Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Power of Potential

Why does a untested high school pitcher command a bigger signing bonus from a major league baseball team than a proven major league pitcher with six years of experience as a starter?

Why does a fledgling tech company IPO result in a market cap far in excess of a steady and profitable company that has a 10 year record of success in the marketplace?

Why does the up and coming young MBA a few years out of school get the promotion over the steady, seasoned and loyal 10 year manager?

Why do NFL fans of mediocre teams always clamor for the 2nd string quarterback?

Why did an untested Barack Obama beat two candidates (Hillary Clinton and John McCain) who were both more accomplished and experience than he was?

All of this stems from the human tendency to favor potential over achievement. In effect, "the potential to be good at something is preferred over actually being good at the very same thing."

Those are the words of Zakary Tormala who is an Associate Professor at Stanford's Graduate School of Business. I recently saw Tormala speak at a conference on this subject and I thought his research into this subject was interesting and enlightening.

Tormala has an academic interest in psychological certainty (and uncertainty) and its effects on our behavior and decision making.  For example, if someone is certain in their beliefs it is very difficult to get them to change their mind to consider new choices. On the other hand, people who are uncertain are much more willing to have an open mind and consider new options.

What are the implications of this in the real world?

It is critical that people in sales and marketing understand the role of uncertainty. Someone who is certain is going to be impossible to sell under almost any circumstances. The only way to get them to consider your product is to introduce some uncertainty (for example, a new insight or threat that they might not have been aware of) to get them to open their mind for other options or choices.

What is interesting in comparing potential versus achievement is that uncertainty seems to have the opposite affect you would expect according to research that Tormala conducted with two other collaborators that was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Evidence of achievement should reduce uncertainty about a person’s talent and boost confidence about his or her future success or high performance. Potential, on the other hand, is fraught with uncertainty by its very nature: An individual with high potential might achieve greatness but very well might not. Because potential leaves more room for doubt about a person’s true talent or future outcomes, it stands to reason that achievement should be viewed as more impressive than otherwise equivalent potential and should often be viewed as a stronger or more reliable indicator of future success.

However, that is not the case most of the time. Potential trumps achievement in people's minds a lot of the time.Although achievement provides certainty, the uncertainty of potential seems to be more engaging and interesting to people.

We postulate that potential is more interesting and engaging than achievement precisely because it is less certain and more ambiguous. Indeed, considerable research has revealed that relative to certainty, uncertainty can sometimes stimulate greater interest and involvement and, ultimately, deeper processing.
Thus, we suggest that the uncertainty surrounding individuals with high potential makes them more interesting, which draws people in, increases processing, and can have positive downstream effects on judgments. 

About now I am sure you are saying, "Enough with the academic speak!".

"What are you talking about in the real world?"

Here is a "real world" example based on one of the experiments that Tormala did to prove the power of potential.

The experimental study involved an ad campaign on Facebook involving a real comedian named Kevin Shea who was growing in popularity  at the time. Shea had just launched a fan page of Facebook so Tormala and his fellow researchers took out ads on Facebook to see how many clicks the could garner to Shea's Facebook page.

The only difference in the ads was a small change in wording of the header. One header touted achievement and the other emphasized potential.

They also measured two well-known persuasion strategies. The extent to which individuals were persuaded by experts (Source Credibility Appeal) and by others (Social Proof Appeal).

The "Expert" header in the ad read like this for Achievement.

Critics say he has become the next big thing.

The "Expert" header for Potential was this.

Critics say he could become the next big thing.

The "Social Proof" header in the ad read like this for Achievement.

Everyone is talking about Kevin Shea.

The "Social Proof" header for Potential was as follows.

By this time next year, everyone could be talking about Kevin Shea.

Therefore, it really was the case of "he has arrived" vs. "he could arrive".

What were the results?

It is pretty incredible if you ask me how powerful potential was compared to achievement.

When the source was stated to be experts (like critics) there were about 2x the number of clicks to find out about the potentially great comedian Kevin Shea than the Kevin Shea who was already great.

When the source was simply the opinion of others (non experts), there were almost no clicks unless it was about potential. There was almost no interest in clicking through to find about someone who everyone was already talking about.

Tormala may be correct that uncertainty is driving more interest in potential than achievement here.

However, I believe there is another big factor at play here that he is overlooking.

That factor is "Social Currency".

The fact is that human beings like "to be in the know".  They also like the feeling they get when they find out about something new. Why? So they can tell someone else to show how "smart" or "clued in" they are. After all, when it comes to all of us, it is mostly about us.

Don't you know that feeling yourself?

There is no fun in telling something to someone who already knows it. It is fun to tell somebody something new.

I think my thesis also explains the difference between when the source is an "expert" versus a "non-expert". If you think about it, most people would consider an expert to be "in the know" and "ahead of the curve" compared to non-experts. Therefore, people are more willing to consider the achievement frame from an expert than a non-expert because it is more likely they know something everybody does not. That is why there were more clicks on the achievement frame for source credibility but almost none for social proof appeal. "If everyone else is already talking about this guy why bother checking it out? Who am I going to tell so I will look like I am clued in."

I think there is another factor at play here as well. That is the fact that most human beings are naturally optimistic. Life is hard if you don't believe that tomorrow is going to be better than today. We have a natural tendency to believe in the next great thing. That is what drives people to get out of bed in the morning. Tomorrow will be better.

On the other hand, achievement has boundaries. You know the top and the bottom of the range of achievement. Potential is boundless, especially on the upside. Hope does spring eternal.

In conclusion, think about the power of potential. It has significant practical implications. Think about how you present things to others and how you state things when it comes to achievement versus potential. Small word choices can have large impacts on persuading others as Tormala points out in another article on this subject.

If you're recommending someone for a job, a promotion, or admission to graduate school, it would be wise to highlight that person's potential. Our take is that framing your support for a person, a restaurant, a cause — and many other things — in terms of potential as opposed to achievement could make your case more persuasive.
We found that even seemingly minor word choices made a difference. Participants in one study evaluated a job applicant more favorably when he had performed well on a test called the "Assessment of Leadership Potential" rather than one called the "Assessment of Leadership Achievement." So someone who scores well on a Scholastic Aptitude Test might be perceived as a stronger candidate than someone who scores well on a Scholastic Achievement Test. A subtle shift in word choice can have a big impact on interest and engagement.

Potentially great advice, don't you agree?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Questions on Quarantines

The case of nurse Kaci Hickox and her enforced quarantine in Newark, New Jersey pushed me to do a little research on the background and basis for a quarantine order.

It also seems useful to compare and contrast the difference between quarantining someone and isolating someone.

This is exactly how the Center for Disease Control (CDC) defines the two terms.

Isolation and quarantine help protect the public by preventing exposure to people who have or may have a contagious disease.
  • Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick.
  • Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.
In addition to serving as medical functions, isolation and quarantine also are “police power” functions, derived from the right of the state to take action affecting individuals for the benefit of society.

Ms. Hickox created a lot of noise in the news about having been quarantined in New Jersey upon her arrival from Sierra Leone after treating Ebola patients in that country for a month with Doctors Without Borders.

This is what she said in an interview with Candy Crowley on CNN.

"To quarantine everyone, in case, you know, when you cannot predict who may develop Ebola or not, and to make me stay for 21 days, to not be with my family, to put me through this emotional and physical stress, is completely unacceptable," Hickox told Crowley. She added, "I feel like my basic human rights have been violated. It's really inhumane".

