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How to win the midterms

There are several ways to win elections in American politics, and successful strategies are opposite depending if you are in power or out of power. Other impacts outside the control of politicians (such as media bias) can impact election outcomes, but ultimately politicians will collectively determine their fate.

When you are in power, you want to do the following:

  • Improve quality of life.
  • If the quality of life has improved, make sure the ads tell people that their life has improved.
  • Don’t ask. Tell. Asking gives people the opportunity to say no and question whether what you are saying is true. Only ask if you are absolutely confident what the answer will be, like Reagan’s campaign against inflation in 1984.
  • Pass policies which help as many people as possible. Improve the standard of living for the voters you need in order to keep power. This is the most important one of them all. Do everything you can.

When you are out of power, you want to do the following:

  • Make it very clear how you are different from the incumbent. Especially if there are serious problems impacting people’s lives.
  • Point to successes the last time your party was in power.
  • Point out inherent inequities, and problems which average people feel. Doesn’t matter if the incumbent has anything to do with it. If the incumbent did harm the country, even better for you.

None of this is really that complicated.

The Republicans are already doing everything they can from the third list. They are pointing out every problem with the economy, and they will keep talking about it incessantly until they get back power. Democrats should learn from this. Republicans are able to win on a platform where almost every policy is significantly unpopular because they are relentless in their pursuit of power.

But this is not relevant right now for Democrats.

There are several major midterms relevant for the 2022 election to look at historical results. We need to look at elections similar to the first midterm of a president who flipped the Presidency to their party. Elections which count are 2018, 2010, 2002, 1994, 1982, 1970, 1962, 1954, and 1934. There are several variables at play which make an impact:

  • Are the majority of Americans still angry at the other party for some reason?
  • Has the quality of life significantly improved since the Presidency flipped?
  • Has the incumbent President passed a major bill since being elected?
  • Is the messaging from the party on point? Is there something for the canvassers to talk about which people already know about?
  • Which parties are actively campaigning in as many places as possible?

Really it comes down to this. If all your canvassers have to do is point to a successful policy which everyone knows about and is popular, and claim credit, you will probably do well. If anger towards the other party is still high from the last time they screwed everything up, your job is also easier. These are the ideal ways.

A policy which will start improving lives in the future will not impact peoples votes in the next election. Politicians need to win elections in order to enact policy.

Not financing canvassers is surrender.

Let’s analyze historic elections with these factors:

  • 2018:
    • anger is directed towards Republicans.
    • quality of life is the same as when Obama was in power.
    • No major legislation, though one highly publicized failure with the ACA still being law. The ACA is popular now because its in effect.
    • Not much for Republican canvassers to talk about. Lots of outrageous comments from Trump which make people angry.
    • Democrats have new leadership. The 50 state strategy is mostly back.
    • Democrats win
  • 2010:
    • Republicans are busy pointing out how Obamacare is the end of capitalism.
    • Quality of life is improving, gradually. Unemployment is declining from its early 2009 peak.
    • ACA has passed, but most sections won’t come into effect until 2014. You can’t campaign on maybes and possibilities.
    • Aside from banking regulation, all Democratic policies will be implemented in the future. People haven’t felt the impact of Obama’s policies yet.
    • Democrats have new leadership. The 50 state strategy is out, Tim Kaine is highly focused on a handful of states.
    • Republicans win.
  • 2002:
    • Republicans are busy portraying America as safe from terrorist attacks with bipartisan legislation which passed.
    • Economy has recovered from the dot com bubble.
    • Republicans focus on safety and security in the new surveillance state.
    • Democrats voted for all of Bush’s policies. They have nothing to show how they are significantly different.
    • Republican leadership campaigns in as many places as possible.
    • Republicans win.
  • 1994:
    • Democrats to date have never clearly pointed out that the highest unemployment rate from 1960-2019 was in Reagan’s Presidency. Most people won’t know if you don’t tell them.
    • Economy is strong.
    • Clinton has some major accomplishments, like gun reform, and the assault weapons ban. Republicans are furious. The bill he put the most time into was Hillarycare, which unfortunately failed.
    • Republicans focus on macroeconomic goals, which most people do not understand, and put all of their effort towards false claims about how their macroeconomic goals will save the economy.
    • Republicans win

I could go on with previous elections, but the point is clear. Politicians have a responsibility to significantly impact the narrative. If you say you will do something big in the campaign, and then you can, but you don’t, voters will remember in the midterms. That’s an important piece of what happened in 1994. Clinton had an opportunity to control the narrative, but by failing to pass his health care initiative, he had lost his major policy initiative. He did other good things during those two years, including gun control, which has saved lives, but people want good health care because it impacts our lives so regularly, it’s a promise people remember.

For the Biden administration there are lessons to be learned here. Whether or not anything else gets through congress this session, there are still things Biden can do to impact peoples lives before the midterms. The infrastructure bill will not start having an impact on peoples lives probably until the Biden administration is in the history books. It will not help much with the midterms. Biden needs policies which will impact voters in the next 11 months. He needs those policies to hit demographics where turnout is not guaranteed, and help them enough that when he says “Go deliver me another trifecta” (telling, not asking) that voters will realize that they should follow his strong recommendation. They need to be personally invested in the outcome of the 2022 election and understand how it impacts their lives.

There are two policies Biden can do right now which will both fulfill campaign promises Joe Biden made, increase turnout and enthusiasm among key stakeholders in the administration, and also improve our economy. Those two policies are:

  • Forgive all student loans up to $50,000
  • Pardon all federal marijuana offenses.

