Correlation Is Apparently In The Opposite Galactic Quadrant From Causation

I’m relatively sure that a Five Thirty Eight piece on how Democrats are suppressing the vote by having off-year elections with the “advantage” of low turnout is the actual definition of peak data journalism.

Why do Democrats and Democratic-aligned groups prefer off-cycle elections? When school boards and other municipal offices are up for election at odd times, few run-of-the-mill voters show up at the polls, but voters with a particular interest in these elections — like city workers themselves — show up in full force. The low-turnout election allows their policy goals to dominate.

Anzia shows that off-cycle elections lead to higher salaries and better health and retirement benefits for teachers and public employees. Anzia studies these effects in many different ways. The simplest way is by looking at eight states that allow local governments to set their own election dates. She compares school districts that hold school board elections on-cycle and off-cycle within the same state. Controlling for factors that might make districts different from one another — like their population size, income, racial composition, partisan leanings and how urban or rural they are — Anzia found that the maximum base teacher salary is over 4 percent higher in districts with off-cycle elections.

Higher salaries and better benefits for municipal employees can be a good outcome. What is interesting is that this outcome is the result of a deliberate move to hold municipal elections at times when few voters are participating.

Proponents of the off-cycle strategy argue that local issues get drowned out when local elections are held concurrent with presidential or congressional elections. People who show up to vote in those big elections may not be equipped to weigh in on the local issues. Anzia quotes a Texas school official who defends off-cycle elections because they bring out “an educated voter … people who really care about the issues and who are passionate about their district.” In off-cycle elections, proponents claim, the electorate is a concentrated set of voters who are engaged in the local issues, which yields better results for the community.

For readers who are sympathetic to the perspective of the off-cycle election proponents (typically Democrats), it is worth noting that these are very much the same arguments that Republicans might make in favor of voting restrictions that make voting a little bit harder for the average American. Just like voter ID or voter-registration requirements, off-cycle elections impose a cost on political participation. The cost is evidently high, since very few people participate in local elections when they are held in odd-numbered years. Maybe the cost leads to a more enlightened electorate. Or maybe it is Democratic-sponsored voter suppression.

Even if you buy Eitan Hersh’s “gosh this is counter-intuitive!” Freakonomics argument here that low-turnout off-year local races favor Democrats (and not something far more reasonable like “larger urban centers tend to have more Democrats”), the act of comparing what Republicans are doing with actual voter suppression tactics now and over the last several decades to states that allow cities to vote in off-year races as equivalent to the point of making Democrats hypocrites over voter access is complete and utter nonsense.

This is because:

1) Democrats don’t pass laws specifically making it more difficult for people to vote by adding additional hurdles to make it more expensive for the voter to vote by imposing a photo ID requirement and then closing a bunch of DMV offices so those photo IDs are far more difficult to get.

2) “Having an election in an odd-numbered year” is not suppression. at most it’s an additional cost to a county elections board that is shared by all taxpayers and not just Republicans.

3) The Republican argument as to why photo ID voter laws are needed are based on junk science and are terrible because photo ID requirements wouldn’t have prevented the voter fraud Republicans keep complaining about that fuel these laws and…

4) Low-turnout elections favor Republicans and there’s reams and reams of data supporting that, which is why Republicans are trying to actively suppress urban Democratic party voters in the first goddamn place.

This whole idea is stupid on its face and serves only as High Broderism that hides the very real issue of Republican efforts to disenfranchise voters across the country.

Jesus hell, what an asshole.

PS, GO VOTE.  Frowny Bee wants you to vote.


Lying Until The Very End

Tomorrow Kentuckians hit the polls to see whether or not Matt Bevin will kick 400,000 plus people off Medicaid.

Bevin has lied the entire campaign about wanting to get rid of Medicaid expansion. It’s right here in his “Bevin Blueprint” for Kentucky. right there at the top of page 10.

I mean, I don’t know what else you can say about it.  He flat out says it “should be repealed”.  There’s nothing in there about any transition, any help for the 450,000 added to Medicaid under the expansion and the thousands more getting insurance through Kynect, he just closes Kynect and puts Kentucky on the federal health insurance exchange.  That’s his plan.

Nearly half a million people would lose their health insurance, point blank.  It’s in Bevin’s own position paper, guys.  It’s his stated policy, right there, verbatim.

Oh, and the rest of the Bevin Blueprint is a disaster: ending unions in the state, cutting thousands of state employee jobs, ending state pensions, shifting education dollars to private, charter and home schools and ending state education standards, and massive tax cuts for the rich and for businesses and expecting Laffer Curve unicorns to make up the lost revenue, just like in Kansas.

Oh, and he ends with refusing to enforce federal laws and regulations he doesn’t agree with. Nullification uber alles!

Time to vote, Kentuckians.  You’ve got a choice to make: Conway, or this recipe for economic and austerity disaster that will burn the state to the ground.

But don’t take my word for it.  Let John Oliver explain with the help of a pangolin.