Hickox was ultimately released by New Jersey and sent to her home state of Maine. However, the Governor of Maine, Paul LePage, has stated that she will be expected to self-quarantine herself in Maine. And the nursing school (University of Maine-Fort Kent) which her live-in boyfriend attends has stated he will not be allowed on campus if he has any contact with Hickox. Faced with that choice, he has decided to not attend school during the quarantine period.

It seems that Ms. Hickox is not any more welcome to move around freely in her home state of Maine than in New Jersey.

First, it should be duly noted that sincere thanks and appreciation should go out to Ms. Hickox, Dr. Spencer, Dr. Brantley and the other medical professionals who have given so much in the effort to serve those in the Ebola-infected countries of West Africa. It is a true lesson of humanity and sacrifice in a world where both seem to be in very short supply.

However, what sense would it make to undo all of that good by not following some common sense protocols that have proven to be prudent through the course of many, many years of human activity. Does it not make sense "to be safe rather than sorry" with a disease that could particularly devastate urban communities and a 21st century economy that is so inter-connected?

I appreciate your service, Ms .Hickox, but the weight of public opinion and prudent thought is not on your side.

I find it troubling that as a medical professional Ms. Hickox also does not seem to understand that the very reason for a quarantine is because (using her words) "you cannot predict who may develop Ebola or not". This is the very purpose of a quarantine. You quarantine "to see if they become sick". You isolate those that are sick.

That being said, it is also clear that New Jersey seems like it could have done a better job of handling her quarantine. More on that below.

In addition, consider this poll that was taken among NBC's Today Show viewers that was reported on the show yesterday. Bear in mind that NBC Today Show viewers would not typically be considered Tea Party members.

Who were the 6%?

That leads me to provide a little background and history on the history and reason behind a quarantine.

This also comes from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website.

The practice of quarantine, as we know it, began during the 14th century in an effort to protect coastal cities from plague epidemics. Ships arriving in Venice from infected ports were required to sit at anchor for 40 days before landing. This practice, called quarantine, was derived from the Italian words quaranta giorni which mean 40 days.

Notice that the concern here was the risk of bringing plague into Venice and other coastal cities from ships arriving from infected ports. No one was let off the ship who had been somewhere where the infection was rampant until the incubation period had passed. That is the purpose of a quarantine.
You do not quarantine someone who is symptomatic as by that time it is already too late. At that point the protocol is to isolate the sick from those who are not sick.

They figured this out in the Middle Ages when the risk of transmission was relatively small compared to the risks we have today with air travel and a much more mobile world population. Why do we think we can ignore common sense today?

In the early days of our nation most quarantine efforts were handled by state and local governments, but eventually it was acknowledged that the federal government was in a better position to oversee these efforts as the country became more mobile and transient.

The Public Health Service Act of 1944 clearly established the federal government's quarantine authority for the first time. The act gave the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) responsibility for preventing the introduction, transmission, and spread of communicable diseases from foreign countries into the United States.

There is authority under that statute "to detain, medically examine or conditionally release individuals and wildlife suspected of carrying a communicable disease."
The list of quarantinable diseases is contained in an Executive Order of the President and includes cholera, diphtheria, infectious tuberculosis, plague, smallpox, yellow fever, viral hemorrhagic fevers (such as Marburg, Ebola, and Congo-Crimean), and severe acute respiratory syndromes.(emphasis added).
Other diseases are considered to pose a health risk to the public but are not considered subject to quarantine under current law.
Many other illnesses of public health significance, such as measles, mumps, rubella, and chicken pox, are not contained in the list of quarantinable illnesses, but continue to pose a health risk to the public.
What is most interesting here again with the Ebola issue is that it is the President of the United States Barack Obama who is not exercising any leadership or the prudent use of his clear executive authority. As a result, Governors in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Illinois have announced mandatory 21-day quarantine periods for any health workers returning from West Africa where the federal government has done nothing. Bear in mind, three of these states are led by liberal, Democrat governors.

We are left with the strange fact that the President of the United States will not act when he has the clear legal authority to do so, and it is necessary (Ebola), but he wants to act when he has absolutely no legal authority (Amnesty for illegal immigrants). That is why I have previously referred to him as President Opposite.  It just seems that he has us going in the wrong direction with every step he takes.

Of course, the President argues that to place a 21-day quarantine period on any returning medical worker from West Africa would discourage health care workers like Ms. Hickox and Dr. Spencer from volunteering to help with Ebola treatment in Africa. As a result, the problem will only get worse and put us at greater risk over the long term.

I understand the argument but doesn't that present us with a false choice?

Mickey Kaus suggests that we need to think about the incentives in this case before we say we can't both protect the public today and also provide the needed medical resources to West Africa. I have written before that incentives make the world work. People at first thought Kaus was kidding when he suggested building a luxury resort for returning health care workers but he states he is dead serious. I must say I like his thinking in looking at the problem.

We’d like to quarantine care workers who return from caring for Ebola patients in West Africa — we’re not 100% sure that symptomless people aren’t contagious (“unlikely”), and symptoms seem to come on relatively quickly in any case. Voluntary quarantining has proven incompletely effective. At the same time, we don’t want to discourage volunteer health care workers from traveling to West Africa, where the main fight against the disease is being waged. They’re not exactly encouraged to make the trip if they know they’ll have to spend 21 days in a tent with a portable toilet on their return.
What to do? Protect the public here or incentivize workers to go there? This is a false choice! What’s needed is a quarantine so luxurious that health care workers will look forward to their 21 day quarantine, or at least not dread it. What if the federal government took over an isolated resort, say on the Gulf Coast. Stocked it with finest foods and wines in the land, and the best films and recreation and wireless Internet access and volunteer musical acts —  a French widow in every room, as a friend of mine used to say, equivalent to a very expensive vacation, available for free to any returning volunteer. The only catch is they couldn’t leave for 21 days. (They could bring their spouses and partners, if they wanted –but then the spouses couldn’t leave either).

I would take Kaus' idea one step further. I would make the quarantine period a paid vacation compliments of the federal government.  I might also make that pay tax-free and throw in a round trip charter flight to West Africa for every health care volunteer to boot.

Too expensive?  No way. How much does it cost to treat one Ebola patient in the ICU at Bellevue Hospital? Take that and multiply it by 100 or 1,000. In fact, Bellevue Hospital has already had to move other patients out of its ICU to another hospital so it can free staff to take care of its one Ebola patient!

How much did we spend on President Obama's tour of Africa last year? As much as $100 million according to a story in The Washington Post last year.  A 21-day tax-free paid vacation for the necessary health care workers would be a pittance compared to that expenditure.

How much would it cost to do contact tracing and monitoring on everyone on a New York subway? I don't want to even guess at the manpower and money required.

How much damage to the economy would be done if even a few hundred Ebola cases popped up over the next several months across the country. Incalculable.

Quarantine, isolation and incentives. There is a place for all of them in taking on Ebola. All it takes is a little leadership, imagination and money. We might not have any of them but we can surely borrow something from someone. We can start by borrowing proven tactics from our forefathers on how to combat communicable diseases. It starts with Q.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

It's Not Black And White

I have spent a lot of time during my career looking at opinion surveys. Employee opinion surveys. Conference surveys.  Market research studies.

One thing is always clear. You typically find consensus in the survey numbers but you never see unanimity in anything when human beings are involved. One person is going to love something and another is just as likely to hate it. There are just too many diverse views and perspectives among human beings.