The last time we saw such bold policies which impacted voters at such extreme levels before the upcoming midterms was before the 1966 election. That allowed more social and economic legislation to be passed which helped millions of Americans.

That is the easy way for Democrats to win the midterms so Biden can be the first democrat to have a trifecta for his entire first term since Jimmy Carter.

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How to build Justice

Today’s verdict of Kyle Rittenhouse is a disaster, but not wholly unexpected. There have been many times in history where people have gotten away with murder before, and the reality is that this has been going on for hundreds of years. It is not new, it will happen again.

But we should not be complicit or complacent. This enters in one of the most fundamental questions in political science, which is how does one determine guilt? Every system has its flaws, every system will ultimately depend on people. If you use technology, someone needed to design and implement those algorithms. They had to determine what information that algorithm is fed, and ultimately, this is a human decision, no matter how much technology we might use to determine truth. Technology can certainly help in forensics, but people choose whether to use it, and what data to build it off of.

Every country in the world has a court system. Every community of people in the world will determine a method of enforcing rules and norms, and how to enforce those rules and norms, whether it be the government of China, or a commune of 10-20 people. The scale may be different, the fundamental principles of political science, sociology, and psychology however will stay the same.

Every legal system in the world will have three sides, one part determines what rules are going to be established, one will enforce the law, and the third will determine how the system is enforced. In the United States we call these the Congress who makes the rules, the President who enforces the rules through all of the Federal agencies, and the court system enforces the rules. In some countries the executive branch is elected by the people (aka a Presidential system), in some they are directly appointed by the legislative system (aka a Parliamentary system). Both of these systems have advantages and disadvantages. Neither is inherently better than the other.

Courts have two main extreme forms, with any form of authority, be it a commune, or the United States government. One extreme is where an appointed or elected judge determines the fate of the accused, besides those judges, no one else has any say. The other extreme is where the decision is fully come to by a jury of average citizens, and the jury changes for every trial. The United States has a system where the jury makes the final decision, but the judge enforces speaking time and the rules for the trial. The judge is supposed to have limited influence on the jury in our system, though of course the judge does have influence because of their decision on how often parties are allowed to speak.

So which is better? The argument for the jury system because it is still arguably better than a politically appointed judge making the final call. The best argument for a judge making the call (assuming the judge is properly elected) is that the entire population has a say on what type of judge you have determining your fate. Its impossible to know whether a politically appointed judge or elected judge would have come to a different decision.

What it ultimately comes down to is what are the values, educations, and norms of the population the system is serving.

In a world where everyone was compassionate, educated, and clear headed, either system would work fine. In a world where laws were enforced equitably and fairly, either system would work.

But the issue in society is that corruption is a constant temptation for those who have access to power. The temptation to take a public office and turn it into personal wealth is something which is hard to eliminate fully. Better angels in positions of power certainly make a difference, but when you are in a legislative body, you can quickly gain connections which can turn into very real job opportunities. While former members of congress get a salary for the rest of their lives, and it is a high salary, it pales in comparison to the money which can be made from the connections one makes from being in a position of power. If just being able to post a video on YouTube, or sharing a blog post which has ads, power attracts views, views generate cash. Unless if people were to suddenly stop listening to former officials, especially powerful former officials, which is absolutely never going to happen because of human nature, the potential for making money after serving in high public office is always going to exist.

Corruption however is converting public wealth into private wealth. It is the looting of the masses, to turn laws which serve the public into laws which harm the public as they benefit the final decision maker. Prominent examples include Gramm-Leach-Bliley, the Fugitive Slave Act, and many more.

But what we saw today with the decision regarding Kyle Rittenhouse was deeper. I don’t know what went through the minds of the jury to bring them to such an obviously wrong decision. The claim of self-defense is so obviously wrong. Someone doesn’t walk into a protest with a machine gun and shoot people who weren’t even attacking him in self-defense.

It’s very obvious when you look at the evidence that the protesters saw someone who did not agree with them running into the crowd, only looking to cause trouble. It is very obvious that Rittenhouse’s defense was lying all the way through.

He walked into a protest for police violence with a gun. He meant to cause harm. Protesters noticed his presence and acted in self-defense. If you are in a public event, and you see someone brandishing a gun, you have good reason to assume that they are up to no good. You have reason to defend yourself. Rittenhouse might have won the trial… but he knows that he was guilty.

It is even more clear that what really happened is that as people were protesting police brutality, Rittenhouse supported the murder which the police had done earlier, and it comes back to a reality that for hundreds of years in the United States people who defend Black Lives are not, and have never been, protected by the law.

It’s just a matter of time before more lone wolf Nazi terrorists go to protests regularly and shoot unarmed civilians again. This is likely to become normal, and the police will not protect the first amendment. The President refuses to criticize the decision of jurors all while giving progressives a hell of a time for standing up for his agenda. Voting rights are being lost, and there is a very high probability we will lose congress next year.

So what are our options?

  1. Violent revolution
  2. Vote in large numbers
  3. Protest in large numbers

Violent revolutions have a low success rate. Most violent revolutions end up with a system which is just as bad if not worse than the one which came before it. No democracy in the world was truly born from revolution, not even the United States. Building stable institutions takes time, so this is probably going to make the situation worse.

