State of NC

The latest PPP poll of North Carolina is out, and has long been the case, it remains basically a dead heat:


Now, in many ways this should be considered surprising.  Obama’s super narrow NC win in 2008 meant that he ran several points behind his national average in NC.  With Obama and Romney basically tied in national polls, we would therefore naturally expect Obama to be consistently trailing Romney by a modest margin, yet that’s not been the case.

Fortunately, TNR’s Nate Cohn has a nice take on trying to explain this minor political mystery and here’s the key nugget:

Superficially, North Carolina seems like a state that should lean Romney: Obama won it by just 14,000 votes in 2008, so it might be expected to prefer the GOP in a more competitive election. But Obama’s winning coalition has splintered unevenly, with Obama bleeding white working class support while holding firm among college educated whites and minorities. As a result, Obama should be resilient in states like North Carolina, where his coalition is disproportionately composed of the educated and diverse voters who continue to support Obama at 2008 levels. At the same time, demographic changes have further reduced the white working class’ share of the voting eligible population, albeit at a slower pace than over the previous eight years, giving Obama room to overcome modest losses among the sliver of white working class voters who supported him in 2008. These demographic realities ensure a close race in North Carolina so long as the basic demographic contours of the election endure.

Now, next time a reporter wants to talk to me about NC”s battleground/toss-up status I’ll sound really smart and he can quote a Political Science professor in his piece.  Meanwhile, my great insight was just reading Cohn’s piece.

Photo of the day

Alan Taylor has a cool set of “Scenes from underground.”

A tour guide scales a rock formation inside a chamber of the Niah Great Cave at Niah National Park in the Malaysian state of Sarawak in Borneo, on March 29, 2012. (Reuters/David Loh)

The scandal you should be paying attention to

Seems like the appalling behavior of bankers in the Libor scandal is starting to get some more mainstream news coverage– it deserves a lot more.  I don’t think most people have any idea how amazingly corrupt and greedy the entire financial sector is.  My guess is that– despite what they tell themselves– most people going into high-end finance and banking have a single primary goal.  And it’s not making the world a better place.  Anyway, this Libor scandal lays bare the greed and immorality in modern banking and Yglesias has a nice summary.  The conclusion:

So far the shock waves haven’t really hit on this side of the Atlantic, but one can only hope they will. The United States enacted a major change in its financial regulatory system in 2010, but it’s not clear that we’ve yet had an adequate change in regulatoryattitude. The lesson of Libor is that regulators need to recognize that bankers have cast aside the clubby values of yore, and they need to respond in kind. Banks will try to abide by the letter of the law, but where loopholes exist, they’ll be ruthlessly exploited—through dishonest means if necessary—and the financial cops need to have a fundamentally suspicious attitude toward the regulated entities. Time and again, when tighter regulation of trading is proposed, the concern is raised that stringency will push activity to foreign centers. In the short run, that’s almost certainly true. Banks will want to move to wherever they’re most likely to be able to get away with more shady dealings. But an economic development strategy based on turning your country into an appealing location for dishonest banking is just going to get you a financial system that’s rotten with dishonesty. It’s time to stop being surprised and start realizing that these are the inevitable fruits of a regulatory system that’s weak by design.

Yep– it’s global warming

Odds that all this heat we’ve been having is just natural variation?  1 in 100,000.  Something tells me George Will is still not convinced. Wonkblog with details.

Occam’s Razor and health care

With the recent health decision, Republican have been forced to unleash their vague and generally useless ideas for the “replace” in “repeal and replace.”  It’s generally all about paeans to the power of the free market to fix everything.  Well, here’s the thing.  Let’s start with 2008 OECD health spending per capita (via Kaiser Family Foundation):

Exhibit 1

Okay, so we’re spending way more.  As I’ve discussed many times, it doesn’t makes us any healthier, so I’m not going there again.  And we know that all these other countries cover 100% of their populations.  Now, here’s what I want to add– percentage of health care spending from public vs. private sector:

Exhibit 10

So, how is that these “inefficient” largely public-sector based systems are delivering equivalent care to more people for less money?  How’s that for the power of free markets in health care?  So, here’s your Occam’s razor question: either public sector delivery of health care is actually more efficient than private “free markets” or somehow every other single OECD country is spending less for roughly equivalent outcomes (and often better, as I’ve addressed elsewhere) and yet through some complicated series of explanations we’ll be better off putting an even larger share of our health spending in the private sector?  Or, another way, every other advanced Democracy has a more efficient health care system relying primarily on the public sector, but somehow they are all wrong and we can do better by just allowing people to purchase health insurance across state lines?!  Riiiiiight.

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