יום שני, 31 באוקטובר 2016

Clinton abandons pivot to positive campaign

Email probe torpedoes plan to give people 'something to vote for,' as she escalates attacks on Trump.

"Let’s not get distracted from the real choice in this election,” Hillary Clinton said

Scaring voters to the polls was not how Hillary Clinton planned to begin the final week before Election Day.

After establishing a durable lead over an opponent beset by allegations of sexual assault, Clinton thought she could close out a grueling, 18-month campaign on a rare positive note about her history-making candidacy, and her vision for better future for the country.

But then FBI Director James Comey ripped that plan apart. Friday’s shocking revelation that the FBI was reviewing new evidence in the old probe of Clinton’s private State Department email server — and that the evidence involved messages on the laptop of Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s husband, disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner — has blocked Clinton’s final attempted pivot to the positive, which she has struggled with throughout the campaign.

Instead of giving the country "something to vote for," as she has promised, Clinton went back to the well of what has served her best during tough moments: whacking Donald Trump hard on whether he is responsible enough to control the nuclear codes; highlighting his erratic personality; and stirring anxiety about the threat he would pose to the entire world order if elected president.

“I am running against a man who says he doesn’t understand why we can’t use nuclear weapons,” Clinton said Monday, addressing a crowd of about 3,000 supporters at Kent State University. “Even the prospect of an actual nuclear war doesn’t seem to bother Donald Trump ... Let’s not get distracted from the real choice in this election.”

Fear was the letter of the day on an unseasonably warm Halloween day in Ohio. Introducing Clinton at her first rally of the day, Bruce Blair, a former U.S. Air Force Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile launch control officer, said he “would live in constant fear of his making a bad call” if Trump was elected president.

The Odds Of An Electoral College-Popular Vote Split Are Increasing

We’ve written about this before, but I wanted to call your attention to it again because the possibility of an Electoral College-popular vote split keeps widening in our forecast. While there’s an outside chance that such a split could benefit Clinton if she wins the exact set of states that form her “firewall,” it’s far more likely to benefit Donald Trump, according to our forecast. Thus, as of early Monday evening, our polls-only model gave Hillary Clinton an 85 percent chance of winning the popular vote but just a 75 percent chance of winning the Electoral College. There’s roughly a 10 percent chance of Trump’s winning the White House while losing the popular vote, in other words.

As an illustration of this, we can compare Clinton’s current margins in our polls-only forecast against President Obama’s performance in 2012. Clinton — despite Trump’s recent improvement in the polls — leads by 4.7 percentage points in the national popular vote, a wider margin than Obama’s 3.9-point victory over Mitt Romney in 2012.

But Clinton is performing worse than Obama in 10 of the 12 states that were generally considered swing states in 2012. In some cases, such as Florida and Pennsylvania, the difference is negligible. She’s underperforming Obama substantially, however, in Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and Nevada and to a somewhat lesser extent in Wisconsin and Minnesota. She’s considerably outperforming Obama in Virginia and North Carolina, conversely, but that’s not enough to make up for her losses elsewhere.

National popular vote+3.9+4.7
Traditional swing states

New Hampshire+5.6+5.1
North Carolina-2.0+1.3
New swing states

Clinton is underperforming Obama in traditional swing states

So how is Clinton doing better in the popular vote overall, despite failing to match Obama’s performance in most of these swing states? A lot of it is her strong performance in red states, or at least red states where a significant number of Romney voters were whites with college degrees. Thus, Clinton is putting states such as Arizona into play and — although she’s unlikely to win them — states such as Texas, Georgia and even Utah are liable to be much closer than we’re used to. Texas, in particular, can cause a potential Electoral College-popular vote skew because of its large and growing population. If the Democrat goes from losing Texas by 15 percentage points to losing it by 5 points instead, that produces a net gain of about 0.6 or 0.7 percentage points of the popular vote — larger than the margin by which Al Gore beat George W. Bush in the popular vote in 2000 — without changing the tally in the Electoral College.

Clinton’s also making gains among Hispanic voters, but she may not replicate Obama’s turnout among African-Americans. African-Americans, though, are more likely to be located in swing states than Hispanics are. Roughly half the U.S. Hispanic population is in Texas or California, another state where Clinton is likely to outperform Obama (she currently leads in California by 25 percentage points, while Obama carried the state by 23 points) without getting any additional Electoral College benefit from it.

There’s one big qualification: Our model doesn’t account for any sort of ground game advantage for Clinton in the swing states, other than to the extent that advantage is reflected in the polls. That could make a split a bit less likely than our model infers. Still, Trump’s coalition of white voters without college degrees are overrepresented in swing states, especially in the Midwest, while Clinton’s voters are not.

יום ראשון, 30 באוקטובר 2016

33 Things This Election Will Decide That Have Nothing to Do With Trump or Clinton

 2016 ballot
A marijuana wave, a bisexual governor, the first state carbon tax, and other small revolutions Nov. 8 could bring.

This year in particular, it’s easy to get swept away in the breathless coverage of the presidential race—Did you hear what Trump said? Is pneumonia going to cost Clinton the race? Miss Finland? More emails? Really?

If that’s all you’ve been paying attention to, 2016 could be one of the most surprising elections of your life. After November 8, medical marijuana could be legal in a majority of the country. America could elect its first openly bisexual governor. The food-stamp program could be dismantled. A tax on carbon could get enacted—without much support from environmentalists. Washington, D.C., could be one step closer to statehood. House Republicans could see their black membership completely wiped out.

For all the oxygen sucked up by the presidential race, it’s often these less-prominent elections that have the most immediate and lasting impact on American lives. Sometimes, they can spur national trends—like Hawai‘i’s first-in-the-nation initiative banning same-sex marriage—or inspire a backlash that remakes American politics—as happened with California’s hard-line anti-immigration Prop 187. Other times, they can aid in the snowballing of a movement, creating enough momentum behind a reform that it’s adopted nationally (as seems to be happening with marijuana amid an avalanche of state and local legalization efforts).

Here is a peek at some of the many issues at stake his election — ones that have nothing to do with Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, but which have the potential to reshape America in the years to come.

1. Medical marijuana will probably be legal in a majority of states—and the number of states with legalized recreational pot could double

As medical marijuana wins over skeptics—even conservatives like South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham are warming to the idea—it continues to get support in the voting booth. This year, the issue scored a place on ballots in Florida, North Dakota and Arkansas, and a “yes” in any one of those places would legalize medical marijuana in a majority of U.S. states. Given the trend of the past decade, it wouldn’t be surprising if recreational marijuana followed suit.

Right now, recreational marijuana is legal in four states. But with four more states voting on marijuana-related ballot initiatives this year, pot could soon be legal for an additional 33 million Americans. This year, states voting on marijuana ballot initiatives include Nevada, Arizona, California, Maine and Massachusetts.

2. Oregon could elect America’s first openly bisexual governor

True, Kate Brown is already Oregon’s governor—as secretary of state, she assumed the role after Governor John Kitzhaber resigned in a corruption scandal. But there’s a big difference between that and the validation that comes with winning an election while out of the closet. This is a test—running while openly bisexual—that no other gubernatorial candidate has faced in American history, and it’s looking likely that Brown will pass it: Polls currently have her up by double digits.

3. You may soon have a constitutional right to hunt and fish

One week before Indiana’s hunters mark the start of deer season, they’ll vote on whether to amend the state’s constitution to establish a defined right to hunt and fish. Similar initiatives will be on the ballot in Montana, which has a referendum over whether to prohibit the use of animal traps on state lands, and Kansas, which is mulling a proposed amendment that would ensure the right to hunt, fish and trap wildlife. If the measures pass, the right to hunt and fish will be recognized in at least 20 state constitutions.

4. For the first time, a state government might institute a carbon tax

Among environmentalists, one of the most controversial, big-picture policy proposals is a carbon tax—penalizing pollution by charging businesses for the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. Nationally, it has drawn interest from liberals and conservatives—and even some ginger support from oil companies—but it’s a political impossibility in Congress.

Which is why Washington’s Initiative 732 is so audacious. This year, voters across the state will decide whether to enact a tax on carbon—the first such statewide tax in the country. One would expect such an environmentalist proposal to win the support of the Democratic Party and the Sierra Club, organizations traditionally on board with policies that would curb climate change. But in Washington state, both groups, along with organized labor and social justice activists, are opposing the initiative.

