Posts filed under “Current Affairs”

The Problem With a Really Tiny Tent


At some point in the not-too-distant future, I intend to explore the Census Bureau’s excellent data sets on Population Projections and Voting and Registration. I hope to examine how the composition of our nation will change over the next 12 years or so (through the 2024 election). After all, I don’t want Bill O’Reilly to be as surprised in 2024 as he apparently was on Tuesday night (“The white establishment is now the minority.”). I hope that the work I intend to do will put some forward-looking meat on the bones of articles like this one, this one, and this one. I want to save my fellow Americans the $400 million they squandered on Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS for no ROI.

In the meantime, here’s the thing: If guys like O’Reilly, or Jack Welch, Donald Trump, Sheldon Adelson, the Koch Brothers, et. al., had a demographer in their employ some 15 or so years ago (probably even earlier), none of what has transpired would have come as a surprise to them.

In fact, they didn’t even need a demographer. All they needed to do was read this 1996 report (third from bottom) from Census, some of the highlights of which foretold our current situation and, in fact, what is yet to come. (I hope to check the 1996 forecasts against where we actually are today, which should be an interesting exercise, and which will also give me some idea of what we can expect in the years to come.)

Let me state for the record here that this post is not intended to be incendiary or inflammatory, despite what I know will be written in comments. Yes, I am a Democrat. But demographics are what they are, and they will not be looking favorably on the GOP in the years to come. From the Bloomberg article cited above, look at what happened last week, which is very likely to continue:

According to exit polls, President Barack Obama won the Hispanic vote by a whopping margin of 71 percent to 27 percent. [...] Asians voted for Obama by 73-26; they were more Democratic than Hispanics. [Ed. Note: Obama won the black vote by some 93 - 6.]

That said, let’s take a look at what Paul R. Campbell found in 1996 regarding population projections and see how the GOP might have used such information to its advantage (or at the very least not ignored it or been so surprised that it played out more or less exactly as forecast). Emphasis mine:

The White population, the largest of the five race/ethnic groups, is projected to be the slowest-growing among the groups during the 1995 to 2025 projection period.

The Asian population is the fastest-growing group in all regions.

The Hispanic origin population is projected to increase rapidly over the 1995 to 2025 projection period, accounting for 44 percent of the growth in the Nation’s population (32 million Hispanics out of a total of 72 million persons added to the Nation’s population). The Hispanic origin population is the second fastest-growing population, after Asians, in every region over the 30 year period.

As knowledge is power, the GOP arguably could have figured out that, based on the demographics, it needed a course correction before too long or it would find itself in the straits it’s in now. In other words, they could have tried to figure out how to get a bigger tent. They didn’t. (Corollary: How do you spell “voter suppression”?)

Here’s a table that sums up the GOP’s problem beautifully:

Discussion question: To which of the above five groups does the GOP appeal, and what has it done to embrace those groups? I’d venture it gets worse still if we include women (Linda McMahon lost among women in CT; Todd Akin; Richard Mourdock) and the LGBT community.

Let’s look at the table above another way, shall we:

The point, as Bill O’Reilly very tardily came to realize, is that there are not – nor will there be going forward – enough rich, old, angry white guys to sustain the GOP as it’s currently constituted.

An additional note on the Hispanic population:

  • The Hispanic population is expected to comprise a substantially larger share of the total population in 2025 than in 1995 — up from 21 to 32 percent in the West, from 9 to 15 percent in the South
    and Northeast, and from 3 to 6 percent in the Midwest.

So, what is the GOP’s strategy going to be? Will it relax its stance on women’s reproductive rights or, alternatively, will women come to embrace unnecessary trans-vaginal ultrasounds? What about immigration law? How does it engage the Asian community? Attract more blacks? In other words, how is the GOP going to make itself attractive to groups other than older white males? If it can’t figure this out, its future is bleak indeed. The numbers are what the number are – and I’ll have more on them soon (focusing on 2016, 2020 and 2024). Denying them – BubbleLife℠ (which is, frankly, all we’ve seen since the election) – is only bound to cause more “shellshock” in the future.

P.S. There is merit to the argument that black turnout will diminish in 2016 in the event there is not a black candidate on the ticket. The extent to which it may recede, while not exactly quantifiable, may or may not be significant. I intend to examine that and try to make some inferences when I look the population projections in a future post.

