Thursday, October 31, 2013

A quick thought

I recently had to take a drug test for employment.  The lab lost my specimen.  I, then, had to take another drug test.  Which, I passed.  Imagine that we drug tested welfare recipients.  That money is the difference between feeding their family and not.  Are we going to allow a common mistake such as not filling out the proper paperwork, losing the specimen, etc. to come in between that?  Sure, if you ask supporters of this type of legislation.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

College football rankings

Occasionally, I like to mess around with formulas and rankings to devise a way to better rank college sports.  So I will present a weekly top 32 for the rest of the season.  It's a weighted formula using Football Outsiders' Efficiency Ratings and the Sagarin Elo football rater.  I don't really care what the record of the teams are but I do look at how they've performed.  So, here are my first rankings:

1. Alabama
2. Oregon
3. Stanford
4. Florida State
5. Ohio State
6. Baylor
7. Missouri
8. LSU
9. Texas A&M
10. Arizona State
11. Miami (FL)
12. Central Florida
13. Louisville
14. Oklahoma State
15. BYU
16. Auburn
17. Wisconsin
18. UCLA
19. Oregon State
20. Michigan State
21. South Carolina
22. USC
23. Oklahoma
24. Arizona
25. Texas
26. Georgia
27. Houston
28. Utah
29. Georgia Tech
30. Ole Miss
31. Clemson
32. Notre Dame

The Right Way to Nominate a President

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

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

1976

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

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

1980

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion: The conservatives' Conservative won the nomination.

1988

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1996

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2000

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

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

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

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

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

2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

1976: More moderate
1980: More conservative
1988: Senator Bob Dole vs. Vice President George H.W. Bush had Bush as more conservative than Dole.
1996: Weak candidates but Dole was moderate
2000: More conservative between Bush and McCain
2008: This one is tough. Huckabee was more conservative than McCain or Romney but was not as strong as a candidate as either of them.
2012: Weak candidates but Romney was moderate

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

 








Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Ballot initiatives 2013 edition: New Jersey

New Jersey has two ballot initiatives facing statewide election on the November 5 ballot.  They are just regarded as Question 1 and Question 2.  I'll do a little breakdown of each of the questions on the ballot.

Question 1

  • Allows for veteran organizations to use money collected from existing games of chance to support the organizations
  • There is an exemption for senior citizen groups, but the money collected can only be used educational, charitable, patriotic, religious, or public-spirited purposes.
Argument:
In 2012, New Jersey gained over $125 million in gambling revenue.  Passage of the question would allow veteran organizations to tap into some of that revenue.  While we have had problems with economic recovery and an influx of veterans, many organizations serving veterans are facing increased economic hardships.  Gambling is a socially risky behavior and can easily lead to gambling addiction.  Veteran organizations and senior citizen groups are being chosen as winners, even though other organizations do provide value to people, as well.

But many veteran organizations are unlikely to continue offering their services without this ability to tap into gambling revenues.  If veteran organizations have to close, many veterans will be without help.  Even if veteran organizations can stay afloat without the revenue, providing additional revenue would allow them to help more veterans and provide additional assistance.

My take: I would enthusiastically vote for the passage of this amendment.  I believe we need to help these type of organizations.  By allowing them access to gambling revenues, we allow them to offer additional services and allow them to help even more veterans at a time, when they need our help.

Question 2

  • Would set the minimum wage at $8.25 with annual adjustments for inflation beginning January 1, 2014
Argument:
Governor Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would raise the state's minimum wage, which is $7.25.  The legislature wanted to raise the minimum wage by 17%, or a $1.25 raise.  Christie also rejected a measure that would give an annual increase to the minimum wage.  Christie wrote in his veto that the raise for the minimum wage would jeopardize the state's economy.  He proposed a measure that would factor in a $1 raise to the minimum wage over a three year span.  