Vote in large numbers. Assuming that democracy is the least bad political system if you care about things like human rights, overall well being, and controlling equality, history tends to support that viewpoint, we are going to have a Democratic system. Democratic systems are only as good as the people you elect, and those people are only as good as the citizenry and how often those people vote. It’s time to take a deep long look at our political systems as political scientists do, and ensure that we have good people at the helm. It’s time to look at the research of social change from sociology where people have studied these very topics and have already identified solutions to the problems which plague us. When we elect leaders who say they will do something, we need to hold them accountable. We need to reform our election systems so we have more choice in the election, and make primaries meaningless. This process has already started.

Protesting in large numbers shows support for a cause. Generally they are calling for political change. Protesting + good government = change.

We need to change the systemic features of American society which uphold white supremacy these include:

  • The difference in wealth held by white and black families.
  • The difference in opportunities in majority white and majority black schools.
  • Gerrymandering which upholds racism
  • The Electoral College needs to be abolished
  • Police receive vast sums of money while social services are starved
  • Qualified Immunity allows police to get away with murder

And of course many more problems.

There are countless articles from countless organizations which go in detail on each of these points, and other points which I know I have missed. We need to ensure that our institutions support freedom and justice, and ensure that the people in those institutions are good people. No matter what society you are looking at, at any level, it always comes down to that. You need robust rules on how decisions are made which are strong, but ultimately we need to ensure that the stewards of our society who maintain our institutions are good people, out to do what is best for America. We have failed to do that as a country. That is why Rittenhouse is free. That is what needs to change.

References:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/08/28/kyle-rittenhouse-shooting-kenosha-what-we-know-victims/5654579002/

https://www.thedailybeast.com/aerial-fbi-video-shows-kyle-rittenhouse-wielding-assault-rifle-moments-before-fatally-shooting-two-people

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Python

Setting with Copy Warning

One of the most frustrating issues in Pandas is the SettingWithCopyWarning. To a beginner in Pandas this can be one of the most frustrating issues to deal with. What becomes even more frustrating is that the documentation is not very helpful, and StackOverflow offers a ton of answers which don’t help either.

The answer is actually quite simple. Pandas Dataframes are similar to dictionaries in how they have indexes, and every row has a specific name. This is useful because it helps ensure that every item will be placed in the proper row.

To make this work without triggering the error, you need to make sure that when you are retaining the row index in the object you are creating with your desired values.

Here are two common situations which you might find:

Rename a specific column

A Pandas noob will be inclined to write the following:


price_lb=prices[prices['Data Item'].str.contains('LB')]
price_lb['Value per pound'] = price_lb['Value']

Which will return the following error:

:2: SettingWithCopyWarning:
A value is trying to be set on a copy of a slice from a DataFrame.
Try using .loc[row_indexer,col_indexer] = value instead
See the caveats in the documentation: https://pandas.pydata.org/pandas-docs/stable/user_guide/indexing.html#returning-a-view-versus-a-copy
price_lb[‘Value per pound’] = price_lb[‘Value’]

How do we solve this?!?!

Well, we need our good friend pd.concat to solve this problem unambiguously:


temp_df = pd.DataFrame(price_lb['Value'])
temp_df.columns = ['Value per pound']
price_lb=pd.concat([price_lb,temp_df], axis=1)

This is what you should do in order to ensure that there is no potential mismatching of data. We know this works because temp_df.index is identical to price_lb.index.

Run an operation on a column

A Pandas noob will be inclined to write the following:

price_ton['Value']=[x.replace(',','').replace(' (S)','').replace(" (NA)",'') for x in price_ton['Value']]

This presents a problem, because this generates a list, which has a index which is from 0 to the length of the list. This most likely doesn’t match the index of the DataFrame!

So we need to run an operation on this column, but also retain the index. Lambda functions are your friend in this situation. Rewrite your function like so:


values=price_ton['Value'].apply(lambda x: x.replace(',','').replace(' (S)','').replace(" (NA)",''))

Values will now retain the index and column name of the original Dataframe!

You can then use a pd.concat() function to bring this information back into your original dataframe.


price_ton=pd.concat([price_ton,pd.DataFrame(price_ton['Value'].apply(lambda x: x.replace(',','').replace(' (S)','').replace(" (NA)",'')))], axis=1)

No warnings, and every datapoint is exactly where it belongs.

I hope this helps you write better Python code.

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How I protect my accounts

I have several layers of protection on my most important accounts. In short, I use the following secure features:

  • Each account has a unique random password which is generated and stored in my Lastpass Vault
  • Lastpass requires Email authentication to login to a new device
  • The email I use for Lastpass has two factor authentication with my personal phone

So in order to steal my data you would need to:

  1. Randomly guess the password for my email account. If you make too many wrong attempts, any half decent website will lock your account for a few minutes. This means repetitively entering in passwords will not work. If my password is 10 digits long, where any character can be one of 96 possible characters on a US English keyboards, you are looking 6.65e19 possible combinations (66.5 quintillion in American English). If the website allows 3 wrong passwords in a 5 minute period, it would take over 2.1e14 years to guess every possible password on that one website. It doesn’t just lock out from that one device, it blocks ALL attempts from all clients for those 5 minutes. Random guessing and checking is simply not going to work.
  2. Randomly guess the password for my Lastpass account. Same math. This is not going to work.
  3. In the highly unlikely event where you randomly guessed my Lastpass password, and also my email password, you also need to have my personal phone on your person in order to access my account.

Don’t even try. It’s not worth your time.