Kynect Versus The Purple People Eaters

Speaking of state exchanges and the color purple (prose or otherwise) heading into the final weekend before Tuesday’s gubernatorial election here in Kentucky, just a gentle reminder of what’s at stake here should Republican Matt Bevin win over Democratic AG Jack Conway and Kynect and Medicaid expansion goes away for 450,000 Kentuckians.

Two years into Obamacare, clear regional patterns are emerging about who has health insurance in America and who still doesn’t.

The remaining uninsured are primarily in the South and the Southwest. They tend to be poor. They tend to live in Republican-leaning states. The rates of people without insurance in the Northeast and the upper Midwest have fallen into the single digits since the Affordable Care Act’s main provisions kicked in. But in many parts of the country, obtaining health insurance is still a problem for many Americans.

These trends emerged in an analysis we undertook with the help of two organizations that are closely monitoring the progress of the health law. Last year, we used similar data to show the the substantial effects Obamacare had on reducing the number of Americans without health insurance. This year, the same groups updated their estimates of where America’s uninsured live, and the change is a lot less drastic. States that were late to expand Medicaid, including Pennsylvania and Indiana, showed substantial reductions in their uninsured residents compared with last year. In other places, the changes have been more modest. In a few — like Mississippi — things appear to have gotten worse, with fewer people having health insurance this year than last.

A county-by-county map makes this even more clear:

Now that Indiana and Pennsylvania are on board with Medicaid expansion, it’s very clear that the red states in the South  (and Missouri) that are under GOP rule are in real trouble. Arkansas is the lone holdout as GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson hasn’t been able to kill it yet after inheriting it from his Democratic predecessor.

But you’d better believe that Matt Bevin will put Kentucky back into the nearly solid purple of the South if he wins in a few days.  He’s gone from wanting to scrap it totally to considering the same block grant expansion/private insurance hybrid mess that Hutchinson wants in Arkansas, but that would still kick hundreds of thousands of people off Medicaid onto private plans, and he still wants to scrap Kynect completely and force Kentucky to go to a federal exchange (again wasting millions of taxpayer dollars in the process) in order to get those plans, and at a far more expensive monthly premium level.

It’s a pretty clear choice on Tuesday, folks.

Late Night Open Thread: Little Prince Rand Throws A Tantrum

Of course he’s not “important” — at this point Jim Gilmore has a better chance of becoming the Republican nominee than Rand Paul — but it’s always entertaining to watch Libertarians make fools of themselves, and Senator Rand is Prince Regent of the Fools Libertarians. From the Washington Post article:

… “That guy,” Paul said dismissively, referring to Kaczynski. “The only criticisms have come from some guy who’s a partisan. We discount partisans. However, there’s a ridiculous cottage industry out there of people who think they’re smarter than everyone else, and because certain quotes are disputed – well, yeah! If you want to say something’s not a Thomas Jefferson quote, you can get a whole book on whether it’s a quote or not.”

Kacynzski has challenged Paul’s research since 2013, when the senator began raising his profile as a Republican reformer. After the Buzzfeed reporter found language in one of Paul’s books (and several speeches) that mirrored language published by think tanks and Wikipedia, the senator’s staff started including citations in the printed versions of his remarks. That practice ceased after a while; Paul’s irritation did not…

Quick — Rand needs a distraction!

Open Thread: Cream Rises (But So Does the Stuff at the Top of the Septic Tank)

Little Prince Rand, in his hunger for more glamorous pastures, has badly neglected his loyal local fiefdom. And his fellow petty-ante robber barons are getting irked, according to Politico:

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Rand Paul is under increasing pressure from Republicans here and in Washington to pull the plug on his stagnant presidential campaign and instead recommit his resources to keeping his Senate seat in GOP hands.

D.C. Republicans think Paul’s poll numbers have flat-lined — and operatives worried about retaining control of the Senate are ready for him to start spending a lot more time in Kentucky and a lot less time in Iowa and New Hampshire.

“This presidential dream needs to come to an end,” said a national Republican strategist, granted anonymity to discuss Paul’s situation candidly. “Senate Republicans can’t afford to have a competitive race in Kentucky.”

Paul, however, is showing little sign of giving up. Even with poll numbers so low that he might not appear on the main stage for the third GOP debate and his fundraising slowing to a crawl, Paul has a message for those who say it’s time to suspend his run for the White House and focus on his Senate reelection: I can handle both.

“Who would say such a thing? Rebuke them!” Paul sarcastically told reporters after the event who asked about suggestions that he drop out and focus on his Senate reelection. “They don’t know anything about politics. They all write for a living.”