For example, I recently spoke at a conference where there were ten speakers and the attendees were asked to rank the sessions from 1-10 on how interesting the talk was to them. My speech was ranked 2nd overall on the day. Most people ranked it highly giving it a very good consensus score. However, the distribution of the scores went from 1 to 10. Some people loved it but others didn't think it was worth anything to them.

The same is true in an advertising campaign that I am overseeing right now. Readership surveys in the magazines the ads are running in show that it generally is the highest-rated ad. However, looking at the verbatim comments in the survey it is clear that some people love the ad and some hate it. That is just the way of the world when dealing with human beings and their opinions. You just have to accept that everyone is not going to like everything. In fact, that diversity of opinion is what makes the world so interesting.

Considering that experience and perspective, I continue to find it mind boggling whenever I look at exit poll data regarding the votes of black voters. It is as if there is no other candidate than a Democrat on the ballot. I am not sure Putin or Castro ever received such overwhelming majorities of votes in any "election" they participated in.

It defies all logic that any one group of people could vote in such a monolithic manner when you look at the diversity of issues involving politics. Issues like abortion, national security, tax policy, immigration, foreign policy, jobs policy and the like.

You don't see it in any other demographic group so why do we see it with African-Americans?

I wrote about the demographic breakdowns in the 2012 Obama/Romney race recently here.

Blacks gave 97% of their vote to Barack Obama.

The best Romney could do was 86% with his fellow Mormons.

I can understand 86%. I don't fathom 97%.

This is especially the case when you look at some of the other demographic splits.

Men-Romney 52%, Obama 45%
Women-Obama 55%, Romney 44%
High School graduate- Obama 51%, Romney 48%
College graduate- Romney 51%, Obama 47%
<$50,000 income- Obama 60%, Romney 38%
>100,000 income- Romney 54%, Obama 44%

There are male and female African-Americans who are high school and college graduates, poor and rich. How is it that their vote is identified almost solely by race and not by other factors?

When you look at some of the vote numbers in detail from 2012 it gets even crazier.

Consider the total votes from several of the precincts in my home county of Hamilton County in Ohio.

Look at these votes from the inner city of Cincinnati.

Cincinnati Precinct 13A-  Obama 1,080 votes, Romney 5 votes
Cincinnati Precinct 15C-  Obama 703 votes, Romney 4 votes
Cincinnati Precinct 22C-  Obama 859 votes, Romney 8 votes
Cincinnati Precinct 24H-  Obama 336 votes, Romney 1 vote
Cincinnati Precinct 24I-  Obama 407 votes, Romney 2 votes
Cincinnati Precinct 26H-   Obama 455 votes, Romney 2 votes

In those 6 precincts Obama got 99.5% of the vote.

Compare that with the precincts in Indian Hill which is generally considered to be the bastion of wealthy, white, privileged Republicans in Cincinnati. In fact, the zip code that includes Indian Hill donated more money to Romney than any other in the entire state of Ohio.

What were the vote totals in Indian Hill between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney?

Indian Hill Precincts-  Romney 3,434, Obama 1,406

In those 6 precincts Romney got 71.0% of the vote.

I can understand 71.0%. I don't fathom 99.5%.

It is not just Obama either. Look at some of the vote results from 2008 with other Democrat Senate candidates who are now running for re-election.

In North Carolina, Kay Hagan won the black vote 96-1 with blacks making up 18% of the vote total. Hagan lost the white vote by 18 points.

In Louisiana, Mary Landrieu won the black vote 96-2 with blacks making up 29% of the vote total. Landrieu lost the white vote by nearly 2 to 1.

All of this would make sense if we saw the African-American community prospering and advancing due to Democrat policies. The Democrat Party would practically be out of business right now but for the Black votes they get. However, what are Blacks getting for those votes?

All of this might also make sense if we had seen that Democrats were responsible for the most significant legislative advances for equal rights for African-Americans over the years. However, that is not the case either.

Consider these historical landmark pieces of legislation that were voted on by Congress over the years that were so important to the advancement of African-Americans.

The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which abolished slavery.
100% Republican Support, 23% Democratic Support

The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which gave citizenship to freed slaves
94% Republican Support, 0% Democratic Support

The 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which gave the right to vote for all
100% Republican Support, 0% Democratic Support

The 1964 Civil Rights Act
80% Republican Support, 64% Democratic Support

African-Americans lined up to vote after passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act

With African-Americans today, it seems that their vote for Democrats is as simple as black and white. It is cut and dried but you must ask why?

If you look at the facts, it's not black and white.

Will this ever change?

This is one issue that I will continue to look at with great interest in the future. Will Barack Obama be responsible for another generation of Black Democrat voters or will he be responsible for the end of a trend that has lasted almost 50 years?

UPDATE (10/27/14): Herman Cain asking the same questions of Black voters in his most recent column.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Poor Palestine

Lost in all the news yesterday involving the terrorist attack in Canada was another terror attack in Jerusalem that claimed the life of a 3 month old baby. That young child, Chaya Zissel Braun, was an American citizen who was in a stroller on a light rail station's platform when a car driven by a young man with ties to Hamas plowed into a crowd of people during rush hour.

Hamas praised the young man who killed the baby as a "hero".  The young terrorist was shot and killed by Israeli security forces as he attempted to flee the scene.

In a Facebook post translated by Palestinian Media Watch, Sultan Abu-Einen hailed "the heroic martyr, Abed El-Rahman Idriss al-Shaludi," and that the terrorist, whose surname has also been spelled "Shaludeh" in English, was released from an Israeli prison in December 2013 after serving a 16-month sentence for previous terror offenses.

It does make you wonder a little bit about Hamas, doesn't it?

I ran across something else interesting about Hamas involving a recent gathering they held in Cairo seeking support from international donors to help rebuild Gaza after the recent "war" with Israel.

It seems that the Palestinians was recently looking for other nations to give them $4 billion to "fix the damage caused by the Israelis during Operation Protective Edge."

How much did they receive?

How about $1.4 billion more than they asked for---a total of $5.4 billion.

The United States pledged $212 million.

Qatar pledged $1 billion. Saudi Arabia $500 million. United Arab Emirates $200 million. Germany $63 million. France $50 million.

What I really found interesting is that the United States has given close to $5 billion to the Palestinians since the mid-1990's along with untold billions from other nations.  Much of this has been funneled through the United Nations.

The obvious question is what have we gotten for that money other than terror tunnels and rocket launchers to attack Israel?

Let me also provide a little more context to that amount of aid that has been provided to the Palestinians.

After World War II the United States developed an initiative called the Marshall Plan to provide economic support to help rebuild the European economies that had been devastated in the war. The funds were used to rebuild war-torn regions, modernize industry and make Europe prosperous again.

$17 billion was provided to the Europeans over fours years beginning in 1948. That would be around $170 billion in today's dollars. If you are paying attention, the United States has just pledged more money to rebuild Gaza than we spent in total on the Marshall Plan!

If you look at the money we have given the Palestinians since the mid-1990's and compare it to the Marshall Plan, you really have to wonder where all the money is going? Timon Dias of the Gatestone Institute provides some additional context on that question.

The Palestinian people, according to a recent study by the Jerusalem Institute of Justice, have received per capita, adjusted for inflation, 25 times more aid than did Europeans to rebuild war-torn Western Europe under the Marshall plan after the Second World War. 
The Palestinians have received 25 times the money that was provided to rebuild Europe after World War II in per capita terms and they are complaining that Israel is standing in the way of their people's progress?