Currently, workers making the minimum wage are going to earn $15,080, in New Jersey.  With the raise, it is a slight increase to $17,160.  The current minimum wage has not kept up with inflation.  If you adjust for inflation, the current minimum wage is less than what people were making in 1967.  By tying in the minimum wage to the consumer price index and adjusting for inflation, it ensures that minimum wage workers will have a living wage for years to come.  Minimum wage has not been adjusted in New Jersey, since 2005.  In a comparable state, New York, the minimum wage will be raised to $8 on December 31, $8.75 by the end of 2014, and to $9 by the end of 2015.

The biggest argument against the proposition is that the raising of the minimum wage should not be set by the Constitution and raised without conversing with the legislature and the governor.  Christie even said that he opposes to amending the Constitution for this purpose.  Thomas Bracken, the President and CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, wrote in an editorial that the minimum wage should be set by careful consideration by the legislature and the governor.  Potentially, tying the minimum wage to the Constitution will make it less flexible and difficult to change, should the need arise.  Some advocates have argued that the minimum wage should be set to $10 per hour, if the wage is increased by annual increases in the Constitution, it could be inadequate for awhile.  But, of course, this could be amended by another ballot initiative.  But, oh well.  Some make the free market argument.  The free market argument is brought about by free market fundamentalists and goes something like this.  If the wage increases really make for more productive workers and reduced turnover, then wage increases should come about by the market rather than a mandate.  I don't, necessarily, buy this argument, because it assumes that people can leave jobs whenever they feel like.  

My take: While I do believe that tying the minimum wage to the Constitution does make it less flexible and more difficult to change, I would vote for the passage of the question.  If supporters of Christie believe that the wage should be increased but not through the Constitution, then they should look no further than Christie to see why people decided to put it on the ballot.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Ballot initiatives, 2013 edition: Colorado's Amendment 66

Amendment 66

  • Would increase income taxes of those making up to $75,000 to 5%
  • Would increase income taxes of those making more than $75,000 to 5.9%
  • Raise income tax to raise spending level on funding public school districts and charter schools
The argument:

If Amendment 66 passes, public school funding will rise from $5.5 billion to $6.4 billion and there will be a $50 million increase in charter school funding.  Currently, in Colorado, state income tax is 4.63%, regardless of income.  This measure would increase income tax on all Coloradans.  Most school districts are funded through property taxes, but this amendment would provide for a new method of funding for school districts.  The language of the amendment scares some, as it allows for legislators to be able to adjust the income levels for the income tax increment and requires that 43% of state income to be set aside to pay for public education.  Many people believe the scare tactics that legislators will use this initial tax increase to raise taxes even higher on everyone.  Even though, it is just as likely that legislators will raise the income level higher to be taxed at the highest rate.  

Most arguments against the bill, revolve around the tax hike by focusing on total numbers.  Editorials will talk about the overall revenue impact of the state, saying that it will raise taxes by $950 million, the first year and $1 billion in years after.  But that ignores the impact on each person.  If you look at the impact on an individual level, you might see a slightly different tale.


Income ($)
Income tax at 4.63% ($)
Income tax at new level ($)
35000
1620.5
1750
45000
2083.5
2250
55000
2546.5
2750
65000
3009.5
3250
74999
3472.45
3749.95
75001
3472.55
4425.06
85000
3935.5
5015
95000
4398.5
5605
100000
4630
5900
150000
6945
8850
250000
11575
14750
350000
16205
20650
450000
20835
26550
550000
25465
32450

Understandably, those making just over $75,000 will have some complaints, as it is mainly just an arbitrary number that is thrown out there.  But for the most part, this is not a huge tax increase.  

Another argument against Amendment 66 is that it takes control away from local school districts.  Since funding for most school districts is individually done at the local level, people fear that the funding from the state will not help the individual districts.  But supporters of the amendment offer up the idea that the districts will be allowed to spend the money how they see fit when it is distributed to them.

