Saturday, January 18, 2014

As a reminder...

You can follow me on Twitter: @JosiahShanks

I rarely tweet, though.

You can like A More Perfect Union on Facebook


The Affordable Care Act's last stand, again

In November of this year, we will have our third nationwide federal election since the 2008 presidential election.  It will also be the third referendum of the Affordable Care ACT (ACA).  The Republican National Committee (RNC) has already decided that the 2014 elections will be heavy on advertising against members of the House of Representatives and Senate who they view as key allies of the ACA's passage.  Deep pocketed special interest groups have already begun to flood the airwaves of the key Senate states, with advertisements using PolitiFact's lie of the year title, even though they'll later denounce PolitiFact as unreliable.  They'll also use my favorite phrase which is that each of the Senators that they are advertising against was the deciding vote for the ACA.

In what will be one of the most contentious Senate races in 2014, advertising has already begun and we may be getting a better sense of how the ACA will be viewed in what will likely be the final referendum on the ACA.  I, of course, am talking about the state of North Carolina and the bid by a number of Republicans to unseat Kay Hagan.

Public Policy Polling  (PPP) is based in North Carolina.  Because of this, they have a special interest in the state and publish a poll every month on what is happening in North Carolina.  It may also serve as an interesting proxy, as to what is happening in the country, as a whole.  But enough introducing, let's get to the findings.

At the end of the tables and talking about the changes over the last three months, I have bolded the conclusion so you can skip a majority of the post, if you want.

PPP has polled North Carolinians on their view of the ACA and how they view the success of the implementation of the ACA.  In the table below, we are looking at the approval or disapproval of the ACA among North Carolinians.  We see that approval has more or less stayed the same in the last three months.

Date
Approve
Disapprove
Not sure
11/12/13
38
48
14
12/10/13
38
50
12
01/14/14
38
48
13

But by asking the question of how North Carolinians view the implementation of the ACA, we see that they see the implementation as becoming more successful.

Date
Very successful
Somewhat successful
Somewhat unsuccessful
Very unsuccessful
Not sure
11/12/13
4
21
20
49
7
12/10/13
4
26
20
45
6
01/14/14
9
23
17
44
7
Hagan's support has stayed about the same throughout the three months.  That's pretty consistent with what we were seeing with the ACA's approval in North Carolina.  Maybe we should look to see if there are any other major changes happening with who views the ACA in a favorable light.  

We see no substantial change when we look at it based on who they voted for in 2012.  But we do see a curious change when we look at it based on ideology.  

Those who identify as very liberal have seen a 4 point decrease in approval of the ACA since November but a 12 point increase in their thoughts that the rollout was successful.  Those who identify as somewhat liberal have the same approval rating of the ACA and more or less the same amount of people identifying as somewhat liberal thinking that the implementation was a success.  Moderates have the same approval rating of the law despite a 10 point increase in those who view it as a success.  There has been a 7 point increase among those who view the ACA favorably among those who identify as somewhat conservative and a 10 point increase in those viewing the implementation as a success.  Finally, among those who identify as very conservative have seen a 4 point decrease in approval of the law and a 4 point decline in those who view the law as being succesfully implemented.  

This isn't too terribly surprising.  The ACA has never been particularly popular among those who consider themselves very liberal because, well, the ACA is more of a moderate law than it is one that could be considered very liberal.  Lately, there has been even more "very liberal" commentators complaining about the ACA and advocating more vocally for a single payer system.  But what is interesting is the fact that the somewhat conservative people are approving of the law and the implementation of the law, as well.  But, is that changing how people vote?

Well, there's more than that, but yes it appears that people are changing their votes over the last three months.  Hagan has lost 6 points from those who consider themselves very liberal, 6 points from those who consider themselves somewhat liberal, and 4 points from moderates.  Hagan has picked up about 6 points from those who consider themselves somewhat conservative but lost 10 points from those who consider themselves very conservative.  Hagan has been able to pick up those somewhat conservative voters in North Carolina who have changed their mind on the healthcare law's rollout.

How does the approval change based on political party id?  Approval of the ACA has increased among Democrats by 7 points.  It has stayed around the same with Republicans at around 7-9%.  Support of the ACA has decreased among independents by about 4 points.  Democrats, not surprisingly, have increased their support in the implementation of the ACA (by 17 points in this case).  Republicans have not changed in their view of the implementation of the ACA.  But more independents believe that the ACA has had a successful implementation, 6 point increase.  But in this case, Hagan is losing support among independents instead of gaining.  Combined with her decrease with Republicans, her gains with Democrats have been negated.