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Apple vs Google, smartphone edition

I recently changed from Android to iOS, and I have a number of thoughts on what the different carriers do differently. Neither is inherently better than the other, and come with some massive tradeoffs. If one of these companies chose to learn from the other, there would be millions of people migrating from one platform to the other.

Android Advantages:

  • USB-C is vastly superior to Lightning
  • Has far more options in terms of phones, allowing them to control the lower spec market
  • You can easily fix your phone and it won’t break itself.

Apple advantages:

  • They support their operating system for a longer time than Google.
  • Their processor is the best on the market.

Right now I wanted to have a phone which would last a long time without the OS breaking, so I switched back to Apple after using Android for 8 years. I switched to Android because Apple was being overly controlling with their app store, and were limiting consumer choice.

What we really need is a phone which has the following:

  • Hardware support with their operating system akin to how Linux works. It needs to be mostly hardware agnostic, and never stop providing updates just because your device is old. It should always offer updates to the operating system, and be light weight enough so that it won’t break (though the same cannot be said about apps which are built on top of the operating system).
  • Use standard open USB connectors
  • Someone should be able to take apart their phone, fix a piece of it, put it back together, and assuming they didn’t make a mistake in reassembly, the phone should still work.
  • High spec processor

That’s what I want. Any company which does this will gain a lot of users.

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Control inflation while reducing inequality

America’s GDP per capita is at a record high.

Inflation is at its highest rate on record.

Immediately we know that the issue is a soaring demand curve, with a supply curve which is struggling to keep up.

So the answer to controlling inflation is pretty easy, either reduce demand (which would also harm GDP) or increase supply.

Unemployment is at 4.6% so there really aren’t very many people to bring into the labor market right now.

Our employment-population ratio is nearing 60% again, which has been the low end of the range since 1983. There really aren’t very many Americans who want to work who are not working.

We need more workers in order to keep up with rising demand (and those workers will themselves demand goods and services, because duh).

Inequality has stayed in the 40-43 range since 1993. Many Americans (myself included) are concerned with continuously high inequality.

So what we really want to do is raise wages for low income and middle class households, increase the labor supply. there are two ways to do this, we can either subsidize child care and pay for it by raising taxes on the rich, which is two birds with one stone because it reduces inequality while also increasing the labor supply.

The other option is to increase the number of available work visas.

You can only increase child care so much, but we should obviously do it.

These would help solve the labor crunch, but these policies will not solve inflation.

When we look however at where inflation is concentrated, it’s highly concentrated in the energy sector. The price of oil has skyrocketed over the last year, increasing from under $50 per barrel to $80 per barrel today.

The President of the United States, nay, the entire United States government has very little control over the price of oil. It is a global market, and the United States has less than 2% of the world’s proven oil reserves. We also have one of the highest drilling rates in the world as a percentage of oil we have. We are a small fish in the oil market, and we are depleting our proven reserves at a faster rate than any other country.

1/3 of global oil production is in Russia and Saudi Arabia alone.

Of the top ten countries by proven oil reserves, only one of them is a democracy, and that country is Canada. While Canada has vast oil reserves, it has a relatively small population and much of the oil is in Alberta. To put that climate in perspective, Edmonton has an average daily temperature below freezing from November through March, 5 months out of the year. This oil is located under land which is frozen for several months out of the year. I’m sure this is part of the reason why Canada has the second lowest extraction rate out of the world’s 17 largest oil producers, second only to Venezuela which is an economic and political crisis.

Despite the United States having the third fastest extraction rate, we are still in a global market, and we still have no control over the oil price.

What makes this even more dire, is that we will run out of current proven reserves in the United States in less than 10 years unless if we find a significant amount of oil reserves hidden somewhere in the United States somewhere very soon.

If Canada were to increase its current oil extraction to the same rate as the United States it would last for 66 more years. Saudi Arabia and Venezuela are significant outliers in terms of their oil supply.

The harsh reality is that as long as the United States stays dependent on oil, our economy will be under the control of countries which are hostile to democracy. It’s just that simple.

We need to transition off of oil and continue to expand renewable energy as fast as we possibly can. That is the only way we can protect our economy from hostile foreign actors.

That is the only way we can protect our economy from inflation caused by hostile foreign actors.

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_reserves

https://fred.stlouisfed.org

https://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS12300000

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Why we should cancel student loan debt

The year is 1992, you just had a baby, and you live in Washington State. The cost of college at University of Washington is around $3000, and you talk to your financial advisor about how to plan to make it so your child has the best opportunity possible. You don’t live in poverty, so there is little financial assistance for people in your financial class. Your financial advisor says you need to invest in college, and given how college costs increase by only 4-6% per year on average, he recommends you invest in the stock market to pick up an average of 2% growth per year over the next 18 years. Plus this is tax deferred of course because it’s a 529 plan, so it’s a good plan all around.

Assuming college increases at an average of 5% per year, which was a reasonable estimate for the time, your financial advisor makes the same prediction anyone else with a knack for economics would predict, and that tuition at UW will be around $6600 when your kid hits college in 2011.

In order to invest so you have enough, he adds up the predicted cost and estimates that you will need to have around $20,000 saved up to cover tuition when your kid turns 18 in 2011, so you should talk to the grandparents of your child and work to save up $1000 per year for the first 6 years of your child’s life. This prediction will mean that you should be able to cover the cost of college, given a generous inflation rate and an average APR of 8%. This would have been good advice, and what many parents got in the early 1990s for their children’s college from financial advisors who are really good at their jobs.

