100 Facts

This is a concept that I’m borrowing from Matthew Berry who is a fantasy football analyst for ESPN.  Prior to the season each year, he unveils a list of facts that he likes to look at and make arguments for why he likes certain players.  I’m using them in a slightly different way.  Hopefully, these will help you as you go through the last month of election season 2016.

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  1. Barack Obama was inaugurated as President on January 20, 2009.  There were, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS),  134,053,000 jobs in January of 2009.  The preliminary numbers for August of 2016, according to the BLS show that there are 144,598,000 jobs currently.  That is an increase of 10.5 million jobs.
  2. To put that in perspective, there were 1.34 million jobs under George W. Bush.  There were 16.1 million jobs created when Ronald Reagan was president. I calculated this by looking at the number of jobs in January when a President was inaugurated (exceptions are Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, and Gerald Ford) until January of when they left office.   Here are the numbers for the rest of the presidents since World War II.
    President Number of jobs created
    Truman 8248000
    Eisenhower 4129000
    Kennedy 3572000
    Johnson 12183000
    Nixon 9181000
    Ford 2073000
    Carter 10345000
    Reagan 16131000
    HW Bush 2637000
    Clinton 22900000
    W Bush 1348000
  3. The unemployment rate in January of 2009 was 7.8%.  The unemployment rate as of August 2016 is 4.9%.  It has been under 6% since October of 2014.  When Mitt Romney ran for President, he said that he would strive for an unemployment rate of under 6%.  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) maintained that the unemployment rate would be under 6% by 2017 with the policies enacted prior to the election.
  4. The unemployment rate in May of 2016 was 4.7%.
  5. In a May 2016 national poll, Public Policy Polling (PPP), 64% of self-identified Republicans stated that they thought that unemployment had increased under Barack Obama.
  6. The labor force participation rate, which takes a measure of the entire population age 16 and older that is either employed or currently looking for work, is at 62.8%.  The labor force participation rate hit 66% in October of 1988 and hovered between 66 and 67% essentially until November of 2008 and has declined fairly steadily until now.  Why is that?  According to the BLS, the reasons include the retiring baby boomer population, the stabilization of women in the workforce, and the diversity of the workforce.  They projected in 2006 that the labor force participation rate would be 65.9% in 2010 and 64.5% by 2020.  We are below those numbers but I think that part of that may be because of the ACA which helps people get health insurance in the private market so some do not have to work or look for work.  Even moreso, they may get health insurance through Medicaid expansions in various states.
  7. From 1948-1977, the labor force participation rate was lower than it is now.
  8. Federal income tax rates are at the lowest percentage of people’s income since the Great Depression.  This is consistent since 2006.  There was a marginal tax increase from 35-39.6% of those who make $220,438 single or $440,876 in 2013.
  9. Federal tax revenues as percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is around 18%.   This is slightly higher than the historical average (usually around 17-18% of GDP since World War II).
  10. US Government spending as a percentage of the GDP in 2015 was 20.44%  This is relatively high compared to 1994-2007 where federal spending was less than 20% of the GDP.  From 1947-1980, the percentage of federal spending compared to GDP was below 20%.
  11. Spending in FY2015, according to the CBO was $3.7 trillion.  Mandatory spending constituted $2.3 trillion of US Government spending.  Discretionary spending was $1.2 trillion.  Revenues for the US Government was $3.2 trillion.
  12. Discretionary spending for defense and nondefense spending was essentially the same at about $583 billion.
  13. Individual income taxes are $1.5 trillion of US Government revenues.  Payroll taxes are $1.1 trillion.  Corporate income taxes are $344 billion.  Other taxes constitute $299 billion of revenues for the US Government.
  14. 96.9% of households received a tax cut under President Barack Obama signing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Tax Act of 2009.  There was an expansion of the Making Work Pay Credit Act (and replaced it) that had a payroll tax cut of 2%.  Neither Romney nor Obama proposed allowing the payroll tax cut to continue and it expired on January 1, 2013.      The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 also extended tax cuts for those  making less than $400,000 ($450,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly).  All in all 90% saw their tax bills saw their taxes stay the same  because of this legislation.
  15. 2 out of every 1,000 deaths in the US apply for the estate tax, per the Joint Committee on Taxation.  The Tax Policy Center found that 5,330 estates will owe the estate tax in 2015.
  16. Of those 5,3330 estates.  30 small farms and closely held businesses will owe money for the estate tax.  The top 10% of income earners will pay 97% of the total of estate tax liability ($18.4 billion).  The richest 0.1% will pay 35% of the total.
  17. The requested budget for the Centers for Disease Control for fiscal year 2017 was $11.8 billion.  The requested budget for the Food and Drug Administration for FY 2016 was $4.9 billion.
  18. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found in a nationwide study in 2013 that 84% of white registered voters had a valid driver’s license.  73% of registered Hispanic voters had a valid driver’s license. 63% of registered black voters had a valid driver’s license.
  19. Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act established a formula to determine which jurisdictions would have to seek preclearance from the United States Department of Justice in order to make changes to voting rights or election laws.  The first part of the formula was to determine if the state or jurisdiction had a test or device in place to restrict people from voting.  The other part of the formula was if there were less than 50% of voting age persons registered or voting in the presidential election of 1964.  There were changes made in 1970 and 1975.  The Act was extended in 1982 and again in 2006.    In Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court found that the preclearance requirement of Section 4 was unconstitutional because it relied upon an outdated formula and violated the “equal sovereignty of the states.”  A phrase not found in the Constitution.  But one that is found in Dred Scott v. Sanford.
  20. 40 counties in North Carolina were subject to preclearance prior to the decision in Shelby County.
  21. One day after the decision in Shelby County, North Carolina Senate Rules Committee Chairman, a Republican, announced that they had an “omnibus bill coming out” that would direct attention to election law.  The law would require certain photo id’s, eliminated or reduced same day voting registration, changed how provisional ballots would be cast, and eliminated and reduced early voting days.  Prior to the bill being passed, the North Carolina legislature requested racial data to determine how the law would be written.
  22. The data for the legislature included the information that black North Carolina voters disproportionately used early voting.  60.36% and 64.01% of black North Carolina voters voted early in 2008 and 2012 compared to 44.47% and 49.39% of white voters.  It also included that black voters used the first seven days of early voting, in particular.  The early voting days would include 2 “souls-to-the-polls” days where black churches would give rides to prospective voters.
  23. Armed with this information, the legislature struck down the first 7 days of early voting, taking early voting from 17 days to 10 days.  This effectively eliminated a “souls-to-the polls” day, as well.
  24. The data also included the information that black voters disproportionately used same-day registration when available.  Same-day registration also allows poll workers to help voters.  A disproportionate number of black voter applications were considered incomplete.  Help from poll workers would certainly help them, disproportionately.  The data also included provisional ballots including out-of-precinct voting.  As it turns out, black voters also voted with provisional ballots, disproportionately.  Finally, they looked into pre-registration.  Pre-registration allowed 16 or 17 year olds to announce their intent to vote when they applied for driver’s licenses.  The DMV would then automatically register these 16 or 17 year olds.  Black teenagers used pre-registration disproportionately more than their white counterparts.
  25. Absentee voting was exempted from the new voter ID restrictions.  As it turns out, black voters don’t really use absentee voting.
  26. The voter law eliminated same day registration.  It prohibited out-of-precinct voting.  It eliminated pre-registration.  It was struck down as unconstitutional because the provisions of the law were passed with discriminatory intent.
  27. Zoltan Hajnal, Nazita Lajevardi, and Lindsay Nielson presented a working paper that states with strict voter id laws “tend to emerge in states with larger black populations.”  Latino turnout was 10.3 points lower in states with photo ID laws; black turnout was 4.8 points lower in general elections in states with photo ID laws.
  28. The GAO found that turnout declined by between 2-3% in Kansas and Tennessee after they enacted voter id laws.
  29. According to a national poll from PPP published on 08/30/2016, 59% of Donald Trump supporters think that more than 10% of votes cast are fraudulent.
  30. Loyola Law School professor Justin Levett investigated over 1 billion votes cast to determine how many cases of voter fraud there would be.  He found 31 credible cases.
  31.  Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI05) introduced H.R. 885 Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2015 to revise Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act.  It has 110 co-sponsors.  93 of which are Democrats.  17 are Republicans.  Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL07) introduced H.R. 2867 to revise Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act to determine preclearance.  The bill has 178 co-sponsors.  All of the co-sponsors are Democrats.
  32. The Dow Jones Industrial Average had a closing value on January 20, 2009 of 7949.09.  The closing value on May 16, 2016 was 17710.71.
  33. According to the May 2016 PPP poll, 57% of self-identified Republicans believe the stock market has gone down since Barack Obama became President.
  34. According to the CBO, raising the minimum wage to $10.10/hour real incomes  would increase by $5 billion among families at or below the poverty level, essentially moving 900,000 people out of poverty.  Families who have income 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 real income.
  35. The central estimate from the CBO for raising the minimum wage by $10.10/hour finds that there will be a net loss of 500,000 jobs.
  36. 50.6% of workers currently making $7.25/hour or less are aged 16-24.  According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), 12.5% of workers earning $11.10/hour or less are less than 20 years old.   The CBO found that that for workers earning less than $11.50/hour, only 12% of workers are aged 16-19.
  37. According to EPI, 73.7% of workers making less than $11.10/hour are aged 20-54.
  38. 54% of workers earning less than $11.10/hour, according to EPI, work full-time at these jobs.  EPI defines full-time as 35 or more hours per week.
  39. The CBO estimates that 70% of low-wage workers have a high school diploma and/or some college.  10% of low-wage workers have a Bachelor’s degree.
  40. The National Center for Education Statistics houses information about the average cost of higher education.  They provide information about the average cost of in-state public tuition for four year universities.  With that information and the information about the minimum wage, we can determine how many hours it would take to work at exactly minimum wage to afford one year of college.  From 1971-1980, it would take on average, 5.28 hours per week to afford one year.  From 1981-1990, it would take 7.85 hours per week to afford one year.  From 1991-2000, it would take 11.80 hours per week to afford one year.  From 2001-2010, it would take on average 18.08 hours per week to afford one year.  In 2011, the last year I have data available for just tuition, took 20.42 hours per week to afford one year of tuition at a public four year institution.
  41. 97% of the benefits paid out by the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) go to families with children.  Almost all of these benefits are given to families in the bottom three quintiles of income distribution.
  42. The US Census Bureau found that the EITC lifted 6.2 million people out of poverty including 3.2 million children.
  43. The EITC reduced welfare participation by 6.5% relative to its 1993 peak according to Jeffrey Grogger.  V. Joseph Hotz, Charles H. Mullin, and John Karl Scholz wrote that the EITC had the “most significant effects in reducing welfare caseloads during the 1990s.”
  44. Between March of 1990 and March of 2000, the employment rates of single mothers rose from 55.2% to 73.9%.  Grogger concluded that the expansions of the EITC in the 1990s are the most important single factor in why there was this large increase in single mothers working.
  45. The BLS writes that only 12% of workers have access to paid family leave.  Only 5% of those in the lowest 25% of income threshold have access to paid family leave.
  46.  Women who report taking paid leave are more likely to be working 9 to 12 months after a child’s birth than those who report not taking leave at all.  “Many women who would not have otherwise returned to work re-enter the labor force within a year.”  Women who report leaves of 30 or more days are 54% more likely to report wage increases in the year following the child’s birth than are women who take no leave at all.
  47. Women who return to work have a 39% lower likelihood of receiving public assistance 40% lower likelihood of food stamp receipt in the year following the child’s birth.  Men are also significantly less likely to receive public assistance and food stamps.
  48. Women lose about $275,000 in lifetime wages and social security benefits when they have to leave the labor force early due to caregiving responsibilities.
  49. The median cost of replacing an employee is 21% of the employee’s annual salary. Employee absenteeism due to work-family responsibilities cost employers between $500-$2,000 per employee per year.
  50. There were 28,647 deaths from opioid drugs in 2014.  This is 61% of all drug overdose deaths in 2014.
  51. Most overdose deaths occur within one to three hours after the victim has taken the drugs.  According to the National Institues of Health (NIH) found that 90% of users had reported witnessing an overdose and providing lay remedies to revive the victim.
  52. 10-56% of individuals are willing to call 911 in case of an overdose but only after initial efforts to revive a victim have been made.  88% of opioid users in Washington said they were more likely to call 911 in the event of a future overdose after learning about Good Samaritan laws.
  53. 32 states plus the District of Columbia have passed Good Samaritan laws.
  54. The NIH survey found that 87% of users reported they would be willing to participate in a Naloxone training program and 84% said they would carry naloxone after training.
  55. The CDC has provided Naloxone training to over 53,000 people and have been used to reverse over 10,000 drug overdoses.  In San Francisco, there has been 3,6000 prescriptions filled since 2013 and have saved 916 lives.
  56. Needle exchange programs are barred from buying syringes.  There are 0.9 to 2 billion injections nationally each year but only about 43 million sterile syringes distributed by needle exchange programs.
  57. After taking into account mother-to-child HIV transmission, injection drugs are responsible for 35% of all AIDS infections.
  58. The estimated cost of treating an HIV patient from diagnosis to death would cost $120,000.  A needle exchange program costs, on average, of $131,000.
  59.  Almost half of the student loan debt in the United States is held by students who attended for-profit universities.  12% of college students attend for-profit universities.  (This statistic was found prior to the closing of Corinthian Colleges and ITT Tech)
  60. About 25% of all Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits have been paid to 15 publicly traded universities.
  61. Manufacturing output is up about 50% since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) took effect.
  62. NAFTA was negotiated by the George H.W. Bush administration.
  63.  In January of 1994, the unemployment rate in Michigan was 7.0%.  The unemployment rate for August of 2016 is 4.5%.  The unemployment rate in Ohio in January of 1994 was 6.3%.  The preliminary numbers for August 2016 show the unemployment rate is 4.7%.  The unemployment rate in Pennsylvania for January 1994 was 6.6%.  The unemployment rate in August of 2016 is 5.7%.
  64. China is not part of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and is not likely to benefit from the agreement.
  65. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced that the Chinese currency was no longer undervalued.  The currency is on the rise.
  66. Moody’s Analytics found that Trump’s tax plans would cost about 3.5 million jobs.  What’s more is that it would $9.5 trillion over its first decade.  Both Moody’s and the Tax Policy Center conclude that the very richest would be the best off under Trump’s plan.
  67. Hillary Clinton’s tax plan would have little or no impact on 95% of Americans.  Tax increases would fall predominantly on the wealthiest one percent.  Revenues for taxes would be increased by $1.1 trillion over the first decade and $2.1 trillion over the next decade.
  68. Trump did say that he would try to negotiate the national debt.  This would be a disaster for the US economy.
  69. Stop and frisk was declared unconstitutional.
  70. New York City had a massive crime drop in the 1990s.  The number of stop and frisks increased in the 2000s.  Where it succeeded was placing mistrust in police officers in the black population.  52% of stop and frisks were of black people.
  71. During the period of 2001-2010, violent crime declined by 59% in Los Angeles, 56% in New Orleans, 49% in Dallas, and 37% in Baltimore without stop and frisk
  72. 88% of stops were of innocent New Yorkers.
  73. Overall, crime has been falling since 1993.
  74. Donald Trump argued in his book, The America We Deserve, that “Iraq remains a threat, and now has more incentive than ever to attack us.”
  75. George W. Bush signed the dill to withdraw US troops from Iraqi territory on December 31, 2011.
  76. Trump supported Libya intervention.  He also claimed it would be easy to topple Qaddafi.
  77.   Ford announced it was moving small car production to Mexico.  They are keeping medium to larger car production in Detroit. This is, in part, due to a contract with the United Autoworkers. Also, Ford was the only one of the Detroit automakers who did not take money for a bailout.
  78. Since the end of the Great Recession, more Mexican immigrants have returned to Mexico from the US.
  79. Barack Obama announced that they would increase the number of Syrian refugees that the US could take in, to 10,000 refugees.
  80. Clinton’s proposed a plan to accept 65,000 refugees.  The Senate assumed that Clinton would want to bring in 155,000 refugees per year for each of her first term to get to 620,000 refugees.
  81. According to the State Department, 785,000 refugees have been admitted to the US since 9/11.  About a dozen have been arrested or removed from the US due to terrorism concerns.
  82. Canada provides us with more oil than all of OPEC combined.
  83. There is capacity left in the current pipelines to bring in more than 1 million more barrels per day.
  84. A majority of Republicans find each aspect of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) favorable outside of the individual mandate and an increase on Medicare payroll tax on upper income earners.
  85. The individual mandate is the most well-known part of the ACA.
  86. The uninsured rate is the lowest on record, in large part, due to the ACA.  It is below 9%.  States that accepted the Medicaid expansion have seen their uninsured rate drop the most.  There are 19 states who have not expanded Medicaid, their uninsured rate is 16.7%.
  87. Aetna left the private marketplace as a threat to the Department of Justice blocking the Humana merger.
  88. In the six years since the ACA was passed, Republicans have fought to overturn the law and just now managed to put together a proposal to replace the ACA.
  89. The proposal includes converting Medicare into a voucher program and raising the retirement age above 65.  It also includes the resumption of discriminating against pre-existing condition.  And according to Jonathan Cohn, the analyst, “some higher-income consumers, by contrast, would apparently get a new tax break.”
  90. Deductible plans under this proposal would be much higher.  Older adults would pay much higher premiums to make plans more affordable for younger adults.
  91. Despite not saying “radical Islam”, ISIS has lost significant ground in the last year and a half.
  92. In December of 2015, the Pentagon noted that over 20,000 ISIS fighters had been killed.  Army Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland said that there has been 45,000 ISIS fighters killed in total.
  93. In the Journal of the American Medical Association, there was an article published noting that fetal pain perception does not begin until the beginning of the third trimester (28 weeks).
  94. A ban on abortion at 20 weeks is the earliest ban on abortions that is politically popular (either a plurality or majority supporting it).
  95.  According to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in the five year period of 2007-2011, the NCVS found that there were 29,618,300 victims of attempted or completed violent crime.  235,700 of the self-protective behaviors of the victims involved a firearm.
  96. In 2010, across the United States there were 230 justified homicides.
  97. The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, in 2013, found that of the 10 states with the lowest gun death rates, 7 of them had the strongest gun laws.  The states that did not appear were Minnesota, Iowa, and Maine.  Of those three Maine was the only one with an F grade.  Of the 10 states with the highest gun death rate, the highest grade was given to Alabama with a D-.  All others had F’s.
  98. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) found that in 2012, 1 of every 400 cases submitted to E-Verify that resulted in a Tentative Nonconfirmation (TNC) status were reversed under appeal by the worker.  A nationwide system would result in 400,000 people to resolve issues that should not have come up.  The GAO found that 164,000 citizens per year will receive a TNC for issues related to a name change.
  99. Going to mandatory E-Verify System would increase spending by $23.4 billion over 10 years according to the CBO and would decrease revenues by $17.3 billion as more people would be paid outside the tax system.
  100. Suspicionless drug testing for welfare recipients is unconstitutional.  When Florida enacted a law requiring mandatory drug testing for recipients of Temporary Assistance of Needy Families (TANF), the pass rate by recipients was 96.3%  This policy cost the state more than $100,000.  A previous enactment of the same policy found that 3.8% failed the test.  Enacting the policy cost $2.7 million.  Michigan, who enacted a similar policy, found that about 10% of welfare recipients tested positive.  In an article in the Journal of Health and Social Policy, only 5% of welfare recipients showed evidence of drug abuse.