I'll note here that support for the ACA and the idea of the ACA being successfully implemented has greatly increased by those 18 to 29 (+18 and +27, respectively), the ones who are subsidizing the health care coverage for the older people, or so I have heard.  30-45 year olds, for the most part, have the same opinion of the ACA and of the implementation that they had 3 months ago.  44-65 year olds, those who largely benefit more than other age groups have decreased support of the ACA by 5 points despite a 7 point increase in those who thought the ACA was successfully implemented. Those 65 or older who are also receiving larger benefits have basically the same opinion of the law despite a 7 point increase in those who view it was successfully implemented.  This leads credence to the idea that the support of the law is largely based on ideological factors or party id.

So, this has been a very long-winded post.  So, I'll just post the conclusion.  I'll even bold it so you can just skip most of the post.

Conclusion: Over the last three months, we have seen an increase in the support for the implementation of the law.  The major gains in the approval of the ACA are based on party id and not ideological factors.  Despite an increase in support from Democrats, Hagan has not seen a strong bounce yet because of large decreases with Republicans.  Independents have an atypical response from their response to the implementation of the ACA compared to their loss in support for Hagan.  But, it is likely that we will see an increase in support for the ACA, but not, necessarily, an increase in support for the candidate who supported the ACA in the first place.  If North Carolina is any indication, we will continue to see a slight increase in those who believe the law has been successfully implemented but unless political candidates reach out to those who believe it is a success but do not support the law, this will not lead to increased support.  

The three polls I used can be found at the following links:
    

Friday, January 17, 2014

A bridge to 2016

After the bridge to Fort Lee scandal broke, people were quick to say that Chris Christie would not have a chance at the presidency.  New Hampshire is one of the states with the earliest primaries and also had a poll taken by Public Policy Polling (PPP) in the wake of the "scandal."  PPP last did a poll in New Hampshire in September of 2013.

In September of 2013, this is what PPP found when they asked GOP primary voters who they would prefer to see as the GOP presidential candidate in 2016.

Candidate
Percentage
Kelly Ayotte
12
Jeb Bush
14
Chris Christie
19
Ted Cruz
10
Bobby Jindal
3
Rand Paul
20
Marco Rubio
7
Paul Ryan
7
Rick Santorum
2
Not sure
6

PPP added Mike Huckabee and Scott Walker to the list for this poll and took out Kelly Ayotte and Rick Santorum.  But this is what they found in the latest poll of New Hampshir.

Candidate
Percentage
Jeb Bush
12
Chris Christie
24
Ted Cruz
9
Mike Huckabee
11
Bobby Jindal
3
Rand Paul
12
Marco Rubio
8
Paul Ryan
4
Scott Walker
3
Not sure
13

If you take out Huckabee, Christie is one of the biggest recipients, gaining 4 points, Bush: +2, Cruz: +1, Jindal: +1, Paul: +2, Ryan: +5, Walker: +1.

Who is Christie gaining with? If we look at the cross tab based on ideological factors, we see the following in September.

Candidate
Very liberal
Somewhat liberal
Moderate
Somewhat conservative
Very conservative
Kelly Ayotte
11
15
15
11
9
Jeb Bush
39
33
5
15
15
Chris Christie
16
35
37
14
8
Ted Cruz
34
2
2
8
19
Bobby Jindal
0
0
4
1
5
Rand Paul
0
2
16
24
24
Marco Rubio
0
0
6
10
5
Paul Ryan
0
8
5
7
10
Rick Santorum
0
0
2
2
2
Not sure
0
7
8
9
2

In January, we see the following:

Candidate
Very liberal
Somewhat liberal
Moderate
Somewhat conservative
Very conservative
Jeb Bush
0
32
13
10
8
Chris Christie
37
15
39
26
6
Ted Cruz
0
2
1
6
24
Mike Huckabee
0
2
6
15
15
Bobby Jindal
0
2
1
3
7
Rand Paul
0
8
10
9
20
Marco Rubio
0
11
10
8
4
Paul Ryan
0
0
1
7
4
Scott Walker
31
0
2
4
3
Not sure
32
27
17
12
8

Christie has seen the biggest increase with the "very liberal" GOP primary voters and the somewhat conservative voters.  Very liberal voters may be joking when they say who they prefer to see as the GOP presidential nominee judging on their suggestion to have Cruz as their nominee.  Also evidenced by the fact that when they were asked without Huckabee out, 51% preferred Rand Paul and 49% preferred Scott Walker.  None of this could be predicted based on Huckabee not being there.

