Presidential election prediction

electionIn his column in the Elmira Star-Gazette on January 28, Dana Millbank suggests a rule for predicting the results of presidential elections. He writes: “The party of the incumbent president will win an election if the Conference Board’s consumer confidence index is above 100.” Let’s see if this is right.

President Date Consumer Confidence Milbank rule valid
G.H.W. Bush November 1988 112 yes
Bill Clinton November 1992 65 yes
Bill Clinton November 1996 109 yes
George W. Bush November 2000 132 no
George W. Bush November 2004 92 no
Barack Obama November 2008 44 yes
Barack Obama November 2012 71 no

Milbank’s rule held for George H. W. Bush,  Clinton, and Obama’s first term, but not for George W. Bush or Obama’s second term. Four times right in seven isn’t convincing–far from a sure thing. If consumer confidence is above 100 in 2016 as Milbank predicts it will be, President Obama should be succeeded by a Democrat. We’ll see.

© William Hungerford – January 2015


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Be Aware: Rep. Reed Creates his own Social Security Facts!

Senator David Patrick Moynihan once wrote, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”

Rep. Reed released a  Statement on President Obama’s  2015 State of the  Union speech. The following is his comment about Social Security.

“I heard nothing tonight about how to protect the Social Security Retirement Fund from the impending insolvency of the disability fund. It isn’t fair to raid the retirement fund yet again for what would be a twelfth time.”

Rep. Tom Reed sponsored the amendment to the House of Representatives’ rule that limits the way the Social Security funds their programs. (see the previous New NY 23rd Article.) He contends that he wants to ‘Protect” Social Security. (Read his Social Security Amendment Press Release). The words, phrases and (to be kind) misinformation presented in his comments about Social Security in President Obama’s  Speech tells us something different. We’ll examine each sentence at a time:

“I heard nothing tonight about how to protect the Social Security Retirement Fund from the impending insolvency of the disability fund.”

Reading the first sentence of the statement one might not realize that both funds are part of Social Security System.  Notice how he treats the two funds– he wants to protect the Social Security Retirement Fund (each word capitalized) from the  and the insolvent (bad) disability fund.   That was no accident. Reed is  constantly belittling the fund that supports our disabled workers. He is laying the ground work, and gathering support, for his attack on Social Security.

The Disability Fund has been part of the Social Security System since President Eisenhower added it in 1957, fourteen years before Reed was born.

Let me remind you of how Social Security works:

Working Americans fund Social Security by having 6.2% deducted from our paychecks each pay period. Employers match that amount. Those deductions fund two different Social Security Programs— Old-Age & Survivors Insurance (OASI)–which Reed calls the “Retirement Fund”– and Disability Insurance (DI). Presently the Social Security Administration (SSA) puts 5.3% of your paycheck into the OAS Trust Fund, and 0.9% into the Disability Trust Fund.

In the past, when the SSA calculated that a fund would be getting low, it would adjust how the payroll deductions were divided between the two Trust Funds. They want  to make sure both Funds solvent. This  has happened 11 times since 1968—or once about every four years.

The Disability Insurance Trust Fund will be able to pay only 81% of the expected benefits to the disabled workers in 2016. Changing the amount that the Disability Fund receives by one-tenth of one percent would keep both Trust Funds solvent until 2033! Our payroll deduction would remain at 6.2%.

 “It isn’t fair to raid the retirement fund yet again for what would be a twelfth time.”

Rep. Reed uses the term “raid”  an awful lot when he discusses Social Security. “Raid” is not a neutral term. It is a negative buzz word that will rile-up support for Reed’s attack on the disability fund and disabled workers. If you check-out Reed’s Social Security Press Release you will see that he used “raid” four times.  He does not want people to know that Social Security Administration does as much as  possible is to keep both funds strong.

Rep. Reed told us if the retirement fund was  “raided”  again, it would be for a twelfth time. That is not true. He deliberately told us an un-truth. It is a lie. Pinochio Fraud

There have been 11 adjustments/raids between these two funds. In five of them, 1979, 1980, 1983, 1984 and 1997, the Disability Fund rate was reduced, and the Retirement Fund was increased! Reed claims that the Retirement Fund  was reduced (raided) all eleven times. Everyone who reads his Press Release assumes that Rep. Reed is telling the truth. He isn’t. To check for yourself follow the link to  SS Tax Rate Table 1979-Present, or  a more detailed article and chart which shows the yearly payroll deduction rates for both funds from the beginning of Social Security. Rep. Reed can’t play dumb. He is on the Social Security Sub-Committee and should have known how Social Security operates.

