Buy generic!

Pretty amazing chart of drug prices via Incidental Economist:

Yowza!  I’d love to know what’s going on there, but no analysis at the site or the original source.  I’m just glad that of the myriad drugs my family use every day (and, yes, they are myriad– “better living through chemistry” is the Greene family motto) they are, fortunately, all generic.


“We won the white vote!”

Great piece by Will Saletan on how Romney’s campaign stragegists, pollsters, etc., have been crowing that they won the “key” demographic groups.  Apparently, they weren’t so key after all.  Heck, if Romney won the majority of white people and the majority of Americans with incomes over $50K/year, he should be president– right?  Saletan:

The overall tenor of these reflections is that Romney and his advisers are proud of what they accomplished. They won the demographic groups they set out to win. The only problem is that these groups didn’t add up to a majority. The operation was a success, though the patient died.

Let’s take the putative success stories one by one.

1. Incomes over $50,000. A few days ago, in a review of the exit polls, Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies, who polled for Romney’s super PACand for Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, pointed out that “Romney won middle income voters ($50-100K) by six points.” Bolger was troubled that Romney lost the election while winning this group. But two days later, in aWashington Post op-ed, Romney’s chief strategist, Stuart Stevens, converted this statistic into a boast. “Romney carried the majority of every economic group except those with less than $50,000 a year in household income. That means he carried the majority of middle-class voters,” Stevens crowed. Brushing aside the campaign’s critics, Stevens concluded that “any party that captures the majority of the middle class must be doing something right.”

Sorry to break it to you, gents, but if you check the most recent U.S. census data (Table A-1 of this report), you’ll discover that 49.8 percent of Americans have less than $50,000 a year in household income. And if you look at the right-hand columns, you’ll find that median household income is slightly more than $50,000. So when you brag about winning “every economic group except those with less than $50,000 a year in household income,” that doesn’t mean you won middle-income voters. It means you don’t know what middle-income is. And it means you’re dismissing 50 percent of Americans, which makes you 3 percentage points more out of touch than Romney and pretty much kills you in any election where lower-income people show up to vote…

In all four cases, the pattern is the same. Romney won the groups he targeted, and his team continues to point out proudly that he won them. But mathematically, these groups no longer decide elections. In a Nov. 12 memo, Romney’s polling firm asserted that “our research did what it is designed to do—provide strategic counsel to campaigns about key target groups and messages designed to help them win.” But what happens when the “key target groups” aren’t key? You can exclude blacks, Latinos, surplus Democrats, and people who earn less than $50,000 from your target groups and your poll analysis. But you can’t exclude them from the election.  [emphasis mine]

And of course, based on today’s earlier post about birth rates, this is only going to be ever more the case.

Photo of the day

Love this series of photos in Behold that looks at the very gendered way of dressing in much of the Arab world:

Boushra Almutawakel, Yemeni photographer

Boushra Almutawakel, Yemeni photographer

The Hijab Series: What if …

Boushra Almutawakel.

There are many things Yemeni photographer Boushra Almutawakel likes about wearing a headscarf. She sees it as part of her culture and, sometimes, as a protection in her ultraconservative country. But there are also many aspects of the hijab Almutawakel doesn’t “care much for.” She can’t hear well when she’s veiled; she dislikes not seeing women’s mouths when they’re wearing the more conservative niqab, a veil that covers everything but the eyes.

There isn’t just one way to look at the way women cover in the Arab world, and that’s why Almutawakel decided to picture the veil from many different angles. In her hijab series, she takes the viewer on a visual journey through the different nuances of what it means to be veiled.

Birth rate

The Pew report on birth rates yesterday was fascinating on so many levels.  Truly amazing how much more fertile the foreign-born population is in America.  Here’s your long-term problem for the Republican party.  I would like a little more explanation on why this population has so many more kids, though.  The big headline is the steep decline in birth rate among foreign-born women, but that still leaves it way higher than for native-born women.  Here’s some very telling graphs/charts:

I had no idea foreign-born mothers accounted for such a disproportionate share of births.  And the fact that white women account for only 54% of all births tells you plenty about the future of the country.  Lots more good stuff at the link.