Distorted reality: Part 2

One of the ideas that I read fairly consistently is that Donald Trump is some type of social liberal.  This was originally taken up by Republican operatives who wanted to push the idea that Trump was not a “true conservative.”  This is laughably incorrect.  I can’t even believe I have to address this.  Trump takes conservative values and turns them up to 11.

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The extent to which people think Trump is some type of liberal is based on his campaign donations to Democratic candidates; based on previous interviews where he claimed he supported pro-choice policies; and portions of his books where he talks about a way to have universal healthcare.  I don’t believe I’m missing anything.

The thing you have to remember about Republican operatives is that they want every losing candidate to be portrayed as not a true conservative.  Mitt Romney was portrayed as a squishy liberal because of Romneycare and whatever else the topic of the day was.  John McCain was called a liberal because of his support for McCain-Feingold or his “maverick” Senate record or possibly siring a black child.

So why am I hearing it about Trump from people on the nominal political left?  The short answer is that people want to justify their hatred of Hillary Clinton (or whoever the Democratic nominee would have been) and want to be able to say that voting for Trump is not going to be as bad as you would think because of some beliefs that he may have held in the past.  Or maybe they really like what Trump is saying and want to find a place to hide behind.  I’m not sure.  But ultimately:

It does not matter what a politician sincerely believes.

Trump, if elected President, would certainly have a majority in the House of Representatives and Senate.  Trump would sign whatever legislation that the Republican Congress would put forth.  If you think that Trump would not sign legislation taking away rights of the LGBT community, rights of women, rights of minorities, you are simply mistaken.

Further, Trump’s judges that he says who are on the short list for federal court nominations would have to be approved by the Heritage Foundation and make up, as Scott Lemieux notes, the Conservative dream team.  Replacing Antonin Scalia’s seat with a more conservative judge would set back the progress made over the last 10 years, by 50 years.  The votes on the Supreme Court would be there to overturn Obergefell and Windsor.  Say hello to more decisions like Shelby County.

But hey, at least we will have solace that Trump, maybe, does not in his heart of hearts believe in a conservative agenda.

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Now that we got out of the way, we can go into actually dissecting his views.  What evidence has Trump espoused on the campaign trail that he is a social liberal?


One of the ideas that Trump is a social liberal is based on the idea that Trump described himself as pro-choice for years.  He even went so far as to say that partial-birth abortion is ok:

The idea, I guess, that some are trying to point out is that Trump, in his heart believes that abortion is ok.  Ask Strom Thurmond if personal actions necessitates political beliefs.

At any rate, Trump, largely because he is running for the Republican Party’s nomination has repudiated that position.  He has taken a more extreme position than most pro-life advocates have taken.

Transcript for the video: Here

So Trump believes that we should punish women for having abortions.  The men would not be punished.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 59% of women obtaining an abortion are mothers. The idea behind Trump’s punishment of women having abortions would jail or fine mothers.  Most of these mothers are poor, 49% of those who have had abortions make less than 100% of the federal poverty level.  The majority of the women having abortions (54%) were either married or cohabitating.  1.06 million abortions were performed in 2011.  These women would be punished if Trump had his way.

I should mention that Trump and his campaign later tried to clarify Trump’s point that he was referring to doctors performing abortions should be punished.  It’s amazing what happens when your job is predicated on being able to keep up with the lies a compulsive liar tells.

Trump reiterates that his point is that the abortion laws are currently set and that when he is President, he would protect the unborn via judicial appointments.   We could quite literally say good-bye to the standards from Roe v. Wade and say hello to personhood amendments.

If you believe that Trump is pro-choice based off of the video where he claims that he is pro-choice, then you should probably have doubts of that position based off of his video appearance with Chris Matthews.  Again, it doesn’t matter what Trump believes.  It matters what bills he would sign, who he would appoint to the judiciary, and what laws he would enforce.  Based on his campaign and his actions, he would appoint reactionaries to the federal judiciary and would have the votes to overturn Roe v. Wade.

LGBT equality

Donald Trump, himself, said that he would be much better for “the women than [Hillary Clinton] is.  I’m much better for the gays.”  I talked about abortion above and as a side note:

I think it does a disservice to lump women’s equality and rights with the idea that I can sum it all up with abortion.  According to polling, women are much more liberal than men on a number of issues.  This includes support for the Affordable Care Act, raising the minimum wage, stricter gun control, abolishing the death penalty, and support for same-sex marriage.  The only issue that I have seen where women diverge from men on “liberal” issues is that women are more likely than men to think that marijuana should not be legalized.  I can certainly talk at length (as if there is any other way for me) to talk about all of these (and perhaps I will).