The cause of the scrambled political alliances is the initiative’s plan for how to use any revenue the tax would generate. In an attempt to win bipartisan support, the current proposal would use the new revenue to fund tax cuts and tax breaks for businesses and employees hurt by the carbon tax. Ironically, that prescription has essentially assured that the support won’t be bipartisan. The left-wing groups opposing the plan would rather see the money going to clean energy and transit, as well as the minority communities often hit hardest by nearby refineries.

5. The number of states banning the death penalty could reach a new high: 21

Since 1846, when Michigan became the first English-speaking government in the Western world to ban capital punishment, the number of states with a moratorium on the practice has grown — albeit slowly and in small bursts. But 2016 is a critical year for the cause, as voters in California, Nebraska and Oklahoma will decide state initiatives on the topic. If California and Nebraska ban the use of capital punishment, that will make a total of 21 states where executions are illegal.

Oklahomans, on the other hand, are voting on whether to enshrine the death penalty in their state constitution, which would make it easier for the state to carry out executions in the future.

6. Colorado could implement the nation’s only statewide single-payer health care system

Supporters of ColoradoCares, the proposed single-payer health care system on the ballot this year in Colorado, say that they like Obamacare—they just don’t think the president’s plan goes far enough. If their proposed solution is given a green light by voters, it would increase the payroll tax in Colorado by 10 percentage points and provide premium-free health care to all citizens.

Unsurprisingly, such an audacious plan has its skeptics. Hospital associations, private insurance companies and even progressive politicians like Governor John Hickenlooper charge that the program isn’t financially feasible. They point to Vermont, which passed similar legislation in 2011 before giving up in 2014 for financial reasons. But some Coloradans—plus Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders—want the Colorado measure to succeed. If it does, it will be the only active statewide single-payer system in America.

7. The end of food stamps as we know it?

What’s at stake in control of the House? With congressional Republicans overwhelmed by the fallout from Hurricane Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan has had trouble getting people to pay attention to his “Better Way” agenda. That may change after the election. Presuming Ryan keeps his speakership and finds willing partners in the White House and Senate (which is unlikely), he could pursue his plan to overhaul the country’s food stamp system. The House GOP wants to split food stamps out of the farm bill and devolve the program to states, paid via block grants—a move that would also dismantle the urban-rural coalition that historically has gotten the bill to pass.

By ending the federal program that sends low-income families food assistance every month and putting that money instead in the hands of state governments, the plan would essentially end a federal effort that dates back to FDR’s New Deal.

8. The number of black Republicans in the U.S. House could drop from two to zero

When Will Hurd and Mia Love won election to the House in 2014, it was a historic moment for the Republican Party, whose House conference has historically lacked racial diversity. Fast forward two years, and both promising freshmen are locked in tight battles for reelection. In his district along the Texas-Mexico border, Hurd faces former Democratic Rep. Pete Gallego, in what is widely regarded as the Lone Star State’s sole competitive House race. In Utah, Love, a charismatic speaker whose star is rising in conservative circles, faces a rematch against Doug Owens, her 2014 opponent. While she’s currently ahead in most polls, the sizable X-factor for Utah Republicans is how Trump—a candidate widely disliked by the state’s influential Mormon population—affects down-ballot Republicans.

9. Maine might become America’s biggest voting experiment

Fed up with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump? Interested in voting for a third-party candidate, but don’t want to risk throwing the election to the candidate you dislike the most? An experiment in Maine could offer a solution: Question 5 on the state ballot proposes replacing Maine’s current electoral system with ranked-choice voting, allowing voters to express their numerical preferences for all state offices, including U.S. senators and U.S. representatives. When ballots are tallied, if no candidate has more than 50 percent of voters’ first choices, then the least-popular candidate will be eliminated. His or her supporters would have their top-ranked candidate crossed off their ballots, and their votes would fall to their second-ranked candidates.

Supporters believe that ranked-choice voting empowers third parties and gives voters more options. Detractors believe that there’s nothing wrong with the simple “majority or plurality rules” setup right now, and point to studies linking ranked-choice voting to lower voter turnout.

While Maine would be the first state to adopt such a system, San Francisco, Oakland, St. Paul and Minneapolis currently use ranked-choice voting, as does the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in selection of the Academy Award for Best Picture.

10. Background-check loopholes on gun purchases could be closed in a fifth of the country

Both Republican-backed and Democrat-backed bills to reform America’s background-check system failed this year in the Senate, so gun control advocates are taking the fight to the states. Maine and Nevada are poised to become the ninth and 10th states requiring universal background checks, and Californians will decide whether to join New York, Connecticut and Washington, D.C., in requiring background checks for ammunition purchases.

11. Massachusetts could be the first state to regulate how chickens and cows live

Massachusetts isn’t a large producer of eggs or meat, but animal-rights groups and national trade associations are paying close attention to the state this year. Question 3 on the ballot would require giving farm animals enough space to lie down, stand up, extend their limbs and turn around — essentially banning inhumane confined animal feeding operations.

Proponents don’t think that is asking for much, but opponents insist it would substantially raise egg prices because farms from outside the state would have to comply if they wished to import and sell their products in Massachusetts. The Humane Society of the United States has poured more than a million dollars into the “yes” campaign, and if the measure passes, it could soon show up on ballots in other states.

12. The first Latina could be elected to the U.S. Senate

It depends on the outcome of Senate elections in California and Nevada, but 2017 could see the first Latina member of the U.S. Senate.

In California, Democratic Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez is running to succeed outgoing Senator Barbara Boxer. Due to the oddities of California’s electoral system, her general-election matchup pits her against California Attorney General Kamala Harris, a fellow Democrat. Polls currently have Sanchez down by double digits, but even if she loses, history could be made in the state next door.

Former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto is locked in a tight race against Republican Rep. Joe Heck for the Senate seat being vacated by Harry Reid. Most recent polls give Masto a slight edge, and if those numbers hold—and Loretta Sanchez loses in California—Cortez Masto would become the first Latina to serve in the United States Senate.

13. As state referendums become more common in the U.S., California could push direct democracy one step further

Since 1996, California has averaged an eye-popping 18 statewide ballot propositions every two years. That could intensify after 2016: This year, Proposition 53 would give even more control to voters. Under its language, any infrastructure project costing more than $2 billion would automatically require voter approval.

In the foreseeable future, this would require a ballot measure to approve any major infrastructure project in the state—including, notably, existing plans for a major water tunnel project in central California and the high-speed rail project that Sacramento has discussed for years. The power to fund big budget items could now be in the hands of Californians, and that alone would be an unprecedented experiment in direct democracy.

14. New funding for high-risk, high-reward biomedical research could die in the Senate

If the Senate shifts to Democratic control—depending on the results of the lame-duck session—it could signal the death knell for the 21st Century Cures legislation, which passed the House but is being held up in the Senate by a partisan budget conflict. Democratic leadership in the Senate supports the bill, but it isn't particularly passionate about it, and the legislation might not be the priority for Democrats that it has been under the stewardship of Republican Senators Lamar Alexander and Bill Cassidy.

15. Washington and South Dakota may introduce new public financing of political campaigns

Currently, South Dakota imposes no limits on individual contributions to parties and PACs. But if Ballot Measure 22 passes, not only will there be a $2,000 limit, the state’s entire campaign finance system will be overhauled. Measure 22 would allow voters to direct up to $12 million of state funding in the form of $50 vouchers to candidates of their choice. To accept those vouchers, candidates would have to waive most traditional fundraising methods.

Washington state is proposing a similar “democracy credits” system, and could also cap campaign contributions from lobbyists and government contractors to a mere $100, an effort to curb “pay to play” corruption.

16. Cigarettes could get a whole lot more expensive for 51.4 million Americans

Thirty years ago, there were nearly 180,000 tobacco farms in the U.S. Today, that number is closer to 10,000. Unfortunately for Big Tobacco, that trend looks to continue: Cigarettes are already one of the most heavily taxed products in the U.S., but that hasn't stopped tobacco tax measures from making it on the ballots in four states this November.

