A progressive group of Democrats, “We the People”, have just held an early beauty contest of five presidential hopefuls and possibles: Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
In this report, I only saw one interesting position.
Gillibrand … in response to a question … said she supports a tax on financial transactions.
A Tobin tax! It’s a wonk’s dream, tailor-made to appeal to the all-important RBC reader demographic: something like 0.003% of the US electorate, concentrated in a handful of blue states where Ricky the Spider-raccoon on the Democratic ticket would be a shoo-in.
It has three other characteristics.
1. It’s a genuine policy proposal. Other countries have tried it (Sweden for equities and bonds). It’s tricky, but there’s a big literature. It isn’t handwaving like Sanders’ “break up the banks.”
2. Though the tax really does stick it to Wall Street, it won’t be easy to explain this to the Rustbelt voters. How many know there is a highly organised worldwide foreign exchange market, let alone that it turns over $5 trillion a day?
3. The tax is anathema to Wall Street, a huge lobby in Washington and in Gillibrand’s home state, and a major source of political donations. Maybe their counterattack will help with problem 2.
Any Democratic nominee in 2020, whether it’s one of this five or Ricky the Raccoon, will run on the same basic platform: joined-up honest government, expanded health care, fighting climate change, reversing tax cuts for the rich, rebuilding alliances, letting the Dreamers stay. But to get the nomination, the winner will have to mark out something distinctive, in character and policy. Was Gillibrand improvising or flying a kite? She does not strike me as an impulsive politician. Walking back the proposal would damage her chances as a “flip-flop”. It looks to me like a calculated risk, and a pretty brave one. Have any of the other contenders staked out comparable positions on anything difficult?
Note on the FX market. The $5trn a day is from here. The real total is higher, as not all trades are cleared through the New York clearing-house. Physical global trade is about $16 trn a year, or $44 bn a day. Add services and long-term investment flows, and you might double that. What economic purpose is served by inflating this 50 times, with banks and dealers taking a cut – a small one, but a cut – on each artificial transaction?
Update one day later
The comments thread below confirms my point about the RBC readership. The Tobin tax is public policy catnip to you. Good, but nobody has picked up on the electoral politics. Gillibrand has moved the financial transactions tax from a nice academic speculation to live policymaking. She may well not become President, and may not prioritize the proposal if she does. On the other hand, a successful rival may take it on board – like Edwards’ health plan in 2008 that eventually became ACA. Folks, there is now a decent chance the Tobin tax will happen. Reporters should take an interest. Just who has Gillibrand been getting advice from? I’m sure Shiller, Krugman, Stiglitz, Arrow or deLong would take her calls.
One of my pet peeves is that newspapers will publish stories about some court opinion or other public document, but not provide any link to the documents themselves. As a consequence, readers will walk away with only the reporter’s view of why the document was of significance, which view is likely further circumscribed by an editor who is hard put to limit the amount of information in the story due to space considerations.
Sen. Ron Wyden sent a letter to the NRA. His letter was prompted by his interest in determining “the possibility that Russian-backed shell companies or intermediaries may have circumvented laws designed to prohibit foreign meddling in our elections by abusing the rules governing 501(c)(4) tax exempt organizations.” Sen. Wyden asked for material relating to four specific areas of inquiry. He received from the NRA only a partial response to the four specific requests. I have posted, as a single file, Sen. Wyden’s letter and the NRA’s response with my markups.
The response is, at best, an attempt to deflect the inquiry. For instance, the NRA was asked:
- To “identify any remuneration, transaction, or contribution that involved any of the 501(c)(4) entities associated with your organization and any entity or individual associated with any Russian official, Russian national, or Russian business interest.” The NRA simply ignored that request; and
- To provide “all documents related to any remuneration, transaction, or contribution” and to identify all such documents that “have already been turned over to United States authorities.” Both requests were ignored.
Without being specific, the NRA assured Wyden that it always complied with federal election laws. Ultimately, it offered this: “As a longstanding policy to comply with federal election law, the NRA and its related entities do not accept funds from foreign persons or entities in connection with United States elections.” (Emphasis supplied.)
In other words, the NRA did not deny that it was, in terms of its lobbying and “educational” efforts, a mouthpiece of the Russians, but merely that Russian cash had not found its way into any direct political contribution fund.
Nothing to see here.
The Russian government intervened, overtly and covertly,Â in the 2016 U.S. elections to damage Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump. Whether the primary goal of that activity was actually to elect Trump, or instead merely to weaken Clinton in the event of her expected victory, isn’t really an answerable question.