Main Citation: Campbell, Paul R., 1996, Population Projections for States by Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin: 1995 to 2025, U.S. Bureau of the Census, Population Division, PPL-47.

Further reading: Pew Research

Adding: It will be times like these, in the future, that I’ll really mourn the unnecessary loss of the Statistical Abstract, which is essential for this type of research.

Category: Current Affairs, Data Analysis, Politics

Google Crisis Map: Power, Gas, Damage from Sandy Damage

Click for interactive map: Source:

Category: Current Affairs, Digital Media, Science, Web/Tech

Stormville / Long Beach After Sandy / Jersey Strong

Residents of Long Beach, N.Y., begin cleaning up from the storm

November 2, 2012By Vijai Singh and Mike Winerip


Residents of New Jersey’s iconic shore say that Hurricane Sandy will not wash away their determination to rebuild the battered coastline.

November 2, 2012By Shayla Harris


With all the destruction, personal loss and inconvenience of half the city of New York without power, there were lighthearted moments on Fifth Avenue during Monday’s storm.

November 2, 2012By Joanna Nikas

Category: Current Affairs, Video

Sandy’s Destruction of Long Island in Photos

Some pretty insane photos from around the web showing impact of Sandy on Long Island:


Superstorm Sandy washed some boats onto front yards in Woodsburgh, on Nassau’s South Shore. Photo Credit: Sender Schwartz


U.S. Coast Guard shows areas of Long Island damaged by Superstorm Sandy Photo Credit: Getty Images


A street in Long Beach covered in beach sand caused by flooding from the Superstorm Sandy. Photo Credit: Getty Images



More photos after the jump:

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Category: Current Affairs, Digital Media, Science

Fibonacci Hurricane (Sandy)

click for larger image Source: Vic LeFaber, Google+

Category: Current Affairs, Digital Media, Mathematics, Science

Addressing the BLS Truther Controversy


Friday’s BLS truther controversy was, in a word, sad. That folks now nonchalantly float claims that government agencies fudge numbers is (or should be) beyond the pale (just as it was in 1970 when Nixon did it). But it’s not. While the truther discussion has made its way into every nook and cranny of the interwebs, maybe it would be instructive to take a look at some anecdotal information that supports Friday’s allegedly contrived unemployment number.

Business Insider’s Joe Weisenthal suggested early Friday that the numbers we’d gotten earlier last week on auto sales foretold a decent jobs/unemployment number, which sent me scurrying to FRED to produce a chart:

(Note: Unemployment Rate is inverted to better show correlation. Chart is current through Friday’s release)


The pattern of auto sales leading the unemployment rate is crystal clear. Great call, Joe. So, the same folks who are skeptical of the BLS must necessarily also question the sales reports of GM, Ford, Toyota, Honda, BMW, and every other car manufacturer that reports monthly sales figures (i.e. all of them).

Another piece of anecdotal information that I’ve used for years now is the NFIB’s “Poor Sales” (as Single Biggest Problem) vs. the Unemployment Rate:


As of the NFIB’s most recent report, Poor Sales was cited by 20 percent of businesses as their Single Biggest Problem in their Small Business Economic Trends report.

Finally, the BLS itself goes to great pains to be transparent, and does a good job doing so. Earlier this year, their Editor’s Desk column ran a piece titled Employment Trends From Two Surveys, which very broadly discussed the two surveys from which jobs data is compiled.

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Category: Current Affairs, Data Analysis, Economy, Employment, Really, really bad calls

5 Theories Why Romney Won’t Release His Tax Records

Invictus here.

Mitt Romney didn’t have a very good week. When the Romney Campaign releases his 2011 taxes as a subject-changer, it’s a safe bet that things haven’t been going swimmingly.

Let’s oblige them by wading into this tax story.

Here is what we know: GOP candidate Mitt Romney has released his two most recent tax returns. According to Politifact, that’s far fewer than most presidential candidates disclose. As an example, Romney’s father, George, had released 12 years of tax returns. He has steadfastly refused to release the rest, despite being goaded by many players — not just Democrats and media pundits, but by members of the GOP establishment as well. Regardless, he has not been very forthcoming.

Why has he refused? There are no good answers, only speculations. Given that not releasing additional tax docs has cost Romney politically only increases the arm chair hypothesizing. All summer, the incumbent has battered the challenger on this (and related issues). Romney’s approval ratings have been hurt. His refusal is helping to coalesce a detrimental media narrative: There are different rules for people of privilege than for the rest of the country, and Romney has taken advantage of them. These week’s 47% gaffe only plays into that same narrative.

