2012 Math

Friday’s downgrade of America’s credit rating and the subsequent stock market skittishness naturally means a new round of speculation on President Obama’s re-election chances.  This week Gallup released state-by-state job approval numbers that paint a picture of an incumbent with some work to do.

President Obama’s approval ratings are listed as “below average” (under 44% or so) in 18 states,  representing 162 electoral votes.  Including three other typically “red” states where his ratings are average but still low (Arizona, Mississippi, and Georgia) would bring that total to 195.  Throwing in North Carolina and Virginia – traditionally Republican states the President carried by narrow margins in 2008 – the number jumps to 223, or 47 electoral votes shy of victory.  That scenario would make Ohio and Florida (with a combined 47 electoral votes) especially critical.

Should this be cause for Republican celebration?  Not so fast.

Not factored into these numbers, of course, is election performance – the poll measures only approval rating, not his performance against specific opponents or even the “Generic GOP candidate.”  He has 173 electoral votes in his pocket where he has above average approval ratings, plus another 45 in states which he is likely to win (Wisconsin, Michigan, Washington, and Oregon).  That gives the President a total of 218 electoral votes in house money.  And Presidential house money is worth more than challenger house money.

As Gallup notes, George W. Bush’s approval ratings were pretty low heading into the 2004 race – around 48%.  His massive campaign apparatus found his supporters in the right places and got them to the polls – the type of blocking and tackling the Obama campaign was good at in 2008.  Gallup’s numbers may seem optimistic for Republicans, but they actually paint a pretty good picture for the President.

Going green

Check this out:

This commercial, which appeared on Good Morning America today, sends two interesting messages about the environmental movement here on the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.

First, if you do not live green, a barrage of tiny fists will rain down justice upon you unless your socks and underwear are earth-friendly. Be afraid.

Second, ecological awareness can lead to economical success.  The New York Times reports that environmentalism is now a business practice for many big companies.  Some activists are nonplussed:

To many pioneers of the environmental movement, eco-consumerism, creeping for decades, is intensely frustrating and detracts from Earth Day’s original purpose.

“This ridiculous perverted marketing has cheapened the concept of what is really green,” said Denis Hayes, who was national coordinator of the first Earth Day and is returning to organize this year’s activities in Washington. “It is tragic.”

Those that frown on corporate participation miss an important aspect of American business: left to their own devices, companies are reflections of culture.  If Hanes is push eco-socks and 20th Century Fox is adjusting normal schedules to release the highest-grossing movie in history on Earth Day, it’s because environmentalism is recognized as an important social value.  What isn’t recognized as an important social value is government regulation, which is why environmental consciousness has not always translated into support for the environmental political movement.

What might a more middle-of-the-road environmental movement look like?  Organizations which promote ecologically sound personal activity and issue report cards on corporate green initiatives should be the centerpiece.  Individuals are already interested in becoming more environmentally friendly and can vote with their own behaviors and their own wallets if properly informed.

No one wants to be beaten up by a gang of toddlers in a shopping mall, right?

Sunday Funnies: The next big debate

With the government health care overhaul being made official tonight, the next big thing will be the financial reform bill, as Democrats try to get back on the American peoples’ good side.  How will they do it?  Maybe by creating a giant (and, in many ways, redundant) oversight agency to police the financial markets.  Sure, it speaks to a problem that happened two years ago, but Wall Street is an easy straw man.

Funny or Die does a good job acting as the White House’s comedy video department – they stick to the message and, frankly, produce hilarious videos.  Here, they use the ghosts of Saturday Night Live presidential impersonators past (with Jim Carrey filling in for the late Phil Hartman as Ronald Reagan) to plug the next overreaching government program.

Roll over, Liberty.

The cost of doing anything

Starting this week, my daily commute costs 20 cents extra.  The “temporary” DC Metro fare hike lasts only until June 27 – just in time for the start of Metro’s next fiscal year, when they will likely institute a more permanent and steeper fare hike to cover their operating deficit.

Today, the Post Office – like Metro, facing an institutionalized budget shortfall – is recommending reductions in service and may look to increase postage rates.

From the consumer standpoint, Metro riders and people who still use the mail are being asked to pay more for less service.   And while these organizations are probably rife with waste and fraud, the simple fact is that the 44 cents earned from the sale of a stamp or the $1.90 in revenue from a basic, one-way fare doesn’t do as far as it used to.  Inflation affects everyone.

Which brings us to Jim Bunning’s assault on common decency, humanity, America, and of course extending unemployment benefits with money the federal government, quite simply, does not have.

Running up deficits and debt in order to fund stimulus projects or propping up financial institutions – or even to “help” those who are out of work – is an attractive short-term strategy, but a long-term repercussion of financial instability is inflation.

In other words, this program to help the unemployed actually raises prices – like the cost of Metro fare to get to a job interview, or the price of a postage stamp to send a thank you note after a job interview, or the price of food for breakfast to make sure you’re sharp at your job interview.  It’s like feeding the hungry with food that induces vomiting.

So, is Jim Bunning really being all that unreasonable for drawing a line in the sand and asking for spending restraint?  Or is doing more than any other Senator to help the unemployed?

Sunday Funnies: Learning economics doesn’t have to suck

The President’s proposed spending freeze has touched off a debate between Keynesian liberals and free marketers over the role – and capabilities – of government spending.  Perhaps you have seen talking heads bickering about these theories, but the best way to articulate this century-old dichotomy of economic theory is, of course, a rap battle:

What does it say about the state of journalism that this actually outlines economic theories better

He should have sung “Tomorrow”

President Obama is calling for a new stimulus package, this one specifically targeted to create jobs.  Though the President is no doubt a gifted orator, one can’t help but feel like the speech to the Brookings Institution was a little familiar… But where have we heard it before?

Of course, this speech comes on the same day that news broke that $6 million of the last stimulus went to PR work coordinated by firms run by Democratic operative Mark Penn.

Maybe the President should have looked at this speech instead:

From the “well, someone is making money, right?” file

The New York Times has a story in its tech section on Sunday that could just as easily have appeared in Style.  The piece profiled Rent the Runway, a company which rents high-end designer dresses online – just like Netflix does with movies.

Dressflix, if you will.

The silver lining of a down economy is that new markets emerge, and the astute businesses that find those new markets can carve out a niche for themselves.  That’s especially true for Rent the Runway, which makes money by helping people save money.