But ANYWAY, Christie's biggest gain in the last few months has been with those who consider themselves somewhat conservative.  They do not seem to be affected by the recent bridge scandal.  PPP asked how the GOP primary voters felt about the bridge scandal and if their opinion of Christie has been higher, lower, or about the same in the wake of the scandal.

Higher
Lower
About the same
Not sure
14
18
64
3

How did that stack up among the various ideologies of the GOP primary voters?



Higher
Lower
About the same
Not sure
Very liberal
0
0
100
0
Somewhat liberal
2
47
48
3
Moderate
19
25
55
1
Somewhat conservative
12
10
72
5
Very conservative
13
19
66
2

People who are somewhat conservative have only a slightly higher view of Christie in the wake of the scandal (+2 basically) but yet Christie picked up 12 points among somewhat conservative voters.  You can make the following assumptions:

1. There is a sampling error
2. Christie was able to pick up votes among somewhat conservatives despite not saying they have a higher opinion of Christie now.

I'm ignoring 1 for the time being.  I think #2 is increasingly likely.  Based on previous polling, we know that Republican politicians have found significant support among Republican supporters after scandals.  This is based off of polls after Mark Sanford was charged with trespassing and Mitt Romney's comments about the 47%.  But why are we seeing that?

I think, in large part, it has to do with the consistent and persistent idea of many Republican supporters that the media has an inherent and seemingly unforgivable liberal bias.  When people hear these type of stories, they will blame the news organization who reported it as attacking their candidate.  They will then show their support by supporting their candidate in direct contrast to the news organizations' reports.  I have yet to quantify how politicians have actually benefited from scandals, but it is in the works. 

The other part of this is the idea of defensive bias.  When someone tries to contradict you, you retreat into a shell like a turtle.  Your support for your point gets larger while you're in your shell.  Instead of listening to evidence that contradicts your point, you simply ignore it and lash out at others.  Or you believe a lie and when you're confronted with the truth, you are more likely to believe the lie.  This is part of what is happening, as well.

All told, the bridge scandal probably helps Christie with the GOP primary in 2016.  Don't be surprised if there are more stories that come out about Christie, helping him a little bit at a time. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

No Romo: Part 2

I may have been oversimplistic in only looking only at Romo's 4th Quarter Comebacks and Game Winning Drives, in order to try to stop the arguments that he's not clutch.  So, I'm going to look at it another way.

This is an average Romo game. Note: Rate refers to QB rating 

Comp.
Attempts
Cmp%
Yds
Tds
Int
Sacks
Rate
Y/A
AY/A
22.58
34.95
64.6
273.75
1.93
0.94
1.97
95.8
7.8
7.7

I'm going to show you how Romo has done with the scoring margins of 0-7 points, 8-14 points, 15+points.  The table is presented with the scoring margins, in order.

Comp.
Attempts
Cmp%
Yds
TDS
Int
Rate
Y/A
AY/A
20.37
31.40
64.87
239.03
1.5
0.85
92.5
7.61
7.35
17.54
27.38
64.08
228.33
1.79
0.75
100.6
8.34
8.42
16.66
25.87
64.39
206.08
1.66
0.66
99.7
7.97
8.10
The numbers are slightly skewed down because there are some games where Romo was not the starter but appeared in the game, such as a place kick holder, or whatever. But we can see that he's basically the same quarterback in every game.  He's slightly worse in closer games, but not appreciably worse.  In fact, you probably couldn't tell the difference unless you saw the scoreboard.

But, how does Romo do in playoff games?  This is basically, the Romo isn't clutch argument.  Romo did fare poorly in playoff games. He appeared close to his career numbers in Wild Card games but did significantly worse in the Divisional playoff games.  This is not surprising, at all.  On average, teams are much better the deeper you go in playoffs, so you expect worse numbers.  In addition to that, these numbers are only a 4 game sample, so it's unclear how much noise there is in the data.  His numbers in the playoffs compare to his career numbers against the Steelers and Ravens.  Two teams, I might add who are usually playoff contenders during Romo's career.  


No Romo

In sports, we often hear about a player isn't clutch, then whoever is talking about the game, cherry-picks games, stats, or anecdotal memories, to prove their point.  These are usually produced into various memes that are shared around the internet, including Facebook. We seem to believe that nuanced things can be reduced to memes or pictures. Then, we share these things like it's hot.

One of the most common is Tony Romo not being clutch.

