  He stated that the best tax system would be low rates and no loopholes.  Bradley did not lead in any poll and he lost every primary.

Al Gore: After basically 12 years in the national spotlight, either running for President or being Vice-President, Gore was the Democratic Party’s favorite to win the nomination.  Gore ran to the middle throughout the campaign and distanced himself from Bill Clinton.  Gore was offensive with Bradley during their debates, but thanks to access to the party’s credit card, Gore was able to win the nomination, easily.

Conclusion: If you’re arguing for Hillary Clinton to be the nominee, Al Gore is basically your comparison.  Gore was much more conservative than Bradley and was considered the favorite three years before election.  If this is the nomination process in 2016, I fear for the 2016 Democratic nomination.  As we’ve seen for a number of primaries the favorite failed to secure the nomination, but in 2000, this was remarkably changed.




In May of 2002, Vermont Governor Howard Dean announced he would form an exploratory committee to run for President.  Massachusetts Senator John Kerry announced in December of 2002 that he, too, would form a committee.  North Carolina John Edwards also announced his intention to form a committee.  In April of 2004, fundraising totals for the first quarter of 2003 were announced showing Edwards in the lead, followed by Kerry.  Dick Gephardt and Joe Lieberman were ahead of Howard Dean but they were still over $4 million behind Kerry and Edwards.  Dean showed the first advertisement of the campaign.  A liberal website, MoveOn held a nonbinding Democratic primary for financial support and the website’s endorsement.  Dean came in first, followed by Dennis Kucinich, and Kerry.  By July of 2003, the second quarter fundraising numbers were in and Dean was now able to raise more money than anyone else.  Kerry came in second.  Edwards tied with Lieberman, in third place.  In fall of 2003, Dean was considered the favorite, performing strongly in polls.  Although he was a pragmatic centrist as Governor, in the mold of Bill Clinton, he denounced George W. Bush’s policies, in addition to, Democrats who did not oppose them, enough.  Dean was referred to as a Rockefeller Republican, socially liberal and fiscally conservative.  Despite being a heavy favorite, Dean focused on negative advertisements in Iowa.  After the results of Iowa were counted, Kerry finished in 1st, Edwards in 2nd, and Dean in 3rd.  Dean downplayed the result but Kerry was able to win New Hampshire, as well.  Edwards regained momentum by focusing on positive ads.  Kerry was able to maintain his lead throughout the process and secured the nomination.



Howard Dean: Dean has become a favorite of liberals on the internet who think that Dean represented the only liberal response in 2004.  They forget the criticism of Ralph Nader and others that called him a Rockefeller Republican.  Dean opposed the Iraq War and the Bush tax cuts and drew on the internet for grassroots activism and campaign funding.  This was in the mold of Jerry Brown asking for individual donations for his presidential campaign.  Dean was a longshot candidate to begin with, but because of his early announcement, as we’ve seen, he was able to gain early support.

John Edwards: Edwards was a one-term Senator from North Carolina.  He was the second or third place finisher in almost every primary.  Looking at the fundraising numbers, Edwards was the favorite to win the nomination.  By virtue of staying in the race longer than others, he was able to secure a number of delegates.  He also focused on positive advertisements.  He refused to attack John Kerry.

John Kerry: Despite not being the party favorite or party activists’ favorite, Kerry won nearly every primary or caucus.  You know he’s pretty much the favorite, when they say that the Iowa caucus revitalized his sagging campaign.  It’s the first caucus.  Whatever.

Conclusion: Edwards was initially the favorite if you look at fundraising.  Due to the internet and progressives, more or less seeing the same blogs and websites, Dean was the favorite.  But when it came to voting, there was no doubt, Kerry was the favorite, throughout.  Dean was considered by some to be the most liberal and that’s certainly the popular narrative now.  But that could simply be political posturing.  Edwards was often the one who was characterized as being the populist.  But we know how narratives can be invented years after the fact.




This was the first presidential election I remember paying close attention to. I watched the Democratic Presidential debates and also one of my friends and I volunteered for John Edwards’s campaign.  With respect to the other candidates, the choices were between Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards.  Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton emerged as the early two favorites in terms of fundraising.  Clinton was the favorite, according to an assortment of polls. In September 2007, she was leading the first six states that would hold primaries and caucuses. After multiple third place finishes, Edwards dropped out of the race.  Barack Obama won the early momentum by winning Iowa after Hillary Clinton declined to show up.  Obama campaigned largely on hope and change.  The Iowa caucus announced his presence to those who had been ignoring politics.  After the Iowa caucus, Obama began to look a little bit better in polls, showing him leading in New Hampshire.  Clinton narrowly won New Hampshire.  She stumbled after New Hampshire, implicitly making a racial remark about Obama.  Bill Clinton later compared Barack Obama’s primary victories to Jesse Jackson’s victories in 1988.  Obama surged on Super Tuesday after a one on one debate with Hillary Clinton.  The idea among Democratic voters and progressives was that Obama would be more liberal than Clinton.

Overall conclusion:

The favorite for the Democratic primary won in 1984 and 2000.

The most “moderate” candidate won in 1976 and 2000.

There is not strong historical evidence for the claim that the Democratic party would nominate the most moderate candidate.  Nor is there strong evidence for the favorite before the primary season to win the Democratic nomination.

Rewrapping the same policies: Rand Paul, Paulism, Libertarianism and the Republican Party

Note: This piece was originally written in September of 2014.  Senator Rand Paul has since announced his candidacy for Presidency and suspended his campaign.

At this point, it seems inevitable that Rand Paul will run for President in 2016.  The media infatuation with the junior Senator from Kentucky and his “libertarian” philosophy has only grown in the last few months, even from sources that are nominally called the liberal media by conservatives, including the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, even the New York Times ran an article about how libertarian philosophies were the latest political craze sweeping the nation.  These articles seem to leave many things out; the criticism of both libertarian philosophies and Rand Paul seem to be held to a minimum.  This piece will be how libertarian philosophies connect to voters, focus on Rand Paul’s tenure as Senator, and why there is such an infatuation with the younger Paul.

Defining libertarianism and defining “Paulism”

The Libertarian Party of the United States argues that they seek a world of liberty, in which all individuals are “sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others.”  They go on to clarify that “all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose.”

Because of these beliefs, Libertarians should have control of their own bodies making them very “liberal” on their views of prostitution, drug use, and gambling.  Additionally, they believe that there should not be government censorship or government established, or favored, religion.  For the most part, libertarians believe that those who identify as LGBT should be treated as equals and that “consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships.”  Likewise, they believe that abortion decisions should be left to the individual.  Laws establishing crimes without victims should not be considered crimes according to their beliefs.  Libertarians are slavishly devoted to the free market and adherent to the policies established by the free market.  Finally, their beliefs would entail an isolationist foreign policy with the military only being built to defend against an attack on U.S. soil.  There is a book published by the Ayn Rand Institute making a hawkish libertarian argument, which admittedly I have not read.

Here is where we should probably differentiate what we mean by libertarianism and the policy preferences of the libertarian wing of the Republican Party.  The libertarianism that is espoused by the Pauls and other members of the libertarian wing, for the most part, is traditional libertarianism combined with the beliefs of the religious right.  We saw above, that for the most part, libertarianism entails fiscally conservative policies with socially liberal policies.  Those within the Republican ranks who espouse libertarian beliefs almost always hold conservative views on abortion, LGBT issues, etc.  The main difference is that the libertarian wing of the Republican Party wants to decriminalize marijuana.  Jokingly on the internet, it has become common to refer to libertarians as Republicans who like to smoke pot.  The Paul’s are no different, we’ll see Rand’s views below, but Ron was strong pro-life, voted initially against the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, among other issues.  The furthest libertarian many of them will go on LGBT issues is to say that the states should decide on how to define/handle the issue.  This combination of libertarianism and the views of the religious right has become what I refer to as Paulism.

The popularity of Paulism

The biggest strength in the public opinion of voters is the idea of a smaller government.  This opinion has become prevalent and has been the central plank of both political parties.  Both political parties have campaigned on the idea of cutting spending for government programs that their respective party disagrees with.  According to a CBS News Poll released on August 5, 2014, 56% of adults nationwide would rather have a smaller government providing fewer services compared to 35% of adults who believe the government should be bigger and provide more services.  This is fairly consistent with what we see in the polling results.  A CNN poll released on October 20, 2013 found that 60% of adults nationwide believe that the government is trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses.  35% believe the government should do more.  A Gallup poll released on September 9, 2013 found that 53% of adults nationwide answered that the government is trying to do too much compared to 40% who believe the government should do more.  The Gallup Poll has been asked going back since 2008 with the same basic results.  Clearly, Americans want to rein in the federal government.

If we attribute libertarianism/Paulism with a slavish devotion to the free market and business, we can see another great strength of libertarianism.  61% of Americans had a positive image of capitalism according to a January 27, 2010 Gallup poll.  In that same poll, 86% of Americans reported having a positive image of free enterprise (I’m guessing because the word free is in there).   Entrepreneurs were seen as having a positive image with 84% of Americans.  If you were wondering why politicians drone on and on about small business it might be that 95% of Americans have a positive image of small business.  You may want to take that poll with a grain of salt as it was about 11 months before the TEA Party wave of 2010.  Even if you regress the poll results downward, you see that Americans have a very positive image of businesses, capitalism, and the free market.

Rand Paul’s primary/campaign

In 2010, Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning decided to retire rather than to seek re-election.  Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson was the initial favorite, as Paul was a little known ophthalmologist who was giving speeches around the state.  Paul was able to raise nearly half a million dollars on August 20, 2009.  He quickly capitalized on his outsider status and small government rhetoric.  He painted Grayson as a career politician and a liar.  Grayson countered that Paul opposed the PATRIOT Act, supported the closing of Guantanamo Bay, and that the foreign policy decisions prior to September 11, 2001 were partially to blame for the attacks. Paul accused Grayson of lying and accused Grayson of displaying a shameful tactic.   This would remain a useful tactic for Paul throughout his political career.

Paul initially supported the closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison facility.  Early in his campaign for Senate, he reversed that position and probably because of campaign advertisements attacking this position eventually supported closing Guantanamo.  He stated, “foreign terrorists do not deserve the protections of our Constitution…these thugs should stand before military tribunals and be kept off American soil.  I will always fight to keep Kentucky safe and that starts with cracking down on our enemies.

The popular ad hoc narrative around Rand’s campaign and TEA Party groups in general has been that the traditional polling firms underrated their candidates.  This narrative is false.  While Grayson was the early favorite leading Paul in early polls by about 10 points in August and September, by November Paul had barely taken the lead according to a Survey USA poll.  By Christmastime 2009, Paul now had a commanding lead over Grayson by nearly 20 points, according to Public Policy Polling.  Paul never relinquished this lead.  On May 18, 2010, Paul won the Republican nomination by 23 points.

In Kentucky, minor parties and independents are required to collect 5,000 signatures before getting their potential candidate on the ballot.  By filing deadline on August 10, 2010, no minor party or independent candidates filed.  This fits into the quite convenient narrative that Paul is a Libertarian and no Libertarian candidate would file out of deference to Paul.  Again, we see the narrative fall short.  The Kentucky Libertarian Party issued a press release stating that Paul was not a Libertarian.  In that press release, they expanded on the title by providing concrete examples of where Paul differs from the Libertarian Party.  The Libertarian Party “want[s] a complete repeal of the PATRIOT Act, closure of Guantanamo Bay, and an end to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”  Paul campaigned on keeping Guantanamo Bay and the Libertarian Party stated Paul “denied that he seeks to overturn the PATRIOT Act.”  The Libertarian Party of Kentucky was also critical of Paul for supporting the “discriminatory ‘one man, one woman’ definition of marriage” and not supporting civil unions.  Finally, Paul agreed with a law that outlawed adoption by anyone not living in a traditional, legally recognized, marriage.  This was, again, at odds with the Libertarian Party of Kentucky and most Libertarians.