Of course, despite all of this aid over the years, the average Palestinian lives in a state of poverty. New roads aren't built. Utilities are lacking. Economic infrastructure is non-existent. Much of the money seems to go for the tools of terror, salaries for Hamas leadership and teaching the next generation of Palestinians to hate Israel and the Jews for their plight of poverty.

Dias quotes from a 2003 book by German sociologist on a fundamental problem in the West's aid to Palestine through the United Nations Relief Fund for Palestine. (UNRWA).
D]espite claiming that it wants to bring peace to the region, the West continues to make the population explosion in Gaza worse every year. By generously supporting UNRWA's budget, the West assists a rate of population increase that is 10 times higher than in its own countries. Much is being said about Iran waging a proxy war against Israel by supporting Hezbollah and Hamas. One may argue that by fueling Gaza's untenable population explosion, the West unintentionally finances a war-by-proxy against the Jews of Israel.
If we seriously want to avoid another generation of war in Gaza, we must have the courage to tell the Gazans that they will have to start looking after their children themselves, without UNRWA's help. This would force Palestinians to focus on building an economy instead of freeing them up to wage war. Of course, every baby lured into the world by our money up to now would still have our assistance.
In the end, it is all about incentives as I have written about before.  Human beings will do what is in their best interest. Period.

Incentives drive the world. If the incentives for people are properly aligned, you will get the result you want.  If the incentives are not properly aligned, you will get poor results.  Whenever you get a poor result it is likely that you will find that the underlying incentives were not aligned properly.

Therefore, despite spending 25X what was spent per capita to rebuild Europe's economy, the people of Palestine are still poor and their leaders still wage war. And it does not appear that anything will change with another $5 billion having just been deposited into Hamas' bank account.

How much will go to actually build something productive that will actually help the Palestinian people? I would bet on more rocket launchers rather than roads and more terror tunnels than transformers for the utility grid.

I could not say it better than Dias does.
If the entire Palestinian Authority leadership lives off an international welfare check that arrives only because the conflict still exists, there isn't much incentive for ending the conflict.
Amen to that. And amen to the memory of an innocent 3-month baby who knew nothing about hate but lost her life because of it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Turned On And Turned Out

The mid-term elections are two weeks away. The major question is whether the Republicans will be able to gain majority control of the U.S. Senate. Many are also interested in whether the GOP can increase their seats in the U.S. House and protect the gains they have made in statehouses around the country the last few years.

Predicting political races in recent years is not so much understanding polling but figuring out who will actually show up at the polls. The electorate has become increasingly partisan and those partisans seem to be easily partitioned into demographic sub-groups that have voted predictably in past years. 

For example, young and black is most likely a Democrat vote. When you have old and white you can lay pretty good odds they are voting Republican. 

President Obama won in 2008 and 2012 because he turned out young voters and black voters. Obama got 66% of the 18-29 vote in 2009 and 60% in 2012. In fact, if voters just 30 years of age and over were considered, Romney would have won 50%-48%. McCain would have only lost by 1% in 2008.

Obama got 95% of the black vote in 2008 and 93% in 2012.

On the other hand, Mitt Romney got 59% of the white vote in 2012 and 56% of the age 65+ vote.

97.6% of single black women voted for Obama in 2012. 65% of married white men (and 62% of married white women) voted for Romney.

This graphic by Steven Sailer gives you a sense of how the partisanship was partitioned by groups in the 2012 Obama/Romney race.

In other words, if you are a single, black lesbian who rents you were likely to vote Democrat in 2012.

If you were a married, white Mormon who owned their own home, the Republicans could probably count on your vote.

Why is this worth revisiting two weeks before the 2014 election?

I believe it is relevant because the results of the election will most likely be determined by the turnout of those red and blue groups above.

History would suggest that the Republicans should have an advantage in this regard as older voters and white voters have traditionally been more reliable in turning out at the polls in mid-term elections than young voters and black voters.

Let's look at the age breakdown of the electorate in the three national elections (2008, 2010, 2012).

Voters age 45 and over made up 53% of the total in 2008 and 54% in 2012.  However, in 2010, (motivated by the Obamacare issue?), they made up 67% of all voters!

It is even more interesting to look at the total number of young voters (ages 18-29) compared to older voters (age 60+) for the last three elections. 30 million older voters showed up consistently at the polls in each of those three elections.  However, 24 million young voters came out in 2008 to help elect Obama, only 10 million showed up in 2010, and 23 million reappeared in 2012 to save Obama.

Why is this important?

As stated above, 60% of the 18-29 age group voted for Obama in 2012.  However, 56% of the age 60+ group voted for Romney. Therefore, Obama got 14.4 million votes (24 million x .60) from 18-29 year olds in 2012 and Romney totaled 16.8 million votes (30 million x .56) from those age 60+. The youth vote almost neutralized the heavier senior vote in 2012.

However, if only 10 million young voters show up at the polls (as they did in 2010) in two weeks to support Democrats, that will only be 6 million youth votes compared to 16.8 million votes for seniors in 2014 assuming senior age group continues to vote as they have in the last several national elections. That equals a 10 million GOP voter advantage that will be difficult for Democrat candidates to overcome.

The chart below shows the ebbs and flows in voter turnout by age group since 1964. Click on the graphic to see a larger version of the chart.


The clear trend over the last fifty years is that there are more seniors voting than ever before (the primary reason is that there are many more age 65 and older Americans than ever) and fewer young people voting.

What stands out to me in the chart above is the significant volatility in voting patterns of young voters between mid-term and Presidential election years.  Only 45%-60% of young voters in a Presidential election year will typically bother to cast a ballot two years later. On the other hand, you can count on 85%-88% of those age 65 or older who voted in the Presidential election to be at the polls in the mid-terms.

Another way to look at it is that in 2010 there were 3 voters age 65 and over for every voter 18-24. In 2012, there were only 1.5 older voters to every younger voter.  The older voter advantage was cut in half in the Obama election of 2012.

Will we see a repeat of 2010 this year with younger voters staying home?

The other key demographic for Democrats in this elections are African-Americans.

Blacks made up 13% of the electorate in 2008 in supporting Obama. They made up only 10% of the vote total in 2010 and they came back in force with 13% of the voters in 2012 to defend Obama.

These may look like fairly small percentage changes but when applied to the total votes cast in each election it amounts to millions of votes.

For example, in 2008, 13% of the vote amounted to 17 million votes of which Obama got 95% of the total---over 16 million votes in his favor.

The 10% that African-Americans represented in the 2010 election amounted to only 9 million votes. This amounts to a loss of some 8 million votes for Obama's policies compared to Obama the candidate. That is a deep hole to dig out of in any election.

You don't have to look at much more than this demographic data and past voting patterns to realize that turnout will be everything in the coming election.

That is why you are going to see a massive push by the Democrats in the next two weeks to do everything they can to gin up support among Black voters.

Who can get their voters to the polls?

The Democrats certainly face the biggest challenge in this regard. Historical voting patterns are not on their side. The leader of their party is deeply unpopular. The mood of the voters is decidedly negative (64% of voters say the country is on the wrong track according to most recent poll data) which usually means the President's party is responsible to a higher degree. If you are a Democrat it is hard to get excited about much of anything right now.

On the other hand, the Republicans have not done a very good job of showing what the right track might look like and the GOP is not immensely popular for their work in Congress either.

What I am most interested in seeing is whether the Democrats can come close to replicating the get-out-the-vote effort they were successful in doing in 2012. I thought that there was no way they could come close to matching the turnout numbers for their key groups in 2012 as they did in 2008. They did it and that is what won the election for Obama.