Cigarette taxes could increase by $2 per pack in California, by $1.75 per pack in Colorado, by 60 or 23 cents in Missouri—where 1 in 4 residents are smokers—and by $1.76 in North Dakota.

17. Washington, D.C., could take a big step toward statehood

After years of decrying the sad state of taxation without congressional representation for D.C. residents, Mayor Muriel Bowser decided to try a new, old method to push for statehood. Modeling the approach on the one Tennessee used in 1796, when the territory first approved a state constitution and then applied for statehood, D.C. ballots will give voters the opportunity to authorize the City Council to approve a constitution for the proposed state of New Columbia.

It may not be enough to move Congress to grant statehood to the District, but longtime advocates for the cause are holding out hope that a clear mandate from the city’s residents could force the government into action.

18. California’s porn industry could be forced to use condoms

In 2012, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation pushed Measure B through Los Angeles County, requiring actors in pornographic films to wear condoms in all scenes depicting penetrative sex. Now, the foundation wants to expand the regulation statewide.

Unsurprisingly, the adult film industry thinks the proposed regulation is a horrible idea. Perhaps more surprisingly, though, the state’s Democratic and Republican parties share their opposition to the proposal. But if voters say yes, then the nation’s largest adult film industry would have a choice: Go underground, leave the state, or invest in safe sex.

19. The Senate will almost certainly get its first biracial, and first Indian-American, woman

Kamala Harris is a trailblazing Democrat currently in her second term as California’s attorney general—she is the first Asian-American and first African-American woman to hold the position. In the race to succeed retiring Senator Barbara Boxer, Harris locked up most of the Democratic Party’s heavy hitters early on, including Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Joe Biden and President Barack Obama, and that support has thrust her into a double-digit lead in the open Senate race.

If elected, she’ll make history as just the second African-American woman to serve in the U.S. Senate, as well as the first Indian-American and first biracial woman elected to the chamber. And if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, you can count on her to be part of a Washington power couple of sorts: her sister, Maya Harris, is one of Clinton’s top policy advisers.

20. Several states that have opted out of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion could flip their positions

Medicaid expansion was a major victory for President Obama in his push for health care reform, but not even the president can force every state to accept the expansion. As of today, 19 states (mostly with Republican governors) have opted out of the expansion, but in a few—such as Georgia, North Carolina, and Missouri—possible shakeups in state legislatures and governors’ houses could tip the balance in favor of expansion. Even crimson-red Alabama might choose to opt in.

21. The momentum behind soda taxes could go down the drain

When the liberal bastion of Berkeley, California, imposed the nation's first soda tax in 2014, it was a defeat for the soft-drink industry, but not altogether surprising. It makes sense that a notoriously crunchy college town would be the first domino to fall. But if the industry believed the damage could be contained there, they were wrong: Earlier this year, Philadelphia's City Council followed Berkeley's footsteps, enacting its own version of the soda tax.

Now, Big Soda faces a supersized obstacle: a three-front war in California. Voters in San Francisco, Oakland and Albany will weigh in on the sugary sin tax this November. Both the pro and anti sides have their wallets at the ready for the upcoming showdown: The beverage industry has already spent more than $30 million this election cycle, and anti-soda crusader Michael Bloomberg has personally contributed $9 million to the cause.

22. Your doctor could legally help end your life in one-sixth of the country

Colorado voters will decide via a statewide referendum in November whether to enact “Death with Dignity” legislation that allows terminally ill patients to receive life-ending treatment from their doctors. If the measure passes, Colorado will join Washington, Oregon, California and Vermont as the only states with such laws on the books (Montana also allows assisted suicide, but via a court ruling rather than legislation). Next year it’s likely that even more of the nation will join their ranks: the legislatures of at least 20 states are considering the issue.

23. Minimum wage raises could soon be coming to 23 states — and the minimum wage could actually go down in South Dakota

The federal minimum wage of $7.25 hasn’t budged in seven years, and many states aren’t waiting for Congress to push it higher. Voters in Colorado, Arizona, and Maine will decide whether to increase the minimum wage to $12 by 2020, and Washingtonians will consider raising it to $13.50.

If these measures succeed, 14 states will have scheduled future increases in the minimum wage, along with eight others with plans to annually adjust their minimum wages as the cost of living rises.

One state, South Dakota, will vote on whether to decrease the minimum wage by a dollar for workers under the age of 18.

24. States will decide whether to grant special tax exemptions to seniors, first responders and other interest groups

The idea isn’t entirely new: after 9/11, Congress authorized major tax breaks for first responders, survivors and their families. Now, voters in some states are considering granting property tax exemptions to a variety of politically powerful groups: Senior citizens and first responders in Florida; the surviving spouses of first responders in Louisiana; and the spouses of public employees killed in the line of duty in Virginia could all receive property tax exemptions if voters signal their consent on Election Day.

25. Schools could get a lot more money in eight states

The economy has largely recovered from the Great Recession, but education funding has not. At least 23 states provide less general-education funding today than they did the year the economy tanked.

Now, some states want to fix that problem, but there are disputes over how to raise the money. Ballot initiatives in California, New Mexico and Rhode Island would issue bonds; an initiative in Oregon would tax corporations; Oklahoma would raise its sales tax; and North Dakota would divert some of its newfound oil wealth to the cause.

Billions in education funding is on the line, and the initiatives’ supporters and opponents have already pooled more than $50 million in campaign contributions.

26. Atlantic City could get another nail in the coffin

In the past two decades, more than a dozen casinos have opened in New York, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Now, voters could give the green light for more casinos in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and voters in New Jersey face a choice: Public Question 1 would allow two new casinos to be built in New Jersey outside of Atlantic City.

Opponents to the New Jersey measure say that breaking Atlantic City’s statewide monopoly would doom the town, while proponents contend that new casinos are Atlantic City’s only hope, because one third of the revenue the state gets from them would go to an Atlantic City revitalization fund.

But with increasing competition from other casinos—like those on ballots in Rhode Island and Massachusetts—it’s hard to know if New Jersey’s proposed plan could realistically raise enough revenue to revive the city of Donald Trump’s failed Taj Mahal, which shuttered its windows for good earlier this fall.

27. Voters will decide whether there should be an age limit for judges

In some communities, this election is turning out to be something of a referendum on an issue that doesn’t get much coverage: age limits for judges. As of today, 32 states have enacted age limits for judges, and some of them are beginning to regret it: Pennsylvania voters could raise the maximum age from 70 to 75, and Oregon could repeal its age limit of 75 altogether. Alabama is considering ballot initiatives that would change the existing age limits for both some of its judges and civic servants. Supporters argue that people are living longer, medicine has improved the quality of life for senior citizens, and therefore it only makes sense that judges can serve longer.

28. California will push the upper limits of how much it can tax its wealthiest residents

When Californians voted for Proposition 30 in 2012, it created four high-income tax brackets that would be effective for seven years. The top bracket, a 13.3 percent charge on income over $1 million, is easily the highest state tax in the country. Now, voters have the opportunity to extend the high-income tax hikes through 2030. If they do, the question is whether other blue states will follow. Maine, for its part, will also be voting on whether to raise the income tax by 3 percent on household income over $200,000.

29. Washington could enact one of the nation’s toughest gun laws ever

In 2014, in the wake of the UCSB shooting, California Governor Jerry Brown passed a law allowing family members and law enforcement to petition a judge to issue Gun Violence Restraining Orders, which can temporarily prohibit a person at danger of hurting themselves or others from purchasing or possessing a firearm. Now, Washington state has a similar initiative on the ballot, the first time the proposal has ever been placed directly in front of voters.

30. A state government might set a groundbreaking cap on drug prices

Just because Medicare is legally prevented from negotiating drug prices—which is one reason why pharmaceutical costs are going up—doesn’t mean that California can’t.

In what is becoming one of the most expensive initiative campaigns in the country’s history—with $123 million raised and counting—Californians are considering an unprecedented rebuke to the Big Pharma. Proposition 61 would prohibit the state from buying drugs above the price given to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, which receives an average discount of 24 percent off manufacturers’ prices.

Many opponents have no sympathy for pharmaceutical companies, but warn that there is no telling how the pharmaceutical industry would react—possibly hurting Californians in the long term. But if the proposition passes, it would be the largest legal reproach of Big Pharma yet, and could set a precedent. It’s the nation’s largest state by far, a huge market for medicine, is a center of the industry, and its price caps could have an impact that reverberates through health care markets throughout the nation—making the proposal meaningful both practically and symbolically.

