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America in 2012, as Told in Charts – Steve Rattner

America in 2012, as Told in Charts.

I have been posting articles and charts from Steve Rattner for a while now, and I’m glad that he compiled the most influential and compelling charts of this past year for me. If you feel like you don’t know much about politics or economics I think that Steve Rattner would be a good guy to check out, he knows things…

These charts tell multiple stories which fit within a narrative that belongs to all of us. Things are complicated, and this world has many moving parts. It’s very easy to reconfirm assumptions you might already have, but I would like to ask you why that will benefit you. I would offer to you that believing in the importance of framing ideas with genuine curiosity will limit your anxieties and frustrations, and help you live a happier life. The key word is Nuance. What I mean is this: the charts below have a lot of information, and I can look at them and become fearful of what’s ahead, or I can make sure that I process the information and ask what our options are rather than assume the apocalypse.

I challenge you to look at these charts, and read Mr. Rattner’s commentary and do your own research about the questions that they might inspire. They tend to tell a story of mixed political talking points. They address tax revenue, entitlements, personal wealth in America, and much more. Having moved and made a job change recently I have been in somewhat of an introspective process where I question my life and purpose. I would like to make sure that I’m being fair with my posts, so I’m asking that if you read this to hold me accountable. I will try to provide information that I come across that seems of value, but please believe me when I say that my purpose for posting on here is sincere and based in honesty. Ok, enjoy the charts, they are all pretty fascinating to me.



America in 2012, as Told in Charts

Posted: 01 Jan 2013 09:45 AM PST

Originally published in the New York Times

The weak economy, widening income inequality, gridlock in Congress and a presidential election: Those were perhaps the dominant economic and political themes of 2012. To supplement the torrent of rhetoric, I offer charts to help provide facts and context for the debate around these important issues. Below are nine of my favorites from the past year.

In 2012, the slow recovery dominated both the economic news and the worries of most Americans, but the underlying components of the weak job market were not always fully dissected. In fact, job growth was so paltry in large part because it was so unbalanced. Since the recession ended in June 2009, three key sectors – government, construction and information – that together account for 22 percent of all employment lost more than 1 million jobs. Equally significantly, two of them, government and construction, generally add a disproportionately large share of jobs during a recovery. With government contracting and construction stalled, that did not occur.

The economic boom that peaked in 2007 represented the first time that median real (that is, inflation-adjusted) incomes did not recover to their previous peak before declining into the next recession. More ominously, family incomes have yet to recover, even though the recession ended three and a half years ago. That has brought the total decline in real incomes to nearly 9 percent since 2000. So where has the economic growth from the recovery gone? Much of it has gone to corporate profits, as companies took advantage of the high unemployment rate and the ability to shift production globally to hold down wages in the United States.

Screen Shot 2013-01-04 at 4.05.29 AM

The rise in income inequality has exacerbated the decline in median incomes. In 2010, a stunning 93 percent of all income gains went to the top 1 percent of Americans. Also astonishing: just 15,000 households received 37 percent of all of those income gains. In no other period in recent American history have economic gains been concentrated so disproportionately in an elite sliver. (The red bars indicate recessions.)

The explosion of the federal budget deficit since the turn of the century stems from multiple causes, including huge tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 and rapid spending growth in many areas like defense, and later, the stimulus to combat the recession. But no budget-busting factor looms larger than the soaring cost of government-financed health care, particularly Medicare and Medicaid. In addition to driving current and projected deficits, the rise in spending has squeezed the resources available for other domestic programs. Often dismissed as wasteful government spending, these “discretionary” programs include important areas of investment, such as infrastructure, research and development and education. In reducing such investments, we are eating our seed corn.

Large deficits have driven a key ratio – government debt to gross domestic product – to 72.8 percent, from 36.2 percent in 2007. But without new policies, that’s just the beginning. Under realistic assumptions, the debt-to-G.D.P. ratio will rise to more than 80 percent over the next decade. The recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles Commission, if adopted by President Obama and Congress, would have brought this ratio down to 65 percent by 2022. But that plan never was adopted. Even if one of the proposals being debated by the White House and Congressional Republicans, very similar in the impact on the deficit, were put in place, it would only manage to drive down this ratio to 72 percent and stabilize it there – a minimally acceptable goal.

The debate over budget-cutting has touched off fierce emotions on all sides, sometimes at the expense of facts. Take, for example, the proposal to change the cost-of-living adjustment used to calculate Social Security benefits. Rarely discussed in that context is the fact that the current adjustment formula has delivered benefit increases to Social Security recipients that are larger than the wage increases of average Americans – a difference of more than $2,500 over the past 12 years.

