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Republicans — Not Obama — More Often on Wrong Side of Public Opinion

Posted by: BuellBoy

Nate SilverFiveThirtyEight/Nate Silver~One of the more commonplace assertions among pundits on the center-right — made rather carelessly by Victor Davis Hanson and more thoughtfully by Jay Cost, is that agenda put forward by Obama and the Democrats is overwhelmingly unpopular and that Democrats are simply getting their comeuppance for having pushed such a liberal set of reforms forward. These claims, however, rely on selective evidence, invariably citing policies like health care and the GM bailouts which are indeed unpopular (strongly so, in some cases), while ignoring many other issues on which Obama has been on the right side of public opinion.

In fact, a more objective and equivocal evaluation of public opinion on more than two dozen specific issues finds that the Republican Congress has far more often been on the wrong side of it. Attempting to be as comprehensive as possible, I’ve identified 25 issues that Obama and the Democrats have made an affirmative effort to push forward since taking office a year ago, and summarized public opinion on each of them. Most of the numbers that I’ve cited come from PollingReport.com.

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Why Progressives Are Batsh*t Crazy to Oppose the Senate Bill

Op-ed by Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com

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Pick your sub-headline:

a) It’s time to stop being polite and start getting real.
b) Here’s hoping a picture is worth 1,000 words.



Any questions?

OK, I imagine that there will be a few. Here’s how I came up with these numbers.

Senate Bill. These estimates are straightforward — they’re taken directly from the CBO’s report on premiums for people at different income levels. A family of four earning an income of $54,000 would pay $4,000 in premiums, and could expect to incur another $5,000 in out-of-pocket costs. The $4,000 premium represents a substantial discount, because the government is covering 72 percent of the premium — meaning that the gross cost of the premium is $14,286, some $10,286 of which the government pays.

One caution: this reflects the situation before the public option was removed from the bill. But, provided that the subsidy schedule isn’t changed as well, that shouldn’t change these numbers much.

Status Quo. In 2009, the average premium for a family in the individual market was $6,328, according to the insurance lobbying group AHIP. However, this figure paints an optimistic picture for two reasons. Firstly, the average family size in the AHIP dataset is 3.03 people; for a family of four, that number would scale upward to $7,925, by my calculations. Secondly, the CBO’s estimates are based on 2016 figures, not 2009, so to make an apples-to-apples comparison, we have to account for inflation. According to Kaiser, the average cost of health coverage has increased by about 8.7 percent annually over the past decade, and by 8.8 percent for family coverage. Let’s scale that down slightly, assuming 7.5 annual inflation in premiums from 2009 through 2016 inclusive. That would bring the cost of the family’s premium up by a nominal 66 percent, to $13,149. And remember: these are based on estimates of premiums provided by the insurance lobby. I have no particular reason to think that they’re biased, but if they are, it’s probably on the low side.

Not only, however, would this family paying a lot more under the status quo, but they’d be doing so for inferior insurance. According to the CBO, the amount of coverage in the individual market would improve by between 27 and 30 percent under the Senate’s bill. Taking the midpoint of those numbers (28.5 percent), we can infer that there would be about $1,427 in additional cost sharing to this family in the status quo as compared with the Senate bill; this would bring their cost sharing to $6,427 total.

Add the $6,247 to the $13,149 and you get an annual cost of $19,576 — for a family earning $54,000! Obviously, very few such families are going to be able to afford that unless they have a lot of money in the bank. So, some of these families will go without insurance, or they’ll by really crappy insurance, or they’ll pay the premiums but skimp on out-of-pocket costs, which will negatively impact their fiscal and physical health. But if this family were to want to obtain equivalent coverage to that which would be available to them for $9,000 in the Senate bill, it would cost them between $19,000 and $20,000, according to my estimates.

Status Quo with SCHIP. Fortunately, some families in this predicament do receive some relief via the SCHIP program. SCHIP eligibility varies from state to state; a family earning income at 225 percent of the poverty line, as this family does, is eligible for SCHIP in about half of the country.

Premiums are fairly cheap under SCHIP — for a family at 225 percent of poverty, generally on the order of about $60 per month to cover two children. We’ll assume that this will inflate slightly to $75 per month, or $900 per year, by 2016.

The two adults in the household will still have to buy insurance in the individual market, which will cost $7,684 by 2016. That makes the family’s total premium $8,584.

For the adults, we assume that the cost sharing component runs proportional to premiums, and totals $3,756. For the children, this calculation is a little bit more ambiguous. Out-of-pocket costs under SCHIP are capped at 5 percent of family income, which would be $2,700 for this family. But that’s a cap and not an average — we’ll assume that the average is half of the cap, or $1,350. Total cost-sharing, therefore, is $5,106 between the adults and the children.

This means that premiums plus out of pocket costs will equal $13,690 for this family. I estimate the subsidy by subtracting this figure from the cost of unsubsidized insurance in the individual market; the difference is $5,885.