Romo has 20 4th Quarter comebacks since he became the Cowboys starter in 2006.  This ranks tied with 20th of best, all-time.  The only active quarterbacks with more 4th Quarter Comebacks/Game Winning Drives are Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Eli Manning. How does Romo rank with those since he took over the starting job in 2006?

Name Comebacks/4th Quarter Drives
Tony Romo 23
Drew Brees 25
Ben Roethlisberger 24
Eli Manning 27
Tom Brady 21
Peyton Manning 26

He ranks higher than the clutchiest quarterback of all-time in Tom Brady.  The most unclutch quarterback of all-time in popular opinion, Peyton Manning, has the most 4th quarter comeback/game winning drives of all-time.  But who cares about statistics?

I hate when statistics get in the way of an opinion.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Health scare in Kentucky

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has had some notable success in Kentucky.  In 2013, there was an estimated half of a million Kentuckians who did not have health insurance.  Kentucky was one of the few states that embraced the ACA and health care exchanges.  They created their own health care exchange known as Kynect.  The Democratic Governor of Kentucky Steve Beshear embraced the ACA and took advantage of the expansion of Medicaid for the citizens of Kentucky.  Over 70,000 of Kentuckians have been able to sign up for Medicaid under the expanded coverage.  About 25,000 have signed up for private health insurance through the newly created state exchange system.  All told, because of the ACA, nearly one-fifth of Kentuckians who did not, previously, have health insurance, now have health insurance.  Perhaps because of the wide-ranging implications, 43% of Kentuckians believe the ACA has had a successful implementation in Kentucky, although the same amount of Kentuckians believe the implementation in Kentucky has been unsuccessful.  Despite those seemingly good numbers, 56% of Kentuckians still disapprove of the ACA.  This is most likely caused by just 22% of Kentuckians viewing the implementation of the ACA as a success on the national level.

This should not be surprising, I guess. Only 3% of Kentuckians who voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 approve of the ACA, the approval of the ACA comes, almost entirely, from Barack Obama voters.  71% of Obama voters approve of the ACA.  But, how do voters view the implementation of the ACA in Kentucky?  22% of Romney voters believe that the implementation in Kentucky is a success.  75% of Obama voters think that the implementation was successful in Kentucky.

The implementation in Kentucky was not perfect.  On October 1st, when the exchanges were opened, Kynect's website crashed for six hours.  But more servers were added that doubled capacity.  Kynect's online capacity increased 80% in December.  The call center's availability changed and are now open seven days a week to help with the increased demand.  40% of the new enrollees are under the age of 35 which is seen as a positive sign for the long-term stability of the ACA.  Most of these things should be as a fairly successful implementation of such a comprehensive new health care law, especially compared to the unsuccessful rollout at the national level.

But why aren't more people seeing it as a success or have a more positive view of the law?  Well, Republican lawmakers have built a fairly successful campaign against the ACA.  The attacks will likely continue.  Senator Mitch McConnell has continued to be critical of the law and uncharitable to the success of the law.  Deriding those who signed up for the law, McConnell claimed that the ACA only has had this level of signups in Kentucky because they are essentially offering a free program in Medicaid.  The attacks on those who receive benefits of the government always play well in states, such as Kentucky.  Kentucky has a sizable amount of low-income white voters who have a distaste for the federal government.

Kentucky's Junior Senator has announced his own horror story with the ACA and Medicaid, that certainly will play well to a number of Kentucky voters.  Unfortunately, Paul's story does not pass the smell test.  Paul claimed that his son was told he didn't exist, which is not a message that he would receive.  But it's possible, that he had to prove who he was because he may have little or no credit history from the report from Experian.  The younger Paul was somehow signed up for Medicaid, which the older Paul claims nobody wanted.  As someone who has signed up for Medicaid through MediCal, I can tell you that there is a process where you have to verify that you want to sign up for it and prove that you are eligible for it.  People are not signed up, just because they show up at the local welfare store.  More likely, the younger Paul incorrectly filled out his form by not stating that he was claimed as a dependent by his father.  There are a variety of forms that I had to fill out and many people I had to talk to, in order to be determined eligible for MediCal.  I really wish it was as easy as the elder Paul seems to sign up for Medicaid, it would have been much easier for my girlfriend and I to receive health insurance that we both needed.