Next year, Ohioans will vote on a near-identical ballot measure.

31. The country's only statewide ban on plastic bags could be thrown out

Every county of Hawaii has banned single-use plastic bags, but technically California can still become the first state to implement the ban this November. The legislation was enacted by the California State Legislature, but could be overturned by a “no” vote from Californians. If the proposition passes, stores could only sell recyclable paper bags or reusable bags to its customers.

32. Former refugees could arrive in legislatures

Refugees in the U.S., stuck in the spotlight thanks to Donald Trump, may be ready for 2016 to end. But the election could give them cause to celebrate: several refugees are en route to becoming elected officials.

Bao Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American born in a Thailand refugee camp, is the young Democratic mayor of Garden Grove, California, and is running for Congress in the state's 46th District. If he wins, he could become the second Vietnamese-American ever to serve in Congress.

Another promising race is in Minnesota, where 33-year-old Ilhan Omar, a Somali-born woman who as a child spent four years in a refugee camp, is expected to win a seat in the state Legislature. If elected, she would become America’s first Somali-American state legislator.

33. Vermont could get the world’s spaciest baseball player as governor

Those who know Bill "Spaceman" Lee aren't shocked to hear about the former Boston Red Sox pitcher's gubernatorial bid in Vermont. Observers have long thought Lee’s head is in the clouds: In 1971, Lee, while being interviewed by reporters in the Fenway Park locker room, abruptly switched the conversation from baseball to the Apollo 15 moon landing (hence the nickname, “Spaceman”).

In 1998, the Spaceman ran for president as the nominee of the Rhinoceros Party. His platform included bulldozing the Rocky Mountains so Alberta, Canada, could receive more sunlight. His slogan was, “No guns, no butter. Both can kill.”

Now, his name (nickname included) is on the Vermont ballot, this time as the gubernatorial nominee of the Liberty Union Party—the same party that once nominated Bernie Sanders in a failed gubernatorial effort. Lee has also changed up his pitch: "So far left, we're right." He promises that if elected, he will not do much.

Will the Spaceman win the race for governor? Probably not. According to Vermont Public Radio, he is currently polling at 2 percent. On the other hand, that might be enough to swing the race to Republican Phil Scott, who is neck-and-neck with Democratic nominee Sue Minter.

יום שבת, 29 באוקטובר 2016

Election Update: Four Ways Forward For Clinton After The FBI News

I’ve heard from people who wonder whether Friday’s news – that FBI director James Comey was investigating additional emails that may be pertinent to Hillary Clinton’s private email server — might have come too late in the campaign to be reflected in the polls, and therefore in our forecast, before Election Day. While the situation isn’t ideal, there’s probably just enough time left to measure the initial impact. In the past, major developments in the campaign have generally taken somewhere around a week to be fully reflected in our forecast, give or take a couple of days depending on the volume of polling. Because we expect there to be an awful lot of polling during the remaining 10 days of the campaign, and because our forecast is designed to react fairly aggressively to late polling shifts, we should have a pretty good read on the initial reaction to the news by the middle of next week.

But while I’m not that worried about the model having enough time to account for the reaction to the FBI news, I am worried about whether it will capture the reaction to the reaction as the story continues to develop. The thing about Friday’s news is that it left a lot of questions unanswered. Comey’s letter to Congress was cryptic, and his motivations for sending it were uncertain. There are conflicting reports about whether the emails include messages to or from Clinton, how many emails there are, whether they’re new or something the FBI has looked at already, and whether the FBI requires a court order to investigate them in more detail. Even the reporting that the investigation pertains to devices owned by ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner and his wife, Clinton aide Huma Abedin, is based on anonymous sourcing. There’s a lot we don’t know.

It seems to me as though there are four basic courses the story might take. As a framing device, I’m going to conceive of these as four strategies available to the Clinton campaign, although of course the campaign isn’t the only actor here – the Trump campaign, the FBI, the news media, down-ballot candidates and so forth also have some choices to make.
Strategy No. 1: Demand more details from Comey

This was Clinton’s initial strategy during her brief press conference on Friday, where she said that “the American people deserve to get the full and complete facts immediately.”

This approach carries a couple of advantages. First, Clinton may reasonably believe that the details of the case aren’t as bad as the headlines. Voters may fill in the blanks when words like “FBI,” “Clinton” and “investigation” appear in the same headline, even if there’s more smoke than fire to the case. But as more information about the case has come to light, the implications seem less severe for Clinton than they did at first.

Another advantage is that Clinton may get credit from the media for appearing as though she has nothing to hide. There’s a whole school of “savvy” political reporting that holds that it isn’t the crime that matters, but the cover-up. In this view, a relatively minor scandal can become a serious “political problem” if the candidate doesn’t handle it appropriately by showing the right amount of openness and contrition. To say the least, I’m not a fan of this approach, which diverts voters’ attention from the evidence and instead inserts the reporter or pundit as the equivalent of a figure-skating judge who grades the candidates based on artistic impression. But it’s a widespread paradigm in the press, and Clinton could gain more sympathetic coverage if she plays by the media’s rules.

The risk is that by continuing to litigate the case, Clinton could keep the story in the news, which could be a negative for her even if further details prove to be exculpatory. At this point in the election, it’s mostly so-called low-information voters who are still making up their minds — not necessarily those who will read the fine print. And in general this year, candidates have tended to lose ground in the polls whenever they’ve been in the headlines. A day that the media spends talking about Comey and emails is also a day that they don’t spend talking about Trump, and his many vulnerabilities.
Strategy No. 2: Rile up Democratic partisans by attacking Comey and other targets

While Clinton herself hasn’t yet attacked Comey’s motivations, her top surrogates and advisors like John Podesta are already doing so. There’s the risk of hypocrisy here given that some of these same Clinton surrogates were praising and defending Comey after the FBI chose not to charge Clinton in July. But the target for arguments like these is not undecided voters who are looking for logical consistency, so much as Democratic partisans who are looking for reasons to feel aggrieved. One reason that scandals and gaffes often don’t have as much impact on the polls as pundits expect is because we live in a highly partisan era, and even highly negative news stories can sometimes wind up motivating a candidate’s own supporters to vote.

Clinton and her surrogates could also take a cue from the Republican playbook by attacking the media for way it’s covered the story. But that’s a riskier strategy for a Democrat, especially given that the public is more inclined to think the media is biased against Trump than against Clinton. Still, the longer the story remains in the news, the more risk there is of fatigue or backlash against it, and Clinton can potentially gain sympathy among Democratic partisans by protesting that the media is obsessed with her “damn emails” at the expense of everything else at stake in the election.
Strategy No. 3: Let it go

This is the opposite of strategy No. 1. Here the Clinton campaign lays low after calculating that the story will die of its own accord. And it may be what we see if the campaign doesn’t see much impact from the FBI news in public and internal polls by early next week. The Clinton campaign woke up Friday morning with a lead of 5 or 6 percentage points nationally. The campaign could afford to lose a point or two, especially if it expects the impact to fade by Election Day (although that may be less true for down-ballot races, where the margin in many states is within 1 or 2 percentage points).

It can be easy to underestimate how quickly the media can turn from one story to the next. Many stories that seem major at the time wind up garnering no more than two or three days of coverage, provided there’s nothing further to perpetuate them — or if there’s something else that pre-empts them.
Strategy No. 4: Drop an opposition research bomb on Trump

Speaking of which, I often see reporters speculating or predicting that the Clinton campaign is sitting on one or two major pieces of opposition research about Trump, which they’ll leak to the press at a time of maximum strategic advantage. There’s reason to be skeptical of these claims: If the Clinton campaign had something great, wouldn’t they have released it already, especially given that people are already voting in many states?

But the FBI news may slightly increase the chance that we’ll see counter-attacks against Trump. Especially if the polls do tighten, the usually risk-averse Clinton campaign may become more willing to push a story that has some risk of backfiring (say, a serious accusation against Trump that isn’t backed up by more than one source). News organizations and their potential sources may also become more willing to run with these stories if the election becomes closer, taking on more legal and reputational risk, whereas they’d bypass them if Clinton seemed to have the election in the bag.

