October 27, 2011

Ohio Issue 2 Opponents’ Internal Memo: Polling Not Reliable, Race Is Close

Filed under: Economy,General,MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:10 pm

PanicButtonAtNoOnIssue2HQThey’ll try to brush this off as trying to avoid overconfidence, but Greg Sargent won’t buy it, I’m not buying it – and neither should anyone else (HT 3BP):

Internal labor memo warns Ohio union fight could go either way

An internal memo from a key labor-backed group in the state is flatly warning that the polls are “flawed” and that a big win for labor is not even “remotely possible.” It adds that the right’s messaging has “worked,” and that there’s good reason to suspect that a “massive amount of voter confusion remains,” suggesting the fight could still go either way.

“Those predicting a blowout for our side are basing their analysis on flawed public polling samples,” reads the memo, which was circulated to labor and political operatives involved in the fight by Brian Rothenberg, the executive director of Progress Ohio, which is partly bankrolled by labor. It was forwarded my way by a source.

… the memo warns that the question wording in the two polls is so flawed as to be unreliable, because neither poll used the language voters will see on the Issue 2 ballot. “Keep in mind, neither of these polls tested the actual ballot language,” the memo says. “It’s a safe bet, if the actual ‘Issue 2’ language were polled that the margin would have been substantially narrower.”

The memo also points out that public polls on three previous Ohio ballot initiatives — a 2004 same sex marriage ban; a 2005 election reform initiative; and a 2009 measure to build casinos — were all off by wide margins.

“Bottom line: It’s nearly impossible to develop a reliable likely voter model for ballot initiatives,” the memo says, adding: “there are simply too many unknowns to believe these numbers are credible or even remotely possible.”

While such memos are sometimes leaked to the press to game expectations and goose turnout, this one bills itself as “our most candid assessment of where the `Issue 2’ measure currently stands.”

The referenced polls were all off because they vastly understated support for the center-right or social conservative position (i.e., for prohibiting same-sex marriage, against 2005′s “reforms,” and against the casinos). Actually, the 2005 Soros-backed effort consisted of four initiatives. Two of them were predicted to win by an average of 28 points by two statewide polls; they lost by an average of 31. One poll on one of the other two issues predicted a narrow loss; it got crushed by 40 points.

As to the question of why Greg Sargent at the Washington Post’s Plumline Blog, who is quite far to the left, would release this forwarded internal memo — it’s probably because he figured that other people had it too or would get it soon, and that getting it out there in his publication would get the attention of the anti-Issue 2 Big Labor/Democrat machine moneybags in Washington and cause them to intensify their final efforts.

This of course means that Issue 2′s and Issue 3′s supporters must appropriately intensify theirs.

National Review Endorses Ohio Ballot Issue 2

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:33 pm

Relatively unique or underplayed points made in the editorial:

Senate Bill 5 is broadly similar to the collective-bargaining reforms enacted by Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin. While the law allows collective bargaining on many issues — exceptions include health insurance, pensions, and staffing levels — local governments can impose a contract unilaterally if negotiations falter. Unions can no longer charge “fair share” fees to workers who choose not to join. Also, government workers are required to pay 15 percent of their health-care costs and contribute 10 percent of their salaries toward their pensions.

… As even pro-labor Democrats once understood, it’s not “negotiating” when a union sits down with a public official it helped elect to decide how much of the taxpayers’ money it gets. And government-employee unions are a huge factor in Ohio politics. According to the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, an Ohio think tank, four of the top six donors to legislators and legislative candidates in the state are public-sector unions — and these donations come from dues that are automatically deducted from employees’ paychecks. Few workers realize they can demand refunds for the portion of their dues that is used for political purposes — a problem addressed by another Senate Bill 5 measure, which would require unions to get workers’ written consent before giving dues money to political-action committees.

one sophisticated estimate, that of Andrew Biggs and Jason Richwine of the American Enterprise Institute, suggests that public employees in Ohio are overpaid by as much as 43 percent. (to be clear, that’s wages and benefits. — Ed.) Simpler measures point in the same direction: Nationwide, for example, public-school teachers are paid considerably more than private-school teachers, despite having essentially the same job.

… Why not put Biggs and Richwine’s estimate to the test? If the unions are to be believed — and public employees are, if anything, underpaid already — Senate Bill 5’s compensation cuts will create a shortage of public employees, and Ohio governments will have to raise wages regardless of how much power the unions have.

We can be quite confident that the theoretically possible shortage of public employees will not happen.

COAST Makes the Case For Ohio Issue 2

Filed under: Economy,Ohio Economy,Ohio Politics,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 3:21 pm

From an email I received earlier today — nicely argued by the longtime good-government anti-tax crusaders:

Please vote “Yes” on Issue 2 — it’s really important

… It is difficult to know where to start on Issue 2. We say that because we all know a teacher, a firefighter, a policeman or Sheriff’s Deputy whom we like and appreciate. Heck, even a few of us have a favorite bureaucrat here and there.

We also know that Ohio and its many cities, villages, townships and school boards are going bankrupt, in part, under the weight of public labor union contracts and the system that fosters these lopsided agreements.