Caveat/Disclaimer. There are, obviously, some simplifying assumptions here, especially with regard to SCHIP. The only thing I can promise you is that I’m “showing my work“. I would actively encourage people to pick apart these numbers and come up with their own, more robust estimates. One thing that should probably be accounted for is that the families in both the status quo and the status quo + SCHIP cases will frequently be able to deduct their health care expenses from their taxable income, especially if they’ve incurred substantial out-of-pocket costs. That means that the difference in net costs is slightly exaggerated by my figures.

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The closing…

Nate SilverI understand that most of the liberal skepticism over the Senate bill is well intentioned. But it has become way, way off the mark. Where do you think the $800 billion goes? It goes to low-income families just like these. Where do you think it comes from? We won’t know for sure until the Senate and House produce their conference bill, but it comes substantially from corporations and high-income earners, plus some efficiency gains.

Because this is primarily a political analysis blog, I think people tend to assume that I’m lost in the political forest and not seeing the policy trees. In fact, the opposite is true. For any “progressive” who is concerned about the inequality of wealth, income and opportunity in America, this bill would be an absolutely monumental achievement. The more compelling critique, rather, is that the bill would fail to significantly “bend the cost curve“. I don’t dismiss that criticism at all, and certainly the insertion of a public option would have helped at the margins. But fundamentally, that is a critique that would traditionally be associated with the conservative side of the debate, as it ultimately goes to mounting deficits in the wake of expanded government entitlements.

And please do pick apart my numbers: I’m sure that you will find some questionable assumptions and possibly some outright errors. But if you found a persuasive, progressive policy rationale against the bill, I’d be stunned.~~Nate Silver

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Tuesday’s Election Results: What Happened and Why? by Nate Silver

Posted by Audiegrl

natesilver

Nate Silver, the Nostradamus of Statistics and Polls

538/Nate Silver—The outcome of all seven contests that we were tracking tonight appears settled, or very nearly so:

Virginia Governor: Republican Bob McDonnell wins by 17 points, toward the upper end of the range predicted by the pollsters, although not to anybody’s great surprise. Democrats had major turnout problems here; exit polls show that the electorate which turned out in Virginia supported McCain in last year’s election 51-43, almost exactly the opposite of the actual margin.

Creigh Deeds (left) and Bob McDonnell (right)

Creigh Deeds and Bob McDonnell

But Deeds also appears to have been the weaker candidate. The electorate was roughly spit on approval of Obama, but 20 percent of those who approved Obama nevertheless voted for McDonnell, while just 5 percent of those who disapproved Obama voted for Deeds.

New Jersey Governor: Republican Chris Christie wins 49-45. We had (somewhat tentatively) characterized the race as leaning Christie on the basis of superior enthusiasm and the incumbent rule. Corzine never polled at better than 44 percent in any individual poll of the race. It looked for a time like 44 or 45 percent might nevertheless have been enough to win him the election, but support for the third party candidate Chris Daggett collapsed, leaving him exposed.

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Candidates for governor, from left,: Incumbent Jon Corzine, Chris Christie and Chris Daggett

Obama approval was actually pretty strong in New Jersey, at 57 percent, but 27 percent of those who approved of Obama nevertheless voted for someone other than Corzine. This one really does appear to be mostly about Corzine being an unappealing candidate, as the Democrats look like they’ll lose just one or two seats in the state legislature in Trenton. Corzine compounded his problems by staying negative until the bitter end of the campaign rather than rounding out his portfolio after having closed the margin with Christie.

NY-23: Democrat Bill Owens prevails in a result that will be regarded as surprising; the final tally isn’t in yet but it appears as though it will be something on the

hoffmanowensscozzafava

Doug Hoffman (C), Bill Owens (D) and Dede Scozzafava (R) battled for upstate New York’s 23rd Congressional District

order of 50-45 over Conservative Doug Hoffman. I don’t think I’ve ever hedged more on predicting the outcome of a race; the main issue is that there was a rather large discrepancy between the polling, which heavily favored Hoffman, and what I perceived to be the facts on the ground. NY-23 is solidly Republican but not especially conservative (it voted for Barack Obama last year), and Hoffman was a relatively uncharismatic candidate with poor command of the local issues.

If New Jersey was a win for the incumbent rule, then NY-23 may have ben a win for the Median voter theorem, as Owens — a conservative Democrat — was actually much closer to the average ideology of the district than the capital-C Conservative Hoffman. It was also a reminder that all politics is local (sometimes). More than 95 percent of Hoffman’s contributions came from out-of-district, and the conservative activists who tried to brand him as a modern-day Jefferson Smith never bothered to check whether he resonated particularly well with the zeitgeist of the district. In any event, this is a Democratic takeover of a GOP-held seat and they expand by one their majority in the House.

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