But the idea that Trump is much better for the LGBT community is just astounding.  It’s almost as if he is a compulsive liar.

Here’s Donald Trump on Fox News Sunday

WALLACE:  But, Mr. Trump, let’s take one issue.  You say now that the Supreme Court has ruled that same-sex marriage is the law of the land and that any politician who talks about wanting to amend the Constitution is just playing politics.  Are you saying it’s time to move on?

TRUMP:  No, I’m saying this.  It has been ruled up.  It has been there.  If I’m a, you know, if I’m elected, I would be very strong on putting certain judges on the bench that I think maybe could change things.

But they’ve got a long way to go.  I mean at some point, we have to get back down to business.  But there’s no question about it.  I mean most — and most people feel this way.

They have ruled on it.  I wish that it was done by the state.  I don’t like the way they ruled.  I disagree with the Supreme Court from the standpoint they should have given the state — it should be a states’ rights issue.  And that’s the way it should have been ruled on, Chris, not the way they did it.

This is a very surprising ruling.  And I — I can see changes coming down the line, frankly.  But I would have much preferred that they ruled at a state level and allowed the states to make those rulings themselves.

WALLACE: But — but just to button this up very quickly, sir, are you saying that if you become president, you might try to appoint justices to overrule the decision on same-sex marriage?

TRUMP: I would strongly consider that, yes.

Trump is running on a strident anti-LGBT platform and nominated Mike Pence who was most famous for pushing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act through Indiana.  He also co-sponsored an amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage; voted against ENDA; opposed a bill for prosecuting hate crimes; and voted against the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

To be fair to Donald Trump, he said that people should be allowed to use the bathroom they feel is appropriate.

If you believe Trump at his word that he is going to nominate judges to overturn the same-sex marriage decision, it would seem that he is also going to nominate judges who believe in stronger RFRA laws than should be deemed appropriate, and give a larger latitude for businesses for “religious liberty.”

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Child leave policy

Trump, under pressure from his daughter Ivanka I would assume, announced a child care leave reform policy. It’s predictably terrible.  Why is it so terrible?

Single mothers, arguably the ones who would benefit the most from such legislation, don’t look to be included. Ivanka Trump in an interview with Cosmopolitan (which has done really great work with political issues over the last year or so, I’ve read numerous articles from them about abortion policies and birth control) said

“It’s meant to benefit, whether it’s in same-sex marriages as well, to benefit the mother who has given birth to the child if they have legal married status under the tax code

Ivanka was widely credited with having helped draft the proposed policy which is not surprising to anyone who paid attention to the Republican National Convention. That sounds very vague and it’s almost intentionally done to be very vague because it’s “not written down yet.”  The proposed policy on Trump’s website (linked above) doesn’t talk about who is included or not included but Ivanka’s interview seems to indicate that single mothers are not included.  Over 3 millions single mothers living with children right now live in poverty.  70% of black children are born to unmarried women.  If the goal of the legislation is to reduce the wage gap, help single moms, and reduce poverty, this policy is an abject failure.  It needs specificities to note who is included and who is excluded.

Even if they clear that up, it does not include paternity leave, paid family leave to take care of sick family members, paid adoptive leave, surrogate births, same sex couples, etc.  It’s really just a disaster of a policy.  It’s important to include paternity leave because working fathers can take time off to be able to spend time with a newborn child to bond, allow the mother to get back to work thus reducing the wage gap, and also reduces the potential childbirth penalty employers have when they hire women.  Focusing only on maternity leave would, almost certainly, make women more costly to hire than men.

Not to get to bogged down in specifics but by excluding adoptive parents, it is discriminating against millions to be able to spend time with their newly adopted child.  Beyond that, it excludes nearly 40% of tax payers because they do not owe federal income taxes.

This is just getting started.  It’s terrible policy.  It would, in all likelihood, make things worse than they are and would leave it comically underfunded.  If proposing terrible policy ideas that lack details makes you a social liberal, than sure, maybe he is one.  But these are just some of the issues highlighting the comical claim that Trump is some type of social liberal.

I repeat:

It does not matter what a politician sincerely believes.

What matters is the legislation that they would support and for an executive what appointments they would make.  It is clearer than anything in the world that Trump is a traditional conservative on both of these grounds.  The legislation that he would push to be passed is terrible policy on a number of grounds and would exacerbate problems already held.  I could talk more about a number of different issues where Trump does not differ form traditional Republican orthodoxy including taxes, the minimum wage, and civil rights and liberties.

But I am saving the last part, at least, for where I discuss why Trump is an authoritarian.

Trump, despite the claims of many Republican operatives, is a Republican in every sense of where the party is, currently.  The extent to which Trump is a social liberal is so small that it would be smaller than his hands.  He backs it up with a number of heterodox Republican stances and beliefs that I simply can’t ignore.

Image result for donald trump




The death tax

Every 2-4 years, Republican lawmakers and Conservative Presidential candidates talk incessantly about the need for tax reform.  The tax reform that they are referring to also includes the call for a repeal of the estate tax, the so-called death tax. The way that the tax is talked about, you would assume that everyone has to pay the tax.  That once you or a loved one dies, there is a considerable amount of tax on the property that is left and then it is taxed again once inherited.

As you probably know, either due to my writing style or the fact that you’ve rad up on the issue, this view is incorrect. The estate tax is only levied on those above a certain threshold for their estate’s value.  The value is $5.45 million per person or $10.9 million per married couple.  Because it’s such a high threshold, there is not that many people affected by the tax.  According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, there were 2.6 million deaths in the United States in 2013 and there were 4,700 estate tax returns filed.  So the percentage of those affected were 0.2%.  Or 2 out of every 1,000 deaths.  This is partially due to the fact that the exemption is so high, now.  At its peak, the Joint Committee on Taxation noted that 6% of all deaths were affected by the estate tax.

The Joint Committee on Taxation gives a brief history on estate or inheritiance taxes which I hope to paraphrase:

Inheritance or estate taxes have been around primarily to finance debts from war or the threat of war.  From 1797 to 1802, the stamp tax was enacted on the inventories of dead people.  After the repeal of the stamp tax, there was not a tax on inheritance until the Civil War.  From 1862 to 1870, there was an inheritance tax to help pay for the Civil War.  There was another estate tax imposed in 1898 to finance the Spanish American War until 1902 when it was repealed. There was not an estate tax again until World War I in 1916.  It remained in effect.  The top rate was increased during the Great Depression when revenues for the government were most needed. The estate tax remained in effect until 2001 when there was legislation passed to reduce the estate tax and eventually eliminate. In 2012, there was another law enacted to permanently place the estate tax in with an increase indexed for inflation.  If you want to read more about the history of the estate tax, you can read the full report from the Joint Committee on Taxation.  It’s fairly interesting.

“Further, the House considered, HR 1105, the Death Tax Repeal Act of 2015.  As you may know, I have long supported the full and permanent repeal of the estate tax because I do not believe that death should be a taxable event, and because it acts as a direct, job-killing tax on family-owned farms and small businesses, which have historically created countless good jobs in Wisconsin and across the country over the last decade.  For these reasons, I was pleased to support this legislation, which passed in a bipartisan fashion by a vote of 240-179.  The bill was received in the Senate on April 20, 2015, and I look forward to Senate action on this important piece of legislation.” – Paul Ryan 

The most consistent attack on the estate tax is that it unfairly attacks family farms and small businesses.  The non-partisan (despite what Mitt Romney said in 2012) Tax Policy Center estimates that only 30 small farms or businesses will pay the estate tax for 2015.  Their definition was one that has more than half of its value from a farm or business and is valued at less than $5 million.  Their study in 2013 found that on average, these small businesses or farms would owe less than 5% of their total value in the estate tax.   The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) notes in their report that “certain types of businesses can spread their tax payments over 15 years in some circumstances. For farmers, a special method of calculating the value of a family farm can lower the amount of estate tax owed.”  They also note that the vast majority of estates, including farms and small businesses can afford the estate tax bill with liquid assets.

The Center on Budget Policy and Priorities (CBPP) released a policy paper on the potential effect of repealing the estate tax.  Repealing the estate tax would hurt problems that both liberals and conservatives believe are very important.  First, it would increase the deficit of the United States.  Eliminating the estate tax would cost nearly $270 billion in additional revenues from from 2016 to 2025 according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.  Once you count the interest, this will add nearly $320 billion.  This may not seem like very much when you consider the totality of the US budget but it’s significantly more than what the US Government will spend on the Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control, and the Food and Drug Administration (and is more than if you combine the three according to the CBPP)  This also hurts other potential revenue.  The estate tax was mainly created to tax money that otherwise would not have been taxed.  32% of the value of estates worth $5 million to $10 million to about 55% of the value of estates of those worth more than $100 million are unrealized capital gains. Capital gains are taxed only when they are realized so if the gains are held onto until death, they are never taxed.  The repeal of the estate tax would make income inequality worse.  Inheritance, which is certainly concentrated at the top “1%”, accounts for about 40% of all household wealth.  Reducing the amount of money in inheritance through the estate tax actually encourages the wealthiest offspring to work instead of relying on their inheritance contributing more to the economy.


2016 elections: Wyoming

Presidential elections:

Mitt Romney received 68.6% of the Presidential vote in 2012.  This was a fairly similar percentage to the 2008 election where John McCain was able to win 64.8% of the vote.  The biggest question for the 2016 presidential election is how much of the vote Gary Johnson will receive in November.  In the 2012 election, Johnson received 2.14% of the vote in Wyoming.  This was the 4th highest state for percentage of the vote.  It helps that Wyoming doesn’t have very many votes to begin with.  5,326 votes in 2012 were able to get 2% of the vote in 2012.  While the primaries are not predictive of how the election will happen in the general election, Trump struggled noticeably with Western states.  I think it’s possible that Trump’s abrasive nature and his take on conservative policies do not play well with Western states.  I think it’s possible that Johnson can get up to 4% of the vote in Wyoming.  That would double his vote share in 2012 but I do think that this is possible.  I think that Johnson will do fairly well for a third party in Western states, especially with states that have a higher vote share for third parties.

Statewide elections:

Since Wyoming has such a small population, they only have one Representative in the House of Representatives.  The Congressional election is a statewide election.  Liz Cheney is back after losing the 2014 Republican Senate primary in Wyoming.  She won the 2016 Republican primary for the Congressional seat.  That was essentially the election to determine who would be the next Representative from the state of Wyoming.  She won 35,043 votes in the Republican primary.  There were 18,823 votes cast in the Democratic primary.  During the 2014 primary run, she was criticized for opposing same-sex marriage because her sister was a part of a same-sex marriage.  She was also criticized of being a carpetbagger.  At any rate, she is going to win the Congressional election in November against Democrat Ryan Greene.

Ballot measure:

There is one ballot measure found on the Wyoming ballot this year.  It is known as Constitutional Amendment A.  Ballotpedia has the text of the measure:

Currently, the Wyoming Constitution allows the legislature to authorize the investment of public employee retirement systems funds and permanent state funds in equities, such as stock or shares in private or public companies. Permanent funds of the state include funds designated as permanent funds by the Constitution. The Wyoming Constitution does not allow the state to invest any other funds in equities.

The adoption of this amendment would allow the legislature, by two-thirds vote of the members of both houses, to authorize the investment of additional specified state funds in equities.

State treasurer stated that the state’s permanent funds have done three times better invested in equities than other investments.  This would allow the state to get a better return on investment for the state funds and could help solve upcoming budgetary crises.  The ballot measure will likely pass fairly easily.  I do not see any obstacles to it, at this point.

State senate:

District 8:

Affie Ellis (R)
Floyd Esquibel (D)

This is the only competitive district in the Wyoming State Senate election that I can find.  Esquibel won the 2012 general election by less than 300 votes.  There were 337 under votes in this Senate district election.    Affie ellis is a small business owner who is trying to unseat Esquibel.  I think that it will be another close election but I do believe that Esquibel will emerge victorious.

