The Public Opinion Polls

Today seems like a good time to consider the results of some public opinion polls. I’m going to try to make this a dry recitation of facts with as few opinions as possible.

1. President Trump’s presidential approval rating is the highest of his presidency.

According to Gallup’s most recent findings that approval rating is 49%. That’s higher than President Obama’s was at this point in his presidency, outside the margin of error, and about the same as President Bush’s was at that point.

2. If the election were held today and we elected presidents at large, he would be likely to win against any of the Democrats presently seeking their party’s nomination.

According to the latest Economist/YouGov survey present opinion suggests, by margins of greater than 19 points, that Trump is likely to win:

3. The econometric models of presidential election outcomes support Trump’s re-election.

Ray Fair’s model and the three different econometric models from Moody’s all forecast that Trump will be re-elected. If people vote their pocketbooks, as they have during the post-war period, Trump will be re-elected.

4. The betting markets favor Trump’s re-election.

 

5. The election will not be held today and we do not elect presidents at large.

The election is still more than eight months away, God help us. And the Electoral College still elects the president. The statistics I would really like to see are the opinions of people in the states that Trump carried in 2016. Said another way the Democratic candidate whoever he or she might be could carry every state that Hillary Clinton did in 2016 by larger margins than Hillary Clinton secured and still lose the election if unable to switch any states from Trump to themselves.

4 comments

The Pitch

The editors of the Wall Street Journal renew their pitch for mass immigration:

Democrats and many Republicans complain that U.S. corporations are raking in huge profits as blue-collar jobs disappear. The reality is the opposite, a new Conference Board business survey reports. Corporate profits have been declining as employers increase wages to hire scarce blue-collar workers, but hold the champagne.

Eighty-five percent of blue-collar businesses report recruiting difficulties versus 64% of white-collar employers. One reason is the working-age population without a college degree is shrinking as baby boomers retire and more young people enroll in college. Labor participation among 16- to 24-year-olds has fallen 10 percentage points in two decades.

and

Nonetheless, 90% of blue-collar businesses report operating with unfilled positions, and 29% say this has made them reduce output or turn down business. Rising wages together with sluggish productivity growth are crimping corporate profits. Between the fourth quarter of 2014 and the second quarter of 2019, profits for nonfinancial corporations declined 17% and 46% for manufacturers.

Frankly, having been in the situation of seeing how job notices can be crafted to avoid applications, I’m a bit skeptical of their statistics. I wish they had explained why the jobs are “unfilled”. Are there too few applicants, too few applicants deemed qualified, or do the qualified applicants want more than they’re willing to offer? The answers matter.

One way of avoiding applications is to advertise job in Peoria from your Sitka branch. Not enough people who might be interested will see it. Another way is to tailor the notice so that no one or practically no one can fill it. The classic example of that was the ad from 1983 for an IBM PC programming expert with five years of experience. Nobody satisfied those requirements in 1983. Nowadays for a comparable case you’d have 50 resumes on your desk from Tata of people all claiming to have the requisite experience. You’d have no way to validate the claims so and they’re willing to work for a lot less than the workers you already have so why the heck not?

Additionally, 30 years of industrial policy focused on college educations have convinced people that there’s something distasteful or dishonorable about blue collar jobs. Too many young people today are looking for jobs as communications directors or marketing analysts that pay $120,000 a year for entry level workers.

1 comment

The No Stake Generation

In his column at the Wall Street Journal William Galston tries to explain why the youngest cohort of voters support Bernie Sanders as much as they do:

In one respect, at least, the Democratic nominating contest is running true to form: Sen. Bernie Sanders is getting the lion’s share of young adults’ votes. In New Hampshire, for example, voters under 30 represented 15% of the total but 28% of Mr. Sanders’s support. Voters 65 and older were 25% of the total but only 13% of the Sanders coalition.

The youngest voters haven’t always leaned left. In 1984 Ronald Reagan won 61% of voters under 25, more than his 59% of the popular vote. Something deeper, specific to our time, is at work.

The percentage of primary voters under the age of 25 who support Sanders has been reported to be as much as 45%.