In 2002 tuition at UW increased by 16%, but the difference between the prediction and your amount saved up was less than $1000 per year, which is manageable for your middle class family to pick up the tab, so you didn’t change your investment strategy much.

Then in 2008 the infamous Great Recession hit and the State had plummeting revenues. Your child was already in high school, and already planning for college. In response, tuition at University of Washington rose by 13.1. Tuition was now 127% of the prediction you made 16 years ago. In 2010 it rose by 13.1% again, making it 137% of your prediction, and then in 2011 it rose by a whopping 21%, making tuition 158% of the amount you budgeted for based on historical trends.

For the average middle class family to find an additional $500 to cover the cost of college is manageable.

But when you need to pick up an additional $5000 compared to what you planned for, and you were only given two years to prepare, most families don’t have any good options to cover the unexpected increase of tuition in the time allocated to them. The only options left are for their child to work a low income job after high school to save the difference, which delays the time at which they get a professional job which pays them over twice they can make with a high school diploma (on average), which will literally cost them for the rest of their lives, and also reduce the taxes they pay back to society, and reduce their potential retirement benefits which will impact them for the rest of their lives.

The only solution offered by the American government was for the student to take on personal loans which cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. Now if we do the math and the family did everything right and they went with the reasonable prediction when their kid was born we are looking at a difference of almost $19,000 between the amount they allocated for college and the real cost. Assuming they can’t take money out of retirement, the only option left without postponing college is to take out a large amount of student loans.

Dixiecrats are trying to portray this as a fail of “social responsibility” and “you should have worked harder, you lazy Socialist scum” but that’s not what is actually going on. For half a century part of the social contract of being American was pretty similar to other developed countries, and it included ensuring that young adults get a college education which significantly increases life time earnings, extends lifespans, increases taxes paid, and improves the health of those individuals over their lives, saving a ton of money in health care costs.

In 2008 the social contract was broken, and the United States put an unprecedented burden on the middle class, those who are too rich for Pell Grants, yet too poor to simply pull money out of their non-existent retirement funds. The children of these people are far less likely to own homes which for the last two centuries has been one of two ways American families have grown their wealth, the other of course being IRAs. Average American families were planning on the government being their for their children the way the government was there for them when they were young, and then the government just wasn’t.

College is a necessary part of society, and we need everyone who is able to do the work be able to go to college regardless of how much money their parent’s make. Education funding is important because young adults don’t have time to save up for college, and young adults are not in charge of their parent’s financial decisions. Also, in the past people were only able to cover the cost of college because the government was covering a large portion of the bill, as part of the now broken social contract. Because of this, it is the role of everyone in society to ensure that young people are able to improve their lives, and we all benefit when we have a more educated population.

I’m done with higher education, I have earned my degree. My personal student debt load is minimal. I am very lucky, I did work in college as well, and my personal college funding my family prepared for me has nothing to do with my personal work ethic or self-worth. I had no control over that.

We need to rebuild the social contract. College needs to in cost to the point where it is affordable again, and those who are still in high school need to know that they will have a chance.

We also need to do right for those of us who had the social contract broken when we were in high school, especially my peers who didn’t have the luck I had with grandparents who have a good financial advisor who made good decision with them before I was even born. We need college to be accessible to all high school students who are willing and able to do it.

We also need to fix the social contract for my peers who saw the social contract ripped in two in front of their faces when we were in high school. The easiest way to restore the social contract is to pardon student loans. It isn’t a choice between doing right for today’s high schoolers and doing right for college graduates of the last decade, we can do both. Best part of this is the total tax burden for tax payers to pardon student loans is a whopping $0.

For these reasons, we need to restore the social contract and rebuild the American dream.

Pardon student debt.

Reference:

http://depts.washington.edu/opbfiles/web/2016-17%20Tuition%20&%20Fee%20History.pdf

college cost prediction spreadsheet

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What comes next

Two things matter right now,

  1. Do Manchin and Sinema support the bulk of BBB (hint, we know they don’t)
  2. Will voting rights be passed

This will determine the next decade. Plain and simple. We have three potential futures which will be determined by these two decisions:

  1. We get only half of BBB and no voting rights (probably our reality)
  2. We get the full BBB and voting rights
  3. We get the full BBB and no voting rights

If Manchin and Sinema allow voting rights to pass (which requires filibuster abolition) we will get the other half of BBB, the thought we will get filibuster abolition, voting rights, and only half of BBB is preposterous. It can be discarded.

Scenario 1

This is probably our reality. Democrats run on around 10% of what Biden promised. Voting discrimination passes in more states, particularly Missouri. Democrats have negligible accomplishments and many of their voters have been removed from voter rolls. Republicans easily win the midterms. Bidens obsession with bipartisanship makes him the least significant President since James Garfield, with no major accomplishments. Republicans win in 2024, eliminating what little progress we made.

Scenario 2

The harsh reality of voter suppression finally means the Biden administration has to face the reality that the filibuster could make him insignificant. He uses his influence to convince Manchin and Sinema to abolish the filibuster and they pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. They pass the rest of BBB and democrats run on it next year. With expanded voting rights and a base who isn’t discouraged, the democrats keep their trifecta.

Scenario 3

Democrats have the full BBB to run on. Many POC voters are discriminated against, so democrats underperform. Its really hard for predict who gets congress, but it will be close. Voter discrimination in Georgia, Arizona, and Missouri (which is probably coming) will probably cost the Democrats the Senate.

President Biden, please put more pressure on Manchin and Sinema, they are the only ones holding up your agenda.