Some opponents of the Amendment argue that it provides for inequities of taxation for certain people.  The Independence Institute found that Boulder, Douglas, and Jefferson counties would pay 32.2% of the new taxes but only 17.7% of new funds would go into the education system in these counties.  This is a product of progressive taxation, especially when it is applied to an education funding system, such as this.  Their other complaint of the system is that 20.9% of students attend schools in Boulder, Douglas, and Jefferson counties but they will only receive 15% of new funds in their school districts.  Meanwhile, Denver and Aurora counties have 14.3% of students but they receive 22% of new funds.  Unfortunately, I cannot find their actual report to see what they have to say about the current inequity in the system.  My guess, is that they believe inequities are inherent in any educational system but it is totally unfair to burden those who are wealthier.  Why would those who are in worse off schools need more funding than those who are in better/wealthier schools?  That's a new inequity and is totally unfair, right?  But anyway, the basic argument proposed by this line of reasoning is that the current system which relies on property taxes at the local level should not be changed because they have worse schools in the poorer areas and better schools in the more affluent areas.  Any efforts to change this, including raising taxes, places undue burdens on the more affluent and creates an inequity in the system.

But like almost all education reform, the real anger for the amendment is really focused on the teacher's unions.  Colorado's State Treasurer Walker Stapleton argues that the new funds will pay for rising pension costs and health care costs for teachers, as opposed to paying for improving education.  But since the funds will be held in the State Education Achievement Fund, they can only be used for education reforms and enhancements to existing programs.  But even if you believed that pension funding is harmful to education, you might support the amendment because it sets aside a significant amount of taxpayer money strictly for educational use.  But at least the Chamber of Commerce understands the anger at teacher's unions, David May, President and CEO of Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce, said that the real problem is that people are passing off fiscal reform of the education system as real education reform.  Colorado gubernatorial hopeful, Greg Brophy said that we have thrown enough money at education reform and we need to focus on teacher effectiveness.

But what about costs of the Amendment being passed?  The University of Denver issued an analysis that found that increased funding would result in lower crime rates and health care savings due to improved lifestyle choices due to a more educated public.  The study concludes that there would be a lower dropout rate which would also reduce welfare spending and the state's unemployment rate.  The University of Colorado's school of finance found that the increased spending in education would reduce health care costs, increase property values, lower unemployment insurance payments, lower welfare payments, and would have an overall increase of the state's GDP of $139 million over the next 25 years.  Not to be outdone, the University of Colorado's school of business found that in the first five years, the economy would slow and there would be a reduction of personal income (obviously, since it's a slight tax increase) and a reduction in employment costing the state $224 million in economic activity.  But, the Colorado Center and Law Policy concluded that states with a higher investment in public education have higher median wages and above average economic activity.  Mothers of students in full-day classes as opposed to half-day classes have an increased likelihood of finding full-time employment.  

My take: While I can see, why there is some contention over the increased taxes, the truth is I would not be impacted very much by the increased taxes if I was a Colorado resident.  Additionally, I would put my faith in the majority of studies that find the benefits of increased spending or investment in public education.  I think that a small increase of spending on income taxes, for people, would be helpful for the public good. I do not find the arguments against the amendment to have much merit.  If I was making just over $75,000 per year, I might have a different thought process as I would oppose the arbitrary number that is involved in setting the higher taxes, but I would still vote the same way that I would vote now.  While I would oppose the income level set, I would still vote for this additional increase, I would not have a problem with it. Still, I would vote yes for the passage of Amendment 66.  

 

Ballot initiatives: 2013 edition, Colorado Proposition AA

I'm going to try to work through all of the ballot initiatives that will appear on the ballots on November 5, 2013.  I'm getting a late start on it but hopefully, I cover almost all of them.  The goal is to explain what, exactly, the ballot initiative would accomplish.  A number of these are confusing and are written intentionally to confuse people.  I am going to lay out what it would mean to vote for each ballot initiative that I go through.