While running for Senate in 2010, there was some debate about a mosque that was potentially going to be built two blocks from Ground Zero.  Paul stated that he did not support a mosque being built two blocks from Ground Zero.  He went on to say, “in my opinion, the Muslim community would better serve the healing process by making a donation to the memorial fund for the victims of September 11th. “

Perhaps his most famous incident while campaigning was an interview where he stated that he would have tried to modify the Civil Rights Act to get rid of the title that would ban segregation at private institutions.  It became the focus of his campaign and set up tension for after he was elected.  Paul repeatedly stated that he was not a racist and that he abhorred racism but he did not want to limit the free speech of private businesses.  In an interview with Rachel Maddow, he stated that businesses that practiced segregation were practicing bad business.    After the ensuing questioning of such a policy, Paul stated that he would not support repealing the Civil Rights Act.  On May 20, 2010 after Paul won the primary, he made an announcement to clear up the confusion of whether he supports the Civil Rights Act.  He stated “I unequivocally state that I will not support any efforts to repeal the Civil Rights Act.”  In his statement, he criticized the liberal establishment because they are “desperate to keep leaders like [Paul] out of office, and we are sure to hear more wild, dishonest smears during this campaign.”

His opponent in the 2010 Senate race was Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway.  Conway was considered the slight favorite in early polling leading by about 4 points according to polls by SurveyUSA and Rasmussen released in August-November of 2009.  By December of 2009, Paul had taken a 6 point lead, according to Public Policy Polling.  In virtually every poll after December of 2009, Paul led Conway, peaking at 25 point lead according to Rasmussen in May of 2010.  At the time, there was some talk that Conway could upset Rand in the general election.  Perhaps because of that, a lot of money was spent on the campaign.  Paul raised nearly $8 million compared to Conway’s nearly $6 million.

Aqua Buddha

There were five debates between Conway and Paul.  One debate, in particular, was nasty between the two candidates.  The debate was on October 18, 2010.  Conway brought up stories about Paul that circulated about the latter’s college years at Baylor University.  Senator Paul was a member of the NoZe Brotherhood that was banned at Baylor University for mocking Christianity.  Allegedly, Rand and a friend led a female student to a creek, tied her up and made her worship “Aqua Buddha.”  Paul was furious and said to Conway, “don’t make up stuff about me from college that you think you’ve read on the Internet blogs.  Grow up.”  The report in question was in the Lexington Herald-Leader among other news outlets.

Going further, Paul said, “Jack, you should be ashamed of yourself.  Have you no decency?  Have you no shame?”

Conway replied, “Values matter. Why did he freely join a group known for mocking or making fun of people of faith?  And secondly, when is it ever a good idea to tie up a woman and ask her to kneel before a false idol called Aqua Buddha?”  Instead of answering the questions, apologizing for the incident, denying the incident took place, or pivot to anything else, Paul attacked Conway.

“You know how we know you’re lying?  Your lips are moving.  You’re accusing me of crimes.  Do you know nothing about the process?  You’re going to stand there and accuse me of a crime from 30 years ago from some anonymous source?  How ridiculous are you?  You embarrass this race.  You really have no shame, have you?”  Paul responded.   It’s shameful to criticize Rand.

Paul criticized Conway for not joining many other states for suing the Obama administration over the constitutionality of Obamacare.  Paul argued that there were constitutional problems with the individual mandate and other portions of the law.  This was before the Supreme Court would rule that the mandate was, in fact, constitutional.  Conway said,”[I’m] always amused to get a lecture in constitutional law from a self certified ophthalmologist.”  Conway went further saying that there was no constitutional question when it came to Obamacare.

According to the polling results, people seemed to have liked Paul more after the debate.  A poll conducted by Rasmussen on October 18 showed Paul leading 47-42.  Rasmussen conducted another poll on October 23 and found Paul leading by 7 points, 50-43.  Conway’s chances of winning the election substantially declined.  The final poll conducted by Public Policy Polling on October 30 showed Paul leading by 15 points, 55-40.  The final election results showed Paul had won, 55-44.

Rand Paul’s early tenure

The media and Rand did not always have such a great relationship.  Shortly after his re-election, when he was questioned about his stance on the Civil Rights Act, Paul asked when his victory lap would begin.  He refused to go on the show “Meet the Press” if they were going to ask him about his stance on the Civil Rights Act.  He would later accuse the media of misconstruing his position.  This was a tactic he would learn how to use well.

One of his first acts during his Senate tenure was to help produce a bill that would be known as the Birthright Citizenship Act with Senator David Vitter (R-LA).  Currently, children born in the United States are considered United States citizens, regardless of the citizenship status of their parents.  The legislation introduced by Paul and Vitter would amend the Constitution so that the child can gain citizenship only if, at least one parent is a legal citizen, legal immigrant, active member of the Armed Forces, or a naturalized legal citizen.  When a child is born, the parents of the child would have to prove their citizenship status.   While introducing the legislation, Senator Paul maintained that “citizenship is a privilege, and only those who respect our immigration laws should be able to enjoy its benefits.”  Going further, Senator Paul argued that this legislation would make it that “everyone follow the rules, and goes through the same process to become a U.S. citizen.”

Shortly after being elected to the Senate, Senator Paul challenged Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid on the re-authorization of the PATRIOT Act.  He called the law an “unconstitutional infringement on civil liberties.”  He tried to insert a series of amendments to weaken the law.  The first would limit suspicious activity reporting requirements to requests from law enforcement agencies and the other would exempt certain gun records from being searched under the PATRIOT Act.

In May of 2011, he went on Sean Hannity’s radio show to discuss racial profiling in airports.  On the show, Paul said, “I’m not for profiling people on the color of their skin, or on their religion, but I would take into account where they’ve been traveling and perhaps, you might have to indirectly take into account whether or not they’ve been going to radical political speeches by religious leaders.  It wouldn’t be that they’re Islamic.  But if someone is attending speeches from someone who is promoting the violent overthrow of our government, that’s really an offense that we should be going after –they should be deported or put in prison.”  Luckily, the TEA Party did not hold any such rallies and did not make statements that they needed to water the tree of liberty (with the blood of tyrants) and to take the country back.  At least he doesn’t support racial profiling.  Well, except, he sort of is for racial profiling.  From the same radio show, “I do want them going after, for example, let’s say we have a 100,000 exchange students from the Middle East – I want to know where they are, how long they’ve been here, if they’ve overstayed their welcome, whether they’re in school.”

On November 29, 2011, Senator Paul made a floor speech in the U.S. Senate titled “Preserving Constitutional Liberties.”  In the speech, he stated that we should not detain citizens without a court trial.  In addition, he called for the government to prosecute terrorists in domestic courts and end indefinite detention.  Just a little over a year earlier to that, he stated that he was not in favor of closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.  Senator Paul stated he is “simply arguing that people, particularly American citizens in the United States, not be sent to a foreign prison without due process.”  Paul’s nativist stance on how America should deal with terrorists was also something he would continue.

Ending foreign aid

Senator Paul published a budget for fiscal year 2012 that he is still trying to back away from, today.  The budget was radical for many of its notions.  The portion of the budget that got most of the attention was his proposal to end all foreign aid, including foreign aid to Israel.   In the budget plan, he wrote, “while this budget proposal does eliminate foreign aid to Israel, it is not meant to hurt, negate, or single out one of America’s most important allies.  This proposal eliminates all foreign aid to all countries.  Israel’s ability to conduct foreign policy, regain economic dominance, and support itself without the heavy hand of U.S. interests and polices, will only strengthen the Israeli community.”  He gave several interviews, including one with Wolf Blizter, Jonathan Karl, and Dave Weigel saying that he cut the foreign aid to Israel and all foreign aid.   In his interview with Dave Weigel, Paul was upset with people reading his budget proposal saying, “people emphasize too much the cuts to one particular country.  We had $500 billion of cuts.  The cuts to that one particular country were three-fifths of 1 percent of it.”  Left unsaid by Senator Paul is that cutting all foreign aid would represent about 1 percent of the U.S. federal budget.  In 2009, the United States spent $44.9 billion in foreign aid out of total government spending of $3.52 trillion.  After a few months of criticism, Paul replaced his budget with a new one.   The section on Israel is omitted.  In addition, instead of cutting all foreign aid, foreign aid would be frozen at $5 billion.  This budget was the same budget that he introduced to the Senate.  Roughly three years later, in August of 2014, when a reporter asked him about ending foreign aid to Israel, he said the following:

“I haven’t really proposed that in the past.  We’ve never had a legislative proposal to do that.  You can mistake my position, but then I’ll answer the question.  That has not been a position – a legislative position- we have introduced to phase out or get rid or get rid of Israel’s aid.  That’s the answer to that question.  Israel has always been a strong ally of ours and I appreciate that.  I voted just this week to give money-more money- to the Iron dome, so don’t mischaracterize my position on Israel.”   Again, we see how Senator Paul responds to criticism.

While promoting his budget, Senator Paul stated that public opinion was on his side.  According to the Pew Research Center, cutting foreign aid has plurality support from 2009-2013.  In 2011, 45% of Americans thought we should decrease funding to aid to the world’s needy, compared to 21% who thought we should increase it.  This is largely because Americans constantly overestimate how much spending goes to foreign aid.  The Kaiser Family Foundation, in November of 2013, found that 62%of Americans thought that we spend too much money on foreign aid.  The poll found that, on average, Americans thought that 28% of the budget goes to foreign aid.  Once respondents were informed that spending on foreign aid accounted for 1% of the budget, the amount of people who thought it was too much was almost cut in half and those who thought it was too little doubled.


In February of 2013, Paul had written to John Brennan requesting additional information on the Obama administration’s belief of drone strikes on U.S. soil.  Attorney General Eric Holder wrote a letter back, dated March 4, 2013, to the Senator stating the administration has not carried out drone strikes in the United States and “has no intention of doing so.”  Further, Holder dismissed Paul’s questioning as entirely hypothetical and unlikely to occur.  Holder finally admits that there are extraordinary circumstances where the President would have no choice to authorize the military strike.  The examples Holder gave was Pearl Harbor and the September 11 attacks.  Soon after he received the letter, Paul issued a press release stating that Holder has not ruled out drone strikes on American soil, calling it an “affront [to] the Constitutional due process rights of all Americans.”

On March 6th, hours before Paul’s filibuster began,  the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on oversight for the Department of Justice.  Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) began a line of questioning on Holder to clarify the position of the administration on drones.  The line of questioning led to a question that was intended to ask, does the Constitution allow the United States to to use a drone to kill a United states Citizen, even one who is a suspected terrorist, while he is sitting at a cafe and not an imminent threat.  After a lengthy back and forth, Holder finally stated that no, the Constitution does not allow it.  Senator Cruz seemed pleased with this remark stating, in his usual grace, “after much gymnastics, I am very glad to hear that it is the opinion of the Department of Justice that it would be unconstitutional to kill a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil if that individual did not pose an imminent threat.”

Soon after that, Paul’s filibuster began.  He criticized the letter issuing a blanket statement that “there is the use of lethal force that can always be repelled.  If our country is attacked, the President has the right to defend and protect the country.  Nobody questions that.  Nobody questions if planes are flying towards the twin towers whether they can be repulsed by the military.  Nobody questions whether a terrorist with a rocket launcher or a grenade launcher is attacking us, whether they can be repelled.”  Senator Cruz and Senator Mike Lee both asked Senator Paul if he was aware of the Senate Judiciary hearing earlier and the response Holder had given.  He said that he was and that he was not satisfied as Holder had not said that it was unconstitutional but just responding to Cruz’s question.  Senator Paul received a letter from Holder later stating simply that the president does not have authority to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil.  Again, nothing about constitutionality.  Nevertheless, Senator declared victory stating that he finally received the answer to the question he asked.

Paul drew distinction between Holder’s responses, despite saying almost the exact same thing as Holder did, in his letter to Paul.  During the filibuster, Paul stated, “I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone without first being charged with a crime, without first being found guilty by a court.”  That statement is not quite correct.  As Senator Paul pointed out in his filibuster multiple times, that there should be an imminent threat standard.  Paul was critical of the Obama administration not wanting to debate the 5th Amendment, saying “if we’re going to do something, so dramatic as to no longer have the 5th Amendment apply in the United States, to have no accusation, to have no rest, jury trials for folks that are to be killed in the United States, it’s such a dramatic change that you would think we would want to have a full airing of a debate over this.”  During the 4th hour of the filibuster, Paul stated bluntly, “I’m aware of no legal precedent for taking the life of an American without the 5th Amendment or due process.”