State House of Representatives:

Wyoming House of Representatives District 8:

Bob Nicholas (R)
Linda Burt (D)

Nicholas won the general election in 2012 by less than 400 votes.  Burt is the former director of the ACLU in Wyoming and decided to get involved in the state legislature.  She does not have a campaign website currently up.  This district was also close in 2010 where Nicholas got re-elected with about 300 votes.  With a strong enough candidate, Nicholas could be defeated.  Right now, I think that Nicholas gets re-elected by less than 300 votes.

Wyoming House of Representatives District 11

Jared Olsen (R)
Mary Throne (D)

Throne won re-election in 2014 by 230 votes.  There were about 1,000 less votes in 2014 in this district compared to 2014.  Olsen was a delegate to the Republican National Convention and is challenging Throne.  I think the presidential election will help Throne get more of a margin of victory as she gets re-elected.

Wyoming House of Representatives District 12:

Lars Lone (R)
Lee Filer (D)

Lars Lone was appointed to this seat after Harlan Edmonds resigned from the seat on August 15, 2016.  Edmonds defeated the incumbent Lee Filer in 2014 by 91 votes.  There was 1,769 votes cast for this seat in 2014.  Just 1,769.  Filer held this seat from 2013 to 2015.  He is a fairly strong candidate to try to defeat Lars Lone.  I think that the Presidential election will help Filer be able to retake his seat.  I think it’s a fairly close election and I think Filer retakes the seat.

Wyoming House of Representatives District 15:

Donald Burkhart (R)
DeBari Martinez (D)

Burkhart was originally elected to this district in 2010 by 11 votes.  He won the rematch in 2012 by less than 200 votes.  He ran unopposed in 2014.  He is opposed by DeBari Martinez.  It doesn’t seem to be much of an online presence for Martinez.  If he was a stronger candidate, I would think that this could be a real challenge to Burkhart.  But I think Burkhart is able to win re-election.

Wyoming House of Representatives District 33

Jim Allen (R)
Sergio Maldonado (D)

Maldonado is a candidate who ran against State Senator Cale Case from District 25.  He lost that election by just over 1000 votes.  Allen was elected in 2014 after defeating Andrea Clifford in 2014 by 130 votes.  He had previously been defeated by W. Patrick Goggles in 2012 by 126 votes.  The fact that this is a presidential election should help Maldonado in his quest to upset Allen.  I think that Allen holds onto this seat but I could see it flipping.  This is definitely one worth watching.

Wyoming House of Representatives District 36:

Gerald Gay (R)
Debbie Bovee (D)

Gay was re-elected in 2014 by 168 votes over the Democratic challenger Eric Nelson.  Gay ran into some trouble after he questioned the dependability of women workers and “suggested women were at least partially responsible for Wyoming’s gender-wage gap, one of the worst in the nation.”

The biggest challenge for Bovee, outside of her party, is that she is running as a write-in.  Gay should be re-elected.  If they had a candidate on the ballot with the party next to their name instead of a write-in, I’d have more faith that Gay could be defeated.

Wyoming House of Representatives District 45:

Tom Schmit (R)
Charles Pelkey (D)

Pelkey won election ion 2014 with 1,115 votes leading the Republican opponent Charles Young by 126 votes.  2014 was a good year for Republicans all over the country so I think that this election will not be as close as it was in 2014.  Pelkey should be able to win re-election fairly easily.  I’m going out on a limb and think that Pelkey will more than double his margin in 2016.

Wyoming House of Representatives District 46:

Bill Haley (R)
Ken Chestek (D)

Republican Glenn Moniz is not running for re-election in 2016.  He won re-election in 2014 with 1,826 votes compared to Democratic candidate Mike Selmer’s 1,579 votes.  Neither of the candidates seem to be well known.  Chestek is a law professor running for the open seat.  If we think that 2014 is the main reason Moniz was able to get re-elected, then we should feel pretty confident that the seat could flip to a Democratic held seat.  But I’m not so confident.  Moniz did better in 2012 than 2014.  I think that Haley is able to win this election fairly comfortably.

Wyoming House of Representatives District 48:

Mark Baker (R)
Jackie Freeze (D)

Baker upset the Democratic incumbent Joseph Barbuto in 2012 by 110 votes.  Barbuto challenged Baker in 2014 and failed again.  This time he lost by 27 votes.  It’s very interesting that Baker was able to win in a Presidential election year in 2012.  This doesn’t seem to bode well for Jackie Freeze.  I think Baker is able to hold onto his seat but I think it will be pretty close.










Distorted reality: Part 1

Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the Presidency a little over a year ago.  I thought it was a a big joke.  Because well, every single one of his stunts about running for office had been a stunt prior to that.  Beyond that, I didn’t really think that Donald Trump would be able to garner that much support.  how much support would a failed reality star and real estate mogul really get?  But somehow he was able to navigate his way through the most crowded Presidential field in the history of presidential primaries.  Trump has managed to cultivate a strong following for his supporters in his quest to win the White House.  I do think, he’s ultimately a threat to our democracy as a demagogue with authoritarian tendencies, so you can take what I’m going to say with a grain of salt.

Question the legitimacy

On September 15, 2016, Donald Trump’s campaign issued a campaign release disavowing birtherism and stated that he alone was able to obtain the birth certificate of Barack Obama in 2011 so that Trump could believe that Obama was born in the United States and believed that since 2011. Trump held a press conference the next day where he talked about his hotel and refused to answer any questions but closed with saying that Obama was born in the US period and that Hillary Clinton started this conspiracy theory.

“Hillary Clinton, in her campaign of 2008, started the birther controversy. I finished it. I finished it. You know what I mean. President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period. Now, we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.”

It was awkward and full of lies.

The birther conspiracy isn’t part of the fringe in the Republican Party.  According to a poll from YouGov in January of 2016, 53% of self identified Republicans said that they do not believe that Barack Obama was born in the United States. An additional 26% are not sure where Obama was born.  This is actually one of the higher numbers for birtherism.  Public Policy Polling (PPP) which along with YouGov is one of the few polling outlets to ask this question wrote in 2011 that 51% of Republican voters did not think Barack Obama was born in the United States.  That, itself, was an increase from August of 2009 when 44% of Republicans thought that Obama was not born in the United States.

Birtherism takes off and has stuck around because the legitimacy of a Democratic President has to be taken into question.  Questioning Barack Obama’s birthplace is not the only way that some sought to question the legitimacy of Obama’s presidency.  In the third presidential debate, John McCain accused the community organizing group as “maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.”

This line of attack worked.  In November of 2009, PPP found that 49% of McCain supporters thought that ACORN stole the election for Barack Obama. ACORN was shut down in 2010 because they could no longer access federal funding.  Congress had passed a law banning federal funding for any organization “that had been charged with breaking federal or state election laws, lobbying disclosure laws or campaign finance laws or with filing fraudulent paperwork with any federal or state agency.”  ACORN shut down without this funding.  But no matter, 50% of Mitt Romney supporters thought that ACORN stole the election for Barack Obama in 2012. So Congess decided to block funding, again, in 2013.  Despite the fact that it is disbanded and defunded twice over, 32% of Trump supporters think that ACORN will steal the election for Hillary Clinton.  In that same poll, we see that two-thirds of Trump supporters think that Hillary Clinton would be president only because the election results are rigged for her.

It should be noted that this isn’t the first time that the Republican Party has questioned the legitimacy of a President.  Richard Nixon accused John F. Kennedy and his campaign of rigging elections in Illinois and Texas.  Nixon eventually conceded but the 1960 election vote frauds have been the subject of intense scrutiny by Republicans ever since.  Nor is this the first time that they have questioned the legitimacy of a presidential candidate.  In 1968, Mitt Romney’s father George had a short run for President. George was born in Mexico to his US citizen parents.  There was a lot of talk about George Romney’s eligibility to potentially run for President. Ultimately, it did not matter as Romney made a remark about brainwashing and dropped out of the race.

Lies, damned lies, and press releases

The campaign press release from Donald Trump’s communication staff mentioned that Obama released his birth certificate in 2011 and that Trump then believed that Obama was born in the United States.  Obama released his long-form birth certificate in April of 2011.   In an interview in May of 2012 to The Daily Beast, he doubled down on this claim:

That’s what he told the literary agent.  That’s the way life works… He didn’t know he was running for president, so he told the truth. The literary agent wrote down what he said… He said he was born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia… Now they’re saying it was a mistake. Just like his Kenyan grandmother said he was born in Kenya, and she pointed down the road to the hospital, and after people started screaming at her she said, ‘Oh, I mean Hawaii.’ Give me a break.”

Later, that same month in an interview with Wolf Blitzer:

“Everybody’s entitled to your opinion.  You know my opinion and you know his opinion and that’s fine. We’re entitled – as he said yesterday in the airplane – we’re all entitled to our opinions and he’s entitled to have his opinion. I don’t happen to share that opinion, it’s wonderful…Many people put those announcements in because they wanted to get the benefits of being so-called born in this country.  Many people did it…Is it the most important thing?  In a way it is. You’re not allowed to be the president if you’re not born in the country.

A Tweet from Donald Trump’s official Twitter account seemed to break the case wide open in August of 2012.

My favorite is this Tweet where he implies that there was a murder to cover up Barack Obama’s birth certificate.  This tweet was posted in December of 2013.

Trump didn’t even move beyond this in January of 2016 saying that he has his “own theory on Obama.  Someday I’ll write a book.  I’ll do another book.  It’ll do very successfully.”  There’s plenty of other things out there that Trump has said about birtherism and he clearly played a significant role in pushing this conspiracy theory.  He also clearly did not have a change of heart in April of 2011.  Or if he did, he didn’t display it, in any fashion.  There is simply no closure that Trump brought to the issue that Trump accepted.  The biggest question is what caused him to change his mind on the issue.  What happened in the last 8 months to seemingly convince Trump that Obama was born in the United States?  Did his extremely credible source turn out to be a liar?

It’s clear that the campaign release left out quite a bit of details about how Trump got to this conclusion and when.  It certainly wasn’t in 2011 when the long-form birth certificate was released.

Not that it stopped Trump and his campaign from spreading a lie that Hillary Clinton started the original birther movement.  Andy Martin describes himself as “king of the birthers.”  Martin is a Chicago based activist who first circulated the rumor in 2004.  Most of Martin’s claims were centered around the idea that Barack Obama was a secret Muslim.  Martin, like Trump, also touted his political power after Obama released his long-form birth certificate.  Also, similar to Martin, he was accused of making racially insensitive remarks and anti-Semitic remarks that had somewhat of a following with neo-Nazis.

There was a memo in 2007 from discredited pollster Mark Penn where he wanted Clinton’s campaign to focus on him as unAmerican.  Penn advised Clinton to focus every speech “born in the middle of America to the middle class in the middle of the last century.”  It’s not hard to see why Penn was terrible and was not invited back to Clinton’s 2016 campaign.  Penn’s strategy also did not actually bring up questioning where Obama was born but to bring up his schooling in Indonesia and the like.  Penn’s strategy was not actually taken seriously.  A volunteer coordinator in Iowa forwarded a birther e-mail.  She was immediately fired. This was followed by a phone call from Patti Solis Doyle to David Plouffe to personally apologize.  I could go even further but it’s clear that Clinton’s campaign did not actually push the birther issue.

Trump exploited the idea that Obama was not a legitimate president because of the color of his skin or the way his name sounded.  He capitalized on people’s fears and mistrust of someone that didn’t look exactly like them.  He stoked these fears; he nurtured this idea and he has shown no remorse.  His campaign is a series of lies, halftruths, and good old fashioned racism.  Trump lies indiscriminately and reflexively.  This is taken as a positive by his supporters.  Except they assume he is telling the truth.  They praise him for straight shooting and saying how it is.  But as we’ll see, the way they think the world is, isn’t always how the world actually is and Trump obfuscates basic knowledge and his own stances with the talent of a compulsive liar.














2016 election predictions: Tennessee

Presidential election:

In 2012, Mitt Romney received 59.48% of the vote compared to Barack Obama’s 39.08% of the vote.  I think that might be overstating the closeness of the election.  Tennessee has undergone quite a shift from the 1990s and I think it’s fairly similar to 2012.  I expect Trump to get close to 60% of the vote in the Presidential election.