Proposition AA, Taxes on the Sale of Marijuana:

  • 15% excise tax on all recreational marijuana sales in the state, this money would then be used to fund schools
  • 10% sales tax on recreational marijuana sales, in addition to the 2.9% sales and local tax that apply.  Revenue created by the passage of Proposition AA would fund a state bureaucracy designed to regulate and monitor the marijuana retail business
The argument:

When Colorado passed Amendment 64, the argument was that Colorado would begin to create a framework to regulate marijuana retail sales.  People, who are over 21, are allowed to purchase marijuana in a retail environment.  The marijuana, that is sold currently in this environment, are taxed with the state sales tax of 2.9% and 3.5% in local taxes.  According to the 2013 Blue Book projection, 2014 will see $396.4 million in sales for marijuana.  With that projection, the state will raise $25 million to be used to fund state and local regulatory enforcement.  The Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division's budget in 2012 was $5.2 million.  Colorado's chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) argues that, the enforcement division could more than double without having any additional taxes.

NORML does, however, support the excise tax on recreational marijuana, which would then fund the construction of public schools.  Colorado public schools face an estimated $17.8 billion in construction costs through 2018.  The excise tax will raise a majority of this money and allow for the construction and upkeep of these schools.  

The problem with the proposition in NORML's eyes is the 10% sales tax.  The argument for the tax is that it allows for the adequate funding of the enforcement division.  Concerns that the enforcement division are not adequately funded, are the driving forces of this debate.  Additionally, the funding may be used to study the effects of marijuana use in children and the safety application of marijuana.  One of the leading voices for the passage of the proposition opined that the people who are using the convenience of buying marijuana in a regulated fashion are being responsible by ensuring that it runs smoothly.  Meanwhile, NORML believes that the sales tax is an overtaxing of the people who use this service, believing that the general sales tax and local taxes are more than adequate for paying for this convenience.

Most people in Colorado do not have a problem with the proposition if polling is to be believed, Public Policy Polling has found that 77% of those surveyed believe that the proposition should be passed as opposed to just 18% who oppose the proposition.  Many people believe that marijuana should be taxed similar to other "sin taxes", such as alcohol or cigarettes, so it's easy to see why people support it.  

My stance: I do believe that the sales tax is a tad excessive for its stated goals, but, the excise tax is part of the ballot initiative that cannot be ignored.  The excise tax is part of the requirement of the passage of Amendment 64 and if I were to be a Colorado voter, I would likely vote for the passage of this proposition with some hesitation.  This is one of the harder decisions to make, I believe. 



Friday, October 25, 2013

Getting high on polls

There was general surprise and discussion from people about a recent Gallup poll that showed a record number of people believing that marijuana should be legal.  Everyone who is trying to advocate for drug reform, including myself, got excited for the numbers being released.  Now, we finally have the ammunition to start legalizing marijuana.

We should probably take a step back and look at other polls.  Gallup showed a gigantic increase in the numbers of those who support marijuana legalization.  Even same-sex marriage which has seen an upswing in recent years has not made the same type of increase.

Pew research also found that a majority of people want to legalize marijuana.  But their numbers are significantly lower than Gallup's.  At 52%, we're looking at what could be a seriously contested issue, if it was a nationwide ballot initiative to legalize marijuana.  Even then, we still have to remember that while polls strive to be as accurate as possible, once you get to the nationwide level in creating a sample, you're going to have problems.  It is important, still, to look at more polls.

The one that is recommended, is the General Social Survey, which has a much higher response rate at 70% compared to a normal poll which is about 10%.  The 2012 General Social Survey found that the percentage of people wanting marijuana to be legalized fell from 44% in 2010 to 43% in 2012.

With all polls, I tend to be an aggregator as opposed to one believes that each poll is an accurate representation of the sample each time.  By aggregating polls, you can begin to see trends.  From these trends, you can extrapolate, build a linear regression model to forecast the data, or what have you.  The important part is to begin looking at trends.  While there may not be a clear majority who want marijuana legalization, right now, it is pretty clear that the general population is starting to support the legalization of marijuana.  Legalization of marijuana is following much the same path to everyone's hearts as same-sex marriage.  We should expect to see a clear majority support legalization in the coming years.    