If the Clinton campaign does have something major on Trump — or even something minor — there’s a lot of art and science involved in when it drops the story. Too soon, and it could get swept beneath the undertow of the FBI story. Too late, and it might look desperate. But one way the campaign could end is with a whole crescendo of major stories dropping. That could make things complicated for pollsters and forecasters.

יום שישי, 28 באוקטובר 2016

Antibiotic waste is polluting India and China's rivers; big pharma must act

Pollution from drugs factories, many in India and China, is causing the spread of anti-microbial resistance. Pharma companies are under pressure to act
E coli bacteria
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A strain of the E coli bacteria. Pollution from pharmaceutical production is a factor in the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Antibiotic-resistant superbugs are a fundamental threat to global health, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon recently told a general assembly meeting. Failure to address the problem, he said, would make it “difficult if not impossible” to provide universal healthcare, “and it will put the sustainable development goals in jeopardy”.

UN meeting tackles the 'fundamental threat' of antibiotic-resistant superbugs
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For pharmaceutical companies the attention on antimicrobial resistance has also brought a focus on one of its key drivers: the unabated environmental pollution of drug factories in developing countries.

In India and China, where a large proportion of antibiotics are produced, the poorly regulated discharge of untreated wastewater into soils and rivers is causing the spread of antibiotic ingredients which cause bacteria to develop immunity to antibiotics, creating superbugs.

A study of wastewater factories in China found that antibiotic-resistant bacteria were not only escaping purification but also breeding. For every bacterium that entered one waste treatment plant, four or five antibiotic-resistant bacteria were released into the water system, tainting water, livestock and communities.

Superbugs are able to travel quickly through air and water, aboard airplanes and through global food supply chains. By 2050, the total death toll worldwide as the result of contracting an infection that proves resistant to treatment is expected to reach 10 million people (pdf).

Environmental pollution is now a material issue for the pharmaceuticals sector. Global investors such as Nordea and BNP Paribas have raised concern about the potential damage to global health and environment, and are worried that a local factory pollution scandal in India could affect the value of a global pharma company in their portfolio. As the world goes on a global quest to combat antimicrobial resistance, the focus on industry pollution will continue grow.

Last month 13 pharmaceutical companies signed a declaration (pdf) calling for collective action on antimicrobial resistance. They committed to review their manufacturing and supply chains and assess good practice in controlling releases of antibiotics into the environment. They also committed to establish science and risk-based targets for discharge concentrations of antibiotics and to reduce the environmental impact of manufacturing discharges by 2020.

Most global sectors now have a corporate platform where companies seek to tackle intractable sustainability challenges. For pharma companies, the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Initiative (PSCI) was set up to demand better social and environmental conditions in the communities from where drugs are supplied. However, only 12% of the 140 largest global pharmaceutical companies are members of PSCI according to sector analysts.

Voluntary corporate initiatives are necessary but by no means sufficient to address the industry challenge of environmental pollution. This is partly because not every company signs up and partly because better government policies and law enforcement on the ground are necessary to ensure voluntary commitments are achievable.

The governments where global pharma companies are domiciled – including the UK, US and Switzerland – must play a role. Companies must collaborate with governments to encourage and support a tougher stance on law enforcement in developing counties. At Earth Security Group we call this business diplomacy for sustainable development.

The aid budget of agencies such as the UK Department for International Development could be used to strengthen pollution controls in sourcing countries such as India. This would be a win-win for health in developing countries and for national business interests abroad.

Many in the global pharmaceutical industry have called upon governments to collaborate on the threat of the increasing antibiotic resistance, through their Declaration on Combating Antimicrobial Resistance. The signatories of this declaration and PSCI must now also urgently work with governments to achieve the goal of curbing environmental pollution in drug manufacturing

Ultimately, business diplomacy goes beyond corporate philanthropy and corporate social responsibility, by focusing on the deeper governance failures that threaten progress on sustainable development as well as the license to operate of global companies. Pharmaceutical companies now need to cooperate with governments, to root out pollution from their global supply chains.

This article was amended on 26 October to clarify that the Declaration on Combating Antimicrobial Resistance, and not the PSCI, has called on governments to collaborate on antimicrobial resistance.

יום חמישי, 27 באוקטובר 2016

Clinton eyes Biden for secretary of state

'They are spending a lot of time figuring out the best way to try to persuade him to do it if she wins,' a source tells CNN.

Joe Biden, who chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before joining the administration, is one of the most experienced and respected Democrats on the world stage.

Joe Biden is at the top of the internal short list Hillary Clinton’s transition team is preparing for her pick to be secretary of state, a source familiar with the planning tells CNN.

This would be the first major Cabinet candidate to go public for a campaign that’s insisted its focus remains on winning the election, and perhaps the most central choice for a potential president who was a secretary of state herself.

Neither Clinton nor her aides have yet told Biden. According to the source, they’re strategizing about how to make the approach to the vice president, who almost ran against her in the Democratic primaries but has since been campaigning for her at a breakneck pace all over the country in these final months.

"He'd be great, and they are spending a lot of time figuring out the best way to try to persuade him to do it if she wins,” said the source familiar with the transition planning.

The vice president, who chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before joining the administration, is one of the most experienced and respected Democrats on the world stage. He’s also coming to what would be the close of a 44-year career in Washington, first with six terms in the Senate and then two terms as President Barack Obama’s closest adviser — and the keeper of the portfolio on some of the most difficult international issues, including Iraq and Ukraine.

Two Lessons for the Next US President

 By Chris Patten*

NAGASAKI – Looking out of my window across the harbor of the remarkable city of Nagasaki, Japan, two thoughts of considerable relevance to the next American president come to mind.

Nagasaki has endured the worst of humanity. In August 1945, a plutonium bomb decimated the city, causing massive physical damage and untold human suffering. Since then, however, the city has exemplified the best of human achievement, rising from the rubble thanks to the spirit and enterprise of Japanese men and women, who trade the things that they build – for example, at the Mitsubishi shipyards – with the rest of the world.

But Nagasaki – and Japan, more broadly – has not always been open to the world, reaching across the ocean to connect with other countries, from near neighbors like China to faraway allies like the United States. For centuries, Japanese minds, and Japanese borders, were distinctly closed.

On a hillside in Nagasaki, there is a stark reminder of this radical closed-mindedness. A monument commemorates the martyrdom of 26 Roman Catholics, who were crucified at the end of the sixteenth century as part of the effort to stamp out the growth of Christianity in Japan. The American film director Martin Scorsese is now completing an adaptation of these events, based on Shusaku Endo’s novel Silence.

Japan’s embrace of modernity came centuries later, with the decades-long Meiji restoration that began in the late 1860s. Rather than losing touch with its own culture and traditions, however, Japan merged the two, moving forward without losing sight of the past. This balance is reflected in Japanese architecture, which is thoroughly modern, yet steeped in tradition.

So what does all this have to do with the US election? For one thing, the US, like some parts of Europe, is now at risk of entering its own period of closed minds and closed borders. While the more moderate Hillary Clinton is likely to defeat the recklessly isolationist Donald Trump, the backlash against openness that has fueled Trump’s rise will not dissipate on its own.

Of course, a President Clinton, along with other policymakers, would do well to underscore the leading role that diversity has played in driving America’s success. Providing a haven for people from all over the world, where all people are subject to the same rules and laws, has been a key strength of the US for most of its history. This idea is reflected in the words on the country’s seal: E Pluribus Unum (from many, one).

But Clinton will also have to address some of the real grievances that spurred the backlash against economic openness. An infrastructure program, by creating huge numbers of productive jobs and distributed wealth, would be a good start – one that would be far easier to achieve if her Democratic Party also won the Senate. With such an approach, the US could revive its reputation as the “land of opportunity,” which has been so critical to US soft power in the past.

As she works to overcome rifts at home, Clinton will also have plenty of work to do abroad. Herein lies the second lesson of Nagasaki’s history: the overwhelming threat posed by nuclear weapons.

Today, it is North Korea that embodies that threat most acutely. That country’s volatile regime, led by the world’s most powerful juvenile delinquent, Kim Jong-un, not only possesses nuclear weapons, but is also working to develop long-range delivery capacity. Recent tests of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles – including the country’s most powerful nuclear test ever, carried out last month – show just how close the Hermit Kingdom is to achieving its goals.