The obvious things to say about this are:
- That was a wicked thing for Putin & Co. to do.
- Encouraging that help, accepting it, exploiting it, and subsequently covering it up was and is a wicked thing for Trump & Co. to do. It should mark everyone who engages in it and defends it as profoundly disloyal, and make all of them political pariahs.
The defenders of Putin and Trump make four responses: Continue Reading…
Come for the race relations were great until President Obama, and the all-the-women-are-lying. Stay for the bonus Soros quotes.
There is one consolation: The average age of the voters expressing unfortunate views.Younger people will create a better America.
Leigh Corfman says that she was fourteen years old and waiting with her mother outside a courtroom before a custody hearing when Roy Moore, then thirty-two and an assistant district attorney, offered to stay with Corfman while her mother went into court. Corfman says Moore used that opportunity to get her phone number, and subsequently took her out on several dates. On one of those occasions, he took her to his home, undressed her down to her underwear, undressed himself to the same extent, fondled her through her bra and panties, and attempted to put her hand on his genitals.
If what Corfman says is true, Moore committed a felony under Alabama law (which hasnâ€™t changed in the meantime).Â Moore says that none of it happened: â€œI never knew this woman. I never met this woman.â€
Mooreâ€™s defenders say that he ought to be considered innocent until proven guilty, and that a â€œmere accusationâ€ (as Donald Trump called it) shouldnâ€™t block Mooreâ€™s election to the U.S. Senate. â€œItâ€™s just he-said, she-saidâ€ is the favored phrase. (Moore and his friends also want to ignore the three other juvenile but barely legal girls who say he took them out and kissed them.)
As Mitt Romney among others has pointed out, this is absurdly confused; itâ€™s an attempt to apply courtroom standards outside their proper realm. No one thinks an ordinary political charge needs to be proven beyond reasonable doubt before voters take it into account, and thereâ€™s no reason why a charge that happens also to be felony should be any different. (Moore’s attempt, and that of his supporters, to blame the Washington PostÂ for concocting “fake news,” while it might be effective political rhetoric, lost all of its logical force when the Wall Street JournalÂ re-interviewed the Post‘s sources and found that all of them confirmed that the Post had accurately reported their statements.)
Even if this were a criminal trial, Moore might well be convicted. Leigh Corfman’s sworn testimony would be sufficient to establish a prima facie case. It would then be up to the jury to weigh the credibility of the accusation against the credibility of the denial and decide whether they were convinced, beyond reasonable doubt, that the Moore was guilty. Sometimes the jurors decide that they are so convinced, even if itâ€™s simply the bare word of the accuser against the bare word of the complainant: in a mugging, for example, there may be no other witness or physical evidence. If the victim has no apparent motive to lie â€“ while the accused has the strongest of motives, the desire to escape a felony conviction â€“ it may not be unreasonable for a jury to decide that the accusation is convincing enough to convict.
But Moore’s position is actually much worse than that of our hypothetical robbery suspect. Continue Reading…
What statisticians call Type 1 errors (incorrectly rejecting the null hypothesis) and Type 2 errors (incorrectly accepting the null hypothesis) initially arose from signal detection theory: is that blip on the radar screen a signal or just noise? The two errors were known to us engineers (my former life) as either a false alarm or a missed detection.
But these are not the only statistical errors that can occur. Andrew Gelman proposed two additional statistical errors,Â Type S (confidently stating that a value is positive when it is negative, or vice versa) and Type M (confidently stating that a value is small in magnitude when it is large, or vice versa). They have less to do with the actual statistics than with interpretation of those statistics.
In furtherance of Gelman’s extension of statistical errors,Â I’d like to propose a new one, the Type K error. This is in recognition of the attempt by Kris Kobach (Kansas Secretary of State and vice chair of a federal voter fraud commission) to deny the vote to (at least) Â tens of thousands of US citizens in order to prevent the two or three improper votes (out of millions cast) from occurring. [My numbers may be off, but you get my meaning.]
There have been other manifestations of this “error” in recent days. A report detailing the economic consequences of admitting refugees did not include the overwhelming financial benefitsÂ they provide over the long haul. In other words, the Type K error might be defined as “the deliberate and wrongful act associated with a statistical evaluation of the effect of only one side of a policy.”
I’m listening to Hillary Clinton’s book on my commute. Its publication brings back the usual debates about how Donald Trump was able to win the Presidency, given his obvious, comprehensive unfitness for the position.