Federal elections:

U.S. House of Representatives:

District 1:

Phil Roe (R)
Alan Bohms (D)

Roe will be easily re-elected to Congress in 2016.  He did not have a major party challenger in 2014 defeating Independent and Green party candidates handily.  In 2012, he received 76% of the vote.  By Govtrack’s measures, Roe is one of the most conservative members of the House of Representatives.  The most similar member of the House to Roe by this measure is Trent Franks from Arizona.  He has introduced 16 bills during this Congress which included a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, H.R. 2653.

Bohms is a Democrat who believes Roe is out of touch with a number of people in his district.  He is running on pro 2nd Amendment issues and more of a liberal on social issues.

District 2:

John Duncan Jr. (R)
Stuart Starr (D)

Duncan will be easily re-elected to congress in November.  He received 74.4% of the vote in 2012.  According to Govtrack’s analysis, Duncan is fairly conservative, although not as much as Roe.  the most similar memeber of the House of Representatives is David Schweikert of Arizona.  He has introduced 10 bills during this Congress.  He introduced H.R. 3074 which would calculate a special consumer price index for senior citizens to provide for more accurate cost of living allowances for those receiving social security.

Starr is running on increasing the minimum wage, legalizing marijuana, a bullet excise tax, comprehensive immigration reform, and American superiority in foreign policy.

District 3:

Charles Fleischmann (R)
Melody Shekari (D)

Fleischmann should receive around 60% of the vote in the general election.  Fleischmann was primaried in 2014 and barely won the primary (by about 1,500 votes).  He survived another challenge this year but it was not nearly as close.  Fleischmann received 62.4% of the vote in 2014.  Fleischmann is slightly to the left of Duncan according to Govtrack’s analysis with Brian Babin of Texas being the most similar member of Congress.  He introduced 7 bills during this Congress.  He introduced H.R. 3247 which would exempt certain heavy tow and recovery vehicles on federal highways from federal vehicle weight limitations.

Shekari is trying to run on a platform similar to the Democratic party’s platform including combating climate change and college affordability.  She did say that Fleischmann should show some real leadership.

District 4:

Scott Desjarlais (R)
Steven Reynolds (D)

Desjarlais is the poster child of the idea of the never resign principle.  The idea is that if you are a politician facing a scandal, ignore the initial calls of the resignation and people will eventually forget about your scandal.  The other idea that Desjarlais helps show is that scandals only stick if they reinforce your idea of the politician.  The truth is Desjarlais has survived two tough primary challenges in both 2014 and 2016.  He received 58.3% of the vote in 2014 in the general election after surviving his primary challenge that year by less than 50 votes.  His district is fairly safely Republican.  He should receive upwards of 55% of the vote in 2016.

District 5:

Stacy Ries Snyder (R)
Jim Cooper (D)

Cooper is one of the most moderate members of Congress placing direclty in the middle of Govtrack’s analysis.  The most similar member of Congress is Dan Lipinski.  Cooper has introduced 7 bills during this Congress.  His bills have mainly focused on reforming Congress including H.R. 187 No Budget, No Pay Act.  Cooper has received over 60% of the vote in the last two elections and see no reason why he won’t continue that.

District 6:

Diane Black (R)
David Kent (D)

Black has received over 70% of the vote in each of the last two elections.  She should receive close to that again in November.  By Govtrack analysis, she is one of the more conservative members of the House of Representatives.  The most similar member of Congress to her is Charles Boustany.  She has introduced 37 bills during this Congress.  A quick look at her bills indicates that a lot of her bills are grandstanding including H.R. 4926 to have the Library of Congress include illegal and legal aliens in their headings.

District 7:

Marsha Blackburn (R)
Tharon Chandler (D)

Blackburn is one of the most conservative members of Congress by Govtrack analysis with Phil Roe being one of her most similar members of Congress. She can afford to be one of the more  conservative members as she has received over 70% of the vote in each of the last two elections.  I see no reason why she wouldn’t receive less than 65% of the vote in November.

District 8:

David Kustoff (R)
Rickey Hobson (D)

The only open seat in Tennessee’s Congressional delegation.  Rep. Stephen Fincher did not run for re-election.  He had received over 70% of the vote in 2014.  It’s a fairly safe Republican seat.  David Kustoff won a contested primary election with 27.4% of the vote.  His general election strategy will likely include conservative policies.  He believes in marriage between a man and woman.  He also is running on being tough on illegal immigration, fighting terror, and crime.

Hobson won the 2016 primary after losing in 2014.  But I suspect he will struggle to get above 30% of the vote in 2016.  Romney received 66.1% of the vote in 2012 which does not bode well for Hillary Clinton and Democratic down ballot races.

District 9:

Wayne Alberson (R)
Steve Cohen (D)

This is a safely Democratic Congressional district.  Cohen has received 75% of the vote in each of the last two elections.  Cohen is fairly liberal according to Govtrack analysis.  The most similar member of Congress to Cohen is Frederica Wilson.  Cohen has introduced 27 bills during this Congress.  Some of his bills focus on credit scores including H.R. 3524 which would prevent employers from running credit checks on prospective employees.

State Senate

Tennessee Senate District 10:

Todd Gardenhire (R)
Khristy Wilkinson (D)

Gardenhire won the general election in 2012 with 54.3% of the vote and won by about 6,000 votes.  He underperformed Mitt Romney in the State Senate precincts by a couple of points.  The question is do we think Clinton is going to underperform Obama’s performance in 2016?  I would say, I think she performs about as well as Obama did in 2012 (spoiler).  This means that I think Gardenhire gets re-elected.

Tennessee Senate District 20:

Steven Dickerson (R)
Erin Coleman (D)

If I did the math right from the Tennessee Secretary of State’s website, Dickerson actually outperformed Romney in his state Senate precincts.  Dickerson got 54% of the vote in 2012 and I have Romney down at 52% .  The political science research suggests that people vote based on party preference of the Presidential election instead of based actual preference of state legislators.

I have not done a lot of research on Dickerson to try to determine of how good of a legislator he is or anything.  But I think his Senate district will vote Republican in November even if it’s a slight lean.  I think that Dickerson gets re-elected in November but I think it’s fairly close.

Tennessee Senate District 22:

Mark Green (R)
David Cutting (D)

Green defeated incumbent Tim Barnes in the 2012 election.  Barnes had been elected to the State Senate as part of the Barack Obama wave(ish) election in 2008.  This supports the idea that people vote for legislators based off of presidential party vote.  The other idea that we’re leaning towards is the idea of universal lean. If this ends up being an election where Hillary wins the presidential election by closer to 2008 margins, I think this state senate seat is in play.  But if it’s closer to 2012, Green keeps his seat.

Tennessee House of Representatives:

Tennessee House of Representatives District 13:

Eddie Smith (R)
Gloria Johnson (D)

In 2014, Eddie Smith defeated Gloria Johnson by less than 200 votes.  This, fun fact, was not even the closest election she had that year.  She won the Republican primary by 30 votes.  Johnson had been elected in 2012 after losing the 2011 special election.  She won the 2012 election by 270 votes.

This is going to be a close election in this district.  I think Johnson has a chance to retake her seat.  But this is probably one of the closest elections in the country come November.

Tennessee House of Representatives District 33:

John Ragan (R)
Michael McKarney (D)

Ragan was first elected during the 2010 wave election for the Republican Party.  He won re-election in 2012 in a rematch by 700 votes.  He ended up running unopposed in 2014 when he was re-elected.  This is similar to Senate District 22.  If it is a large margin for Hillary Clinton this November, McKarney has a chance to pull an upset.  But if it’s not a very good showing overall, Ragan holds his sedat.

Tennessee House of Representatives District 34:

Tim Rudd (R)
Laura Bohling (D)

This is a comfortably Republican House District based off the performance in 2012.  Rudd is running for an open seat as Rick Womick chose not to run for re-election in 2016.

Tennessee House of Representatives District 43:

Paul Sherrell (R)
Kevin Dunlap (D)

Dunlap won the election in 2014 by 54 votes over Republican Robert Dunham.  There were 409 votes going to independent Edward Leon Buck.  I’m not sure which candidate Buck was stealing votes from.  Dunlap better hope that these votes were being stolen from the Republican Dunham.  If not, this seat may flip.  This is one worth watching.

Tennessee House of Representatives District 53:

Davette Blalock (R)
Jason Powell (D)

Powell was originally elected in 2012 with 54% of the vote.  He won re-election in 2014 with 53% of the vote.  This bodes well for Powell to be able to win re-election in November over Republican challenger Blalock.  I think Powell gets closer to 55% of the vote in November.

Tennessee House of Representatives District 60:

Steve Glover (R)
Darren Jernigan (D)

Jernigan upset incumbernt Jim Gotto winning by less than 100 votes.  He was able to withstand a rematch in 2014 (a tougher year for Democrats) and won by over 1,000 votes.  Glover who is on the Nashville Metro Council may be a formidable challenge to Jernigan but it seems like Jernigan is safer than he was in 2014.  He should be able to win re-election in November.


Tennessee House of Representatives District 69:

Michael Curcio (R)
Dustin Evans (D)

Evans is running for an open seat in the Tennessee House of Representatives.  The seat is currently held by David Shepard.  Shepard won by 15 votes over Michael Curcio in 2014. Shepard won handily in 2012 by nearly three thousand votes.  I believe that 2014 was a referendum on the president and was more favorable to Republicans than a Presidential election year.  I think Evans is able to win the election.  But this is another potentially close election.

Tennessee House of Representatives District 70:

Barry Doss (R)
Calvin Moore (D)

Doss defeated Moore in 2012 by over a thousand votes.  Doss was unopposed in 2014 (which should not be surprising).  Right now, I don’t think the election is going to be more similar to 2008 than 2012 so I think Doss is fairly safe right now.  Even if, I think he doesn’t get such a large margin of victory this time (6 point margin).

Tennessee House of Representatives District 74:

Jay Reedy (R)
Andy Porch (D)

Reedy was able to get elected in 2014 by defeating Democratic incumbent John Tidwell by about 400 votes.  Tidwell had been elected in 1996 being re-elected every 2 years like clockwork.  Reedy was able to take advantage of an anti-democrat sentiment.  I’m not sure how strong of a candidate Porch is.  Again, I think Democrats will do better in November compared to 2014 (not a controversial opinion).  This can potentially be a close election.

Tennessee House of Representatives District 81:

Debra Moody (R)
Deborah Reed (D)

I don’t think this is a very close election.  Moody should be able to get over 55% of the vote in November.  I would be very surprised if she doesn’t reach that threshold.












2016 Election Predictions: Hawaii

Statewide elections:

U.S. Senate:

Brian Schatz (D): Schatz is the incumbent Senator in Hawaii.  Govtrack charts each bill that has been sponsored and cosponsored legislation and who the co-sponsors of legislation were.  Schatz is firmly in the left wing portion of the graph.  The most similar Senator by this methodology is Ed Markey.

Schatz has introduced 34 bills since 2015.  Of the bills that he has co-sponsored, 31% were introduced by someone other than a Democrat. Two bills that he introduced this Congress that I support are S. 2678 STOP Pain Act which would direct studies for pain and help develop alternatives to pain medicine that are not opioids.  As you should be aware, we have a real opioid epidemic happening right now and we should be focusing some energy on developing alternative pain medication.

Another bill is S. 3122 REAL Act of 2016.  This bill would reinstate Pell Grant eligibility for individuals currently in federal or state penal insitutions.

John Caroll (R): He doesn’t even have a real domain for his campaign website. I have a website.  This is dumb.

Prediction: Schatz will win with over 65% of the vote.

Statewide ballot measures:

Amendment 1: This measure would, if passed, increase the threshold value for a civil jury trial to $10,000 from $5,000.

State Farm opposes the measure.  Their testimony to the State Senate relied heavily on the idea that the 7th Amendment guarantees a right to civil trial for damages exceeding $20 and that states requiring a higher threshold are rare.  I’m not 100% sure why State Farm would oppose such a measure, to be honest.

Right now, I think that this Amendment will pass.  As we get closer to November, it’s possible that more insurance companies and more money will be pored into this state for this amendment.