Even if Clinton takes a restrained approach to the use of force in international disputes, as President Barack Obama has over the last eight years, she would not be able to stand by idly if North Korea had the capacity to launch a long-range nuclear strike. America would have to protect its Asian allies (not to mention its own citizens, were the North able to strike the US mainland).

But unilateral action would certainly not be the best option. It would be far better to persuade China to intervene to bring Kim’s regime to heel. That would demand some deft diplomacy.

Chinese officials still insist that they cannot control North Korea. That may be true, up to a point. Yet it is clear that no one has as much clout in Pyongyang as China’s Communist Party bosses. And it is very possible that, behind closed doors, Chinese officials are already testing their ability to manipulate some of the shadowy figures surrounding Kim, who appears increasingly paranoid about the possibility of a coup.

But China would be unlikely to agree to more direct intervention in North Korea without some quid pro quo. Perhaps America, with its Asian allies, could make some modest shift in their approach to China’s illegal pursuit of territorial claims in the South and East China Seas. This would, to be sure, be unpopular, particularly among China’s neighbors. But it might also be necessary to quell the North Korean nuclear threat. Defusing North Korea’s nuclear ambitions would be worth the sacrifice.

When viewing the world from the perspective of Nagasaki, the need to preserve plurality and openness, while advancing America’s strategic pivot to Asia, becomes starkly clear. It is a perspective that the next US president should embrace. 

*Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong and a former EU commissioner for external affairs, is Chancellor of the University of Oxford.

יום שלישי, 25 באוקטובר 2016

Where Are The Undecided Voters?

Resultado de imagen para clinton trump undecided

Every new poll seems to provide support for one of two impressions of the race: one in which Hillary Clinton is pulling away toward a historic landslide, and another in which Clinton holds a lead but Donald Trump remains on the fringes of contention.

On the whole, the data released over the past several days suggests that the race may have tightened just the slightest bit. But this seems to be the result of Trump having seen his image rebound some among Republican voters, rather than having taken any votes away from Clinton. In fact, Clinton’s standing in our national polling average — 46 percent — is the highest it’s been all year, including when she was in the midst of her convention bounce. But Trump’s at 40 percent, about 1 percentage point better than a week ago, and — believe it or not — also not far from his high on the year (Trump peaked at 41 percent in late September).

Both candidates, in other words, are slowly gaining votes from undecided voters and from third-party candidates. Emphasis on “slowly,” because there are still a lot of these voters up for grabs. About 15 percent of the electorate isn’t yet committed to Clinton or Trump, as compared to just 5 percent who weren’t committed to President Obama or Mitt Romney at this point in 2012. That’s one of the reasons why our models still give Trump an outside chance at victory. In theory, with Clinton at “only” 46 percent of the vote, he could beat her by winning almost all of the undecided and third-party voters. (In practice, there’s no particular indication that these voters have Trump as their second choice.)

These undecideds, however, aren’t distributed evenly across the various states. Florida and North Carolina have relatively few of them, for example, while New Hampshire and Colorado have more. This could affect each campaign’s strategy over the final few weeks: In states with few undecideds, it’s mostly a matter of turning out your vote; in states with more of them, voters may still be open to persuasion.

Let’s look at some data using the adjusted polling average in each state from the FiveThirtyEight polls-only forecast. We’ll look at the 16 states that we term “states to watch” — already a fairly broad group that includes states with very dissimilar races, such as Maine and Utah — plus a few others that could be extreme reaches for each candidate: New Mexico for Trump, and Texas, Alaska, Indiana and Missouri for Clinton.

I’ve sorted the states by the combined number of undecided and third-party voters (from fewest to most). I’m deliberately blurring the distinction between these groups because third-party voters often have a weak commitment to their candidates and can be picked off by one of the major-party candidates. The exception is when the third-party candidate has a viable chance of winning, which probably applies only to Evan McMullin in Utah at this point. Henceforth, I’ll use the term “undecided” to refer to this combined group of undecided and third-party voters.

Florida 46.2% 42.8% 10.9%
North Carolina 45.3 42.7 11.9
Georgia 42.6 45.2 12.2
Pennsylvania 46.8 40.0 13.2
Nevada 44.8 41.8 13.4
Ohio 43.5 42.7 13.7
Missouri 40.2 45.3 14.5
Texas 40.2 45.3 14.5
Virginia 46.5 38.1 15.3
Arizona 42.1 42.0 15.9
Wisconsin 45.8 38.3 15.9
Indiana 38.4 45.3 16.3
New Hampshire 45.8 37.4 16.8
Minnesota 45.1 38.0 16.9
Iowa 41.3 41.7 17.0
Colorado 44.6 38.1 17.2
Michigan 45.1 36.9 18.0
Maine 44.9 36.6 18.5
New Mexico 43.7 33.3 23.0
Alaska 35.4 40.4 24.2
Utah 25.4 31.4 43.2 Which states’ voters have made up their minds?

The fewest undecideds are in Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Nevada. And that makes sense. These are states where both parties have their bases, with voters split heavily along racial, religious and educational lines. In these states, it’s mostly a competition to see whose base is a little larger and who can turn out more of their voters. Coincidentally or not, these states also have a lot of early voting, except for Pennsylvania. So you’re seeing a lot of campaign activity in most of these states, especially in Florida, North Carolina and Nevada. Campaigns generally think that by this late stage of the race, they can improve their margins more by focusing on turnout rather than persuasion — especially in early-voting states where the election has already begun.

The state with the most “undecided” voters is Utah, but most of them are actually McMullin voters. He has a real shot in the state (a 14 percent chance according to our polls-only model, and that’s probably too low), so he’ll probably hold on to the voters he has so far, or even pick up more. After that comes New Mexico, where Johnson has his largest residual share of support but has faded from contention, and Alaska. Trump isn’t a good fit for Alaska’s more libertarian-ish brand of conservatism, but it’s a real stretch for Clinton and, because it has just three electoral votes and is out of the way, isn’t likely to be the subject of any last-minute campaign activity. (Campaign nerds might remember Dick Cheney’s quixotic visit to Hawaii at the end of the 2004 campaign; Cheney and George W. Bush still lost the state by 9 percentage points.)

Among the more traditional swing states, Maine, Michigan, Colorado, Iowa and New Hampshire have more undecided voters than the others. You might notice that they have something in common: a lot of white voters, and particularly a lot of middle-class whites, which is one group that’s still relatively torn between the candidates.

These states are important because if there’s some sort of last-minute surge back toward Trump, he has more opportunity to make up ground in these states than in places like Pennsylvania, where more of the vote is locked in. There are Election Day scenarios where Clinton finds herself in unexpected trouble in one of her supposed firewall states such as Michigan or New Hampshire, but she squeaks by with a win in North Carolina or Florida because her turnout operation and early voting save the day. That might not be the way Clinton would draw things up, but it would still count as a win.

Overall, Clinton’s chances are 85 percent in our polls-only forecast and 83 percent in polls-plus, not meaningfully changed over the past few days.

Europe after Merkel

Rubén Weinsteiner

Next year, Germany will hold a federal election, and the new Bundestag will choose the country’s next chancellor. Whether or not Angela Merkel retains the role – at the moment, things are not looking good for her or her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) – one thing is certain: Germany’s chancellor will no longer be de facto Chancellor of Europe. That will profoundly change how Europe works – some of it for the better. But the disruption could be nasty.

It was not inevitable that a German chancellor would assert so much authority over the European Union. It was former Chancellor Helmut Kohl who made it so. After overseeing German unification in 1989-1990, he began to pursue what he viewed as his historical task of unifying Europe as well. Kohl led Europe, from agreement on the Maastricht Treaty in 1991 to critical decisions about the shape of the euro in 1998.

The concept of a common European currency could have died many times during those years. Kohl’s close associate Wolfgang Schäuble, who is now Germany’s finance minister, asserted in 1994 that only five countries – not including Italy – were ready to adopt the single currency. But Kohl pushed on, insisting that Italy be included.

Kohl’s successor, Gerhard Schröder, took a very different approach. Lacking any personal memories of World War II, he – like a growing share of Germans at the time – was confident that Germany could rely on itself, without continually reaffirming its ties to Europe.