In fact, as I was writing this blog I went back over many of my blog posts leading up to the 2012 election and I have to admit I still have a difficult time in reconciling the numbers in how the Obama campaign was able to get the turnout they did with Obama's four year record and the economy.

If the Democrats can do it again in 2014, after another two years under Obama that makes the first four years look like 'the good old days', I will be at a total loss to explain it. It just does not add up based on a review of historical patterns and practices.

In that event, there will be only be two reasonable conclusions and, quite frankly, are almost unthinkable to me...

1) The country has reached the critical tipping point and we have reached the point of no return. We have reached The Fourth Turning and walked right over the cliff.

2) There is some type of massive voter fraud occurring within the system.

In the past, I would have scoffed at the second conclusion but you have to wonder when you see two stories like this in one week.

Liberal activist caught on video stuffing hundreds of ballots

Chicago-area voting machine casts Republican candidate’s vote for Democratic foe

The only thing I know for sure right now is that we have a long two weeks ahead of us in political posturing and positioning from both sides.

That will culminate in a long election night filled with plenty of politicos and pundits from all sides.

Where it leaves us the next day will depend on which voters are turned on and which voters turn out.

May everyone choose wisely.

I don't like to think about the unthinkable.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Working Wounded

The most recent federal government numbers indicate that there are 9.3 million unemployed workers in the United States.

That compares to 11.3 million unemployed workers just before President Obama took office. That's the good news.

However, there are 92.6 million working-age Americans not currently in the labor force.  These include students, stay-at-home parents, early retirees and those too discouraged to look for work. They do not get counted in the workforce numbers that are used to calculate the unemployment number.

In December, 2008 that number was 80.4 million. Therefore, in the last four years the number of Americans that are not in the workforce has increased by 12 million!

Here are the numbers of working-age Americans not currently working as of September 30 for the last seven years.

2008     79.8 million
2009     82.5 million
2010     84.4 million
2011      86.0 million
2012      88.8 million
2013      90.7 million
2014      92.6 million

To put this in perspective, about as many Americans have left the workforce since 2008 as we saw during the entire 25-year period from 1975-2000.

Here are the unemployment numbers for the same period.

2008       9.5 million
2009      15.0 million
2010       14.6 million
2011       13.9 million
2012       12.1 million
2013       11.2 million
2014         9.3 million

Therefore, compared to six years ago, the number of unemployed is 200,000 lower but the number of working-age Americans who are not working has increased by almost 13 million!

When you put the all the numbers together, we now have over 100 million working-age Americans who are not working.  And despite the improved unemployment rate, the number of those not working plus those officially considered unemployed has not fallen at all. In fact, it has stayed stubbornly right around 100 million over the last five years.

By contrast, there are about 146 million people working-78 million men and 68 million women.

Of the 146 million workers, over 27 million are working part-time.  This is about 3 million higher than the number of part-time workers before President Obama took office.

The labor participation rate (the number that are working compared to the assumed civilian labor force of people 16 years of age and over) has now dropped to 62.7.  This is the lowest percentage of people working since 1977.

The labor force participation for men was the lowest ever recorded at 69.1 in September, 2014.  In 1981 it was 77.0.  The labor participation rate for women in September, 2014 was 56.7.

I have written before that I am more concerned about the percentage of those employed than the percentage that are unemployed.  After all, there are bills to be paid in this country.  People need shelter, food, energy, medical care and other necessities.  The lower the percentage of those working, the greater the burden those working carry for everyone else.  It is a simple comparison of how many are in the wagon versus how many are pulling the wagon.

Look no further than the numbers below to see what I mean as to the numbers receiving various federal and state benefits.

Social Security beneficiaries                      47.4 million
Social Security disability                            14.3 million
Unemployment benefits                               2.4 million
Food Stamps                                                 46.5 million

In addition, there are 21.9 million Federal and state government employees that the taxpayers of this country support through various federal and state taxes.

It used to be that people voted their pocketbooks. I don't think that has changed.  However, it is getting increasingly difficult to discern which pocketbook we are talking about anymore. The pocketbook of the working taxpayer who is paying the bills or the pocketbook of the recipients of government's largesse using other people's money?

The one thing that is clear is that those working and those that want to work in this economy have been wounded by the the policies of the last few years. There are too many people who are either unemployed or underemployed. There are also an increasing number of people that are not working that have to be taken care of but those that are working through an increased tax and debt burden.

The numbers above tell the story. We are in the decade of the working wounded.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Ebola Ruminations

A few ruminations and observations about Ebola as I have seen the news develop over the last few weeks.

The Math

I appreciate and respect the compounding effects of mathematics. This is the main concern I have had about Ebola from the beginning. It is beyond me why anyone who looked at the serious nature of this disease and considered the risk from the mathematics from exposure to it would have allowed anyone from West Africa into this country as President Obama did.

It borders on criminal negligence. It certainly fails the basic test of the President of the United States whose first duty should be to protect the citizenry of the United States of America.

Consider this graphic comparing how fast Ebola spreads and how deadly it is compared to other diseases in the Washington Post article of October 9, "The Ominous Math of Ebola".

There is simply too much risk to the population to not take the most basic measures to contain the disease.

If you will recall it was President Obama who stated less than a month ago "that the chances of an Ebola outbreak here in the United States are extremely low".  That statement was just three days before Thomas Eric Duncan bordered a flight to the United States and nine days before he first sought treatment at a hospital in Dallas.


I went to law school at Emory University in Atlanta which is a stone's throw away from the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta. I knew people that worked there and had a lot of respect for them. When I go back to Atlanta it is amazing to see how much the CDC complex has grown since I graduated in the 1970's.

However, when I look at how the entire Ebola crisis has been handled I have to ask what is going on there now?  It appears as if they have no idea what they are doing starting with the Director of the CDC, Dr. Tom Frieden. It seem to be a constant flow of mistakes, misstatements, mea culpas and contradictions.

These are a few examples of what I am talking about.

Dr. Tom Frieden, director for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said during a telephone press briefing Wednesday that you cannot get Ebola by sitting next to someone on a bus, but that infected or exposed persons should not ride public transportation because they could transmit the disease to someone else. Ace of Spades


The day before she went to the hospital with Ebola symptoms, Amber Vinson was flying across the country on a commercial jet with 132 other people.
Now the man leading the U.S. fight against the deadly virus says she never should have stepped foot on the flight.

"She should not have been on that plane," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Tom Frieden said Wednesday after the nurse was confirmed to have Ebola. CNN

We found out later that the nurse got on the plane with a low-grade fever. Even more incredibly, it is now reported that the nurse called the CDC before she got on the Cleveland-Dallas flight and told them she had a 99.5 degree temperature and was told she could get on the flight anyway. I am a total loss to explain any of this from what is supposed to be the Center for Disease Control.


Frieden blamed the first nurse who contracted Ebola while caring for Thomas Eric Duncan on a "breach of protocol" effectively throwing the young nurse under the bus.

"We don't know what occurred in the care of the index patient, the original patient in Dallas," said Frieden in a press conference Sunday morning, "but at some point, there was a breach in protocol, and that breach in protocol resulted in this infection." 

Frieden eventually apologized for suggesting the nurse who contracted Ebola was to blame and admitted that the agency had to 'rethink' how to combat the deadly virus.

