Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Myth of the Undecided Voter, and The Reality of the Decided Deciding Not to Vote [Voting 03]

For years, I've thought that there really were no undecided voters. Sure there are some people who are undecided, months, weeks, even days before the election, but the chances that they are, or have regularly been, voters are slim. Finally, in the last year or so, I've heard other people say or write that the numbers of truly undecided voters is minuscule and unlikely to affect outcomes even in the battleground states.

But even after the myth is busted, it is not the end of the story.

That's because the real problem for politicians (and democracy) is not voters who have trouble deciding, it's supporters whose support is only lukewarm. These are the people who are not particularly interested in politics or who are not especially informed or who do not identify with the ideals of their candidate. Or they may be people whose ultimate interest is in being able to say they voted for the winner. Whether or not they have voted often before, they do not view voting as a civic duty they must perform, dare I say, religiously.

What the politicians and journalists SHOULD think about is whether these people will decide to stay away from the polls on Election Day, or - for the increasing number of people who can vote early or by mail - will just never get around to voting. They may feel unappreciated. The candidates and the media are busy paying attention to the needles in the haystacks, also known as undecided voters, or the squeaky wheels, also known as the base, and not the elephants in the room, also known as lukewarm supporters.

This coming November 7, the top news story may not be what the undecided voters finally decided but instead who was counted on to vote but then couldn't be counted. The reason might be dirty tricks, corrupt voting machines, voter i.d. laws, hanging chads, or other systemic problems. But it also could be that the decided voters lost interest and decided that their vote would not matter.

If (when) that happens, it could affect not only the presidential election but also Congressional, state, and local races as well. People who lack the time or inclination to vote for President probably won’t vote at all.

That is the real evil of focusing on the undecided voter instead of the lukewarm voter: it could make the decided decide not to vote.

rev: extraneous 'who' deleted 11-14-2012
Series designation added to title 11-20-12

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Real Culture of Dependency

The Real Culture of Dependency

At the Democratic Convention last week, Vice President Joe Biden responded to remarks at the previous week's Republican Convention that concerned "the culture of dependency."

He took the high road, eloquently defending social programs that help children and families. But he might have done something else. He might have gone on the attack by identifying the real culture of dependency, one that the Republican party and the Romney-Ryan candidacy have no intention of destroying. On the contrary, their plan is to make that culture grow like mold on week-old leftovers.

The dependency I am referring to is that of wealthy persons - both corporate and human - on tax cuts, tax breaks, tax incentives and tax loopholes.

Not all wealthy people try to avoid paying their fair share. But some prefer to pay lobbyists, lawyers and accountants to minimize their taxes rather than just paying their taxes.

Less wealthy persons, both corporate and human, do not have that option. But they may hope someday to be wealthy enough to have it, and therefore they may vote -- oops! corporate persons can't vote! so I guess I mean only human persons, the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United notwithstanding -- for candidates who promise to perpetuate the culture of dependency.

We have, due to this culture, become a country where you don't have to have the slightest embarrassment about being, acting, or declaring yourself greedy. In fact, you can be proud of it. You earned it without any help, right, so it's entirely yours? That's why I call the people who support the culture of dependency "Greedpublicans."

Americans used to be deservedly proud of their generous hearts. Mean-spiritedness was a vice. Being willing to share was a virtue. Helping the less fortunate was a sign of strength. Not any more. This culture of dependency is harming our society and our standing in the world.

The quote: "But I must tell you--one thing that perplexed me the most at their convention was this idea of a culture of dependency. They seem to think you create a culture of dependency when you provide a bright, qualified child from a working family a loan to get to college, or when you provide job training in a new industry, for a dad who lost his job, because it was outsourced." Link to text of Mr. Biden's speech.

Krasny Forum 01 - Corporate Lawyers

Krasny Forum 01 (New Series) -
The Chamber of Commerce Corporate Lawyer Survey
as discussed today on KQED - Michael Krasny's Forum

Today on the KQED radio show Forum, Michael Krasny's first segment was devoted to a US Chamber of Commerce survey of in-house lawyers at big US corporations. The lawyers were asked what states have the best legal climate for their employers. California ranked 47th.

1. What Does This Survey Tell Us?
2. A Balanced Discussion?
3. Be Careful What You Wish For?
4. What Else Should We Know about the Survey Responders?

1. What Does This Survey Tell Us?

Mr. Krasny, after the presentation of the survey results, said that they "obviously" would affect job creation and corporate moves. (This is from memory. I will add a comment later if I can find his exact words. "Obviously" was one of them, though, of that I'm sure.)

Why was it obvious? The survey did not include any data about actual corporate moves or layoffs or job creation.

The presenter had compared the survey to the consumer confidence surveys by the University of Michigan. He pointed out that, like his survey, that one is about how people feel, and it is trusted to reflect ... well, I don't think he explained what it reflects. But let's pause and think about the Michigan survey. Michigan is a well-respected research institution. (And one at which I worked for many happy years, I admit.) I believe that Michigan's researchers have actually done retrospective analysis to see whether what people SAY they plan to do about purchasing major appliances, for example, is what they actually do, absent any major widespread changes in conditions. I doubt that the presenter would have omitted any data that validated his survey, so I conclude that there has been no retrospective analysis.

What evidence would such an analysis consider? Corporate moves? The reasons companies relocate are many. I agree that if a company's decision makers management *think* that costs will be lower and profits higher somewhere else, it does not matter whether they actually are once the company decides to move. That's the trouble with life: we never get to run the experiment both ways. But the fact of the move would validate ... what?

The decision to move would be influenced by many factors. Most states with a litigation climate that - in the corporate lawyers' view - is pro-corporation or pro-business may also have low tax rates, low wages, easy zoning, and so forth. It would be difficult to assess the importance of the *litigation* climate in this mix of law, economics and tradition.

2. A Balanced Discussion?

The first guests was Bryan Quigley, senior vice president at the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, who presented the survey results. Then Krasny welcomed two guests, one who attacked the survey and one who applauded it. Why was the second person needed? The presenter was in favor of the survey 100%. Since when is 2 against 1 equal time?

3. Be Careful What You Wish For?

The in-house corporate lawyers who dislike states like California because of tort law, class action rules, etc. are, well, are they stupid, altruistic, or do they know something the survey's proponents would rather keep a secret?

I ask that because if California and the other states that looked bad in this survey all changed their laws, those lawyers would be out of a job, wouldn't they? Hence the possibility that these attorneys are either stupid or altruistic. But the third possibility is most likely, isn't it: that the laws and regulations have a very small impact on the number of lawyers the corporations need on staff? Their large impact is on natural persons, not corporate persons. And I guess the people who chose, or were chosen, to respond to the survey identify themselves as people more of the corporate kind than humankind.

4. What Else Should We Know about the Survey Responders?

To understand the results better, the survey creators might have asked - maybe they did, but I doubt it - for the responders' party affiliation or political donations, whether to parties, candidates or those corporate entities who do not have to disclose donor names under _Citizens United_. Even just asking for the responders' primary residence zip codes might have provided some insights into ideological bias. Working for a big company, being a lawyer, or both are not necessarily correlated with philsophical outlook on how society should care for its citizens. It would have been interesting to know whether the lawyers' politics affected their perception of the legal climate, however the survey chose to evaluate it.

pub. 9/11/12 11:02 am; links added, minor revissions, 5:35 pm