That Congress has ceased to function effectively has become an article of faith for most Americans. But the extent of the gridlock on Capitol Hill may not be fully appreciated. Over its two-year life span, the 112th Congress that just adjourned passed just 200 laws, 31 percent of the average of the 32 Congresses preceding it. Even the bills that were passed were mostly housekeeping measures, like laws to name post offices or extend existing laws. Now, some may say, “That’s great. I don’t want Congress to do anything anyway.” I have a different view. I believe that our country has many problems and that our federal lawmakers are paid to help address them.

Another article of faith is that Congress has become far more polarized. That general perception is well supported by a number of academic studies. For example, one researcher, Keith T. Poole, assigned a score to each member of Congress based on his or her voting record. He then calculated an average for Democrats’ and Republicans’ scores and used the difference to create an index. His conclusion was that the House has become more polarized than at any time since at least 1879, and the Senate nearly so.

Nate Silver was not the only statistically based political prognosticator to cover himself with glory during the recent presidential election. The online betting service Intrade did nearly as well. Throughout the ups and downs of a hard-fought campaign season, it remained solidly confident that President Obama would be re-elected. (The October surge in the probability of an Obama victory probably resulted from Mitt Romney’s notorious “47 percent” remark; the subsequent decline for Mr. Obama followed his poor performance in the first debate.) Intrade also predicted correctly the winner of 49 states and 31 of 33 Senate races. Mr. Silver, who writes for The New York Times, relies on statistical analysis of polling data; Intrade is a prediction market, and its electoral forecast is grounded in the widely accepted belief that the views of thousands as to who they think will win (as opposed to whom they support) provides more accurate forecasts than polls do.

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© Steven Rattner 2013

Mormonism In The Election

What Mormons Really Believe.

Before I get started here I want to say that I am posting this hoping that people actually won’t make religion the main reason that they vote, at least not their established religion. The idea of voting based on having prayed and reflected on how you should vote makes perfect sense to me. I just don’t have the same feeling about the team style “gamesmanship” and politics that has filled the faith that people claim.

I’m not trying to offend anyone who is Mormon, or anyone who thinks that you shouldn’t speak ill of people’s religions, but that is not why I’m posting this. I am posting this because I think it has been very surreal to watch so many of my Christian friends decide the Mormonism is close enough to being Christian that they feel like Governor Romney is one of them. Well, I like to embrace people of other religions, because I appreciate the exchange of ideas and beliefs, but having experienced some of the most adamant conversations of my life in Christian communities about how they are not of us…

I actually am fascinated by a lot of what I’ve heard about Mormonism. I don’t believe in Mormon specific ideology, but I am excited to hear about it. In fact, in 2010 I had weekly conversations, when I had moved home from college, with some door to door missionaries  They were very interesting, but we did walk away continuing to disagree, but more knowledgable about one another.

And incase you are trying to compare this to your personal faith I will have to remind you that this is not little issue for Governor Romney, he was a Bishop in the Mormon Church. It is very important to him. And the idea of American exceptionalism is very central to Mormonism. I’m just trying to make sure that we are approaching this in context.

With all of this being said I don’t think that we need to be voting based on people’s religions. But for those who have made this a part of their basis for voting I would just like to make sure that you aren’t doing it because it’s just too convenient not to stick to your guns…


While reflecting and talking with a few friends after making this post I felt like I had to include this comment that I made, because it is part of what I’m talking about. And again, I’m not saying this to bash Mormonism, but I am saying it to identify some of the willingness to change positions that have been completely profound to people, and yet they’ve softened out of what I perceive to be convenience…

What’s actually super interesting to me about Mormonism is that it sounds like a very “progressive” ideology in some ways… The only other people I’ve ever heard say that they think that we all are, or can become gods have been very liberal. The idea of Elohim having sex with Mary is very much against conservative theology. The WHOLE reason why a lot of churches say that Jesus was not born with original sin like the rest of us is because we was born of a virgin…

Also, the idea of Jesus having children is straight out of the Divinci Code (you know, that book that a lot of people consider to be the beginning of the coming of the AntiChrist…). – Me (aka: Grady)

Ohio – What Is the State of the State That Will Decide The Election?

This morning on Morning Joe they discussed the likelihood that the President will win in Ohio, mostly due to his campaign’s roots they’ve planted there over the last 5 years, and their impressive ground game there. The also discussed a few other states, but Nevada in particular. These 2 states are very important in the hopes of the President getting reelected, and 1 great connection was made on the show as to why they will probably go the President’s way – they are probably the 2 states with the most organized labor unions. Also, those labor unions in Ohio are probably Very heavily in favor of President Obama considering the auto bailout and the car industry in Ohio. Governor Romney has definitely made up some room in Ohio, but it looks at this point like it probably won’t be enough, and Ohio will almost surely predict the outcome of the election, baring some very surprising upsets in other swing states.