The most popular politician in the state, Governor Beshear, believes in the positives of the ACA.  He has advocated for Democratic politicians to stop running away from the ACA and start running on it.  Beshear has offered the idea of looking for a longer view, stating that by 2014, the ACA will be seen as a net positive.  This is a view, I also subscribe to.  He also opined that Kynect was more popular in Kentuckians' eyes than the ACA.  This is certainly possible, almost certainly probable.  There's confusion of how the ACA will impact voting in Kentucky, because of Kynect's success.

Beshear's favorability in Kentucky dwarfs that of any other statewide politician, net favorability at +18.  Beshear was elected with 56% of the vote in 2011 while Democratic candidates won all but one statewide elections.  Despite Beshear's popularity, 44% of Kentuckians want a Republican as the next Governor of Kentucky, while 37% want a Democratic Governor.  This is not surprising at all, considering Kentuckians are generally more likely to vote Republican than Democratic.  Beshear's favorability among Republicans is 34/46, which is not terrible. His net favorability among Democratic Kentuckians is +41 and among Independents, it is +8.  He outperforms Kentuckians' views on the success of the ACA.  If Beshear continues on his crusade to advocate for the ACA, his popularity might slide a bit, but the popularity of the ACA will likely increase.      



 

Monday, January 6, 2014

The most democratic and fascist pitchers

As we all know from the movie Bull Durham, strikeouts are fascist and groundballs are democratic.  So, I want to set out to find the most democratic pitchers and the most fascist pitchers out there.  Luckily, Fangraphs offers a custom leaderboard page that includes batted ball data.

I set the filters to allow a K/9 rate of 5 or less in a game, a groundball percentage of 50% or greater, and a minimum innings pitched threshold of 500 innings from 2003-2013.  I realize that 5 strikeouts a game is kind of arbitrary but I wanted to focus on pitchers who were striking out a batter about every two innings.  You can see the leaderboard for the most democratic pitchers from 2003-2013.

Based on that leaderboard, Aaron Cook should be considered the most democratic pitcher of the eleven year span, based on his 3.7 K/9 and 57.5% groundball rate.  So, there's that on his mantle.  Although, I still get confused trying to figure out how Cook was successful. Some other options for most democratic pitcher could be Jake Westbrook and Chien-Ming Wang.  Westbrook had a higher K/9 than Cook but also a higher GB%.  Wang was only slightly higher than Cook on his K/9 but induced groundballs at a slightly higher rate, too.  If you want to say Wang should be more democratic than Cook, far be it from me to stop you.

But, I also wanted to look at pitchers who have had democratic seasons during the span.  So, I created another leaderboard.  Not surprisingly, Cook appears near the top of the leaderboard in terms of value for his democratic season.  Tim Hudson had the most valuable democratic season in 2004, having an fWAR of 4.9.  The difference between 4.9 and 4.5 fWAR, that Cook put up in 2008 is probably not statistically significant.  I feel confident in saying that Aaron Cook is the most democratic pitcher for which we have comprehensive data.

On the flip side of this, I wanted to see who would be considered the most fascist pitchers for which we have data.  To set the parameters, I chose a K/9 of greater than or equal to 10.8 (represents 40% of 27, or how many outs a pitcher can get in a ball game) and a GB% of less than 40% with the same innings requirement as before.  The leaderboard can be found here.

Based on the leaderboard, there are only two fascist pitchers out there Octavio Dotel and Carlos Marmol.  For some baseball fans, they are essentially the same pitcher and based on the rate stats it is hard to tell them apart.  Dotel was more valuable somehow being able to register a lower FIP than Marmol and pitching about 70 innings more.  So, Dotel is probably a little more fascist based on this stat.

Looking at individual seasons, I chose the same rates but with a minimum of 60 innings pitched.  The leaderboard for individual seasons has a handful of seasons registered by starting pitchers.  By and large, though, these types of seasons are usually only put up by relief pitchers.  Max Scherzer, Rich Harden, and Oliver Perez had more or less the same season in terms of value.  But Rich Harden's season in 2008 is absolutely stunning.  Look at that low GB%, look how fascist it is.  There are a couple of pitchers on the individual season list who don't meet the 600 innings mark in Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen who could also be in the running for most fascist pitchers.  Harden's individual season was the most fascist, for the purpose of this exercise.  It seems unlikely that a starting pitcher can survive with such a low GB% or keep up such a high K/9 over the course of his career, or a number of seasons.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Common Facebook Postings: Anti-gun politicians are speechless

So, there's a fun video circulating with a 15 year old girl testifying in front of the Maryland legislature about how gun control policies won't work. Even though it is a new year, I will watch the video and tackle the argument that she is trying to make.