And in many ways, the debate over Issue 2 has played out like many labor union negotiations before public bodies throughout the state. Well- organized, well-financed public labor unions have twisted the issues to their advantage, and compliant elected officials (mostly democrat) reliably have gone along with their unfair position.

In local labor negotiations, there is a three-fold advantage that labor unions typically have over the public body with whom they are negotiating:

  1. The unions and their members are well-organized and paid with tax dollars,
  2. They “own” the elected officials on the other side of the negotiating table, yielding wild concessions no private employer would ever provide, and
  3. The legal structure within which negotiations occur are lopsided in favor of the unions, including preventing concessions previously granted from ever being taken away.

Thus, beyond logic and reason, and despite the attempts of some elected officials to rein in bloated union contracts, year after year in jurisdiction after jurisdiction, the deck is stacked against the taxpayer.

As Council member Jeff Berding told a Statehouse committee studying the bill, union contracts have caused the city’s personnel costs to grow at about 18 percent per year and, once approved, these contract benefits are never reduced. “They are simply built upon and made more generous.”

All Senate Bill 5 did was to level the playing field to some small degree back in favor of the taxpayers. Your “Yes” vote on Issue 2 continues that progress to rein in union power over bloated municipal and school board budgets.

Under the current system in Ohio:

  1. Public employees retire with full pension and benefits (including health insurance) after 30 or fewer years of service. This means that public employees retire as early as age 48, while the remainder of us toil until age 70 or 80 to pay the taxes to make that possible.
  2. It is nearly impossible to fire bad employees.
  3. Unions negotiate work rules that massively increase the cost of government, including things that may not benefit their members.

As a result, Ohio’s state and local governments — or at least their budgets — are on “auto pilot,” largely out of the control even of the most responsible elected official, and are in the hands of antiquated labor laws and powerful unions who have only the interests of their membership in mind, not the public at large.

… If we want Ohio to be a place where our children can live, raise a family and have good jobs, we must preserve the modest progress that Issue 2 represents.

If we want to remain a rust-belt, union-dominated state whose citizenry faces constant tax hikes and out-of-control spending, vote “no” and leave things just the way they are.

Initial Unemployment Claims: SA Still Stuck Above 400K, NSA only 8% Below Last Year

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:58 am

From the Department of Labor:

In the week ending October 22, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted (SA) initial claims was 402,000, a decrease of 2,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 404,000. The 4-week moving average was 405,500, an increase of 1,750 from the previous week’s revised average of 403,750. …

… The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted (not seasonally adjusted, or NSA), totaled 374,231 in the week ending October 22, an increase of 17,007 from the previous week. There were 408,489 initial claims in the comparable week in 2010.

The number from two weeks ago, which started at 404K and bounced up 5K last week, moved up another 2K to 411K.

The four-week moving average has been over 400K for 27 weeks in a row:


Predictions were all pretty close. Business Insider’s email had a prediction of 401,000. MarketWatch had 405K. Forex had 404K.

Since this week’s number will more than likely get bumped up next week, it’s fair to say that there has been no overall meaningful improvement in the weekly number for about a month.

2Q10 Gross Domestic Product Growth (102710): An Annualized +2.5% (Update 3: Finally, After 9 Post-Recession Quarters, ‘Recovery’)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:22 am

ReaganVsObamaThru8QtrsAsOf0811(The updated Reagan v. Obama GDP scoreboard is at the right)


Initial take:

The predictions seem to be on the high side compared to what I would have expected. Additionally, if some of the seasonally adjusted September job-decline numbers in certain states, including OH, PA, and NC, hold up, I wouldn’t be surprised if today’s number comes down in the November and December revisions.

The report will be here at 8:30 a.m.

HERE IT IS (full release):

Real gross domestic product — the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States – increased at an annual rate of 2.5 percent in the third quarter of 2011 (that is, from the second quarter to the third quarter) according to the “advance” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the second quarter, real GDP increased 1.3 percent.

… The increase in real GDP in the third quarter primarily reflected positive contributions from personal consumption expenditures (PCE), nonresidential fixed investment, exports, and federal government spending that were partly offset by negative contributions from private inventory investment and state and local government spending. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased.

The acceleration in real GDP in the third quarter primarily reflected accelerations in PCE and in nonresidential fixed investment and a smaller decrease in state and local government spending that were partly offset by a larger decrease in private inventory investment.

… Final sales of computers added 0.21 percentage point to the third-quarter change in real GDP
after adding 0.07 percentage point to the second-quarter change. Motor vehicle output added 0.07
percentage point to the third-quarter change in real GDP after subtracting 0.10 percentage point from the
second-quarter change.

… Real final sales of domestic product — GDP less change in private inventories — increased 3.6
percent in the third quarter, compared with an increase of 1.6 percent in the second.

More later.

UPDATE: Zero Hedge is in my view justifiably skeptical –

… in other words, as consumer confidence hit a record low, somehow Americans spent $130 billion annualized over and on top what they spent in Q2. In fact, standalone PCE was 2.4%, substantially higher than the forecast 1.9% and the previous 0.7%. Where this spending power came from, we would be delighted to know.