Schröder actively pursued Germany’s national interests. He chastised the European Central Bank when it kept interest rates too high. And his government defied Europe’s fiscal rules – described, accurately, by then-European Commission President Romano Prodi as “stupid.” The German economy had come to a near-halt, and more austerity would have caused more – and possibly long-lasting – damage. Schröder nearly gutted the EU’s corporate takeover rules to protect Volkswagen. His only “pro-European” gesture was to wave Greece into the eurozone.

Early in her tenure, which began in November 2005, Merkel seemed to resemble Schröder more than Kohl. Much younger than Schröder and raised in East Germany, she was even less connected to the significance of “post-war Europe,” both in time and geography. Feeling no compulsion constantly to present her “pro-European” credentials, she was content to serve simply as German Chancellor.

At first, that worked just fine. European economies – including Germany – were riding a giant global economic and financial bubble. While virtually every country skirted the fiscal rules, Europeans believed that the euro was fueling economic growth and would eventually lead them to political union. Simply put, Europe did not need a chancellor.

That all changed with the post-2008 global economic recession, which exposed weaknesses in the monetary union’s structure. On top of the damage from the global economy’s woes, the eurozone was faced with a looming Greek government bankruptcy. By March 2010, it was clear that the Greek crisis was not going to resolve itself, and Merkel, slowly but surely, began to take charge.

She did not relish the task. On the contrary, she operated on the assumption that the euro was “a machine from hell” – a mess and a burden for her and her country. But she had little choice; whenever a major crisis-management decision had to be made, all eyes turned to her.

Merkel acted as European Chancellor, but always kept her focus on German interests. She understood that the German public would not tolerate its taxes being spent on Europe. Spending on Greece, in particular, touched a nerve. So Merkel did the bare minimum – just enough to prevent a meltdown, but far too little to put an end to the Greek or the broader euro crisis. As a result, the crisis continued to develop and take on new forms, including, most dangerously, in the banking sector in Italy, the “fault line of Europe.”

In late 2011, Merkel engineered the replacement of elected governments by technocrats in Greece and Italy. No one was happy, and political protest movements gained strength everywhere, including in Germany, where the right-wing, anti-euro Alternative for Germany (AfD) party was born in February 2013.

Merkel took a principled stand on the refugee crisis, accepting more than a million refugees into Germany. But she did so without consulting her European partners or her own citizens. She was soon punished at home. The CDU has lately suffered a string of humiliating losses in state elections, while the AfD has made substantial gains.

For now, Merkel retains her role as de facto European Chancellor, simply because there is no alternative. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi still seeks Merkel out when he wants “flexibility” on budget rules. British Prime Minister Theresa May’s first official overseas trip was to Berlin.

But both Germany and Europe are changing. The AfD’s recent gains have come by stirring xenophobic sentiments. Even if Merkel continues as German Chancellor after next year’s election, she will have much weaker support. Meanwhile, the European economy remains moribund, with the Italian fault line threatening to send shockwaves through Europe. Trust in European institutions has dissipated, and commercial ties among European countries have predictably eroded, as exporters look to more rapidly growing markets in Asia and the United States.
Germany’s next chancellor, whoever it is, will have neither German backing nor European acceptance to serve as European Chancellor. The first casualty could be Greece, which, in lieu of the debt relief that Merkel has been unable to deliver, may finally have to exit the eurozone, leading the entire EU into uncharted territory.

But the consequences may not be all bad. With no one in charge, the “stupid” fiscal rules will be more easily ignored. Such an expansion of national sovereignty could be a positive development, if it leads to what Harvard’s Larry Summers calls “responsible nationalism.” Eurozone governments will need to serve their citizens rather than some abstract European ideal, and live by the discipline of the ballot box and the market. A German as European Chancellor would only tear Europe further apart.

Rubén Weinsteiner

Panicking GOP makes major last-minute Senate investment


The Senate Leadership Fund, a powerful super PAC with ties to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is plowing a mammoth $25 million into seven congressional races

‘We’re going to go out guns blazing,' Mitch McConnell ally says.

Republicans, on the verge of losing the Senate, are plowing a mammoth $25 million into six races in a last-ditch attempt to stop Donald Trump from dragging the entire GOP down with him.

The investment from Senate Leadership Fund, a powerful super PAC with ties to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, comes as Democrats shift resources from Hillary Clinton’s now almost certain victory to down-ballot contests in hopes of delivering her a congressional majority.

In an interview on Tuesday afternoon, Steven Law, Senate Leadership Fund’s president and a close McConnell ally, acknowledged Republicans have a tough road to keep their majority — and said the spending push was designed to close a growing funding deficit. In numerous Senate battles, Democrats are outspending Republicans by millions of dollars.

“Over the last two weeks, we’ve seen every liberal Democratic group descend on these races,” Law said. “Democrats feel like the presidential race is in the bag for them and are looking for fresh game in the Senate.”

With just two weeks to go until Election Day, the Democratic cash advantage, Law said, was starting to have an effect, hurting Republican prospects across the board. He said the $25 million expenditure would narrow the GOP deficit but wouldn’t erase it. He also said he expected to make additional investments in the days to come, but he declined to provide further details.

In an indication of the challenge confronting Republicans, nearly all of Senate Leadership Fund’s spending, which stretches from Oct. 19 until Nov. 8, will come in defense of GOP-held seats.

The group’s biggest expenditure will be in Nevada, where it will spend around $7.5 million. That contest is razor thin, and Republicans have grown concerned that their candidate, Joe Heck, has lost ground after withdrawing his support for Donald Trump.

It will invest over $5 million in Pennsylvania, where GOP Sen. Pat Toomey is facing a tough reelection fight, and $4 million in Indiana, where Republicans are trying to halt a comeback bid by former Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh.

Other purchases will come in North Carolina, where it will book over $3 million in TV airtime, and in New Hampshire and Missouri, where it will reserve over $2 million apiece.
GOP candidates give up on Trump and run against Clinton

Buying commercial time at this late a stage in an election year does not come cheap. With so many candidates and political groups looking to invest, ad rates are expensive. “This isn’t a cheap date,” Law said.

Republicans have been heavily reliant on Senate Leadership Fund and two partnered groups, One Nation and Granite State Solutions. The trio of organizations have done the bulk of pro-GOP spending in Senate races over the course of the cycle, spending around $165 million. The Koch network and the Chamber of Commerce, two powerful GOP allies, are spending relatively little on TV ads during the final stretch, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which invested heavily early on in the campaign, now finds itself short of cash.

Law declined to specify which donors provided the $25 million but said it came from a broad array of contributors. In recent days, McConnell, alarmed by the prospect of losing control of the Senate, has been looking to gin up support from his considerable donor network.

Republican strategist Karl Rove, who is involved with Senate Leadership Fund, also assisted in the effort to raise the $25 million. The former George W. Bush adviser has been spending time in the super PAC’s offices as of late.

The group’s financial backers, Law said, understood that “we’re going to take casualties but that we’re going to go out guns blazing.”

Correction: The original story misstated the number of states Senate Leadership Fund is investing in. It is six, not seven.

The World Economy Without China

Is the Chinese economy about to implode? With its debt overhangs and property bubbles, its zombie state-owned enterprises and struggling banks, China is increasingly portrayed as the next disaster in a crisis-prone world.

I remain convinced that such fears are overblown, and that China has the strategy, wherewithal, and commitment to achieve a dramatic structural transformation into a services-based consumer society while successfully dodging daunting cyclical headwinds. But I certainly recognize that this is now a minority opinion.

For example, US Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew continues to express the rather puzzling view that the United States “can’t be the only engine in the world economy.” Actually, it’s not: the Chinese economy is on track to contribute well over four times as much to global growth as the US this year. But maybe Lew is already assuming the worst for China in his assessment of the world economy.

So what if the China doubters are right? What if China’s economy does indeed come crashing down, with its growth rate plunging into low single digits, or even negative territory, as would be the case in most crisis economies? China would suffer, of course, but so would an already-shaky global economy. With all the handwringing over the Chinese economy, it’s worth considering this thought experiment in detail.