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Uncategorized

Closest Presidential Elections in American History, Part 2-1

What would happen in historic presidential elections if the vote flipped by 1% in each State towards the candidate who lost that state?

In 2020 Georgia, Arizona, and Wisconsin had margins of under 1%. Biden would have lost 37 electoral college votes compared to our reality and won 269 electoral college votes, sending the election to Congress. The Senate had a Republican majority and the House had a Democratic majority, meaning that the 12th amendment comes into effect.

What would have happened then? Well, here is a picture of the partisan majority of each state’s house delegation:

As we can see, Republicans would control the delegations from 26 states, Democrats would control delegations from 22 states, and 2 states had an even number of Democrats and Republicans from each state. 26/50 > 0.5 so that is a majority, and Trump would have won the election.

When it comes to the Vice Presidency, the Senate would vote with each Senator having one vote.

There were 52 Republicans in the Senate and 48 members caucusing with the Democrats, which means that Mike Pence would have been elected Vice President.

 

We seriously need to abolish the electoral college and vote for the President via the popular vote using Instant Runoff Voting. We cannot afford a situation like this, especially considering the damage that can be done by such an archaic broken system.

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2024 elections Uncategorized

Closest presidential elections in American history, Part 1

What would happen if you were to take the states which voted for the winner with under 51% of the vote and flip those states to the loser in all historical Presidential elections since Andrew Jackson?

Here’s the answer:

In 2020 Joe Biden won 306 electoral college votes. Arizona, Wisconsin, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Michigan voted for him with less than 51% of the vote. Those six states are worth 79 electoral college votes, which means he would have only won 227 electoral college votes, and Trump would have been reelected.

In 2016 Donald Trump won 304 electoral college votes. Utah, Nebraska’s 2nd, Wisconsin, Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina, and Georgia would have flipped, worth 124 electoral college votes, which would have given him 180 in total, and Hillary Clinton would have been President.

In 2012 Barack Obama won 332 electoral college votes. He only won Florida and Ohio with under 51% of the vote, worth 47 electoral college votes, which would have given him 285 electoral college votes, meaning he won in a landslide.

In 2008 Barack Obama won 365 electoral college votes. He won North Carolina, Indiana, and Nebraska’s 2nd with under 51% of the vote, worth 27 electoral college votes. He would have gotten 338 electoral college votes, and still would have won in a landslide.

In 2004 George W. Bush won 286 electoral college votes. He won New Mexico, Iowa, Nevada, and Ohio with less than 51% of the vote, which would have been 37 more votes for Kerry. Bush would have won 249 electoral college votes and John Kerry would have been President.

In 2000 George W. Bush won 271 electoral college votes. He won New Hampshire, Florida, Nevada, Ohio, Missouri, and Colorado with under 51% of the vote, worth 73 electoral college votes, meaning he would have only won 198 votes and Al Gore would have been President.

In 1996 Bill Clinton won 379 electoral college votes. He won Nevada, Kentucky, Arizona, Oregon, Ohio, Missouri, Tennessee, Florida, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Washington, and Iowa with under 51% of the vote. These add up to 156 electoral college votes, putting him at 223 electoral college votes, and Bob Dole would have been President.

In 1992 Bill Clinton won 370 electoral college votes. He won Nevada, Montana, Maine’s 2nd, Maine, New Hampshire, Maine’s 1st, Colorado, Ohio, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Oregon, New Jersey, Iowa, Washington, Georgia, Minnesota, Delaware, Michigan, Missouri, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, New Mexico, California, Vermont, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Hawaii, West Virginia, Illinois, New York, and Maryland with under 51% of the vote. He only won 9 votes with over 51% of the vote in 1992. That election was way too close, mostly because of Ross Perot.

In 1988 George H.W. Bush won 426 electoral college votes. He won only Illinois and Pennsylvania with under 51% of the vote, worth 49 electoral votes which would have given him 377 votes. He won in a landslide.

In 1984 Ronald Reagan won 525 electoral college votes, and got over 51% of the vote in every state he won.

In 1980 Ronald Reagan won 489 electoral college votes. He won with under 51% in Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, Maine’s 1st, New York, Maine’s 2nd, Delaware, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Connecticut, Oregon, Tennessee, Alabama, Michigan, Kentucky, North Carolina, Mississippi, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, his birth state of Illinois, and Washington. These states add up to 226 electoral college votes, which would have given Reagan only 263 and given Carter a second term.

In 1976 James Carter won 297 electoral college votes. He won with under 51% of the vote in Hawaii, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Wisconsin, and Ohio, worth 74 electoral college votes. If those states had flipped, Ford would have won reelection.

In 1972 Richard Nixon won 520 electoral college votes, and won every state with over 51% of the vote. Too bad he was a rat bastard.

In 1968 Richard Nixon won 301 electoral college votes. He won fewer than 51% of the vote in Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, Delaware, Ohio, Alaska, New Jersey, Illinois, Nevada, Oklahoma, California, Wisconsin, Oregon, Indiana, Colorado, and Montana. These states add up to 245 electoral college votes, giving Nixon only 66 electoral college votes if those states had flipped. Wallace really disrupted the election, but if Wallace hadn’t run, they would have voted for Nixon anyways, so Nixon won with a spoiler which took votes from himself. 1968 is a very consequential and complicated year, and the fact that Nixon won while there was a spoiler stealing votes from him is telling of how chaotic that year was. Too bad he was a rat bastard.