The two sentences from Rep. Reed’s “State of the Union” Press Release gives us enough doubt  to question his real reason(s) for his amendment to the House rules. Follow this issue closely. We’ll probably see other ways Rep. Reed wants to “Protect Social Security”. It won’t be pretty.

Posted in Congress, Constituents, Economics, Health Care, Political, Reed's Views, Rights, Seniors, Veterans | Tagged , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Helping Working Families with Young Children Afford Child Care

childcare“In today’s economy, when having both parents in the workforce is an economic necessity for many families, we need affordable, high-quality childcare more than ever. It’s not a nice-to-have — it’s a must-have. So it’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or as a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us.”– President Obama, State of the Union Address, January 20, 2015

In his 2015 State of the Union Address, President Obama outlined his plan to make affordable, quality child care available to every working and middle-class family with young children. This plan includes:

    • Making a landmark investment in the Child Care and Development Fund that helps every eligible family with young children afford high-quality child care.
    • Tripling the maximum child care tax credit to $3,000 per young child.
    • Creating a new innovation fund to help states design programs that better serve families that face unique challenges in finding quality care, such as those in rural areas or working non-traditional hours.

About tax law changes the administration proposes:

    • Cutting taxes for families paying child care with a credit of up to $3,000 per child. The President’s tax proposal would streamline child care tax benefits and triple the maximum child care tax credit for middle class families with young children, increasing it to $3,000 per child. The President’s child care tax proposals would benefit 5.1 million families, helping them cover child care costs for  6.7 million children (including 3.5 million children under five), through the following reforms:
      • Triple the maximum Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) for families with children under five, increasing it to $3,000 per child. Families with young children face the highest child care costs. Under the President’s proposal, they could claim a 50 percent credit for up to $6,000 of expenses per child under five.
      • Make the full credit available to most middle-class families. Under current law, almost no families qualify for the maximum CDCTC. The President’s proposal would make the maximum credit – for young children, older children, and elderly or disabled dependents – available to families with incomes up to $120,000, meaning that most middle-class families could easily determine how much help they can get.
      • Eliminate complex child care flexible spending accounts and reinvest the savings in the improved CDCTC. The President’s proposal would replace the current system of complex and duplicative incentives with one generous and simple child care tax benefit.

Is this a good plan? Not everyone thinks it is. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), who claims to favor helping America’s working and middle-class families, writes:

The problem with the president’s proposal is that he wants to cut taxes for only one particular type of family.

Specifically, the president proposed a new $500 tax credit only for families with two incomes, and he called for an increase in the child-care tax credit. That is, he wants to use the tax code to reward two-income couples who put their children in commercial day care, while leaving behind couples who choose to have mom or dad stay at home.

The $500 tax credit Senator Lee mentions doesn’t appear in the administration’s fact sheet, but no matter–Senator Lee’s objection is clearly this: in the name of even-handedness, he would have any credit benefit rich and poor alike–those who need help and those who don’t.  Lee writes:

Under my plan, families would be eligible for the credit regardless of whether they had one income or two, or whether they used commercial day care or chose to have mom or dad stay home with the kids.

What each family did with the money would be up to them, not the government, as it should be.

There is a big difference here–the administration’s plan would help working families with necessary expenses; Lee’s proposal amounts to a subsidy to all parents raising children.

Lee goes on to allege unfairly high taxes for families with children. He writes:

Today, parents effectively pay into the senior entitlement programs twice: once through their payroll taxes and again in bearing the costs of raising their children — the next generation of payroll taxpayers. An expanded child credit would not create a new distortion in the tax code, but correct an existing one.

This is bizarre indeed–“senior entitlement program” is a euphemism for Social Security. Lee suggests people become parents and bear the costs of child rearing to create future taxpayers who will fund their retirement. The idea that payroll taxes and child care costs are duplicative and the idea that parents raise children to fund their future SS benefits are both nonsense.

© William Hungerford – January 2015

Posted in Political, Congress, Education, Economics, Seniors | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

GOP Candidates

tricksA Republican nominee should “lose the primary to win the general without violating your principles.”--Jeb Bush

What a cast of characters! Every view is represented: Jeb and Mitt for the establishment, Ben Carson the doctor, Ted Cruz the radical, Carla Fiorina representing Republican women, Rand Paul the libertarian-lite, John Bolton for the war hawks, Mike Huckabee for the religious right, with Sarah Palin and Donald Trump for comic relief and a host of extras. How will it end?