Basically, his explanations are that the young are unaware of the history, they have little stake in the present, and they are “demographically distinctive”:

Today’s young adults are demographically distinctive. Nearly half are nonwhite and many are children of immigrants from countries like India and Pakistan, which were long underrepresented in the U.S. immigration pool. Most young adults are comfortable with demographic diversity and don’t understand why their parents and grandparents find it troubling. According to a recent Pew survey, 71% of young adults believe that the growing number of newcomers from other countries strengthens American society, a proposition endorsed by only 47% of American 65 and older. Sixty-one percent of young adults believe Islam does no more to encourage violence than do other religions; only 41% of Americans 65 and older agree.

I would go farther than that. At least a quarter and, possibly, more of that cohort are first or second generation Americans and did not grow up in what we used to think of as the common culture. They don’t have mortgages to pay or families to rear. Most do not have satisfying careers. Much is made of “work-life balance”, a concept that would have been deemed absurd 50 years ago.

They have few stakes to the future and precious few in the present. Their ties to things as they have been and as they are are quite tenuous.

12 comments

Mismatch

Here’s the peroration of George Will’s latest Washington Post column:

America has an aging population and an entitlement system (principally Social Security and Medicare) into which 10,000 baby boomers retire daily. It has a political class ideologically quarrelsome but operationally united by a shared incentive arising from a shared understanding. The class understands there are only two ways to finance government, present taxes and future taxes. The class has a political incentive to enlarge as much as possible the latter’s role in fiscal planning.

America cannot, however, forever fund the government it has chosen to have with the tax code it has, the domestic promises it has made and the defenses it needs. In fiscal 2019, taxes raised revenue equaling 16.3 percent of gross domestic product, and the government spent a sum equal to 21 percent of GDP. Higher tax rates and/or new taxes (e.g., on carbon) are coming.

The Democratic Party and an American majority believe the wealthy should pay higher taxes. The Republican Party believes . . . well, whatever today’s president says it believes. In its current plasticity, will it stand athwart this majority yelling “stop”? Wyden has a proposal, and patience, and plastic opponents.

Most of the preceding column is devoted to Sen. Ron Wyden’s tax proposal which is to earmark a tax on wealth to fund the coming shortfall in Social Security. My concern about any wealth tax is that it will, at the margins, reduce investment which in turn means growth in productivity that is insufficient which in turn means stagnant wages.

I don’t think that we need a wealth tax. European countries might but we don’t. What we need to do is to definancialize our economy so that more investment goes into primary and secondary production which will result in increasing wages.

2 comments

Last Night’s Democratic Presidential Candidates’ Debate

Against my better judgment I watched the Democratic presidential candidates’ debate last night. It was, as I anticipated “let’s attack Bloomberg” night. His weaknesses as a candidate, particularly for the Democratic presidential nominee, were exposed. Some of his strengths were, too, but that could hardly be heard for the din. In many cases he told them the truth. They can’t handle the truth.

Overall I was left with the following impressions. Bernie Sanders is anticipating a vast wave of support from unseen and unheard ideological voters who support his position. That is a notion that crops up in American politics every so often on the part of highly ideological candidates. It was the assumption of the Goldwater campaign. It was the assumption of the McGovern campaign. That strategy has always gone down in flames in the past. Maybe this time is different. I would add that I’m not convinced that as many people have the burning hatred of Donald Trump that those on the stage had.

Joe Biden looked like he was desperate for attention. Elizabeth Warren’s attacks against Bloomberg were the most successful but somehow I received the impression that she is now running for the vice president’s slot on a Sanders-Warren ticket.

I thought that, if you’re looking for a president who would implement modest reform from within, you could do worse than Amy Klobuchar but if you want a president who will tear down the American economy and politics, Bernie Sanders is your man.

3 comments

Yes, Wages Respond to Market Forces

The editors of The Economist struggle, like fish on a hook, before admitting that the evidence seems to support that mass immigration has been holding U. S. wages down:

There are nonetheless scraps of evidence that some workers are benefiting from America’s growing antipathy to immigrants. Gordon Hanson of Harvard University suggests that if the impact of reduced low-skill migration is showing up anywhere, it will be in three particular occupations: housekeepers, building-and-grounds maintenance workers, and drywall installers. These occupations rely heavily on immigrant labour and the services they provide cannot be traded internationally. Average wages in those occupations are rising considerably faster than wages in other low-paid jobs, according to calculations by The Economist.

Intriguing evidence also shows up geographically. According to research by William Frey of the Brookings Institution, a think-tank, five big metro areas saw absolute declines in their foreign-born populations in 2010-18. Wages in those areas are now rising by 5% a year, according to our calculations. Cleveland, which is in one such area, has pockets of severe poverty but seems to be doing better than before. Many of the city centre’s astonishingly grand buildings are being converted into luxury lofts for millennials.

and

The lesson from all these papers is that, over time, the economy adjusts to a fall in the number of immigrants. In the short term, native workers may well see a wage boost as labour supply falls.

just as I have been saying here for well over a decade. They go on to warn:

But businesses then reorient production towards less labour-intensive products; natives take jobs previously occupied by foreign-born folk, which may be worse paid; and bosses invest in labour-saving machinery, which can reduce the pay of remaining workers.

Even the apparent short-term benefits to wages are a poor economic argument for tough immigration restrictions. Migrants have economic effects far beyond the labour market. They spur innovation and entrepreneurship and they help create trade links between America and their home countries. Both low- and high-skilled migration are linked with higher productivity.

Reorienting production towards less labor-intensive products is jake with me. It should have been happening for a long time. Consider the story of fast food. IMO it’s pretty obvious that fast food franchises developed in response to a large number of new, unskilled, inexperienced workers coming into the labor force—the Baby Boomers. After that wave ended it was able to continue with a reliable stream of immigrant workers (legal and illegal). Is the development of fast food really a good thing? I would not mourn the demise of McDonalds and Burger King.

And, of course low- and high-skilled migration produces higher productivity as long as those workers work for lower pay than those they’re replacing. That’s just arithmetic. Again, is that really the model we want for the United States? The sort of increasing productivity we really want is the sort which is too low. What we need comes from business investment in something other than financial assets.

As for innovation and entrepeneurship, there are different groups of immigrant workers. The groups responsible for the greatest number over the last 30 years aren’t the same as those innovating or starting their own businesses.

13 comments

The Hill on The Hill

You might find The Hill’s investigation of its own handling of John Solomon’s columns published at The Hill on Ukraine interesting. I did. Here’s its opening:

On Nov. 18, 2019, The Hill announced it was reviewing John Solomon’s opinion columns on Ukraine after State Department diplomats criticized several of those columns during House impeachment hearings.

This review was conducted independently by The Hill’s news staff under the direction of Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack.

The Hill established working panels for each of 14 relevant pieces that appeared on TheHill.com. These working groups analyzed and discussed the columns at length, looking at possible corrections and/or context that could have been added at the time of the writings. In addition, The Hill reviewed congressional testimony and other public documentation related to Solomon’s columns, as well as related media reports, to add editor’s notes to the columns regarding what has been learned since the columns were posted by The Hill. The Hill also reviewed its editorial policies and processes.

and its closing graf:

Solomon’s Ukraine columns represented a departure from The Hill’s standard opinion content because they attempted to blend opinion and investigative, “original reporting” material. The Hill will avoid such blending of reporting and opinion columns going forward.

I find the free and, frequently, undetectable intermingling of news and opinion problematic, indeed, journalism’s single gravest problem. Here at The Glittering Eye I have frequently urged a return to 5W-style news writing over the point-of-view favored today. I hope other news organizations or what used to be news organizations follow The Hill’s example and perform critical examinations of their own practices.

3 comments

The Paradox of Europe

My all-time favorite wisecrack during Jay Leno’s stent hosting The Tonight Show was this from one of his opening monologues during the early Aughts:

I don’t know why anyone is surprised that France won’t help us liberate Iraq. During World War II they wouldn’t even help us liberate France.