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Baseball: Rookies

I am going to periodically update this blog with more baseball references.  Because frankly, I have been getting writer's block lately with regards to my more political posts.  I think that it may be affecting the quality of work that I churn out.  So whenever I feel like this, I will be focusing on writing more baseball related pieces.  Sorry, in advance.

I used to subscribe to Baseball Digest and they would occasionally turn out all-rookie teams, I always found this exercise entertaining.  Additionally, I always thought it was strange that baseball doesn't have more end of season awards.  Because, who doesn't like having debates about things that ultimately don't matter.  I decided to construct a 25 man roster using only rookies.  This is the All-Rookie team for 2013.  I'll have a little blurb about why I picked who I picked at each position.  This is not an indication of who I think will have the best career, but rather the best 2013 season.  At the end, I will indicate who I choose for Rookie of the Year in each league.

Note: All WAR used is calculated by Fangraphs

If there are terms that I use that you are unfamiliar with, you should use this helpful baseball dictionary.

Catcher

Rookie catchers are notoriously rare.  Well, I should qualify this.  Rookie catchers who are able to grab significant playing time are rare.  In 2013, there was only one rookie catcher who appeared in more than half of the games played by his team (81), that was Evan Gattis.  Gattis only played 105 games.  He was able to grab so much playing time, in part, because of Brian McCann's injury.  Gattis's value was entirely because of his bat.  His wRC+ was 110, which means he was 10% better than average hitter.  That type of bat is very valuable at the catcher position.  Gattis's on-base percentage (OBP) was below .300, in fact, no catcher had an OBP of greater than .295.  Gattis led all rookie catchers in WAR at 0.9.  While WAR is not the end-all be-all of stats, Gattis is clearly the best choice for starter at catcher.  In constructing a true 25 man roster, there should be another catcher on the roster.  Stephen Vogt and Anthony Recker have nearly identical WAR (0.5 and 0.4) and wRC+  (90 and 89).  Vogt leads Recker in OBP .295 to .280, but Recker leads Vogt in BB% 8.6% to 6.1%, meaning that Vogt's OBP might be inflated by his batting average, where he holds a 37 point lead.  Despite this likely inflation, I choose Vogt over Recker.

Name
PA
AVG
OBP
SLG
wOBA
wRC+
ISO
Off
Def
Bsr
WAR
Evan Gattis
382
.243
.291
.480
.329
110
.237
3.9
-6.8
-0.2
0.9
Stephen Vogt
148
.252
.295
.400
.301
90
.148
-2.2
2.1
-0.5
0.5

I'll be relying on charts to explain the picks from here on out.  With less words for the blurbs.

First base

Name
PA
AVG
OBP
SLG
wOBA
wRC+
ISO
Off
Def
Bsr
WAR
Matt Adams
319
.284
.335
.503
.365
136
.220
11.9
-5.6
-1.1
1.7
Josh Satin
221
.279
.376
.405
.346
124
.126
3.9
1.5
-2.0
1.3
Darin Ruf
293
.247
.348
.458
.354
125
.211
5.2
-12.9
-3.0
0.1

This one is a little bit more difficult.  While Satin holds a substantial lead on Adams in OBP, Adams holds a commanding lead in Slugging percentage.  With only 25 spots on a roster, there is only room for one first baseman, I choose Adams.

