Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Soothing Sounds of Nate and Norris

The soothing gentlemen referred to in the title are Nate Silver and Floyd Norris. No, they are not household words but they should be among those who care about politics. Each is very well-informed in his specialty and doesn't "go with the flow" of whatever is the current punditry. They look at numbers, not at what "everybody" is saying.

In politics, numbers are everything. Most people don't like to hear that because numbers seem boring or difficult. But don't forget, numbers are how we tell who has won or lost an election. And numbers are the guideposts as we move through the race.

So far, the numbers are with Obama. He's got a handy lead in the swing states. So forget the national poll numbers which are much tighter. (They don't count because we elect presidents state by state.) Partly on the basis of Obama's strength in the swing states, Nate Silver's sophisticated computer analysis gives Obama a 66% of winning the election v. Romney's 33% chance. That's 2 to 1 odds on Obama!  I'll take that!

In the electoral college Silver gives Obama 297.1 votes to Romney's 240.9. This is far better than the prediction of  the NY Times (Silver's home base). Why the difference? The NY Times is based on pre-computer analysis techniques, i.e. the old-fashioned "conventional wisdom". From my long years in politics, I know that you go with the guy who has the best handle on numbers.

So when cloudy days come for Obama  -  and they will  -  look to Nate Silver's soothing prediction.

As for Floyd Norris, he's the chief of the NY Times business section. And his soothing words? The job picture is better than is being shown by the Labor Department statistics released the last three months. He bases his case on the possibly out-of-date formula for "seasonal adjustment". He argues that employers are being more cautious these days and hiring fewer "seasonal" workers and letting fewer go when the season supposedly ends. The use of the "seasonal adjustment" therefore has an enormous and faulty distortion effect. He concludes it has understated the job gains by 800,000 per month for EACH of the last three months! That's a BIG distortion!

Is Norris right? Well, something has to account for the fact that housing starts and other construction are up markedly but construction jobs are reportedly not. This anomaly can be seen in other aspects of the economic picture. Without getting into the economic weeds, maybe we can accept what Norris says and just feel better when faced with supposedly flat job numbers this summer.

We can also choose to be heartened by what Norris is predicting for this fall. By his rationale, the continued use of the distorting "seasonal adjustment" will make it look like the job numbers take a big jump this autumn. (Employers will not have laid off the number of employees assumed by the seasonal adjustment.) This result may come just in time for the fall election. But it will be close. The earliest of these good-looking numbers won't be reported until early October and then again four days before election day.

Admittedly, that's too close for comfort. Conventional wisdom says that voters' perception of the economy firms up in the summer months before the election. And in politics, perception is reality. So we shall have to keep our fingers crossed.

Countering the conventional wisdom, however, is another piece of conventional wisdom. This one says that the six per cent or so that actually decide the election don't make up their minds until the last minute. If this be true, then summer job numbers don't matter. What will count will be that October jobs report and the three presidential debates.

And who wouldn't bet on Obama in the debates?

All that being said, Romney's super pacs are out-raising Obama's one little super pac by TEN to one. The GOP poison will flow, full of lies and scare tactics. All that stands against the purchase of the presidency by the uber-wealthy is YOU. Volunteer! Contribute some bucks! Think about the hungry kids and how many more there will be once the disastrous Republican economics take over the government again.

You want four more years of George W in spades? You want a rerun of the '08 crash?

Of course not! So be a hero! This is your chance to justify your existence. World peace. A fair deal for everyone. The fate of the planet. Have the stakes ever been bigger?

So get off your duff and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!  




  1. Did you notice how skillfully President Obama boxed Romney in on immigration? It was like watching a world class chess match, and Romney's team is still looking to the chess board and trying to decide where they stand. I think our president is being very proactive in this election. It's what he need to do and he's doing it.
    Just like we need to get out there and support him so let's all start doing it! :)

    1. Excellent point, Charles, about Obama as a chess player. He is very skilled, and he and his team are doing an excellent job with characterizing Romney as a Bain exporter of jobs, etc. Clinton & pals didn't like those ads because they are chums of Wall Street but Obama's ads have persisted and are causing Romney to go down in the swing states. Obama and team are spending our money well, good ads that are precisely targeted.

      So you are right about us all needing to get with the program and support Obama actively and with donations. And thanks for reading the blog and commenting. Enjoy hearing from you!