Amendment 2: Ballotpedia has the ballot question on their website

Shall the legislature be provided, when the state general fund balance at the close of each of two successive fiscal years exceeds five per cent of the general fund revenues for each of the two fiscal years, the additional alternatives of appropriating general funds for the pre-payment of either or both of the following:

(1) Debt service for general obligation bonds issued by the State; or
(2) Pension or other post-employment benefit liabilities accrued for state employees?

This would allow state legislators to be able to pre-pay general obligation bonds and pensions.  Currently, excess general gunds can only be used for tax refunds or emergency supplemental funds.

This should pass easily.

Presidential election:

Barack Obama won the 2012 Presidential election in Hawaii with 70.55% of the vote compared to 27.84% of the vote for Romney.  Clinton will get 67% or more of the vote.

Federal elections:

District 1:

Colleen Hanabusa (D)

Shirlene Ostrov (R)

Hanabusa is the former member of Congress from 2011-2014.  She won re-election in 2012 with 54.61% of the vote over Charles Djou who received 45.39% of the vote.  Djou was the incumbent in the 2010 general election where he lost.   Djou received 48% of the vote in 2014.  While the district is a fairly safe Democratic seat, a strong challenger in Congress or a stronger candidate running for President could flip the seat to a Republican.  Djou is probably one of the stronger candidates to do so.  He is currently running for mayor of Honolulu.

I think that it’s still pretty safe.  Barack Obama won 69.7% of the vote in 2012 in this district. I think Hanabusa gets over 55% of the vote in November.

District 2:

Tulsi Gabbard (D)

Angela Aulani Kaaihue (R) – not really anymore

Gabbard has received a lot of praise for being an outspoken supporter of Bernie Sanders throughout the Democratic presidential primary.  She has criticized the Democratic National Committee as being insanely corrupt and resigned her spot with the DNC.  Gabbard is the first Hindu to be elected to Congress.  So of course, her opponent attacked her for being a Hindu and the Hawaii Republican Party terminated her membership. She also said some offensive things about Japanese Hawaiians.

Anyway, this is a very safe Democratic seat and will remain Gabbard’s until she chooses not to run again.

State Senate:

There’s not very many seats that are being opposed by both major parties.

District 9:

Samuel Slom (R)

Stanley Chang (D)

Sam Slom is the only Republican in the Hawaii State Senate. Because of that, he served on every legislative committee.  He is also the Senate Minority Leader  and Minority Floor Leader.  He has served in the Senate since 1996.  In 2010, he received 55% of the vote in his district and won 54% of the vote in 2012.  It seems like he has a pretty high floor for his support.  Chang is a former Honolulu City Council member who ran for the Democratic nomination for Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District.  He received 10% of the vote in the primary.  I find it hard to believe that Chang will be able to win the election.  I think Slom is likely to get around 54-55% of the vote, yet again.

District 11:

C. Kaui Jochanan Amsterdam (R)

Brian Taniguchi (D)

Taniguchi received 73.5% of the vote in 2012.  Amsterdam is more or less a perennial candidate who ran for the state house in 2014 in District 24 garnering 25.6% of the vote.  I do not think that Amsterdam is going to do that well in November.  Taniguchi should get 75% of the vote.

District 13:

Rod Tam (R)

Karl Rhoads (D)

Rhoads is currently a member of the Hawaii House of Representatives for District 29.  He is currently the chair of Judiciary Committee in the Hawaii House of Representatives.  In 2010, State Senate District 13 elected the Democratic candidate with 71% of the vote.  Rhoads is running against an unknown and should be able to get close to 70% of the vote in November.

District 19:

Kurt Fevella (R)

William Espero (D)

Espero is currently the State Senator for this distric and was the Majority Floor Leader from 2013 – 2014.  Fevella won the Republican primary for this district with 989 votes compared to 650 for his opponent.  There doesn’t seem to be enough Republicans for Fevella to make up the ground.  Espero should get close to 60% of the vote.

District 25:

Robert Nagamine (R)

Laura Thielen (D)

Thielen is the state Senator for this district.  She was elected in 2012 with 59.5% of the vote compared to her opponent who received 40.5% of the vote.  Nagamine was able to win the Republican primary election for this district. He seems to not have very much name recognition to be able to compete.  I believe that Thielen will win with close to 55-60% of the vote.

Hawaii House of Representatives:

I am looking at the districts where the candidate did not get 60% of the vote in 2014 (with one exception) AND have both major parties running candidates.

District 20:

Julia Allen (R)

Calvin Say (D)

Say received 54.6% of the vote in 2014 defeating Julia Allen.  Allen actually came in third behind Say and Green Party candidate Keiko Bonk who received 24.2% of the vote.  Allen finished in third in 2012 with 11.8% of the vote.  She received 24.8% of the vote against Say in 2010.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that Say will win this election with about 70% of the vote as there is not a green party candidate this year.

District 22

Kathryn Henski (R)

Tom Brower (D)

Brower was challenged int he Democratic primary by two other candidates.  Brower survived the challenge receiving 71% of the vote in the primary.  In 2014, Brower received 54.5% of the vote with 2,626 votes compared to his challenger Janet Grace’s 1,929 votes.  While I do think Brower will have somewhat of a challenge, I think he will win with more than 55% of the vote.

District 31

Eric Ching (R)

Aaron Johanson (D)

Johanson was elected with 68% of the vote in 2014.  He then switched parties in December of 2014 as he stated that the Republican Party had ideological narrowness with the party as the reason for his switch.  Eric Ching is ap olitical outsider trying to oust Johanson out of his seat to prevent just another “yes” vote for the Democratic Party. I would be a little worried for Johanson in November but I still think he wins the election with around 60% of the vote.

District 34

Jaci Agustin (R)

Gregg Takayama (D)

Takayama is the Democratic incumbent for this district.  He defeated Agustin in the 2014 general election with 58.3% of the vote compared to 38% of the vote for Agustin.  Takayama should easily win re-election to this seat.


District 41

Bryan E. Jeremiah (R)

Matthew Lopresti (D)

Lopresti won the 2014 election over Jeremiah 48.7-35.6.  Tom Berg, the Libertarian candidate received 15.6% of the vote providing the rest of the margin. There is not a third party candidate on the ballot for this general election, which is probably a shame.  I think that the turnout for this district is likely to decrease compared to 2012 and 2014.  My guess is that Lopresti is able to win re-election but I think it’s a fairly close election.  The closest one so far in the state.

District 43

Andria Tupoloa (R)

Stacelynn K.M. Eli (D)

Tupoloa is the incumbent for this district.  She was able to defeat the incumbent Democrat Karen Leinani Awana in the 2014 election 56.1 -41.6%.  Leinani Awana was able to get 69.7% of the vote or 4,029 votes in 2012 compared to 1,484 votes for her opponent. There were only about 500 less votes cast in 2014 in this district.  If you believe that Tupola as able to get elected because of dissatisfaction with Barack Obama in a favored map for the 2014 Republican Party, then you may believe that Stacelynn K.M. Eli is likely to win back the seat.  I don’t think Eli is a particularly strong candidate but she was able to defeat Karen Leinani Awana in the primary and only lost the primary in 2014 by 300 votes.  Maybe I’m not giving Eli enough credit.  I think

District 44

Marc Pa’aluhi (R)
Cedric Asuega Gates (D)

I don’t think this will be a particularly close election unless someone who is upset about Cedric Asuega Gates winning the Democratic nomination.  Gates was the Green party candidate in 2014.  He upset Democratic incumbent Jo Jordan in the 2016 Democratic primary by 240 votes.  Jordan won the general election in 2014 with 58% of the vote.  Gates with the Green Party nomination received 22% of the vote.  There was not a Republican on the ballot in 2014.

District 47

Feki Pouha (R)

Sean Quinlan (D)

Pouha won the 2014 general election by less than 200 votes over Democratic candidate Kent Fonoimoana.  Pouha is the State House Minority Floor Leader.  If we are to believe that 2014 was a good year for Republicans then, again, we may think that Pouha is vulnerable.  Quinlan does not seem like a particularly strong candidate and does not appear to have a website. I think Pouha will be re-elected.











2016 election predictions: Alabama


U.S. Senate:

Richard Shelby (R): Incumbent Senator of Alabama.  Govtrack does an analysis of members of Congress based on the bills that they sponsor and co-sponsor among ideological grounds and leadership scores.  When you look up Shelby, there are two other Senators who score nearly identical with them.  Shelley Moore Capito and Joni Ernst are the most similar Senators by that score. Govtrack provides some other statistics: in this Congress, Shelby introduced 0 bills that became laws.  He cosponsored 49 total bills in this Congress.  14% of those bills were introduced by someone other than a Republican.

He introduced 6 bills in this Congress  The bill with the most co-sponsors was S. 1867 International Megan’s Law to Prevent Child Exploitation Through Advanced Notification of Traveling Sex Offenders.  The bill would provide notice of travel by registered sex offenders outside the US and when sex offenders would travel to the US.

Shelby is a pro-life politician who opposes same-sex marriage.  He voted against debating the Gang of Eight immigration bill calling it the “mother of all amnesties.”  He supports a balanced budget Constitutional Amendment and has opposed raising the debt ceiling.  He supports a flat tax system.  More on Richard Shelby’s support or opposition to issues can be found here.

Shelby has $9.8 million cash on hand for his Senate run.

Ron Crumpton (D): Crumpton is running for Senate on the Democratic ticket.  He won his primary with 56% of the vote.  Hillary Clinton won the Democratic primary in Alabama with nearly 78% of the vote. Crumpton announced a number of policy issues on his website that he is running on.

He is trying to run a more populist campaign for the Senate seat.  He is supporting a minimum wage increase to $12/hour with an increase to $15/hour over the next three years. He ants to reschedule marijuana and end federal crimes on marijuana, mandatory minimum sentences, and private prisons. Despite running in Alabama one of the worst states for supporting immigration reform, he does support immigration reform.

Despite running as a Democrat on a number of issues, he is trying to thread the needle with gun rights and does not support gun control bills.  This can mostly be attributed to the fact that he’s running in Alabama.

The rest of his issues can be found on his website.

Prediction: Alabama is a very conservative state and Shelby has a tremendous cash advantage over Crumpton.  This election will not be close.

The 2012 Presidential election saw Mitt Romney get 60.55% of the vote and Barack Obama got 38.36% of the vote.  I believe the margin will be similar in this election which would give Shelby’s

Amendment 1: Ballotpedia has the title of the Amendment:

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to establish procedures to ensure that no more than three of the members of the Auburn University Board of Trustees shall have terms that expire in the same calendar year and to add two additional at-large members to the board to enhance diversity on the board.

A “yes” vote would add two members to the Auburn University Board of Trustees and prevent that not more than three board member terms expire in any one calendar year.

There doesn’t seem to be much opposition to the proposed Amendment.  As far as I can tell, at least.  It doesn’t even seem to be that controversial.  It should pass with very high margins.

Amendment 2: Ballotpedia has the following title for this ballot measure:

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to prohibit any monies from the State Parks Fund, the Parks Revolving Fund, or any fund receiving revenues currently deposited in the State Parks Fund or the Parks Revolving Fund, and any monies currently designated pursuant to statute for the use of the state parks system from being transferred for another purpose other than the support, upkeep, and maintenance of the state parks system.

Notwithstanding, in the event that guest revenues to the State Parks Revolving Fund exceed the threshold of $50 million (as annually adjusted based on increases in the consumer price index) in a fiscal year, the sales and use and cigarette tax revenue distributed to benefit the State Parks System shall be reduced in the following fiscal year. The amount of the reduction shall correspond to the amount of guest revenue to the State Parks Revolving Fund exceeding the threshold. The amount of tax revenue not distributed to benefit the State Parks System shall be distributed to the General Fund.

Proposing an amendment to Amendment 617 of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to allow the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources the option to provide for the operation and management, by non-state entities, of hotels, golf courses, and restaurants at any applicable state parks in Alabama

In plain english, the amendment would prohibit the legislature from reallocating state park funds for other uses.  Opposing the amendment would allow the legislature to reallocate funds for other uses.  The Montgomery Advertiser in their editorial that $15 million has been transferred from the state parks system to the General Fund.  Further, they note that the parks department does not get any General Fund dollars and raises most of its money from entrance fees and other fees.