On April 22, 2013, Senator Paul appeared on Neil Cavuto’s Fox Business Network Program.  You can watch the video at this link, so you don’t think I’m taking the Senator’s words out of context. “I never argued against any technology, when you have an imminent threat, an active crime going on.  If someone comes out of the liquor store,with a weapon in $50 in cash.  I don’t care if a drone kills him or a policeman kills him.”  Police officers are only authorized to use deadly force if a suspect is an imminent threat to the life of an officer or the people nearby.  This should be concerning to the 2nd Amendment supporters and gun rights activists who believe that the Obama administration will take away their guns.  Senator Paul seems to believe that someone with a gun is an imminent threat and can be killed by a drone, onsite.  Sensing the contradictory nature of his words on Cavuto’s program and his filibuster, Paul issued a press release: “Armed drones should not be used in normal crime situations.  They may only be considered in extraordinary, lethal situations where there is an ongoing imminent threat.  I described that scenario previously during my Senate filibuster.”  The scenario if you missed it was the 9/11 attacks or Pearl Harbor, essentially.  The same exact thing Holder said.  Senator Paul and his office said that it was unfair to single out one specific quote from his filibuster to show his hypocrisy.  Apparently, they were fine when they argued semantics about the Obama administration’s position on drones.

Senator Paul’s legislative actions to stop drone strikes was to write a bill that would prevent drone strikes on American citizens on American soil unless it was an extraordinary circumstance.  No bills were written to prevent drone strikes that are currently taking place.

Rand’s rise

It was after Rand’s filibuster that the media began to really fall in love with him.  Fox News described him, incorrectly, to the left of Barack Obama on drones.  Many political commentators were enthusiastic about Senator Paul and his stand against the arbitrary executive.  Very few media publications were willing to state that Senator Paul had the same position on drone strikes that he was filibustering.  The filibuster did not criticize the Iraqi war or the neoconservative hawkish tendencies of the Republican Party but was only a criticism of the Obama administration (for the most part) which plays well to the Republican base regardless of their tendencies to describe themselves, incorrectly, as libertarian.

The filibuster certainly had the desired effect of lifting Paul’s name in political circles.  In polls taken immediately after the filibuster, Paul’s name recognition among Republican primary voters had skyrocketed.  More importantly, they had skyrocketed in the positive direction.  Suddenly, Paul became the voice of freedom defending everyday Americans from the tyranny of the Obama administration.  His filibuster focused on a hypothetical that has no chance of occurring but paints a picture in people’s minds that they are willing to accept.  It’s not hard for many opponents of the Obama administration to believe that a drone strike could be ordered on someone sitting at a café in Houston minding their own business.  Of course, many of these same people believe that Obama is taking their guns and raising their taxes.  Their views on what is actually happening is somewhat skewed.

The media already had problems with drone strikes and Senator Paul helped to capitalize on this.  Of course, the media criticism of drone strikes was focusing on drone strikes that were happening overseas on suspected terror suspects.  There was also criticism of the list that the Obama administration had that listed their terror suspects.  The lack of transparency and the killing of seemingly random people overseas enraged many people including many members of the media.  Of course, there was very little criticism of this from Paul but the media heard drones and wanted to report on it.

The criticism of Rand

When the media does criticize Rand Paul, it’s for reasons that really do not have to do with his own policy ideas, however toxic that they can be.  He was criticized for having a close aide and co-author of a book who was a pro-secessionist radio host and neo-confederate activist.  Rand’s father, Ron published a racist newsletter and the casual association between the elder Paul and racism was waved away by libertarian writers, including Reason magazine editor, Nick Gillespie.  Jonathan Chait, a writer for the New York Daily News notes that the association between the Pauls and racism should not discredit their ideas but that “white supremacy is a much more important historical constituency for anti-government ideas than libertarians like to admit.”

Other criticism of the Senator focused on plagiarism.  During a speech, he, or rather his aides, wrote a speech heavily plagiarizing from the Wikipedia entries on the movie Gattaca among other places.

When the media tries to call out the Senator on his flip-flopping of ideas or repeats the words that Paul had used in the past, the media is construed as the bad guy.

Later tenure

During the fiscal year 2014 budget negotiations, Senator Paul proposed an amendment that would withdraw all funding for the United Nations.  Ron Paul was a frequent sponsor of a bill that would remove the United States from the United Nations.  In 2011, Senator Paul sent an e-mail to his supporters fundraising based off of the U.N. Small Arms Treaty which he claimed would take your guns from you.   Despite being very popular among right-wing conspiracy theorists, the treaty is not nearly that interesting nor does it claim what they claim it can do.

After Edward Snowden leaked documents about the controversial spying with the National Security Agency, Senator Paul realized what a great opportunity this was for himself.  Senator Paul joined TEA Party backed Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and FreedomWorks to sue the Obama administration over the NSA metadata spying.  According to one lawyer who also filed suit against the spying, the lawsuit authored by Paul, Cuccinelli, and FreedomWorks was plagiarized.  The lawsuit gave Paul some credibility within the civil libertarian community.  The lawsuit was the centerpiece of a number of speeches given by him, including a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference which was well-received.

Senator Paul, while campaigning, stated that he has zero tolerance for discrimination.  The Senate proposed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit employer discrimination based on sexual identity or orientation.  While it was in committee, Senator Paul voted against the bill and voted against it again once it was brought up to the whole Senate.  Perhaps this is not surprising since he does not believe that the federal government should be legislating against the employer’s wishes to discriminate.  Before it went before the Senate, Senator Paul and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to add an amendment that would create a “national right to work law.”  Right to work laws are laws that prohibit employers and workers from entering into contracts mandating union membership for any profession.  This would, seemingly, contradict Paul’s position on legislating who employers can hire.

In the late summer of 2013, the Syrian conflict had intensified with a report that Bashar al Assad’s regime had used chemical weapons on the rebel fighters on August 21.  At first, Senator Paul stated that we should support Assad because he had protected Christians in Syria.  He argued that the military strikes would destabilize the Assad regime which would then endanger Christians in the region.  Then he went on Fox News, and goshdarnit those liberals at Fox News, got Paul to say that Assad deserved death for the use of chemical weapons on civilians but that the air strikes would not be effective enough against the Assad regime.

After the 2012 presidential election, the Republican National Committee (RNC) performed an election autopsy to determine why they lost and how to prevent future losses.  One of the key findings of the report was that the Republican Party needed to reach outside their traditional demographic, rich old white guys.  Rand took it upon himself to show that he was the right person for the job to reach out to younger voters, Latino voters, among others.

Reaching out to Latino voters

Senator Paul was critical of immigration reform including the Gang of Eight’s immigration reform bill.  In his own effort to help with immigration reform, he decided to add an amendment intended to “Secure the Vote”.    His amendment would “require states to check citizenship before registering people to vote in federal elections.”  According to his press release, the amendment would ensure that individuals on work visas or given a new status under the Gang of Eight’s immigration reform are not allowed to vote until they become citizens.  He introduced an amendment to add onto this bill that would remove the pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.  Instead, his amendment would treat the immigrants as if they were in line in their home country while they are in the United States.

After the summer “crisis” of thousands of unaccompanied children crossing the border illegally, the Republican Party had a golden opportunity to show how they would reach out to Latino voters.  The Republican led House of Representatives passed two bills to deal with the crisis.  One of the bills focused on President Obama’s deferred action policy to not deport DREAMers.  The DREAMers are young adults who were brought to America as children and have completed high school and lived in the United States for at least five years prior to the bill’s passage.  To qualify for conditional status, they would need to have graduated from a two-year community college, completed two years toward a four-year degree, or have served two years in the military and after that, they can apply for permanent resident status within a specific 6 year period.  Americans overwhelmingly support keeping DREAMers in the country.  In the perfect way of reaching outside the demographic, Senator Paul went to Guatemala on a medical mission, accompanied by television cameras, photographers, political reporters, and two press secretaries.  When asked by right-wing news site Breitbart, Paul stated that he supported the House bills and “it will go a long way to fixing the problem.”  The Senator’s office confirmed that Paul supported both bills the House passed.

As we saw above, Senator Paul does not support a pathway to citizenship to those here illegally.  According to the national exit poll in 2012, 77% of Latino voters believe that unauthorized immigrants working in America should be offered a chance at legal status with only 18% saying that they should be deported.  The pathway to citizenship is somewhat more popular with Latino voters than it is with all voters nationwide.

Immigration reform is not the only important thing to look at when we look at appealing to Latino voters.  Looking at a poll from ImpreMedia/Latino Decisions from November 6, 2012, we see how Latinos view a number of other key issues.  To reduce the deficit, 42% of Latino voters believe that spending should be reduced and there should be increased taxes.  Only 12% of Latino voters believe that reducing the deficit should only be done through spending cuts.  25% of Latino voters believe that the Affordable Care Act should be repealed.  61% of Latino voters believe that the Affordable Care Act should stand as law.  Going further than the Affordable Care Act, two-thirds of Latino voters believe that the federal government should ensure that all people have access to health insurance.  Only a quarter of Latino voters think that people should provide their own health insurance.  While Paul is convinced that if he can just talk to Latino voters, he can convince them that he is right, this does not seem likely.

Reaching out to women

Since Paulism is essentially Republicanism with the added bonus of favoring marijuana legalization, it comes as no surprise that Paul is extremely pro-life.  Senator Paul has twice proposed a bill that would declare that human life begins at conception; this would give fertilized eggs the same legal status as those who are born.  Senator Paul stated that Congress has the power to define when human life begins under the 14th Amendment.   These types of law are known as personhood laws and do their very best to make abortions illegal. This type of law and this view is not popular with any segment of the population in America, except very right-wing Republicans.  A CBS News Poll released in August of 2014, found that 36% of Americans believe that abortions should be available, 34% said that they should be available under stricter limits, with only 26% of Americans stating that they should not be permitted.   A CNN Poll released in February of 2014 found similar results with 27% saying abortions should always be legal, 51% saying sometimes legal, and only 20% saying that they should always be illegal.

Lest I get criticized by those on the Right, who think it’s unfair to only include abortion and birth control in the issues about women, I’ll point out a couple of quick things.  Women tend to be more liberal than their male counterparts.  For instance, they support same-sex marriage by a much higher margin than males.  Rand Paul believes the issue of same-sex marriage should be returned to the states, although he states that he, himself, does not approve of same-sex marriage.  In general, women support stricter gun control laws.  They support a larger social safety net.  They are also more likely to support a path to citizenship for immigration reform.  All of these things, Senator Paul opposes.  Women, though, are more likely to believe that marijuana should not be legal according to a CBS Poll released May 18, 2014 showing 53% of women stated that marijuana should not be legal.

Reaching out to younger voters

According to the Pew Research Center’s fantastic work on millennials, about half of millennials do not identify with either political party even though they are “the most liberal and least conservative” of the four generations that the Pew Research Center studied.   17% of millenials identify as Republicans compared to 27% identifying as Democrats.  If you include those who lean towards a political party, nearly 50% of millennials identify as Democrats or lean Democratic compared to 34% for the Republican Party.

Those are just the parties; if Senator Paul will truly reach out to younger voters it will be on the issues.  Over two-thirds (68%) of millennials support same-sex marriage, which was a 24 point increase since 2004, the largest increase over the four generations.  Millennials also believe in a path to citizenship to those in the country illegally.  55% of millennials support a path to citizenship to undocumented immigrants compared to 25% who believe that undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay and only be able to apply for permanent residency and 16% who believe that undocumented immigrants should not be allowed to stay legally.  56% of millennials believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases and 49% of millennials believe in stricter gun control.  53% of millennials believe that government should be bigger and offer more services.  No other generation has majority approval for a bigger government.  While millennials are skeptical of the Affordable Care Act, 42% approve compared to 54% who disapprove, 54% of millennials believe that it is the government responsibility to insure coverage for all.

Where Rand Paul actually reaches younger voters is his somewhat actual libertarian stance on the drug war.  69% of millennials support the legalization of marijuana.  According to a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center released in February of 2014, 39% of Americans stated that marijuana should be legal for personal use and 44% stated that it should be legal for medicinal use.  To be fair to Senator Paul, he is trying to reform our criminal justice system with Senator Cory Booker.  He is trying to end mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders and to focus more on treatment for those in prison for drug possession compared to punishment.  Two-thirds of Americans agree that the government should focus more on providing treatment for people who use heroin and cocaine rather than prosecuting them.  Nearly two-thirds (63%) of Americans believe that it is a good thing for states to move away from mandatory prison sentences for non-violent drug offenders.

