Read me

1) Derek Thompson in the interest of full fairness, called an AEI scholar to ask if he liberals are being unfair in their characterizations of Paul Ryan’s budget plan.  Short answer: basically no.

2) Michael Grunwald has a new book making the case that the stimulus was a truly significant piece of legislation and way under-estimated.  Interesting interview .

3) Genuine undecided swing voters may be 3-5% of the population.  Wow– what is that spending?  $10 million per swing voter?

4) I find the subject of post-war Japan quite interesting, but I know very little about it.  This was a fascinating piece about how Japan basically remade their national ideology in the wake of WWII.

5) I keep reading how I should do “two factor authentication” but it really sounds like such a huge pain.  That said, I think I will try recommendation #4:

What should you do about this? I would create a single, secret, ultra-secure email address that you designate as the one place to send all password resets. What do I mean by ultra-secure? I mean a new Gmail account—something like betyoucantguessthis@gmail.com—with a very strong password and two-factor authentication turned on. Now go to all your other accounts and have them send password requests to this secret address. It’s important that you don’t use this address for anything else—don’t send mail from it, don’t use it to sign up for newsletters, don’t let anyone know that it has anything to do with you. As long as it remains secret, any password resets that are sent its way should be safe…

What should you do about this? I would create a single, secret, ultra-secure email address that you designate as the one place to send all password resets. What do I mean by ultra-secure? I mean a new Gmail account—something like betyoucantguessthis@gmail.com—with a very strong password and two-factor authentication turned on. Now go to all your other accounts and have them send password requests to this secret address. It’s important that you don’t use this address for anything else—don’t send mail from it, don’t use it to sign up for newsletters, don’t let anyone know that it has anything to do with you. As long as it remains secret, any password resets that are sent its way should be safe.

 

 

 

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Ryan and Medicare

To say that Paul Ryan’s proposed changes to Medicare would have no impact on existing seniors is just wrong.  Andrew Sullivan’s readers hit this on two counts:

1) Readers continue to be better spokespeople on this issue than Debbie Wasserman Schultz:

The big effect Ryan’s plan would have right way on the over-55 set is the change to Medicaid spending. Block grants to the states for Medicaid would not keep pace with health care cost growth, thus either forcing states to pay more and more (and raise taxes to fund these payments) or spend less on Medicaid. About 50% of Medicaid spending [pdf] is consumed by the elderly (though they comprise only about 20% of the recipients) and most particularly about 50% of all long-term care in this country is at least partially funded by Medicaid.

Okay, technically, that’s a Medicaid, not Medicare issue.  For many seniors, they’re reliance on Medicare and Medicaid is intricately woven, thus cutting Medicaid (as Ryan proposed to do dramatically) will have a big impact on these seniors.

2) An important point that it seems is all too often overlooked when Ryan says it only affects those younger than 55:

A reader writes:

The Ryan Medicare plan absolutely will effect people currently on Medicare.  If you establish that in 10 years the Medicare risk pool will stop growing and start shrinking, you do damage to how the program works.  First, you increase the risk in the pool and drive up cost by stopping younger healthier seniors from entering the plan.  Second, as the pool shrinks Medicare looses power to dictate reimbursement rates.  Doctors will begin not to accept Medicare patients because not only will the volume of patients no longer justify the low reimbursement rates, but those left in the pool will be older, sicker and more expensive to treat.  The program that they say will be in place will not only become much more expensive to maintain then projected, but it will collapse on itself.

Short version: Ryan/Romney can claim all they want the Ryan budget would not hurt existing seniors.  They’re just not telling the truth.

Photo of the day

This is super-duper cool.  A totally interactive 360 photography from the Curiosity Rover on Mars.  The photo below is a screen capture.  Click through to experience Mars in 360 degree glory.

 

Journalistic values

I’m teaching my Media and Public Opinion class this semester (intentionally timed for the presidential campaign) and one of the major themes is the actual “biases” journalists bring as opposed to the presumed ones.  Among the biggest is a bias against covering policy and policy conflict in favor of covering the “game” of electoral politics.  Policy is typically seen as little more than pieces on a chessboard than something of serious value in its own right.  Short version: understanding policy is hard and policy is boring– let’s talk about the candidate’s haircuts and the mean things they said about each other.  Jon Stewart captures this fabulously in a video I (sadly, due to WordPress) cannot embed.   Ezra, though, hits the key points:

 So far, they’ve mostly played out according to the same basic script: “We can finally have a serious conversation about the issues!”