In 1964 Lyndon Johnson won 486 electoral college votes, and won only Idaho with under 51% of the vote. He would have won 482 electoral college votes and still won the election. This was the first year Republicans won the South as a bloc since Reconstruction.

In 1960 John F. Kennedy won 303 electoral college votes. He won New Jersey, Illinois, Hawaii, New Mexico, Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana, Texas, Minnesota, Delaware, and Michigan with under 51% of the vote. These states add up to 139 electoral college votes, which would have given him only 164 electoral college votes and given Nixon the election. Good thing Kennedy squeaked out a win here, because Nixon was a rat bastard.

I really, really hate Richard Nixon, if you can’t tell.

In 1956 Dwight Eisenhower won with 457 electoral college votes. He won only Tennessee with under 51% of the vote, meaning if he lost Tennessee he would have had 446 electoral college votes and still won the Presidency. This was the last year where Republicans won most of the North and Democrats won the Solid South.

In 1952 Dwight Eisenhower won with 442 electoral college votes. He won Tennessee, Missouri, and Rhode Island with under 51% of the vote, worth 31 electoral college votes, meaning if he had lost those he would have won 409 electoral college votes and still won the Presidency.

In 1948 Harry Truman won with 303 electoral college votes. He won California, Virginia, Florida, Tennessee, Ohio, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Nevada, and Wisconsin with under 51% of the vote, worth a combined 137 electoral college votes, which mean if he lost those state he would have only won 166 electoral college votes and Dewey would have been President.

In 1944 Franklin Roosevelt won 432 electoral college votes. He only won Michigan and New Jersey with under 51% of the vote, worth a combined 35 electoral college votes. If those states flipped President Roosevelt would have still won 398 electoral college votes and the Presidency.

In 1940 Franklin Roosevelt won 449 electoral college votes. He only won Wisconsin and Illinois with under 51% of the vote, worth a combined 41 electoral college votes. He would have still won 408 electoral college votes, and the Presidency.

In 1936 Franklin Roosevelt won 523 electoral college votes. He only won New Hampshire by under 51%, which means that if New Hampshire flipped he would have won 519 electoral college votes and the Presidency.

In 1932 Franklin Roosevelt won 472 electoral college votes. He only won New Jersey, Ohio, and Massachusetts with under 51% of the vote, worth 59 electoral college votes, which means if those three states flipped he would have won 413 votes, and still won handily.

In 1928 Herbert Hoover won 444 electoral college votes. He only won New York with under 51% of the vote, worth 45 electoral college votes, meaning if New York had flipped he would have won 399 electoral college votes and still won the election.

In 1924 Calvin Coolidge won 382 electoral college votes. He won less than 51% of the vote in Arizona, Nevada, Montana, Maryland, Nebraska, Idaho, North Dakota, New Mexico, Kentucky, Utah, West Virginia, Missouri, and South Dakota worth 86 electoral college votes. If those state flipped he would have won 296 electoral votes and still won the Presidency.

In 1920 Warren Harding won 404 electoral college votes. He only won Oklahoma with less than 51% of the vote, which means if Oklahoma had flipped he would have still won the Presidency with 394 electoral college votes.

In 1916 Woodrow Wilson won 277 electoral college votes. He won California, North Dakota, Washington, New Hampshire, Kansas, New Mexico, Missouri, and Oklahoma with under 51% of the vote, worth 70 electoral college votes. If those states had flipped Charles Evans Hughes would have been elected.

1912 was a weird election, to say the least, because it was the last time where a former President ran as a third party candidate. It was also the last time where a third party came in second place for both electoral college votes and the popular vote. It is also the last time a socialist candidate got over 5% of the vote. If we had used ranked voting, it is reasonable to assume that Theodore Roosevelt would have won a third term. I’m going to leave this election out because its complicated and deserves its own post.

In 1908 William Howard Taft won 321 electoral college votes. Taft won fewer than 51% of the vote in Montana, Indiana, Missouri, and Maryland, worth a combined 38 electoral college votes. If those 4 states had flipped he would have won 283 electoral college votes and still won the election.

In 1904 Theodore Roosevelt won 336 electoral college votes. He won less than 50% of the vote in Missouri, worth 18 electoral college votes, which would have given him 318 electoral college votes and he still would have won the election. I’m ignoring the 7 faithless electors in Maryland.

In 1900 William McKinley won 292 electoral college votes. He won under 51% of the vote in Nebraska, Utah, and Indiana. These states were worth 26 votes, which would have given him 266 electoral college votes. 224 electoral college votes were needed, and he still would have won the election.

In 1896 William McKinley won 271 electoral college votes. He won under 51% of the vote in Kentucky, California, Oregon, and Indiana. These states were worth 39 electoral college votes. If those 4 states flipped he would have won 232 electoral college votes, more than the 224 electoral college votes needed in order to win, so he still would have won.

In 1892 Grover Cleveland won 277 electoral college votes. He won under 51% of the vote in New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Missouri, West Virginia, New York, Illinois, Michigan 10, Michigan 5, Wisconsin, Michigan 2, Indiana, North Carolina, Michigan 7, and California. These states were worth a combined 152 electoral college votes, he would have won 125 electoral college votes, and Benjamin Harrison would have won his reelection.

In 1888 Benjamin Harrison won 233 electoral college votes. He won under 51% of the vote in Indiana, New York, Ohio, Illinois, California, Michigan, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire, worth a combined 132 electoral college votes. If those states had flipped he would have won 99 electoral college votes and Grover Cleveland would have won his reelection.