The video starts with the girl clarifying why she is so into guns.  She was on the Maryland State rifle team since she was eleven.  Even though she is fifteen years old, she has become eligible for many shooting scholarships to prestigious colleges and universities around the nation.  Congratulations to her, that is quite an accomplishment.  Unfortunately, her next claim that stricter gun control laws would obliterate chances that she could obtain ANY opportunity to attend a college or university. After two seconds of googling, I was able to find a $1000 scholarship available for pistol club members.  Since the rest of her argument is about how she disagrees with gun control for rifles, it seems semi-relevant to mention that she would have an opportunity to obtain a scholarship for pistol marksmanship.  This is not central to the rest of her points but her appeal to pity is already losing.  Not just because it is a logical fallacy.

"Purging our country from violence and murder cannot be done with gun control legislation."  Well, nobody is saying that ALL murder and violence will be gone after gun control violence.  People are saying it will be greatly reduced.  So, she's building a strawman here.

"Gun control legislation is liberating us from our Constitutional rights."  Almost all gun control legislation has been upheld as constitutional by judges.  But I think that's beside the point.

"We are eliminating our ability to protect our lives, liberty, and pursuit of happiness."  Yes, that phrase that is in the Constitution..I mean, the Declaration of Independence.

At about one minute into the video, she makes the inevitable comparison to Chicago.  It's like there is no other fucking argument out there.  I mean, seriously.  But kudos to her for making a comparison between Chicago and Afghanistan.  Of course, she states that you are more likely to get shot in Chicago than Afghanistan, which confuses rates with populations.  But, let's take a look at what she says. She states that in 11 years and 4 months, just over 2,000 people have died in the Afghani War.  In the last 8 years, Chicago has more than that. Over 3,000 have died from gun deaths there.

So, let's take a look at the states with the loosest gun laws, because, obviously, the problem is only with Chicago because they have strict gun laws.  But what state should we look at?

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence gives out state scorecards based on their gun control laws.  Not surprisingly, the states that receive an "F" grade have the loosest gun control laws.  I'll choose another high population area that has a lot of deaths.  I'll choose Texas.  There was 1,141 murders in Texas in 2012, the last year eligible to search.   There were 745 murders by guns.  There were 699 murders by firearms in 2011.  There were 805 in 2010.  So, in just three years, Texas was more violent than Afghanistan, right?  I could keep going back if I felt like it, but honestly, it's boring.

But I will repeat exactly what she asks about Chicago, but I'll choose Texas. "Is that really something we want to model our state laws after?"  Apparently so. But, anyway.  The ten states with the strongest gun control laws are California, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, New York, Massachusetts, Hawai'i, Illinois, Rhode Island, and Delaware.  The states with the lowest gun death rate are Hawai'i, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Minnesota, Iowa, California, and Maine.  The states with the highest gun death rate are Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Tennessee, and Wyoming.  The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence gives them all a F grade, except Alabama, who received a D-, but hey, it's passing if you're in high school.

The murder rate is much higher in Detroit, New Orleans, and Baltimore than Chicago.  Additionally, the murder rate is higher in Memphis and Philadelphia than Chicago. Houston and Dallas have similar murder rates to Chicago.  But, Chicago is much easier to criticize and has been part of the central pro-gun rights argument for a number of years.  Heaven knows we hate coming up with new arguments.

Her next argument is that rifles don't kill people, handguns kill people.  Great choice, there. She uses a big word that says that weeding out assault weapons has "proven statistically" to weed out 1% of gun deaths, if you're lucky.  So, there's that. I'll just leave that there.

According to her, NONE of the guns used to kill people were registered or licensed to them, which is, of course, an absurd absolutist argument.  But I'll leave it alone because I don't feel like googling for 30 seconds to find one gun registered to someone who committed a murder.  "Restricting access to guns does not prevent criminals from using guns to hurt people."  Of course, there's the above argument I listed about gun control laws and gun death rates.  But, CHICAGO! So, of course I'm wrong.  The only statistics that matter are Chicago.

Then she talks about the same day on Newtown shooting, there was a mass stabbing at a Chinese school.  22 children and 1 adult were stabbed.  She then claims that guns are not needed for mass murder.  Although, none of the children stabbed died.  16 were hospitalized. But only 2 were seriously wounded.  The attacker was then overpowered by security guards.  Something that is unlikely to happen with assault weapons.

Finally, she talks about the links between gun deaths and poverty.  But her argument is that raising the price of owning a gun hurts their ability to protect themselves.  If the lower cost of owning a gun was actually a help to protect yourself from all those poor people shooting up the streets, wouldn't states with lower cost to owning a gun have lower murder rates?  Or can we only look at gun death statistics if it's Chicago?