Nevada would be a big get or either candidate. The help that the unions in Nevada are giving President Obama seem to be providing a safe cushion. If he were to lose Nevada it might be pretty costly in the end…



On Morning Joe they were discussing the likelihood of this being the final election map, and the possibility of having a 269 to 269 tie (even though it would be quite unlikely), and the possibility of Governor Romney winning the popular vote while President Obama wins the electoral college – and they discussed how this country needs an election without contest because of the toxicity of our political polarization, and how that effects our people.


The Road to 270: Just How Important Is Florida? Very…

On Meet The Press Chuck Todd showed an electoral map of the country and a few different scenarios.

This first map is of the states that seem to be done deals for either candidate.


What seemed to be the biggest theme of Chuck’s analysis was that Florida is incredibly important yet again. With the Medicare debate ramping up this could be a major factor of how the state swings. Obama has some room to catch up with the senior vote after the last election, but he doesn’t have to win them to win the election.


What seemed most telling about this segment was that while Florida is important for either candidate it seems more important for Romney (mostly just because he needs to catch up, and it controls a lot of electoral college votes). Chuck explained that if all of the states that seem to be rather certain one way or the other go the way that they’re expected to then Obama could win with simply picking up Florida and New Hampshire… That seems like pretty big news considering how big the Medicare debate is getting, and how many people in Florida rely on Medicare.


Chuck actually even drew up a scenario where Romney would win Florida, Iowa and Ohio and still lose the election.


Of course we could see some election day surprises, but if things play out as Chuck Todd imagines we are looking at a slim path to victory for Governor Romney.

Potential Vice Presidential Candidates Impacts Swing Votes

Swing states always seem so important, and I wonder if the Vice Presidential nominee will actually be picked according to swing state voting… We know that vice presidential nominees can be picked for purely political reasons (ie: Game Change/Sarah Palin), but what should we expect this time around?…




The Virtue of Flipping and Flopping

Over the past couple of weeks and months I have written and talked to people about how frustrated I have been with Governor/CEO/Entrepreneur/etc. Mitt Romney because of his rather incredible array of life experiences to bring to the table mixed with a campaign that has been full of half-truths and full on lies (if you haven’t been paying attention or don’t believe me go watch the video at the bottom). With that being said, I have also been very critical of the Republican nominating process for being so extreme – Romney and the nominating process existing at the same time has caused me to question the virtue of someone who has been so able and willing to change his positions to stay in a race. My initial reaction was to just say “he’s a liar, and lying is wrong, so he’s not my guy”. BUT, could it be possible that Mitt knows that the Republican party is self-destructing, and that the only way to keep some of their most important virtues alive (ie: hypothetical fiscal responsibility, government efficiency, limited federal powers) is to lie to them?… I’m not saying that I endorse the idea, but it seems to be what he is doing, and I can only come up with 2 reasons why he might do this: to be self-serving, or because he philosophically believe that it is best for the nation. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, so I’m hoping that he is in it for the people. To his credit if he really is lying to make the world a better place, the political landscape in the country right now really is such a game that there isn’t much of any other option for a moderate who leans right, because if they lean left they are simply a mainstream Democrat from my estimation.

*And incase you don’t think that Romney is a flip-flopper it really isn’t that hard to look into it. Click the following link, or scroll to the video at the bottom – Romney’s Flips and Flops, even conservatives seem to understand this point of attack as they have been making it for the past year and a half rather thoroughly.

Joe Scarborough made a great point on my favorite morning show Morning Joe, that there are 2 different federal election processes: the presidential election (which calls for moderates), and congressional elections for the house and senate (which seem to call for more and more fringe candidates). There are fringe issues, and candidates that set the agenda for the parties as of late, but considering that more of the country votes in Presidential elections it seems to be telling of a more moderate nation. This fall we really will have a campaign between 2 moderate candidates – one of them is labeled an extremist by a Republican fringe, and the other one is forced to pretend that he’s an extremist by the Republican fringe… It seems obvious to me that there is an identifiable source of rhetorical nonsense that is dividing this country, and I wish that we would have more people speak out about it, and it can’t be a real candidate for either party because they will disqualify themselves to be taken seriously any longer, much like George Romney (Mitt’s father).

George Romney is a great example of a nice moderate man who had opinions that leaned one way, which is entirely ok, but he was pushed out of the conversation for becoming president because he spoke out against the war in Vietnam, which was not only his opinion after having been there but it was also the majority opinion of the country. My guess is that Gov. Romney took note, and has decided that he won’t let the same extremism control him, whether it takes lying or not. I believe in a transparent government, and electoral process, but if Romney’s goal is actually to work around the crazies in the Republican party then part of me salutes the effort, in some odd way.