An interesting politician

Part of the reason that the media and people, in general, are infatuated with Rand Paul is that he is an interesting politician.  He makes interesting choices that other politicians are not willing to make.  He and his aides write a lot of op-eds on anything from foreign policy objectives to the demilitarization of the police.  He went to Howard University to give a talk about how the Republican Party can be inclusive (there were lots of things wrong with the speech but still an interesting choice).  He went through with a formal filibuster, as opposed to the normal procedural filibuster.  He is also willing to talk to the media about a number of key issues.

Senator Paul is media savvy but it does not make him a great person or someone who can change the standing of the Republican Party with a number of key demographics.  While Senator Paul can communicate with the media effectively, he cannot hide his record of voting or obsession with adding amendments to bills that are likely to pass.  He can make great talking point speeches about the arbitrary executive, the drug war, the rights of employers to privately discriminate, or how the Republican Party can be more inclusive but eventually he needs to follow it up with actions that actually agree with the speeches he makes.

At a certain point, media members and even those who try to convince themselves that they are libertarian will be faced with two realities.  The first is that they will realize that Paul is not a libertarian but rather a Republican who has some nominally libertarian ideas.  If those who believe they are libertarian still believe that Paul is their savior then go for it but they should probably re-identify as Republicans.  The other reality is one that everyone must face at one point in their life.  That reality is that your political view is an individualized project and it’s not easy to convince people that your political views are right because your views are not always right.  For the media members this would mean that maybe Paulism is not going to take off just because you believe a politician is interesting or because the views of the politician match some supporters at arbitrary points.

Raising the floor

On April 30, 2014, the U.S. Senate tried to bring a bill that would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.  Republican Senators filibustered the bill.  54 Senators voted to proceed with final consideration and 42 Senators opposed going to final consideration so the filibuster was successful and the bill was not voted on in its final form. The vote proceeded on party lines with the only Democrat not voting being Mark Pryor and the only Democratic Senator voting against moving the bill forward was Harry Reid, which was done with procedural reasons.  Republicans and other conservatives have largely been upset about efforts to raise the minimum wage instead, relying mainly on the claims of fast food workers and labor organizations to attempt to raise the minimum wage to $15 hour as opposed to efforts to raise the minimum wage that are politically viable.  The raise to the minimum wage to at least $10 per hour is inevitable but the raise to $15 per hour is not politically viable at this point.

Fast food organizers and various labor organizations have been calling for a significant increase to the minimum wage to $15 per hour.   The criticism against raising it is frequently subpar and if taken to their logical conclusion would have disastrous results.  I don’t really want to spend too much time taking apart the criticism because I don’t believe that the raise to $15 per hour minimum wage is something that could be implemented at the federal level for several years.  It seems pretty clear that the argument to raising the wage to $15 per hour is a negotiating tactic intended to highlight the wage disparity that is currently happening and to instigate action to raise the minimum wage.  Once the wage is raised to $10 per hour both sides can claim a partial victory which is what both sides want.  I really want to focus on why the minimum wage hike is a political inevitablity, why it is probably a good thing, and why most of the arguments against it are bananas.  I may generalize the arguments that I have read or seen from other people but I am hoping not to strawman any of the arguments.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) produced an analysis of the effect of implementing a $10.10 per hour minimum wage.  According to the CBO, low wage workers would see a total increased income of $31 billion.  19% of that $31 billion would go to families at or below the poverty level with 29% going to families earning up to three times the poverty threshold.  There would be decreases in income for those who lost their jobs due to the raise in the minimum wage, business owners, and consumers facing higher inflation prices.  The CBO estimates that after accounting for all of this, overall income would increase by $2 billion.  More importantly, real income would increase by $5 billion among families at or below the poverty level.  This would move 900,000 people out of poverty.  Families whose income would be between one and three times the poverty level would receive $12 billion in additional real income.  Families between three and six times the poverty level would receive an additional $2 billion in additional real income.  Business owners and those making over six times the poverty level will see their incomes decrease only as much as their profits decrease.

A brief history of the minimum wage

Some arguments about the minimum wage tend to focus on the idea that the minimum wage was never intended to be a living wage.  It was always intended to be a wage that was for those looking to supplement their income.  Of course, this is incorrect.

The minimum wage was established by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) at $0.25/hour.  This bill was signed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  The bill created overtime pay, a minimum wage, banning most child labor and established a 44 hour work week.  President Roosevelt, speaking to Congress prior to the bill being created said, “a self-supporting and self-respecting democracy can plead no justification for the existence of child labor, no economic reason for chiseling worker’s wages or stretching workers’ hours.”  President Roosevelt tried to convince Congress that the bill was a pro-business bill.  Labor historian Erik Loomis notes in his “This Day in Labor History” post linked above, that the “Commissioner of Labor Statistic Isador Lubin told Congress that the businesses surviving the Depression were not the most efficient, but the ones who most ruthlessly exploited labor into longer hours and lower wages.”  The establishment of these standards would attempt to halt these practices and allow businesses to compete on a somewhat more even playing field.

The minimum wage was supported by some leaders in the labor movement.  Others “supported it only for the lowest wage workers, fearing a minimum wage would become a maximum wage for better paid labor.”  This fear has been somewhat realized as commentators and business leaders often compare the wages of workers to the minimum wage when negotiating wages. The fear of resorting to the minimum wage for their labor has hindered some employees from exploring new jobs and limited their bargaining power with their employers.  That’s a subject for a different time, though.

Predictably, executives and business owners were livid about the minimum wage.  They predicted that they would not be able to afford employees, which coming at the heels of the Great Depression was fairly scary and reminiscent of what many critics of raising the minimum wage, now.  Roosevelt addressed these concerns in a fireside chat, saying “do not let any calamity-howling executive with an income of $1,000 a day…tell you…that a wage of $11 a week is going to have a disastrous effect on all American industry.”  As Loomis points out the FLSA has greatly expanded over the years.  He points out that Harry Truman expanded the FLSA to cannery and airline workers and John F. Kennedy expanded the protections to retail and service employees.  The 1963 Equal Pay Act, as Loomis, notes expanded the FLSA to “require equal pay for equal work for women and men.”

The effects of raising the minimum wage on employment

The conventional analysis of raising the minimum wage, to put it simply, (I am not an economist) states that there are two long-term effects on employment from raising the minimum wage. The first is known as the scale effect.  The scale effect is the one oft cited by critics of minimum wage hikes, albeit, they do not call it that. Essentially, higher wages raise the costs to businesses and the businesses pass this higher cost to consumers.  Due to the higher prices, consumers will buy less from the business and so there is less of a need to hire more workers. This has the effect of both raising consumer prices and decreasing employment among both low and high income workers.

The other long-term effect is known as the substitution effect. The substitution effect is where the cost of low-wage workers are increased compared to machines, technology, and more productive higher-wage workers.  To offset the costs, the business will shift to more machines, more technology, and try to increase productivity of higher-wage workers.  With this effect, you would not see a dramatic increase in price but you would see lower employment of low-wage workers but an increase of higher-wage workers.

As the CBO points out, though, conventional analysis might not be correct in all circumstances.  After an increase in the minimum wage, employers need to increase the pay to retain their original workers regardless of if new employees are hired.  Since the cost of hiring new employees as decreased there are some economists that argue that this will lead to increased employment.  In addition to that, an increase in the minimum wage could increase employment by raising the demand for goods and services.  A higher minimum wage tends to shift income from higher-wage employees and business owners to low-wage workers. Low-wage workers are more likely to spend a larger portion of their income on goods and services which would increase employment for low-wage workers and higher-wage workers alike.  As the CBO notes, “[this] effect is larger when the economy is weaker, and it is larger in regions of the country where the economy is weaker.”

A raise in the minimum wage would not only affect those wage-earners who earn the minimum wage but also though who earn slightly more than the minimum wage.  This should be a self-evident point but it’s often forgotten. Employers may also increase pay to keep pay differentials between positions consistent.  Some positions that are collectively bargained are tied to the federal minimum wage and those positions may see a pay increase, as well.

Employers whose businesses are more sensitive to price increases are more likely to see a higher decrease in employment than businesses that do not face this challenge.  Employers who cannot follow the substitution effect by replacing low wage workers with technology, machines, or more productive higher-wage earners are also more likely to decrease their employment in greater numbers.  Finally, businesses that rely heavily on low-income wage earners may see a decrease in their employment numbers.  Of course, they might not, if there are fewer jobs available for low-income wage earners, they may increase their productivity and that reaction combined with the lower cost of hiring new applicants, there might be a slight increase in employment or at least a net zero gain in employment. Finally, employers that do not employ very many low-wage employees that compete against employers that do employ many low-wage employees will see demand rise as the costs rise at the employers with many low-wage employees. These employers tend to hire more low-wage workers, boosting employment.  This last example portends well for Costco compared to Wal-Mart. We may yet have a law school at Costco.

For higher-wage workers, there is some good news for employment prospects according to the CBO.  Once the minimum wage stabilizes, higher-wage employees are slightly less expensive to hire.  Employers noticing that they can hire higher-wage employees to replace less productive low-wage employees for just a little bit more will hire more higher-wage workers.  This combined with the increased demand will increase employment for higher-wage workers.

The CBO’s central estimate found that raising the minimum wage would reduce employment by 500,000 workers.  The CBO points out that is “the net result of two effects: a slightly larger decrease in jobs for low-wage workers (because of their higher cost) and an increase of a few tens of thousands of jobs for other workers (because of greater demand for goods and services).”  Those who would lose their jobs would center on those making less than $10.10 per hour currently. Workers earning between $10.10 and $11.50 per hour may see a pay raise which could reduce their employment but employers may hire more of those employees to make up for those workers who were scheduled to make less than $10.10 per hour.  The CBO believes that the “number of such workers who were employed would probably not change significantly.”  The analysis by the CBO found that there is a two-thirds chance that the employment would be reduced between a slight reduction and a decrease of 1.0 million workers.

Who would be affected by raising the minimum wage?

Often critics of raising the minimum wage will couch their criticism behind the idea that minimum wage earners are high schoolers or senior citizens and the wages are used to supplement their income.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that this is more or less accurate.  Minimum wage jobs are mostly for young people.  In their study for workers who work for $7.25/hour or less, they found that 50.6% of them are ages 16-24.  30.9% of those who are working at exactly minimum wage are age 16-19 years old.  Of course, this study is only looking at workers earning the federal minimum wage or less but is not looking at workers who are working for slightly more thanks to their state or local municipality raising the minimum wage or for workers who would be directly affected by a raise in the minimum wage.

A liberal think tank, the Economic Policy Institute, tried to look at who would be directly affected by a raise in the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.  In doing so, they looked at everyone who earned less than $11.10 per hour.  The assumption is that those making a little more than $10.10 would also receive a slight boost (as we discussed above).   According to them, 12.5% of workers directly affected are less than 20 years old.  Beyond that, they found that 13.7% of workers are 55 or older.  36.5% of those who would be directly affected are 20-29 years old.  Nearly three-quarters (73.7%) of those affected by a raise of the minimum wage are between the ages of 20-54.  The average age for those making less than $11.10 per hour is 35 years old.  The report’s author told PolitiFact that when he changed the numbers to those earning within 3% of the state’s minimum wage that the average was 31.  The CBO looked at workers who would earn less than $11.50 per hour under current law in 2016 and found that 88% of them would be 20 or older with only 12% being 16-19.