The legislature transferred $3 million out of the service fees and maintenance budget pots that led to the closure of  five parks last October.  The Montgomery Advertiser argues taht without this amendment being passed the parks would continue to face budget crunches and ample opportunities for the legislature to cover up other budgetary shortfalls.  They argue that the only way to restore the parks to budget stability would be to pass this amendment.

Transferring money from the parks department is passing a value judgment on what is important to the state and their legislators.  While Alabama does have a budgetary crisis with the prison system and public education dollars, the parks department and state parks provide valuable economic revival to cities and towns that have parks.  They also increase property value and quality of life.

There is not significant opposition to the amendment but the idea of covering up budget shortfalls may be popular with some.  Explaining how much it costs to run state parks and maintain them may be difficult to explain but ultimately explaining that transferring money away from parks is going to be more difficult.

I suspect this passes with nearly 60% of the vote.

Amendment 3:

Ballotpedia’s title of the amendment:

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to revise the procedure for adoption of local constitutional amendments to provide that a proposed constitutional amendment the Legislature determines without a dissenting vote applies to only one county or a political subdivision within one or more counties shall be adopted as a valid part of the constitution by a favorable vote of a majority of the qualified electors of the affected county or the political subdivision and county or counties in which the political subdivision is located, who vote on the amendment

The amendment, if passed, would change the way the Alabama Constitution is amended.  Local constitutional amendments are voted on by the entire state of Alabama unless 3/5 of the legislature and a unanimous vote of the constitutional amendment commission determine that the amendment only applies to one county or jurisdiction.

If it was passed, it would eliminate the constitutional amendment commission and require a unanimous vote of both houses of the Alabama legislature.

I don’t see a lot of opposition to this bill.  I assume that it will pass.

Amendment 4:

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to authorize each county commission in the state to establish, subject to certain limitations, certain programs related to the administration of the affairs of the county

This amendment would grant more authority to carry out community, transportation, and emergency assistance programs.  Project VoteSmart gives the following summary:

  • Authorizes a county commission to establish certain programs necessary for the administration of the affairs of the county, including, but not limited to, the following programs (Sec. 1):
    • Programs relating to county personnel, including, but not limited to, employee benefits and employee incentive programs;
    • Programs relating to the community, including, but not limited to, programs to provide for clean roadways and to protect individuals from dangerous animals;
    • Programs relating to local transportation, including, but not limited to, public transportation programs and programs to encourage road safety;
    • Programs relating to county offices; and
    • Programs relating to emergency assistance, including, but not limited to, ambulance service programs and programs to improve emergency management services.
  • Prohibits a county commission from establishing, assessing, or increasing a tax or fee (Sec. 1).
  • Prohibits a county commission from establishing a program that infringes on private property rights (Sec. 1).

This was opposed by 17 members of the Alabama House of Representatives, 11 Democrats and 6 Republicans.

I do think that there should be some specifities about what infringing on private property rights includes.  But I am not sure what specifically is in the bill that should be opposed.  I have not been able to locate the reasoning behind the opposing votes.  The Amendment should pass.  This section will be updated as I find more opposing statements on it.

Amendment 5: Ballotpedia

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to repeal and restate the provisions of Article III of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901 relating to separation of powers to modernize the language without making any substantive change, effective January 1, 2017

This amendment simply modernizes the language found in the constitution of Alabama.  It does not seem to make any substantial changes to the Constitution.  Because it does not make any substantial changes, the Amendment should pass.

Amendment 6: Ballotpedia – “Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to become operative January 1, 2017, to repeal and replace Article VII, Impeachments.”

The amendment would change the language to specify that to impeach a state official, a two-thirds supermajority of the state senators present.  Apparently, the current Alabama constitution does not list whether a majority of all state senators or if majority approval of the senators present would be sufficient.  Other changes with this amendment would include removing the superintendent of education from the list of offices subject to impeachment, added members of the State Board of Education, and removed other irrelevant language.  Finally, it engages in political correctness by removing gender-specific language (I’m just kidding about the political correctness part).

The reason for the amendment is because of the potential impeachment of Governor Robert Bentley.  Governor Bentley will probably have articles of impeachment brought against him because of sexual harassment.  There, apparently, was some debate over how the articles of impeachment would occur if we did not know how they could be impeached.

Clearly, it has not been an issue in the past.  There was only one attempted impeachment in the last 100 years.  I think it’s important to clarify language in the state constitutions so that there is not any ambiguity.  Since there is not any shifting of powers or exclusion of powers but just clarification, I expect this amendment to pass.

Amendment 7:

Relating to Etowah County, proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to provide that the employees of the Office of Sheriff of Etowah County, except for the chief deputy, chief of detention, chief of administration, chief of investigation, director of communications, and food service manager, shall be under the authority of the Personnel Board of the Office of the Sheriff of Etowah County

The reason for this measure is so that Etowah county sheriff’s deputies to receive raises without giving similar raises to all county employees.  This seems to be one of those places where an amendment could only be applied to one county or locality instead of having the whole state vote on it.  I think it will probably pass.

Amendment 8:

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to declare that it is the public policy of Alabama that the right of persons to work may not be denied or abridged on account of membership or nonmembership in a labor union or labor organization; to prohibit an agreement to deny the right to work, or place conditions on prospective employment, on account of membership or nonmembership in a labor union or labor organization; to prohibit an employer from requiring its employees to abstain from union membership as a condition of employment; and to provide that an employer may not require a person, as a condition of employment or continuation of employment, to pay dues, fees, or other charges of any kind to any labor union or labor organization

Adding right-to-work text to the Alabama constitution will probably make it harder to change in the future.  Alabama is already, more or less, a right-to-work state so even without this amendment, Alabama would continue down the path of being a “right to work state.”  Maybe I’ll write something more in the future but I do not agree with “right-to-work” policies, in the abstract.  I think that it’s likely to pass, regardless.  It will probably get around 60% of the vote. This will make it more difficult in the future if Alabama wants to change away from being a “right to work” state.

Amendment 9:

A local constitutional amendment to the to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901; to provide that a person who is not over the age of 75 at the time of qualifying for election or at the time of his appointment may be elected or appointed to the office of Judge of Probate of Pickens County

This amendment would prevent anyone over the age of 75 be elected or appointed to the office of Judge of Probate of Pickens County. This seems like a way just to age people out of the judiciary.  This is not something that I agree with overall.  Typically, these type of age requirements and the like is to prevent popular people from maintaining their posts.

It will likely pass, I mean, 75 seems old.

Amendment 10:

An amendment to Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to provide that any territory located in Calhoun County would be subject only to the police jurisdiction and planning jurisdiction of a municipality located wholly or partially in the county

This will probably pass. The reasoning is that it would redefine jurisdictions to prevent it from going across county lines.

Amendment 11:

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, as amended, to permit cities and counties, notwithstanding any existing constitutional restrictions, to utilize tax increment district revenues collected within a Major 21st Century Manufacturing Zone and other moneys to incentivize the establishment and improve various types of manufacturing facilities located or to be located in such Zone, and to validate and confirm the Major 21st Century Manufacturing Zone Act, Act No. 2013-51.

This doesn’t seem like a bad idea. This creates a new way to fund infrastructure projects in underdeveloped areas.  The idea is that the tax increment financing would fund the debts of a project because the infrastructure will create more taxable property and increase value of the surrounding real estate.  The increased revenue finances the debt.

Amendment 12:

Relating to municipalities in Baldwin County; proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to authorize the Legislature by general or local law to provide for any municipalities in the county to incorporate a toll road and bridge authority as a public corporation in the municipality for the construction and operation of toll roads and bridges in the municipality and to authorize the authority to issue revenue bonds to finance the projects.

This creates a governing body to establish tolls to fund major road projects.  They will be able to issue bonds to help fund these projects.

I actually think this will be pretty close but will be passed about 55%.

Amendment 13:

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, as amended, to repeal any existing age restriction on the appointment, election, or service of an appointed or elected official, with the exception of persons elected or appointed to a judicial office, currently imposed by a provision of the Constitution or other law; and to prohibit the Legislature from enacting any law imposing a maximum age limitation on the appointment, election, or service of an appointed or elected official.

I agree with this concept.  I don’t think there should be maximum age restrictions because I think that they are largely passed to prevent popular politicians from retaining power.  In general, I believe that democracy is the best way to prevent those you do not want in power from gaining power.  This prevents age restrictions in the future. I wish it would go further and get rid of age restrictions for judicial appointments.

It should pass.

Amendment 14:

To propose an amendment to Amendment 448 to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, now appearing as Section 71.01 of the Official Recompilation of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, as amended, to ratify, approve, validate, and confirm the application of any budget isolation resolution authorizing the consideration of a bill proposing a local law adopted by the Legislature before November 8, 2016, that conformed to the rules of either body of the Legislature at the time it was adopted

I’ll let Ballotpedia explain this:

Currently, bills passed in the Alabama Legislature prior to budget approval require a “budget isolation resolution” (BIR). These BIRs must be passed by a three-fifths supermajority of the quorum present. More recently, the Alabama House had been passing BIRs with only three-fifths of those members who were both present and voting, requiring the support of fewer legislators.

Amendment 14 guarantees the legitimacy of the “present and voting” interpretation of BIR voting procedure and ensures that over 600 local laws that were passed using this procedure would be protected. Otherwise, courts could strike down these local laws. For example, a Jefferson County sales tax law was struck down after it was revealed that it was passed using this BIR voting procedure.

This clarifies the language out there with regards to the Budget Isolation Resolution.  This is a little “inside baseball”, but this should pass.  I think a number of people will be confused by this.

Ugh. That is a lot of ballot amendments.

Statewide Presidential election: There will not be any polls out there for Alabama because it is a safe Republican state.  In 2012, Mitt Romney won the stae with 60.55% of the vote compared to Barack Obama’s 38.36%.  The total votes for Romney were 1,255,925 votes compared to 795,696 for Obama.  There were a total of 2,074,338 ballots cast.

I’m anticipating a similar amount of ballots cast in 2016 despite the talk that is going out there currently.  I’m projecting Trump getting 58% of the vote.  I have Clinton at 40% right now.

We’re assuming that the third party vote share will be around 2%.

Federal elections:

None of the Congressional elections are going to be very close.  The Congressional Districts are drawn to be noncompetitive.  Romney won 6 of the 7 Congressional districts and got over 60% in those districts.  The last district was won by Obama with 72.4% of the vote.

Alabama Congressional District 2:

Martha Roby (R)

Nathan Mathis (D)

Predicted winner: Martha Roby

Alabama Congressional District 3:

Mike Rogers (R)

Jesse Smith (D)

Predicted winner: Mike Rogers

Alabama Congressional District 5:

Mo Brooks (R)

Will Boyd (D)

Predicted winner: Mo Brooks




The affirmative case for Hillary Clinton

One of the weird things about election season is the weird alliance between the more ardent Bernie Sanders supporters and Donald Trump supporters that there is simply not a case to be made for Hillary Clinton to be President.  The Bernie or bust supporters believe that the only case to be made for Clinton is of fear of Trump.  Trump supporters feel the same way.  I think there’s a very strong case to be made for Clinton to be president.  But like everything, if you’re not open to the argument, I’m not sure how successful it will be.

Image result for tell me a reason to vote for hillary meme

  1. Supreme Court and the federal judiciary – One of the annoying things that we do in America is that we tend to overrate the power of the American presidency.  Thanks to our Constitution and the system within a Madisonian democracy, there are a high number of veto points and consistently limits the power of the presidency.  Thanks to our hyperpartisanship that is happening in our federal legislature, every single bill that is introduced by a Democrat or supported by Democratic leadership will be instantly opposed by the vast majority of Republican Senators and members of Congress.  This will certainly limit the amount of progressive policies that can be enacted within a Democratic president even if Democrats take back the Senate and make inroads into the House of Representatives.