How did that happen? When I was asked to give odds before Election Day, I always quoted Nate Silver’s estimates. I said there was a one in six chance Trump could win.*** In my bones, I never really believed the risk was that great. Most people I knew–with the notable exception of Keith Humphreys–felt the same way. That’s how it happened.
The biggest single factor in President Trump’s upset election victory was the collective sense that Hillary Clinton couldn’t possibly lose. That conviction in our bones–that the unthinkable outcome was really impossible–freed everyone, across the political spectrum from doing their part to prevent the national catastrophe that actually ensued.
That complacency freed unenthusiastic voters who despised Trump to stay home or cast protest votes. It freed Clinton and her team to run a less-urgent, less-effective campaign than they might have been. It freed Bernie Sanders not to do everything he might have done to rally his supporters on Clinton’s behalf.
It freed the media to cover her as the presumptive President, to ridiculously over-hype the email scandal, to treat Trump as a clownish and entertaining side-show, to give him free air time, to hire dishonest Trump spokesmen as cable news talent, to take refuge in bromides about the two-party duopoly and both-siderism. Hillary Clinton deserved criticism and scrutiny on many fronts, particularly her decisions regarding the lucrative speeches. She is absolutely, absolutely correct to lambaste the New York Times, Matt Lauer, and other media outlets for terrible and consequentially biased campaign reporting.
That same complacency freed folk on the left to snipe at her without worrying that this would influence the contest. It freed many in the political right and center to avoid mobilizing around Hillary although they knew perfectly well that Trump was a threat to the nation. It freed President Obama to be less aggressive than he might have been in addressing Russian interference in the election. It freed FBI Director Comey to behave as he did, excessively upbraiding Hillary Clinton even as he (perhaps appropriately) shielded much more serious investigations of the Trump team from public view. It freed all of us to be more passive and not to do as much as we might have done to help her when things got close.
As it turned out, most of us overestimated the impact of Trump’s comprehensive unworthiness to impeach him among key Republican-leaning voters. We underestimated the impact of Trump’s racism, sexism, and other bigotries to specifically validate him within another key group of Republican-leaning voters that was larger than many of us expected.
That left a hole, not as deep as a well nor so wide as a church-door, but enough.
***Dina Pomerantz reminds me over Twitter that Nate Silver on Election Day had given Donald Trump an almost-thirty-percent chance of winning. Indeed Silver and the Atlantic’s Ron Brownstein anticipated with great insight precisely the dangers Clinton faced in the battleground states. I would tell people one-sixth because I believed the hype that Clinton’s campaign possessed superior analytics and a better ground-game. Ah, those were the days.Â
As details emerge regarding today’s awful shooting, the incident provides a timely reminder. There are many unbalanced people out there, in every faction across the country. Especially in this awful and contentious time, we need to reinforce the absolute norm of nonviolence on all sides in American politics. We yell. We hold up obnoxious signs. Maybe we engage in civil disobedience. But we never put an unkind hand on any political adversary. We never incite violence. We don’t promote stupid memes that blur the lines like the punch-a-Nazi thing.
The fact that President Trump and others violate these norms does not weaken our own obligation. Indeed it strengthens it.
The compounded misbehavior in Bozeman yesterday has to appall any decent observer, a complete breakdown of order and decency. Â We should note first the only participant who comes out of it with his reputation intact, Greg Gianforte, a Trump soldier who knows how to stay on message and follow his orders both specific (“Beat the s__t out of them!”) and general: hurt the weak [GG appears to have about a foot and twenty pounds on Jacobs], beat the press, and so on. If he gets to Washington he can surely be trusted to bravely smite the sick and the poor when the time comes.
Everything goes to pieces after that, though. A Fox News crew was present and truculently went completely insubordinate, telling the truth both in their dispatches and to the authorities with no consideration of the damage it would do to a notable Republican. With minions like this, Fox’s whole mission is at risk.
Then there’s the sheriff, who had everything he needed to arrest Jacobs for armedÂ [a recording device attested by all witnesses, and a direct question to a candidate] assault with intent to cause great political harm. Â Gianforte’s flack Scanlon spelled it out for him right away, with the magic words “liberal reporter.” But does he? He does not; he treacherously cites Gianforte, to whose campaign he had donated! No, it doesn’t redeem him that he smoothed out felony assault and battery into a misdemeanor.
Poor Gianforte; three Montana papers have unendorsed him.Â He followed the code of the West (“do unto others before they can do unto you“) and everyone walked away from him, just like the Â craven citizens inÂ High Noon.Â