Video of the day

Time lapse of changing of the seasons in Central Park.  Very cool (click on the link for the larger version at Vimeo):

One of the most striking things about New York City is the fall colors and there’s no better place to view this then Central Park. I chose 15 locations in the park and revisited them 2 days a week for six months, recording all camera positions and lens information to create consistency in the images. All shots were taken just after sunrise.

by Jamie Scott

Quick hits

1) Loved this in the Atlantic on 5 statistics problems you’re probably inclined to get wrong and how come.

2) Listened to a fascinating Fresh Air interview with Andrew Solomon about his book about raising a child very different from yourself– whether due to disability, sexual orientation, the child resulting from a rape, etc.  Here’s a great NYT review that’s a nice summary.

3) Liked Kevin Drum’s take on the decline in crime across many cities despite various approaches to crime reduction.  Short version: the dramatic reduction of environmental lead (my take from last year).

4) Love Ezra’s take that Obama’s no longer negotiating with himself:

Perhaps the key lesson the White House took from the last couple of years is this: Don’t negotiate with yourself. If Republicans want to cut Medicare, let them propose the cuts. If they want to raise revenue through tax reform, let them identify the deductions. If they want deeper cuts in discretionary spending, let them settle on a number. And, above all, if they don’t like the White House’s preferred policies, let them propose their own. That way, if the White House eventually does give in and agree to some of their demands, Republicans will feel like they got one over on the president. A compromise isn’t measured by what you offer, it’s measured by what the other side feels they made you concede.

5) Unlike most writing about the no new tax pledge, John Cassidy emphasizes that’s really about no revenue increases from changing the tax code, period:

His [Norquist] troubles began the day after the election, when Speaker Boehner indicated that he was amenable to raising tax revenues, if not tax rates—a statement that seemed to open the wary for an agreement that eliminated some of the loopholes and deductions that wealthy taxpayers enjoy. However such a deal was structured, it would almost certainly violate Norquist’s pledge, which commits its signatories to “oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates,” and also to “oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.”

6) Liberal women are less content with the amount of sex they are having than are conservative women.

7) Yglesias on the very annoying fact that such a key motivating principle of “Fix the Debt” is not just reducing the deficit, but lowering marginal tax rates.  That’s a different issue entirely and very much shapes their approach to their supposed prime goal of deficit reduction.

8) Shocking research finds that sex is considered the activity that makes people the happiest.

9) Obama is coming to take your guns away!!  Or so believe the people of Lubbock, TX (and surely many other places to reality).  Hello, earth to gun nuts– he’s not.

I will be outspent

I’ve mentioned before how the Obama campaign rigorously experimentally tested everything they did.  How could you not love a campaign that so fully embraces social science?  Anyway, here’s a nice piece in Businessweek about their various approach with emails.  The best subject line, “I will be outspent.”  Astronomically more effective than “the one thing the polls got right.”  Here’s some of the findings:

The appeals were the product of rigorous experimentation by a large team of analysts. “We did extensive A-B testing not just on the subject lines and the amount of money we would ask people for,” says Amelia Showalter, director of digital analytics, “but on the messages themselves and even the formatting.” The campaign would test multiple drafts and subject lines—often as many as 18 variations—before picking a winner to blast out to tens of millions of subscribers. “When we saw something that really moved the dial, we would adopt it,” says Toby Fallsgraff, the campaign’s e-mail director, who oversaw a staff of 20 writers.

It quickly became clear that a casual tone was usually most effective. “The subject lines that worked best were things you might see in your in-box from other people,” Fallsgraff says. “ ‘Hey’ was probably the best one we had over the duration.” Another blockbuster in June simply read, “I will be outspent.” According to testing data shared with Bloomberg Businessweek, that outperformed 17 other variants and raised more than $2.6 million.

Pretty interesting stuff.  Surely, the Romney people must have been using some of these techniques, too.  Right?   I’m confident that whomever the 2016 Democratic candidate is they will adopt and build on the Obama team’s rigorous, social science based approach.  What I’m most curious about will be the degree to which Republicans successfully play catch-up.