So would I. Meanwhile, as a reminder, there’s this “little” item looming in the background. It compares annual personal consumption expenditures per the GDP report to that reported in the annual Consumption Expenditures report from the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010 release):


As I wrote a month ago:

Readers can see that in every year from 2005 through 2009, the difference between consumption growth (or contraction) per GDP vs. DOL was within a “tolerable” range, with the biggest differential of 1.3% occurring in 2007. But in 2010, there’s a 5.2% difference — four times larger than the difference in any of the previous five years.

If DOL is right, one would expect that last year’s currently reported GDP growth will eventually disappear — and then some — in future revisions. If DOL is only half-right, i.e., if GDP has to come down by only half of the 5.2-point difference, overall GDP growth will eventually be darned near zero.

Something’s gotta give in regards to 2010, and it’s reasonable to believe that it will come in the form of downward revisions to previously reported GDP growth when the next comprehensive revision going back several years is done.

If consumption expenditures in the 2010 GDP reports don’t reflect what really happened, why would 2011 be any different?

UPDATE 2: Fixed nonresidential investment had a second good quarter in a row, and was responsible for 1.6 points of overall GDP growth. “Equipment and Software” contributed 1.2 points of that. We need about 10 more quarters in a row of that.

UPDATE 3: Nine quarters after the official end of the recession in June 2009, real GDP ($13.3528 trillion in 2005 chained dollars seen at Table 3 in today’s report) is finally above the $13.3105 trillion value in the second quarter of 2008 (after which the recession as normal people define it began), and also above the $13.3260 trillion at the end of 2007 (when the recession as arbitrarily determined by the National Bureau of Economic Research began.

The nine-quarter time period of “recovery” (which doesn’t consider population growth) is three times longer than it has taken the economy to recover from any other post-World War II downturn.

Thursday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (102711)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 6:59 am

Rules are here. Possible comment fodder follows. Other topics are also fair game.


Heritage“Obama’s Iraq Failure”

Unoccupied Astroturf at Occupy London, via the UK Daily Mail (HT Instapundit) — “Thermal images that prove 90% of tents in the Occupy camp in London are left EMPTY overnight”

Scott Walker’s approval-disapproval numbers in Wisconsin are 47-51. That justifies a recall? Update: Steve at No Runny Eggs notes that the poll involved is skewed towards Democrats, and that reality is more like a tie.

At the Chicago Tribune“Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan condemns killing of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.”

You’re supposed to cut spending, guys“Supercommittee Dems push for stimulus to be part of deficit deal”

Investor’s Business Daily“President Obama wants student loans to be more like student handouts.”

A related told-you-so — Defenders scoffed at critics of the federal takeover of student loans in 2009 who feared that it would become a political tool overriding financial concerns. That’s exactly what has happened, and the power grab two years ago enabled it:

Obama has broad latitude in this area – certainly broader than the first two parts of his western campaign trip, underwater mortgages and subsidies for hiring veterans – because one of his early legislative initiatives was to have the federal government take over the student lending business in America.

Obama argued for the measure in 2009 as a cost-savings initiative, saying that the old system of privately issued, government secured loans reduced the amount of available money for needy students and also prevented the feds from making the system more efficient.

But Obama is now seeking to use that new power to obtain a taxpayer-financed stimulus that Congress won’t approve. The idea is to cap student loan repayment rates at 10 percent of a debtor’s income that goes above the poverty line, and then limiting the life of a loan to 20 years.

In case you missed it, you can walk away from anything you still owe after 20 years. At PJ Tatler, Charlie Martin has an interesting take on what that really costs taxpayers.

Power and the ability to grant political favors were the motivators for the student loan takeover all along.

Positivity: Mom earns college degree 23 years after memory loss

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:59 am

Old story, worth bringing up — From Gaithersburg, Maryland (HT Daily Good):

updated 6/13/2011 9:48:07 AM ET

A freak accident involving a ceiling fan may have taken Su Meck’s memory of everything that happened for the first 22 years of her life, but it did not rob her of her determination.

Since the accident that left her with amnesia, the 45-year-old from Gaithersburg, Md., has had to relearn how to walk, talk, read, write and drive. But Meck, whose identity was once as a mother and homemaker, carved out a place for herself as a college student. She went from having been reduced to the mental capacity of a young child to graduating from Montgomery (Md.) College with honors in May, earning an associate degree.

“It was very confusing to me because everybody was telling me who I was before, and that wasn’t who I am now. It was almost like I’m a different person,’’ Meck told Ann Curry while appearing with her husband on TODAY Monday. “There’s more to being a wife and mother than just being a wife and mother; you have to be your own person, too.”
Her husband, Jim, said that his wife is a much kinder person now, and is thankful for the opportunity to have a new life with the woman who suddenly did not recognize him or their two sons.

“No matter what happens, just never give up,’’ he told Curry. “Even if you can’t see it, even if you can’t know how you’re possibly going to get through it, give it a chance and don’t lose hope.” …

Go here for the rest of the story.