  1. John Bolton
  2. Jeb Bush
  3. Ben Carson
  4. Chris Christie
  5. Ted Cruz
  6. Carly Fiorina
  7. Newt Gingrich
  8. Lindsey Graham
  9. Mike Huckabee
  10. Bobby Jindal
  11. Sarah Palin
  12. George Pataki
  13. Rand Paul
  14. Mike Pence
  15. Mitt Romney
  16. Marco Rubio
  17. Paul Ryan
  18. Rick Santorum
  19. Donald Trump
  20. Scott Walker

With a cast like this, “Gilligan’s Island” might still be going strong.

All of the above are said to be interested and doubtless several more as well. The GOP had hoped for a short, quiet campaign with few debates and no mistakes ending in the nomination of a consensus candidate with a chance of winning a national election; little chance of that it seems. Already the prospective candidates are attacking one another.

© William Hungerford – January 2015

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Senator Mike Lee in Iowa


“It’s the economy, stupid”–attributed to James Carville

In the the The Atlantic, Peter Beinhart writes:

If you look closely at the current crop of Republican candidates, you can see the beginnings of a similar (to the 2000 campaign) fracturing of the GOP message. Mike Huckabee looks determined to run on cultural decline. Jeb Bush and even Mitt Romney want to focus on using government to help the poor. Every potential candidate except Rand Paul will likely promise defense hikes and a more aggressive, militaristic foreign policy. And every potential GOP candidate, including Rand Paul, will likely unveil a big tax cut, probably unmatched by real reductions in spending. 

Even Tom Reed, in his statement on President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union message to Congress, didn’t mention debt or deficit even once.

Addressing the Iowa Freedom Summit, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) reportedly said the GOP needs to nominate a principled conservative, one who is “conservative every day and not just during the campaign.”

However, Lee also reportedly said he is concerned about an “opportunity deficit” that is “trapping poor families in poverty while rigging the system to benefit political and economic elites” while “squeezing America’s middle class.”

More and more Republicans, like Senator Lee, are recognizing the need to do something to help the many Americans struggling to join or stay in the middle class–Romney, Bush, Rubio, Cruz, Paul. But like Senator Lee, they face a dilemma–there is no way to promote economic justice while fastidiously promoting the interests of the wealthy. They are still trying to do that–at the Koch conference candidates continued to promise potential donors no tax increases for the wealthy. Republicans clearly need to abandon their long standing dogma–welfare for corporations and low taxes for the rich.

© William Hungerford – January 2015





Posted in 2016, Congress, Constituents, Economics, Political, President, Reed's Views, Seniors | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Rep. Reed’s “Renaissance Moment” Reviewed

The following article was written for the New NY 23rd by Anne Markel, a friend of this blog. It is posted with her permission.

In his latest Facebook posts, Tom Reed’s repeated use of a certain new hashtag tells us a couple of things about both the man’s ideology and his understanding of history (in Renaissance Manaddition to showing that he’s probably put a new social media coordinator in the payroll; that much will become clearer when he files his next quarterly financial reports).  Tom’s “renaissance moment” has, of course, to do with his financial interest in getting fracking underway in the Southern Tier, a two-pronged financial interest, as he both owns mineral rights to land in Tuscarora, and has been the beneficiary of some very generous campaign funding from the gas and oil industry. That those folks expect payment in kind is just one of Reed’s problems with accepting such largesse, but I am sure it is one that is at the forefront of his thinking.

But what about his use of the word renaissance in this context—why not #TapAmericanEnergy or #MakeAmericaSecure or some other tried-and-true Republican phraseology? The use of the word does class the joint up a little bit (despite the Francophobia that was running through the halls of Congress not that many years ago). Perhaps Reed doesn’t understand the origin of the word? What is clear is that he doesn’t understand its real meaning. Just as they say that youth is wasted on the young, so education would seem to be wasted on the cocksure.

The term Renaissance as used to describe the era that came roughly between the 14th and 16th centuries first appeared around the middle of the 19th. By then, historians could look back over those centuries as a whole and begin to see the patterns emerging—every age is a reaction to the age that came before—that were a sloughing off of the superstition and ignorance that had so enveloped the Middle Ages. Our Renaissance forebears were nothing if not intellectually engaged and curious: they re-read the classics, they expanded universities (which had themselves been founded firmly in the Middle Ages), they remade architecture into something airy and lofty, they invented humanism. They sailed and explored and mapped the world. The invented telescopes and turned their attention to the stars; the emphasis became less on the afterlife and more on the current world they inhabited. Literacy rates improved, and life expectancy.