The assumption that these jobs are used primarily for supplemental income are created to make sure that people don’t feel bad when they state that they don’t want to raise the minimum wage.  If you can convince people that they don’t really need the money then you can paint those arguing for a minimum wage hike as selfish.  The Economic Policy Institute found that only 14.2% of workers who would be affected by the minimum wage hike work fewer than 20 hours per week.  About 54 percent work full time, as defined as 35 or more hours per week and 32 percent work 20-34 hours per week.  This is also consistent with what the CBO found. They found that 53% of low-wage (earning less than $11.50) would be working 35 or more hours per week.  Those workers affected by the raising of the minimum wage earn on average 50% of their family’s income.  Not surprisingly, the vast majority of those affected by this raise (68.9%) have total family incomes of less than $60,000 per year.  About a quarter (23.1%) of those affected have family incomes below $20,000 per year.  Only 4.5% of those affected have a total family income of over $150,000.  $144,000 is six times the poverty level for a family of four which is where we start to see real income decline because of the wage increase.  Over a quarter (26.1%) of those who would see their wages rise from a minimum wage raise are parents.  Some critics of raising the minimum wage state that those earning minimum wage or just a little more should know that their incomes are not enough to raise a family. Nearly three-quarters of them are not parents showing self-restraint and practicing safe sex even while these same critics advocate for cutting spending on family planning services such as Planned Parenthood, favoring abstinence only sex education (which has proven to be ineffective), praising the decision in the Hobby Lobby case that stopped some coverage of health insurance and contraception, and criticizing health insurance plans that provide free contraception.  That’s probably not relevant, though.

The education of workers

A frequent argument against raising the minimum wage is that those working minimum wage jobs are for those with less education. If these workers were willing to educate themselves, they would find better jobs.  The CBO projects that 58% of all workers without a high school diploma will be low-wage workers (earning less than $11.50/hour in 2016), 30% of all workers with a high school diploma/some college will be low-wage workers, and 7% of workers who earned a bachelor’s degree will be low-wage workers.  Perhaps they have a point.  That is, if you forget that 87% of workers aged 16 to 19 will be low-wage workers and that 12% of low wage workers are under 20.  You know most of those years are spent GOING TO HIGH SCHOOL. You can’t have it both ways; you can’t claim that the vast majority of low-wage workers are young and then say they are also uneducated.

Projecting out to 2016 with the CBO, 70% of low-wage workers have a high school diploma and/or some college and 10% of low-wage workers have a Bachelor’s degree. That leaves about 20% of low-wage workers who have not graduated high school.  That doesn’t leave many uneducated people out there working low-wage (less than $11.50/hour) jobs  who are not younger than 20.  Knowing that, is it possible that raising the minimum wage could help educate these workers?

This is a crazy thought but college is significantly expensive and can be out of reach for those workers who are earning minimum wage.  College is significantly more expensive than in any time in history.  The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) houses education statistics since 1969 including the price of tuition until the 2011-2012 school year.  For a public four-year institution, the tuition was an average of $7,701.  For someone making the exact federal minimum wage ($7.25/hour) and working 40 hours per week, this tuition would be over 50% of their total income (even if you don’t include any taxes).  Since low-wage workers on average earn half of their family’s income, that’s unfeasible, without taking significant student loans.  Even at California’s current minimum wage ($9/hour), a four year public university would take up 41% of the worker’s income which is still a significant amount of income.  If the worker wants to go to a trade school or a two year college, a public two-year college costs on average $2.647.  How can we compare this against the number of years?  The next table compares how many hours one would have to work at the minimum wage to cover a year of tuition at a four year public university using in-state tuition. The first column is the year followed by the wage, the tuition in its non-inflation adjusted dollars and finally the number of hours it would take at this wage to pay for the tuition.

Year Wage Tuition ($) Hours
1969 1.6 358 223.75
1970 1.6 394 246.25
1971 1.6 428 267.5
1972 1.6 503 314.375
1973 1.6 514 321.25
1974 2 512 256
1975 2.1 542 258.0952
1976 2.3 617 268.2609
1977 2.3 655 284.7826
1978 2.65 688 259.6226
1979 2.9 738 254.4828
1980 3.1 804 259.3548
1981 3.35 909 271.3433
1982 3.35 1031 307.7612
1983 3.35 1148 342.6866
1984 3.35 1228 366.5672
1985 3.35 1318 393.4328
1986 3.35 1414 422.0896
1987 3.35 1537 458.806
1988 3.35 1646 491.3433
1989 3.35 1780 531.3433
1990 3.8 1888 496.8421
1991 4.25 2117 498.1176
1992 4.25 2349 552.7059
1993 4.25 2537 596.9412
1994 4.25 2681 630.8235
1995 4.25 2848 670.1176
1996 4.75 2987 628.8421
1997 5.15 3110 603.8835
1998 5.15 3229 626.9903
1999 5.15 3349 650.2913
2000 5.15 3501 679.8058
2001 5.15 3735 725.2427
2002 5.15 4046 785.6311
2003 5.15 4587 890.6796
2004 5.15 5027 976.1165
2005 5.15 5351 1039.029
2006 5.16 5666 1098.062
2007 5.85 5943 1015.897
2008 6.55 6312 963.6641
2009 7.25 6695 923.4483
2010 7.25 7136 984.2759
2011 7.25 7701 1062.207

From that table, we can see that it now takes about 1000 hours of minimum wage work to be able to afford one year of tuition at a public four year institution.  To kind of tease out the variable of college tuition, the next table shows how many hours it would take if the minimum wage remained at $7.25 in 2012 dollars for each of those years.  The first column is the year, the wage column is what the wage was in comparable dollars to $7.25 in 2012.  So, for instance, $7.25 in 2012 adjusted for inflation was $1.16 in 1969.  The final column is the difference in total number of hours that would have needed to be worked with the real wages compared to the wages with the 2012 minimum wage in inflation adjusted dollars.  The final column is the total number of hours needed to work at the year’s minimum wage compared to the total number of hours needed to work for the 2012 inflation adjusted wage.

Year Wage Tuition Hours Difference in hours
1969 1.16 358 308.6207 -84.87068966
1970 1.23 394 320.3252 -74.07520325
1971 1.28 428 334.375 -66.875
1972 1.32 503 381.0606 -66.68560606
1973 1.4 514 367.1429 -45.89285714
1974 1.56 512 328.2051 -72.20512821
1975 1.7 542 318.8235 -60.72829132
1976 1.8 617 342.7778 -74.51690821
1977 1.91 655 342.9319 -58.14932848
1978 2.06 688 333.9806 -74.35794101
1979 2.29 738 322.2707 -67.78798374
1980 2.6 804 309.2308 -49.87593052
1981 2.87 909 316.7247 -45.38145509
1982 3.05 1031 338.0328 -30.27159286
1983 3.15 1148 364.4444 -21.75787728
1984 3.28 1228 374.3902 -7.823079723
1985 3.4 1318 387.6471 5.785776997
1986 3.46 1414 408.6705 13.41903201
1987 3.59 1537 428.1337 30.67226541
1988 3.74 1646 440.107 51.23633171
1989 3.92 1780 454.0816 77.26165093
1990 4.13 1888 457.1429 39.69924812
1991 4.3 2117 492.3256 5.792065663
1992 4.43 2349 530.2483 22.45757536
1993 4.56 2537 556.3596 40.58152735
1994 4.68 2681 572.8632 57.96028155
1995 4.81 2848 592.0998 78.01785496
1996 4.95 2987 603.4343 25.40776183
1997 5.07 3110 613.4122 -9.528733651
1998 5.15 3229 626.9903 0
1999 5.26 3349 636.692 13.59924693
2000 5.44 3501 643.5662 36.23964877
2001 5.59 3735 668.1574 57.08529448
2002 5.68 4046 712.3239 73.3071243
2003 5.81 4587 789.5009 101.1787511
2004 5.96 5027 843.4564 132.660129
2005 6.17 5351 867.2609 171.7681862
2006 6.37 5666 889.4819 210.7122281
2007 6.55 5943 907.3282 108.5691916
2008 6.8 6312 928.2353 35.42882802
2009 6.77 6695 988.9217 -65.47343758
2010 6.89 7136 1035.704 -51.42805665
2011 7.1 7701 1084.648 -22.44099077

This table produces more of a need to cut the costs of colleges more than an increase in the minimum wage.  But there are a number of years where the employee would need to work about 2 more weeks of minimum wage to be able to afford a year of tuition with the wage that was constructed compared to the current wage (minimum wage was really stagnant in the 1990s, though).  Although, again, many critics of raising the minimum wage are trying to make it harder for those making minimum wage to be able to afford school by cutting state budgets to schooling, cutting aid programs (such as SNAP, TANF, etc.) or want to make it harder to be able to get those programs.  Finally, many are trying to block Medicaid expansion which would allow these workers to get health insurance and having a greater chance of attending school.

Food service, income inequality, and the minimum wage

Restaurants and food services employ nearly half of all American workers who earn the federal minimum wage or less while restaurants employ nearly 10% of all American workers.  The National Restaurant Association found that there will be nearly $683.4 billion in sales in 2014.   It’s not surprising that thanks to these sales restaurant CEOs are very well compensated.  The average top restaurant CEO was paid $10,872,390 in 2013.  This was more than 721 times what a worker earning minimum wage would make in a year.  To put it into more context, within the first half-day of working, a CEO will have earned as much as a minimum wage worker will earn in a whole year (provided that they work full-time).

The National Restaurant Association has frequently opposed a raise in the minimum wage.  They state that restaurants would “limit hiring, increase prices, cut employee hours or implement a combination of all three to pay for the wage increase.”  Congress last voted to increase the minimum wage in 2007.  In 2006, the top CEO’s made 609 times what a minimum wage worker made.  While denying a raise in the minimum wage to millions of workers, CEO’s were able to line their own pockets with cash.

In 1965, a CEO made 20 times more than a typical worker in 1965, growing to 29.1 in 1978, 58.7 by 1989 and reached a peak of 383.4 by the end of the 1990s.  Right now, the average CEO makes 295.9 times more than the typical worker.  All these statistics are courtesy of the Economic Policy Institute.

It’s a good thing that the CEO’s and others at such corporations, like McDonald’s, produced a handy budget to help those who are unfortunate enough to be stuck working a minimum wage job.  Of course, it assumes that you are working two jobs.  One job is at McDonald’s at minimum wage which gives you $1105 per month and the second job is basically a full time job (over 30 hours a week) if you are working at the minimum wage.  Good luck working those two jobs with your McDonald’s schedule that probably is not very consistent.  The annual compensation for the CEO of McDonald’s, Donald Thompson is $9.5 million.   McDonald’s Corporation spent over $2 million lobbying in 2013.

The budget that McDonald’s posted was taken down after criticism from many organizations. 

Because of the number of teenagers and high school aged teenagers who are working at restaurants and in the food service industry, many people cite that as the fact that these jobs are only supposed to be for them.  Unfortunately, the hours of operation of these restaurants significantly disproves this.  For some reason they are open late at night and during the day when children are at school.

Obviously, not all restaurants are comparable to large corporations to McDonald’s or other franchises.  There are many mom and pop restaurants and other small businesses that could be hurt by raising the minimum wage. Of course, they should look at other factors including whether or not additional buying power by their consumers can help alleviate some of the damage.

The political inevitability

Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour (or close to that amount) is inevitable. The question is just a matter of when.  In a poll released in March of 2014 by ABC News/Washington Post, 50% of Americans stated that they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supported raising the minimum wage.  Nearly every poll conducted on the issue shows overwhelming support for raising the minimum wage.   Just a quick rundown on some nationwide polls: Bloomberg found that 69% of Americans favored raising the minimum wage to $10.10 over the next three years.   In June, CNN found that 71% of Americans favored an increase in the federal minimum wage and the New York Times found in September of 2014 that 70% of Americans supported raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.

Support for raising the minimum wage hovers around 70%.  The only poll asking respondents what the minimum wage should be raised to, the CNN poll, found that 52% of Americans supported raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour or higher.  19% favored raising the minimum wage but to less than $10.10 per hour.

The polls also indicate what talking points will be used to lower this support.  The Bloomberg poll misrepresented the CBO report and stated that only 16.5 million Americans will see their incomes increase while 500,000 jobs would be eliminated.  Both of these are misrepresentations as we will discuss later.  57% of Americans found this tradeoff to be unacceptable.  This is not surprising since both of the statements are incorrect.   As long as you focus on the total number of jobs lost and lie about who will see their incomes increase, people will not support raising the minimum wage.

