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The Incompetent Pollster Mystery Solved!

So many numbers...
In today's Washington Post, there's an article about pollsters who fail miserably, asking how wrong you have to be to never work again. The answer, of course, is that there is simply no level of wrongness that will keep you from getting more clients. While the article has some interesting information in it, it fails completely to answer the real question: Why does this happen? Well, I'll tell you the answer in a moment. But first here's an excerpt: A pollster is one of those jobs — like a football lineman or an oil-tanker captain — that normal people tend to notice only when one of these specialized professionals messes up. In that sense, 2012 was a banner year for Republican pollsters. Romney may have lost handily in his quest to become president, but he famously thought he was going to win right up until the last minute. A lot of that blame fell upon a polling firm called Public Opinion Strategies. Neil Newhouse, who acted as Romney’s top pollster, still doesn’t like to talk about...

Why Congressional Democrats Are Upset that President Obama Doesn't Hang Out With Them More

A man alone with his thoughts. (White House photo by Pete Souza)
The other day, the New York Times published a long article on President Barack Obama's miserable relationship with Congress, particularly the members of his own party. The point of the article is that Obama doesn't put much effort into building personal relationships with congressional Democrats, and as a result they're rather disgruntled with him, which could make the remainder of his presidency more difficult. It's a good example of how, in its facts, a piece of journalism can be perfectly true, even revealing, and yet be completely misleading in its implications. Ezra Klein gave it the necessary dismantling : Obama does see socializing with Hill Democrats as a chore. But there's a lot that Obama sees as a chore and commits to anyway. The presidency, for all its power, is full of drudgery; there are ambassadors to swear in and fundraisers to attend and endless briefings on issues that the briefers don't even really care about. The reason Obama doesn't put more effort into stroking...

Why the Uber Controversy Won't Convince Young Voters That the GOP Is the Cool Party

Flickr/Mike
P eriodically, conservatives latch on to some emerging cultural development and decide that this the thing that will allow them to win over young voters, providing some crack in the door through which they can shove a foot and bring their message of free markets and small government to an audience they're convinced is just waiting to hear it. Remember " South Park conservatives "? There was supposed to be a whole generation of irreverent right-wingers, turned off by the excesses of political correctness and ready to rush to the arms of the GOP. It didn't work out that way. And lately, Republicans have been over the moon for Uber. In case you aren't aware, GOP politicians have been lining up to shower the company with love. Marco Rubio is an Uber fan. Newt Gingrich is an Uber crusader. The RNC has a petition you can sign in support of Uber in its conflicts with local taxi regulations that keep the company out. Here's a recent Politico piece : Kristen Soltis Anderson, a Republican...

Policy Shop

Policy as if people mattered

What Drives Credit Card Debt?

Americans cumulatively have $854 billion in revolving loan (mostly credit card) debt, according to the Federal Reserve. The amount has actually declined since the Great Recession, as credit card issuers tightened their lending standards, borrowers became more cautious, and strong and effective consumer protection laws went into effect, producing substantial savings for households. Still, $854 billion is no small matter, and its source is worth considering. Why do some people stagger under a mountain of credit card debt, paying high interest rates on their outstanding balances and never seeming to come out ahead, while others rarely if ever carry debt for long, despite pulling out their plastic on a regular basis? That’s the question I set out to answer in a new study , which compares two groups of low- and middle-income households with working age adults. The households are statistically indistinguishable in terms of income, racial and ethnic background, age, marital status and rate...

The Single Mother, Child Poverty Myth

I see it often claimed that the high rate of child poverty in the U.S. is a function of family composition. According to this view, the reason childhood poverty is so high is that there are too many unmarried parents and single mothers, and those kinds of families face higher rates of poverty. The usual upshot of this claim is that we can't really do much about high rates of childhood poverty, at least insofar as we can't force people to marry and cohabitate and such. One big problem with this claim is that family composition in the U.S. is not that much different from family composition in the famed low-poverty social democracies of Northern Europe, but they don't have anywhere near the rates of child poverty we have. A number of studies have tested this family composition theory using cross-country income data and found, again and again, that family composition differences account for very little of the child poverty differences between the US and other countries. Testing this...

Food Stamps Don’t Keep Wal-Mart’s Prices Low, They Keep Its Profits High

“ The same company that brings in the most food stamp dollars in revenue —an estimated $13 billion last year—also likely has the most employees using food stamps.” The name of the mammoth food stamp-reliant company is no secret: Wal-Mart. As journalist Krissy Clark notes in Marketplace’s valuable new series “ The Secret Life of the Food Stamp ,” Wal-Mart benefits from food stamps in multiple ways, as taxpayers both underwrite the company’s food sales and also subsidize its payroll costs. There is no doubt that food stamps (and a host of other public subsidies from Medicaid to home heating assistance to the Earned Income Tax Credit and beyond) reduce Wal-Mart’s employment costs substantially. A study released last year by staff of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce found that a single 300-employee Wal-Mart Supercenter may cost taxpayers anywhere from $904,542 to nearly $1.75 million per year. Consider that the working people who turn to food stamps to supplement...