    The main way that a President can make a lasting impact in our political environment and government structure is the appointments to the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary.  These are lifetime appointments, by and large.  With Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, there is an immediate opening on the Supreme Court that can allow Hillary Clinton to shift the median vote on the Supreme Court to a liberal vote.  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is likely to retire in the next few years and due to the age of the other justices excepting the Obama appointees and Chief Justice John Roberts, there is likely to be another opening within the next 4-8 years.  Shifting the median vote on the Supreme Court to a liberal vote is going to be huge.  This can change voting rights, death penalty, mandatory minimums, public sector unions, LGBT rights and equality, etc.  You can bet that a Democratic Senate will be focusing on environmental issues and there will be court challenges to these laws.  Having a Supreme Court who believes in a living Constitution is going to be friendlier to this agenda.

    Of course, this argument can be considered as only saying that Clinton is better than Trump.  This is true but she is simply better than any Republican in this regard.

  2. Voting rights – When Clinton was a Senator, she introduced a bill that would help voting rights tremendously.  The bill was called the gold standard for voting rights reform.  The bill would make election day a holiday (a cause Bernie Sanders took up this year); restore the right to felons who have been released from jail and off parole; limit ability to throw out voter registration forms; prevent voter id laws from being enacted; create a national standard for early voting; require paper records in all precincts; and automatic recounts in 2% of all polling places or precincts.  All of these things are fantastic and part of a very progressive agenda.

    One of the policies that she is running on in this election and has since the primary is to repair our voting rights problem.  Her policy is to automatically register voters; repair the Voting Rights Act including the section that was struck down in Shelby County v. Holder; set a national standard for early voting; and restore voting rights to felons who have served their time.  Again, these are all very worthy goals.  Restoring the Voting Rights Act alone would help with minority voters, young people, and low-income voters to prevent onerous voter id restrictions.  This could also prevent worse gerrymandering and would require the preclearance that was previously guaranteed.

    More on voting rights can be found here for my thoughts on voting rights.

  3. Repealing Hyde Amendment – The Hyde Amendment is an amendment that is more or less included in every spending bill to prevent federal funds to pay for abortion except to save the life of the mother or if the pregnancy is a result of incest or rape.  The Hyde Amendment is a barrier to prevent health insurance policies from offering abortions.  What’s worse is that while the federal funds prevent funding for abortions, only 17 states provide public funding for low-income seeking abortions.  The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) bans the use of federal funds for abortions sought by teeenagers.  The Hyde Amendment forbids Medicaid from funding an abortion.

    Clinton has specifically opposed the Hyde Amendment since, at least, 2008.  It’s not an exciting issue.  But the Hyde Amendment is a real barrier for poor or low-income women from being able to obtain an abortion.  As they have to wait longer, it is more likely that the cost will increase and the chances of health complications increase as we the fetus ages.

    If you’re pro-life, though, this does nothing to convince you that Clinton should be elected.

  4. Paid family and Medical leave – Clinton, despite the claims made by the Donald Trump campaign, have been fighting for paid family and medical leave to help provide for up to 12 weeks of medical leave for care for a new child or a seriously ill family member.  I wrote about the need for paid family and medical leave and why it’s important.  This is a very progressive goal and will likely be one of the new fights that will be coming in the next 8 years.
  5. Immigration reform – Clinton has said that she will defend the executive actions of DACA and DAPA to prevent deportations of immigrants who were born here and follow through with protections for them.  She has also talked about the need for comprehensive immigration reform which is certainly needed.  Immigration reform used to be a bipartisan issue and one that was clearly needed to address the issues.  The idea is to get the 11 million undocumented immigrants from out of the shadows and to pay taxes as they assimilate to American society.  This includes a pathway to citizenship which is very important to help these millions of people to be in the formal economy.  Further, she has stated the need to close private immigrant detention centers which are usually the ones that follow through with the worst abuses.
  6.  Campaign finance – The Supreme Court decision in Citizens United is consistently cited by Bernie sanders and his more erstwhile supporters as a grave threat to democracy.  I think that ultimately this decision has been overblown because of people’s  obsession with simple explanations to complex problems.  Yes, there is a problem of money in politics.  Simply overturning Citizens United will not fix this.  At any rate, the group Citizens United made a move about Hillary Clinton in 2008 about how Hillary was a European socialist who wanted to take over the country.  Clinton has denounced the ruling since it was handed down.  She has campaigned heavily on this and has promised to propose a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.  I don’t think this is a very practical solution as it could be overturned with a simple majority on the Supreme Court.   But she wants it overturned.

    I know, that, some of you will talk about how Clinton is taking money from dark money groups in her quest to be President so she is a hypocrite.  I don’t really buy this argument as Clinton will need the money to be able to be President, unfortunately, and can still not like the rule.  She is simply playing the game with the rules that are currently out there.  I’ve never really bought this argument but if you think Clinton is a hypocrite, I’m sure you will. But I think questions about her judgment about foreign policy are simply an excuse not to vote for her.

  7. Foreign policy judgment– Since I was just talking about Citizens United and this will follow naturally.  In 2008, Clinton had Mark Penn as a staffer and had a number of longtime Clinton staffers on her campaign.  This campaign failed.  There were a lot of terrible mistakes in that campaign including the Michigan and Florida fiasco and subsequent fight for the nomination and pledges to fight for the nomination.

    Clinton did not hire these staffers in her most recent campaign.  There were not campaign shakeups after her loss in New Hampshire.  There was not really any surprises in the primary (outside of Michigan which is still not really clear why she lost that state).  She dominated the delegate game without spending a lot of her money and without going negative against Bernie Sanders (by and large).  Poor Clinton judgment on the campaign trail would have had her shaking up her campaign after New Hampshire or Michigan or after a poor showing in a caucus.  She won all of her “must win” states.  While the primary votes seemed to be close,  after New Hampshire, it was never as close as the 2008 Democratic primary.

    But what about her Iraqi war vote and her hawkishness?  Clinton, unlike in 2008, has renounced her vote for Iraq and has talked about it being a mistake.  When she gave her vote in October 2002, she also gave a speech about why she was making this vote.  It seemed to be a straightforward reason for why she decided to make this vote.

    I’m not a fan of her hawishness, overall.  She is more of a hawk than I am.  This is for certain.  Her claims that she made a mistake with her Iraqi war vote in 2002 (unlike in 2008) and her change in her campaign from 2008 show me that she learned from her mistake back then.  When Bill Clinton was asked about the biggest mistake of his presidency, he, almost, without fail would cite the Rwandan genocide as one of his biggest regrets.  I think this played into her overall hawkishness and support for “regime change.”

    Other attacks on her foreign policy regarding Syria, Libya, or Honduras don’t, to me, pass the sniff test.  There were no good answers with regards to Syria.  Especially, when you keep it in mind that there is still the Rwandan genocide still in the minds of the Clinton.  Honduras is a weird thing to criticize her for, considering she is being criticized for not getting involved int he coup.  Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

    I’d doubt that Clinton would get us into another war, especially in the Middle East.  But to just say that she is forever tainted because of her Iraq vote and can’t learn from this mistake (while very similar to other criticisms of her, in general) are, in my opinion, misleading.

  8. Environmental policy– Clinton has said that she will support the Clean Power Plan and help defend it. Of course, to do so, she would need a majority for the Supreme Court.  In fact, ALL environmental policies will need a majority Supreme Court to help defend it.  This is just something we need to deal with.  I’m not going to spend much time on this but Clinton is supporting a number of actions that will make America cleaner.
  9. Student loan debt, colleges, and single payer– The biggest ideas of Bernie Sanders that was supported by young voters was the idea to get rid of student loan debt and make colleges free and then single payer.  Student loan debt is a big issue for a number of young voters as they have thousands of dollars in debt for a degree that they are, in all probability, not using in their jobs.  The idea is that if we make colleges free we can get rid of student loan debt forever and make it affordable for all Americans to attend colleges.  Clinton’s plan is an actual plan.  Supported by a number of Democrats in the House and Senate, community colleges will offer free tuition.  The other idea is to allow families making less than $125,000 will be able to attend four year public colleges without tuition and students from families making less than $85,000 will be able to attend college without paying tuition.  In true Clintonian fashion, this would also require students to work 10 hours/week.  This will be funded through grants in the states.

    For those who already have debt will have an option to refincance their loans and create a payroll deduction to let both employees and employers pay off student loans in a different way.  Her plan will also limit the amount of income that you have to pay back to less than 10% of your monthly income and forgiven after 20 years.  This is paid for by increases in taxes to high income earners.

    As opposed to quantitative easing which is creating a new function for the Federal Reserve and allows for additional powers for the Federal Reserve, this is much more likely to pass and to be implemented.  Beyond that, it’s just a better idea.  There is not a consistent argument to expand the power of the Federal Reserve to take over student loan debt without also letting the Federal Reserve provide for a universal basic income (which I actually support) or other policy ideas that we’re ignoring because they’re not feasible.

    Sanders ran on a platform of Medicare for all plan to allow for a single payer system in healthcare.  His ideas were full of promises for money that simply were not there and misstaed a number of facts about savings and the cost of the program.  I’m not here to relitigate the primaries so I’ll move on. Clinton has long been advocating for an option for people over the age of 55 to buy into Medicare.  Her support for such a system was part of her health care reform in the 1990s.

    While running in the primaries, she criticized Sanders, rightly in my opinion, that his universal coverage was too expensive and not feasible.  But the buy-in for those who are 55 or older will allow for health insurance premiums to also decrease as those who are older are the biggest drivers for health insurance costs increasing.  Removing them from the public marketplace would decrease health insurance premiums for those who are younger and healthier.  Beyond that, it would expand coverage to millions of Americans.  The biggest issue is that states have already blocked Medicaid expansion but a majority in the Supreme Court may uphold such a public option that would move America into universal coverage.

  10. Minimum wage – Senator Sanders ran on a campaign to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15/hour.  This idea was largely supported by younger supporters.  Clinton’s proposal more or less mirrored Barack Obama’s proposal to increase the minimum wage to about $12/hour and chain it to cost of living increases that are automatically renewed.  Clinton’s proposal was criticized as not being enough.  She later clarified if there was legislation to increase the minimum wage to $15/hour, she would sign it as President.

    Clinton’s proposal is the better proposal.  I don’t mean that lightly.  Increasing the minimum wage, essentially more than doubling it from its current wage would certainly lead to job losses.  There is a lot of economic research that shows that increasing the minimum wages incrementally does not lead to major job losses.  Increasing it significantly, would almost certainly lead to job losses that would harm the program and harm the idea of a progressive policy that needs to be enacted.

    The Congressional Budget Office’s central estimate for raising the minimum wage to $10.10 would reduce employment by 500,000 with most of the job losses focused on those making less than $10.10/hour currently.  An increase to $15/hour would focus on those making less than $15/hour and would certainly lead to larger job loss.

    Further, a $15/hour minimum wage is not going to be passed and is not supported by a majority of Americans.  While there is certainly a need to increase the minimum wage, increasing it uniformly to $15/hour would hurt workers in the midwest and south and other places that have low cost of living while significantly helping those in higher cost of living areas.  The $15/hour minimum wage probably will have minimal job losses in the Seatac area but if you go into the more rural parts of Washington, increasing it that high will lead to a number of job losses and businesses no longer to be able to afford it.

    There is simply not a policy argument that $15/hour is better than $12 or $17.  It’s just a number that ends in $5.  A minimum wage increase needs to be able to have minimal job losses so that a progressive policy can be supported going into  the future and needs to have large support to be able to be enacted.  An increase in minimum wage will be attacked with every job loss and it needs to be able to withstand these attacks.

    But even if you do believe that $12/hour is insufficient for everyone in the country, you have to admit that such a large increase in the minimum wage would be a tremendous policy achievement for a Democratic president and Democratic Congress.  I don’t believe that $12/hour will be passed by a Congress held by Republicans and would face a lot of difficulties in order to be enacted.  It is more likely than $15/hour.  And is the superior policy.

    There are so many other policies that I can bring up or reasons to vote for Hillary Clinton including gun contorl, the drug epidemic, LGBT rights, etc. that it boggles the mind that people think that there is simply not a reason to vote for Clinton in November.

    I do believe that Trump is a racist who has authoritarian tendencies and would do irreparable harm not only to political discourse but our democracy, overall.  But I think there are a number of positives for Clinton that she should be evaluated in her own right.