Now, as a medievalist and a folklorist, I am still firmly in love with the medieval world…and I am glad that I do not live in it. On the other hand, there are some very real parallels between that time and our own. Today’s income gap is the Middle Ages’ feudalism; the capital-c Church has been replaced by the capital-e Energy industry; even the rampant illiteracy of those centuries past has found a new form in the anti-science, anti-intellectualism so prevalent among so many in the GOP. Religious fundamentalism has replaced, in a weird way, religious superstition. Entrenched career politicians exercise their own kind of Divine Right, and trickle-down economics form the basis of their personal royal treasuries.  The specter of punishment in the afterlife for the sins of this one has morphed into a more literal hell-on-Earth for people in need, with the punitive idea that poverty is a result of laziness or some other moral failing, and that the poor are where they are solely through fault of their own making.

Tom Reed’s false #Renaissance does nothing to vault over these problems, as the real Renaissance did, but instead tells us that more of the same is surely the way to go. Had any of the same worked by now, there would of course be no conversation to be had here. But the policies that Reed would enact—slashing social programs, energy production at the cost of both environmental and human health, more for the rich, less for everyone else—do not work, have not worked, and have been given their chance. In his insistence that this is the way to go, he shows only that his arrogance takes the place of his intelligence, and that his concern for self-enrichment trumps it all. It’s actually difficult to think of a precise antonym for the word renaissance but a google query leads first to the word sleeping. Which is as good a word as any to describe what Reed’s vision would mean for progress: it would go directly back to sleep. In keeping with the French construction, we come up with the word r’endormi. #ReedR’endormi.

What would a #RealAmericanRenaissance look like? Well, much like the last Renaissance, with an expansion of education, a renewed interest in and emphasis on the viability of the world we inhabit; progress, not regress, in the areas of science, medicine, technology. A renewed familiarization with the past—keeping us from being doomed to repeat our mistakes—and along with that, a renewed appreciation for the writers, artists, photographers and others who help to document, explain, and explore the world, and in so doing, sometimes give us fresh ways to think about ourselves. I’m a big fan of the WPA and the work it generated, both in the sense of getting people employed again and in the sense of the products those people created that still inhabit our world today. To reboot such a program would not put fat money into the pockets of profit-driven energy, banking or other interests, but it would be more truly a rebirth, granting a fuller realization of the potential that now sits untapped. The Renaissance was a time of creativity, insight and intellectual courage, all attributes which, sadly, our own man in the House lacks. His courage is of another kind (what the French term les couilles; you can look it up) and it’s the kind that hopes the rest of us will content ourselves with his rhetoric while he gallops after his personal wealth, taken at the expense of everyone else’s.

Posted in Congress, Economics, Environmental, fracking, Reed's Views | Tagged , , , | 21 Comments

Tom Reed loses his cool

ny-solar-energyRather, King Cuomo caved to downstate special interests and closed any possibility of New York leading the nation...–Rep. Tom Reed

King Cuomo? Really Tom, isn’t that an exaggeration? (In case you missed it, Tom used that phrase twice.) Andrew Cuomo was elected Governor by a majority of New York voters.

Tom seems to react with unreasonable bitterness. He writes

Because of his unilateral decision, New Yorkers cannot develop their mineral rights and as a result Southern Tier families and communities have suddenly lost valuable income streaming their own property.  I care for those family farmers and taxpayers and that is why I will lead a charge in Congress to ensure those individuals have the opportunity to be justly compensated for their losses.  

Unilateral? Really Tom? Compensate landowners for not being allowed to frack? What is the legal precedent for that?

(Gov. Cuomo’s) policies hurt our communities, they hurt our neighbors, and they hurt our families. Instead of developing safe, natural gas that provides jobs and encourages New York manufacturing, Governor Cuomo has left New York manufacturers with higher energy costs and fewer opportunities for our residents. This in turn leads to fewer jobs for New York as a whole. 

Tom ignores the fact that most New Yorkers, even upstate, oppose fracking for good reason. He ignores New York’s clean energy project.

Tom goes on to bad mouth the Safe Act, Common Core, and the lack to date of a casino project in the Southern Tier. Tom seems to have forgotten that Republicans favor “states rights.”

Is frustration among Republicans out of hand? I think of former Rep. Michael Grimm, NYS Senator Tom O’Mara, Senator McConnell, and the harsh statements of many disparaging President Obama.

I am convinced that Tom typed out this press release himself in a snit. The lack of proofreading and the angry tone suggest a lack of caution and reflection. Tom will need wide support in 2016; he had better take care not to let his anger get the best of him.

© William Hungerford – January 2015


Posted in 2016, Congress, Constituents, Economics, Education, Environmental, EPA, Gun Violence, Hydrofracking/Gas& Oil Industry, Political, Reed's Views, Rights | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments