Tuesday, July 29, 2008

In case your missing it

John McCain is going through the roof on Intrade.

He was at 29% a week ago, and is now at 37%.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

France's 35 hour work week gets gutted

The previous efforts to take the sting out of the law by cutting taxes on overtime proved not be effectual. It is still not repealed, but will be rendered toothless.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Mankiw's Economic Agenda

Greg Mankiw ponders what would happen if candidates pandered to economists. The results lead to an agenda that is about as popular as itchy algae. Sign me up however.

SUPPORT FREE TRADE Economists are nearly unanimous in their support of an unfettered system of world trade. Here, Senator Obama lags behind Senator McCain. Senator Obama’s bad-mouthing of Nafta and his opposition to free-trade pacts with Colombia and South Korea make most economists cringe.

Many economists would go even further than Senator McCain has suggested by, for example, repealing antidumping laws. The ostensible purpose of these laws is to prevent foreign companies from selling in the United States at prices below fair value, but the law’s notion of “fair” rarely makes sense. In practice, these laws are little more than an excuse for special interests to shield themselves from competition.

OPPOSE FARM SUBSIDIES Economists like free markets, a principle that applies to agriculture as much as any good or service. Again, Senator McCain has the lead. Senator Obama’s endorsement of the recent $300 billion farm bill, his support for domestic ethanol subsidies and his opposition to imported sugar ethanol may bring votes from farmers, but economists view these policies as a burden on taxpayers and consumers.

LEAVE OIL COMPANIES AND SPECULATORS ALONE With the stunning rise in oil prices, both presidential candidates have been tempted to demonize market participants. Senator McCain has complained about the “obscene profits” of oil companies and called for a “thorough and complete investigation of speculators.” By contrast, most economists see nothing more sinister than the forces of global supply and demand at work. There is little benefit, and potentially much harm, in the candidates’ populist finger-pointing.

TAX THE USE OF ENERGY Senator Obama wins a point by opposing a summer gas tax holiday, a McCain proposal that economists greeted with derision. Most economists advocate increased taxes on energy products. The recent response of consumers to higher gas prices — including the increased use of mass transit and greater purchases of small cars, scooters, and even bicycles — demonstrates that the price mechanism is the most reliable way to reduce energy consumption and to curtail a variety of driving-related problems.

RAISE THE RETIREMENT AGE Like both presidential candidates, most economists recognize that Social Security faces a long-term problem. Senator Obama says he wants to fix it by extending the payroll tax to high incomes. Senator McCain opposes tax increases and wants the Social Security system to include personal accounts, but he has avoided proposing specific benefit cuts needed to make the numbers add up.

Some economists endorse Senator Obama’s tax hike, and some endorse Senator McCain’s personal accounts, but a much greater number would increase the age of eligibility for benefits. As Americans live longer, we need to redefine old age — a theme that should resonate with Mr. McCain, who is 71.

INVITE MORE SKILLED IMMIGRANTS As part of their embrace of globalization, economists are more open to immigration than is the general public. Admittedly, unskilled immigrants raise some potential problems: They may depress wages for Americans at the bottom of the economic ladder, exacerbating the rise in inequality, and they may overburden the social safety net. By contrast, skilled immigrants promote economic growth, especially among poorer Americans, and pay more in taxes than they get in government benefits. The more, the merrier.

On this issue, economists very clearly practice what they preach. Many of the best economists at top American universities were born abroad.

LIBERALIZE DRUG POLICY Many economists marry their support of economic freedom with a similar support of personal freedom. Drug policy is a case in point. A 2006 poll of professional economists asked whether the United States should legalize marijuana. Those in favor outnumbered those opposed more than three to one.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Labour loses Glasgow East

The SNP have defeated Labour by about 350 votes.

This is a safe seat- even safer than Crewe and Nantwich where they suffered another by-election loss just about a month earlier. All the speculation is whether Labour replace Gordon Brown. All the polls suggest it would not make a difference, and it would be hard for Labour to impose a 2nd unelected Prime Minister on the public, so I would guess that Brown stays on for the General Election.

I have to feel bad for Gordon Brown. This is the latest event in a string of bad luck. Nothing seemingly goes right for him. Much of the perception about Brown is driven by the media action line of "Brown the psychologically flawed, dithering, control freak, incompetent, boring, scheming politician." The British media have typically acted like sheep and decided that David Cameron's Conservatives are new, chic, modern, young, green and a less nasty kind of conservative. Can anybody really say their is a great deal of difference between Coke and Pepsi er- Tory and Labour? Heck, the conservatives budget matched Labour's spending levels so as to avoid a fight. Brown is viewed the way he is mostly because of personality and p.r.

I think my feeling sorry is also merited by Brown's failures not being all that much different than that of Tony Blair. Early release for prisoners- that happened under Blair. Government incompetence under Blair- you bet. Browns Government did lose millions of people's tax records, but is that substantively much worse than Blair's Government under which crime went up and up while civil liberties went down? Brown dithered on Northern Rock causing a run on a bank, but if you look around the world you can see the banking crisis is not isolated to Britain. Removing the bottom 2P tax bracket raised taxes on some poorer people, but just about every government has done something that has resulted in this. To listen to the claims today this makes Labour no longer a party for the poor. Not that I thought they ever were, but these claims are just hyperbolic.

Im no fan of Brown but Im not going to kick him when he's down like the rest of the sheep.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The last one worked pretty well

Mitt Romney gets my endorsement for John McCain's running mate. I write this at a time of course, when the likelihood of this pick is soaring. Romney does benefit from a lack of deep bench to choose from. However, he emerges as the cream of the crop on merit.

Since McCain's nomination, voters pick the Economy as their top voting issue leaving the War in Iraq in lesser consideration. The Great Man has never been too interested in the economy, in fact he was just recently going around telling people he does not know a whole lot about it. Mitt Romney is extremely knowledgeable when it comes to the economy. Before his political career he was CEO at BAIN Capitol also working for many other companies. He developed a reputation as a turnaround artist.

Romney's corporate experience have also made him an expert on management. I admit that managing a company involves orders being given and not resisted whereas government is the opposite. I think in any event, the former Massachusetts Governor is second to none in getting results. He knows how to set deadlines and check progress, how formal meetings should be conducted, how accessible to stay, and generally the correct management style to achieve competence and results. There would be no better manager of Government than Mitt Romney.

Romney's pick is smart politically. His name helps in the key state of Michigan. His father George Romney was the legendary Michigan politician. Romney helps in the west given the high population of Mormons who apparently practice identity politics. That may be a little Realpolitik for me but this means swing states like Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico.

Mitt Romney has shined as a surrogate for McCain, burying the hatchet while landing effective blows against Obama. He is well-spoken, smart and has a good chance of winning the Vice-Presidential debate.

What Romney should do should he get the pick is relaunch his political brand. His Presidential run was an attempt to get to the right of everyone else, with unconvincing explanations for his flip-flops. What he should do is concede that he has some differences with conservatives. He should run as a technocrat who is going to bring back competence and manage government well under a McCain Administration. And while he's at it, talk about trade, balanced budgets and reforming entitlements. He does all of that extremely well. We saw flashes of this type of candidacy in Michigan where he did it well and tirelessly to finish ahead of John McCain.

A McCain-Romney ticket would allow McCain to talk about Foreign Policy and Romney to talk about the Economy. They both have a strong suit which would mean allow for a good one-two punch. The ticket that was once impossible is now looking like a great pick.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

They think they can't lose

Barack Obama's consistent lead in the polls is having many assume he's got it in the bag. They might want to think again.

Much of politics is about selling one's brand. Obama's success has been through selling himself as a different kind of candidate, a change agent, and an optimistic bipartisan compromiser. The ammunition is there to blow this brand up.

Barack Obama had a chance to run a different kind of campaign and take public financing. He decided he'd rather take the money and run. He broke his word and took the money. He had a chance to have an elevated discourse with a dozen non traditional debates, but decided he was too busy with his conventional campaign. After saying he would debate John McCain "anywhere, anytime" he broke his word. All the big bipartisan compromises have been made without Barack Obama's help. Immigration, the judicial filibuster, Obama has been MIA. He has voted robotically with the leadership making no break with his party. The emperor has no clothes.

John McCain can show how he has been the change agent. He has lobbied for the successful surge strategy in Iraq. He has broken with his party on major issues like Immigration, climate change, and torture. He has achieved change with Campaign Finance Reform, tobacco regulation, scuttling the corrupt Boeing Deal, investigating Jack Abramoff and I have to invoke again his support for the surge while other politicians squirmed.

Now a simple question. can anyone tell me Barack Obama's position on Iraq? This week's equivocations coupled with the announcement that he will have more information for us after he goes to Iraq leaves the American people with a candidate for one of the two major parties without a clear position on Iraq just months out before the election. His position is in limbo.

The election will not be about John McCain. Obama is the dominant figure this year. There is 120 days before the election, the McCain campaign will take every opportunity to tell the voters about Obama's discredited campaign.