While the Obama ads have been politically effective, it’s been even more surprising that there has not been a successful counter from the GOP candidate. Romney was even vetted as a Veep candidate in 2008 by the McCain camp, where they ostensibly saw his tax records. McCain himself said Romney provided 20 years of records, and has paid his taxes . . . but then again, he passed over Romney for Sarah Palin as Veep.

The Obama campaign has offered to drop the issue if Romney releases just 5 years of tax docs. Still, the Romney camp has refused.

All of these minor sleights and unanswered accusations have led to a cottage industry of imagining what secrets might be hidden in these tax records. We do not know, but we can use some deductive reasoning to come up with some reasonable theories as to why Romney won’t share with voters what he showed the McCain camp (or perhaps, what took place post-McCain).

Here are our 5 top contenders:

1) 0% Tax Rates: The released tax documents show a very low tax rate, and Romney has said he never paid less than a 13% rate over the past 10 years. However, its not inconceivable that through a combination of aggressive tax planning, use of Trusts, earned income carry forwards and use of tax havens like Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Cayman Islands and Bermuda, Romney may have paid no taxes whatsoever in 2009 and years prior. His advisors may have correctly surmised this would be fatal to his Presidential aspirations.

Since I began composing this post, the Romney campaign has released a letter from his accountants to the effect that, over the period reviewed, the Romneys’ lowest tax rate was 13.66 percent (though there was a bit of numerical gymnastics to make that true in 2011). Note that Romney’s letter from PricewaterhouseCoopers discusses “adjusted gross income” — not total income; this subtle difference has already been debunked.

Not surprisingly in the post-Enron, post-WorldCom world, the word of an accountant ain’t worth the pixels used to write it. And, if it’s true, why not just get them out there and be done with with?

Well, maybe it’s:

2) Voter FraudThe Guardian and others came up with an even simpler theory: That Romney has voted in a state in which he was not technically a resident (i.e. voting in Massachusetts when he was actually a resident of California).

I first saw this in Forbes, which mentioned that “Romney appears to have escaped relatively unsinged from the apparently unrelated revelation that he may have committed voter fraud in January 2010, when – despite not owning a house in Massachusetts and having given every appearance of having moved to California…”

3) Broken Tax Laws: Personally, I assign this a very low to moderate probability. However, without releasing his returns, Romney leaves himself open to speculation that he may perhaps have crossed a line and submitted returns that are somehow numerically fraudulent and/or otherwise illegal (separate and apart from the aforementioned address issue).

BR has raised the issue of Romney’s IRA. William Cohan at Bloomberg has also wondered how he was able to legally amass $102 million in his individual retirement account — tax free! — during the 15 years he was at Bain Capital, despite contribution limits that would seem to make that all but impossible. What sort of rate of return is that, anyway?

Regarding the IRA contributions, Victor Fleischer, Professor of Law at University of Colorado is rather blunt: “Bottom line: Mitt Romney has not paid all the taxes required under law.”

Beyond that, it’s possible he is:

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Category: Current Affairs, Politics, Taxes and Policy

Open Mouth, Insert Foot: Going Viral?

I had barely finished reading Niall Ferguson’s takedown of President Obama when a flood of  takedowns of Mr. Ferguson started hitting the web. This post, then, will not be about his Newsweek piece, but instead about his recent Bloomberg TV interview with Erik Schatzker and Sara Eisen. And, in particular, one very specific part of that interview where…Read More

Category: Current Affairs, Data Analysis, Economy, Employment, Politics, Really, really bad calls

Of Magic Asterisks

Invictus here to talk a little politics and fiscal economics (which is to say there’s politics in this post and if you’re not here for an occasional dose of politics, skip this post): On October 3, 2008, Paul Ryan took to the floor of the House to speak in favor of the EMERGENCY ECONOMIC STABILIZATION…Read More

Category: Current Affairs, Economy, Politics

US Gun Homicide & Cost Data

Morbid (but interesting) discussion on the way home this evening about gun related deaths in the US. Here is the data I dug up: The United States has the highest rate of gun related injuries (not deaths per capita) among developed countries. In terms of their Firearm homicide rate (per 100,000 pop), only 8 nations…Read More

Category: Current Affairs, Data Analysis