We see that the vast majority of Americans support raising the minimum wage, who does not support raising the minimum wage?  To answer this question, I looked at cross-tabs for 10 statewide polls from Public Policy Polling (PPP).  The nine states that I looked at were Connecticut, Louisiana, Kansas, Florida, North Carolina, Michigan, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Minnesota.  PPP asked if voters would support or oppose a raise in the minimum wage to $10/hour.  I looked at the percentage that stated they opposed the minimum wage.  Then I looked at the percentage of each of the cross tabs that opposed the minimum wage hike.  I subtracted those in the cross tab from the overall percentage who opposed the minimum wage hike.

If there is a negative in the column it means that there are less people in that cross tab who oppose the minimum wage hike.

State Female Male
Connecticut -6 7
Louisiana -8 9
Kansas -9 10
Florida -6 8
North Carolina -7 8
Michigan -5 6
Kentucky -8 8
Mississippi -8 11
Minnesota -7 7
Average -7.1 8.2

So on average, women were less likely to oppose a minimum wage hike and men were more likely to oppose the minimum wage hike.  Women are more likely to be making minimum wage (or close to minimum wage) than men.  Next table is by political party.

Note: Independent also means other in this table

State Democrat Republican Independent
Connecticut -21 24 9
Louisiana -23 25 2
Kansas -22 15 -9
Florida -14 18 -4
North Carolina -19 23 3
Michigan -24 24 6
Kentucky -15 20 -2
Mississippi -28 24 4
Minnesota -26 29 4
Average -21.3 22.4 1.4

Not even close to surprising is that Republicans are much more likely to oppose a minimum wage hike.  It also gives the appearance that the minimum wage hike is largely a partisan issue.

The next table was going to be a table looking at racial demographics.  Unfortunately, due to choosing less racially diverse states such as Louisiana, Kansas, Mississippi, and Minnesota PPP lumped racial categories together into an “other” category which makes crossracial comparisons not as accurate.  Whites are more likely to oppose a minimum wage hike at 5.3, meaning that in the average state, whites opposed a minimum wage hike by 5 percentage points above how the state felt.  Blacks opposed the minimum wage hike at about the rate as Democrats (meaning almost none at all).

The last table is an age comparison:

State 18-29 30-45 46-65 65+
Connecticut -14 4 -1 3
Louisiana -10 2 0 2
Kansas -12 5 1 -3
Florida -15 -4 7 3
North Carolina -5 -1 3 -2
Michigan -4 4 1 -2
Kentucky -3 2 1 -3
Mississippi -14 -3 0 12
Minnesota 3 5 -2 -8
Average -8.2 1.6 1.1 0.2

Younger voters are less likely to oppose a minimum wage hike.  This is not surprising but gives us another opportunity to show how millenials are changing politics.  If we take out the outlier in Mississippi, we see that senior citizens are less likely to oppose a minimum wage hike, as well, although it is only by 1.25 points.  Although if you take out Minnesota, as well, it is essentially zero for senior citizens.

After looking at the data, those who oppose a minimum wage hike are primarily white, male, Republicans between the ages of 30-65.  The strongest correlation between opposing a minimum wage hike, though, is political party (it would then be followed by race), then gender, then age.

Characteristics of minimum wage workers

I wrote a lot about the projections of the CBO for what the minimum wage workforce will look like in 2016.  The BLS data on minimum wage workers is an extremely valuable resource for those who want to discuss the current minimum wage intelligently.  Some of the highlights include that workers who make exactly the minimum wage ($7.25/hour) or less now represents less than 5% of the total workforce.  The data is self-reported and is asked about their income.  Of course, many states have a state minimum wage above $7.25, as do cities, counties, and municipalities.  Because of that and my focus on workers who are earning below $11.50 for the most part, I did not include much of the data that was found in the report.

This section will just give some more information on those working at exactly the minimum wage or lower.  All information can be found in the BLS data linked above.  About half of those who earn the minimum wage or lower are under 25.  5% of all women who are paid hourly wages make the minimum wage or less compared to 3% of men.  5% of all hourly paid Black workers, 4% of White workers and Latino workers, and 3% of Asian workers earned the federal minimum wage or less.  10% of hourly paid workers without a high school diploma earn minimum wage or less, 4% who have a high school diploma, and about 2% of college graduates do the same.


What are we to do in the face of all this knowledge?  One thing that we definitely will do is argue about raising the minimum wage while building strawmen because we like to do that.  The minimum wage is almost certain to be raised to $10 per hour at some point in the near future.  At some point in the future, we may see the minimum wage even be raised to $15/hour but that is more likely due to inflation and there are not bills on the horizon with this type of provision.

I remain unconvinced by arguments by critics of the law that it would hurt work ethic to raise the wage, just as pay raises at other jobs do not hurt work ethic, there is not sufficient proof that this will happen.  I did not even address this in the post as I believe the very thought is laughable.

When discussing any policy, there are multiple things that you have to weigh, I do so with a utilitarian bent on most policy issues.  The evidence suggests that there will be a minimal job loss, minimal-moderate increase on consumer price, and a minimal loss of income for those making more than 6 times the poverty level.  For the last point, even if there was a substantial loss of income, I would still probably be ok with it as I believe in a larger redistributive society.  I believe all of that pales into comparison to lifting hundreds of thousands of families out of poverty, increasing educational opportunities for more people, and increasing real income for millions of individuals.  In my mind, I weigh it fairly favorably to raising the minimum wage.

Obviously, raising the minimum wage is not going to be a cure-all for poverty and I don’t believe that anyone is suggesting that.  In my ideal world, we would have an increased Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and we would expand it to include more individuals.  Additionally, we would spend more state funding on both two-year public universities and for four year public universities.  As everyone suggests, the best way to avoid poverty is to increase educational opportunities.  Unfortunately, many state budgets have been slashed much to the detriment of four-year and two-year public universities.  I have written about the scourge of for-profit universities who have worked to take their place, in the past.  I believe that the expansion of the EITC in both the amount that is paid out and who it goes to is critical, as well.  If I had to bet on one or the other to happen, it would be on an increased and expanded EITC.

For-profit not for help

For-profit universities and colleges educate about 12% of the postsecondary population.  They attempt to appeal to potential students by highlighting how their school adapts to youhow school can fit around your schedule, and in general how returning to school can change your life, specifically your financial situation.. A for-profit university business model was essentially created in 1992, when the House Committee on Education created the 90-10 rule.  The 90-10 rule allowed students to receive federal student aid eligibility for the universities, if the education from the university is valuable enough that the student would be willing to pay up to 10% of the total cost of the education out of pocket.  Only veterans are exempt from the rule that prohibits students receiving more than 90% of financial student aid from the federal government.  But for profit universities have succeeded in the years immediately following the recession as more and more people were looking to go back to school or attend college for the first time.
The Institute for Higher Education Policy issued a press release stating that “low-income students-between the ages of 18 and 26 and whose total household income is near or below the poverty level-are more likely to be overrepresented at for-profit institutions and are underrepresented at public and private four year institutions.”  Possibly even more troubling is that this has been a part of a trend, from “2000 to 2008, the percentage of low-income students enrolling in for-profits increased from 13 to 19 percent, while the percentage enrolling public four-year institutions declined from 20 percent to 15 percent.”
There are two ways to look at this.  One is that you can believe what these institutions are saying.  For-profit universities and colleges have long stated that the reason for their colleges to exist is to allow those in the lower socioeconomic statuses to be able to create a way for them to move up to the middle class.  One of the ways that they claim they are doing this is to offer free GED courses at some of the universities.  This has taken place at a number of Everest College locations.  Everest College is a property of Corinthian Colleges, Inc., based in Santa Ana, California. The other way of looking at this is that they are trying to prey on those in the lowest socioeconomic status.  They do this by putting commercials on during times to attract those who are unemployed, by being on during Jerry Springer, Maury, and other daytime shows.  The commercials attempt to sell people on the idea that the lifestyle that they want is just a matter of choice of going to this college.  Many of these students are the first in their families to attend college and are simply unprepared for determining the difference between attending a for-profit university and a more rigorous educational institution.  It’s easy to assume the worst in people instead of thinking the best.  But, for-profit universities and institutions might be even harder to assume the best.
A major for-profit university group puts a job listing through a staffing agency, encouraging people with customer service experience to apply.  But primarily, what they are looking for are people who have experience in sales.  The job is for a student services associate.  When these colleges/universities show their commercials, there is a 1-800 number listed to find out how you can begin your new career today.  This 1-800 number is connected to a call center.  These student services associates are the first points of contact for potential students.  Company documents for the for-profit university and the job listing reiterate the point that the job is primarily selling the school/product.  Despite the job title role, the primary role of the student services associate is to sell the product and to delay any answers to questions that potential students have, for the local institution.  Not surprisingly, this job role is listed as being in the marketing department.
Student service associates are trained to be a combination of salesperson and PBX Operator as the goal for each phone call is for the prospective student to visit the campus.  They do this by speaking to an admissions representative at the local campus or scheduling an appointment with the call center representative.  The trainer for one of the for-profit universities frequently mentions that besides buying a car and a home, education will be the most expensive purchase for these students and that people don’t buy these expensive things by reading about it online or talking about it on the phone.  They have to come and experience it before they buy it.
Most of the money that for profit universities “earn” are from federal financial aid programs.  The share of federal funds going to for-profit universities doubled from 2001 to 2010 increasing from 12.2% to 24.8% from 2001 to 2010, according to a Senate report by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA).  In terms of dollars, there was an increase of funds $5.4 billion to $32.2 billion during the same time period.  In 2010, the company college mentioned above received 81.9% of its revenue from federal financial aid programs.  The 30 companies that the Senate Education Committee examined received 79% of their total revenue from federal financial aid programs.  The Pell Grant program which is one of the largest federal programs to assist economically disadvantaged students has also increased the revenues for for-profit universities.  According to the Senate Education Committee’s report, from 2001 to 2010, Pell Grant funds collected by for-profit universities increased from $1.4 billion to $8.8 billion.  The share of Pell Grants received by for-profit universities has also increased from 14 to 25 percent.  We’re able to explain a small amount of of this increase as Congress increased the amount of Pell Grant funds available in the four years prior to 2010.  For the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 years, Congress allowed students who attended year-round school to receive two Pell Grants in an academic year.  Additionally, with the Great Recession, there has been an increase in the number of students eligible for Pell Grants attending for-profit universities.  In 2009, the company that I am using as the basis for this, allocated 9.1% of its revenue, $119.2 million to profit, and 22.5% of its revenue, $294.7 million to marketing.  All told, these companies that the Senate Education Committee investigated used 23% of its revenue to marketing in 2009, that is $3.7 billion.
According to an internal document obtained during one of the lawsuits against them, the target demographic for these schools are “isolated, impatient individuals with low self-esteem, who have few people in their lives who care about them and who are stuck and unable to see and plan well for [the] future.”  During the new hire training, student services associates are told by the marketing director that they intentionally put commercials and advertisements to target those who are poorer or unemployed.  This is not necessarily a problem, as colleges should be reaching out to these individuals.
The training for student services associates mostly consists of trying to overcome objections, giving non-answers, and keeping the prospective student on the phone long enough to complete the lead information. According to one job aide given to employees, student service associates are told that they cannot answer any questions.  An example from a company document about staying within the company’s compliance while responding to the prospective student is found below:
Caller: How much does all of this cost?

Associate: Cost is important to many of our students and we have trained professionals at the campus who can go over cost with you. Make sure when you go in for your tour that you ask to speak to ou r financial services department.

Most prospective students do not ask additional questions when this answer is given and even if more questions were asked, more non-answers would be given.  The student services associate’s goal is to keep prospective students on the phone while they get your information.  They are, in fact, graded on their ability to get this information and their performance at the job depends on it.  Another internal document states that “if the prospective student’s information is entered without any contact information it will be scored as a zero by quality.”  The most important pieces of information to gather by these associates are the phone number and e-mail address.

To save you the trouble of having to call one of these institutions and have your contact information on file for them to call you an excessive amount (we’ll get to that later), I will let you know what information is asked and how the associate attempts to keep you on the phone to get this information.