It's a terrible video and a worse argument. I hardly believe it leaves anyone speechless except those who are all excited about guns that can't get over the shock that someone would say their argument out loud.




Defining a small business

Politicians on both sides of the aisle like to talk about how small businesses will be impacted by various legislation.  People like small businesses and trust them.  In February of 2012, the Pew Research Center found that 75% of Americans think that small businesses are having a positive effect on the way things are going in the country today.  Only 18% of Americans believed that small businesses are having a negative impact on the way things are going in this country.  Meanwhile in the same poll, 28% of Americans believe that large corporations are having a positive impact on the way things are going and 57% of Americans believed that large corporations have a negative impact on the way things are going.  In March of 2010, small businesses had a 79% favorable rating.  Only 9% of people had an unfavorable view of small businesses.  Maybe it's because Americans like the little guy or maybe it's because we all have dreams of being our own boss and running a company, but for some reason we love small businesses.

I, personally, think it's because we talk about small businesses we mean a variety of things.  But for many, a small business is the mom and pop shop down the street.  That's not entirely correct.  The United States Small Business Administration defines a small business as one with fewer than 500 employees.  There are slightly more than 6 million firms (6.05 million), or businesses, in the United States.  About 5.41 million businesses employ less than 20 employees.  5.81 million businesses employ less than 50.  5.94 million businesses employ less than 100.  6.03 million employ less than 500.  All told, 99.7% of firms with employees are considered small businesses by that standard.  That is the general standard that politicians use when they talk about small businesses.

But there are more complex rules out there.  For loans, the Small Business Administration requires the company to be independently owned and operated and not be the dominant company in its field.  That is determined either by the average number of employees for the past year or the three-year average of revenues. A manufacturing company could be a small business if it employs 500 to 1500 employees depending on what it is manufacturing.  Service providers might be considered small if they make less than $2.5 to $21 million in revenue.  A retail business may be small if it makes $5 million to $21 million.

Now we've started to define what a small business is.  But we should also define what a small business isn't.  A small business isn't necessarily a job creator.  3.71 million business employ 0-4 people.  According to the U.S. Department of Treasury, only one-fifth of small businesses fit the definition of an employer.

So, why are we constantly told that small businesses are the backbone of our economy or are constantly worried that small businesses can't create jobs?  Politicians have been using findings from the Office of Tax Analysis.  The Office of Tax Analysis counts a small business owner as an "individual who receives flow-through income from a sole proprietorship, partnership, S corporation, farming operation or miscellaneous rental activity."  Using this definition, someone could be considered a small business if they receive rental income, as well.  That's insane.

The U.S. Treasury Department eliminated from their definition of a small business that doesn't have any business activity.  It also limits their definition to businesses that make less than $10 million in gross income.  That's more in line with the idea that we typically have of small businesses.

But that's not what is usually used as a definition by politicians.  John Boehner and other Republican politicians state that taxes on millionaires will hurt small businesses.  The claim is that millionaires are the ones who are creating the jobs through these small businesses.  This gets people upset because they think about the mom and pop shop down the street and that these taxes will put these types of shops out of businesses.  But, what the U.S. Department of Treasury found that 13% of millionaires are small business owners.  What's even more striking is that only 0.5% of all small business owners are millionaires.

But I still haven't answered the original question of why do people trust small businesses?  Well, it's pretty clear that we do not have an understanding of what is an actual small business.  The vast majority of small businesses already do not employ anybody or very many people.  So, why would people get upset about making it harder for small businesses to hire?  Well, we're conflating the definitions of what a small business is.  One measure of small businesses would be that 99.7% of businesses are small businesses.  So, of course they're the ones creating the jobs.  But, really, we're looking at about 20% of small businesses creating the vast majority of jobs.  Why is that important?  Unless we come up with a real definition of what a small business is, we're unlikely to get away from the overgeneralized idea of what a small business is.  Until then, politicians will continue to prey on the ideal version of what a small business is, just like major food corporations prey on the ideal version of a farmer for factory farming practices.



Friday, January 3, 2014

Public opinion of minimum wage (Framing the issue)

There were seven polls conducted in 2013 about raising the minimum wage, according to Polling Report.  On average, the results were 68% support raising the minimum wage, 28% oppose raising the minimum wage, and 4% are not sure or refused to answer the question.