In a similar vein Walter Russell Mead observes about the paradox facing our notional European allies in his Wall Street Journal column:

Since the 1940s, U.S. leadership in the service of a united and secure Europe has been the one unchanging feature in the Continental landscape. For generations, the U.S. committed to protect Europe from Russia, maintain bases in Germany to prevent it from threatening its neighbors, and promote European integration. Now Europeans don’t know where they stand, and a mixture of bafflement, anger, disappointment and fear fills the atmosphere at conferences like the one in Munich.

There’s little doubt that Trump administration policies, ranging from trade wars to toughness on Iran, have tested trans-Atlantic relations to the breaking point. But to understand the growing weakness of the Western alliance, Europeans need to spend less time deploring Donald Trump and more time looking in the mirror. A good place to begin is with a Pew poll released earlier this month on the state of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Superficially, the poll looks like good news. In 14 European countries plus Canada and the U.S., a median 53% of respondents said they had a favorable view of NATO, while only 27% saw the alliance unfavorably. Despite double-digit declines in NATO’s favorability among the French and the Germans, these numbers aren’t bad. Mr. Trump, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel are all less popular in their home countries than NATO is.

So far, so good—but that support is thin. When asked if their country should go to war with Russia if it attacked a NATO ally, 50% of respondents said no, and only 38% supported honoring their commitment to NATO allies.

Let those numbers sink in. Only 34% of Germans, 25% of Greeks and Italians, 36% of Czechs, 33% of Hungarians and 41% of the French believe their country should fulfill its treaty obligation if another European country is attacked. Only the U.S., Canada, the U.K., the Netherlands and Lithuania had a majority in favor of honoring the NATO commitment to mutual defense.

I’ve quoted it before and I don’t recall whether it was German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer who said it but it states the problem well: “European politicians know what they need to do. They just know that they can’t keep their jobs if they do it.”

1 comment

What Steyer’s and Bloomberg’s Billions Can Do

It’s called “clearing the field”. They can increase the price of television spots to the point at which it’s impossible to carry on from lack of funds. Or they can crowd the rest of the field out.

5 comments

Will They Accept Party “Rupture” or Sanders?

After recapitulating the same analysis of Bernie Sanders’s record (spoiler: he is a state socialist), Megan McArdle continues in her Washington Post column:

As Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) looks increasingly likely to win the Democratic nomination, left-of-center people are anxious to downgrade Sanders’s self-described socialism into something more politically palatable — like Great Society liberalism, or perhaps, at maximum, a Nordic-style welfare state.

In this, they struggle with an inconveniently well-documented Early Bernie Sanders, with his calls to nationalize “utilities, banks and major industries,“ his kind words for left-wing dictatorships, and his “very strange honeymoon” in the U.S.S.R. — where he blasted U.S. foreign policy before returning home to say “Let’s take the strengths of both systems. … Let’s learn from each other.”

One should be forgiven almost any number of youthful flirtations with bad ideology. But Sanders was in his early 40s when he went gaga for Nicaragua’s brutal Sandinista regime, and 46 during his sojourn on the Volga. In February 2019, when he was refusing to describe Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro as a “dictator,” Sanders was 77.

Forty years seems enough cultivate skepticism about what you’re shown while visiting a Communist dictatorship. And 77 is certainly old enough to have read the 2019 Human Rights Watch report on Venezuela, which noted that “polls had not met international standards of freedom and fairness,” and went on to state that no “independent government institutions remain today in Venezuela to act as a check on executive power. … The government has been repressing dissent through often-violent crackdowns.” All of which sounds positively dictatorial. If that wasn’t enough, Sanders might have been convinced when Maduro started using military blockades to prevent humanitarian aid from reaching his own famine-stricken citizens.

Her conclusion: “Thus, it’s unsurprising to find that Sanders remains considerably to the left of Europe’s moderate social democrats.” That is certainly true of the version of “Medicare for All” that he has promulgated. It doesn’t actually resemble the systems presently in place in Scandinavia or Germany or France for that matter.

What should concern Democrats about Bernie Sanders is not merely his radicalism but that he has no friends in Washington. He won’t bring a coterie of more moderate connections with him into the White House and he won’t meekly accept the usual suspects of the Democratic Party nomenklatura.

Relying on Republicans to defend you from your own excesses is downright weird to my ear but that seems to be the assumption that a lot of Democrats are making right now.

2 comments