Most prospective students when they call have a program that they are most interested in and that is the first thing they say.  Associates are required to cross-sell to online courses, if they are offered online, as soon as the program is mentioned.  This is because, as the trainer of the company states, it is much cheaper for the company to run online classes and they can have more students in them.  If the college/university does not offer the program at all, for instance philosophy, they are also required to say that they don’t offer that program. But associates are not allowed to list programs that they offer, only ones that are considered “core programs” and have been cleared by the company’s legal team.  If it’s related, even slightly, the associate is supposed to mention the field that it relates to. The examples on the company documents obtained by the author are Ultra Sound (associate is to mention the medical field), Web Design (computers), and Legal (Criminal Justice).  In 2010, the company was found to have a little over a third of its students enrolled online.
The student services associate asks for the prospective student’s name so that the information can properly be stored.  After receiving the name, most associates go onto the next screen, which will hold the information for the student’s address.  This serves two purposes.  The first of which is to find out the closest campus location for the student.  The campus location is determined by a combination of the address and the program of interest. The second purpose is to have the student’s information to mail them out information on the university group. Student service associates are encouraged to get the mailing address but if that is not possible, student service associates need the zip code to populate the school.  So, after the address and the program of interest, the school should populate.  But associates are told not to give out the school, just yet.  The best practices taught in training is to explain to the student that it takes a few moments to load up the school and to proceed with receiving the rest of the contact information from the student.

The associate tends to ask for the phone number, next.  At, at least one, prominent for-profit university group the phone number is captured by a caller id system and automatically populated into this lead generator tool.  If the student does not want to give out their phone number, the associate enters in a dummy phone number and selects it as the main contact.  The student believes that by not giving out their phone number they will not be inundated with phone calls asking them to attend this school.  One former employee of this university group does not believe this work.  As the former employee recalls an outbound phone campaign with the dummy phone number listed as an alternate contact.  Finally, after the phone number is collected, the student is asked to provide an e-mail address.

At this point, the prospective student is usually upset that the school that they originally asked for has not been given to them yet. But there’s still two more questions to ask.  The first is to ask if they have served or are currently serving in the military.  Employees are led to believe that this question is asked to help veterans, but as we’ll see below, this is used for fairly nefarious purposes.  The last question to finish out the phone call is to ask the highest level of education.  In order to qualify for federal financial aid, you have to, at least, have a high school diploma or GED.  As we saw above, this is very important to for-profit university groups.  After receiving all of that information and following the job aide to not answer any questions, the associate could now give out the information for the school to the prospective student.

But there are other requirements for the student services associate. The first of these requirements is that the associate is to deliver an experience to match up with the students’ key items.  The idea is that the student associates need to sell the student on this particular for-profit university group.  Some of these experiences is financial aid/services, accelerated courses, small class sizes, hands on training, instructors with real-world experience, career services, ongoing counseling, and flexible schedules.  All of these are taken directly off a company document provided to student services associates.  But even these services/experiences are intentionally left vague and most of them will eventually be passed onto someone else at the campus.

One of the biggest questions students have about for-profit universities is about whether their education will even mean anything. Almost every student wants to know if the school is accredited.  From the job aide given to new hires, “it is absolutely imperative that you not attempt to answer the question [about accreditation] with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or to provide any information at all about what type of accreditation our schools have.” (Emphasis mine).  New hires are told that when accreditation is mentioned in a phone call, the call is automatically listened to for quality purposes.  The job aide for new hires tells them to deflect the answer by saying the following:

Accreditation is important to many of our students, so I’m going to try to get you in touch with a campus so they can answer all of your questions for you.

The boards that are responsible for accrediting these for-profit colleges, very often, have members or are chaired by people who also serve in cushy executive positions.  In the case of Corinthian Colleges, the chair of one of two boards that accredits the universities serves as the executive vice president of operations.
If the student asks a point blank question, such as, is there a campus in my area and they give the state, it is the responsibility of the associate to still ask for the contact information before they answer this question.  It should be noted that these associates are given the information where campuses are located.  The easiest way to do this, as a best practice that associates are trained in, is to explain that the company opens campuses up all the time and this way we have the information, in case one is to open up.  Another way is to offer online classes.  But the point remains the same; students are seen as leads, and not students.

Part of the reason student services associates are asked to make sure they get the contact information is so that the aggressive outbound calling campaign can begin.  Outbound dialing to prospective students is very aggressive.  Reports from one for-profit university group indicate that they only call leads that have been in the system for over 90 days without enrolling in the school.  Other university groups contact the prospective student almost immediately after filling out the interested in attending school information.  Some university
groups claim that they are not buying/selling students’ information and they may be telling the truth.  Other university groups do, seem at least, to buy/sell student information.  Prospective students have told me that they have signed up for information regarding one school and had a totally different school contact them.  Anyway, prospective students are bombarded with phone calls.  There are not exact figures provided by the company in the company documents that have been obtained by A More Perfect Union.  I have seen students contact more than 5 times in a given day.  I have also seen the same name pop up through the dialing process every day.  I’m not asking you to trust my memory but if you know of someone who signed up to receive information on a for-profit university, for the most part, they will agree with me.

Associates go through a quick training process to prepare for outbound dialing.  The training is fairly narrow and is designed to overcome objection.  The main goal of the training is for the associate to either instill fear to the prospective student or to try to stump the student so they agree to the transfer to the school.  Again, the associate is told that they cannot answer any question but encourage the student to accept the transfer to the school.

Not surprisingly, for-profit university groups’ executives are paid much more than leaders at public and non-profit colleges and universities.  The CEO’s of for-profit universities studied by the Senate Education Committee earned on average $7.3 million in fiscal year 2009.  The highest paid public college president in 2011 was Gordon Gee, who made about $2 million.  This is about 3.5 times less than the AVERAGE CEO of a for-profit university group.
Some companies, in order to stay within the 90/10 rule, have raised tuition.  These companies have been fairly upfront about it.  At least to students. Well, once they’re already enrolled.  The script for student services associate is found above, but that’s nothing compared to admissions representatives who are actually at the campus.  Admissions representatives are asked to deflect questions of cost by using the following script obtained by the Senate Education Committee:
“The cost of the program will vary depending on several factors.  Is your question really how much is it going to cost you in out of pocket dollars?  In order for me to answer the question, first we would have to determine the right program for you.  Second, we would have to determine what time-frame you expect to complete the program; and finally the Student Finance office would determine the types of financial assistance you may be eligible for.  Could you tell me why you are asking about the cost?”
To help pay for the recruiting and high executive compensation, for-profit universities charge more for their classes than a comparable traditional four-year institution.  The medical assistant program at one of the universities costs about $22,000 compared to$1.650 at a community college in the same city.  An associate’s degree in paralegal studies costs just over $41,000 compared to just over $2,000 at a nearby community college.  A bachelor’s degree in business costs over $80,000 compared to $55,000 at a local 4 year university.  In part because of these high costs, it is nearly impossible for people enrolled in these for-profit universities to live the prosperous lives that they imagined, when they picked up the phone to call to improve their lives.
Because of these high costs, almost every student who attends a for-profit university takes out loans, 98% of students enrolled in a two-year program and 96% of students enrolled in a four-year program.  The Senate Education Committee found that among the 30 for-profit university groups that they examined, the average withdrawal rate was 54%.  Meaning that over half the students who enrolled in a for-profit university withdraws before finishing their program.  Nearly two-thirds of students enrolled in one of the major for-profit university groups’ associates program withdrew before completing their program.  The median student withdrew after just over 120 days.  But certificate programs, such as medical assistant is another major draw for for-profit universities.  Nearly 40% of students enrolled in certificate programs at a for-profit university will withdraw before they have completed the program.  Many of them doing so within 100 days of enrolling.

Because of the high withdrawal rate for students prior to completing their program, students attending for-profit colleges are much more likely to default on their student loans.  The Department of Education tracks and reports the number of students who default on student loans.  A default on student loans means that the student has not made a payment in 360 days within 3 years of entering repayment.  About 22 percent of students who attend for-profit colleges default on their student loans.  About 9% of students who attended public or non-profit colleges defaulted on student loans.  Students who attend for-profit colleges default three times more than students who attend non-profit or public colleges.  Almost half of all student loan debt in the United States is held by students who attended for-profit universities.  Beginning this year, any school will lose federal financial aid eligibility if its default rate exceeds 40% in a single year, or if the default rate is higher than 30% for each of the most recent three years.  If this had been in place in 2011, Corinthian Colleges would have lost federal financial aid eligibility.
For-profit universities have been trying aggressive strategies to make sure that their students default within the window that would penalize them.  The strategy is to place students who are facing these problems into temporary deferments or forbearances. But this is not in the best interest of the students.  As the Senate Education Committee notes in their report, “during forbearance of Federal loans, as well as deferment of unsubsidized loans, interest still accrues.  The additional interest accrued during the period of forbearance is added to the principal loan balance at the end of the forbearance, with the result that interest then accrues on an even larger balance.  Thus, some students will end up paying much more over the life of their loan after forbearance or deferment.”
The most money that a for-profit university group spent per student on instruction in 2009 was Corinthian Colleges, who spent $3,969 per student.  By comparison, they also spent $2,465 on marketing per student, and $998 on profit per student.  Public and non-profit 4-year colleges spend a lot more per student on instruction.  Community colleges spend about the same as for-profit institutions but they offer tuition at a much lower cost.  University of California at Los Angeles spent $30,331 per student on instruction.  The University of Southern California spent $35,920 per student on instruction.  Orange Coast College spent $3,272 per student on instruction.  In 2010, one major for-profit university had one student services staffer (i.e. tutor) for every 160 students.  Meanwhile, there was one recruiter for every 40 students.  Guess we know where the priorities are.
For profit university groups routinely mislead prospective students about how the students will fare once they leave the school.  One major for-profit university has 1 career counselor for every 145 students and that is one of the best rates out of all of the for-profit university groups studied by the Senate Education Committee.  One for-profit university group was found to inflate the numbers for every program by 37%.  In 2010, the same for-profit university group falsified employment records of 288 graduates over four years.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) attempted an undercover investigation to see the practices of for-profit colleges firsthand.  They attempted to enroll at 15 of the for-profit university groups.  12 GAO employees successfully enrolled. While attending class, all of the enrolled students began to perform in a “substandard” level.  At three of the schools, the instructors acted consistent with the policies and standards of the school.  One student received points for assignments that they did not complete and ended up passing the class.  The full report can be found here.
One college never acknowledged one student’s request to withdraw before ultimately expelling the student for failure to attend.  This may be a violation of federal regulations that state that a college needs to use the date that a student attempts to start the withdrawal process as the date of withdrawal.  Federal laws and regulations require that students who have federal loans be given exit counseling about the risk of default among other things.  Three of the students involved in the investigation never received their exit interviews.
Military students at for-profit universities are highly sought after.  This is because they are exempt from the 90/10 rule.  Even better for these schools, is that money for military veterans counts on the 10 side of the 90/10 rule.  One for-profit university group produced a 56 page strategy document to help recruit new military students.  The first objective for this strategy was to increase military enrollment fourfold in two years.  They advocated for spending $30 million on marketing in key military publications and key military installations.  Another for-profit university group stated that the most important targets for them was the 800,000 military spouses who were authorized a one-time entitlement of $6,000.  The memo stated that they should reach out to these spouses “at the military bases with various career fairs, direct communications, and visibility with the Office of Military Families in Washington would be very important.”
In August of 2009, the post 9/11 GI Bill was implemented.  Veterans who serve 90 days or more in active duty after September 10, 2001, are eligible for up to 36 months of educational benefits.  Veterans can transfer this credit to their spouse or their children. The Department of Defense expanded aid available to active duty soldiers through the tuition assistance program.  This program provides up to $4,500 a year to a soldier’s classes.  In 2009, Congress also created the Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts designed to help military spouses by giving them up to $4,000 over three years.  Because of this, military recruiting was amped up by the for-profit education sector.
One for-profit university group created a training manual specifically designed to target U.S. soldiers, to “utilize fear, uncertainty, and doubt in the sales process.”
One military recruiter told The New York Times “there is such pressure to simply enroll more vets- we knew that most of them would drop out after the first session.”
One military man in charge of education and development at a military base explained that these schools prey on marines, calling all day and night.  They take advantage of the fact that the nobody in the marines’ families attended college.
Senator Harkin called these practices disgraceful.  He noted that “out of the $640 million in Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits that flowed to for-profit schools in 2009-10, $439 million went to 15 publicly traded companies.  This amount is equal to 69 percent of the military money flowing to for-profit schools, and 25 percent of all Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.  Eight of the ten top recipients of VA dollars see more than half of their associate degree students they enroll drop out within one year.  At some of the schools, more than 60 percent of military veterans default on their student loans for for-profit universities.
Military veterans are actively recruited to attend these schools, as opposed to public four or two year institutions.  If a military veteran puts in their information for a non-profit institution, they’re unlikely to get calls and e-mails back.  But if they do it for a for-profit institution, then recruiters will call them everyday until they sign up to attend the classes.  These types of tactics certainly seem predatory.  Especially when you consider the fact that, for the most part, credits received from these institutions do not transfer because the schools are not rigorous enough or even are accredited.  Military veterans who expect the GI Bill to help further their education face predatory tactics from for-profit institutions and wind up in debt pursuing a dream that will not in all likelihood, come true.
For-profit universities serve an integral part of our society, today, unfortunately. People who are poor, who underperformed in high school, former convicts, etc. need to be able to find a job. We place an increased importance on being properly educated to have the job but we don’t explain to people how to properly pursue this education.  State government budgets are increasingly slashed because government spending is ridiculed in the public eye.  With the budgets being slashed, public four year universities are having to go through drastic reductions in staff to maintain their budget sheet.  Community and junior colleges, places that have traditionally been there to help the poor and underserved, are seeing their budgets decrease in dramatic fashion.  It’s no wonder that we see the rise of for-profit colleges and universities.  It’s no wonder that we see these colleges thrive in economic recessions, charging exorbitant tuition for a diploma, certificate, degree that is ultimately worth about as much as the paper it’s printed on.  But I’m not here to hate the player, but hate the game.  Junior colleges and community colleges need to ramp up their recruiting efforts.  States need to recognize this as a problem and fund junior and community colleges.  Ultimately, these people will see that this education can be done better for a much lower cost.  People who graduate from community and junior colleges make more money than those who graduate from these for-profit institutions.  People need to be made aware of this, instead of having thousands of commercials for ITT Technical Institute and University of Phoenix on for every commercial break.  But, oh well. I can’t be too mad at for-profit colleges as they are just taking advantage of a system that has seriously betrayed those who need it most.  Instead of laughing off the commercials for Kaplan or any other of these colleges, we need to address the systemic problems and help those who need it most.