Photo of the day

Apparently there’s  a huge camel fair in India every year.  Makes for some pretty cool photos (In Focus):

Camels stand before the setting sun during the annual camel fair in Pushkar, on November 24, 2012. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)

The indescribably dumb opposition to Susan Rice

Fred Kaplan lays it out in full.  Especially the amazingly brazen and rank hypocrisy on the parts of John McCain and Lindsey Graham.  Now, hypocrisy is par for the course for politicians, so I’m generally not that big a fan of it as a line of attack, but there’s hypocrisy and then there’s hypocrisy.  Short version: their defense of Condeleeza Rice for far more serious crimes than one they are pillorying Susan Rice for.  But what I really wanted to highlight was one of the dumbest statements from a politician I’ve heard.  I actually heard the quote on NPR while driving today and thought, “I need to look it up.”  I didn’t need to, as Kaplan flagged it in this piece.  Here you go:

Odder still is Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who said on Wednesday, “I continue to be troubled by the fact that the U.N. ambassador decided to play what was essentially a political role at the height of the contentious presidential election campaign by agreeing to go on the Sunday shows to present the administration’s position.” Imagine that! A senior administration official presenting her administration’s position!

If that isn’t about the dumbest excuse for opposing a potential Secretary of State.  She might as well criticize her for wearing clothes to work.  The whole episode is just embarrassing.

Spending cuts and public opinion charts of the day

From separate Yglesias posts.  First, even most Republicans have no desire to actually cut Medicare (though, it could use some in a thoughtful and efficient manner):


Meanwhile, cutting defense remains far and away the most popular form of cut that could actually mean something to the budget (i.e., not foreign aid or “waste, fraud, and abuse”):


Given the public opinion, it would be nice to see politicians be a little bit braver on this.  But, of course, we all know that the Republican response to taking a dime away from the Pentagon would mean that you were voting to let the terrorists win.

Photo of the day

From the Editors’ picks for best Nature photo submissions of the week for that National Geographic Photo Contest:

Shetland Pony running along beach

Photo and caption by Nick Owen

A little more on the youth vote

Nice take from Chait on the Pew findings I mentioned earlier:

More than four decades ago, Lloyd Free and Hadley Cantril identified the core of Americans’ political thinking as a blend of symbolic conservatism and operational liberalism. Most Americans, that is, oppose big government in the abstract but favor it in the particular. They oppose “regulation” and “spending,” but favor, say, enforcement of clean-air laws and Social Security. The push and pull between these contradictory beliefs has defined most of the political conflicts over the last century. Public support for most of the particulars of government has stopped Republicans from rolling back the advances of the New Deal, but suspicion with “big government” has made Democratic attempts to advance the role of the state rare and politically painful.

This tension continues to define the beliefs of American voters. Among the 2012 electorate, more voters identified themselves as conservative (35 percent) than liberal (25 percent), and more said the government is already doing too much that should be left to the private sector (51 percent) than asserted that the government ought to be doing more to solve problems (44 percent). But this is not the case with younger voters. By a 59 percent to 37 percent margin, voters under 30 say the government should do more to solve problems. More remarkably, 33 percent of voters under 30 identified themselves as liberal, as against 26 percent who called themselves conservative.  [emphasis mine]

What all this suggests is that we may soon see a political landscape that will appear from the perspective of today and virtually all of American history as unrecognizably liberal…

Obviously, such a future hinges on the generational patterns of the last two election cycles persisting. But, as another Pew survey showed, generational patterns to tend to be sticky. It’s not the case that voters start out liberal and move rightward.  [emphasis mine]

That latter observation is surely one of the most pernicious myths of politics I come across– older people are more conservative.  But they didn’t age into that; rather younger generations are typically more progressive than their elders on social issues.  And that’s long been the case.  But, really the big point here is just how liberal on core issues and in identity, younger voters are.  If this generation follows historical norms of political socialization, we’re looking at a much more liberal nation in the future.

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