It should also be remembered that Frieden stated just two weeks ago that "any U.S. hospital with isolation capabilities can care for an Ebola patient." With two nurses at Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas (by the way, this is a 900 bed facility in a major metro area) already infected, you have to say that this is the biggest misstatement of them all from this guy.

Mea Culpas

Frieden says that the CDC didn't get it right at first but they will do it better in the future.

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday said a Dallas nurse diagnosed with Ebola might not have gotten the virus if the response from the federal government had been different.
CDC Director Tom Frieden pledged to dispatch emergency response crews to any hospital in the country where Ebola is diagnosed, and said such a response might have prevented Nina Pham from getting the disease.
“I wish we had put a team like this on the ground the day the first patient was diagnosed. That might have prevented this,” Frieden said. “But we will do that from this day onward with any case anywhere in the U.S.”
It will be amazing to me if Dr. Frieden is not forced to resign soon. He makes Mike Brown ("Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job"), the FEMA Director during Katrina who was forced out after missteps in the aftermath of that hurricane, look like a genius.

The Role of Government

Many see the government response to the Ebola outbreak and argue that this is another example of why we should not rely on government. I could not disagree more.

When you have something like Ebola you need government more than ever. However, you need a thoughtful, competent government that is focused first and foremost on the safety and security of its citizens. Public health is a core function that only government can do well. This is when you need to have the structure, order and security support that only a well-functioning government can provide.

Our problem is that this is not the government we have been getting. Our government has been focused on all the wrong things. It has been more concerned with redistribution and political correctness than in true government and the safety of its citizens. 

I have written previously how almost 70% of the federal budget is now comprised of payments to individuals and that in ten years payments to individuals and interest costs will consume 93% of the federal budget. Only 7% will be spent on the traditional roles of government (defense, roads, parks, public health, education, etc).  As I have stated, a government that is not spending any money on government is not a government.

Look no further than the budget of the CDC over the last few years and how it has spent money from its Prevention and Public Health Fund.  Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana provides the facts. Jindal knows something about this subject as he used to be the principal policy adviser to the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Consider the Prevention and Public Health Fund, a new series of annual mandatory appropriations created by Obamacare. Over the past five years, the CDC has received just under $3 billion in transfers from the fund. Yet only 6 percent—$180 million—of that $3 billion went toward building epidemiology and laboratory capacity. Especially given the agency’s postwar roots as the Communicable Disease Center, one would think that “detecting and responding to infectious diseases and other public health threats” warrants a larger funding commitment.
Instead, the Obama administration has focused the CDC on other priorities. While protecting Americans from infectious diseases received only $180 million from the Prevention Fund, the community transformation grant program received nearly three times as much money—$517.3 million over the same five-year period.
The CDC’s website makes clear the objectives of community transformation grants. The program funds neighborhood interventions like “increasing access to healthy foods by supporting local farmers and developing neighborhood grocery stores,” or “promoting improvements in sidewalks and street lighting to make it safe and easy for people to walk and ride bikes.” Bike lanes and farmer’s markets may indeed help a community—but they would do little to combat dangerous diseases like Ebola, SARS or anthrax.

You read that right. Of $3 billion spent by the CDC out of its Prevention and Public Health Fund over the last five years, three times as much money was spent on community transformation grants (healthy foods, inner city grocery stories, bike lanes and street lighting) as was spent on programs protecting, detecting and responding to infectious diseases and other public health threats.

If that is not putting politics above public health I don't know what it is.

The problem is not government, it is the current government and leaders we have. It is having the wrong priorities and the wrong policies.

The Fourth Turning

I have written so often about the book, The Fourth Turning, that I am sure many of my readers are sick of me writing about it.

However, once again, William Strauss and Neil Howe seem prescient on what lies ahead. This is what they wrote in 1997 about a possible crisis scenario that could await us in "The Fourth Turning".

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention announce the spread of a new communicable virus. The disease reached densely populated areas, killing some. Congress enacts mandatory quarantine measures. The president orders the National Guard to throw prophylactic cordons around unsafe neighborhoods. Mayors resist. Urban gangs battle suburban militias. Calls mount for the President to declare martial law. (Page 273)

Ben Franklin said that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." I guess someone forgot about that along the way in our government.

Keep in mind that there were a long string of decisions by "the government" that were made along the way that could have prevented the situation we are in today. We could have banned anyone from West Africa from entering the country beginning a month ago. In fact, this article indicates that Duncan should never been issued a tourist visa to begin with based on his profile-unemployed, single, and sister living in the U.S-because the odds were strong that he would overstay his visa and become another illegal immigrant. We could have spent money on Ebola prevention at the CDC rather than bike paths and farmers markets in urban areas. We could have made sure the nurses at Texas Presbyterian had the equipment and training to treat Duncan. The list is long.

Just another example of why we need to return to the founding principles set forth by our founding fathers that focused government on government.

I just hope my ruminations about Ebola can end soon and we can hold off any ruin. If not, more and more people will rue the day that Barack Obama was elected President of the United States.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Perils of Partisanship

Many people point to increasing partisanship in Washington for their dissatisfaction with the state of affairs in Washington with our elected officials.

These charts from Congressional Quarterly show the extent to which partisanship has become the rule rather than the exception in Washington compared to years past.  All of this can be found in CQ Roll Call's Vote Studies-2013 In Review.

For example, Senate Democrats voted together unanimously 52% of the time in 2013. There were no dissenting opinions or independent thinking by Democrats more than half of the time. Republicans voted as a bloc about 1/3 of the time.

Democrat=Blue, Republican=Red
Party Unanimity in the Senate

Notice that up until 1990 it was rare that either party voted unanimously together more than 10% of the time.

Here is the chart showing party unanimity in the House. The GOP voted together 35% of the time in 2013. The Democrats voted as a bloc 22% of the time.

Democrat=Blue, Republican= Red
Party Unanimity in the House

You see the same trends in average party unity scores.  This is the percentage of votes on which a member voted in agreement with a majority of his or her own party.

Senate Democrats set a record in 2013 with a 94% average party unity score. The comparable Republican score was 86%.

Democrat=Blue, Republican=Red
Average Party Unity Scores, Senate

It is important to look at this data as we have most of the Democratic Senate candidates across the country trying to desperately separate themselves from President Obama going into the mid-term elections this year.

However, the facts are clear that Democrats have supported Obama's agenda in an overwhelming fashion. They have also voted as a bloc for the liberal, progressive Democratic agenda like never before.

Let's look at the voting records of some of the Democrats who are now claiming that they hold far different views than President Obama as they run for re-election this year. Don't they know that their votes are recorded and reviewed?

Senator Mark Begich (D-Alaska) voted for Obama's position 97% of the time in 2013.

Senator Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana) 97%

Senator Kay Hagan (D-North Carolina) 96%

Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire) 99%

Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia) 97%

The attempts of Democrats to distance themselves from President Obama reached the heights of absurdity last week when Democrat Senate Candidate in Kentucky Alison Lundergan Grimes refused to answer four times when questioned whether she voted for Barack Obama for President in 2008 and 2012.

Grimes was actually a delegate for Obama at the 2012 Democratic National Convention though she was a delegate for Hillary Clinton in 2008.

Why is this important?

My view of elections, especially federal offices, is that most are decided by voters answering a simple question. Most people cannot organize and reconcile their views on a multitude of issues. Most people cannot answer complex questions. They look to answer a single question that is easy for them.

For example, consider this poll that I saw referenced last week of Millennials aged 18-29. 75% of Millennials said they identify themselves as "pro-choice" when it comes to abortion. However, 65% of Millennials in the same survey also said that "pro-life" describes them on the issue. Do you see what I mean?