Second base

Name
PA
AVG
OBP
SLG
wOBA
wRC+
ISO
Off
Def
BsR
WAR
Jedd Gyorko
525
.249
.301
.444
.325
110
.195
6.6
0.5
0.8
2.5
Scooter Gennett
230
.324
.356
.479
.364
131
.155
9.3
1.1
1.3
1.9
Anthony Rendon
394
.265
.329
.396
.318
100
.131
1.1
1.1
0.9
1.5
Nick Franklin
412
.225
.303
.382
.304
90
.157
-5.1
-4.7
-0.3
0.4

This one is more difficult, still.  Gyorko created more total value over any other rookie second baseman, but it is important to note that WAR is a counting stat.  Since Gyorko has over 300 more plate appearances than Gennett, it's clear to see why Gyorko has more WAR than Gennett.  But Gennett's rate statistics are the best at the position.  But Gyorko also provides additional value as a versatile defender.  While I choose Gennett as the starter, I will choose Gyorko on the team, as well.  Rendon was a collegiate third baseman who shifted to the keystone when he became a professional.  He provides additional value as a bench bat and fielder.  Something that, as we'll see, will be important for the team. 
Starter: Scotter Gennett
Bench: Jedd Gyorko, Anthony Rendon

Third base

The only real choice is Nolan Arenado.  Arenado who was not considered a very good defender in the minor leagues, but in the Major Leagues, he has proved to be a plus defender at the hot corner.  Arenado's offense leaves something to be desired but Arenado will likely improve as he spends more time in the Major League and adjusts to pitching.  Without any other real options, Arenado is the choice.

Shortstop

Name
PA
AVG
OBP
SLG
wOBA
wRC+
ISO
Off
Def
BsR
WAR
Jose Iglesias
382
.303
.349
.386
.327
102
.083
-0.2
4.1
-1.2
1.8
Brad Miller
335
.265
.318
.418
.323
103
.154
3.7
1.3
2.6
1.7
Jordy Mercer
365
.285
.336
.435
.333
113
.150
3.8
-1.5
-1.7
1.4
Didi Gregorius
404
.252
.332
.373
.311
91
.120
-3.6
4.0
0.4
1.4
Munenori Kawasaki
289
.229
.326
.308
.290
78
.079
-5.1
3.0
2.1
0.8
Iglesias's defense was impressive but his offensive stats were buoyed by his high BABIP.  Not that it should be a determining factor, here.  For the roster construction of this team, though, I think that Jordy Mercer is the better fit.  He leads in the major offensive categories for rookie shortstops.  Miller had a good overall season but unfortunately does not make the team.

Starter: Jordy Mercer
Bench: Jose Iglesias

Outfield

Name
PA
AVG
OBP
SLG
wOBA
wRC+
ISO
Off
Def
BsR
WAR
Yaisel Puig
432
.319
.391
.534
.398
160
.215
25.1
-0.7
-4.2
4.0
A.J. Pollock
489
.269
.322
.409
.321
98
.140
0.4
18.5
1.5
3.6
Juan Lagares
421
.242
.281
.352
.275
75
.110
-11.5
25.4
0.5
2.9
Wil Myers
373
.293
.354
.478
.357
131
.185
13.5
-3.1
0.4
2.4
David Lough
335
.286
.311
.413
.316
96
.127
-0.5
11.2
1.1
2.4
Marcell Ozuna
291
.265
.303
.389
.304
90
.124
-1.9
8.4
1.2
1.6
Christian Yelich
273
.288
.370
.396
.341
116
.108
9.5
-5.0
4.6
1.4
Junior Lake
254
.279
.332
.428
.335
109
.144
0.9
2.8
-1.6
1.2
Khris Davis
153
.279
.353
.596
.406
160
.316
10.9
-4.7
0.5
1.2
Kole Calhoun
222
.282
.347
.462
.351
126
.179
8.0
-4.8
1.4
1.1
The seasons was largely defined by Yaisel Puig and his on the field exploits, as well as his celebratory antics.  Puig made the game more exciting, for all.  He, also, had a great season and should be recognized, as such.  Puig is one of the starters for the all-rookie team.  The off-season was defined by a trade of one of these rookies, Wil Myers, by the Kansas City Royals.  Myers lived up to the hype once he was finally called up by the Tampa Bay Rays.  He is the second starter for the all-rookie team.  Pollock had league average offense while he was able to provide significant value with his glove out in the field for the Arizona Diamondbacks.  He is the third starter for the team.  Because of the make-up of the team, I believe there should be a significant bat off of the bench.  Khris Davis had a great, albeit, short season with the bat.  He definitely deserves a spot on the team.  Unlike current roster construction, I believe that there should be more hitters than pitchers on the roster.  For the final spot for position players, I select David Lough.  He, too, provided league average offense while providing value with the glove.  The roster would allow Lough to be a late-inning defensive replacement while having to be, at least, respected with the bat.