I’m not saying that there isn’t a fringe or radical left wing, but they don’t seem to have as much money/as many lobbyists/ or frankly as much organization. And I’m also not advocating that being a moderate is the right way necessarily, but I am saying that the mainstream of American voters seems to be rather moderate. I guess the conclusion here is that while I have been frustrated with Romney for being disingenuous I also know that he is having to simultaneously coalesce and combate the most powerful fringe in the nation, and I don’t envy him for that…

Likeability vs Productivity

Now that Santorum is out of the race it’s time to really start talking about the actual inevitable race that we’ve been waiting for – Obama vs Romney.

Why do people vote for who they vote for? It really is a tricky question, because even now (and over the past year) in the Republican nomination process happening across the country there are millions of conservatives who are choosing to vote for former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney because they think that he’s the most likely candidate to win the election, not because they actually like him.

I personally like a lot of things about Gov. Romney, but I am disappointed in many of his antics.

The question facing American voters in November is whether they are going to get very detailed in examining these candidates, or if they’ll vote from the gut. My opinion is that they’ll probably vote from the gut, they did it with George W. Bush in 2004, and most other elections over the last 60 years. If they do that it looks like President Obama would win again this year. While it is likely that I’ll vote for President Obama again, this is more an analysis of what is likely – it’s not an endorsement.

The conversation and charts on Morning Joe today might help explain.

The likeability of a candidate, and the favorable/unfavorable ratings say a lot more than a lot of people might realize.





Obama vs. Romney vs Gingrich on Taxes

I started this post a little while back when Gingrich had just surged in the polls and won South Carolina. It doesn’t include Santorum, but I still felt like it was worth posting.

This is a breakdown of how Obama, Romney, and Gingrich have talked about taxes and how their proposals would affect the national debt.

This might not be the most accurate breakdown ever, partially due to different philosophies of taxation and stimulus by tax cuts (which in my opinion is sometimes just a short term fix). But these charts basically indicate how much more Gingrich would potentially run up the debt with decreases in revenue (which we need to pay bills we already owe). I guess I’m just saying that I’m happy to see Newt’s time pass.

But on the flip side, I’m not sure that I’d prefer Santorum more, but that is a discussion for another post.




Republican Presidential Primary Debate # 2 – (Videos and Links)



I should probably first say that I don’t always agree with President Obama, but I often do agree with him AND support my president (isn’t funny how that used to be the cool thing to say?…)

Anyway, Wikipedia is not always accurate, but sometimes it really has sites sources/resources, you just have to track them back and see where they get they’re information from. So, if you would really like to learn more about the Republican primary you should click the link above.
Republican Party (United States) presidential primaries, 2012 – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Also, if you would like to learn more about the polling numbers of the Republican candidates so far here is a great link:
Daily Kos: Handicapping the second Republican presidential debate.

Ok, I’ve got opinions about this debate but I am going to keep them very brief. As an Economics major in college I was often told about the beauty of the free market by some, and told that the term “Free Market” is fictitious and there is no such thing as a market with no rules, other than a Black Market. When I heard candidates talking about repealing ObamaCare I wasn’t suprised, but when I heard somebody start talking about getting rid of the Sarbanes Oxley Act that was put into place after the Enron scandal (and nobody on the stage said anything about that being a bad idea) I immediately cringed… I don’t Know what is best for this country in terms of policy, but I try to keep up with it, and I can tell you that some regulation seems incredibly necessary, and when somebody tries to tell me that the corporations in the country are over taxed (35%) and I know that they don’t actually pay that tax rate (GE paid 0% last year, and got a big tax rebate…) I know that they are willing to lie to me.

Probably the most repeated line in this debate seemed to be about how the current administration has simply killed job growth, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics would seem to disagree… I’m not saying everything is ok, but when people say things like that they need to be right in saying so – and they need to back up their claims.

So, I’ll stop talking, but I am very skeptical of Republican leadership these days when I hear them say things that I research and find to be quite misleading. I do believe that happens in both parties, but I simply believe that the misnomers by the Republican leadership will end up being the more expensive ones in the end. If you are confused by that I would love to explain that to you further in conversation, feel free to comment or email me, or whatever you’d like.

Oh, and one last thing, Michele Bachmann’s presidential campaign announcement in my opinion was very untimely, and it was basically a publicity stunt in my opinion… I enjoy a good debate, even if I disagree with the parties involved, and that did not help make that debate better in any way…

(at the end of video 4 and beginning of video 5 there is a weather alert, don’t worry it goes away…)

Part 1.

Part 2.

Part 3.

Part 4.

Part 5.

Part 6.

Part 7.

Part 8.

Please tweet or share this on Facebook if you feel like you know people who would enjoy it. Thanks 🙂

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