I think Jon Stewart had the right response to this:

Because of Paul Ryan? As the media, couldn’t you have made it a serious discussion about the issues from the start? Or did a gypsy put a curse on you? ‘Hello, media! You will babble [nonsense] until a sad-eyed man from the North country is chosen by a Mormon!’

I’d simply add that whatever their faults, the two campaigns have been engaged in a serious conversation over the issues. As much as it’s been about anything, this election has focused on extremely disparate, consequential budget plans and what they’d mean for jobs, the deficit, etc. It’s also had its share of ridiculous gaffes and absurd attacks. But Romney is running on a platform that, though it lacks important details and relies on overly ambitious targets, is definitely a clear vision of the general direction he’d take the country. Obama’s platform is less radical, and much more detailed.

This serious debate about policy has been there all along if the media wanted it.  They haven’t.  And maybe they do for five minutes now, but don’t count on that lasting (or as Stewart suggests, not even now).

The real impact of Ryan?

Sam Wang, whose academic specialties are biophysics and neuroscience, but dabbles in politics for fun, has an interesting analysis suggesting that the Ryan pick may end up being most consequential by greatly increasing the likelihood Democrats keep the Senate:

However, his entry onto the national scene does have one important effect: the Presidential Race is now more strongly linked to Congressional races. Why? He is chair of the House Budget Committee. And based on polling numbers, this is not a development that Republicans should welcome.

The whole analysis is basically predicated on the above.  Now, simply House Budget Chair is not enough, but Ryan is not simply any House Budget Chair.  The “Ryan Budget” is a major political touchstone these days and will surely be a huge focus in this campaign.  Nonetheless, I think Wang far too simply suggests this connection will be made. Now, if we do give Wang that supposition, though, here’s what we get:


In this scenario, the median outcome is 52D-48R and the probability of Democratic control is 82%.

Wow.  And he does add a nice caveat:

I should qualify all of this by saying that Senate races are challenging to tie to national issues, and conditions may yet change in the coming months. The point is the same, though: even a small net shift can change the prognosis significantly.

Anyway, that’s what a knife-edge situation looks like. Pundits, please talk about this instead?

I’m no “pundit.”  I’m an “expert” damnit.  But still, I do think his larger statistical point is indeed worth thinking about.  If Paul Ryan has an impact on Senate races even a very small impact could be quite consequential when we are looking at a current Senate prediction basically balanced right at 50-50.  Wang’s final takeaway is not very cautious:

My takeaway: Romney effectively threw Congress under the bus to get a possible (but not guaranteed) advantage for himself. Call it a calculated risk on his part.

I just don’t see it working this way.  If Ryan is hurting Senators, it’s because his budget has become a major focus of the campaign.  And if that happens– which I think is somewhat likely, though no guarantee– there’s no way he’s helping Romney.

Too much money?

In Monday night’s daily wrap-up, Nate Cohn noted the ungodly sums that Romeny and allies were spending in various media markets:

For the last month, Romney and allies have outspent Obama by more than a 2-to-1 margin. At some point, one would expect this type of deluge to start moving the needle, right? But perhaps the static race is just a sign that the Romney campaign’s advertising has reached the point of diminishing returns with just under three months to go until the election. Roanoke-Lynchburg is receiving 2520 GRPs from Romney and his allies, and if 1,000 per campaign is the rule for saturation, then how much are GOP groups really getting out of the final 1520 points? Perhaps not much: Obama hasn’t trailed in a Virginia poll since June and Rasmussen has shown Obama making gains in Virginia in every poll since April (R+1, tie, O+1, O+2).

Now I have no expertise in this GRP business, but if 1000 is considered saturation, than it should be no surprise that Romney’s 2500+ GRP spending is not “moving the needle.”  As I’m pretty sure I’ve argued before, the thing with money is to have enough to compete on some semblance of a level field– and even 2-1 Obama’s got that.  If Obama’s only spending roughly 1200 GRP, that’s still more than saturation.  Seems to me that rather than trying to buy up every single minute of air time (to surely enormously diminishing returns) in places like Roanoke, VA, Romney ought to be finding some uses for this money with more marginal benefit.

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