That is one of the reasons there are political parties. It makes it easier to decide who to vote for even though most individuals probably do not agree with every single item in the party platform of the candidate they vote for.

I believe that for the most part when people vote (in particular the key swing "independent" voters) they consider simple questions and vote accordingly.

Think about the following successful campaigns of the past and the questions that were at the heart of the voting decision by key voters in those races.

1980 Ronald Reagan       "Are you better off now than you were four years ago"?

1992 Bill Clinton             "Who can feel your pain better"?

1994 Mid-Term               "Are you in favor of the Contract with America"?

2004 George Bush          "Has George Bush kept you safe since September 11, 2001?"

2008 Barack Obama       "Are you tired of George Bush?"

2010 Mid-Term               "Do you want to repeal Obamacare?"

2012 Barack Obama        "Do you trust a rich, white guy like Mitt Romney to look out for you?"

This is why the Democrats are trying so desperately to separate themselves from President Obama and avoid having this mid-term election be a referendum on the President and his policies.

However, Democrats can try to run away but it is difficult to hide a record that is more partisan than at almost any time in history and which it is almost impossible to find any daylight between Obama and Senate Democrats on almost every important issue.

It is also naive to believe that any newly elected Democrat (e.g. Alison Grimes, Michelle Nunn (GA), Greg Orman (KS), (yes, he is a Democrat!) would, or could buck, The White House or Harry Reid if they were elected. Therefore, a vote for any Democrat is really a vote for President Obama and Harry Reid. It is that simple. The numbers above don't lie.

The Democrats placed all their bets on Barack Obama and Harry Reid the last few years. They did not hedge or meet anyone half-way.

The bet is being called in this mid-term election.

Can they overcome the perils of partisanship?

We will soon find out.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Social Insecurity

The highest priority of the President of the United States is to keep it citizens safe and secure.

Not only is President Obama failing in this regard, it almost appears that he has a wanton disregard for the citizens who he took an oath of office to protect and defend. You can almost call him President Amnesty ISIS Ebola Obama.

He has created an enormous amount of Social Insecurity in our country due to putting politics above sound public policy and political correctness above the public good.

He has openly ignored the immigration laws of the United States and has failed to protect our borders. In fact, he has stated that he will grant amnesty to people who are in the United States illegally before the end of the year by executive order.

Thousands of illegal immigrant children have flooded across our border

It seems apparent that the wave of illegal immigrant children and others which overwhelmed the southern border this past summer have brought with them a host of communicable diseases.  Some are speculating that the Enterovrius D68 virus that has affected many of our children and affecting many medical systems in the Midwest is the result of the immigrant invasion.

In fact, someone I know came very close to losing her young son to this potentially deadly virus just one week ago.

The Enterovirus D68 that is spreading among children across the U.S. particularly in the Midwest. The mysterious disease has been known to afflict Central America in the past.
Until recently the occurrence of EV-D68 was rare in the United States. Between 1970 and 2005 only 26 clinical isolates of EV-D68 were reported in the USA. Over the years, clusters have been reported in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona and various countries.
Hundreds of children in Missouri and several other states have already been hospitalized because of Enterovirus EV-D68.
ABC News Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser recently pointed out that “Viruses don’t tend to respect borders.”
Why won't he enforce the immigration law and enforce our borders which are meant to protect the citizens of the United States? It is simple . The Democrat party needs the votes of Hispanics.

Obama ignored the advice of his military commanders, his State Department and his Secretary of Defense and pulled all troops out of Iraq leading to the rise of ISIS and what now looks to be the inevitable fall of Baghdad and the total loss of Iraq to extremist Islamics. The end result will be unspeakable suffering in Iraq on a scale not seen since the fall of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War.

After the fall of Saigon, an estimated 65,000 Vietnamese were executed. An additional 1 million who had opposed the Communists during the war were sent to "re-education" camps where an estimated 165,000 died. Many South Vietnamese fled the country in the only way possible---by boat. It is estimated that as many as 1.5 million "Boat People" made the drastic decision to flee in makeshift boats. As many as 200,000 died trying. Almost 1 million were accepted into the United States as refugees.

Vietnamese Boat People
Credit:History Learning Site

These extremists openly threaten the United States of America and have already blatantly beheaded two Americans and two Brits. A third American (Peter Kassig), a humanitarian worker, has been named as the next potential victim.

This week ISIS went on social media to threaten U.S. military personnel and their family members in their homes according to an Army intelligence bulletin that was reported on by Fox News.

An Army intelligence bulletin is warning U.S. military personnel to be vigilant after Islamic State militants called on supporters to scour social media for addresses of their family members – and to “show up [at their homes] and slaughter them."
The assessment, obtained by Fox News, came from the Army Threat Integration Center which issues early warnings of criminal and terrorist threats to Army posts worldwide.
Why did President Obama not heed the warnings of what now appears to be most of his top advisors on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, his Defense Secretary, his Secretary of State and the Director of the CIA and leave a residual security force in Iraq to protect the gains we had made in securing that country?
It is simple. He campaigned as an Anti-Iraq War President. He did not want to admit that he may have been wrong and that President Bush was right about the threat of a terrorist state in Iraq. He put politics above the personal security of Americans.

Let it not be forgotten that ISIS is also the group that he called a JV team after they had taken over the city of Fallujah in Iraq. Here is the exact quote from President Obama in January, 2014..

I think the analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a JV team puts on Lakers uniforms, that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant. I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists (ISIS) who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian.

Finally, we have Ebola in which President Obama also made an ill-advised statement which also seems to be politically motivated.

This is what President Ebola  Obama said a little over two weeks ago about the chances of Ebola reaching the United States.

"...the chances of an Ebola outbreak here in the United States are extremely low... In the unlikely event that someone with Ebola does reach our shores, we’ve taken new measures so that we’re prepared here at home." (emphasis added)

Recall that this is the same President who banned flights to and from the United States to Israel during the Israeli/Hamas war but has refused to limit flights from affected West African countries or restrict access to the United States from individuals carrying passports from these countries until the illness is under control.

By comparison, airlines in both Great Britain and France have suspended flights to and from two West African countries.

You also have to question the sense of proportionality in comparing the President's military response to ISIS and to Ebola considering he has committed more troops on the ground in Africa to help respond to the Ebola crisis than he has on ground to help the Iraqis to fight ISIS.

Why has President Obama been so complacent about the threat of Ebola? On this one I do not have a simple answer. Is he concerned about adverse reaction from the African-American community because the source of the Ebola epidemic is in Africa? I don't think most Americans would care if the source was Ireland or Iceland. They want to protect our country from the disease.

The Democrats have always liked to refer to themselves as the party of Social Security.

However, President Obama is quickly making them the party of Social Insecurity.

I would not want to be a Democrat running for office next month with President Obama as the head of my team.

Consider for a moment the risks to our country if any one of these threats spins out of control.

Children dying from an enterovirus that we have generally not seen in the United States in almost 50 years that has been very prevalent in the Central American countries where scores of illegal immigrants stormed over our borders this summer.

An ISIS attack in our country directed at servicemen or their families or the fall of Baghdad with pictures of brazen brutality and bloodshed.

An Ebola outbreak that affects scores of people in this country.

Human beings seek safety and security above all else. Without it, not much matters.

I hope we can overcome the threats to our safety and security from the lack of border security, ISIS and Ebola. The origin of these threats cannot be blamed on President Obama. However, his actions have made each of them a much greater threat to the American people than they otherwise would be.