Why I Missed Donald Trump’s Rise

When Donald Trump first announced his candidacy, I remarked that he would pass and fall out of the race relatively quickly.  The basis of my argument was that Trump’s net favorability numbers were too low to be able to sustain a primary campaign, his place in the polls was largely due to name recognition, and that the base of his supporters was too low in the primary to be able to win multiple primaries.  I ultimately concluded that the most likely outcome for his campaign was Herman Cain.  Obviously, that was wrong.  Instead of just saying that was then, this is now, I want to look at why I was wrong and if it would provide any meaningful learning opportunities for me going forward.

Net favorability argument

This was the standard argument that was brought forward against Trump.  Looking at Trump’s favorability numbers, he looked like a general election candidate going up against the electorate as a whole compared to a primary with just members of his party.  Most contenders for the presidential nomination had favorability numbers of (+20-+30) while Trump’s numbers ranged from a low negative to a low positive (-5 – +10).  This included the early states as well as the national polls.  There had not been a major party candidate who was able to survive with these numbers in the modern primary system (1972).  Because there was a lack of historical precedent, it was easy to dismiss Trump’s ability to overcome this and be able to win any primaries, much less be the favorite for the nomination.

The argument has turned out to be wrong for a couple of reasons.  The argument assumed that the field would be winnowed relatively shortly as the voting began.  This would lower the ceiling on any candidate with this low of favorability numbers.  This did not happen as quickly as originally thought.  While Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, and Mike Huckabee dropped out after Iowa, this did not make much of a difference.  Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, and Ben Carson sticking around for longer than they should have also helped Donald Trump win with a lower percentage of the vote than previous candidates.  Although, not by much.  With Super PACs and megadonors essentially being able to financially support a candidate as far as they could go, we could have assumed that the field would not winnow as quickly as we originally thought.

The stronger argument as to why the net favorability wasn’t enough to sink Donald Trump is the one that has been taken up by Harry Enten and his colleagues at Five Thirty Eight.  The argument is that his supporters may be relatively few in number but they support him no matter what.  This plays off of the idea of the field not winnowing.  As the field continued to be large, Trump supporters while small in absolute numbers almost all would end up supporting him.  The vast majority of voters who held a favorable opinion of Trump wound up voting for him.  This is at odds with what usually happens in primaries but not totally unpredictable.    In general elections, almost all of the people who have favorable views of one candidate will end up voting for him or her.

The base of supporters

I did underestimate the level of support for Donald Trump.  I assumed based on the polling information at the time, which showed Donald Trump was mainly picking up supporters from the TEA Party.  I estimated that the TEA Party supporters are about 15-20% of the Republican primary electorate nationally.  I had difficulty believing that Trump would be able to build a successful coalition out of the TEA Party because most other factions of the Republican base had at least one candidate who they could support.  In looking at the South Carolina exit polls and the New Hampshire exit polls, we can begin to see how Trump was able to build a coalition to succeed.

Despite his comments on women in the past and Megyn Kelly’s need to bring it up for debates, Trump does not have that large of a gender gap for support.  While he does slightly better with males than females, an image of him reaching out to just males is incorrect.  Although, once you get to income, he is able to separate himself.  In New Hampshire, he was able to get 40% of the vote of those making less than $50k/year.  The next highest was Ted Cruz at 13%.  In South Carolina, it wasn’t much different as he was able to get 33% of the vote for those making less than $50k compared to Cruz at 27%.  In South Carolina, at $50k-$99k, he was at 34% of the vote compared to Cruz at 26% of the vote.  Finally, for those voters making more than $100K per year, Trump was tied for Rubio with the lead at 28% of the vote and his vote share significantly decreased to 32% of the vote in New Hampshire with those making more than $100k per year.

In both South Carolina and New Hampshire, Trump significantly overperformed with voters who were not college graduates.  As education levels increased, Trump’s support decreased.  This should not be surprising as we also see the same thing with regards to income level.  Trump’s messages about the economy, about immigration, about just about everything appeals to those with less education and who are making less.  Immigration and trade deals are more likely to affect workers who make less or who are in less specialized fields.

Unfortunately, the next set of data does not help us determine the coalition that Trump has built.  In New Hampshire, Trump’s best marks were with non-born again or non-evangelical Christians, as he was able to garner 38% of their vote.  In South Carolina, however, he did much better with evangelical Christians/born-again Christians.  He got 34% of the vote of them compared to 29% of the votes of non-born-again Christians.

For the issue that mattered most, it should come as no surprise that Trump did the best with those who thought that immigration was the issue that matters most.  Although this only represented 10-15% of the total voters voting in either primary, Trump was able to receive over 50% of their votes.  Trump’s next best category was the economy, in which, Trump received over a third of the votes.  For terrorism, he was able to get about 30% of the votes.   His weakest category for South Carolina was government spending as he only received 25% of the vote.

In case someone accused me of not writing enough on exit polls, we can look at how Republicans in these states think about immigration.  44% of South Carolina voters think that illegal immigrants should be deported.  47% of those voted for Donald Trump.  In New Hampshire, 41% of the voters think that they should be deported and 51% of those voters went for Trump.  Perhaps more importantly, 65% of New Hampshire voters think that there should be a temporary ban on Muslims entering America.  45% of these voters voted for Trump.  74% of South Carolina voters think that there should be a ban on Muslims entering America.  41% of these supporters selected Donald Trump.

Basically, Trump’s coalition among Republicans is made up of those who are not well-educated, not making that much money, and is generally skeptical about immigration specifically illegal immigration and immigration by Muslims.  How much of the primary electorate is that?  Probably about 30-40% if South Carolina and New Hampshire is representative, at all.

What we learned

I don’t think Trump is necessarily relevant for learning material going forward.  Trump’s name recognition and his bullying are almost once in a lifetime talents (if you want to call them that).  Combined with a sentiment from primary voters that the next nominee should be outside of politics is providing Trump with a perfect storm to be able to win the nomination.  Finally, the San Bernardino shootings and the call for no refugees immigrating to the United States continued to help Donald Trump.  If there is one thing Trump likes to exude and one thing he values most, it is strength.

Trump had a fair share of luck to help him get here, including a large field to run against, but most of what he has been able to accomplish has been because of a fairly brilliant campaign.  He knows when to push back and when to bully.  He’s managed to have enough self-control to not lash out every time he gets attacked so as not to appear irrational.  His one mistake was skipping the Iowa debate but even then, he showed that he was willing to stick to his guns and follow through.

It’s been foolish to bet against Trump since he declared and I keep doing it proving myself to be an insane fool.  A brokered convention seems itself so unlikely that it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Trump is not the nominee at this point.

Edit: Ted Cruz has become the only candidate who could force more than one ballot at the Republican National Convention.  Nate Silver correctly noted that Donald Trump is unlikely to be the nominee if It is after one ballot.  This post was written prior to Super Tuesday.

Rematch in the Badger State

During the TEA Party surge in 2010, incumbent Democratic Senator Russ Feingold lost his Senate re-election to a newcomer to politics in Ron Johnson, a TEA Party favorite.  Feingold lost 52-47.  Feingold had been one of the more liberal members of the Democratic Party.  He supported a number of actions that are at the forefront of the Democratic presidential primary debate.  He opposed loosening banking regulations that Bill Clinton signed.  He opposed the PATRIOT Act right after the September 11 attacks.  He voted against authorizing military force in Iraq.  He backed the Affordable Care Act.  He also helped author a signature bill aimed to curb influence from outside lobbyists.   In 2012, President Barack Obama won the state 53-46 despite Mitt Romney having Wisconsin local Paul Ryan as the Vice-President nomination.  After watching Scott Walker survive a recall election and get re-elected in 2014, Feingold is banking on change in his favor for 2016.

The biggest attack from Senator Ron Johnson and conservatives so far is that Feingold is taking money from lobbyists and is thus hypocritical when he calls for reform for campaign finance.  Per Politico, “He’s a complete hypocrite, a complete phony,” said Johnson, accusing Feingold of backtracking on his signature issue of campaign finance reform and plotting his path back to power. “I think citizens of Wisconsin will kind of have a problem with that level of hypocrisy, that level of phoniness.”  RedState also finds this troubling and a way to attack Feingold.  It’s an unfortunate consequence of our current electoral system that it’s near impossible to be elected without having any outside money come into your coffers.  In order to be able to fix this, someone needs to be in power to be able to write the appropriate laws to have it fixed.  But I’m not sure to what extent this level of attack will be successful.

The most recent poll, while being nearly nine months out from the election has Feingold leading Johnson by 12 points.  In the early polls in 2010, Feingold only had about a 2-3 point lead which seemed to indicate a tough road ahead for him, especially as the election grew nearer, the rage toward the incumbent president and his party was bound to swell.  With a lower turnout, the rage was able to win and unseat the incumbent.  Presidential elections typically have a higher turnout rate than non-presidential elections.  In Wisconsin, nearly 1 million more people voted in 2012 than they did in 2010.  There was a decrease by nearly 500,000 voters from 2012 to 2014.  The respective presidential candidates will be hoping that they are able to motivate their voters to turn up for down-ballot races including Wisconsin.

Senator Johnson believes that the turnout efforts will look more similar to 2010 and 2014 rather than 2012.  The Milwaukee areas and talk-radio in Wisconsin played an important role in turning out people to vote to get Scott Walker elected.  If it works in mid-term elections, why does it not work when the President is on the ballot? In terms of raw vote count, the Republican candidate received 1.12 million votes in 2010, 1.38 million votes in 2012, and 1.26 million votes in 2014.  The Democratic candidate on the other hand won 1.02 million votes in 2010, 1.54 million votes in 2012, and 1.12 million votes in 2014.  We can’t necessarily assume that votes are static year-to-year but the candidate who seems to benefit more from a higher turnout would be the Democratic candidate.  While the Milwaukee machine and the talk-radio got people to vote, it was more of a war of attrition than anything else.  Russ Feingold and Democrats are hoping for a higher turnout election to help re-capture the Senate.  Let’s see if it can happen.