For starters, without China, the world economy would already be in recession. China’s growth rate this year appears set to hit 6.7% – considerably higher than most forecasters have been expecting. According to the International Monetary Fund – the official arbiter of global economic metrics – the Chinese economy accounts for 17.3% of world GDP (measured on a purchasing-power-parity basis). A 6.7% increase in Chinese real GDP thus translates into about 1.2 percentage points of world growth. Absent China, that contribution would need to be subtracted from the IMF’s downwardly revised 3.1% estimate for world GDP growth in 2016, dragging it down to 1.9% – well below the 2.5% threshold commonly associated with global recessions.

Of course, that’s just the direct effect of a world without China. Then there are cross-border linkages with other major economies.

The so-called resource economies – namely, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Russia, and Brazil – would be hit especially hard. As a resource-intensive growth juggernaut, China has transformed these economies, which collectively account for nearly 9% of world GDP. While all of them argue that they have diversified economic structures that are not overly dependent on Chinese commodity demand, currency markets say otherwise: whenever China’s growth expectations are revised – upward or downward – their exchange rates move in tandem. The IMF currently projects that these five economies will contract by a combined 0.7% in 2016, reflecting ongoing recessions in Russia and Brazil and modest growth in the other three. Needless to say, in a China implosion scenario, this baseline estimate would be revised downward significantly.

The same would be the case for China’s Asian trading partners – most of which remain export-dependent economies, with the Chinese market their largest source of external demand. That is true not only of smaller Asian developing economies such as Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand, but also of the larger and more developed economies in the region, such as Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. Collectively, these six China-dependent Asian economies make up another 11% of world GDP. A China implosion could easily knock at least one percentage point off their combined growth rate.

The United States is also a case in point. China is America’s third-largest and most rapidly growing export market. In a China-implosion scenario, that export demand would all but dry up – knocking approximately 0.2-0.3 percentage points off already subpar US economic growth of around 1.6% in 2016.

Finally, there is Europe to consider. Growth in Germany, long the engine of an otherwise sclerotic Continental economy, remains heavily dependent on exports. That is due increasingly to the importance of China – now Germany’s third-largest export market, after the European Union and the United States. In a China implosion scenario, German economic growth could also be significantly lower, dragging down the rest of a German-led Europe.

Interestingly, in its just-released October update of the World Economic Outlook, the IMF devotes an entire chapter to what it calls a China spillover analysis – a model-based assessment of the global impacts of a China slowdown. Consistent with the arguments above, the IMF focuses on linkages to commodity exporters, Asian exporters, and what they call “systemic advanced economies” (Germany, Japan, and the US) that would be most exposed to a Chinese downturn. By their reckoning, the impact on Asia would be the largest, followed closely by the resource economies; the sensitivity of the three developed economies is estimated to be about half that of China’s non-Japan Asian trading partners.

The IMF research suggests that China’s global spillovers would add about another 25% to the direct effects of China’s growth shortfall. That means that if Chinese economic growth vanished into thin air, in accordance with our thought experiment, the sum of the direct effects (1.2 percentage points of global growth) and indirect spillovers (roughly another 0.3 percentage points) would essentially halve the current baseline estimate of 2016 global growth, from 3.1% to 1.6%. While that would be far short of the record 0.1% global contraction in 2009, it wouldn’t be much different than two earlier deep world recessions, in 1975 (1% growth) and 1982 (0.7%).

I may be one of the only China optimists left. While I am hardly upbeat about prospects for the global economy, I think the world faces far bigger problems than a major meltdown in China. Yet I would be the first to concede that a post-crisis world economy without Chinese growth would be in grave difficulty. China bears need to be careful what they wish for.

יום ראשון, 23 באוקטובר 2016

Trump May Depress Republican Turnout, Spelling Disaster For The GOP

Resultado de imagen para trump depressed
Instead of a poll, let’s start today’s Election Update with some actual votes. According to the estimable Nevada journalist Jon Ralston, Democrats have a 20-percentage-point turnout edge so far based on early and absentee voting in Clark County (home to Las Vegas), Nevada. And they have a 10-point edge in Washoe County (home to Reno).

Nevada is one of a number of states where Democrats usually do better in early voting than in the vote overall, so this shouldn’t be taken to mean that Hillary Clinton and the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in Nevada, Catherine Cortez Masto, are going to win their races by double digits. But Nevada is an interesting state, insofar as both Clinton and Donald Trump can find things to like about its demographic makeup: In Clinton’s case, the growing number of Hispanic and Asian-American voters bodes well for her; in Trump’s case, there’s the fact that only about one-third of Nevada’s white voters have college degrees, according to FiveThirtyEight’s estimates. Furthermore, Nevada has shown tight polling all year, with Clinton having only pulled ahead since the debates — surprising given that President Obama won Nevada by 7 percentage points in 2012 and that Clinton is beating Obama’s numbers in other Western states.

Those early-voting numbers, though, don’t look good for Trump. Democrats are matching their 2012 pace in Clark County, according to Ralston. And they’re beating it in Washoe County, a place where the demographics ought to be relatively Trump-friendly. If Clinton is pulling in her marginal voters and Trump isn’t getting his, things could go from bad to worse for the GOP.

One needs to be careful about drawing too many inferences from early-voting data. There are a lot of states to look at and a lot of ways to run the numbers, and we’ve seen smart analysts trick themselves into drawing conclusions that didn’t necessarily hold up well by Election Day. But it seems fair to say the data is mostly in line with the polls. Democrats are seeing very strong early-voting numbers in Virginia and reasonably encouraging ones in North Carolina, two states where Clinton has consistently outperformed Obama in polls. They also seem set to make gains in Arizona and Colorado, where the same is true. But Democratic numbers aren’t all that good in Iowa or Ohio, where Clinton has underperformed Obama in polls.

The problem for Trump is that taken as a whole, his polls aren’t very good — and, in fact, they may still be getting worse. An ABC News national poll released on Sunday morning — the first live-caller poll conducted fully after the final presidential debate — showed Clinton leading Trump 50 percent to 38 percent. Clinton’s 12-point lead in that poll is toward the high end of a broad range of results from recent national polls, with surveys showing everything from a 15-point Clinton lead to a 2-point Trump edge. But the ABC News poll is interesting given its recency and given why Clinton has pulled so far ahead in it — Republicans aren’t very happy with their candidate and may not turn out to vote:

The previous ABC/Post poll found a sharp 12-point decline in enthusiasm for Trump among his supporters, almost exclusively among those who’d preferred a different GOP nominee. Intended participation now has followed: The share of registered Republicans who are likely to vote is down 7 points since mid-October.

I’d urge a little bit of caution here, given that swings in enthusiasm can be transient and can sometimes exaggerate the underlying change in voter sentiment. Our polls-only forecast has Clinton up by about 7 percentage points instead of by double digits — and our polls-plus forecast would still bet on the race tightening slightly.

But you can easily see how the worst-case scenario is firmly on the table for Trump and Republican down-ballot candidates, where the bottom falls out from GOP turnout. Consider:
Trump is getting only about 80 percent of the Republican vote, whereas candidates typically finish at about 90 percent of their party’s vote or above.
Furthermore, the Republicans missing from Trump’s column tend to be high-education, high-income voters, who typically also have a high propensity to vote.
Voters are increasingly convinced that Clinton will win the election, and turnout can be lower in lopsided elections. (Although, this presents risks to both candidates: complacency on the part of Democrats, despondency on the part of Republicans.)
Republicans and Trump have a substantial ground game deficit, with Clinton and Democrats holding a nearly 4-1 advantage in paid staffers.
Trump’s rhetoric that the election is rigged could discourage turnout among his own voters.
Trump’s base is relatively small, especially if he underperforms among college-educated Republicans.

The nightmare scenario for the GOP is that high-information Republican voters, seeing Trump imploding and not necessarily having been happy with him as their nominee in the first place, feel free to cast a protest vote at the top of the ticket. Meanwhile, lower-information Republican voters don’t turn out at all, given that Trump’s rigging rhetoric could suppress their vote and that Republicans don’t have the field operation to pull them back in. That’s how you could get a Clinton landslide like the one the ABC News poll describes, along with a Democratic Senate and possibly even — although it’s a reach — a Democratic House.

That isn’t the only scenario in play, but it’s an increasing possibility. Overall, Clinton’s chances of winning the presidency are 87 percent according to our polls-only model and 85 percent according to polls-plus