We are in an age of Social Insecurity right now and President Obama owns it.

And the Democrats own it as well due to their past blind support of President Obama.

It promises to be an interesting Fall as we watch these events unfold. Can President Obama and the Democrats survive it?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Everything Is Fine Until It Isn't

I have written regularly that we are heading for a date with destiny that is most predictable but which will nonetheless shock the populace and pundits who will marvel at how unpredictable it all was once it actually occurs.

I have written about the nation's expanding national debt.

I have written about the artificially low interest rates and what happens to government when those rates start to rise.

I have written about the U.S Treasury rolling over treasury securities at ever shorter durations to take advantage of today's low short-term rates.

I have written about the dangers of the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing (QE) program.

I have written about the country's looming Social Security and Medicare funding crisis.

I have written how almost 70% of the federal budget is now comprised of payments to individuals and that in ten years payments to individuals and interest costs will consume 93% of the federal budget. Only 7% will be spent on the traditional roles of government (defense, roads, parks, public health, education, etc).

It is all around us.

I came across the blog article (reproduced in full below) by Michael Snyder on David Stockman's Contra Corner web site that puts all this together in one place. Stockman was the former head of the Office of Management and Budget during the Reagan years so he knows a thing or two about the federal budget. He thought enough of Snyder's piece to post it on his website.

Snyder originally published his blog post here.

Remember one thing. Everything can be fine until it isn't. And history has shown that you can go from fine to finished very quickly when you are deeply in debt and dependent on your creditors to keep you afloat. It is the ultimate confidence game.

Don't be conned. The facts say we are living on borrowed time and it is all on borrowed money. Short term borrowed money which is the worst possible confidence game to be playing.

Uncle Sam’s $8 Trillion Annual Debt Churn: Why Washington Is Pertrified Of Honest Interest Rates
By Michael Snyder

I know that headline sounds completely outrageous.  But it is actually true.  The U.S. government is borrowing about 8 trillion dollars a year, and you are about to see the hard numbers that prove this. When discussing the national debt, most people tend to only focus on the amount that it increases each 12 months.  And as I wrote about recently, the U.S. national debt has increased by more than a trillion dollars in fiscal year 2014.

But that does not count the huge amounts of U.S. Treasury securities that the federal government must redeem each year.  When these debt instruments hit their maturity date, the U.S. government must pay them off.  This is done by borrowing more money to pay off the previous debts.  In fiscal year 2013, redemptions of U.S. Treasury securities totaled $7,546,726,000,000 and new debt totaling $8,323,949,000,000 was issued.  The final numbers for fiscal year 2014 are likely to be significantly higher than that.

So why does so much government debt come due each year?

Well, in recent years government officials figured out that they could save a lot of money on interest payments by borrowing over shorter time frames.  For example, it costs the government far more to borrow money for 10 years than it does for 1 year.  So a strategy was hatched to borrow money for very short periods of time and to keep “rolling it over” again and again and again.

This strategy has indeed saved the federal government hundreds of billions of dollars in interest payments, but it has also created a situation where the federal government must borrow about 8 trillion dollars a year just to keep up with the game.

So what happens when the rest of the world decides that it does not want to loan us 8 trillion dollars a year at ultra-low interest rates?

Well, the game will be over and we will be in a massive amount of trouble.

I am about to share with you some numbers that were originally reported by CNS News.  As you can see, far more debt is being redeemed and issued today than back during the middle part of the last decade…


Redeemed: $7,546,726,000,000

Issued: $8,323,949,000,000

Increase: $777,223,000,000


Redeemed: $6,804,956,000,000

Issued: $7,924,651,000,000

Increase: $1,119,695,000,000


Redeemed: $7,026,617,000,000

Issued: $8,078,266,000,000

Increase: $1,051,649,000,000


Redeemed: $7,206,965,000,000

Issued: $8,649,171,000,000

Increase: $1,442,206,000,000


Redeemed: $7,306,512,000,000

Issued: $9,027,399,000,000

Increase: $1,720,887,000,000


Redeemed: $4,898,607,000,000

Issued: $5,580,644,000,000

Increase: $682,037,000,000


Redeemed: $4,402,395,000,000

Issued: $4,532,698,000,000

Increase: $130,303,000,000


Redeemed: $4,297,869,000,000

Issued: $4,459,341,000,000

Increase: $161,472,000,000

The only way that this game can continue is if the U.S. government can continue to borrow gigantic piles of money at ridiculously low interest rates.

And our current standard of living greatly depends on the continuation of this game.

If something comes along and rattles this Ponzi scheme, life in America could change radically almost overnight.

In the United States today, we have a heavily socialized system that hands out checks to nearly half the population.  In fact, 49 percent of all Americans live in a home that gets direct monetary benefits from the federal government each month according to the U.S. Census Bureau.  And it is hard to believe, but Americans received more than 2 trillion dollars in benefits from the federal government last year alone.  At this point, the primary function of the federal government is taking money from some people and giving it to others.  In fact, more than 70 percent of all federal spending goes to “dependence-creating programs”, and the government runs approximately 80 different “means-tested welfare programs” right now.  But the big problem is that the government is giving out far more money than it is taking in, so it has to borrow the difference.  As long as we can continue to borrow at super low interest rates, the status quo can continue.

But a Ponzi scheme like this can only last for so long.

It has been said that when the checks stop coming in, chaos will begin in the streets of America.

The looting that took place when a technical glitch caused the EBT system to go down for a short time in some areas last year and the rioting in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri this year were both small previews of what we will see in the future.

And there is no way that we will be able to “grow” our way out of this problem.

As the Baby Boomers continue to retire, the amount of money that the federal government is handing out each year is projected to absolutely skyrocket.  Just consider the following numbers…

-Back in 1965, only one out of every 50 Americans was on Medicaid.  Today, more than 70 million Americans are on Medicaid, and it is being projected that Obamacare will add 16 million more Americans to the Medicaid rolls.

-When Medicare was first established, we were told that it would cost about $12 billion a year by the time 1990 rolled around.  Instead, the federal government ended up spending $110 billion on the program in 1990, and the federal government spent approximately $600 billion on the program in 2013.

-It is being projected that the number of Americans on Medicare will grow from 50.7 million in 2012 to 73.2 million in 2025.

-At this point, Medicare is facing unfunded liabilities of more than 38 trillion dollars over the next 75 years.  That comes to approximately $328,404 for every single household in the United States.

-In 1945, there were 42 workers for every retiree receiving Social Security benefits.  Today, that number has fallen to 2.5 workers, and if you eliminate all government workers, that leaves only 1.6 private sector workers for every retiree receiving Social Security benefits.

-Right now, there are approximately 63 million Americans collecting Social Security benefits.  By 2035, that number is projected to soar to an astounding 91 million.

-Overall, the Social Security system is facing a 134 trillion dollar shortfall over the next 75 years.

-The U.S. government is facing a total of 222 trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities during the years ahead.  Social Security and Medicare make up the bulk of that.

Yes, things seem somewhat stable for the moment in America today.

But the same thing could have been said about 2007.  The stock market was soaring, the economy seemed like it was rolling right along and people were generally optimistic about the future.

Then the financial crisis of 2008 erupted and it seemed like the world was going to end.

Well, the truth is that another great crisis is rapidly approaching, and we are in far worse shape financially than we were back in 2008.

Don’t get blindsided by what is ahead.  Evidence of the coming catastrophe is all around you.