Pitchers

For pitchers, I have decided to eschew the usual call for a starting rotation and instead select 11 pitchers, overall.  

SD's stand for shutdowns and MD's stand for meltdowns.

Name
IP
K/9
ERA
FIP
xFIP
fWAR
RA-9
SD
MD
Jose Fernandez
172.2
9.75
2.19
2.73
3.08
4.2
5.7
0
0
Hyun-Jiu Ryu
192
7.22
3.00
3.24
3.46
3.1
4.0
0
0
Julio Teheran
185.2
8.24
3.20
3.69
3.76
2.4
3.6
0
0
Gerrit Cole
117.33
7.67
3.22
2.91
3.14
2.3
2.3
0
0
Trevor Rosenthal
75.33
12.90
2.63
1.91
2.34
2.2
1.2
25
11
Shelby Miller
173.33
8.78
3.06
3.67
3.73
2.1
3.2
0
0
Danny Farquahr
55.67
12.77
4.20
1.86
2.40
1.9
-0.1
18
5
Dan Straily
152.33
7.33
3.96
4.05
4.42
1.9
1.5
0
0
Martin Perez
124.33
6.08
3.62
4.23
4.04
1.6
2.3
0
0
Alex Wood
77.67
8.92
3.13
2.65
3.18
1.6
1.1
0
1
Sonny Gray
64
9.42
2.67
2.70
2.92
1.5
1.5
0
0
Tony Cingrani
104.67
10.32
2.92
3.78
3.49
1.3
2.3
1
2
Chris Archer
128.67
7.06
3.22
4.07
3.91
1.2
2.7
0
0
Alex Torres
58
9.62
1.71
2.31
3.30
1.3
1.9
13
6
Michael Wacha
64.67
9.05
2.78
2.92
3.36
1.1
1.6
0
1
The 11 pitchers I have selected for the team are as follows:

Jose Fernandez
Hyun-Jin Ryu
Julio Teheran
Gerrit Cole
Shelby Miller
Trevor Rosenthal
Alex Torres
Sonny Gray
Dan Straily
Martin Perez
Alex Wood

Rookie of the Year ballot:

There is not a rookie who set the world on fire in the American League like there was in the National League.  Most of the rookies in the American League are basically bunched up right against each other.  So, it really becomes a coion flip at a certain point.  But I think that Myers's overall offensive contribution and value seems to give him an edge over everyone else.
3. Jose Iglesias, SS, Boston Red Sox/Detroit Tigers
2. Martin Perez, SP, Texas Rangers
1. Wil Myers, OF, Tampa Bay Rays

With all due respect to all of the other rookies in the National League, the real battle is between two Cubans.  It's either Yaisel Puig or Jose Fernandez.  Third place is really just a coin flip for everyone else. But I personally think that Ryu provided the most value over the other candidates that would come in third place.  As much as I enjoyed Puig's season, I think that Fernandez's overall value, especially when you look at RA-9 wins at 5.7.  Fernandez's ERA for the season was a spectacular 2.19.  His FIP was very impressive, as well, at 2.73.  Fernandez's total value gives him the edge over Puig, to me.
3. Hyun-Jiu Ryu, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
2. Yaisel Puig, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
1. Jose Fernandez, SP, Florida Marlins