Asked directly if he was worried about his Senate seat, Paul was blunt: “No.”…

Republicans in D.C. aren’t yet panicking about losing Paul’s Senate seat — only about having to spend money to retain it in a year when they need that cash in at least a half-dozen other competitive states…

“Rand Paul’s presidential campaign is going down in flames, and his second-pick Senate bid will no doubt go the same way after he has gone to great lengths to assure Kentucky voters that he views his Senate seat as nothing more than a consolation prize,” DSCC spokeswoman Sadie Weiner said…

The other Repubs may think of Kentucky as his constituency, but Prince Rand is secure in his conviction that his real base is the virtual Galt’s Gulch built up by his father: the angry white mostly male proponents of unfettered capitalism, speech, and gun ownership. Of course, this loyal army never managed to capture the Oval Office for Dr. Ron, but this — they assure each other, and Rand agrees — is a new millenium, where Disruptors will finally reap their due in this Second Gilded Age.

As the saying goes: Jam yesterday, and jam tomorrow, but never jam today…

Open Thread: They Bought You, They Own You

It’s like borrowing money from your in-laws — once you’ve accepted their generosity, they feel compelled to give you advice on how you’re spending “their” hard-earned cash. The NYTimes chronicles the gradual breakdown of civilities, as “Big Donors Seek Larger Roles in Presidential Campaigns“:

… In an election cycle that is already on track to break spending records, and with few limits on contributions to “super PACs” and other outside groups, big donors have never been more important. No longer satisfied with sitting on the sidelines and writing big checks, many of them are eager to play larger roles in the campaigns.

They expect their views to be heard quickly and their concerns taken seriously, sometimes creating headaches and potential awkwardness for the campaigns and super PACs, which must tend to the contributors and their seemingly endless suggestions and questions.

On one hand, the campaigns and their affiliated groups rely on the financial support and appreciate the occasional insights that come from people who have been successful in other fields.

On the other hand, they find themselves devoting more and more time to stroking donors’ egos, weighing their ideas, and soothing supporters whose panicked phone calls can be prompted by anything from an alarming Twitter post to a small stumble on a morning show.

“Donors are demanding a lot these days, man, and they want answers and they want results, and a lot of them hit the panic button a lot,” said Theresa Kostrzewa, a Republican lobbyist and donor based in North Carolina, who is supporting former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida. “This is a new day. Donors consider a contribution like, ‘Well, wait, I just invested in you. Now I need to have my say; you need to answer to me.’ ”

Referring to the maximum direct donation to a candidate that the Federal Election Commission allows, she described the sentiment as: “I gave $2,700. I’m entitled to 2,700 opinions.”… Read more

Saturday Morning Cartoons Open Thread: What Of Little Prince Rand?

His fellow GOP candidates have been busily insulting people of color, Spanish speakers, immigrants, gays, women, and atheists. Where’s an aspiring Leader of All Bigots going to attract a little media attention in such a throng?

Reports Julian Brave NoiseCat, at HuffPo:

GOP presidential candidate Rand Paul took to the airwaves Thursday to broadcast his theory that Native Americans “don’t do very well because of their lack of assimilation.”

The Kentucky senator’s comment followed an exchange with conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham about what she called “separatist” immigrant communities. Ingraham was incredulous that “the MSNBC crowd” supported Jeb Bush’s penchant for speaking Spanish at campaign events.

Asked whether he thought speaking Spanish was appropriate, Paul veered off to talk about the only people who never immigrated to this country: Native Americans.

“I think assimilation is an amazing thing,” Paul said. “A good example of how, even in our country, assimilation didn’t happen — and it has been a disaster for the people — has been the Native American population on the reservations. If they were assimilated, within a decade they’d probably be doing as well as the rest of us. But instead, seclusion and isolating them — we took their land, and then we put them all on small quadrants of land.”…

Of course, Rand Paul is probably grateful that he wasn’t getting much media attention in August, when three of his top associates were indicted for financial violations during Ron Paul’s 2012 campaign. (“Two of the indicted aides, Jesse Benton (who is married to Rand Paul’s niece) and John Tate, were running the main super-PAC supporting Rand Paul’s presidential campaign,” according to Russ Choma at Mother Jones). Or when, a week ago, Federal prosecutors prevailed… in their yearlong fight to force Google Inc. to turn over the emails of an indicted Republican consultant with close ties to Ron and Rand Paul.” That “dispute… [had] gotten attention in libertarian and technology circles as a test of the government’s ability to broadly review email accounts during criminal investigations”, but Rand’s guys lost, and capital-L Libertarians don’t seem to have much time for losers.

And he didn’t help his status with the True Believers at Reason by sucking up to Kim Davis, presumably in an attempt to try and milk some hometown sympathy (or at least an attaboy from her Liberty Counsel puppeteers).

He’s been reduced to defending Donald Trump from Hugh Hewitt, which is an inversion of normal Paulite alignments that make him sound almost like a reasonable person.

Should’ve stayed fat & happy in your old man’s little fiefdom, Rand. That’s a lifetime gig with very nice bennies and no heavy lifting, exactly what you were born and bred for. Running pantsless onto the national stage screaming LOOOKIT MEEEE! just hasn’t been nearly as fun or profitable as you expected.

Apart from waiting for the overburdened RNC to finish sweeping some of its minor embarrassments candidates under the rug (insert your own Trump/Rand hairpiece joke here), what’s on the agenda for the start of the big weekend?