But there was one poll, in particular, I wanted to take a closer look at.  The poll was done at the end of February of 2013 by NBC News/Wall Street Journal.  The poll found that 58% of people favor raising the minimum wage, 36% opposed it, and 6% were not sure or refused to answer the question.  Without this poll included, 70% of people were found to support raising the minimum wage, 26% of people were found to oppose raising the minimum wage, and 4% were not sure.  But, let's take a look at how they may have gotten to their numbers.

The Wall Street Journal/NBC News found President Barack Obama a 1% favorite in the 2012 presidential election.  President Barack Obama won the popular vote by 2.8%.  It is possible that the Wall Street Journal/NBC News somewhat favors Republican or Conservative ideals by about a margin of 2%.  That's possible and somewhat seems probable. But the biggest difference between this poll and the others is not a pure ideological difference in the polls, but rather the phrasing of the question.

The question asked by the Wall Street Journal/NBC News was phrased in a way that might be construed as a leading question:

"Thinking about the proposal to raise the minimum wage from seven dollars and twenty-five cents an hour to nine dollars an hour; Do you think we should raise the minimum wage because it would raise many families out of poverty and boost the economy by giving low-wage families more money to spend, OR, should NOT raise the minimum wage because it would hurt small businesses and could make it more difficult for low-skill workers to get work as it would be more expensive for businesses to hire?"

The most similar question to this one is ABC News/Washington Post which asked the following question:

"Some people say the minimum wage should be raised to help low-income workers get by. Others say raising the minimum wage will lead some businesses to to cut jobs.  Given these arguments, do you support or oppose raising the minimum wage?"

The question asked by ABC News produced 66% respondents supported raising the minimum wage and 31% opposed raising the minimum wage.  That's a little bit below the average that we found at the beginning but not too far off.  But, in fact if we take the projections from Nate Silver's pollster accuracy and bias from the 2012 presidential election, we see that ABC News had a 2.7% bias to Romney.  So, in fact the phrasing might not even be that big of a difference in their difference from the average.  But it might.  49% of Republicans support raising the minimum wage and 44% oppose, according to a Quinnipiac poll.  Assuming that holds constant with the Romney bias found with ABC News polling, then it is a 1.32% increase for Conservative or Republican ideals.  But we are still looking at a 2% increase in opposing the minimum wage due to phrasing.

I'm not ruling sampling problems while looking at the polls but I think the aggregate of polls makes it more unlikely that there are problems of sampling.  

So, how does phrasing impact the way we think about important issues.  Here is how phrasing may have changed the opinion.

Look at how the question was asked by the Wall Street Journal compared to ABC News.  ABC News is a lot more passive in how the raising of minimum wage could affect people.  By saying "some say" instead of "would".  Additionally, the Wall Street Journal also states unequivocally that small businesses will be hurt. Additionally, they assume that low-wage workers will not be hired because it will be too expensive.

What are the biggest reasons not to raise the minimum wage?  Well, it could hurt small businesses and low wage employees won't be hired because hiring is too expensive.  The Wall Street Journal immediately brought this up in their poll question so people could think about it while they were answering the question.

The framing of the issue is entirely won by the Wall Street Journal and the like in this instance.  But even with much less active verbiage, ABC News found a slight decrease in support.  But it's clear from the poll what issues will be brought up when there is a debate about raising the minimum wage.

Increasingly, we will see more politicians bring up the impact on small businesses.  We will also see politicians bring up the idea that more low-wage workers will lose their jobs.  We found the issue that will be the push back.to raising the minimum wage.

 






Thursday, January 2, 2014

Problems and solutions

Too often, we, as a country, community, or a people, face a problem that we think requires a massive solution.  We are so intent on focusing on that massive solution, that we ignore any small solutions along the way.  But we don't stop there.  We focus on making sure that massive solution is absolutely perfect.  If it's not, hell, we just throw out the solution.  If the massive solution isn't absolutely perfect, then we give up.  All that time and energy that is wasted trying to find that perfect massive solution, instead of a series of smaller, versatile solutions.

Maybe we should focus on these smaller, versatile solutions.  This way we have a series of solutions to solve the problem, instead of an overarching solution that may create additional problems.  Implementing smaller solutions allow us to focus on the possible problems that arise from implementing these solutions.  This may be the way we need to think about a number of problems.

That's just an idea. I don't know.

Clearly, there are problems that may require massive solutions.  But couldn't they really just require a series of smaller solutions?

I don't know. It's highly probable that I am wrong.  But I don't know, I think we should just look at problems in a different manner than we are now.