In 1884 Grover Cleveland won 219 electoral college votes. He won under 51% of the vote in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Indiana, and West Virginia, worth a combined 72 electoral college votes. If those states had flipped James Blaine would have won.

In 1880 James Garfield won 214 electoral college votes, he needed 185 in order to win. He won Indiana, New York, Oregon, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania with under 51% of the vote. Those states were worth 88 electoral college votes. If those states had flipped Winfield Hancock would have become President.

In 1876 Rutherford Hayes won with 185 electoral college votes, the minimum he needed in order to win. 1876 was the closest election in American history in terms of electoral college votes. He won under 51% of the vote in Illinois, Ohio, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, California, Oregon, and Florida. If any of those states had flipped Samuel Tilden would have become President.

1872 was a very unusual election because Horace Greeley died on November 29, 1872, before the Electoral College met. Grant would have likely won no matter what.

In 1868 Ulysses S. Grant won 214 electoral votes, he needed 148. He only won California with under 51% of the vote, and California was only worth 5 electoral college votes that year, so he won in a landslide.

In 1864 Abraham Lincoln won 212 electoral college votes, he needed 118. He only won New York with under 51% of the vote, worth 33 electoral college votes. He won in a landslide.

In 1860 Abraham Lincoln won 180 electoral college votes, he needed 152 in order to win. He won with under 51% of the vote in California, Oregon, New Jersey, and Illinois, worth a combined 22 electoral college votes. If those 4 states had flipped Lincoln would have won 158 electoral college votes and still won the election. 1860 is unusual in how President Lincoln won under 50% of the popular vote, yet would have still won the electoral college in our scenario.

In 1856 James Buchanan won 174 electoral college votes, he needed 149 in order to win. He won under 51% of the vote in Illinois, New Jersey, California, Pennsylvania, and Indiana, worth 62 electoral college votes. If Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Indiana had voted for John C. Fremont and California had voted for Millard Fillmore, (the runner ups in those states) Buchanan would have had 108 electoral college votes, Fremont would have had 172 electoral college votes, and Millard Fillmore would have had 12 electoral college votes, giving Fremont the Presidency.

In 1852 Franklin Pierce won 254 electoral college votes, he needed 149 in order to win. He won less than 51% of the vote in Ohio, Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Iowa, North Carolina, Michigan, and Maine. Those states were worth 95 electoral college votes. If those states had flipped Franklin Pierce would have won 159 electoral college votes and still won.

In 1848 Zachary Taylor won 163 electoral college votes, he needed 146 in order to win. He won with less than 51% of the vote in Massachusetts, New York, Vermont, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania, worth a combined 86 electoral college votes. If those states had flipped to their runner up, 44 votes would have gone to Martin Van Buren, and 6 votes would have gone to Lewis Cass. Taylor would have had 77 electoral college votes, Cass would have had 133 electoral college votes, and Martin Van Buren would have had 44 electoral college votes. No candidate would have had a majority in the electoral college and the election would have been determined by Congress following the rules in the 12th amendment.

In 1844 James K. Polk won 170 electoral college votes, he needed 138 in order to win. He won with less than 51% of the vote in New York, Michigan, Indiana, and Pennsylvania, worth 79 electoral college votes. If those states had flipped Henry Clay would have been President.

In 1840 William Henry Harrison won 234 electoral college votes, he needed 148 in order to win. He won with under 51% of the vote in Pennsylvania and Maine which were worth 40 electoral college votes, and if those states had flipped he still would have won.

In 1836 Martin Van Buren won 170 electoral college votes, he needed 148 in order to win. He won with under 51% of the vote in Connecticut, worth 8 electoral college votes. He would have won if Connecticut had flipped.

In 1832 Andrew Jackson won 219 electoral college votes, he needed 145 in order to win. He won under 51% of the vote in New Jersey, worth 8 votes, so he would have won no matter what.

In 1828 Andrew Jackson won over 51% of the vote in every state he won, so he won in a solid landslide.

I’m not going to look at elections before 1828 for two reasons.

  • 1824 was a batshit crazy election (technically)
  • Very few states had a popular vote before 1828.

The years which would have flipped if the states which voted for the President elect with under 51% of the votes had flipped to the major opponent were:

  • 2020
  • 2016
  • 2004
  • 2000
  • 1996
  • 1992
  • 1980
  • 1976
  • 1968
  • 1960
  • 1948
  • 1916
  • 1892
  • 1888
  • 1884
  • 1880
  • 1876
  • 1856
  • 1848 (no one would have won over 50% of the Electoral College)
  • 1844

The only Presidents which would have still won the election if their opponent picked up all states he won less than 51% of the vote in, won their party’s nomination after being President (if possible, if they run), and won every election he ran as the Presidential candidate in the general election, for are:

  • Barack Hussein Obama Jr.
  • Lyndon Baines Johnson
  • Dwight David Eisenhower
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt
  • Calvin Coolidge
  • William McKinley
  • Ulysses S. Grant
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Andrew Jackson

 

Damn, that’s a lot of data and a long story. What do I take away from this story?

  • Both parties can win elections.
  • Incumbency advantages are very real.
  • Most elections in recent history have been close.
  • The only President to win with enough support that if he lost 1% support in every state he still would have won in the last 30 years was President Obama.
  • While we often paint the election as relying on one or two states, this is usually not the case.
  • Only 4 Presidents have won with enough support in enough states to win with only states they won with over 51% of t he vote in over the last century. Most Presidents have had technically close elections.